NFL Picks Week 16: 10 Shockers You'll Never See Coming

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistDecember 22, 2010

NFL Picks Week 16: 10 Shockers You'll Never See Coming

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 12:  Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns runs against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 13-6. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    When the NFL hits the final four weeks of the regular season, you really learn who the pretenders and contenders are. That's about the time when the really good teams start separating from the pack and the surprising teams that came from nowhere tend to fade off.

    All of this brings on a number of surprising upsets late in the season—Tampa Bay losing to Detroit in Week 15 for example.

    As we roll into Week 16, there are a number of games that, while may not ultimately be upsets, will be a lot closer and more competitive than we think they will be.

    So who is going to steamroll the competition? Who is going to struggle against an inferior opponent? Who is going to inexplicably lose a game that they should have won?

    Check out these 10 shockers among all the picks for Week 16 of the NFL season.

Carolina Panthers Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 19:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers hands off to Rashard Mendenhall #34 during their game agasint the New York Jets at Heinz Field on December 19, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Image
    Karl Walter/Getty Images

    Why Carolina Will Win

    The Panthers are coming into their game with the Steelers on a rare high for them. They defeated Arizona in Week 15 and are now 2-12 overall. If they want to have any hope against Pittsburgh, they have to control the clock and maintain some kind of rhythm on offense, which they really haven’t done in any game this year.

    Why Pittsburgh Will Win

    Carolina is playing the Steelers at the wrong time. The Steelers just lost a tough game to the Jets and will be even more motivated in this game because they want to win the AFC North and get a first-round bye. Even if Troy Polamalu doesn’t play, it’s tough to imagine the Steelers losing this game.

    Player Who Could Lead the Upset

    If the Panthers want to have any chance in this one, they will need Jonathan Stewart to have a monster game, allowing them to control the clock and not rely as much on rookie Jimmy Clausen in a brutal environment.

    Prediction

    Pittsburgh 27, Carolina 6

Dallas Cowboys Vs. Arizona Cardinals

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 05: Orlando Scandrick #32 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with Mike Jenkins after scoring a touchdown after an interception against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Ph
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    Why Dallas Will Win

    The Cowboys have been playing great football under Jason Garrett. He has the offense clicking, even without Tony Romo under center. The defense still isn’t very good, but they get stops at key moments. Anticipate a big day from Jon Kitna and Jason Witten in Arizona.

    Why Arizona Will Win

    Arizona can win the game if it is able to pressure Kitna and force him to have to move out of the pocket. If the Cardinals can establish a running game with Tim Hightower, who averages over five yards per carry, and not have to rely on Derek Anderson, they can hang with Dallas and pull off the win.

    Player Who Could Lead the Upset

    Tim Hightower needs to have a big day against a Dallas defense that does have some holes in it. If he can do that and take pressure off of Arizona’s passing game, they have a shot to win.

    Prediction

    Dallas 30, Arizona 17

Washington Redskins Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Rex Grossman #8 of the Washington Redskins during play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Why Washington Will Win

    The Redskins benched Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman came in and did some things we didn’t think he could do. He gave them a spark on offense and looked really good in that game against Dallas. The defense will have to stop Jags running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and if they do that, there isn’t anyone else on the Jaguars offense that can beat them.

    Why Jacksonville Will Win

    After a bad performance in a game against Indianapolis that could have clinched the Jaguars' first division title in 11 years, they will need a big rebound game from Maurice Jones-Drew. If he can get back to what he was doing before the Colts game (six straight 100-yard rushing games), they can open up their offense a little bit.

    Player Who Could Lead the Upset

    Rex Grossman came back from the dead in leading the Redskins' best offensive attack this season. If he can stay away from the turnovers that he had early in the game against Dallas last week, the Redskins can pull off the upset and put a damper on the Jags' playoff hopes.

