NY Giants at Philadelphia (+2.5), 41.5 o/u Thursday, 8:25 pm EST
Comments: It's win and they're in for the Giants, and although they'll need a perfect finish to claim the NFC East crown, a victory Thursday would lock up at least the top wild card spot for them. They also get to face an Eagles squad in an absolute tailspin, as Philly has lost seven of their last eight, including a 28-23 loss to New York back in Week 9. The Eagles had won the prior four meetings between the division rivals though, so despite their disparate records, don't expect this one to be a blowout. Not that the Giants seem capable of blowing anyone out their only win this season by more than a single score came against the Browns, and that hardly counts. Actually, that's not quite correct. Any team with a deep receiving corps led by Odell Beckham Jr. is capable of blowing teams out; Ben McAdoo simply chooses not to. That painfully conservative play-calling is reflected in Eli Manning's recent numbers. Over the last six games, he's got a solid 13:5 TD:INT, but is averaging just 208.3 passing yards per game and hasn't topped 240 yards during that stretch. The Eagles' secondary is mediocre at best, and their 7.7 YPA allowed is 26th in the league, but don't expect McAdoo to accept that invitation to air it out. ... Carson Wentz did throw for a career-high 364 yards in that Week 9 contest, but his 0:2 TD:INT was more indicative of his play as a rookie. The Giants' pass defense has only gotten better since then, and they now sit second in the NFL in QB rating against at 76.0. They do have one glaring vulnerability though, and it's one Philly has the weapons to exploit. New York's allowed the sixth most yards in the league to tight ends (64.0 per game) and sit 26th in DVOA versus that position. If the Eagles are going to even keep it close, Zach Ertz (who caught all eight of his targets for 97 yards in Week 9) will need to come up big once again. ... Jordan Matthews continues to play through an ankle injury for Philly. Janoris Jenkins will be a game-time decision for the Giants with a bruised back.
Predictions: Rashad Jennings picks up 60 combined yards and a receiving TD. Manning throws for 230 yards and a second score to Sterling Shepard. Ryan Mathews manages 50 yards. Wentz throws for 270 yards and touchdowns to Matthews and Ertz, but also gets sacked for a safety by Olivier Vernon. Giants 22-20
Miami (+3.5) at Buffalo, 42 o/u Saturday, 1:00 pm EST
Comments: Matt Moore didn't quite shock the world last week, but his four touchdown performance kept the Dolphins in the AFC's second wild card spot. With three eight-win teams in their rear view mirror though, and a date with the Patriots coming up in Week 17, Miami can't afford to slip up in Buffalo. The last time these two teams met, Ryan Tannehill let Jay Ajayi do most of the work, as the RB put up his second consecutive 200-yard game in Week 7's 28-25 win. That remains the Bills' Achilles' heel on defense they're eighth in QB rating against (84.2), but 27th in rushing yards allowed per game (124.4) and 31st in rushing TDs allowed with 19. Ajayi hasn't broken the 80-yard mark in six weeks, but he'll probably need to re-discover that midseason form if the Fish are going to stay ahead of the pack. ... Note to future quarterbacks: putting up 174 passing yards and a single TD against a hopelessly inept winless team like the Browns is not the best way to dispel questions about your job security. Tyrod Taylor has regressed as a passer in 2016, topping 200 yards in just five starts while throwing multiple touchdowns in only four, and while the lack of health in his receiving corps can carry some of the blame, he still hasn't looked very good. Sammy Watkins (foot) won't be 100 percent until next season either, so it's not like things will change any time soon on that front. Miami's also a top 10 defense by QB rating against, sitting seventh with an 83.8, so Taylor might have trouble even matching his 221-yard, one-TD output from their Week 7 meeting. ... It could be a miserable afternoon at Orchard Park on Saturday. The latest forecasts say the rain may stop by kickoff, but with better than 15 mph winds blowing, passing the ball downfield could be an adventure.
