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Vikings at Cardinals
Last Sunday’s Seahawks at Vikings game was about exaggeration.
The Vikings NFC North’s chances might have been greatly exaggerated. The same can be said about the Seahawks’ demise.
Running back Adrian Peterson only had 8 carries last Sunday. If the Vikings are going to be in this game, they have to get Peterson involved in the offense. Minnesota is 8-0 when Peterson touches the ball 17 or more times.
Right now the Cardinals are in position for the NFC 2-seed. The Vikings secondary will have their hands full in trying to contain the Cardinals passing offense led by quarterback Carson Palmer. Last season Arizona looked like a contender, but their hopes were dashed due to injuries decimating the quarterback position. So far that hasn’t happened and championship aspirations are blooming in Phoenix.
Steelers at Bengals
Raise your hand if you have Ben Roethlisberger on your fantasy team?
(points to self)
And raise your hand if you have Antonio Brown on your fantasy team?
I don’t. My opponent last week did, but I won and I am in my fantasy league playoffs.
While Brown caught 8 passes on 11 targets for 118 yards and two touchdowns and added a punt return touchdown in Pittsburgh's 45-10 over the Colts, he is not the only star receiver on the Steelers. It would be worth a look to add wide receiver Markus Wheaton on your team for this first weekend of fantasy playoffs. Over the last two games he is averaging 6 catches, 125.5 yards and a touchdown over the last two games. Wheaton has scored a touchdown in two consecutive games compared to just 1 in the first 8.
The Bengals can clinch the AFC North with a win. They are also in the playoffs if the Jets or Chiefs lose. Right now the Bengals are the AFC 1-seed during the Patriots current 2-game losing streak, but with a Week 16 Monday night road game in Denver that might change.
For now, the Bengals focus is on division rival Pittsburgh. Over his career, quarterback Andy Dalton is 2-2 in Cincinnati against the Steelers. Sweeping the Steelers would boost the Bengals' profile heading into the playoffs and could lead to the Bengals finally winning a playoff game for the first time since the George H.W. Bush administration.
When these teams faced each other in November, it was a hard fought 16-10 Bengals win in Pittsburgh. I expect there to be more offense in this game.
Falcons at Panthers/Saints at Buccaneers
The Saints gave the Panthers their best shot, but were unable to knock the Panthers from the unbeaten ranks. Hard to believe that Falcons started 5-0 before their implosion that started with a loss to the Saints in New Orleans. Now it will be the Falcons turn to try to hang one in the Panthers’ loss column.
Carolina can clinch a first-round bye with a win or a Vikings loss/tie and Packers loss/tie. Right now the Panthers still have post-season prizes to play for and are focused on that. After clinching homefield, the focus will then shift to completing a perfect regular season which has only been accomplished twice in the Super Bowl era: the 2007 Patriots and 1972 Dolphins. The 1972 Dolphins were the only team to complete a perfect season and win the Super Bowl.
Sweeping the Falcons has put the Buccaneers in the first spot outside of the playoffs. Could the Buccaneers with a rookie quarterback make the playoffs? Ask the 2012 Colts, Washington, and Seahawks. Ask the 2008 Ravens and Falcons.
Cowboys at Packers
The Packers kept their NFC North hopes alive on a prayer in Detroit. It looked like the Lions were on their way to sweeping the Packers for the first time since 1991.
Instead, Green Bay came away with a 27-23 win at Detroit after never leading at any point in the game and trailing at one point 20-0.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a post-game made an allusion to the time his team were on the other end of a Hail Mary.
Speaking of teams keeping their postseason hopes alive, the Cowboys. For the first time this season, the Cowboys won a game this season with a quarterback not named Tony Romo.
The game at Washington was a field goal contest for the first 58 minutes. DeSean Jackson fumbled a punt return that set up running back Darren McFadden’s touchdown run that gave Dallas a 16-9 lead. Jackson redeemed himself with a touchdown reception to tie the game. Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel put kicker Dan Bailey in position to make a 54-yard field goal for the 19-16 win.
Three teams are tied for first in the NFC East at 5-7. Dallas is 4-8. It is possible for the NFC East champion to have a 7-9 record while the Packers could finish above .500 and miss the playoffs.
Since starting 6-0, Green Bay has now won 2 in their last 6. The Motor City Miracle might be a jump start to a push for another NFC North title. Last season the Packers eliminated the Cowboys from the playoffs in the divisional round. If the Cowboys lose in Green Bay, it won’t eliminate them yet but will make the chances of a playoff return even less likely.
Patriots at Texans
This is the Texans reward for playing well: You get flexed into the Sunday Night slot.
The original Sunday Night game Seahawks at Ravens has turned into a dog in part due to the Ravens imploding. Yes, Baltimore is still in it, but another loss will greatly reduce their playoff chances and could move their Week 16 matchup against Pittsburgh out of the Sunday Night slot.
Despite their 6-6 record, Houston is tied for the AFC South lead but would lose the tiebreaker to the Colts. A win over the Patriots would be the biggest in Texans history. Even bigger than their first win in franchise history over the Cowboys in Week 1 in the 2002 season. The Texans hopes of an upset rest on the play of linebacker J.J. Watt. Pretty much Watt would need a career performance to pull off the upset.
The last time the Patriots lost 2 games in a row was in 2012. You have to go back to 2002 to find the last time the Patriots lost 3 games in a row. That losing streak ended at 4 games played a role in New England missing the playoffs that season. In the Brady-Belichick era (started in 2000), New England has only missed the playoffs three times: 2000, 2002, and 2008. The scenario for New England to at least make the playoffs is simple: win.
And now the picks.
Kickoff times are Mountain Time
Sunday afternoon games airing in Denver are noted by (DEN)
Picks are in BOLD
THURSDAY NIGHT, NFL 6PM
Vikings at Cardinals
Falcons at Panthers (DEN)
49ers at Browns
Lions at Rams
Saints at Buccaneers
Seahawks at Ravens
Washington at Bears
Bills at Eagles
Chargers at Chiefs
Colts at Jaguars
Steelers at Bengals
Titans at Jets
Packers at Cowboys
Raiders at Broncos (DEN)
SUNDAY NIGHT, NBC 6:30 PM
Patriots at Texans
MONDAY NIGHT, ESPN 6:30 PM
Giants at Dolphins