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NFL Week 16 game picks: Cowboys win; Steelers playoff-bound

It's time to make some game picks. It's time to do some postseason accounting. And it's time for Jimmy Football.

Jimmy Clausen makes his starting debut in Chicago in a game that carries much weight in the playoff race. OK, not for the home team. If the Bears receive the "spark" the Browns didn't get last week from Johnny Manziel and pull off an upset of Detroit, then it is possible the Lions could finish 10-6 -- and out of the playoffs. If Chicago loses, the Cowboys and Seahawks are on the hook to win their games, as Detroit would improve its sterling conference record (tiebreakers, people) to 9-2.

So, this begs the question ...

Coolio. So, maybe not. You know, "Grizzly Adams" was one of the best shows of the '70s. Quite underrated, like the Chiefs-Steelers matchup this weekend at Heinz Field.

Alright, enough dilly-dally -- it's pickin' time! Take a look below and share your thoughts: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 14-2 on his predictions for Week 15, giving him a record of 152-71-1 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 16? His picks are below. And listen to the latest edition of the "Dave Dameshek Football Program" for additional analysis on this week's picks.

Teddy Bridgewater has probably been kicking himself after watching the tape from last Sunday, when the Vikes blew several opportunities to earn a quality road win in Detroit, and he missed an easy (but key) throw for an NFL quarterback. We detailed that play in the Power Rankings, a space where we also have monitored the ups and downs of the Dolphins. The 'Fins will win Sunday, ensuring the current regime of a non-losing season, but when they still miss the playoffs, fans will be reminded that mediocrity remains omnipresent in Miami. Look for Ryan Tannehill to play well against a Vikings defense that is improved ... but still falters in key moments versus quality passers. #MINvsMIA

No Ryan Fitzpatrick. No Ryan Mallett. No Tom Savage. Case Keenum time?! Whoever's under center had better watch out for Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, who could light up that Texans offensive line. That is the crucial matchup in this game. Sure, getting Arian Foster going is imperative. Foster was able to rush for 99 yards last week, despite the fact that the Colts loaded up to stop him. In fact, NFL Network colleague and former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson and I were marveling this week about how effective Foster is, while wondering if some defenders simply get caught watching that beautiful gait. It's hard to gauge which angle to take, that's for sure. That said, don't sleep on Justin Forsett, whose 36 runs of 10-plus yards are the most in the AFC. #BALvsHOU

Sure, Detroit could end up stomping the Bears. That said, Chicago has to be embarrassed about how it has played thus far in this three-game home stand. You know it's bad when reporters are so frustrated with Jay Cutler they don't want to ask him anything after the game. You know it's bad when the club decides to go with Jimmy Clausen instead of asking for anything from Jay Cutler. On the important quarterbacking front, Matthew Stafford still must step up his game for the Lions to be taken seriously as a contender in the NFC. The defense is phenomenal, but Detroit still needs consistent play from its QB. #DETvsCHI

Hey everybody, Johnny Manziel is playing! Ignore the Falcons and Saints squaring off with division-title implications on the line, the Ravens and Texans fighting for a playoff spot or the Seahawks and Cardinals getting embroiled in a slugfest in the desert ... This. Is. Football. You never know, he might lead the Browns to a touchdown and a Billy Cundiff ... err Garrett Hartley ... field-goal attempt (just pray it's not from anywhere beyond 48 yards).

OK, enough mockery. I actually feel Manziel will play much better this week. Unfortunately, he'll feel the heat from a Panthers defense that's finally rounding into form in 2014, having allowed just 269 yards per game and 14-of-37 third-down conversions over the last three weeks. #CLEvsCAR

The temptation here is to call this a high-scoring deal because the two clubs have performed miserably on defense for the balance of this season. As you can see by the score above, I resisted that urge. Sort of. It won't be 46-44. Frankly, I trust Drew Brees to perform in a contest of this magnitude. He was hyper-focused in Chicago, knowing Pittsburgh provided his team an opportunity to take control of the NFC South by handling the Falcons. If the Panthers lose to the Browns, a Saints win here gives New Orleans the division. The major concern in the Big Easy is Matt Ryan, who has fared well against the Saints in the past. And Matty Ice will lean on Julio Jones, who returns to action after getting hurt burning Packers DBs time and again ... and again ... and again. #ATLvsNO

Tampa Bay will keep this game close through two and a half quarters ... then I expect Aaron Rodgers to get pissed off just enough to throw three touchdown passes. While the Bucs' defensive staff can identify what the Bills were able to do to the Packers quarterback last week, they simply don't have the pieces to execute it. It's kind of like when you were a kid and you tried to build your Lego castle three years after your parents bought the set. Half the pieces were in the backyard, under rugs or in the mouth of little Johnny from two doors down. That's been the problem for the Bucs -- when the coverage is there, the pass rush isn't. When the pass rush is present, receivers are running wild and free. Of course, the 30th-ranked offense has been even worse. #GBvsTB


The key matchup here is simple: Can the Chiefs stop the run, namely Le'Veon Bell? They're allowing 4.86 yards per rush, worst in the AFC. They've had trouble stopping Lamar Miller, C.J. Anderson, Kerwynn Williams ... Now, here comes Bell, the league's second-leading rusher. This is certainly not a good matchup for K.C. -- especially against a Steelers team that's one win away from a playoff spot. The only team that has beaten Pittsburgh that can't stop the run is New Orleans ... and that happened because the Saints were able to air it out. That is the Steelers' weakness: the secondary. What better elixir for a defensive backfield than the Chiefs' receiving corps? This is a game Alex Smith and the defense have to take over. Or else. #KCvsPIT

New England steps one foot closer to clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over its division "rival." In fact, if the Pats win and the Broncos lose at Cincy on Monday night, New England does clinch home-field.

