With the final week of the NFL season drawing near and Christmas over, it’s time to look ahead to try and figure out what’s going to happen in the league’s games on Sunday. In Week 16, lots happened. Two AFC East teams were kicked out of the playoff race (Buffalo in a loss, Miami in a win), RG III did something, the Colts got blown out and there was a game-winning punt block. Needless to say, it was exciting.
Colts (10-5) @ Titans (2-13)
Is this even considered fair? I mean, stop the fight, the only thing the Titans are playing for right now is the No.1 pick in the draft, something they can’t even get without Tampa Bay winning. The question here is about the Colts’ offense, a unit that hasn’t found its stride since playing the Redskins in Week 13. Despite playing an away game at chilly LP Field, the Colts might (and likely will) take advantage of the Titans’ terrible defense to put on another sterling performance before the playoffs.
Colts 34, Titans 10
Chargers (9-6) @ Chiefs (8-7)
This was a toughie back in Week 6 or so when the Chargers were the “AFC Super Bowl team” and Phillip Rivers was the “MVP” of the league. Since then, both of those myths have suffered horrible deaths, while the Chiefs are just too good for that sort of thing. To me, Kansas City seems like a tremendously arrogant team, but a team with not enough play to back it up. They act like the 2007 Patriots, but play like the 2013 Dolphins. Ultimately, I think the Chargers will pull it out in one last game against their division rivals who are too stuck up to throw to their receivers, and San Diego will be heading to the playoffs.
Chargers 24, Chiefs 20
Bills (8-6) @ Patriots (12-3)
Oh, those Bills. It’s been one of those years that Buffalo die-hards are accustomed to: show some flashes, begin well, suffer through injuries and team turmoil and then somehow end up .500 or below. For the Bills, their 2-0 start wasn’t indicative of the awful play of first-round flameout E.J. Manuel, who was replaced by Kyle Orton. Although Orton could produce some offense at first and lead the Bills to a few wins, it’s rapidly deteriorated into a weekly crap-shoot of two defensive touchdowns, a safety and a single field goal on offense (Week 15 vs. Green Bay…)
As for the Patriots, they’ve been steaming ahead in their typical insufferable Patriots style. But what’s going to happen in Week 17 is the classic Belichick revolving roster show: Brady will play two series and then leave, Gronkowski will follow after and the team will slow down. That’s something you can’t afford to do against the Buffalo defense, a stingy unit that will no doubt be playing full throttle to beat their hated divisional rivals. I think once the Patriots pull their guys, the Bills will prevail by just a touch.
Bills 21, Patriots 20
Browns (7-8) @ Ravens (9-6)
Remember Week 12? When the Dolphins played the Broncos, the Raiders got their first win and the Bills throttled the Jets in Detroit? Put in your mind how long ago that seems, and then allow me to tell you that Week 12 is the last time the Browns won. A 26-24 last-second squeaker over the nauseating Falcons began a spell of terrible play from Brian Hoyer. The Browns were 7-4 after the Atlanta win, but have dropped four straight games, and have only scored 13 points in their last two with Johnny Manziel at the helm. Brian Hoyer is back now that Manziel is on injured reserve, so it’s up to him to try and lead the Browns past a tough Ravens team that is hanging on for dear life to get into the playoffs. Sorry, guys, I just don’t see the Brownies winning this one.
Ravens 24, Browns 13
Bears (5-10) @ Vikings (6-9)
Oh boy, the Bears…blech. If there was ever a real life interpretation of the phrase “mailing it in“, it’s the 2014 Chicago Bears. After losing a bunch of games and seeing their season slide away, the Bears allowed 50 points to back-to-back opponents, something that hasn’t been done since 1923. Their offense is bad, lead by Jay “Jeff George Jr.” Cutler, who will probably be in Tennessee next year, and the defense (particularly the secondary) gets torched every week by even the worst opponents.
Back in the beginning of the season, the Vikings were 2-5 and playing about as bad as anyone in the league. Since then, they’ve gone 4-4 and shown big improvement, and hung tough for 58 minutes against a playoff-worthy Dolphins team. The Vikings are putting the pieces together, and you’ve got to hand it to Mike Zimmer: he’s assembled a team that will be a good one in a few years.
Vikings 27, Bears 17
Cowboys (11-4) @ Redskins (4-11)
There’s no argument here. Dallas is the better team, the ‘Skins are going to finish 4-12. Their win earlier in the season was because Colt McCoy pulled himself together for a career game whereas Cowboys backup quarterback Brandon Weeden did not – he was the same bum we saw in Cleveland and lost the Cowboys a very winnable game at home. However, Dallas can now go into the Redskins’ palace – with a 7-0 road record – and spoil the party for all the delusional Redskins fans who think they’ll beat the Cowboys again. Expect a big game from DeMarco Murray and a flop from RG III.
