NFL Picks and Predictions Week 16: The Ultimate Bettor's Guide
There are 18 teams that still have playoff hopes heading into Week 16. That means 14 teams already have nothing to play for. After this week, with playoff spots locking up, there will be even more "meaningless" games in Week 17. We need to take full advantage of the last week of many NFL teams giving full effort.
Week 15 was pretty brutal for us overall. We had an uncharacteristic losing Sunday, as Vegas also took monster hits as favorites covered for a majority of the slate. A woman even turned a five-dollar parlay into a six-figure win.
Still, we're hovering around the 55 percent mark against the spread in all games this season, plus we went 3-2 in our "locks" to keep us over the great mark of 60 percent on the year. There are still 15 games left before the final week of the season, meaning we have plenty of opportunity to buy makeup gifts, such as blood-flow underwear, with winnings from this season.
All picks ATS: 108-90-6 (.544)
Locks of the Week ATS: 46-29-1 (.612)
Thursday Night Football: San Diego @ Oakland
Oakland Raiders 23, San Diego Chargers 20
The Oakland Raiders were the last potential Los Angeles-headed franchise to play their last home game in 2015. In Week 15, the St. Louis Rams beat down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football, while the San Diego Chargers smacked the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
The Raiders ended on a high note, too, against their in-division rivals in the Chargers, but they had to sweat it out. With the help of a third-quarter safety and an overtime field goal, they managed to come away with a victory but not the cover.
Many places had this game closing with Oakland as six-point favorites, meaning they fell three points short of a cover. This has been a good three-game stretch for San Diego, who kept it within a touchdown of the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium, clobbered the Dolphins and took it into overtime on the road against the Raiders. They get an extended rest before heading to face the Denver Broncos in Week 17.
Cover: San Diego Chargers
Saturday Night Football: Washington @ Philadelphia
Opening line: Washington @ Philadelphia (-4)
Current line: Washington @ Philadelphia (-3)
How entirely sure are we that the Washington Redskins aren't a bad team in a good situation? We know the Philadelphia Eagles aren't a quality team because the backlash on them has been fast and furious, but Washington is being treated like the darling of the NFC East for no real reason.
They haven't really had a shock-the-world moment yet. They have had three two-score wins this year, over the St. Louis Rams, the New Orleans Saints and the Buffalo Bills. You can make the case the public just witnessed their biggest win of the season, the 35-25 win over the Bills, while they also saw the slaughtering of the Eagles on Sunday Night Football against a well-oiled Arizona Cardinals team.
On a neutral field, I'd give Philadelphia a slight edge because of how good their defense can be at times. Outside of Kirk Cousins' apparent rise, Washington doesn't really have an identity. The Redskins beat the Eagles 23-20 in Landover earlier this season, and it's very hard to earn repeat victories against an in-division rival, especially a motivated one at home.
The line is correct for being three points, but if I'm forced to pick, I'm leaning on the upside of the Eagles and praying for a regression to the mean of the newly found quarterback in burgundy and gold.
The pick: Philadelphia (-3)
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
Opening line: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (+9.5)
Current line: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (+10)
Jimmy Clausen has played in four games in 2015, resulting in an overall passer rating of 66.7 and an overall score of 43-143 in four losses. That's right, in the four games he's seen significant time in, on two different teams, he's been outscored by an average of 25 points a game.
Matt Schaub may start this game, but the human pick-six isn't much of an upgrade for the Baltimore Ravens, either. They have nothing to play for, so why not just tank for the pick? They do nothing but hurt themselves in the future by winning this game against a highly motivated in-division rival.
The Pittsburgh Steelers still need to win to get into the wild card, and their offense might score more in the first quarter than the Ravens will all game. The Steelers are only second is yards per game offensively, and they are fourth in the league in points per game. Yes, Pittsburgh is a double-digit favorite on the road. Baltimore is starting reserve players while walking toward an oncoming train revving full speed, though.
The pick: Pittsburgh (-9.5)
San Francisco @ Detroit
Opening line: San Francisco @ Detroit (-8.5)
Current line: San Francisco @ Detroit (-10)
So many of these lines are messed up for home favorites. Maybe it's because of the holidays, so books are expecting fewer contrarian "sharps," who help balance out the money for what are typically public bets that land on favorites, but this has the makings of a very good week in Vegas.
Blaine Gabbert hasn't made a fool out of himself as the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. The Detroit Lions started the season as one of, if not the worst team in the NFL. How on Earth are they two-score favorites? Against anyone. Anywhere.
