Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 16 NFL Picks

NFL StaffContributor IDecember 20, 2018

Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 16 NFL Picks

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Now is when things get sort of tricky. Because not only do those predicting NFL results have to account for talent, momentum, injuries, weather conditions, chaos theory and 7,374 other factors, but now they're left considering whether certain teams or players will try hard. 

    Entering Week 16, 41 percent of the NFL has been eliminated from playoff contention. 

    Four of the league's 13 eliminated teams will play each other when the New York Jets host the Green Bay Packers and the Oakland Raiders host the Denver Broncos. Good luck with those. But it's also fair to wonder what out-of-contention teams like the Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals will have in them for matchups with teams that are still in contention. 

    The potential good news is that oddsmakers are just as much in the dark. This isn't really something you can measure. 

    We'll see if those dynamics help or hurt Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary DavenportBrad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski, who, after a tough Week 15, are a combined 326-328-18 against the spread with two weeks remaining. 

    Individually and as a crew, here's where our predictors stand through 15 weeks (last week's records in parentheses):

    1. Gary Davenport: 115-103-6 (7-9)

    2. Brad Gagnon: 106-112-6 (7-9)

    3. Brent Sobleski: 105-113-6 (6-10)

    Consensus picks: 107-111-6 (6-10)

    Here are 16 fresh shots at redemption. 


    Lines based on consensuses at OddsShark as of Wednesday.

Washington Redskins (7-7) at Tennessee Titans (8-6)

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    At least the week kicks off Saturday afternoon with two teams we all know won't hold back. The Washington Redskins and Tennessee Titans are both essentially in must-win situations as they fight for playoff spots in their respective conferences. 

    And yet the Titans are laying a full 10 points in what oddsmakers figure will be a defensive battle considering the 37-point total. 

    That spread feels a tad high to our analysts, especially because the banged-up Titans offense is averaging a tepid 20 points per game the last five weeks. 

    "Washington may be falling apart because of the injuries the roster sustained, but the now-Josh Johnson-led team continues to play hard," Sobleski said. "Jay Gruden's squad could have folded, especially after a 40-16 drubbing by the rival Giants. Instead, Washington responded with a hard-fought victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. This group may not have enough to win, but it's good enough to keep the game close against a non-explosive Tennessee Titans squad. In fact, Washington matches up well with its physical defensive front against Derrick Henry and Titans' mauling offensive line."

    And that line will continue to be without right tackle Jack Conklin, who suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this month, while guard Josh Kline battles a knee injury of his own. They're down to their third tight end, and there's no telling what they'll get from Henry and quarterback Marcus Mariota on a weekly basis. 

    With that in mind, it's just too risky to gamble on Tennessee beating a desperate team by a double-digit margin. 

    Davenport: Washington (+10)
    Gagnon: Washington (+10)
    Sobleski: Washington (+10)
    Consensus: Washington (+10)

    Score Prediction: Tennessee 21, Washington 17

Baltimore Ravens (8-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    The Saturday nighter also pits two motivated teams against each other as the Baltimore Ravens scratch and claw for a playoff spot while the Los Angeles Chargers vie for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. But in this case, the majority of our analysts can see the home favorite covering a less daunting 4.5-point spread in favor of Los Angeles. 

    "For me," Gagnon said, "this is about the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens offense turning back into a pumpkin. Baltimore has yet to lose in regulation in five Jackson starts, thanks to great defense, limited mistakes on offense and Jackson's impact as a runner. But that success isn't sustainable with the rookie, who has completed just 59 percent of his passes and has averaged just 6.6 yards per pass attempt.

    "This is amazing: Five NFL teams have surrendered more than 27.0 points per game this season, and those are the five teams Jackson has faced since taking over as Baltimore's starter in Week 11. He's yet to play a remotely decent defense, and now he'll face a top-10 unit on the road. Good luck with that."

    The Chargers have yet to surrender more than 41 yards on the ground to a quarterback this season, even though they've gone up against Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes (twice), Josh Allen, Marcus Mariota and Jeff Driskel. So Jackson just might hit a wall out in Carson, California. 

