TheDC sports columnist Andy Hayes: Week 16 NFL picks

Andy Hayes Contributor
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9-7 last week. 118-106 overall.

  • Car @ Pitt (-13.5). I think the Pitt defense was essentially embarrassed last week – especially the run defense. Not only did they lose the game, but they got run over. Of course, it’s all relative – the 106 yards Pitt gave up on the ground would still put them in the top 12 of the NFL w/respect to rush yards allowed per game. Normally they allow only 60 yards rushing per game and rank a firm #1 in the category. Carolina only has a rushing game, no passing game – so expect zero excitement in this game. Pitt 31, Car 3.
  • Dal @ Ariz (+6.5). Something odd will happen in this one – like Arizona will come out of nowhere and blow out the Cowboys. Doesn’t make sense to think this at all but a formerly good team that crashes like AZ has this year often will have at least a couple surprise-we-don’t-totally-suck games in a season. This will be one of them. Ariz 30, Dal 16.
  • Balt @ Cleve (+3.5). Ray Lewis claims that his son could have run through the holes that Balt allowed in Game 1 against Cleve earlier this year – essentially refusing to give any credit to Peyton Hillis and his huge 144 yards rushing. While Ray Lewis is plenty tough, I’m not sure I’d want to piss off Peyton Hillis right before a game. As Eric Mangini said earlier this year, even he tries to avoid Hillis in the hallways during the work week. Balt 24, Cleve 21.
  • SF @ StL (-2.5). Now Singletary is going with Troy Smith. Curious. I don’t think he should have ever gone back to Alex Smith. This could be a good game. Hilariously, if SF and one or both of the other NFC West teams (StL/Sea) finish 7-9, SF would win the tiebreaker by virtue of having the best division record. SF 24, StL 23.
  • NE @ Buff (+7.5). Crack pick alert. 4-10 Buff has won 4 of their last 6 games. Something tells me that this will be a rough game in particular for the questionable NE defense. If Buff follows the formula of the Packers last week – I honestly think Buff pulls a shocker here. They have a better running game than the Packers and a good enough passing game to win the key time of possession battle. And their defense has been playing well of late. Still doubting the Bills? Here is a list of teams they have pushed to the limit only to lose at the last minute: Pitt, Balt, NE (game 1), KC. They are due to win one of these close ones. (For what it’s worth, a NE loss here won’t sway my belief that NE is still the best team in football.) Buff 27, NE 24.
  • Wash @ Jax (-6.5). For most of his career, I’ve believed that Donovan McNabb is one of those guys who enjoys being part of the NFL starting QB fraternity more than he actually enjoys competing. And why not – being a starting QB in the NFL is a pretty sweet deal. But this may help to explain why McNabb is so distraught over his benching – it’s like being booted from the starting QB fraternity. I don’t think he’s a bad QB, he’s been mostly a very good QB over time. And he might yet be good for another team. But this year, the fact is that Donovan McNabb has been a seriously below average performer with a 77.5 QB rating (#26 in the NFL this year). He’s thrown more picks than TDs (15 to 14) and his #28 ranked 58.3 completion percentage doesn’t help his case either. He has also fumbled the ball an alarming 10 times (though interestingly, he’s only lost 1 of those fumbles). In short, he hasn’t been good at all and while I think Mike Shanahan has managed things quite poorly this year in Wash, McNabb hasn’t exactly earned an unquestioned starter status. Jax 31, Wash 20.
  • Det @ Mia (-3.5). How can Miami be favored at home? Seriously. They are 1-6 at home and they are playing a team that has just mowed down two serious playoff contenders in Green Bay and Tampa Bay. And, Shaun Hill will be starting at QB for Detroit so their offense could be even more potent. Yet, for no good reason and somehow with strong conviction, I’ll take Miami to finally roast a team at home. Mia 29, Det 14.
  • NYJ @ Chic (-1.5). I’ve heard that after practice now, the Jets’ players have started to shower with their shoes on. Chicago 24, Jets 20.
  • Tenn @ KC (-5.5). While it’s tempting to pick Tenn because any players who still like Jeff Fisher will be playing hard for the guy (before he gets canned), KC has simply answered every time they’ve needed to this year. This game may open up early with some long runs from both Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles. KC 29, Tenn 23.
  • Indy @ Oak (+3.5). Oak continues to be inconsistent and generally difficult to predict. But I’m starting to sense the rhythm for their inconsistency. I’ll go ahead and take the upset here with Oak to win outright. Oak 34, Indy 30.
  • Hou @ Den (+2.5). I feel for Kyle Orton. While I’m not his biggest fan, when he was in Chicago he mostly just won games. Then he was traded and Bear fans were happy to get rid of him. Then he went to Denver and was on pace for record offensive QB stats only to have his head coach/offensive guide get fired. Now he’s apparently lost his starting job because of an injury for which he only had to miss one game. All that said, expect a huge game from Tebow and more pity for Orton. Den 36, Hou 31.
  • SD @ Cincy (+7.5). Tempted to take Cincy here. Actually that’s not true at all. Cincy is terrible and going nowhere and SD still has a chance to sneak into the playoffs. SD’s defense, meanwhile, continues to get zero attention despite leading the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game by almost 31 yards per game. That’s huge, bordering on staggering. SD 33, Cincy 23.
  • NYG @ GB (-2.5). Giants win and they go to the playoffs. They lose and they’re likely out. Packers win and are one more win away from the playoffs. The Giants have a nasty pass rush and the Packers will be starting the suddenly fragile and concussion-prone Aaron Rodgers. You can bet the game plan for the Pack will be short, quick passes, screens, play action – 7 step drops may not be in the cards at all. But while the Packers’ offense vs the Giants’ defense will be the storyline – I think the key to the game will be the Packers’ defense causing turnovers. Eli broke the hearts of Packer Nation a couple years ago in the NFC Championship game at Lambeau – but something tells me Eli picks and fumbles from the fumble-inclined duo of Jacobs/Bradshaw will spell doom for the NYG. Packers 34, Giants 23.
  • Sea @ TB (-6.5). I have one vision that I just can’t shake when I think about this game: Ronde Barber scoring on a pick six. Barber has not only done this plenty in his career, but Hasselbeck has been a turnover machine this year.  TB 31, Sea 24.
  • MN @ Philly (-11.5). Joe Webb probably reminds himself of Michael Vick. But he’s nothing like Vick. Nobody is. Vick will do more statistically in 2.5 quarters (before being replaced by Kolb) than Joe Webb will accomplish in his career. Meanwhile, Leslie Frazier will continue to see his head coaching stock slip. Philly 40, MN 17.
  • NO @ Atl (-2.5). Things have just gone Atlanta’s way all year. Like other good teams (especially the Patriots), the Falcons create much of their good fortune by taking advantage of opportunities at the right moments. But I think their good fortune will run out here. NO actually needs to win this game as their playoff spot is not secured yet – and they face the possibility of missing the playoffs altogether with a loss here and a loss next week at home against TB. I can see Brees rising up and playing lights out here. NO 23, Atl 20.
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Andy Hayes