NFL Predictions | Week 16: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football Predictions


Massimo Russo is a Co-Editor for He blogs featured stories for pro football and the Dallas Cowboys, providing insights, trends and general topics, along with his weekly game-by-game matchup breakdowns and predictions during the NFL season


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NFL Predictions | Week 16: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football Predictions
By Massimo Russo: Co-Editor Silver and Blue Report & Hook’em Report

Dallas Cowboys, Cowboys, Cowboys fan, Dallas Cowboys FanWho do you think will win? Check out our own expert NFL picks every week for NFL games: Pro Football Predictions. Our NFL Predictions are subject to change prior to games. We provide the best and most educated National Football League picks based on relevant statistic and resources, along with: key injuries, Historical results, and accurate comparisons.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, NFL


Corner Turning Time
AFC Clash at M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore’s defense is the only group Tom Brady has faced in which he’s thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes against. Will Baltimore’s ball-hawking defense continue its success against Brady and the Pats in a rematch of last year’s AFC title game?.

Week 16
Happy Holidays
Sunday, December 22
1:00 PM ET

Miami Dolphins 8-6 @ Buffalo Bills 5-9 – TV: CBS
Miami can clinch a wild-card berth with a win Sunday and losses by Baltimore and Cincinnati. Although Miami’s offensive line has stepped up to the plate over their last three games, they need to take Buffalo’s defense seriously. The Bills have recorded 49-sacks, better than any defensive unit in the league at getting after the quarterback. That factor alone should elect Miami’s offensive coordinator Mike Sherman to continue to keep defenses honest by running the football by committee with Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas (Ankle), if Thomas plays. Thomas has practiced this week on a limited basis and is listed as questionable. Having a balanced offense has helped quarterback Ryan Tannehill complete 64.6-percent of his passes for 843-yards, 8-touchdowns and only 2-interceptions during Miami’s three-game win streak. And with that balance being setup by the running game, he’s starting to make music with receiver Mike Wallace, who in his last four games has caught 3-touchdown passes and three games with near or over 100-yards receiving. How about Brian Hartline? Anybody know much about this guy? He’s been Miami’s most consistent receiver, 72-catches, 925-yards and 4-touchdown grabs, likely on his way to his second straight 1,000-yard receiving season. He’s a good route-runner with reliable hands that’s improved his game over the last two seasons. Buffalo will be without their best receiver Stevie Johnson (Personal) and quarterback E.J. Manuel (Knee), two important pieces of Buffalo’s offense. Thad Lewis gets the start in Manuel’s place, a quarterback that started three games this season, including helping the Bills top Miami 23-21 in Week 7. Had this been the Dolphins of years past, I probably would pick against Miami on the road in a potential spoiler-game, but these Dolphins are turning the corner and hitting their stride at the right time, and I think this team is for real. That’s right, I just said that. In conclusion to this, I’m sorry for the loss of your mother Stevie, my sincere condolences to you and your family.
Pick: Dolphins 27, Bills 17

Minnesota Vikings 4-9-1 @ Cincinnati Bengals 9-5 – TV: FOX
The Bengals can possibly secure a playoff berth and the AFC North title with a win and Baltimore loss, or a win or a loss or tie by Miami would secure a third straight playoff berth for the Bengals. Marvin Lewis better have his team geared up and ready against a Vikings team that’s playing good football with Matt Cassel at quarterback. Against Philadelphia last week, Cassel was 26-of-35 passing for 382-yards and 2-touchdowns, and also had a rushing score. And he was able to do it without Adrian Peterson (Foot) in the backfield. Matt Asiata was able to score once the Vikings got in the redzone, but 51-yards on 30-carries, clearly wasn’t the key element that got the Vikings’ offense rolling. Cassel should be able to find holes against a Bengals secondary that’s banged up if the offensive line can protect him from Cincinnati’s front, but on the road at Paul Brown Stadium, a place the Bengals have won all of their games, Cassel and the Vikings offense will need a healthy Adrian Peterson against a Bengals defense that will be fired up at home, especially after their lowly performance last week in Pittsburgh. With playoff implications in the fold, look for Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to get Giovani Bernard and the running game going early to help setup the deep-ball off the play-action pass for Andy Dalton to go over the top to A.J. Green. Peterson will probably be a game time decision for Minnesota. I think he plays, and not to doubt him because of his status health-wise, because he’s proven to play at high level coming off an injury. I like the Cincinnati’s defense to contain him and keep Cassel under duress for most of the game. The Bengals have the advantage in generating turnovers and scoring off of them in this matchup.
Pick: Bengals 31, Vikings 17

