Week 17 spoilers: Which teams can do it Sunday, and the most memorable ever

Week 17 spoilers: Which teams can do it Sunday, and the most memorable ever

For some teams, Week 17 of the NFL season is a time to rest players and get ready for the playoffs. But for others, postseason hopes ride on one final game. This season, seven playoff spots are up for grabs in the final week, the most in at least 30 years.

That means there are several bad teams that can play spoiler on Sunday and wreck a playoff hopeful’s season.

The appeal of being a potential season wrecker isn’t lost on players.

“That would be great because we get to spoil somebody’s playoff hopes,” said Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson. “Like, ‘Ah-ha.'”

There is plenty of (heartbreaking) precedent for bad teams ruining playoff dreams on the final week of the season. Here’s a look at the teams with the worst winning percentages to pull off playoff-spoiling upsets since the NFL switched to a 17-week season in 1990.


1990: Cowboys lose to 4-11 Falcons

The game: Falcons 26, Cowboys 7 on Dec. 30, 1990.

What happened: Dallas was 7-8 going into the game and had no business being a playoff team. Even with that losing record, though, the Cowboys had a chance to make the postseason if they could beat the hapless Falcons. But Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman was out with an injury and Babe Laufenberg started in his place. Without the future Hall of Famer, the Cowboys’ offense was completely inept, managing just 151 total yards and no points through three quarters. Deion Sanders, then with Atlanta, had a pick-six against the team he’d eventually play for later in the decade.

The fallout: Things worked out pretty well for the Cowboys, who won three Super Bowls in the 1990s. The Falcons made the playoffs in 1991, their only winning season under coach Jerry Glanville.


2000: Lions lose to 4-11 Bears

The game: Bears 23, Lions 20 on Dec. 24, 2000.

What happened: Detroit, 9-6 entering the game, was a double-digit favorite against the last-place Bears. The Lions held a slim lead in the fourth quarter, which should have been enough to push them over the line. Instead, their fate turned after Bears cornerback R.W. McQuarters had a pick-six off Detroit backup quarterback Stoney Case and left the Lions chasing the game. The Bears pulled off the upset with a 54-yard field goal by Paul Edinger with two seconds left.

The fallout: The Lions sputtered for the rest of the decade and didn’t make the playoffs until 2011.


The game: Cardinals 18, Vikings 17 on Dec. 28, 2003.

What happened: The Vikings, who were 9-6 going into the game, discovered the most heartbreaking way to miss the playoffs. Nate Poole caught a 28-yard TD pass from Josh McCown as time expired to give the Cardinals an improbable upset win. Let’s look at how ridiculous this finish actually was. First, the Cardinals scored on a fourth-and-2 pass with 1:54 left to make it a one-possession game. Then Arizona recovered the onside kick, took advantage of a defensive pass interference penalty and connected on the touchdown pass at the end of regulation. The Green Bay Packers ended up winning the NFC North.

The fallout: Because of the win, the Cardinals lost the top pick in the 2004 NFL draft, which ended up being quarterback Eli Manning. Arizona drafted receiver Larry Fitzgerald instead. Poole’s touchdown catch against the Vikings was the final one of his career. He was later given a key to the city of Green Bay.


The game: Browns 22, Bengals 14 on Dec. 28, 2003.

What happened: With two games left in the season, Cincinnati was poised to make its first playoff appearance since 1990. The Bengals were 8-6 heading into the final two games of the season under first-year coach Marvin Lewis. Leave it to the Browns to ruin things for their fellow Ohio team. With a chance at the postseason still on the line even after losing to the Rams in Week 16, Cincinnati couldn’t stop Cleveland backup running back Lee Suggs, who rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

The fallout: The game didn’t have a major impact on either side. Cincinnati ended its playoff drought in 2005, and the Browns continued to struggle the next season. Cleveland coach Butch Davis resigned 11 games into the 2004 season.


The game: Raiders 31, Buccaneers 24 on Dec. 28, 2008.

What happened: This was supposed to be the Kiffin Bowl — Oakland coach Lane (yes, that Lane) against his father, Monte, who was Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator. However, that changed once Lane was fired four games into the season. The elder Kiffin couldn’t stop an Oakland offense led by quarterback JaMarcus Russell in what was a complete Buccaneers collapse. The Raiders scored 17 unanswered points to pull off the upset. Tampa Bay was leading the AFC South before losing its last four games and finishing the season 9-7.

The fallout: Bucs coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen were fired at the end of the season. It started a 12-year playoff drought that ended this past Saturday when the Bucs clinched a berth in the 2020 postseason.


The game: Chiefs 44, Broncos 24 on Jan. 3, 2010.

What happened: The Broncos started the 2009 season with six straight wins under first-year coach Josh McDaniels. But by the end of the season, Denver was in a complete tailspin. The sputtering 8-7 squad faced a hapless Chiefs team on a five-game losing streak. But Kansas City ran all over the Broncos and scored 17 unanswered points to pull off the win. Jamaal Charles rushed for 259 yards, which is still a franchise record. Because of the loss, Denver joined the 1978 Washington team and the 2003 Vikings as the only teams since the 1970 merger to miss the postseason after a 6-0 start, according to research by The Associated Press.

The fallout: A win and a playoff berth could have helped solidify McDaniels’ standing as a head coach. Instead, it set the table for a disastrous 2010 season that resulted in his firing after 12 games. He was dismissed after another loss to the Chiefs.


The game: Browns 23, Jaguars 17 on Jan. 3, 2010.

What happened: The Jaguars (7-8), who lost three straight going into their final game of the 2009 season, needed to win and have four other teams lose to reach the playoffs. The Jaguars couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain against the Browns, who managed only 300 total yards and had a quarterback, Derek Anderson, who was 7-of-11 passing for 86 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Chalk it up as another reason quarterback stats are irrelevant.

The fallout: Browns coach Eric Mangini entered the game on the ropes despite being on a three-game winning streak. He made it to his second season, but he was fired the day after Cleveland’s 2010 season finale.

Published at Fri, 01 Jan 2021 20:49:26 +0000

NFL Week 17 guide: Picks, bold predictions and playoff implications for every game

NFL Week 17 guide: Picks, bold predictions and playoff implications for every game

The Week 17 NFL schedule is stacked with great matchups. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and final score picks.

Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a stat to know for each game and a look at current playoff scenarios, and the Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN Fantasy‘s Kyle Soppe and ESPN Chalk‘s Dave Bearman hand out helpful nuggets, as well. It’s all here to help get you ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.

Let’s get into the full Week 17 slate, including plenty of games with playoff implications.

Jump to a matchup:
ATL-TB | MIA-BUF | PIT-CLE
BAL-CIN | NYJ-NE | MIN-DET
DAL-NYG | SF-SEA | GB-CHI
NO-CAR | ARI-LAR | LAC-KC
TEN-HOU | JAX-IND | LV-DEN
WSH-PHI

See all playoff scenarios

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
73.7 | Spread: TB -7 (50)

What to watch for: The Falcons had a 17-0 lead on the Bucs at halftime two weeks ago and became the only team this season to hold the Chiefs to fewer than 20 points last week. But they haven’t been able to close out games. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, are hoping they can put four quarters together as a final tuneup heading into their first postseason since 2007. And make no mistake about it, they want to go streaking into the playoffs. This would be their fourth straight win if they can do it. — Jenna Laine

Bold prediction: Bucs receiver Mike Evans had 110 yards receiving against Atlanta two weeks ago and 181 last week against Detroit. But the Falcons will hold him to 55 yards on Sunday. However, quarterback Tom Brady will surpass 300 yards passing for a third straight game, marking the first time he will have done so since Weeks 2-4 of 2017. — John Keim

Stat to know: Brady already has a team-record 36 passing touchdowns this season, and he could become the first player with 40 passing TDs in a season at age 40 or older. His Atlanta counterpart, QB Matt Ryan, has 24 passing touchdowns this season, one shy of reaching 25 for the ninth time in his career.

Playoff/draft picture: The Buccaneers already locked up a playoff berth and are eliminated from the NFC South race. So what are they playing for? Well, with a win against Atlanta or a Rams loss, Tampa Bay will secure the top wild-card seeding, for which FPI is giving it an 83.6% chance. That would give the Bucs a wild-card matchup with the winner of the dreadful NFC East. The Falcons are eliminated from the playoffs and are currently projected to end up with the NFL draft’s third pick. They have a 76.2% chance of finishing with at least a top-five pick.

Injuries: Falcons | Buccaneers

What to know for fantasy: Since Week 12, Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley is the fourth-highest-scoring receiver in fantasy and leads the league with 575 receiving yards. See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: Each of the past five meetings between these teams, and eight of the past nine, have gone over the total. Read more.

Keim’s pick: Buccaneers 30, Falcons 23
Laine’s pick: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 21
FPI prediction: TB, 74.3% (by an average of 8.7 points)

Matchup must-reads: Are Falcons closer to being a contender than their 4-11 record suggests?Even at 4-11, Falcons will test Bucs in areas where they’ve struggledBefore Bucs embark on playoff run, Evans has some history to make


1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
67.8 | Spread: BUF -4.5 (47.5)

What to watch for: Now locked into either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the AFC, the Bills have a tough decision to make — do they rest their starters and risk playoff positioning by losing to Miami, allowing a division rival entry into the postseason in the process? Or do they risk injury, play their starters and try to secure home-field advantage through at least the first two rounds? Whether or not the Bills’ stars play will have a big impact on the outcome. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Bold prediction: Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard will get his 10th interception of the year, making him the first defender in 13 years to get double-digit picks (Antonio Cromartie, 2007). Howard getting a pick shouldn’t be a surprise, but his overall frequency will be. Buffalo QB Josh Allen has made a routine of torching the Dolphins (17 touchdowns to three interceptions). But Miami’s defense is due a big game against the Bills, though it’s unclear if Allen or Matt Barkley will take most of the reps for a team that already clinched the division. — Cameron Wolfe

Stat to know: Miami leads the NFL in scoring defense (18.8 points allowed per game) after ranking last in 2019 (30.9). Per the Elias Sports Bureau data, the only team in NFL history to go from worst to first in scoring defense is the 1966-67 Houston Oilers in the AFL, who jumped from 28.3 points allowed per game to 14.2.

Playoff/draft picture: The Dolphins can clinch a playoff berth with a win or a loss by either the Ravens, Browns or Colts. FPI says they have an 80.8% chance to make the playoffs. The Bills, meanwhile, have locked up the AFC East but can’t finish atop the conference. Buffalo can clinch the second seed with a win against Miami or a Pittsburgh loss.

Injuries: Dolphins | Bills

What to know for fantasy: Buffalo receiver Stefon Diggs has 96.3 fantasy points over the past three weeks, pacing the position by 17.4 points. If he can rack up 130 receiving yards for a fourth straight game, he will become just the fourth player with such a streak over the past decade (Odell Beckham Jr. and Calvin Johnson). See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: Miami is 15-5 against the spread (ATS) in its past 20 games as an underdog, including four straight covers. And it is 15-9 ATS as an underdog under coach Brian Flores. Read more.

Wolfe’s pick: Dolphins 23, Bills 20
Louis-Jacques’ pick: Dolphins 17, Bills 14
FPI prediction: BUF, 69.7% (by an average of 6.9 points)

Matchup must-reads: Fitzpatrick, Tagovailoa and the art of mentoring the competitionBills transitioning from underdog to a big dog in AFC as playoffs approachDolphins coach Flores defends decision to stick with Tagovailoa as starting QBBills granted permission to have fans at playoff game, first crowd of season

play

1:03

Louis Riddick explains how Ryan Fitzpatrick missing this weekend’s game because of a positive COVID-19 test affects Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins.

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
57.8 | Spread: CLE -10.5 (42)

What to watch for: How will Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph respond in going back to the scene of the helmet swing, where defensive end Myles Garrett and the Browns will be waiting in a must-win for Cleveland? The Browns, however, might still be navigating COVID-19 issues within their roster. — Jake Trotter

Bold prediction: Rudolph might start the game, but Joshua Dobbs will be the one to finish it. The Steelers are resting Ben Roethlisberger, giving their backups a chance for game action. The Steelers know what they have in Rudolph after last season, and he’ll get at least a half to show them his improvement. But they should also give Dobbs some reps to see what they have in their No. 3. — Brooke Pryor

Stat to know: The Steelers rank last in offensive efficiency over the past four weeks at 19.5 (scaled 0-100). They have gone without a first down on a league-high 37.4% of their drives this season.

