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NFL Top 5 Week 16 Matchups
The straightforward Week 15 NFL slate exceeded my expectations, and it showed in my predictions as my upset pick of the Steelers was my only W. The games didn't appear to be as entertaining as the previous weeks, but they turned out to be just as good. The chase for the playoffs is full steam ahead at this point, with about two thirds of the league still mathematically in the playoff hunt. After this week, I'm not sure if the picture gets much clearer, so I expect one of the most exciting Week 17s that we've seen in years.
5. Arizona (9-5) at Seattle (12-2)
Seattle comes into this game after a 23-0 shutout of the New York Giants last week. With a win, they will clinch the NFC West and the NFC's #1 seed. Arizona comes into this game after a 37-34 come from behind overtime win against Tennessee. The Cardinals are looking to keep their playoff hopes alive with a win. The teams ahead of Arizona just need to win to get in, but if the Cardinals can find a way to win out and finish 11-5, they will have a shot.
The Cardinals have been flying under the radar lately, but they are one of the hottest teams in the league, having won six of their last seven games. They are a solid football team that doesn't do anything exceptionally well, except stop the run. Their defense is currently first in the league in this category, only allowing 83 yards per game. This is an important stat, because Seattle is currently second in the league in running the football, averaging 141 yards per game. The Seahawks first priority is to run the football, using their beast Marshawn Lynch and occasionally second year quarterback Russell Wilson. Seattle's defense is one of the best in the league, and their first against the pass, so if the Cardinals want to knock off the Seahawks they'll need to keep it close throughout and strike late.
I expect Seattle to come out running the football and I think Arizona will hold up well against it. Even if Arizona stops them early, the Seahawks will continue to run the ball and I see them hitting a few big plays down the field in the passing game because of this. Once Arizona is forced to play from behind and throw the ball Seattle's ballhawking secondary will take over and close out the game.
Prediction: Seahawks 27 Cardinals 19
4. Indianapolis (9-5) at Kansas City (11-3)
Indianapolis comes into this game off of a 25-3 win over Houston. Indy is the only team to have clinched their division thus far, and currently hold the fourth seed in the AFC. Kansas City is coming off of a blowout win over Oakland and are still in the hunt for the AFC West title and a first round bye, should Denver falter.
These are two teams that I have not believed in since the first few weeks of the season, but are going in opposite directions in my mind. Indy's last three losses have all been blowouts, only one of which was to a team currently in the playoffs; I'm just not a believer in them. Meanwhile, Kansas City came off of three straight losses after their 9-0 start, and responded with two blowout wins over lousy teams. I'm not huge on them either, but I think they have more potential than the Colts. The Chiefs have a solid defense and Jamaal Charles is arguably the most dangerous player in the league with the ball in his hands.
I expect a back and forth first half before the Chiefs take the lead for good late in the third quarter. I don't see the Colts being able to score enough points to win this one, and I think Charles breaks a big play or two.
Prediction: Chiefs 24 Colts 20
3. New England (10-4) at Baltimore (8-6)
New England is coming off of a close loss to Miami, which some people were predicting. It's obvious the Patriots aren't the same team without tight end Rob Gronkowski, but they still currently hold the second seed in the AFC. Baltimore is coming off of a late field goal winning victory over Detroit and currently hold the sixth seed in the AFC.
The Patriots haven't looked like their typical selves this year, whether that is due to injuries or the loss of talent from the offseason. They've played many more close games than we're accustomed to seeing, but they've been on the right end of the majority of them. While they've seemed to struggle on offense this year they are actually sixth in the league in passing and 12th in rushing. Baltimore has been winning ugly lately as well, but they're starting to put together the hot streak that makes people scared to play them come the postseason. Their defense has been carrying them lately, as the offense has been a mess, but is doing what's necessary to win.
There isn't a more competitive athlete than Tom Brady, and coupled with a loss last week and looking for revenge from last year's playoffs, I think he carries the team to a victory. These two teams know each other pretty well having played alot recently, and I think that plays to the Patriots' advantage in this one.
Prediction: Patriots 26 Ravens 20
2. New Orleans (10-4) at Carolina (10-4)
New Orleans is coming in off of a 27-16 road loss to St. Louis. They are currently clinging to the second seed in the NFC. The Panthers come in off of a 30-20 win over the New York Jets, and currently hold the fifth seed in the NFC.
This game will most likely determine the winner of the NFC South and the second seed in the NFC, which makes it extremely important for the Saints. They've struggled mightily on the road this year, amassing a 3-4 record, so home field advantage is vital to them. It would be hard to trust the Saints in the playoffs if they need to go on the road in the first round, especially if it's in a cold weather location. Meanwhile, the Panthers have won nine of their last 10 games and look as much of a team built for the playoffs as anyone else in the NFL. They're top 10 in the league in rushing and passing yards against, as well as offensive rushing yards.
These two teams played just two weeks ago, with the Saints pulling out a 31-13 home victory. The Panthers were able to run the ball effectively, but were not able to get the passing game going and could not stop the Saints' passing attack. Drew Brees put up over 300 yards and four TDs. This game is in Carolina and I can't trust the Saints on the road, they're a completely different team. I think this one is close, but the Panthers deny the Saints the division crown for at least one more year.
Prediction: Panthers 24 Saints 21
1. Chicago (8-6) at Philadelphia (8-6)
Chicago comes into this game fresh off of a victory over Cleveland. They currently hold the lead in the messy NFC North. Last week Philadelphia lost to the Adrian Peterson-less Vikings, but still hold the lead in the NFC East and control their own destiny.
The Bears finally got their starting quarterback Jay Cutler back last week, and he looked his usual self, throwing two first half interceptions before righting the ship and leading the team to a win. The emergence of wideout Alshon Jeffrey has given the Bears the best offense that they've had in awhile. While the defense isn't what it used to be, they still play the run very well (11th in the league), but are last in the league against the run. The Eagles stumbled big time last week, losing to the Vikings and failing to increase their division lead. The offense didn't have its best day, but the real concern is with the defense. Any team that struggles to stop Matt Cassel and Matt Asiata is in trouble.
This should be a fun, high-scoring Sunday night showdown. Cutler is going to sling the ball all night and the Eagles should get LeSean McCoy at least 25-30 touches. I feel like the Bears should pull this one out, but I have a feeling about the Eagles. I think Chip Kelly has a good handle on the team, they're at home, and I'm convinced Tony Romo, Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler are long lost triplets raised in the wild by wolves. I think a Jay Cutler turnover or two make the difference in this one and the Eagles find a way to make it happen.
Prediction: Eagles 30 Bears 27
Thanks for reading and feel free to leave any comments on your thoughts.
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