Nearing the Finish Line- The NFL season has reached the final two weeks of regular season with two weeks remaining. For 20 teams, they are playing their last two games for the season before getting ready for the 2014 draft and their offseason plans. For 12 other teams, the second season starts two weekends from now. The playoff picture is somewhat more cut and dried than it was a week ago. It’s possible Week 17 next weekend could even see more than the usual share of meaningless games, however it is just as likely that there will be more than enough games which will be in essence “de-facto playoff games” in their own right. Week 16 will certainly not be lacking in suspense as a number of meaningful games are on tap. The New Orleans Saints visit Charlotte, NC to take on the division rival Carolina Panthers. The winner of this game has the inside track to the NFC South title while the losing team is likely either the 5th or 6th seed in the NFC’s post season bracket. In the AFC bracket the defending champion Baltimore Ravens host the New England Patriots in a game the Ravens need to win to maintain the sixth seed in the AFC. The Miami Dolphins are on the road in frigid Buffalo, NY to take on the Bills. The Dolphins with a win and a Ravens loss will take over the sixth and final seed in the AFC bracket. The San Diego Chargers are even mathematically still alive but need to win their last two games while getting help with both Baltimore and Miami. A win by both the Ravens and Miami eliminates the Chargers. A win by the Ravens alone finally puts the New York Jets out of their misery. Things even get more interesting as far as Baltimore is concerned. If the Ravens win their final two games while Cincinnati drops their last two (that would include a Week 17 showdown between these two teams in Cincinnati) this combination actually gives the Ravens the AFC North title while the Bengals fall into a tie for the sixth seed. That would leave Cincy at 9-7, and they would actually lose a tie breaker with Miami if the Dolphins finish 9-7. The scenario with the Bengals is unlikely though as their final two regular season games are at home.
Looking at the NFC bracket aside from New Orleans and Carolina, the NFC North is up for grabs after the Lions home loss to the Ravens last Monday night. The Lions fell to 7-7 with the loss and no longer control their destiny. If Chicago can win in Philly while the Lions and Packers drop their games this Sunday, the Bears win the NFC North. The Lions and Packers must win out while the Bears lose out. However if the Lions finish the season tied with the Bears for the top spot in the division, the tie breaker favors Detroit. The Lions will need more help though than the Packers who stunned the NFL with a huge comeback against Dallas last Sunday. In the NFC East, it’s between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys with the Eagles leading the division by a game. The two teams meet at Jerryworld in Week 17 in a game that could decide the division winner and which team will miss the post season entirely. The Eagles play host the Chicago Bears Sunday night while the Cowboys renew their rivalry with the Redskins in DC. Out west the Arizona Cardinals will try to keep their playoff hopes alive as they are on the outside looking in. The Cardinals however have the unenviable task of having to take on the Seahawks in Seattle.
Kingshark Line- The KSL endured a rough weekend in Week 15 going 9-7. The overall mark through 15 weeks is 150-76 for a .663 winning percentage. Tough weeks are all a part of the deal when trying to accurately forecast NFL games. Who knew Tony Romo would keep passing the ball when he didn’t need to? Who knew the Bengals really weren’t ready for prime time afterall? Who knew the Saints would lay such a big egg after a big win over the Panthers the week before? Who knew the Lions would lose on a 60 plus yard field goal in the last seconds of the game for the second time in franchise history? Who knew the Vikings without Adrian Peterson and a number of starters would boat-race the Eagles? This is why games are hard to pick. At the same time, half of the fun is the thrill of the chase. As we enter Week 16, gone are the Thursday night games (which really do more harm than good for the teams who have to participate in them). It’s all Sunday affairs from now until the post season with the season’s final Monday night game being played this week as well. If there is one thing that is for certain, this Sunday will have a lot of drama around the league. With that in mind here is how the Kingshark Line sees Week 16 playing out:
New Orleans@Carolina (FOX)- Could be the day’s most interesting game as the Saints try to regain control of the NFC South against the rival Panthers. Two weeks ago the Saints routed the Panthers in New Orleans 31-13. However the Panthers rebounded with a solid win over the Jets while the Saints laid an egg in St Louis. The Saints have had two bad games in their last three and will need to be very focused going into this game. The Panthers know with a win they take control of the NFC’s #2 seeding as well as their division. The Panthers clearly ran into a buzz saw two weeks ago but should have learned a lot about the Saints. New Orleans like so many other teams just seems to play a little different on the road than at home. The Panthers are at home and can hold serve with the best. This will be a closer game than two weeks ago, but at home Cam Newton outduels Drew Brees. Panthers 24 Saints 21.