Playoff/draft picture: The Browns have a 57.6% chance to make the playoffs and can clinch with a win or an Indianapolis loss. There is also a scenario in which they make it in if the Ravens, Colts and Dolphins all win, but the Titans lose. The Steelers have locked up the AFC North, but they are eliminated from the chance for No. 1 in the conference — they can clinch the second seed with a win and a Buffalo loss. The Steelers’ chances to be the No. 2 seed in the AFC sit at 16.4%.

Injuries: Steelers | Browns

What to know for fantasy: Pittsburgh receiver Diontae Johnson has been a top-15 receiver in five of his past seven games, but can he keep it up with Rudolph under center? The next time Rudolph throws for 255 yards or three touchdowns in a game will be the first, so be careful in trusting any and all Steelers this weekend. See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: Cleveland is 2-9 ATS this season in conference games and 0-5 ATS in division games. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is 11-21-1 ATS in his career in conference games, including 6-10 ATS in division games. Read more.

Pryor’s pick: Browns 20, Steelers 17
Trotter’s pick: Browns 24, Steelers 23
FPI prediction: PIT, 55.4% (by an average of 1.9 points)

Matchup must-reads: Wait, what did Tomlin say? Deciphering the Steelers coach’s (many) slogansChubb, Hunt revive Browns’ running back glory days of Mack, BynerSteelers’ Roethlisberger to sit, Rudolph to start against BrownsFlip phones, ‘Friends’ and LeBron’s debut: It’s been 18 years since the Browns made playoffsHow Roethlisberger’s halftime message helped Steelers have fun againIt’s been 25 years since the Browns broke Cleveland’s heart and left for BaltimoreBrowns shut down facility for second straight day


1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
65.3 | Spread: BAL -13 (44)

What to watch for: With Baltimore needing a win to clinch a playoff spot, Cincinnati is looking to play spoiler and end the season on a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2015. But the Ravens’ No. 1 rushing attack is a big reason the visitors will be the heavy favorites against Cincinnati. — Ben Baby

Bold prediction: Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson will become the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in two seasons. Jackson needs 92 yards on Sunday to do so. He averaged 112 yards rushing in his first three meetings with the Bengals before rushing only twice (for a career-low 3 yards) against them in Week 5. — Jamison Hensley

Stat to know: Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins is 92 receiving yards shy of joining A.J. Green (2011) and Cris Collinsworth (1981) as the only Bengals rookies with 1,000 receiving yards.

Playoff/draft picture: The Ravens can clinch a playoff berth with a win, a Browns loss or a Colts loss. FPI likes those odds, giving them a 90.6% chance to make the postseason. The Bengals, however, are more concerned with draft position. They are projected to have the No. 5 pick, and FPI has them at a 73.3% chance of staying in the top five come Sunday night.

Injuries: Ravens | Bengals

What to know for fantasy: Here comes Lamar! Jackson is averaging 40.4% more fantasy points per game over the past three weeks than he did prior to Week 14 this season. See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Ravens have covered five straight and are 41-0 outright as a double-digit favorite in the regular season. They are the only franchise that is undefeated in such games. Read more.

Hensley’s pick: Ravens 31, Bengals 10
Baby’s pick: Ravens 30, Bengals 14
FPI prediction: BAL, 74.1% (by an average of 8.6 points)

Matchup must-reads: Kings of chill: Ravens rank as NFL’s most dominant team in DecemberStrong finish by offense just what Bengals need going into 2021Dominant run game? Torrid pass rush? Ravens’ biggest strength is focus


1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
29.0 | Spread: NE -3 (39.5)

What to watch for: Does the telephone on the Patriots’ sideline work? After coach Bill Belichick fired it in frustration in a Week 16 loss to the Bills, communications could be stressed in a finale that has no meaning other than draft position. — Mike Reiss

Bold prediction: Jets quarterback Sam Darnold — who hasn’t faced the Patriots since the infamous “ghost” game in 2019 — will get his first career victory over the Patriots in what could be his final game with the Jets. The Jets have been outscored 71-3 in Darnold’s two starts against the Patriots (four interceptions). — Rich Cimini

Stat to know: The Patriots have eight passing touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season. They have finished with fewer than 10 passing TDs in a season just once: 1970, when they accumulated seven touchdowns and 28 picks.

Playoff/draft picture: The Jets have secured the No. 2 spot in the draft, but the Patriots can still slide up or down the draft board. They are currently projected to hold the 15th pick, with a 0.7% chance to move into the top 10.

Injuries: Jets | Patriots

What to know for fantasy: New York receiver Jamison Crowder came through last week (29.3 fantasy points) and saved you with a score in the first meeting with New England. But be aware that he was targeted on just 10.5% of his routes in that game, his second-lowest rate of the season. See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Patriots have won each of the past nine meetings, but they are just 5-4 ATS in those games. Read more.

Cimini’s pick: Jets 17, Patriots 16
Reiss’ pick: Jets 20, Patriots 17
FPI prediction: NE, 73.1% (by an average of 8.2 points)

Matchup must-reads: Gase blames himself for Jets’ woeful offense, says ‘that’s on me’Belichick remains right person to help restock Patriots’ rosterLet’s be frank: Jets’ Gase should’ve fired Williams soonerPatriots’ Newton vents after blowout loss: ‘It’s extremely frustrating, knowing what you’re capable of’Jets’ Gore out for Week 17 with future uncertain

play

1:40

Mina Kimes makes a case for why not even Tom Brady would have carried the Patriots to the playoffs this season.

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
26.5 | Spread: MIN -7 (53.5)

What to watch for: Trickery! Week 17 is usually full of randomness — the Lions, for instance, have thrown in fake field goals and offensive linemen catching touchdown passes in the last week of the regular season in the past. With everyone knowing a regime change is coming in Detroit, perhaps we’ll see some deep-in-the-playbook plays in the finale. It’s at least one thing that could make this game interesting. — Michael Rothstein

Bold prediction: How’s this for bold: If the Lions play quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is dealing with an ankle injury sustained in Week 16, this will be his final game in Detroit. The Lions’ downtrodden organization is looking for a clean slate, so don’t be shocked if new hires happen in the front office even before this game kicks off. And a clean slate probably means moving on from the QB the Lions drafted No. 1 overall in 2009. — Courtney Cronin

Stat to know: Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson has six games with 100-plus receiving yards this season, one shy of tying Odell Beckham Jr. (2014) for the most by rookie since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. He also needs 111 yards to break Anquan Boldin’s mark for most receiving yards by a Vikings rookie in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).

Playoff/draft picture: This one is all about draft position. No playoff implications to see here. The Lions are projected to pick at No. 7, and their odds to remain in the top 10 are 86.8% per FPI. They even have a 27.5% chance to climb into the top five. The Vikings are looking at the 13th pick, per FPI projections, with a slim 2.9% chance of maneuvering into the top 10 picks.

Injuries: Vikings | Lions

What to know for fantasy: How lucky do you feel? Marvin Jones Jr. has been held to fewer than 13.5 fantasy points in six of eight games against the Vikings since joining the Lions. He does have three games of over 23 points this season, but that comes with the risk of seven single-digit performances. See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: Something has to give. The Vikings have failed to cover in six straight games, but they have covered each of their past six against the Lions. Read more.

Cronin’s pick: Vikings 28, Lions 16
Rothstein’s pick: Vikings 28, Lions 14
FPI prediction: MIN, 73.6% (by an average of 8.4 points)

Matchup must-reads: There’s no quick fix for worst defense Vikings’ Zimmer has ever hadLions interview Smith, Dimitroff and Pioli for general manager’s jobSource: Cook out vs. Lions after father’s deathWhy 49ers defensive coordinator Saleh would be an intriguing candidate for Lions


1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
21.4 | Spread: DAL -2 (44.5)

What to watch for: The Cowboys have dominated this rivalry, winning seven straight. The last time the Giants beat the Cowboys was more than four years ago, late in the 2016 season, when Odell Beckham Jr.’s 61-yard touchdown proved to be the difference. The Giants are hoping the streak finally ends now, along with their playoff drought. They haven’t made the playoffs since that 2016 season. — Jordan Raanan

Bold prediction: The Giants will rush for fewer than 100 yards against the Cowboys. Dallas has allowed 2,416 yards on the ground this season, the second-most in team history. Even during their three-game winning streak, the Cowboys are allowing 134 yards per game on the ground. They have gone just two games this season not giving up 100 yards on the ground. The first came against New York (89 yards on 27 carries). Since rushing for 190 yards in their last win — against Seattle in Week 13 — the Giants have not topped 78 yards in a game on the ground. — Todd Archer

Stat to know: Turnovers and takeaways have been crucial to the Cowboys’ turnaround. In their first 12 games, they carried a minus-13 turnover margin and a minus-92 points off turnover margin. In their past three games, they have a plus-9 turnover margin and a plus-48 points off turnover margin — with zero points allowed off them.

Playoff/draft picture: The winner of this game will make the playoffs — and win the NFC East — if Washington loses to the Eagles on Sunday night. If the Giants win the division, their would-be .375 win percentage would be the all-time worst win percentage for a playoff team. The Cowboys have a 16.5% chance to do so, while the Giants are at 24.0%, per FPI. Win or lose, both teams might be looking at draft order if Washington pulls off a win. FPI has the Giants with the 11th pick (a 52.5% chance to pick in the top 10 and 10.1% chance for the top five), while the Cowboys are one spot back at No. 12 (52.4% chance for the top 10).

Injuries: Cowboys | Giants

What to know for fantasy: Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup is coming off his best game of the season (30.1 points against the Eagles), but can he do it twice in a row? He failed to score even five fantasy points in the game following his other two 20-point performances this season. See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: In the past 30 seasons, New York is 7-1 outright and 6-2 ATS when still alive in the playoff race entering Week 17. Dallas is 2-6 outright and 3-5 ATS in those games. Read more.

Archer’s pick: Cowboys 27, Giants 17
Raanan’s pick: Giants 23, Cowboys 21
FPI prediction: NYG, 59.5% (by an average of 3.2 points)

Matchup must-reads: With playoff chances below 1%, the Cowboys found their formulaGiants’ road to the postseason not so complicatedDalton to earn $1 million if Cowboys reach playoffsWho’s going to win NFC East? Washington the favorite, but Giants and Cowboys aren’t far behind


4:25 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating:
76.6 | Spread: SEA -6 (46)

What to watch for: They’re a long shot, but the Seahawks still have a chance to steal the NFC’s No. 1 seed with some help elsewhere, which means they’ll be hungry to finish strong here. The 49ers enjoyed playing the spoiler role last week for Arizona and would love nothing more than to make their biggest rival’s postseason path more difficult. Considering that three of San Francisco’s six wins this season have come within the division, don’t be surprised if the 49ers keep it closer than the last meeting between these teams. — Nick Wagoner

Bold prediction: Seahawks cornerback D.J. Reed Jr. will make another big play against his former team. He picked off Jimmy Garoppolo in his Seahawks debut in Week 9, a game he had circled on his calendar since the 49ers waived him in August. He has played his way into a starting job at right cornerback since and has been a part of Seattle’s defensive turnaround. As the team’s primary punt returner, it seems only a matter of time before he breaks off a long return. — Brady Henderson

Stat to know: The Seahawks have allowed an NFL-low 13.7 points per game since Week 11, going 5-1 in that stretch. They allowed 29.6 per game through the first 10 weeks of the season, which ranked 28th in the league.

Playoff/draft picture: The Niners won’t be returning to the playoffs, but the Seahawks have locked up the NFC West and can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win, a New Orleans loss and a Green Bay loss. Their FPI chances to be the No. 1 seed in the NFC sit at 5.5%. The 49ers are currently projected to have the 14th draft pick, with 1.4% chance at clipping the top 10.

Injuries: 49ers | Seahawks

What to know for fantasy: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson carried you through the first two months of the season, but, on a per-game basis, he is QB16 since Week 10 (16.2 points per game, ranking behind Philip Rivers and Baker Mayfield). See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: Seattle is 14-4 ATS against San Francisco since 2012, including a cover in Week 8 this season. Read more.

