The Bettor's Guide to NFL Week 16
Vegas is hemorrhaging money, not only on lowly teams, like the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns, that can't seem to cover no matter the point spread this year, but off of parlays that are landing covers on both sides of adjusted lines lately. With two weeks left in the season, books and sharp bettors hope 2016 regresses to the means as the season closes.
As always, we will pick games against the spread, choosing from the best lines on both sides out of OddsSharks database of updated Vegas and online books after reviewing Thursday Night Football. Remember, because of Christmas, most of these games will be played on Saturday this week, so you need to make your picks a day early.
We will use TeamRankings.com to find live trends, while using both the projected lines from the Massey Rating and FiveThirtyEight to see if there is a consensus power-ranking advantage on one side of a line.
Record ATS total: 92-108-3
Record ATS last week: 5-9-1
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia
The line: Philadelphia +1
The result: Philadelphia 24, New York Giants 19
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw three interceptions in an apparent head start to his playoff run. The Philadelphia Eagles, who had lost five straight games heading into this week, managed to pull the upset while the Giants' passer had a national meltdown.
Because of this result, the Dallas Cowboys are now NFC East divisional champions, while the Giants have over a 99 percent chance to make the playoffs as a Wild Card team, according to FiveThirtyEight's numbers.
The Eagles led this game by more than a touchdown for about two quarters, and the Giants never had a lead on Thursday Night Football. It's difficult to cover as a favorite that way.
The pick: Philadelphia
Minnesota vs. Green Bay
Best home line: Green Bay -6.5
Best away line: Minnesota +7
As a home team this year, these are the Green Bay Packers' results:
- 34-27 victory against the Detroit Lions
- 23-16 victory against the New York Giants
- 30-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys
- 26-10 victory against the Chicago Bears
- 31-26 loss to the Indianapolis Colts
- 21-13 victory against the Houston Texans
- 38-10 victory against the Seattle Seahawks
Of their seven home games, they've won five, while they've gone 3-4 on the road this season. In every home victory the Packers have had this season, they've won by at least a touchdown.
The loss to the Dallas Cowboys shouldn't be a surprise, considering the fact the Packers are lower on the NFC totem pole. Honestly, the only single game that doesn't fit with Green Bay covering as a narrative here is that outlier of a game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Only against the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks were the Packers less than touchdown favorites this season. Those teams are a collective 31-10-1 this season, while Minnesota is on a 2-7 run after a 5-0 start, which included a one-score victory against Green Bay on national television.
This Vikings team is just not the same squad it was to start the season on the defensive side of the ball, and it shows little to no hope on the offensive side. The Packers are hot, scrapping for their playoff survival and are more talented than Minnesota on paper.
The pick: Green Bay -6.5
Tennessee vs. Jacksonville
Best home line: Jacksonville +5
Best away line: Tennessee -4.5
Last week, the Jacksonville Jaguars narrowly lost to the Houston Texans, who along with the Tennessee Titans, are the top contenders in the AFC South. This week the Titans are five-point favorites.
That's an incredible amount of points, even against the Jaguars, considering that this line would be over 10 points if it were in Tennessee. Per TeamRankings.com, the Titans have only been road favorites once in quarterback Marcus Mariota's career, but this game is between a field goal and a touchdown?
The pick: Jacksonville +5
Washington vs. Chicago
Best home line: Chicago +3.5
Best away line: Washington -3
Yes, the Washington Redskins just lost during a nationally televised game, but it was to the Carolina Panthers who are 6-3 in their last nine games, while the Chicago Bears are just 3-11 on the entire season. Washington has a solid record over sub-.500 teams under quarterback Kirk Cousins, and the only team they've lost to this year who is 100 percent going to fall short of that mark was the Arizona Cardinals.
As a visiting team this year, Washington has a 4-2 record against the spread, per TeamRankings.com. The logic, trends and math like the Redskins in this spot.
The Massey Rating and FiveThirtyEight both project a line in favor of Washington past the key number of three points, meaning there is value here. After a loss, the Redskins are 8-4 against the spread under Cousins, too.
The pick: Washington -3
Miami vs. Buffalo
Best home line: Buffalo -3.5
Best away line: Miami +4
The Miami Dolphins are 4-3 against the spread on the road this season, while the Buffalo Bills are 3-4 against the spread at home, per TeamRankings.com. That isn't an incredibly strong trend, but backup quarterback Matt Moore's victory over the New York Jets on the road by three touchdowns last week was significant.
The Dolphins are 9-5 this season. The Bills are 7-7 this season, with one of their losses coming to Miami. So why is Buffalo more than a three-point favorite here?
