NFL Predictions 2019: Week 16

I think I did okay last week, even better if I didn’t miss on both the games that took place where I live. Insert face plant emoji here. In fairness, the refs hosed Oakland in their loss to Jacksonville and San Francisco was one foot from holding off Atlanta. That’s a bummer. I was 13-3 picking winners (147-76-1 overall) after also missing Houston beating Tennessee in a game that was decided by a single play, Tannehill’s interception near the end zone. I went 11-5 against the spread (121-99-4 overall) so that was fine, and 8-8 on the over/under (113-109-2 overall). The +6 week leaves me +26 on the season versus Vegas.

Houston (9-5) @ Tampa Bay (7-7): I love the Saturday NFL games. Maybe it’s because it marks the holiday season. There is just something special about them that isn’t captured in other non-Sunday affairs. This one is a bit of an odd choice by the league because it’s a non-conference matchup between teams with no rivalry whatsoever. The Bucs are a lot of Winston turnovers away from being a serious contender. He has thrown for a ton of yards and it will be difficult for the franchise to turn away from him given his production. Teams always feel they can get a quarterback to stop throwing interceptions. On the other side Watson is slinging it and has his team on the brink of a division title. Sandwiched between two games against the Titan, last week’s win means all they have to do is win this one and the division is theirs regardless of how the rematch turns out. I think that increases their focus here. If you can beat a team that is out of the race and ensure a playoff spot that sounds like a good deal. In 7 of their past 8 games they have scored 20-28 points, and I’m not sure that’s going to be enough in this one. Tampa Bay has scored 35-plus in three of their last four games and won 28-11 in the exception. In more than half their games (8) they have allowed 31-plus and it figures to be a shootout. The final two weeks can be wild and nothing will surprise me here. I think the Bucs show up to play. It’s not primetime, but it’s a showcase. I like the Texans in a thriller: Houston 31, Tampa Bay 27 (HOU +1/over 50.5)

Buffalo (10-4) @ New England (11-3): This is more about the bye week than the AFC East title for the Patriots who are trying to regain their swagger. While going 3-3 since their “invincible” 8-0 start they have lost to all three division leaders in the conference and quite frankly were not close to winning any of those games. When they met the Bills the first time, and won 16-10 thanks to a special teams touchdown, I sensed a shift. Weeks went on and I thought maybe it was nothing. Recent results have shown me otherwise. Brady was 18/39 in that game for a mere 3.8 yards per attempt. He wasn’t sacked and only had one interception but the offense was limited to a first quarter touchdown and a field goal in the final minute. Even with Barkley forced in at quarterback they couldn’t pull away from a team they’ve dominated over the years. It’s fortuitous they get the rematch at home. At this point they need the home fans and the reality of the run being finally over is starting to settle in. Crushing hapless Cincinnati can’t wash away the fact that they can’t beat a good team and are having a tough time on offense. Buffalo squeezed out a win at Pittsburgh to lock down a wild card. It was a significant win for them to make the playoffs. Unless the Dolphins beat the Patriots here next week, the Bills are locked in as the top wild card. Crazy things happen, but that seems unlikely. I’m certain Buffalo wants to force that scenario and earn some respect here as well with a national audience watching. Do the champs have some tricks left in their bag? I think they do. It’s a defensive war and Belichick is good at those. They win an ugly affair: New England 20, Buffalo 19 (BUF +7/over 37)

LA Rams (8-6) @ San Francisco (11-3): The 49ers had a brutal stretch of three games against teams who currently have 11-plus wins so it’s not all that shocking they were out of gas and let Atlanta come back and beat them. Defensive injuries haven’t helped. Now they are in a precarious position because this is a dangerous opponent and their division title hopes are in major peril if they drop this game. Seattle would gain the tiebreaker on them simply by beating the Cardinals at home and therefore a loss by the 49ers here could easily result in a clinching scenario prior to next week’s showdown. The Rams whipped those Seahawks two weeks ago, but were then crushed in Dallas last week to ostensibly end their hopes of repeating as NFC champs. San Francisco won the first meeting 20-7 and landed a surprise 5-0 while leaving the Rams reeling at 3-3. At the time it seemed shocking. Maybe it still is. The league shifts from year to year, and even within the same season things change. Los Angeles has been terrible on defense twice in the last four weeks by allowing 44 and 45 points, but in six of their eight games since the loss in the first meeting they haven’t allowed more than 17 points. It’s a rivalry game and I expect them to show up under the lights ready to spoil the party. The shocking loss last week woke up San Francisco who can’t afford to look forward. They get the win, but it’s not easy: San Francisco 23, LA Rams 19 (LAR +6.5/under 46.5)

