NFL Week 16 Preview Christmas Edition! – What’s in a Catch, The Curious Case of Jerry Richardson, and the Playoff Push

Football fans! How goes it?! We’ve got a great couple of weeks in store so buckle up, get comfy, and let’s get started!

First off…

notd-0

Is this a catch?

Another season, another year of playoff implications hinging on what many consider to be a blown call. The above image is of Steelers tight end Jesse James catching, yes catching, a pass from Ben Roethlisberger and extending the football towards the endzone in an effort to win the football game. Now, understand the context to this game. The Pats, down all game, had come back with just under two minutes to go. A win by Pittsburgh all but secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs, a huge advantage when potentially facing a rematch with these same Patriots in a month.

The Steelers, without their top weapon, AB (more on his status in a moment), drive the length of the field getting into field goal position for the tie and looking to secure a go ahead touchdown for the win. With under 30 seconds, Roethlisberger finds James over the middle, James catches, stretches, and the ball is dislodged by the ground as James crosses the goal line. If it is ruled that James had secured the ball, then proceeded to make a move toward the end zone, a-la a running back, then the above would have been a go ahead touchdown all but securing the Steelers a crucial victory. Instead, the officials ruled that James did not fully possess the ball through the catch. Not that he caught the ball, and then made a football move….you know, what he clearly did. If he didn’t catch the ball then how did it end up in his hands stretching across the goal line? Asking for a friend.

This debacle led us to remember the now infamous Dez Bryant “catch/no-catch” in Green Bay. In an eerily similar series of events, Bryant made a big time catch, and stretched toward the end zone in an effort to score a go ahead touchdown for Dallas against the Packers at Lambeau field in the divisional round of the 2014-2015 playoffs.

*Note – this is the same season Tony Romo outplayed Rodgers, by the numbers, in the regular season at Lambeau, and in this playoff game, but was gipped by the powers that be and saw Rodgers win MVP for a second time.

For those that don’t quite recall the reference:

catch20gif20end20zone

If James and Bryant aren’t in possession of the football prior to their reaching for the end zone then I don’t know what “possession” is. The league needs to address this ruling now, not in the off season. The idea that they will risk a playoff game or Super Bowl be determined by the letter of the law for a mis-written and ill conceived rule is ludicrous. The NFL will wait until the off season, but they’d be wise to take this issue up before January. When asked his thoughts on the James “catch/no-catch”, Bryant may have put it best….

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 8.45.47 PM.png
It’s always a “sucks for them” situation until it happens to your team. Image Credit: ESPN IG

Okay, now that we’ve got that off of our chest, let’s move to the even bigger issue at hand. I recently had a friend ask me about the state of the NFL as America’s sports leader. He pointed to issues with kneeling and fans turning away. I acknowledged his points, but noted the larger issues lie in the league’s hypocrisy. Simply put, if you don’t appreciate the kneeling, odds are you stopped watching or haven’t been THAT big of a fan for quite some time. The die hard fans, in our anecdotal experience, are most frustrated with inconsistency, hypocrisy, and duplicity. By that we mean, referees not calling games evenly for both teams, missing egregious calls for one team, but not the other. A league claiming to “care” about its players and “their safety”, while only suspending one of the faces of its league one game for blatantly violating another player’s safety by lowering an elbow to the back of his skull. Meanwhile, players exonerated of wrong doing in a civil matter off the field are suspended six games by the league, yet an owner is outed for engaging in harassing sexual behavior for years and the NFL has yet to do anything about it.

It’s this sort of hypocrisy that could ultimately cripple the NFL and its standing as America’s top sport. The player safety issue must continue to be addressed or there won’t be any future NFL stars to play and entertain on Sundays anyway. That said, let’s address this Jerry Richardson business. Turns out, the Carolina Panthers owner has been creeping out staffers for the Panthers organization for years. Years?! YEARS. How this hasn’t taken up more of the sports media news cycle is beyond us at TSO. Could it be that the league is attempting to sweep what would be a black eye for itself under the table? Again, asking for a friend.

