Patriots, Panthers clinch first round byes

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The Playoff picture is coming more into focus with several teams clinching spots this past weekend and others being eliminated. Much remains to be determined with only six teams assured of playing in the post season and six other spots still remaining.

In the AFC New England has clinched the AFC East and a first round bye but still needs a win to clinch the top overall seed. Cincinnati is the only other AFC team to have clinched a playoff spot but the Bengals have not yet won the AFC North.

Four of the six NFC playoffs berths have been clinched. Arizona has won the NFC West and Carolina the NFC South. The Panthers have clinched a first round bye but needs one more win or an Arizona loss to clinch the top seed in the conference. The Cardinals can clinch a first round bye with a win this week over Green Bay. A loss would put the Packers in control of the NFL’s number 2 seed by winning in Week 17. Green Bay and Seattle both clinched Playoff spots this past weekend.

The NFC East is still up for grabs but Washington could win the title with a Saturday win at Philadelphia. Minnesota needs either one win or an Atlanta loss to earn the other NFC Wild Card.

The interesting race is for the two AFC Wild Cards with Kansas City, the New York Jets and Pittsburgh all tied at 9-5. If all three teams win their final two games the Chiefs and Steelers will make the Playoffs while the 11-5 Jets would miss out.

The Playoff scenarios will continue to play out this week with more teams being eliminated.

Here’s a preview of the Week 16 games that include a Saturday matchup.

Thursday

San Diego Chargers +4.5 at Oakland Raiders (47): The Raiders won the first meeting 37-29 in San Diego in a game not that close. Revenge means little on Christmas Eve for a team out of the Playoffs and the expectation is for the Raiders to put forth a big effort in what could also be their final game in Oakland if they are about to move to Los Angeles as well. OAKLAND.

Saturday

Washington Redskins +3.5 at Philadelphia Eagles (48.5): Projected at 9.5 wins the Eagles will fall short of that mark even by winning out. Washington has already exceeded its projection of 6 wins and their locker room turmoil of September surrounding RG III is a distant memory as QB Kirk Cousins has assumed a leadership role with his fine play over the past month. The Eagles still have issues with their offense and its bevy of disgruntled running backs. Neither team is especially trustworthy and the Eagles still have trouble winning at home. Taking more than a field goal with a team that finally won its last road game is the lesser of two unattractive options. WASHINGTON.

Sunday

NY Giants +4 at Minnesota Vikings (44): This game has been flexed to Sunday night but could have little meaning. The Giants offense will be without WR Odell Beckham Jr who was suspended by the NFL for one game following his antics vs the Panthers. Four of the Vikes’ 5 losses have been to Playoff teams, each of which has already won at least 9 games. RB Adrian Peterson is expected to play after injuring his ankle against the Bears. MINNESOTA.

Chicago Bears +3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (45.5): Both teams have been eliminated from the Playoffs. Tampa Bay still has a shot at finishing 8-8 and has a bright future with rookie QB Jameis Winston showing improvement week to week. The Bucs have extra rest following their loss last Thursday in St Louis. Chicago QB Jay Cutler has also played well and has plenty of weapons to test an improved Tampa defense. With the playoffs impossible we could see both teams open up the offense and each has shown an ability to make the big play with some gifted receivers on each team. OVER.

Carolina Panthers -7 at Atlanta Falcons (47): The Panthers got a scare last week in blowing a 35-7 lead only to kick the game winning FG as time expired in their 38-35 win at the Giants. We should get a good effort from the Falcons after they finally got the taste of victory last week and despite those slim Playoff hopes the Panthers may be feeling the pressure of trying to make history. This is Carolina’s fourth road game in five weeks while Atlanta returns home following three straight road games. There’s room here for Carolina to still get the win but for Atlanta backers to grab the cash. ATLANTA.

Dallas Cowboys +6 at Buffalo Bills (43.5): The Bills are off of back-to-back losses for the third time this season, avoiding a three game losing streak the previous two times. The Cowboys still have issues at QB, turning to Kellen Moore to replace Matt Cassel last week. The Bills have the more talented though underachieving roster. BUFFALO.

Jacksonville Jaguars +3 at New Orleans Saints (50): The Saints have the league’s worst defense while the Jags have shown an improved offense over the second half of the season. New Orleans is off Monday night’s game vs Detroit giving the defense less time to game plan for the Jags. With what should be an emotional effort from Brees we should see a wide open game with plenty of points. OVER.

