NFL Picks Week 16: Predictions for Every Game
The NFL playoff picture is coming into focus more and more each week. Which teams can expect to win in Week 16, and which will go home defeated?
We're breaking down every game in the NFL Week 16 schedule, telling you who will win and why. Don't wait until later in the week to get started on a slate of games kicking of Thursday, we have you covered.
Thursday: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
When Houston Has the Ball:
Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates came back down to Earth last week, but he is still good enough to get the job done against a meager defense. Riding the talented backs on the roster, Arian Foster and Ben Tate, will give Houston enough offense to build a lead.
The Houston offensive line must play better this week than they did against the Carolina Panthers. Duane Brown and Eric Winston must control the speedy Indianapolis defensive ends. If they can't, the Colts have a chance in this one.
When Indianapolis Has the Ball:
Dan Orlovsky did a good job last week, but can lightning strike twice in the form of a good game from Orklovsky?
Houston's defense has been almost immovable this season. They looked weak against the run when facing the Panthers. Houston needs a rebound this week on the defensive side of the ball.
The front seven for Houston is good enough to control Donald Brown and the rest of the Colts' offense.
Prediction: Houston 37, Indianapolis 10
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
Arizona Cardinals at Cincinnati Bengals
Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins
Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills
St. Louis Rams at Pittsburgh Steelers
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
When Oakland Has the Ball:
The loss of running back Darren McFadden for the season was disappointing, but McFadden had barely contributed in the second half of the season. The offense belongs to Carson Palmer and Michael Bush now.
Palmer has to limit his mistakes, as this is a must-win game for the team if they want to see their playoff hopes realized. That means less gambling from Palmer and more checkdowns. Kansas City's cornerbacks are the strength of the defense, but they also have a load of talent at outside linebacker that the Raiders will have to scheme around.
Jared Veldheer has been good at left tackle, but he'll meet his match with Tamba Hali lining up across the way. Hali had three sacks last week and is amped up for a big finish to the season.
When Kansas City Has the Ball:
Kyle Orton was a breath of fresh air in the Chiefs' shocking win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 15. Can he get it done against a bitter rival though?
Orton did a good job making reads and didn't make the mistakes that had plagued Tyler Palko. He also got production from Thomas Jones and benefited from mistakes by the Packers. One thing the Chiefs can count on is penalties from Oakland. No team sees more yellow flags, a benefit that could be the difference in a close game.
Kansas City's offensive line has been improving, but they'll need to step up agains this week to shutdown the strong pass rush the Raiders can bring.
Prediction: Kansas City 23, Oakland 17
New York Giants at New York Jets
When the Giants Have the Ball:
Eli Manning and the New York offense struggled last week in a surprising loss to the Washington Redskins. They'll be on notice this week, as the G-Men need wins if they want to see the playoffs.
If the Giants want my expert opinion this week, they should scheme around running back Ahmad Bradshaw. If they can get the run game going they will slow down the pass rush, and limit what Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are able to do. The Giants need to take their shots deep, but they also want to control the game with the run.
Manning will want to avoid Revis and Cromartie as much as possible, which could mean more checkdowns and less shots on the outside. Expect Manning to attack the seam with Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham.
When the Jets Have the Ball:
Shonn Greene has to be a factor this week. If we've learned anything over the last 15 weeks it is that Mark Sanchez is not good enough to carry this team. With help from Greene, the Jets have a shot.
Rex Ryan lives for situations like this, and he'll have his team ready to play and fired up for a must-win game. Expect an aggressive approach from the Jets on both sides of the ball. Taking deep shots against the Giants can be risky, but it's something the Jets have to do to keep their pass rush off Sanchez.
Keep an eye on Jason Pierre-Paul. If he's able to get into the backfield consistently, he has the talent to be a major difference maker.
Prediction: Giants 31, Jets 27
San Diego Chargers at Detroit Lions
When San Diego Has the Ball:
Ryan Mathews is proving he's among the best young backs in the NFL...when he holds on to the football.
Mathews is a feature back in every sense of the word, but his inability to hang on to the ball has the Chargers nervous about trusting the young back with the ball in key moments. And that's OK when you get the good Philip Rivers.
San Diego has been seeing the good Rivers lately, but against a defense like Detroit's that can pressure the pocket and make plays on the quarterback, we may see the bad Rivers from earlier this season. Getting into Rivers' head is the key. Detroit will need to attack the San Diego backfield to win this game.
When Detroit Has the Ball:
The Lions remembered this week that Calvin Johnson is almost impossible to stop with one, two and even three defenders committed to his side of the field. When Matthew Stafford wants to attack the defense and has time to get the ball to Johnson, big things happen.
The Lions' offensive line has to play better this week than the Baltimore Ravens did in Week 15. Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus will have their hands full against Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes.
San Diego has the speed and talent to attack the edge, but stopping the run way be a chore if the Lions commit to running out of spread formations.
Prediction: Detroit 31, San Diego 28
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
When Philadelphia Has the Ball:
A healthy Michael Vick makes all the difference for the Philadelphia Eagles. With healed ribs, Vick was able to run around and make the throws that made him a $100 million man before the season. As much as the Eagles are paying Vick, they need him to put it all on the line this week in a must-win game.