How an owner of one of the more popular franchises in the NFL was able to get away with requesting female staffers to “wear certain jeans,” settle for large sums for four ex- employees, and even resolve a claim about a racial slur for years is unfathomable. Unfathomable were it not so sadly transparent in our “woke” culture of 2017 and the #metoo movement. Kudos to those involved with SI and the staffers willing to speak out about this.

The NFL and all industries that seek to promote a culture of equality and fairness must stamp out this behavior as quickly as possible. That is to say nothing of the blatant hypocrisy facing a league that sought to make an example of a star running back, Ezekiel Elliott, for something he didn’t do, yet looked the other way for years while a league owner was violating league and workplace conduct policies left and right in his very own, a NFL sanctioned, organization. If there is one saving grace to all of this, it is that Richardson has decided to sell the team, being that he is likely to removed were he not to, and in doing so a woman, Tina Becker becomes the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Panthers effective immediately. That’s right. Tina Becker, will now hold arguably the most prominent, influential and powerful position of any woman in the history of the NFL. And the beautiful irony that she is taking over for an owner forced to sell and relinquish his post due to his misogynist behavior makes this transition that much sweeter. Did we mention that she’ll be responsible for day to day operations of a team headed by a quarterback that earlier this season laughed at a the notion of a female reporter asking him about “route trees”? Chuckle chuckle. Cam…looks like the joke’s on you and the Panthers. Miss Becker will see you in her office now.

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 9.38.32 PM.png
Go get ’em Tina! Image Credit: CBS Sports

Panthers brass and staffers certainly “got some ‘splaining to do” and being that Richardson’s sell of the Panthers is not yet official, the NFL needs to formally investigate this. In the interim, here’s to hoping Tina finds success in her new role and hopefully rights the ship for what was once thought of as a model organization in the NFL.

The Panthers, like many teams, are in the playoff hunt. Changing gears, this is the part of the season that makes football so very exciting and yes, still America’s top sport. We have eight teams that were not in the playoffs this year in the hunt as we head into the final two weeks of the regular season, and we may have nine by week’s end depending on how things shake out. That hasn’t happened since 2003! I mean come on, you can’t not love that! Even with all of the turmoil and turnover, TSO managed to post a respectable 10 and 6 last week as we continue to seek to predict the unpredictable.

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 7.48.53 PM

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

Early Game

Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens

Oh boy. Who decided it was a good idea to put the Colts on back to back primetime slots? Seriously. Who? Ugh. Okay, the Ravens have one of the best defenses in the NFL and over the past eight weeks the Ravens also boast one of the top scoring offenses in the league. Fact. Baltimore nearly outscored the explosive Steelers, putting up 38. Alex Collins has been a revelation at the running back position and Mike Wallace is turning back the clock ever so slightly as a number one wide receiver. The last guy you want to get hot heading into January is Joe Flacco. If there is one guy that can cause all kinds of hell for teams like the Steelers and Pats its the Baltimore Ravens.

Baltimore will have an easy time making mince meat of Jacoby Brissett, Frank Gore, T.Y. Hilton and the Colts offense. This won’t be much of a contest and as such we won’t spend much time on it. Ravens dominate covering the ridiculous spread (-12.5).

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 9.54.04 PM.png
The Delaware State product is heating up in December and that could spell trouble for other AFC contenders. Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

Saturday Night Football

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

Whoosh! You hear that? It’s the wind going out of the NFL’s sails after the Vikings clinched the NFC North and the Packers were eliminated from playoff contention last week. Yep. What almost shaped up as a huge division matchup between teams fighting to get in and secure playoff seeding turns out to be nothing more than a formality with the tables turned. Minnesota, winning the North for the first time since 2009, is in the driver’s seat and seeking to secure home field advantage in the divisional round. Green Bay, once eliminated, opted to play it safe with Aaron Rodgers after falling to Carolina and designated Aaron to the IR.

There is some exciting news in this game though. Teddy Bridgewater took the field for the first time since 2016 last week with the game in hand, and odds are good he may see some time against the Packers should this turn into the inevitable blowout it is expected to be. Here’s to hoping. Vikings roll (no line).

Sunday, December 24th, 2017 – Christmas Eve!

