The NFL Week 16 slate is highlighted by a pair of games with big playoff implications in the eastern divisions of both the NFC and AFC. Each features a significant statistical matchup.
In the AFC East, New England hits the road to take on the Jets for the second time this season. New York, which is a 3-point home underdog, is playing for its playoff life. The Jets must win out, and even that still might not be good enough for a wild-card berth. The Patriots, who got all they could handle from the Jets in their 30-23 win in Foxborough in Week 7, can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a victory.
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In the NFC East, the Redskins head up to Philadelphia with a chance to clinch the division title. However, the Eagles could also still claim the crown by winning out, so the stakes are huge. In their earlier matchup back in Week 4, the Redskins got a late field goal to pull out a 23-20 win.
A look will also be taken at a notable mismatch in the Bears-Buccaneers tilt. Let's get started.
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (-3)
Redskins 3rd Down Offense vs. Eagles 3rd Down Defense
Kirk Cousins and the Redskins are playing their best football of the season. They are coming off consecutive straight up wins, both while an underdog, which has put them in the pole position for the NFC East crown. One of the big reasons for this has been their efficiency on third down. The Redskins have had a 43.6 percent success rate on third downs this season, which is the sixth-best in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Eagles rank No. 27 in third-down defense as opponents have converted at a 43.1 percent clip this season.
Cousins has been playing out of his mind in the late-season run by the Redskins. He's completed a minimum of 71 percent of his passes in each of the past three games. A high-percentage passer like Cousins can be ideal in situations of third-and-short or third-and-medium. Look for the Redskins to string together some long drives that will keep the Eagles offense off the field. This has the looks of a nice setup for the road underdog.
New England Patriots (-3) at New York Jets
Jets Rush Defense vs. Patriots Backfield
The Patriots running backs have been a mess all season, and now they've pulled Stephen Jackson off the scrap heap to aid in the rushing game. It won't be an easy welcome back to the NFL for the former Pro Bowler as he'll be going against the NFL's second-best run defense. The Jets, who are simply a good defensive unit all the way around, have allowed a paltry 82.8 yards per game rushing.
Of course, the Patriots are masters at tailoring an opponent-specific game plan each week. Based on the available personnel and the numbers, it once again will be up to Tom Brady to carry the load. In the Patriots Week 7 win, Brady threw for 355 yards and two touchdowns and Rob Gronkowski had 11 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown.
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
Doug Martin vs. Bears Rush Defense
The Bucs offensive line is reportedly focused on getting Martin the rushing title, and they couldn't have asked for anything more with the Bears coming to town. Chicago is 26th in the NFL against the rush, having allowed 125.9 yards per game on the ground.
Martin, who with 1,305 rushing yards is just nine behind leader Adrian Peterson, spearheads the NFL's fourth-best rushing attack. The Bucs overall have done a good job of keeping the game manageable for Jameis Winston, and that's been much a product of their ground game.
Also note the wheels have really come off in Chicago. They've dropped three consecutive both straight up and against the number, which includes an ugly loss to the putrid 49ers and being blown out of the stadium by the Vikings last week. If Martin can get untracked as the numbers suggest, a cover seems well within grasp.
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