What’s the best part about Christmas landing on a Friday? A long, football filled weekend that gets underway tonight! As usual, we’re here to take a look at each match-up and offer quick insights into what to watch for and make our predictions. Make sure to play along with us by making your picks below!
But first, an update: last week I went 11-4-1, and now sit at 112-104-8 for the season. Our Mickey Katz leads the G&G staff with 117 correct picks, Peter Gumas sits at 113, while you fans (100 correct) are now catching up to David Schwartz (103) with two weeks left to catch up. Without further ado, let’s get into the games:
Thursday Night Football: Chargers at Raiders (-5)
In a match-up of teams that may change city names next season, all eyes will be on Charles Woodson, who announced his retirement earlier this year. After a tremendous career highlighted by accolades including the Heisman Trophy, Defensive Player of the Year, and Super Bowl XLV champion, you can bet the Raiders will want to win this one to honor him. Add in a crowd that will want to prove this shouldn’t be their last ever home game, and San Diego playing on the road on a short week after an emotionally draining victory and I’m all over the Raiders in this one.
The Picks: Gillette, Gumas, Schwartz – Raiders; Katz – Chargers
Saturday Night Football: Redskins at Eagles (-3)
The last Saturday regular season game of the year should be a great one. With a win, the Redskins will clinch the NFC East, while the Eagles will take full control of the division if they emerge victorious. It may seem logical to lean towards the Redskins after an impressive victory over the Bills who were fighting for their playoff lives, while the Eagles got pounded by the Cardinals. But I think the Eagles will bounce back behind Sam Bradford who is playing good football, and Kirk Cousins still needs to prove he can play away from Fed Ex. I’ll lean with the Eagles in what I expect to be a close game until the very end.
The Picks: Gillette, Gumas, Katz – Eagles; Schwartz – Redskins
Sunday’s Best Games:
Patriots (-3) at Jets
By now most people know what the Jets likely need to do: win out and get some help from the Steelers, Chiefs or Broncos. But with the number one seed still on the line and the chance to knock out a rival, the Patriots will come ready to play. Julian Edelman may also make his return in this game, but I expect him to be on a pitch count if he does play, as New England cannot risk him re-injuring himself this close to the playoffs. Ultimately, it’s virtually impossible to not take the Patriots to win by a field goal these days.
The Picks: all on the Patriots
Giants at Vikings (-6)
The obvious storyline here will be the lack of Odell Beckham Jr for the Giants after his one game suspension was upheld on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Vikings could conceivably lock off a playoff spot before this 4:00 pm kickoff, as a Carolina victory over Atlanta would guarantee the Vikings at least the NFC 6 seed. But what could swing this game most is a Redskins win on Saturday night; the Giants may enter this game knowing their playoff hopes have ended. Regardless, the Vikings will have lots to play for as a win will guarantee them a chance for the NFC North title in Green Bay in week 16. The G&G staff is split, but I’ll take the Vikings to stay hot and pull off the victory over the Beckham-less Giants.
The Picks: Gillette, Gumas – Vikings; Katz, Schwartz – Giants
Packers at Cardinals (-4.5)
In a potential playoff game preview, the Cardinals will host the Packers with a lot on the line. If the Packers pull the upset, they’ll have a decent chance at the #2 seed in the NFC, as the Cardinals will have to square off against the Seahawks in week 17. But Arizona is rolling along nicely on an 8 game win streak and will clinch the 2 seed with a win, and if Carolina finally loses, would head into week 17 with a chance at home field throughout the playoffs. For me, this game comes down to the Quarterback having the better season, so I’ll lean with Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. Didn’t think I’d be saying that 16 weeks ago!
The Picks: Gillette, Gumas, Schwartz – Cardinals; Katz – Packers
Panthers (-7) at Falcons
After many consecutive weeks of bad football, the Falcons finally pulled out a victory in week 15 to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. But they’ll face off against a Carolina team that obliterated them 38-0 just two weeks ago. While I expect this game to be closer, Carolina is clearly the superior team.
The Picks: all on the Panthers
Quick Hits: The One Team Matters Sunday Games:
Texans at Titans (-4.5)
Houston can clinch the division against a three win team… and are somehow 4.5 point underdogs? Even with Brandon Weeden at QB that seems like an awful lot of disrespect. Give me Houston’s D over Zack Mettenberger.
