Week 15 gave us the return of the New York Giants defense, the
Redskins attempting arguably the worst trick play ever and a rare December win by the
Cowboys. Brett Favre came back down to earth; the
Texans and Titans kept flickering playoff hopes alive and Jerome Harrison had fantasy football owners and asking “Who?!”
What’s in store for us in Week 16? Let’s dig into the NFL Cheat Sheet.
San Diego at Tennessee:
It’s hard to bet against Philip Rivers in December. The Bolts' fifth-year quarterback is 17-0 as a starter in the 12th month. LaDainian Tomlinson (136) needs just one rushing TD to surpass Emmitt Smith (1990s) for the most rushing TDs in a decade. Last week, I accurately predicted a last-second game-winning Rob Bironas field goal for Tennessee. This week? It’ll be Nate Kaeding, nailing one in the final seconds to ruin Tennessee’s postseason dreams. And Tomlinson will get that record; he’ll have two scores in a Christmas special.
The Pick: Chargers 34, Titans 31
Sunday 1 p.m. ET games
Buffalo at Atlanta: Terrell Owens (998) needs just 2 receptions to become the sixth player in NFL history with 1,000 career catches. Owens (14,847) also needs just 88 receiving yards to pass Tim Brown (14,934) for third-most all-time. I don’t care about the on-the-field antics, the locker room issues or the ringless fingers — that, folks, is a Hall of Fame career. The future Hall of Famer will find himself on the short end of the stick Sunday, falling to another future Hall of Famer — Tony Gonzalez — in Atlanta.
The Pick: Falcons 27, Bills 17
Kansas City at Cincinnati: The Larry Johnson Bowl! The Bengals can clinch the AFC North for the first time since 2005 with a win. They’ll do just that. Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles both starred at Texas. One of them will run for 100 yards Sunday. It won’t be the guy I call “Jazz."
The Pick: Bengals 27, Chiefs 13
Oakland at Cleveland: Forget the JaMarcus Russell coming-of-age touchdown pass. My favorite moment of Sunday’s wild
Raiders comeback win at Invesco was the J.P. Losman sighting for one fourth-quarter snap. J.P.! The Pete Best of the Manning-Rivers-Roethlisberger 2004 quarterback draft class went 0-for-1 on Sunday, but looked confident running onto the field. Good to have ya back, J.P. The most shocking stat of the week? Dating back to Dec. 28, 2008, the Raiders have now won three straight December road games. I think they’ll get another one Sunday in Cleveland. Regardless of which one of their 40 quarterbacks is under center.
The Pick: Raiders 23, Browns 14
Seattle at Green Bay: The last time the Seahawks traveled to Lambeau, Ryan Grant rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns in a 2007 playoffs Packers win. That was against a loaded Seahawks defense that featured six Pro Bowl defenders. The version Grant will be going against Sunday? Eek. Seattle’s defense is giving up 355.9 yards per game and the ‘Hawks are a very un-Seattle-like minus-5 in the takeaway/giveaway department. Losing to 1-12
Tampa Bay at home with the 12th Man at their backs may have been the low point in the decade for the Seahawks. Don’t expect much more out of them Sunday. They're done for the year.
The Pick: Packers 34, Seahawks 21
Houston at Miami: This is a do-or-die game for both teams. Houston has won four consecutive games vs. the Dolphins, the Texans’ longest current streak vs. any team. In his past two meetings with the Fins, Andre Johnson had 19 receptions for 279 yards (14.7 avg.) with two touchdowns. On Sunday, he aims for his third consecutive game with 100-plus receiving yards (101, 178) vs. Miami. Johnson attended Miami Senior HS and the University of Miami. Expect another grand homecoming this weekend. Miami’s postseason dreams end Sunday.
The Pick: Texans 31, Dolphins 20
Jacksonville at New England: The Pats are 18-2 at home in December under Bill Belichick and including the postseason, are 5-0 vs. Jacksonville all-time in New England. Tom Brady has won 19 straight games at home. Notch No. 20 in the books. Randy Moss, and those shoulders, show up in a big way Sunday. Jacksonville's season ended Thursday night in the fourth quarter.
The Pick: Patriots 30, Jaguars 20
Tampa Bay at New Orleans: The Saints can clinch the top seed in the NFC with a win at home Sunday. Barring a miracle, they’ll get the job done. Tampa Bay looked good last week in Seattle, but they’re not beating the Saints on that carpet anytime soon. Will Smith has 9.5 sacks in his last eight games. He should have a field day in this one. So should Drew Brees.
The Pick: Saints 41, Buccaneers 17
Carolina at New York Giants: To quote the great Marshall Mathers, “Will the real New York Giants, please stand up?” The same Giants defense that was lit up by the
Eagles at home two weeks ago kept the Redskins to just 12 points Monday night in Washington. New York’s 45 points Monday night were the most the Giants had scored on the road since 1954. With their season on the line, look for the Giants to win their last home game played in the original Giants Stadium. I once saw a man go to the bathroom in a sink at Giants Stadium. Man, I’ll miss that place.
