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NFL Week 16 predictions: Bet big on Cardinals over Packers, expect a close one between Patriots and Jets

Here are our NFL Nation reporters' predictions for Week 16:

NEW ENGLAND AT N.Y. JETS

New England: This could easily go the other way. The Patriots figure to be without receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, and tight end Rob Gronkowski might be limited after showing signs that his right knee was still an issue Sunday. Also, Steven Jackson will be slowly integrated after signing with the team this week. But in the end, we'll ride with Tom Brady. Patriots 17, Jets 16. -- Mike Reiss

N.Y. Jets: The Jets are hot, confident, healthy and desperate. There are a lot of intangibles in their favor. Will they be enough to topple Brady, who has won eight of the last nine meetings between the two rivals? Yes. The Jets learned some important lessons from the Week 7 loss, lessons they can apply to this game. It will be close; the last five meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer. This time, the Jets won't fall apart in the fourth quarter, as they usually do against the Patriots. Jets 24, Patriots 23. -- Rich Cimini

HOUSTON AT TENNESSEE

Houston: Texans coach Bill O'Brien got a little choked up in the team's postgame locker room in Indianapolis as he addressed his players. By winning that game, the Texans took a one-game lead over the Indianapolis Colts in the division race. They'll look to continue that momentum Sunday against a quarterback they've dominated. Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger has started three games against the Texans and lost all three. He has a Total QBR of 15.1 in those games and has thrown three touchdowns and three interceptions. Earlier this season, Mettenberger threw no touchdowns and one interception in his meeting with the Texans. Texans 20, Titans 6. -- Tania Ganguli

Tennessee: Zach Mettenberger has not won a game as the Titans' starter, and three of his losses have come against the Texans. They sacked him seven times in their previous meeting in Houston in Week 8. More trouble looms. Texans 24, Titans 17. -- Paul Kuharsky

CLEVELAND AT KANSAS CITY

Cleveland: The Browns travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs, who suddenly have a chance to win the AFC West and have won eight consecutive games. Kansas City has allowed 14 or fewer points in seven of its past nine games. The Browns' chances? Good luck. Chiefs 27, Browns 10. -- Pat McManamon

Kansas City: The Chiefs might be able to beat the Browns without throwing a pass. The Chiefs are eighth in the league in rushing yards per game (122.8) and fifth in yards per carry (4.6). Meanwhile, the Browns are 31st in rushing yards allowed (134.9) and 29th in yards allowed per carry (4.6). The Chiefs will have their choice of the versatile Charcandrick West or the powerful Spencer Ware as their featured back this week. Ware didn't play last week because of sore ribs. Chiefs 30, Browns 13. -- Adam Teicher

INDIANAPOLIS AT MIAMI

Indianapolis: The Colts haven't officially been eliminated from the playoffs, but there's little reason to believe they'll suddenly get it going. They have put themselves in this position by dropping three consecutive games. Statistically, the teams are evenly matched, which isn't a good thing because they're both in the bottom half of the NFL in most categories. With that said, the home team gets the edge. The Colts suffer their first four-game losing streak since the 2011 season. Dolphins 21, Colts 6. -- Mike Wells

Miami: The Dolphins have lost four of their past five games, but the Colts' struggling offense could be the remedy. Indianapolis is without starting quarterback Andrew Luck and possibly backup Matt Hasselbeck. The Dolphins have allowed seven passing touchdowns in the past two games, but even their defense, playing at home, should be able to stop Colts No. 3 quarterback Charlie Whitehurst if he plays. Dolphins 17, Colts 13. -- James Walker

SAN FRANCISCO AT DETROIT

San Francisco: Blaine Gabbert admitted he did not watch the Lions' Monday night victory over the Saints, suggesting that the ESPN telecast didn't give him the necessary game angles to prepare for Sunday's game at Ford Field. But if the Niners' defense took it in, it would have seen a safe Matthew Stafford, who was 15-of-18 for 162 yards and three TDs on passes that went 5 yards or fewer downfield. He targeted Calvin Johnson only once. That figures to change against the Niners' suspect secondary this week. Lions 34, 49ers 13. -- Paul Gutierrez

