Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills:
It was only a few weeks ago that the Dolphins locker room was in complete turmoil because of the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. However, the Dolphins are currently in the heart of the playoff picture and have a good chance of making the playoffs for the first time in 5 seasons. The Dolphins three game win streak can be attributed to their quality defense, timely offense, and a little bit of luck. Over the past two weeks, the offense has 29 points per game while the defense has allowed only 24 points per game against Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady, two quarterbacks that have won multiple Super Bowls. While the Dolphins were lucky in the Steelers’ game because Antonio Brown stepped out of bounds on a would be winning play, Ryan Tannehill was able to score at the end of each game which gave them the lead and the win. The Dolphins need to win this game in order to stay in the playoff picture, especially since the Ravens have been winning as well and have the tie breaker over the Dolphins. While the Dolphins’ young quarterback has been streaking, EJ Manuel has tapered of late and will not even play in the game because of a sprained knee. Instead of Manuel, Thad Lewis will be starting at quarterback for the desperate Buffalo Bills. The Bills have not made the playoffs since 1999 and the streak will continue this season because the Bills have been extremely inconsistent and ineffective all year. On October 20, Thad Lewis was able to lead the Bills to a win against the Dolphins, although he played one of the his worst games of the season. In the game, the Dolphins defense was able to force an interception and sacked Lewis four times. The Bills’ offensive line needs to play well against the strong Dolphins’ pass rush so they can run the ball consistently. If the Bills are going to achieve a win or score points, the running game must be successful and keep Lewis away from third down and long. However, it is unlikely that the Bills will be able to muster enough offense against the scorching Dolphins to keep the game close. Lately, the Dolphins’ receiving core and Ryan has improved their performances because the offensive line is giving Tannehill more time to pass and check his options. The Dolphins should be able to outscore the Bills early and make it difficult for them to run the ball.
Prediction: Dolphins win 27-20
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals:
After stunning football fans and experts around the nation by scoring 48 points and upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles at home, the Vikings will be heading into Cincinnati to play another playoff team. While the Vikings have been horrible all season, they continue to play with energy and vigor for head coach Leslie Frazier. Over the past four games, the Vikings have gone won two games, tied against the Packers, and lost to the Ravens by three in a heart breaking defeat. The Vikings have been scoring points lately, 28 points per game, which has relinquished some of the pressure off of the defense. Matt Cassel has played consistent on offense and has not thrown many interceptions, which has kept the Vikings in the last few games. While Matt has been a game manager, Peterson, Gerhart, and Asiata have produced yards on the ground and the wide receivers have been able to create separation from the corners. Similar to the Vikings, the Bengals have been solid football over the past month, besides for the first half of last week’s game against the Steelers. Similar to the Dolphins, the Bengals have been successful this season because of the improvements by Andy Dalton. Andy has transformed the Bengals from a running dominated offense to a high flying passing attack. Along with Dalton, AJ Green has cemented himself as one of the top five wide receivers in the league. Along with Green, Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham have become great safety blankets for Dalton. Along with the Bengals improvements on offense, their defense has remained dominant, although they lost their best player, Geno Atkins, half way through the season. Although the Bengals do not have the pass rush without Geno, which could effect them against a quality quarterback, the Vikings should be unable to exploit this weakness with Matt Cassel. The Bengals should be able to win this game because they desperately need a win after last week’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, if they want to win the division. The Bengals have a significant advantage in terms of talent, which should prove to be the difference this weekend.
