Bleacher Report's Expert Week 16 NFL Picks
All you want for Christmas is a winning ticket? If last week is any indication, you've come to the right place!
Bleacher Report national NFL writers Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski, B/R Gridiron editors Ian Kenyon and Wes O'Donnell, and B/R Betting host Connor Rogers were a combined 53-43 against the spread in Week 15, with their consensus picks failing to cover in just three games (thanks for nothing, Patriots, Cardinals and Packers).
Can they keep the ball rolling?
Here are their ATS picks for every game on the Week 16 slate.
San Francisco 49ers (8-6) at Tennessee Titans (9-5)
DraftKings Line: San Francisco -3.5
The San Francisco 49ers have salvaged their season with five wins in six games, while the Tennessee Titans are in jeopardy following a 1-3 stretch. The majority of our panel feels those trends will continue with Kyle Shanahan's squad dropping a field goal plus a hook on short rest on the road Thursday night in Nashville.
"This is a simple tale of two teams going in opposite directions," Sobleski said. "The 49ers have found their rhythm, particularly on offense, while winning five of their last six games. Tennessee is trending downward by losing three of its last four, and the only victory came against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars. Julio Jones' continued battles with a hamstring injury certainly don't help, though A.J. Brown could return soon."
Of course, the Titans continue to be without reigning Offensive Player of the Year Derrick Henry, but it appears Brown will be ready to suit up after missing three games as a result of a chest injury. So you can see where Gagnon and O'Donnell might be coming from on the underdog, and it's worth noting that those two lead all pickers this season.
Still, the 49ers are rolling, and they're 5-2 on the road this season. Buy back half a point if it's possible and you want to be safe, but the Niners look like the pick.
Davenport: San Francisco
Kenyon: San Francisco
Rogers: San Francisco
Sobleski: San Francisco
Score Prediction: 49ers 26, Titans 21
Cleveland Browns (7-7) at Green Bay Packers (11-3)
DraftKings Line: Green Bay -7
The Green Bay Packers are a tied-for-league-best 11-3 against the spread, while the Cleveland Browns have failed to cover the spread in five consecutive games. Cleveland is also operating on short rest Saturday at Lambeau, and COVID-19 has done a number on that team.
With that in mind, nearly the entire gang is laying seven points with Aaron Rodgers and Co.
"Given the struggles of Green Bay's defense last week, the size of this spread gives one at least some pause," Davenport admitted. "But the Browns have struggled to score points this season even with the offense at full strength, and we still don't know how many players Cleveland may be short following last week's COVID-19 outbreak. A Browns upset (or even a cover) feels less likely than a blowout, and the fans at Lambeau should be happy on Christmas Day."
But this time, the overall picks leader is riding solo against the pack. Gagnon noticed how close they cut it last week and figures the desperate Browns are due to at least cover their first spread in six weeks. They'll at least have their head coach back, but Kareem Hunt looks as though he'll be out and the Browns may not be done with their recent COVID-19 outbreak.
Davenport: Green Bay
Kenyon: Green Bay
O'Donnell: Green Bay
Rogers: Green Bay
Sobleski: Green Bay
Score Prediction: Packers 30, Browns 17
Indianapolis Colts (8-6) at Arizona Cardinals (10-4)
DraftKings Line: Arizona -1
Are the Arizona Cardinals experiencing another late-season collapse? And if so, can they recover? Half of the group feels they'll bounce back from a brutal two-week stretch by beating the Indianapolis Colts in a borderline pick'em Christmas night, while the rest of the crew is backing a Colts team that has lost just one game in regulation since Week 3.
Rogers on the Colts: "If the Cardinals let Craig Reynolds go for over 100 rushing yards against them, what do you think Jonathan Taylor will do? Losing to the Lions had to be a wake-up call for Arizona, but the Colts are the furthest thing from a 'get well' game. The potential of a shootout between Kyler Murray and Carson Wentz is why Indianapolis comes in as an underdog, but I think the Colts will control the clock and possession for a win."
Gagnon on the Cards: "Arizona has too much talent to blow it again, and I think last year's collapse was a learning experience. I still don't totally trust the Colts, who may be due for a road letdown after that big win over the New England Patriots. These teams are basically even when it comes to DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders, so Arizona should be laying more than a single point at home."
Consider enjoying this one for entertainment value while the turkey settles.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 24, Colts 23
New York Giants (4-10) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)
DraftKings Line: Philadelphia -9.5
The New York Giants have lost three consecutive games by double-digit margins, and it appears they're down and out for 2021 with quarterback Daniel Jones injured. Meanwhile, the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles are looking to bolster their playoff chances and get some revenge for a November loss to Big Blue.
Under those circumstances, the majority of our predictors are laying 9.5 points with Philly at home.
"The Giants upset the Eagles in late November," O'Donnell said. "This isn't the same team, and even though the Big Blue defense will play its part, this current offense is more likely to give up points than score them. Philly remains in the thick of things for the final NFC wild-card spot, and the Giants haven't swept the Eagles since their legendary 2007 Super Bowl season, so I'm counting on a drubbing here."
The Eagles haven't won three in a row since 2019, but with the Giants in such rough shape, it's fair to feel Philly will finally accomplish that feat in emphatic fashion.
