Aaron Rodgers and the Packers can clinch the NFC North with a win and a Vikings loss. (Photo: Mike Morbeck)
Last night, we finally witnessed the death of the 2015 Philadelphia Eagles, a mercy-killing for a team that has spent the last three months torturing its fanbase with false hope and mistake-riddled play. The Washington Redskins have won the NFC East and their date with the Seahawks looms in two weeks (and don’t worry, Russell Wilson will slaughter them).
Despite football being over in the Philadelphia area, the NFL season marches on and there are still a few division titles and playoff spots up for grabs this week. Unlike previous weeks, we actually have three games on tap between teams currently sitting in playoff spots. Sure, one of those games is AJ McCarron vs Brock Osweiler, but it’s still for the second bye in the AFC. This has truly been a bizarre season and with two weeks to go, I really don’t see a clear Super Bow favorite. Maybe Carolina in the NFC and New England in the AFC? And what about the Steelers and Seahawks, who look like they’re getting hot at the right time? It’s up for grabs this year, which should make for some fun playoff picking in two weeks.
But let’s get into the picks for NFL Week 16 and try to forget about the Eagles’ misfortunes for at least a couple hours. And hey, the Flyers play tonight! They have Shayne Gostisbehere! It’s not all bad in Philly, just like 85% bad.
SUNDAY EARLY GAMES
Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Bucs (-3)
Both these teams are playing out the string and the spread is just the generic three points for the home team. The Bucs have a lot of talent moving forward while the Bears offense improved as the year went on. Both these teams have reasons to be hopeful in 2016, but for now they play a meaningless Week 16 game and I’ll just take the points.
PICK: BEARS +3
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons (+6.5)
Carolina showed their mortality last week, nearly blowing a 35-7 lead against the hapless Giants. Thankfully Tom Coughlin was able to clock-manage the Panthers into a late win, but their defense looked extremely vulnerable. The Falcons are still technically alive in the NFC Wild Card hunt, although they’d need a huge collapse by the Vikings to get there. Picking against Carolina was profitable last weekend, but I’m not counting on lightning striking twice. Panthers bury the Falcons for good.
PICK: PANTHERS -6.5
Dallas Cowboys @ Buffalo Bills (-5.5)
Kellen Moore is the latest contestant on the Dallas Cowboys Quarterback game show as Matt Cassel has been banished to the bench. The Cowboys being a horrific train wreck is one of the few redeeming qualities about this NFL season and the wreck will get worse today. At least they’re doing it right and just tanking for a better pick now. Please start Thad Lewis next week, Chip.
PICK: BILLS -5.5
San Francisco 49ers @ Detroit Lions (-9)
The 5-9 Lions are favored by two scores, which tells you all you need to know about how things are going in San Francisco this year. The Niners still have hope for the #1 overall pick and they’ll take care of business in the Motor City today. Solid multiple touchdown win coming up for the Lions.
PICK: LIONS -9
Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs (-11)
Could Andy Reid and the Chiefs actually win the AFC West? It seemed impossible about a month ago, but here they come, winners of eight in a row with two easy games left on the schedule. This game has all the makings of an Andy Reid Special: big favorite at home with an important game against a division rival to look ahead to next week. I’m not saying the Browns will win, but just remember the Chiefs 10-3 stinker of a win against the Chargers two weeks ago.
PICK: BROWNS +11
Indianapolis Colts @ Miami Dolphins (-2)
The Colts lost a huge game to the Brandon Weeden-led Texans last week and now sit outside the playoff picture with two games left. Miami stinks and I think Indy gets a much-needed victory, but the Colts have been a massive disappointment and GM Ryan Grigson might to be the one person who had a worse offseason than Chip Kelly.
PICK: COLTS +2
New England Patriots @ New York Jets (+2)
Surprisingly small spread here as the line opened at Pats -3 and actually shifted towards the Jets. This smells like a trap, but I’m taking the bait and going with New England. The Jets are fighting for their lives, but the Pats still have homefield throughout the postseason to play for. Steelers fans breath a sigh a relief and then feel bad for rooting for Tom Brady.
PICK: PATS -2
Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans (+3.5)
The Titans are starting Zach Mettenberger. The Texans are starting Brandon Weeden. This game will be an assault on the eyeballs of anyone who views it, but the Texans defense has been playing out of this world and the Titans probably don’t even find the end zone with Mettenberger. I’ll take Brandon Weeden to win TWO games in a row. It’ll be ugly, but a 9-3 final still covers.
PICK: TEXANS -3.5
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens (+10.5)
The Ravens once again roll out Jimmy Clausen, who looks ridiculously over-matched against every defense he plays. You can’t tell me he’s one of the 100 best options at quarterback on this planet. He just can’t be. Steelers need this win to keep pace in the AFC Wild Card hunt and they’ll get it without much resistance.
PICK: STEELERS -10.5
SUNDAY LATE GAMES
Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals (-5.5)
This is probably the best game of the weekend and the Cardinals are a bit more heavily favored than I anticipated. The Cards haven’t lost since Halloween, but the Packers have also won three in a row and have a 5-2 record away from Lambeau Field. Arizona’s defense is exploitable through the air with Tyrann Mathieu out now and I think Aaron Rodgers has a big game. Should be a good one here.
PICK: PACKERS +5.5
St Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks (-12)
I feel like I say this every week, but here comes Seattle, steamrolling every opponent on their way to a playoff run. Rams defense might keep this close for a while, but Russell Wilson is playing too well for any Rams QB to keep up.
PICK: SEAHAWKS -12
Jacksonville Jaguars @ New Orleans Saints (-2.5)
The Jags faint playoff hopes likely end before kickoff (unless Houston loses), but the Saints have been out for weeks. These teams are both 5-9, but New Orleans has one of the worst defenses in NFL history and Drew Brees is really banged up. Blake Bortles is a great start in fantasy today.
PICK: JAGUARS +2.5
NY Giants @ Minnesota Vikings (-7)
The Giants were eliminated with last night’s Redskins win and they’ll be without the suspended baby Odell Beckham Jr too. The Vikings clinch a playoff spot with a win, but Adrian Peterson’s health is now a question mark. With or without AP, I’m still thinking Minnesota wins pretty comfortably. The Giants without Beckham are much worse off than the Vikings without Peterson.
PICK: VIKINGS -7
MONDAY NIGHT GAME
Cincinnati Bengals @ Denver Broncos (-3.5)
This game looked good on paper about a month ago, but now both teams have lost their starting quarterback and now a first round bye comes down to AJ McCarron vs Brock Osweiler. The NFL is really weird this year this. I like Denver at home with that defense and Osweiler > McCarron. Denver moves one step closer to that bye.
PICK: BRONCOS -3.5
Merry Christmas everyone and thanks for reading this year. I’m two games over .500 heading into the last two weeks, let’s see how far up I can go. (Or down. Most likely down.)
WEEK 14 PICKS