NFL Week 16 Predictions: Almost Great

I will always be amazed at how quickly an NFL season goes. We wait all year for this thing to get started and it’s Week 16 before you know it. There are definitely some important games this week, though some of the marquee matchups have lost a bit of their luster for various reasons.

Patriots at Jets

Bill Belichick is already being tied to stories about resting starters for the playoffs. It’s Week 16, man. I highly doubt Belichick would rest anyone that can play this week with a chance to clinch the No. 1 seed outright. Sticking it to the Jets’ playoff hopes is just an added bonus. I have always thought the Jets had a decent shot in this game given the way the first one went. This is at home, Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing well, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are reasonably healthy, 10 days of rest for them and Darrelle Revis is good for a veteran team, and the Patriots have not been the same scoring juggernaut they were earlier in the season. James White and Danny Amendola are pretty solid replacement options for the roles of Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman, but the Patriots would be better off with their original guys. Amendola is not likely to play either. Devin McCourty also not expected to play, so it really sets up well for the Jets here, but I still think Fitzpatrick will make too many mistakes, the running game won’t dominate like it did early in the season and Todd Bowles still won’t have a good answer for Rob Gronkowski. Not that many ever have.

Packers at Cardinals

The NFC has some quality games to finish the last two weeks with this one, then Seattle-Arizona and Minnesota-Green Bay in Week 17. That’s why it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Packers finish 12-4 and the Cardinals finish 12-4, giving Green Bay the No. 2 seed. Important game? Absolutely. Both teams coming in playing well? Nope. While the Cardinals continue to roll, Tyrann Mathieu’s torn ACL is one of the worst injuries this year given the impact and timing. That’s a big break for the Packers, but few expect this passing game to get back on track given the way things have been going the last few months. It’s like the NFL needed three games to adjust to this Jordy Nelson-less offense and the results speak for themselves. The record-setting efficiency of Aaron Rodgers — where he could just show up, not even play that well and still finish with a triple-digit passer rating — is just not there this year. He’s had a 100 passer rating one time in his last 11 games. He’s not throwing guys open like he used to, and they’re not catching enough contested passes anyway this year. Rodgers is averaging 6.8 YPA — I didn’t think we’d see him drop under 7.5 until his old-man decline phase began years from now. He’s also struggled on third down a great deal. Arizona will be aggressive and still has the talent without Mathieu to turn the Packers into a one-dimensional attack and pressure Rodgers, but this has a chance to be a high-scoring game. Don’t forget the right finger injury last week for Carson Palmer that had him questionable during the week, though it sounds like he’ll be able to play through it. But if there was a game where the Packers could pull off the upset, catching Arizona this week in those pristine field conditions could be the wake-up call for Rodgers and Green Bay heading into the playoffs. But I like Palmer to play well and for John Brown to make up for last week’s drops. It doesn’t help that Sam Shields is out for the Packers against a receiving corps that has three guys capable of playing like a No. 1.

Bengals at Broncos

Poor Andy Dalton. This was going to be the week he could take the Bengals into Denver against the No. 1 defense in a prime-time setting (MNF) and advance the Bengals through the playoffs. Yes, a Cincinnati win would lock up a first-round bye, which is very much equivalent to winning a Wild Card game. But he’s not even getting the chance because of injury, so it’s AJ McCarron against that strong defense with no Tyler Eifert as a security blanket. This is a tough matchup for the Bengals, but it’s not like the Broncos usually score that many points. Under Brock Osweiler, the Broncos have gone scoreless in three straight second halves. This looked like a great game in April with the Dalton in prime time angle, and you expected Peyton Manning to get a shot to make up for last year’s bad performance in Week 16 in Cincinnati. He too is out with an injury, so we get raw backups going against two of the league’s most talented defenses. I think the game will be lucky to break 35 points combined, but we’ll see.

2015 Week 16 Predictions

I had the Raiders on Thursday night in a game I’d prefer to forget watching, but had to watch again to recap for this week’s column.

Winners in bold:

  • Redskins at Eagles
  • Steelers at Ravens
  • Colts at Dolphins
  • 49ers at Lions
  • Browns at Chiefs
  • Panthers at Falcons
  • Texans at Titans
  • Bears at Buccaneers
  • Cowboys at Bills
  • Patriots at Jets
  • Jaguars at Saints
  • Packers at Cardinals
  • Rams at Seahawks
  • Giants at Vikings
  • Bengals at Broncos

It would be so NFL for the Falcons to beat Carolina after a 38-0 loss two weeks ago, for the Giants to win without Odell Beckham Jr., and for the Jaguars-Saints to go way under the scoring projection, but I’m not crazy enough to pick any of those things with confidence.

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 4-10
  • Week 11: 9-5
  • Week 12: 8-8
  • Week 13: 11-5
  • Week 14: 10-6
  • Week 15: 11-5
  • Season: 139-85 (.621)

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