Wagoner’s pick: Seahawks 23, 49ers 20
Henderson’s pick: Seahawks 26, 49ers 17
FPI prediction: SEA, 60.1% (by an average of 3.4 points)

Matchup must-reads: Injuries, ominous skies and relocation: 49ers’ nightmare season finally comes to closeWhat a difference a year makes: Seahawks’ backfield at full strength entering JanuaryShanahan maps out future with GaroppoloPlaying ‘lights out’: Seahawks’ defensive turnaround key to NFC West title


4:25 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
76.0 | Spread: GB -5.5 (51)

What to watch for: Everything is on the line for the Bears and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Chicago last faced Green Bay in a regular-season finale of this magnitude in 2013, when the Packers pulled out a late victory to clinch the division and crush the Bears’ playoff hopes. Green Bay has won 18 of the past 21 in the series, and Trubisky — out of contract after the year — usually struggles versus the Packers. A Bears win puts them in the postseason for the second time in three years and could provide Trubisky with a second life in Chicago. — Jeff Dickerson

Bold prediction: The Packers will prove last week’s near-dominant defensive performance against the Titans was no fluke. The Bears have scored 30 points in four straight games — the first time they’ve done that since 1965 — and have averaged 35.0 points over the past four weeks (third best in the NFL in that stretch). But they’ll have trouble getting past 20 against a resurgent Packers defense. — Rob Demovsky

Stat to know: Bears running back David Montgomery trails only Derrick Henry (698) in rushing yards since Week 12 (529). And his six TDs on the ground have him trailing only Alvin Kamara in that same span.

Playoff/draft picture: The Bears need either a win against Green Bay or an Arizona loss to head to the postseason (75.0% chance per FPI). The Packers are the NFC North champs and can clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win or a Seattle loss (79.8% chance).

Injuries: Packers | Bears

What to know for fantasy: In these two teams’ first meeting this season, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers put up 25.6 fantasy points, his best game against the Bears since Week 10 of 2014. See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Packers have covered three straight meetings and are 18-7 ATS against Chicago when Rodgers starts (including playoffs). Read more.

Demovsky’s pick: Packers 33, Bears 18
Dickerson’s pick: Packers 30, Bears 21
FPI prediction: GB, 65.9% (by an average of 5.4 points)

Matchup must-reads: Lambeau Leaps aside, Dillon shows what he can do for Packers’ offenseEverything for Trubisky hinges on Bears beating Green BayPackers’ Adams, Rodgers ‘on the same page’ right into record booksLocal artist keeps Bears’ team photo tradition alive during pandemic


4:25 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
73.1 | Spread: NO -7 (47.5)

What to watch for: Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater‘s protection will be down to a fifth left tackle (converted guard Michael Schofield). The Saints have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL, ranking eighth in sacks with 42. It could be a long day for Bridgewater, who has struggled under duress. — David Newton

Bold prediction: Saints running back Alvin Kamara will score fewer than six touchdowns. But undrafted rookie Saints receiver Marquez Callaway will catch the first touchdown pass of his career as the Saints become the first team to sweep the rest of the NFC South division in a season. — Mike Triplett

Stat to know: Kamara has 59 career touchdowns. With a TD in Week 17, he’d become the third player in NFL history to score 60 times in his first four seasons, joining Terrell Davis (61) and LaDainian Tomlinson (60).

Playoff/draft picture: The Saints won the NFC South and can still clinch the No. 1 seed in the conference with help. They need a win, a Green Bay loss and a Seattle win, though FPI says that’s only 14.7% likely to happen. The Panthers are projected to have the No. 8 draft pick next April. FPI is still giving them an 8.9% chance to land a top-five spot and says they are 78.9% likely to hold in the top 10 this week.

Injuries: Saints | Panthers

What to know for fantasy: Panthers receiver DJ Moore has underwhelmed lately, with a missed game and a pair of single-digit performances over the Panthers’ past four games. But his best game of the season did come in Week 7 against these Saints (23.3 fantasy points). See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: Road-field advantage? The Saints are 17-6 ATS in road games since 2018. Read more.

Triplett’s pick: Saints 27, Panthers 16
Newton’s pick: Saints 38, Panthers 10
FPI prediction: NO, 72.8% (by an average of 8.1 points)

Matchup must-reads: ‘Are we really in the NFL?’ Saints recall nomadic 2005 season after Hurricane KatrinaPanthers could go with substance over style on Moton paydayWhy Kamara’s monster game was so important to Saints, BreesMcCaffrey finishing 2020 season on sideline


4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
57.4 | Spread: ARI -3 (40.5)

What to watch for: The Rams have won seven straight against the Cardinals under coach Sean McVay, and despite an injury-depleted offense, a top-ranked defense makes eight possible. Watch for defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey to wreak havoc against quarterback Kyler Murray and his arsenal of playmakers. In Week 10, Murray was sacked twice and limited to 173 passing yards, though he did toss three touchdowns. The Cardinals’ defense has a chance to capitalize on a Rams offense that will be led by backup quarterback John Wolford, who will be making his first NFL appearance. — Lindsey Thiry

Bold prediction: The Cardinals will finish with fewer than 250 yards of total offense in the most important game for this franchise in the past five seasons. The Rams’ defense is ranked first overall in yards per game, yards per play, passing yards per game and passing yards per play, along with third in rushing yards per game and per play. With Murray dealing with a leg injury, the Cardinals’ offense will feel the effects, which will be compounded by the Rams’ stout defense. — Josh Weinfuss

Stat to know: Arizona wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins can become the fourth player in franchise history with eight 100-yard receiving games in a season. Rob Moore had eight in 1997, David Boston had nine in 2001 and Anquan Boldin had eight in 2005.

Playoff/draft picture: This one is huge for both sides. The Rams can clinch a playoff berth with a win or a Chicago loss, while the Cardinals can punch their ticket with a win. The Rams have an 87.7% chance to make the playoffs, according to FPI projections, while the Cards are at 37.3%.

Injuries: Cardinals | Rams

What to know for fantasy: Murray has 29 rushing attempts over his past three games, nearly doubling the 15 he had in his prior three games. He has only 43 rushing yards in three career matchups with the Rams, but at least the effort is being made to utilize his most fantasy-friendly trait. See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Rams have covered each of the past seven head-to-head matchups (six of which were by more than a TD). Read more.

Weinfuss’ pick: Rams 24, Cardinals 21
Thiry’s pick: Rams 13, Cardinals 10
FPI prediction: LAR, 62.7% (by an average of 4.3 points)

Matchup must-reads: Cardinals’ roller-coaster season comes down to one gameRams place Kupp on reserve/COVID-19 listMurray says he’ll play in must-win gameWho is QB Wolford?


4:25 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating:
37.1 | Spread: LAC -3.5 (43.5)

What to watch for: The Chiefs will try to keep as many of their regulars out of harm’s way after clinching the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed last week. So Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is in line for a big day. He got his NFL career started in Week 2 against the Chiefs by throwing for 311 yards and a touchdown in an overtime defeat. — Adam Teicher

Bold prediction: Herbert will finish strong with a 400-plus-yard game. With the Chiefs likely sitting some defensive starters, he will break the rookie passing-yard record. His 4,034 yards are currently fourth on the list, and he needs 341 to pass Andrew Luck for the most. — Shelley Smith

Stat to know: Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has 1,416 receiving yards this season, most ever by a tight end. He needs 44 more than Stefon Diggs in Week 17 to move into first overall this season — if he plays. No tight end has ever led the NFL in receiving yards in a season.

Playoff/draft picture: The Chiefs have locked up both the AFC West and the No. 1 seed in the conference. They will receive both home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and a wild-card round bye. The Chargers, meanwhile, are 33.5% likely to lock up a top-10 draft pick for April. FPI currently has them picking at No. 10.

Injuries: Chargers | Chiefs

What to know for fantasy: Los Angeles running back Austin Ekeler has scored over seven fantasy points as a pass-catcher in four of his five games since returning to action in Week 12. See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: Since 1990, teams that have previously clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs are 9-23 ATS in Week 17 games. Read more.

Smith’s pick: Chargers 24, Chiefs 21
Teicher’s pick: Chargers 26, Chiefs 20
FPI prediction: KC, 65.5% (by an average of 5.3 points)

Matchup must-reads: ‘We didn’t know he was this good’: Chargers’ Herbert excels despite unusual rookie yearMahomes has work to do, even while sitting SundayChargers’ Herbert sets rookie record for TD passesChiefs to rest Mahomes during regular-season finale


4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
51.5 | Spread: TEN -7.5 (56)

What to watch for: Will Tennessee running back Derrick Henry top 2,000 rushing yards for the season? He’s at 1,777 entering the game (223 short) and facing the 31st-ranked run defense. In Henry’s past two games against the Texans, he has finished with more than 200 rushing yards. — Sarah Barshop

Bold prediction: Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill will have 300 passing yards, and both A.J. Brown (924 yards) and Corey Davis (945 yards) will get the necessary production to cross the 1,000-receiving-yard plateau for the season. The Titans will take advantage of a Texans pass defense that is allowing 7.6 yards per completion and an NFL-worst 69.8% completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks. — Turron Davenport

Stat to know: Tennessee has 15 sacks this season. The fewest sacks by a team to make the playoffs in a 16-game season is 19 (1979 Broncos), and only four teams have finished a 16-game season with 16 or fewer sacks.

Playoff/draft picture: The AFC South is still up for grabs. The Titans can clinch it with a win or a Colts loss. But they can also simply clinch a playoff berth with a loss from the Ravens or Dolphins. What does FPI say? They have a 92.3% chance to make the playoffs and a 64.8% chance to win the AFC South. The Texans are truly playing for nothing, win or lose. They’re eliminated from the playoffs, but they also do not have a first-round draft pick. For what it’s worth, their original pick — traded to Miami — is currently projected to be No. 4 overall with a 63.1% shot of ending up in the top five. Rough.

Injuries: Titans | Texans

What to know for fantasy: The running back on the other sideline gets the majority of headlines, but David Johnson has quietly posted his best two games of the season over the past two weeks (28.4 points last week against the Bengals). See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: In Tannehill starts since the beginning of last season, the Titans are 20-4-1 ATS. Read more.

Davenport’s pick: Titans 35, Texans 20
Barshop’s pick: Titans 31, Texans 17
FPI prediction: TEN, 58.1% (by an average of 2.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Titans need to start fast in season finale vs. Texans to win AFC SouthWatt rants on Texans’ lack of professionalism, feels bad for fansCooks shows in loss why Texans should find a way to keep him


4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
38.0 | Spread: IND -14 (49.5)

What to watch for: How will the Colts’ offensive tackles match up against the Jaguars’ pass-rushers? Yes, the Colts will have starting right tackle Braden Smith (reserve/COVID-19 list) back for the game, but there’s still a gigantic hole on the left side after the losses of veteran Anthony Castonzo (ankle) and backup Will Holden (ankle). Indianapolis gave up a season-high five sacks against Pittsburgh in Week 16. There’s no better way for the Jaguars to boost their woeful sack numbers (18 on the season) than going against a backup left tackle. — Mike Wells

Bold prediction: The Jaguars will sack quarterback Philip Rivers three times. Rivers has been sacked only 19 times this season — his ability to get the ball out quickly is a large part of that — but with Castonzo out, the Jags will get home. Jaguars rookie defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson has come on late in the season, recording 11 of his 20 QB pressures in the past four games, per ESPN Stats & Information research. Chaisson will get the second sack of his career on Sunday. — Mike DiRocco

Stat to know: The Colts are allowing 92.9 opponent rushing yards per game this season, the second fewest in the NFL. And Jacksonville running back James Robinson will not play.

Playoff/draft picture: Currently on the outside looking in, the Colts still have a 78.7% chance to play postseason football, per FPI. Better yet, FPI is giving them a 35.2% chance to even win the AFC South. The Colts can clinch the division with a win and a Titans loss, but they also can clinch a playoff berth with a win and a loss from either the Ravens, Browns or Dolphins. The Jaguars are locked into the No. 1 draft pick, win or lose.

Injuries: Jaguars | Colts

What to know for fantasy: Since returning to action in Week 13, Colts running back Jonathan Taylor has been the third-best fantasy running back with 91.9 fantasy points. Over that stretch, he has more rushing touchdowns (five) than he had this season prior (four). See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Jags are 9-1-1 ATS against the Colts since 2015, and their only win this season came in Week 1 against these Colts as a 7-point underdog. Read more.

DiRocco’s pick: Colts 31, Jaguars 12
Wells’ pick: Colts 24, Jaguars 14
FPI prediction: IND, 84.1% (by an average of 13.2 points)

Matchup must-reads: Jaguars RB Robinson ruled out, falling short of undrafted rookie recordColts won’t share scores of playoff rivals during must-win Week 17 gameEight plays and players who helped send Lawrence to JaguarsColts LT Castonzo set for season-ending ankle surgeryColts need help to avoid becoming third 11-win team to miss playoffs

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Field Yates and Mike Clay predict T.Y. Hilton to have another solid game as the Colts face the Jaguars in the season finale.

