Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 16 NFL Picks
Whether you want to ride Gagnon's hot streak by following his guidance against the spread or fade a crew that has struggled lately with the difficult task of picking every single game against the spread, the gang has—for your perusal—picks and analysis for all 16 games scheduled for the penultimate week of the 2020 regular season.
Here's how the group has fared overall:
1. Gagnon: 112-107-5 (8-6-2 last week)
2. Miller: 106-107-5 (7-7-2 last week)
3. Sobleski: 108-111-5 (6-8-2 last week)
4. Tesfatsion: 102-110-5 (6-7-2 last week)
5. Davenport: 105-114-5 (5-9-2 last week)
6. Kahler: 102-115-5 (5-9-2 last week)
Consensus picks: 90-97-4 (4-7-2 last week)
And here are 16 fresh takes for Week 16.
Minnesota Vikings (6-8) at New Orleans Saints (10-4)
DraftKings Line: New Orleans -7
The New Orleans Saints are coming off a rough performance against the Kansas City Chiefs, but quarterback Drew Brees was returning from a significant rib injury in Week 15. He's likely to be better acclimated for Friday's matchup with the down-and-out Minnesota Vikings at the Superdome, and the majority of our panelists are willing to spot the Saints a touchdown in that spot.
"I don't feel good about Minnesota's morale following a season-destroying loss to the Chicago Bears," Gagnon said. "Now they have to go up against the No. 2-rated D in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average at Football Outsiders).
"When the Saints suffered a rare late-season loss last December, they bounced back with a 34-7 blowout over the Indianapolis Colts. This might have a similar feel."
But Sobleski isn't convinced, which is fair considering Brees' struggles against K.C. We lack a unanimous decision.
Davenport: New Orleans
Gagnon: New Orleans
Kahler: New Orleans
Consensus: New Orleans -7
Score Prediction: Saints 31, Vikings 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) at Detroit Lions (5-9)
DraftKings Line: Tampa Bay -9.5
The only split decision Saturday afternoon comes in the Motor City, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are laying 9.5 points against a Detroit Lions squad that is tough to gauge considering the health of its quarterback.
Gagnon on the Lions: "With the NFC South title still up for grabs, a Bucs team that already has six double-digit-point victories this season theoretically should be able to hammer the eliminated Lions with Matthew Stafford and Kenny Golladay both either out or far from 100 percent. But Stafford performed shockingly well in a similar state last week, and the Bucs keep starting slow. I think the Lions find a way to put up a fight for their battling quarterback at home."
Davenport on the Bucs: "This is a big spread to lay on the road, especially with a Tampa team that is consistent about being inconsistent. But the fighting Tom Bradys don't have much margin for error in the playoff chase, and Tampa should be able to both move the ball with relative ease and get plenty of pressure on a banged-up Stafford. The back door is open for the Lions here, but it's just as likely that the Buccaneers blow them out."
But throw in injuries to Bucs defensive backs Carlton Davis III and Antoine Winfield Jr., and this game feels like one to avoid.
Davenport: Tampa Bay
Kahler: Tampa Bay
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 31, Lions 21
San Francisco 49ers (5-9) at Arizona Cardinals (8-6)
DraftKings Line: Arizona -5
The San Francisco 49ers appear to have the Los Angeles Rams' number, but all of their non-Rams opponents since Week 8 have defeated them by at least eight points.
Our predictors don't expect that to change with the Niners going up against the Arizona Cardinals on the road in Week 16, especially considering how much Arizona has on the line. The entire crew is backing the Cards minus a handful of points.
"The 49ers are down to third-string quarterback C.J. Beathard, and they recently signed Josh Rosen just so they had enough bodies at the position," Sobleski said. "The Cardinals, meanwhile, are vying for a postseason berth. Kyle Shanahan might be a great coach, but the Cardinals have more on the line and have a far superior quarterback behind center."
The Cardinals have been somewhat vulnerable on the ground (that was a major soft spot during their recent three-game losing streak), but the 49ers could have trouble exploiting that after they shut down top back Raheem Mostert for the season.
Lay the points.
Consensus: Arizona -5
Score Prediction: Cardinals 28, 49ers 17
Miami Dolphins (9-5) at Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)
DraftKings Line: Miami -3
The Miami Dolphins have something to play for Saturday night against the Las Vegas Raiders in Nevada, while the Raiders' playoff hopes are likely shot after their tough Week 15 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Throw in that Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is dealing with a groin injury ahead of a matchup with the league's top-rated scoring defense, and the majority of our experts are wondering why the Dolphins are only laying a field goal against a slumping team in an empty stadium.
