This next to last weekend of the regular season gives us several important matchups to determine playoff possibilities and matchups. And while several teams have absolutely no chance to make the playoffs, they all have something to play for this week, if only just pride.
With a lackluster performance that had me biting my nails, but featuring a final push that took it in overtime, the Oakland Raiders started off my week on a positive note, winning 23-20. Don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @fantasyace27.
The pivotal week continues with an NFC East tilt between the Redskins and the Eagles on Saturday night, and ends with a battle for 2nd place in the AFC (and possibly a much-needed bye in the first round to rest up from injuries for either team). There are great storylines to follow in each contest, so here are my Ace Picks for Week 16…
Washington @ PHILADELPHIA – Yes, the Eagles have their backs against the wall, but that’s because of their inconsistency on both the offensive and the defensive side of the ball. They beat the Patriots but lost to the Dolphins, so which team shows up here? I think the defense steps up and forces a few turnovers from Cousins & Co. in a close victory. Pick: EAGLES.
San Francisco @ DETROIT – The 49ers are traveling for this one, but they’re not facing a defensive powerhouse. Matthew Stafford has been hot of late, but both teams have already been eliminated from playoff contention. I think Gabbert steps up here in an attempt to keep the number one spot on the depth chart to start next season, or to help his trade value. Pick: 49ERS.
Cleveland @ KANSAS CITY – This feels like a trap game to me. The Chiefs have been playing well during their win streak, but they’re not as good as they’ve looked lately. Johnny Football played relatively well in the loss at Seattle last week, and I see him keeping it up here. But the Chiefs will run the ball all day, and Smith will do enough to win a close one. Pick: CHIEFS.
Indianapolis @ MIAMI – The Colts are banged up. Oh yeah, and they’re OLD. By this point in the season there just isn’t much wind left in those sails. Besides, Hasselbeck is beat up, and he just didn’t look great in that loss to the Texans last week. It’s a must-win, but I don’t see them pulling it out. Pick: DOLPHINS.
New England @ NY JETS – Good news, Jets fans: Ryan Fitzpatrick has been going through a renaissance of sorts this season. Better news, Jets fans: your team had a good chance to take out the Patriots in New England in the first game against them this season. They will have a legitimate shot in this one too because the Patriots will not be at full strength. I think they capitalize. Pick: JETS.
Dallas @ BUFFALO – Finally the Cowboys recognize the writing on the wall, and they’ve gone away from the Matt Cassel experiment. Now it’s Kellen Moore’s show, and while I like what I’ve seen from him so far, I don’t see that Cowboys defense stopping Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins. Pick: BILLS.
Carolina @ ATLANTA – The Falcons generally play the Panthers tough, but unlike Game 17 last season this game just doesn’t offer much in the way of motivation for the Atlanta ballclub (which, incidentally, lost that pivotal game against their rivals). The Panthers come into this one undefeated, and Cam Newton is as hot as anyone right now. That’s the ballgame. Pick: PANTHERS.
Pittsburgh @ BALTIMORE – This seems like a huge mismatch, but Baltimore still has a lot of pride, even if it hasn’t seemed like it at times this season. Every single one of their games has come down to the end, or was at least semi-competitive, and I can see the same thing happening here in a letdown game of sorts for a Pittsburgh squad that will come into this one cocky. Pick: RAVENS.
Houston @ TENNESSEE – Zach Mettenberger hasn’t won a game in a while, and I don’t see anything changing in this one. He was confident that he was better than Mariota, and he’ll get his chance, but this Houston defense is no slouch, and they will come up big in this one to solidify their hold on the top spot in their division. Pick: TEXANS.
Chicago @ TAMPA BAY – Will the real Jay Cutler please stand up? Will he be the composed general who leads his troops to a victory or the harried man who makes dumb decisions that lead to defensive points scored? It’s hard to say, but luckily it’s not all on him in this matchup as he has a good two-headed backfield beast in Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford. They will take this game in hand. Pick: BEARS.
Jacksonville @ NEW ORLEANS – What does Drew Brees have left in the tank for this one? It’s a good thing this is a home game, and he’ll want to thrill the crowd, but that Jaguars offense has been rolling lately, and against the Saints defense this might be a high-scoring affair. I think it will come down to who has the ball last, and I count on Brees in those situations. Pick: SAINTS.
Green Bay @ ARIZONA – I’m of the opinion that Aaron Rodgers, that offense, and particularly that offensive line, are out of sync, which is a bad combination against an Arizona squad that is humming on both sides of the ball. This one might actually get out of hand. Pick: CARDINALS.
St. Louis @ SEATTLE – The Rams routinely play the Seahawks close, and this one feels like another one of those trap games I like to talk about every now and then. With the Seahawks playing so well right now, and with this game being played in the great Northwest, this should be a walkover, right? Not so much. I like the Rams to keep it close, but in the end Russell Wilson will indeed have the final laugh. Pick: SEAHAWKS.
NY Giants @ MINNESOTA – This Giants team could end up having the last laugh if the Eagles win and they can go out to Minnesota and take out a playoff bound Vikings team. But their defense hasn’t been great, even if Eli can somehow will them back into games, and they won’t have OBJ for this one. I don’t see it ending well. Pick: VIKINGS.
Cincinnati @ DENVER – A.J. McCarron is making his second straight start, and he didn’t look too bad last week in a Bengals win, but A.J. Green is banged up against an angry Denver secondary that got exposed last week against Big Ben and Antonio Brown. That emotion will carry the day in a big defensive effort from the Broncos at home. Pick: BRONCOS.