Only two weeks remain in the NFL regular season, and with playoff races heating up, Week 16 provides some very important games for postseason positioning.
Of the eight playoff spots, only four have been clinched. Even more surprising, only the Indianapolis Colts have clinched their division title so far, and they clinched the AFC South at just 8-5.
Week 16 provides a number of exciting matchups, so let's take a look at a full list of predictions for every game, followed by a breakdown of the most interesting ones to watch for.
|Miami Dolphins||24-14||Buffalo Bills|
|Minnesota Vikings||13-28||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Denver Broncos||38-20||Houston Texans|
|Tennessee Titans||20-21||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|Cleveland Browns||10-20||New York Jets|
|New Orleans Saints||24-28||Carolina Panthers|
|Indianapolis Colts||28-23||Kansas City Chiefs|
|Dallas Cowboys||31-27||Washington Redskins|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||27-24||St. Louis Rams|
|New York Giants||17-28||Detroit Lions|
|Arizona Cardinals||20-27||Seattle Seahawks|
|Oakland Raiders||17-30||San Diego Chargers|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||28-21||Green Bay Packers|
|New England Patriots||23-27||Baltimore Ravens|
|Chicago Bears||21-35||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Atlanta Falcons||14-33||San Francisco 49ers|
New Orleans Saints (10-4) at Carolina Panthers (10-4)
Date: Sunday, Dec. 22
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Prediction: 28-24, Panthers
The New Orleans Saints may have won 31-13 over the Carolina Panthers in their last meeting, but that was in the Superdome. With the NFC South title on the line, you can bet that this game will be much closer than the one in Week 14 was.
Drew Brees played well in the loss to the St. Louis Rams, throwing for 393 yards and a touchdown, but he also had two interceptions. This is surprising considering the suspect secondary for the Rams, which makes this matchup against the Panthers even more concerning.
The Panthers have one of the league's best defenses, allowing just 296.3 yards and 14.9 points per game, ranking second in the NFL in both categories. While that same defense was burned for 31 points in Carolina's last game against the Saints, it will make adjustments in this one.
But don't expect the Panthers to pull away here. Cam Newton is great, but he doesn't have the best weapons, and Rob Ryan has completely turned the Saints defense around. The Saints are allowing just 19.3 points per game, and they held the Panthers to just 3.9 yards per play in their last meeting.
I expect to see a really close game with the Panthers pulling one out at home and taking the NFC South title. Ron Rivera will make the necessary adjustments, attack the Saints' struggling offensive line as often as possible and force enough bad plays from Brees to get the victory.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8) at Green Bay Packers (7-6-1)
Date: Sunday, Dec. 22
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
Prediction: 28-21, Steelers
The Green Bay Packers have been fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive without their star quarterback over the past two months, and they're somehow still in charge of their own destiny.
However, it appears that they will once again be without Aaron Rodgers this week. According to Bob McGinn from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Rodgers is officially out against the Pittsburgh Steelers, leaving Matt Flynn as the starter once again. Head coach Mike McCarthy had this to say about the situation:
A lot of conversation. Everybody involved. But, as an organization, we feel that we are not ready for him to play. He's not medically cleared.
We've got two different circumstances here. We've got Aaron Rodgers' health, and obviously where we are as a football team.
I think Aaron clearly wants to play. I mean, he's a very competitive man. The kid's played with injuries, he's a tough guy. Everything was laid out on the table...he understands how the organization feels.
Who will win the NFC North?
Without Rodgers, a number of holes have been exposed for the Packers. Their defense has seriously struggled, allowing players to run all over the field in both the running and passing game. Eddie Lacy has been trying to carry the load on offense, and that's been a big help, but Flynn isn't Rodgers, and the offense just hasn't been as effective.
The Steelers come into this game fairly hot after a big 30-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Ben Roethlisberger has been on fire, throwing 12 touchdowns and just one interception over the past five games. While the running game hasn't been effective and the defense has looked old, it's been Big Ben that's carried his team.
Considering how many holes there are in the Packers secondary right now, Roethlisberger should be able to keep his hot streak going and potentially kill the Packers' playoff hopes.
Chicago Bears (8-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)
Date: Sunday, Dec. 22
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: 35-21, Eagles
Both of these teams have potentially huge Week 17 matchups with their division titles on the line, but they will both need to get through Week 16 first.
Who will win the NFC East?
Jay Cutler was finally able to return to the Chicago Bears, and although he struggled at the beginning with two interceptions, he finished the game with 265 yards and three touchdowns. With Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall as his weapons, Cutler has the potential to go off in any game.
But that side of the ball doesn't have the key matchup in this one. The matchup to watch for will be the Bears' run defense against the Philadelphia Eagles' ground game. The Bears rank last in run defense, allowing a total of 152.4 yards per game, while the Eagles have the best run offense, going for 152.9 yards per game.
The Eagles may have lost to the Minnesota Vikings in their last game, but that doesn't mean this isn't a good football team, especially when Nick Foles is under center. He's having an incredible year, throwing for 2,398 yards, 23 touchdowns and just two interceptions, giving him a 117.0 passer rating.
At the end of the day, both teams have high-powered offenses and suspect defenses, but it is that struggling run defense that will doom the Bears.