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Kiel Leggere/Philadelphia Eagles

2022 NFL Game Picks: Week 16

Last week: 12-4

Season: 138-84-2


JAX (6-8) @ NYJ (7-7)

Thursday, December 22 | 8:15 PM ET | Prime Video


It was almost exactly a year ago (December 26) that former No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and former No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson squared off—with the Jets coming out on top, 26-21, in a strange game where the touchdowns included a 52-yard rush by Wilson, a fumble recovery in the end zone by Jaguars offensive tackle Will Richardson, a 102-yard kickoff return by Braxton Berrios, and a touchdown pass from Wilson to offensive tackle Conor McDermott. The rematch coming on Thursday Night Football with rain in the forecast could lead to more craziness, but Lawrence’s recent play (296.5 passing yards per game and an 11:1 touchdown interception ratio since Thanksgiving) has been that of an emerging superstar, and Jacksonville has enough weapons to move the ball while teams continue to avoid Pro Bowl rookie corner Sauce Gardner. I’d like to point out that Zach Wilson played very well last week in his return to the lineup, but there is a very real chance New York finishes a disappointing 7-10 with road games in Seattle and Miami to close out the season.


Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars


ATL (5-9) @ BAL (9-5)

Saturday, December 24 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Tyler Huntley is set to draw another start for Baltimore with Lamar Jackson (knee) still recovering—and it’s fair to wonder if we’ll see the former NFL MVP before the postseason considering he’s playing without the security of a long-term deal. Fortunately for the Ravens, I like how they match up against Atlanta’s run-heavy offense with linebacker Roquan Smith being an absolute menace since being acquired by Chicago, so Huntley and the pass-catchers just need to be a bit sharper after last week’s disappointing loss to the Browns. Overall, the Baltimore defense should be able to make it a long day for rookie Desmond Ridder, and it feels like the Ravens are on a collision course with the Bengals with the AFC North crown possibly on the line in Week 18.


Winner: Baltimore Ravens


DET (7-7) @ CAR (5-9)

Saturday, December 24 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


I would be shocked if Detroit drafted a quarterback in 2023, as Jared Goff has been excellent dating back to the end of last season, and Dan Campbell’s squad isn’t meant to take a step back by developing a rookie signal-caller—especially with Alabama’s Bryce Young almost certainly being out of reach and Oregon’s Bo Nix returning to school. Goff has always been deadly accurate, and he’s playing with supreme confidence thanks to an upgraded supporting cast, great offensive line, and the impressive mind of offensive coordinator Ben Johnson dialing up winning plays. One of the matchups of Week 15 will be Pro Bowl pass rusher Brian Burns facing left tackle Taylor Decker (who isn’t happy being a fifth alternate for the Pro Bowl), and keeping Goff clean is key to getting to 8-7 before divisional matchups against the Bears and Packers to close out the season.


Winner: Detroit Lions


BUF (11-3) @ CHI (3-11)

Saturday, December 24 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


Bills-Bears will have some of the harshest weather of the week with frigid temperatures in the single-digits and heavy winds, but Josh Allen and Justin Fields being two of the best running quarterbacks in the league could still lead to plenty of highlight offensive plays. Plus, the arm strength of both guys can allow them to cut passes through the winter air—though I’d say the turnover battle and ground game will be the deciding factors on Christmas Eve. Chicago getting Khalil Herbert (hip) back to pair with David Montgomery (and Fields) will make them tougher to get off the field, but Buffalo has more defensive playmakers that might be able to create a game-changing play. As stated last week, the Bills aren’t easy to knock off if Allen doesn’t make any mistakes by trying to do too much, which hasn’t been the case with one interception during the team’s five-game winning streak.


Winner: Buffalo Bills


NO (5-9) @ CLE (6-8)

Saturday, December 24 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


The status of Nick Chubb was a major storyline this week, but Cleveland’s best player not being listed on the injury report with a foot injury that caused him to miss two days of practice is a sigh of relief for them—particularly based on how poorly Deshaun Watson has played. With the Browns having Chubb active, the game plan should be to feed him while playing through David Njoku on underneath routes to keep the wind from having too much of an impact; the Saints would perhaps have more issues with the weather if it prevents deep shots to Chris Olave (hamstring) and Rashid Shaheed, but that should just mean more carries for Taysom Hill—and the Browns aren’t exactly the best team in the league when it comes to tackling. With an over/under of 31.5, this is another matchup where taking care of the ball will be crucial.