Cincinnati (1-13) @ Miami (3-11): Apparently only 4% of the country will be seeing this game as part of their broadcast package. There are showers in the forecast and we will see which team has enough gas left to tank with, or something like that. The Dolphins were supposed to be the team tanking and they mucked that up. The Bengals seemed to pull out a win as soon as it became apparent they might join the infamous 0-16 club that no team wants to be a part of. At least now their fans can still hold that over the other Ohio franchise. With nothing on the line teams tend to play loose. Cincinnati showed up for a half last week against the Pats, but this is on the road. Miami lost games the last two weeks versus the New York teams and trades the cold of New Jersey for the rains of South Florida. Still, when last seen here they put up 37 in an upset of the Eagles. They can score, and in a game where the defense is likely to be optional I favor the team with the more potent attack: Miami 28, Cincinnati 21 (MIA +1/over 45.5)

Pittsburgh (8-6) @ NY Jets (5-9): The Bell bowl is on. It’s going to be emotional for the Steelers as they face their former franchise back. Maybe right now he regrets his decision, stuck on a losing team watching his old teammates thrive even with backups prevalent on offense. New York is on extra rest here and firmly in the spoiler role. They put up a decent fight last week in Baltimore, losing 42-21 to a team that is steamrolling the league. Fun fact, they have not lost at home since October 21 when the Patriots shut them out. Including the game before that, a win over the Cowboys, they have won four of the last five here. The Steelers lost a tough one last week to the Bills and it hurt their wild card situation. There is less margin for error now although in fairness I anticipate Baltimore resting starters for next week’s game and making their path a lot easier. The task at hand will not be easy. This defense has carried the team and the offense has very little margin for error. Conner is back and that helps. The team plays with a chip on their shoulder and right now maybe Duck is better than Darnold. He might be more productive in this one given the defensive resistance factor. New York can compete here and make this difficult. I like Tomlin’s team to find a way because they have done so all season: Pittsburgh 18, NY Jets 14 (PIT -3/under 38.5)

NY Giants (3-11) @ Washington (3-11): The first time these teams met, Haskins came off the bench for the Redskins far too late to save a 24-3 loss. He’s had more experience since then and now gets another shot at Jones who is expected to return after missing two weeks. New York sent Manning out in style last week with a home win over Miami and now this is all about draft position and next year’s schedule as these teams decide who will finish last in the NFC East. Washington nearly played spoiler the last two weeks against contenders and actually has been decent in the last four games. It’s hard to say how this goes with an interim coach leading a team against a rival but with nothing on the line. I see the Redskins being able to move the ball here and pull out the season split in a fun game to watch: Washington 24, NY Giants 20 (WAS +0/over 41.5)

Carolina (5-9) @ Indianapolis (6-8): It’s always interesting to see how teams react when they are out of the playoff race. In this matchup both teams are out and it’s really been quarterback play that did each team in. The Colts survived the loss of Luck to start the season and started 5-2. Then the roof fell in with a 1-7 tailspin. Four of those losses came by no more than 4 points and no one can tell me Luck wouldn’t have gone 4-0 in those games. This would without a doubt be a 10-4 team had he been healthy enough to play this season and that’s unfortunate. I don’t think Brissett is their answer unless all they care about is being mediocre. The defense has really been an issue of late, allowing 31-plus in three straight. The Panthers also started off fine, 5-3 at their midseason and absorbing the loss of their former number one overall pick Newton to injury. Allen’s shine has worn off with the team losing six straight, four of them in one possession games that ultimately cost Rivera his head coaching position. Likewise for them, the defense has worn down, allowing 29-plus in five straight during this skid. I think this one has the potential to be very entertaining and high scoring. McCaffrey is having an MVP caliber season on a bad team and won’t win the award. Carolina has lost twice in the last four games at dome teams, by a combined 69-23 so that’s not a great sign for them. Indy has the home field and I think will show up with a little more fire to pull this out: Indianapolis 30, Carolina 27 (CAR +7/over 46)

