NFL Week 16 Predictions: Christmas Edition

For family reasons, I’m not too much into the Christmas spirit this year, so I welcome a weekend of important NFL action as a distraction.

San Diego at Cleveland

No one wants to lose to an 0-14 team on Christmas Eve, but I’d put an upset alert on San Diego here. Traveling across the country for an early game against a team trying to finally win a game at home in its last opportunity this season. We’ve seen Philip Rivers and the Chargers lose an ugly 7-6 game in Cleveland in 2012. A pick parade is never out of the question, and it’s a tough game to not have Melvin Gordon for, because he would have had a huge fantasy day most likely. I’m still going to pick San Diego, but this game is a little more interesting to me than the last few Cleveland massacres. I’m saying there’s a chance…

It’s not like Jets at New England where the Jets really have no chance.

Atlanta at Carolina

I think the “Ron Rivera and Cam Newton know how to finish strong in December” thing is overblown, and it begs the question why their Sept-Nov. seasons are usually poor. But this is going to be a tough game for Atlanta, which lost 38-0 in Carolina a season ago. In Week 4, Matt Ryan kind of put a stamp on the 2016 Panthers in showing it was going to be a long year with a 500-yard passing game, including 300 yards for Julio Jones, who should be back from injury this week. The Falcons have the No. 1 offense, Luke Kuechly is still out with a concussion, but I think you’ll see the Falcons struggle on the road here. Hopefully one so-so or even bad game from Ryan doesn’t detract away from the outstanding MVP season he’s had to this point, but you know how moronic voters can be with this stuff. The Panthers are the last real challenge from Ryan finishing strong and leading the Falcons to a division title. This is my top game for the 1 p.m. slot. MIN/GB isn’t bad, but not really that interested in seeing those teams again.

Indianapolis at Oakland

I’m probably going to jinx them, but you know what hasn’t been happening this year? The Colts haven’t been getting blown out early and losing games by huge margins like they usually do several times a season under Chuck Pagano. In fact, the Colts have won four road games in a row, two blowouts, and scored 31+ points each time. They’ve even won in Green Bay and Minnesota in impressive fashion. So can Andrew Luck outduel Derek Carr in Oakland? I don’t see why not. You could argue that Luck has been better overall than Carr this season, but the Colts have still lost to the Jaguars and swept by the Texans to be at 7-7 instead of in first place. Meanwhile, just about every fourth-down decision (and penalty call) has gone Oakland’s way late in games this year, and the Raiders are the only team in 2016 not to have blown a fourth-quarter lead. From Twitter, I’m a bit scared that multiple people have thought that an 11-3 team hasn’t had many fourth-quarter leads to blow, but common sense should tell you they have. They just make the necessary plays to end games, and have seven 4QC wins now (one shy of Detroit’s new record). This should be a fun, high-scoring game, but I’ll take Oakland just because of Khalil Mack’s potential to wreck damage against the offensive line whereas Carr should have better protection. But an Indy win would come as no surprise, obviously.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh

The AFC North is basically going to be decided on Christmas afternoon in Pittsburgh, making this low-key one of the biggest games of Mike Tomlin’s career. Because if the Steelers lose this one at home to drop a fifth straight game to Baltimore, then the playoffs are likely not happening. And this is a season where just about anything could happen in the playoffs due to the down year in competition. So I’m a little surprised that the Steelers are a 6-point favorite. Baltimore usually plays them tough, and it’s going to come down to if the offensive line for Pittsburgh can play at a high level. The Ravens tend to contain Le’Veon Bell, and do a good job on Antonio Brown. They also seem to get a deflected pick from Ben Roethlisberger every contest now, and Terrell Suggs has a long history of sacking him in this rivalry. On the other side, the Pittsburgh defense has not allowed more than 20 points during this five-game winning streak, but check the offensive competition: Browns, Colts (no Andrew Luck), Giants, Bills and Bengals (no A.J. Green). Not exactly a bunch of juggernauts, or even average offenses there. Of course, you could say Baltimore fits right into that this year, but I wouldn’t discount Joe Flacco from playing well in this one. I’m going to pick the Steelers, obviously, but I don’t feel confident about it. If they look flat early, look for Baltimore to win and go on to take the division.

