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Week 16 NFL picks straight up: Chargers edge Ravens; Jets beat Packers | NFL

Predicting the results of NFL games is more fun when playoff scenarios are in play, which is certainly the case in Week 16. And even though a handful of teams were eliminated from playoff contention last week, 14 of the 16 games on this week’s schedule feature at least one team in the postseason hunt.

Only four of those 14 games, though, are matchups of two teams currently alive in the playoff picture. The first is a Saturday night special. The result of the Ravens-Chargers game in Los Angeles will impact multiple games set to be played the next day. For example, the Steelers and Chiefs — both of whom have tough matchups themselves Sunday — will be watching the Saturday night game closely.

Below are our NFL picks and predictions for Week 16 of the 2018 season.

Week 16 NFL picks against the spread

Week 16 NFL picks, predictions

(All times ET)

Washington Redskins at Tennessee Titans

Saturday, 4:40 p.m., NFL Network

The Titans have earned their reputation as an unpredictable team this season; this is still the team that lost to the Bills and, more recently, got blown out by the Colts. But a couple things make them easy to trust this week. One, their three-game winning streak has come with a commitment to the running game and, apparently, a newfound mindset in Derrick Henry. Two, Josh Johnson starting at QB for Washington. The carrot that is the playoff picture dangling in front of the home team won’t hurt, either.

Prediction: Titans, 20-10

Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Chargers

Saturday, 8:20 p.m., NFL Network

With respect to the likes of Tennessee, Indianapolis and Miami, this is the AFC playoff picture game of the week. Both teams are putting serious pressure on the leaders of their respective divisions, and both are doing it on the strength of defense. The Chargers, though, are optimistic they’ll have their banged-up playmakers healthy enough to play. That would make them the more complete team, even though the Ravens suddenly can run the ball on anybody.

Prediction: Chargers, 24-20

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS

It’s the Hue Jackson Game, Part II. Cleveland embarrassed Cincinnati and its former coach a few weeks ago, when the Bengals were beginning their slide out of the playoff picture and the Browns were starting to click in the post-Jackson era. Now the Browns are at home and still in the aforementioned playoff picture. It’s Week 16. Regardless of the result, that in itself is amazing.

Prediction: Browns, 30-14

MORE: Current NFL playoff picture

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX

The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win. That alone should push them to take seriously and defeat a tricky opponent in the last home game of the season. If not, hopefully getting shut out by the Colts was the wake-up call Dak Prescott said it was. Dallas can’t blow this chance to punch its postseason ticket.

Prediction: Cowboys, 27-24

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX

The Vikings are done with outdoor games this season until the playoffs — if they make it. Even with that being so, they picked a good time to re-commit to the running game. They’ll need it against the spoiler-minded Lions this week, and they’ll need it even more against the Bears next week in what could be a win-and-in scenario. And that’s before Minnesota has to play a potential wild-card playoff game on the road, likely outdoors.

Prediction: Vikings, 28-10

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The following things are true. The Patriots have committed uncharacteristic violations — in the form of penalties, poor coaching decisions, bad Tom Brady throws — over the past couple weeks. And at the end of October, the Bills gave them a fight in Buffalo before New England pulled away late. But one more thing is true: The Patriots are not losing at home to the Bills in December with a chance to clinch the division.

Prediction: Patriots, 34-13

Green Bay Packers at New York Jets

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX

With both teams out of the playoff hunt and both seemingly headed for an offseason full of changes, this one is all about motivation. It’s also about injuries. Aaron Rodgers wants to play, and strangely, he might be the Packers’ only chance to beat a Jets team that has shown promise to close Sam Darnold’s rookie season. Green Bay hasn’t won a game on the road all season; no reason to think it’ll do so in its last chance.

