NFL Week 16 picks, schedule, odds, injuries, fantasy tips

The Week 16 NFL schedule for the 2023 season is stacked with great matchups, and we have you covered with what you need to know heading into the weekend. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the biggest keys to every game and a bold prediction for each matchup.

Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a big stat to know and a betting nugget for each contest, and our Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a game projection and a look at the playoff picture. Analytics writer Seth Walder picks out each matchup’s biggest X factor, and fantasy analyst Eric Moody hands out helpful fantasy football intel. Finally, Walder and Moody give us final score picks for every game. Everything you want to know is here in one spot to help you get ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.

Let’s get into the full Week 16 slate, including the Lions hoping to clinch their first division title in 30 years and a high-powered matchup between the Cowboys and Dolphins. It all culminates with three games on Christmas Day, ending with a matchup between the Ravens and 49ers that night on ABC/ESPN+. (Game times are Sunday unless otherwise noted, and all playoff chance percentages are via FPI and independent of other results.)

Jump to a matchup:

Thursday: LAR 30, NO 22

Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET | NBC | Spread: CIN -3 (38.5)

Storyline to watch: The Steelers and Bengals have trended in opposite directions since the Steelers won the first meeting a month ago, with the Bengals going 3-0 since and the Steelers in an 0-3 spiral. Earlier this week, Pittsburgh wide receiver Diontae Johnson said the team that wins the line of scrimmage will win the game. Considering the Bengals have averaged 115.7 rushing yards per game since putting up only 25 against the Steelers, while the Steelers have averaged 95 per game since recording 153 vs. the Bengals, the ground game figures to dictate the outcome of this rematch. — Brooke Pryor

Bold prediction: Bengals WR Tee Higgins will have at least 150 receiving yards. Cincinnati is without WR Ja’Marr Chase, and the Steelers are down safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee injury) and Damontae Kazee (suspension). That is a recipe for Higgins to have a big day and build upon his performance against the Vikings that featured one of the top catches of the season. — Ben Baby

Stat to know: Steelers QBs have nearly as many interceptions (nine) as passing touchdowns (10) this season. Pittsburgh ranks 26th in completion percentage (62%) and Total QBR (37).



Is Mike Tomlin’s message in Pittsburgh ‘getting stale?’

Damien Woody, Dan Orlovsky and Mike Tannenbaum discuss recent on-field effort issues with the Steelers.

Matchup X factor: Bengals edge rusher Trey Hendrickson. He’ll be facing slightly below-average tackle Dan Moore Jr. and can wreck Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s day in a hurry. Hendrickson has a 22% pass rush win rate at edge, which ranks 12th at the position. — Walder

What’s at stake: The Steelers basically need to win to keep playoff hopes alive. They’d have a 9% chance to make the AFC field with a win, but those odds drop below 1% if they lose their fourth straight. The Bengals, meanwhile, can make a playoff statement on Saturday — a win bumps them up to 56%, while a loss knocks them all the way down to 13%. Read more.

Injuries: Bengals | Steelers

What to know for fantasy: The Bengals cannot cover tight ends. This season, Cincinnati’s defense has given up the second-most fantasy points to the position. The Steelers’ Pat Freiermuth has averaged 8.4 targets, 6.0 receptions and 67.2 receiving yards per game versus the Bengals in his career. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: The Steelers are 0-3 against the spread (ATS) in their past three games. They are also 0-3 ATS in their past three games as an underdog. Read more.

Moody’s pick: Bengals 21, Steelers 17
Walder’s pick: Bengals 20, Steelers 17
FPI prediction: CIN, 58.3% (by an average of 2.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Bengals won’t have Chase vs. Steelers … Heyward clears concussion protocol … Five biggest catches of Higgins’ Bengals career … Tomlin: Pickens ‘growing in a lot of ways’

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET | Peacock | Spread: BUF -12.5 (43.5)

Storyline to watch: Despite their issues this season — which resulted in the firing of coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco last Friday — and the Bills’ recent resurgence, the Chargers have won four of their past five games against Buffalo dating to 2011 and have dominated the all-time series with a 25-13-2 record. This game will be something of a reunion for Chargers safety Dean Marlowe, who played for the Bills from 2018-2020. — Kris Rhim

Bold prediction: The Bills’ offense will score at least 40 points. The Buffalo offense has put together some of its best performances of the season under interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady, scoring more than 30 points in three of those four games. Coming off the blowout victory vs. the Cowboys, both the run and pass are a serious threat. The Chargers’ defense has allowed the second-most touchdowns and first downs, and it gave up 63 points last week. With two teams on opposite trajectories, the Bills should be able to put up some major points. — Alaina Getzenberg

Stat to know: Bills quarterback Josh Allen is seeking his fourth straight season with 40 combined passing and rushing touchdowns. He already holds the NFL record with three straight seasons, and he can tie Tom Brady for the second-most seasons overall with three touchdowns on Sunday.

