AFC North Week 16 Predictions

AFC North Week 16 Predictions
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Welcome to the AFC North predictions page!

Each week, one of our AFC North feature writers will list their picks for that week and be forced to explain why they voted as they did. Keep in mind that these picks are for entertainment purposes only, and in no way should be used to influence gambling or illegal activity, unless you’re smart enough to recognize that we know more than you because we publish things.

Baltimore Ravens @ Houston Texans
Sunday, December 21, 1:00pm, CBS

This game may have some significance to Gary Kubiak after being fired as the Texans head coach and bringing the most prolific offense to the Ravens in their brief history (although the bar wasn’t set too high). The Ravens have had a history of signing former Texans castoffs who ended up finding success in Baltimore. The current group includes tight end Owen Daniels (the Ravens second leading receiver), running back Justin Forsett (the NFL’s yards per carry leader and 5th leading rusher), and coaches Gary Kubiak (offensive coordinator), Brian Pariani (tight ends) and Rick Dennison (quarterbacks). Jacoby Jones, who’s production may have dropped significantly, but is a member of the last group of Texans acquisitions who collectively helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl.

Oh yea, this game is also significant to the playoff chances of both teams. It is an elimination game for the Texans, and almost assures a Ravens playoff berth with a Baltimore win.

What to watch: 

J.J. Watt vs the Ravens offensive line What hasn’t defensive end J.J. Watt done this year? He has more sacks than all other Texans combined (16.5), has gathered five of the teams 14 fumble recoveries, forced three himself, and leads the team with 10 passes defended. The biggest problem teams have is communication and adjusting, as Watt can line up anywhere in the Texans’ front seven. That said, he can be limited as teams outside of the AFC South have proven. His numbers are much lower in those games, perhaps due to lack of familiarity, although he certainly knows the Kubiak offense well.

Ravens pass defenders vs Texans receivers This is completely dependent on the health of running back Arian Foster (hip) and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (ankle), as Andre Johnson looks to be okay. In-light of the quarterback shuffle in Houston, the Ravens will be keying on stopping the Texans bread-and-butter, which is their running game.  The running game depends heavily on a healthy Foster, otherwise he will be used much more as a receiver. Houston is good at keeping pressure off of their quarterback, and if their QB has time (whoever it may be), receivers will be open against the Ravens banged up defensive backfield.

Bottom line:  Houston won’t have enough offense with a new QB and hurting stars, and they don’t fair well against teams with more than 3 wins.  Ravens 24-17


Cleveland Browns @ Carolina Panthers
Sunday, December 21, 1:00pm, CBS

Johnny Manziel and the now-deflated Browns head to Carolina to take on the Panthers who are just a half game out of first despite their 5-8-1 record. The Browns need a miracle to make the playoffs, but it starts with this game.

What to watch:

Johnny Manziel  Once again, all eyes will be on Johnny Football. Last week the interest was due to the high expectations placed on him, no only from self-promotion, fans, and media hype, but also because of the flash of play-making ability he displayed on the field just two weeks prior. This week the expectations are slightly different. After the train-wreck of a game last week, there is much more pressure on Johnny to perform and justify his draft position, however unfair that may be. The Panthers defense has some new-found mojo, and this match-up will be why most tune in.

Cam Newton  Carolina has had their own polarizing quarterback, but who’s critics have mellowed over time. He is coming off of a horrific car accident that “luckily” left him with just two little fractures in his back. He has recovered enough to play in this one, and was reported to have thrown a 65 yard pass in practice. Superman? If Cam is healthy enough to play to his ability, Cam vs the Browns defense will be another reason to tune in.

Bottom line:  The Panthers are too close to falter at this point, and their defense has played very well recently. Manziel has too much NFL and offensive cramming to do in a short period of time. Panthers 24-13


Kansas City Chiefs @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, December 21, 1:00pm, CBS

The Chiefs travel to Pittsburgh in a game between two teams who are heading in different directions. Just a few weeks ago, Kansas City looked like they would overtake the Broncos in the AFC West, and now they are on the outside looking in after three straight losses before last week’s win against the Raiders. A loss this week could eliminate them from the Playoffs. The Steelers on the other hand control their divisional fate, and are playing well recently with two straight wins on the road.

What to watch:

Chiefs mid-range attack vs Steelers front seven. There isn’t much flash or excitement with the Chiefs offense, but running back Jamaal Charles is the exception. They use his ability to run and catch to lock up linebackers and safeties, then flash tight ends and receivers behind the first wave of defenders. How mid-range do you ask? Their leading receiver is the a tight end, only one wide receiver has more than 15 receptions, and no WR has a touchdown catch this season out of 18 thrown. The Steelers have given up an average of more than 400 yards per game over their last three, but will have to play to their potential and bottle up Charles to stop the Chiefs’ methodical offense.

Le’Veon Bell.  The Chiefs have a stingy defense, but they have issues giving up big gains on the ground between the twenties (almost 5 yards per carry). Its only a matter of time that their run defense will crack in the redzone, and Le’Veon Bell is just the back to do it.  The Chiefs are solid against the pass and can pressure the QB, but Bell can relieve these issues with his dual threat ability.

Bottom line:  The Chiefs will try to make this a close frustrating game, but they are just too one-dimensional on offense to keep it up for four quarters. Steelers 23-20


Denver Broncos @ Cincinnati Bengals 
Monday, December 22, 8:30pm, ESPN

The Broncos head to Cincinnati in a matchup between two of the most scrutinized quarterbacks in the NFL. Although each has had their share of success, and of course one much more so than the other, fans and media alike focus on situations in which they expect both fail. Quarterback Peyton Manning fails when its cold, or when the games really mean something (although he has won a Super Bowl and three AFC Championship games). Quarterback Andy Dalton can’t win in primetime and in the playoffs, although he performed very well in their last Monday night game with 280 yards and a TD in a 20-10 win.

What to watch:

Andy Dalton  Despite the positives of the Bengals QB, onlookers will analyze every Andy Dalton drop back, read, throw, mental state, and reaction to a teammate’s mistake. Denver will no doubt try to pressure the Bengals into mistakes early to increase the probability of an offensive implosion. Its up to Andy Dalton AND the players around him to make some plays and gain some early confidence as a unit. They have shown a tremendous balanced attack when they play with swagger.

Geno Adkins The key to stopping Peyton Manning is pressuring him early and often, and hitting him any chance a team gets (even if its teetering on late). The Bengals will need to do this by getting a push up the middle while rushing just four. Geno Adkins is the man to do it as he proved last week. The Bengals only blitzed a couple of times the entire game while harassing Manziel. While Manziel is no Peyton, he is certainly more mobile. Collapsing the pocket on Manning, eliminating his ability to step up and throw downfield is critical to the Bengals success.

Bottom line: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bengals pulled off a win, but there are just too many variables going against them. Broncos 27-20


Author’s picks:

Writer Game Score
Ravenous128 Ravens @ Texans Ravens 26-14
Browns @ Panthers Browns 17-14
Chiefs @ Steelers Chiefs 28-24
Broncos @ Bengals Broncos 35-21
Peatwo Ravens @ Texans Ravens 24-17
Browns @ Panthers Panthers 24-13
Chiefs @ Steelers Steelers 23-20
Broncos @ Bengals Broncos 27-20
DOOOMMEEEEDD Ravens @ Texans Ravens 31-16
Browns @ Panthers Panthers 27-13
Chiefs @ Steelers Steelers 27-17
Broncos @ Bengals Bengals 24-20



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