NFL Week 16 game picks: Dallas wins East; Vikings top Packers

Gregg Rosenthal went 9-7 on his predictions for Week 15, bringing his season record to 138-85-1. How will he fare in Week 16? His picks are below.

SUNDAY, DEC. 22

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Fla.)

Don't hand the No. 1 overall pick to the Bengals just yet. A two-game winning streak isn't out of the question, with Cincinnati's defense playing much better up front. Before hosting the Browns next week, the Bengals face a Dolphins roster that has finally reached its breaking point after setting the NFL record for players used in a season with 80. The Dolphins are favored to win for the first time all year, an enormous weight they just won't be able to handle.

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)

This schedule isn't helping Adam Gase's chances of closing strong and ensuring that acting owner Chris Johnson keeps his word about keeping Gase. Sam Darnold has looked a beat slow in processing his reads for much of the season, a trait that, against this Pittsburgh defense, will result in a T.J. Watt forced fumble. After experimenting and failing with a pass-first approach by Duck Hodges for one week, the Steelers shouldn't need much out of their offense this time.

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | FedExField (Landover, Md.)

Daniel Jones is practicing again, setting up a matchup of rookie quarterbacks whose resumes are rather similar. Jones has 200 more dropbacks on the season, but his PFF grade is nearly identical to that of Dwayne Haskins. They are ranked second-to-last (Jones) and last (Haskins) in DVOA, while there have been enough impressive moments by each player -- especially Haskins last week -- to believe there are better days ahead. The winning team here really loses, likely dropping a spot in draft order.

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)

It's a shame that Indy's Washington Generals-like performance on Drew Brees' record-setting night will be the last thing that most fans remember about this team. Jacoby Brissett hasn't been accurate since his MCL injury, but the Colts have been a well-coached team all season, with the same number of two-score losses as the Saints and Seahawks. Luckily, the schedule makers threw them a bone this week. Panthers rookie quarterback Will Grier will make his first NFL start, trying to cover for a defense that has forced two turnovers in the last six weeks and allows an NFL-worst 5.2 yards per carry.

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland)

It's all in front of the Ravens this week: Home-field advantage, revenge for the team's one bad loss and potentially the final chapter of Lamar Jackson's airtight MVP case. This ugly Browns season, meanwhile, can grow more unsightly, especially with two offensive linemen injured and Myles Garrett's absence looming larger by the week. It's just too hard to imagine one of the great regular-season squads ever losing to thisBrowns team twice.

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)

Dan Quinn's second-half surges, especially on defense, have become an annual occurrence. Instead of firing him, perhaps Arthur Blank could just have him take over the team each year after the bye week. I didn't expect the Falcons to be a heavy favorite again this season, but it makes sense against a Jaguars group that had one first down through two and a half quarters last week against the Raiders before rallying. The heavy defensive lineup Atlanta used against the 49ers freed up Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley to make plays while stopping the run beautifully. It's an approach that should work wonders against this Jaguars line.

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Nissan Stadium (Nashville, Tenn.)

Forget Packers-Vikings; this is the game of the week, and the toughest game to pick. After the high of Drew Brees' record-setting performance on Monday night, this is a truer test of how much better this Saints offense is playing late in the season. If New Orleans can take advantage of Tennessee's injured secondary and out-score the big-play Titans offense on the road, a bye and NFC favorite status could be following. The Titans won't roll over, however. They know how to mix coverages on defense and are better positioned to take advantage of the new holes in the Saints' defensive line. This is the best Titans team since Jeff Fisher was the coach, yet it sure looks like Tennessee is headed to its fourth straight 9-7 season, one way or another.

4:05 p.m. ET (CBS) | ROKiT Field at Dignity Health Sports Park (Carson, Calif.)

With Oakland having just placed RT Trent Brown on injured reserve, the early word that Josh Jacobs is out this week makes sense -- and it makes the Raiders sound like a team already looking toward 2020 after the disappointing goodbye to Oakland last week. Then again, the Raiders figure to get raucous support in Los Angeles this week (and every time they visit from Las Vegas in years to come). The larger question is whether either quarterback starting this game will be involved the next time this rivalry renews. Offseason speculation season for both teams starts ... now.