    That being said, Davenport's dissenting voice matters. He's the only member of our gang with a winning record this season, and those among this group who pick against the majority as lone wolves are 59-54-1 on the year.

    So let's give him the mic. 

    "Before all nine season-ticket holders at the StubHub Center break out the pitchforks and torches, hear me out," Davenport said. "I like the Chargers—they may well be playing the best all-around football of any team in the NFL 15 weeks in. They have talent on both sides of the ball, balance and an MVP candidate at quarterback. But the Ravens are built to keep games close. Baltimore has arguably the best defense in the league and a run game that can control tempo and the clock. Were I picking this straight up, I'd be on the Bolts. But after the emotional roller coaster in KC, I don't trust them to cover here. As a matter of fact, I'd feel better about Los Angeles -1.5 in Baltimore, because Chargers."

    Three of Baltimore's six losses have indeed come in overtime or by a single point, while all three Chargers losses have come in Los Angeles (one technically on the road against the Rams). So exercise caution here.

    Davenport: Baltimore (+4.5)
    Gagnon: Los Angeles (-4.5)
    Sobleski: Los Angeles (-4.5)
    Consensus: Los Angeles (-4.5)

    Score Prediction: Los Angeles 26, Baltimore 20

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9) at Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers shocked the NFL world with a 48-point offensive onsalught in a Week 1 victory over the mighty Saints in New Orleans. 

    They haven't won a road game since. And they've lost three of those six away games by at least eight points. So while it's hard to be filled with confidence in the Dallas Cowboys following their shutout road loss to the Indianapolis Colts, our experts are still unanimously siding with Dallas minus a touchdown. 

    "The Bucs are 1-6 on the road, and the Cowboys are 6-1 at home," Gagnon noted. "The once-unstoppable Tampa Bay offense has run out of gas with just 26 points in its last two outings, and the yo-yo nature of this league says Dallas bounces back from that Indy fiasco with a strong performance at home."

    It's that simple, especially when you consider the matchup for Dallas. Quarterback Dak Prescott has struggled, but the Cowboys should be able to ride the NFL's leading rusher, Ezekiel Elliott, against a run defense that has surrendered a league-high 1,373 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns since Week 7. 

    This could be a blowout, which should make it easy to spot the Bucs a mere seven points.

    Davenport: Dallas (-7)
    Gagnon: Dallas (-7)
    Sobleski: Dallas (-7)
    Consensus: Dallas (-7)

    Score Prediction: Dallas 28, Tampa Bay 17

New York Giants (5-9) at Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    That "yo-yo nature of this league" Gagnon touched on? That's gotta be a factor in why the majority of our experts are taking the underdog New York Giants to cover a nine-point spread against the Colts on Sunday in Indianapolis. 

    After all, the Giants are coming off a horrendous loss, while the Colts are coming off an impressive win. 

    "This pick makes my head hurt," Davenport admitted. "The Colts just skunked a red-hot Cowboys team 23-0, while the Giants were similarly shut out in a 17-point loss to the Titans at home. The Colts are fighting for their postseason lives, while the Giants are jockeying for draft position. But I'm doing it anyway, because this spread's just too big. Saquon Barkley isn't going to vanish two games in a row. Odell Beckham Jr. could be back, fresh off being snubbed for the Pro Bowl. And the Giants haven't lost on the road this season by more than a touchdown. Anyone have some Advil?"

    That last point—the one before the request for headache relief—is important. The Giants failed to show up in Week 15, and it's fair for lone wolf Gagnon to wonder if that means they're prepared to phone in the rest of December, but it's also possible that was an anomaly for a team that had won four of five games since its Week 9 bye and has played well on the road all year.

    Considering you're getting more than a touchdown, the Giants seem like a safe bet.