Matchup X factor: The Bills’ defense. Suddenly, it’s coming together. After scuffling in the middle part of the season following injuries to linebacker Matt Milano, cornerback Tre’Davious White and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, the Bills’ defense showed a major resurgence over the past couple weeks against the Chiefs and Cowboys — especially their pass defense. As long as that continues, Buffalo should roll with no problem. — Walder

What’s at stake: There isn’t much in play for the Chargers, but there is a lot riding on this game for the Bills. A victory gives Buffalo a 71% chance to make the playoffs and a 35% chance to win the division. But a loss means 29% for the playoffs and 12% in the AFC East. Read more.

Injuries: Bills | Chargers

What to know for fantasy: Chargers receiver Joshua Palmer is firmly on the sleeper radar as Keenan Allen will not play due to a heel injury. He caught all four of his targets for 113 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Raiders in Week 15. In 18 career games where he has been targeted six or more times, Palmer has averaged 5.0 receptions and 64.7 receiving yards. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: The Chargers are 0-5 ATS as underdogs this season, including 0-3 ATS as home underdogs. They are 0-5 outright and ATS against teams currently with winning records, too. Read more.

Moody’s pick: Bills 27, Chargers 14
Walder’s pick: Bills 35, Chargers 13
FPI prediction: BUF, 81.7% (by an average of 12 points)

Matchup must-reads: Bills’ big rushing day behind Cook shows growth of offense … Why the Chargers fired Staley and Telesco … Ekeler says he’s aiming to prove himself ahead of free agency

1 p.m. ET | FOX | Spread: DET -3 (47.5)

Storyline to watch: While most eyes have been focused on how Lions quarterback Jared Goff will fare against the Vikings’ blitz packages, the game could turn on how well the Lions do — or don’t — run against the Vikings’ defense. The Lions enter the game with the NFL’s second-most rushing yards (1,973), while the Vikings’ defense has limited opponents to the league’s fifth-fewest rushing yards (1,288). It’s hard to imagine the Lions losing if the Vikings can’t stop their rushing attack. — Kevin Seifert

Bold prediction: Lions RB Jahmyr Gibbs will have the third 100-yard rushing game of his rookie season. The No. 12 overall pick continues to grow more comfortable entering the final stretch as his maturity level increases. Coach Dan Campbell views him as a trusted playmaker in the offense, and Gibbs will continue to get plenty of touches in Minnesota. — Eric Woodyard

Stat to know: Goff has consistently excelled against defensive back blitzes. He has the third-highest completion percentage and yards per attempt when defenses send a DB blitz, which the Vikings do at the highest rate in the league.

Matchup X factor: Lions cornerback Cameron Sutton. One easy way to lose to the Vikings is to let wide receiver Justin Jefferson dominate. Sutton mostly traveled with Denver’s Courtland Sutton last week, so presumably Jefferson will be his primary responsibility. — Walder

What’s at stake: Let’s start with the most important thing … Detroit can clinch a playoff spot and the NFC North with a win. Even if it loses, it can still claim a playoff spot if the Seahawks also lose. But what about the Vikings? Minnesota can increase its postseason chances to 70% if it wins, but those fall to 28% in a loss. Read more.

Injuries: Lions | Vikings

What to know for fantasy: The Lions’ defense has given up the sixth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. In superflex formats, Nick Mullens is an intriguing sleeper with Jefferson, receiver Jordan Addison and tight end T.J. Hockenson as his top receiving playmakers. The Lions’ defense also gives up the eighth-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers and the eighth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: The Vikings have covered five straight games as an underdog (5-1-1 ATS this season as an underdog). Read more.

Moody’s pick: Lions 31, Vikings 21
Walder’s pick: Lions 24, Vikings 20
FPI prediction: DET, 60.5% (by an average of 3.6 points)

Matchup must-reads: Goff tosses 5 TDs in ‘bounce back’ win vs. Broncos … Why didn’t Vikings look to Chandler sooner? … Vikings to give Mullens second straight start

1 p.m. ET | FOX | Spread: ATL -2.5 (44.5)

Storyline to watch: Both teams will start quarterbacks they had no intention of starting at the beginning of the season — Taylor Heinicke makes his third start this year for Atlanta in place of Desmond Ridder and Gardner Minshew makes start No. 11 for the Colts in place of Anthony Richardson. Heinicke and Minshew have similar paths — go from team to team, come in and play well when called upon as a backup to the starter. “I feel like we would be pretty close as friends,” Heinicke said. “I just think he looks like he has a lot of fun out there, he has a lot of passion for the game, and it looks like he’s a kind of wild-spirited guy and I think I feel like I would gravitate towards that.” — Michael Rothstein

Bold prediction: The Falcons have allowed only five rushing TDs this season, all of them by quarterbacks. But look for Atlanta to allow its first rushing score from a running back, with the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor ramping up after his recent thumb surgery, the offensive line performing better than it has all season and the Colts showing a determined commitment to running the ball. Indianapolis ran on 13 consecutive plays on a late drive during last week’s win over the Steelers. — Stephen Holder

Stat to know: The Colts have had 19 straight games with a takeaway, which is the longest active streak in the NFL and their longest since 2003-04 (21 straight). With a takeaway, they will be tied for the third-longest streak by any team in the past 10 seasons (last team with a 20-game streak was the Dolphins with 26 over 2019-21).

