All but one game this weekend has postseason ramifications tied to it. Yet, before getting you knee-deep into the schedule, I must get a small gripe off my football chest. Matthew Stafford and Sean Leeshould be in the Pro Bowl. I don't need to look at the roster; I know these guys are deserving. Sure, the Pro Bowl doesn't mean what it did in 1986, or even 2006, but it's not complete without those two dudes. Tell me the Lions, who have trailed in the fourth quarter in all but one of their wins, would be 9-5 without Stafford. Lee is a 4-3 OLB who doesn't get sacks because he's not supposed to in the Cowboys defense, yet has performed at a level commensurate with the best defenders in pro football. Lee and Von Miller would be my first-team All-Pro outside linebackers.
Yep, and that too.
Autumn, I did watch. I wish I hadn't.
Now, let's get to it!
Elliot Harrison went 12-4 on his predictions for Week 15, giving him a record of 149-73-2 thus far this season. How will he fare in Week 16? His picks are below:
Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network
How many times have these two duked it out for playoff positioning ... or in the postseason itself? The ramifications of this game are much more straightforward than the others on the Week 16 ticket. If the Steelers win, the AFC North is theirs. If they falter, they still have a shot at the sixth wild-card spot ... especially with the Browns coming to town on New Year's Day. A loss here for Baltimore would be devastating. The AFC North? No chance. Even if they did win in Week 17 at Cincy, they would have to hope that the Dolphins lose out to even have a chance. Two huge keys to this division matchup: A) Can the Ravens repeat the bang-up job they did on Le'Veon Bell in Week 9, holding him to 70 scrimmage yards (he averages 167.7 versus everybody else)? B) Can they convert a third down? Baltimore ranks 30th in said category. #BALvsPIT
Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Chiefs pull ever closer to the AFC West crown and a first-round bye. No question, the Broncos have so much to play for this week. But I can't see Kansas City dropping another game at home with the team rather healthy. Losing LB Derrick Johnson hurt; there's no shining up that issue. The problem is that the Denver running game doesn't look capable of capitalizing. Perhaps the friction between the Broncos' offense and defense will push them into taking out seven days of frustration on Christmas at Arrowhead? Trevor Siemian must lead the offense to points on Sunday. Denver is too dependent on takeaways, although the Broncos have won 29 straight games when they've won the turnover battle. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have won nine straight in the AFC West. As long as they don't uncharacteristically give the ball away, they should get to No. 10. #DENvsKC
Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Think Lions at Cowboys will be the eggnog to top off Christmas. Actually, I always hated eggnog. The only fun thing about the gross concoction drank by monks in the 13th century was when Cousin Eddie slurped it in his cream turtleneck over the holidays. Art Monk won't be relevant in this game, either. Will Golden Tate, who tends to have a huge day one week, then is barely noticeable the next? How about Marvin Jones, who hasn't enjoyed a 100-yard day since putting up two hundy back in Week 3? There are matchups to exploit in the Cowboys' secondary, with Morris Claibornestill out. Whether Detroit can do so is the key to this game. And if Lions right tackle Riley Reiff can slow David Irving, who literally was the king of the last two Bucs drives last Sunday night. Randy Gregory is eligible to return for this contest, but I wouldn't expect too much. I would, however, expect this to be a heckuva football game. #DETvsDAL
The Linc has not been kind to Big Blue in recent years. In fact, the Giants have flat-out sucked there, particularly on offense. They've scored one offensive touchdown in Philly since 2013 and lost the last two outings. Last year, they took the opening drive down the field, then proceeded to lose, 27-7. This New York team has much to play for this week, however. And I am beginning to wonder how much these Eagles will score on the Giants, who have allowed 15.8 points per game since Week 6. Not to mention, but we'll mention, Carson Wentz has thrown precisely zero touchdowns on passes that travel 15 yards or more in the air since Week 3. He has managed seven interceptions in those situations, though.