Indianapolis Colts 9-5 @ Kansas City Chiefs 11-3 – TV: CBS
Recently, over the past few weeks, the Chiefs have added another dimension to their offensive game-plan in stretching the defense with a vertical passing attack, and Alex Smith is progressing at the right time. Jamaal Charles is the type of back that gives defensive coordinators nightmares at night when watching film in preparing on how to take him out of his game. Charles can do so much at the position. He’s the perfect style of back in the west coast offense that lines up in multiple alignments as a pass-catcher, ball-carrier, etc. He can also break tackles and is one of the most dangerous players once he gets into the open field. The Colts’ secondary has the tendency to get torched and they’re not getting anything going from an opportunistic standpoint to stop the bleeding in that area, particularly on the road. In their past five away games, they’ve allowed 10-touchdown passes without anyone on the defense coming away with an interception. And Alex Smith and Chiefs offense are one of the better disciplined teams, and you can’t expect lots of ill-advised throws coming your way. Andrew Luck will need to be the ultimate improviser and get things done with his feet, because trusting Indianapolis’ running game to neutralize the Kansas City rush and loud and crazed crowd on a scale from 1 to 10 is a 3 in my book. Trent Richardson rushed 19 times for 64-yards last week in Indianapolis’ win over the Texans, adding 4-catches for an additional 38-yards and a touchdown. Donald Brown (Stinger) has been practicing this week and should be ready to go and share touches with Richardson. They both need to be able to soften up Kansas City’s D-line and be able to get the extra yards and keep Luck in high percentage passing downs. I don’t think they’ll get that done, and I like Kansas City to dominate this ball game in time of possession and wear Indianapolis’ defense out by the fourth quarter, due to a heavy dosage of Jamaal Charles, and trying to run the down the better than perceived mobile Alex Smith when he scrambles, isn’t in good hands for Indianapolis’s defense.
Pick: Chiefs 30, Colts 16

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-10 @ St. Louis Rams 6-8 -TV: FOX
The Rams defensive line features two dynamic rushers, Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Quinn is second in the league behind Indianapolis’ Robert Mathis (16.5) with 15-sacks. As a unit, the Rams’ defense is ranked 5th in team sacks, 42. 24 of them have been registered in front of their home crowd at Edward Jones Dome, including four last week against Drew Brees. And factoring all of that in, with Tampa Bay’s struggles on offense, the Rams should be able to make life difficult for Mike Glennon, who’s been sacked 14 times in his last four games. Bad protection and an inconsistent running game has been the main cause of deficiencies for the Buccaneers being last in total offense averaging 305.9-yards per game and converting on a league-worst 32.0-percent of third downs. Tampa Bay has gone 1 for 10 on third down in their last two losses. Jeff Fisher’s crew has more pluses than Greg Schiano’s Bucs going. And coming off a big win at home against an NFC elite, has me leaning on the Rams to continue to pound the rock with Zac Stacy and pressure Mike Glennon all afternoon long. It’s Super Bowl Week in fantasy football, and I’d advise you to pick up the St. Louis defense if you can.
Pick: Rams 27, Buccaneers 12

Cleveland Browns 4-10 @ N.Y. Jets 6-8 – TV: CBS
Rather it’s Edwin Baker, Chris Ogbonnaya or Fozzy Whittaker carrying the pigskin for the Cleveland offense, they just don’t have anything in the realm of positive within that aspect of the offense, and the Jets don’t allow you to beat them on the ground. Cleveland’s offense is based on the pass, getting the football to receiver Josh Gordon, who has been an absolute stud, scoring at least 1-touchdown in five straight games. He’s also averaging 19.8-yards per catch, better than any pass-catcher in the league, has 1,467-yards, also tops the league, and Jason Campbell can get him the football against the Jets’ suspect secondary. Considering the Jets have allowed opposing quarterbacks to shred the backend of their defense for the last several weeks, this could be a tough task at hand for New York’s defense if they don’t pressure Campbell’s pocket. If Geno Smith protects the football and uses his feet when he has too and relies on Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell to gash Cleveland’s front, the Jets should come out victorious in a field position/turnover, slobber-knocker battle. Jets general manager John Idzik and owner Woody Johnson will have a tough decision to make after the season finale against Miami next week to decide the direction of the franchise, with or without Rex Ryan at the helm going forward.
Pick: N.Y. Jets 20, Browns 17

