NFL

NFL Week 16 Picks: Teams That Will Take Step Closer to Playoffs with Vital Wins

Dec 15, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert (35) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter with quarterback Cam Newton (1) and tackle Byron Bell (77) and tight end Richie Brockel (47) at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2013

At this late stage of the regular season, the playoffs are beginning to take shape. Four teams have clinched a playoff spot, with the Indianapolis Colts as the only team of the four to have won its division already.

For those teams who have yet to clinch, it's important to get wins this weekend—otherwise all of their hopes will be riding on Week 17. That way, coaches can decide whether or not to rest some of their players, and at the very least begin game-planning for their potential playoff opponents.

Here's a look at picks for all 16 games this weekend, followed by three teams that will help their postseason position the most.

Week 16 Picks
Home TeamAway TeamPick
Buffalo BillsMiami DolphinsMIA
Carolina PanthersNew Orleans SaintsCAR
Cincinnati BengalsMinnesota VikingsCIN
Houston TexansDenver BroncosDEN
Jacksonville JaguarsTennessee TitansJAX
Kansas City ChiefsIndianapolis ColtsKC
Washington RedskinsDallas CowboysDAL
New York JetsCleveland BrownsNYJ
St. Louis RamsTampa Bay BuccaneersTB
Seattle SeahawksArizona CardinalsSEA
Detroit LionsNew York GiantsDET
Baltimore RavensNew England PatriotsBAL
San Diego ChargersOakland RaidersSD
Green Bay PackersPittsburgh SteelersPIT
Philadelphia EaglesChicago BearsPHI
San Francisco 49ersAtlanta FalconsSF
Schedule via NFL.com

 

Miami Dolphins

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 15:  Marcus Thigpen #34 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates his touchdown in the fourth quarter with teammates  Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins and  Lamar Miller #26 of the Miami Dolphins against the New England Patriots
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Who would have thought that with everything the Miami Dolphins have dealt with this season they'd still be in the playoff hunt? It's a testament to the team's resolve and Ryan Tannehill's steady improvement over the second half.

The Dolphins need some help if they're to get into the postseason. At 8-6, they're tied with the Baltimore Ravens, but Baltimore holds the tiebreaker after Miami's 26-23 loss to the Ravens in Week 5.

At least Miami gets the Buffalo Bills, losers in five of their last seven games, this Sunday. Plus, EJ Manuel is out, meaning Thad Lewis takes over the starting QB duties.

Buffalo's defense is solid, but the Bills will have a hard time moving the football against a Dolphins defense that is stingy against the pass.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 15: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks to throw a second quarter pass while playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 15, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Despite that car wreck against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday night, the Cincinnati Bengals still control their own destiny. If they can win their next two games, they'll win the AFC North and could possibly earn a bye in the Wild Card Round.

The Adrian Peterson-less Minnesota Vikings sprung a surprise on the Philadelphia Eagles to the tune of a 48-30 win last week. That seems more of an indictment of the Philadelphia defense than it is an endorsement of the Minnesota offense.

The Bengals will be eager to rebound from that 30-20 loss to Pittsburgh, so you can bet the players will be up for this one. They also know what's at stake.

The Vikings rank 25th against the pass, according to Football Outsiders, and have intercepted 12 passes the entire season. As long as Andy Dalton can throw the ball down field, Cincinnati will prevail.

 

Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 15:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts on the bench during their game against the New York Jets at Bank of America Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Playing at home will be a huge boost for the Carolina Panthers. They're 6-1 at home in 2013, while the New Orleans Saints are 3-4 away from the Superdome.

Some may look at that 31-13 loss in Week 14 as evidence that Carolina isn't on the same level as New Orleans. If anything, though, that defeat allowed Ron Rivera to iron out the kinks before the playoffs start.

Rivera acknowledged that the Panthers will have to play better defensively, especially in the red zone, per NewOrleansSaints.com:

To me it is about what happened in the red zone more than anything else. We have to be better there.  We cannot allow that. Then in the last four minutes of the first half the Saints scored 14 points and went up 21-6. Again, to me, it was about the way we played in the red zone and the effectiveness they had in the red zone against us.

With the Panthers needing to win to keep hopes of winning the NFC South alive, they'll be a much better team than the one from two weeks ago.

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