Week 16 of the 2013 NFL season has arrived, and with it comes tremendous postseason implications. The playoff picture is nowhere near set, as some teams are locked into a postseason berth but are still fighting for position.
Even the teams that have already been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention will continue to strive to showcase players, save face and play spoiler. These are the teams that could provide a few surprises over the waning weeks of the season.
Let's take a look at three underdogs that will find a way to come out victorious against a superior opponent this week. These will be followed by an entire list of predictions for Week 16.
Washington Redskins Surprise Dallas Cowboys
During his Week 15 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, Kirk Cousins showed that he is certainly capable of producing from the quarterback position at the NFL level. Cousins was able to throw for 381 yards and three touchdowns in Washington's 27-26 loss.
Despite the loss, the Redskins offense flourished against the Falcons with 476 total yards. Now, Cousins and Co. are set to face Dallas' 32nd-ranked defense in Week 16. The Cowboys are giving up an average of 427.3 yards per game, which sets Cousins up for continued success.
On the other hand, the Cowboys offense stalled out against the Green Bay Packers last week. After Dallas settled for five Dan Bailey field goals, the Packers were able to creep back into the game and ultimately come out with a win.
Tony Romo continues to struggle late in games, as two interceptions doomed Dallas' chances last week. Washington's offense is trending upward, and they are catching a reeling Cowboys team at the right time.
This one has all the makings of an impending upset.
Prediction: Redskins 31, Cowboys 26
Chicago Bears Get the Road Win Against Philadelphia Eagles
The Bears kept their playoff hopes alive after coming out on the winning end of a shootout against the Cleveland Browns last week. The return of quarterback Jay Cutler sparked the Bears offense, as a huge fourth quarter propelled the team to 38 total points.
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are quickly becoming one of the NFL's most formidable wide receiver duos. Also, both receivers showed that they have not lost any chemistry with Cutler, as the quarterback was able to connect with each in the end zone last week.
Jay Cutler on 3rd down for Bears in win on Sunday: 11-for-12, 151 yards, 2 TD passes— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 16, 2013
The Eagles have a high-flying offense of their own. Quarterback Nick Foles has been absolutely impressive this season. However, it is the Eagles defense that could be their undoing in this contest.
Philadelphia allowed 48 points to a Minnesota Vikings team that was missing Adrian Peterson and allowed Matt Cassel to start at quarterback. Cassel absolutely carved up the Eagles secondary, as he threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns.
The Eagles defense did not fare much better on the ground. Third-string running back Matt Asiata was able to score three times as well.
Now, a collapsing Eagles defense will have to contend with this high-octane Bears offense in Week 16. If Philadelphia does not improve defensively, it will not be able to keep up with the Bears throughout the game.
Prediction: Bears 34, Eagles 29
New England Patriots Roll Over Baltimore Ravens
It is unusual for a 10-4 Patriots team to be considered underdogs at this point in the season. However, that is exactly the case when they travel to Baltimore on Sunday.
After a loss to the Miami Dolphins last week, the Patriots are still on pace to claim the AFC's No. 2 seed for this year's playoffs. Despite the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski, quarterback Tom Brady was still able to find success through the air, passing for 364 yards and two touchdowns.
Both Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola were able to record at least 10 receptions and 130 receiving yards. These speedy, versatile receivers could give Baltimore's 13th-ranked pass defense fits in Week 16.
Philip Rivers has a 28-6 (.824) career record in December. Only Tom Brady has a December win pct (26-4: .867) since 2006 (min. 10 starts)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 18, 2013
The Patriots defense has come alive of late as well. They were able to sack Ryan Tannehill four times in Week 15. If they are able to produce the same amount of pressure on an inconsistent Joe Flacco, it will only increase their chances to leave Baltimore with a victory.
The Ravens offense remains one-dimensional, as running back Ray Rice continues to struggle. Rice carried 12 times for 56 yards against a good Detroit defense last week; however, he still has only been able to manage 3.1 yards per carry over the season.
Lots of pressure will be put on Flacco's shoulders on Sunday, as it will be up to him to keep up with Brady and Co. Unfortunately for the Ravens, the more Flacco throws, the greater the chances are that one of his errant passes finds the arms of a Patriots defender.
New England shouldn't find much trouble coming away victorious in Baltimore this week.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Ravens 17
Here is the complete list of predictions for Week 16 of the 2013 NFL season:
|Away Team||Home Team||Pick|
|Miami Dolphins||Buffalo Bills||Dolphins|
|New Orleans Saints||Carolina Panthers||Panthers|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||St. Louis Rams||Rams|
|Chicago Bears||Philadelphia Eagles||Bears|
|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||Titans|
|Arizona Cardinals||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks|
|N.Y. Giants||Detroit Lions||Lions|
|Oakland Raiders||San Diego Chargers||Chargers|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Green Bay Packers||Steelers|
|New England Patriots||Baltimore Ravens||Patriots|
|Atlanta Falcons||San Francisco 49ers||49ers|
Sean O'Donnell's Predictions