Dallas Cowboys 7-7 @ Washington Redskins 3-11 – TV: FOX

It’s unbelievable when I think of the simple fact of Dallas’ defense being one of the most putrid defenses ever to step foot on football field, but yet, this team has (7 wins?) and in the driver’s seat of the NFC east in control of their own destiny if they win against Washington and top Philly in the season finale for the division in Texas. But wait, what if I told you Dallas can lose against Washington and an Eagles loss to Chicago in the Sunday night game will still leave Dallas with a chance to wrap up the east next week? Talk about having nine lives. Look, I get it. I understand that Tony Romo has had issues with the lack of a trust-worthy defense, coaching, offensive line and running game in recent years, but he’s playing behind a much better offensive line this year and the running game with DeMarco Murray has been getting it done since his return from injury. You can point the finger in so many places from Jerry Jones all the way down to coaches and players, but (He) Tony Romo, the quarterback has still had his chances to make something happen in bright spots to potentially start a self-fulfilling process that can transcend through the team to start winning the most meaningful games. And he just keeps threading the needle when it matters most. Now, I’m not saying that Romo can’t get it done and putting all the heat on him, but his situation is what it is, and in the real world, nobody wants to hear excuses. It’s that plain and simple. Now, as far as this matchup goes, I’m going with the team that’s playing better upfront on the offensive line in pass-protection and a slim bright spot on the defensive side of the ball. Romo and Kirk Cousins should be able to work against the secondary for both offenses, but crazily, even with the league’s worst defense, the Cowboys are forcing turnovers each week. And I like them to create a turnover or two more than Washington. This isn’t a healthy RGIII and Alfred Morris 2012 version of the Redskins on the grand stage for all the marbles. Romocember and the Cowboys survive, as this time Bill Callahan and Jason Garrett actually have DeMarco Murray run the ball to close out the game.
Pick: Cowboys 27, Redskins 24

New Orleans Saints 10-4 @ Carolina Panthers 10-4 – TV: FOX
Terron Armstead will get the start at left tackle for the Saints. Charles Brown has been disciplined by head coach Sean Payton for his horrific performance last week against the Rams in being the prime cause for Drew Brees getting sacked four times and turning the ball over for a grand total of three times. Here’s the catch though; Brown played lights out against Carolina a couple of weeks ago. Normally, you’d think a head coach would stay the course, but no. This shows you Payton doesn’t tolerate anything in the avenue of porous. How Armstead fares against Carolina’s Gregg Hardy will be one of the key factors in this matchup. The Saints haven’t been good away from home, losing four of their last five games, and have struggled in their wins as well. Still, Carolina needs to do what the Rams did last week, run the ball and control the game with time-consuming drives to keep Brees and company off the field as much as they can. DeAngelo Williams can be in line for big day against a Saints defense that’s been vulnerable against the run. Add DeAngelo’s big-play ability with Mike Tolbert’s hard-nosed style of running as a power back and the Panthers can find balance to help Cam Newton stay upright by keeping New Orleans’ defense honest. We all know the Saints’ passing attack is their forte for success, but on the road against a feisty Carolina defense, they’ll need a boost from their running game. Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles are dangerous threats in the screen-game, but on the ground, they haven’t been good over their last three games, as they’ve only managed to run for 58-yards per contest during that span. The Saints clearly have the edge with their approach on stretching the field with Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, but I like Carolina to control this game on offense by moving the football methodically, and for Carolina’s D-line to win the battles at the line of scrimmage.
Pick: Panthers 24, Saints 20

Tennessee Titans 5-9 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 4-10 – TV: CBS
The Titans are struggling to run the football, and that needs to change in order for them to get a win on the road in Jacksonville. Having Ryan Fitzpatrick throw 58 times like he did last week against Arizona isn’t what their offense is built for. As good as Chris Johnson plays is the determining focal point of what the Titans will be. Johnson has only one 100-yard rushing performance on the season in Week 9 at St. Louis when he ran for 150-yards and two scores. Since then, his highest total was 86-yards on Nov. 14 against Indianapolis. Having Johnson going to work and making plays is the key for Mike Munchak’s team to formulate a level discipline by playing ball control offense and keeping Fitzpatrick from forcing the issue. These last two games might determine Munchak’s future at head coach in Tennessee. Speaking of future, what about Maurice Jones-Drew’s future in Jacksonville? In the last year of his contract, he could also be making his final appearance in Jaguars uniform. However, the former All-Pro back is uncertain after sitting out last Sunday’s 27-20 loss to Buffalo due to a hamstring injury. “You never know,” he told the team’s official website. “You just want to go out there and put your best foot forward, you want to go out there and show your best.” The Jaguars have had the upper hand against Tennessee as of late, winning three of four home games against them and four of their last six overall. If Jones-Drew doesn’t play, Jordan Todman will get the work load. The second-year back out of Connecticut ran for 109-yards in his first career start last weekend and added 4-catches for 44-yards. I’d like Tennessee if this game was in the “Music City”, but Jacksonville is playing with more spunk. I like them to win in the nitty-gritty and complete the season sweep over the turnover prone Titans.
Pick: Jaguars 27, Titans 25