Cowboys 31, Redskins 16
Jaguars (3-12) @ Texans (8-7)
You have to give both these teams credit, particularly to the Texans: they’ve turned themselves around. Okay, not so much for the Jaguars, but playing tough even through an awful season and launching a 21-point comeback against the Giants just for a meaningless win shows this team is ready to win and will be doing so very soon. Luckily for the Jags, they’re now playing in better conditions in the Texans’ house, not the rain-soaked Everbank Field. They also don’t have to face Ryan “The Bearded Wonder” Fitzpatrick on a hot streak, instead making their choice between Thaddeus Lewis and Case Keenum. Keep in mind this is a Jags defense that has recorded 42.0 sacks, and it’s not too difficult to see the Jags pulling one out to close the season with something that’s elusive in Jacksonville: a winning streak.
Jaguars 17, Texans 14
Jets (3-12) @ Dolphins (8-7)
On paper, this one looks easy. This is a Dolphins team that is finally clicking on offense and are going to try extra hard to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2008. The last time they played the Jets, however, the Dolphins allowed over 200 yards rushing to a normally weak offense and were two awry swings of Nick Folk’s leg from facing an upset loss and a potential surprise early exit from the playoff race. Last year, the Jets had a .500 season to play for and beat the Dolphins in a semi-trap game, but this year the motivation is even more extreme: they’re going to play hard for Rex Ryan in his last game as head coach. Because of this, I think the Jets will prepare well and play well, but it’ll be turnovers and mistakes that will doom them to both a saddening loss and their worst season since 1996.
Dolphins 24, Jets 17
Saints (6-9) @ Buccaneers (2-13)
Does this game really have to be put on TV? I mean, there are about a dozen people that are going to show up to Raymond James Stadium, the Buccaneers suck like a black hole and the Saints are plagued with both whiny Sean Payton and the league’s second-worst defense. Even with the awful defense, this is a Tampa Bay team that logged barely 100 yards of total offense against an on-again-off-again Green Bay defense. The Saints took the Bucs to OT in the beginning of the season, but this’ll be different: the Saints are mad, and the Buccaneers have their helmets on backwards. (Don’t they always?)
Saints 30, Buccaneers 17
Eagles (9-6) @ Giants (6-9)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Eli Manning being a chowderhead. I have every confidence in my mind he’ll do exactly that on Sunday against the Eagles, a team that pounded New York earlier in the season. The Eagles are angry after a startling shove from the playoff race, and will be looking for a team to show the nation just what team could have really been in the playoffs. Odell Beckham Jr. is just awesome, but he can’t save an offense that can’t run or pass to anyone else besides him (thanks to injuries).
Eagles 40, Giants 20
Panthers (6-8-1) @ Falcons (6-9)
Do I even need to talk about this game? These are two crappy teams playing in a game that will decide the division’s one (and thankfully) only playoff team. This is like paying a lot for a meal that gives you food poisoning for a week. Both these teams suck, as the Panthers are suffering from lack of talent everywhere apart from Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly, and the Falcons just look duller and duller each and every week with “Matty Ice” looking decreasingly cool with almost every week. One of these teams will be hosting a playoff game, sadly, and the least we can do as the public is not watch the game to save ourselves from the mediocrity.
Falcons 19, Panthers 17
Raiders (3-12) @ Broncos (11-4)
Boy, are the Broncos going to get an early exit from the playoffs. I’m 90% sure Peyton Manning is nursing some sort of arm/hand injury, because this lack of arm strength isn’t seen anywhere outside of elementary school girls trying to play basketball. The Broncos are still a really good team, just one that isn’t carried by Manning anymore, instead relying on an emerging running game and a sack-tastic defense. The Raiders, once 0-10, have gone 3-2 in the last five weeks, showing us that it’s not impossible to tie together a few wins by the end of the year. That’s not saying Oakland is going to beat Denver, though. Not even close.
Broncos 34, Raiders 20
Lions (11-4) @ Packers (11-4)
This is kind of like the Panthers/Falcons game with two major differences: number one, the two teams aren’t horrible, and number two, the loser will still get a playoff spot. However, the winner will get the division title. The Bills defused the once mercurial Packers, costing them a lead in the division that will be unforgivable if they lose to the Lions. I think Detroit is just a one-dimensional team without very much offense if they have a bad day, and while the Packers are really well-rounded, Detroit is going to hang tough throughout the game.
Packers 35, Lions 24
Other three games (Cardinals @ 49ers, Rams @ Seahawks and Bengals @ Steelers) will be posted tomorrow.