Prediction: Bengals win 31-20
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs:
In one of the few games between playoff teams this weekend, the Chiefs are attempting to become the number one seed in the conference, while the Colts want to gain momentum, before entering the playoffs. Since their bye week in week 8, the Colts have not won back to back games and have played extremely inconsistent football. The Colts achilles heal the past seven weeks have been their first half defense. In the three games they have lost in the past seven games, they have allowed 38, 40, and 42, respectively, while being outscored by a combined 73 points. The Colts have been able secure their division title because of the excellence of Andrew Luck. Luck has single handily led the Colts to their nine wins because they do not have a good running game and the wide receivers have been inconsistent since the loss of Reggie Wayne to an ACL injury. Without Wayne, Andrew Luck does not have a reliable third down receiver that can reset the chains or create separation during important and obvious passing downs. While the Cots have been inconsistent on offense, the Chiefs offense has been great over the last few games. Over their past two games, the Chiefs have averaged 50 points per game, albeit against the Raiders and the Redskins. The reason for the Chiefs influx in points has been the improvement of Alex Smith. Although Smith does not consistently throw the deep ball with success, he is great at short passes because he has great accuracy. Along with Smith, Jamaal Charles has been an MVP candidate because he catches the ball out of the backfield and rushes the ball with success. In the game against the Raiders, Charles showed his versatility and skill by scoring five total touchdowns and accumulating 250 yards of offense. Although the offense has been hot of late, the defense has taken a step back because they are unable to create a consistent pass rush. The Chiefs lost three straight games to the Broncos, Chargers, and Broncos because they were unable to disrupt Rivers or Manning. If the Chiefs are unable to rattle Luck in the pocket, they will need to score a lot of points to win the game. However, it is likely that the Chiefs will be able to score early and often because they have develop a rhythm on offense. The Chiefs’ defense should be able to hold the Colts under 30 points and win the game.
Prediction: Chiefs win 31-27
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St. Louis Rams:
After starting the season 0-8, the Bucs have won four of their last six games and have turned around their season. The difference for the Bucs has been the play of Mark Glennon and Bobby Rainey. On offense, Mark Glennon has become more comfortable in the pocket and has constructed a relationship with wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Although Glennon has thrown more interceptions lately, he has also thrown more touchdowns and has thrown for a higher completion percentage. Along with Glennon, the pass defense has taken a major step forward. During the entire season, the Bucs have had a lot talent, but the group is finally learning how to mesh and play dominating defense. The secondary has been great and has forced multiple turnovers over the past month. In the last four games, the group has forced 10 interceptions while allowing only 7 touchdowns. Along with forcing more interceptions than allowing touchdowns, the quarterbacks have been unable to throw for big yardage against the menacing group. Along with the streaking Bucs, the Rams have been playing better football, including a win over the Saints last week. The Rams are a team that plays much better at home because they play off their home crowd and enjoy the fast turf. The Rams’ pass rushers and wide receivers are able to take advantage of the turf because they play with a lot of speed. Although Kellen Clemens has been inconsistent since taking over for Sam Bradford, he has been better of late and has limited the amount of turnovers. Clemens has been helped by a successful running game. Over the past few weeks, Zac Stacy has been given 25+ carries a game and has produced over 100 yards or a touchdown in three of the last four games. During their last two home games, the Rams defense has allowed a total of 37 points against the Saints and Bears, two of the best offenses in the league. The defense has been able to force six turnovers during the last two home games. The Rams should be play off of the home crowd for the second straight week and get consecutive wins. The Rams have been dedicated to the run, which should exploit the Bucs average rush defense. The Bucs on offense may have trouble communicating because of the loud and raucous crowd in St. Louis. The team that will win the turnover battle should win the game.