Miami@Buffalo (CBS)- The Dolphins are looking to keep their post season hopes alive but must travel to Buffalo where if anything it will be much colder than it was two weeks ago in Pittsburgh. Miami on the last road game in the cold handled the Steelers, and last week pulled off the upset of the week in a four point home win over New England. Buffalo also was on the road in Florida where they had spent the past two weekends themselves. Last week the Bills outlasted the Jaguars 27-20 after having lost 27-6 in Tampa the week before. The Bills are a team that can play well at times but can never maintain any level of consistency. Miami knows that their road in the playoffs if they get there will feature nothing but cold weather games. The Dolphins also have a payback factor as they lost at home to the Bills earlier this season. The Bills have nothing to lose here while Miami has plenty to lose, but maybe a lot more to gain too. The gain should be motivating enough even in frigid weather (all bets are off however if there is a blizzard). Dolphins 19 Bills 16.
Minnesota@Cincinnati (FOX)- The Bengals with a huge opportunity to show the nation last Sunday that they were ready for prime time instead got spanked by a Pittsburgh Steelers team who is playing out the string. The Vikings offense has been hot the last two weeks in giving the Ravens all they could handle two weeks ago, then spanking the Eagles at home last week. The Bengals have been very good at home this season and have plenty of reasons to win this weekend as they can still wrap up the AFC North division. QB Andy Dalton needs to have a good game, and if anything has the right opponent to accomplish that goal. Cincinnati wants to atone for a bad loss before a national television audience last weekend. The Bengals should be able hold their own against the Vikings but should expect at least some challenge as well. Again elements could be a factor here too. Bengals 27 Vikings 17.
Denver@Houston (CBS)- The Broncos have had 10 days to think about a shocking loss in their regular season home finale to San Diego. The Broncos were ambushed a week ago Thursday by a Chargers team which played their best game of the season. The Broncos obviously want to rebound and find themselves playing a team that has lost their last dozen. What the Broncos need to do is not take the Texans for granted and execute their offense. The Broncos defense has a lot of question marks and will need a good game here more than the offense. The Texans meanwhile look to have the first pick in this spings’ NFL Draft all but locked up. Look for Peyton Manning & Company to do what they need to get the job done here. Broncos 37 Texans 23.
Indianapolis@Kansas City (CBS)- The Chiefs come into this game with a lock on a post season birth and an outside shot at the AFC West title. The Colts have already won the AFC South with very little competition for their division. If the Chiefs somehow win the AFC West this game could actually serve as a playoff preview. Kansas City is coming off two games scoring 45 and 56 points respectively albeit against much weaker competition, the Colts on the other hand beat the Texans at home. Right now the Chiefs are playing much better than the Colts who have struggled in hostile environments this season. The Chiefs fire power especially at home just seems to be superior. Could be a fun game to watch too. Chiefs 31 Colts 24.
Dallas@Washington (FOX)- The Cowboys are looking to rebound after a mind numbing loss at home to Green Bay. The Redskins in Atlanta last weekend actually played one of their better games of the season despite the one-point loss. If the Redskins have only one reason to be motivated here it’s because it’s “Dallas Week.” The Cowboys may not lack in desire but seem at times to lack in brains. You simply have to know when to stop throwing the ball around the yard sometimes. A 23-point lead is usually enough reason to keep the ball on the ground. Dallas needs this game to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Redskins would love to spoil all of that. Kirk Cousins at least gives a the Skins a better shot here than an injured RGIII. Tony Romo might throw another pick in this game but if he limits it to one or none it will give Dallas a good chance. This should be close and the Redskins with nothing else to play for should give a solid effort here. Cowboys take this one...just barely. Cowboys 20 Redskins 19.
