Just as a number of teams face literal must-win situations over the course of the next two weeks, so too do bettors around the globe.
NFL picks straight from Las Vegas can be a cruel mistress. In a season when even the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks have dropped contests at home, no spread is safe.
Neither are those tricky over/under calls.
In past few weeks, it has been easy to view over/under total bets as ways to make additional cash. Things are cloudier than ever in the final two weeks, though. Will a team such as the San Francisco 49ers go out and wave the white flag, or will they play for pride on the chance to spoil the dreams of the San Diego Chargers?
There are no easy answers, but like any test, the best ammunition before going head first into the action is knowledge.
NFL Week 16 Picks Against the Spread
|Matchup||Spread (O/U)||Pick ATS||O/U Pick||Reason|
|Tennessee at Jacksonville (Thurs., Dec. 18)||JAC -3 (40)||JAC||O||See analysis below.|
|Philadelphia at Washington (Sat., Dec. 20)||PHI -9 (51)||PHI||O||RG3 or not, the Eagles have the season on the line against a weak opponent.|
|San Diego at San Francisco (Sat., Dec. 20)||SF -2.5 (41.5)||SD||O||San Francisco is in a free fall with an offense that cannot get it together.|
|Minnesota at Miami||MIA -7 (43)||MIA||U||See analysis below.|
|Baltimore at Houston||BAL -6 (41.5)||BAL||U||Baltimore will get back to its ground ways to counteract a rush led by J.J. Watt.|
|Detroit at Chicago||DET -7 (46)||DET||O||Detroit's rush will force Jay Cutler into plenty of critical mistakes.|
|Cleveland at Carolina||CAR -3.5 (39.5)||CAR||O||Johnny Manziel on the road is bad news, especially if his run defense continues to perform miserably.|
|Atlanta at New Orleans||NO -6.5 (56)||ATL||O||New Orleans cannot win at home, so look for Matt Ryan to outduel Drew Brees.|
|Green Bay at Tampa Bay||GB -11 (48.5)||GB||O||An angry Aaron Rodgers will shred though a miserable defense.|
|Kansas City at Pittsburgh||PIT -3 (46.5)||PIT||U||Pittsburgh seems in stride at this point, and Kansas City will have no answer for Le'Veon Bell.|
|New England at NY Jets||NE -11 (47.5)||NE||O||Divisional battles are tougher than most things, but not when it comes to playing the Patriots. Just ask Miami.|
|NY Giants at St. Louis||STL -5.5 (43.5)||NYG||U||St. Louis will have no answer for rookie star Odell Beckham.|
|Buffalo at Oakland||BUF -6 (39)||OAK||U||A trip to Oakland is no easy task, but Buffalo can win outright thanks to a great defense.|
|Indianapolis at Dallas||DAL -1 (55)||IND||O||Andrew Luck will make short work of the Cowboys defense.|
|Seattle at Arizona||SEA -9 (37)||SEA||O||An extended rest for Arizona means a strong performance at home.|
|Denver at Cincinnati (Mon., Dec. 22)||DEN -3.5 (48)||DEN||U||Cincinnati cannot stop elite passers or show up in major prime-time games.|
Odds courtesy of Odds Shark and accurate as of 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 17.
Breaking Down Tough Over/Under Odds
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3): Over/Under: 40
There is something special about Thursday games when it comes to playing the odds.
Thursday football on its own is quite a treat, but having something on the line certainly makes even the worst of matchups must-see action.
Case in point: Thursday's showdown between the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The AFC South rivals both sit at 2-12. Both rank 22nd or worse through the air and on the ground. Both rank 18th or worse against the pass and rush.
Charlie Whitehurst is the man under center for the Titans, thanks to injuries to Jake Locker and Zach Mettenberger. His 233 passing yards as the starter against the Jaguars back in Week 6 were enough to get a 16-14 win.
As ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky writes, Whitehurst brings a different style of quarterback play to Tennessee's offense:
Whitehurst is sure to lean on tight end Delanie Walker, the player he’s thrown to the most in the five games he’s played in this season.
The Titans' third-string QB has hit Walker on 15 of 24 attempts this season for 235 yards. Kendall Wright, who has missed the last two games with a broken bone in his hand, is second for Whitehurst, with 15 catches on 21 attempts for 159 yards.
What saves the day for the hosts is not rookie quarterback Blake Bortles. His struggles are obvious at this point, thanks to his 2,676 yards and 10 touchdowns to 17 interceptions.
Defense is the name of the game for the Jaguars right now. Gus Bradley's team ranks 21st against the pass and last week held Baltimore's Joe Flacco to 221 yards and a score while almost pulling off the upset (Tennessee was busy losing to the New York Jets).
The last time these two met, Whitehurst could not get a score through the air. Jacksonville is better this time around, so expect the hosts to grind down the visitors and sneak a victory, thanks to an exploitation of the league's worst run defense.
Prediction: Jaguars 24, Titans 17
Minnesota Vikings at Miami Dolphins (-7): Over/Under: 43
Defense will not win championships for the Minnesota Vikings or Miami Dolphins this year, but it makes for quite an easy over/under decision this weekend.
The ties between the two in this regard run deep, too. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer used to oversee Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle when he held the same position with the Cincinnati Bengals.
As Greg Likens of Dolphins.com states, the former understudy credits Zimmer for much of what the Dolphins do on that side of the football:
It clearly works. Miami ranks fourth against the pass this season, while Minnesota ranks sixth.
Translation—Ryan Tannehill and Teddy Bridgewater are in for long days at the office Sunday.
For the rookie, Sunday is yet another hurdle in the developmental process. Bridgewater has completed 63.5 percent of his passes this season, but 11 touchdowns to 10 interceptions shows he has a long way to go when it comes to the decision-making process.
"The good thing is Teddy is getting a lot of these experiences," Zimmer said, per STATS LLC, via ESPN.com. "The on-the-job training he's getting I really believe will bode well for him in the future and for us as an organization and as a team."
Despite a 66.3 completion percentage with 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, Tannehill's play has been on a downtrend in recent weeks. Over the course of his past three outings, two of which have been losses, the Texas A&M product has two touchdowns to three interceptions.
Two bottom-20 passing attacks meet elite defenses in a matchup in which the only winner is bettors who take the over—well, and the Dolphins. Miami is at home and more experienced with an advantage under center.
Prediction: Dolphins 24, Vikings 14