    Prediction

    Washington 24, Jacksonville 20

Detroit Lions Vs. Miami Dolphins

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 14:  Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions catches a pass between Donte Whitner #20 and Leodis McKelvin #28 of the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 14, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills won 14-12.  (P
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Why Detroit Will Win

    If you haven’t been looking, Detroit has been playing really well in its games this season. The Lions don’t have the victories to show for it, but they have been close in a number of games. When they get a little secondary help, they will be really good. Shaun Hill has been solid for this team in Matthew Stafford’s absence. The defense has stepped up and gotten a little better since that Thanksgiving game against New England.

    Why Miami Will Win

    The Dolphins need to exorcise their home demons; they are 1-6 at home this season compared to 6-1 on the road. Their defense is really good and has helped carry the offense at times throughout the season. They need Chad Henne to be consistent and show that he can lead this offense next year.

    Player Who Could Lead the Upset

    Calvin Johnson needs to have a monster day against a good Dolphins defense for the Lions to break through and win back-to-back road games for the first time in a long, long time.

    Prediction

    Detroit 28, Miami 20

San Francisco 49ers Vs. St Louis Rams

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    SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 12:  Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers runs after a catch as Lawyer Milloy #36 of the Seattle Seahawks defends during an NFL game at Candlestick Park on December 12, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jaco
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Why San Francisco Will Win

    In an epic battle for NFC West supremacy, San Francisco goes to St. Louis. San Francisco can win this game quite handily if they get a good performance from their running game and don’t have to throw the ball. Also, their defense should be able to confuse Sam Bradford, who has fallen off a bit in his last few games.

    Why St. Louis Will Win

    The Rams have surprised a lot of people this year and hold their fate in their own hands. If they win out, they are in the playoffs. If they can force San Francisco into throwing the ball and take them out of their game early, that will fluster the 49ers and Rams could pounce on that opportunity.

    Player Who Could Lead the Upset

    Another game that doesn’t really appear to have a favorite. Since it’s in St. Louis, I will say the 49ers are the underdog. In that case, Vernon Davis needs to take over this game. If the Rams contain the 49ers running game, that will force them to throw. Vernon Davis is their only deep threat, and they will need to target him early and often.

    Prediction

    San Francisco 20, St. Louis 16

Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs

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    NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 19:  Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans runs against the Houston Texans at LP Field on December 19, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated the Texans, 31-17. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Why Tennessee Will Win

    The Titans finally ended their long losing streak last week when they defeated Houston and kept their ever-so-slim playoff hopes alive. They are playing a Chiefs team that will have their backs to the wall, feeling the pressure from the surging San Diego Chargers. If they can break through the Chiefs offensive line and force Matt Cassel to beat them, they can pull off the upset.

    Why Kansas City Will Win

    The Chiefs live and die with the running game. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones have combined for over 2,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Titans are 17th in the NFL in run defense, which could lead to a big day for the Chiefs' two-headed monster at the running back position.

    Player Who Could Lead Upset

    Titans running back Chris Johnson has had a very good year that has gone largely unnoticed because he won’t run for 2,000 yards again. The Chiefs have an average run defense, and if Johnson can get loose, it will open up everything for that offense.

    Prediction

    Tennessee 24, Kansas City 23

New York Jets Vs. Chicago Bears

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 21:  LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the New York Jets runs against the Houston Texans on November 21, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Why New York Will Win

    The Jets are coming off an emotional, hard-fought victory over Pittsburgh, tempering any talk of a late season collapse, at least for one week. The defense, while not playing at the level they were last year, has been getting better. Jay Cutler has been known to throw an interception or two, which against this defense would not surprise anyone. The offense needs to step up their play as they have been scuffling for about the last month.

    Why Chicago Will Win

    Chicago clinched the NFC North with its win over Minnesota on Monday. The Bears still have some work to do, however, as they can clinch a bye with a win and an Eagles loss. The defense has been swarming all year long and will try to put pressure on Mark Sanchez. Jay Cutler needs to avoid the stupid interceptions that he tends to throw. If he does that, the Bears will be in good shape.

    Player Who Could Lead the Upset

    The Jets running game has let them down lately. They will need the duo of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene to take pressure off Mark Sanchez and the passing game. Another guy who can disrupt the game is Darelle Revis. If he can shut down the left side of the field, the Jets can force Cutler into some turnovers.

