Patriots

Week 16 NFL Picks: 49ers To Earn NFC West Supremacy, NFC East Race To Last One More Week

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Frank Gore (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Frank Gore (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — This is not a column about the New York Jets. It just can’t be.

Never before has a 6-8 team with a lousy quarterback gotten more attention for no reason other than being slightly below mediocre. There’s no doubt a schadenfreude element to the obsession over the Jets, but with the Mark Sanchez/Greg McElroy news this week, you would’ve thought Rex Ryan called for the first quarterback change on a sub-.500 team in history.

In actuality, we’ve seen plenty of those this season for various reasons. Chad Henne, Brady Quinn, Ryan Lindley/John Skelton and Nick Foles will all start Sunday for teams under .500, and nobody really cares.

Yet we’ve got 24-hour coverage of the Jets, their quarterbacks, Tim Tebow trade demands, Rex Ryan job security debates, Mark Sanchez trade questions, national columnists’ thoughts (on the website of a Los Angeles newspaper) on who will start for the Jets at QB in 2013, and so on.

It’s a bit over the top, so no, this is not a column about the New York Jets. Though I suppose in a way, it was.

Let’s just get into the Week 16 picks. We only have two more precious weekends with 16 NFL games, let’s make it a point to really enjoy them.

(Home team in caps; Thursday lines)

Atlanta (-3.5) over DETROIT
The Lions are just the absolute worst. At least when it comes to football. They may be good at other things for all I know, but football? Forget about it.

Ridiculous Quote From Last Week’s Picks: “Falcons don’t scare me enough.”

Note: 34-0.

San Diego (+1) over NEW YORK JETS
Hey, speaking of things that are the worst, there is this game. Good seats still available!

Minnesota (+8.5) over HOUSTON
I know that the Texans are 5-2 against the spread when favored by a touchdown or more this season, so I know by that measure it’d be stupid not to take them this week. It’s likewise idiotic to ever put your faith in Christian Ponder on the road, particularly when he gets married in a courthouse earlier that week.

That said, I watched the Texans don their varsity jackets two weeks ago after getting embarrassed, and I watched them dump Gatorade on their head coach last week as if they had actually won something. They’re ready to coast until January. The Vikings, meanwhile, will be fighting for a playoff spot, and they just so happen to have the best running back on the planet looking inspired to break the all-time rushing record. If that’s not enough to at least keep things somewhat close, I’m not sure what is.

St. Louis (+3) over TAMPA BAY
I know I said we should all enjoy these last two weeks of a full football slate and try our best to soak it in, but my goodness, the schedule is making that a rather difficult task.

The Rams are 5-1 as the road underdog, which is weird and possibly random, but it’s all we have to go on here.

DALLAS (-1) over New Orleans
The Saints are 2-5 on the road, and those wins came against Tampa and Oakland, so they only barely count as real wins. I very rarely play the “One Team Needs To Win” card, but with the Cowboys right in the thick of the NFC East race, they’ll have themselves a solid game against New Orleans, which has nothing to play for but for passing the time.

Washington (-6) over PHILADELPHIA
Robert Griffin will play and the only question will be whether the Redskins can improve upon their 25-point victory over Philly just a month ago.

Indianapolis (-7) over KANSAS CITY
This really is the worst slate of NFL games I’ve ever seen, though I suppose the Chiefs do have to play. I’d go on and on about why the Colts are the safe pick here, even as a seven-point road underdog, but instead I’ve decided to compile a list of the reasons why the Chiefs might compete:

  • Uh …
  • Um …
  • Ahh …

OK then.

New England (-14.5) over JACKSONVILLE
The Patriots have the No. 1 scoring offense and No. 17 scoring defense; the Jaguars have the No. 31 scoring offense and No. 29 scoring defense.

The Patriots are 10-4 with a 5-2 road record; the Jaguars are 2-12 with a 1-5 home record.

In terms of yards, the Patriots’ quarterback is No. 2, their top rusher is No. 9 and their leading receiver is No. 8; the Jaguars’ two quarterbacks combined would rank 19th, their leading running back ranks 38th and their leading receiver ranks 16th.