Matchup X factor: Falcons coach Arthur Smith. I know fantasy managers have long been calling for Smith to put the ball in rookie running back Bijan Robinson’s hands. But seriously, Robinson got just seven rushes and had one reception last week. The point of a playmaker is to have the ball in his hands, and you have to think it makes sense to try and give the ball to him. — Walder

What’s at stake: The Colts have a 69% chance to make the playoffs if they win, and a 32% chance to take the AFC South. A loss results in 42% and 11%, respectively. Atlanta has an uphill climb no matter what. A win means a 19% chance to make the playoffs, with a 14% chance to win the NFC South title. But a loss would be rough on the postseason push … the Falcons would be at 5% to make the playoffs and win the division. Read more.

Injuries: Colts | Falcons

What to know for fantasy: This season, the Falcons haven’t been a reliable offense for fantasy managers. Nevertheless, don’t overlook wide receiver Drake London against a Colts defense that has recently given up big performances to Diontae Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins and Mike Evans. In every game where London has had seven or more targets this season, he has scored at least 10 fantasy points. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: The Colts are 9-5 ATS this season, tied for the best record in the NFL. Read more.

Moody’s pick: Colts 24, Falcons 21
Walder’s pick: Falcons 22, Colts 19
FPI prediction: ATL, 50.8% (by an average of 0.3 points)

Matchup must-reads: Colts suspend McKenzie, Brown for three games … How the Falcons can win the NFC South … Sources: Moss aims to play despite shoulder injury … Heinicke preps to be Falcons starter down stretch

1 p.m. ET | CBS | Spread: SEA -3 (41.5)

Storyline to watch: Titans running back Derrick Henry’s 16 carries for 9 yards last week was his worst performance ever as a starter. Despite having a down year, Henry is still on pace for 1,073 yards this season. The Titans need to get Henry back on track in order to win. He should get plenty of opportunities against a Seattle defense that is allowing 127.3 rushing yards per game. — Turron Davenport

Bold prediction: Safety Julian Love will make it three straight games with an interception. Whichever quarterback starts for Tennessee should give him an opportunity or two. Neither is afraid to push the ball down the field and both have struggled with accuracy this season. Will Levis (who hurt his ankle last week) has the third-highest off-target percentage among qualifying quarterbacks at 17.8%, while Ryan Tannehill (who hasn’t played enough to qualify) is at 18.2%. Love has four takeaways the past two games and will get another against the Titans. — Brady Henderson

Stat to know: Henry has had a career-low 3.8 yards per carry this season. Last week, he had 10 yards from scrimmage on 20 touches (the fewest yards from scrimmage with at least 20 touches since individual stats were first tracked in 1933).

Matchup X factor: Seahawks cornerback Riq Woolen. In terms of what I’ll call yards saved — essentially the difference between his yards allowed (via receptions or penalty yards) and what we would expect for an average outside corner given his playing time — Woolen is well above average with 57. If he can reduce the role of Titans receiver DeAndre Hopkins, that will significantly hamper Tennessee’s offense. — Walder

What’s at stake: Tennessee was eliminated in Week 15, so all eyes will be on Seattle. The Seahawks, fresh off a huge win on Monday, would be 71% likely to make the playoffs if they win this game. Lose, and that becomes 34%. Read more.

Injuries: Seahawks | Titans

What to know for fantasy: Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf is averaging 7.6 targets and 14.7 fantasy points this season. His fantasy ceiling is much higher in a favorable matchup, which is what Metcalf has against the Titans. Tennessee’s defense gives up the seventh-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers. Having Geno Smith back under center would help Metcalf even more. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: The Titans are 1-4 ATS in their past five games as underdogs. Read more.

Moody’s pick: Seahawks 21, Titans 17
Walder’s pick: Seahawks 23, Titans 17
FPI prediction: TEN, 60.6% (by an average of 3.6 points)

Matchup must-reads: Titans embrace spoiler role with much left to play for … Henry ponders future with Titans out of playoff chase

1 p.m. ET | CBS | Spread: NYJ -3 (37.5)

Storyline to watch: The Jets’ quarterback carousel is spinning once again, as Trevor Siemian is expected to replace Zach Wilson (concussion). Siemian will be the Jets’ fourth different starter, the first time since 1989 they’ve had that many in one season. All told, the Jets’ quarterbacks have a league-low nine touchdown passes, 10 fewer than Commanders QB Sam Howell, who was replaced late in last week’s loss to the Rams. — Rich Cimini

Bold prediction: Washington’s defense, ranked last in the NFL, will hold the Jets to fewer than 250 yards of offense. Jets fans might not consider that bold given that New York ranks last in yards per game at 255.1. However, the Commanders have held one team to fewer than 300 yards since the season-opener (the Giants in Week 11), allow 384.5 yards per game and have allowed more than 400 yards in four of the past five games. It’s bolder than you think. — John Keim

Stat to know: Receiver Garrett Wilson needs 118 receiving yards for his second straight 1,000-yard season. He would be the first Jets player to do that in back-to-back seasons since Keyshawn Johnson in 1998-99. And he needs 18 receiving yards to become the first player in Jets history with back-to-back 900-yard seasons to begin a career.