    Davenport: New York (+9)
    Gagnon: Indianapolis (-9)
    Sobleski: New York (+9)
    Consensus: New York (+9)

    Score Prediction: Indianapolis 24, New York 20

Houston Texans (10-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Historical statistics don't usually have much bearing on isolated head-to-head matchups between teams from separate conferences, but did you know an NFL team from Houston has never beaten the Philadelphia Eagles? 

    The Oilers lost all six of their games against Philly, while the Houston Texans are 0-4 when facing the Eagles. And the majority of our panelists predict that streak will be extended Sunday, with the suddenly energized Eagles laying 2.5 points in a must-win home game against the Texans. 

    "The Eagles are well on their way to becoming the most fascinating team in the NFL over these last two games after they stunned the Rams last week in Los Angeles," Davenport said. "I expect the story to become all the more compelling after the Eagles handle the Texans. Philly's strength is getting after the quarterback—which just so happens to be Houston's biggest weakness. Throw in a team with their ring-wearing backs against the wall and the jolt said team got from Nick Foles (again—figure THAT out), and there's a reason this line is moving in a direction no one would have considered two weeks ago."

    Indeed, Houston opened as a 3.5-point favorite, but the Eagles are riding a wave, and this is a favorable matchup for Philadelphia—both historically and immediately. Not only should Jim Schwartz's defensive front be able to bully Houston's vulnerable offensive line, but the 26th-ranked Texans pass defense also could have trouble with the red-hot Foles and his deep group of targets.  

    Throw in the injury to Texans running back Lamar Miller, and the Eagles look like the pick with less than a field goal to worry about. 

    Davenport: Philadelphia (-2.5)
    Gagnon: Philadelphia (-2.5)
    Sobleski: Houston (+2.5)
    Consensus: Philadelphia (-2.5)

    Score Prediction: Philadelphia 26, Houston 23

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10) at Miami Dolphins (7-7)

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The Jacksonville Jaguars have covered an AFC-low four spreads this season, and now they're getting only four points on the road against a hungry Miami Dolphins team. This despite the fact they're coming off back-to-back humiliating losses, the second of which led to another round of factious comments from cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

    How could anybody bet on the Jags right now? 

    "The Dolphins aren't good, but they may be less bad than the Jaguars right now," Sobleski said. "Miami is one miracle play from losing four of its last five. However, Jacksonville is falling apart with nine losses over its last 10. The team thought benching quarterback Blake Bortles was its best approach—and it may be over the long haulbut Cody Kessler isn't any better. The third-year signal-caller is averaging a pathetic 5.3 yards per attempt with one touchdown pass in three games as a starter."

    Defensively, Jacksonville's problems have come when trying to defend the run (Derrick Henry is still running), which might not bode well considering the fact rookie Dolphins back Kalen Ballage is coming off a breakout performance in Minnesota. 

    More broadly, the Jags might be thinking about the offseason, but the Dolphins still have playoff hope. And they're 6-1 at home this season, while the Jaguars are 1-5 on the road. Surely you'd prefer to be laying a field goal or less (and it might not hurt to buy a point back if that's possible), but Miami is the pick in this spot.

    Davenport: Miami (-4)
    Gagnon: Miami (-4)
    Sobleski: Miami (-4)
    Consensus: Miami (-4)

    Score Prediction: Miami 23, Jacksonville 16

Green Bay Packers (5-8-1) at New York Jets (4-10)

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    Steven Ryan/Getty Images

    Imagine if we told you back in August that in Week 16, the New York Jets—featuring league interception leader Sam Darnold—would be favored to beat the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers. We'd have all had a good laugh.

    And yet two of our three analysts were backing Gang freakin' Green as a one-point fave Sunday at MetLife Stadium—at least until word broke that Rodgers would play and the line swung. 

    Now, the Packers are favored by a field goal, but Davenport and Gagnon are still on the Jets. 

    "I don't figure the Packers will have a lot left in them now that they're officially eliminated, and Rodgers hasn't been himself anyway," Gagnon said. "Rodgers and the Packers haven't been a good team all year anyway, while the Jets are surprisingly playing hard for Todd Bowles. They've long been out of contention, but they've got little to lose, and they've played well throughout the month of December." 