Detroit: The Lions have done a good job taking advantage of poor pass defenses lately, especially in wins over Philadelphia and New Orleans. San Francisco's pass defense resides in the bottom 10 of the league. While the Lions could have defensive issues of their own if safety Glover Quin (concussion) is unavailable, the 49ers have struggled to score all season, scoring more than 17 points just once since their 25-point outburst in Week 6. Detroit, at least, has shown lately that it's capable of scoring against bad defenses. Lions 27, 49ers 10. -- Michael Rothstein

DALLAS AT BUFFALO

Dallas: In 2006, Tony Romo gave a jump-start to the Cowboys' offense but was intercepted three times in a loss to the New York Giants. Romo was named the starter the following week and beat the Carolina Panthers. Last week, Kellen Moore gave a jump-start to the Cowboys' offense but was intercepted three times in a loss to the New York Jets. Moore was named the starter this week against the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo has lost four of its past five games and has a defense that can't seem to keep up with Rex Ryan's plans. An offense that has not scored more than one touchdown in a month will put up three. In a season full of misery, the Cowboys finally get some joy this holiday season. Cowboys 27, Bills 20. -- Todd Archer

Buffalo: This is essentially a preseason game between the Bills (6-8) and the Cowboys (4-10). Both have been eliminated from the playoffs. In that sense, the stats from the first 14 games can mostly be thrown out when analyzing this game. I think Moore actually stands a chance against a struggling, listless Bills defense that looked checked out for the first half of the team's loss to Washington on Sunday. Cowboys 17, Bills 13. -- Mike Rodak

CHICAGO AT TAMPA BAY

Chicago: Lovie Smith desperately wants to beat his old team. But Chicago is also desperate for a victory. Humiliated after three consecutive losses, the Bears have erased all the goodwill they accumulated this year. It's a strange phenomenon in Chicago. When the fan base raises expectations, the Bears fold. But when the city is against the Bears, they usually find ways to win. There is no science to Sunday. The Bears are just due. Bears 20, Bucs 17. -- Jeff Dickerson

Tampa Bay: With the playoffs out of the way, Tampa Bay has turned its attention to getting Doug Martin the NFL rushing title. He is in second place, 9 yards behind Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. When Martin runs well, the Buccaneers' offense plays well. Tampa Bay will ride Martin on Sunday. Tampa Bay 24, Chicago 13. -- Rick Brown

CAROLINA AT ATLANTA

Carolina: This one shouldn't be a blowout like it was two weeks ago, when Carolina won 38-0, but it has the potential to be. When the Falcons ran into the Panthers buzzsaw on Dec. 13, Carolina was in a bad mood coming off a last-second win against New Orleans. The Panthers are in a bad mood now after blowing a 35-7 lead against the New York Giants before a late field goal gave them a 38-35 win. The bat controversy involving Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has them even more focused. Regardless of the mood, this one will come down to Cam Newton and Atlanta's lack of a pass rush. Newton has thrown five touchdown passes in three of his past five games. He had three touchdowns against the Falcons and a nearly perfect 153.3 quarterback rating. Can you say 15-0? Panthers 33, Falcons 16. -- David Newton

Atlanta: Most would say there's no reason to believe the Falcons can be competitive against the Panthers after being shut out 38-0 in Charlotte. However, Dan Quinn will find a way to motivate his team to play at a higher level and avoid allowing the big plays that doomed them on Dec. 13. Still, it won't be enough. The Falcons will find it difficult to overcome the physical Panthers, and Newton will have the added inspiration of playing in his hometown. Panthers 24, Falcons 21. -- Vaughn McClure

PITTSBURGH AT BALTIMORE

Pittsburgh: The Ravens game is always competitive, especially in Baltimore. But the Steelers have scored at least 30 points in six straight games. The league's 15th-ranked defense isn't stopping that. The Steelers need the last two games to clinch the AFC wild card without concern. This trip is strictly business. The Steelers' pass defense usually gives up big yardage totals only to good quarterbacks. Jimmy Clausen probably doesn't qualify. Plus, the defense feels galvanized by last week's second-half shutout of Denver. Steelers 38, Ravens 23. -- Jeremy Fowler