Early Games

Detroit Lions @ Cincinnati Bengals

Battle of the big cats! The Lions head into Cincy to take on the Bengals. It has been reported that Marvin Lewis will not be returning for a 16th season as the Bengals head coach. Lewis, in his 15th season as head coach, is the longest tenured head coach in Bengals franchise history. He has been instrumental in instilling a winning culture, but could never seem to get over that final hump of besting his division foes, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Lewis has yet to confirm the reports of his pending departure, but it appears to be all but a formality at this point.

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell heaped praise on Lewis and the work he’s done in Cincinnati. Caldwell, however, is still very much in the playoff hunt yet again with the Lions and won’t be as kind on the field as he was with the media. Under Caldwell the Lions continue to do more with less than their counterparts in the uber talented NFC North. We think the Lions continue getting more from less in week 16, keeping themselves one NFC South slip away from a wild card spot (Detroit covers -3). 

Miami Dolphins @ Kansas City Chiefs

And here come the Chiefs. After appearing to disappear and lose their identity during the middle part of the season, Kansas City has put together back to back impressive performances against division foes. Tales of their demise were, in fact, greatly exaggerated. That’s bad news for the all but done Miami Dolphins. Miami heads into KC having the wind taken out of their sails, after pulling off a big upset against the Patriots in week 14 only to fall to the Bills in week 15. The Dolphins week 15 loss all but eliminate them from playoff contention.

The Chiefs on the other hand are in the driver’s seat for their division holding every tie breaker with division opponents and very much in control of their own destiny. There’s no exact “secret sauce” to Kansas City’s success this season, unless you count raw speed. Of the players with scoring plays where their top speed exceeded 20 mph, only one has more than two such plays. That player? Tyreek “Cheetah” Hill. That’s right, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Sterling Shepherd all only account for two such plays each, while Hill has had six plays where his top speed exceeded 20 mph on a resulting touchdown. That’s damn impressive and a big part of the reason for the Chiefs “knack” for big plays this season. That and players like Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt don’t hurt either.

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 10.26.49 PM.png
Known for throwing up the “peace” sign after blowing past defenders, Hill may have plenty of chances to throw up deuces against the Dolphins. Image Credit: Sporting News

Miami does have a player with wheels of his own in Kenyan Drake, but Drake’s speed alone may not be enough in enemy territory. The Chiefs hold the best home field advantage at Arrowhead, and Jay Cutler is primed for a stinker of a game on the road in KC. As much as we love the talent on Miami, this matchup shapes up to be a dominant performance by the Chiefs in all phases of the game. Chiefs win and cover easily (-10). 

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots

Remember that one game suspension hypocrisy we mentioned? Know what a four game suspension would’ve done? Possibly cost New England the top seed in the AFC given the huge part Gronkowski played in the Patriots win in Pittsburgh in week 15. More importantly though, a four game suspension would have kept Gronk out of what is sure to be a heated exchange and ugly contest between the larger than life tight end and Buffalo’s secondary. Buffalo heads into New England in a must win situation looking to exact revenge for what was a dirty play and cheap shot from the Patriots tight end, Rob Gronkowski. Justifiably upset about the play by Gronkowski, Bills players have vowed to head hunt for the big New England tight end in what will only end ugly for the teams and the league on Sunday.

It would be nice to pick the Bills here. They have the talent to pull off an upset, and the perennially underrated Tyrod Taylor can certainly hang with and beat Tom Brady. Yes, beat. Taylor has improved every year since he became the starter in Buffalo nearly four years ago, and while many are quick to throw shade his way, he has done nothing but climb Pro Football Focus’s rankings each season. Taylor grades out at 83.4, currently landing him at #12, but may find himself in the top ten by season’s end. That may not be impressive, but consider the supporting cast. Outside of LeSean McCoy, who has Taylor had to work with? Injury plagued Sammy Watkins and Charles Clay? Kelvin Benjamin who has been banged up this season? Robert Woods was an after thought until he upped his game in a big way following his trade from Buffalo to LA? It’s not exactly like Taylor has been throwing to elite talent.

