Week 16 NFL Predictions: Contenders Set to Notch Statement Wins

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens looks to pass against the New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium on September 23, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The closing weeks of the NFL season are ripe with opportunity for contenders to beat their chests with a major win before heading to the postseason for what could be a special run.

Whether it is fending off a team looking to play spoiler or downing another playoff hopeful set to enter the postseason, the Week 16 slate is littered with intriguing matchups set to at least slightly preview what the playoffs will bring fans.

Three games stick out in particular as contests between contenders. The teams set to emerge victorious and put the league on notice are not as obvious as the first take would lead fans to believe.

NFL Week 16 Predictions
Away Home Prediction
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.

Carolina Panthers Fend Off New Orleans Saints

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 08:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers is tackled by  Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 8, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Something has to give when the New Orleans Saints meet the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Week 16, as both are tied at 10-4 for the top spot in the NFC South.

Believe it or not, the Panthers are in the driver's seat after winning nine of their last 10. The one loss came in New Orleans, where the Saints put a 31-13 beating on the Panthers.

Go ahead and throw that out the window. Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn put it best, via the team's Twitter account:

Precisely. No team is going to New Orleans and easily picking up a win, but on the road, the Saints are merely human. It is why the team has road losses to the New England Patriots, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks and most recently a humbling 27-16 loss in St. Louis to the Rams.

Meanwhile, Carolina is 6-1 at home, and quarterback Cam Newton has to be in the MVP conversation thanks to his 3,556 total yards and 27 touchdowns. At home, the Panthers get their revenge and put the NFL on notice.

Prediction: Panthers 23, Saints 20

Seattle Seahawks Blast Arizona Cardinals

Oct 17, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Let's just get this out of the way, courtesy of ESPN:


Anyway, that outcome may not perfectly capture what is about to go down from CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks have not lost since December 2011.

But it is close.

Kudos to coach Bruce Arians and the Arizona Cardinals for a magnificent year, especially in the NFL's best conference, but there will be no statement win here. The Cardinals' injury report is littered with important names such as Karlos Dansby, Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer.

Now is not the time to be banged up. Seattle has lost just two games this year by a combined eight points and returns from New York after a 23-0 victory over the Giants.

Seattle is a defensive powerhouse led by a league-best 14.6 points allowed on average. Arizona will be able to move the ball, but not enough to make this entertaining. Seattle continues to compile the impressive wins.

Prediction: Seahawks 30, Cardinals 20

Baltimore Ravens Stun New England Patriots

Dec 8, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones (12) is congratulated by wide receiver Marlon Brown (14) after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Here we go again.

The Cincinnati Bengals opened the door for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football in Week 15 with a loss to Pittsburgh, which means the Baltimore Ravens could win out and win the AFC North.

The Ravens, no strangers to getting hot when it matters most, took care of business the following night on Monday Night Football and now face a New England team they are more than familiar with.

But Baltimore coach John Harbaugh is well aware of the challenges the Patriots offense represents, even without tight end Rob Gronkowski, as he told Garrett Downing of the team's official website:

The Patriots do as good a job as anybody in the league, and have over the years, of fitting players into their offense and then taking advantage of the things that they do well. They do the underneath stuff, the short passing game, the inside routes, and they do a great job of that.

Perhaps Harbaugh is being modest because his defense ranks in the top 10 with an average of 19.8 points allowed per game. The Ravens are also 6-1 at M&T Bank Stadium this year, whereas the Patriots are just 3-4 away from home.

The New England offense has once again reverted to its ugly early-season form after the loss of Gronkowski. That, along with the knowledge an AFC North crown awaits with two more wins, will propel the Ravens to a victory and put the league on notice that the defending champions are still very much alive.

Prediction: Ravens 21, Patriots 20

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