Baltimore: Baltimore has been eliminated from the postseason, so this is the Ravens' Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the Ravens, this is a really bad matchup for their defense, especially if they're without cornerback Jimmy Smith (thigh injury). Baltimore has allowed the fifth-most completions of 30 yards or more (10) this season, and Ben Roethlisberger has connected on the most passes that have traveled at least 30 yards (15). This has all the makings of the Ravens' third consecutive loss by at least 20 points. Steelers 38, Ravens 17. -- Jamison Hensley

JACKSONVILLE AT NEW ORLEANS

Jacksonville: Drew Brees might try to play through a torn plantar fascia, making this a tough game to call. Even if he plays and is somewhat limited, he still should be able to tear apart a Jaguars defense that has allowed quarterbacks to do pretty much whatever they want. Only three quarterbacks this season have failed to throw for at least 250 yards against the Jaguars: Marcus Mariota in the first of the teams' two meetings, Jameis Winston and Cam Newton. Philip Rivers (300 yards, four TDs), Joe Flacco (316, three TDs), Ryan Tannehill (359, two TDs), and Tom Brady (358, two TDs) have shredded the Jaguars. Even Brian Hoyer (293, three TDs) had a big day. Brees played through his foot injury against Detroit and still threw for 341 yards and three TDs. The Jaguars are still struggling to rush the passer, so it could be a shootout in the Superdome. Saints 31, Jaguars 27. -- Mike DiRocco

New Orleans: The Saints (5-9) are still showing pride and effort as they limp toward the finish line. But they'll have trouble winning their home finale if Brees can't play because of a foot injury. New Orleans' biggest challenge will be preventing big plays from Jacksonville's dynamic young receivers. The Jaguars lead the NFL with 64 pass plays of 20-plus yards this year. The Saints have allowed 55 passing plays of 20-plus yards, tied for second in the NFL, though much of that damage has actually come from tight ends and running backs. Jaguars 27, Saints 24. -- Mike Triplett

ST. LOUIS AT SEATTLE

St. Louis: In recent years, the Rams have given the Seahawks plenty of problems when the teams have met in St. Louis. But it's been a different story in Seattle, where the Rams have been outscored by an average of 13 points per game in three losses since coach Jeff Fisher took over in 2012. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is on fire and should help the Seahawks extend their winning streak to six games. Seahawks 24, Rams 10. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle: Wilson has received most of the attention, and rightfully so, but the Seahawks' defense has allowed just 15.58 points per game since Week 3, the best mark in the NFL. In the past three games, Seattle has allowed just one offensive touchdown and outscored its opponents 103-26. The Rams will need to force multiple turnovers or make a big play on special teams to keep it close. Seahawks 27, Rams 10. -- Sheil Kapadia

GREEN BAY AT ARIZONA

Green Bay: The difference in the two teams is best illustrated by their respective abilities to throw the ball down the field. Cardinals QB Carson Palmer leads the league in yards per attempt (8.82), and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is 28th (6.76). It's why the Cardinals' offense is arguably the most explosive in the league, whereas the Packers have to plod their way down the field -- and even that doesn't always work (see the 92-yard drive against the Raiders that ended in a field goal). It's hard to imagine the Packers keeping up in a shootout. Cardinals 30, Packers 13. -- Rob Demovsky

Arizona: Once again, the Cardinals are playing a game with significant stakes. If they win, they would clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. But the Packers also need a win (and a Minnesota loss) to clinch the NFC North title. Both teams will bring their A-games to University of Phoenix Stadium, but Arizona is on a roll, having won eight straight. Since losing three in a row midseason, the Packers have won four of their last five, including three in a row. They'll put up a fight, but being at home will give Arizona the edge it needs. Cardinals 31, Packers 28. -- Josh Weinfuss

N.Y. GIANTS AT MINNESOTA

N.Y. Giants: The Vikings like to slow the game down, relying on their defense and running game behind Adrian Peterson. Only five teams in the NFL are averaging fewer than the Vikings' 61.1 offensive snaps per game, and it's by design. As they develop young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings scheme to keep the other team's offense off the field. This is a terrible thing for the Giants, whose defense is the worst in the league and whose offense is their only hope of winning games. Minnesota is likely to exhaust the Giants' defense and keep Eli Manning and the offense out of rhythm. It's a bad matchup for a Giants team that could be eliminated from playoff contention before they even get to bed Saturday night. Vikings 24, Giants 17. -- Dan Graziano

