The weekly preview runs into the endzone with NFL tips for the eight best match-ups of Week 16, featuring a stack of vital division rivalry contests.
History: Played 4: Texans 3 V Buccaneers 1
Last meeting: September 27, 2015: Texans 19 d Buccaneers 9 at NRG Stadium
Final Thoughts: The penultimate round of the NFL regular season gets underway in Tampa. The 7-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ late charge is too little, too late, while the 9-5 Houston Texans need a win to lock down the AFC South title.
The Bucs have picked off a couple of AFC South teams during their current four-match winning streak in the Jaguars and Colts, while they thrashed the Lions 38-17 last weekend. Tampa’s offence is one of the hottest in the NFL – aided by Jameis Winston’s effort in throwing for eight touchdowns and over 900 yards in the past fortnight. But Winston’s 30 TDs have come at a cost of 24 INTs.
The Texans bounced back from their dismal home loss to the Broncos in Week 14 with a crunch 24-21 victory over the in-form Titans. QB Deshaun Watson is having a banner season, but has tossed up four picks to three touchdowns in their last two games (compared to a 26 TD, 11 INT season tally).
Houston are a step up from the opposition Tampa Bay have accounted for over the last month. It’s a big test but the classy Texans have too much at stake to falter here.
History: Played 119: Patriots 75 V Bills 43 (1 Tie)
Last meeting: September 29, 2019: Patriots 16 d Bills 10 at New Era Field
Final Thoughts: The NFC East title effectively goes on the line when the 11-3 New England Patriots host the 10-4 Buffalo Bills.
The Pats appeared to be getting the late-season wobbles – losing to the Texans and Chiefs back-to-back – but regained their balance with a 34-13 beatdown of the Bengals in Week 15. But they started slowly again, while out-of-sorts Tom Brady missed the Pro Bowl roster for the first time this decade. The defending champs’ NFL-best defence is driving this campaign.
The Bills have won four of their last five and responded to a hard-fought 24-17 loss to the on-fire Ravens by taking down the Steelers 17-10 in Pittsburgh. Buffalo now ranks second behind New England for least points conceded per game.
The Patriots have won 34 of their last 38 against the Bills, including the last six straight. Six of the teams’ last eight encounters produced totals of 36 or less. The Pats grinded out a 16-10 win in Buffalo in Week 4.
The Bills are a tempting proposition here as $3.29 outsiders. Expect the visitors to keep it close in a low-scorer.
History: Played 140: 49ers 70 V Rams 67 (3 Ties)
Last meeting: October 13, 2019: 49ers 20 d Rams 13 at L.A. Memorial Coliseum
Final Thoughts: Another colossal division showdown, this time in the NFC West. The 11-3 San Francisco 49ers are duking it out for the NFC West title with the Seahawks, while the 8-6 LA Rams need to win their last two and hope for other results to fall their way to sneak into the playoffs.
The 49ers suffered their third at-the-death loss in the space of six games last weekend, blowing it 29-22 against the Falcons. Injuries in their defensive contingent is not helping matters.
The Rams looked to have built solid momentum courtesy of a resounding 28-12 win over the Seahawks, but negated that with a sorry 44-21 defeat to the Cowboys in Week 15. Jared Goff is set to play despite a thumb injury.
The last four matches between the division rivals – with both teams winning two – were decided by 13 points or more. The 49ers overwhelmed the Rams for a 20-7 road win in Week 6.
Jimmy G and the 49ers should get the job done at home, with the Rams’ defence just not up to standard on a regular basis.
History: Played 14: Titans 8 V Saints 5 (1 Tie)
Last meeting: November 8, 2015: Titans 34 d Saints 28 at Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Final Thoughts: The 8-6 Tennessee Titans are second in the AFC South, while the 11-3 New Orleans Saints already have another NFC South title under lock and key.
The Saints followed up their 48-46 shootout loss to the 49ers with a 34-7 rout of the Colts. Drew Brees has thrown for nine touchdowns (zero INTs) in their past two games, passing Peyton Manning’s all-time record in the process.
The Titans have been a real surprise packet since entrusting Ryan Tannehill with the QB role, winning six of their last eight games. A four-game winning streak was snapped by a crucial 24-21 loss to the AFC South-leading Texans.
