Week 16 of the season will be this weekend during Christmas Eve and Christmas. The three wise men once said the Lions would make the playoffs. That is why they were wise. Now let’s take a look at the big matchups for the upcoming week
Lions at Bengals 1 PM FOX Sunday
Detroit (8-6) travels to Cincinnati and must keep winning to have a shot at the playoffs. The Bengals are banged up and really struggling after getting blown out the last two weeks. Detroit must avoid a slow start on the road and take control early and often.
Stafford (99.1 rating) is having a great season despite lack of run game and protection. The Bengals have a good pass rush with Geno Atkin (9 sacks), Michael Johnson (5 sacks), Carlos Dunlap (5.5 sacks) and rookie Carl Lawson (7.5 sacks). If the Bengals bring a lot of pressure they can wreck the Lions season. Detroit has some injuries to TJ Lang, Travis Swanson and Rick Wagner to monitor. Joe Dahl played well at LG and Corey Robinson has done well in two games at RT for Wagner. Wagner practiced and may return. Lang couldn’t play much against the Bears and we’ll see if he can go against the Bengals.
The Bengals only allow 85.2 QB rating on the season. Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson, Darquezze Denard, Sean Williams and George Illoka have talent in that Bengals secondary. Pacman Jones is on IR though. Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron will need another big game in receiving production.
The Lions have had real trouble running the ball but the Bengals allow 4.2 YPC. The Bengals linebacker are banged up (Minter, Burfict, Vigil and Rey) which won’t help them defend the run. Burfict could be back from a concussion after practicing which would be a boost for Cincinnati.
Detroit must finally have a good rushing day to ease the pass rush on Stafford. Riddick avoided a wrist injury and rookie Tion Green has been solid in the last three games for the Lions. Ameer Abdullah wants one more chance to prove the doubters wrong after a poor rushing season.
The Bengals offense has had major issues this season. Andy Dalton notched an 87 rating with 21 TDs and 11 interceptions so far with 60.1% completion and 7.0 YPA. AJ Green is still a monster and will be a great match up with Pro Bowler Darius Slay. Slay leads the league in picks and has shut down other very good WRs this season. We’ll see if Slay can do it one more time and stop or limit Green.
Brandon Lafell, Tyler Boyd and Tylor Croft aren’t much threats but Lawson/Hayden, rookie Teez Tabor and the Lions LBs/safeties must have a good game in coverage against them. The Lions allow only 85 QB rating on the season and have forced 27 turnovers in 14 games. Detroit must continue to force multiple turnovers on defense and set up short fields for Stafford.
The Bengals run game has been worse than Detroit and the Bengals offensive line is injured and a mess. Joe Mixon returns from a concussion but has only 3.3 YPC on the season. Giovanni Bernard has 4 YPC and is a receiving threat as well. Detroit finally shored up the run defense last week but must continue that despite the Bengals weakness. If Mixon and Bernard finally have good days, then the Bengals could score some points.
The Lions must keep playing well and get a tough road victory on Christmas Eve Day. Otherwise, it will be coal in Jim Caldwell’s stocking.
Vikings at Packers 8:30 PM ET NBC Saturday
The Vikings have won the North and now play for a bye and home field. Green Bay is eliminated and just put Rodgers on IR for the year. This game is very different than most people expected this season.
Case Keenum (98.9 rating) has been playing well all season (20 TDS and 7 interceptions) and should feast on the Packers battered secondary and lack of pass rush. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs could have monster games. Watch for Kyle Rudolph in the red zone as well.
Latavius Murray (3.8 YPC) and Jerrick McKinnon (3.7 YPC) have become a solid running duo this season after the injury to Dalvin Cook (4.8 YPC). The Packers run defense is solid but has weakened the past few weeks. If Murray and McKinnon have nice days, it will be a long night for Packer fans.
Brett Hundley takes over the reins again for Rodgers. The Vikings defense brings consistent pressure and just flat out have stopped almost everybody this season. It will be a long day for Hundley. Davante Adams won’t play which hurts the Packers passing attack even more. Green Bay must figure out how to run the ball with rookie Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams. The Vikings are stout in run defense which should shut that down too.
The Vikings should dominate this game and sweep the Packers at Lambeau Field on Saturday Night.
Browns at Bears 1 PM CBS Sunday
The Bears are done but need to avoid giving the Browns their only win of the season. Rookie Mitch Trubisky is coming off a three (3) interception day against the Lions. Mitch the Bitch better light up the Browns coverage. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen were stopped by Detroit and Cleveland is stout in run defense. It might be up to Trubisky to get this win for the Bears.
Other Big games
Falcons at Saints 1 PM FOX Sunday
This a huge game for the NFC South and the wild card race. The Lions need one South team to drop their final two games and the Falcons seem like the best bet. Atlanta beat the Saints in Atlanta but now travel to the Super Dome. Kamara and Ingram are running wild this season and Brees is efficient with over 100 QB rating. Atlanta’s defense is solid this season but the Saints may be too much in the Dome.
Matt Ryan and his weapons must keep this game a shoot-out. Julio against Lattimore will be fun to watch. Freeman needs to run strong against the Saints defense to open things up for Matt Ryan. Coleman is injured so it will be on Freeman for the run game.
Buccaneers at Panthers 1 PM FOX Sunday
The Panthers should win this game against a battered Tampa Bay team and clinch a playoff berth. Tampa Bay has lost JR Sweezy, Ali Marpet, Demar Dotson on the offensive line and rookie Tight End OJ Howard on offense now. Desean Jackson is banged up too for Tampa Bay.
I don’t see Tampa Bay pulling off the upset against the Panthers menacing front 7. Thomas Davis will be suspended but the Panthers defense is still too strong with Julius Peppers, Mario Addison, Kawann Short, Star Lutuleilei, Shaq Thompson and Luke Kuechly.
Cam Newton had a big game against the Packers and should have another big one against a battered Tampa Bay defense. If Newton avoids turnovers, Carolina will win by double digits. Carolina clinches a wild card berth with a win.
Seattle at Dallas 4:30 PM ET FOX Sunday
Each of these teams are 8-6 and need to win the last two games for a playoff chance. This is an elimination game and Ezekiel Elliot returns for the Cowboys. Seattle is banged up on defense but should have Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright for this game. We’ll see if Dak Prescott has success against Seattle’s injured secondary.
QB Russell Wilson can work magic on offense but Seattle must figure out a way to block Demarcus Lawrence. This should be an entertaining elimination game on Sunday afternoon. Dallas wins a shootout.