The Patriots are very good; the Jaguars are perhaps the very worst.

(That was a little harsh. I’ll give the Jaguars credit for this: They are third in the league with 82 punts. That’s a whole lot of punting.)

Cincinnati (+3.5) over PITTSBURGH
Technically, the AFC North is at stake here, but I’ll choose to call it The Mediocrity Bowl. The winner gets to lose in the wild-card round of the playoffs! I do think through 14 weeks we’ve all seen the Bengals to be a touch better on the mediocrity scale than the Steelers, at least enough to take the four points and run.

MIAMI (-4.5) over Buffalo
I just can’t get over how bad this Sunday’s games are. Just horrifically, historically bad. The sad part is there is so much in this beautiful world I could do Sunday afternoon that would be preferable to watching all of this, but I know I’ll be watching, yelling at the TV for Ryan Tannehill to do a better job because I picked the Dolphins over the Bills. This is the type of moment and the type of game that makes you question your very existence. The Mayans were wrong, and this is how we choose to spend our lives?

RQFLWP: “It will be hard for the Seahawks to adjust to facing a real NFL team that probably hasn’t lost 58-0 in a while.”

Note: That’s my bad for calling the Bills “a real NFL team.” Just horrible judgment on my part and I’m very sorry for it.

CAROLINA (-9) over Oakland
Dear God please make it stop.

Tennessee (+13) over GREEN BAY
The Packers have won by 13 or more points just twice this season, and they haven’t done it since Week 9. The average score of their games since their bye week has been 21-21. There’s enough doubt to stay away from the Pack, but this game doesn’t exactly help the case for this weekend being the worst.

DENVER (-13.5) over Cleveland
What’s up with the Browns? Why did everyone start talking about the Browns this week? Why was it news that Josh McDaniels was their third pick for head coach? And why did the report say he’d “jump at” the chance? Hey, Josh, you’re the third choice to coach the worst franchise in sports! Congratulations!

It all seemed like a bunch of hubbub on a Wednesday when the Browns wanted attention. Something tells me they’ll be hoping nobody notices them during this three-hour window on Sunday.

New York Giants (-1.5) over BALTIMORE
There’s no team less reliable than the Giants, so I’d like to thank them for following up a 25-point blowout victory with a 34-0 shutout loss to really illustrate that point. I think they win this game because they’re good enough to get back into the playoffs and the Ravens are bad enough to back into the postseason with five straight losses.

Chicago (-5.5) over ARIZONA
From Week 5 through Week 14, the Cardinals averaged 10.6 points per game. Last week, they scored 38 points, which was just four fewer points than they scored in their previous four games. I believe the smart kids call that a statistical aberration.

The Bears also have to win again at some point, right?

San Francisco (-1) over SEATTLE
Finally, a game worth watching. For once, Faith Hill’s “waiting all day for Sunday night” ditty will be truthful, and as football fans, we will have earned the right to watch this game.

The 49ers get the edge because the Seahawks can’t pass the football. Even while winning 108-17 over the past two weeks, the Seahawks amassed just 405 passing yards. They rank 27th in passing yards, which on the positive side is better than the Chiefs and Jets but won’t help them much against San Francisco.

Both teams can run the ball, but the Niners are a touch better at it than the Seahawks. Provided Justin Smith can play (seems questionable at this point), the 49ers are the better team, especially if Richard Sherman loses his suspension appeal Friday and can’t play.

It’s far from a sure bet, though. The Seahawks are 6-0 against the spread at home, 6-1 as an underdog and 3-0 as a home underdog. But if ever there were a team to break up that success, it’d be San Francisco. Plus, there’s the added subplot of Jim Harbaugh-Pete Carroll. Even though it was the poor Bills who the Seahawks were beating up when they ran the fake punt up 25 points in the fourth quarter, but I have a sneaking suspicion Carroll was sending a message to his next week’s opponent.

What’s your deal,” indeed.

Last week: 9-7
Season: 103-115-6

Read more from Michael by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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