4:05 p.m. ET (CBS) | Empower Field at Mile High (Denver)

Six weeks removed from Matthew Stafford's last start, the Lions offensive efficiency still ranks higher than its defense on the season. Stafford's injury, then, may have helped save Matt Patricia's job, providing cover for the team's long losing streak. If Broncos coach Vic Fangio hopes to avoid a similar situation at this time next year, his rookie quarterback will need to show progress. Heck, Drew Lock needs to show progress this week in an easy matchup, as John Elway could still look for a safer option this offseason.

4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) | CenturyLink Field (Seattle)

The only Seahawks win by more than one score all season came in Arizona, so I don't blame the 12s for being confident this week. Even if Patrick Peterson is finally playing well again, Russell Wilson and friends should be able to rack up stats against this porous Cardinals secondary. The game could feature its usual Seahawkian complications, however, if Pete Carroll's squad doesn't have Jadeveon Clowney and Ezekiel Ansah back. Give Kyler Murray time, and he's liable to make the home crowd uncomfortable in the fourth quarter, like it has been in every other home game this season.

4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) | Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia)

There's no question that the Cowboys' best game is better than the Eagles' best game. There's also no telling if the Cowboys could play anything approximating their best game two weeks in a row, because that hasn't happened since their September stroll through tomato can alley. At least both teams enter Sunday feeling better about their rushing attacks, with Dallas' offensive line carrying the team a week ago and Philly rookie Miles Sanders turning into his offense's key player. I can't imagine anyone picking this game with confidence, but the Cowboys still appear to have more routes to win, more players who could take over the game, more ways to justify a playoff berth.

8:20 p.m. ET (NBC) | Soldier Field (Chicago)

Patrick Mahomes proved his cold-weather bona fides last week in the snow, a trait that should come increasingly in handy this season. The Chiefs' passing attack is coming together at the perfect time and should be playoff-ready after facing a string of challenging defenses, including the Bears this week. Following a brief hot streak, Mitchell Trubisky is also wrapping up his nightmare season with a difficult slate. Kansas City's pass defense gets better by the week, with Steve Spagnuolo able to mix his looks because he trusts his safeties in the back end. The addition of Terrell Suggs this week only makes this K.C. team look more like an outfit that could make it all the way to Miami, by way of a few games in the snow.

MONDAY, DEC. 23

*8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) | U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis) *

Hired in 2014, Mike Zimmer steadily built this defense, keeping the core group together at long odds and great expense since. While the Vikings have poured resources into the offense, too -- hello, Kirk Cousins -- this defensive group was made for occasions like this one. 6-0 at home this season, Minnesota can win the NFC North and possibly earn a bye with home wins against the Packers and Bears.

This Green Bay team has proven resourceful, but the Packers are still searching for offensive consistency. They are as likely to hit a few big plays as they are to go three-and-out four straight times in the fourth quarter, like they did last week. Matt LaFleur is in his first season, and general manager Brian Gutekunst is in his second, just starting to assemble the Packers team they envision. To put it another way: If the Vikings can't win this game, this week, against this Packers team, then what was all this careful roster construction for?

SATURDAY'S GAMES

It's fun when a tiresome narrative dies quietly. There's no more conversation about Deshaun Watson's lack of pass protection after the Laremy Tunsil trade and other changes improved Houston's Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade to fifth on the year. That will be vital this week against a Bucs defense that has played well over the last month largely because of its pass rush. Watson should get enough time to keep up with Tampa Bay in a shootout, especially with the injuries to Bucs receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.

Tom Brady and the New England offense are down to doing one thing well: not turning the ball over. That's helped the Patriots build up a silly +24 turnover differential, including +3 when they snuck past the Bills in Buffalo back in Week 4. In a chilly game where I don't trust either offense to move the ball, the Patriots will need Josh Allen to provide extra possessions and good field position again. Brady won a Super Bowl in 2001 with a familiar recipe: limited offensive mistakes, a fantasy defense, a playoff bye and good fortune. That appears to be that Pats' only path forward this season, with two sub-standard offenses left on the schedule to dismantle before earning that bye.

I fell for the Rams' offensive resurgence a week ago, despite a season's worth of evidence they were a mediocre group. I will not fall for the 49ers' stumble against the Falcons signifying dark times ahead after a season's worth of evidence San Francisco possesses one of the deepest, most resourceful rosters in football. Kyle Shanahan's squad has eclipsed 30 points in three of five meetings against Wade Phillips' defense, and that doesn't include the one-sided manhandling that took place earlier this season. The 49ers have too much to lose for them to lose two weeks in a row.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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