I don't like the Vikings in this game. The only chance they have is if A) the defense is absolutely pissed off at the way it got handled by Andrew Luck and Co. last week and B) the offense doesn't go dysfunctional trying to center around a 31-year-old running back fresh off of a knee injury and subpar performance (that is, if Adrian Petersoneven plays). Aaron Rodgers and the Packers know what's in front of them: No matter what the Lions do in Dallas, as long as Green Bay wins this game, the Packers are playing for the NFC North title come their Week 17 showdown in Detroit. Minnesota is still mathematically alive, but the Vikings will need to win at Lambeau while also having the Bucs fail in New Orleans and the Redskins stumble in Chicago. It could happen ... well, except for beating the Packers this weekend. #MINvsGB
Count me among the small pride who think the Jaguars will flash potential against the Titans. (Actually, I don't know if jaguars have prides ...) I am having a difficult time trusting the Jacksonville offense in this matchup when Tennessee just held the Chiefsto 17 points in Kansas City. Blake Bortles is starting for the Jags, per interim coach Doug Marrone. The larger issue is whether the enigmatic signal-caller will give this team a chance to win in the fourth quarter. You know who will do that for Tennessee? Marcus Mariota, who has been hyper accurate on throws that travel more than 20 yards in the air (119.6 passer rating). He'll have to do it against a top-five secondary that has performed all year. #TENvsJAX
Bryce Pettyshould be "a go" this week, despite suffering a chest contusion in last week's loss to the Dolphins. Jets fans might revolt if the team trots Ryan Fitzpatrick out there to play the final eight quarters of the season.
It appears that we'll see Ken O'Brien come back before we ever see Christian Hackenberg get a start. At least the Jets aren't playing the best team in the NFL this week. But then, the Patriots are pretty good. OK, well, at least the Jets are not playing the top scoring defense in the league. Wait. This could get ugly. New York's defense hung tough against Tom Bradylast time out, but in the fourth quarter, the bad guys prevailed. See no reason, other than the players really balling out for head coach Todd Bowles, to think the Jets' defense will be able to shave anything off New England's scoring average (26.1 points per game) this week. #NYJvsNE
Interesting game here. Philip Rivers' poor play in recent weeks could mean the Browns have a legit opportunity to win their first game of the season. The issue, besides the fact that Cleveland has been awful for weeks on end (as opposed to earlier in the season, when the Browns were playing close games), is the potential return of Chargers back Melvin Gordon, who's been out since Week 14 with hip and knee injuries. If Gordon plays, it's bad news for a run defense that is allowing teams a hearty portion of chunk plays. The Brownsrank 31st in rushing yards allowed in total and per carry. There are only 32 teams in the league. At least Cleveland is averaging 11 points per game when Robert Griffin III starts. Hey, that's a touchdown, two-point conversion and a field goal. #SDvsCLE
Matt Barkley will drive the Bears down the field with a chance to tie late before something stalls the drive inside the 10. Picktradamus says it will be a couple of dropped passes. Like that would *ever* happen. Huge game for the Redskins, who are chasing that sixth and final NFC wild-card spot. Washington suffered through issues on both sides of the ball on Monday night, but the poor defensive effort stuck out ... as it would have even if Carolina hadn't racked up a ton of points. In fact, when the Redskins score 26 or fewer points this season, they are 2-6. Can they buck that trend this weekend? #WASvsCHI
Thought the score would be higher, but after what we saw Monday night in Washington, I think Matt Ryan will find this Carolina secondary to be much stouter than it was the last time these two teams linked up. Julio Jones should play with that turf toe. In the prior meeting this season, Jones went for three bills and got a defensive back fired. Of potentially larger concern to the Panthers are the Falcons' running backs. Devonta Freeman was a beast last weekend, and no Luke Kuechly could mean trouble against Freeman and Tevin Coleman, both in and out of the backfield. Carolina must control the engagement with a steady dose of its own running back, Jonathan Stewart, and a few timely throws from the big quarterback. Essentially, follow the same blueprint from the win in D.C. #ATLvsCAR
