Week 16 NFL Picks

Picks by Danny

Detroit Lions (8-6) @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-9); Line: Lions by 3.5

There are several compelling games with playoff implications. This is one of them. The Lions along with the Seahawks and Cowboys are the three NFC teams on the outside looking into the playoffs this year. The Lions are an inconsistent team that at times has looked like it belongs in the playoffs and at other times it has looked like the Lions from a decade ago. Matthew Stafford, for all his imperfection, has developed a knack for delivering when it counts down the stretch. Stafford will face a Bengals team that is two games away from a makeover. Marvin Lewis has maintained a job for over a decade despite putting mediocre team on the field year in and year out. I believe there is a change coming and it will probably be what is best for both parties. The Bengals come into this game with an anemic offense and serious questions about whether the team should stick with Andy Dalton at QB. This game will be a match up strength on strength. The Bengals defense versus the Lions offense. The home field advantage will do little good for the Bengals here. Matthew Stafford will come to play and will deliver with a playoff spot possibly on the line. Lions 24, Bengals 14

Los Angeles Chargers (7-7) @ New York Jets (5-9); Line: Bolts by 7

I have said it several times this year that the Jets have exceeded expectations this  season. Todd Bowles deserves credit for motivating his team to compete when it appeared that management was ready to ditch this season. The Chargers on the other hand have been one of the better teams down the stretch in 2017. Phillip Rivers is one of the fiercest competitors in the league and has the luxury of playing with a great defense. The Chargers are on the outside looking for a playoff spot, but could get some help in the next couple of weeks. I expect Rivers to come out focused and dialed in. Chargers 27, Jets 20

Seattle Seahawks (8-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (8-6); Line: ‘Boys by 4.5

This is one of the most compelling games of the week. The Cowboys welcome Ezekiel Elliott back after his six-game suspension with a chance at a playoff berth. The Seahawks go on the road after their worst loss since 2010. The Cowboys are on a three game win streak, although they haven’t always been very convincing during that streak, and the Seahawks enter the game on a two game losing streak. These are two teams that appear to be heading in opposite directions and I think many think that this is an obvious pick. I don’t believe that it is a clear cut as it appears.

This is a Seattle team that is two weeks ago from giving Philly its only loss since week 2. This is a team that has a Jekyll and Hyde persona, but the main reason I think they will be competitive in this match comes down to the Dallas defense. The common element of Seattle’s last two losses is the defensive front of their opponents. Aaron Donald is perhaps the most unblockable defensive lineman in the league while the Jaguars lead the league in sacks and have out muscled their opponents up front. These are the types of teams that Seattle has struggled with for the last couple of seasons due to their weak offensive line play. Outside of DeMarcus Lawrence, there aren’t many players to fear along the Cowboys front four. Russell Wilson will have opportunities against this defense and after an off week I expect him to come out and have a big game. Seattle will also benefit from the return of Pro-Bowl LB KJ Wright and Bobby Wagner should be better than he was last week when a bad hamstring. In the end this game will come down to mistakes, if Seattle minimizes the penalties and avoids turnovers they’ll come out on top. Seahawks 30, Cowboys 24

Picks by Brad

Minnesota Vikings (11-3) @ Green Bay Packers (7-7); Line: Vikes by 8

This game was off the board initially as there were questions early in the week about whether or not Aaron Rodgers would suit up with the Packers formally eliminated from playoff contention. Despite [idiotic] speculation from some analysts that Rodgers didn’t want to face the team that broke his collar bone in the first place, the Packers made the only rational choice and moved #12 and his still-healing clavicle to IR, ending his 2017 season.

While I expect a proud Packer team to play hard at home, they’re up against a buzzsaw this weekend with the 2017 Purple People Eaters coming to town. The Vikes have everything going right and, even as a dome team playing out in the elements, they’re correctly a heavy favorite in this contest. The NFC North title is already locked up, but with New Orleans and LA breathing down their necks for a first round bye, there is no reason to believe Minnesota will ease off the throttle this week. I think Hundley has a long, long day and the Purple and Gold coast to a comfortable victory. Vikings 31, Packers 13

Cleveland Browns (0-14) @ Chicago Bears (4-10); Line: Bears by 7

In the last seven weeks the only game the Browns have really been in was an OT loss to the Packers. In that time the Bears have won just once, but it was a very convincing blowout victory over the Bengals. Why am I telling you this stuff? Because I am taking a flyer on the Browns this week. The only NFL team to ever go 0-16 is the 2008 Lions and there is a reason that going winless doesn’t happen very much. Every team has professional football players and the margins at the pro level are razor thin. Statistically speaking the Browns going without a win here in 2017 defies the odds, but they play Pittsburgh in Week 17 so this week makes the most sense for a victory. But on what basis could I possibly believe that Cleveland will win on the road on Sunday? I’ll give you three reasons:

1- It might just snow on Sunday in Chicago and we’ve all seen how the horrible weather acts as an equalizer. If the game is ugly, the Browns might be able to pull it out.