Denver Broncos 11-3 @ Houston Texans 2-12 – TV: CBS
Andre Caldwell will get the start in Wes Welker’s (Concussion) spot in the slot again. Caldwell filled the void last week with 6-catches for 59-yards and two scores in a losing effort against San Diego at home. Peyton Manning, who’s three-touchdown passes from tying and four from topping Tom Brady’s single season record mark of 50-touchdown passes, faces a Houston defense that’s ranked second against the pass, allowing 183-yards per game. Statistically, it looks like a difficult matchup for Manning and his mass-weapons to dissect, but last week’s loss wasn’t due to any ineptness on throwing the football, it was the Chargers’ running game that controlled the clock with Ryan Mathews and converting on third down. No matter what defense the Broncos face, if you give them enough possessions and time, eventually they’ll find soft spots in the defense, particularly on the backend. Ben Tate (Ribs) has been placed on injured-reserve, leaving the Texans to assign Dennis Johnson as the lead ball-carrier for the final two games of the season. Houston has had a hard time protecting the football and has been on the downside of things in terms of field position, something that I favor Denver to take advantage of in this contest. I like Denver to get Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball going early against Houston’s run defense that’s proven to allow big-plays on the ground. I’m calling it; Manning throws 4-touchdown passes to break the record at Reliant Stadium this Sunday. He should be able to exploit a Texans secondary that doesn’t do anything majorly to give Manning extra looks or disguised blitzes to keep him guessing enough.
Pick: Broncos 41, Texans 24

4:05 PM ET
N.Y. Giants 5-9 @ Detroit Lions 7-7 – TV: FOX

Detroit has the favorable matchup at the line of scrimmage going up against a New York offensive line that’s had its issues on keeping a clean pocket for Eli Manning. And as a result for Manning being under content pressure, he’s thrown 25-interceptions, the most by any quarterback in 2013. New York’s offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride been questioned on his play-calling of not taking shots when the offense needs to by playing it safe on key third down situations. Has his trust in Eli all of a sudden gone astray of letting him stick it between the numbers? I know one thing, he better gear up Andre Brown for a bulk of touches to negate Detroit’s pass rush if he wants to put Eli in better down and distance situations. New York’s offense will be without Victor Cruz (Knee) Eli’s game-breaking receiver for the rest of the season, and Gilbride’s stuck in the middle of trying to fix an engine-leak that keeps getting worse. Matthew Stafford won’t be facing a Ravens defense this time around that’s light-years better than New York’s bruised and battered defense that tremendously lacks a pass rush. Detroit should be able to run the ball effectively with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell through the heart of New York’s D-line. And I wouldn’t bet the house on Calvin Johnson to drop passes like he did on Monday.
Pick: Lions 30, N.Y. Giants 14

Arizona Cardinals 9-5 @ Seattle Seahawks 12-2 – TV: FOX
Can the Bruce Arians/Carson Palmer version of the Cardinals end the streak? It’s almost like wondering if anybody will ever end The Undertaker’s 21-0 undefeated streak at WrestleMania when it comes to trying to win a game as the visitor at CenturyLink Field these days. The Seahawks have won 14 straight games in their own house and currently sit atop the NFC West and NFC. And a win against Arizona will lockup home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Seattle wiped the floor with the Cardinals on Oct. 17 at Arizona 34-22. Arizona’s top ranked run defense wasn’t able to contain Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. Lynch ran for 91-yards and Russell Wilson made stellar-plays with his feet off the zone-read and improvising from the pocket. The pressure from Arizona’s front has been mostly consistent for them this season, and they brought Wilson to the ground three times in their first meeting. But that was when Seattle’s offensive line was banged up. Tackle Russell Okung is back anchoring the line, and the matchup between him and Arizona’s John Abraham (11.5-sacks) will be the marquee matchup at the line of scrimmage on the edges. The Cardinals are a physical football team on both ends. Offensively, receivers Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald (Concussion) are big bodied targets for Carson Palmer that will be going up against the most talented secondary that features arguably the best cornerback, Richard Sherman, best safety, Earl Thomas, and a knock-you-dead defensive back Kam Chancellor. Fitzgerald has been practicing on a limited basis this week, and his status is iffy. Arizona’s plan should involve giving Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington a combined 25 to 30 carries for balance purposes. Look for Seattle to exit out Arizona’s running game and keep Carson Palmer under immense pressure, a pedigree in line for Seattle’s defense to generate turnovers.
Pick: Seahawks 37, Cardinals 17

