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NFL Week 16

Raiders (4-10) at Panthers (5-9)

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1 p.m.

Panthers by 9, 46½

It might be time to lay off Cam Newton a bit. Check out his past five games: 10 touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 109.8. And did we mention he's still the Panthers' leading rusher? Hard to argue he hasn't acquitted himself well after that tough start. He's even pouting less. The Panthers have won three of four, and if management can get its act together and get Newton some more playmakers in 2013, it might get interesting.

Panthers 30, Raiders 24

Patriots (10-4) at Jaguars (2-12)

1 p.m.

Patriots by 14½, 50

As unbelievable as this might be, the Jaguars will finish 2012 with a worse record than in 2011, when they went 5-11. We would like to offer some optimism, but they face an angry Patriots team looking to regain its form after a home loss to the 49ers a week ago. It's just not gonna happen. New England is 29-4 after a loss under coach Bill Belichick dropping consecutive regular-season games only four times during his tenure.

Patriots 35, Jaguars 17

Vikings (8-6) at Texans (12-2)

1 p.m.

Texans by 8, 44½

We're all eager to see if Adrian Peterson, above, can break Eric Dickerson's rushing record. But there's another story line playing out for Minnesota: If this team is going to be in the postseason, it's going to have to earn it against some of the best the NFL has to offer. Today, it's the Texans. Next week the Packers. With the offensive balance of the Texans, who have their own star running back in Arian Foster, it's difficult to predict an upset.

Texans 30, Vikings 21

Browns (5-9) at Broncos (11-3)

4 p.m., Ch. 10

Broncos by 12½, 44

Memo to the rest of the AFC: The Broncos haven't lost since Oct. 7. The reminder seems necessary only because it seems more buzz surrounds the Patriots and Texans. What has kept Denver going — besides all-time great QB Peyton Manning, above — is RB Knowshon Moreno. The first-round pick has revived his career since Willis McGahee's injury, averaging 121.8 yards from scrimmage over his past four games. Not bad for a backup.

Broncos 31, Browns 16

Bears (8-6) at Cardinals (5-9)

4:25 p.m.

Bears by 5½, 36½

You want to believe this will be the week the Bears get back on track after three losses that might cost them the playoffs. But how can they be trusted to do anything right? Here's what we do know: Chicago had better get on track or a lot of things in the Windy City could change, not the least of which is coach Lovie Smith. Would ownership be willing to accept two straight late-season collapses? Given their talent, the answer might be no.

Bears 24, Cardinals 21

49ers (10-3-1) at Seahawks (9-5)

8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

Pick 'em, 39

Here's the biggest test for Colin Kaepernick, above, the second-year 49ers quarterback who gutted the Patriots on the road last week with four touchdown passes. This is a tall order: a ferocious defense at a venue most unkind to visitors. Seattle has six interceptions over its past two games — scoring 50-plus in both — and two were returned for scores. If CB Richard Sherman plays (he's appealing a suspension), it only gets tougher.

49ers 24, S'hawks 21

Giants (8-6) at Ravens (9-5)

4:25 p.m., Ch. 13

Giants by 2½, 47½

The Ravens are without an identity. Always known for defense, they've given up 29.3 points over their past three games (all losses). Offensively, they've fallen to pieces after starting the season with fireworks. The Giants are in a funk, too. Last week's 34-0 loss to Atlanta was uncharacteristic. And the struggles of QB Eli Manning are disconcerting. But in this game of wayward teams, we'll lean on the QB with two Super Bowl rings.

Giants 23, Ravens 21

Saints (6-8) at Cowboys (8-6)

1 p.m.

Cowboys by 2½, 52

The Cowboys, predictably, started 3-5, but if they could ever get off to a fast start, just think of the record they might put together. As it is, they have a chance to get to 10-6 and make the playoffs (although Dallas has won only one playoff game since its titles in the '90s). The Saints' 41-0 thrashing of the Bucs last week is an aberration. Their defense will be overrun by the Cowboys, particularly WR Dez Bryant, who has caught 10 touchdowns.

Cowboys 28, Saints 24

Titans (5-9) at Packers (10-4)

1 p.m.

Packers by 12½, 44½

It seems the Packers aren't at the forefront of most people's minds with the playoffs approaching. And who knows if they will stick around the postseason for long? But ask yourself: If the Packers earn a first-round bye, would you want to travel to Lambeau in January? That's why these last two games are essential for Green Bay, which is trying to leapfrog the 49ers. Today, QB Aaron Rodgers looks to continue his MVP campaign.

Packers 31, Titans 20

Colts (9-5) at Chiefs (2-12)

1 p.m.

Colts by 7, 41½

The Colts clinch a playoff spot with a win, which adds another remarkable piece to their story. Meanwhile, coach Chuck Pagano, above, who is battling leukemia, is preparing to return for next week's finale. The Colts can become just the fourth team to win 10 games after notching two or fewer the previous season. It's hard not to be happy for the veterans, including WR Reggie Wayne and DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

Colts 27, Chiefs 17

Bills (5-9) at Dolphins (6-8)

1 p.m.

Dolphins by 4½, 41½

The Dolphins had every opportunity to beat the Bills in the first meeting, but their offensive execution was lacking. It was better last week in a 24-3 win against the Jaguars. Meanwhile, the Bills fell apart in a 50-17 loss to Seattle. Bills RB C.J. Spiller, above, is a handful for most teams, but Dolphins LBs Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett are good against the run. It helps that Cameron Wake and Randy Starks are playing well on the line.

Dolphins 24, Bills 23

Chargers (5-9) at Jets (6-8)

1 p.m.

Jets by 2, 37½

Talk about two teams that deserve each other. Are there any more disappointing teams than them? Greg McElroy, above, gets the call at quarterback after the Jets finally decided the performance of Mark Sanchez is unsustainable. The Chargers, meanwhile, are coming off a blowout loss at home to the 5-9 Panthers. There's a lot of dysfunction between these teams. Might give a slight edge to the Chargers against a young QB.

Chargers 24, Jets 17

Bengals (8-6) at Steelers (7-7)

1 p.m., Ch. 10

Steelers by 3½, 42

I realize it still has QB Ben Roethlisberger and boasts the NFL's No. 1 defense, but Pittsburgh — for the second season in a row — just isn't scaring people the way it used to. Is this permanent? Maybe this game will offer some answers. It also, however, will tell us something about the Bengals. Can they win a big game on the road? Can QB Andy Dalton, above, handle the pass rush? In a game this big, it's just too hard to pick against the Steelers.

Steelers 23, Bengals 20

Redskins (8-6) at Eagles (4-10)

1 p.m.

Redskins by 6½, 45

What a comforting feeling for the Redskins to know backup QB Kirk Cousins can win as he did emphatically last week against the Browns. An even better feeling is knowing Robert Griffin III, above, will play, as it appears after missing a game with a knee injury. RG3 had a day in the teams' previous meeting: 14-of-15, 200 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions. This time, with help, he can do something bigger: clinch a playoff spot.

Redskins 27, Eagles 20

NFL Week 16 12/22/12 [Last modified: Saturday, December 22, 2012 6:57pm]

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