4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
34.7 | Spread: LV -2.5 (51)

What to watch for: It is Denver quarterback Drew Lock‘s final chance in 2020 to show whether he can be the 2021 starter. He has gotten some votes of confidence along the way, and the Broncos do figure to amp up the competition in the quarterback room a bit this offseason, but this is his closing argument in a decidedly up-and-down year. He goes into this one tied for the league lead in interceptions and ranking last in completion percentage. — Jeff Legwold

Bold prediction: After leaving so many points on the field last week, settling for field goals from 23, 38, 20 and 22 yards, the Raiders will unleash a Marcus Mariota package deep in the red zone to try to score TDs rather than FGs. Starting quarterback Derek Carr, with his strained groin, was nowhere near mobile last week, but Mariota is healthy and not against extending plays or running the ball in. — Paul Gutierrez

Stat to know: The Raiders are 5-14 in December/January regular-season games since 2017, the worst record in such games in the NFL over that span.

Playoff/draft picture: With the Raiders officially out of it, this is another game whose implications are limited to draft position concerns. Denver is projected to have the ninth draft spot per FPI, and it has a 54.7% chance to stay in the top 10. It even has an ever-so-slight chance at the top five (0.3%, per FPI). The Raiders are currently looking at the No. 17 draft spot, and they cannot enter the top 10 at this point.

Injuries: Raiders | Broncos

What to know for fantasy: Over the past two weeks, the Broncos’ Noah Fant ranks inside the top five tight ends in targets (21), receptions (14) and fantasy points (33.3). See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Raiders have covered five straight meetings, and each of the past seven meetings went under the total. Read more.

Gutierrez’s pick: Broncos 27, Raiders 26
Legwold’s pick: Broncos 23, Raiders 21
FPI prediction: LV, 53.4% (by an average of 1.2 points)

Matchup must-reads: Waller, Jacobs vibrant foundation pieces in bleak end to Raiders seasonJeudy’s drops ‘unacceptable’ during difficult rookie seasonRaiders’ Gruden on not going for TD: ‘Don’t regret it one bit’


8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating:
23.1 | Spread: WSH -1.5 (43.5)

What to watch for: The Eagles set a record with 13 different offensive line combinations over their first 14 games, and further changes could be coming if left tackle Jordan Mailata isn’t cleared from concussion protocol. Regardless, Philadelphia has its hands full against a Washington defense that ranks fifth in sacks with 44. — Tim McManus

Bold prediction: Regardless of starting quarterback, it’ll be the defense and run game that flourish for Washington. Running back Antonio Gibson will run for 75 yards and a touchdown, and defensive end Chase Young will record two sacks. But maybe this is the boldest prediction: Washington will score on its opening possession for the first time all year. — John Keim

Stat to know: Washington has a minus-106 score differential in the first half this season (30th in NFL) and a plus-106 score differential in the second half (best in NFL). That 212-point gap in differentials between halves would be the largest by any team in the past 20 seasons.

Playoff/draft picture: Win and in for Washington. That’s all. A victory secures the NFC East and a playoff berth. The Eagles are out of it, but they are currently projected to pick at No. 6 in the draft. They have a lock on the top 10 and a 40.6% chance to rise into the top five.

Injuries: Washington | Eagles

What to know for fantasy: Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has scored north of 17 fantasy points in all three of his starts this season, with his 75.7 points ranking third at the position over that stretch. See Week 17 rankings.

Betting nugget: Philadelphia is 3-0 ATS as a home underdog this season and 11-4 ATS in such situations under coach Doug Pederson (including the playoffs). Read more.

Keim’s pick: Washington 21, Eagles 17
McManus’ pick: Washington 24, Eagles 23
FPI prediction: WSH, 58.9% (by an average of 3.0 points)

Matchup must-reads: Win or go home: Washington playing with ‘house money’ in familiar scenarioPederson can lead an Eagles turnaround, if the front office lets himWho’s going to win NFC East? Washington the favorite, but Giants and Cowboys aren’t far behindPederson ‘fully expects’ to return as Eagles’ head coach in 2021Rivera cements his power in Washington by releasing Haskins Jr.

Published at Fri, 01 Jan 2021 20:49:26 +0000

Biggest Week 17 injury questions for all 32 NFL teams

Biggest Week 17 injury questions for all 32 NFL teams

The Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins are among the teams hoping to win their way into the playoffs on the final weekend of the NFL’s regular season Sunday. All three enter their games with key players on offense battling injuries.

Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott ran for 105 yards last weekend and is confident he’ll be ready to face the New York Giants with the NFC East title still up for grabs. Miami wide receiver DeVante Parker is nursing a hamstring injury with a huge game looming against the Buffalo Bills. And Cleveland wide receiver Jarvis Landry is hoping to be activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list in time for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Our NFL Nation reporters update the top injury question for every team heading into Week 17:

Jump to:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LAC | LAR | LV | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

AFC EAST

Cole Beasley was labeled as “week to week” by coach Sean McDermott, and Buffalo’s coach doesn’t usually exaggerate when he uses that designation. The Bills’ second-leading receiver did not practice during Wednesday’s walk-through with a knee injury suffered in Week 16 and is a near-lock to miss the team’s regular-season finale against the visiting Dolphins. The question is, how long will Beasley be sidelined and can the Bills remain the hottest team in the NFL without him? — Marcel Louis-Jacques

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Cameron Wolfe reports that despite a crowded backfield in Miami, Myles Gaskin is still effective enough to be a must start in your fantasy lineup.

Wide receiver DeVante Parker has been a surprise inactive each of the past two weeks with a lingering hamstring injury, despite being able to practice during the week. Parker again will likely be a game-time decision, and it could go either way given how unpredictable hamstrings can be. But with Jakeem Grant out with ankle and knee injuries, Parker will be needed more than ever to lift the offense in a must-win game. If he’s close, I’d expect Parker to go. — Cameron Wolfe


Running back Damien Harris (ankle) seems unlikely to play for the third straight week, ceding way to Sony Michel and J.J. Taylor as the top options in the traditional running attack. Harris is one of several starters not expected to play in the season finale, as there are no playoff implications and a significant number of starters are on the injury report. — Mike Reiss


With Frank Gore (bruised lung) and La’Mical Perine (COVID-19) sidelined, Ty Johnson will get the bulk of the work in the backfield. He will be running behind an offensive line that could be at full strength for the first time in a month, with left guard Alex Lewis (non-football injury) and right guard Greg Van Roten (toe) back practicing and hoping to play. — Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue is in danger of missing his first game with the Ravens. He didn’t return in last Sunday’s 27-13 victory over the New York Giants after injuring his thigh and then missed Wednesday’s practice. Ngakoue has three sacks in nine games with Baltimore. If Ngakoue is sidelined, the Ravens would lean on Pernell McPhee and Jaylon Ferguson to pair with Matthew Judon as the edge rushers. — Jamison Hensley


The last person the Ravens want to see was suited up for practice on Wednesday. Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd returned to practice and was limited after missing last weekend with a concussion. His presence is a good sign of potential availability in the regular-season finale. Boyd caught the touchdown pass in 2017 that ended up knocking Baltimore out of the playoffs. The Bengals have a chance to help play spoiler at home this weekend. — Ben Baby


The Browns are still missing their entire receiving corps, as Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge have been on the reserve/COVID-19 list since Saturday. Coach Kevin Stefanski, however, is hopeful he’ll be getting all four back by Thursday, should they continue to test negative for the virus. — Jake Trotter


The Steelers came out of Sunday’s win against the Colts without any new injuries, and that will be a major goal in the Week 17 game at the Browns. The Steelers will be playing a lot of backups to preserve the health of the starters, but keeping the backups injury-free is just as important entering the postseason. The Steelers hope to get back Robert Spillane ahead of the playoffs to fortify the inside linebacker position. — Brooke Pryor

AFC SOUTH

Left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who left the Texans’ Week 16 loss to the Bengals, did not practice on Wednesday. When interim head coach Romeo Crennel was asked about whether Tunsil (ankle) would play on Sunday against the Titans, Crennel said, “I hope he plays,” but that he’s “got to see what the trainers say.” — Sarah Barshop


The Colts’ struggling defensive backs are dealing with injuries to two starters, who could end up missing Sunday’s game. Safety Khari Willis and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin are both in the concussion protocol. Kenny Moore would likely start on the outside if Ya-Sin isn’t cleared in time. Tavon Wilson could start at safety. — Mike Wells


Coach Doug Marrone said he wasn’t sure if wide receiver DJ Chark (shin) would be able to play against the Colts. It’ll depend on if or how much Chark is able to practice this week, but it makes the most sense to hold him out if he’s not close to 100%. If Chark doesn’t play, that should mean more work for rookie receiver Laviska Shenault, who would move into the top three of the rotation behind Keelan Cole and Chris Conley. — Mike DiRocco


Outside linebacker Derick Roberson did not practice last Friday and was ruled out for the game last weekend because of a hamstring injury. Roberson was not on the field on Wednesday, either. The Titans are already extremely thin at outside linebacker and need all the help they can get rushing the passer. Being able to keep outside contain against a QB like Deshaun Watson is imperative, so not having a fast edge player like Roberson could hurt the defense. — Turron Davenport

AFC WEST

Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb did not practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury, but did work off to the side with a strength and conditioning coach. Though the Broncos (5-10) are not in the playoff mix, Chubb has said he wants to finish the season on a strong note, so if he can make some progress over the next two days he’d like to play. He did not play in last Sunday’s loss to the Chargers, but that was the first game Chubb had missed this season. — Jeff Legwold


The Chiefs, who have clinched the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed, might have rested them for Sunday’s game against the Chargers anyway. But the fact that Tyreek Hill (hamstring) and Sammy Watkins (calf) did not practice on Wednesday because of injuries virtually guarantees it. The Chiefs will be cautious with both players in the hope of having them as close to 100 percent as possible for the playoffs. — Adam Teicher


No doubt quarterback Derek Carr should have won the game against the Dolphins. But did an obviously hobbled Carr, playing with an injured groin, give Las Vegas its best chance at success? That’s the question. And Carr’s health could decide whether a special Marcus Mariota package could be installed in the red zone this week. The Raiders had to settle for field goals from 23, 38, 20 and 22 yards in the heartbreaking loss to Miami and left a lot of points on the field. — Paul Gutierrez


Cornerback Casey Hayward, safety Rayshawn Jenkins and tackle Bryan Bulaga, who seems as though he’s had every muscle and bone injured this season, will all face challenges to play in Sunday’s finale, coach Anthony Lynn said. But it should give some young players some game experience, which Lynn said was helpful last weekend. — Shelley Smith

NFC EAST

Running back Ezekiel Elliott continues to work through a calf strain, but he is not on the injury report anymore, although coach Mike McCarthy said the running back would be limited. Elliott said he felt good after last weekend’s win against Philadelphia, when he had 19 carries for 105 yards, including a season-high 31-yard run. While difficult, he said sitting out the San Francisco game in Week 15 was a benefit. “We saw last week just how fresh I felt and how fresh I looked,” he said. Elliott had 91 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the first meeting of the season against the New York Giants. — Todd Archer

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Jordan Raanan breaks down Evan Engram’s fantasy value and how he continues to put up points.

Tight end Evan Engram (calf) was a limited participant in practice after being injured late in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore. Coach Joe Judge was still relatively optimistic about the prospect of him playing in Sunday’s elimination game against Dallas. After seeing Engram move around fairly well on Wednesday, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be able to play in what amounts to the most important game of his young career. — Jordan Raanan


Left tackle Jordan Mailata is in the concussion protocol. If he can’t go, Brett Toth could get the call and the Eagles would be working with their 14th different offensive line combination of the season. That could spell trouble against a Washington defense that ranks fifth in the NFL with 44 sacks. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (neck) and wide receiver DeSean Jackson (ankle) were also sidelined to start the week. — Tim McManus


Quarterback Alex Smith did not practice Wednesday because of his strained right calf and his status for Sunday remains uncertain. If he can’t start, Taylor Heinicke would make the second start of his career. Smith said he was close to playing last weekend. The big key will be how he feels Friday or Saturday after working in practice. Also, wide receiver Terry McLaurin missed practice with a high ankle sprain. But he did work off to the side with trainers — something he did not do before missing the Carolina game on Sunday. Without him, Washington lacks a go-to receiver and must rely heavily on its backs and tight end Logan Thomas in the pass game. — John Keim

NFC NORTH

The Bears are awaiting word on the official status of cornerback Jaylon Johnson and nickelback Buster Skrine, both of whom have missed the past couple weeks. Reserve defensive backs Duke Shelley and rookie Kindle Vildor filled in admirably versus the Vikings and Jaguars, but Green Bay is another animal entirely. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers passed for four touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Bears in Week 12 — and that’s when Chicago’s secondary was at full strength. — Jeff Dickerson


Matthew Stafford is the team’s biggest question mark with right thumb, ankle and rib injuries. Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell said Wednesday that some of those injuries are resolving themselves and they’ll see how Stafford is doing at the end of the week, but the quarterback did not practice Wednesday. Stafford said Monday that if he’s healthy enough to play, he would like to play in the season finale against Minnesota and that the decision will be totally health-related. If he doesn’t start, Chase Daniel will be the team’s starter. — Michael Rothstein

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Field Yates and Matthew Berry break down AJ Dillon’s and Aaron Jones’ fantasy value for Week 17 based off of their performances against the Titans.

