NFL Week 16 reaction: Contenders separate from pretenders in AFC

Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals
Photo of Ricky Dimon

Ricky Dimon

NFL· 1 month ago

Show Bio

Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Division titles continued to be handed out in the latter stages of the NFL regular season, most notably with the Kansas City Chiefs wrapping up the AFC West in Week 16. They join the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Dallas Cowboys as teams that know they will host at least one game during the playoffs. All four of those aforementioned teams won this weekend, but for others it wasn’t such a happy day after Christmas.

Here is a quick breakdown of what went down on Sunday afternoon and what it could mean moving forward.

AFC West ended up being not so wild

Seven weeks into the 2021 campaign, the Chiefs were 3-4. At the halfway point, every single team in the AFC West was very much in realistic title contention. If a changing of the guard – either permanent or temporary – was not probable, it at least seemed possible. Instead, however, Kansas City’s slow start combined with the Los Angeles Chargers’ early signs of promise did nothing except delay the inevitable. Now at the Week 16 mark, the Chiefs are on an 8-game winning streak that has them at 11-4 and clinches a sixth consecutive division championship. Their 36-10 rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers was nothing unexpected, but it keeps them on a roll and perhaps headed for a third straight Super Bowl berth. Given their experience and current form, I can’t argue with K.C. being the overall favorite right now.

Don’t miss our full game preview for Dolphins vs Saints on MNF!

Rams can win when they aren’t at their best

The Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams continue to go in opposite directions. One day after Arizona opened the NFC West door even further by losing at home to Indianapolis, Los Angeles went into Minnesota and pulled out a 30-23 victory. Sure the Vikings aren’t anything special, but they are in playoff contention and beating any such opponent on the road when you are far from your best qualifies as an impressive win. Matthew Stafford threw an uncharacteristic 3 interceptions and Darrell Henderson Jr. was basically non-existent, but the visitors overcame both of those factors to get the job done. Sony Michel filled in for Henderson with 131 rushing yards and 1 touchdown, while L.A.’s defense came up with 3 sacks and limited the Vikes to a 2-for-12 effort on third downs.

I’m not quite ready to call the Rams elite, but they are right there with the Dallas Cowboys behind Green Bay and Tampa Bay in the NFC pecking order. After they take care of the struggling Baltimore Ravens next week, they will be one step closer to stealing the NFC West.

Believe in the Bengals

Dating back to the preseason, the Ravens have been dealing with injury after injury. They overcame everything for a while, but it eventually became too much – and the Cincinnati Bengals became too good. The Bengals’ 41-21 win on Sunday gives them a 1-game lead in the AFC North and a sweep of the season series against Baltimore by a combined margin of 82-38. With the head-to-head tiebreaker in hand, Joe Burrow and company only have to win one of their last two games to clinch the division even if the Ravens win out. Kansas City and Cleveland make for a tough closing stretch, but Baltimore has to face the Rams next week.

The Bengals are going to win the division, and a team that can stop the run in addition to slinging it around on offense like they can (Burrow threw for 525 yards and 4 TDs on Sunday) is not one I would feel great about going up against in the playoffs.

Read our NFL SNF reaction, where the Cowboys earned a huge statement win against Washington

Pickswise is the home of free NFL Predictions  and NFL Odds. Check out the latest NFL Prop Bets and NFL Parlays as well as expert NFL Underdog Picks and NFL Computer Picks

See All
BetMGM

$200

Bet $10, Win $200 if either team scores a TD on Championship Weekend!

Bet $10 on the Money Line for any NFL team

Win $200 if either team scores a touchdown in the game

Winnings paid in free bets

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

FanDuel Sportsbook

$150

Bet $5, Win $150 CASH on any NFL team to win on Championship Weekend!

Sign up for a new account with FanDuel Sportsbook

Bet $5 on any NFL team to win their next playoff game

If your team wins, YOU WIN $150 - in CASH!

21+ and new players only. Full terms available at FanDuel Sportsbook.

DraftKings

$280

Bet $5, Win $280 on Any NFL team to Win on Championship Weekend!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account

Bet $5+ any NFL playoff game Money Line

Win $280 in credits if your team wins the game

Must be 21+ located in AZ, CO, CT, IA, IL, IN, MI, NJ, PA, TN, VA, WY or WV to play. Offer valid only for new customers. Full terms available at DraftKings Sportsbook.

PointsBet

$200

Bet $20, Get $200 - Regardless of Outcome!

Register for a new PointsBet account & deposit $20+.

Bet $20 on any game in any sport!

Win $200 - no matter whether your initial bet won or lost!

BetMGM

$200

Win $200 If ANY NBA Team Makes a 3-Pointer!

Sign up for a new account with BetMGM, and make a deposit of $10+.

Place a $10 moneyline bet on any upcoming NBA game.

Win $200 if either team in your selected game makes a 3-pointer

21+ and new players only. Full terms available at BetMGM Sportsbook.

BetMGM

$200

Win $200 If A Goal Is Scored In ANY NHL Game!

Sign up for a new account with BetMGM, and make a deposit of $10+.

Place a $10 moneyline bet on any upcoming NHL game.

Win $200 if either team in your selected game scores a goal

21+ and new players only. Full terms available at BetMGM Sportsbook.

Caesars Sportsbook

$1,001

Get a $1,001 First Bet Match + A FREE NBA JERSEY!

Register for a new Caesars Sportsbook account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,001

Receive a free bet matching your initial stake up to $1,001 + a FREE NBA JERSEY!

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

BetRivers

$250

Get a $250 Deposit Bonus!

Sign up for a new BetRivers account using promo code PICKSWISE

Make a deposit & get it doubled up to $250 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $100

Must be 21+. Play in IA Only. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-BETS OFF

Unibet

$500

Get a $500 Risk-Free Bet!

Register for a new Unibet account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $500 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $500

New players only. Terms & conditions apply. 21+. VA only.

BetMGM

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new BetMGM & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

FanDuel Sportsbook

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

DraftKings

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Deposit Bonus!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account & deposit

DraftKings will match 20% of your deposit up to $1,000 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $500

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

Monkey Knife Fight

$100

Claim 100% Instant Deposit Match up to $100!

Register for a Monkey Knife Fight account & deposit using promo code PICKSWISE100

Monkey Knife Fight will match your first deposit up to $100

Deposit $100 and you'll get $100 bonus + a free $5 game

18+. Terms and conditions apply. You must live in one of the states where real money DFS is legal.

TVG

$300

Get a $300 Risk-Free Bet with TVG Racebook!

Register for a new TVG account and make a deposit

Place your first single horse win-type bet up to $300

If your horse doesn't win you'll get a refund up to $300

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

TwinSpires

$400

Get a $400 Risk-Free Bet on the Breeders' Cup!

Register for a new Twinspires account using offer code PICKS400

Place a bet on the Breeders' Cup

Receive a refund if your first bet loses up to $400

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

Yahoo DFS

$25

Get $25 in Site Credit With Yahoo DFS When You Deposit $5!

Register for a new account with Yahoo DFS and deposit $5+

Enter a $5 DFS contest

Upon entry, you will receive a bonus $25 in credit into your account!

21+ and new players only. Full terms available from Yahoo DFS.