2016 Week 16 Predictions

I even knew I should have picked the Eagles on TNF, but still trusted the Giants defense. Well, the Giants did allow fewer points (17) than the Eagles (19), but that early pick-six was a killer, as was the final interception of the night for Eli Manning.

Winners in bold:

  • Jets at Patriots
  • Titans at Jaguars
  • Chargers at Browns
  • Falcons at Panthers
  • Redskins at Bears
  • Dolphins at Bills
  • Vikings at Packers
  • Colts at Raiders
  • 49ers at Rams
  • Buccaneers at Saints
  • Cardinals at Seahawks
  • Bengals at Texans
  • Ravens at Steelers
  • Broncos at Chiefs
  • Lions at Cowboys

Looks like another big week for the home teams, or a very wrong week for me coming up.

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 7-6
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 7-7
  • Week 11: 12-2
  • Week 12: 12-4
  • Week 13: 10-5
  • Week 14: 9-7
  • Week 15: 12-4
  • Season: 139-85

NFL Week 16 Predictions: Almost Great

I will always be amazed at how quickly an NFL season goes. We wait all year for this thing to get started and it’s Week 16 before you know it. There are definitely some important games this week, though some of the marquee matchups have lost a bit of their luster for various reasons.

Patriots at Jets

Bill Belichick is already being tied to stories about resting starters for the playoffs. It’s Week 16, man. I highly doubt Belichick would rest anyone that can play this week with a chance to clinch the No. 1 seed outright. Sticking it to the Jets’ playoff hopes is just an added bonus. I have always thought the Jets had a decent shot in this game given the way the first one went. This is at home, Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing well, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are reasonably healthy, 10 days of rest for them and Darrelle Revis is good for a veteran team, and the Patriots have not been the same scoring juggernaut they were earlier in the season. James White and Danny Amendola are pretty solid replacement options for the roles of Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman, but the Patriots would be better off with their original guys. Amendola is not likely to play either. Devin McCourty also not expected to play, so it really sets up well for the Jets here, but I still think Fitzpatrick will make too many mistakes, the running game won’t dominate like it did early in the season and Todd Bowles still won’t have a good answer for Rob Gronkowski. Not that many ever have.

Packers at Cardinals

The NFC has some quality games to finish the last two weeks with this one, then Seattle-Arizona and Minnesota-Green Bay in Week 17. That’s why it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Packers finish 12-4 and the Cardinals finish 12-4, giving Green Bay the No. 2 seed. Important game? Absolutely. Both teams coming in playing well? Nope. While the Cardinals continue to roll, Tyrann Mathieu’s torn ACL is one of the worst injuries this year given the impact and timing. That’s a big break for the Packers, but few expect this passing game to get back on track given the way things have been going the last few months. It’s like the NFL needed three games to adjust to this Jordy Nelson-less offense and the results speak for themselves. The record-setting efficiency of Aaron Rodgers — where he could just show up, not even play that well and still finish with a triple-digit passer rating — is just not there this year. He’s had a 100 passer rating one time in his last 11 games. He’s not throwing guys open like he used to, and they’re not catching enough contested passes anyway this year. Rodgers is averaging 6.8 YPA — I didn’t think we’d see him drop under 7.5 until his old-man decline phase began years from now. He’s also struggled on third down a great deal. Arizona will be aggressive and still has the talent without Mathieu to turn the Packers into a one-dimensional attack and pressure Rodgers, but this has a chance to be a high-scoring game. Don’t forget the right finger injury last week for Carson Palmer that had him questionable during the week, though it sounds like he’ll be able to play through it. But if there was a game where the Packers could pull off the upset, catching Arizona this week in those pristine field conditions could be the wake-up call for Rodgers and Green Bay heading into the playoffs. But I like Palmer to play well and for John Brown to make up for last week’s drops. It doesn’t help that Sam Shields is out for the Packers against a receiving corps that has three guys capable of playing like a No. 1.

