PFT’s NFL Week 16 2021 picks

NFL: OCT 24 Bengals at Ravens
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The one-game difference remains, with three weeks to go.

Last week, MDS and I split on our disagreements, finishing the weekend (and weekdays) 10-6 each. He continues to lead, 141-82-1 to 140-83-1.

This week, we disagree on three. For all picks, scroll away.

49ers (-3.5) at Titans

MDS’s take: The 49ers are playing their best football recently, and they’ll remain very much in the NFC playoff race with a win at an injury-plagued Tennessee team.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Titans 23.

Florio’s take: If the Titans can iron out some of their mistakes, they can get back to winning. They need to.

Florio’s pick: Titans 24, 49ers 23.


Browns (+7) at Packers

MDS’s take: The COVID-ravaged Browns should be healthier than they were against the Raiders. But even at 100 percent, I wouldn’t pick them to win in Green Bay.

MDS’s pick: Packers 28, Browns 17.

Florio’s take: The 2021 Browns seem ready to fold the tents on a season bound for failure.

Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Browns 20.


Colts (+1) at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Cardinals laid the biggest egg of the season with their loss in Detroit, but they’ll bounce back with a big win on Christmas night.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 30, Colts 20.

Florio’s take: The Cardinals have fallen, and they can’t get up. The Colts have gotten up, and they’re not about to go down.

Florio’s pick: Colts 24, Cardinals 20.


Buccaneers (-11) at Panthers

MDS’s take: Even as banged-up as they are, I can’t imagine the Buccaneers losing to this Panthers team.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Panthers 10.

Florio’s take: Cam Newton is 2-0 lifetime as a starter vs. Tom Brady. That finally changes, with a little help from Sam Darnold.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 27, Panthers 14.


Giants (+10) at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Eagles are coming on strong down the stretch and not out of the playoff hunt. They’ll stomp a Giants team that has made absolutely no progress during the Dave Gettleman era.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Giants 12.

Florio’s take: The Giants have embarked on an involuntary tank. The Eagles remain very much alive for the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Giants 20.


Chargers (-8.5) at Texans

MDS’s take: Texans quarterback Davis Mills is actually playing reasonably well, but not well enough to beat Justin Herbert and the Chargers.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 24, Texans 14.

Florio’s take: The Texans are the gang that shouldn’t tank straight. The Chargers will help get them get pointed in the right direction.

Florio’s pick: Chargers 31, Texans 20.


Lions (+6) at Falcons

MDS’s take: I’m very tempted to pick the upset here, as I think the Lions are better than their record and the Falcons are worse than theirs. But I can’t quite pull the trigger and I’ll say the Falcons win on a last-second field goal.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 23, Lions 21.

Florio’s take: The Falcons are good enough to win when they should, and Detroit’s recent success will keep the Falcons from getting complacent.

Florio’s pick: Falcons 27, Lions 17.


Ravens (+2.5) at Bengals

MDS’s take: The AFC North is wide open and the winner of this one is the clear favorite. I’ll say the Bengals escape in a close one.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 28, Ravens 27.

Florio’s take: In some games, desperation makes all the difference. This is one of those games. Whether it’s Lamar Jackson or Tyler Huntley, the Ravens find a way to get it done.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 24, Bengals 21.


Rams (-3) at Vikings

MDS’s take: The Vikings’ secondary shut down the Bears’ passing game on Monday night. They won’t have any such luck against the Rams’ passing game.

MDS’s pick: Rams 31, Vikings 20.

Florio’s take: Minnesota won’t have to worry about blowing a late lead in this one.

Florio’s pick: Rams 30, Vikings 23.


Jaguars (+2.5) at Jets

MDS’s take: The Jaguars are in a march toward their second consecutive first overall draft pick.

MDS’s pick: Jets 17, Jaguars 13.

Florio’s take: If a game falls in the woods, does it make a sound?

Florio’s pick: Jets 20, Jaguars 14.


Bills (+2.5) at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Patriots can lock up the AFC East with a win, and I think they’re going to do it with a defense that clamps down on Josh Allen.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 20, Bills 14.

Florio’s take: The Patriots lacked energy against the Colts. They won’t lack energy against the Bills.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 24, Bills 17.