Predictions: Ajayi rushes for 80 yards. Moore throws for just 160 yards, but does find Jarvis Landry in the end zone. LeSean McCoy is a beast once again, gaining 150 combined yards and a score. Taylor throws for 200 yards and a touchdown to Marquise Goodwin, and rushes for 40 yards and a TD of his own. Bills 21-13
NY Jets (+16.5) at New England, 44 o/u Saturday, 1:00 pm EST
Comments: It looked like the Bryce Petty era might come to a premature end last week, but after getting knocked out of the game he escaped with only a bruised chest. As with most things Jets this season, even the good news isn't all that good. Petty's managed a 2:5 TD:INT and 6.5 YPA in three games since being named the starter, and the team doesn't really need to give him more reps to determine he's not their long-term answer at QB. Ryan Fitzpatrick somehow found a way to keep things close against the Patriots in Week 12, but if Petty pulls it off, it really will be magic. ... Tom Brady put up 286 yards and two TDs in that Week 12 win but needed 50 attempts to do it, which has mostly been the story of his last month. Without Rob Gronkowski, Brady's got a 6:1 TD:INT over his last four games but failed to crack a 6.0 YPA in three of them, including last week's vanishing act against the Broncos. The Jets' secondary shouldn't offer much resistance they're 29th in QB rating against at 100.2 but the last seven meetings between these two have been within a single score. The Pats do still have home field advantage in the AFC playoffs to lock up, and Bill Belichick teams don't take their foot off the gas, ever, but there are questions now about how much horsepower this Gronk-less offense has. ... It'll probably be rainy and a bit windy Saturday in Foxboro, but that's more likely to affect Petty and the Jets, unless the spotlight hits something that's been known to change the weather. A slick surface might make things tricky for Martellus Bennett and Danny Amendola though, both of whom are playing through ankle injuries, as well as Dont'a Hightower and his sore knee. Brady's officially questionable with a thigh bruise but will play. The Jets are far from healthy too. Matt Forte saw limited snaps last week due to a shoulder injury and will be a game-time decision, while Brandon Marshall is playing through back and shoulder issues. Their entire starting defensive line is also on the injury report, but only Steve McLendon (hamstring) seems headed for inactive status.
Predictions: Bilal Powell picks up 80 combined yards. Petty throws for 190 yards and a TD to Robby Anderson. Dion Lewis gains 70 yards, but LeGarrette Blount punches in a short touchdown. Brady throws for 250 yards and TDs to Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell. Patriots 27-13
Tennessee at Jacksonville (+5), 43.5 o/u Saturday, 1:00 pm EST
Comments: The pieces have fallen into place for the Titans and Texans to have a winner-take-all Week 17 tilt for the AFC South crown, but Tennessee needs to get by the Jaguars first. Marcus Mariota was downright surgical in their first meeting, posting a ridiculous 12.3 YPA in a 36-22 win, but he's looked out of sync since the Titans' late bye, failing to throw a TD pass in either of his last two games. Of course, those games were against the Broncos and Chiefs and quality of opposition needs to be taken into account, and Tennessee still squeaked out wins in both so no harm, no foul. On paper, the Jags look like a tough matchup they're fourth in passing yards allowed at 210.6 per game but few QBs need to air it out much against this sad bunch, so that ranking is purely due to game flow. If Mariota's feeling feisty after a couple of quiet performances, look out. ... The Jags went about their coaching change in the most Jacksonville way possible, apparently letting Gus Bradley know before he boarded the flight with the team back from Houston after last week's loss while most of the players found out via social media, and then handing the reins over to Doug Marrone, the guy who snuck out the back door in Buffalo before bombing his interview with the Jets and blowing what was thought to be a slam-dunk hire. Looking back over the last two seasons, you could make a strong case that Marrone sabotaged both franchises, and now it looks like he might get a chance to add a third notch to his belt not that the Jags can sink much lower, mind you. Blake Bortles will keep his starting job after last week's 92-yard performance art piece entitled Please Put Me Out of My Misery, but there's no reason to expect him or Allen Robinson to suddenly rebound with Marrone at the helm. ... Allen Hurns (hamstring) still isn't practicing and will probably miss his fourth straight game Saturday. Cornerback Jason McCourty (chest) likely won't play for the Titans.
