Foles: led the Eagles to a 30-23 victory over the LA Rams last week. SIPA USA/PA Images
Saint Nick

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Nick Foles, and your NFL week 16 preview

You don’t have to be good all the time, just at the right time, writes Steve O’Rourke.

FOR MUCH OF the 1999 Champions League final, Manchester United were played off the park by Bayern Munich.

Then, in the space of 90 seconds, Alex Ferguson’s team went from dead and buried to champions of Europe, thanks to Teddy Sheringham and the big toe of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

That the Norwegian should score the winner to secure the treble for United was hardly surprising given that he found the back of the net no fewer than 28 times while coming off the bench during his time in Manchester.

Ferguson always put this knack of scoring late goals down to the fact Solskjaer watched the game from the bench more intently than any other player he managed.

Whatever the reason for his excellence when his team needed him most, it earned the new interim United boss the label of ‘super sub.’

But should he go on and win a second Super Bowl as the replacement quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, Nick Foles may well become known as The Super Sub.

The reigning Super Bowl MVP led his team to a 30-23 victory over the LA Rams in week 15, 371 days after Philly’s starting QB, Carson Wentz, tore his ACL against the Rams on the same field.

This year, Wentz was sidelined by a vertebra injury but has yet to be placed on injured reserve meaning we could conceivably see him take the field again this year.

Foles’ performance against the Rams was a far cry from his Super Bowl appearance and he finished with just 24 completions on 31 attempts for 270 yards, one interception, and no touchdowns.

However, his side were a whopping 13.5 point underdogs going into the game and his six scoring drives kept their playoff hopes alive.

Foles was helped by the fact the Eagles ran simpler concepts with significantly less motion and a more consistent commitment to the run game than they do when Wentz is on the field and, of course, their defence deserves a lot of credit too.

But a loss last week would have reduced Philly’s chances of making the postseason to 3%. Right now, their chances sit at 24%, while wins in their last two games against Houston and Washington will give them a 79% chance of reaching the playoffs.

If that happens, whether the Eagles revert to Wentz or stick with their super sub could well define how close they get to defending the Vince Lombardi trophy.

Week 16 picks (season record 139-83-2)

Saturday – 9.30pm

Washington @ Tennessee Titans
The Titans are another team with an outside shot of playing meaningful January football and, after keeping the Giants scoreless on the road last week, will hope for a similar defensive masterclass against a poor Washington team.
Pick: Titans

Sunday – 1.20am

Baltimore Ravens @ LA Chargers
The Chargers are the most in-form team in football right now but face a difficult run-in if they’re to keep alive their hopes of the number one seed. The Ravens defence is the best in the AFC, but will need to keep LA below 25 points to win this one.
Pick: Chargers

Sunday – 6pm

Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
The Browns have the slimmest of playoff hopes but, consider the fact it’s week 16 and we’re able to say that about a team with one total win in their last two seasons and you can appreciate the steps made in Cleveland this year.
Pick: Browns

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys
That sound you heard last weekend was the Dallas bandwagon crashing to a halt as they were held scoreless against an impressive Colts outfit. The Bucs will just be glad when 2017 comes to an end and they can get on with looking for a new head coach.
Pick: Cowboys

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions
The Lions are far from the worst team in the NFL, but they feel like a franchise just making up the numbers at the moment. Unlike last year when they had lots of hype behind them, it seems like the Vikings are making the playoffs almost by default this year as the majority of the NFC struggles.
Pick: Vikings

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
The Bills are having a better season than I think most people, myself included, expected. But despite the fact Tom Brady looks gun shy in the pocket and Rob Gronkowski looks like his feet are nailed to the turf, New England should get back to winning ways this week.
Pick: Patriots

Green Bay Packers @ New York Jets
It’s a sign of how poor the Packers have been this year that the New York Jets, with their rookie QB Sam Darnold, are favourites against Green Bay. It’s not clear yet if the visitors will risk Aaron Rodgers in this game but, really, there’s nothing to be gained by putting him out there.
Pick: Jets

Houston Texans @ Philadelphia Eagles
The Texans have won a lot of games this season, but they came into the year with the easiest strength of schedule and have taken full advantage. Philly needs to keep winning to keep pace with Dallas.
Pick: Eagles

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have done the right thing and benched Cam Newton as they work out exactly how to fix the shoulder that’s stopped him throwing the ball more than five yards with any sort of velocity.
Pick: Falcons

New York Giants @ Indianapolis Colts

After what they did against the Cowboys and Zeke Elliott in particular, could the Colts be looking at back-to-back shutouts? Big Blue must replace Eli Manning this offseason; losing is the best way to ensure they can.

Pick: Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Miami Dolphins
I can’t recall seeing a team more checked out on a season than Jacksonville in the second half of last week’s loss to Washington. Florida rivalry aside, failure to turn up in this one will help keep Miami’s playoff hopes alive.
Pick: Dolphins

Sunday – 9.05pm

LA Rams @ Arizona Cardinals
The Rams have looked poor for the past three weeks and face a divisional rival which is usually a good time to pick the underdogs. However, the Cardinals are the worst team in football and could be ruining Josh Rosen’s career before it has even started.
Pick: Rams

Chicago Bears @ San Francisco 49ers

A lot of people with friends in the desert are backing the 49ers in this game for two reasons. Firstly, the 49ers usually look good late in the season under Kyle Shanahan and Chicago is fresh off the high of beating the Packers to win the divisional title. Those people are wrong.

Pick: Bears

Sunday – 9.25pm

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New Orleans Saints
Were the Steelers good last weekend or were the Patriots just really bad? If they keep winning, the Saints won’t have to play outside of New Orleans until next September unless they make the Super Bowl, so should take full advantage of home comforts.
Pick: Saints

Monday – 1.20am

Kansas City Chiefs @ Seattle Seahawks
This is a really tough matchup for both teams. I still think the Chiefs are playing some of the best offensive football in the NFL at the moment, despite their loss to the Chargers in week 15. Likewise, Seattle is coming off a poor loss to the 49ers but their defence is remains one of the better outfits in the league.
Pick: Seahawks

Tuesday – 1.15am

Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders
Von Miller against Kolten Miller may well prove to be the most one-sided matchup in NFL history. This is possibly the final Raiders game in Oakland and it won’t even be close.
Pick: Broncos

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