On the Patriots’ side of the ball they will be without Rex Burkhead and Chris Hogan, which isn’t ideal, but so long as Brady has Gronk, New England is deadly. The Bills won’t have an answer for Gronk in man coverage so look for them to shadow his way with a safety. That’s going to put a ton of pressure on the cornerback drawing man coverage on speedster Brandin Cooks. The Bills will need to get pressure on Brady and force him off of his spot to have a chance at disrupting the rhythmic passing game of the Pats. New England is supposed to win this game.

New England holds all of the cards. But they are facing Shady McCoy, who last week became the 30th player in NFL history with over 10,000 rushing yards. They’re also facing Swiss Army Knife Charles Clay, and his counterpart, the Golden Bear’s grandson, Nick O’Leary. And that’s why we’re taking the long shot that the Bills do the unthinkable and upset the Pats at home in Foxboro. (Buffalo wins and we’ll take the points +10.5)

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 7.44.02 PM.png
Shady and T-Mobile could present real matchup problems for a struggling Pats D. Image Credit: Philly.com

Cleveland Browns @ Chicago Bears

Another one we’re going to keep very short. Both of these teams are young, rebuilding, and have nothing to play for in 2017 other than evaluating talent. That being said, we’d love to see the Browns win, because no one wants to see a club go 0 and 16. It’s just brutal to watch. Unfortunately the matchup doesn’t generate a lot of hope for the Browns. Our past prediction of a Browns win against the Packers was based on the element of surprise. This week that isn’t the case.

The Bears are very much aware of what the Browns do well and what they don’t and they are also wanting to win and evaluate what they do and don’t have before 2018. The Bears D is ready for Flash Gordon and co. and get after Kizer early. Myles Garrett will harass Trubisky, but the Bears rookie signal caller is more mobile and has proven to be a better decision maker early on. Bears win a close one and leave the Browns with one last chance to get off the snide. (Bears win, but Browns with points +7)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers

A trap game if there ever was one for the Panthers. After an impressive win against the Packers, Carolina hosts division foe, Tampa Bay, in a game with all sorts of playoff implications for the Panthers and no repercussions for the Bucs. In other words, Tampa has nothing to lose, but everything to gain by playing spoiler. Will the Bucs be a match for a red hot Panthers team?

Consider that Tampa Bay will have to find an answer for Christian McCaffrey. You know, the first rookie running back in NFL History with 70 receptions and 5 receiving touchdowns. Or the evolution that has been Cam Newton this season. In case you missed it last week, Green Bay’s Clay Matthews attempted to diagnose a play the Panthers were going to run pre-snap, declaring to his teammates:

“It’s a wheel route. It’s that wheel route! I study too.”

To which Newton pointed at Matthews and cooly stated:

“You’ve been watching film huh? Watch this.”

And Newton proceeded to throw a touchdown pass to McCaffrey on a slant, instead of a wheel route. The video of Newton calling out Matthews has since gone viral, and in case you missed it, you owe it to yourself to check out the 15 second clip.

With Newton emerging as not just the most athletic and physical man on the football field, but also a smart and savvy player to boot, the Panthers are going to be tough to beat in December and January barring injury. The way Cam plays does cause pause because you never quite know when one of his game changing runs could result in him being sidelined, but until that happens the Panthers have one of the deadliest weapons in the league under center. Jameis Winston played better in week 15, but he’d be wise to watch and learn in week 16. Panthers win easily setting up a potential NFC South winner take all showdown in week 17 against the Falcons (-9.5). 

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints

Now we’re talking! Huge division rivalry with playoff implications galore. The winner of this rematch will control its own destiny, while the looser will likely be relegated to a wild card spot or worse. ESPN’s FPI gives the advantage to the Saints in second installment of this rivalry in 2017, but it also gave NOLA the advantage in the first matchup as well. True New Orleans lost Alvin Kamara early due to a concussion, and it’s unlikely that happens again, but is that all there is to this matchup?

Let’s not forget the Falcons played without the services of DeVonta Freeman, who just proved his game changing ability last Monday night. So both squads will be closer to full strength than the first time they met a couple of weeks ago. Julio Jones is the only major question mark and he claims that his ankle is feeling good and he’s ready to go. That being said, Atlanta’s bigger question mark will be the play of Matt Ryan. Ryan threw three interceptions in their matchup with the Saints in week 14 and he’ll have to cut down on the crucial INTs, especially in the red zone, if the Falcons are to have a shot at knocking off the Saints at home.

