We're getting into nitty-gritty time in the NFL. With just two weeks left in the regular season, only six teams have clinched a spot in the playoffs. Up to six more could join them in Week 16, but there are a lot of scenarios that still need to play out.
With the regular season almost over, that also means we're getting into crunch time in SB Nation's NFL picks contest. Stephen White currently has the lead with 140 correct picks, while Danny Kelly is just two behind at 138. It seems almost unfair that a former NFL player is winning, but on the other hand, eat it, Internet bloggers.
This week's Thursday Night Football matchup between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers doesn't have any playoff implications, but it should have a special atmosphere, taking place on Christmas Eve and featuring the final home game of Charles Woodson's Hall of Fame career. Those are good enough reasons to tune in, even if the actual football isn't that exciting. Our panel favors the Raiders by a 7-1 margin.
There's another Saturday game this week with the NFC East title on the line. Washington can clinch the division if it beats the Philadelphia Eagles, but the Eagles will steal the crown if they win and beat the New York Giants next week. As much as people complain about NFC East primetime football, the games themselves are almost always a spectacle, for better or worse. The experts give Philly a slight 5-3 edge to keep its season alive.
The most important game of the Sunday 1 p.m. slate features the New York Jets hosting the New England Patriots. The Jets are 9-5 and have won four games in a row, but they're in deep trouble with the Pittsburgh Steelers jumping them in the wild card position. There's a non-zero chance that the Jets could finish 11-5 and still miss the playoffs, as if Jets fans needed any more heartbreak. There's actually no consensus on the winner here, with an even 4-4 split between the Jets and Patriots.
The biggest late-afternoon game is the Arizona Cardinals taking on the Green Bay Packers. Arizona wrapped up the NFC West last week and can clinch a first-round bye with a win, but injuries are rearing their ugly head again. Tyrann Mathieu was lost for the year with a torn ACL, while Carson Palmer and David Johnson both had scares last week but stayed in the game. The Cardinals are lucky they didn't have serious injuries, otherwise their Super Bowl hopes would've went up in smoke, just like they did last season. With both players healthy, the panel heavily favors Arizona to win.
The AFC West suddenly got a lot more intriguing with the Denver Broncos collapsing and the Kansas City Chiefs pulling to just one game behind. The Chiefs are expected to make quick work of the Cleveland Browns, so the Broncos find themselves in a must-win situation when they host the Cincinnati Bengals on the Monday Night Football season finale. Brock Osweiler has gotten worse by the week, while Peyton Manning is slowly getting healthy again. What Gary Kubiak does with the quarterback situation will determine the Broncos' 2015 fortunes.
Despite that massive question mark, our experts heavily favor the Broncos 7-1. Denver's elite defense is surely licking its chops for AJ McCarron, who was competent last week but faces his first big NFL test here.
Here are the complete picks for Week 16 (straight up, not against the spread).
|Week 16||Ryan Van Bibber||Stephen White||Joel Thorman||David Fucillo||Danny Kelly||Matt Ufford||PFT Commenter||OddsShark|
|SD vs OAK||OAK||OAK||OAK||OAK||OAK||OAK||SD||OAK|
|WAS vs PHI||PHI||WAS||PHI||PHI||WAS||PHI||PHI||WAS|
|NE vs NYJ||NE||NE||NE||NYJ||NE||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ|
|HOU vs TEN||TEN||HOU||HOU||HOU||TEN||HOU||HOU||HOU|
|CLE vs KC||KC||KC||KC||KC||KC||KC||KC||KC|
|IND vs MIA||MIA||IND||IND||MIA||MIA||IND||IND||IND|
|SF vs DET||DET||DET||DET||DET||DET||DET||DET||DET|
|DAL vs BUF||BUF||BUF||BUF||BUF||BUF||BUF||BUF||BUF|
|CHI vs TB||TB||TB||TB||TB||TB||CHI||TB||TB|
|CAR vs ATL||ATL||CAR||CAR||CAR||CAR||CAR||CAR||CAR|
|PIT vs BAL||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||BAL|
|JAX vs NO||JAX||JAX||NO||NO||NO||JAX||JAX||JAX|
|STL vs SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA|
|GB vs ARZ||ARZ||ARZ||GB||ARZ||ARZ||ARZ||ARZ||ARZ|
|NYG vs MIN||MIN||MIN||MIN||MIN||MIN||MIN||MIN||MIN|
|CIN vs DEN||DEN||DEN||CIN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN|
And here are the updated results for the season.
|Ryan Van Bibber||Stephen White||Joel Thorman||David Fucillo||Danny Kelly||Matt Ufford||PFT Commenter||OddsShark|
* * *
SB Nation presents: Christmas gifts for our favorite NFL quarterbacks