Unless you're begging for trouble, stay far away from most of the pivotal matchups on the schedule in Week 16 unless.
Matchups such as the Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints are simply too close to call. You'd be better off allowing yourself to enjoy those contests as a fan with only a passion-based rooting interest.
However, there are three favorites that are screaming, "We got you!" Here's a look at the teams I feel are safe bets to cover.
Miami Dolphins -2.5
With their playoff lives at stake, the Miami Dolphins are favored on the road against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The 'Fins have won three games in a row and four of their last five, including an impressive win over the New England Patriots in Week 15.
Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill seems to have turned the corner and is quietly having a solid season. He had his third 300-yard passing game in four weeks against New England.
Buffalo hasn't been able to find consistent rhythm offensively, and that problem won't be helped by the fact that rookie quarterback EJ Manuel will not play in this divisional showdown. Manuel is out with a knee injury, meaning backup Thad Lewis will get the start for the team's final home game of the season. No. 1 receiver Stevie Johnson is also not expected to play, per the team's official website.
Though the Bills have the fourth-ranked pass defense in the NFL, a hot Tannehill will keep Miami's playoff hopes alive with another strong performance.
Miami wins by 10.
San Francisco 49ers -13
The Atlanta Falcons have been playing better over the last three weeks, but on Monday night the Dirty Birds will run into a 49ers team that may be playing the best football in the league.
Which major favorite is more apt to cover?
San Francisco's defense has been consistent all year, as the team is ranked in the top 10 against both the run and the pass. Recently, the offense has begun to add the balance needed to win a Super Bowl.
Though the passing game is still just 30th in the NFL in yards per game, the return of wide receiver Michael Crabtree has the Niners clicking on all cylinders. His reception totals have increased every game he's played, and he caught his first touchdown in the Week 15 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 13 points is a lot, but the Niners are at home and playing well. They'll be looking to put on a show for the fans as well, since this is the final regular-season game that will be played at Candlestick Park.
San Francisco wins this one by at least 17 points.
San Diego Chargers -10
In a rivalry game with two teams that aren't currently in the playoffs, I'd usually bet on a close game, but this is a special circumstance.
The Chargers are trending up and the Raiders are headed in the opposite direction. After an impressive 27-20 win over the Denver Broncos on the road in Week 15, the Chargers are on a two-game win streak.
A wild-card berth is still a possibility, but the 'Bolts must win out and get some help.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have fallen apart. The team has lost four games in a row and six of the last seven, and embattled head coach Dennis Allen continues to start Matt McGloin over Terrelle Pryor. The Raiders were a decent 3-5 with Pryor starting but are 1-5 without him.
San Diego's defense just limited the highest-scoring offense in the NFL to 20 points. Playing host to a Raiders attack that turned the ball over seven times in their last game, I believe the Chargers will stay hot.
Count on a two-touchdown win for the Chargers.
Here's a look at the lines for every game on the Week 16 schedule.
|Sunday, Dec. 22||Time (ET)||Location||Line|
|Miami at Buffalo||1 p.m||Ralph Wilson Stadium||Buffalo +2.5|
|Minnesota at Cincinnati||1 p.m||Paul Brown Stadium||Cincinnati -8|
|Indianapolis at Kansas City||1 p.m||Arrowhead Stadium||Kansas City -6.5|
|Tampa Bay at St. Louis||1 p.m||Edward Jones Dome||St. Louis -4.5|
|Cleveland at N.Y. Jets||1 p.m||MetLife Stadium||N.Y. -2.5|
|Dallas at Washington||1 p.m||FedEx Field||Washington +2.5|
|New Orleans at Carolina||1 p.m||Bank of America Stadium||Carolina -3|
|Tennessee at Jacksonville||1 p.m||EverBank Field||Jacksonville +5|
|Denver at Houston||1 p.m||Reliant Stadium||Houston +10|
|N.Y. Giants at Detroit||4:05 p.m.||Ford Field||Detroit -9|
|Arizona at Seattle||4:05 p.m.||CenturyLink Field||Seattle -10.5|
|Pittsburgh at Green Bay||4:25 p.m.||Lambeau Field||Green Bay -7|
|Oakland at San Diego||4:25 p.m.||Qualcomm Stadium||San Diego -10|
|New England at Baltimore||4:25 p.m.||M&T Bank Stadium||Baltimore -2.5|
|Chicago at Philadelphia||8:30 p.m.||Lincoln Financial Field||Philadelphia -3|
|Monday, Dec. 23||Time (ET)||Location|
|Atlanta at San Francisco||8:30 p.m.||Candlestick Park||San Francisco -13|