NFL Game Picks: Week 16
The holidays are here, and so are the final two weeks of the 2018 NFL season. It’s been a wild ride so far, and week 15 was no exception, as we saw a thrilling comeback in Kansas City on Thursday night, a nail-biter in Pittsburgh and some late-season magic from Nick Foles. With the playoff picture starting to solidify, it’s crunch time for those hoping to end up on the “nice list” of teams in the postseason. Now, let’s see what presents the NFL is giving us fans in week 16.
Washington Redskins (7-7) @ Tennessee Titans (8-6)
Saturday’s doubleheader begins with two teams needing a win in order to have a viable shot at the postseason. The Redskins just eked out a win in Jacksonville last week, while the Titans dominated the Giants for 60 minutes. But you never know whether the good Titans or bad Titans are going to show up. The result of this one is a toss-up, all hinging on which Tennessee we see. The playoffs are within reaching distance, so maybe the good Titans will show up.
The pick: Tennessee 22, Washington 13.
Baltimore Ravens (8-6) @ Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)
It’s always nice to see juicy primetime matchups like this one this late in the season. The top-ranked Baltimore defense squares off against the fourth-ranked Los Angeles offense in a game with massive postseason implications all around.
A win for the Chargers puts them within striking distance for the AFC’s top seed if the Chiefs falter, while a road victory almost surely secures a bid for the Ravens. Clear your schedule for Saturday night. You won’t want to miss this one.
The pick: LA Chargers 31, Baltimore 27.
Atlanta Falcons (5-9) @ Carolina Panthers (6-8)
We’re witnessing the mother of all collapses. The Panthers were sitting pretty at 6-2 weeks ago, but it’s all come crashing down. The smart move would be to shut down the clearly hurting Cam Newton for the remainder of the season, and it seems that Carolina is headed in that direction. As for the game? It doesn’t mean much, as both team’s playoff aspirations are shot. Atlanta looked dominant versus Arizona last week, so perhaps they get a road win over a division rival.
The pick: Atlanta 29, Carolina 16.
Buffalo Bills (5-9) @ New England Patriots (9-5)
Is the evil empire finally coming to an end? It seems like it could be happening. Tom Brady hasn’t looked his best in 2018; Rob Gronkowski looks ancient, and the 14 penalties committed in Pittsburgh last week were totally uncharacteristic of the Patriots. Then again, we’ve all fallen for this thought before.
Let’s give them some time. In the meantime, New England should take care of business against the Bills at home. If they don’t, we may have a serious problem on our hands.
The pick: New England 26, Buffalo 10.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-8) @ Cleveland Browns (6-7-1)
The greatest Christmas present any Cleveland fan could ask for? The Browns are playing a meaningful game in late December! With last week’s road victory over the Broncos (their first victory outside the state of Ohio since October 2015), the Browns still have playoff life. Granted, those chances are incredibly slim, but crazier things have happened. With Cincinnati still looking lame barring last week’s win over Oakland, Cleveland capitalizes with another victory.
The pick: Cleveland 29, Cincinnati 12.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9) @ Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
Honestly, last week’s shutout loss in Indianapolis shouldn’t come as a surprise. No one can stay on top forever, and after five straight wins (three coming over divisional rivals), Dallas was due to disappoint.
Still, the Cowboys are on the cusp of locking up the NFC East for the second time in three years. Do they have what it takes to overcome their traditionally bleak Decembers? Or will Tampa Bay play spoiler and leave Dallas hanging for another week? It’s a close call.
The pick: Dallas 27, Tampa Bay 24.
Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1) @ Detroit Lions (5-9)
It hasn’t been a pretty season for the Vikings, which were expecting a standout year thanks to an all-star defensive roster and the massive offseason signing of Kirk Cousins. Still, Minnesota is in decent to grab a wild-card bid in the NFC playoff chase, as the Vikings currently sit in the No. 6 spot.
But a win in Detroit is necessary, as their week 17 bout versus the powerful Bears could very well end badly. With the stakes high, Minnesota rises to the occasion and defeats the Lions.
The pick: Minnesota 31, Detroit 16.
Green Bay Packers (5-8-1) @ New York Jets (4-10)
For the first time in the Aaron Rodgers era, the Packers will miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. There’s no doubt that 2018 has been a major disappoint for Packer fans, but Green Bay has the chance to end the season on high against two relatively easy opponents.