4:25 PM ET
Pittsburgh Steelers 6-8 @ Green Bay Packers 7-6-1 – TV: CBS

Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) has been ruled out in another classic-matchup for the Packers. Last week, they displayed one of better come from behind wins at Dallas, after trailing 26-3 at halftime. I would like to see Rodgers medically cleared and back under center. Imagine he eventually does with Green Bay sneaking into the postseason on a miraculous run to the promise land. Wishful thinking Packers fans, right? Well, here’s the good news for Green Bay; when you have a running back like Eddie Lacy and at least a quarterback like Matt Flynn that can get the ball downfield with some confidence, offensively, you still have enough talent to put points on the board. And if Clay Matthews returns to his “Bull-Dawging” self, the defense can start generating turnovers. Both defenses have coordinators that are master-minded geniuses on breaking down protection schemes, with Green Bay’s Dom Capers and Pittsburgh’s legendary Dick LeBeau. That will be the key in this matchup on who’ll provide enough pressure upfront on passing downs. So how do you get your quarterback in high-percentage passing downs? You turn to the running game, and Eddie Lacy has been reliable enough, even when his team is down by three plus touchdowns. Lacy’s 60-yard run last week on the first play of the second half was a momentum-shifter, as the Packers’ offense would later dismantle Dallas’ defense the rest of the way en route to their 37-36 win to keep their postseason hopes alive. The Steelers have had their struggles in finding consistency in running the football with Le’Veon Bell, but Ben Roethlisberger is still finding ways to get the football to Antonio Brown and the rest of his non-stared receiving core. Look for Green Bay’s offensive coordinator Tom Clements to get Eddie Lacy going from the start and utilizing James Starks in the screen-game against Pittsburgh’s aging defense. I’m expecting a tight ball game where special teams might play a huge role in terms of field position. Mainly, I’m riding with the Pack, the team that has the better running game to come out on top.
Pick: Packers 24, Steelers 21

Oakland Raiders 4-10 @ San Diego Chargers 7-7 – TV: CBS
Even if San Diego knocks off Oakland and Kansas City in the regular-season finale, they still could miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year without losses from Miami and Baltimore that are both 8-6. The Chargers are on my “Dark Horse” list as a dangerous team, shall they sneak into the postseason, if they can continue to create balance with Ryan Mathews to control the tempo. Philip Rivers and the Chargers passing game creates so many mismatches on spread formations, the screen-game with Danny Woodhead, and Rivers’ new found emerging talent at receiver, rookie Keenan Allen as his go to target that can stretch the field. The Raiders are capable of running between the numbers with Rashad Jennings and Marcel Reece against San Diego’s defense that’s been through ups and downs in allowing big plays on the ground. The Raiders topped the Chargers earlier this season with effective running and three Rivers interceptions the offense capitalized off of into points. I’m not expecting the Chargers to come out of the flood-gates out of sync like they did out in Oakland on Oct. 6. This is a much better Chargers team at this point, and I trust them in this matchup to sustain drives by mixing things up on the ground and in the passing game against Oakland’s defense that’s been getting burned. As for Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin, this could be his last outing if he continues to turn the ball over.
Pick: Chargers 28, Raiders 17