Baltimore (12-2) @ Cleveland (6-8): It’s crazy to think this is a revenge game for the Ravens. The Browns crushed them 40-25 three months ago, a rare highlight for their season that started 2-6. Funny thing about that horrific first half of the season is that looking back at it six of those teams now have winning records and five appear heading to the playoffs. Two more playoff contenders followed on the schedule, both wins, but the hole was too deep to dig out of. Technically they are still alive, but last week’s 38-24 loss at Arizona who is out of the hunt was demoralizing. It’s hard to see them mustering up the swagger to repeat that week 4 beat down. Mayfield had 342 yards passing while Chubb ran for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jackson had a garbage time 50-yard TD pass to pad his stats, but if not for that play he falls short of 200 yards through the air. Hard to believe the teams were each 2-2 after that contest. Baltimore has not lost since. They did go to overtime in Pittsburgh the next week and needed a buzzer beater to take down San Francisco. Still, including last week’s rout of the Jets they have now won seven times by 17-plus points this season. They have posted 41-plus points in four of their last six games. This is a team on a roll. Winning this game locks up the top seed in the AFC and allows them to rest key players That’s definitely something they will want to do as opposed to having to play a physical Pittsburgh team with something to lose. I see this as a team on a mission, a team of destiny going up against a team that has imploded most of the way. It’s a total reversal of the previous outcome: Baltimore 38, Cleveland 17 (BAL -7/over 49)

Jacksonville (5-9) @ Atlanta (5-9): Both teams are coming off wins in the Bay Area. The Jaguars ruined the last game played in Oakland thanks to a really bad call that allowed them time for a dramatic comeback. It halted a string of five straight losses by 17-plus points, an NFL record. The Falcons continued their solid second half of the season (4-2) with dramatics of their own in San Francisco, scoring with two seconds left. They have somehow routed three teams by 17-plus points after starting the season 1-7. It’s weird, and they seem to be trying to save their head coach’s job. Minshew is playing like he doesn’t care what happens next and absolutely could keep his team in this one. The defense for Atlanta has played really well since their bye week and should be more up for this one: Atlanta 28, Jacksonville 20 (ATL -7/over 46)

New Orleans (11-3) @ Tennessee (8-6): This is an interesting matchup. The Saints have locked up the division, but are in a three-way battle for seeding in the NFC and would love to earn a bye week. They bounced back nicely from the exhausting loss to the 49ers with a 34-7 rout of the Colts on MNF. Traveling on a short week is never a good setup, especially for a dome team playing outdoors. They are 4-1 outside this season, but haven’t been in the elements since a trip to Tampa Bay, which isn’t exactly battling the elements. This is for sure the coldest game for them and it’s going to have an impact. The Titans are battling for the playoffs, but last week’s loss to Houston was severely damaging in both the division and wild card. They need help and a pair of wins. One poor throw by Tannehill turned the tide and that’s how razor thin the margin of error is in the NFL. They are the desperate team here and that’s a big advantage. I see them getting physical and grinding this one out. They aren’t the better team, but I think they could win this one. I’m still taking Brees: New Orleans 24, Tennessee 23 (TEN +2.5/under 51)

Oakland (6-8) @ LA Chargers (5-9): The Bolts should have been the team to close out the Raiders stay in Oakland, but instead this matchup is reserved for ending the soccer stadium stint for Los Angeles. Both teams will be in new facilities next year and that’s weird. The Chargers were routed here last week by Minnesota, a week after they blew out Jacksonville on the road. Those two games were the exception for their season that had previously been marked by one-possession games. Their 2-7 mark in those games has been the story. Oakland’s season has been derailed by injuries and in this one they are without Brown at tackle and Jacobs at running back. Their offense isn’t the same without those guys. Mathematically they are alive in the playoff chase somehow, but that’s a formality. In their current state they really have no chance to repeat their win on TNF against these guys in November: LA Chargers 27, Oakland 17 (LAC -6.5/under 47)