Bears (+6.5) at Seahawks

MDS’s take: Neither of these teams is going to the playoffs, but Pete Carroll has the Seahawks playing with a little more fight than Matt Nagy’s Bears.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 27, Bears 20.

Florio’s take: The twelves would be better off staying home for the second day of Christmas.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 30, Bears 21.


Steelers (+8) at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Chiefs just need to win out to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC. I like their chances.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 30, Steelers 20.

Florio’s take: The Steelers cling to slim playoff hopes, and the Chiefs cling to the No. 1 seed. If this game were being played in Pittsburgh, I’d pick the Steelers.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 31, Steelers 20.


Broncos (+1.5) at Raiders

MDS’s take: With Teddy Bridgewater I’d take the Broncos. With Drew Lock I’m taking the Raiders.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 17, Broncos 14.

Florio’s take: The loser of this one is done. The winner likely will be done in time, too.

Florio’s pick: Raiders 21, Broncos 13.


Washington (+10.5) at Cowboys

MDS’s take: The Cowboys will win the NFC East regardless, but they’re jockeying for a playoff seed and they’ll take care of business against a Washington team that is clinging to its playoff life.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 24, Washington 17.

Florio’s take: The Cowboys have sleepwalked their way to the No. 2 seed, thanks to a recently soft schedule. The soft schedule continues.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 34, Washington 24.


Dolphins (+3) at Saints

MDS’s take: I would’ve picked the Saints until Ian Book became their starting quarterback.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Saints 13.

Florio’s take: With 21 Saints on COVID-19 reserve, Miami catches a break in their unlikely quest to make it to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Dolphins 23, Saints 20.

Week 16 NFL playoff picture: Getting tight in the NFC West

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams
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When the Rams lost to the Packers in Week 12, it looked like the Cardinals might cruise to an NFC West title but things have changed quickly in the NFC West.

The Cardinals have dropped two straight games, including a Week 14 matchup with the Rams, and Los Angeles has a three-game winning streak after toppling the Seahawks on Tuesday night. That leaves both teams at 10-4 and sets up a three-game sprint for the divisional crown. The 49ers could still figure into it by winning out, although it would take them winning out while the other clubs lose multiple times.

The only change among the teams in the mix this week is at the No. 7 seed where the Vikings have supplanted Washington after Washington’s loss to the Eagles. With the Rams and Packers on deck, however, the Vikings seem vulnerable to the teams right below them.

Here’s how the entire playoff picture shapes up:

CLINCHED

1. Packers (11-3) The first team officially in the dance has the NFC North in hand and will now try to sew up the top seed.

IN THE HUNT

2. Cowboys (10-4) The offense continues to underwhelm, but the defense has bumped them up the standings.

3. Buccaneers (10-4) A stumble against the Saints is likely to be forgotten after closing out the year with the Panthers twice and the Jets.

4. Cardinals (10-4) They insist this isn’t another second half collapse, but need to win to show that’s the case.

5. Rams (10-4) Winning on Tuesday makes a division title a realistic possibility for the Rams.

6. 49ers (8-6) A quick turnaround for the 49ers this week may not be a bad thing for a team playing its best football of the season.

7. Vikings (7-7) As noted above, the next two weeks are challenging and they’ll likely need at least a split to get to the postseason.

8. Eagles (7-7) The Eagles are in the unlikely position of rooting for the Cowboys to win the next two weeks and rest in a Week 18 that may determine Philly’s fate.

9. Saints (7-7) Back-to-back wins have righted the ship and now they have a hot Dolphins team coming to town on Monday night.

10. Washington (6-8) Missing their top two quarterbacks put them in a tough spot Tuesday and they need to bounce back in Dallas on Sunday night to harbor any real hopes of advancing.

11. Falcons (6-8) Atlanta hasn’t won consecutive games all year and that leaves little reason to think they’ll be able to put together the winning streak they need to have a chance at the playoffs.

12. Panthers (5-9) Offseason questions abound in Carolina.

13. Seahawks (5-9) A run of nine straight winning seasons comes to an end and the Russell Wilson watch will be back on soon.

14. Giants (4-10) With Daniel Jones shut down, attention will shift to how sweeping the offseason changes will be for the Giants.

ELIMINATED

15. Bears (4-10) They should have won on Monday night, but shot themselves in the foot as they have so many times in recent years.