    Yeah, the Jets nearly beat the Titans on the road in Week 13, came up clutch in a Week 14 road victory over the Bills and put together a hell of an effort last Saturday against the Texans. Darnold is tied for the NFL lead in picks, but he's turned the ball over just once while completing 65 percent of his passes since returning from a foot injury in Week 14.

    "Look for Darnold to have another nice day against a pass defense that ranks 24th in the NFL in terms of DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) at Football Outsiders," Gagnon added. "And don't forget that the Packers are 0-7 on the road this season."

    Davenport: New York (+3)
    Gagnon: New York (+3)
    Sobleski: Green Bay (-3)
    Consensus: New York (+3)

    Score Prediction: New York 23, Green Bay 21

Cincinnati Bengals (6-8) at Cleveland Browns (6-7-1)

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    At the very least, the Cleveland Browns are laying the foundation for a huge 2019 season. And it would be fitting for a team that has lost just once since Week 9 to make one last statement in front of its fans in its final home game of 2018. 

    Our analysts agree that'll happen Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, backing the Browns unanimously even though they're laying nine points for the first time in more than a decade.

    "The Browns are making NFL history by the week," Davenport said. "In the Super Bowl era, the best a winless team in a non-strike year has ever done the following season is two wins. Cleveland has tripled that number with two to play. John Dorsey should absolutely be the NFL's Executive of the Year (and get a cameo in the next Mission: Impossible movie). Gregg Williams is making a strong case to be named the team's permanent head coach, and Baker Mayfield is making every person who said he wasn't the best quarterback in the class of 2018 (including me) eat crow on a weekly basis.

    "Not only is this team going to win the home finale in a rout, but the Browns are also going to go to Baltimore in Week 17 and ruin the Ravens' season."

    For now, we'll focus on Sunday's matchup with the Bengals. And yes, you're allowed to be daunted by that big spread. The Browns have won by nine-plus points in just two of their last 49 games, but one of those came just four weeks ago. On the road. Against the Bengals. 

    At one point, Cleveland led that game 28-0. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton started but did not finish that game and is now out for the season, along with top receiver A.J. Green. Despite their Week 15 home victory over the Raiders, the Bengals appear to be headed in the wrong direction. They don't look to have the playmaking ability on defense to take advantage of Cleveland's inexperience on offense, and they don't have the weapons on offense to overcome surging young Browns defenders Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers.

    So grab the Browns before this moves into the double digits.

    Davenport: Cleveland (-9)
    Gagnon: Cleveland (-9)
    Sobleski: Cleveland (-9)
    Consensus: Cleveland (-9)

    Score Prediction: Cleveland 27, Cincinnati 14

Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1) at Detroit Lions (5-9)

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    The Detroit Lions are down and out. They've been officially eliminated from playoff contention, they're coming off an ugly loss to the Bills, and running back Kerryon Johnson—one of the few bright spots for the Lions this season—has been placed on injured reserve. 

    So it wasn't hard for our analysts to get behind the Minnesota Vikings for Sunday's matchup between the NFC North rivals, especially considering the jolt the Vikings appeared to get last week from an offensive coordinator change.

    "That obviously played into the team's favor during Kevin Stefanski's first game calling the plays," Sobleski noted. "Minnesota scored 41 points and showed far better balance with 220 rushing yards compared to 198 yards through the air. No team can keep that kind of pace running the football. However, the threat of doing so instead of constantly dropping Kirk Cousins back to pass makes the Vikings far more dangerous."

    Minnesota wasn't lacking that balance when it easily beat the Lions (who had Johnson) 24-9 at home last month, and there's little reason to believe they can't spot Detroit 5.5 points and still easily cover on Sunday. 

    "Detroit is putting too much on Matthew Stafford's shoulders," Gagnon said, "and the Vikings pass defense has just steamrolled Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill the last two weeks. There's no reason to expect a different outcome here."