Matchup X factor: The Jets offensive line. It ranks 30th in pass block win rate over the past two weeks, which makes life brutal for Wilson, Siemian or anyone playing quarterback for this team. Heck, Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t have had an easy time. The Jets simply have to be better in this area. — Walder

What’s at stake: Just a couple of eliminated teams in play in East Rutherford. Washington and New York can jockey for draft position, where the Commanders would have a distant 2% chance to pick No. 1 if they lose. Read more.

Injuries: Commanders | Jets

What to know for fantasy: It’d be tempting to start Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin, who might have had his best game of the season last week against the Rams with 12 targets and 26.1 fantasy points. But New York’s defense has given up the fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers, so you’ll want to start Jets running back Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson instead. In terms of fantasy points allowed per game, the Commanders’ defense gives up the sixth most for running backs and second most for wide receivers. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: The Commanders are 0-4 ATS in their past four games, the longest active ATS losing streak in the NFL. The Jets are 1-6 ATS in their past seven games. Read more.

Moody’s pick: Jets 19, Commanders 13
Walder’s pick: Commanders 19, Jets 16
FPI prediction: NYJ, 56.2% (by an average of 2.1 points)

Matchup must-reads: The case for and against Howell remaining Commanders’ QB … Jets activating Rodgers, but QB won’t be playing this season … Rodgers played four snaps and swallowed the Jets’ season

1 p.m. ET | FOX | Spread: GB -5 (37.5)

Storyline to watch: This is a must-win game for the Packers, who have seen their playoff hopes drop with consecutive losses. You’d think the Panthers would be a favorable matchup, as they haven’t scored an offensive touchdown the past two games and haven’t scored an offensive first-half touchdown in seven games, but in a key way, it’s not. Carolina has committed to the run the past three games and averaged 155.3 yards on the ground. Green Bay, ranked 30th in the NFL against the run, has given up 158.5 yards rushing per game the past six games, twice allowing more than 200 yards. — David Newton

Bold prediction: The Panthers will hit the 20-point mark against the Packers’ defense. It would end an eight-game streak in which they have been held to fewer than 20 points, the longest streak in franchise history and tied with the Giants for the longest streak in the NFL this season. The Giants, by the way, put up 24 on the Packers two weeks ago. — Rob Demovsky

Stat to know: Packers quarterback Jordan Love ranks in the top five in the NFL in Total QBR (74), touchdown passes (9) and completions (101) since the start of Week 12 (Green Bay is 2-2 in that span).

Matchup X factor: The Panthers’ run defense. It ranks last in EPA per designed carry — which is bad because the Panthers have been behind constantly and faced a lot of run situations — but have been better of late, ranking 13th in the category since Week 10. Hey, it’s something. — Walder

What’s at stake: A couple of weeks ago, Green Bay looked like it was on a solid path to the playoffs. Now, the Packers would drop to 5% if they lose (still just 29% if they win). And Carolina’s draft pick — which belongs to Chicago — would be 92% likely to be No. 1 if it loses a 13th game. Interestingly, those odds are 58% if the Panthers find a way to win. Read more.

Injuries: Packers | Panthers

What to know for fantasy: The Packers’ backfield remains a committee, but Aaron Jones finished last week with 17 touches and 69 total yards. He faces a Panthers defense that has given up the third-most fantasy points per game to running backs. In five of its past six games, Carolina’s defense has allowed 80 or more yards and a touchdown to opposing running backs. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: The Packers are 1-6 ATS in their past seven games as road favorites. Read more.

Moody’s pick: Packers 24, Panthers 17
Walder’s pick: Packers 31, Panthers 17
FPI prediction: GB, 69.3% (by an average of 6.7 points)

Matchup must-reads: LaFleur says he’ll stick with Barry … Hurst speaks about concussion recovery … Young shows promise, leads Panthers on winning drive

1 p.m. ET | CBS | Spread: CLE -2.5 (39.5)

Storyline to watch: This matchup features some of the best cornerback play in the NFL. The Browns’ cornerback trio of Martin Emerson Jr. (42.9), Denzel Ward (45.3) and Greg Newsome II (66.4) allow a passer rating of 66 or lower when targeted, all ranking in the top 12 in that category. The Texans’ cornerback duo of Steven Nelson (67.9) and Derek Stingley Jr. (58.9) are in a similar tier. Expect some tough sledding for quarterbacks throwing to wide receivers. — DJ Bien-Aime

Bold prediction: The Browns have won a franchise-record five times with a game-winning drive in the final two minutes of regulation this season. They will add to that Sunday, as Cleveland will win a sixth game that way with another dramatic fourth-quarter comeback in Houston. — Jake Trotter

Stat to know: The Texans are 4-1 against teams that entered with a winning record, tied for the fourth-best win percentage in the NFL — only the 49ers (5-0), Falcons (2-0) and Ravens (5-1) have been better.



