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NFL Week 16 picks, early afternoon games open thread

Settle in with us for a holiday weekend full of NFL magic

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

As we head into the final stretch of the 2023 NFL regular season, it’s more important than ever to make the right picks for game day. Join me as I break down each game of Week 16 and offer my game picks. From divisional rivalries to teams fighting for Wild Card spots, there’s no shortage of drama on the horizon. So, grab your jersey and get ready to dive into Week 16, Rumblers!

Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. EST (FOX)

The Colts have a shot at the AFC South and this time of year that’s all we can talk about. Right? The playoffs are coming and every game matters in the grand scheme of the race. Quarterback Gardner Minshew III seems to be the new Ryan Fitzpatrick of the NFL. He’s a professional backup who always ends up starting at some point of the season due to injury, and he injects hope into the team and fan base. Yep, sounds like Fitz to me.

Colts win: I’m always going to side with the magic, and Minshew Mania is live and well.

Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. EST (FOX)

The Packers can’t be more embarrassed than they have been over the last two weeks. They dropped their last two games despite most of their fans believing the team turned a corner, ready to run the table en route to the playoffs. Now, they’ll still need to win and find help to make the playoffs. There’s no way they’ll lose to the Panthers, right?

The Packers have to win, so they will.

Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans, 1 p.m. EST (CBS)

The Texans are technically in a three way tie with the Jaguars and the Colts with 8-6 records — and each team will have to do its part and hope for help around the league. Cleveland still has one of the top defenses in football and Joe Flacco has no problem getting the ball to wide receiver Amari Cooper or tight end David Njoku. Things will be made more difficult for the Texans with rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud ruled out for Week 16.

Yet, I believe the Texans claim the win.

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. EST (FOX)

Minnesota struggled to maintain their lead in the fourth quarter last week against the Cincinnati Bengals — and they allowed 24 combined points in the fourth quarter and overtime on their way to a 27-24 loss. Still, there was a lot to be optimistic about for Vikings fans. Quarterback Nick Mullens looked poised and played well enough to win. This week, defense will need to have a complete game if they plan on beating the leaders of their division. I don’t think that’s likely to happen. The Lions have been one of my favorite teams all season. They run the ball well, and play solid defense.

Lions win, showing dominance in THEIR division.

Washington Commanders at New York Jets, 1 p.m. EST (CBS)

The Jets have been horrendous on offense for most of the season, but the defense has been tremendous and I think that will remain true for this game. There are already reports stating the Commanders have decided to move on from head coach Ron Rivera, and a 4-10 record is a pretty good reason to do so. Losing to the Jets won’t help his case.

Jets fans rejoice on Christmas Eve, claiming a W over Washington.

Seattle Seahawks at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m. EST (CBS)

I can’t help it, quarterback Will Levis is making me a fan and I can’t help but notice the way the Titans have rallied to transform into another team since he became the starter. The Seahawks have been inconsistent and struggled to find the same magic from last season that won quarterback Geno Smith the Comeback Player Of The Year award. With Smith back in the lineup, I do anticipate this being one of the more fun games to watch this afternoon.

I’m riding with Tennessee here with a big win to play spoiler.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:05 p.m. EST (CBS)

This was the season where I expected quarterback Trevor Lawrence to take another step forward, mentioned alongside Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow. Instead, the Jaguars have failed to take control of the division and lost games they should’ve won. Now they’re in a tight race for the AFC South with December nearly done. As for Tampa Bay, quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Bucs are rolling. Tampa Bay’s offense has found its stride and they can make some noise in the NFC South if they continue to win.

The Buccaneers win on Christmas Eve and look to take the division.

Arizona Cardinals at Chicago Bears, 4:25 p.m. EST (FOX)

The Cardinals aren’t good but quarterback Kyler Murray is so much fun to watch. I was nervous that bringing Murray back would hurt the Cardinals’ draft position, but they haven’t won many games and it’s allowing him to get reps to work off any rust instead of waiting for next season. The Bears have a bright future ahead of them if they can draft well this offseason.

I have to pick a winner here, so... Cardinals win.

Dallas Cowboys at Miami Dolphins, 4:25 p.m. EST (FOX)

The Cowboys have clinched a playoff spot even though they lost to the Bills last week. The Dolphins are trying to make sure they maintain their lead in the division by stacking wins. Failing to do so would allow the Bills an opportunity to play for the division title against them in Week 18. The Cowboys and Dolphins both have great offenses and can often score points at a frenetic pace. I anticipate seeing a lot of that this afternoon, but I think the Cowboys have the upper hand on defense and will create enough turnovers and big plays to hold the Dolphins off.

Dallas wins: The Cowboys won’t lose two in a row, especially after being embarrassed in Buffalo.

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos, 8:15 p.m. EST (NFL Network)

The Patriots actually looked competitive against the Chiefs at points last weekend, and the Lions brought the Broncos back down to reality, blowing them out in Week 15. Denver is fighting for a Wild Card spot, but this is the perfect setup for a trap game to find a team confident they’re on the upswing. As a team, the Patriots are certain to play their hearts out if this is truly the end of the road for head coach Bill Belichick in New England.

Patriots win.

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