I’ve heard that Week 16 is historically difficult to predict, and it’s a good thing, too, because I finished with a poor, 9-7 record last week. The most difficult games to predict were Washington’s upset over Philadelphia, Oakland and Seattle’s surprising victories over Houston and the New York Jets, respectively, and Buffalo and San Diego’s triumphs over Denver and Tampa Bay, respectively. Let’s see if I can close out the regular season with a good week.
Here’s a look at this week’s matchups and how I think they’ll play out.
Last Week: 9-7
This Week: 11-5
St. Louis (2-13) at Atlanta (10-5)
Atlanta can still win the NFC South with a win and a Panthers loss, and the odds are looking to be in their favor. With the Panthers having to travel to New Orleans — where the Saints are no pushovers at home — the scenario is definitely possible. The Falcons should roll over the Rams.
Prediction: Atlanta 27, St. Louis 16
Actual Score: Atlanta 31, St. Louis 27
New England (10-5) at Buffalo (7-8)
I can only imagine what this game atmosphere would be like if the Bills had continued to build momentum after their 4-0 start. As it stands, the Bills are just playing for pride while the Patriots are fighting for their playoff lives. I like New England in this one.
Prediction: New England 24, Buffalo 21
Actual Score: New England 13, Buffalo 0
Kansas City (2-13) at Cincinnati (3-11-1)
The Bengals have picked up a pair of victories and are trying for their third straight against the Chiefs. Kansas City has a talented young offense but they can’t stop anybody on defense. I think the Chiefs sneak away with a win here.
Prediction: Kansas City 20, Cincinnati 13
Actual Score: Cincinnati 16, Kansas City 6
Chicago (9-6) at Houston (7-8)
Houston, by no means, is a pushover opponent. In fact, if their defense hadn’t played so poorly all season, they might have been a hotter topic in the AFC South. Despite their loss to the Raiders last week, the Texans have played well the past month of the season. While a lot of eyes will tend to focus on that Vikings-Giants game, let’s not forget the Bears need to win this game first and foremost because that’s all they can control. The Bears will struggle to defend the pass, but I think the combination of their run defense and running game will be enough to put them over the top.
Prediction: Chicago 24, Houston 20
Actual Score: Houston 31, Chicago 24
New York Giants (12-3) at Minnesota (9-6)
The biggest question heading into this game is whether or not Tom Coughlin plays his starters long enough to win this game. The Giants don’t need it, but the Vikings need it bad. One would think that’d be enough edge to push Minnesota over the top. I’m conflicted on this game. My heart says the Giants while my head says the Vikings. If there’s a chance the Giants sit their players, I’ve got to go with the Vikings.
Prediction: Minnesota 21, New York Giants 17
Actual Score: Minnesota 20, New York Giants 19
Carolina (11-4) at New Orleans (8-7)
Carolina needs to win this game or else a loss and a Falcons victory would make Atlanta the NFC South champions and the Panthers would then earn the No. 1 wild card — the 5th playoff seed. Going into New Orleans is like entering the lion’s den because the Saints have been so good at home this season, resembling an unstoppable playoff team. However, the Panthers have been playing as well as almost any team in the league and with so much on the line, I think they’ll pull out the win.
Prediction: Carolina 27, New Orleans 24
Actual Score: Carolina 33, New Orleans 31
Cleveland (4-11) at Pittsburgh (11-4)
Not much to play for in this one, the Steelers have already locked the No. 2 seed and may rest their starters. Still, I don’t see much fight from the Browns and Pittsburgh should prevail at home.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 21, Cleveland 14
Actual Score: Pittsburgh 31, Cleveland 0
Oakland (4-11) at Tampa Bay (9-6)
As much as I’d like to see the Raiders beat the Buccaneers for the Bears’ sake, there’s just no way it’ll happen. I believe Tampa Bay will pick up a convincing victory to earn a playoff spot.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 27, Oakland 10
Actual Score: Oakland 31, Tampa Bay 24
Tennessee (13-2) at Indianapolis (11-4)
This game could have really meant something had Indianapolis not come out of the gates so slow while the Titans jumped out to an insurmountable lead. With the Titans having already clinched the division and the Colts locked into the No. 5 seed, this game has little meaning.
Prediction: Tennessee 23, Indianapolis 17
Actual Score: Indianapolis 23, Tennessee 0
Detroit (0-15) at Green Bay (5-10)
I never thought I’d see it. But a year after seeing a 16-0 team — another thing I didn’t think I’d see in my lifetime — we’re going to see an 0-16 team because I don’t see the Lions storming into Lambeau Field and picking up a victory.
Prediction: Green Bay 30, Detroit 13
Actual Score: Green Bay 31, Detroit 21
Jacksonville (5-10) at Baltimore (10-5)
The Ravens are in control of their own playoff fortunes and just need to win this game to get to the postseason. Playing at home against an underachieving Jaguars team looks to be as close to a sure-thing as there is.
Prediction: Baltimore 23, Jacksonville 13
Actual Score: Baltimore 27, Jacksonville 7
Seattle (4-11) at Arizona (8-7)
I think it’s quite possible the Seahawks pull off an upset given how badly the Cardinals have played the past few weeks since clinching the division title. The Cardinals currently have the No. 4 seed and will not move from that spot, so I don’t know if they have anything to play for but momentum. Still, I think they should win this one at home.
Prediction: Arizona 24, Seattle 17
Actual Score: Arizona 34, Seattle 21
Washington (8-7) at San Francisco (6-9)
All Washington can do at this point is play for pride. Same goes for the 49ers. I think it’d be a fitting end to a second half if the 49ers pull off the victory here and I’m gonna roll the dice and say they do just that.
Prediction: San Francisco 20, Washington 17
Actual Score: San Francisco 27, Washington 24
Miami (10-5) at New York Jets (9-6)
Sometimes story lines go just as you hoped they would as Chad Pennington’s Dolphins can win the division and send the Jets home without a playoff spot just a few months after Pennington was shown the door because the Jets acquired Brett Favre. However, I don’t think it’ll play out that way. I’m not going to say the Dolphins can’t win in the cold, because they just beat the Chiefs last week in the coldest game the franchise has ever seen. But that was the Chiefs, and these are the Jets. I like New York.
Prediction: New York Jets 23, Miami 21
Actual Score: Miami 24, New York Jets 17
Dallas (9-6) at Philadelphia (8-6-1)
There’s nothing I’d like more than for the Eagles to send the arrogant Cowboys and their pompous owner home for the playoffs. The Eagles will know before kickoff whether they have a shot at the playoffs or not, but I don’t think it matters one way or another. It’s not like they’ll let their guard down in this big matchup. I like Philadelphia’s chances of playing spoiler for the Cowboys.
Prediction: Philadelphia 23, Dallas 20
Actual Score: Philadelphia 44, Dallas 6
Denver (8-7) at San Diego (7-8)
A few weeks ago when Denver looked to have a comfortable lead in the AFC West and the Chargers appeared to be out of the playoff hunt, I never thought this game would have much more meaning than revenge for what happened earlier this year. Now, on top of revenge, to the victor go the spoils, which, in this case, is the division title and a playoff spot. After the way the Chargers lost the first matchup — by a two-point conversion late in the game — I think San Diego will earn that revenge they seek and win the title with an 8-8 record.
Prediction: San Diego 27, Denver 21
Actual Score: San Diego 52, Denver 21