Tennessee@Jacksonville (CBS)- The Titans season was probably sunk when they allowed the Jaguars to gain their first win of the season Nov. 9th in Nashville. Jacksonville lost at home to the Bills last weekend however have at least saved some face having won four of their last six. The Titans gave their all in an overtime loss to Arizona. This game is simply a toss-up. Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak is likely a goner of the Titans get swept by the Jags. Neither team has much to lose here as this game will probably be decided by whichever team can make the fewest mistakes. Flipped a coin, heads the home team; tails the road team. It came up tails. Titans 20 Jaguars 17.
Cleveland@NY Jets (CBS)- If Joe Namath and Jim Brown were in the prime’s of their careers this would be a fun game to watch. It still could be if the teams just decide to entertain the fans and play a sandlot game. Otherwise this could be a snoozer of epic proportions. When you hear Browns vs Jets, the excitement just isn’t really there and it has a lot to do with both teams being perennially poor with some on and off years by the Jets thrown in. The Browns in their last two games have at least shown up and battled. The Browns should have won the game in New England two weeks ago but got hosed by the officials. Cleveland also gave Chicago all they could handle a week ago. The Jets got hammered last weekend by the Carolina Panthers. Cleveland has played the better football over the last two weeks but that really matters little. Geno Smith vs Jason Campbell is a wash, with Smith getting the slight edge only because they are home. Jets 16 Browns 13.
Tampa Bay@St Louis (FOX)- Just two teams playing out the string here. St Louis played a solid game last weekend in an upset of the Saints while the Buccaneers just could not keep up with the 49ers. If nothing else the Rams of late have been tough at home late this season. Tampa has won four of their last seven. Another coin flip game. This time the coin landed on heads. Rams 24 Buccaneers 20.
NY Giants@Detroit (FOX)- The Lions have lost control of their destiny in a gut wrenching home loss to Baltimore last Monday night. The Giants are out of the playoff picture and have reverted to just being awful again. With both Matthew Stafford and Eli Manning’s propensity to throw interceptions as well as Tony Romo does, this could be a “pick fest”. For the Lions this is a “Must Win” if they want to be mathematically alive come Week 17. The Giants are out of gas and are just trying to get through the final two games without further injuries. Lions 20 Giants 13.
New England@Baltimore (CBS)- This will be a good one. The defending champion Ravens need this game to keep their sixth seeding in the AFC playoff hunt. The Patriots are looking to rebound from a tough loss in Miami last weekend. The Ravens have been tough at home this season and still have enough of a defense to get the job done against most anyone. The Patriots finally fell in Miami last week after back to back last second wins in their previous two games. If the Patriots are to win here they cannot afford to have the game go to the wire, but may not have a choice against the Ravens defense. Baltimore has won their last four games and though not exactly art they are finding ways to win. A win here combined with a Miami loss will give the Ravens the 6th seed and eliminate San Diego too. The Patriots are “in” already are one of the few teams that isn’t all that concerned about where they seed. The Ravens if they’ve shown anything over the last four games is that they have the heart of a champion and they could be tough to deny here. In one of those rare days, Joe Flaco and the Ravens defense finds a way to out-duel Tom Brady & Co. Ravens 24 Patriots 17.
Pittsburgh@Green Bay (CBS)- Aaron Rogers for the 7th straight week will be on the sidelines as a defacto offensive coordinator, putting the ball into the hands of back-up QB Matt Flynn. Last week Flynn led the Packers to an improbable comeback over the Cowboys at Jerryworld. The Packers despite their shortcomings in Rogers’ absence still have a shot at the NFC North Title. The Steelers had a huge win over the rival Bengals last week but are no longer in playoff contention. Green Bay will be very hard pressed to build on what they did a week ago but if they can keep that momentum they should be handle a team on the road playing out the string. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense has found their game in recent weeks while the defense still struggles from time to time. The elements could play a factor here but this should still be an entertaining game. Packers 26 Steelers 21.