    The Vikings scored 30 points in a victory at Ford Field last year, and with a playoff spot up for grabs, they might be the only inspired team when the two meet there in Week 16. 

    Davenport: Minnesota (-5.5)
    Gagnon: Minnesota (-5.5)
    Sobleski: Minnesota (-5.5)
    Consensus: Minnesota (-5.5)

    Score Prediction: Minnesota 27, Detroit 16

Buffalo Bills (5-9) at New England Patriots (9-5)

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Are the New England Patriots mortal? Sure feels like it based on recent results, but that doesn't mean they can't still send a message with a blowout victory. And our experts agree unanimously that the out-of-contention Buffalo Bills will be in the wrong place at the wrong time when they face the struggling, frustrated Pats on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. 

    "There's no way," Sobleski said, "Bill Belichick allows a rookie quarterback, who is far more adept running the ball at this point in his career, come into Foxborough and win a meaningful late-season contest, especially after the Patriots lost their previous two outings. This game has the feel of an elite team ready to demolish an opponent to get back on track."

    That rookie quarterback is Josh Allen, who has over 500 rushing yards but has completed just 52.2 percent of his passes and has six touchdown throws to nine interceptions. Allen is the league's lowest-rated qualified passer. Meanwhile, the Patriots are a perfect 9-0 in home games against rookie quarterbacks in the Bill Belichick era, and their sometimes-maligned defense has actually picked it up of late.

    They've surrendered just 18.7 points per game since Week 8, which is the fifth-best average in the NFL. 

    They're also 31-4 in head-to-head matchups with the Bills this century, with each of the last four victories coming by at least 16 points. Tom Brady wasn't their primary quarterback in two of those four losses, and the other two didn't take place in Foxborough. 

    Last time the Bills beat the Patriots in New England with Brady serving as the Pats' primary quarterback? Never. It hasn't happened in 14 tries. 

    That's unlikely to change here, and 13 points may not be enough. 

    Editor's Note: Line was set before Josh Gordon suspension news.


    Davenport: New England (-13)
    Gagnon: New England (-13)
    Sobleski: New England (-13)
    Consensus: New England (-13)

    Score Prediction: New England 31, Buffalo 14

Atlanta Falcons (5-9) at Carolina Panthers (6-8)

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Technically, Sunday's tilt between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers is not a game in which neither team has something to play for. Technically, the only game on Sunday with that distinction is Packers-Jets. But this matchup actually feels less meaningful than that one, which at least contains a hungry young Jets team. 

    The Panthers might still be alive, but the plug is half out of the socket. They've lost six straight, Cam Newton has been shut down, and FiveThirtyEight gives them less than a 1 percent chance at making the playoffs. 

    For some reason, they're still only a small underdog. But all of our panelists are on board with that. 

    "Carolina is a good home team," Gagnon said, "but the Panthers probably have nothing left sans Newton on short rest. Their season ended in that tough loss to the New Orleans Saints, while at least the Falcons are over that feeling. They played surprisingly well in a Week 15 blowout victory over the Arizona Cardinals, and they're simply the better team right now."

    If the Atlanta defense was able to have a field day against Josh Rosen, it sure as hell could provide an encore performance against Taylor Heinicke—an undrafted 25-year-old with five career pass attempts. 

    All of that being said, this is one of those late-season divisional games between two lost teams that you might be better off avoiding. After all, the Falcons have covered just four spreads this season.

    Davenport: Atlanta (-3.5)
    Gagnon: Atlanta (-3.5)
    Sobleski: Atlanta (-3.5)
    Consensus: Atlanta (-3.5)

    Score Prediction: Atlanta 23, Carolina 17

Chicago Bears (10-4) at San Francisco 49ers (4-10)

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    The San Francisco 49ers are 3-1 in their last four home games, with that lone loss coming by just four points. And the most recent two wins came over playoff contenders Denver (at the time) and Seattle, with quarterback Nick Mullens posting triple-digit passer ratings in both of those outings. 