Prediction: Rams win 24-20
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins:
After ruining the game last week against the Packers and forcing Dez Bryant to cry, the Cowboys are attempting to head into the Nation’s capital and win against the dreadful Washington Redskins. Although the Cowboys have been inconsistent all season, the offense has been one of the best unit’s in the league. The Cowboys offense has skill and talent at every position. The biggest improvement and surprise has been the Cowboys’ offensive line. Led by Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, the offensive line has been great at giving protection to Tony Romo and giving holes for Demarco Murray. At the wide receiver position, Dez Bryant has catapulted himself as the second best wide receiver in the league behind the great Calvin Johnson. Bryant is a great physical specimen and can over power any corner back in the league. At tight end, Jason Written continues to be a consistent target in the red zone and helps the Cowboys move the chains. While the Boys have been great on offense, fourth highest scoring team in the league, the defense has been one of the worst defenses in NFL history. Currently, the group cannot defend any offense and is on pace to break the record for most yards allowed in a season. Last week, the Packers scored on every position of the second half while the defense did not force a punt against the Bears two weeks ago. While the Cowboys’ defense has been an abomination, the whole Redskins’ team and ownership has been a disgrace this season. The Redskins have the second worst record in the league because they cannot stop an offense nor score on offense. Without Robert Griffin III, the Redskins do not have the talent on offense to score enough points to make up for their pitiful defense. Although Kirk Cousins may be a future starter in the league, he is not a developed starting quarterback because he has not been given enough snaps in live action. Although Cousins had a good statistical game against the Falcons, he left a lot of throws on the field and threw two interceptions. Although he will probably post quality numbers this week against the horrible Cowboys, he will probably be forced into a few turnovers, which will cost them the game against a hungry Cowboys team. Along with RGIII poor season, Alfred Morris has been unable to repeat his success from last season. Without Morris shouldering the load on offense, the Redskins will not score enough against Tony Romo and the boys. The game should be high scoring but Romo has historically been able to win these games, in order to set up the final week destruction against the Eagles.
Prediction: Cowboys win 35-28
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers:
In one of the biggest games of the season, the Panthers and the Saints will be playing for the number two seed in the NFC. Although neither team made the playoffs last season, they are two of the best teams in football because of their improvements on defense. Last season, the Saints had the worst defense in NFL history because they allowed the most yards in NFL history. However, this season, Rob Ryan has transformed the defense and has made the group one of the top better units in the league. The defensive line has greatly improved this season, which has enabled them to put pressure on the quarterback and is currently ranked third against the pass. While the defense has improved, the offense has been consistent and one of the best in the league. New Orleans is ranked fifth in the league in terms of yards and top ten in terms of points. As long as the Saints have Drew Brees at quarterback, the group will be intimidating for any defense. Along with Brees, the Saints have one of the best receiving cores in the league with Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, and Lance Moore. The Saints have been able to be explosive and keep Brees healthy because the offensive line has been steady and effective all season. While the Saints have been use to the success and the big games, the Panthers are a young team without much experience. The Panthers have been successful this season because their defense is one of the best in the league. The Panthers have allowed the second least amount of points in the league because they are great at pressuring the quarterback and stopping the run. Although their secondary does not match the talent of their front 7, the pressure makes their job easier on defense. Along with the improved defense, the Panthers’ offense has improved because of the success of Cam Newton. Although the Panthers predominantly run a run first offense, Newton has the ability to pass for big yardage, especially to tight end Greg Olsen. Two weeks ago, the Panthers lost to the Saints on the road because they could not score touchdowns in the red zone and did not stop Brees. Although the Panthers should have an easier time on defense since they are not playing in the Superdome, they must provide consistent pressure on Brees if they are going to win the game. However, it must be proven that the Panthers can play in December.
Prediction: Saints win 27-24
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars:
In one of the few match ups that has no playoff implications, this game should be horrible because both teams are more interested in improving their draft status than winning meaningless games down the stretch. After a devastating loss in overtime, the Titans are assured to finish below .500 for another season. Since the loss of Jake Locker to injury, the Titans do not have the same offensive prowess. Although Ryan Fitzpatrick has the ability to post big yardage numbers, he does not have the ability to lead a team to multiple wins against quality teams. Fitzpatrick throws numerous interceptions, which compromises his ability on offense. Along with Fitzpatrick, Chris Johnson is not the same running back that rushed for 2000 yards and compiled 2500 total yards from scrimmage. Although he signed a big deal a few years ago, it is likely that they will release Johnson this offseason. At this point of his career, Johnson is a third down back or platoon back that can catch the ball out of the backfield. However, he cannot rush the ball 20+ times because he is too small and does not have the same explosion. While the Titans have been declining, the Jags are showing some promise with Chad Henne at their quarterback. After starting 0-8, the Jaguars have won 4 of their last 6 games. Although it is hurting their chances of selecting Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 draft, the Jags are playing hard for their coach, which is a positive. The Jags have been scoring more points lately because MJD and Henne are playing better. The Jaguars could have won last week against the Bills, but Chad Henne threw a late interception at the goal line. Along with the offense, the Jags have been playing better on defense. The secondary has been able to force turnovers in their last few games, 6 interceptions in the last four games. Although the game will be ugly, some one must win the game. Since the Jags are the hotter team and playing at home, they are more likely to come out of week 16 with a win.