Bengals at Broncos

Poor Andy Dalton. This was going to be the week he could take the Bengals into Denver against the No. 1 defense in a prime-time setting (MNF) and advance the Bengals through the playoffs. Yes, a Cincinnati win would lock up a first-round bye, which is very much equivalent to winning a Wild Card game. But he’s not even getting the chance because of injury, so it’s AJ McCarron against that strong defense with no Tyler Eifert as a security blanket. This is a tough matchup for the Bengals, but it’s not like the Broncos usually score that many points. Under Brock Osweiler, the Broncos have gone scoreless in three straight second halves. This looked like a great game in April with the Dalton in prime time angle, and you expected Peyton Manning to get a shot to make up for last year’s bad performance in Week 16 in Cincinnati. He too is out with an injury, so we get raw backups going against two of the league’s most talented defenses. I think the game will be lucky to break 35 points combined, but we’ll see.

2015 Week 16 Predictions

I had the Raiders on Thursday night in a game I’d prefer to forget watching, but had to watch again to recap for this week’s column.

Winners in bold:

  • Redskins at Eagles
  • Steelers at Ravens
  • Colts at Dolphins
  • 49ers at Lions
  • Browns at Chiefs
  • Panthers at Falcons
  • Texans at Titans
  • Bears at Buccaneers
  • Cowboys at Bills
  • Patriots at Jets
  • Jaguars at Saints
  • Packers at Cardinals
  • Rams at Seahawks
  • Giants at Vikings
  • Bengals at Broncos

It would be so NFL for the Falcons to beat Carolina after a 38-0 loss two weeks ago, for the Giants to win without Odell Beckham Jr., and for the Jaguars-Saints to go way under the scoring projection, but I’m not crazy enough to pick any of those things with confidence.

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 4-10
  • Week 11: 9-5
  • Week 12: 8-8
  • Week 13: 11-5
  • Week 14: 10-6
  • Week 15: 11-5
  • Season: 139-85 (.621)

NFL Week 16 Predictions

I have to be brief today for personal reasons, but I’ll have an epic-sized game preview for Broncos-Bengals on Football Outsiders on Sunday.

Ravens at Texans

While I’m picking the Ravens to win, this is a game I’d stay far away from in betting on or investing in for fantasy football. Everyone expects the Baltimore defense to dominate because it’s likely Case Keenum at quarterback, and he just signed with the team this week. But that’s exactly why this game is dangerous. Keenum, albeit under different coaches (one fittingly the OC of the Ravens now, Gary Kubiak), was a mad bomber at times last season and the Texans have talent on offense. Sure, I bet he’ll turn it over and take some bad sacks, but I think he can hit some big plays too and keep this one interesting. You also can’t fully trust Joe Flacco and the offense on the road against J.J. Watt and company. Ravens barely squeaked by the Jaguars at home last week, so this one could be far more interesting than it looks on paper.

Patriots at Jets

This is Rex Ryan’s “Last Stand” as coach of the Jets. This game has only two possible outcomes: 3-point upset or the Patriots blow them out by 35. I’m going with the latter. Thursday games are bad predictors and Chris Ivory’s 100-yard game certainly looks like an outlier for the season. I think the Patriots shut down the run and cruise in this one.

Chiefs at Steelers

I’ve been saying all week Alex Smith will finally throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. That’s just how the Steelers have been playing in the secondary. I’m a little worried with some of the Dwayne Bowe reports, but he’s still the best candidate. This could be a high-scoring game. Chiefs have allowed 21 passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns (both to Latavius Murray), so I think this is a game where Ben Roethlisberger will have to throw a few scores, perhaps long passes to avoid the red-zone struggles. From 1999-2013, Andy Reid was 3-23 against AFC playoff teams, including 0-6 last year with the Chiefs. He’s at least 1-2 this year with a win over NE and two losses to Denver. I like the Steelers to get the win and clinch a playoff spot at home.