Prediction: Jets, 21-17

Houston Texans at Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS

The Eagles will be playing this game knowing that, even if they win, the Cowboys can take the division with a win over the Bucs. The Vikings also will be favored to beat the Lions, complicating Philadelphia’s wild-card chances. Hopefully the playoff picture doesn’t distract the Eagles from the fact that their secondary is facing an uphill battle against the Deshaun Watson-DeAndre Hopkins connection, regardless of the weather at The Linc.

Prediction: Texans, 20-14

PLAYOFF PICTURE: Scenarios for Week 16

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX

Welcome to The Disappointment Bowl. For different reasons, Atlanta and Carolina are among the most unfulfilling teams in the league this season. The Falcons, decimated by injuries to key players, have the better excuse. The Panthers have a similar culprit in Cam Newton’s bad throwing shoulder, but there are many more reasons for their jarring, six-game losing streak. In the NFL, momentum is just a fancy synonym for mindset, and Atlanta’s is better right now.

Prediction: Falcons, 24-16

New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS

The conversation heading into this one, as it is in most games, will be about the quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Andrew Luck, for differing reasons. It should be about the players who might win offensive and defensive rookie of the year, respectively. Saquon Barkley is coming off a dud of a game against the Titans to face Darius Leonard, who’s easily leading the league in tackles as a rookie. Defense wins championships, or something.

Prediction: Colts, 33-14

Jacksonville Jaguars at Miami Dolphins

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS

Of the two AFC teams from Florida, the Dolphins are not the one that was supposed to be alive in the playoff picture come Week 16 of the 2018 season. The Jaguars’ crumble this season, highlighted by embarrassing QB play, feels worse every time Jalen Ramsey speaks with media. The surprises for both teams this season boil down to coaching. Adam Gase deserves a tip of the cap, playoff berth or not.

Prediction: Dolphins, 17-6

Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals

Sunday, 4:05 p.m., FOX

When these teams met back in September, the Rams earned a shutout win and announced themselves as true NFC contenders. Fourteen weeks later, those same Rams are trying to prove they’re not pretenders. Consecutive losses have them in danger of losing home-field advantage in the playoffs, and they don’t want to go to New Orleans in January. What should be a get-well game in a less intimidating dome is just what the doctor ordered.

Prediction: Rams, 31-13

Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers

Sunday, 4:05 p.m., FOX

The exceptional effort with which the 49ers have played this season despite key injuries culminated in last week’s upset of the Seahawks. They get another chance to knock off an NFC playoff team this week, again at home. The Bears, coming off an emotional, division-clinching win over the Packers and making the trip to the West Coast, need to be careful. Good thing they have Khalil Mack; he will remind Nick Mullens of Von Miller, the pass-rusher the Niners QB saw a couple weeks ago.

Prediction: Bears, 20-16

Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints

Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Too much has been made about the Saints’ perceived underachievement on offense of late, and not enough has been made of their dominance on defense. The same can be said for the Steelers after they held the Patriots to 10 points in what felt like a must-win game. Pittsburgh might not be as desperate in this one, but it should be with Baltimore nipping at its heels in the division standings.

Prediction: Steelers, 28-27

MORE: Updated NFL power rankings

Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks

Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC

The Chiefs, who play in arguably the NFL’s loudest stadium, have to face the Seahawks in the other stadium that’s arguably the noisiest in the league. And they have to do it in a prime-time slot. Then again, Patrick Mahomes does not seem intimidated by much of anything. If his passing can out-do Seattle’s rushing, Kansas City should get one step closer to its goal of forcing all AFC playoff foes to travel to Arrowhead.

Prediction: Chiefs, 35-24

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders

Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

This game has Raiders win written all over it. Chances are it’ll be the last time the franchise plays in Oakland, so one can only imagine the collective emotion in the Coliseum, from players and fans alike. Neither team is fighting for a playoff spot, with the Broncos fresh off their disappointing elimination. Then again, losing this game would be such a Raiders thing to do — especially for these Raiders.

Prediction: Broncos, 27-21

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