"This is simply a matter of the Dolphins being the better team," Davenport said. "If former New York Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams wasn't an idiot, the Raiders would be mired in a five-game losing streak, and now Carr is hurt. The Dolphins aren't a powerhouse on offense, but the return of running back Myles Gaskin will help. Miami is also one of the best-coached teams in the NFL. I'll lay the field goal on the road with a Dolphins squad eyeing a trip to the playoffs."
Still not convinced? The Miami running game exploded with Salvon Ahmed and Matt Breida compiling a combined 208 yards on the ground last week against the New England Patriots, while the Raiders have the second-worst run defense in football when it comes to DVOA.
Sobleski: Las Vegas
Consensus: Miami -3
Score Prediction: Dolphins 27, Raiders 21
Atlanta Falcons (4-10) at Kansas City Chiefs (13-1)
DraftKings Line: Kansas City -10.5
The Kansas City Chiefs haven't won a game by more than a one-score margin since Week 8, but our correspondents believe they're finally due to win in convincing fashion at home Sunday against the 4-10 Atlanta Falcons.
The entire gang is taking Kansas City as a 10.5-point fave at Arrowhead.
"At this point, there's no reason to believe in the Falcons at all," Sobleski said. "Sure, they can put up points and look like they can win games... until they don't. The Chiefs can secure the AFC's No. 1 overall playoff seed, a first-round bye and much-needed rest in Week 17 by winning this game. Bet on Patrick Mahomes and Co. to come out flying high and put this one away early."
The Falcons haven't lost a game by more than five points since Week 11, but their three one-sided defeats this season have come against current division leaders New Orleans, the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.
Don't be surprised if the Chiefs are next, especially with center Alex Mack joining receiver Julio Jones on the injury report this week.
Davenport: Kansas City
Gagnon: Kansas City
Kahler: Kansas City
Sobleski: Kansas City
Consensus: Kansas City -10.5
Score Prediction: Chiefs 37, Falcons 20
Cleveland Browns (10-4) at New York Jets (1-13)
DraftKings Line: Cleveland -9.5
"Last week, the Rams awoke the sleeping giant that is the New York Jets. Now that the Jetsernaut has been unleashed, Gang Green cannot be stopped," Davenport said, tongue in cheek. "Sure, the Cleveland Browns are a 10-4 team that now has a legitimate chance to win the AFC North, but that pales in the face of the cosmic phenomenon that is the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go enjoy an 11th serving of high-octane eggnog."
Davenport is clowning, but the majority of his colleagues are joining him on the Jets train with 9.5 points in their back pocket Sunday at home against Cleveland.
The Jets aren't good, but they hang. They've covered the spread in three of their last four home games, and their eighth-ranked run defense in DVOA might match up well with a Browns offense that relies heavily on Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield.
It's also possible the Jets come back to earth after winning their Super Bowl last week against the Rams, but their incentive to lose is no longer there, and the backdoor cover is worth consideration as well.
Davenport: New York
Kahler: New York
Sobleski: New York
Consensus: New York +9.5
Score Prediction: Browns 27, Jets 20
New York Giants (5-9) at Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
DraftKings Line: Baltimore -11
The Baltimore Ravens haven't been right for much of this season, but they're still the only team in the NFL that has won half of its games by 14-plus points. Against a New York Giants team that made a second-half charge but now appears to be low on gas, the entire gang is willing to lay 11 points with Baltimore at home for a critical game Sunday.
"The Cardinals and Browns just beat the Giants in New York by 19 and 14 points, respectively," Gagnon said. "With quarterback Daniel Jones an injury question mark, the G-Men have to travel to Baltimore and deal with a Ravens squad that has averaged 40.3 points per game over the course of a three-game winning streak.
"The Ravens simply take care of business against bad teams. The Giants are a bad team right now, and they're in the wrong place at the wrong time."
No disagreement from the staff.
Consensus: Baltimore -11
Score Prediction: Ravens 31, Giants 14
Chicago Bears (7-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-13)
DraftKings Line: Chicago -7.5
The Jacksonville Jaguars insist they're trying to win games even though they're now positioned to land the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, but they have lost back-to-back games by 21-plus points each, and they're unlikely to put up much of a fight against the rejuvenated Chicago Bears on Sunday in Duval County.
Everyone on this panel is willing to lay a touchdown and a hook with Chicago.
"While no one should believe in Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky just yet, his play in recent weeks has been legitimately good," Sobleski said. "It doesn't mean he's the long-term answer at quarterback for Chicago, but he's no longer a hindrance. As such, the Bears are in the thick of the playoff hunt and sit one game behind the Cardinals for the final NFC seed.
"The Jaguars won't be much resistance on their way to next year's No. 1 overall draft pick."
