Week-16 NFL picks: How the Cardinals can help the Seahawks

Dec 23, 2015, 10:26 AM | Updated: 10:45 am
A Cardinals victory on Sunday would increase the likelihood that they rest players in Week 17 vs. S...
A Cardinals victory on Sunday would increase the likelihood that they rest players in Week 17 vs. Seattle. (AP)

A Seahawks fan is rooting for the Cardinals on Sunday.

Yes, that feels strange. Arizona is Seattle’s division rival, but there’s some pretty concrete rationale at work here:

1) Arizona is playing Green Bay, and the Packers are tough for any Seahawks fan to cheer for, especially when a certain quarterback is saying that God must have been a Packers fan.

2) The Cardinals have clinched the NFC West, which means there’s no strategic reason to root against them. Not only that, but an Arizona victory would clinch a first-round bye for the Cardinals in the playoffs and increase the likelihood they would rest players in Week 17 against Seattle.

3) But here’s why you really want Arizona to win: a Green Bay victory would leave open the possibility that the Packers could become the No. 2 seed in the NFC. If the Packers win their final two games starting Sunday in Arizona, and if Seattle then beats Arizona in Week 17, Green Bay would have a first-round bye in the playoffs and host a divisional playoff game. Raise your hand if you want the possibility of a second-round playoff matchup in Green Bay. Didn’t think so.

With that out of the way, here’s the week that will be in the NFL:

San Diego at Oakland

The Battle for Los Angeles? Not yet. But these are two of the three teams covetously eyeing the City of Angels. The Chargers have won six of the last eight games between these two. These teams are both eliminated from the playoff chase, which means that pride is on the line. A more cynical man than myself might point out that pride is something the Raiders can’t have too much of after failing to post a winning record for the 14th successive season. But hey, there’s still hope for .500, Oakland!

Pick: Raiders 19, Chargers 18

Washington at Philadelphia

All Washington needs is a victory to win the NFC East. Wait. That’s wrong. No one will be “winning” the NFC East. Washington can succeed in losing less, however. Philadelphia won two straight before throwing up that 23-point stinker of a loss last week against Arizona, yet as odd as it is to say, the Eagles still control their own destiny. Win two, they’re in as the NFC East champs … err … whatever you call the team that wins this toxic waste dump of a division.

Pick: Eagles 24, Epithets 23

New England at New York Jets

The Patriots have won the AFC East for the seventh straight season, matching the Rams’ NFL record for consecutive division titles. The most underrated part of the Patriots’ run? How truly horrible the rest of the division has been. Only three times in those previous six seasons has another team finished with so much as a winning record. Only once in the past six seasons has an AFC East team other than New England won 10 or more games. So while the Jets have been better this season, let’s not get carried away with the significance of New England’s run of division titles.

Pick: Jets 27, Patriots 17

Houston at Tennessee

Quarterback Brian Hoyer is trying to come back from a concussion for the second time this season. Backup T.J. Yates suffered a season-ending knee injury last week. Then there’s Ryan Mallett, who was released after a bout of narcolepsy that caused him to oversleep the day after learning he lost the starting job. Oh wait. He referred to that as a personal problem. My bad. Be careful, B.J. Daniels, who was signed by Houston off Seattle’s practice squad this week. It’s tough work being a Texans quarterback.

Pick: Texans 20, Titans 13

Cleveland at Kansas City

The Chiefs are the NFL equivalent of the girl with a curl. When they’re good, they’re great, having won their past eight games. But when Kansas City was bad, it was absolutely awful. This is a team that lost five in a row earlier this season. It’s the first time in NFL history that a team has won eight in a row in the same year it lost five in a row. I don’t know if that’s impressive or not. But it’s true. Well, the Chiefs are a gimme putt from becoming the first team in league history to win nine in a row during a season in which it also lost five in a row.

Pick: Chiefs 23, Browns 20

Indianapolis at Miami

This is more of a rock fight than a slugfest. The Colts are No. 26 in total offense while the Dolphins rank No. 29. And before you go and say it will be a defensive battle, please note that Indianapolis is No. 28 in total defense while Miami is No. 30. Better to just plug your nose and avert your eyes from this stinker.