Bills at Raiders

Buffalo wins but I’m predicting Charles Woodson registers his 60th career interception. Enjoy it, because it could be a long time before we see another player hit that mark.

Seahawks at Cardinals

Seattle’s led in 51 consecutive games, which I think is the all-time NFL record. That’s the entire Russell Wilson era. He might be able to go up 3-0 and win this game on Sunday night. Sure, we’re bashing the Cardinals so hard because they have Ryan Lindley at quarterback, so maybe they shock us and actually score 13 points. I just can’t see how they’re going to get things done against this defense, which is also good against the run.

How bad is Lindley? Well, let’s put his 2012 rookie season in context. I did a study this past summer on FO on how pressure impacts a quarterback. When a quarterback’s not pressured, he usually plays efficiently. Only the absolute worst quarterbacks have a poor DVOA when they’re not pressured. Lindley? Well he had the absolute worst DVOA without pressure of any quarterback from 2010-13.

Worst DVOA Without Pressure, 2010-13

NOPRES

When you’re behind Caleb f’n Hanie, you know you suck. Maybe Lindley won’t be as poor under Arians as he was in Arizona two years ago, but the Seahawks are not the defense to get better against.

NFL Week 16 Predictions

I had the Jaguars on TNF and the game wasn’t as bad as expected. Let’s see how the first Saturday NFL double-header since New Year’s Eve 2005 works out. Four pretty disappointing teams going at it.

Winners in bold:

  • Eagles at Redskins
  • Chargers at 49ers
  • Lions at Bears
  • Browns at Panthers
  • Falcons at Saints
  • Packers at Buccaneers
  • Ravens at Texans
  • Vikings at Dolphins
  • Patriots at Jets
  • Chiefs at Steelers
  • Giants at Rams
  • Colts at Cowboys
  • Bills at Raiders
  • Seahawks at Cardinals
  • Broncos at Bengals

Season Results

  • Week 1: 8-8
  • Week 2: 9-7
  • Week 3: 11-5
  • Week 4: 8-5
  • Week 5: 11-4
  • Week 6: 9-5-1
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-5
  • Week 9: 11-2
  • Week 10: 10-3
  • Week 11: 8-6
  • Week 12: 12-3
  • Week 13: 9-7
  • Week 14: 11-5
  • Week 15: 14-2
  • Total: 151-72-1

NFL Week 16 Predictions

The Saints cannot be trusted on the road. The Patriots rarely lose two games in a row.

These are two talking points battling with my gut when picking some of the top games in a loaded Week 16. Regardless of venue, I know the Saints have favorable matchups against that Carolina secondary, which was predictably torched by Drew Brees two weeks ago in the Superdome. I know more talented versions of New England’s offense have struggled with Baltimore’s defense, and the Ravens have had one of the toughest home venues for any visitor. Most of the past meetings were in Foxboro.

So should I just trust my gut on these two games and trust the superior QBs to make up for last week’s shortcomings, or is there something off about both matchups that really does favor the home teams?

The “Saints are so bad on the road” thing has gotten too out of hand this week. Lest we forget the Saints are a league-best 24-15 (.615) on the road since 2009 (New England is second at 23-16; tied with Philadelphia). That’s hard to ignore.

But what happens when we only look at road games against teams finishing the season with a winning record? Then the Saints are 7-8 (.467), which is still the best winning percentage since 2009. They are on a 1-6 stretch, but four of the losses were last year without Sean Payton. From 2009-11 the Saints were 6-2 with a 42-34 loss decided on the final play in Green Bay (2011) and a 30-24 loss in December in Baltimore (2010). Yes, this does not include outdoor playoff losses to the 7-9 Seahawks (2010) and 13-3 49ers (2011), which certainly fuel the narrative.

