Everything is on the line for more than a few teams
There’s Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday night football this week. And playoff implications all over the place. Let’s dig in.
Week 15 record: 9-7
Overall record: 133-89-2
Week 16 Cheat Sheet trivia question
Jeremy Hill leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns since 2014. Can you name the other six players to lead the league in rushing touchdowns over the first three years of their career?
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Thursday night: Giants at Eagles
Though there’s been very little to be happy about the past few weeks in Philadelphia, Eagles fans can smile knowing they have the Vikings’ first-round pick from the Sam Bradford trade, and seemingly made the right choice going with Carson Wentz from the get-go. The Philly fan base would love nothing more than to throw a giant wrench in the Giants’ playoff dreams, but I just don’t see it happening. Keep an eye on Victor Cruz. The Salsa dance craze originated in Philadelphia; he also tore his knee up there two years ago and hasn’t played a game at the Linc since.
The pick: Giants 30, Eagles 17
Getty ImagesWesley Hitt
Saturday: Dolphins at Bills
Okay, Miami. Prove to us you’re not the same old Dolphins. The same old Dolphins — the ones from the past decade, at least — would go up to Buffalo, forget to bring their A game, and lose 16-9. This Dolphins team — new coach, new defensive coordinator, winner of eight of its past 9 games — should be able to beat a Bills team that hasn’t exactly been a world-beater at home this year. If this team really is different than the ones in recent history — and yes, I think it is — it will win this game.
The pick: Dolphins 23, Bills 17
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Saturday: Falcons at Panthers
I’ll be on the sideline for this FOX broadcast, celebrating the holidays with my guys Charles Davis, Chris Spielman, and Thom Brennaman. We did the Falcons game last week, and though the 49ers were a MASH unit, I must say I was beyond impressed with Atlanta — on both sides of the ball. Keep an eye on Nos. 22 and 45 in the Falcons jerseys this Saturday. Keanu Neal and Deion Jones were the team’s first- and second-round picks, and they have already become two of the best young defensive players in the sport. The Panthers are the team nobody wants to face from here on out, and I think Atlanta keeps it going with a last-second victory.
The pick: Falcons 27, Panthers 24
Jonathan BachmanGetty Images
Saturday: Redskins at Bears
How about the job Chicago offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is quietly doing up in Chicago this month? The Bears are down to their third quarterback (a guy Arizona waived earlier this season), they’ve lost most of their top veterans at the key positions, and this is a young makeshift offense playing in frigid temperatures. So what? They’re still scoring points and a lot of them. Impressive stuff. After the Redskins couldn’t muster a win against Carolina in an all-or-nothing game Monday night, I am not sure if they show up Sunday in negative-degree weather. Give me the plucky Bears to get one most pundits don’t expect them to.
The pick: Bears 24, Redskins 23
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Saturday: Chargers at Browns
Is this the week? San Diego -- crossing the country, playing in frigid temperatures, with no playoff hopes at all — would typically be a team ripe for an upset. But Philip Rivers is no fool. He won’t be the butt of any jokes, and he certainly won’t allow his team be “the ones” this season.
The pick: Chargers 27, Browns 17
Saturday: Vikings at Packers
Of all the teams that laid eggs last week — Lions, Buccaneers, Redskins and Chiefs to name a few — no loss was worse than Minnesota’s disgusting performance at home against the Colts. The offense was invisible, the defense forgot to show up, and any home-field advantage was nullified immediately by an early three-score hole. Could the Vikings bounce back? Perhaps. In Lambeau? With the Packers rolling? I just don’t see it.
The pick: Packers 24, Vikings 19
Saturday: Titans at Jaguars
The Jaguars still could be frisky Saturday, even without much to play for and without Gus Bradley on the sideline. But this Titans team is built for December and January football and isn’t likely to let up now. Tennessee will pound it down Jacksonville’s throat, keep it within one score and put the Jaguars away when it matters. That’s what the Titans do.
The pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 17
Saturday: Jets at Patriots
The Jets were down 34-10 with five minutes remaining and opted to attempt a field goal last week against the Dolphins. They then chose not to go for an onside kick. I don’t know what to say about that. I think the goose is cooked in New York. Patriots win in a walk.
