NFL Week 16: Overcoming The Odds – 3 Games to Watch

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Richard Graves

Presenter, Writer and Broadcaster

NFL Week 5: Overcoming the Odds - 3 Games to Watch

Will the Eagles reign supreme in Dallas?

Who roars loudest when the Lions and Panthers do battle and will Brady deliver some Christmas Day magic in the desert?


Detroit Lions (7-7) @ Carolina Panthers (5-9) (Lions-2.5)

Don’t blink now but the Detroit Lions are just ½ game outside the playoffs. They’ve won 6 of their last 7 and their final 3 games are all winnable. They face the Panthers, Bears and Packers. Teams with a combined record of 14-28!

As for the Carolina Panthers well, their season isn’t over yet either. Thanks to being part of the dumpster fire that is the NFC South, they go into week 16 just one game out of first place (Buccaneers 6-8).

So, what’s changed in Detroit? Simply put, since week 8, their defense has changed – beyond all recognition. Through 7 games this season, the Lions had a 1-6 record, giving up 35 points per game. Since week 8, they have a 6-1 record, giving a little over 20 points per game. At the same time, their offense keeps scoring points – ranked in the top 5 over the course of the season, with 26.4 points per game. It all amounts to winning games, that prior to week 8, they were finding ways to lose. This is a team to be feared right now!

Carolina, to their credit, still have fight. They’ve won 3 of their last 5 games but head into this one off the back of a 24-16 loss at home Pittsburgh. Their offense is ranked 30th this season and in the bottom 10 in scoring (19.7 ppg) and that’s the key to this game. Detroit will put points on the board and if Carolina can’t keep up with them, Carolina won’t be in this game.

PICK: Detroit Lions -2.5


Philadelphia Eagles (13-1) @ Dallas Cowboys (10-4) (Total points over 46.5)

This was supposed to be a Christmas heavyweight clash in the race for the NFC East title and potentially number 1 seed in the playoffs. Well, the Philadelphia Eagles held up their end of the bargain, overcoming a tricky opponent in Chicago last weekend. The Dallas Cowboys though, did not. Blowing a 17 point lead on the road, in Jacksonville. Losing in overtime after Dak Prescott threw a pick 6!

You feel essentially, that is the difference right now between these two teams. The Eagles have found a way to prevail in several tricky games this season – only slipping up against Washington. While Dallas, despite having unquestioned talent on both sides of the ball, appear to occasionally switch off in games.  Fortunate to win against Houston. Double digit leads against Green Bay and Jacksonville (both teams with losing records) proved not to be enough. That is why they enter this week 16 matchup 3 games back from the Eagles – and it doesn’t bode well for them looking ahead to the post season either.

The other concern, if you’re Dallas, has to be the ease with which both Houston and Jacksonville were able to run the ball against them. The Eagles go into this game with the 4th best running game in the NFL – and with a mobile QB who isn’t afraid to use his legs.

Now, it remains to be seen whether Jalen Hurts does suit up on Saturday. Officially, he and the Eagles are taking it day to day with the shoulder sprain sustained against the Bears. The good news is, he did finish that game and he’s fulfilled his usual media commitments this week but there does appear to be a high probability that Gardner Minshew fills his role in Dallas.

That may be good news for the Cowboys’ much vaunted pass rush. But they haven’t generated much pressure in the last 2 games – just one sack in that period.

On a more positive note, the Cowboys are leading the NFL with 26 takeaways this season and their offense continues to pile up points on the board. With 28.1 points per game, the Cowboys have the 3rd ranked scoring offense (and no.1 since week 7). However, Philadelphia have the second most takeaways with 25 and the 2nd best scoring offense (29.4 ppg) this season.

Add into the mix the injuries to the Dallas secondary – down 2 of their top 3 cornerbacks – and the loss of LB Leighton Vander Esch against Jacksonville. It’s difficult to see how Dallas turn their form around on a short week to the extent that they can beat the NFL’s best team. Even if Hurts isn’t good to go, Minshew’s a more than capable deputy, working behind one of the best offensive line’s in football. Expect Philadelphia to wrap up the divisional title in Dallas and with it the NFC’s number 1 seed in the post season.

PICK: Total points – over 46.5


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) @ Arizona Cardinals (4-10) (Buccaneers -5.5)

Despite a disappointing 6-8 record and 3 defeats in their last 4 games, incredibly the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still in first place in the NFC South. For 30 minutes at least, there were signs that they may finally be finding their rhythm on offense last week. 17-0 up on the Cincinnati Bengals, it looked like the Tom Brady of old was pulling all the strings. However, 4 second half turnovers followed – and so did another defeat.

To have the Arizona Cardinals next on the schedule is a real stroke of good fortune for the Bucs. The Cardinals are likely down to their 3rd string starter at quarterback, Trace McSorely after Colt McCoy left the defeat in Denver with a concussion. To compound the offensive woes, Arizona’s defense has gone AWOL in the second half of their last 2 outings. Outscored 17-0 and 21-9. With Denver seemingly able to run the ball at will last Sunday – Latavius Murray and Marlon Mack combining for 167 yards on 29 carries!

That likely means a heavy dose of Leonard Fournette in this game. Tampa are the worst rushing team in football this year (74.3 ypg), but it was noticeable when they enjoyed first half success against Cincinnati, they placed a greater emphasis on running the ball and that allowed Brady to utilise play action in the passing game. That’s the formula for success here.

Defensively, the Buccaneers are healthier and that can only help a unit which still ranks 7th in the NFL. If the offense can look after the ball, there’s only one team winning this match up. Arizona have lost 5 of their last 6, they’ve lost their franchise QB, and they likely lose this game.

PICK: Tampa Bay Buccaneers -5.5

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