NFL picks, predictions for Week 16: Bengals edge Ravens; Packers down Browns; Cowboys keep pace

Week 16 of the NFL schedule features a four-day lineup on Christmas weekend, and seven games are between teams with records of .500 or better. 

The playoff race is on, and every day has a good matchup. 

On Thursday, the 49ers, who have won five of six games, will look to continue their playoff push against the Titans. Christmas offers two fantastic matchups, too. The Browns face the Packers at Lambeau Field, and the Colts face the Cardinals on the road.

The early Sunday window features matchups between AFC North rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati and AFC East rivals Buffalo and New England. The Chiefs host the Steelers in the afternoon window, and a battle of .500 teams between the Saints and Dolphins closes the week. 

There are too many playoff scenarios to count right now, but all of those games will have bearing on the NFL playoff race. Each week, Sporting News picks the NFL games straight up. A look at our track record so far: 

POWER RANKINGS:
Packers go to No. 1 as Buccaneers, Cardinals drop; Chiefs, Cowboys rise

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NFL picks, predictions for Week 16

Thursday, 8:20 p.m., FOX/NFL Network 

The Niners are hot, and the Titans have lost three of their last four games. Tennessee has done that despite allowing less than 200 yards of offense in two of their last three games. San Francisco’s rushing offense is creative, but the Titans get enough stops to pull out a home victory in prime time. 

Pick: Titans 23, 49ers 20 

Saturday, 4:30 p.m., FOX/NFL Network 

The Packers are 6-0 S/U and ATS at Lambeau Field this season, and the Browns are coming off a short week with a roster decimated by COVID-19. Baker Mayfield (COVID-19 list) could be back, however, and Myles Garrett is a problem for the edge for a Green Bay line that has been hampered by injuries. The Packers have given up 28 points or more in their last four games. Green Bay wins, but the Browns take it down to the wire. 

Pick: Packers 29, Browns 24

Saturday, 8:15 p.m., NFL Network 

The Cardinals are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Lions, but they return home. Kyler Murray will make some dazzling plays against the Colts’ defense, but can the Cardinals slow down MVP candidate Jonathan Taylor? The star running back averages 20.5 carries on the road, where the Colts are 4-2. That defense and running game travels in a thriller. 

Pick: Colts 27, Cardinals 24 

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Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS 

The Bengals beat the Ravens 41-17 in the first meeting, and a win would result in season sweeps of Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the same season. The Ravens have won the last two at Paul Brown Stadium in blowout fashion, but Lamar Jackson (ankle) still is questionable. Tyler Huntley filled in well the last two weeks, but a beat-up secondary against Joe Burrow is not ideal. The Bengals win a close one this time. 

Pick: Bengals 29, Ravens 27

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS 

The Patriots are coming off a rough outing against Indianapolis, and the Bills are back on track. It’s a game that likely decides who wins the AFC East given the Pats won the first one. Mac Jones has a 102.5 rating at home this season, and he avoids the big mistake against Buffalo. 

Pick: Patriots 23, Bills 21 

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS 

The Chargers are coming off a humbling Thursday night loss against the Chiefs. They keep pace in the AFC playoff race by keeping it simple against the Texans, which allow 145 rushing yards per game. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson pile up the yards, and the Chargers are better in the red zone this week. 

Pick: Chargers 31, Texans 20 

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Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX

The Lions haven’t won a road game this season, but they are 4-3 ATS and are coming off a convincing victory against Arizona. The Falcons need to find a running game at home to support Matt Ryan, who has thrown just one interception the last four weeks. 

Pick: Falcons 25, Lions 20 

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX

The Rams have been up and down, and this is a test against another NFC playoff contender. The Vikings will test Los Angeles’ defense that ranks 23rd in the league in pass defense. Matthew Stafford is 8-13-1 with a 89.5 QB rating against the Vikings, but that was with Detroit. He gets a close victory with his new team. 

Pick: Rams 27, Vikings 24 

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS

The loser of this game will battle with the Lions for the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Jacksonville fired their first-year coach last week. New York is still playing for Robert Saleh. It comes down to who protects rookie quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson better. In this case, the Jaguars pull the light-weight upset behind Lawrence. 

Pick: Jaguars 23, Jets 20 

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Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX

The Eagles are on a short week after a Tuesday game, and they beat the Giants in a 13-7 slugfest in the first meeting this season. Jalen Hurts is still working back from an ankle injury, but Gardner Minshew is a capable backup. The Giants’ quarterback situation is worse with Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm. 

Pick: Eagles 27, Giants 14 

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX

Tom Brady will have a week to adjust after losing Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to injuries in the loss to the Saints, and the Buccaneers have allowed 4.6 yards rushing or more in three of their last four games. The Panthers could hang around at home, but they have not scored more than 21 points in a game through a four-week losing streak. 

Pick: Buccaneers 28, Panthers 17 

Sunday, 4:05 p.m., FOX 

The Bears are playing out the string, and both teams are on short weeks. Russell Wilson has settled in since returning from a finger injury. Justin Fields is still taking too many sacks, and Seattle will capitalize on that at home. 

Pick: Seahawks 24, Bears 16 

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Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS 

These teams haven’t met since 2018. The Steelers are clinging on to AFC North title hopes, but they hit the road against the top seed in the AFC. Pittsburgh has allowed 143.9 rushing yards per game, but will Kansas City stick with the running game around Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams? The Chiefs continue their win streak, but the Steelers hang around. 

Pick: Chiefs 31, Steelers 24 

Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS 

Denver could be without Teddy Bridgewater, and that means Drew Lock likely will be the starter. The Broncos are 3-3 S/U on the road this season, and the Raiders are coming off a short week. Darren Waller (knee) could be back, however, and that gives Derek Carr a safety valve on the road. Las Vegas makes it four in a row in the all-time series. 

Pick: Raiders 23, Broncos 16 

Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC 

It’s the second matchup in three weeks between the NFC East rivals, and Washington is working on a super-short week. Dallas is winning with a defense that has allowed just 14.7 points per game the last three weeks. That trend continues at home. Can Micah Parsons work into the DPOY conversation? 

Pick: Cowboys 28, Washington 20 

Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN 

Duke Johnson resurfaced with a pair of TDs for the Dolphins in Week 15. The Saints are suddenly on a two-game win streak and in the NFC playoff mix. The Saints are somehow just 1-4 in games at the Caesars Superdome, and Miami has a defense that can win on the road. 

Pick: Dolphins 20, Saints 19 

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