Before closing out the season, the NFL will bid farewell to 2015 in a make-or-break Week 16 for some squads.
Football continues to expand beyond Sunday, surrounding Christmas with a game on Thursday and Saturday night. Due to a superstar making the naughty list last weekend, Sunday night's matchup got a lot less jolly.
Oddsmakers and bettors are still getting a feel for the penultimate week's action. Expect the odds, presented courtesy of Odds Shark as of Tuesday morning, to fluctuate over the next few days. As for now, let's look at final-score predictions for all 16 matchups before highlighting three noteworthy clashes.
|Week 16 Odds and Predictions|
|San Diego Chargers||Oakland Raiders||OAK -5||47||28-24 OAK|
|Washington Redskins||Philadelphia Eagles||PHI -3||47.5||27-24 WAS|
|Carolina Panthers||Atlanta Falcons||CAR -7.5||47.5||31-20 CAR|
|Dallas Cowboys||Buffalo Bills||BUF -7||43.5||20-13 BUF|
|San Francisco 49ers||Detroit Lions||DET -8.5||N/A||27-17 DET|
|Cleveland Browns||Kansas City Chiefs||KC -14||42.5||30-13 KC|
|Indianapolis Colts||Miami Dolphins||N/A||N/A||20-17 MIA|
|New England Patriots||New York Jets||NE -3||45.5||27-21 NE|
|Chicago Bears||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||TB -3||45.5||24-23 TB|
|Houston Texans||Tennessee Titans||N/A||N/A||16-13 HOU|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Baltimore Ravens||PIT -11.5||47.5||35-17 PIT|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||New Orleans Saints||NO -3.5||N/A||34-31 JAX|
|Green Bay Packers||Arizona Cardinals||ARI -4.5||49.5||31-26 ARI|
|St. Louis Rams||Seattle Seahawks||SEA -14||40.5||24-13 SEA|
|New York Giants||Minnesota Vikings||MIN -4||N/A||27-20 MIN|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Denver Broncos||DEN -3.5||41||23-17 DEN|
|Betting info courtesy of Odds Shark|
Arizona Cardinals (-4.5) vs. Green Bay Packers
If the NFC standings hold up, the Green Bay Packers are a first-round playoff victory away from setting up a Round 2 showdown against the Arizona Cardinals. They'll preview the potential bout as one of Sunday's three late-afternoon games.
Up two to Green Bay and down two to the Carolina Panthers, it will take a drastic swing to shake Arizona from the No. 2 seed. Winners of eight straight with an NFL-best plus-176 point differential, the Cardinals don't have as much to prove as the Packers, who have recently covered up their blemishes against lackluster opponents.
However, Arizona suffered a major blow to its No. 7-ranked defense in Week 15. As confirmed by the team's official Twitter account, star safety Tyrann Mathieu will miss the rest of the year with a torn ACL:
ESPN Stats & Info highlighted the significance of losing the Honey Badger from their secondary:
If the Packers offense was operating at their typical capacity, Mathieu's absence would cause a change in course. Yet they're averaging 22.9 points per game since their 6-0 start. Aaron Rodgers has registered a 60.8 completion percentage and 6.78 yards pass per attempt, both career lows since taking over the starting quarterback gig.
“We just don't really have a clear-cut direction,” Rodgers said after Sunday's win over the Oakland Raiders, per ESPN.com's Jason Wilde. "We got into some stuff with John [Kuhn] in there and four receivers, but we were too inconsistent."
The Cardinals offense certainly has a direction, leading the league with 422.9 total yards per game. In addition to regularly burning defenses deep, an injury to Chris Johnson forced them to upgrade their backfield. Registering 472 total yards in three starts, rookie David Johnson makes them a complete juggernaut. At their current diminished state, the Packers will fail to keep up.
Minnesota Vikings (-4) vs. New York Giants
This one should have carried upset appeal. Despite their 6-8 record, including a one-point loss to the New England Patriots and Sunday's three-point defeat to Carolina, the New York Giants sport a plus-15 point differential. The Minnesota Vikings, meanwhile, have outperformed their plus-24 margin to go 9-5.
Entering Week 15, the Giants trailed the Vikings by one spot in Football Outsiders' team efficiency ratings. With Big Blue fighting for their season, this matchup was a tossup game in disguise. Now, not so much.
Due to his unsportsmanlike actions against Carolina, the NFL suspended Odell Beckham Jr. for Sunday night's game. NFL on ESPN shared the league's official statement explaining their decision:
Per the New York Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano, Beckham will appeal:
The star wide receiver has found the end zone nine times over New York's last seven games, averaging 110.3 yards in the process. He accounts for 1,396 (35.8 percent) of Eli Manning's 3,900 passing yards. Unless Beckham wins his appeal, the Giants are in big trouble.
Even after two promising games from Rashad Jennings, the Giants rank No. 24 in rushing offense and average 3.8 yards per carry. Against a top-10 Vikings passing defense, Manning has no vertical threat and no steady running back to back him up.
Minnesota, on the other hand, should have its offensive star. According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, the Vikings expect Adrian Peterson to suit up despite spraining his ankle during their 38-17 victory over the Chicago Bears:
Along with the NFL's leading rusher doing his thing, look for Teddy Bridgewater to stay hot against the league's worst defense. The second-year quarterback has completed three-quarters of his passes (42-of-56) over the past two games, securing five touchdowns and 10.11 yards per pass attempt. As a result, the Vikings will stamp their postseason ticket while the Giants get officially eliminated.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-11.5) at Baltimore Ravens
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The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have a storied history of close battles. Except for when they're not.
It took a Michael Vick sighting to cause an overtime game earlier in the season, cruelly causing onlookers to watch more plays with Vick under center. They once had a five-game streak of contests determined by three points or fewer, but last year halted the trend with each side seizing a regular-season tilt by 20 points.
Some may point to years of bad blood and Baltimore's home-field advantage, but don't take the upset bait. Don't even take the "it could be closer than everyone thinks" bait. It won't be.
The Steelers have averaged 35.0 points over their last six games, and the Ravens have registered 16.5 points per contest since losing Joe Flacco. Finally ending their series of single-score losses, Baltimore lost by 29 to the Seattle Seahawks and 20 to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Facing the NFL's No. 2 offense represents more cruelty from the scheduling gods. Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, possibly the league's best wide receiver duo, will welcome a defense which has allowed an NFL-high 25 touchdowns to opposing wideouts, per NFL.com.
An increasingly popular title pick, the Steelers still need to wrangle a playoff spot from the Kansas City Chiefs or New York Jets. Since their shaky defense gets a reprieve in the form of Jimmy Clausen, an explosive offense will guide the way to a blowout.