NFL Week 16: Coming Down To The Wire, Who Wants The Playoffs?
You remember everything we talked about regarding the playoffs last week? Well, throw that all out the window! It seems no one wanted to seal their spots in the playoffs during last week’s games (Kansas City was the only team to punch their ticket), setting up a slate of games this Sunday that have tremendous implications on the playoff picture.
Instead of trying to tell you everything you need to know about the potential implications here, let’s take it on a game-by-game basis. The games this Sunday vary from “heavy” implications on the playoffs to teams just playing out the string (home team in CAPS, pick in BOLD and lines from the Mirage in Las Vegas).
Miami Dolphins (-2.5) vs. BUFFALO BILLS
Normally I wouldn’t take the Dolphins for a road game in Buffalo, but they’ve got something to play for that could drive them. The ‘Fins are in a neck-and-neck fight with the Baltimore Ravens for the final playoff spot; if they were able to win out and the defending Super Bowl champions stumble at all, they would earn that slot.
Buffalo has already been eliminated from the playoffs and that’s probably a good thing. WR Stevie Johnson is out for this game, as is QB E. J. Manuel, so there’s little reason to believe that the Bills offense will provide any test for the Dolphins’ defense. I’ll reluctantly take Miami in this game as they look to a potential Week 17 game for their playoff lives.
Minnesota Vikings (+8) vs. CINCINNATI BENGALS
The Vikings, without RB Adrian Peterson last week, did the unthinkable in laying a crushing defeat on the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles last week. Already eliminated from the playoffs, they look (with Peterson back in the fold) to be the “thorn in the side” for another team with postseason aspirations.
Cincinnati has to keep winning to stay ahead of Baltimore in the AFC North and last week’s stumble against Pittsburgh wasn’t the way to do it. They have to get better production out of their young trio of offensive studs – QB Andy Dalton, RB Giovanni Bernard and WR A. J. Green – if they are going to have any impact in the playoffs. While I don’t see Minnesota winning this game outright, I do see them keeping it close enough to cover the spread.
Indianapolis Colts vs. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-7)
This game will feature two teams that could very well meet each other in the first round of the AFC playoffs. The Chiefs, however, are still looking for the AFC West division crown and a potential #1 seed should the Denver Broncos falter.
Weather conditions may dictate how this game will play out. There is a chance of snow to start the game on Sunday, with temps in the 20s, not a good sign for a dome team such as Indy. Kansas City should take this one in what will be a plodding affair instead of an outstanding offensive matchup.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. ST. LOUIS RAMS (-3.5)
Welcome to one of the “play the season out” games on the schedule this week as both teams are looking to set up tee times instead of booking flights for the playoffs. St. Louis is still a pesky unit, however; just look at last week’s thumping of the New Orleans Saints in their cozy confines at the Edward Jones Dome in the Gateway City to enforce that message. The Rams should win this one fairly comfortably, although it isn’t going to help their draft positioning any.
Cleveland Browns (+1.5) vs. NEW YORK JETS
Our second “play the season out” game comes courtesy of the Brown and the Jets. After losing last week to the Carolina Panthers, the Jets were eliminated from the playoffs and that is probably a good thing considering their quarterback woes. The Browns have been entertaining at times this season, also with their own quarterback injury issues, but the lack of consistency under the center has hurt them. With little to play for, I look for Cleveland to come away with the win here as both teams look to not get anyone hurt severely as they head for the offseason.
Dallas Cowboys (-3) vs. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
It was all in the Cowboys’ hands last week. Beat Green Bay and set up for the potential of a showdown with Philadelphia for the division title. Instead, the ‘Pokes blew a 23 point lead and ended up losing to the Packers. They got extremely lucky when Minnesota handed them the gift of beating Philly, which still keeps the Week 17 chance of a “play or go home” game on the table.
This is one of the tougher games to pick for the week as the Cowboys are a dismal 2-5 on the road, but the Redskins won’t be starting QB Robert Griffin III so he can “heal” for next season. I could see this game ending in a push (a Cowboy victory by a field goal), but I think it’ll be more like a touchdown as the Cowboys look to stay alive in the playoff race.
