Punch their playoff tickets
There’s a heck of a lot at stake around the league as contenders attempt to punch their playoff tickets in NFL Week 16. With so much still undecided and just two more games left to play, it’s going to be a hectic weekend of action.
No doubt, some of the teams we expect to win will fall short.
So, which underdogs are going to be playing spoiler in NFL Week 16? Which teams are on upset alert?
Washington Redskins vs. Tennessee Titans (-10)
Don’t underestimate the Washington defense. This unit has the ability to shut down opposing run games, and while Derrick Henry is on a tremendous hot streak right now he could run into a brick wall this Saturday.
It’s easy to discount Washington’s offense because it’s being led by, essentially, a fourth-string player in Josh Johnson who just arrived a couple of short weeks back. However, he’s a veteran who does, in fact, know Jay Gruden’s system and is obviously well aware that he’s playing with house money right now — see last weekend’s comeback win that was in large part due to his plays down the stretch.
If the Redskins do keep Henry in check, then this game is winnable. Marcus Mariota has a penchant for throwing some bad interceptions (like this), and in a game that figures to be tight that could be the difference.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Los Angeles Chargers (-4.5)
Keenan Allen is banged up and might not play. Austin Ekeler is still out with a concussion. Melvin Gordon is back, but he’s been out with a knee injury the past few games. All that is bad enough. Now consider that Los Angeles’ offense will be facing one of the best defenses in football, which has been getting red hot during the second half of the season.
The emergence of Lamar Jackson has transformed Baltimore’s entire formula. He and fellow rookie, running back Gus Edwards, have the ability to move the chains in a methodical way thus keeping their defensive teammates rested up on the sidelines. Since Jackson has taken over as the starter, the only loss this team has endured was to Kansas City in a game that saw Patrick Mahomes pull off some Houdini stuff.
Needless to say, it won’t be a shock whatsoever to see Jackson and Co. walk out of StubHub — the stadium where most of the fans are there for the opposing team, anyway — with a win.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Dallas Cowboys (-7)
Don’t laugh. Despite their dismal record, and despite the fact that it really looks like the end of an era for Tampa Bay, the Bucs have been surprisingly competitive the past month or so.
Dallas has, too, if you forget about the debacle in Indianapolis last weekend, anyway. But their past four wins have all been accomplished by quite a narrow margin, and we really can’t forget about the embarrassing shutout in Week 15, can we?
Interestingly enough, Tampa Bay really has the offensive weapons to give Dallas’ talented defense some trouble. If Jameis Winston can stay out of trouble with turnovers, this game is very much one the Bucs can win as they play spoiler and frustrate the ‘Boys.
Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots (-13.5)
The Patriots were already reeling plenty on offense before the huge news hit this week that Josh Gordon will no longer be with them following his indefinite suspension. Rob Gronkowski just looks old and slow these days, and Tom Brady is really struggling to deliver accurate balls under pressure.
The Buffalo Bills come into this game on somewhat of a hot streak. They’ve won three of their last five games and their two losses coming by a combined eight points. The defense has been a strong unit all year long and has allowed an average of 18.4 points in this five-game stretch. Plus, Josh Allen really has taken some huge positive strides since coming back from his elbow injury.
Will the Patriots lose at home to the Bills? Probably not. But an upset wouldn’t be the most shocking development, either, provided the Buffalo defense can bring the heat up front.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New Orleans Saints (-7)
The Steelers won’t likely have James Conner once again. JuJu Smith-Schuster will likely be at the very least under 100 percent after suffering a groin injury during Thursday’s practice.
So, Pittsburgh’s offense will be a bit challenged to deal with these injuries. But then again, this is an offense that seems to have the ability to pick up the slack for any skill-position injuries, provided Big Ben Roethlisberger is in the game and the offensive line is intact.
Throw in some serious bulletin-board material from Cam Jordan and the Steelers could be red hot from the get-go in this game.
On top of that, Drew Brees has struggled three weeks running, and Pittsburgh’s defense is playing lights out right now.
Kansas City Chiefs (-3) vs. Seattle Seahawks
Sunday night’s game in Seattle should be incredible theater. Both teams really do need to win in order to secure playoff positioning, but if we’re being honest Seattle is in a bit more of a desperate situation — the playoffs are in no way guaranteed for Pete Carroll’s club.
Kansas City’s defense is a train wreck. We fully expect to see the Seahawks run the ball down its throat as they attempt to keep Patrick Mahomes on the sideline as much as possible. And based on all the evidence from the first 15 weeks of the season (5.0 yards per carry and 17 total rushing scores), Seattle will have plenty of success.
As long as Seattle’s defense doesn’t give up the farm when it’s on the field, and as long as Russell Wilson doesn’t throw the game away, the Seahawks can absolutely win at home Sunday night.