Predictions: DeMarco Murray piles up 140 combined yards and two TDs. Mariota throws for 230 yards and touchdowns to Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe. Chris Ivory leads the Jags' backfield with 50 yards. Bortles throws for 190 yards, but does hit Robinson for a TD. Titans 31-13
Minnesota (+6.5) at Green Bay, 43 o/u Saturday, 1:00 pm EST
Comments: So much for the cavalry arriving. While the Vikings technically aren't eliminated from the playoffs yet nine wins could sneak them into the second NFC wild card spot, with a lot of help Adrian Peterson got only 12 snaps in his Week 15 return and might not even get on the field in Green Bay, as he was held out of practice Wednesday and Thursday. Sam Bradford did have one of his rare productive games against the Packers in his Vikes debut back in Week 2 (his 9.2 YPA remains his season high), but Minnesota's offense is in a sorry state at the end of the regular season. How's this for a damning stat? The Vikings are 6-0 this season when they score more than 20 points, but just 1-7 when they don't. The one win? You guessed it, Week 2 against the Pack. Bradford's posted a 3:2 TD:INT over his last five games, but will need to come up with more production than that to try and keep pace with Aaron Rodgers. ... Then again, maybe he doesn't. Rodgers failed to throw a TD pass last week for the first time this season as he played through a calf injury, and while he hasn't been limited in practice this week, having mobility issues against a Vikings defense that's tied for seventh in sacks with 35 could be a problem. They're also third in QB rating against at 79.8, and Andrew Luck's 250 yards and two TDs in Week 15 was one of the better performances by a quarterback against Minny this season. Rodgers is capable of lighting up any secondary, and he did promise that Green Bay would run the table to finish the year, but it's not going to be easy. ... Randall Cobb is playing through an ankle injury for the Pack, while James Starks remains stuck in the concussion protocol. Stefon Diggs is nicked up again for the Vikings, this time suffering a hip injury last week, but he's expected to play.
Predictions: Matt Asiata grinds out 40 yards. Bradford throws for 270 yards and TDs to Adam Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson. Ty Montgomery picks up 60 combined yards. Rodgers throws for 250 yards and touchdowns to Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Jared Cook Packers 24-17
San Diego at Cleveland (+6), 44 o/u Saturday, 1:00 pm EST
Comments: A lot has gone wrong for the Chargers this season, but their inability to get Antonio Gates the last three TDs he needs to become the NFL's all-time leader among tight ends is starting to loom large among them. He's not only failed to get into the end zone in any of the last four games, he hasn't even seen a red zone target in those four games, which is fairly inexcusable. (Hunter Henry, by contrast, has three scores and five RZ targets over that stretch). Never fear, though, the Browns could be riding to Gates' rescue. Cleveland has allowed a league-worst 12 touchdowns to TEs this season, and are dead last in DVOA against the position at an unfathomably bad 47.6 percent the worst score by any team against any position. Now, I'm not saying Gates will get all three TDs that he needs this week, or even just two to tie Tony Gonzalez on the career list, but I'm also not saying he won't. On the list of things that would surprise me this week, a multi-score game for Gates would rate somewhere below Cleveland winning this game outright. ... Robert Griffin was marginally better against the Bills last week and did run in his second TD in as many games, so the Browns will keep trotting him out there because why not. What he hasn't done since returning to action is show a lick of chemistry with any of his receivers. Terrelle Pryor has caught just five of 11 targets for 22 yards; Corey Coleman, six of 15 for 50 yards. Gary Barnidge has fared the best with Griffin under center, catching five of eight targets for 62 yards, but that's not exactly moving any fantasy needles. The Bolts are fifth in the league in QB rating against at 82.2, so RGIII probably isn't going to suddenly break out Saturday. ... Pryor continues to play through a finger injury. Melvin Gordon (hip/knee) isn't yet practicing, and San Diego has no reason to rush him back onto the field.
