With 16 matchups scheduled for this weekend and countless postseason scenarios in play, Week 16 is sure to feature plenty of surprises.
With 15 teams alive for eight remaining playoff spots, the stakes have never been higher.
Here are my last-minute picks for Week 16's full slate of matchups.
|Miami Dolphins (-3)||Buffalo Bills|
|Cincinnati Bengals (-8)||Minnesota Vikings|
|Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5)||Indianapolis Colts|
|St. Louis Rams (-4.5)||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|New York Jets (-1)||Cleveland Browns|
|Dallas Cowboys (-3.5)||Washington Redskins|
|Carolina Panthers (-2.5)||New Orleans Saints|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Tennessee Titans (-4)|
|Denver Broncos (-9.5)||Houston Texans|
|Detroit Lions (-9.5)||New York Giants|
|Seattle Seahawks (-9.5)||Arizona Cardinals|
|San Diego Chargers (-9.5)||Oakland Raiders|
|Baltimore Ravens (-1.5)||New England Patriots|
|Green Bay Packers (N/A)||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|Philadelphia Eagles (-4)||Chicago Bears|
|San Francisco (-10)||Atlanta Falcons|
Lines via VegasInsider.com
Denver Broncos Over Houston Texans
Watch for the Denver Broncos to rebound in Week 16 following a disappointing home loss to the San Diego Chargers in Week 15. After all, the Broncos will take on the NFL's worst team in the Houston Texans, who have lost 12 in a row.
Remember, Denver can clinch the AFC West and a first-round bye if it beats Houston and the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the Indianapolis Colts this weekend. The Broncos can also clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win and losses by the Chiefs and New England Patriots.
To put it simply, a win this weekend could go a very long way for the Broncos.
The oddsmakers have the Broncos as 9.5-point favorites on the road and it wouldn't be at all surprising if Peyton Manning and Co. covered the spread with ease. After all, Houston has lost six straight home games and is coming off a 22-point loss to the Colts in Week 15.
Denver will have a much easier time than last week on both sides of the ball, especially defensively, with the turnover-prone Matt Schaub set to start for the Texans at quarterback, per the team's official Twitter account:
Schaub has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this season and ranks 29th in the league in passer rating, well below Manning, who ranks second coming into Week 16.
Offensively, expect Manning and friends to be ready from the outset. The future Hall of Fame passer clearly isn't overlooking Houston, per DenverBroncos.com's Brandon Moree:
We don’t look at records, we look at the tape. On offense, we see a good defense. We see some outstanding players when you’re talking about guys like (Antonio) Smith and (J.J.) Watt and guys that can dominate a football game. We’re still getting to know them. They kind of had some injuries. They got some new players playing from the last time we played them so that’s what we’re focused on and I think we’ll do a good job getting ready to play.
Keep in mind that Manning will have had 10 days to prepare for the Texans defense come Sunday afternoon.
Detroit Lions Over New York Giants
The Detroit Lions no longer control their own destiny in the NFC North division race, but they can give themselves a solid shot at the postseason if they win out and finish 9-7. Before they can do that, they'll have to beat the reeling New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in Week 16.
Although Detroit's dismal run of form (1-4 over their last five) hardly suggests it should be favored, the Giants' sloppy play (back-to-back 23-point losses) has the Lions coming into Sunday's game as 9.5-point road favorites.
Don't expect the Lions to cover quite as easily as the Broncos, but do expect them to come out on top.
While both Detroit and New York rank toward the top of the league in giveaways this season, the Giants have been much more generous, turning the ball over 39 times through 14 games and sporting a minus-17 turnover differential.
On top of that, the Lions have more offensive weapons at their disposal, highlighted by Calvin Johnson, who ranks second in receiving yards and touchdowns coming into Week 16. On the other side, the Giants will be without their top wide receiver, Victor Cruz, according to NFL Network reporter Kimberly Jones on Twitter:
Ten days ago, Victor Cruz said NYG goal after elimination was to "finish the season strong and keep everyone healthy." Today, knee surgery.— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) December 19, 2013
Baltimore Ravens Over New England Patriots
The defending Super Bowl champions are set to earn another crucial win this weekend when they topple the Patriots at home in a rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game.
While you can expect another hard-fought game between these two contenders, as pointed out by NFL.com's Albert Breer on Twitter, look for the Ravens to come out on top.
Patriots-Ravens is a big one Sunday ... Check this out: 11 of Pats' 14 games, and 10 of Ravens' 14 games have been decided by 7 pts or less.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) December 17, 2013
Baltimore will be a slight favorite at home in this matchup—and for good reason. The Ravens are 6-1 at M&T Bank Stadium this season and have won four straight in Charm City. On top of that, they are playing excellent defense at home, allowing just 16.5 points per game there over their four-game home winning streak.
The Ravens defense has been opportunistic at home as well, forcing seven turnovers over the team's last four home games.
Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer also likes the Ravens on Sunday, making some strong points in their favor:
The Ravens swept the Patriots last season, including their impressive victory in the AFC title game at New England. They still match up well against Tom Brady, and this one’s back in friendly Baltimore. The Ravens’ defensive backs are outstanding in covering and make quick tackles after the catch, and don’t need to contend with Rob Gronkowski, setting them up to keep Brady from overworking the middle of the field.
What's more, all four of New England's losses this season have come on the road, including Week 15's loss to the Miami Dolphins. Keep in mind that the Patriots have won just one road game since the start of October, going 1-4 outside of Foxborough since Week 5.
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