Two weeks left in the 2016-17 NFL Season, and still 6 out of the 8 divisions have yet to crown a champion. Week 15 helped shed some light on the playoff races. The Oakland Raiders clinched a playoff spot after beating the Chargers 19-16. This is Oakland’s first time in the playoffs since 2002. The Giants loss last night to the Eagles allowed Dallas to clinch home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. There are still several questions that need to be answered before the brackets are complete. Which team will emerge from the AFC South? Can the Lions hold off the Packers or will Aaron Rodgers steal the NFC North? Who is the best team in the AFC North, Baltimore or Pittsburgh? All of the answers to these questions lie below, in a complete breakdown of the key matchups for Week 16.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers: In the first meeting between these two teams, the Vikings came out on top with a 17-14 win. Minnesota has been trending down in their last 5 games with a 2-3 record. Green Bay on the other hand is 4-1, and looking better than ever. If the Vikings want to keep their playoff hopes alive their offense will need to step up, which is something that has been quite difficult this year. Aaron Rodgers and the Pack have averaged almost 30 points per game during this four game winning streak. The Vikings defense has several key injuries that have depleted their starting lineup.
My Prediction : Green Bay beats Minnesota 24 – 14.
Indianapolis Colts vs Oakland Raiders : A battle between two of the league’s top offenses, this game will definitely be a shootout. Both of these quarterbacks have produced over 3,500 yards, and thrown more than 25 touchdowns this season. Their running backs are strong, and they have great depth in their receiving corps. Their defenses however, are a completely different story. The Colts rank 26th in total yards given up per game, while the Raiders rank 30th. The Raiders have the advantage playing this matchup at home, but the Colts have a little extra incentive, fighting for their lives in the three team mosh pit that is the AFC South.
My Prediction : Colts upset the Raiders 34 – 28.
Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers : The fiercest rivalry in the NFL will be seen once again on Christmas afternoon. Both of these teams are separated by just one game in the AFC North. A Steelers victory will allow them to clinch the division, but a Ravens win will give them the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh, and all they will need is a W in week 17 to become division champions. Pittsburgh has been hot, winning their last 5 games. The key for this team has been their superstar running back, Le’Veon Bell. Bell will have a tough task on Sunday though, going against a Ravens defense that ranks second in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. The Ravens have won the last four meetings between these two teams, but the Steelers have shown to be one of the league’s most dangerous teams.
My Prediction : Steelers knock out the Ravens 23 – 19.
Denver Broncos vs Kansas City Chiefs : An AFC West matchup, last time these two played each other the Chiefs won 30-27. These teams are known for their thrilling battles, and for always having outstanding defenses. Denver’s defense has carried them to several victories throughout 2016, and will have to produce again on Sunday if they wish to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Chiefs lost a heartbreaker in week 15 to the Titans 19-17, before that they were able to knock off three of the NFL’s top teams. A win for the Broncos will keep them in the running for an AFC wildcard spot. A Chiefs victory will clinch a playoff berth.
My Prediction : The Broncos hold off the Chiefs in a 17 – 14 win.
Detroit Lions vs Dallas Cowboys : The Lions have found themselves in a two horse race for the NFC North division title. Detroit remains one game up on Green Bay, which could eventually come down to their matchup against each other in Week 17. Dallas clinched home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs on Thursday night. The Cowboys have dominated 2016 with a record of 12-2. Matthew Stafford has produced multiple 4th quarter comebacks this season, which have propelled his squad to a 9-5 record. Stafford has been experiencing some pain in his throwing hand, that has forced him to wear a glove. Last week this glove seemed to hinder the elite quarterback, as he threw for 270 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception in the loss.
My Prediction : Dallas beats Detroit by a score of 31-20.