Whew doggie, is this an important deal going down -- or going up, as in up north -- in Buffalo. The Dolphins are clinging to the final wild-card spot in the AFC while the Bills, who already lost to Miami in October, are trying to stay relevant in the playoff chase. Buffalo must shut down Jay Ajayi, which, in theory, shouldn't seem too formidable a task, given how much the Dolphins tailback has slowed down recently. That said, stopping the run has been an issue all year for Rex Ryan's defense. The Browns offered a respite in that area last week (they are good for that). On the topic of blowouts, Miami has not fared well the last three times playing in upstate New York. None of those games were close. Matter of fact, the Dolphins haven't won on the road against the Billssince 2011 -- when Matt Moore was quarterback. He was fantastic that day. Buffalo's defense sucked that season. Think LeSean McCoy goes off this week. Again. #BillsMafia #MIAvsBUF
Andrew Luck isn't backing down. Nor is Derek Carr. Colts at Raiders has the makings of a fantastic quarterback matchup drenched in playoff ramifications, probably because it is a fantastic quarterback matchup drenched in playoff ramifications. This game represents classic AFC football. Two teams from different divisions fighting for both said divisions and positioning in January. Although the only plausible path to the postseason for Indy is to capture the AFC South. I wonder if Luck will be staring at Carr's offensive line like how Rose stared at Jack from across the railing in "Titanic." The Oakland quarterback is the least-hit passer in the league. Meanwhile, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin will be getting after Luck -- we think. Before I go, if you feel 30 points is giving Indy more credit than a boring indie film at Cannes, well ... you're wrong. The Coltsaverage 30 points per game on the road. #INDvsOAK
This game probably doesn't whet the football palette. Just so you know, though, there was a time when this was a top rivalry in football. In fact, the 49ers-Rams game in 1957 at the L.A. Coliseum held the record for the most-attended regular-season game played in the United States for more than 50 years, up until Giants-Cowboys in the Cowboys' new stadium in 2009. The Rams and Niners also linked up in the 1989 NFC Championship Game. And in the early 2000s, Mike Martz's group (although in St. Louis) and my colleague Steve Mariucci's 49ers teams had some fun battles. ... What else would you like for me to write about this game? Will take suggestions. There will be some hittin' out there. ... Guys are going to be blocking and tackling each other. ... Let me say this: Todd Gurley's finally going to run for more than 100 yards. Mark it down. Rams' O-line = 49ers' run D. #SFvsLA
Bruce Arians is probably still red hot over the unnecessary roughness call that hurt his team late in the loss to New Orleans. Big Red has been reeling, eliminated from playoff contention while dropping four of five contests. The Seahawks have done a nice job bottling up running backs this season, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry. Seattle is top 10 against the run, meaning that David Johnson will have to do much of his damage through the air on Seattle's linebackers. The Seahawks are second in points allowed overall, which means Carson Palmer must make good on any and all red-zone trips. This especially holds true, given that the Seahawks are undefeated at home, averaging 28 points per game. If you aren't a fan of either of these teams, watch David Johnson this weekend. He needs 200 receiving yards to become the third running back to reach the 1,000/1,000 plateau. Awesome stuff. #ARIvsSEA
The Saints' offense came out on fire in Arizona last Sunday and pretty much stayed in overdrive for 60 minutes. Drew Brees will find the playoff-hopeful Bucs to be a much tougher adversary. Tampa ranks second in the league in takeaways (15) since Week 10. Not good for a Saints team that's tied for the most giveaways (14) during that same span.
Maybe the best way to slow Brees down will be to speed Doug Martin up. The run game has been awfully sluggish, with Martin gaining just 2.9 yards per carry on the season. For New Orleans, getting the running game involved early should help keep the front seven off Brees. The Bucs could really use a Lions loss, Packers loss or Redskins loss to help them secure that sixth seed. The Giants are getting the fifth, folks. #TBvsNO
It feels weird to pick the Bengals, considering they haven't played well in recent weeks. The Texans have been the bane of Cincy's existence, too, beating them in the wild-card round in both the 2011 and 2012 playoffs, as well as upsetting them during the 2015 regular season with T.J. Yates at the helm. Nobody could believe how that Monday-nighter turned out. Can Tom Savage do the same in Saturday's prime-time matchup? Perhaps. The issues here are twofold: 1) A.J. Green could be back on the field for the Bengals; and 2) Houston's poor showing against the Jags last week could linger on. The defense fared well, but overall, the "win" over Jacksonville was not the best reflection of Bill O'Brien's football team. Not buying the Savage-will-save-the-Texans'-season thinking. #CINvsHOU