    Prediction

    New York 23, Chicago 21

New England Patriots Vs. Buffalo Bills

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown scored by running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis #42 (not pictured) against the Green Bay Packers in the first quarter of the game at Gillette Stadium on
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Why New England Will Win

    The Patriots have won six games in a row, they haven’t scored less than 31 points in any of those games and they have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Do you really need any more reasons than that?

    Why Buffalo Will Win

    The Bills have played very hard this season, and they have their second two-game winning streak of the year. They played the Patriots tough in their Week 2 game before losing 38-30. Their run defense is a big problem and the Patriots will probably try and exploit that. If they can come up with a gameplan that can fix that hole, they could have a chance.

    Player Who Could Lead the Upset

    Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has quietly had a very nice year for the Bills. He will throw for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. New England’s secondary is still its biggest weakness, and if Fitzpatrick can exploit that, they can hang with the Patriots.

    Prediction

    New England 35, Buffalo 24

Baltimore Ravens Vs. Cleveland Browns

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs with the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    Why Baltimore Will Win

    The Ravens gained a lot of momentum defeating the Saints last week. After questions about their defense, they were able to stop Drew Brees and co. at the end of the game. Ray Rice is starting to get back to his 2009 form. If he continues to run the way that he did last week, the Ravens are scary good.

    Why Cleveland Will Win

    Things were looking better for the Browns, but two straight losses to Buffalo and Cincinnati have taken the shine off of them. They need to run the ball and control the clock against this Ravens defense and keep Joe Flacco and Ray Rice off the field.

    Player Who Could Lead Upset

    The Browns offense revolves around running back Peyton Hillis. If he can have a great game and make it so that Colt McCoy doesn’t have to throw the ball against the Ravens' swarming defense the Browns could knock off the Ravens.

    Prediction

    Baltimore 27, Cleveland 13

Houston Texans Vs. Denver Broncos

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    HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13:  Quarterback Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans runs out of the pocket as he looks for a receiver against the Baltimore Ravens at Reliant Stadium on December 13, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Why Houston Will Win

    The Texans once again underachieved this season but they can finish the year strong, starting this weekend against Denver. The Broncos are a mess and Houston has one of the best offenses in all of football. So long as their defense doesn’t screw everything up, Houston should be fine.

    Why Denver Will Win

    Tim Tebow’s first start wasn’t miraculous, but he did look pretty good against the Raiders last week. He will have to throw a little more this week if they want to stay in the game with a very good Houston offense.

    Player Who Could Lead Upset

    The Broncos don’t have any playmakers on the offense. Tim Tebow showed some signs that he could be one in that game against Oakland last week. If he can be effective throwing against a bad Texans secondary, the Broncos could pull off the upset.

    Prediction

    Houston 30, Denver 24

San Diego Chargers Vs. Cincinnati Bengals

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Wide receiver Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers scores a touchdown on an 11-yard pass in the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 16, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Phot
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Why San Diego Will Win

    The Chargers are playing in their favorite month and are in their favorite predicament—backs to the wall and only a little hope left. They are playing so well right now that the only thing that could stop them is them.

    Why Cincinnati Will Win

    The Bengals ended a 10-game losing streak last week against Cleveland, which is good I guess. If the defense can get Philip Rivers to throw some interceptions and Carson Palmer doesn’t turn the ball over, they could compete with the Chargers.

    Player Who Could Lead the Upset

    Chad Ochocinco will need to help Carson Palmer out in this game if the Bengals are going to have a chance. Another thing to look for: West Coast teams don’t usually play well in the cold weather places late in the year.

    Prediction

    San Diego 31, Cincinnati 13

Indianapolis Colts Vs. Oakland Raiders

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    OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Nnamdi Asomugha #21 of the Oakland Raiders warms up against the St. Louis Rams during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 19, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Why Indianapolis Will Win

    The Colts have built up some momentum and control their destiny in the AFC South. The Colts will win if Peyton Manning has a Peyton Manning game. He is the only threat this team has left on offense, with the possible exception of Reggie Wayne, so if he plays well, odds are the Colts will win.