The Titans have won five of their last six against the Saints.
The Titans’ defence still has some sizeable question marks hovering over it, while the Saints’ 5-1 road record – including wins in their last five away – is enough to warrant getting behind them.
History: Played 41: Ravens 30 V Browns 11
Last meeting: September 29, 2019: Browns 40 d Ravens 25 at M&T Bank Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 6-8 Cleveland Browns host a 12-2 Baltimore Ravens outfit on a relentless 10-match winning streak.
A win will all but wrap on the AFC’s top seed for the Ravens, who crushed the Jets 42-21 last weekend. MVP favourite Lamar Jackson threw for five touchdowns and broke Michael Vick’s season rushing yards record for a quarterback.
The Browns were on a roll with four wins in five games, only to revert to their early-season malaise in a 38-24 loss to the also-rans Cardinals in Week 15. Rumours of discontent in the Browns’ ranks forecast a grim finish to the season.
It seems incongruous now, but the Browns inflicted one of the Ravens’ two defeats this season in Week 4 – a 40-25 upset in Baltimore. Prior to that, the Ravens had won 19 of their last 22 against the Browns, though the Browns did nab a tight, low-scoring overtime win at home last season.
The Ravens have made a habit of putting the hurt on teams during this winning streak – particularly poorly-performed opposition. Only two of the Ravens’ last eight wins (against the 49ers and Bills) came by less than 14 points. Hard to envisage the Browns covering here.
History: Played 121: Cowboys 69 V Eagles 52
Last meeting: October 20, 2019: Cowboys 37 d Eagles 10 at AT&T Stadium
Final Thoughts: The contenders have been less than impressive but the NFC East title goes on the line with the Eagles and Cowboys facing off in Philadelphia. Both teams boast modest 7-7 records; fortunate, their other division-mates are among the worst teams in the NFL.
Both teams are coming off a win, however. The Cowboys arrested a three-game slide with a 44-21 win over the Rams, highlighted by a confidence-boosting display by Dak Prescott (212 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) and Ezekiel Elliott (117 rushing yds, 2 TDs). The Eagles have put two victories together, albeit against dreadful opposition: they beat aforementioned division rivals the Giants (OT) and Redskins unconvincingly.
The Cowboys have won their last four against the Eagles, including a 37-10 beat-down in Dallas earlier this season. The Cowboys have won six of their last seven in Philadelphia.
Dallas’ offence is vastly superior, and they have been better without the ball this season too. Philadelphia have been a rank disappointment and should be put out of commission this weekend.
History: Played 12: Bears 7 V Chiefs 5
Last meeting: October 11, 2015: Bears 18 d Chiefs 17 at Arrowhead Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 10-4 Kansas City Chiefs have secured the AFC West title in a canter, while the playoffs ship looks to have sailed for the 7-7 Chicago Bears.
The Chiefs are building up solid momentum leading into the post-season. Last week’s 23-3 rout of the Broncos was their fourth win in succession. The Bears suffered an agonising 21-13 loss to the Packers as a three-match winning streak came to an end.
The Chiefs are 2-4 all time in Chicago. But they are 6-1 on the road this season and should have too much firepower for a Bears team that has the best defensive record but the worst offensive record in the NFC.
History: Played 118: Packers 61 V Vikings 54 (3 Ties)
Last meeting: September 15, 2019: Packers 21 d Vikings 16 at Lambeau Field
Final thoughts: Yet another potential division title-deciding showdown. And this doubles as one of the league’s biggest grudge matches to boot. The 10-4 Minnesota Vikings are at home to the 11-3 Green Bay Packers.
Since going down the Seahawks in Week 13, the Vikes have brushed aside the Lions (20-7) and Chargers (39-10). The Packers are on a three-game winning run after putting away the Giants (31-13), Redskins (20-15) and Bears (21-13).
Kirk Cousins’ Pro Bowl selection ahead of Aaron Rodgers creates another intriguing subplot as the QBs go head-to-head. But the teams’ solidly-performing secondary units will have just as big a say in this encounter.
The Packers carved out a 21-16 home win over the Bears in Week 2 – after the Bears had lost just one of the teams’ previous seven encounters.
Rodgers’ big-game chops shape as a decisive factor, making the Packers hard to resist with the points.