Drew Brees oddly threw the most costly interception of the four total thrown in Atlanta in week 14, but the Dirty Birds can’t count on that to win this contest. Look for the Saints to come out and attempt to stretch the field early, forcing Atlanta on its heels. If the Falcons can take the brunt of what New Orleans throws at them in the first half and remain in striking distance or even have a small lead, then Atlanta will hold the upper hand in the second half. However, if the Saints exert their will on three or four straight drives to open the game the Falcons may find themselves too far behind the eight ball to catch up. The Falcons defense will need to have Trufant cover Michael Thomas, allowing them to dedicate a cornerback to account for Kamara’s game breaking speed.

On Atlanta’s side of the ball they’ll want to use Freeman, but he key may be Tevin Coleman. Coleman often draws a linebacker when he splits out wide, and that always ends up as a mismatch to the Falcons advantage. Coleman matches Kamara’s ability to take a big catch or open lane to the house, but he doesn’t get the attention because when do Falcons ever get the credit they deserve? It took an other worldly season from Matty Ice to win MVP, and that was still a battle against much less qualified competition.

We must give credit where it is due though, and acknowledge what the one-two punch of Ingram and Kamara have accomplished this season.

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 8.46.46 PM.png
Quite the accomplishment by the Saints backfield duo. Image Credit: NFL Network IG

Due credit aside, the other Saints rookie, Marshon Lattimore, will be the key factor in this matchup. If he can contain Julio Jones that will free up the Saints defense to matchup much more evenly with Atlanta across the board; however, if Lattimore fails at containing the monster that is Julio Jones, the Saints D could be in for a long Sunday.

The Falcons still hold one of the highest third down conversion rates, and are one of, if not the most talented teams in the NFL. With both offenses ranking neck and neck, and the Falcons holding the advantage on defense and special teams, we’ll take our Dirty Birds to pull another “upset” out and move one game closer to defending their title as NFC South champions. Falcons win and set up a fantastic showdown with the Panthers next Sunday (+5). 

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 9.13.04 PM.png
Ryan will need to be clutch for Atlanta to upset the Saints in the Superdome. Image Credit: Atlanta Falcons

Denver Broncos @ Washington Redskins

Oy vey! Who cares?! No, seriously, who? I doubt even Broncos and Redskins fans care about this game at this point. The only interesting development we can see is this: is this a tryout of sorts by Cousins for the Denver Broncos? Cousins made it clear that the franchise tag this year was his choice, which means he isn’t afraid to say no to Washington. We can’t blame him and could you imagine what he could do with a defense like Denver’s having his back? It’s not hard to imagine Cousins outplaying Manning’s last season in Denver, which would more than makeup for any slight defensive decline by the Broncos in recent years.

Beyond the Kirk Cousins free agent intrigue, there isn’t much here to get excited about. Both teams will have a moment or two of brilliance, coupled with ineptitude and lack of consistent above average play. That being the case we’ll take the Broncos D to shut down a Redskins offense that is at half strength to put it nicely. Someway, somehow, Brock Osweiler will get to start yet again in the NFL after putting on a not terrible performance last Thursday night. Broncos win and we’ll take the points (+4.5).

Los Angeles Rams @ Tennessee Titans

So much to cover in this game, so little time. The revival of the Super Bowl XXXIV matchup is sure to be a good one. An explosive Rams offense, headed by an elite running back, will attempt to outscore a Titans team with a mobile QB who plays his best against top competition. Where have we seen this before?

Yes, this rendition of the Rams and Titans has different names, but much of the teams respective identities have not changed. Funny how that which was once old is new again. The Titans need to win keep their playoff hopes alive, while the Rams are jockeying for the top seed. Two different motives, but motivation on both sidelines non-the-less.

Consider this…

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 8.47.55 PM.png
Image Credit: CBS Sports IG

The difference a year makes.

The Titans have won five straight at home in Tennessee, but they have looked shaky of late. Todd Gurley leads the NFL in touchdowns after his four score performance last week (not counting QBs) put him at 17 on the season. That damn good dawg has to be in the running for MVP after that showing. Will Gurley find the same running room against the NFL’s third best rushing defense? The Titans are allowing under 90 ypg on the ground, which means it will be good on good Sunday.