New Orleans Saints vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS (-3)
Finally, a game that actually means something! These two teams are tied atop the NFC South and a win by New Orleans would give them the division title (due to beating Carolina twice during the season). A Carolina win, though, would give them the edge with one week to go in the season. Two weeks ago, the Saints thrashed the Panthers in a trip to the Superdome. Expect the Panthers to return the favor here as the Saints aren’t nearly as good on the road (3-4) and outdoors (2-3).
Tennessee Titans vs. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (+4.5)
And back to the games that don’t mean anything. The Titans/Jags game will be a horrendous matchup to watch simply because there isn’t anything on the line. The winner of this game will seal up second place in the AFC South, however, so maybe they’ll put it on the line for that (OK, probably not). The Jaguars have been feisty as of late and, with this being their final home game of the year, could expect to see them pull off the win against the Titans.
Denver Broncos (-10) vs. HOUSTON TEXANS
Seeing how it is college bowl season, this game could be aptly renamed the “What Could’ve Been” Bowl. Houston was expected to challenge the Broncos for supremacy in the AFC at the start of the season. Instead, they are now pretty much locked in as the recipient of the #1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Denver, however, has lots to play for: keeping their #1 seed slot and attempting to put distance between them and the Chiefs (not to mention the Patriots) should lead QB Peyton Manning and Company to put another beating on what has been a sad season for the Houston faithful.
New York Giants vs. DETROIT LIONS (-9.5)
Here’s an example of how last week was devastating for the Lions. After losing on a last-second field goal to Baltimore, the Lions went from leading the NFC Central to out of the playoffs in one game. Don’t expect that to happen again (or another poor game from WR Calvin Johnson) as the Lions try to get back into the mix by beating up on the Giants, who will be without WR Victor Cruz following season-ending knee surgery and a host of other players who might have made this an interesting game.
Arizona Cardinals vs. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-10)
The scenario is simple for the ‘Hawks: win and you’re the #1 seed for the NFC playoffs, which would be extra sweet in that they wouldn’t leave the Pacific Northwest for the remainder of the season (they have completed all their road games for this season). Arizona could give them a bit of a fight, however, as they attempt to eke their way in by taking this game. I don’t see the Cardinals doing that, though (the Seahawks haven’t lost at home in the last two seasons), especially with QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald banged up.
Oakland Raiders vs. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (-10)
Ho-hum, another meaningless game on the NFL Week 16 slate. The less said about this game, the better…let’s just call it a decisive victory for the Chargers and move on.
New England Patriots vs. BALTIMORE RAVENS (-2)
There will be plenty on the line in Crabcake City later on Sunday when these two teams square off. The Patriots, after losing last week to Miami, have yet to clinch the AFC East crown and Baltimore controls their playoff destiny (win their last two games, they’re in as the #6 seed). The Patriots are a bit injury-ravaged at this point of the season and, even though they have QB Tom Brady, he can’t do it by himself. The Ravens should win this one the same way they beat the Lions last Monday night: a last-second field goal will allow them to win the game and cover the spread.
Chicago Bears (+3) vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
By the time these teams take the field on Sunday night, they should know what they have to do to seal their spots in the playoffs. Chicago locks up the NFC North if Detroit and Green Bay lose (and they win this game), and Philadelphia is in the same spot (a win and a Dallas loss gives them the NFC East championship). Thus, it could either be a stirring fight between these two teams or they may coast through the game and wait until next week to make their playoff drive.
Once again, it could be a “push” game (Philly winning by three), but I could conceivably see the Bears pulling this out. It comes down to who wants it more.
Atlanta Falcons vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-14)
I’d love to take the Falcons and the points in this game, but there’s just too much running against them. First off, the 49ers need this win to get in the playoffs as at least the #5 seed (if Arizona loses against Seattle, then both the 49ers and Carolina Panthers are in as the wild cards); it is the final game at Candlestick Park, so the fans should be out in full throat; and, finally, the Falcons have just lost too much to be able to give a challenge to the 49ers. It should be quite the celebration as the 49ers close out Candlestick with a rousing victory.
Last Week: One week after having an outstanding weekend of picks, back to the basement. Going 5-11 (after the 11-5 of Week 14) doesn’t do anything for your bottom line!
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