Road wins never come easy in the NFL, but with the impending arrival of the postseason, it becomes easier for hopefuls to weather the hostile environments en route to a much-needed win.
Which is exactly what will happen in Week 16, as it did the week prior where a total of nine teams emerged from road trips with a fresh mark in the win column.
This pattern will hold true for a few playoff contenders this week despite the presence of would-be spoilers.
|Miami Dolphins||Buffalo Bills||Miami Dolphins|
|Minnesota Vikings||Cincinnati Bengals||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Indianapolis Colts||Kansas City Chiefs||Indianapolis Colts|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||St. Louis Rams||St. Louis Rams|
|Cleveland Browns||New York Jets||New York Jets|
|Dallas Cowboys||Washington Redskins||Dallas Cowboys|
|New Orleans Saints||Carolina Panthers||Carolina Panthers|
|Tennessee Titans||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|Denver Broncos||Houston Texans||Denver Broncos|
|New York Giants||Detroit Lions||Detroit Lions|
|Arizona Cardinals||Seattle Seahawks||Seattle Seahawks|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Green Bay Packers||Green Bay Packers|
|Oakland Raiders||San Diego Chargers||San Diego Chargers|
|New England Patriots||Baltimore Ravens||Baltimore Ravens|
|Chicago Bears||Philadelphia Eagles||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Atlanta Falcons||San Francisco 49ers||San Francisco 49ers|
Chris Roling's predictions.
Miami Dolphins Slip Past Buffalo Bills
The Miami Dolphins are one team looking for a wild-card berth in the AFC and have a date with Buffalo in Week 16. These two met in Week 7, which the Bills won 23-21.
But things appear simple this time around. Buffalo starting quarterback EJ Manuel will miss the game, as will No. 1 wide receiver Stevie Johnson, per the team's Twitter account:
Doug Marrone: WR Stevie Johnson, S Aaron Williams, and QB EJ Manuel are all officially OUT for Sunday. #Bills— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) December 20, 2013
Yikes. Miami is on a roll after upending New England in Week 15 and has the playoffs in sight. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (3,627 yards, 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions) is backed by a sound defense that allows an average of 21.1 points per game.
While a road contest, the Dolphins are 4-3 away from Sun Life Stadium. There is something to be said about the adversity the Dolphins have overcome this year, so a trip to Buffalo with the Bills' season already over is nothing but a small blip on the radar.
Prediction: Dolphins 24, Bills 20
Dallas Cowboys Trounce Washington Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys enter FedEx Field Sunday as the favorite, but the game against Washington, a team that will be without its starting quarterback, will be no cakewalk.
Dallas should be concerned. In the past three weeks, the Cowboys defense has allowed backups Matt McGloin, Josh McCown and Matt Flynn to combine for 902 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions. There are no other stats worth spewing, just understand one thing—Dallas cannot stop anybody through the air.
Which is why a showdown with Washington backup Kirk Cousins is a bit concerning. He went out last week against Atlanta and threw for 381 yards and three scores. Coach Mike Shanahan told reporters, via the team's official site, that he is more comfortable than ever this week:
Well, one thing I think that he was able to do is with all the OTA reps, with the summer camp reps, he got a full share, which was big in his development going into this year. Then all of a sudden, you don’t get any reps until last week, so I know that he’s enjoying the repetition that he’s gotten and he gets to work with the first unit again. So that’s a big plus for him. You can see he’s more comfortable this week than he was last week.
This is certainly an issue for Dallas, but it is important to point out the Cowboys had little issue moving past the Redskins in Week 6 via a 31-16 thrashing.
Washington is just as deserving of criticism defensively and ranks dead last in the NFL with an average of 31 points allowed per game. This has the chance to turn into a shootout, and in such a contest, the smart money is on Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, not Cousins and Pierre Garcon.
Prediction: Cowboys 34, Redskins 24
Denver Broncos Destroy Houston Texans
This will be a fun one to watch.
An angry Peyton Manning is a nasty Peyton Manning, and the frontrunner for MVP looked anything but in Week 15 as he tossed two touchdowns and an interception in a loss to San Diego.
Unlike the Chargers, the Houston Texans have nothing to play for in Week 16 outside of the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2014.
Houston is shutting it down and has lost 12 straight. The latest domino to fall is running back Ben Tate, who was placed on injured reserve per James Palmer of CSN Houston:
Ben Tate placed on season ending IR. He's been playing with 4 fractures ribs since the KC game. Most likely played his last game for #Texans— James Palmer (@JPalmerCSN) December 18, 2013
This means Dennis Johnson, owner of 37 career carries, is the lead back for Houston. He and the Texans offense will simply not have the firepower to stay in it with Manning, who leads the NFL's No. 1 offense at an average of 38.2 points per game.
Houston may hang tough at home in the hopes of playing spoiler, but the depleted roster simply does not have enough active talent to make this competitive by the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Broncos 38, Texans 24