The Eagles will look to work the right side of the field, running and throwing away from DeMarcus Ware. Undoubtedly the best outside linebacker in the game, Ware has an amazing impact on the field and the game plan each week. The Eagles have an elite left tackle in Jason Peters, but even so they will work away from Ware.
LeSean McCoy should have his chances this week against Dallas' average safeties and coverage linebackers.
When Dallas Has the Ball:
It's not exciting for most fans, but the key to Dallas winning this game will rest in the hands of offensive tackles Doug Free and Tyron Smith. If they can slow down Trent Cole and Jason Babin, Dallas will win. If the Philadelphia defensive linemen are able to run free, watch out.
Dallas will want a balanced attack, getting good production from Sammy Morris and Felix Jones at running back instead of relying on the passing game against a Philadelphia secondary that is as good as any in the league.
Watch to see who the Eagles place Nnamdi Asomugha on in coverage. If he's on Miles Austin, I like the matchup of Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson against the rest of the Eagles' coverage.
Prediction: Philadelphia 31, Dallas 30
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
When San Francisco Has the Ball:
If you expected this one to be easy for the 49ers, think again. Seattle's defense is among the best kept secrets in the NFL. They also play in one of the most volatile environments for opposing offenses. Seattle will be much more than a warm-up for San Francisco.
Frank Gore has to be the key, as always, but the dink-and-dunk offense from Alex Smith and the passing game actually benefits the 49ers. San Francisco will want to stay away from safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, and if Smith is patient to work the edges and take what's there, he can avoid the big mistake against a great safety tandem.
When Seattle Has the Ball:
This game will be closely contested thanks to two dominant defenses. It will be a true test for the San Francisco defense to try and stop Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle run game. No player in the NFL runs with more power and more violence than Lynch.
Tarvaris Jackson can be a liability, especially when pressured off the edge. The 49ers will get pressure on the Seattle offensive line, which is beat up at tackle and ready to be exploited by the speed of the 49ers' edge rushers.
San Francisco lives and dies with the play of their front seven. The game plan will be to key on Lynch and hit Jackson as early and often as possible.
Prediction: San Francisco 21, Seattle 17
Sunday: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
When Chicago Has the Ball:
Those asking for Caleb Hanie to replace Jay Cutler before the season began should feel incredibly stupid right now.
Rant over, the Bears are in trouble. There were rumors that Cutler could be ready to play this week, but the team has but a remote chance at the playoffs after seeing their record fall to 7-7. Why risk Cutler's health? By Sunday Chicago will know if they have a shot at the playoffs or not. That could very well determine if Cutler plays or not.
Green Bay will want to attack the backfield, no matter who is in at quarterback. Unleashing Clay Matthews and even bringing heat from the secondary will be enough to throw off the Bears' quarterback situation.
When Green Bay Has the Ball:
How will the Green Bay offense respond after scoring just 14 points against the Kansas City Chiefs? I expect the reply to be explosive.
Minus two starters at offensive tackle, the Packers were exploited on the edge last week. They'll do more to help Marshall Newhouse at left tackle this week and should have Bryan Bulaga back by Sunday night. The Packers will need to chip Julius Peppers as much as possible with tight ends and fullbacks, as they won't want to let Peppers free against Newhouse one-on-one.
The Packers will do what they always do-air it out and play smart football. Chicago's secondary is far less talented than Kansas City's and won't be able to frustrate Rodgers.
Prediction: Green Bay 38, Chicago 13
Monday, Game of the Week: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
When Atlanta Has the Ball:
Matt Ryan has an explosive group of players on his offense, all ready to attack the Saints' defense. The match-up of Julio Jones and Roddy White against the New Orleans defense will be worth the wait to Monday night.
Ryan has to stay clean and on his feet this week. When protected, Ryan is an elite quarterback. Will Svitek has played well at left tackle in replacing Sam Baker, which bodes well for Ryan. The Saints' aren't known for their great players on defense, but the scheme and execution are solid.
The Saints have to know the Falcons can and will move the ball. The game plan should focus on creating turnovers and hoping Brees can outscore Ryan.
When New Orleans Has the Ball:
This should be the week that Drew Brees passes Dan Marino as the all-time single-season passing leader. Impressive stuff, but meaningless if the Saints can't win this game to keep their chances for the No. 2 seed in the NFC alive. Brees would tell you records mean little in the here and now. It's all about winning.
Brees gets a ton of credit, as he should, but it's the run game of the Saints that impresses me most. Even with guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans having down seasons, the Saints are able to get into a rhythm running the ball and can steamroll a defense.
Atlanta will look to counter the run game with their speed on defense and their girth up front. Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux need monster games to hold off the interior of the Saints' line. If they can hold their ground, Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon have the speed and vision to make plays and shut down the Saints' offense.
One player who makes a world of difference is Brent Grimes. Without Grimes, the Falcons' defense is very different. They need him back this week.
Prediction: Atlanta 31, New Orleans 30
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