Then again, if Sam Darnold looks as sharp as he did last Saturday against Houston, perhaps this is not a gimme for Green Bay. But Darnold is not Rodgers. Packers grab the road victory.
The pick: Green Bay 23, NY Jets 17.
New York Giants (5-9) @ Indianapolis Colts (8-6)
At this point, there’s almost no doubt that Andrew Luck is going to win the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Indianapolis has shined brightly since mid-October, and a large reason for that is because of Luck’s stellar play.
As such, the Colts have won seven of their last eight, but they still reside on the outside looking in regarding the postseason. With playoff hopes on the line, Luck and Colts come up big again on Sunday by beating the visiting Giants.
The pick: Indianapolis 33, NY Giants 17.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10) @ Miami Dolphins (7-7)
Down the Patriots, then get blown out in Minnesota. Only Miami could do this. Though the playoff chances are slim, the Dolphins are technically still alive, and with a strong finish and some help elsewhere, they could potentially end up in the postseason.
But it all starts with an intrastate matchup against the sputtering Jaguars. Failure here absolutely kicks the Fins to the curb. Jacksonville very well could pull off the upset, but Miami won’t let that happen too easily.
The pick: Miami 17, Jacksonville 7.
Houston Texans (10-4) @ Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)
This one just got a whole lot more intriguing. For the visitors, there’s potential to inch ever closer to that coveted first-round bye. For the home team, the postseason remains a viable possibility with the Nick Foles-led Eagles emerging victorious in Los Angeles last Monday.
Assuming Foles gets the start again, is there any chance he can pull off some more magic? There is, but with the Texans hungry to earn their first-ever playoff bye, it’s unlikely to happen.
The pick: Houston 31, Philadelphia 20.
Chicago Bears (10-4) @ San Francisco 49ers (4-10)
The Bears are in an interesting spot right now. With the Rams no longer looking impervious, Chicago could potentially steal a first-round bye should the Rams drop another game somewhere along the line. Of course, this all depends on Chicago winning too, but with San Francisco suddenly playing spoiler in back-to-back weeks, that could be easier said than done. Expect a hard-fought battle in Santa Clara, but ultimately, expect Chicago to come out victorious.
The pick: Chicago 29, San Francisco 25.
Los Angeles Rams (11-3) @ Arizona Cardinals (3-11)
Even with Jared Goff’s season suddenly taking a wrong turn, Los Angeles should be the heavy favorite in this one. When these teams met in week two, the Rams dominated 34-0, and they didn’t allow Arizona to cross midfield until the final minute of the game.
Perhaps Sunday’s game won’t be as much of a beatdown, but with a first-round bye hanging in the balance, the Rams shouldn’t disappoint. A Cardinals loss also inches them closer to the No. 1 overall draft pick.
The pick: LA Rams 26, Arizona 13.
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) @ New Orleans Saints (12-2)
Nothing shouts “Pittsburgh Steelers” more than losing three winnable games in a row then defeating the Patriots. But the toughest challenge may be yet to come, as the Steelers head to New Orleans for a Sunday afternoon bout with the Saints.
This one is doable though, as the Saints have hardly looked dominant since being shocked by the Cowboys in late November. This one has “game of the week” potential written all over it. It should be sure to entertain.
The pick: Pittsburgh 28, New Orleans 27.
Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) @ Seattle Seahawks (8-6)
The result of Sunday night’s bout will be decided by which team can rebound better. Both teams were shell-shocked in week 15, as the Chiefs fell victim to a fourth-quarter comeback at the hands of the visiting Chargers, while the Seahawks were stunned in overtime by San Francisco.
Both rosters are loaded with talent, and both have heavy playoff implications on the line. It’s no wonder the NFL schedule makers decided to keep this one in primetime on Sunday night.
The pick: Seattle 26, Kansas City 24.
Denver Broncos (6-8) @ Oakland Raiders (3-11)
Not every primetime game can be glamorous. While Sunday Night Football has the flexibility to adjust the NFL schedule, Monday Night Football doesn’t get that luxury, so we’re stuck with a meaningless matchup between two mathematically eliminated teams.
There is a little bit on the line here though. Since Pat Bowlen took ownership of the team, the Broncos have never had back-to-back losing seasons. They’ll keep that streak alive… at least, for one more week.
The pick: Denver 22, Oakland 16.
DJ Bauer is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.