Predictions: Kenneth Farrow racks up 90 combined yards and a score, while Ronnie Hillman adds 40 yards and a TD. Philip Rivers throws for 250 yards and two touchdowns, one to Gates and one to Tyrell Williams. Isaiah Crowell rushes for 60 yards and a TD, while Duke Johnson also picks up 60 combined yards. Griffin throws for 220 yards and a touchdown to Coleman. Chargers 34-17
Washington at Chicago (+3.5), 46 o/u Saturday, 1:00 pm EST
Comments: Well, that was just embarrassing. For me I mean, not Washington, although it was pretty bad for them too. In predicting last week's game, I completely ignored the fact that they suck on Monday nights, taking a 1-15 record in their last 16 MNF appearances into their 26-15 loss to the Panthers. That defeat all but sunk their playoff hopes, so you can probably expect them to win out now that the pressure's off and it doesn't matter. The Bears defense is pretty bad (23rd in rushing yards allowed per game, 21st in QB rating against), so either Kirk Cousins, Rob Kelley or both could have big games, or maybe neither if they simply pack it in for the year. There's really no way to predict what a team that's gone 3-3-1 down the stretch will do. ... OK, sure, the three INTs last week were bad, but Matt Barkley has otherwise looked like a credible NFL quarterback since he took over from Jay Cutler. His 7.4 YPA over the last four weeks would put him 13th in the league if he'd done it all year, ahead of MVP candidates Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr, and Barkley wasted little time in getting the ball to his best option, Alshon Jeffery, once they were on the field together. Washington's pass defense sits 23rd in QB rating against at 94.7, so he should get opportunities to do some damage Saturday. In fact, the biggest obstacle to a big game from Barkley might be Jordan Howard, as Washington's run defense has surrendered 17 rushing TDs, tied for third-worst in the league. ... Current forecasts call for precipitation and wind Friday, and more precipitation and wind Sunday, but a relatively clear day in Chicago on Saturday. If that changes, it could have a big impact on both passing attacks. Jordan Reed remains limited by his shoulder injury, and might sit out completely in Week 16 on the heels of two nearly invisible performances.
Predictions: Kelley pounds out 70 yards and a touchdown. Cousins throws for 260 yards and TDs to DeSean Jackson and Vernon Davis. Howard gains 120 yards and a score, while Barkley throws for 290 yards and TDs to Jeffery, Cameron Meredith and Daniel Brown. Bears 28-24
Atlanta at Carolina (+2.5), 52 o/u Saturday, 1:00 pm EST
Comments: The last time these two teams met, back in Week 4, Matt Ryan threw for 503 yards and four touchdowns, putting an exclamation point on his ascent to the top of this year's fantasy rankings at QB. Understandably, he hasn't done better than that since, but he's still put together a career season, having already tied his previous best with 32 TD passes and sitting 383 yards shy of a new career high in that category as well. The fact that he's done all that while being on pace for fewer than 600 attempts for the first time since 2011 is downright extraordinary. The Panthers' secondary has played better lately, and they might get Luke Kuechly back to try and help contain the Falcons' RBs, but the team is still dead last in passing yards allowed per game at 274.8. Atlanta also has plenty to play for, with Tampa Bay hot on their heels and the NFC South still up for grabs. ... Has Carolina finally shaken off their Super Bowl hangover? They've had two decisive wins in a row, but one came against a Washington team that never wins on Monday nights, and the other came against a Chargers team that lost their best offensive player (Melvin Gordon) after eight snaps. Those are two pretty big asterisks. Cam Newton did have his first 300-yard passing game since Week 6 against Washington, but his continued lack of production on the ground remains a warning sign that he may not be 100 percent. Over the last five games, he has a total of just 56 rushing yards and one TD, numbers which look more like a single game's worth of running for him. Atlanta's pass defense is far from intimidating, sitting 28th in QB rating against (96.9), but Cam will still have his work cut out for him trying to keep up with Ryan. ... The Panthers list no major names on their injury report, but haven't yet confirmed that Kuechly will return to action. Julio Jones, who was on the other end of 300 of those Ryan passing yards in Week 4, also looks ready to return after missing two games with a toe injury.
