Merry Christmas, everyone.
It’s one of those special years when Christmas Eve falls on an NFL Sunday, which might be one of the best Christmas gifts ever. What could be better than an entire day of watching football followed by opening presents? Throw in a few NBA games here and there and it’s the ultimate package. Sports, quality time with family, sports, celebrating the miracle of Christmas, sports, and then a little more sports. Greatest Christmas ever? I think so.
Anyway, since it’s a busy week, I’ll cut right to the chase. Time to get in the holiday spirit by making some picks for Week 16 …
(Last week’s record: 9-6)
RAVENS (-13.5) over Colts
I really tried to get behind Jacoby Brissett this year (even though I passionately despise the Colts) since he is a former Patriot. He hasn’t been terrible this year, throwing for 2,769 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Despite Brissett’s efforts, the injury-plagued Colts have been an epic disaster. At 3-11 and heading into Baltimore – a team desperately trying to snag a wild spot in the AFC – I could definitely see them losing by two touchdowns.
(Side note: if the Colts can get Andrew Luck back next year, maybe they can get back to being a .500 team.)
Vikings (-9) over PACKERS
The heavily anticipated Return of Aaron Rodgers Parade didn’t last very long. Now with the Packers officially knocked out of playoff contention, Green Bay fans won’t see him again until next season. Two more meaningless games on the schedule; might as well let Brett Hundley take the meaningless hits. Rough year for the cheese heads.
BENGALS (+4.5) over Lions
This game will officially be the last home game for Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who will be parting ways with the team following the regular season. He’s the second longest tenured coach in the NFL behind Bill Belichick. Fifteen seasons in Cincy and not a single playoff victory. How do you keep your head coaching job for 15 seasons without a single playoff win to your credit? Don’t coaches get hired with the hope that they can lead the team to a championship? If several years pass and you aren’t getting anywhere close to accomplishing that goal, doesn’t that usually mean the team moves on from you and tries to find someone else to accomplish that goal? It’s never a good sign when your team’s ownership is OK with settling for mediocrity.
Don’t worry, Bengals fans. Your fresh start is just around the corner … 15 years in the making.
Chargers (-7) over JETS
I’ve always been of the belief that Philip Rivers is one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s 36 years old and is in his 12th season as the Chargers’ starter. He’s a good quarterback, but year after year, he has failed to win big games. Last week was no different, when the Chargers played the Chiefs with first place in the AFC West up for grabs. In LA’s biggest game of the year, Rivers submitted a 20-36, three-interception stink bomb as the Chiefs routed the Chargers 30-13.
Now they find themselves in a must-win situation in the Meadowlands. And if Rivers can’t win this game against the worthless Jets … well, point proven.
Rams (-6.5) over TITANS
It’s happening. When the Rams beat the Titans on Sunday and go to 11-4, they will clinch their first NFC West title since 2003. I get that Seattle’s defense is decimated, but even still, how many teams go into the loudest stadium in the league and throttle the Seahawks 42-7, with 34 of those points coming in the first half? It’s amazing how getting rid of an atrocious head coach can cause an incredible turnaround in just one year. When Jeff Fisher’s Rams struggled to a 4-12 season last year in their return to Los Angeles, did anyone expect that just 12 months later, they would be a legitimate threat to reach the Super Bowl? Regardless of how the Rams end up performing in the playoffs, Sean McVay deserves to be coach of the year at the ripe age of 31.
BEARS (-6.5) over Browns
Folks, we’re so close to seeing just the second 0-16 regular season in NFL history. Forget about having the best basketball player in the world, or the possibility of Isaiah Thomas ironically making his Cavs debut against the Celtics. This historic Browns season has to be one of the most exciting things happening in Cleveland right now. They have to be on the edge of their seats.
PANTHERS (-10) over Buccaneers
Go get em’ next year, Jameis.
SAINTS (-5.5) over Falcons
This is practically a playoff game. The Saints, Falcons and Panthers are in a three-way race for the NFC South. And the stakes are pretty high when teams are not only playing to make the playoffs, but also for the opportunity to play in a home playoff game.
In the meantime, the Saints are probably still reeling from that 20-17 loss in Atlanta two weeks ago, when Drew Brees threw an end zone interception in the final minutes. This is doubling as a revenge game for New Orleans.
Broncos (+3.5) over REDSKINS
Two below average teams whose seasons are long over. We’ll be going out of our way to avoid this game.
CHIEFS (-10.5) over Dolphins
I guess the Chiefs have figured out their problems. They endured a bizarre stretch in which they lost six of seven games (after starting the season 5-0), making my preseason prediction of them missing the playoffs look like a very real possibility. But since the Raiders and Chargers have folded like lawn chairs at Kansas City’s feet the last two weeks, it looks like the Chiefs will probably be winning the AFC West.
(And that brings the possibility of a Patriots-Chiefs playoffs game, which brings the possibility of the Chiefs pulling out an upset in Foxborough, which would mean my Chiefs fan friends would be setting new records for obnoxious, arrogant gloating, which would mean I’d be spending the next several months cowering in a hidden cave somewhere.)
PATRIOTS (-12) over Bills
Even though the Patriots need to keep winning in order to secure home field throughout the playoffs, a part of me wants Buffalo to make the playoffs. A potential meeting between the Pats and Bills in the playoffs sounds much more enticing than the Pats playing a team like the Ravens. (In case you forgot, Patriots-Ravens playoff games are always just a series of mini heart attacks.)
However, the Pats still have plenty to play for in their final two games, so they won’t be taking it easy on the Bills this week. Covering the spread at Gillette Stadium sounds pretty reasonable, especially considering the fact that Buffalo has never won in New England when Tom Brady plays the entire game. I do have to give props to first year Buffalo coach Sean McDermott though. The fact that it’s Week 16 and the Bills are still fighting for a playoff spot shows that they have taken a huuuuuuge step.
49ERS (+4) over Jaguars
There is a solid chance this pick will be wrong, but as I wrote last week, I’m going to keep rolling with the undefeated Jimmy Garoppolo until somebody knocks him off.
Giants (+3.5) over CARDINALS
This game could go either way. Just flip a coin.
COWBOYS (-5) over Seahawks
Four words for you: Ezekiel Elliott is back! The Cowboys were my preseason pick to win the NFC. Now that their electric offense can get back to full force, they could squeak into the playoffs and make a run to Minneapolis. Stranger things have happened … like Sean Astin getting mauled to death in season two of “Stranger Things.”
(By the way, was that “Stranger Things” scene not the most depressing scene of the entire series? Astin’s character Bob Newby was quickly becoming my favorite character in the entire show. It would’ve been much more satisfying to see the psychopathic Billy Hargrove get eaten alive.)
Steelers (-9.5) over TEXANS
You know what? I’m not sure this line is big enough.
Raiders (+9) over EAGLES
Philly can clinch the top seed in the NFC with a win over Oakland (or a Minnesota loss). And they’ll probably need home field advantage since Nick Foles will be their quarterback for the playoffs. And before you throw the “Hey now, Foles threw four touchdowns and no interceptions when the Eagles beat the Giants last week” argument in my face, let me just remind you that they were playing the Giants, and he’s Nick Foles.
Once again, Merry Christmas to all of you. Don’t forget to show at least a little bit of love to your families this weekend while football is consuming most of your attention.