By Rick Brown
With only two weeks left in the regular season, several teams are fighting for a postseason berth or positioning. Others are already reflecting on their disappointing 2016 season and looking ahead to next year. Regardless, each team still has something to fight for in week 16, be it the playoffs or pride.
The winless Cleveland Browns host the underachieving San Diego Chargers this week. Both started the season with high expectations only to see their offseason strategies not translate into success. A win might fuel some momentum going into the last week and then the offseason.
The New York Jets, long eliminated from the playoffs, find themselves in similar circumstances. With more questions than answers, they head to New England to face the AFC East rival Patriots. Tom Brady and company have already claimed an eighth consecutive division title, but are still playing for home-field advantage through the playoffs
The Oakland Raiders are also seeking the top seed in the AFC — and the AFC West title — as they host the Indianapolis Colts. Derek Carr and the struggling Raiders continue to eke out wins. But can the team’s 30th-ranked defense slow down Andrew Luck and a Colts team that remains in the playoff hunt?
Solomon Wilcots, former NFL safety and current NFL ON CBS analyst, will be calling the Chargers-Browns game. He discusses these important week 16 AFC matchups.
San Diego Chargers vs. Cleveland Browns – Dec. 24, 1:00 p.m. ET – CBS
CBS Local Sports: How can Robert Griffin III lead the Cleveland Browns to the team’s first victory over the visiting San Diego Chargers?
Solomon Wilcots: Earning the team’s first victory won’t be easy. The Browns are only averaging 15 points a game. The Browns do have some assets, look at the running backs. Players such as Isiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr., will have to play tremendous games. Not just as running backs, but catching the ball out of the backfield and being good receivers as well. These two players need to create big plays for the offense. While Terrelle Pryor Sr., draws extra coverage, the other players need to take advantage and make plays. Griffin will need to be smart with the ball and stay healthy on the field. In order to have a shot at winning this game, the team will need to score 30 points.
New York Jets vs. New England Patriots – Dec. 24, 1:00 p.m. ET – CBS
CBS Local Sports: How can the New York Jets play spoiler to the New England Patriots’ goal of earning home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs?
Solomon Wilcots: In order to play spoiler to the Patriots’ chances, it will take more than a Jets win. There would also need to be victories by other teams in the AFC. Right now, the Patriots are up on the Raiders by one game, and unless the Raiders win the AFC West, there is no chance for the Raiders to become the top seed. The Jets have a lot of issues at the moment, so beating the Patriots will be a difficult task. There are too many problems at the quarterback position right now. On the defensive side of the ball, there are also issues. I would like to offer Jets fans some glimmer of hope, but I don’t see how this team can beat the Patriots. Going on the road to Gillette Stadium is always difficult, so I just don’t see the Jets beating the Patriots this season.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Oakland Raiders – Dec. 24, 4:05 p.m. ET. – CBS
CBS Local Sports: How can the Indianapolis Colts exploit the Oakland Raiders’ recent struggles on both sides of the ball and come out of the Black Hole with a victory?
Solomon Wilcots: The Colts have a difficult game against the Raiders. The best recipe to beat the Raiders is to play with a lead. If this team can get the Raiders behind, then the Raiders may abandon the run game with Latavius Murray and start to chase points by throwing the ball on every down. Derek Carr, who is an excellent quarterback, has had to take every snap since his pinky injury in some form of a shotgun formation. As a pass rusher, this means you can pin your ears back and attack the offensive line without having to worry about the running back. If the Colts can get a lead and force the Raiders to become one-dimensional, then the Colts have won half the battle. If the Raiders are throwing every down, then look for the Colts to force some turnovers.