Arizona@Seattle (FOX)- The Arizona Cardinals have before them the NFL’s version of “Mission: Impossible” as they take on the Seahawks at Century Link Field (aka the NFL’s version of Devils Island). Are the Cardinals up for the task? They have no choice but to be. Last week the Cardinals edged the Titans in overtime while Seattle buried the hapless Giants at the Meadowlands. If the Cards pull the upset here it would be a gargantuan. However we just have this feeling that the Seahawks are not about to let this happen. Seattle with a win clinches the NFC West Division and will likely lock down the top seed in the NFC playoff bracket. Arizona stays with Seattle for at least the first half, but may not have enough gas in the tank to keep up with the Seahawks for four quarters. They would not be the first opposing team to experience this at Century Link either. Good Luck, Cardinals (Trust me, you’ll need it). Seahawks 38 Cardinals 24.
Oakland@San Diego (CBS)- The Chargers are also mathematically alive for a post season birth in the AFC bracket but will need to win out and get lots of help. The Chargers could actually even be eliminated from the post season before this game kicks off, or even before it ends. As for the game San Diego is coming off a huge road win in Denver 10 days earlier while the Raiders got boat-raced at home by the Chiefs last Sunday. The Raiders won the earlier season meeting between the two teams in Oakland. Since that game the Raiders have only won once in seven games. The Chargers have had a rough go if it this season but have won their last two games against the NY Giants and Broncos in rather impressive fashion. The Chargers are at least well rested here and this could make a difference. The Raiders are clearly playing out the string, but would at least love to cancel out the Chargers playoff hopes of they could. A rivalry game will give the Raiders a good deal of motivation, but the Chargers have perhaps a little more to play for here. Chargers 28 Raiders 20.
Chicago@Philadelphia (NBC)- NBC’s Sunday Night Football flexed into this game which could be interesting for a number of reasons concerning both teams’ post season aspirations. Last weekend Jay Cutler returned to the QB’s helm for the Bears and was rusty but still made big plays when most needed (this despite the Bears giving up two touchdowns on turnovers). The Eagles saw their five game winning streak sapped in Minnesota last weekend. The Eagles over the long haul have played the better football however now must find a way to rebound after a bad loss. The Bears with a win combined with losses by the Lions and Packers take the NFC North. The Eagles with a win can actually capture the NFC East if the Redskins can upset the Cowboys (not out of the question). The Eagles have started to win at home again and seem to be having fun out there which is a big edge. The Bears cannot make the same mistakes they made in Cleveland last Sunday and expect a win. Since both teams defenses rank in the lower third of the NFL it will be which offense can make the most of their chances. Nick Foles bests Jay Cutler in a shootout. Eagles 30 Bears 27.
Atlanta@San Francisco (ESPN)- The 49ers and Falcons, two former division rivals get the honors of closing out Candlestick Park in what is likely the final event ever in the 53 year old stadium this Monday night. The 49ers are coming off a business like win in Tampa last weekend while the Falcons edged the Redskins for only their fourth win this season in a year that has just gone completely wrong for them. The 49ers need to keep building on their current three game winning streak if they want to climb higher than the NFC’s sixth and final seed. For the Falcons it’s about pride and jobs in 2014, but they can still give any team a tough game. The 49ers need to treat the game the same way they took care of business in Tampa last weekend. Focus at the task at hand and build on the things that got them to this point. The 49ers should be able to move the ball on a Falcons defense that is in the lower third of the NFL. The 49ers defense needs to have a strong game and not let the Falcons hang around for too long. The 49ers should be able to handle their business as they bid farewell to their home of 42 years. 49ers 27 Falcons 16. For more information on this game please go to this link: http://goldengatereport.com/articles/49ers-close-out-candlestick-vs-falcons-on-mnf
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*Mandatory Disclaimer: The Kingshark Line is stickily for entertainment purposes only. I have the same exact information that anyone else has and do not claim to know any more or less than the next guy. This is not to promote or encourage gambling on football or any other sport. No point spreads are played here or implied in any way. Scores are for entertainment purposes only and are only based on team trends, team reports, etc. There is no inside information given here or implied. This is just for your information and entertainment. Enjoy the games.