Steve Believes: Week 16, 2018 NFL Season

  • Washington Redskins Vs. Tennessee Titans. Josh Johnson became the fourth different player to start at quarterback for the Redskins this season, after taking over for Mark Sanchez in the team’s 40-16 loss against the New York Giants back in Week 14. And to the total delight of the champions of Super Bowls 17, 22 and 26, he led them to a 16-13 victory last week at the buzzer against the Jacksonville Jaguars. As for the Titans, they pitched a shutout last week against those same Giants and have allowed a grand total of nine points over the past two games. The Redskins still have a shot at a top-six seed in the NFC, but their offense still can’t score a lot of points. Look for the Titans defense to add to those offensive woes and look for Derrick Henry to have a third straight game of 100 yards or more. I like the Titans in this one.
  • Baltimore Ravens Vs. Los Angeles Chargers. Thanks to Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are currently sixth in the AFC, along with also having a legitimate shot at winning the North for the first time since Ray Lewis’ final season in the league. As for the Chargers, they snapped their nine-game losing against the Kansas City Chiefs, thanks to Philip Rivers, Mike Williams and Gus Bradley’s stingy defense. And they too have a legitimate shot at their division, a feat that they haven’t accomplished since LaDainian Tomlinson’s final season with the team. The one Achilles heel for the Chargers is that their run defense is somewhat vulnerable, as Joe Mixon rushed for 111 yards against them in Week 14 and allowed Damien Williams to have success against them last week. And that task will only become more daunting with the two-headed monster of Jackson and Gus Edwards. Look for that tandem to run wild against the Chargers and look for Terrell Suggs & Company to play lockdown defense in this one. I like the Ravens in an upset.
  • Cincinnati Bengals Vs. Cleveland Browns. The Bengals finally snapped their five-game losing streak, by adding to Jon Gruden’s 2018 misery last week. As for the Browns, they beat the Denver Broncos for their second road win of the season and need to win out, along with needing the Pittsburgh Steelers to finish with a loss and at least one tie in their final two games plus help from the Chargers this week against the Ravens in order to make the playoffs. The Browns have won two in a row and four of their past five to be in the position that they are currently in. Regardless of what happens with the Ravens-Chargers game, I still like the Browns, as they are the better team compared to the Bengals and are playing as a team that’s trending upwards.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers Vs. Dallas Cowboys. Despite the 5-9 record, the Buccaneers lost a close one against the Giants in Week 11, led 14-3 against the New Orleans Saints in Week 14, and lost another close one against the Ravens last week. As for the Cowboys, the NFC East could have been theirs last week, but instead got mauled in a 23-0 loss against the Indianapolis Colts. They still control their own destiny, as a win here or a win next week in East Rutherford gives them the division title. It’s tempting to pick the Buccaneers in an upset, but I don’t think that they have what it takes in doing that. So with that being said, I like the Cowboys to take care of business.
  • Minnesota Vikings Vs. Detroit Lions. After two frustrating road losses against the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, the Vikings returned home to U.S. Bank Stadium to play their most complete game of the season, by routing the Miami Dolphins, 41-17. As for the Lions, well they were officially eliminated from NFC playoff contention, with a 14-13 road loss against the Buffalo Bills. However, they can end the season on a high note, with wins against both the Vikings and Green Bay Packers, the former of which they can play spoiler against. However, I expect the Vikings to build off their emphatic victory from last week with another victory this week.
  • New York Giants Vs. Indianapolis Colts. The Giants’ 4-2 record since their bye week was too little, too late, as their 1-7 start sealed their fate in being eliminated from the NFC playoff bracket. As for the Colts, they need two more wins to return to the playoffs for the first since the 2014-15 season. They have been red-hot since Week 7 this season, as they have a 7-1 record from that point on. Look for them to seize the opportunity this week, by defeating the Giants.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars Vs. Miami Dolphins. Ever since the 2002-03 season, 12 of the 15 teams that have lost the AFC Championship Game have made the playoffs the following year. However, the Jaguars won’t make it 13 of 16, as their 1-9 skid since Week 5 played the biggest role in their elimination from the AFC playoff bracket. As for the Dolphins, they still have a shot at the AFC East division title should they win out, along with getting help from the Bills and New York Jets. I expect the Dolphins to hold up their end of the deal, by handing the Jaguars their 10th loss in 11 games.
  • Buffalo Bills Vs. New England Patriots. A mostly inept offense, some early instability at quarterback and Vontae Davis retiring at halftime back in Week 2 contributed to the Bills’ regression this season. But despite all of that, they are 3-2 since their bye week, and the two losses were close ones against the Dolphins and Jets. Plus, they have the big Week 3 road upset of the Vikings and the league’s number one pass defense. As for the Patriots, they return home after back-to-back devasting road losses against both the Dolphins and Steelers. Tom Brady is showing his age, Josh Gordon has proven to be a one-year wonder, Rob Gronkowski’s injury history has finally caught up to him, Julian Edelman has lost a step since his return from the torn ACL that cost him all of 2017, the running game has fizzled, and their defense has been erratic. But despite all of that, they are a much better team at home (6-0 this season) and because of their home record, I expect them to win this week.