Pat McAfee: Joe Flacco is making things happen in Cleveland

Pat McAfee raves about Joe Flacco’s comeback performance vs. the Bears.

Matchup X factor: Browns tackles Geron Christian and James Hudson III. These backups have been solid — roughly average in pass block win rate — but they’ll have to face a feisty Texans pass rush that sacked Will Levis seven times last week. — Walder

What’s at stake: It’s a big one for the AFC playoff race! Let’s start with Houston. The Texans would have a 72% chance to make the playoffs, along with a 28% chance to take the division, if they win … but those numbers slide to 33% and 7%, respectively, if they lose. The Browns can jump to 99% to make the playoffs if they win (80% in a loss), and they actually have seven different clinching scenarios (largely revolving around Denver and Pittsburgh losing) if they get the victory. A win would also keep their AFC North hopes alive at 14%. Read more.

Injuries: Browns | Texans

What to know for fantasy: Injuries to the offensive line have contributed to the Browns’ recent struggles running the football. Since quarterback Joe Flacco has played well, Cleveland is likely to look more to the passing game. That is great for David Njoku, as the Texans’ defense gives up the seventh-most fantasy points per game to tight ends. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: Four of the past five Texans games have gone under the total. Read more.

Moody’s pick: Browns 23, Texans 20
Walder’s pick: Texans 20, Browns 14
FPI prediction: CLE, 53% (by an average of 1 points)

Matchup must-reads: Stefanski: Garrett should be Defensive Player of the Year … Stroud remains in concussion protocol … Njoku’s revival has boosted the Browns

4:05 p.m. ET | CBS | Spread: TB -3 (41.5)

Storyline to watch: The Bucs’ three-game win streak propelled them to the top of the NFC South, while the Jaguars are on a three-game losing streak and hoping to hold on to the AFC South, which is immersed in a three-team tie. Much rides on Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s status in the concussion protocol — if he isn’t cleared, it would mark the first missed game of his NFL career. — Jenna Laine

Bold prediction: The Jaguars will rush for fewer than 50 yards — even if Lawrence plays. The Bucs rank ninth in rush defense (96 yards per game) while the Jaguars’ run game has really struggled the past month (71.3 yards per game), especially up the middle. They’ve averaged just 10.5 yards per game rushing up the middle the past four games. That’s with Lawrence on the field, too. — Mike DiRocco

Stat to know: Bucs wideout Mike Evans has 92 career receiving touchdowns, tied with Davante Adams and Rob Gronkowski for 12th most all-time (Don Hutson is next up with 99).

Matchup X factor: Jaguars cornerback Darious Williams. He’s having a heck of a year, with 1.1 yards per coverage snap allowed and minus-14 EPA allowed per NFL Next Gen Stats — both better-than-average numbers for an outside corner. And that matters a ton in this game because at least some of the time he’ll face Evans, who is also having a very strong season. — Walder

What’s at stake: A Jaguars win would mean a 92% chance to take a playoff berth, and an 82% chance to win the AFC South. A Jaguars loss would drop those to 62% and 42%, respectively. And over in the NFC, the Buccaneers could jump to 83% to make the playoffs, and they’d be 75% likely to win their division with a win. Things still look decent in a loss — Tampa Bay would be 55% for the playoffs and 44% for the NFC South. Read more.

Injuries: Jaguars | Buccaneers

What to know for fantasy: Lawrence has an excellent matchup against the Buccaneers’ secondary if he clears concussion protocol. Tampa Bay’s defense has allowed the second-most passing yards per game to opponents and the sixth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Receivers Calvin Ridley and Zay Jones should also benefit from this. And don’t forget about tight end Evan Engram, as the Bucs’ defense allows the sixth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: The Buccaneers are 0-6 outright against teams currently with winning records (3-3 ATS). Read more.

Moody’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Jaguars 19
Walder’s pick: Jaguars 26, Buccaneers 24
FPI prediction: JAX, 50% (by an average of 0.1 points)

Matchup must-reads: Why the Jaguars have no margin for error … Bucs LB Barrett approaching first Christmas since loss of daughter … Buccaneers, Mayfield hot at right time amid playoff race

4:25 p.m. ET | FOX | Spread: CHI -4 (43.5)

Storyline to watch: The Bears return home to Soldier Field, where they’ve won their past three games, after a blown double-digit fourth-quarter lead (their third of the season) in Cleveland all but wiped out their playoff hopes. Both teams are in position to start thinking about 2024 with three games remaining and questions as to whether their current starting QBs — Justin Fields and Kyler Murray — will remain in those positions next season. They are both in play for a top-two pick in a draft likely topped by quarterbacks Caleb Williams and Drake Maye. — Courtney Cronin

Bold prediction: Cardinals running back James Conner will continue his tear against the top-ranked Bears defense with his second 100-yard game in the past three. The Bears are allowing 79.8 yards per game. Conner is averaging 71.7 this season, but he has averaged 95.5 the past two games. The Bears have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. — Josh Weinfuss

Stat to know: The Cardinals have a 7-24 record since the start of last season. The next loss would give them their most losses in a two-season span since the franchise moved to Arizona in 1988 (lost 24 games over the 1991-92 seasons).



