With playoff implications weighing heavily on the favorites in Week 16, bettors will be able to comfortably pick some of the NFL's best teams to cover.
It's not as sexy to ignore the underdog and bet the cover, but it still takes savvy to identify the right favorites. Some are too shaky to trust, while others have built spreads too big to trust. Discerning the solid teams in the middle ground is the name of the game.
Out of the 16 games on tap this weekend, five of them stand out as safe covers.
Betting lines courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
|Away Team||Home Team||Spread||Pick Against Spread|
|Miami Dolphins||Buffalo Bills||MIA -2.5||Bills|
|New Orleans Saints||Carolina Panthers||CAR -3||Panthers|
|Dallas Cowboys||Washington Redskins||DAL -3||Redskins|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||St. Louis Rams||STL -5||Rams|
|Chicago Bears||Philadelphia Eagles||PHI -3||Eagles|
|Cleveland Browns||N.Y. Jets||NYJ -2.5||Browns|
|Indianapolis Colts||Kansas City Chiefs||KC -6.5||Chiefs|
|Minnesota Vikings||Cincinnati Bengals||CIN -7.5||Bengals|
|Denver Broncos||Houston Texans||DEN -10.5||Broncos|
|Tennessee Titans||Jacksonville Jaguars||TEN -5||Jaguars|
|Arizona Cardinals||Seattle Seahawks||SEA -10.5||Seahawks|
|N.Y. Giants||Detroit Lions||DET -9||Lions|
|Oakland Raiders||San Diego Chargers||SD -10||Raiders|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Green Bay Packers||PK||Packers|
|New England Patriots||Baltimore Ravens||BAL -2.5||Patriots|
|Atlanta Falcons||San Francisco 49ers||SF -13||Falcons|
Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5) over Indianapolis Colts
Of late, the Kansas City Chiefs haven't touted the same impenetrable defense they did earlier in the season. KC has allowed at least 30 points in three of its last four games, and recent drubbings of the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders have not assuaged concerns.
But people should make more about the Indianapolis Colts' troubling play.
Andrew Luck has not looked the same since Reggie Wayne tore his ACL in Week 7. In the seven games since, Luck has been held below 60-percent passing on four different occasions, and he has thrown for fewer than 250 yards four times as well. That's not what Indy needs from its phenom quarterback.
The defense is also not doing Luck any favors lately, allowing at least 24 points in five of those seven games, and at least 38 points on three separate occasions. For a poor running team to drop off both in the air and on the other side of the ball leaves Indy with little to fall back on.
Kansas City may not look like a potential championship contender anymore, but the Chiefs still look a lot better than the Colts right now. Considering the game is also at Arrowhead, a spread of less than a touchdown shouldn't be a problem for KC.
Cincinnati Bengals (-7.5) over Minnesota Vikings
Last week, the Minnesota Vikings put up 48 points on the Philadelphia Eagles without Adrian Peterson or Christian Ponder. Matt Cassel threw for three touchdowns. Matt Asiata, receiving his first touches of the 2013 season, ran for three as well.
That performance just screams "fluke."
Vikings RB Matt Asiata 1st man to rush for 3TD in 1st career start since Daunte Culpepper for Vikings 9/3/00 Culpepper was at Sunday game— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) December 16, 2013
Minnesota has topped 20 points in each of its last eight games, but even with AD back to face the Cincinnati Bengals, it is by no means an offensive juggernaut.
That's unfortunate for the Vikings, who haven't been able to stop anyone on defense. They rank 31st in the league in points allowed with 30.4 per game, while Cincy's 19.6 are good for sixth.
Realistically, the Bengals are a surefire playoff team playing at home against a squad full of flaws. This line is an overreaction to an implausible, unrepeatable performance. Take advantage of it.
Detroit Lions (-9) over New York Giants
This line has dropped half a point since opening with a 9.5-point favorite, likely because bettors are wary about supporting the Detroit Lions with such a large spread.
Don't just consider picks in a vacuum, though; consider the opportunity to bet against the woeful New York Giants, who are going on the road to play a potential postseason team.
Matthew Stafford has struggled with turnovers in recent weeks, throwing 11 interceptions since Detroit's Week 9 bye. New York's secondary won't be an issue, and Calvin Johnson will have ample opportunity to burn it.
Ditto for Reggie Bush when he gets into space, and ditto for the pass rush against the patchwork New York offensive line.
This Giants team is a shell of its former great self, beatable in just about every facet of the game. On Sunday, it will also be missing its best offensive weapon in Victor Cruz, a week after getting shut out with him.
Going with Detroit by more than a touchdown is asking a lot, but don't worry about the Giants; they're harmless.
San Diego Chargers (-10) over Oakland Raiders
Conversely, this line has swung half a point in the San Diego Chargers' favor since it opened. When your opponent gives up 56 points the Sunday prior and swings just about every fantasy football playoff game, that'll happen.
At this point, we take a moment to remember the Oakland Raiders aren't going to collapse so catastrophically every week, even against Philip Rivers and the Charger offense. But that doesn't mean the Raiders will stop San Diego, either.
Oakland has now allowed 31 or more points in each of the past three weeks—to the Chiefs, the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Jets. Sure, Ryan Mathews can't be expected to match Jamaal Charles' five-touchdown outburst, but Rivers compares favorably with Geno Smith to say the least.
The instinct to bet against the Raider defense is sound. That unit is downright awful, and the Chargers have a balanced offense that can make Oakland pay.
Baltimore Ravens (-2.5) over New England Patriots
New England's one saving grace in terms of bettor faith is the reassuring performance the wideouts put forth against the Miami Dolphins in Week 15. Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman both hauled in double-digit receptions for over 130 yards apiece, keeping the Pats close against the Dolphins.
It goes without saying that insane production is unsustainable. Not only are they surely not going to both go off simultaneously, but New England can't rely on either to put up big yardage. The Pats are also platooning their running backs and are porous on defense, so they're not equipped to play a Baltimore team vying for a division crown.
In 8 career starts vs the Ravens (including playoffs), Tom Brady has a 57.7 Comp pct and a -2 TD-Int diff, both his worst vs any NFL opp.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 19, 2013
Joe Flacco and company can beat the Patriot D, and Tom Brady doesn't have the weapons to solve Baltimore. The Ravens may have a worse record, but they are clearly the better team right now.