San Francisco 49ers +8 at Detroit Lions (43): Both teams are out of the Playoffs but the Lions were an 11 win team last season that got off to a slow start this season due to a defense that suffered multiple key losses. This is their final home game and they’ve played their best football over the past month and a half, including a much better defense against the run. Considering San Francisco’s road woes and the talent gap between the teams this is a favorable spot for the hosts. DETROIT.

Cleveland Browns +12.5 at Kansas City Chiefs (42.5): Cleveland has a poor ground game, a defense allowing 6.1 yards per play and an offense that turns the football over nearly twice per game. It’s always tough to lay double digits but the Chiefs will be bringing great intensity to this game, knowing that by winning out they are in the Playoffs. They did fail to cover in a similar spot two weeks ago but that game was played under dreadful conditions unlikely to be repeated here. KANSAS CITY.

Indianapolis Colts NL at Miami Dolphins: The Colts’ QB situation keeps this game off the boards on Monday but Miami should come under a FG favorite once that situation is resolved. The Colts still have a chance to win the AFC South despite their struggles but can they be trusted to succeed after failing the past two weeks in competitively priced games? There’s no pressure on Miami. And despite what’s on the line for the Colts, these teams have similar statistical profiles except that the Colts have been much more turnover prone. MIAMI.

New England Patriots -3 at NY Jets (43.5): In their first meeting the Jets led the Pats late before falling 30-23 in a game that resulted in a pointspread PUSH. Going back to the Rex Ryan era, the Jets have a history of playing New England as well as any team has. The Jets have the better running game and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a good fit and has developed great chemistry with his corp of receivers. It will be interesting to see which side the “wise guys” back. NY JETS.

Houston Texans NL at Tennessee Titans: The QB status for both teams is uncertain and we could see both teams starting backups. As was the case last week, the best unit on the field by far will be the Houston defense. The Texans have overcome a 1-4 start and now control the AFC South. Tennessee has been eliminated and might shut down their prized rookie QB Marcus Mariota who suffered a knee injury last week. Houston could come between a 4 and 6 point favorite depending on which quarterbacks start and their improved running game over the past month combined with their defense rates them the nod. HOUSTON.

Green Bay Packers +4 at Arizona Cardinals (49.5): Arizona has won 8 straight and continues to display a potent offense even with multiple injuries at RB. The Packers have won 3 in a row and have been more opportunistic than dominant as they’ve gone 5 straight games with less than 250 net passing yards. Both teams are in the Playoffs but this game still has importance. A Green Bay win gives them control for an opening round bye while a Cardinals win clinches them that Bye. This has the makings of a well played, competitive game. GREEN BAY.

St. Louis Rams +13.5 at Seattle Seahawks (41): This is revenge for Seattle which lost 34-31 in overtime at St Louis to open the season. The Rams still have issues on offense and they are catching Seattle at exactly the wrong time. While it may be tempting to lay nearly two touchdowns the better option may be to back Seattle through the total, relying on the defense to control the Rams offense. UNDER.

Pittsburgh Steelers -10.5 at Baltimore Ravens (47): This is Baltimore’s third straight home game and the previous two resulted in lopsided losses. However, both were to a pair of top flight defenses, Kansas City and Seattle. The Steelers defense has been their weakness. Whether the Ravens can exploit that weakness is suspect. But the Steelers are just 3-3 SU on the road and their only win by more than 6 points was two weeks ago when they knocked Cincy starting QB Andy Dalton out of that game early. BALTIMORE.

Monday

Cincinnati Bengals +3.5 at Denver Broncos (41): Cincy backup A.J. McCarron led the Bengals to a workmanlike 24-14 win at San Francisco that was not close after a scoreless first quarter. Both teams have played excellent defense versus the run as the Bengals have held 7 straight foes to under 95 yards rushing and Denver’s last 5 foes have also failed to top that number. The 42 games this season in which both teams rushed for under 100 yards have produced 25 UNDERs, 16 OVERs and 1 PUSH. Carrying so much importance for both teams, this key AFC matchup fits the profile for following suit. UNDER.

NFL Last Week:11-3-1

NFL Season: 111-106-6

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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