New England Patriots 10-4 @ Baltimore Ravens 8-6 – TV: CBS
This matchup is all about how the Ravens defense can contain New England’s slot receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman that Tom Brady makes quick strikes to on screens, while they move around in motion and New England’s defense trying to limit Ray Rice and the deep-ball from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith’s press coverage at the line of scrimmage will be a huge factor on trying to disrupt the precise route-running of New England’s speedy slot options. What about Shane Vereen? The Patriots have a number of running backs used in the passing game as well, but Vereen is the most dangerous one that can shake linebackers on one-on-one matchups when leaking out of the backfield. Baltimore’s linebackers have been good in coverage, but Vereen will be their most difficult challenge on the season. Not to mention backs Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount sharing touches on a change-of-pace rotation that can neutralize Baltimore’s dynamic pass-rush by gaining positive yardage on first and second downs to put Brady in great position of working the short passing game on third down. The Patriots run defense has been suspect. They’re allowing 132.5-yards per game, and without two key players that anchor the middle of their defense due to season-ending injuries, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, one of the better run-stuffers in the game, and Jerod Mayo, one of the most talented linebackers at running down ball-carries, has made New England’s defense vulnerable to opposing rushing attacks. Baltimore has uncharacteristically struggled at getting anything going with their running game, but they need to take advantage between the tackles against New England’s soft middle of the line. I’m expecting New England to take away the deep pass by keeping their safeties over the top, forcing Flacco to work on the underneath routes. So Flacco will need to take shot at on crossing routes by utilizing Ray Rice and tight Dennis Pitta against New England’s linebackers. Baltimore’s defense has had its way against Brady in generating turnovers against him. And in this pivotal contest, I like the team that’s more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball to come up with a key stop late in the game, the Ravens.
Pick: Ravens 23, Patriots 21

Sunday Night Football in America 8:30 PM ET – TV: NBC
Chicago Bears 8-6 @ Philadelphia Eagles 8-6

Scenarios, scenarios people; this game might not make a difference for both teams. They’ll know whether that’s the case hours before kickoff. If the Cowboys lose earlier to Washington, a win for Philadelphia would clinch the NFC East. For Chicago, if the Lions lose and the Packers win, this game won’t matter to the Bears. And if that’s the case, Marc Trestman may elect to rest some key starters for next week’s matchup at home against Green Bay that could end up being for the NFC North divisional championship. The Eagles will be in the same position if Dallas wins earlier against Washington that will setup a showdown for the NFC East championship next week. I have a hunch Chicago is going to need a win more than Philly that will be in position of resting key starters, if that’s the route Chip Kelly takes. I’m going with my gut on scenario, and we should get a good first half of competitive football. This game matchup-wise will be decided on the running game with Chicago’s Matt Forte and Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy that get the bulk of touches both carrying and used in the passing game. Both defenses are susceptible in giving up big-plays when opposing offenses stretch them, vertically. And I favor Chicago with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, two monsters that are the best one-two punch at receiver. They do it all, block (an aspect of the game not regularly looked into that’s important) run great routes, get separation and are a handful to deal with once the Bears are in the redzone. The fate of both teams will come down to the final week, I think.
Pick: Bears 32, Eagles 24

Monday Night Football, December 23 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
Atlanta Falcons 4-10 @ San Francisco 49ers 10-4

If Arizona loses to Seattle, the 49ers will have a playoff spot wrapped up before their rematch of last year’s NFC title game. However, if the Cardinals can pull of the seemingly impossible by beating the Seahawks in Seattle, the 49ers would need to win to clinch a playoff berth and still have a shot at the NFC West title. Either way how things shape out for Jim Harbaugh’s team, he’ll still have his team wild up for the final game at Candlestick Park. The best thing going for San Francisco is the improvement on the offensive side of the ball with a healthy group on the field, unlike the earlier stages of the season. The 49ers have won four straight games, and during that span, Colin Kaepernick has thrown 7-touchdown passes with only one turnover and a passer rating of 104.7. The ground game is still stout with Frank Gore running behind arguably the best run-blocking offensive line in the business, and Michael Crabtree brings his playmaking ability after the catch to table that puts the offense back to being a well-rounded group. Atlanta’s defense has been miserably bad, and I don’t like their chances on trying to contain Gore and the 49ers’ running game, nor matching up against Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, all three targets at Kaepernick’s disposal that can stretch the field vertically, and valuable go to options in the redzone on winning the one-on-one battles by getting separation with their physicality. Vic Fangio, San Francisco’s defensive coordinator knows the Falcons lack a running game and have a vulnerable offensive line. So expect to see lots of heat coming from the 49ers’ front, either by manufactured rushes from blitzes, or just plain and simply getting bench-press like pushes off the ball.
Pick: 49ers 31, Falcons 17

You can follow Massimo Russo on Twitter @NFLMassimo and @SilverBlueRpt

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