The pick: Patriots 30, Jets 3
Saturday: Colts at Raiders
Both the Colts and Raiders need this one for different reasons. Indianapolis has to have it if it wants a shot at January football. Oakland likely needs it if they plan on playing in the Black Hole come postseason time. Andrew Luck’s team has been as unpredictable as any squad in the league. Lose at home to the Texans. Win valiantly in Minnesota. Chuck Pagano is a man of great inspiration. I think he gets his boys together and finds a way to keep this thing going into Week 17.
The pick: Colts 31, Raiders 24
Benny SieuUSA TODAY Sports
Saturday: Buccaneers at Saints
Shout out to Kwon Alexander, the Buccaneers linebacker who had 21 tackles in a losing effort Sunday night. The Bucs will need Alexander to have another heroic effort Saturday in the Big Easy. Tampa lost its last four games last year. I don’t see them repeating the ills of last year. The same defense that gave up just 11 points two weeks ago against the Saints will find a way to keep it going. The loss in Dallas wasn’t great for the standings, but Tampa Bay showed some fight. The Bucs will need this one, and I think they’ll figure out a way.
The pick: Buccaneers 23, Saints 20
Saturday: 49ers at Rams
It’s easy to pick on these two teams. Low-hanging fruit. So what can we point to as a positive? Johnny Hekker! The Rams punter is having a heroic season. Let’s see if he can punt some balls inside the 20. That’s what I’ve got.
The pick: Rams 17, 49ers 13
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsJeff Curry
Saturday: Cardinals at Seahawks
David Johnson may be the last thing in the way of the Seahawks and a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. Well, that’s a heck of a big thing in the way. Johnson is having a historic season, having become the first player in the history of the league to have 14 games of 100-plus scrimmage yards to start a season. Seahawks win -- in a tougher one than they are hoping for.
The pick: Seahawks 23, Cardinals 20
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Saturday night: Bengals at Texans
Savage Nation. Savage Garden. Savage Something. He needs a nickname. Regardless, the Texans are all in on Tom Savage, and heck, at this point, why not? Regardless of whether A.J. Green plays, that Texans defense will step up to the plate and defend their home field. I think Houston finds a way, setting up a crazy Week 17 in the AFC South.
The pick: Texans 21, Bengals 17
Sunday: Ravens at Steelers
It may all come down to this, and I like the Ravens. If they can channel that 2013 magic, Baltimore can be the team no one wants to play in January. It has to start here. Win in Pittsburgh. Win in Cincinnati. Win in the wild-card round. Win on the road in the divisional round. Win on the road in the AFC Championship game. Finish the job in Houston. The challenge is out there, Ravens. Go get it. In a game of this magnitude, I’m taking the defense. And head-to-head, it’s been the Ravens who’ve had the better unit.
The pick: Ravens 27, Steelers 23
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
Sunday night: Broncos at Chiefs
The Chiefs are at their best when they’re winning close games in the final minutes, dominating time of possession and using defense and special teams to their advantage. The Chiefs at their worst is what happened when they played the Titans and Buccaneers in recent weeks. Just not enough offense when they need offense. Fortunately, they have even more offense — even on their worst days — than the Broncos of late. Chiefs win, making things really interesting in the AFC West … again.
The pick: Chiefs 24, Broncos 14
Copyright - The Denver Post, MediaNews Group.Denver Post via Getty Images
Monday night: Lions at Cowboys
Matthew Stafford is 1-22 in his career in road games against teams that finished the season with a winning record (29 passing TDs, 29 turnovers) and 3-11 in primetime and playoff games (19 passing TDs, 19 turnovers). These numbers — and his hand injury — do not bode well for Detroit. Lions fans would love nothing more than to avoid a Week 17 win-and-in scenario with the Packers coming to town. Alas, I think that will be the case.
The pick: Cowboys 34, Lions 23
Leon HalipGetty Images
Week 16 Cheat Sheet trivia answer
Adrian Peterson, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Earl Campbell, Gale Sayers and Jim Brown all led the NFL in rushing touchdowns over the first three years of their NFL careers.