Detroit (3-10-1) @ Denver (5-9): For some reason the Lions aren’t rolling heads and that’s why they continue to be awful. The Broncos are in a lost season, but at least have a potential franchise quarterback to groom. Lock and Blough isn’t exactly a high profile rookie signal caller matchup, but here we are. Denver still has a defense and just two weeks ago went to Houston and showed out. They have only played twice at home since October 17 and won both games. Detroit is in a 1-10 death spiral since starting 2-0-1. Seven of the losses were in one-possession games, but they have been handled the last two weeks by a combined 58-24. I don’t see them rising up here and doing much. It’s a dome team in cold weather and that rarely works out: Denver 23, Detroit 13 (DEN -7/under 38.5)

Arizona (4-9-1) @ Seattle (11-3): A week after the Seahawks laid an egg at the Rams, they were given an early Christmas gift when the Falcons beat the 49ers. Now they only need to beat San Francisco next week and the division is theirs, even if they lose here. Winning this does matter when it comes to playoff seeding, but they aren’t under a ton of pressure. They’ve lost twice at home and no one would be surprised if those opponents (New Orleans, Baltimore) met in the Super Bowl. It’s just their second home game since November 3 and I expect them to be energized by their 12th man, especially if the showers hit. The Cardinals come from the desert so they are out of their element. Their three game home stand concluded with a win against Cleveland to stop a six-game slide. Murray’s rookie season hasn’t been remarkable, but he’s been okay. Seattle is by far the better team here. Wilson is at the top of his game and while the defense has been awful statistically they have found a way. They handled the first meeting comfortably 27-10. I see a fairly similar result here: Seattle 28, Arizona 16 (SEA -9/under 51)

Dallas (7-7) @ Philadelphia (7-7): This is probably the most hyped matchup of teams who are both 7-7 in NFL history. If the Cowboys win, the division title is theirs by virtue of October’s 37-10 blowout in the first meeting. If the Eagles win they need to win at the Giants to lock up the NFC East and while that doesn’t seem difficult, New York just took them to overtime two weeks ago. Dallas comes in with heavy momentum. They smoked the Rams last week and washed off a lot of the stink from a 1-4 stretch marked by close losses against contenders. Philly was barely able to scratch past the Redskins in DC last week, trailing 27-24 late. It’s hard to believe this is the same team that shocked the Patriots in the Super Bowl a couple seasons ago. They just don’t seem capable of hitting the next gear, even if they did record a pair of solid wins on the road (Green Bay, Buffalo) against teams with double digit wins. The Cowboys are tougher up front and can run on them. Everyone can pass on them so I think the visitors get it done: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 23 (DAL +0/over 45.5)

Kansas City (10-4) @ Chicago (7-7): This isn’t a great matchup for SNF. The Chiefs will be more motivated if the Pats lose on Saturday because a bye week would then become a real possibility. It’s hard for teams to really get fired up on the road when the playoffs are locked up. Cold weather doesn’t bother Mahomes, so that helps. The Bears are out of the playoffs, but have played well in the second half of the season (4-2). The defense has only allowed one team to score more than 24 points against them, so it’s hard to see Kansas City rolling over them. They have won three in a row at home and can absolutely make a game of this. The Chiefs are sort of the forgotten team in the AFC, which is weird. They swept through their AFC West foes in their last four games, sandwiched around a win at New England. A tough defense and cold weather keep it close: Kansas City 24, Chicago 17 (KC -4/under 45)

Green Bay (11-3) @ Minnesota (10-4): For once a late season MNF game matters. The NFC North title is at stake, sort of. The Packers can lose this game and win the division next week because the Vikings lost a game to the Bears earlier in the season. Green Bay won the first meeting 21-16. Cousins struggled badly going 14/32 with a pair of interceptions and that’s a big deal because he has just 5 all season. Cook ran for 154 yards, but might not play in the rematch. Minnesota is coming off a rout at the Chargers and has yet to lose at home this season. Green Bay has played shaky competition the last three weeks and has been far from dominant the last two weeks in low scoring wins. Home field advantage would be huge for them in the playoffs and if they want it this is a must-win game. I think Rodgers wills them to a win: Green Bay 22, Minnesota 20 (GB +5.5/under 47.5)

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