The Saints clearly do not put on many dominating displays against quality teams like they do in the Superdome, but this team can play on the road and the Panthers are nowhere near as tough of a matchup like Seattle was. I still expect a tough, close game with the NFC South title on the line. I expect Carolina to show much more offense than two weeks ago, but I have changed my mid-week pick and am going with the Saints to get this one now.

Final prediction: Saints 24, Panthers 20

The team that does drop significantly on the road against a quality opponent is the Patriots, who are just 3-11 (.214) with six straight losses, including three this year that ended with Tom Brady throwing a game-ending interception inside the 30-yard line. Post-ACL injury, rarely has Brady done well on the road against a quality opponent, yet leave it up to NFL Network’s Deion Sanders to say Brady can play anywhere while Peyton Manning needs home-field advantage.

Brady also has a career history of under-performing against Baltimore’s defense. He has 8 TD, 10 INT in eight career meetings. This is not one of the best Baltimore defenses he will see, but it’s not a bad one and it did just hold down the Lions pretty well on Monday. It sounds like Aaron Dobson will be back for the Patriots, so it won’t just be a bunch of white slot guys controlling the offense, but there still isn’t a tight end threat or any real deep-ball threat. It’s also being reported that Nate Solder and Kenbrell Thompkins are out, so that makes it harder on the Patriots.

Baltimore has done well in the past to limit the YAC for Wes Welker, so I doubt Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola will go off the way they have against Buffalo and Miami this year. Then again, those were division opponents who should have known what to expect by now. I have a bit more faith in John Harbaugh’s staff — Ravens have played the Patriots as well as anyone in recent years.

The Baltimore offense worries me with the lack of a running game and the way Joe Flacco has played most of the season. If they can turn it on again for the Patriots — there are some favorable matchups down the field — then I can see this being a successful day, but it’s going to hinge more on the defense keeping the score down.

If this game’s not close, then something’s really off. Both teams (along with Chicago) have played a league-high 11 games decided by one score this season. Both have had some absurd wins in the last few weeks alone. Baltimore (8-6) needs this game even more than the Patriots right now. I’m going to give it to them, but I know what picking against the Patriots usually leads to.

Final prediction: Patriots 20, Ravens 23

NFL Week 16 Predictions

I have no real confidence in the Steelers/Packers, Cowboys, Dolphins and Bears/Eagles, so this should be an interesting week. Also, for some reason — oh yeah, the defense — I’m feeling a bad vibe over Denver in Houston. Matt Schaub starting raises the probability of an upset. That Denver defense needs more stops. Houston plays almost everyone close and has lost 12 in a row (8 failed GWDs).

Winners in bold:

  • Colts at Chiefs
  • Cowboys at Redskins
  • Broncos at Texans
  • Buccaneers at Rams
  • Dolphins at Bills
  • Browns at Jets
  • Vikings at Bengals
  • Titans at Jaguars
  • Saints at Panthers
  • Giants at Lions
  • Cardinals at Seahawks
  • Raiders at Chargers
  • Steelers at Packers
  • Patriots at Ravens
  • Bears at Eagles
  • Falcons at 49ers

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 8-6
  • Week 11: 9-6
  • Week 12: 7-6-1
  • Week 13: 11-5
  • Week 14: 10-6
  • Week 15: 8-8
  • Season: 141-82-1

If the Chiefs have another impressive showing against the Colts, then this might be the team to watch out for in the playoffs. It could be another case of things coming together at the right time, namely the offense starting to produce and the chances of the defense getting back to where it was to start the year.

NFL Week 16 Predictions, Adrian Peterson’s Dominance and Writing Recap

It will be a happy holidays as Jets/Titans didn’t go down as the last NFL game ever played.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 15: 49ers and Patriots Play NFL’s Game of the Year – Cold, Hard Football Facts

We only had five games to recap this week with a ton of blowouts on Separation Sunday, but at least we got the game of the year. San Francisco at New England was deserving of a monster recap, as we look at all the teams to come back from 28+ points, finding that only two of the seven have actually gone on to win the game. Also look at the teams who have come back from 21+ down in the fourth quarter and lost, which includes the Patriots three times now. Dallas and Pittsburgh also played an overtime thriller, and the Cowboys are on their biggest run of clutch wins in team history.