The Picks: all on the Texans
Colts at Dolphins (-1.5)
Since we’re on the AFC South, I’ll point out here that the Colts game does still matter in case the Texans lose. But after three straight losses without scoring 17 points, it’s hard to have much faith in this Colts team that appears to be quitting on a coach whose comments have made it seem that he may already have one foot out the door. The rest of the G&G staff have faith, but I’ll take the Dolphins.
The Picks: Gillette – Dolphins; Gumas, Katz, Schwartz – Colts
Rams at Seahawks (-13.5)
The Seahawks are unquestionably one of the hottest teams in the league, averaging 34 points per game on their five game winning streak. But the Rams have won their last two games, and are one of the few teams in the NFL that have given Seattle trouble the past few years. I very much expect the Seahawks to win, but not by two touchdowns. I’ll take the Rams.
The Picks: Gillette, Katz – Rams; Gumas, Schwartz – Seahawks
Steelers (-10) at Ravens
The Steelers need to keep winning and could potentially clinch a playoff spot if other games play out correctly. Outside of Pittsburgh, there is no place they’d rather celebrate than at M&T Bank stadium, and the Ravens putrid pass defense (28 TD allowed versus just 4 INT, by far the worst ratio in the NFL) likely doesn’t stand a chance against the red hot Steelers offense (six straight 30+ point games).
The Picks: Gillette, Gumas, Schwartz – Steelers; Katz – Ravens
Browns at Chiefs (-12.5)
One last double digit game, and it’s another important one, as the Chiefs keep their eyes on not only a playoff spot, but also a potential AFC West crown. And the Chiefs have been destroying teams; on their current 8 game win streak their average margin of victory is 17.5 and they’ve put up at least 29 points in 6 of those 8 games. After all of that, my head is screaming Kansas City, which is probably why the rest of the staff is picking the Chiefs. But I’m going with my gut and saying Johnny Football’s audition (be it for the Browns or another team) continues to go ok and he does enough to keep this one under double digits by games end.
The Picks: Gillette – Browns; Gumas, Katz, Schwartz – Chiefs
The End of the Season Pointless Games:
Jaguars at Saints (-3.5)
Shootout alert! These two teams have been known to score a lot and not play much defense. Drew Brees suffered a torn plantar fascia in his last game, but will attempt to play. I like Blake Bortles to throw at least two touchdowns, which coincidentally would give the Saints the dubious record of most passing TDs allowed in a season with still another game to play.
The Picks: Gillette, Schwartz – Jaguars; Gumas, Katz – Saints
49ers at Lions (-9)
The Lions are probably better than their five win record indicates (should be at least six if not for Aaron Rodgers’s 70 yard heave), but giving a five win team 9 points seems like way too much to me and the G&G staff.
The picks: all on the 49ers
Cowboys at Bills (-6)
As I wrote earlier this week, the Bills are just two weeks away from wrapping up a hugely disappointing season. Their inconsistency on both sides of the ball and lack of discipline (they’ve been flagged a league high 156 times) have cost them too many games, and they won’t have much motivation heading into this one. I’ll lean with the Cowboys in a game not many people will be watching.
The Picks: Gillette, Katz, Schwartz – Cowboys; Gumas – Bills
Bears at Buccaneers (-3)
Fantasy players that could impact your championship game: Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffrey, Doug Martin, Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, maybe even Jameis Winston. So plenty of fire power to go around, but unfortunately no real NFL stakes. I do believe both of these teams could take a next step and be in the playoff mix next season. I’ll roll with the Bears as the Buccaneers have looked less than impressive on their current two game losing streak
The Picks: Gillette, Katz – Bears; Gumas, Schwartz – Buccaneers
Saved the Best for Last!
Monday Night Football: Bengals at Broncos (-3.5)
Not only did I save the best game of the week for last to talk about, but the NFL saved their best MNF matchup for the last Monday night of the season. This game will likely decide the #2 seed and first round bye in the AFC, as the Bengals will definitely clinch it with a win, and the Broncos would get there with this win and by beating the Raiders in week 17. But if the Broncos lose this game, they likely lose out on the AFC West crown to the Chiefs. But no one expected the AFC 2 Seed to come down to AJ McCaron against Brock Osweiler. In a game between two similarly matched teams, I’ll take the points.
The Picks: Gillette, Katz, Schwartz – Bengals; Gumas – Broncos