|Photo from Jacob Janower/Sporting News|
Written by Sam DeCoste
We are now in the penultimate week of the NFL regular season, with so much on the line. Teams on the fringe face must win games with no wiggle room left to spare, while first round byes are still there for the taking.
The Week 16 slate features an abundance of high quality matchups, starting on Saturday night, when the Ravens take on the Chargers, and it continues into Sunday, where the Texans face the resurging (?) Eagles, the Giants battle the Colts, the Steelers visit the struggling Saints, and the Chiefs look to bounce back in Seattle against the Seahawks. So without further ado, let's predict the games! Carry on, enjoy the Predix, and happy holidays!
Here are my season records:Lock of the Week record: 9-6
Last week's record: 7-9
Regular season record: 143-79-2
Week 16 begins with a must win matchup right off the bat. Tennessee is in the middle of a scrap heap of 8-6 teams fighting for one playoff spot in the final two weeks, while the Redskins are keeping their faint hopes alive themselves with their .500 record. However, the X factor on Saturday afternoon is undoubtedly Derrick Henry, who has pounded the ground for 408 yards and six touchdowns in his last two games, while the defense has only allowed nine points in the last two as well, propelling Tennessee to back to back resounding victories. The Redskins just don't match up. That's all there is to say.
Prediction: WSH 6, TEN 23
If the Chargers win out and the Chiefs stumble, homefield advantage belongs to Los Angeles. If the Ravens win out, they will be in the postseason no matter what. However, as the Tampa game showed last week, Lamar Jackson running the ball eighty million times a game isn't sustainable. Defenses will force Jackson to beat them through the air, which he couldn't do against the Bucs, throwing for just 131 yards. Meanwhile, the Chargers are enjoying a fantastic season, featuring darkhorse MVP candidate, Philip Rivers, and his 31 touchdowns and 112.4 rating. They are on a roll heading into the playoffs, and while the Ravens D has proven that they can stop anybody, Lamar Jackson hasn't proven he can keep up when he trails. It will be yet another nail biting finish to Baltimore's regular season.
Prediction: BAL 17, LAC 29
Breaking News: The Eagles are still alive. With Nick Foles back under center (as well as 21 other players on the field), Philadelphia shocked the league by handing the Rams their first home loss of the year, jeopardizing their hopes of clinching a first round bye, and reviving their own postseason dreams. In come Houston, who like the Rams, are fighting for a first round bye, fresh off a gritty win in rainy New Jersey over the Jets. While the home team are still Super Bowl champions, the road team is the favorite to win because Houston knows how to win this season, and in Week 16, there is no excuse for a playoff bound team to slip at the benefit of a backup quarterback. Houston has too much talent and they've come too far to butcher a chance at clinching the #2 seed in the AFC to blow it in Philly.
Prediction: HOU 24, PHI 20
Prediction: NYG 24, IND 27
Prediction: TB 16, DAL 27
Heading into the playoffs, the Patriots are looking more pedestrian than ever. Tom Brady is not enjoying an MVP caliber season as per usual, Bill Belichick is making questionable decisions in situational football in the fourth quarter, the defense is struggling to make stops when they need it the most, and most of all, they are losing games. The consensus narrative, however, is that we are talking about the Pats, and that they have a history of righting the ship. But the Pats have never gone to the Super Bowl without a first round bye, and they haven't failed to clinch one since 2009, so this edition of the New England Patriots is in uncharted territory. I do think the Pats will outlast the Buffalo Bills, but it is certainly an intriguing matchup. Josh Allen will be seeing the Patriots a plenty in his Bills career, and the Pats may struggle to neutralize a multi-threat quarterback in the AFC East in the years to come.
Prediction: BUF 20, NE 30
Green Bay is in uncharted waters this week: eliminated from the postseason with games to spare, with Aaron Rodgers under center, without a head coach. They are clearly not right, and Aaron Rodgers is clearly not right. While the Jets may be 4-10 and bottom of the AFC East once again, they've played competitive football this season, especially last week, in a tight 29-22 loss to Houston. This is a chance for the Jets to send Todd Bowles off right (assuming he is fired at the end of the season) with a win in his final home game as Jets head coach, against a Packers squad winless on the road this season. The Jets will play too hard for the Packers who have their eyes on the holidays.