    That's not enough to convince the majority of our experts that San Francisco can hang within four points of the fired-up Chicago Bears on Sunday in the Bay Area.

    "I get the logic behind taking the 49ers here," Davenport said. "A home 'dog getting over a field goal with one of the best head coaches in the NFL coming off upsets over the Broncos and Seahawks in their last two in Santa Clara. But the Bears still have plenty to play for despite already wrapping up the NFC North—one Rams loss is all that's standing between them and the No. 2 seed in the NFC. If this Chicago team is the legit Super Bowl contender it imagines itself to be, covering a four-point spread on the road against an injury-ravaged tomato can shouldn't be all that hard."

    But in Gagnon's defense, the Bears lost in Miami in October and in New Jersey to the Giants earlier this month. That doesn't mean they'll fall to the 49ers, but the location matters, and this is a big road trip following an emotional division-clinching victory over their No. 1 rival. Throw in the possibility of a backdoor cover with this spread above a field goal, and it's easy to understand why you might think twice on this one. 

    Davenport: Chicago (-4)
    Gagnon: San Francisco (+4)
    Sobleski: Chicago (-4)
    Consensus: Chicago (-4)

    Score Prediction: Chicago 26, San Francisco 20

Los Angeles Rams (11-3) at Arizona Cardinals (3-11)

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Six of the last seven NFL teams to be favored by 14-plus points on the road failed to cover the spread, including the Kansas City Chiefs in Oakland earlier this month. But our experts are unanimously backing the Los Angeles Rams as a 14-point fave over the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, mainly because the Rams have feasted on particularly weak opponents in 2018. 

    "It's concerning that the Rams have failed to cover in six of their last seven games," Gagnon said, "and that huge road favorites haven't had a lot of success against the spread this decade. But the one thing the Rams have done consistently well this year is beat up on bad opponents. In their four games this season against teams that are currently 5-9 or worse, they outscored the competition 136-39, with all four wins coming by at least two touchdowns."

    One of those victories came by a 34-0 margin against these very same Cardinals, who are indeed weak following a 14-point loss to the struggling Lions and a 26-point defeat at the hands of the free-falling Falcons. They've lost five games by more than 17 points this season, which is something that has happened to only two other teams more than three times. 

    So don't let the game site throw you off here. The backdoor is always a possibility, especially on the road, but an angry Rams team isn't likely to let up now that the pressure is high following a shocking Week 15 loss to the Eagles. 

    Davenport: Los Angeles (-14)
    Gagnon: Los Angeles (-14)
    Sobleski: Los Angeles (-14)
    Consensus: Los Angeles (-14)

    Score Prediction: Los Angeles 34, Arizona 13

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) at New Orleans Saints (12-2)

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers might have saved their season with a Week 15 home victory over the Patriots, but they face an entirely different challenge with a Week 16 trip to the Superdome. The New Orleans Saints have won their last four games at home by at least 10 points each, and our experts unanimously agree that they'll win big in order to clinch the NFC's No. 1 seed. 

    "Selections don't have to be complicated," Sobleski said. "The Saints are a better team at home, and the Steelers tend to struggle on the road. Could it really be that simple? Yes. New Orleans has scored 31 or more points in all but one home game this season. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has lost its last two road contests to the Broncos and the hapless Oakland Raiders. Plus, it'll be difficult for the Steelers to maintain the same level of intensity they had this past Sunday against the Patriots."

    While Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels performed well in place of James Conner against the Pats, he struggled on the road against the Raiders a week earlier. Now it looks as though the Steelers will again be without Conner in a matchup with the NFL's top-rated run defense. 

    In fact, the Saints defense has been the league's best in many key areas since Week 10, including points per game allowed and takeaways

    This feels like a bounce-back game for both teams, and it's surprising the Steelers aren't getting a touchdown or more. 