If you don't discredit Moore as the team's quarterback, and you realize the team has an extra day of prep heading into this game, you will agree too.
The pick: Miami +4
Atlanta vs. Carolina
Best home line: Carolina +3
Best away line: Atlanta -2.5
In the Carolina Panthers' eight games since their bye week, they've won five, lost two by three points against teams with double-digit wins and completely bombed against the Seattle Seahawks when the moral of the team visibly exploded when Derek Anderson threw an interception to start the game.
Why exactly are the Panthers home underdogs here? If this game were in Atlanta, the Falcons would be nine-point favorites, a margin the Panthers have only lost by once since their bye week.
Carolina has only been a home underdog once in the last two seasons, a game which they covered. It's difficult to beat divisional rivals twice in the same year, which is how the Falcons caught the Panthers slipping their second time around in 2015, spoiling their potentially undefeated season.
The pick: Carolina +3
San Diego vs. Cleveland
Best home line: Cleveland +6
Best away line: San Diego -5.5
The San Diego Chargers have only been road favorites twice in the last three seasons, and they're currently six-point favorites on the road this week in Cleveland. This is after losing brutally at home against the Oakland Raiders in a game where the atmosphere was that of a Raiders home game.
With lingering questions about the team's relocation and no playoff hope, this is a spot where you could clearly imagine a team quitting. Cleveland on the other hand is desperate for just one victory, and with two weeks left in the season and a road trip to Pittsburgh on the schedule, they have to know it's now or never.
The Browns are 0-7 against the spread this season, per TeamRankings.com, and in what might be Vegas' most losing season in recent memory, they decided to hang this line way up this week. If this game were in San Diego, with the home-field advantage flipped, the Chargers would be 12-point favorites.
Keep in mind, San Diego has only been a favorite in four of their 14 games this year, and they've only been favored by four points at most.
The pick: Cleveland +6
New York Jets vs. New England
Best home line: New England -16.5
Best away line: New York Jets +17
Off of an extra rest compared to their opponent, the New York Jets are 17-point underdogs against the New England Patriots this week. Of their 14 games this season, only five of them have come by more than 17 points, and only two of their last eight games have resulted them in losing by that much.
At the end of the day, New York is just an underdog by too many points for an NFL team. New England hasn't won by more than 17 points since Week 5 and Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's first games off of suspension.
No one wants to bet against the Patriots here, and Vegas doesn't lose money consistently.
The pick: New York Jets +17
Indianapolis vs. Oakland
Best home line: Oakland -3
Best away line: Indianapolis +4
The Oakland Raiders' fans took over in San Diego last week, so to award the Raiders just a three-point home-field advantage almost seems wrong. With that being said, this is only a three-point line at home in total.
How is this possible? The Oakland Raiders are 11-3, while the Indianapolis Colts are 7-7. These teams would be in a pick'em situation on a neutral field? There's no way.
If you put this line up weeks ago, it would have skyrocketed immediately. People seem to sour on the Raiders too much.
For example, per TeamRankings.com, the Raiders are 3-0 against the spread after losses, which you could go as far to say means the public lives and dies by this squad, similarly to their fans. With quarterback Derek Carr's health in the air and a narrow victory for the Chargers in the rear view, it makes sense as to why this line is so low, but that doesn't mean there's value in it for the Colts.
If this game is a shootout, and a field goal for a home team is a push, align yourself with that.
The pick: Oakland -3
Tampa Bay vs. New Orleans
Best home line: New Orleans -2.5
Best away line: Tampa Bay +3
In the last 10 weeks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only lost eight games in regulation, including last week's game against the top-seeded NFC team, the Dallas Cowboys. The Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints are only separated by two wins this season, but these two teams from a power-ranking standpoint are very different, with Tampa Bay coming ahead.
For whatever reason, though, this is a three-point line in favor of the Saints, meaning they are viewed as even teams when home-field advantage is taken into account. This is likely just an overreaction to the Saints winning last week against the Arizona Cardinals and the Buccaneers falling short to the Cowboys, despite the fact Dallas had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to win.
If the Cowboys had lost last week, this game is likely closer to a pick 'em than a three-point line. The public is overreacting to the difference of one score over a 60-minute game.
As a home favorite this year, the Saints are 1-4 against the spread, per TeamRankings.com. Only the Cardinals, who again lost last week to New Orleans in Arizona, have lost more games against the spread this year as home favorites.