This is a 10-point line. The Lions have won one of their 14 games this season by 10 or more points. It was against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving, when the Chip Kelly squad was being burned down defensively as they were on the field for 40 minutes a game. What a sucker bet.
The pick: San Francisco (+10)
Indianapolis @ Miami
Opening line: Indianapolis @ Miami (-1)
Current line: Indianapolis @ Miami (-2.5)
It looks like Matt Hasselbeck is going to start for the Indianapolis Colts. In 2015, with significant snaps under his belt, the Colts have gone 4-3 under Hasselbeck, starting off with a 4-0 run before falling in their last three games. The split between those games is interesting, as he went from averaging a passer rating of about 90 in his first four games, while he fell to the high 60s in his last three.
Is the aged passer wearing out? He's from the same draft class as Peyton Manning, who we've seen endure a gradual slip in over the years. The difference between him and Manning, though, is their interception rate. For the most part, Hasselbeck is still protecting the ball, registering a nine-to-five touchdown-to-interception ratio over seven games. Manning posted 17 interceptions in nine games this year.
Since Joe Philbin was fired as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, there have been odd rumors surrounding the team. Is Sean Payton slated to be the next coach of the squad? Has Dan Campbell fired enough of his former peers to save his job and ditch the interim title? Are Ndamukong Suh and Ryan Tannehill still making their teammates feel like second-class citizens in their own locker room?
If you caught any of San Diego's 30-14 win over Miami in Week 15, you're going to have a hard time to bet on the Dolphins. Miami has virtually no home-field advantage, so a 2.5-point line means they'd be favored over the Colts on a neutral field. That's just wrong. The Dolphins are 1-5 against the spread at home in 2015, and this line makes it a very good chance they'll move to 1-6.
The pick: Indianapolis (+2.5)
New England @ New York Jets
Opening line: New England @ New York Jets (+3)
Current line: New England @ New York Jets (+3.5)
The New England Patriots are almost a team that has to be treated as playing on a neutral field when on the road. It doesn't seem to bother them getting the job done. They have won by three or more points on the road during four of their six road games in 2015, with their non-would-be covers in this situation being an overtime loss to the Denver Broncos and a one-point victory against the New York Giants, who have had their number in big games historically.
When you get the chance to bet on Tom Brady and Bill Belichick by under two scores, you take your swing. They are 7-4-3 against the spread this season for a reason: They get the job done. Despite all of their injuries, they are still progressing toward an AFC Championship.
The New York Jets are alive, but there's nothing they can really do to prepare themselves for New England. As they have for a decade, the Patriots should be sticking the fork in New York's playoff hopes.
The pick: New England (-3)
Dallas @ Buffalo
Opening line: Dallas @ Buffalo (-5.5)
Current line: Dallas @ Buffalo (-6)
This is not a sexy pick, but ugly selections end up landing more times than not. If you go against the public, who usually land on favorites, then you align yourself with Vegas liability most of the time, which is a positive in the long run.
The Buffalo Bills are six-point favorites at home. They've only won four of their 14 games by six or more points this season. The Dallas Cowboys have only lost by more than six points five times this year, even with a rotating cast of quarterbacks. Every single one of those five teams is alive in the playoff hunt.
The Atlanta Falcons started off the season red hot; the New York Giants beat Dallas by a touchdown in MetLife Stadium, but the Giants beat the Bills by two touchdowns; the New England Patriots, who downed Buffalo twice, also smeared the Cowboys; the undefeated Carolina Panthers made their way past Dallas; and the Green Bay Packers handled the Cowboys by running them down at the end of their matchup. None of those losses were embarrassing.
If Dallas loses to Buffalo by more than six points, it would be the worst team they've done so against all season. When you talk about teams such as Atlanta, New York, New England, Carolina and Green Bay, the Bills would stick out like a sore thumb in that group. I don't think they will win outright, but the Cowboys will survive with a manageable cover.
Buffalo also seems to be having an interesting locker-room battle going on right now. Many are criticizing Rex Ryan's defense publicly because of his usage of personnel. Then you have Sammy Watkins, a receiver who cost two first-round picks, saying things such as "forget the coaches," via Bills beat writer Matthew Fairburn.
We ride for Kellen Moore on Sunday.
The pick: Dallas (+6)
Houston @ Tennessee
The Tennessee Titans will be without Marcus Mariota, which means Zach Mettenberger will start at quarterback. On the opposite sideline, the Houston Texans' starting passer is a question mark. T.J. Yates blew out his ACL in Week 15, Ryan Mallett was cut midseason and Brian Hoyer is going through the concussion protocol.