    Why Oakland Will Win

    The Raiders have a chance to win the AFC West if they win out and get a lot of help. Peyton Manning has been turnover prone this season and Oakland has a very good secondary. If they put pressure on him and force turnovers, they will have a great chance to defeat Indianapolis.

    Player Who Could Lead the Upset

    Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha will be covering Reggie Wayne. If he locks down Wayne, then the Colts will need another receiver to step up.

    Prediction

    Oakland 24, Indianapolis 21

New York Giants Vs. Green Bay Packers

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    DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 12:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers throws a second quarter pass while playing the Detroit Lions on December 12, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Why New York Will Win

    The Giants will likely try to make a statement in this game after their epic collapse against the Eagles last week. They have a great running game and their defensive front can get after quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has been cleared to play this week by multiple doctors and will do so if he goes through practice unscathed.

    Why Green Bay Will Win

    The Packers are playing for their season this week. Win and they get the inside track to the final Wild Card spot. Lose and they are done. If Aaron Rodgers is playing, you have to like the Packers in this home game against a vulnerable Giants team.

    Player(s) Who Could Lead the Upset

    Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs need to have big days in Green Bay. The conditions are likely not going to be good for throwing the ball, and Eli Manning still doesn’t have the ability to win a game on his own.

    Prediction

    Green Bay 27, New York 20

Seattle Seahawks Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 19:  Running back LeGarrette Blount #27 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers straight-arms safety C.C. Brown #39 of the Detroit Lions during the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Im
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Why Seattle Will Win

    The Seahawks will likely have a new starting quarterback, Charlie Whitehurst. The team could rally around their young backup in a game that they have to win to stay alive in the NFC West.

    Why Tampa Bay Will Win

    The Bucs really shot themselves in the foot last week losing to Detroit at home. LeGarrette Blount has had a really good rookie season for the Bucs and has taken a lot of pressure off Josh Freeman. If he has a good game, the Bucs will get back on track.

    Player Who Could Lead the Upset

    Seahawks running back Justin Forsett will need to at least be effective against Tampa Bay to take pressure off Charlie Whitehurst and the Seahawks passing game.

    Prediction

    Tampa Bay 19, Seattle 10

Minnesota Vikings Vs. Philadelphia Eagles

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles rushes against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 19, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Why Minnesota Will Win

    The Vikings are down to their third-string quarterback, Joe Webb, unless Brett Favre is miraculously able to come back from a concussion sustained Monday. If they are going to have a chance against the Eagles, in Philadelphia, they need Adrian Peterson healthy and playing in this game. If he is, just hand him the ball and get out of his way. If not, the Vikings are in trouble.

    Why Philadelphia Will Win

    The Eagles are riding high right now and will want to clinch the NFC East in front of their home crowd. Of course, they have two home games left to do it, but still they want to get it done this week. They are faster and better then the Vikings at almost every skill position, so look for Michael Vick to have a big game and further his case for MVP.

    Player Who Could Lead the Upset

    Adrian Peterson, if he is able to play and has a monster game, serves as the Vikings' only chance.

    Prediction

    Philadelphia 33, Minnesota 14

New Orleans Saints Vs. Atlanta Falcons

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    SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons passes against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on December 19, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Why New Orleans Will Win

    The Saints need to win if they want to win the NFC South and have a chance at a first-round bye. The Falcons secondary is susceptible to the pass and Drew Brees can pick apart a defense as well as anyone in the NFL.

    Why Atlanta Will Win

    The Falcons can clinch the NFC South and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs with a win. They are playing at home and Matt Ryan doesn’t lose home games. He is 20-1 in the Georgia Dome since being drafted in 2007.

    Player Who Could Lead the Upset

    Drew Brees, if he can exploit the Falcons' biggest weakness. If the offense does well, New Orleans can delay the Falcons' celebration for at least a week.

    Prediction

    Atlanta 31, New Orleans 30