Jamaal Williams didn’t play last weekend and Aaron Jones was limited because of an undisclosed in-game ailment — thus leading to AJ Dillon‘s breakout game against the Titans — but all three running backs practiced on Wednesday. If Williams’ quadriceps injury allows him to play Sunday, it would give the Packers their full complement of backs for the season finale against the Bears. Williams was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday, but Jones wasn’t on the report at all. — Rob Demovsky


The Vikings are set to be without several starters in the final game of the season. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot) was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, which could very well mark the end of his tenure in Minnesota after a decade, while left tackle Riley Reiff was moved to the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Running back Dalvin Cook will also miss the Vikings’ season finale as he deals with the unexpected death of his father. Five Vikings defenders — Cameron Dantzler, Chris Jones, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Jalyn Holmes and Eric Kendricks — did not practice on Wednesday. — Courtney Cronin

NFC SOUTH

Wide receiver Julio Jones didn’t practice again because of a hamstring injury that has sidelined him since Week 13. But even with Atlanta having nothing to play for, Jones could return for the finale at Tampa Bay. He did receive a platelet-rich plasma injection last week, and interim coach Raheem Morris said Monday that Jones will play if possible. He missed a game vs. Tampa Bay two weeks ago; the Falcons scored 27 points and threw for 332 yards, but that was sandwiched between two games in which they scored a combined 31 points without him. — ESPN


Coach Matt Rhule has said he doesn’t expect running back Christian McCaffrey (quadriceps), backup Mike Davis (ankle) and left tackle Russell Okung to play Sunday against visiting New Orleans. Wide receiver Robby Anderson missed Wednesday’s practice with a groin injury. It doesn’t appear serious, but quarterback Teddy Bridgewater already is without his top two backs and is down to his fifth left tackle. — David Newton


The Saints are thin at safety. Marcus Williams missed practice Wednesday because of the ankle injury that also sidelined him in Week 16, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list (it’s unclear if he tested positive, which would sideline him for at least 10 days). The Saints have solid veteran depth in the secondary, with options such as P.J. Williams, D.J. Swearinger and Patrick Robinson. But Williams and Gardner-Johnson are key contributors the Saints would like to get back in time for the playoffs. — Mike Triplett


Running back Ronald Jones returned to practice Wednesday after being activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and coming off surgery to repair a broken finger, which forced him to miss the past two games. But he was limited. Coach Bruce Arians said he “caught the ball OK.” As far as starting cornerback Carlton Davis, he practiced Wednesday after missing Saturday’s game with a groin injury. Arians said, “Carlton got better and better. We’ll take it slow — day-to-day. He got limited participation, but he looked OK.” — Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

Regardless of quarterback Kyler Murray saying Wednesday that he would play this weekend against the Los Angeles Rams in a win-or-go-home game for both teams, Murray’s leg injury will be something to watch — namely how it affects his ability to run. If Murray’s mobility is limited, he’ll become primarily a dropback passer, which changes the complexion of the Cardinals’ offense, putting more of an emphasis on Arizona’s run game. Murray averages about 10 fewer rushing yards in losses than in wins. — Josh Weinfuss

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Matthew Berry suggests Malcolm Brown is a worthwhile add for fantasy managers because the Rams will be without RBs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. this weekend.

Rams rookie running back Cam Akers suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 15 and was inactive last Sunday, but coach Sean McVay is leaving open the possibility that Akers could return in Week 17 against the Cardinals. “Gave him another rest day,” McVay said Wednesday. “But this guy is making great progress … we’ll still see, his status is uncertain.” Running back Darrell Henderson was placed on injured reserve this week because of a high ankle sprain, so expect Malcolm Brown to play a large role and if Akers is unable to go, watch for rookie Xavier Jones to get some carries. — Lindsey Thiry


The 49ers are already without one first-round draft pick this week as wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has a high ankle sprain. But they might also be missing defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who is dealing with a knee injury. The No. 13 pick in this year’s NFL draft, Kinlaw did not practice Wednesday but still has a chance to play Sunday against Seattle. Kinlaw is an important piece of the 49ers’ future, so every game rep he can get is valuable moving forward. — Nick Wagoner


The Seahawks hope right tackle Brandon Shell is ready to return after sitting out a second straight game. Coach Pete Carroll said they had Shell active against the Rams for emergency duty only and that they gave Cedric Ogbuehi another start with the thought that it would give Shell’s ankle the best chance of healing in time to play in their regular-season finale against the 49ers. One of the NFC’s top two seeds would be in play for the Seahawks with a victory, provided the Packers and/or Saints lose, so there’s incentive to have all hands on deck. — Brady Henderson

Published at Thu, 31 Dec 2020 13:19:42 +0000

Week 16 takeaways; Saints clinch NFC South, Brady helps Buccaneers to playoffs

Week 16 takeaways; Saints clinch NFC South, Brady helps Buccaneers to playoffs

Week 16 in the NFL started on Christmas Day with a huge performance by the New Orleans Saints and Alvin Kamara, who became the second running back in league history to rush for six touchdowns in a game. The Saints also clinched the NFC South with a victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers handed the Detroit Lions a lopsided loss while clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2005.Then, the San Francisco 49ers upset the Arizona Cardinals, who lost control of their own playoff destiny.

All that and more in Week 16‘s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Standout performer: Ryan Fitzpatrick 9-of-13 for 182 yards, TD in fourth quarter; 34-yard Hail Mary heave to Mack Hollins on game-winning drive

Brian Flores doesn’t care about conventional quarterback decisions or long-term effects. He does what he feels gives his team the best chance to win no matter what, as he showed by benching rookie Tua Tagovailoa for Ryan Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 26-25 win over the Raiders. Tagovailoa will remain the starter, but this is the second time Flores made the bold move to bench his franchise quarterback, and it shows the second-year coach is confident he knows how his team will respond. Now the Dolphins are knocking on the door of their first playoff berth since 2016. Win next Sunday against Buffalo and they’re in. — Cameron Wolfe

Next game: at Bills (1:00 p.m. ET, Sunday Jan. 3)

The way the Raiders were officially eliminated from the playoffs was oh so fitting. A blown coverage by Damon Arnette. A “horrific” face mask penalty on the same play by Arden Key. And, despite starting at their 25-yard line with 19 seconds to play and no timeouts to use, the Dolphins were suddenly in field goal range to win the game, and the Raiders were toast. Indeed, after a 6-3 start, the Raiders have lost five of six and probably should have lost at the Jets. The Raiders are 7-8 a year after going 7-9 and head to Denver next week. Derek Carr put up good numbers and had the Raiders in position to win, but he was clearly hobbled as Las Vegas was 0-for-10 on third down. What a depressing second half of the season for Las Vegas.— Paul Gutierrez

Next game: at Broncos (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday Jan. 3)


Standout performer: 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr., 183 rushing yards, 1 receiving TD

If you didn’t believe in 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s head-coaching candidacy, you should now. Playing without Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt and Javon Kinlaw, among others, Saleh’s group found a way to limit Kyler Murray & Co. in an upset victory. Saleh’s defense has been ravaged by injury all season and somehow managed to keep the 49ers in most games, even as the offense has turned the ball over repeatedly in recent weeks. The win will hurt San Francisco’s draft positioning but should only bolster Saleh’s case for an available head-coaching position in the coming weeks.— Nick Wagoner

Next game: vs. Seahawks (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday Jan. 3)

The Cardinals’ playoffs hopes are beginning to slip away after Saturday’s loss to the 49ers. All Arizona needed to do was win and the Cardinals would’ve stayed in control of their playoff destiny. Instead, they lost, and now have to rely on the Chicago Bears to lose their last two games to make the postseason for the first time since 2015. — Josh Weinfuss

Next game: at Rams (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday Jan. 3)

Standout performer: Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, 348 passing yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs

Brady helped end the NFL’s second-longest playoff drought by throwing four touchdown passes in a blowout win over the Detroit Lions Saturday, clinching Tampa Bay’s first playoff berth since 2007. Brady, appearing in his 300th game in the same city his career began — Detroit, 20 years ago on Thanksgiving Day — led five TD-scoring drives in the first half, before giving way to backup Blaine Gabbert in the second half as the team compiled 588 yards of total offense. “It’s just the beginning. Our goal when we started out, especially this year, was just to get in the dance,” coach Bruce Arians said. “And now it’s to win 11 games. And see where we stand and where we’re going, know who we’re playing. Really, really proud.” — Jenna Laine

Next game: vs. Falcons (1 p.m. ET, Sunday Jan. 3)

What is there to say, really? It was a horrific loss for the Detroit Lions in score (47-7), in yards allowed (588) and in health (Matthew Stafford missed all but one series with a right ankle injury). This on top of the team going out there without its head coach, defensive coordinator, defensive line coach, linebackers coach and secondary coach, all of whom had to sit due to COVID-19 close contact protocols. It was one of the worst losses in the history of the franchise — and the worst loss at home in the Super Bowl era. “The issue was on offense we couldn’t stay on the field,” receivers coach/acting head coach Robert Prince said. “And on defense we couldn’t get off the field.” — Michael Rothstein

Next game: vs. Vikings (1 p.m. ET, Sunday Jan. 3)


Standout performer: Saints running back Alvin Kamara, 155 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs

Friday’s victory over the Vikings was another emphatic reminder the Saints can win games in a variety of ways. This time, it was Kamara’s NFL-record-tying six TD runs and a total of 264 rushing yards (New Orleans’ second-highest total since 1986). That was huge on a day when the Saints’ receiving corps and defense were beat up by injuries, and they were playing on a short week. The Saints (11-4) still have an outside chance at the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Regardless, they now get some extra rest before Week 17, with a chance to heal up and peak in January. — Mike Triplett

Next game: at Panthers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday Jan. 3)

This is the worst defense the Vikings have had in seven seasons under coach Mike Zimmer and the rebuild is going to take far longer than expected. Things should be better in 2021 assuming Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter return from injury and Michael Pierce comes back after opting out. The Vikings still need to overhaul the defensive line, particularly a three-technique, after the unit generated one pressure on Drew Brees and the third-lowest rate (23.2%) of any team this season. “If you look at the playoff game last year and you look at the guys who were playing in that game and the guys who were playing today it’s completely 100% different,” Zimmer said. — Courtney Cronin

Next game: at Lions (1 p.m. ET, Sunday Jan. 3)

Published at Sun, 27 Dec 2020 07:07:03 +0000

Week 16 guide: Picks, bold predictions and fantasy nuggets for every game

Week 16 guide: Picks, bold predictions and fantasy nuggets for every game

The Week 16 NFL schedule is stacked with great matchups, including the Saints’ historic win over the Vikings on Friday. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and final score picks.

Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a stat to know for each game and a look at current playoff scenarios, and the Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN Fantasy‘s Kyle Soppe and ESPN Chalk‘s Dave Bearman hand out helpful nuggets as well. It’s all here to help get you ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.

Let’s get into the full Week 16 slate, including a Rams-Seahawks game that could decide the NFC West. (Game times are Sunday unless otherwise noted.)

Jump to a matchup:
TB-DET | SF-ARI | MIA-LV
IND-PIT | ATL-KC | NYG-BAL
CAR-WSH | CIN-HOU | CLE-NYJ
CHI-JAX | DEN-LAC | LAR-SEA
PHI-DAL | TEN-GB | BUF-NE

Saturday, 1 p.m. ET | NFL Network
Matchup rating:
51.9 | Spread: TB -9.5 (54)

What to watch for: Do the Buccaneers fall behind again? They did so last week before rallying against Atlanta. Detroit has been playing hard since the firing of Matt Patricia, so surrendering an early lead against the Lions could be tricky for a Tampa Bay team striving for the playoffs instead of playing out the string like Detroit for the third straight season. — Michael Rothstein

Bold prediction: After falling behind 17-0 against the Falcons last Sunday, the Bucs score three touchdowns in the first half against a Lions team giving up 31 points per game, the most in the league. Doesn’t seem bold enough to you? The last time they scored three first-half touchdowns was in Week 7 against the Raiders and they’ve managed to do that only four times total this season. — Jenna Laine

Stat to know: Tom Brady is 8-0 in his regular-season career when playing on a Saturday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only four quarterbacks since 1950 have more Saturday wins: Jack Kemp (14), Bobby Layne (9), John Hadl (9) and Len Dawson (9).