The Pick: Giants 24, Panthers 16
Baltimore at Pittsburgh: In his past four starts vs. the
Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger is 4-0 with 901 passing yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception. But this is a different Ravens squad than the ones Ben is used to torching. Baltimore’s offense — the best it's looked, well, ever — is red hot. The defense, though shaky at times earlier in the year, seems to finally be coming together. Better late than never. Ray Rice (1,797) needs 203 scrimmage yards to become just the second Raven to reach 2,000 yards in a season (Jamal Lewis, 2,271 in ’03). Rice totaled 155 scrimmage yards in his last game vs. Pittsburgh (88 rush, 67 rec.). Look for him to top the 200 mark Sunday and for the Ravens to steal one from the Steelers at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh’s flickering playoff dreams die this weekend. The offensive line and defensive backfield overhaul will begin shortly after.
The Pick: Ravens 31, Steelers 20
Sunday 4 p.m. ET games
St. Louis at Arizona: Kurt Warner always plays well against his former team and Sunday should be no different. Arizona’s defense has looked shaky the past two weeks, but will get its act together against the JV squad that plays for the professional team in St. Louis. Look at the bright side, Rams fans. Ndamukong Suh should be yours in April.
The Pick: Cardinals 44, Rams 20
Detroit at San Francisco: Upset special! Every so often, a late December game sneaks up on you and a dreadful team shocks one that’s looked relatively good. The Raiders gave the Texans their only loss in December in ’08; a rudderless Niners team beat the
Broncos on the final day of the ’06 season. The list goes on and on. This year’s upset special? Look for Jim Schwartz’s boys to get the best of Mike Singletary’s. Maurice Morris and Derrick Williams — yes, Maurice Morris and Derrick Williams — will have career days in San Fran on Sunday.
The Pick: Lions 27, 49ers 23
New York Jets at Indianapolis: The Colts have won an NFL record 23 consecutive regular-season games. With a win Sunday, Indianapolis can join the ’07 Patriots as the only teams in NFL history to start a season 15-0. With the win, the club will set the franchise record for most wins in regular season. Where are all those journalists and talking heads who questioned the transition from Tony Dungy to Jim Caldwell in Indy back in August? Or, the pundits who said Indy wouldn't be the same without Marvin Harrison? Hello? Anyone out there? I didn’t think so. Mark Sanchez isn’t beating Indianapolis in Indy, and I don’t care if that’s vs. Peyton Manning or Curtis Painter. Sorry, Jets fans.
The Pick: Colts 27, Jets 21
Denver at Philadelphia: The Correll Buckhalter Bowl! OK, OK. Everyone in Philly knows it’s the Brian Dawkins Bowl on Sunday. I’m curious to see how the home crowd greets Dawkins, the longtime Eagles locker room leader and team captain. Eagles back LeSean McCoy has 606 rush yards, the most ever by an Eagles rookie. Donovan McNabb is 9-1 in his past 10 December starts. With a revved-up home crowd and a first-round bye still possible, look for Philly to win a hard-fought one over Josh McDaniels’ gang Sunday. McCoy and McNabb each have big afternoons.
The Pick: Eagles 28, Broncos 23
Dallas at Washington: If it wasn’t for
DeAngelo Hall and Albert Haynesworth trying to fight the entire Giants offense in the third quarter, I would have sworn the Redskins weren’t on the field Monday night. If this team has an ounce of pride, they’ll give the Cowboys a game on national TV Sunday night. Alas, I’m afraid they don’t have a tablespoon, let alone an ounce, of pride. With a blowout loss, the 'Skins will have lost to their three NFC East rivals by embarrassing margins in their own building on national TV. The Cowboys win big, setting up a “win-and-in” situation next week at home against the Eagles. Is Tony Romo the NFL's “Mr. December”, after all?
The Pick: Cowboys 34, Redskins 13
Minnesota at Chicago: Chicago’s forgettable season can be salvaged with a win over the skidding Vikings on national TV Monday night. OK, so maybe the season won’t be salvaged — but it sure would be nice. Minny manhandled the Bears 36-10 the last time these two teams played, but that was before “Bad Brett” came out to play and leaked his locker room beef to the media. It’s not all roses and MVP talk in Minnesota anymore. Forget Romo — how about Brett Favre as the poster boy for bad Decembers? His past two have been unmitigated disasters. OK, I’ll stop. He’s a gunslinger, he loves to play football, and he wears Wrangler jeans. He’s America. And he will get the job done Monday night. He always does.
The Pick: Minnesota 27, Chicago 14