Winner: Cleveland Browns


SEA (7-7) @ KC (11-3)

Saturday, December 24 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


How did Patrick Mahomes suddenly jump to the top of the NFL MVP leaderboard following an overtime victory over the 1-12-1 Texans? Jalen Hurts missing the Dallas game could even bolster his case if Philadelphia loses, and Mahomes lost to both Josh Allen and Joe Burrow this season—so basically, the voters are going to pick Mahomes just because he has the best raw passing numbers (despite averaging 8.1 yards per attempt, compared to 8.2 yards per attempt for Hurts). Nevertheless, three very winnable games for the Chiefs over the final three weeks (v SEA, v DEN, @ LV) could get them back into the No. 1 spot in the AFC if Buffalo slips up with a matchup versus Cincinnati next week, but my concern on Saturday would be them being unable to stop DK Metcalf. If I were the Chiefs, I’d put a safety almost directly over the top of Metcalf with Tyler Lockett (finger) out, as it’s difficult to imagine Geno Smith outdueling Mahomes without Metcalf going off.


Winner: Kansas City Chiefs


NYG (8-5-1) @ MIN (11-3)

Saturday, December 24 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


The Giants and Vikings are both teams that could have a “letdown” this week after New York got a huge win over Washington and Minnesota completed the biggest comeback in NFL history—so it will be interesting to see how each side starts this weekend. Saquon Barkley no longer being listed on the injury report should lead to heavy workloads the rest of the way for him, but the injury to worry about this week for the Giants is Adoree’ Jackson (knee) remaining out, as everyone knows the kind of damage that Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn can do. For the Vikings, center Garrett Bradbury (back) has been ruled out for the Christmas Eve matchup, which puts star duo Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams in a better spot to stop Dalvin Cook before he can get going. Still, New York lacking a stud linebacker has held their defense back (passing on Nakobe Dean three times on Day 2 was egregious in my opinion), and it’s asking a lot of Daniel Jones and Barkley to keep up with all the weapons for Kirk Cousins at home.


Winner: Minnesota Vikings


CIN (10-4) @ NE (7-7)

Saturday, December 24 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


It’s always a bit daunting when a quarterback faces Bill Belichick for the first time, and Joe Burrow can surely expect some looks that he’s never seen before when the Bengals make the trek to Foxborough this week. However, Cincinnati having perhaps the most loaded group of weapons in the league will make it a challenge to contain all of Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd—and Hayden Hurst (calf) sounds like he’ll be back, too. That puts the pressure on Mac Jones and the New England offense to finally get on track after he completed just 13-of-31 passes for 112 yards against the Raiders, but DeVante Parker (concussion) missing his second game in a row will take away the big-play target he’s most comfortable with, so we’ll see if Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, or Tyquan Thornton can step up alongside a determined Jakobi Meyers. In general, concerns about the offense of the Patriots outweighs a feeling that Belichick will come out with a brilliant defensive game plan.


Winner: Cincinnati Bengals


HOU (1-12-1) @ TEN (7-7)

Saturday, December 24 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


Malik Willis could be tasked with getting the Titans to the playoffs if Ryan Tannehill (ankle) needs to undergo season-ending surgery, but no matter how you feel about Tennessee’s starter as a championship-caliber quarterback, there is no denying his top-level toughness. For his part, Willis appeared more confident as a passer in brief action last week before Tannehill returned, and it makes sense for the Titans to unleash him both as a thrower and runner—especially since it would give them a clearer evaluation on the former Liberty standout for 2023. That said, Derrick Henry should be given a 30-touch workload this week with Houston allowing an unbelievable four consecutive 200-yard games to the monster runner… and I don’t see him being stopped on a wintry Christmas weekend.


Winner: Tennessee Titans


WAS (7-6-1) @ SF (10-4)

Saturday, December 24 | 4:05 PM ET | CBS


As the only big board to have Brock Purdy as a top-150 prospect last spring, it’s been awesome to see him quickly prove himself to begin his career—playing well off the bench in a win over the Dolphins, beating Tom Brady in his first career start, and then clinching the NFC West over Seattle in his first career road start (in primetime, no less). You would think there will be a bump in the road somewhere, though, and a desperate Washington team with a dominant defensive line could spell danger for the Niners if former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young (knee) makes an impact in his season debut. Those who have watched that past three games know that Purdy has hit on quite a few chunk plays in limited action, so how will he and the San Francisco offense respond if those don’t connect? For this week, it might not matter if the San Francisco defense plays like they have all year.