It's hard to consider the Jets rivals when they've beaten the Patriots once in their last seven tries and enter this game with a 3-11 record. Yet, if there is a game where you can throw out records, this is it. New York actually gave the Pats all they could handle last time around, with New England escaping thanks to a blocked field goal. The Jets ran all over Bill Belichick's defense on that October day. We'll see if they can match that 43-carry, 218-yard output. The guess here is no, but remember, Geno Smith played viably that day. The Pats need to load up the box and trust their corners. Easy to do with Darrelle Revis; not so easy if Brandon Browner starts getting flagged. He's been served the yellow hanky of death 13 times this year. By the way, that's kind of a ton. #NEvsNYJ

This is one of the tougher games to pick in Week 16. The Giants have looked solid the past two weeks, with rookie Odell Beckham Jr. continuing his one-man rampage against NFL secondaries. Shaun Hill has no Beckham to play with, and from the looks of last Thursday night, lacks a fastball, too. Perhaps it was merely one of those nights, but the Rams need something from Hill to win Sunday.

I feel the Rams' pass rush will get to Eli Manning six to eight times, forcing enough outs on third down to provide the STL offense with a number of short fields. St. Lou over Big Blue. #NYGvsSTL

Going with Buffalo over the Raiders. Cool. What else should we talk about? What a fun uni matchup this is? You know, the last time the Bills played in Oakland, they got destroyed 38-17. Raiders QB Kerry Collins had a 113.3 passer rating, while LaMont Jordan rushed 28 times for 122 yards and three touchdowns. Kelly Holcomb threw for 159 yards for the Bills. One way to tell two franchises have had exactly zero success over the last decade is to peruse the box score from a past game and not see one name that's still on the roster. Granted, it was a long time ago, but most have been gone for years. At least Oakland is building a potential long-term future at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and linebacker. And at least Buffalo and its mafia can officially kiss losing football goodbye, as this team will be 9-6 heading into Week 17. #BUFvsOAK

Dan Bailey hits from 53 yards out to win this Super Bowl V rematch. Look for the Dallas defense to get enough situational stops to stay in the game, despite allowing the Colts between 400 and 450 yards of offense. Indy will have trouble stopping the Cowboys' run game, even if it is a Joseph Randle- Lance Dunbar cocktail. Moreover, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant have something special going. Devoid of an elite pass rush, Colts fans might find themselves counting the seconds out loud as Romo chills in the pocket. One unique concern for Dallas is the complete lack of home-field advantage. Cowboys Stadium feels more like a nightclub than anything else. People watch football when there is no one worth talking to, everybody wears their own gear and drinks are way overpriced. Oh, and the Cowboys are 3-4 there this season. #INDvsDAL

Seattle should prevail in one of the marquee matchups of Week 16 if you go by, well, the matchups. That said, the Seahawks can ill afford another 100-yard-penalty day. Last year, they led the NFL with 128 penalties. This season, they're on pace to go right past that (without collecting $200). Pete Carroll will move one step closer to collecting another NFC West title, though, as the Cardinals will have trouble rattling Russell Wilson the way they have other QBs. What a great time for Ryan Lindley to get an opportunity to audition for all the NFL teams ... going against arguably the best defense in the league. One last note: Fantasy owners who have been leaning on Marshawn Lynch of late will find that this Arizona group is a freaking wall. #SEAvsAZ

Most people simply don't trust the Bengals in big-time, prime-time games. I don't know what they're thinking. Cincy put up 20 points in prime time this year. Of course, that was over two games. The good news is that Cincinnati looked fantastic in Cleveland. The bad news is that Peyton Football is coming to town -- he's a bit different from Johnny Football. And if the Bengals' offense struggled against the Patriots, Colts and Bucs, wait until they face these Broncos, who are allowing the fewest yards per game in the AFC. (Seriously, look it up ... I admit, it's surprising.) #DENvsCIN


With Charlie Whitehurst in tow, I see the Titans playing a nice, safe, checkdown-filled game that doesn't get them killed. Call him Checkdown Charlie (for real). This is not to say Whitehurst can't get the ball deep. The issue will be the lack of pass protection and the absence of a run game. The Titans have allowed 42 sacks and are rushing for a paltry 86.4 yards per game -- both figures rank among the worst in the league. Jacksonville can get after the quarterback, as the Jags are tied for sixth in the NFL with 38 sacks. Maybe the Titans should try a lateral play in the first quarter -- get it to Delanie Walker out in space, where he can *almost* score. #TENvsJAX

Ahh ... Saturday football. I'll be honest, I kind of like it. Then again, I have been known to watch more "Star Trek" -- the original series, of course -- than college football. Something about Sulu dancing around with a sword and Captain Kirk swashbuckling across the universe with green women ... Speaking of, I'm going green here. I'm aware of the division familiarity and whatnot, but the Redskins' back seven is not good enough in coverage to stop these guys. And the Ryan Kerrigan-led pass rush won't get home enough to disrupt Mark Sanchez. By the way, Washington is allowing opposing passers a 109.9 QB rating. Oh, and per my contract, I am supposed to write a line about RGIII. There it is. #PHIvsWAS

Truthfully, this game could go either way. I am putting faith in Philip Rivers to make plays late and hand the 49ers a fourth straight loss. A lot of said plays could involve Antonio Gates, who should be targeted plenty. While the San Diego offense did not fare well last week vs. Denver, the San Francisco offense has been an infomercial on stalling out. Seriously, the 49ers should be sponsored by the Pontiac Fiero. Over their last 54 drives, the Niners have scored all of five touchdowns. Get excited. Win, lose or draw, nothing takes away from the overall job Jim Harbaugh has done in San Francisco. #SDvsSF

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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