16. Lions (2-11-1) Authoring the most surprising result of Week 15 puts a feather in their cap.

PFT’s Week 16 NFL Power Rankings (final)

Green Bay Packers v Baltimore Ravens
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[Editor’s note: Now that Week 15 is fully and completely in the books, here are the final Week 16 power rankings.]

1. Packers (11-3, last week No. 1): Another No. 1 seed for the team and another MVP for Aaron Rodgers are within reach. Can they finish the job this year?

2. Chiefs (10-4, No. 5): Three straight Super Bowl appearances suddenly isn’t out of the question.

3. Rams (10-4, No. 4): After three straight losses, three straight wins. How many more will there be?

4. Cowboys (10-4, No. 7): Ugly wins are still wins, especially when other high-end NFC contenders are losing.

5. Patriots (9-5, No. 2): The lack of energy in the first half was almost as uncharacteristic as Bill Belichick apologizing for treating reporters the same way he has treated them for 22 years.

6. Buccaneers (10-4, No. 3): A 17-game season is a war of attrition, and the Bucs lost a huge battle on Sunday night.

7. Colts (8-6, No. 10): They’ll go as far as Jonathan Taylor takes them.

8. Cardinals (10-4, No. 6): From one seed to possible wild card, in the course of six days.

9. Titans (9-5, No. 8): Thursday night’s game becomes critical to their desire to finally close the deal in the AFC South.

10. 49ers (8-6, No. 12): They’re the Colts of the NFC, the team no one will want to play in the postseason.

11. Bills (8-6, No. 13): It all comes down to Sunday at New England.

12. Bengals (8-6, No. 14): Up and down and up and down and up again.

13. Ravens (8-6, No. 9): Going for two has fueled the current three-game losing streak.

14. Chargers (8-6, No. 11): The future is bright. The present is murky.

15. Vikings (7-7, No. 16): At least it didn’t come down to the last play, again.

16. Dolphins (7-7, No. 17): The winning streak could get to seven. The last two games will determine whether they make it to the playoffs.

17. Browns (7-7, No. 15): It’s now or never for the Browns. With a trip to Lambeau Field on deck, the clock may be about to strike never.

18. Steelers (7-6-1, No. 19): That tie is going to either just get them in or just keep them out.

19. Eagles (7-7, No. 20): They’re good enough to get to the playoffs. Are they good enough to win if they get there?

20. Saints (7-7, No. 22): If only they could play the Bucs every week.

21. Broncos (7-7, No. 18): Will barely missing the playoffs save Vic Fangio?

22. Washington (6-8, No. 23): Time may have run out on what would have been an unlikely postseason berth.

23. Falcons (6-8, No. 21): They’re laying a good foundation for 2022. The question is whether their cap situation will allow them to build on it.

24. Raiders (7-7, No. 24): They still don’t look like a playoff team.

25. Seahawks (5-9, No. 25): The first non-winning record in a decade likely will spark some significant changes in Seattle. It remains to be seen what they will be, and how far they will reverberate.

26. Panthers (5-9, No. 26): The clock is ticking on Matt Rhule.

27. Giants (4-10, No. 27): There’s still time to bring back Eli.

28. Bears (4-10, No. 28): Like every other opponent, the Vikings let them hang around. Unlike every other opponent, the Bears couldn’t make Minnesota pay for it.

29. Lions (2-11-1, No. 30): Sunday’s win is that one great golf shot that gets a duffer to come back for another round.

30. Texans (3-11, No. 31): They’re the team that couldn’t tank straight.

31. Jets (3-11, No. 29): The Giants gave their season-ticket holders a free medium soda. The Jets are giving their season-ticket holders another mental wedgie.

32. Jaguars (2-12, No. 32): The first pick is in the bag. Will they screw it up?

Andy Reid “wasn’t giddy” about moving to No. 1 seed, wants Chiefs to keep working

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers
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The Chiefs have hosted the last three AFC Championship Games and they are now in position to have a chance at making it four straight this season.

Putting Kansas City’s win over the Chargers together with losses by the Patriots and Titans means that the Chiefs are alone at the top of the AFC with a 10-4 record. It’s a sharp turnaround from their 3-4 start and head coach Andy Reid stressed the team’s need to remember what got them to this place as they move forward as the No. 1 team in the conference.