Predictions: Devonta Freeman picks up 50 yards and scores. Ryan throws for 270 yards and three TDs, two to Julio (who pulls down 110 yards) and one to Taylor Gabriel. Jonathan Stewart has a big game, banging out 100 yards and a touchdown. Newton throws for 240 yards and TDs to Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess. Falcons 31-27
Indianapolis (+3.5) at Oakland, 53 o/u Saturday, 4:05 pm EST
Comments: The Colts are in a tough spot. At 7-7, a wild card berth is all but impossible, and while they're only one game out of the AFC South crown, they're chasing two teams and don't play either one of them in their final two games, meaning they'll need plenty of help to leapfrog the Titans and Texans. On top of all that, they also have to play a Raiders squad with plenty on the line themselves as they try to lock up the AFC West, so there's little chance of a gimme in Week 16. On the bright side, Andrew Luck will have all his primary weapons in the lineup, as for once none of the Colts' wide receivers or tight ends are on the injury report. Oakland is 29th in YPA allowed at 7.8, so if Luck can parlay that broad route tree into one of his peak performances in terms of efficiency, they'll have a chance to steal this one. ... Indy is one of the few teams that can boast a secondary even worse than the Raiders, so that over/under line is well-earned. Derek Carr's been stumbling towards the finish line though, getting stifled two weeks ago by a Chiefs defense that has had his number this season before another disappointing effort in San Diego in Week 15. The only two teams that have kept him from tossing multiple TDs at home this year have been KC and Denver though, and, well, Indianapolis isn't them. ... Part of the issue for Carr may be the healthy of his top (and for top, read only) two targets. Amari Cooper is playing through a shoulder issue that's limited him to six catches for 57 yards over the last two weeks, while Michael Crabtree is playing through a finger injury but has been marginally more productive with it, catching 10 passes for 81 yards and a score in those two games. No one else has stepped up during that time Seth Roberts has gotten 12 targets but turned them into only four catches for 41 yards, and the less said about the Raiders' tight end situation, the better so if Oakland's going to score more than the 16 points a game they averaged in those two weeks, it might be on Cooper and Crabtree's shoulders. Err, shoulder and finger.
Predictions: Frank Gore rushes for 70 yards and a TD. Luck throws for 320 yards and touchdowns to Donte Moncrief and Dwayne Allen, with T.Y. Hilton pulling down 100 yards. Latavius Murray racks up 110 combined yards and two scores, one on the ground and one through the air. Carr throws for 250 yards and a second TD to Crabtree. Raiders 30-27
Tampa Bay (+3) at New Orleans, 52.5 o/u Saturday, 4:25 pm EST
Comments: Jameis Winston had one of those nights against the Cowboys last week. His three-interception effort resulted in just his third game of the season with a QB rating under 80, and given the level of competition, you could argue that this one was the worst of the bunch as the other two games came against teams with real secondaries, the Broncos and Cardinals. The Saints are in the same ballpark statistically as Dallas when it comes to pass defense, with their 7.8 YPA against (30th in the league) sticking out like a sore thumb, so the second-year quarterback will get a quick shot at some redemption. Unfortunately, he missed his first chance to do some damage against them in Week 14 with a very quiet 184-yard, zero-TD performance in a 16-11 win. The Bucs need him to shake it off, too they're a game back of the Falcons for the NFC South crown, and in a dogfight with Washington and the NFC North runner-up(s) for the second wild card spot. ... It's been feast or famine for Drew Brees lately. Twice in the last four games, he's thrown for four TDs and zero INTs; in the other, he's thrown zero TDs and three INTs. Tampa held him to one of the latter performances just two weeks ago, but it's hard to give their mediocre pass defense a lot of credit, as Brees' fluctuations seem to have a lot more to do with him being 37 years old than anything secondaries are showing him. If the Saints get good Brees on Saturday, they can out-score anybody, just as they did last week in Arizona. If not, well... Neither team lists any key offensive personnel on their injury report, but the New Orleans secondary is in rough shape with Delvin Breaux (shoulder) on IR and Kenny Vaccaro suspended.
