The 16th week of NFL games produced a pedestrian 7-8 mark against the spread, dropping our season total to 109-115-10. That means the Sultan of Sides likely needs 12 wins on the final Sunday of the regular season to move above .500.
Any worse than that, and not only will the 2015-16 column finish below the gambling Mendoza line, it will be the worst result in the Sultan’s brief, four-year, prognosticating career. The tension is palpable!
New York Jets
@ BUFFALO BILLS +3
Could this season end any other way for the New York Jets and their former coach, current Bills leading man, Rex Ryan?
The Jets have been on a remarkable run of late. A critical win a week ago over rival New England allows the team to control its own destiny.
If the Jets win, they’re in. That’s a lot of pressure and adding fuel to the fire is their former coach Rex Ryan. In a private moment Ryan might admit he’d rather win this game than a Super Bowl! Bills win 23-20
@ Miami Dolphins +9.5
Even “Chicken of the Sea” would discard this canned tuna. The Dolphins are a miserable group. Last week’s loss to an Indianapolis Colts team without a professional quarterback was embarrassing.
Hopefully the New England Patriots put these Dolphins on the endangered species list this Sunday. Patriots win 35-6
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ Atlanta Falcons -6
I couldn’t be happier that the Atlanta Falcons ended Carolina’s march toward pigskin immortality last week. It would have felt weird if the 2015-16 Carolina Panthers became the only team in NFL history to finish 19-0. The Panthers just aren’t that good.
The play here has Atlanta carrying that momentum through the final Sunday of the year, but the Saints always give Atlanta trouble. Falcons win but fail to cover 28-24
@ CIN. BENGALS -9.5
The Baltimore Ravens impressively defeated a Pittsburgh Steelers team battling for its playoff life last week. Can they do it again? This time on the road against another AFC North rival?
Cincinnati blew a golden opportunity to lock up home-field advantage when the Bengals lost a heartbreaker in Denver. Now the Bengals need a win a Broncos loss to earn a much needed bye. Bengals win 24-10
PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ Cleveland Browns +10.5
I still can’t believe a red-hot Steelers team, racing toward a spot in the playoffs, mysteriously lost a game to the injury-depleted Baltimore Ravens.
Pittsburgh now has to top the Cleveland Browns and get some help to continue playing beyond this Sunday. The Browns are sneaky awful. That’s as polite as I can be. Steelers win 38-17
Jacksonville Jaguars @ HOUSTON TEXANS -6.5
Jacksonville is just 5-10 but at least the Jaguars, thanks in part to being in a weak division, played important football well into December. That’s a step up for a franchise that’s turned losing into an art form.
Houston is starting its 27th different quarterback this season. That only sounds true. Still, is Brandon Weeden really going to start a NFL playoff game? Is this a sign of Armageddon? Texans win 28-17
WASHINGTON REDSKINS @ Dallas Cowboys -4
Washington is locked in as the NFC’s fourth seed in the playoffs, but don’t count on the rising Native Americans to sit their top players against their bitter rival Dallas Cowboys.
It’s not like the Redskins are facing Dallas’ “A” team. Does anyone even know who throws passes for the Cowboys anymore? Dez Bryant will be out.
I could make a strong argument that Dallas has less incentive than Washington. In fact that’s pretty obvious. Redskins win 30-17
@ NEW YORK GIANTS -6
Nobody on the planet knows what in the heck is going to happen in this contest. New York completely folded tent last week in Minnesota. Philadelphia just fired its coach, one time man-genius Chip Kelly, and nobody really knows if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
Neither team has any incentive to play beyond pride and paycheck. Giants win 35-21
@ Chicago Bears -1
Another matchup with zero playoff implications. Detroit has been playing great football since they were eliminated from postseason contention. This is what Detroit does.
Chicago didn’t show up for a number of games before inexplicably playing well in Tampa last week. Does Bears quarterback Jay Cutler want anything to do with this game? Lions win 27-20
@ Ind. Colts (no line)
Vegas isn’t putting a line out when it can’t be certain who the quarterback is. Heck, even the Colts don’t know who is going to play quarterback tomorrow. Everyone that doesn’t watch this game is a winner!
TAMPA BAY BUCS
@ Carolina Panthers -10
There’s something fishy about this Panthers team. Carolina does not feel like a team that’s 14-1. Post that gaudy of a mark and generally there’s a feeling of invincibility surrounding the team.
This Panthers team feels very vulnerable. The team showed a crack in the armor last week losing in Atlanta. I won’t go so far to predict an upset in this spot, but I could see the Bucs hanging around to cover a double-digit spread. Panthers win 24-17
@ Kansas City Chiefs -7
I’ve been siding with the Raiders all season so there’s no point in stopping now! Remarkably, Kansas City is trying for its 10th consecutive victory after starting the year 1-5. According to ESPN, the Chiefs are the first team in 45 years to accomplish that feat.
Oakland is looking to finishing their promising season off right and send retiring future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson into retirement with a victory. Raiders win 27-24
San Diego Chargers
@ DENVER BRONCOS -9
Legendary Anchorman Ron Burgundy thinks San Diego is Spanish for crappy football team. What happened to the lightning bolts? Has Philip Rivers’ soul retired? Are the ghosts of Junior Seau haunting the franchise?
It’s entirely possible Denver wins this game by 100 points. The only exciting possibility in this contest is Peyton Manning potentially returning to the field. Broncos win 78-0
ST. LOUIS RAMS
@ San Francisco 49ers +3.5
St. Louis under Coach Jeff Fisher is the king of finishing 8-8. The Rams are 7-8 heading into this matchup which leaves only one possible outcome.
How does Fisher still have a job? In a league where teams go through coaches quicker than a fat kid mows down a cupcake, Fisher has flourished despite only posting winning seasons in six of his 22 years on a NFL sideline. Rams win 21-14
@ ARI. CARDINALS -6
There’s a lot of anti-jinx play here, but in reality the Seahawks are too banged up to beat an Arizona Cardinals team that looks like a Super Bowl champion.
Seattle will be without Marshawn Lynch, Thomas Rawls, Jimmy Graham, Russell Okung and JR Sweezy. That’s just starters missing on offense!
Arizona is a tough out for the healthiest of teams. Seattle isn’t healthy. Cardinals win 30-20
Minnesota Vikings @ GREEN BAY PACKERS -3
The Vikings and Packers square off with a NFC North division championship on the line in the regular season’s final contest. The winner will claim the No. 3 seed in the playoffs while the loser will drop to either the 5th or 6th seed.
Are the youthful Vikings ready to win a championship level game on the road against a team quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers?
The Packers have been mired in a bit of a funk, but it’s hard to imagine them dropping this game in Lambeau. Packers win 19-14