“I’m not going to tell you that you can’t be excited to be in that position, but you better understand what got you in that position,” Reid said, via Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star. “It wasn’t being giddy about it. It was about working. . . . I know how it lines up. I see that. But the important thing is we take care of our business now like we’ve been doing the last few weeks and don’t count on anybody but ourselves to get that done. Therefore you have to go back through the process and the hard work and all those things to get yourself right for the game.”

The Steelers are next up for the Chiefs and then they close the year with trips to Cincinnati and Denver. Winning out will give them a 10-game winning streak and set the AFC up to go through Arrowhead Stadium once again.

Week 16 NFL playoff picture: Bengals rise to the top of the AFC North

NFL: DEC 19 Bengals at Broncos
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The Bengals moved to the top of the AFC North by beating the Broncos on Sunday, but their stay at the top of the division was almost a short one.

If the Browns had won against the Raiders on Monday, they would have swapped spots with the Bengals and that would have meant Cincinnati was on the outside looking in with three games left to play. After a Nick Mullens touchdown pass and a Derek Carr interception late in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Browns would pull out a win but the Raiders were able to drive for a game-winning field goal.

That helps Las Vegas stay in the playoff hunt and it means the Bengals will remain in first place for at least a little while longer. They face the Ravens in Week 16 and a loss will put Baltimore back in the driver’s seat.

Here’s how the whole AFC playoff picture shapes up with Week 15 in the books:

1. Chiefs (10-4) Last Thursday’s win over the Chargers provided them with breathing room in the AFC West and Sunday’s results have them on a path to the top seed.

2. Patriots (9-5) Saturday’s stumble against the Colts leaves them without much of a cushion heading into this week’s matchup with the Bills.

3. Titans (9-5) Given the way things are trending, they’ve got to be happy to have two wins against the Colts in the bank.

4. Bengals (8-6) They’ve already swept the Steelers and sweeping the Ravens will put them on the edge of winning the division.

5. Colts (8-6) After watching the Lions roll over the Cardinals on Sunday, the Colts should like their chances of staying hot when they get to Arizona on Christmas weekend.

6. Chargers (8-6) They are dealing with some COVID issues to start the week, so having Houston on the schedule eases some anxiety.

7. Bills (8-6) The final two games of the season look winnable, but a loss to the Patriots would leave them needing help from others.

8. Ravens (8-6) Three straight losses by a combined four points have dropped them out of the mix and four in a row would leave them fighting an uphill battle.

9. Steelers (7-6-1) Beating the Titans keeps the lights on and beating the Chiefs this weekend would throw another wrench into the conference.

10. Raiders (7-7) Monday’s win leaves them in the race and this week’s game against the Broncos will likely be a playoff eliminator for the loser.

11. Dolphins (7-7) The winning streak is now at six games and they can’t afford to stop now.

12. Browns (7-7) Winning with a depleted roster on Monday would have been quite a feat and there won’t be much hope if they can’t get the job done at Lambeau Field on Christmas.

13. Broncos (7-7) Teddy Bridgewater is considered highly unlikely to play this week and Denver’s playoff chances don’t look much better with AFC West games the next three weeks.

ELIMINATED

14. Jets (3-10) The two teams at the top of the 2020 draft will play for positioning at the top of the 2021 draft when the Jaguars visit this weekend.

15. Texans (3-10) If only they could play Jacksonville every week.

16. Jaguars (2-12) Urban Meyer’s departure didn’t inspire a win in Week 15.

Kliff Kingsbury “pissed” that Lions “out-coached us and out-played us”

NFL: DEC 19 Cardinals at Lions
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The Lions beat the Cardinals 30-12 today, in what may have been the single most surprising final score of this NFL season. Understandably, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury was not happy about it.

Kingsbury said Lions coach Dan Campbell and his staff had a better game plan than Kingsbury and his coaches put together, and they know they have work to do.

“Obviously pissed to come out, play like that. That’s not who we want to be or what we want to be. But I’ve got to tip my hat to Detroit. I thought they had a tremendous plan. They out-coached us and out-played us. We got to be better,” Kingsbury said.

The win improved the Lions to 2-11-1, while the Cardinals fell to 10-4. The Lions aren’t going anywhere, and the Cardinals will almost certainly still make the playoffs, but for one day the Lions looked like the better team. And Kingsbury is right to be pissed.