NFL Season Changes in a Day…Again – NBC Sports

The NFL is a week-to-week league, and after Sunday’s results, everything changed. Again. The biggest winners were San Francisco and Denver, as they now have the inside track to the No. 2 seed in each conference. Denver should be in Super Bowl or bust mode this season, as they may never have a better chance at a ring.

After Season of Blowouts, What Can We Expect from 2013 NFL Playoffs? – Bleacher Report

It is hard to define a marquee game during the regular season, but I found it even harder to find ones that were really competitive this season. It’s been a lot of blowouts, so what does that mean for the playoffs? A look at the previous five seasons.

Note: I still contend the title of the article should be 2012 and not 2013, but not everyone agrees.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 15 at Houston Texans – Colts Authority

J.J. Watt led a dominant attack against Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offense in a 29-17 win. Luck was pressured on a season-high 51.5 percent of his drop backs. In his last four games Luck has been pressured on 40.8 percent of his drop backs compared to 27.1 percent in the first 10 games. That explains the drop in offensive efficiency.

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Week 16 Predictions – Bleacher Report

I thought this came out as the best edition of the year. A look at why the Bengals need to stop being the Bungles and take care of Pittsburgh. The stat of the year candidate on Adrian Peterson. He has seven runs of 50+ yards in his last seven games alone. That’s as many as the Houston Texans have ever had (174 games), and as many as the Colts and Patriots have combined for in their last 412 games.

AD

 Apocalypse Now: Chicago Bears and the NFL’s Greatest Second-Half Collapses – Cold, Hard Football Facts

The Bears are who we thought they were, or are they? Once 7-1, the Bears are hoping to avoid becoming the fourth team since 1978 to start 7-1 and miss the playoffs. Included is a look at why the Bears have faltered, and which company they could be joining should they complete one of the NFL’s greatest second-half collapses. Anyone remember the 1993 Miami Dolphins or 1996 Washington Redskins?

2012 NFL Week 16 Predictions

The week is about to soon start with the Falcons/Lions, so let me make sure I get this in on time.

  • Falcons at Lions
  • Raiders at Panthers
  • Saints at Cowboys
  • Titans at Packers
  • Vikings at Texans
  • Patriots at Jaguars
  • Colts at Chiefs
  • Bills at Dolphins
  • Chargers at Jets
  • Redskins at Eagles
  • Bengals at Steelers
  • Rams at Buccaneers
  • Browns at Broncos
  • Bears at Cardinals
  • Giants at Ravens
  • 49ers at Seahawks

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Week 4: 10-5
  • Week 5: 10-4
  • Week 6: 5-9
  • Week 7: 12-1
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 11-3
  • Week 10: 9-4-1
  • Week 11: 11-3
  • Week 12: 10-6
  • Week 13: 8-8
  • Week 14: 11-5
  • Week 15: 11-5
  • Season: 145-78-1 (.650)

Finally, here’s a holiday flashback to a year ago, when I wrote “The Night Before Christmas” as told by Joe Namath (Jets Edition). It is still topical enough, and I especially like this part about Mark Sanchez:

“I can’t win with him anymore, can’t you see?”
Well that’s obvious, but what did he want with me?
I couldn’t coach the kid to play quarterback right,
Look at my stats; they’re one hell of a sight!

Suddenly a gunshot rang through the air
It rattled my heart; gave me a good scare
Little Plaxico must have confused a bag of toys for tots,
With the stash of automatic handguns he just bought.

As we calmed down to discuss the Sanchez situation,
St. Rex continued to vent his frustrations.
“The kid can’t do this, the kid can’t do that!”
So why did you take him fifth in the draft?

It’s a little too late for a return, Jets.