Playoff/draft picture: The Bucs can clinch a playoff berth with a win or a Bears loss. Tampa Bay hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2007, the second-longest active playoff drought in the NFL. The Lions are projected to have the No. 8 pick in next year’s draft, and they still have a 12% chance to have a top-five pick, according to FPI.

Injuries: Buccaneers | Lions

What to know for fantasy: The tight end position is a mess in fantasy this season, so all it takes to be worthy of a start is volume or scoring equity. In that vein, Rob Gronkowski has a touchdown or six targets in 10 straight games. See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: Five of Detroit’s six home games this season have gone over the total. Tampa Bay’s past four road games went over. Read more.

Laine’s pick: Bucs 35, Lions 23
Rothstein’s pick: Buccaneers 31, Lions 17
FPI prediction: TB, 78.0% (by an average of 10.3 points)

Matchup must-reads: Buccaneers activate left tackle Donovan Smith from reserve/COVID-19 listDarrell Bevell instituted change — just not enough to fix the Lions’ glaring flawsSlow starts could be the fatal flaw for Bucs’ playoff runDetroit Lions general manager search: Louis Riddick interviews


Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET | Amazon Prime
Matchup rating:
66.6 | Spread: ARI -5.0 (48.5)

What to watch for: The Cardinals are averaging seven sacks per game the past two weeks and that number isn’t expected to be lower Saturday against the 49ers — especially with the inexperienced C.J. Beathard behind center. Niners quarterbacks have been sacked 33 times this season. Look for another sack party from the Cardinals, especially from edge rusher Haason Reddick. — Josh Weinfuss

Bold prediction: DeAndre Hopkins finishes with 10-plus catches and 100-plus yards for the second time against the 49ers this season. Hopkins had 14 catches for 151 yards in Week 1, and while those are gaudy numbers, it wouldn’t surprise if Hopkins approached or surpassed them again this time. The Niners have allowed five wideouts to go for 100-plus receiving yards this season and Hopkins adds another to the tally. — Nick Wagoner

Stat to know: Hopkins leads the NFL in receiving yards. No veteran player (i.e. non-rookie) since the 1970 merger has led the NFL in receiving yards in his first season with a team. Hopkins can become the first since Harold Jackson in 1969 for the Eagles.

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Keyshawn Johnson and Marcus Spears are split on their picks for the Washington Football Team vs. the Carolina Panthers.

Playoff/draft picture: The Cardinals clinch a playoff berth with a win and a Bears loss. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2015, when they lost in the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers are eliminated from the playoffs, and they are projected to have the No. 12 pick, according to FPI, which gives them a 37.9% chance to pick in the top 10.

Injuries: 49ers | Cardinals

What to know for fantasy: Hopkins had two more catches than all of his teammates in the Week 1 meeting with San Francisco, catching 87.5% of his targets in the process (all other Cardinals: 57.1%). See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: Since 2015, Arizona is 9-17 ATS as a home favorite (2-4 ATS since drafting Kyler Murray). Read more.

Wagoner’s pick: Cardinals 27, 49ers 20
Weinfuss’ pick: Cardinals 37, 49ers 24
FPI prediction: ARI, 52.5% (by an average of 0.9 points)

Matchup must-reads: 49ers signing Josh Rosen to back up C.J. BeathardWhy Cardinals’ Prince Amukamara made more than 300 deliveries working for DoorDash


Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET | NFL Network
Matchup rating:
44.2 | Spread: MIA -3.0 (47.5)

What to watch for: Who, exactly, will be starting at quarterback for the Raiders. Derek Carr left Las Vegas’ overtime loss to the Chargers on Thursday night with a groin strain. Marcus Mariota, in only his third game being active, nearly led the Raiders to victory and gave the offense a decidedly different look with his ability and willingness to extend plays with his legs. Carr was limited in practice Tuesday as he split reps with Mariota, giving the Dolphins two styles to worry about. He was a full participant on Wednesday, however. — Paul Gutierrez

Bold prediction: Tua Tagovailoa will lead the Dolphins on a fourth-quarter comeback and a game-winning drive. He hasn’t regularly put up big stat lines, but he has shown up biggest in key moments. Tagovailoa already has two fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives, and with the Dolphins needing a win to stay in the playoff hunt, he will come up clutch once again, dicing the 29th-ranked scoring defense to lead Miami to victory. — Cameron Wolfe

Stat to know: There is a big discrepancy on defense in this matchup. The Dolphins enter the game ranked first in scoring defense (18.4 points per game), while the Raiders rank 29th (30.1 points per game). The Dolphins haven’t led the NFL in scoring defense since 1998, while the Raiders probably will finish 20th or worse for the 14th consecutive season.

Playoff/draft picture: The Dolphins enter the week with a 36% chance of making the playoffs, per FPI. Their chances would improve to 62% with a win Saturday, but they would drop to 16% with a loss to Las Vegas. The Raiders will be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss or a Ravens win.

Injuries: Dolphins | Raiders

What to know for fantasy: Josh Jacobs might have saved your team with a touchdown last week, but the efficiency is a major concern. After an early 20-yard run, he averaged just 2.3 yards per carry against the Chargers. Touchdown reliance isn’t new, but it’s tough to count on for a team that has lost four straight. See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: Miami has covered nine of its past 10 games and is a league-best 11-3 ATS this season. Miami is 20-6 ATS since its Week 5 bye week last season. Read more.

Wolfe’s pick: Dolphins 24, Raiders 20
Gutierrez’s pick: Dolphins 27, Raiders 23
FPI prediction: LV, 56.7% (by an average of 2.3 points)

Matchup must-reads: Dolphins’ winning season should elicit joy for present and futureDolphins’ DeVante Parker brings smiles to pediatric patients with ‘Uncle Vante’ gownsIf Derek Carr is compromised, it could be time for Raiders to see what Marcus Mariota hasQB controversy? Marcus Mariota just happy to contribute to Raiders


Sunday, 1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
73.6 | Spread: IND -1.5 (44.5)

What to watch for: The Steelers haven’t had a balanced offense in weeks, and reinvigorating the run game will be especially difficult against a Colts defense that has stymied opponents on the ground. James Conner missed the loss to the Bengals with a quad injury, but Benny Snell played decently in his absence. If the Steelers’ ground game continues to be absent, they’ll need a much better performance from Ben Roethlisberger to pull out of a three-game slump. — Brooke Pryor

Bold prediction: Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said this week that he’s done dancing on opponents’ logos during pregame warm-ups, and even though this game is in Pittsburgh, that new mindset will pay off. He’ll put up his first 100-yard receiving game since Oct. 28, 2019, and second since Dec. 23, 2018. — Mike Wells

Stat to know: The Steelers have been held under 20 points in four consecutive games, their longest single-season streak since 2004, Roethlisberger’s rookie year. They haven’t been held under 20 points in five consecutive games in a single season since 1969 (six in a row). They lost their last 13 games in ’69 to finish 1-13.

Playoff/draft picture: The Colts can clinch a playoff berth with a win and a loss by either the Ravens or Dolphins. The Steelers have already clinched a playoff spot, but they could clinch the AFC North title with a win over Indianapolis.

Injuries: Colts | Steelers

What to know for fantasy: Jonathan Taylor scored 15 fantasy points in just three of his first nine career games, but he has gone over that number in four straight (22 PPG over that stretch). See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: Pittsburgh has failed to cover four straight games and is 0-3 ATS on short rest this season. Read more.

Wells’ pick: Colts 21, Steelers 17
Pryor’s pick: Colts 23, Steelers 17
FPI prediction: PIT, 64.5% (by an average of 4.9 points)

Matchup must-reads: Confidence grows for Jonathan Taylor as he carries Colts toward playoffsSteelers’ Mike Tomlin plans to talk to JuJu Smith-Schuster about logo dancing anticsIn-game pressure brings out best in Colts’ opportunistic defenseRoethlisberger: Playing ‘like poo,’ must be better


Sunday, 1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
69.2 | Spread: KC -10.5 (54)

What to watch for: Can the Falcons score enough points to keep up with the Chiefs? The Chiefs’ past six opponents have scored enough to keep the final margin at less than seven points, but none has been able to win the game. The Falcons have scored 17 or fewer in three of their past five games. That won’t get the job done against the Chiefs. They might need at least 30 points — a bar they’ve reached just four times, all against teams unlikely to make the playoffs. — Adam Teicher

Bold prediction: The Falcons don’t lose a lead Sunday! But mostly because Atlanta never has one as Kansas City scores on its first four possessions to put this game out of reach before the Falcons even have a chance to mess it up at the end. — Michael Rothstein

Stat to know: The Chiefs have won 22 of their past 23 games, including the playoffs. In the Chiefs’ lone loss, Patrick Mahomes was pressured 29 times — the second most in his career — and completed a career-low 51.2% of his passes. The Chiefs still scored 32 points in the loss.

Playoff/draft picture: The Chiefs can clinch the 1-seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win or a Steelers loss. The Falcons, meanwhile, are projected to pick No. 4 overall in the 2021 draft, per FPI. They have a 60.8% chance at a top-five pick.

Injuries: Falcons | Chiefs

What to know for fantasy: It’s been said that a name can tell you a lot about a person, so you shouldn’t be surprised that Patrick MaHOMEs is averaging 361.5 passing yards over his past four games at Arrowhead. See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: Kansas City is 1-5 ATS in its past six games, covering last week’s game by half a point. Read more.

Rothstein’s pick: Chiefs 38, Falcons 23
Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 33, Falcons 20
FPI prediction: KC, 79.3% (by an average of 10.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Falcons’ priority should be developing their 2021 building blocksTravis Kelce entering uncharted statistical territory for tight endsHow Younghoe Koo became a Pro Bowler (and a cultural phenomenon)Reid on Mahomes changing his profile pic: ‘Thanks for making me feel young’


Sunday, 1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
56.0 | Spread: BAL -10.5 (45)

What to watch for: Can Lamar Jackson and the red-hot Ravens offense continue their success against the stingy Giants? Over the past three games, the Ravens are averaging an NFL-best 40 points per game and Jackson has produced a passer rating over 100 each time. The Giants are holding teams to 18.7 points since Week 9, the fifth fewest in the league during that span. — Jamison Hensley

Bold prediction: Jackson rushes for more than 100 yards. He has averaged 84.3 yards on the ground over his past three starts. Now he faces a Giants defense that had trouble containing Kyler Murray two weeks ago. Murray rushed for 47 yards in a Week 14 win over the Giants. Now New York has to deal with Jackson, whom coach Joe Judge called a “unicorn” and compared to trying to tackle Gumby. — Jordan Raanan

Stat to know: Baltimore is favored by 10.5 points. The Ravens are 40-0 all-time in the regular season when favored by double digits, the only franchise without a loss in those games in the Super Bowl era.

Playoff/draft picture: The Giants will be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss or a Washington win. FPI gives the Ravens a 84.3% chance to make the playoffs, most likely as the 6-seed.

Injuries: Giants | Ravens

What to know for fantasy: Three of Jackson’s best five games this season have come in his three games since returning to action (29.9 points per game in those three games). See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Giants are 6-1 ATS on the road this season and 18-5 ATS on the road in the past three seasons. Read more.

Raanan’s pick: Ravens 30, Giants 16
Hensley’s pick: Ravens 27, Giants 10
FPI prediction: BAL, 80.5% (by an average of 11.4 points)

Matchup must-reads: For Joe Judge, Giants’ season has always been about growth, not playoffsWaving Terrible Towels? Ravens need help to get into playoffsGiants’ offense hits new low, but New York still in NFC East huntNo title, no problem: Ravens still stake claim to best team in AFC North


Sunday, 1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
35.1 | Spread: WSH -2.5 (44.5)

What to watch for: Both teams have played a lot of close games. In fact, Carolina has lost eight games by eight points or fewer while Washington’s last four losses have been by five points or fewer. How these teams handle the fourth quarter will be telling. Washington has made a habit of coming back in games, having fallen behind by double digits 10 times this season. The past five times, it has rallied and had the ball at the end with a chance to win; it has completed one comeback. Dwayne Haskins, who was fined for being at an event with strippers while not wearing a mask, could start at quarterback for Washington with Alex Smith still ailing. — John Keim

Bold prediction: Washington, ranked sixth in the NFL in sacks with 40, will sack Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater eight times with a multitude of blitz packages coach Ron Rivera used as the coach of the Panthers from 2011 to 2019. One will result in a strip-sack returned for a touchdown. — David Newton

Stat to know: Washington is 4-1 with Smith as the starting quarterback, even though he has posted a 35.5 Total QBR, worst among 41 players with 100 passes this season. Smith has averaged a league-low 5.4 air yards per attempt.

