The Miami Dolphins haven’t made the playoffs in five seasons. And with everything that happened earlier this year with a bullying scandal, many fans in South Beach probably thought it would become six. But with three wins in a row, including two against fellow divisional opponents, the Dolphins will look to beat another AFC East team in Buffalo this weekend. If the Dolphins win this weekend, they’ll have their best winning streak of the season and put themselves into a great position to make the playoffs. Bills quarterback EJ Manuel missed out the last time these two teams met up, a 23-21 win for Buffalo. It’s likely he’ll miss again this weekend with a reoccurring knee aggravation. Thad Lewis will start in his place, as he went 21-32 for 202 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception the last time these two teams played. This one is going to be a close one, and this could be the game that determines the outcome of the season for the Dolphins. For the Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill will look to lead his team in what he hopes will be his first playoff birth. The Dolphins are a 3 point favorite in this game.
Another great game to look forward to on Sunday will be New Orleans and Carolina. Both teams are 10-4 and atop the NFC South. Something that Panthers fans may not have even considered possible earlier this season when they started by losing three of their first four games. Then they rattled off eight wins in a row, before losing to the Saints just two weeks ago. Coming off that win, many people expect the Saints to coast to another divisional title but were completely surprised last weekend against the Rams. That makes for quite the interesting matchup here. If the Panthers win, they would control their destiny and a final win against a lowly Atlanta squad in their final game would assure they win the NFC South and get the second spot in the NFC Playoffs. Then again, if the Saints win, they’ll automatically become the NFC South winners and get that second spot, as well as a first round bye. Keep in mind that the Saints blew out the Panthers two weeks ago in a 31-13 win. But that was inside a dome in front of Saints fans. Carolina will look to avenge that loss and show why they have the top defense in the league against Drew Brees and company. The Panthers are a slight 3-point favorite in this one.
Despite two straight losses, the Cowboys can still make for an interesting final week matchup against the Eagles. But in order to do so, they’ll need to beat the Redskins first this weekend. After blowing a huge lead and losing last weekend to Green Bay, the Cowboys can erase any memory of that by winning the next two games. And while the game against Philly in the final week could be difficult, they should easily be able to beat the Redskins. That is, except for the fact that the Cowboys are notorious for being bad in December. And while Dallas may be happy to see Kirk Cousins under center for the Skins, Washington will have to realize that the Cowboys have lost their last two games to backup quarterbacks. Things have gone from interesting to downright confusing in Washington. This week, Mike Shanahan said he wouldn’t resign from his position and he planned to come back. But with the turmoil between him and RGIII, it’s unlikely that both of those guys will be there next year. But as for Sunday, the Cowboys have a slight 3-point lead. We’ll have to see if that means anything with so much on the line for Tony Romo and company.
In a weekend full of fantastic NFL matchups, the Rams and Buccaneers will only be playing for respect on Sunday. After a three game winning streak that started in Week 10, the Bucs have now lost two of their last three. As for the Rams, they have won three of their last five, including last weekend against New Orleans. What might be more noticeable for the Rams is that they are in the toughest division in football, and they are still holding their own during the process. The Rams win last weekend over the Saints, and their 6-10 record is why they are favored in this one by 6. Not much else on the line with this one, though it should still be a good game with two teams playing for pride.
Another game that won’t mean much is the one between the Jets and Browns. After their loss last weekend to the Panthers, the Jets were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the third straight season. Now, they will await an offseason that surely has to have some changes in store throughout that entire franchise. If anyone can attest to the Jets struggles, it has to be the Browns. Losers of five straight, and eight of their last nine, this was a team that was atop the NFC North with a three game winning streak back in early October. The Jets are a slight 2-point favorite in this game. And a loss to Cleveland could be just enough to push Rex Ryan out as the head coach in New York. The final in this one will impact the next NFL Draft, more than it’ll affect the playoff picture this year.
The Colts have had an incredibly weird two-month stretch since their bye week. Entering their bye week at 5-2, the Colts have alternated wins and losses in each game since being back in action. Now at 9-5, they hope that this game against the Chiefs will give them a better idea of where they are at in terms of preparedness for the playoffs. Plus, the winner of this game could potentially still get a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. Luckily for both of them, they’ve already clinched so a first-round bye would be icing on the cake. After a bit of a slipup after their own bye week, the Chiefs have won two in a row and are doing it completely different than expected. Going 9-0 to start the season, many people accredited the record to the defense for Kansas City. But after a 45-10 and 56-31 win in the last two weeks, it has been Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith who have been getting the most attention. Last week Smith threw for five touchdowns, four of which went to Charles. Playing at home, the Chiefs are a 7 point favorite. But what could be the most interesting to consider is how the rest of this season shakes out. It is very well possible that these two teams could be playing again in two weeks in a wild-card game.