Why Tannenbaum, Woody can’t agree on Justin Fields’ future with Bears

Mike Tannenbaum and Damien Woody debate whether the Bears should keep Justin Fields or move on.

Matchup X factor: Bears linebacker T.J. Edwards. There’s an old-school advanced metric called “plus-EPA” for defenders, which awards the entire EPA of any positive play for the defense to any defender who shows up in the play-by-play (via tackle, sack, quarterback hit, pass defensed, etc.). Linebackers usually fare well, but Edwards leads the NFL in the metric this season. He can help shut down the Cardinals on Sunday. — Walder

What’s at stake: Well, a Chicago win would give it a 1% chance to make the playoffs. So there’s that. Arizona — which is eliminated — could make a slight push toward the top draft pick if it loses (7%). Read more.

Injuries: Cardinals | Bears

What to know for fantasy: Fields’ dual-threat ability should be on full display against a Cardinals defense that has given up the eighth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Receiver DJ Moore is also well positioned for success. He has had eight or more targets in five consecutive games. Moore has scored 20 or more fantasy points in three of them. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: Murray is 15-5-1 ATS in his career as a road underdog (12-9 outright). Read more.

Moody’s pick: Bears 27, Cardinals 24
Walder’s pick: Cardinals 27, Bears 23
FPI prediction: CHI, 62% (by an average of 4.1 points)

Matchup must-reads: McBride showing high ceiling early … Bears reach historic depths of blowing late leads … Bears’ top WRs say Fields should be team’s QB in 2024

4:25 p.m. ET | FOX | Spread: MIA -1 (49.5)

Storyline to watch: Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who returned to practice Thursday after missing last week’s game because of an ankle injury, needs to average 152.6 receiving yards over his next three games in order to become the first player in NFL history to break the 2,000-yard barrier. That might prove difficult against a Cowboys defense that has not allowed a 150-yard receiver since 2021 and has allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards per game in the league this season. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Bold prediction: Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb will have at least nine catches, which will establish a franchise record for catches in a season with 112. Michael Irvin set the record in 1995 with 111. Jason Witten had 110 in 2012 for the second most. Lamb has had five games this season with at least 11 receptions. The Dolphins have allowed only two receivers — Adam Thielen and A.J. Brown — to make more than nine catches in a game this season. — Todd Archer

Stat to know: This matchup between the Cowboys and Dolphins features the top two scoring offenses, with both averaging more than 30 points per game (Dolphins 31.5, Cowboys 30.8). This will be the third time since the 1970 merger that two teams averaging at least 30 points met within the final three weeks of the regular season. The previous two such matchups happened in 1983 (Washington defeated the Cowboys in Week 15) and 2020 (the Packers defeated the Titans in Week 16).

Matchup X factor: Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland. Bland giveth and Bland taketh. On one hand, he has the best EPA allowed (minus-36) of all corners this season, per NFL Next Gen Stats. However, on a down-to-down basis, he’s giving up more yards than the average corner (1.6, not counting his 67 penalty yards). Against receiver Jaylen Waddle (and maybe Hill), Bland’s role will be critical. — Walder

What’s at stake: Miami can join its opponent in the playoffs with a win, and it would also take its division with a win and a Buffalo loss. The Dolphins would be at 80% to win the AFC East in a win but 58% in a loss, and they’ll also be watching the race for the top seed in the AFC (30% in a win, 9% in a loss). And the Cowboys will mainly focus on the NFC East, where they’d have a 34% chance with a win and a 24% chance if they lose. Read more.

Injuries: Cowboys | Dolphins

What to know for fantasy: The Dolphins have scored a touchdown on 37% of their drives at home, the second-highest percentage in the league. This season, Miami averages 36.0 points per game at home. Although the Cowboys’ defense is tough, players like Hill, Waddle and running backs Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane should be included in fantasy lineups. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: The Dolphins are 8-2 ATS as favorites this season. The Cowboys are 0-3 ATS as underdogs. Read more.

Moody’s pick: Dolphins 35, Cowboys 28
Walder’s pick: Dolphins 27, Cowboys 20
FPI prediction: DAL, 49.8% (by an average of 0.0 points)

Matchup must-reads: How Aubrey went from pro soccer to Cowboys kicker … Tagovailoa ignores criticism, cares only if Dolphins win … Cowboys clinch playoff spot, but ‘mind-boggling’ road woes continue … Can Hill still break Johnson’s record?

8:15 p.m. ET | NFL Network | Spread: DEN -7 (34.5)

Storyline to watch: How committed are the Broncos to their run game against a Patriots defense that is No. 2 in the league against the run, is No. 1 in fewest rushing yards allowed per play and will spend plenty of resources trying to keep the ball out of Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton’s hands? Nobody is advocating the veer, and the Broncos’ loss in Detroit showed they need to possess the ball. Otherwise a Denver defense that has looked tired from all the heavy lifting it has done to get the team out of its 1-5 start could be exposed. It’s time for the offense to pull the Broncos through, especially on the ground. — Jeff Legwold

Bold prediction: Both teams will have a kick or punt return for a TD. The Broncos rank No. 1 in the NFL in kickoff returns, led by Marvin Mims Jr. (28.5-yard average), who already has a 99-yard return for a TD this season. Mims also averages 16.9 yards per punt return. Meanwhile, Jalen Reagor gave the Patriots’ kickoff return unit a spark last week (28.0 average, with a long of 40, on three returns). — Mike Reiss

Stat to know: The Broncos have won four straight home games after starting the season 0-3 at home. Denver is seeking its first five-game home winning streak in a season since 2014.