    Davenport: New Orleans (-5.5)
    Gagnon: New Orleans (-5.5)
    Sobleski: New Orleans (-5.5)
    Consensus: New Orleans (-5.5)

    Score Prediction: New Orleans 31, Pittsburgh 20

Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) at Seattle Seahawks (8-6)

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    When the Kansas City Chiefs wake up Sunday morning in Seattle, they'll either be the No. 1 seed in the AFC or the No. 5 seed in the AFC. That could theoretically alter the approach they take Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks, but nothing will be clinched either way, and two of our three analysts still aren't willing to lay 2.5 points with KC. 

    "It's become increasingly hard to buy that this is the Chiefs' year," Gagnon said. "They just haven't been the same team with Kareem Hunt gone, Sammy Watkins out and Tyreek Hill hobbled, and they haven't played a completely strong game in well over a month. They struggled on the road in Denver, Los Angeles (at least defensively against the Rams) and Oakland, and if you can't beat the Rams or New England on the road, you're likely going to have trouble with the Seahawks. After all, Seattle is one of the best home teams in the NFL, and it needs a win even more than the Chiefs do."

    Indeed, the Seahawks have the NFC's best road record since drafting Russell Wilson in 2012, and they've won three in a row at CenturyLink Field by a combined 44 points. And indeed, they need this game, probably more so than Kansas City, who will make the playoffs regardless. The Seahawks are jockeying for position in a wild-card race with Minnesota, Philadelphia and Washington, two of whom are favored this weekend. 

    They're a veteran team that has been here, done this. They've gained steam since starting 0-2, while the Chiefs are just 2-2 in their last four games—a stretch during which they've surrendered 35.0 points per outing. 

    "Look for Kansas City's league-worst run defense in terms of DVOA to struggle against Seattle's rejuvenated running game," Gagnon added, "which should allow the down-but-rarely-out Wilson to bounce back with a big game in a big spot." 

    Davenport: Seattle (+2.5)
    Gagnon: Seattle (+2.5)
    Sobleski: Kansas City (-2.5)
    Consensus: Seattle (+2.5)

    Score Prediction: Seattle 28, Kansas City 26

Denver Broncos (6-8) at Oakland Raiders (3-11)

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The NFL may have incidentally saved the worst for last on the penultimate weekend of the 2018 regular season, but they all count to the same degree when you're picking 256 games against the spread. So while we'd strongly recommend you focus on the many games that matter on Dec. 23 instead of the one that doesn't on Christmas Eve, the majority of our experts are siding with the slight road favorite in a Monday Night Football matchup between the eliminated Denver Broncos and the very eliminated Oakland Raiders in the Bay Area.

    "Last week I made the decision to think good thoughts about this Raiders team," Davenport said. "I'm still trying to clean the wrong from my earholes after watching them get smoked by Jeff Driskel and the Bengals—which sounds like the name of a bad house band at a Ramada Inn lounge that plays nothing but Hootie and the Blowfish covers.

    "Denver isn't good, but the Raiders are so much worse, especially defensively. Broncos rookie Bradley Chubb has as many sacks by himself as the Raiders have as a team. I'm surprised Oakland isn't also suing for damages related to the emotional trauma caused to every fan who has to watch the team play. I want my $12.50 back for the Q-tips."

    But this is where we remind you, for Gagnon's lone-wolf sake, that the Raiders have the better quarterback on paper and the healthier roster (at least considering Denver's recent losses), and that they went toe-to-toe with the Chiefs and Steelers in their last two home games. 

    Will they be inspired to grab a W over their biggest rival in what might be the last-ever Raiders game at Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum? It's possible. But considering they just lost by 14 points in Cincinnati just two weeks after Denver won by 14 points in Cincinnati, it's easy to see why Davenport and Sobleski are on the other side. 

    It's also easy to see why this one isn't worth spending any part of your Christmas bonus on, even if it's a one-year membership to the Jelly of the Month Club.

    Davenport: Denver (-2.5)
    Gagnon: Oakland (+2.5)
    Sobleski: Denver (-2.5)
    Consensus: Denver (-2.5)

    Score Prediction: Denver 24, Oakland 20


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