Trubisky has a 112.7 passer rating in his last three starts, and now he and suddenly dominant running back David Montgomery will get to show off against the AFC's worst defense in terms of DVOA. Meanwhile, the Jags don't even know who they'll be starting at quarterback, and they might not have star running back James Robinson because of an ankle injury.
Consensus: Chicago -7.5
Score Prediction: Bears 30, Jaguars 16
Cincinnati Bengals (3-10-1) at Houston Texans (4-10)
DraftKings Line: Houston -8.5
"The world is filled with unexplained phenomena," Davenport said. "There's the Easter Island statues. Stonehenge. And the Cincinnati Bengals beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15.
"Kidding aside, the Bengals may have happened on a recipe last week that will allow them to at least hang with the Houston Texans on Sunday: pound the ball against Houston's atrocious run defense and keep it out of Deshaun Watson's hands."
That Texans run D ranks 29th in DVOA, and Houston has won only two games by more than a single score this season. Meanwhile, the Bengals have little to lose following an inspiring victory in Pittsburgh. And yet the Texans are favored by 8.5 points? That doesn't sit right with the majority of our pickers.
"I don't know that the Bengals will win here," Davenport added. "I do know that it's in their best long-term interests not to. But I'm not laying that big a spread with these Texans."
With that being said, this isn't unanimous. After all, there's no telling what the Bengals will have left in them after that potentially draining effort Monday night in Pittsburgh.
Consensus: Cincinnati +8.5
Score Prediction: Texans 24, Bengals 21
Indianapolis Colts (10-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3)
DraftKings Line: Indianapolis -2
This line has shifted dramatically.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were favored to beat the Indianapolis Colts before they laid an egg against the Bengals on Monday Night Football. Now, they're an underdog at home.
Value can often be found in those on the other end of dramatic line shifts, but the majority of the crew just can't get behind the Steelers right now.
"The Steelers haven't just lost three consecutive games," Gagnon said. "They've lost all three by at least six points and the last two by double-digit margins. In the second half against the Washington Football Team, the second half against the Buffalo Bills and the first half against Cincinnati, they didn't remotely look like an NFL-caliber team.
"And while they could certainly recover, it isn't as though this is about one issue that requires fixing. Ben Roethlisberger looks beat, his receivers lack focus and stability, the offense isn't balanced and the defense is a shell of its former self without Bud Dupree and Devin Bush. That'll make it difficult to rebound against a Colts team that is playing well, so I'll lay the two measly points."
Roethlisberger has a 77.5 passer rating since Week 11, and now he'll have to face the league's sixth-best defense in terms of DVOA. The Colts have won five of their last six games and have generated 11 takeaways since Week 11.
These teams just don't appear to be on the same level.
Consensus: Indianapolis -2
Score Prediction: Colts 24, Steelers 20
Carolina Panthers (4-10) at Washington Football Team (6-8)
DraftKings Line: Washington -2.5
In his new home against his former team, Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera should be inspired to potentially lock up the NFC East title with an emphatic victory. And yet they're favored by less than three points against a Carolina Panthers team that has won only one game since the middle of October.
The majority of our experts are happy to lay those 2.5 points.
"So much rests on Alex Smith's strained calf muscle," Sobleski said. "As of now, the veteran could play. If he doesn't, it changes the entire complexion of Sunday's game. However, Teddy Bridgewater has gotten sacked seven times over his last two contests, and Washington's defensive front can certainly get after opposing quarterbacks to tilt the game in its favor."
Smith's injury is worth consideration. He couldn't suit up in Week 15, and Washington scored only 15 points with Dwayne Haskins Jr. running the offense. Haskins threw two picks and was sacked four times against the Seattle Seahawks. If Smith is ruled out, this line could swing closer to the pick'em range.
With that in mind, it's appropriate that this isn't a clean sweep.
Consensus: Washington -2.5
Score Prediction: Washington 24, Carolina 20
Denver Broncos (5-9) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-9)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -3
This is the second game of the week with no playoff implications for either side. It's also a divisional game involving the never-reliable Los Angeles Chargers, so tread carefully.
The good news is that there's a little less risk involved when the home team is simply laying three points. The push could be your pal if things go wrong.
With that being the case, the entire gang is backing a Chargers team that certainly has a talent advantage over the Denver Broncos.
"The Chargers appear to have found their quarterback of the future in Justin Herbert," Davenport said. "In Drew Lock, the Broncos found another quarterback that leads one to wonder if John Elway knows how to evaluate quarterbacks. That's the difference here. Denver should be able to run on the Bolts, but I have zero confidence in Lock's ability to lead a game-winning drive. There are going to be approximately 137 stories in the offseason connecting the Broncos to guys like Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford—and that's just the ones I'm going to write."