Pick: Colts 3, Dolphins 2

San Francisco at Detroit

Too bad that Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz are no longer around. At least we could’ve looked forward to a handshake. The Lions have been downright respectable for more than a month now. They’ve won four of their past six games, and one of those defeats came on that last-play heave from Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. The 49ers, meanwhile, have maintained their miserably low-scoring ways, having scored fewer than 20 point in seven of their past eight games.

Pick: Detroit 24, San Francisco 16

Dallas at Buffalo

Pity. That’s the emotion this game evokes. Not pity for Dallas, where Kellen Moore will become the team’s fourth different starting quarterback in this season undermined by injuries. Pity for the Bills. That they lost four straight Super Bowls, including two in a row to this Dallas team. Pity that Buffalo hasn’t made the postseason since 1999, the longest active draught. And pity that the one position that seemed most likely to undermine this Buffalo season – quarterback – has been the least of the Bills’ problems.

Pick: Cowboys 17, Bills 13

Chicago at Tampa Bay

John Fox is a reminder of why Chicago needs to build on a bedrock of defense. Then again, so was Lovie Smith, but that didn’t keep the Bears from moving on from him. Now he’s in Tampa Bay and these two teams will have better seasons in their very near future. For now, the Bucs are ahead for one simple reason: They’ve got their quarterback for that future.

Pick: Buccaneers 24, Bears 20

Carolina at Atlanta

The Panthers have won five of the past six games in the series with the Falcons, who snapped a six-game losing streak with last week’s victory over Jacksonville. What happened to Atlanta’s offense? The Falcons scored at least 24 points in their first five games, but haven’t scored that many in any of the nine games since. Meanwhile, Carolina has failed to score at least 24 points only once all season. That was Week 1.

Pick: Panthers 27, Falcons 23

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

The Ravens have won three of the last four games in this series, including a Week-4 game on Thursday that is most memorable for the two kicks that Josh Scobee – then with the Steelers – didn’t make. And while this is a wasted season for Baltimore, don’t expect a blowout. Six of the past eight games between the teams have been decided by a field goal or less.

Pick: Steelers 27, Ravens 24

Jacksonville at New Orleans

There’s no defense for watching this matchup of two 5-9 teams. Seriously. There’s no defense. The Saints have allowed the most points of any team in the NFL. The Jaguars have allowed the third-most.

Pick: Jaguars 34, Saints 20

St. Louis at Seattle

Here’s the customary description of this game: The Rams are a very difficult opponent for Seattle given the strength of St. Louis’ defensive line. In fact, St. Louis’ defense has been the most consistently effective against Seattle going back to 2012. That’s all true. However, the Rams have scored three touchdowns in the five games they’ve played at Seattle since Pete Carroll became head coach, and St. Louis has not won in Seattle since 2004.

Pick: Seahawks 20, Rams 6

Green Bay at Arizona

The Cardinals have won eight in a row, tied with Kansas City for the second-longest active winning streak in the league behind the undefeated Panthers. After starting off 6-0, the Packers have been a decidedly mediocre 4-4. And while they’ve beaten three teams this season that currently hold a winning record, two of those wins were back in September.

Pick: Cardinals 31, Packers 27

New York Giants at Minnesota

If the Vikings win, they’ll play Green Bay for the NFC North title in Week 17 regardless of what the Packers do. They’ll also get some help with Odell Beckham Jr. suspended for this game. His 13 touchdown catches are tied for the league lead.

Pick: Vikings 23, Giants 16

Cincinnati at Denver

The most concerning fact for the Broncos isn’t the inconsistent play of the offense. That has been the case throughout the season whether it was Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler under center. The worry is the defense. Denver allowed an average of 16 points over the first seven games. The Broncos have given up an average of 21 in the last seven. This may be the case of a veteran group fading, and Denver’s offense is nowhere near good enough to steady things. Still, the Broncos will have enough against a Bengals team quarterbacked by A.J. McCarron. At least the Broncos better have enough.

Pick: Broncos 20, Bengals 16

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Week-16 NFL picks: How the Cardinals can help the Seahawks