NFL Picks Week 16: Breaking Down Favorites Sure to Cover the Spread

Josh CohenCorrespondent IIDecember 21, 2013

Bet the Ravens with confidence this week.
Bet the Ravens with confidence this week.Jason Miller/Getty Images

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.

 

Week 16 NFL Picks Against the Spread
Away TeamHome TeamSpreadPick Against Spread
Miami DolphinsBuffalo BillsMIA -2.5Bills
New Orleans SaintsCarolina PanthersCAR -3Panthers
Dallas CowboysWashington RedskinsDAL -3Redskins
Tampa Bay BuccaneersSt. Louis RamsSTL -5Rams
Chicago BearsPhiladelphia EaglesPHI -3Eagles
Cleveland BrownsN.Y. JetsNYJ -2.5Browns
Indianapolis ColtsKansas City ChiefsKC -6.5Chiefs
Minnesota VikingsCincinnati BengalsCIN -7.5Bengals
Denver BroncosHouston TexansDEN -10.5Broncos
Tennessee TitansJacksonville JaguarsTEN -5Jaguars
Arizona CardinalsSeattle SeahawksSEA -10.5Seahawks
N.Y. GiantsDetroit LionsDET -9Lions
Oakland RaidersSan Diego ChargersSD -10Raiders
Pittsburgh SteelersGreen Bay PackersPKPackers
New England PatriotsBaltimore RavensBAL -2.5Patriots
Atlanta FalconsSan Francisco 49ersSF -13Falcons
Vegas Insider

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.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 08: Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates a sack during a game  against the Jacksonville Jaguarsat EverBank Field on September 8, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

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.

 

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 01:  Andrew Luck #12  of the Indianapolis Colts watches the action during the NFL game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 1, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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."

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 17:  Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates during the NFL game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium on November 17, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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.

 

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 16: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions drops back to pass during the second quarter of the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Ford Field on December 16, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. The Ravens defeated the Lions 18-16. (Photo
Leon Halip/Getty Images

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, CA - DECEMBER 15:  Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on December 15, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

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.

 

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 12:   Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers reacts to a second quarter call during their game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens (-2.5) over New England Patriots

The Baltimore Ravens are 6-1 at home, playing a New England Patriots team playing without Rob Gronkowski. There's no wonder this spread has swung a full point for Baltimore.

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.

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 8: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots is taken off of the field after an injury against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

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.