The Rams and Titans are the 10th and 11th ranked defenses in terms of total yards, respectively. This game could come down to a war of attrition as both teams matchup well with one another and could beat up on each other quite a bit through four quarters. The numbers say go with the Rams in this one, and our brain is telling us to, but we can’t. The Titans have more on the line, and they seem to rise to the occasion in these matchups, beating teams like the Jags and Seahawks earlier this year. We’ve been beating the Mariota drum all season and maybe this is his time to shine. With the Titans running a read-option Mariota has a huge day picking apart a soft Rams D. Tennessee wins and we’ll gladly take the points (+6.5). 

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 10.49.13 PM.png
Gurley came up big in week 15, but will the Titans stack the box and force Goff to beat them through the air in Tennessee? Image Credit: The Ringer

Los Angeles Chargers @ New York Jets

Just when you start to believe in the Chargers and Philip Rivers they go out against their division rivals and play like garbage in primetime on Saturday night. Keeping this in the Christmas spirit…

giphy

Good Grief Philip Rivers!

I mean for Pete’s sake! All you had to do was the same thing you had been doing for the past four weeks. Play sound, fundamental football, and take care of business defensively. Instead, you let the moment get too big for you and then get away from you early. By the time you looked back you were already too far behind in the fourth quarter to do a whole lot of anything about it but sit and wait. Yet again the Chargers fate lies in others’ hands.

For the sake of this game it is fairly straight forward and simple. The Jets D is good, and will do their best to wreck Rivers from rolling into the playoffs, but it won’t be enough. New York has little to no offense to move the ball against LA’s ferocious pass rush. Bosa and Ingram will have a field day and Casey Hayward could have one or two picks against Bryce Petty. Chargers win handedly and keep their playoff hopes, however bleak, alive (-7.5). 

Afternoon Games

Jacksonville Jaguars @ San Francisco 49ers

Oh yeah! An unexpectedly exciting afternoon matchup! The two hottest quarterbacks in the NFL. Yes. The two HOTTEST QBs in the league! Blake Bortles, he of the 128 highest passer rating in the league since week 13, and Jimmy G, who has done this…

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 8.44.54 PM.png
Image Credit: NFL Network IG

Did we mention that Garoppolo has thrown for over 1,000 yards in his first three starts as a Niner? Why is that significant you might ask? Well, considering neither Steve Young nor Joe Montana can claim that accomplishment, we’d say Jimmy G is off to a very strong start to his career in the Bay. There’s a reason Belichick let his closest confidants know he felt that he could win a Super Bowl with Garoppolo. Just sayin’.

For all of the excitement that Jimmy G has brought to the Niners, he’ll face his toughest test yet against the league’s best passing defense. The Jags allow a measly 168 ypg passing and lead the NFL with 51 sacks. “Sacksonville” is the type of defense that can carry a team to the Super Bowl, which is great news considering…

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 8.46.10 PM.png
Image Credit: CBS Sports

That’s right, the Jags are in the playoffs for the first time since Fred Taylor and David Garrard wore teal and gold. So for as exciting as Garoppolo has been for San Francisco, the Niners come back to earth in this matchup as the Jags D imposes its will on the Niners. Expect a long day at the office for young Jimmy G. Jags dominate (-5.5).

Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys

Seattle and Dallas are on the outside of the playoffs looking in, and both need help to get into the dance. Whereas Seattle’s help will need to come from outside the organization, Dallas’s comes in the form of the return of this guy…

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 12.35.10 AM.png
Reports are that ‘Zeke put himself through a strict conditioning regime during his time away. Image Credit: Dallas 5 – Dallas Fort-Worth

That’s right, ‘Zeke is back! Cowboys fans rejoice! While the Cowboys still need help to get back into the playoffs, the return of Ezekiel Elliott could not come at a better time. With Seahawks Bobby Wagner battling a hamstring and letting Todd Gurley run all over him, ‘Zeke will look to pick up where Gurley left off. Yep, part of Gurley’s big day was because of an ailing Bobby Wagner unable to close gaps and chase Todd to the edge due to a gimpy hamstring. Wagner may claim to be healthier this week, but his task won’t get any easier in attempting to contain the elusive and dynamic Elliott.

