Week 16 of the NFL season features a number of big games with major playoff implications, and there are a few underdogs that will be be able to cover the spread.
There are still a number of playoff spots up for grabs as the season winds down, with only four of the eight spots officially clinched. Even more interesting is the fact that only one division title has been clinched, with the Indianapolis Colts taking the AFC South.
Below is a look at a few underdogs that will cover the spread, followed by an explanation of why each team will do so.
Note: All odds are provided by Bovada.com
Atlanta Falcons (+14) at San Francisco 49ers
Date: Monday, Dec. 23
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
The San Francisco 49ers are a great football team, but even the best teams have trouble winning by more than 14 points.
Defensively, the Atlanta Falcons haven't played well, but at the same time they haven't been blown out often. Their past four games have been decided by four points or fewer, and they've lost by more than 14 points only twice all season, against the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks.
The big reason for that is because Matt Ryan is doing whatever it takes to keep his team in games. Despite so many injuries on both sides of the ball, Ryan has still thrown for 3,887 yards, 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, posting an 88.9 passer rating.
The 49ers have blown out some bad teams, but this is certainly a trap game for them. There's a chance that they're looking ahead to the game against the Arizona Cardinals as they look to lock up a playoff spot, and since the Falcons are just 4-10, they might overlook them.
The Falcons were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender this year, and while they have been a disappointment, they should still be able to stay within 14 points against the 49ers.
Arizona Cardinals (+10.5) at Seattle Seahawks
Date: Sunday, Dec. 22
Time: 4:05 p.m. ET
Speaking of the Cardinals, they're also big underdogs in their matchup against the Seahawks, despite having a very successful 9-5 season so far. When these two teams met in Week 7, the Seahawks won by just eight points.
The fact that the Seahawks are playing at home and the Cardinals will be without Tyrann Mathieu will certainly hurt, but this is a divisional rivalry, and these kind of games tend to surprise a lot of people. Mathieu's absence will hurt, but the Cardinals still have Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers in that talented secondary.
For the Seahawks, they are going to have some holes in their secondary this week. According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Brandon Browner has been suspended indefinitely, and Walter Thurmond will be absent as well as he serves the final week of his suspension.
Seattle also has the best record in the NFL and will likely be more concerned with keeping its players healthy, as home-field advantage is nearly clinched with the top spot in the NFC.
Carson Palmer may not have the best offensive line, but he has some talented weapons around him in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Andre Ellington. These guys should be able to make some big plays and keep the Cardinals in this one, at least keeping it within 10 points by the end of the game.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (+5)
Date: Sunday, Dec. 22
Time: 1 p.m. ET
It sounds kind of crazy, but the Jacksonville Jaguars have actually played quite well over the past few weeks, going 4-2 in their last six games. One of those wins came against the Tennessee Titans, winning in Tennessee 29-27.
On the other hand, the Titans have seriously struggled lately, going 2-8 after starting the year with a 3-1 record. Jake Locker has been out for most of the year, and Ryan Fitzpatrick has had to take his place. Meanwhile, Chris Johnson has had another pretty disappointing season, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.
Despite not having Justin Blackmon in the lineup, Chad Henne hasn't been terrible lately. Over the past four games, he's thrown six touchdowns and three interceptions, while the running game has put up more than 300 rushing yards in the past two games, and one of those came without Maurice Jones-Drew.
This may be the first time I've ever said this, but you should pick the Jaguars against the spread. The coaching staff is clearly doing something right despite not having a lot of talent on their roster, and they have a very good chance to pull out their fourth win in five games.
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