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NFL Week 16 preview capsules

Dolphins at Bills, 1

Line/OU: Bills by 41/2; 42

The Dolphins' playoff hopes could have been over when they lost QB Ryan Tannehill to a knee injury two weeks ago. Instead, the backup, Matt Moore, dusted himself off to pass for four TDs and beat the Jets in his first start in five years. Few outside South Beach favor the Dolphins to win up north in December. But if any Miami team has been built to win in the cold, it is one powered by 1,000-yard rusher Jay Ajayi. The Bills lead the NFL in rushes of 20-plus yards (23). The Dolphins rank second to last in allowing such rushes (15).

Falcons at Panthers, 1

Line/OU: Falcons by 3; 51

The Falcons can clinch the NFC South by disposing of the division's defending champs. Atlanta dropped 48 on Carolina in their first meeting, one of five times the Falcons have scored at least 40 this season. Do it a sixth time and they become the seventh team to pull that off in one season. The Panthers' Greg Olsen is 8 yards away from becoming the only tight end to string together three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

Redskins at Bears, 1

Line/OU: Redskins by 3; 47

The Redskins are playing on four days' rest and held one practice all week. Last-gasp playoff dashes are hard to win on weary legs. Washington has played itself to elimination's edge with three losses in four weeks, and it is two teams removed from the final NFC wild-card berth. A loss makes the finale against the Giants all but pointless. The Bears are one defeat away from their fourth three-game losing streak of the season. That is one explanation for the team's failure to place anyone in the Pro Bowl.

Chargers at Browns, 1

Line/OU: Chargers by 41/2; 431/2

No need to wonder if the Browns are capable of going 0-16 this season. They have lost 17 straight dating to December of last season, which puts them in a tie for the fourth-longest stretch of brokenness in NFL history. Cleveland has not scored more than 13 in any of its past six games. Seven teams have scored at least 30 on the Browns this season. The Chargers are locked into a losing record, but there remains this: Antonio Gates is three TDs away from breaking the career record for tight ends (111, Tony Gonzalez).

Vikings at Packers, 1

Line/OU: Packers by 61/2; 43

The Vikings won five straight early in the season, then lost four in a row. The Packers lost four straight and have since won five in a row. No QB has thrown for 300 yards against the Vikings this season, including the Packers' Aaron Rodgers in a 17-14 loss in Week 2 (213 yards). Minnesota needs its third-ranked overall defense to hold form. Packers receiver Jordy Nelson leads the league with 12 TD catches and just passed the 1,000-yard receiving mark. So much for the theory that last year's ACL tear would slow down Rodgers' preferred target.

Titans at Jaguars, 1

Line/OU: Titans by 41/2; 44

The Titans are well positioned to win the AFC South for the first time since 2008. This weekend, they face a team that has lost nine straight. Next week, they play at home in a showdown against their current fellow division leaders, the Texans. Tennessee has won consecutive games, against the Broncos and Chiefs, and it did so without Marcus Mariota throwing a TD pass. Running the ball and holding down the score were enough. The Jaguars fired coach Gus Bradley last Sunday. To gain their first win in Jacksonville all season, they must beat the coach Bradley replaced: the Titans' Mike Mularkey.

Jets at Patriots, 1

Line/OU: Patriots by 161/2; 44

The Patriots are 12-2, just as they were at this point last year. They have the best record in the AFC, and they are finishing their schedule with the Jets and the Dolphins, just like last season. That is where this New England team wants to stop copying the 2015 version, which lost those two games — along with homefield advantage in the playoffs. Consider New England appropriately inspired. The Patriots needed a late score to beat the Jets on Nov. 27 in a game that cost Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick his job. Bryce Petty will try to become the first Jets QB to win in Foxborough since Mark Sanchez in 2011.

Colts at Raiders, 4

Line/OU: Raiders by 31/2; 53

The Raiders are playoff-bound for the first time since 2002. Next on the to-do list: their first AFC West title since that same season. The Raiders have outscored opponents by 42-0 in the final three minutes of every fourth quarter this season. That's how you come back to win eight games by a TD or less. The Colts' path to the playoffs is as convoluted as it is faint. Still, they have been good enough to make the road difficult for other postseason hopefuls (see wins over Titans, Packers and Vikings).

49ers at Rams, 4:25

Line/OU: Rams by 41/2; 39

Rams rookie QB Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick, has taken 15 sacks in five starts and made his first trip through the concussion protocol after taking a hard hit in a loss to Seattle last week. He is cleared to start against the 49ers, whose 142 sack yards are second fewest in the league. The 49ers have lost 13 straight since they shut out the Rams in the season opener. Since Dec. 13, 2015, San Francisco's record against the Rams is 2-0 — and 0-16 against everyone else.

Cardinals at Seahawks, 4:25

Line/OU: Seahawks by 71/2; 43

The Seahawks won the NFC West with space to spare, but they seemed to be miles from contentment in their last game. CB Richard Sherman got into a shouting match with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell over his play-calling against the Rams while Bevell was calling goal-line plays. Sherman, who is usually generous with the news media, later threatened to ruin the career of a reporter for asking about it. Keep in mind, the Seahawks beat the Rams comfortably, 24-3. The Cardinals tied the Seahawks, 6-6, in their first meeting, back before Arizona, the 2015 division champ, stumbled into its current freefall (five losses in seven games).

Bengals at Texans, 8:25

Line/OU: Pick; 42

Oh, Brock Osweiler. For the second straight season, he has been benched in favor of another QB while leading a first-place team into the final legs of the schedule. Last season, likely future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning took his job in Denver. Last week, it was Tom Savage who replaced Osweiler, taking the Texans to a win over the Jaguars. Savage is keeping the job and will make his first start in his third NFL season. The Bengals' past four losses are to teams still in playoff contention, by a total of 14 points.

Times wires

NFL Week 16 preview capsules 12/23/16 [Last modified: Friday, December 23, 2016 6:13pm]
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