Packers survive and beat Ravens as Aaron Rodgers and Tyler Huntley have great QB duel

Green Bay Packers v Baltimore Ravens
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When the Ravens-Packers game was put on the schedule, you could have circled it as a great matchup of two great quarterbacks. And it was. Even if it wasn’t the precise matchup we expected.

Ravens backup quarterback Tyler Huntley had a tremendous game in place of the injured Lamar Jackson, but the Ravens came up just close, as the Packers won 31-30.

Huntley scored a touchdown in the final minute to make things close, but his pass on the Ravens’ two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete.

Huntley finished the game 28-of-40 for 215 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and also ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns. The 23-year-old Huntley, an undrafted free agent out of Utah last year, was excellent.

Rodgers completed 23 of 31 passes for 268 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The win improves the Packers’ record to 11-3. They clinched the NFC North and they’re the clear favorites for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

The loss drops the Ravens to 8-6, and they’re now in real danger of missing the playoffs.

DeAndre Hopkins likely to miss rest of regular season, return for postseason

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals
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Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins suffered a knee injury on Monday night that will likely keep him out for the next few weeks.

Hopkins is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with a sprained knee but could return in the playoffs, according to ESPN.

Surgery is a possibility but Hopkins will get a second opinion before deciding on that.

Hopkins has missed three games already this season and hasn’t been as productive as usual even when he has played. His 2021 season will finish with career lows in catches (42) and yards (572).

Week 15 NFL playoff picture: Packers move back on top in NFC

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers
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The NFC playoffs went through Green Bay last season and we may be on our way to a repeat this season.

Monday night’s 30-23 Rams win over the Cardinals dropped Arizona out of the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the Packers, who beat the Cardinals in Week Eight, moved into their place. The Cardinals also dropped behind Buccaneers and the Rams are now just a game back, so their playoff outlook looks very different as they turn their attention toward Week 15.

No teams dropped out of playoff position this week, but Washington did slip to the No. 7 seed after losing to the Cowboys. That won’t be the case if they lose again in Philadelphia this week.

Here’s how the entire playoff picture looks with Week 14 in the books:

1. Packers (10-3) Aaron Rodgers‘ toe took a turn for the worse on Sunday night, but the wins keep on coming for the Packers.

2. Buccaneers (10-3) The Saints have been their kryptonite in the regular season the last two years and they’ll try to change that trend this week.

3. Cardinals (10-3) Monday’s loss dropped them to 3-3 at home, but they remain perfect on the road and a trip to Detroit offers a good chance to keep that rolling.

4. Cowboys (9-4) The offense is still trying to find the right formula and their defense has given them the opportunity to do that with the division comfortably in their pocket.

5. Rams (9-4) November was a rough month for the Rams, but things are looking up again in Los Angeles.

6. 49ers (7-6) They recovered after blowing a 14-point lead in Cincinnati and will try to knock the Falcons out of the Wild Card race this weekend.

7. Washington (6-7) Their winning streak ended at home against the Cowboys and their playoff hopes will look pretty dim if the Eagles beat them this weekend.

8. Vikings (6-7) Holding on against the Steelers last Thursday keeps hope alive heading into this week’s trip to Chicago.

9. Eagles (6-7) A bye week allowed them to rest up for a four-game stretch of divisional games that will decide their playoff fate.

10. Falcons (6-7) Being outscored by 108 points usually isn’t a formula for making the playoffs, but the Falcons are still breathing after beating the Panthers.

11. Saints (6-7) Ending their five-game losing streak leaves the lights on for the Saints and finding a way to win in Tampa would give them a lot of momentum heading into the final three weeks.

12. Panthers (5-8) The Panthers’ 3-0 start feels like it came in a completely different season.

13. Seahawks (5-8) Two straight wins have made things less bleak in Seattle, but a loss in Los Angeles this week will turn attention back to what will happen in the offseason.

14. Giants (4-9) The best news for the Giants right now is that they also have the Bears’ first-round pick in 2022.

15. Bears (4-9) With two games against the Vikings in the next four weeks, the Bears can play spoiler for their divisional rivals.

ELIMINATED

16. Lions (1-11-1) The Lions were shorthanded in Week 14 and that’s a bad spot to be in when you’re not all that good at full strength.