2018 NFL Week 16
The NFL dominates the sports landscape all year long, and yet though the amount of time actually playing the game is brief and passes through the calendar like a lightning strike. How is it already Week 16? Depressing.
And while this roller coaster of a regular season is drawing to a close, we’re actually just at the beginning of the truly entertaining part. The last two weeks are always a fireworks show as teams jockey for for playoff positioning or for one of the two wild card spots.
A few teams have already punched their ticket. Others are on the outside of the fringe looking in. Let’s take a look at the latter group.
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Eagles: Are we in for a repeat? Just like last year, Nick Foles is back under center as Carson Wentz is dealing with an injury. Foles looked like his magical 2017 self during their huge win over the Rams on the road last Sunday that evened their record at 7-7. However, they might not get the happy ending they’re looking for if they can’t past a tough matchup against the Texans on Sunday.
Redskins: Yeah, they might be 7-7, but nobody expects this broken-down bucket of bolts to limp its way into the playoffs.
Panthers: They’ve lost six in a row and at this point, don’t even deserve to play football in January.
Colts: Man, if only they hadn’t started the season 1-5. Andrew Luck has been in MVP form and Indy’s defense is playing lights-out over the last few weeks. They’ve won seven of their last eight games and there’s no reason to believe they won’t brush past the Giants at home this weekend. Then comes a showdown against the Titans that could be for all the marbles if the Ravens, currently the No. 6 seed in the playoff race, stumble against the Chargers or Browns (or both).
Titans: One advantage they have over the Colts is both of their remaining games are at home and one of them is against the Redskins, who had lost four straight before beating the Jags last week. Many people are down on Marcus Mariota at the moment, but his doubters couldn’t say a whole lot if he manages to take his team to the playoffs for the second straight year.
Dolphins: They’re 7-7, but they played like a 4-12 team in their 41-17 loss to the Vikings in Week 15. Lucky for them, they face the Jaguars and the Bills over the next two Sundays, so they could be right there if they get a lucky loss or two from the other playoff contenders.
NFL’S TOP 10
1) Saints: As I’ve said many times before, you don’t get extra credit for dominating wins in the NFL. Yes, their offense sputtered against the Panthers on Monday night and has looked pedestrian over the past few weeks. However, they came away with the victory and that’s all that matters. With a one-game lead over the Rams for the NFC’s top seed with two remaining, and while holding the tiebreaker, New Orleans is in great shape.
2) Chargers: I’ve tried to avoid treating this list like power rankings, but here we are. This team did something special by going to Kansas City on a Thursday night and pulling off a comeback win. They deserve at least temporary credit for pulling even with the Chiefs at 11-3. Too bad they don’t hold the tiebreaker.
3) Chiefs: Speaking of tiebreakers, Kansas City is still on track to seize the No. 1 seed in the AFC and if they can get past a tricky road game against the Seahawks (not a guarantee), they should make quick work of the Raiders in the finale to earn a week off and home field advantage throughout the postseason.
4) Bears: If you’re going to tell me you had the Bears winning the NFC North before the season started, I’m going to call you a filthy liar.
5) Rams: Their performances over the past two weeks have been abysmal. I was willing to give them a pass on their loss in Chicago, but they looked putrid at home against the Eagles in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Teams might have figured out how to slow Sean McVay’s offense and make Jared Goff look like a chump. Now, it’s up to McVay to find a solution. It’s desperation time if they want to avoid playing a game on Wild Card weekend.
6) Texans: Currently the AFC’s No. 2 seed, they’re going to need to put their foot on the Eagles’ necks early in what is sure to be a hostile environment in Philadelphia. If they slip over the final two weeks and finish with an even record with the Patriots, they’ll lose a shot at a playoff bye.
7) Patriots: I still wouldn’t bet against them, and I feel most people wouldn’t, even though they’ve looked pretty mediocre offensively over their past few games. Still, they’re 9-5 and play the Bills and Jets to close out the season. They could get some luck (as they often do) and still get a playoff bye, but if they don’t, everything changes. Tom Brady is under .500 on the road in the playoffs, and I don’t like their chances if they have to face any of the AFC playoff teams away from Foxborough.
8) Steelers: They’re still looking up at New England, even though they got a huge win over the Patriots last Sunday. Now, they’ve got to face the Saints on the road, but they won’t be in desperation mode. They should play that game as though they are. Always helps to play with urgency.
9) Ravens: It would be silly to point to Lamar Jackson taking over the starting QB as the reason they’ve won four of their last five games, but sometimes teams respond to shakeups at the top. Their season is riding on Saturday’s game at the Chargers. If they lose here, they’re in trouble.
10) Cowboys: They’re still in a good spot, holding a one-game lead in the NFC East with tiebreakers over the Eagles and Redskins. Still, getting blanked against the Colts had to sting just a bit. The good news is, they’ve got the Giants and the Bucs remaining on their schedule. Nothing to really worry about.
WHAT’S THE CHATTER?
Not again: Josh Gordon has been indefinitely suspended by the NFL yet again, and while the easy thing to do is bash the guy, that’s not the right thing. Gordon has been somewhat open about his struggles with mental health and here’s hoping he gets the help he needs.
Hmmm: Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who is facing the Steelers this week, had a skeptical look on his face when someone talked about Ben Roethlisberger being a future Hall of Famer. In fact, he said, “I’d honestly put Eli before I put Ben.” Well, while Mr. Manning does have two Super Bowl wins over the most dominating franchise of this era, I’d still say Big Ben has been more consistent over the year. So, Mr. Jordan, I’m going to respectfully disagree.
Ruh roh: Todd Gurley has a knee injury and while he says he intends to play on Sunday, he hasn’t run at all this week. That’s not a good sign. Remember, the Rams are already without backup running back Malcolm Brown, who was lost for the season a few weeks back with an injury. They signed C.J. Anderson for some depth this week, but will he be ready to play on such short notice? Ugh.
Come on, dude: Jon Gruden signed Nathan Peterman to the Raiders practice squad this week. Why? Only the lord knows. But at least Gruden acknowledged that Peterman had “some problems” in Buffalo. Yes, 12 interceptions in 130 pass attempts during his time with the Bills would definitely qualify as a problem.
Pro Bowl snubs: Every year people complain about this and from a player standpoint, I understand the annoyance as there are likely roster bonuses to be had from getting a nod. But from a fan standpoint, it doesn’t matter at all. The game is unwatchable and should be done away with.
WHAT TO WATCH IN WEEK 16
Redskins at Titans: Saturday NFL! That’s one good thing about nearing the end of the season. The Titans should get past D.C. with ease, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them choke either.
Ravens at Chargers: More Saturday NFL! And a game that will be played with playoff intensity. This is the type of the game that makes it worth it to stay in on a Saturday night.
Texans at Eagles: Another game that will look like a playoff game. There’s nothing like late December football in Philadelphia.
Steelers at Saints: I feel a sense of holiday cheer, so I’m going to get wild and pick the Steelers to pull off the upset.
Chiefs at Seahawks: You know what? Let’s keep the holiday cheer rolling. I’m going with the Seahawks to pull off the stunner at the Clink.
Happy holidays, everyone! Be safe.
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 - Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 - Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.