Russell Wilson finally looked mortal as many QBs have against the Jags imposing defense. Look for Russell to bounce back with a stronger effort against Dallas’s mediocre secondary. Wilson’s biggest problem is that he will be the only playmaker on the team, whereas teams like Dallas are much more balanced. For all of his work, the Hawks fall in a heartbreaker and potential playoff elimination game for Seattle. ‘Boys win and cover (-3).

New York Giants @ Arizona Cardinals

Eli Manning threw for 435 passing yards in week 15, the second highest total of his career. And that’s the good news for this game. No, really. That’s all we have.

Again, we have another stinker on our hands when the Giants head to Arizona to face the Cardinals. The Giants are the better team, but who the heck knows with the game or these players? The Cardinals have the better defense but worse offense, and the Giants have…well…Eli? We’re not going to take any more time with this….Giants fall to the Cardinals in Arizona (Cards cover -5). 

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 12.47.31 AM.png
Will this be the last season we see Manning in Giants blue? Image Credit: NY Daily News

Monday, December 25th, 2017 – Christmas Day!

Early Game

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Houston Texans

The Steelers head to Houston to take on a Texans team with nothing to lose. Always a dangerous proposition, but Pittsburgh is sure to come out fighting mad after feeling robbed of a win last week against the Pats. The Steelers did suffer a slight setback as they lost their top wideout and dark horse favorite for MVP, Antonio Brown, until the playoffs. Here’s some context for just what AB means to that team, and what he’s accomplished during his time in Pittsburgh…

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 8.47.19 PM.png
“Business is Boomin'” for AB in Black and Yellow. Image Credit: ESPN NFL

Yes, Brown is out, but Martavis Bryant and rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster are more than capable of filling his shoes during his absense. Did we mention that Houston has one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL? Fact.

Le’Veon Bell will continue to roll and Houston will be left with a beating and to wonder “what if” they had just found a free agent with similar skills to DeShaun Watson. You know, the type of free agent with Super Bowl experience and wheels to match? Hmmm…shame. Steelers dominate and cover the large spread as De’Andre Hopkins remains, yet again, the only notable talent left standing in Houston (-10). 

Monday Night Football

Oakland Raiders @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Raiders are all but eliminate from playoff contention, but they could spoil the Eagles plans to capture the top seed in the NFC. Oakland was on the verge of a last second victory were it not for this…

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 8.44.40 PM.png
Derek don’t let it go! Image Credit: Dez Bryant IG

After all of the similar plays that have lead to crucial turnovers in the red zone, Carr extended near the goal line, attempting to score before losing control of the ball through the side of the end zone. Unthinkable from an MVP caliber candidate just a season ago. Philly won against the Giants last week, but they’ll face a tougher challenge against the Raiders. While it was nice for Foles to get into a rhythm against the Giants, he’ll need to up his play to keep up with the higher powered Raiders offense. Backed by a strong performance from Carr and Lynch, Oakland wins the Christmas finale in a shootout and we’ll take the points (-8). 

That’s a wrap for our week 16 preview! Only one regular season week to go so be sure and kick back and enjoy these next two weeks of fun filled NFL excitement. That is, enjoy it between wrapping and unwrapping gifts, sipping egg nog, and enjoying much needed family time with friends and loved ones. As always thank you for reading, liking, loving, sharing, tweeting, and supporting all that we do at TSO. We’ll leave you with some holiday cheer with the two best things we saw leading up to Christmas.

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 8.44.13 PM.png
The Packers wide receiving corps got Christmas PJs to kick off the holiday season. ‘Tis the Season! Image Credit: Randall Cobb IG
Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 1.09.35 AM.png
After calling Jacksonville’s QB, Blake Bortles, “trash”, Jaguars fans immediately stood up for Blake and sent dozens of trash cans to the Texans facility addressed to who else, Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney responded as seen above. Image Credit: Jadeveon Clowney’s Official Twitter Page

Merry Christmas!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s