(Editor's note: Every week this season, gay teenage NFL fan Jeremy Brener will give his perspective and predictions for the upcoming week).
What happened Sunday between the Carolina Panthers and Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants is a disgrace for the NFL. We all saw the battle between Josh Norman and Beckham, but we don't know what set off the Giants receiver.
The Panthers were trash talking with Beckham before the game, a typical tactic in the NFL. Pro football is just as much of a mental game as it is a physical game, and clearly the Panthers got into Beckham's head. They took a 35-7 lead in the third quarter and provoked him into headbutting Norman and causing fights with many of the Panthers defensive backs. Beckham deserves the one-game suspension he received, but the NFL should really look at what the Panthers did to make him go off the deep end.
The Panthers also allegedly used gay slurs towards Beckham Jr. before the game when he was warming up imitating a ballerina. Trash talking is one thing, but if something was said before the game, then the Panthers definitely crossed a line. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he could find no evidence of gay slurs, which contradicts other sources. The NFL needs to draw this line and make it clear to everyone in the league that attacking someone with offensive language is unacceptable.
It's a shame that this happened, because the Giants and the Panthers have done great things off the field for their communities. The Giants partnered with the You Can Play project and the Panthers give footballs to kids when they score a touchdown, and they have scored a lot of touchdowns this season. Last Sunday's game was a blemish to their positive message they have been promoting all season. It was also a warning and a sign that the NFL needs to take action on bullying and diversity and establish what is OK and what is not OK.
Here is what to look for in Week 16:
Game of the Week
Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles
This is the game with the most playoff implications this weekend. If the Eagles win their last two games, they will win the NFC East and be the #4 seed in the NFC Playoffs. However, a Washington win over the Eagles clinches the division for them.
The Eagles have embarrassed themselves multiple times this season, including a Thanksgiving loss to Detroit and a Sunday Night Football blunder last week to Arizona. However, road wins against the Jets and Patriots prove that this team can compete if they are motivated. The defense needs to improve and DeMarco Murray needs to see more touches if Philly wants a shot at the postseason. Washington has had a surprise year after their RGIII drama to begin the season. People were questioning whether or not Jay Gruden was a legitimate head coach and Kirk Cousins' ability to lead a team. The team went 6-2 at home, but will have to find a win on the road in order to clinch the division, and they have only won once on the road so far this season.
Ultimately, the Eagles are the home team, but this team has too many holes to contend, and there is not a strong enough single unit to lift the team. The Redskins are coming into this game having won three of their last four and can win their first division title since 2012 with a win on Saturday. In last year's Week 16 Saturday Night Football contest, the Redskins eliminated the Eagles from playoff contention, and they will do the same one year later. Redskins 27, Eagles 17.
Upset of the Week
Cincinnati Bengals over Denver Broncos
Another game with high stakes is the Monday Night Football contest between the Bengals and Broncos. Coincidentally, one year ago in Week 16's Monday Night Football was when the Bengals last played the Broncos, and the Bengals beat the Broncos at home to clinch a playoff berth. This year, the game is on the road with similar stakes. Denver has yet to clinch a spot in the playoffs, but with a win on Monday, the Broncos can clinch a playoff spot, coupled with a loss from the Jets, Steelers, or Chiefs. The Bengals already have a playoff spot locked up, but can clinch a first-round bye with a win. However, what is different about this game than last year's is the quarterback battle. Last year it was Peyton Manning vs. Andy Dalton, and this year is Brock Osweiler vs. A.J. McCarron.
Osweiler is 3-2 in his first five starts, with both of his losses coming in the last two weeks. The Broncos have jumped out early but have relinquished double-digit leads in the past two weeks by putting up goose eggs in the second half. The Broncos risk giving up first place in their division if they lose Monday, if the Chiefs beat the Browns on Sunday. This is the most important game of the Broncos season on Monday, and Osweiler will have to show up big time if the Broncos want to win.
McCarron had a light game in his first NFL start, defeating the mediocre San Francisco 49ers, becoming the first Alabama QB to win an NFL start since 1987. McCarron's task is slightly more difficult Monday, taking on the best defense in the NFL. Denver's defense had a poor performance against the Steelers, who happen to be one of the best offenses in the league. McCarron should be an easier task for the Broncos to handle.
However, even though the Broncos have a less difficult matchup Monday night, they may underestimate McCarron's abilities and fall under the pressure. In order for Denver to win, they have to put together four consistent quarters of football, something they have yet to do since Osweiler became the starter. The Bengals are hungry to get the "prime time" monkey off of their back. Two of Cincinnati's three losses have come in night games, and this win will not only get them an extra week for Dalton's thumb to heal, but it will get them the respect that they want and deserve from around the league. The Bengals are playing for a lot and they will get the upset in Denver, winning 20-17.
