Before diving into the rest of the NFL week 16 slate, I have to start with the mess in Chicago. Starting quarterback Jay Cutler was benched this week after another blowout loss Monday night to the Saints. The Bears are a mess. Their 5-9 record is especially disappointing when you consider that many people (including myself) thought they were a playoff team before the season. They have nothing to lose. That being said, this move is still mystifying to me. Cutler will be replaced by Jimmy Clausen who hasn’t started a game since 2010 and has a grand total of 1 NFL win as a starter.
I realize Cutler has been awful and a turnover machine, leading the NFL with 18 interceptions this year. However, there isn’t a sane person on this planet, including Bears head coach Mark Trestman who can tell you with a straight face that Clausen is a better QB than Cutler, in any situation. Nobody is talking about the Bears 30th ranked defense, patchwork offensive line, or refusal to build around their best offensive player, RB Matt Forte. Everyone has piled on Cutler simply because his sometimes too calm demeanor makes him easy to dislike. The situation is made even messier by the fact that Cutler is the NFL’s highest paid QB this year. Trestman and the rest of the staff are dead men walking, but Cutler’s contract means he’ll likely be back in Chi-town. I still believe in Cutler’s skillset, but the clock is ticking on the 9 year pro. He has as much God-given talent as anyone. Fixing Cutler will be top priority for whoever takes charge in Chicago.
Chargers (8-6) at 49ers (7-7)-Transitioning to the teams that matter in December for the right reasons, this game is the second of two Saturday games this week. The Chargers are scarping for all their worth to get in the playoffs at the back end of the AFC race, but they’ll be without top RB Ryan Matthews and wide out Keenan Allen. QB Philip Rivers is also banged up, but will play. The 49ers are out of the playoff race, but remain playing hard for head coach Jim Harbaugh whose rift with management has become irreconcilable for all involved. The 49ers can still run the ball and play defense with the best of ‘em. I’ll take San Fran to win behind a big day from Frank Gore and make things really tough on San Diego in terms of the playoff race. SF 24 SD 20
Chiefs (8-6) at Steelers (9-5)-Another huge game here. The Steelers can clinch a playoff spot with a win and Kansas City can put themselves in good shape heading into the regular season finale with a win. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’veon Bell, and Antonio Brown are just carving up defenses week after week for the Steelers. Kansas City has a tall order here, the defense is fantastic, but the offense is limited and Pittsburgh will still score. If they do miss the playoffs, the Chiefs will look at losses to 2 win Oakland and Tennessee as backbreakers. Pittsburgh keeps rolling towards a division crown as I predicted all year long. Pit 24 KC 13
Cardinals (11-3) at Seahawks (10-4)-I respect the hell out of Arizona for winning in spite of all their injuries. However, they are now down to their 4th QB and 3rd RB. Seattle is the toughest place on earth to play a football game as a visitor. This will get ugly as Seattle takes control of the NFC West. Unless they get healthy quick, Arizona will struggle to win a playoff game. Sea 24 Ari 0
Colts (10-4) at Cowboys (10-4)-The Colts are pretty much locked in to the 3 or 4 seed in the AFC. Unless Denver and/or New England collapse they really can’t improve or worsen their playoff position in the last two weeks of the regular season. Dallas needs this to keep Philly at arm’s length in the NFC East. Based on that alone, I’ll take Dallas. Dal 24 Ind 14
Broncos (11-3) at Bengals (9-4-1)-I’m a diehard Broncos fan and a Cincinnati native. I will be at this Monday night showdown. My family reads this blog. I cannot pick this game without catching hell from somewhere. So, I’m not going to. The keys to this game for each team are as follows. The Bengals must get off to a good start, pressure Peyton Manning, and be physical with Denver’s big wide receivers. Denver needs to keep running the ball effectively with C.J. Anderson, blitz Andy Dalton at will, and get tight end Julius Thomas involved in the passing game. Denver can clinch a 1st round bye with a win. Cincinnati can clinch a playoff spot.
I’ll also take Atlanta to pull the mini upset in New Orleans and keep their hopes alive in the dismal NFC South. There are also 5 college bowl games today in addition to the 2 NFL games. Happy football weekend to all!