After sixteen weeks, the 2016 NFL Regular Season comes to a close, and unfortunately the New Orleans Saints have, for the third consecutive season, failed to qualify for the playoffs. Despite another losing season for the Saints, there is definitely something important to play for in this final week. The Saints will face their arch-rivals in the Atlanta Falcons. This is still one of the more heated rivalries in the NFL and usually makes for exciting and memorable games.
I felt going into the season that the Saints would finish 7-9 once again, and the odds are clearly in favor of that being the case. Here's the thing though, just like the old cliché says, you can throw out the records when these two rivals get together. With just one game left, expect the Saints to go out in style and take the Falcons' down a peg in the process. Now let's take a look at the Saints' final game as well as all of the pivotal matchups in the final week of the 2016 NFL Season.
Last week I went 11-5
I told you so: Saints over Bucs!
What do I know: Ravens over Steelers?
Sunday, January 1st - Early Games
Baltimore's defense will squeeze the Bengals into submission, as the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati ends with a whimper. Baltimore wins 19-13.
Houston's top-ranked defense will need to continue to carry the team going forward. They'll force some turnovers from Tennessee and get points off of fortunate field position against the Mariota-less Titans. Houston wins 30-20.
Panthers(6-9) at Buccaneers(8-7)
This game will come down to which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes, as Jameis Winston holds off Cam Newton in a close contest. Tampa wins 17-15.
Browns(1-14) at Steelers(10-5)
Even without all of their top-end starters, the Pittsburgh rushing attack will absolutely steamroll the laughably pathetic Browns in the merciful end to their season. Pittsburgh wins 27-12.
Regardless of the score, come halftime, it'll be Romo time for Dallas. Tony Romo, Darren McFadden, and the backup brigade will lead the Cowboys to victory in Philly. Dallas wins 30-23.
A surprising show of offense will make for a good game between bad teams in this one. Jets win 37-31.
Minnesota's second-ranked defense will be the key to victory over Chicago in this one. Minnesota wins 24-17.
Another disappointing season in Indy ends with a disappointing loss at home to the Jags. Jacksonville wins 31-27.
Patriots(13-2) at Dolphins(10-5)
The soon-to-be AFC Champion Pats still have something to play for, as they look to lock-up the AFC's top seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Miami, meanwhile, is locked into the the 6th seed, making for little incentive to risk further injury going into their Wild Card game at Pittsburgh. This one will go New England's way. New England wins 26-17.
Sunday, January 1st - Late Games
Chiefs(11-4) at Chargers(5-10)
The Chargers will end their tenure in San Diego with another loss to Kansas City, as they did to begin their season. With the win, and Oakland's earlier loss, the Chiefs will win the AFC West title and secure the 2nd seed in the AFC and a first-round bye. Kansas City wins 27-10.
Cardinals(6-8-1) at Rams(4-11)
The disappointing season in the desert ends with a convincing win in Los Angeles, led by David Johnson. Arizona wins 30-17.
Oakland's loss of potential MVP quarterback will be the sad undoing to their tremendous 2016 campaign, but they still have quite a lot on the line as they face the defending Super Bowl Champions in Denver. The Raiders will seemingly have a first round bye and the AFC West title in their hands until Brandon McManus nails a 56-yarder to win the game for the Broncos in the closing seconds. Denver wins 18-16.
Giants(10-5) at Redskins(8-6-1)
Washington is fighting for a highly unlikely playoff chance in this one, and they'll do their part with a razor-close victory over the playoff-bound Giants at home. It just won't be enough for Washington to make it in though. Washington wins 24-23.
Seahawks(9-5-1) at 49ers(2-13)
During the Harbaugh years, this was one of the best rivalries in football, now it's just a one-sided affair and that will continue to be the case here. Seattle wins 29-11.
Saints(7-8) at Falcons(10-5) - Game of the Week
Atlanta needs a win here at home to secure the NFC's second seed and a first round bye. In order to do this they just need to beat the 7-8 Saints. No problem, right? Well... Just give these Saints a chance to ruin the Falcons' plans and they'll gladly take it.
With the league's top two offenses going head-to-head, many will expect fireworks and inflated scoring, much like their first meeting this season. Things will scale back just a bit in this game though, as both defenses have found a way to climb from terrible to serviceable. New Orleans' rush defense, which is much better than they get any credit for, will be the key to victory by stopping Devonta Freeman.
This will be the last meaningful Saints game we will see until early September, and it will be one to remember, as the Saints say goodbye to the noise-pipping, banner-lacking, circus tent affectionately known as Superdome East. It'll be a while until we see the Saints again, so let's enjoy them making things a little tougher for their oldest rival.
This game will be tense, thrilling, and memorable, as expected. The Saints win with a late red-zone touchdown catch by Coby Fleener followed by a huge defensive stop by their 25th(!) ranked defense. Saints win 28-27.
Sunday Night Football
Packers(9-6) at Lions(9-6) - NFC North Championship Game
This title game will come down to three major keys: momentum, experience, and Aaron Rodgers. All three of these are firmly in the possession of Green Bay, and despite the best efforts of Matthew Stafford and the Detroit passing attack, the Lions will fall just short of the division championship at home. The NFC North title returns to Titletown™ this season. Green Bay wins 23-21.
There you have it, the final week of the 2016 NFL regular season. The Saints can end on a high note by beating the hated Falcons in their final grudge match in the Georgia Dome. It's been a disappointing season in the standings but the feeling remains that the Saints' best is yet to come in 2017. Leave us your picks, comments, and insight below. Happy New Year, Who Dat Nation!