While the Bengals have newly acquired pressure to win this weekend, the Vikings have enjoyed being a thorn in the side for playoff bound teams this season. Minnesota was able to stop Nick Foles and the Eagles last weekend, the Bears in overtime two three weeks ago, and, despite losing, pushed Baltimore (who might be the hottest team in the league right now) to a 29-26 final. Now, those Bengals need this win to stay ahead of the Ravens squad that has won four in a row. A loss on Sunday would mark just the third time in history that the Vikings failed to win a game on the road. But a win in Cinci is no short task. Especially not a Cincinnati team that needs this win in order to make the playoffs. The Bengals are still in control of their fate in the coming weeks. But they certainly won’t want to overlook the Vikings this weekend. If they do, we could be looking at one insanely important game in Week 17 for the Bengals and Ravens. The Bengals are 8 point favorites over the Vikings on Sunday.
The Broncos have got to be counting their blessings after watching the Patriots blow it last weekend. After their loss on Thursday to the Chargers, the Broncos were knocked down to reality and realized that they will have to finish the season strong if they want that top spot in the AFC come playoff time. And with their final two games against teams with six combined wins, they certainly have the opportunity to get that spot. However, the Broncos proved in their loss against the Chargers that they have some issues. Peyton Manning has led this team in multiple games this year as he is on pace to beat Tom Brady’s single season record for touchdowns. But as demonstrated against San Diego, they’ll need to have a more well-rounded effort from the rest of their team in the playoffs. Luckily for them, it may not take a complete effort to beat this Houston team. The Texans only have two wins this season. A far-shot prediction going into the beginning of the year. Now, without the coach and quarterback that they started the season with, it’s anybody’s guess as to what to expect with the Texans. But chances are it won’t include a win over the Broncos on Sunday. Denver is a 10 ½ point favorite, even though they will be the visiting team. With a few extra days of prep for Peyton, that spread is likely to be a fair prediction for the outcome of this one.
After losing their first eight straight, who would’ve guessed that the Jags would have a chance to tie the record of a team that was playoff bound towards the middle of the season? With a win over the Titans on Sunday, the Jags can do just that. Despite starting the season 3-1 and with high hopes for Jake Locker and Chris Johnson, the Titans have lost seven of their last nine and will be watching the playoffs from home for the fifth straight season. One interesting note in this one is that the Jags got their first win of the season against this Titans team back on November 10th. The 29-27 win would be the first of the four that they have on the season. As for the Titans, they have gone 1-9 against the AFC South since last year. Certainly not the way that the Titans would’ve liked to finish the season. They’ll be looking to figure things out with Locker and Johnson this summer, as the Jags will look to see what moves they can make to continue this rebuilding process that seems to happen each year.
One game you should set your DVR for if you can’t watch it live is the matchup between the Cardinals and Seahawks. The Seahawks have already clinched their spot in the playoffs and are the top team in the league. But the Cardinals have had a surprisingly strong season, which includes six wins in their last seven games. A win this weekend for Arizona would put a ton of pressure on San Francisco, especially considering the two teams will meet next weekend in the final game of the season. As for this weekend, the Seahawks already won the first game when these two teams met. The 34-22 loss was the last one before the Cardinals started really putting things together. While the Cardinals will be playing for their playoff lives, the Seahawks will be playing for the hopes of clinching home-field throughout the NFC Playoffs. The last time they had that, in 2005, they reached the Super Bowl. This one is too close to call where it stands now, and NFC fans are going to be in for not just a good one, but a great one on Sunday afternoon.
The Lions are likely still reeling after going from first to third in the NFC North with their overtime loss against the Ravens on Monday night. What might’ve stung the most is that the Ravens were able to get that win, without even finding the end zone. Losers of four of the last five, the Giants may be just what the doctor ordered for Detroit. Despite a bit of a surge in the middle of the season, the Giants are officially out of the playoffs in a season where the Super Bowl will be held in their home stadium. What may even be more disappointing is the fact that they didn’t need much to win the NFC East, considering how bad the other teams were, but they weren’t even able to match those efforts. You’d think this one would be a lock for the Lions, which would put them right back there in contention for the NFC North. But with loses to Pittsburgh, Tampa, Philly and Baltimore, nobody can really predict what the Lions will do on Sunday. Luckily for them, they’ll still have Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson. What might not be so lucky is they’ll be facing an Eli Manning who probably doesn’t care much about what happens and he could go out there just flinging the ball around the field. The Lions obviously have more riding on this one, as a loss would be considered a complete collapse as they would be out of playoff contention. Detroit is also a 9 point favorite.