Predictions: Doug Martin gains 60 yards and a touchdown, while Charles Sims adds 50 combined yards and a receiving score. Winston throws for 270 yards and two more TDs, one to Mike Evans and one to Adam Humphries. Mark Ingram runs for 50 yards. Brees throws for an inefficient 310 yards and touchdowns to Michael Thomas and Travaris Cadet. Buccaneers 31-20
Arizona (+8) at Seattle, 43 o/u Saturday, 4:25 pm EST
Comments: Last week's loss doomed the Cardinals to their first sub-.500 season of the Bruce Ariens era, but frankly the campaign lurched off the rails some time around Week 3's loss to the Bills. None of that has phased David Johnson though, who's recorded 14 straight games with 100 or more yards from scrimmage. In theory, the Seahawks should be a tough test for him they lead the league in YPC allowed at 3.5, and have been tough on pass-catching backs as well but when DJ faced them in Week 7, he came away with 171 combined yards. Arizona can't even really play spoiler here, as all they could cost Seattle is a potential first round bye, so this game is purely about pride. Given what the Cards have shown this season, that doesn't bode well for their chances. ... That said, the Cards' defense may have Russell Wilson's number. A less-than-100 percent Wilson threw for only 225 yards and no TDs against them back in Week 7, and he's only topped 250 yards once in their last seven meetings. More encouragingly, he's got a combined 11:2 TD:INT in those games, and the last couple of seasons has done much better the second time around, hitting them up for three TDs in Week 17 last year, and 339 yards and two scores in Week 16 of 2014. If history repeats itself, Wilson is primed to explode. ... Earl Thomas (leg) aside, Seattle is fully healthy for this one. John Brown remains a risky play due to a sickle-cell issue, while Arizona's secondary is thin behind Patrick Peterson, with Marcus Cooper ruled out and Brandon Williams listed as questionable due to back injuries.
Predictions: Johnson's streak comes to an end, as he manages only 80 combined yards and a TD. Carson Palmer throws for 260 yards and a touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald, but gets picked off twice. Thomas Rawls rumbles for 70 yards and a score. Wilson throws for 350 yards and three TDs, hitting Doug Baldwin twice (and for 140 yards) and Tyler Lockett once. Seahawks 34-14
San Francisco (+3.5) at Los Angeles, 40 o/u Saturday, 4:25 pm EST
Comments: The big drama in this one might be whether Colin Kaepernick finishes the game or gets replaced by Christian Ponder, because Chip Kelly is clearly intent on beating every last shred of hope out of the 49ers fanbase. Since his massive (for fantasy purposes) Week 12 performance, Kaepernick hasn't broken 183 passing yards or 23 rushing yards, and while he hasn't thrown an interception, he's also only tossed three TDs in three games. The Rams' pass defense ranks towards the bottom of the league in most categories, including an uncharacteristically lackluster pass rush that's produced only 26 sacks (tied for 24th), but Kaep has no reliable targets and a coach who believes the entire playbook should fit on the back of a napkin, so his ability to exploit that pass defense is in serious question. ... This is it. This is Todd Gurley's last big chance to do something useful this season. His best performance of 2016 so far has proven to be an 85-yard, two-TD day against the Bucs back in Week 3, and since then he's only scored three times and hasn't rushed for more than 76 yards thanks to a struggling offensive line and QB play that has dared the other team to put nine men in the box. The Niners could put all 11 guys in the box though, and it probably wouldn't matter. Their run defense remains historically bad, pulling a clean sweep of last place finishes in YPC allowed (5.0), rushing TDs allowed (22, three clear of 31st place Buffalo) and rushing yards per game allowed (176.3, with Cleveland in 31st at 155.7 and no one else even in the 140s.) To put how horrific that is in perspective, the difference in rushing yards per game allowed between the Niners and the Dolphins in 30th place is greater than the difference between the Dolphins and the fifth-place Steelers. If Gurley can't hit the century mark against these guys, he should probably just pull a Ricky Williams and retire to go find himself. ... Neither team reports any significant injuries, as Jared Goff was cleared through the concussion protocol and will start. The weather could play a role in the passing game though, as there's rain in the forecast for the morning and winds gusting up to 13 mph in the afternoon.
