Happy Holidays everyone! With the NFL regular season close to its climax as well as fantasy football season, here are some important stuff you need to know for the penultimate week of the 2016 NFL season.
Game of the Week
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
In the first game of the Christmas Day doubleheader, the most important game in the AFC North this season will take place between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. It is another chapter to the historic, heated rivalry that the two teams have had since the Ravens moved to Baltimore. Pittsburgh will clinch the division with a win. A Baltimore win will put the Ravens in first place on tiebreakers, and a win in Cincinnati in Week 17 will give the Ravens a division title.
This game is important for both teams, but likely more important for Baltimore, given that they are very unlikely to make it as a wild card. For them, the only good chance they have of making the playoffs is by winning the North. Winning out would allow them to do that. Baltimore was able to beat Pittsburgh at home earlier this season, holding the Steelers to 14 points. Their defense is very capable of stopping them and it makes for a very enticing game come Sunday.
The Steelers will likely have to score more than 14 points if they want to win this game, and at home, they will be more likely to do that. They struggled to score touchdowns last week, but they got close, scoring field goals on their first six scoring drives. Close might not cut it against Baltimore. If they can come away with some points, they should win the game.
This game will be about who controls the tempo. In the last meeting, Baltimore controlled the tempo and was able to turn it into a win. However, this time, the game is in Pittsburgh, on Christmas Day, with a chance to win the division. All the Steelers want for Christmas is a division title, and they will get it with a win on Sunday over the Ravens.
Pittsburgh 27, Baltimore 23
Upset of the Week
Miami Dolphins over Buffalo Bills
Miami is also a lynchpin in this week’s playoff clinching scenarios. A win for Miami could clinch them their first playoff berth since 2008, along with some help. Standing in their way? A .500 Buffalo Bills squad that faces a lot of uncertainty in the coaching room.
A lot of speculation has surrounded Rex Ryan and his job security for next season. Obviously, they have put in a lot of trust in Ryan and have adopted a Super Bowl-or-bust mindset with Ryan. Knowing they are experiencing the same results they had with previous coach Doug Marrone has prompted a potential change.
Buffalo is not a bad team, which is why they are favored, and they probably should. This is a cold weather game for a warm weather against a solid team that has a backup quarterback playing for them. Could backup QB Matt Moore really lead the Dolphins to the playoffs this weekend?
The answer is yes, because why not? Moore played well last week, throwing for four touchdowns against the Jets. Yes, it was the Jets and that is not an accurate scale with the rest of the league, but he has talent. Having a backup quarterback come in at this stage in the season really sets a fire under the team and it forces everyone to band together. It boosts chemistry and camaraderie, and with Miami in desperation to win this game, why not the Fins?
Miami 24, Buffalo 23
Fantasy Start of the Week
Jaguars WR Marqise Lee
Lee has been the hottest receiver yet despite not catching a ball in Houston. Despite the zero-catch game, he still contributed last week with a special teams touchdown. He has been Blake Bortles’ favorite target in the past few weeks, and if the Jaguars expect to trail, which they should, throwing the ball would be a more likely outcome, and that’s what Jacksonville will do with Lee against Tennessee, a favorable matchup for wide receivers.
Fantasy Sit of the Week
Packers WR Randall Cobb
Cobb has been deemed unreliable in the last few weeks, and if you are playing in your fantasy football championship, you may have to make that tough call and sit him out, though you might have been for the past couple of weeks already. In Week 16, the week of most fantasy football championships, you want the best of the best out there, and Cobb is simply not that this season. I don’t trust him because of his injuries, his matchup and his setup, he is one of the many targets Aaron Rodgers has in his offensive arsenal. He likes to spread around his targets, which means less for Cobb and less for your fantasy teams.
Fantasy Pick-up of the Week
Chargers TE Hunter Henry
Hunter Henry could very well be a Top 5 tight end in the league someday. He has touchdowns in four out of the last five games and seven touchdowns overall in just his rookie season. The chances of him getting a touchdown in Cleveland is very high. Henry has emerged as one of the top targets in the San Diego offense, especially without RB Melvin Gordon. The tight end position could be the make or break position in your final, and a Henry pickup could be the one thing that leads you to victory.
Lock of the Week
Tennessee Titans over Jacksonville Jaguars
The Titans were trailing by 14 points last week on the road in Kansas City. Meanwhile, Jacksonville held a 13-point lead at Houston and was going into halftime looking rather solid. The results flipped by the end of the game and the Titans stayed at the top of the AFC South with the Texans and the Jaguars finally fired head coach Gus Bradley.
Tennessee’s comeback quite possibly could have saved their season. If they take care of business here, they will go into the season finale and would earn a playoff spot with a win against Houston at home. Their last two wins against Denver and Kansas City have proven that the Titans are a legitimate contender.
The Titans are facing a team that has not won since October and are being coached by an interim coach. This is also a team that the Titans embarrassed on Thursday Night Football, and the chances of the Jags turning it around at this point in the season are very slim. These are two teams heading in opposite directions and they will continue to go in those directions after this week.
Tennessee 22, Jacksonville 15
Buzzer’s Best Bet
Jim Buzinski’s picks of the week
Dolphins +3.5 at Bills
Rex Ryan is fighting for his job and would like nothing more than to hurt the playoff chances of the Dolphins, playing without their starting QB.
Last week: 0-1. Season: 6-8-1
Hot Player of the Week
Packers WR/RB Ty Montgomery
Montgomery started the season as a wide receiver, but moved to running back and has three scores in two weeks. I don’t know if that stat is more impressive than his chest though.