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Matthew Berry doesn’t have confidence in Russell Wilson vs. the Rams as Seattle’s offense has struggled lately and they’ve picked up their running game.

Playoff/draft picture: Washington will clinch the NFC East with a win and a Giants loss. FPI projects the Panthers to pick No. 5 overall in next year’s draft, and it gives them a 46.4% chance of picking in the top five.

Injuries: Panthers | Washington

What to know for fantasy: Washington tight end Logan Thomas has gone over 10 fantasy points in each of his past four games and over 23 points in two of his past three (13 catches for 101 yards last week against the Seahawks). See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: Washington has covered five straight games, going 4-1 to the under in that span. Read more.

Newton’s pick: Washington 14, Panthers 7
Keim’s pick: Washington 20, Panthers 17
FPI prediction: WSH, 52.0% (by an average of 0.7 points)

Matchup must-reads: Why Panthers decided to move on from GM Marty HurneyWashington Football Team aware of Dwayne Haskins’ maskless images; QB apologizesDrafting franchise QB more likely with Panthers’ front-office makeoverHow Washington finds itself on cusp of NFC East title after 2-7 startWashington Football Team coach Ron Rivera focused on win vs. Carolina Panthers, not revenge


Sunday, 1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
26.4 | Spread: HOU -8.0 (46)

What to watch for: Deshaun Watson needs three touchdowns to pass Matt Schaub (29) for the most passing touchdowns in a single season in franchise history. The Bengals have allowed 26 passing touchdowns in 14 games, so it’s quite possible Watson at least ties Schaub’s mark Sunday. — Sarah Barshop

Bold prediction: Bengals running back Giovani Bernard will rush for 100 yards. That might not seem incredibly bold, but Bernard hasn’t rushed for triple digits since Week 16 of the 2017 season. The Texans have arguably the worst rushing defense in the NFL and the Bengals will probably run it often, regardless of who is at quarterback. — Ben Baby

Stat to know: The Texans have won eight of their past nine meetings against the Bengals, including the playoffs. No team has scored more than 13 points in any of the past three Bengals-Texans games: Houston won 13-9 in 2017, 12-10 in 2016 and 10-6 in 2015.

Playoff/draft picture: FPI gives the Bengals an 87.1% chance to have a top-five pick in next year’s draft and projects them to pick No. 3 overall. The Texans, meanwhile, traded their pick to Miami in the Laremy Tunsil deal last year. That pick is projected to be No. 6.

Injuries: Bengals | Texans

What to know for fantasy: Texans running back David Johnson caught a career-best 11 passes in Week 15 against the Colts and it resulted in his best fantasy game of the season (24.3 fantasy points). See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: Four of Cincinnati’s past five games have gone under the total. Five of Houston’s six home games have gone under the total. Read more.

Baby’s pick: Bengals 21, Texans 17
Barshop’s pick: Texans 21, Bengals 17
FPI prediction: HOU, 70.3% (by an average of 7.1 points)

Matchup must-reads: Upset win gives Bengals needed momentum heading toward crucial offseasonNext Texans general manager could create space with strategic cuts … … Sources: Texans fine players at Watson event


Sunday, 1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
21.2 | Spread: CLE -9.5 (47.5)

What to watch for: The game features the two highest-drafted quarterbacks from 2018 — Baker Mayfield (No. 1 overall) and Sam Darnold (No. 3). After a roller-coaster first two seasons, Mayfield is flourishing in Kevin Stefanski’s offense. Meanwhile, Darnold has regressed under Adam Gase. He has 25 touchdown passes in two years under Gase, Mayfield’s total in this season alone. — Rich Cimini

Bold prediction: After battling through the effects of COVID-19 these past three games, Myles Garrett breaks out with two sacks and his first forced fumble since contracting the virus. — Jake Trotter

Stat to know: Nick Chubb has a rushing touchdown in four straight games, one shy of matching the longest streak of his career (2018), and one shy of matching the longest streak by a Browns rusher over the past 50 seasons (Chubb in 2018, Greg Pruitt in 1975).

Playoff/draft picture: The Browns can clinch a playoff berth with a win and a loss by either the Ravens, Colts or Dolphins. They haven’t reached the playoffs since 2002, the longest active drought in the NFL. The Jets have clinched at least a top-two pick in next year’s draft, but FPI gives them a 25.6% chance of picking No. 1.

Injuries: Browns | Jets

What to know for fantasy: Over the past four weeks, Baker Mayfield is a top-five quarterback in terms of completion percentage (70.2%), passing yards (1,232), touchdown passes (10) and fantasy points (98.9). See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: Cleveland is 2-8 ATS as a road favorite since 2014, including 2-6 ATS with Baker Mayfield starting. Cleveland is 3-10 ATS overall in its past 13 road games. Read more.

Trotter’s pick: Browns 27, Jets 13
Cimini’s pick: Brown 31, Jets 10
FPI prediction: CLE, 71.6% (by an average of 7.6 points)

Matchup must-reads: Baker Mayfield takes Browns one step closer to ending playoff droughtLife without Trevor Lawrence? How one win alters New York Jets’ futureIt’s been 25 years since the Browns broke Cleveland’s heart and left for BaltimoreNew York Jets elated about first win; ‘means the world to us’


Sunday, 1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
15.3 | Spread: CHI -7.5 (47)

What to watch for: The Jaguars’ secondary is banged up with top corners Sidney Jones and C.J. Henderson out, so it’s going to be a rough ask to contain Bears star Allen Robinson. The former Jaguars second-round pick is just eight catches away from tying his career high (98), and there’s a chance he could get them against the Jaguars. Mitchell Trubisky is averaging 245 yards passing per game since he returned to the lineup and he’s thrown eight touchdown passes to only three picks. The Jaguars have given up a league-high 31 TD passes. — Mike DiRocco

Bold prediction: David Montgomery sets a new career high with 175 rushing yards. The Bears intend to bludgeon Jacksonville into submission. Chicago cannot afford to let the Jaguars pull an upset, otherwise the Bears’ playoff dreams are over. And who are we kidding; Jacksonville probably isn’t all that interested in winning on Sunday so it can secure the No. 1 pick and quarterback Trevor Lawrence in next April’s draft. The easiest way for the Bears to avoid screwing this up is by feeding the ball to Montgomery 35 times, which I suspect they will. — Jeff Dickerson

Stat to know: The Bears have scored 25 points in four consecutive games for the first time since 1995, when they did so in five in a row. They have an opportunity to score 30 points in their fourth straight game this weekend, something they haven’t done since 1965. Their offense has made a dramatic turnaround, rushing for twice as much yardage per game over the past three games versus the first 11.

Playoff/draft picture: The Bears will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss and a Cardinals win. The Jaguars will own the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft if they lose out or if they finish with the same record as the Jets. FPI gives them a 58% chance of losing out, highest in the NFL.

Injuries: Bears | Jaguars

What to know for fantasy: Montgomery put 29.2 fantasy points on the board last week in Minnesota, becoming the first running back of 2020 to score at least 24.5 points in four straight games. See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: Chicago is 3-10 ATS as a favorite since the start of last season. Read more.

Dickerson’s pick: Bears 27, Jaguars 14
DiRocco’s pick: Bears 31, Jaguars 17
FPI prediction: CHI, 69.5% (by an average of 6.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: David Montgomery’s breakout ignites Bears’ late-season surgeDrafting Trevor Lawrence would give star-crossed Jacksonville a joltBears face QB decisions in the possible post-Mitchell Trubisky eraJaguars’ Doug Marrone trying to win, not secure top pick in 2021 NFL draftLocal artist keeps Bears’ team photo tradition alive during pandemic


Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
19.7 | Spread: LAC -3.0 (49)

What to watch for: The Chargers have won two straight, while the Broncos have lost three of their past four. With both teams out of playoff contention, all eyes will be on the young quarterbacks here with Chargers rookie Justin Herbert playing well and the Broncos still evaluating second-year signal-caller Drew Lock. The loser of this game could lock up a top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. — Shelley Smith

Bold prediction: Expect a big day from Melvin Gordon, who didn’t get the kind of game he wanted against his former team last month. He certainly will in this one. Few players have been better than Gordon in the Broncos’ offense down the stretch; he has rushed for 260 yards while averaging 6.7 yards per carry in his past three games. He has also caught eight passes in that span. — Jeff Legwold

Stat to know: The Chargers snapped a nine-game losing streak in division games with a win over the Raiders in Week 15. They’ve lost three in a row to the Broncos. Herbert can supplant Baker Mayfield as the rookie with the most touchdown passes in history with just one more.

Playoff/draft picture: The Broncos and Chargers are both eliminated from the playoffs. FPI projects Denver to have the No. 13 pick in the 2021 draft, while Los Angeles is in line to pick No. 7.

Injuries: Broncos | Chargers

What to know for fantasy: Think the Chargers exceed 20 points? If so, Herbert is to be labeled nothing other than an elite fantasy option, as he is averaging 26.2 points in such games (28 last week in Vegas). See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Chargers are 4-14-1 ATS as a home favorite in the past three seasons and 9-20-1 ATS as a home favorite since moving to L.A. Read more.

Legwold’s pick: Chargers 26, Broncos 21
Smith’s pick: Chargers 20, Broncos 17
FPI prediction: LAC, 54.1% (by an average of 1.4 points)

Matchup must-reads: Drew Lock needs to get a grip on quarterback positionChargers’ Chris Harris Jr. enters Broncos reunion on high after injury-filled seasonWhy Broncos rookie center Lloyd Cushenberry III has played every snap this seasonBoring quotes, bad haircuts and stellar football: Assessing Justin Herbert’s rookie season with Chargers


Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
86.1 | Spread: SEA -1.5 (47.5)

What to watch for: Round 3 of DK Metcalf vs. Jalen Ramsey. Metcalf had some success in their first matchup last December as he caught five passes for 69 yards when Ramsey was the nearest defender in coverage, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Ramsey and the Rams shut down Metcalf in Week 10, which was one of his least productive games of the season. — Brady Henderson

Bold prediction: Aaron Donald has sacked Russell Wilson 12 times, more than any other QB in his career. But Donald finished their Week 10 meeting with zeroes across the stat sheet, even as his teammates took down Wilson six times. Watch for Donald to turn in a monster multisack performance. — Lindsey Thiry

Stat to know: Wilson is 7-10 in his career against the Rams and 2-5 since Sean McVay became Rams coach. With McVay as head coach, the Rams have pressured Wilson on 46% of his dropbacks, his highest rate in that time against opponents he has faced multiple times.

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Matthew Berry is taking the under on a 15-point fantasy output for Ezekiel Elliott vs. the Eagles in Week 16.

Playoff/draft picture: The Seahawks will clinch the NFC West with a win. The Rams clinch a playoff berth with a win or a loss by either the Bears or Cardinals.

Injuries: Rams | Seahawks

What to know for fantasy: Jared Goff has completed at least 71% of his passes in four of his past five games against Seattle, throwing for over 290 yards in each of those four instances. See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Rams are 9-2 ATS after a loss since the start of last season and 13-5 ATS after a loss under Sean McVay. Read more.

Thiry’s pick: Seahawks 20, Rams 17
Henderson’s pick: Seahawks 24, Rams 23
FPI prediction: SEA, 50.2% (by an average of 0.1 points)

Matchup must-reads: Is Rams’ Aaron Donald on verge of a third NFL Defensive Player of the Year award?Jalen Ramsey gives Seahawks’ DK Metcalf another chance to shine vs. top cornerbackRams running back Akers (ankle) out indefinitelyUnheralded D.J. Reed paying dividends at cornerback for Seahawks … … Source: Seattle’s Gordon has setback in recovery


Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
10.4 | Spread: PHI -2.5 (49.5)

What to watch for: In their past two games, playing against backup quarterbacks in Cincinnati and San Francisco, the Cowboys have had seven takeaways (five fumble recoveries and two interceptions). They had 11 takeaways in their first 12 games, but four came in the first meeting of the year against the Eagles. Since Jalen Hurts has taken over as the starter for Carson Wentz, Philadelphia has turned the ball over just once, a Hurts fumble. The rookie quarterback has not been intercepted in his two starts. — Todd Archer

Bold prediction: Jalen Reagor will have a 50-plus-yard touchdown. The rookie has been averaging 16 yards per reception since Hurts took over at quarterback and is beginning to show his explosiveness with more regularity now that he’s more comfortable in the offense. He’ll secure his first 50-plus-yard reception since Week 1 against Washington. — Tim McManus

Stat to know: Hurts has been more successful protecting the ball this season than Wentz. He has turned the ball over twice on 198 snaps, a rate of 1.0%. That’s the sixth-lowest turnover rate among 46 QBs with 100 snaps this season. Wentz turned the ball over on 2.5% of his snaps, third highest in the NFL. His 19 turnovers are still most in the NFL despite sitting the last two games.