Prediction: Jags win 24-17
Denver Broncos at Houston Texans:
After losing a terrible game at home last week against the Chargers, the Broncos will be heading to Houston in an attempt to seal the number one seed in the conference. If the Broncos win and the Chiefs lose against the Colts, the Broncos will claim the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Broncos’ success can be attributed to their offense. The Broncos score approximately 38 points per game, which is nine more than any other team in the league. The Broncos are complete on offense because they can run, pass, and protect. Although Moreno and Ball have been effective all season, Peyton Manning is the key to the offense because he is having one of the greatest statistical season in NFL history for a quarterback. Currently, Manning is only 5 touchdowns away from setting the record for touchdowns in a season. Manning is only 600 yards behind Drew Brees for most passing yards in a season. Although Manning will not have Wes Welker because he has a concussion, Manning has numerous options on the outside like Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Eric Decker. While the Broncos defense is not as dominating, the Texans should not be able to exploit the Broncos’ problems. The Texans have experienced a nightmare of a season because they have had horrible quarterback play. The season has been so bad that they had a realistic chance of losing every game this season. Neither Case Keanum nor Matt Schaub has been able to play consistently without turning over the football. The Texans were unable to rely on their quality running game like previous seasons because Arian Foster has been injured for all of the season. Along with the poultry offense, the defense has folded and given up on the season. Although they will not admit defeat, the team is looking toward the draft and improving their team in the offseason. Like multiple times this season, the Broncos will probably score early and often. Without the motivation, the Texans will have no chance of stopping Manning and his high powered offense.
Prediction: Broncos win 31-20
Cleveland Browns at New York Jets:
In another match up between teams that have no playoff aspirations, the Jets and Browns are hoping to end the season on a positive note. The Browns have lost five straight. However, the last losses have been by a combined 12 points. The Browns offense has significantly improved over the past few weeks because they have put an emphasis on throwing the football. This season, Josh Gordon has exploded onto the scene and is leading the league in receiving yardage, although he missed the first two games of the season. Although Browns do not have a running game, after losing running back Trent Richardson to a mid season trade, Jason Campbell has been leading the Browns on offense. Over the past two games, Campbell has thrown for 4 touchdowns while only allowing two interceptions. This week, it is unlikely that Campbell will be picked because the Jets do not strike fear in opponents and force turnovers. Along with the Browns, the Jets are hoping that they do not end the season on another losing streak. Over the past two seasons, the Jets have lost the last three games of each season. If the Jets do not win this game, it is likely that they will lose next week and Rex Ryan will probably lose his job. However, the Jets’ players want to keep Rex as coach and are still playing hard for him, although they will not make the playoffs. The Jets will need to defend Josh Gordon if they are going to win the game. Although the Jets, specifically Antonio Cromatie and Dee Millner, have been burned multiple times this season, Rex should be able to design a defense to stop Josh Gordon, the only legitimate threat on offense. Although Geno has been inconsistent all season, he has played better at home. The Jets will be frequently run the ball on offense because the Browns are good at forcing turnovers through the air. The Jets will make the game plan simple for Geno and hope that he makes the right decisions to win the game. The game should be close and low scoring, and it seems that the Jets usually win these low scoring close games.
Prediction: Jets win 20-17
Other Predictions from Week 16:
New York Giants at Detroit Lions:
Prediction: Lions win 27-17
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks:
Prediction: Seahawks win 31-21
Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers:
Prediction: Steelers win 34-31
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers:
Prediction: Chargers win 31-17
New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens:
Prediction Ravens win 24-20
Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles:
Prediction: Bears win 27-24
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers:
Prediction: 49ers win 31-16
Pictures and Stats from ESPN.com