Matchup X factor: Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, for the simple reason that the quickest (only?) way for Denver to lose this game is through offensive turnovers. As long as Wilson protects the ball, Denver should be fine. Wilson has been conservative all year, with just 6.6 air yards per attempt. — Walder

What’s at stake: The Broncos are fighting for playoff hope, and a win would put them at 32% to make the final AFC field. But a loss drops that to 3%. And the Patriots are eliminated but still very much in No. 1 pick contention; a loss would slot them at 19% to pick atop the board. Read more.

Injuries: Patriots | Broncos

What to know for fantasy: It will be difficult to have confidence in Wilson against the Patriots. This season, New England’s defense has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. When it comes to Wilson, or receivers Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, fantasy managers should temper their expectations. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: The Patriots are 1-4 ATS in their past five road games. They are also 1-6 ATS in their past seven games as road underdogs. Read more.

Moody’s pick: Broncos 27, Patriots 17
Walder’s pick: Broncos 23, Patriots 12
FPI prediction: DEN, 65.6% (by an average of 5.3 points)

Matchup must-reads: Agent: Jackson dealing with ‘mental health issues’ … Broncos will need to improve against pass rush to beat Patriots … Jackson returns to practice after second suspension

Monday, 1 p.m. ET | CBS | Spread: KC -10 (40.5)

Storyline to watch: The Chiefs have beaten the Raiders in 10 of 11 games with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In only three of those victories was the final margin less than 14 points. Otherwise, they’ve been lopsided. So the question heading into this one is: Can the Raiders find a way to stay close and give themselves a chance to win by making plays late in the game? — Adam Teicher

Bold prediction: Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby, who has a career-high 13.5 sacks, will sack his “frenemy” Mahomes at least two times. The rivalry between the two has taken off the past two seasons, even as the Chiefs have dominated the series since Crosby and Mahomes first met in 2019. Crosby has sacked Mahomes four times and registered four QB hits in their past three meetings. — Paul Gutierrez

Stat to know: The Chiefs are seeking their ninth straight 10-win season, which would tie for third-longest streak in NFL history. It would also be Mahomes’ sixth straight 10-win campaign as a starting quarterback, which would break a tie for the third-longest streak in NFL history.



McAfee and Butler explain how teams have slowed down Travis Kelce

Pat McAfee and Darius Butler break down how teams have been able to limit Travis Kelce this season.

Matchup X factor: Raiders edge rusher Malcolm Koonce. You know Crosby is going to bring it, but Koonce has been playing well. Since Week 9, he ranks fifth in pass rush win rate at edge, and he recorded two sacks last week against the Chargers. If the Raiders are going to stifle the Chiefs, the Koonce/Crosby tandem has to be at its best. — Walder

What’s at stake: The Chiefs could celebrate Christmas with an AFC West title if they win, and it’d also put them at an 18% chance to earn the top seed and a playoff bye. The Raiders are clinging to postseason dreams, and their chances would climb to 6% if they win. Read more.

Injuries: Raiders | Chiefs

What to know for fantasy: Mahomes has averaged 303.5 passing yards against the Raiders in his career, which is good news for Chiefs receiver Rashee Rice. Mahomes has completed 80% of his passes and averaged 9.0 yards per pass attempt when throwing to Rice. He also has six passing touchdowns and no interceptions when targeting the rookie. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: Raiders games are 10-4 to the under this season, tied for the highest under percentage in the NFL. Read more.

Moody’s pick: Chiefs 28, Raiders 20
Walder’s pick: Chiefs 34, Raiders 10
FPI prediction: KC, 82.6% (by an average of 12.4 points)

Matchup must-reads: Jones eager to capitalize on fresh start with Raiders … Mahomes accepts penalty for blasting officials … Reid expects Pacheco back vs. Raiders

Monday, 4:30 p.m. ET | FOX | Spread: PHI -13.5 (42.5)

Storyline to watch: It’s Matty Pencils versus Tommy Cutlets. Matt Patricia is in his second week as Eagles defensive playcaller after taking over for Sean Desai. He’s trying to turn around a defense that ranks last on third down and 31st in passing touchdowns allowed. Quarterback Tommy DeVito has given New York a spark, tossing eight touchdown passes to three interceptions over seven games (five starts), but the Giants are coming off a 24-6 loss to the Saints in which DeVito passed for only 177 yards and was sacked seven times. — Tim McManus

Bold prediction: DeVito will throw for 300 yards. He has never failed in prime time. So what if there is only one game of evidence? The Achilles heel of this Eagles defense is against the pass, where they are 28th in the NFL in allowing 255.4 yards per game through the air. DeVito has already said he welcomes the hostile environment that will surely greet him in Philadelphia, and he could put up big numbers. — Jordan Raanan

Stat to know: Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has a career-high 14 rushing touchdowns this season (already tied for the most in a season by a QB in NFL history with Cam Newton in 2011). A 15th rushing score would tie halfback Steve Van Buren in 1945 for the second most in a season by any Eagles player (LeSean McCoy had 17 in 2011).