Minnesota: Without Odell Beckham Jr. on the field Sunday night, the Vikings won't have to account for one of the league's most dynamic receivers, but even if Beckham hadn't been suspended, this felt like a game the Vikings would win. They're playing for a shot at the NFC North title, facing a team with the league's worst pass defense and 25th-ranked run defense. With Bridgewater starting to find his rhythm in the Vikings' offense and Peterson ready to go after a sprained ankle, the Vikings should take care of business and ensure themselves a shot at the NFC North title in Week 17. Vikings 24, Giants 14. -- Ben Goessling

CINCINNATI AT DENVER

Cincinnati: The six games since the Broncos handed the quarterbacking reins over to Brock Osweiler, while trying to get Peyton Manning healthy, have been anything but smooth. Denver is 3-3 in that stretch and has had trouble closing out games, getting outscored 78-72 in the second half. For the Bengals this week, finishing has been lesson No. 1 after they nearly let the 49ers back in the game last week after leading 24-0. Every Bengals player has been charged to step up and bolster AJ McCarron after coaches were disappointed in his supporting cast's performance Sunday. Those challenges will be met in a defensive struggle. Bengals 17, Broncos 14. -- Coley Harvey

Denver: The Denver Broncos haven't scored in the second half of a game since the team's comeback victory over the New England Patriots on Nov. 29. They are 18th in the league in scoring, a total that includes five defensive touchdowns, and they are 23rd in total offense. During the past two games, the Broncos have let leads of 12-0 and 27-10 slip away because they can't consistently close the deal on offense, and their once-certain playoff spot and AFC West title now is in some doubt. Yet with all of their injuries, the Broncos still have their fourth consecutive season with at least 10 wins. And with a victory Monday night over the Bengals, Denver will officially have a playoff spot. Broncos 26, Bengals 14. -- Jeff Legwold


Editor's note: This post was published before Thursday's Chargers-Raiders game and Saturday's Redskins-Eagles game. Below are the predictions for those games.

SAN DIEGO AT OAKLAND

San Diego: The Raiders pummeled the Chargers earlier this season in San Diego, but Thursday's contest should be closer for a couple of reasons. The Chargers are playing better, more consistent football on offense and defense. And since 2004, the Chargers have won 18 of the last 23 matchups. But with the Raiders playing perhaps their final game in the Coliseum with a potential relocation to L.A. looming, along with safety Charles Woodson announcing his retirement this week, I give Oakland the emotional edge. Raiders 27, Chargers 24. -- Eric Williams

Oakland: What's the perfect holiday gift for the Oakland Raiders and their fan base a week after the team was eliminated from the postseason chase in what might be its final game in Oakland? A Christmas Eve date against the San Diego Chargers. The Raiders steamrolled San Diego on Oct. 25, taking a 37-6 lead in the third quarter of a 37-29 win. Don't be fooled by the fourth quarter, in which the Chargers scored 23 straight points. This was a dominant Oakland performance. Will it happen again? Both teams are playing out the string, so anything can happen. I expect an Oakland victory to close out a disappointing home slate at 3-5. It might not be as dominant as the October game in San Diego, but Oakland is the better team, and it will show again. Raiders 27, Chargers 19. -- Bill Williamson

WASHINGTON AT PHILADELPHIA

Washington: The Redskins have been devoid of drama and have become a feel-good story, thanks to the rise of quarterback Kirk Cousins and the team's scrappy nature, which has put them in position to win the NFC East. They might be mediocre, but they've played well lately. The Eagles, meanwhile, must answer questions about their underachieving season on a weekly basis. It's hard to imagine they have the same energy as Washington. Plus, the banged-up Eagles defense has allowed 40 or more points in three of the past five games. Redskins 27, Eagles 23. -- John Keim

Philadelphia: Injuries to DT Bennie Logan and CBs Byron Maxwell and Eric Rowe make it hard to imagine the Eagles' defense will shut Washington down. The presence of DeSean Jackson, who is averaging 18.8 yards per catch, should make for a long night for the Eagles. Redskins 34, Eagles 27. -- Phil Sheridan