Predictions: Carlos Hyde runs for 110 yards and a touchdown. Kaepernick throws for 160 yards and a TD to (throws dart at depth chart) Aaron Burbridge. Gurley rises to the occasion, rushing for 140 yards and two scores. Goff throws for 220 yards and a TD to Kenny Britt. Rams 24-14
Cincinnati (+1.5) at Houston, 41 o/u Saturday, 8:25 pm EST
Comments: Poor Andy Dalton. The Red Rifle has left it all on the field this season he's 288 yards shy of his second career 4000-yard season but a lack of a healthy supporting cast has crippled the Bengals' offense. He might get A.J. Green back from a hamstring injury in some capacity Saturday, but Giovani Bernard (knee) is on IR, Tyler Eifert (back) is out, and Jeremy Hill (knee) may not be 100 percent either. The Texans have a top 10 pass defense as it is, and are second in passing yards allowed per game at 203.5, but unless Green is healthier than Cinci is letting on, this could be another long night for Dalton. As least J.J. Watt won't be around to make fun of him after the game with a timely A Christmas Story reference. ... Hey, speaking of movies. Remember the movie The Replacements? And how, in the big finale, QB Shane Falco comes back at halftime and replaces over-paid prima donna Eddie Martel under center to lead the Sentinels to an improbable come-from-behind victory? Well, consider Tom Savage the new Keanu Reeves, minus the TD pass to Orlando Jones. Savage bumped aside the Texans' $72 million man, Brock Osweiler, in the second quarter last week, and the fact that Osweiler even needed rescuing in a game against the Jaguars might be the biggest indictment possible against his play for Houston. With nothing to lose but a division title and a playoff spot, coach Gene Hackman, err, Bill O'Brien will stick with Savage this week, and the happiest person of all at the switch might be DeAndre Hopkins, who got a season-high 17 targets in Week 15. Sure, he only turned them into eight catches for 87 yards, but that's actually his second-highest yardage total of the season. Savage can't be any worse for Hopkins' production than Osweiler was. ... Lamar Miller will be a game-time decision for the Texans due to an ankle injury, so don't be surprised if Alfred Blue gets a heavy workload.
Predictions: Hill manages 60 yards. Dalton throws for 290 yards and two TDs, both to Green who also hauls in 130 yards. Blue gets the start and grinds out 70 yards and a score. Savage throws for 240 yards and touchdowns to Hopkins and C.J. Fiedorowicz. Texans 24-20
Baltimore (+5) at Pittsburgh, 44 o/u Sunday, 4:30 pm EST
Comments: Week 16's most important game is likely for the AFC North title, as the Ravens won the earlier matchup between the two teams and would hold the tiebreaker with a win Sunday. In fact, Baltimore's been doing a whole lot of winning against Pittsburgh lately, taking the last four meetings and six of the last seven, including a 30-17 Wild Card Game victory in the 2014 playoffs. The Ravens won that Week 9 game in spite of Joe Flacco though, as he threw for just 241 yards and a single score, and they'll probably need more than that from him to keep their winning streak over the Steelers alive. Pittsburgh's fifth in rushing yards allowed per game (89.1) but a more manageable 13th in QB rating against (87.3), so what offense they muster will probably have to come through the air. Or they can just rely on a special teams touchdown again. Y'know, whatever works. ... Newsflash: Le'Veon Bell is really, really good. The Bengals did keep him below 100 rushing yards last week, the first team to do so since Week 10, but he still produced 131 yards from scrimmage and has averaged an absurd 181.3 combined yards per game over his recent six-week rampage through the league. In fact, the last defense to hold Bell below 100 combined yards was, yup, the Ravens. Baltimore's second in rushing yards allowed per game (82.1) but has had issues with pass-catching backs this season, sitting 25th against them in DVOA. If the Ravens' linebackers can stifle Bell again, they've got a real chance. If not, it's probably bye-bye division crown. ... Ladarius Green probably won't play for Pittsburgh due to a concussion. Steve Smith (thigh) is officially questionable for Baltimore, but should be in the lineup.