That means the only two healthy passers on the roster are Brandon Weeden, who was cut by the Dallas Cowboys midseason and has been with the team for about a month, and B.J. Daniels, who was recently signed off of the Seattle Seahawks' practice squad and has never thrown a ball in a regular-season game.
There is no line posted for this game because of the confusion around the quarterback position.
Chicago @ Tampa Bay
Opening line: Chicago @ Tampa Bay (-2.5)
Current line: Chicago @ Tampa Bay (-3)
Close game records tend to regress to the mean as the season goes along. It's one reason for a collapse of a team such as the Atlanta Falcons and the rise of a team like the Kansas City Chiefs. For the most part, single-game samples in which one play could make or break a game just means that teams are on the same level as each other, not that there is definitively a better squad on the field.
This is where I'm stuck on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have a 6-8 record, but they play well below that mark. They are 5-2 in games decided by a touchdown or under, which if you believe regress to the mean, means they are playing about two wins above their record. Coming off an extended break should help them, but they are 1-5 in games decided by more than a touchdown, which is a better indicator of true talent.
In a head-to-head matchup on a neutral field, I think the Chicago Bears are a better team. The Buccaneers are very young, and these players aren't used to a 16-game schedule just yet. Since beating down the tuckered-out Philadelphia Eagles 45-17, they've gone 1-3 by a scoring margin of 75-99.
Jay Cutler is a veteran quarterback. John Fox is a veteran head coach. Vic Fangio is a veteran defensive coordinator. Adam Gase is a veteran offensive coordinator. This game is comfortably resting on the Bears as long as they are three-point underdogs. Chicago is 5-2 against the spread on the road this season.
The pick: Chicago (+3)
Cleveland @ Kansas City
Opening line: Cleveland @ Kansas City (-12.5)
Current line: Cleveland @ Kansas City (-11.5)
Again, this line is just too high. The Cleveland Browns have nothing to play for in terms of postseason goals, but under Johnny Manziel, the team seems motivated on a game-by-game basis. Even after falling big to the Seattle Seahawks, they still battled until the end of the match. These young players don't have much quit in them, even if their coaching staff looks to have a foot out of the door already.
The Kansas City Chiefs are on a eight-game winning streak. It's hard to go against that. With that being said, in Week 14, they scraped by with a 10-3 win over the San Diego Chargers. This team is beatable, but this bet is about how much they win by, not whether they do. I'm fairly certain the Chiefs will beat Cleveland, but if a last-minute touchdown cuts the lead from 17 points to 10 points and you get to cash in a slip? That's a win in my book.
Kansas City would basically have to hold onto a 20-point lead for you to feel good about this game. Asking any NFL team to hit that objective is a very tough goal. The Chiefs will go 10-5, but their home record against the spread will hit 3-4 in Week 16.
The pick: Cleveland (+12.5)
Carolina @ Atlanta
Opening line: Carolina @ Atlanta (+6.5)
Current line: Carolina @ Atlanta (+7)
The Carolina Panthers are hard to go against considering the fact they are undefeated, but they are seven-point road favorites. That means at home, they'd be 13-point favorites. That's just too many points for an NFL team in this situation.
The Panthers are consistent. These are the teams they've beaten on the road by more than a touchdown this season: Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Dallas. The following are the teams they weren't able to reach the goal of a seven-point win against this season: Seattle, the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants. So they blow out bad teams but keep it close against respectable ones. Are the Falcons respectable?
To start the season, you'd obviously say they were, but they're a far way from their 5-0 start. Still, the only home game they've lost by more than three points was against the Minnesota Vikings. That 38-0 blowout on the road in Week 14 strikes the fear in the heart of the public, though.
With Carolina's Jonathan Stewart out, I think the play is to lean on the home team with a touchdown buffer. Ron Rivera said he won't rest his players, but some of them, such as Stewart, have bodies that are asking for rest as the grind of the season has worn on them. If the public zigs, you need to zag, and the public is zigging all over this game.
The pick: Atlanta (+7)
Jacksonville @ New Orleans
Drew Brees is dealing with a plantar fascia issue, which is limiting him in practice. With his gameday status unknown and a possible drop to Matt Flynn, who has only been on the team for a month, as Luke McCown is already on injured reserve, there's a good reason why you can't find a line on this game.
St. Louis @ Seattle
Opening line: St. Louis @ Seattle (-14)
Current line: St. Louis @ Seattle (-13.5)
There's nothing wrong with the favorite here. If you want to parlay the Seattle Seahawks' moneyline into everything this week, I wouldn't try to talk you out of it. I will say, though, there's been a trend this year of pushing 10-point lines to 14-point lines, and it makes me very nervous. Historically, double-digit lines are ones you could blindly bet the underdogs on and cover a majority of the time.
