It just hit me that with a game on Friday for Christmas and three games on Saturday, I needed to get this posted today.
Clearly, the NFL planned out a much better Week 16 than what reality has brought us this holiday weekend.
Vikings-Saints should have been a big-time Christmas matchup for the playoffs, but Minnesota’s struggles and the Saints’ two-game slide have lessened the hype over that playoff rematch from a year ago.
San Francisco is already eliminated from the playoffs and will finish last in the NFC West. I wrote a preview for 49ers-Cardinals here.
The Saturday night game between Miami and Las Vegas has playoff implications, though it would have been more interesting if the Raiders (7-7) didn’t lose last week. Also would prefer to see Marcus Mariota get the start, but here we go again with Derek Carr (see preview).
My third preview is on Falcons-Chiefs, noting that the Chiefs are the first team in NFL history to win six straight games by fewer than six points. Something, namely Atlanta, tells me this will be an easy win so that they can rest starters in Week 17 with the top seed wrapped up.
Eagles-Cowboys could have been for the division, but both teams disappointed and Dak Prescott suffered a serious injury. At least Jalen Hurts looks promising for the Eagles in taking over for Carson Wentz.
Rams-Seahawks could be good, though the Rams are coming off one of the most embarrassing losses in NFL history, and Seattle’s offense has not been great for a while now.
The Sunday night game should be a high-scoring affair between the Packers and Titans. I like the preview I came up for that one.
Then there’s Bills-Patriots on MNF. This could have been the passing of the torch game where Buffalo won the division, but the Bills already won it last week while the Patriots are eliminated at 6-8. New England is a brutal watch this season. Still, it’s a game where the Bills can complete the sweep and show off their dominance in the division this year.
I do want to backtrack to one other game this Sunday that I will be watching in full.
Colts at Steelers (+1.5)
It is a rare meeting between what I once considered my two favorite teams in the league. If I couldn’t root for the Steelers to win, I would root for the Colts, especially in the Peyton Manning years.
This is only going to be the 11th meeting between these teams since 2002 (including playoffs), though more interesting than that is the quarterback situation. This could be only the second time in the last seven meetings where both teams had their intended quarterback start and finish the game.
- 2011: IND-Curtis Painter started for an injured Peyton Manning, who missed the whole season for neck surgery.
- 2015: IND-Matt Hasselbeck started for an injured Andrew Luck (lacerated kidney).
- 2016: IND-Scott Tolzien started on Thanksgiving for an injured Andrew Luck, who only missed one game that season.
- 2017: IND-Jacoby Brissett started for an injured Andrew Luck, who missed the entire season.
- 2019: PIT-Mason Rudolph started for an injured Ben Roethlisberger, who was on IR with elbow surgery. For Indy, Jacoby Brissett started the game after Luck retired just before the season, but Brissett left injured early and was replaced by Brian Hoyer.
The only time the Colts and Steelers had their quarterback stay healthy for the game was the 2014 shootout in Pittsburgh, won 51-34 by the Steelers. Luck was solid with 400 yards, but Roethlisberger had arguably the best passing stat line of the 21st century: 40/49 for 522 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT, 150.6 PR, 0 sacks.
This week, Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers are on track to start this game, with Rivers set to become the ninth quarterback to start 250 games (including playoffs). Roethlisberger is at 251.
But that 251st start for Roethlisberger on Monday night in Cincinnati is one of the most embarrassing games of his career. Frankly, given the opponent, I’ve never seen a poorer half of football from the Steelers than that first half. Things got a little better in the second half, but not by much. Pittsburgh has lost three in a row after an 11-0 start and hasn’t scored 20 points in four straight games. Throw in the Colts on a 5-1 run with 26+ points in every game and you can see why the Steelers are a 1.5-point underdog in this one.
I’m rushing this out on Christmas Eve so I’m not in any mood to go into details about the Steelers’ offensive struggles. There will be a time and place for that since, perhaps unfortunately, this team will have a playoff game. With the way they are playing, they will not win another game this season, potentially losing the division to Cleveland and going one-and-done as a wild card team.
With the way the offense has played the last two weeks, I think this team would lose to the Jaguars and Jets right now. For four straight weeks the offense has struggled and actually gotten worse each week instead of finding any changes or improvements.
Can I really expect anything to change on a short week against a superior opponent? No, I don’t. Pittsburgh’s best hope in this matchup is that Rivers lets the pass rush get to him and turns the ball over a few times, or at least once for a touchdown. Set up the offense on short fields and maybe they’ll take advantage. But the Colts are playing too well right now on both sides of the ball and the Steelers are not.
Final: Colts 24, Steelers 20
NFL Week 16 Predictions
Here are all my picks for the week.
I know I said I was done picking the Jets ATS, but I just kinda like this spot for them to tease us with maybe going on the most pointless winning streak of all time. But in the end the Browns will win that game.