Predictions: Kenneth Dixon leads the Ravens backfield with 70 yards and a receiving TD. Flacco throws for 220 yards and a second score to Mike Wallace. Bell keeps rolling, racking up 140 combined yards and a touchdown. Ben Roethlisberger throws for 270 yards and TDs to Antonio Brown and Cobi Hamilton. Steelers 21-17
Denver (+3.5) at Kansas City, 38 o/u Sunday, 8:30 pm EST
Comments: This game may not directly settle the AFC West title, but both teams really need a win with the Chiefs trying to lock up a playoff berth and maybe even overtake the Raiders, and the Broncos trying to sneak into the second wild card spot. Denver could really use a running game right now, but it just isn't happening. Since Justin Forsett got added to the mix two weeks ago, he and Devontae Booker have combined for 72 rushing yards. That's not per game, that's the total. To be fair, they did face a couple of tough run defenses, with the Titans and Patriots both ranking in the top six in rushing yards allowed, and the Chiefs should be a little more generous, sitting 28th with 124.7 yards allowed per game. Booker also ran for 79 yards against them in Week 12's 30-27 loss, although it took him 24 carries to get there. Somebody needs to step up in the Broncos' backfield though, or the defending champs are going to be watching the playoffs from their couches. ... Not that Kansas City's running game is in much better shape. Spencer Ware has settled into a rut of mediocrity, rushing for between 56 and 69 yards in five of the last six games and the one game he fell short, a 29-yard effort against the Falcons, was the only game during that stretch in which he found his way into the end zone. The Broncos' run defense has been slightly worse than the Chiefs' (they're 29th with 127.9 rushing yards allowed per game), but Ware only managed 64 yards against them in Week 12. KC's opportunistic defense and dangerous special teams have supplemented their scoring nicely this season, but some more reliable points and yards couldn't hurt. ... Things could be very ugly weather-wise at Arrowhead on Sunday. Current forecasts call for thunderstorms during the day and winds up to 20 mph at night, which isn't what two noodle-armed QBs like Trevor Siemian and Alex Smith (or the kickers) want to hear. The Broncos will also be thin at tight end with Virgil Green and A.J. Derby both in the concussion protocol, and while the Chiefs aren't particularly vulnerable against TEs in the passing game, that's two fewer blockers for Forsett and Booker.
Predictions: Booker leads the Denver backfield with 50 yards, but Forsett does score. Siemian throws for 160 yards and a TD to Demaryius Thomas. Ware gallops for 80 yards and a touchdown. Smith throws for 180 yards and gets held out of the end zone, but Cairo Santos saves the day. Chiefs 16-14
Detroit (+7) at Dallas, 44 o/u Monday, 8:30 pm EST
Comments: The Lions remain one game ahead of the Packers for the NFC North lead, but why do they still feel like the underdogs to win the division? Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that they haven't won it since the Barry Sanders days. Last week's loss to the Giants was also an ugly one, as Matthew Stafford and his dislocated middle finger failed to throw a TD pass for only the third time in 2016, and the offense could only manage six points. The Cowboys aren't anywhere near as tough a challenge, but have been arguably the ultimate bend-but-don't-break defense in the league this year, tied with the Broncos for fourth in points per game allowed (18.4) despite ranking 27th in QB rating against (96.7). If Stafford's finger injury continues to rob him of the Comeback Kid magic he was flashing earlier in the season, they could need a lot of help to fend off Green Bay. ... The Giants' Thursday night loss to the Eagles robs the Cowboys of much incentive for this one. They've already got home field and a first round bye locked up for the NFC playoffs, but there are still some individual milestones to attend to. For one thing, Ezekiel Elliott is now 257 yards shy of Eric Dickerson's seemingly unassailable rookie rushing record, which has stood since 1983. Dallas will be keeping a careful eye on his workload and will want to keep him fresh for the postseason, but you know Elliott himself would love to set that record. A big game from him Monday could put the club in a tough spot for Week 17. The other consideration is Tony Romo, in what will very likely be his final home game as a Cowboy. Dak Prescott's starting job is in no danger, but if this game is well in hand for either team by the fourth quarter, Jason Garrett could give Romo a fitting send-off by sending him out for the final series or two. ... Dallas has a number of players banged up on defense, but no significant offensive players on their injury report. Theo Riddick (wrist) is officially questionable but likely out for Detroit.
Predictions: Dwayne Washington plods for 30 yards. Stafford throws for 240 yards and a TD to Golden Tate. Elliott runs roughshod for 140 yards and two scores. Prescott throws for 210 yards and touchdowns to Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams before gracefully giving way to Romo in the final minutes, Cowboys 34-16
Last week's record: 10-6, 7-8-1 ATS, 8-7-1 o/u
2016 regular season record: 134-88-2, 98-116-10 ATS, 122-98-4 o/u