2- The Browns are 11% behind the Bears in DVOA which sounds like a large gap, but really isn’t. For example, the Eagles are currently behind the Rams by that same margin, and don’t we all believe that Philly could take down the Rams five out of 10 times? The conclusion is that we’re not looking at a crazy upset if the Browns put together four quarters and beat the offensively challenged Bears.

3- What better occasion than Christmas Eve for the people of Believe-land to blessed with a miracle? Better days are ahead for the Browns because they have a lot of draft picks and, despite the paltry results so far this season, have a better roster than they had last year in going 1-15. It’s just a hopeful hunch, but Browns 19, Bears 18

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4) @ San Francisco 49ers (4-10); Line: Jags by 4.5
I hate to break it to you, but Handsome Jimmy G is NOT going to win every start of his career. He’s played well with the 49ers so far and I really think the sky is the limit as he develops his relationship with Kyle Shanahan, but the Jags are on a mission and San Fran doesn’t really have much to play for. Before we credit Garropolo with the entire “turnaround” I would like to double down on what I said in the preseason. This team is NOT that bad. If not for the unluckiest stretch in NFL history, they’re probably sitting on 7 wins right now.
Having said that, the story here is not the San Francisco 49ers. While we were all sleeping on Blake Bortles, he morphed into a more-than-competent quarterback which means that he’s helping the Jags win now. We all need to forget about the days when they were winning in spite of him because that simply isn’t the case any longer. I think the youthful and cocky 9ers make a game of it, but Jacksonville makes the cross country road trip successfully. Jaguars 24, 49ers 21

Picks by Chris

Los Angeles Rams (10-4) @ Tennessee Titans (8-6); Line: Rams by 7

Last week, Brad said the Seahawks were due for a rebound performance and that he believed they would overcome the Rams. I think the Rams made a statement last week regarding their viability as a Super Bowl contending team. Just a year removed from an abysmal 4-12 season that saw Jeff Fisher canned and talk of Jared Goff being one of the biggest busts in recent draft memory, the Rams are 10-4 and knocking on the door of a post-season playoff run that they have to feel good about. They have depth on defense and offense and Todd Gurley is making a case for a regular season MVP award. With this team’s turnaround, I don’t really see how that’s a question, but I did bring this up weeks ago in our mid-season prediction piece.

Meanwhile, The Tennessee Titans lost to Jimmy Garoppolo. I hate to say they lost to the 49ers because they Niners weren’t able to get out of their own way this season until Jimmy G took the reigns at quarterback. The Titans are the front-runners for my “how did they wind up with this record” award this season and I don’t see them beating an explosive young team like the Rams this week. Rams 31, Titans 17.

Buffalo Bills (8-6) @ New England Patriots (11-3); Line: Pats by 12.5

The line appears to favor the New England Patriots pretty heavily in this match up and it’s not really a surprise. The Patriots are playing at home (ugh, home field advantage) and they’ve been about as consistent as you could expect this season on the offensive side of the ball. As with most years in recent memory, Josh McDaniels is again a top-choice for head coaching consideration based on his performance as offensive coordinator here in Boston and the Patriots defense has come on strong late this season. Things look promising for Bill Belichick and company as they close out the season and begin preparation for the post-season.

And for the first time since 1999… the Bills have a shot at the post-season as well. They started the season off strong and have managed to hold on late with a couple of wins over some awful teams (Colts, Dolphins). I don’t see them have much success against the Patriots this weekend, in fact it will likely resemble their match up from a couple of weeks ago, but it’s possible we can see some heroics from this defense with their playoff hopes on the line. I think it will be closer than the previous scoreline between these teams but I still see the Patriots coming out on top. Patriots 24, Bills 21.  

Atlanta Falcons (9-5) @ New Orleans Saints (10-4); Line: Saints by 5.5

The Falcons are still dead to me, so I’m not sure why I’m picking this game. They didn’t appear to have the competitive edge I felt was necessary to get them back to the Super Bowl earlier in the season against the Patriots and I stand by that even with their “turnaround” this season. Even with their recent success, I still don’t see the offensive excellence this team fielded just a year ago and I’m not sold on this defense either. I think they’re a long shot for a deep post-season run and the line at 5.5 points in favor of the Saints feels right to me.

Alvin Kamara made his return to the tune of 99 all-purpose yards and a touchdown against the Jets last week. He left the Saints previous match up with the Falcons early because of concussion but I don’t think the Falcons are going to have the same advantage this go around. Kamara has another big game this week as the Saints continue their steamroll to the finish line. Brad’s MVP pick Marshon Lattimore is ready to go and I’m exciting to see his potential against a guy like Julio Jones. It’s a bit of cliche to say you can’t stop a guy like Julio, even though it’s true, but I’m curious to see how Lattimore plays against one of the league’s best.

Saints win at home and I’m not thinking it’s that close. Saints 31, Falcons 21.