I get that Russell Wilson is going on a historical run and is making Doug Baldwin look like Jerry Rice, but how sustainable do we think it is? On Thursday Night Football in Week 15, we saw what the St. Louis Rams' defensive line was able to do against a weak Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line.
Seattle's offensive line has improved down the stretch, but on an individual basis, they are no better than they were Week 1. I don't know how they avoid the razor-wire cannonball known as Aaron Donald. With their two top running backs out, it's going to force Wilson to drop back, meaning Donald's impact is going to be at a maximum.
Remember, the Rams beat the Seahawks 34-31 earlier in the season. A two-touchdown handicap is just way too high in this game, especially considering the extended rest Jeff Fisher's team is getting and Case Keenum's relative success this season.
The pick: St. Louis (+14)
Green Bay @ Arizona
Opening line: Green Bay @ Arizona (-4)
Current line: Green Bay @ Arizona (-4.5)
I get that the Arizona Cardinals have been very good this season, but who have they played? They caught the Seattle Seahawks before their offensive explosion and the Cincinnati Bengals, who have yet to win anything of significance in this era.
The other teams they've played? The New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers (twice), St. Louis Rams (twice), Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and the Landry Jones Pittsburgh Steelers, a team they lost to by double digits.
In a game such as this, you want to see how the heavyweights match up. The Green Bay Packers also beat the pre-en fuego Russell Wilson Seahawks, but their blowout win against the Kansas City Chiefs stands out. When you consider how their defense is built, too, they might have a slight edge on a neutral field.
Arizona wants to pass, but Green Bay's entire defensive scheme is built around sacks and interceptions ending drives, making them aggressively vulnerable in the run game, where the Cardinals have lost Chris Johnson. On top of that, one of their key players, Tyrann Mathieu, a hybrid everything defensively, is now on injured reserve too. Aaron Rodgers isn't the quarterback you want to have to learn how to mask your defense moving forward against.
If this line is a half-point over a three-point line, take Green Bay. The Packers have outscored their opponents by 31 combined points in the two weeks since Mike McCarthy took over offensive play-calling. Catch this team while they're gaining momentum.
The pick: Green Bay (+4.5)
Sunday Night Football: New York Giants @ Minnesota
Opening line: New York Giants @ Minnesota (-4)
Current line: New York Giants @ Minnesota (-6)
As far as I'm concerned, these teams are about even when healthy. The New York Giants have taken tremendous losses on the defensive side of the ball, though, and the Minnesota Vikings have a clear advantage there.
I would say that when Eli Manning is hot, New York's offense has a much higher peak that Minnesota's, but he's very volatile, and without Odell Beckham Jr., who is going to miss this game because of a suspension for his conduct in Week 15's match against the Carolina Panthers, I wouldn't expect him to throw for four or more touchdowns in this bout.
With that being said, a six-point advantage means this game would be a toss-up if it were played in New York. I understand giving the Vikings an edge on a neutral field, but a three-point advantage from a power ranking standpoint is too high for me. It's unfortunate this line isn't rising up to the key number of seven, but I'll still take anything over a four-point nod to Minnesota.
The Giants are 4-2-1 against the spread on the road, and they've only lost one game on the road by more than six points.
The pick: New York Giants (+6)
Monday Night Football: Cincinnati @ Denver
Opening line: Cincinnati @ Denver (-3.5)
Current line: Cincinnati @ Denver (-3)
The Denver Broncos are generally awarded more than three points for home-field advantage because they're adjusted to their own elevation. This line is at three points. So people think AJ McCarron facing the best defense in the NFL is about an even matchup? Good luck.
McCarron was a liability at Alabama, but he was able to hide behind the depth the Bengals were able to field in Week 15 against the San Francisco 49ers. The creative empty shotgun looks Hue Jackson is fielding are all fun until McCarron's first three reads are locked down by the amazing combo of Chris Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby while DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller are crashing the edges.
There's a significant talent drop between Andy Dalton and McCarron, and Monday's game will prove it. The Bengals' perfect road record against the spread record ends in Week 16.
The pick: Denver (-3)
Locks of the Week
1. Washington @ Philadelphia (-3)
2. San Francisco (+10) @ Detroit
3. New England (-3) @ New York Jets
4. Chicago (+3) @ Tampa Bay
5. Green Bay (+4.5) @ Arizona
All lines courtesy of Odds Shark.