Week 16 Picks: Falcons, Texans can clinch home-field advantage

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions

The Falcons can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win over the Lions on Saturday night. After making the playoffs in 2011, the Lions have regressed in 2012, carrying a six-game losing streak with them into Week 16. During their current losing streak, the Lions have allowed 32 points per game, a figure the Falcons could exceed if Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez are on their games.

Pick: Falcons 34, Lions 23

Oakland Raiders at Carolina Panthers

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been red-hot lately, passing for 1,308 yards with 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last five games. This week, Newton faces a Raiders defense that has picked off just 10 passes all season long and has gone without an interception in eight of their 14 games this season.

Pick: Panthers 27, Raiders 20

New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys

The Saints have won six of their last seven against the Cowboys, including a 30-27 win in Cowboys Stadium on Nov. 25, 2010. Another win by the Saints would deal a setback to the Cowboys' playoff hopes and could eventually lead to Jerry Jones firing head coach Jason Garrett and being in the market to hire Sean Payton, who has yet to reach a contract extension with the Saints. What had been a roller coaster season for the Cowboys has stabilized, with the team winning five of their last six, including three straight.

Pick: Cowboys 31, Saints 27

Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers

A foot of snow awaits the Titans, who are again having to shuffle their offensive line after losing center Kevin Matthews on Monday night to an ankle injury. The Titans' reshuffled line meets a revitalized Packers' pass rush that got to Bears quarterbacks four times last Sunday. Titans quarterback Jake Locker has been sacked 11 times over the last three weeks and could spend considerable time on the Lambeau Field turf this Sunday.

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Pick: Packers 38, Titans 16

Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans

The Texans can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win, and the Vikings can keep their playoff hopes alive with an upset of the Texans, but a lot of eyes will be on the intriguing subplot of Adrian Peterson's pursuit of a 2,000-yard rushing season and Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105. Peterson has rushed for 1,313 yards over the last eight games – the same total Arian Foster has this season – and will catch a Texans defense that has allowed 108.3 yards per game on the ground over the last six weeks after allowing just 81.9 yards per game in the first half of the season.

Pick: Texans 28, Vikings 24 (Peterson goes for 140, putting him 154 rushing yards away from history)

New England Patriots at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Patriots are coming off a nationally televised home loss in which they spotted the 49ers a 31-3 lead. Now on the outside looking in at a first-round playoff bye, the Patriots figure to be awfully ornery when they visit the Jaguars, who sport the league's 31st-ranked defense. This one could get ugly pretty quick.

Pick: Patriots 45, Jaguars 20

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs

With the Colts on the verge of a playoff berth – win and they're in – the Chiefs should take a good look at the club on the opposite sideline this Sunday. After losing franchise quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts used its draft positioning to add Andrew Luck and are right back in the playoff hunt. The problems in Kansas City run deeper than the quarterback position, but picking in the top of the 2013 draft, the Chiefs will have an opportunity to get an impact player and can't afford to miss.

Pick: Colts 20, Chiefs 17

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins

Just over two months ago, the Bills and Dolphins were embroiled in a four-way tie for first place in the AFC East. Since then, the teams are a combined 5-11 and are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The Dolphins are coming off a 24-3 win over the Jaguars, and another win to round out the 2012 home schedule would send the Dolphins into the 2013 offseason on a high note, but with receivers Brian Hartline and Davone Bess battling back injuries, the Bills are primed for a season sweep.

Pick: Bills 23, Dolphins 20

San Diego Chargers at New York Jets

The Jets have moved on from Mark Sanchez and are clearly not of the opinion that Tim Tebow will be a viable option in 2013, either, opting instead to name Greg McElroy the starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Chargers. Who quarterbacks the 2013 Jets is a silly question as it's unknown who the GM, head coach or offensive coordinator will be next season.

Pick: Chargers 10, Jets 9

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles

Barring a setback, Robert Griffin will start for the Redskins on Sunday, but it will be difficult for him to top his performance from his first meeting with the Eagles. The No. 2 overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft completed all but one of his 15 pass attempts for 200 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-6 blowout at FedEx Field, a win that kick-started the Redskins' five-game winning streak that has them sitting in first place in the NFC East entering Week 16 action.

Pick: Redskins 27, Eagles 17

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

With a win over the Steelers on Sunday, the Bengals will clinch a playoff spot for the second consecutive season, giving Marvin Lewis a fourth opportunity to get his first playoff win. Under Lewis, the Bengals are 5-15 against the Steelers, but three of those five wins have come in Heinz Field. With the Steelers' secondary banged up, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green could be in for a big day.

Pick: Bengals 21, Steelers 16

St. Louis Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Rams (somehow) remain mathematically alive for postseason play, while the once 6-4 Buccaneers have lost four straight and will be playing the final two games of the season for pride's sake. Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is playing for much more. In 2013, Freeman will be entering the final year of his contract and his late-season slump, which reached a new low with a four-interception performance in last week's 41-0 loss to the Saints, may delay a new contract that could have arrived this offseason had his play warranted the club making a long-term commitment.

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Pick: Rams 23, Buccaneers 20

Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos

With the Patriots facing the Jaguars at 1 p.m. ET, the Broncos will know by kickoff if they can clinch a first-round bye. If New England loses, the Broncos can clinch a bye. If New England wins, the Broncos need to win just to keep a game ahead of the Patriots, who hold the pivotal head-to-head tiebreaker over the Broncos. Either way, it's a safe bet that the Broncos' winning streak reaches double digits and it's an even safer bet that Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert are, unfortunately, nearing the end of their tenures in Cleveland.

Pick: Broncos 34, Browns 17

Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals

The Bears have lost five of six, including three straight, and desperately need a win to keep their hopes of a spot in the NFC playoffs alive. Chicago is averaging just over 11 points per game in those five losses and they should not take the Cardinals lightly. Arizona's offense may be a disaster, but under defensive coordinator (and future head coach?) Ray Horton, this team can play defense.

Pick: Bears 13, Cardinals 10

New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens

The Giants-Ravens matchup is arguably the marquee game on a Sunday afternoon slate littered with non-division and nonconference matchups. Both clubs are mired in slumps that could cost them division titles and a home playoff game. The Giants have lost four of six and dropped to third place in the NFC East, but can still make the playoffs, and possibly win the NFC East, by winning out. The Ravens have dropped three straight, but their 9-2 start to the season provided an ample cushion – they clinched a playoff spot when the Steelers lost to the Cowboys in Week 15 – for their December swoon. Beat the Giants on Sunday and the AFC North is theirs. We think this division might have to be decided in Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 30, possibly in prime time.

Pick: Giants 27, Ravens 24

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Shutdown Corner's fearless editor Doug Farrar broke down this NFC West matchup on Thursday, so let's remind everyone of the stakes. With a win or a tie (which two of the 49ers' divisional games this season have proven to be a distinct possibility), the 49ers will clinch the NFC West for a second consecutive season. If the Seahawks win, they'll clinch a playoff spot (though that could possibly happen before the game based on the results of earlier action on Sunday) and the winner of the NFC West will be determined in Week 17. The Seahawks are one of the hottest teams in the league right now and are 6-0 at CenturyLink Field this season. The 49ers are coming off a big road win against the Patriots, but blew a 28-point second-half lead before rallying in the fourth quarter and could be without Justin Smith, the All-Pro engine behind their stingy front seven. In a game that will likely be determined by which quarterback makes the most plays, it's hard to go against Russell Wilson, who has 12 touchdowns and just one interception at home this season.

Pick: Seahawks 17, 49ers 16

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