Last Week: 2-6; Season: 50-67-3
'Twas the night before Christmas, but there was football to play,
Playoff spots to be settled, no matter the day.
So everyone gathered 'round the TV with care,
In hopes that their favorite team soon would be there.
Now, Brady! Now, Stafford!
Now, Rivers and Tebow!
On, Orton! On, Sanchez!
On, Manning and Romo!
And then, in a twinkling, we heard on the field,
A well-spoken man promoting the NFL's "shield"
As we drew in our heads and were turning around,
Commissioner Roger Gooddell came with a bound.
He didn't stay long, there were were places to go,
So he left, without so much as one "Ho Ho Ho!"
But we heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove from the frame,
"Happy Christmas to all ... now go watch the game."
And with that, the Week 16 predictions:
• Ben Tate will score a touchdown
Tate has displayed flashes of brilliance in his second year out of Auburn, topping 100 yards on four different occasions. But he's also played second fiddle to Arian Foster most games, a big reason Tate has found the end zone just three times this year.
The Colts' run defense is one of the worst in the league, despite slowing down Chris Johnson in an upset of Tennessee last week. On a short week after a home loss, Houston will do whatever it can to pound the ball early and often, meaning plenty of work for both Foster and Tate.
• Tim Tebow will rush for 100 yards or more
The current Saturday forecast for Buffalo calls for snow showers and temperatures in the low 30s. Tebow's been improving as a passer, but those conditions don't bode well for him. What does work in his favor is that Buffalo is 29th in the league against the run (139.5 yards per game). Tebow has bolted over 100 yards rushing in just one game this season -- 118 in a 38-24 win over Oakland on Nov. 6. He'll make it two Saturday.
• Kansas City will force at least three turnovers
One game does not a season make, so even after its shut-down job against Green Bay, we can't overlook the fact that the Chiefs' defense has been pretty average all season. Still, last Sunday's performance was a breakthrough, and the Chiefs find themselves still alive in the AFC West race because of it. This week brings in Oakland, which features turnover-prone Carson Palmer (13 interceptions to 10 TDs) and a backfield missing Darren McFadden again. Advantage: Kansas City.
• Cam Newton will account for at least four touchdowns
Newton, for all his highlight-reel plays this season, has had just one game where he was responsible for more than three touchdowns -- Dec. 4 at Tampa Bay. Well, guess who's on the schedule again this week? The reeling Bucs, losers of eight straight, head to Carolina on Saturday. The Panthers would love to finish this season hot to set the table for a big 2012, and Newton can put the nail in the Offensive Rookie of the Year coffin (if he hasn't already) by dominating Tampa Bay again.
• David Akers will kick at least three field goals
The rare kicker prop finds its way back into the mix. The 49ers face a real tough test Saturday, heading into Seattle just a few days after beating up on Pittsburgh. The Seahawks will be geared up, too, given that they're still very much in the NFC playoff race. That could make things tough on the 49ers' offense -- a unit that has had issues all season once it reaches the red zone. Akers has hit a whopping 38 field goals during the 2011 campaign, and San Francisco will need him to take on a few more Saturday.
• There will be at least 60 points scored in Detroit
If you're a big fan of offense, this is the game for you. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers finally has found his groove, just in time for the Chargers' annual late-season charge. Detroit, meanwhile, has issues all over its banged-up secondary ... oh yea, and the Lions also feature a pretty potent offense of their own, led by Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, who teamed up for more than 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week. Both teams will take to the air plenty Saturday at Ford Field, and it'll be hard for either defense to keep up.
• Matt Flynn will play at least 15 snaps
This one might wind up being a little contingent on Saturday's Seattle-San Francisco game. If the Seahawks pull the upset there, the Packers will have the NFC's top seed locked up and will have even less reason to play their starters against Chicago on Christmas night. Green Bay wants that No. 1 spot, of course, so it'll do what it needs to do to avoid letting it slip away. Still, the Packers have a growing injury list with the postseason just around the corner, and they cannot afford to lose Aaron Rodgers. If Green Bay can get a lead on Chicago or if Seattle does the job vs. the 49ers, Rodgers' night will be a short one.
• Jimmy Graham will catch at least eight passes (and score a TD)
His last time out against the Falcons, Graham went for seven catches, 82 yards and a score. Drew Brees has had Atlanta's number of late and will be amped up to put the finishing touches on an NFC South title at home. That means lots of throwing the football, especially if Mark Ingram's missing from the New Orleans backfield again. Atlanta -- not to mention pretty much every other team in the league -- does not have anyone who can stay with Graham over the middle. He's in line for a big Monday night.