Playoff/draft picture: The loser of this game will be eliminated from the playoffs. If Washington beats Carolina, however, both teams will be eliminated. The Eagles enter the week with an 8.5% chance of making the playoffs per FPI. The Cowboys have a 3.9% chance. The Eagles can sweep the series against the Cowboys for the first time since 2011.

Injuries: Eagles | Cowboys

What to know for fantasy: Ezekiel Elliott’s fantasy point total has declined in each of his past four meetings with the division rival. He managed just 8.3 points in their Week 8 meeting despite touching the ball 20 times, so if he plays for the Cowboys, there is no certainty he should be in your lineup. See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: Dallas is 0-4 ATS in division games this season. Read more.

McManus’ pick: Eagles 26, Cowboys 17
Archer’s pick: Eagles 27, Cowboys 23
FPI prediction: DAL, 51.9% (by an average of 0.7 points)

Matchup must-reads: Philadelphia Eagles to roll again with Jalen Hurts as QB vs. Dallas CowboysDallas Cowboys finding some young pieces to their 2021 puzzleCarson Wentz’s trust in Eagles could be damaged beyond repairLike it or not, Dallas Cowboys (5-9) are still in the playoff hunt


Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating:
77.7 | Spread: GB -3.5 (56)

What to watch for: Derrick Henry, who is on pace to lead the NFL in rushing for the second straight season, has rushed for 100 yards or more in each of his past nine road games. Although the Packers’ run defense is better this season (11th in the NFL after finishing 23rd last season), it’s about the same in yards per rush (21st this year, 24th last year). In fact, over the past two seasons they’ve allowed 4.6 yards per carry (which ranks 26th in that span), and their run stop win rate in that same period ranks 29th. — Rob Demovsky

Bold prediction: All of the focus will be on Henry, but wideout A.J. Brown will provide a couple of big plays in the passing game, one of which will be a long touchdown off play-action. Brown will finish with 120 receiving yards and two touchdowns. — Turron Davenport

Stat to know: The Packers and Titans are the only teams entering Week 16 to feature a quarterback with 30 passing touchdowns, a running back with 10 touchdowns, and a wide receiver with 10 touchdowns.

Playoff/draft picture: The Packers can clinch the 1-seed and home-field throughout the NFC playoffs with a win and a Seahawks loss. The Titans can clinch the AFC South with a win and a Colts loss, and they can clinch a playoff berth with a win or a loss by either the Ravens or Dolphins.

Injuries: Titans | Packers

What to know for fantasy: Despite the Titans scoring over 30 points in each of their past two road games, Corey Davis has a total of just 14.4 fantasy points in those games without a top-40 finish at the position. See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: Tennessee is 10-3-1 to the over this season and 19-4-1 in Ryan Tannehill regular-season starts. Read more.

Davenport’s pick: Titans 42, Packers 35
Demovsky’s pick: Titans 37, Packers 31
FPI prediction: GB, 62.3% (by an average of 4.2 points)

Matchup must-reads: Matt LaFleur didn’t become Titans coach, but year in Tennessee still paid offPackers’ Aaron Rodgers: Incomplete games ‘not gonna get it done in the playoffs’Adoree’ Jackson’s return times perfectly with Titans’ playoff push


Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET | ESPN/ABC
Matchup rating:
67.8 | Spread: BUF -7.0 (46)

What to watch for: Gunner Olszewski leads the NFL with a 19.1-yard punt-return average (16 returns, 305 yards). If he continues that pace, it would be the highest return average in Patriots history. Only seven players in NFL history have a return average of at least 20 yards in a single season (minimum 12 returns). This will also be the Patriots’ first game while already eliminated from the playoffs since the 2000 season finale. — Mike Reiss

Bold prediction: Predicting a Bills win in Foxborough isn’t enough? In this resounding victory, Buffalo’s Josh Allen will surpass the 400-yard passing mark as the Bills complete their first sweep of the reigning AFC East champions since 1999. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Stat to know: The last time New England lost twice to a divisional opponent in the regular season was 2000 (Dolphins and Jets swept Pats). According to Elias, the Patriots’ 19-season streak without being swept is by far the longest since the 1970 merger (next longest: 11 straight seasons).

Playoff/draft picture: The Bills clinched the AFC East title last week, and FPI gives them a 68.1% chance of having the 3-seed in the playoffs. The Patriots are projected to pick No. 15 overall in the 2021 draft.

Injuries: Bills | Patriots

What to know for fantasy: Stefon Diggs‘ 15.2 points in the first meeting looks fine in the box score, but was that his ceiling in this spot? There were only 118 total plays in that game (the lowest in a Bills game this season) and Diggs was targeted on an unsustainable 50% of his routes. See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: New England is 22-11 ATS as an underdog of more than a field goal under Bill Belichick (including the playoffs) and 10-3 ATS as at least a 7-point underdog. Read more.

Louis-Jacques’ pick: Bills 27, Patriots 7
Reiss’ pick: Bills 27, Patriots 17
FPI prediction: BUF, 58.5% (by an average of 2.9 points)

Matchup must-reads: Bills dominating third quarter after close calls early in the seasonPatriots QB Cam Newton says ‘I still have a lot of football left’Bills cruise past Broncos en route to their first AFC East championship since 1995

Friday’s game

Friday, 4:30 p.m. ET | Fox/NFL Network
Matchup rating:
69.7 | Spread: NO -6.5 (51)

What to watch for: An intriguing matchup between New Orleans’ top-three defense and Minnesota’s top-five offense. The Saints and quarterback Drew Brees are hoping to shake off some rust after a two-game losing streak — and clinch their fourth straight NFC South title in the process. They still have an outside shot at the NFC’s No. 1 seed too. But to accomplish all that, they’ll have to beat their nemesis. The Vikings have knocked them out of the playoffs twice in the past three years. — Mike Triplett

Bold prediction: The Vikings’ playoff hopes have been dashed, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left for this team to play for. With another eight-catch day, Justin Jefferson will accumulate the 132 yards to surpass Randy Moss as the NFL’s leader in receiving yards by a rookie. He’ll also score two touchdowns in his Louisiana homecoming. — Courtney Cronin

Stat to know: Since Week 5, the Saints have pressured opposing quarterbacks on a league-high 39% of dropbacks. Kirk Cousins has been pressured on at least 40% of dropbacks in two straight weeks (both losses) and is 1-7 this season when taking pressure at least 30% of the time.

Playoff/draft picture: The Saints can clinch the NFC South with a win or a Buccaneers loss. The Vikings will be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss or a Cardinals win. FPI gives the Vikings a 6.4% chance to have a top-10 pick in next year’s draft.

Injuries: Vikings | Saints

What to know for fantasy: Emmanuel Sanders has been targeted on 23.8% of his routes when Michael Thomas is not on the field this season (up from 17.7% with Thomas on the field). See Week 16 rankings.

Betting nugget: New Orleans is 4-1 ATS against teams with losing records this season. Read more.

Cronin’s pick: Saints 27, Vikings 20
Triplett’s pick: Saints 26, Vikings 22
FPI prediction: NO, 72.5% (by an average of 8.0 points)

Matchup must-reads: Vikings’ lessons from a lost season: Don’t waste young stars, lines need help and moreCan ‘Super Bowl or bust’ Saints finally peak at the right time?Vikings’ Justin Jefferson closes in on rookie receiving recordsSaints defense’s plight: Short week after team-record 92 snaps vs. Patrick Mahomes

Published at Sat, 26 Dec 2020 15:25:03 +0000

Lions’ Bevell won’t coach Sat. vs. Buccaneers

Lions’ Bevell won’t coach Sat. vs. Buccaneers

The Detroit Lions are now on the interim to their interim head coach, as Darrell Bevell will not coach Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to COVID-19 protocols, the team announced Thursday.

The Lions will move wide receivers coach Robert Prince into the head coach role and turn playcalling duties over to quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan, who has never been a playcaller at any level.

On defense, coordinator Cory Undlin and all three primary position coaches — Bo Davis (defensive line), Ty McKenzie (linebackers) and Steve Gregory (defensive backs) — also will not coach Saturday due to COVID-19 protocols.

Head coach assistant Evan Rothstein will serve as the defensive playcaller against the Buccaneers. Ty Warren, David Corrao and Tony Carter will handle the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs, respectively.

In addition to all the coaching changes, the Lions have a number of starters listed as either out or questionable. Quarterback Matthew Stafford (ribs/right thumb), center Frank Ragnow (throat/vocal cords), kicker Matt Prater (back), offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai (concussion), left tackle Taylor Decker (groin), linebacker Jamie Collins (neck) and cornerback Darryl Roberts (hip) are all questionable. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) and right tackle Tyrell Crosby (ankle) are both out.

Bevell said he and the other COVID-19 restricted coaches are available to work until game day but can’t have any contact with the other coaches Saturday, meaning first-time playcallers Rothstein and Ryan will not have much guidance. Bevell, though, said he had been working with Ryan on playcalling “for a little while.” Rothstein has worked with former head coach Matt Patricia, and Bevell called Rothstein “our most knowledgeable in terms of our defense and really what we’re doing all the way across the board.”

“I might need to find a place to watch it by myself,” Bevell said of Saturday’s game. “You know, I can’t even tell you what it’s going to be like. I know what it was like sitting out, but sitting out and knowing that I’m just totally disappointed that I can’t be there and I want to be there for my guys and all the respect that I have for these players.

“I’ll be a madman, I think. I’ll be jumping up and down. I’ll be less calm than I am on game day.”

Bevell said the Lions talked to the NFL about trying to push the game back to Sunday, but that did not happen. Bevell said he couldn’t speculate about whether the league’s decision not to move the game had anything to do with Detroit (5-9) being out of playoff contention.

“I know that we did push to have things that could help us, and again, it’s between the league and the club on that,” Bevell said. “I am disappointed. I know if the game was on Sunday, I would be there, because the time frame would be up and all these coaches would be able to be there. So I think that’s the most disappointing part, but we’ve got to go with what they’re telling us.”

Safety and defensive captain Duron Harmon laughed and said “next man up, I guess,” when asked how he processed how many of his coaches were going to be unavailable. Harmon said he has never experienced a week like this, from the coach shuffling to the firing of special-teams coordinator Brayden Coombs — all on a short week.

“That’s the times that we’re in,” Harmon said. “What can I do? Sit around and complain? Nah. I just got to find a way. Find a way to keep going, find a way to continue to be motivated and find a way to play the best game we can play against a good Bucs team.”

Prince, who has never been a head coach, was an offensive coordinator at Fort Lewis College (1994-95), in the Japanese X League (1996-97), at Portland State (1999-2000) and at Boise State (2012-13). He was the passing game coordinator at Colorado in 2010.

He has been with the Lions since 2014, brought in by former coach Jim Caldwell.

Bevell will get credit for Saturday’s game, which won’t go on Prince’s head-coaching ledger, according to ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau.

The only other time a team had three head coaches in one season was the 1978 New England Patriots. Chuck Fairbanks was suspended one game for a contract breach, so Hank Bullough and Ron Erhardt were co-head coaches in Week 16 before Fairbanks returned for the playoffs.

On Monday, practice squad linebacker Anthony Pittman and a coach both tested positive for COVID-19. The NFL and the Lions then went into their close contact tracing procedures and wiped out most of the defensive staff.

Bevell said Wednesday that he believed some of this occurred due to travel to the team’s most recent game, at Tennessee — Nashville has one of the highest new-case rates of COVID-19 in the country — but he is otherwise unsure how his player and coach contracted the virus.

On Wednesday, Bevell would not “confirm or deny” a report from the Detroit Free Press that one defensive assistant was not wearing his contact tracing tracker at all times and another held a meeting inside his office.

Bevell said Thursday that the close-contact designation did not mean the affected coaches did not have masks on. He said “it’s the contact time” that they are going off, as well as an interview process on mask-wearing and individual time in proximity to others. Bevell said he was “absolutely” wearing his mask.

Published at Thu, 24 Dec 2020 22:59:26 +0000