He's right that the Broncos running game could keep it close against a run D that ranks 26th in DVOA, but Lock is one of the league's lowest-rated passers, and it's hard to envision him putting Denver over the top.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Gagnon: Los Angeles
Kahler: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Consensus: Los Angeles -3
Score Prediction: Chargers 28, Broncos 20
Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1) at Dallas Cowboys (5-9)
DraftKings Line: Philadelphia -2
Both the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys have something to play for Sunday in Texas, and Dallas is coming off a win whereas Philadelphia is fresh off a loss. But it still feels as though these teams are headed in opposite directions, which might explain why the entire crew is laying two points with the road team.
"Although the Cowboys have a better record than the Eagles," Gagnon said, "their three wins since mid-October have come against the Vikings, Bengals and 49ers. Let's not get carried away. Meanwhile, the Eagles just went toe-to-toe with the Saints and Cardinals in back-to-back weeks. Philly looks energized with Jalen Hurts at quarterback and is simply healthier and more talented than Dallas.
"Hurts and Miles Sanders should dominate a horrible Dallas run defense as the Eagles win handily."
Throw in Ezekiel Elliott's calf injury ahead of a matchup with a strong Philly run defense, and this wasn't a tough call for our experts.
Consensus: Philadelphia -2
Score Prediction: Eagles 28, Cowboys 21
Los Angeles Rams (9-5) at Seattle Seahawks (10-4)
DraftKings Line: Seattle -1.5
The whole gang is also happy to drop less than a field goal with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday against a Los Angeles Rams team that doesn't seem trustworthy following a shocking loss to the previously winless Jets.
"There are two ways to look at the Rams-Seahawks contest," Sobleski said. "Either the Rams enter this contest full of piss and vinegar after being embarrassed by the Jets, or the Seahawks saw ways to exploit them. The latter seems more likely since this is a revenge game for the Seahawks after their earlier loss to the division rival."
The Rams have the best rushing offense in football in terms of DVOA, but Seattle's formerly maligned defense has surrendered only 3.8 yards per carry since Week 8, which is the fourth-best mark in the league during that stretch. That D has given up a measly 13.0 points per game over the last four weeks. And on the other side of the ball, quarterback Russell Wilson should be in for a bounce-back performance against a familiar defense.
It would be nice if the 12th man was a factor for Seahawks bettors here, but this still doesn't seem like a large enough number.
Consensus: Seattle -1.5
Score Prediction: Seahawks 27, Rams 21
Tennessee Titans (10-4) at Green Bay Packers (11-3)
DraftKings Line: Green Bay -3.5
Our second deadlock of the week comes in an intriguing Sunday nighter between the Tennessee Titans (who have scored 30-plus points in five consecutive games) and the Green Bay Packers (who have only one win this season against a team with a winning record and are laying a field goal plus a hook).
Gagnon on the Packers: "That hook is enough to scare me off of Green Bay against Derrick Henry. The hottest back in the league could have a field day against a bottom-12 run defense in terms of DVOA, and even if that's not enough to lock in the outright win, a resilient and experienced Tennessee team should be able to keep this close."
Davenport on the Titans: "This has the makings of one of the more entertaining games of Week 16—two contenders with plenty of impetus to go all-out who should be able to move the ball on one another. But the Packers are at home, have the better defense and have a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers who is playing at an MVP level again in 2020. I will confess that the presence of the hook here is a bit worrisome, but with this game at Lambeau Field, I'm with the cheesy folks on this one."
In other words, consider sitting back and enjoying this matchup with nothing on the line.
Davenport: Green Bay
Kahler: Green Bay
Score Prediction: Packers 30, Titans 27
Buffalo Bills (11-3) at New New England Patriots (6-8)
DraftKings Line: Buffalo -7
One more unanimous consensus for the road comes in the Monday nighter, where all of our correspondents figure the red-hot Buffalo Bills can cover a seven-point spread against a New England Patriots team that has officially been eliminated from playoff contention.
"The Bills already clinched the AFC East and don't have much to prove to the Patriots, who won't be in the postseason for the first time since the 2008 campaign," Sobleski said. "But this game is about pride and Buffalo being a much better team. New England swept Buffalo in each of the last three seasons. It's time for the Bills to return the favor."
We don't know what to expect from the Pats in this situation because we haven't seen it in so long, but they're so calculating that they might just lie down, assess deep roster talent and accept a better draft position in April.
Even if that doesn't happen, seven points isn't too daunting. Buffalo has won four consecutive games by double-digit margins, and New England has scored only 15 points over the last two weeks combined.
Consensus: Buffalo -7
Score Prediction: Bills 27, Patriots 17
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