Fantasy Start of the Week
Steelers WR Martavis Bryant vs. Baltimore Ravens
Antonio Brown had 15 receptions last week against a Pro Bowl cornerback in Chris Harris Jr. But Martavis Bryant also had a strong game with 10 catches and 87 yards against the best defense in the NFL. Now, put Bryant against the team that has allowed the most touchdowns in the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens. I'm not saying don't start Brown, but don't leave Bryant out. If you're playing in a DraftKings or FanDuel game, Bryant is a cheaper option than Brown, which could allow you to spend money in other positions. Brown and Bryant are amazing options for fantasy this week. Brown is the stud that you should start every week, but Bryant is the sneakier selection that could make differences between wins and losses or cashing and leaving empty-handed.
Fantasy Sit of the Week
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Arizona Cardinals
For most people, this is the Fantasy Football Super Bowl. The big names you drafted in the first few rounds may not be the best options to lead you to a victory. Aaron Rodgers is one of those big names. Rodgers had an average game against Oakland last week, and the chances of him having a dominant performance this week against a tough Cardinals defense on the road is slim. The Cardinals allow the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, which raises a red flag for Rodgers. There are options that might be more beneficial to your success this week. Teddy Bridgewater playing against the Giants comes to mind, especially with the possibility of Adrian Peterson not playing. Other possible options are Alex Smith (home vs. Browns) and Kirk Cousins (away vs. Eagles). This goes for every position. If you have a supposed "stud" that is underperforming, swap him for a free agent that has been playing well. Good luck to everyone playing for a championship this weekend!
Fantasy Pick-up of the Week
Lions RB Ameer Abdullah
Abdullah is one of the people that you could replace with an underwhelming running back. Abdullah's stock was high in the preseason, and a touchdown in Week 1 backed up his high standards. However, he did not score once until last week against the Saints. The Saints were a very favorable matchup for Abdullah, and he has another great matchup on Sunday at home against the 49ers, the team allowing the most fantasy points to opposing running backs. I'm not saying Abdullah is your savior that will lead you to a championship, but he is available in most leagues and he could possibly be an upgrade to what you might currently have at running back. Jonathan Stewart and Marshawn Lynch are still out, so he could also work as an injury replacement. If you're contending for a championship, you probably are satisfied with your team and do not need to make any adjustments, but don't dismiss Abdullah.
Lock of the Week
Kansas City Chiefs over Cleveland Browns
The Chiefs have not lost since Oct. 16, two weeks before the Royals won the World Series. Kansas City has enjoyed a lot of winning lately, and they will continue to enjoy it this week against the 3-11 Browns. The Chiefs are the hottest team in the league and have the chance to lead their division with a win and a Broncos loss Monday night. Despite losing Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL in Week 5, the offense has been clicking with Jeremy Maclin, Alex Smith, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West leading the way. The defense has also been red-hot with Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters, who scored one of two defensive touchdowns against the Ravens last week. Imagine what they can do against a dismal offensive team in the Cleveland Browns. I reckon it won't be pretty. Chiefs 31, Browns 13.
Buzzer's Best Bet
Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski will make one pick each week against the spread.
Cincinnati +3.5 at Denver. Pick: Denver.
The Bengals are a prime-time disaster, going 3-13 in such games in recent years, including 0-2 this season. This week is a Monday night prime time game in Denver and the Broncos are 4-0 under the lights this season, covering the spread in all four games. The Bengals are without starting QB Andy Dalton, and his replacement A.J. McCarron has been shaky in seven quarters replacing him. Last week, the Bengals were outgained by the pitiful 49ers. This week, McCarron goes up a top-knotch defense pissed off after playing their worst half last week in Pittsburgh. Back home, the Broncos defense will be pissed off and will take it out on McCarron. The Broncos are struggling on offense but it won't matter since McCarron will fall apart under the pressure.
Last week: A push (tie). Season: 8-6-1.
Hot Player of the Week
Raiders safety Charles Woodson
Woodson announced his retirement this past week, ending his decorated career after 18 seasons, which is certainly to end with an induction into the Hall of Fame. Five of his 65 career interceptions have come in his farewell season, the same amount in which he put up in his rookie season, 1998. He's arguably the most successful Heisman winner in NFL history and few have had the career he has had. He has played consistently and productively this season as much as he has in any other, which shows how powerful his durability and leadership has impacted the Raiders, the team that drafted him 4th overall 17 years ago.
He came back to Oakland three years ago after a seven-year stint in Green Bay, which led to a Super Bowl ring for Woodson in 2010. His eleven years of service in Oakland have made him one of the most popular Raiders ever, and he should be celebrated by Raider Nation as he plays in his last home game of his career on Thursday night. I will join Raider Nation in celebrating him by making him my Hot Player of the Week.
Photo by Kirby Lee