Coming off a huge win over the Broncos last Thursday, the Chargers still need a lot of things to go in their favor to make the playoffs. They can do their part by getting a win over the 4-10 Raiders this weekend. The Chargers would then also need a win over KC next weekend, as well as loses from both Miami and Baltimore in the final weeks of the season. Certainly not the easiest road, the Chargers wouldn’t even be in the conversation if it wasn’t for a lofty defensive effort against the Broncos that resulted in Denver having a season-low for points scored. Look for Phillip Rivers to look for Keenan Allen early and often in this one. Allen had two touchdowns against Denver and has had four in his last two games. As for the Raiders, they’ll start Matt McGloin for the fifth straight game. It’s likely the Raiders will ride McGloin for the final two games. If not to evaluate his potential in a Raiders jersey, but also for increasing his value if they choose to go with Terrelle Pryor in the future. The Chargers are a 10-point favorite in this game, which would set things in motion for them to await their destiny in the AFC Playoff picture.
Matt Flynn was able to keep the Packers in the playoff conversation last weekend. With their win in back-to-back games, the Packers can make the playoffs, despite a rough patch in the season when Aaron Rodgers went down. As to whether or not Rodgers will play Sunday, that is still to be seen. But you can imagine that with all that is riding on this game, there is a high likelihood that Rodgers will suit up. It may not matter much to the Steelers, who would need a win, as well as a whole lot of other things to go their way, to someone make the playoffs. Despite being able to turn around their season in the second half, it was losing six of the first eight that really put Pittsburgh too far behind to catch up. This should be one of the more entertaining games of the weekend with so much riding on it. And if Rodgers is playing, it should be more entertaining to see him and Ben Roethlisberger go back and forth all game long.
A few weeks ago, the Ravens and Patriots matchup in Week 16 probably didn’t garner much attention. But as winners of four straight, the Ravens are looking to get themselves into the top spot in the AFC North with a win over New England. As for those Patriots, they blew it against the Dolphins last year in a game that meant home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs. This game could really be interesting in terms of how each team scores points. Tom Brady is without Rob Gronkowski, who is certainly one of his favorite red zone targets. Joe Flacco didn’t score any touchdowns last weekend, and instead all of Baltimore’s points came from Justin Tuckers foot. The Patriots have already made the playoffs but you can bet that Tom Brady won’t be happy about two losses in a row. But with as hot as the Ravens have been lately, this one is surprisingly unpredictable.
As the playoff picture will begin to shake up throughout most of the day, the Sunday night game between Chicago and Philly will have implications on the NFC as well. Both teams are 8-6, though they’ve gotten to that point in different fashions. For the Eagles, they won five in a row behind Nick Foles before losing to Minnesota last weekend. As for Chicago, they’ve been up and down, though luckily for them their recent streak has seen them up with wins against Cleveland and Dallas. What could be the most interesting variable into this game is the fact that both teams will have a solid idea of where they’ll stand in the playoffs, and their own division, before kickoff. If the Packers and Lions loss, the Bears will be golden for a NFC North divisional title. If the Cowboys lose, the Eagles can say the same about the NFC East. However, if any of those teams win, it’ll be added pressure on the respective divisional leader. Despite being cooled down last weekend in Minnesota, the red-hot Eagles have a 3 point favorite in this game. But it should be a great one to cap a Sunday full of games with playoff implications.
Like the Bears and Eagles, the 49ers will also know their playoff standing before they kick off on Monday night. If the Seahawks win against Arizona, the 49ers will be on course to make another playoff run that puts them in their second straight Super Bowl. Then again, if the Cardinals pull out the win, San Francisco will certainly need to get the win. Luckily for them, they play Atlanta at home and a win isn’t too much to ask for. At 4-10, the Falcons are just looking to get this season over with and put it as far into memory as possible. But what may be the most interesting part of this game will be the fact that it will be the last regular season game in Candlestick Park. The place the 49ers have called home since 1971, they’ll move to their new home next season. You can bet there will be some emotion behind the game in this one, even though they will likely play at least one game at home once the playoff start. The 49ers are 12-point favorites, and a win will solidify their spot in the playoffs.
FREE PICK WEEK 16
RAIDERS VS CHARGERS
Take the Raiders plus 10 points
The Raiders have show they are still fighting despite their 4-10 record. They put up a good fight against the KC Chiefs last week even though the score doesn’t show it. The charges are getting too much respect for beating the Broncos last week. The charges did not beat them, the Broncos beat the Broncos.
A few trends to consider:
The total has gone OVER in 6 of Oakland’s last 7 games
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Oakland’s last 6 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 10 of Oakland’s last 13 games when playing on the road against San Diego
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Oakland’s last 6 games when playing San Diego
San Diego is 16-4 SU in its last 20 games when playing Oakland
San Diego is 8-2 SU in its last 10 games when playing at home against Oakland
The total has gone UNDER in 10 of San Diego’s last 13 games when playing at home against Oakland
The total has gone UNDER in 7 of San Diego’s last 10 games