Matchup X factor: Giants tight end Darren Waller. The reality of the DeVito era is that it has been fun and filled with hype but also has contained only a single game with a QBR of 32 or greater. DeVito needs help, and Waller — who recently returned from injury — can provide it. A better game from the tight end would be the first of many breaks the Giants would need to pull an upset. — Walder

What’s at stake: Philly has clinched the playoffs but is still fighting for the NFC East. The Eagles would have a 78% chance to win a division title in a win (9% in the race to the conference’s top seed) and 20% in a loss. The Giants would be at 1% to make the playoffs if they pull off a Christmas Day upset. Read more.

Injuries: Giants | Eagles

What to know for fantasy: In Week 15, Eagles running back D’Andre Swift had a favorable matchup against the Seahawks and delivered a solid performance. On 20 touches, he gained 75 yards. The Eagles are double-digit favorites against the Giants, so it’s implied Philadelphia will be playing with a lead. The Giants’ defense has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards and third-most rushing touchdowns per game to opponents. This bodes well for Swift. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: The Giants are 0-5 outright and 1-4 ATS against teams currently with winning records. Read more.

Moody’s pick: Eagles 28, Giants 17
Walder’s pick: Eagles 27, Giants 13
FPI prediction: PHI, 87.5% (by an average of 15.2 points)

Matchup must-reads: Giants, DeVito still have a lot at stake in game vs. Eagles … Dickerson undergoes thumb surgery … DeVito on pizzeria flap: Some ‘stuff slipped through the cracks’

Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET | ABC/ESPN+ | Spread: SF -5 (46.5)

Storyline to watch: Talk about a Christmas gift: This game could be a preview of Super Bowl LVIII, with the Niners and Ravens sitting as the betting and ESPN FPI favorites to represent their conferences in the big game. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it’s only the second matchup of teams holding a share of the NFL’s best record in Week 16 or later since the 1970 merger. It’s also one more prime-time opportunity for Niners QB Brock Purdy and RB Christian McCaffrey and Ravens QB Lamar Jackson to stake a claim to the league’s Most Valuable Player award. — Nick Wagoner

Bold prediction: The Ravens will hold McCaffrey out of the end zone. He is the second 49ers player to score 20 touchdowns in a season, joining Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who scored 23 in 1987. But Baltimore, which leads the NFL in scoring defense, hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown in four straight games, a span of 13 quarters. — Jamison Hensley

Stat to know: The 49ers have won six straight games by double digits, tied for their longest streak in franchise history (1987 and 1993). The last team to win seven straight by double digits in a single season was the 2007 Patriots (eight).



Is it fair to hold 49ers’ roster against Brock Purdy?

Mike Tannenbaum, Damien Woody and Dan Orlovsky debate whether Lamar Jackson or Brock Purdy is the more valuable player.

Matchup X factor: 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel. The Ravens don’t let receivers get open. In fact, they have the second-best defensive team open score (71) in ESPN’s receiver tracking metrics. But that’s not how Samuel wins — he’s a YAC machine. Maybe the Ravens can slow down Brandon Aiyuk (who does excel at getting open). But stopping Samuel is a different sort of challenge. — Walder

What’s at stake: Both teams have locked up playoff berths, and the 49ers already won the NFC West. The Niners actually have a Week 16 path to the No. 1 seed: They need a win and losses from Dallas, Detroit and Philadelphia. The Ravens can take home the AFC North if they win and Cleveland loses, and a win would put them at 83% to get the AFC’s No. 1 seed (53% with a loss). Read more.

Injuries: Ravens | 49ers

What to know for fantasy: Because of his dual-threat ability, Jackson can still be considered a top-five fantasy quarterback even when facing a stout 49ers defense. San Francisco’s defense allowed 234 rushing yards to the Cardinals in Week 15. The Ravens could have similar success on the ground behind their offensive line that ranks fourth in run block win rate. With Keaton Mitchell ruled out for the season by a knee injury, Jackson might get more carries, and running back Gus Edwards — who has scored a touchdown in six of his past eight games — could be an intriguing flex option. See Week 16 rankings. — Moody

Betting nugget: Jackson is 24-11-2 ATS on the road in his career. Read more.

Moody’s pick: 49ers 17, Ravens 14
Walder’s pick: 49ers 26, Ravens 21
FPI prediction: SF, 64% (by an average of 4.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Underdog Ravens feel ‘disrespected’ ahead of 49ers showdown … Juszczyk believes versatility is key in keeping fullbacks relevant in the NFL … Jackson once again hearing ‘MVP’ chants … The case for and against Purdy being MVP

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