The pick: Tampa Bay +3
Arizona vs. Seattle
Best home line: Seattle -7.5
Best away line: Arizona +9
The Arizona Cardinals are 5-8-1 this season. These are the scores of the Seattle Seahawks this season against teams with nine or more losses this season:
- 9-3 loss vs. the Los Angeles Rams
- 37-18 win vs. the San Francisco 49ers
- 27-17 win vs. the New York Jets
- 26-15 win vs. the Philadelphia Eagles
- 24-3 win vs. the Los Angeles Rams
Other than in Week 2 of the season, the Seattle Seahawks have been able to put teams like the Cardinals down by double-digits this season. The Seahawks also are 5-2 against the spread as home favorites this season, per TeamRankings.com.
On the road in 2016, the Cardinals are 1-5 against the spread, the worst mark in the NFL. These aren't the same teams who met for a 6-6 tie earlier this season in Arizona; Seattle has grown and improved.
The pick: Seattle -7.5
San Francisco vs. Los Angeles
Best home line: Los Angeles -3
Best away line: San Francisco +4
On top of being 1-13 heading into this week, the San Francisco 49ers are 2-11-1 against the spread, per TeamRankings.com. For reference, the winless Detroit Lions went 7-9 against the spread, so wins and losses don't totally correlate with a team's record against the spread.
The 49ers are a special kind of awful this season. In the last 13 games, they have covered just once. In the last 13 games, they have won zero games.
According to this three-point line, this would suggest the Los Angeles Rams are on the same level of this San Francisco team. The Rams are coming off of a Thursday night game, and they might have some energy provided in their first game with realistic probability of winning since Jeff Fisher was fired as the team's head coach.
The pick: Los Angeles -3
Cincinnati vs. Houston
Best home line: Houston PK
Best away line: Cincinnati +1.5
At home this season, the Houston Texans are 4-2-1 against the spread, per TeamRankings.com. That may not seem like much, but no NFL team has fewer losses against the spread at home this season than them.
On the other hand, the Cincinnati Bengals are 2-5 against the spread on the road, with only the Philadelphia Eagles posting more losses as a visiting team. Just based off of that alone, this is a good spot for the Texans.
When you take into account of the quarterback change, and the fact the team rallied around Tom Savage after a 13-0 deficit to come back and beat the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, it's be smart to put money on Houston.
The Texans have just one loss at home this season, while the Seattle Seahawks are the only squad undefeated on their home turf. Houston is also playing back-to-back home games.
The pick: Houston PK
Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh
Best home line: Pittsburgh -5
Best away line: Baltimore +5.5
At home this year, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 4-2 against the spread, per TeamRankings.com. They also have the second-best margin of victory against the spread at home and the third-best straight-up margin of victory at home.
One the road this year, the Baltimore Ravens are 1-5 against the spread. That's the lowest mark in the NFL.
There haven't been many chances for running back Le'Veon Bell and a healthy Ben Roethlisberger to meet up this season, but after five straight wins by a combined score of 127-70, they are starting to click. As we learned with the Green Bay Packers earlier this season, when a team starts to click, you want no part of siding against them in a less than six-point line.
The pick: Pittsburgh -5
Denver vs. Kansas City
Best home line: Kansas City -3
Best away line: Denver +3.5
The Kansas City Chiefs have won 20 of their last 24 regular season games. In those games, they have won by three or more points 19 times.
Be rational about this; the Chiefs win regular season games by three points on a weekly basis. At the same time, the Denver Broncos are struggling after scoring just 13 points over the last two weeks.
Kansas City might be the second-best team in the AFC after the New England Patriots. Denver might not get over .500 this year.
Someone needs to explain how this is an even game on a neutral field, which is what this point spread suggests.
The pick: Kansas City -3
Detroit vs. Dallas
Best home line: Dallas -7
Best away line: Detroit +8
Despite losing against the spread in the last few games since their Thanksgiving matchup with the Washington Redskins, the Dallas Cowboys are still 9-5 against the spread this season, the second-best mark in the NFL behind the New England Patriots, per TeamRankings.com.
Dallas also has the third-best margin of victory and the second-best margin of victory against the spread this season. On the other hand, the Detroit Lions are 3-4 against the spread on the road, and they have a middle of the pack margin of victory.
According to the Massey Rating, this line should be hung at 7.5 points, over the key number of seven. Having the potential to land on a key number like that for a push is an incredibly valuable option for this game.
With Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford banged up on a team that is really a pass-only squad, they should be deducted a few points, too.
The pick: Dallas -7
Locks of the Week
1) Minnesota vs. Green Bay -6.5
2) San Diego vs. Cleveland +6
3) New York Jets +17 vs. New England
4) Denver vs. Kansas City -3
5) Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh -5