Whether you do it for fun, to win a bit of money in your office pool or are in Las Vegas trying to make it big, picking NFL games can be tricky, and there are some tight matchups in Week 16 that are tough to call.
This time of year is what NFL fans dream about all summer long. The playoffs are just three weeks away, and the final two weeks of the regular season are going to be absolutely crazy.
In the best possible way.
With eight playoff spots still up for grabs, most of the league is already in playoff mode, and the level of intensity felt on every play only further intensifies the drama.
Here's a look at the entire schedule for Week 16, along with predictions for each game. Afterward, keep reading for deeper analysis regarding a few of the tougher games to pick.
|Away Team||Home Team||Proj. Winner|
|Miami Dolphins||Buffalo Bills||Dolphins|
|New Orleans Saints||Carolina Panthers||Panthers|
|Dallas Cowboys||Washington Redskins||Redskins|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||St. Louis Rams||Rams|
|Chicago Bears||Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles|
|Cleveland Browns||N.Y. Jets||Browns|
|Indianapolis Colts||Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs|
|Minnesota Vikings||Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals|
|Denver Broncos||Houston Texans||Broncos|
|Tennessee Titans||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jaguars|
|Arizona Cardinals||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks|
|N.Y. Giants||Detroit Lions||Lions|
|Oakland Raiders||San Diego Chargers||Chargers|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Green Bay Packers||Packers|
|New England Patriots||Baltimore Ravens||Patriots|
|Atlanta Falcons||San Francisco 49ers||49ers|
Indianapolis at Kansas City
Depending on which Indianapolis Colts team shows up, this contest of AFC powerhouses could be a nail-biter or a complete blowout in favor of Kansas City at home.
Peter King of MMQB succinctly described the erratic Colts in his weekly column:
"America’s (Psycho) Team checks in: In the last six, Colts have lost by 30, won by three, lost by 29, won by eight, lost by 14, won by 22. Football is a funny game."
One thing's for sure, Indy's defense better be ready for Jamaal Charles, who has been unstoppable for the Chiefs the past month, racking up 650 total yards and 10 touchdowns on just 76 touches. That's 8.55 yards per touch, for the record.
Interestingly enough, though, while Charles and the offense are heating up, Kansas City's defense—which was at one time the stingiest in the league—has cooled off considerably. During the team's last five games, the Chiefs have allowed 36 points per game.
If Andrew Luck and his offense can take advantage of the suddenly exploitable Chiefs, then the Colts can come away with an upset victory.
In the end, though, this is a game the Chiefs should win—and they will.
Look for a much-improved defensive effort—especially if Justin Houston, who took reps in practice on Wednesday, Dec. 18, as noted by Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star, comes back:
The crowd at Arrowhead Stadium will be ramped up in a big way. Frankly, it'll be surprising if Indianapolis stays within a touchdown of the lead.
Projected Score: Kansas City wins, 38-21.
Dallas at Washington
All the analysis in the world could be reduced to ashes if the Dallas Cowboys continue to defy logic and abandon the running game with a big lead.
On paper, the Washington Redskins shouldn't have a chance to win this game.
Dallas has elite players on both sides of the ball, and when the offense is being called with balance in mind, there aren't many defenses that can slow Tony Romo's crew down.
Unfortunately, offensive coordinator Bill Callahan and head coach Jason Garrett appear to have an allergy to calling running plays to drain the clock. This point was made abundantly clear during the second-half collapse against Green Bay in Week 15.
After the game, Garrett called out Romo for changing a run play to a pass before the game-sealing interception, but the game should have never been close in the first place. ESPN's Richard Durrett believes Garrett should have taken some blame for his poor play-calling, and it's hard to argue with his point:
Dallas is a mess, but so is Washington.
Featuring the league's second-worst record at 3-11, Washington has been a train wreck all year long. With one of the worst defenses in the league, Mike Shanahan's team has given up 31 or more points on seven occasions.
On the other side of the ball, Washington has been dismal for most of the season.
However, backup quarterback Kirk Cousins seemed to breathe new life into Washington in Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons. He passed for 382 yards with three touchdowns (and two interceptions), coming within a two-point conversion of leading his team to victory.
Going up against Dallas' league-worst pass defense, Cousins will have another big game. He'll lead Washington to its first win in seven weeks, likely crushing Dallas' playoff hopes in the process.
Projected Score: Washington wins, 31-28.
NY Giants at Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions should wipe the floor with the 2013 New York Giants.
Tom Coughlin's team is barely scraping by these days.
Eli Manning's 25 interceptions are most in the league, Victor Cruz could be done for the year after getting slammed to the turf in Week 15, as noted by Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News, and the team's defense isn't what it used to be.
Somehow, the Giants strung together five wins during a recent six-game stretch, but the past couple of contests against decent teams haven't been pretty.
And in the other corner, Detroit features a roster full of young, talented players who should be competing for a championship. However, under the questionable leadership of head coach Jim Schwartz, who has a history of going berserk on the sideline, the Lions have lost four out of five games down the home stretch.
As a result of this obvious waste of talent, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com recently reported, via Dan Hanzus, that Schwartz could be fired at the end of the season, should Detroit miss the playoffs:
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access" reported that Schwartz is unlikely to keep his job if the Lions miss the postseason, according to team sources.
Another loss would guarantee a second straight season in which the Lions missed the playoffs, likely sealing Schwartz's fate. Even if Detroit wins, it could miss the playoffs, as pointed out by Bleacher Report's Zach Kruse:
But this is New York we're talking about here, and the game is being played in Detroit. Look for the Lions to rise up and play a good, smart game, on their way to beating down the Giants at Ford Field.
Projected Score: Detroit wins, 28-17.
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