Prediction: GB 10, NYJ 27
With two games to go, and the surging Eagles roaring behind them, the Vikings cannot afford to falter against the unwatchable Detroit Lions. They won't if they pound the rock just like they did last week, rushing for 220 yards, including 136 and two scores for Dalvin Cook. The best version of the Vikings offense is a ball control, running football team. It gives them their best chance to win in Detroit and in the postseason. Given how successful they were last week, it is hard to imagine they will decide to put the ball in Kirk Cousins' hands again.
Prediction: MIN 24, DET 15
While the odds may be against Miami, stranger things have happened. However, the only way Miami gets in the postseason for the second time in three years is if they take care of business themselves. In two games, the Dolphins have to beat the Jags and Bills. After that, you need help. But give yourself a chance down the stretch. I think they will, considering Cody Kessler has now been outplayed by Josh Johnson and the Redskins, and the defense is out of any ounce of confidence, swagger, or intimidation to opposing offenses. Miami cannot let Cody Kessler pick apart their secondary and eliminate them from playoff competition. If that happens, it may be time for another "culture change."
Prediction: JAX 13, MIA 19
Don't look now, but with two games to go, Cleveland is still alive in the playoff hunt. They have a better record than the Packers, Falcons, Panthers, Broncos, Giants, and Jaguars this season, and are already looking promising for what could be an exciting 2019 season. This week, they should handle Cincinnati comfortably, just like they did back in Week 12. Baker Mayfield will shine once again, and will, just barely, edge Jeff Driskel in a shootout. Just kidding. This one could get ugly. This is my Lock of the Week.
Prediction: CIN 6, CLE 31
Prediction: ATL 34, CAR 9
Where have the Los Angeles Rams been? They were last seen in the Coliseum in a 54-51 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football, but they have been dormant ever since. Two primetime losses to the Bears and Eagles have the Rams tumbling into January, with the NFL's youngest head coach in league history scrambling for answers. But the formula for the Rams to bounce back is simple: start fast. In their last three games, the Rams have scored 13 points in the opening quarter. If they can learn how to take early leads again, the Rams will rediscover their winning mentality, and it will give Jared Goff his confidence back. They should rebound in Arizona, against one of the worst offenses the NFL has ever seen.
Prediction: LAR 24, ARZ 13
Two impressive victories against teams out of playoff contention have sabotaged San Fran's hopes of a number one draft pick, but it's nice for Kyle Shananan's squad to develop a winning mentality going into a crucial 2019 season. Now in come the NFC North champs, the Chicago Bears, who lead the league in takeaways (35) and turnover differential (+13), while the 49ers rank rock bottom in both categories. Nick Mullens has had a back and forth November and December, but he has not seen a defense like the Bears defense, and he will not be able to keep the Niners competitive this week.
Prediction: CHI 27, SF 14
Clinching the number one seed would be great for New Orleans, but a home playoff game would be wasted in an instant if the Saints don't rediscover their swagger. They average 16 points in their last three games. That is not the Saints team we are used to. But now, the Saints are back at home for the remainder of the regular season, and they may not have to play another road game this year if they clinch homefield. This week, the desperate Steelers come marching in, hoping to secure back to back upset victories. But if the Saints are on their A game, the Steelers have no chance. Buckle up, Pittsburgh, Week 17 is gonna be the most stressful ending to a Steelers season in recent memory.
Prediction: PT 17, NO 28
Alex Smith is gone, Kansas City. He's not there to blame for the late season collapses anymore. Andy Reid appears to be suffering yet another December collapse after suffering a shocking home loss to division rivals, Los Angeles. If they lose to Seattle, they just might slip to a Wild Card spot, and be forced to play on the road to reach the Super Bowl. That being said, I think the Chiefs can keep shrug their December struggles aside and take care of business. While Seattle may be the most difficult place to play in the league, the Seahawks are beatable. The Niners just exposed Seattle's flaws on all three phases. They surrendered a kick return for a TD, the defense surrendered 452 yards to a Nick Mullens led offense, and the offense realized they couldn't run the ball on forty plays to win every week. Pat Mahomes can tear up this Hawks secondary and silence the merciless Seattle crowd, and silence any hopes of the Chargers snatching their division title.
Prediction: KC 31, SEA 23
Prediction: DEN 17, OAK 26