Winner: San Francisco 49ers


PHI (13-1) @ DAL (10-4)

Saturday, December 24 | 4:25 PM ET | FOX


Dallas blowing a lead to the Jaguars—making them need to go 3-0 and Philadelphia to go 0-3 to win the NFC East—and Gardner Minshew II starting in place of Jalen Hurts (shoulder) softens the significance of this highly anticipated showdown, but it’s still tough to top Eagles-Cowboys on Christmas Eve. Based on recent history, Dallas would arguably have the advantage at full strength with Dak Prescott being 7-3 against them in his career, and the record is even better with both him and Ezekiel Elliott active (7-1 record). Of course, that duo hasn’t faced Hurts in MVP form with an improved supporting cast, which has a very good chance of that happening in the Divisional Round next month if Dallas doesn’t go one-and-done. On Saturday, Minshew will want to put up big numbers following the death of his college coach Mike Leach, and he certainly doesn’t lack confidence under center. I’m just not sure the Eagles—without Jordan Davis seeing increased playing time—will be able to finally stop Elliott while also needing to contain Tony Pollard, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz, and others.


Winner: Dallas Cowboys


LV (6-8) @ PIT (6-8)

Saturday, December 24 | 8:15 PM ET | NFL Network


Rest in peace, Steelers legend Franco Harris.


Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers


GB (6-8) @ MIA (8-6)

Sunday, December 25 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Aaron Rodgers hasn’t put up big numbers, but the Packers have clearly improved offensively over the past few weeks—and they could have a “playoff game” versus Detroit in Week 18 by taking care of business over the next two weeks. The first matter of business will be slowing down Miami’s high-speed offense with Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Raheem Mostert all making an impact last Saturday night, but it’s notable that Green Bay held Hill to four receptions (on 11 targets) for 37 scoreless yards last year in a 13-7 loss to Kansas City. Furthermore, that defensive effort came without Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander in the lineup, so the battle between the fast wideouts for the Dolphins and the talented secondary of the Packers will be fun to watch. With the rookie trio of Quay Walker, Devonte Wyatt, and Kingsley Enagbare coming alive last Monday night for Green Bay, I think they can make Tua Tagovailoa uncomfortable and hand Miami their fourth loss in a row as Rodgers hopes to keep his hot play on Christmas Day going (2-0 with an 8:0 touchdown-interception ratio).


Winner: Green Bay Packers


DEN (4-10) @ LAR (4-10)

Sunday, December 25 | 4:30 PM ET | CBS/Nickelodeon 


Broncos-Rams was supposed to be the headlining matchup on Christmas, but both teams have been officially eliminated from playoff contention—making the NVP award the biggest prize up for grabs on Sunday. Los Angeles has at least been competitive with Baker Mayfield at quarterback, and Denver won last week without Russell Wilson (who had his best game of the year before a concussion knocked him out in Week 14). Weather won’t be a factor for the late afternoon or night game on Christmas Day since they’ll be played in a dome (which was very questionable decision-making by the league), but I think the running backs will be leaned on for both sides here with veterans Latavius Murray and Marlon Mack taking advantage of their opportunity with the Broncos, while Cam Akers is back to being the clear lead back for Sean McVay. LA is the home underdog and doesn’t have the same kind of firepower that Denver does, but they’ve given fits to Wilson in recent years when they were NFC West foes, and I’ll go with them due to the coaching advantage.


Winner: Los Angeles Rams


TB (6-8) @ ARI (4-10)

Sunday, December 25 | 8:20 PM ET | NBC


Brock Purdy’s first career start was like something out of a movie by beating Tom Brady a couple of weeks ago, and now Cardinals quarterback Trace McSorley is in an even cooler spot by facing perhaps the greatest athlete of all-time on Christmas Night—but I’m not sure a Hollywood ending will be written this time around. Although Tampa Bay has obviously struggled mightily in recent games, the cracks really started to show for Arizona on this week’s Hard Knocks with injuries ravaging a roster that lacks depth, and the Bucs still have plenty ahead of them with a home playoff game if they can just win the NFC South—whether it be at 9-8, 8-9, or 7-10. Overall, I don’t think the Cardinals will have an answer for Chris Godwin or Russell Gage working the intermediate areas of the field, and TB12 has remained very sharp while trying to overcome the general struggles for Tampa Bay.


Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers


LAC (8-6) @ IND (4-9-1)

Monday, December 26 | 8:15 PM ET | ESPN


Indianapolis being at home is a factor, but I’m very surprised that Los Angeles is only favored by 4.5 points as of this writing—and it was 3.5 points to begin the week. For the Colts to make good on that line and play the Chargers closer than I’d expect them to, the running game needs to be leaned on versus a defense allowing the second-most yards per carry in the league (5.3), and former Bills third-rounder Zack Moss played well against them a couple of years ago by rushing nine times for 59 yards. On the other side of the ball, Mike Williams not being featured by Los Angeles last week was the biggest reason for Tennessee making it a street fight, but maybe the two receptions for 51 yards that set up the game-winning field goal will result in the Chargers targeting their big-play wideout more often. How the Colts respond to having the largest blown lead in NFL history will be very telling in regard to how serious of a candidate interim head coach Jeff Saturday might be when the hiring process opens up following the season.


Winner: Los Angeles Chargers