Week 16 in the NFL only means one thing for certain: Another round of underdogs will cover spreads formulated against them.
In Week 15, another seven underdogs covered. And actually, seven is close to the weekly average through 16 weeks of the NFL season.
In the following slides, we'll use Tuesday's NFL lines (via ESPN.com's aggregation of betting sites) and each team's betting history and recent performances to find which underdogs have the best chance of covering in Week 16. While not a scientific method without mistakes and failure, it certainly beats betting from the gut.
Underdog: Saints (+3.0)
Why They'll Cover: With money down on the Saints, you'll obviously worry about Drew Brees and how he's handled top NFC competition. Losses to San Francisco, Atlanta and New York were ugly turnover fests.
But the Cowboys have a betting trend that is worth monitoring here: 0-5 against the spread as the home favorite this season. Dallas finally covered at home for the first time Sunday (as an underdog), but being the favorite at home hasn't been a good look for the Cowboys.
Underdog: Bengals (+4.0)
Why They'll Cover: The Bengals have never beaten the Steelers with Andy Dalton under center, and they've also never covered a four-point spread. But the recent trends for the Steelers point to the possibility of a first time Sunday.
Pittsburgh has been favored in four of their last six games, but they've failed to cover in any as the favorite. Dallas, San Diego, Cleveland and Kansas City all covered as underdogs against the Steelers. Dalton and the Bengals are playing well enough to make it five straight.
Underdog: Rams (+3.0)
Why They'll Cover: Once the NFL's safest bets after an 8-1 start against the spread, the Bucs have fallen off the map. In fact, Tampa Bay hasn't covered in well over a month.
The Rams, on the other hand, remain one of the better bets away from St. Louis. In six road games, the Rams are a sparkling 5-1 against the spread (all as underdogs). A three-point line, especially with the Bucs coming off a 41-0 defeat, is coverable for St. Louis.
Underdog: Jaguars (+15.0)
Why They'll Cover: To even think about putting money down on the Jaguars, you have to forget about straight-up records, stats and just about any football reasoning. The Patriots are miles ahead of Jacksonville in just about any logical category of football qualification.
However, there's two trends that makes this any interesting underdog bet. The Jaguars have covered each of the spreads that have them as two-touchdown or more underdogs this season (+16.0 at Green Bay, +15.0 at Houston), and New England is 0-3 covering favorite spreads over 10.5 (Arizona, New York Jets, Buffalo). The two betting situations collide Sunday.
Underdog: Cardinals (+5.0)
Why They'll Cover: A frustratingly inconsistent quarterback who throws back-breaking interceptions, and a fading, beat-up defense playing on the road? What exactly is the difference between Detroit and Chicago at this point?
The Cardinals just put a 28-point beat down on the Lions in Week 15, and now Jay Cutler and the struggling Bears are coming to town as five-point favorites. Maybe Chicago wins, but Arizona can follow a similar formula Sunday and cover as the underdog.
Underdog: Seahawks (+1.0)
Why They'll Cover: The power of the 'Link? Seattle hasn't lost straight up or failed to cover a spread at home this season, a perfect 6-0 in both cases. The Seahawks have also won and covered in three straight games.
The 49ers, by virtue of one of the season's most impressive wins in New England, deserve a fair line here, and they got it. But the trends and performance history point to Seattle being able to cover.