  • Green Bay Packers Vs. New York Jets. Week 15 hasn’t been kind to the Packers the past two seasons, as they were officially eliminated via a loss against the Chicago Bears this time around. As for the Jets, they have been playing better since their bye week, despite the 1-3 record in that four-week span. Gang Green is looking to finish the season on a high note, with a win here and a win next week against the Patriots. The Packers have never gone winless on the road in the Aaron Rodgers era. However, I feel that they are still too good of a team to put forth such futility. So with that being said, I’ll take the Packers in this one.
  • Houston Texans Vs. Philadelphia Eagles. After a shaky past two weeks in which their 10-game winning streak was snapped, along with a close win against the Jets, the Texans travel to Philadelphia to take on the defending Super Bowl champs. And as for those defending Super Bowl champs, they need to win out and get a lot of help to either get a Wild Card spot or win the NFC East. Both of those possibilities remain alive for the Eagles, thanks to last week’s upset of the Los Angeles Rams in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. As much as I want to see the Texans get the number two seed in the AFC playoffs, I just can’t underestimate the heart of a champion. So with that being said, I like the Eagles in this one.
  • Atlanta Falcons Vs. Carolina Panthers. The Super Bowl 51 runner-up, whom was also last season’s six seed in the NFC, has been officially eliminated from playoff contention, despite last week’s 40-14 win against the Arizona Cardinals. As for the Panthers, they are still mathematically alive, despite their close loss last week against the Saints. Cam Newton is out for this game and that doesn’t bode well for a Panthers team, whose playoff aspirations are on life support right now. This game is at Bank Of America Stadium, but I just can’t see Taylor Heinicke outdueling Matt Ryan. So with that being said, I predict that the Falcons will win this game.
  • Los Angeles Rams Vs. Arizona Cardinals. Week 8 was the beginning of the Rams peaking too early, as their wins against the Packers, Seahawks and Chiefs all could have been losses, along with the fact that their game against the Lions was closer than the final score had indicated. Plus, they have lost three games in that span, including back-to-back Sunday Night Football losses against the Bears and Eagles. As for the Cardinals, they could be the playoff Grinch, by dealing the Rams a loss that will ensure no homefield advantage for them throughout the NFC playoffs. In addition, the Cardinals hung tough against that same Chiefs team that boasts a better offense than the Rams and did so in the tough environment of Arrowhead Stadium. Will the Cardinals author one of the biggest upsets of the year? Well given how shaky the Rams have been since Week 8, I’m going to say yes.
  • Chicago Bears Vs. San Francisco 49ers. After the defeating perennial gatekeepers (Packers) of the NFC North last week to clinch their first division title since 2010, the Bears have a serious shot at a first-round bye. As for the 49ers, they upset the Seahawks last week and eye a third consecutive home win in as many weeks. I’m tempted to pick an upset here, but the Bears defense will be too suffocating for the inept 49ers offense. So with that being said, I like the Bears this week.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. New Orleans Saints. The Steelers kept their season alive with a huge home win last week against their long-time conference nemesis, the Patriots. As for the Saints, they are coming off a fatiguing three-game road trip, in which they were held under 20 points twice in that span and fell behind 14-3 against the Buccaneers. They return home to the fortress of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where they are 13-2 going back to last season. Given how badly that the Steelers need this game, I’m tempted to pick them here. However, I just can’t go against Drew Brees & Company at home at this point of the season. So with that being said, I like the Saints in this one.
  • Kansas City Chiefs Vs. Seattle Seahawks. The Chiefs suffered their first home loss this season against the Chargers, but still have the number one seed in the AFC, by virtue of the better divisional record. As for the Seahawks, they are coming off a heartbreaking loss of their own, as they lost 26-23 in overtime against the 49ers. The Seahawks are the latest challenge for the Chiefs, as this game is at The Link. Plus, they boast the league’s number one rushing offense. However, both of their starting safeties could be out for this game, and they don’t have enough weapons in the passing game to keep up with the Chiefs should Patrick Mahomes & Company pile up points like they have been all season. Regardless of what happens in the Ravens-Chargers game, the Chiefs are still well positioned to get one step closer to the AFC West title and the number one seed in the conference. I look for them to seize those two opportunities with their 12th win of the season in a hostile environment.
  • Denver Broncos Vs.Oakland Raiders. The final game Monday Night Football game of the season ends with a dud and not a thud, as the six-win Broncos take on the three-win Raiders. The Broncs haven’t won in Oakland Coliseum since 2015, the year in which they won Super Bowl 50. As for the Raiders, they played the Chiefs tough in Week 13 and authored an upset of the Steelers in Week 14. Will Jon Gruden’s bunch end their home slate on a high note? Well given how much more depleted the Raiders are than the Broncos, I’m going to say no. I like the Broncos in