Still, one-third of the gang is taking the points. You just never know what you're going to get from an NFC East matchup, and the Eagles are on short rest following a Tuesday night victory over the Washington Football Team. Tread carefully.
Davenport: New York
Kenyon: New York
Score Prediction: Eagles 27, Giants 14
Los Angeles Rams (10-4) at Minnesota Vikings (7-7)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -3
Like the Eagles, the Los Angeles Rams are running on limited rest following a COVID-19-delayed Tuesday victory. It's always a bit scary laying points with a team in a spot like that, especially on the road against a desperate and unpredictable opponent like the Minnesota Vikings.
Still, the majority of the crew is OK giving a field goal to the Vikes, who like the Eagles are in search of their first three-game winning streak in over a year.
"Even though they ended up winning the game, the Vikings offense could not get anything going against the Chicago Bears in their 17-9 win on Monday night," Kenyon said. "They face a much tougher test against Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and the Rams defense this week. The Rams are back on track with three wins in a row and should get a fourth in Minnesota."
The Rams beat the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday despite having been crushed by COVID-19. Now, they should have veteran offensive tackle Rob Havenstein and some other core players back in the flow.
Still, the Vikings could have key offensive players Alexander Mattison and Adam Thielen back in their lineup. This isn't an easy one.
Gagnon: Los Angeles
Kenyon: Los Angeles
Rogers: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Score Prediction: Rams 28, Vikings 21
Buffalo Bills (8-6) at New England Patriots (9-5)
DraftKings Line: New England -2.5
The New England Patriots have taken control of the AFC East, and they can clinch the division with a victory at home and on extra rest Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. But they're laying less than a field goal, and nearly the entire gang is still backing the desperate Buffalo Bills on the road Sunday.
"This is one of the more difficult calls of the week," Davenport said. "New England won the first meeting between these teams this season, and the Pats are always a tough out at Gillette Stadium. But last week's loss to the Colts exposed a weakness or two for the Patriots, and the Bills are the better offensive team of this pair. It's going to be a battle, but the Bills will exact some revenge and knock off the Patriots to really tighten up the AFC East."
Buffalo ranks two spots ahead of New England in DVOA, and the Pats are just 3-4 at home this year. The offense might also have hit a wall this month, and the Bills are familiar enough with them to exploit that.
That said, do consider buying half a point to secure the +3 if you're on the Bills. This could easily be a field-goal game, and you're better to be safe than sorry with a Buffalo team that is 0-5 in one-score games this season.
Kenyon: New England
Score Prediction: Bills 24, Patriots 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4) at Carolina Panthers (5-9)
DraftKings Line: Tampa Bay -10.5
Kenyon is again a lone wolf as the panel is almost unanimously laying 10.5 points Sunday with a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that should be inspired to rebound against the struggling Carolina Panthers.
"The Panthers have absolutely no clue what they're doing at quarterback with Cam Newton kind of, sort of serving as the team's starter, though Sam Darnold could return after being cleared for contact," Sobleski said. "Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is going to be salty after the New Orleans Saints defense whooped Tom Brady and Co. A 10.5-point spread reflects exactly what this should be: a blowout in the Buccaneers' favor."
The Bucs haven't dominated down the stretch like they did in 2020, but in their recent two matchups with sub-.500 teams, they've outscored the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons 60-27. Meanwhile, in their last two meetings with teams that are .500 or better, the Panthers have been outscored 64-24.
This shouldn't be close, but watch out for the fact Tampa was crushed by injuries to Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Leonard Fournette and Lavonte David on Sunday night. Throw in the backdoor-cover potential for the home team and this one is no lock.
Davenport: Tampa Bay
Gagnon: Tampa Bay
O'Donnell: Tampa Bay
Rogers: Tampa Bay
Sobleski: Tampa Bay
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 30, Panthers 13
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) at New York Jets (3-11)
DraftKings Line: Pick'em
The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets are both 4-10 against the spread this season. Nobody should feel comfortable backing either, regardless of the line. And in this case, we wouldn't fault you for ignoring a pick'em matchup between the two.
Still, the gang had no choice, and by a slim margin, they sided with the home squad.
"I don't care how bad the Jets are," Gagnon said. "I'm not getting behind the Jags on the road with no points in my back pocket. We're talking about a team that has lost 15 consecutive road games dating back two calendar years. They're reeling on and off the field and have been destroyed in three consecutive games. The Jets at least point up a fight last week in Miami."
Still, the Jets have been hit by injuries and COVID-19, and head coach Robert Saleh is currently sidelined with the virus. You might not want to mess with this dumpster fire of a game.
Davenport: New York
Gagnon: New York
Kenyon: New York
Rogers: New York
Score Prediction: Jets 23, Jaguars 20
Detroit Lions (2-11-1) at Atlanta Falcons (6-8)
DraftKings Line: Atlanta -5.5
This one isn't much prettier, but at least the Detroit Lions have been consistently fighting above their weight while the Atlanta Falcons remain in contention. The Lions are 9-5 against the spread this season, though, while the Falcons are 0-5 both straight up and ATS at home.
With that in mind, the gang is happy to take 5.5 points.
"Detroit plays hard under head coach Dan Campbell," Rogers said. "There is no denying that. We are also starting to see some physicality, despite underwhelming talent, show up on the field. That's a bad recipe for the Falcons in what should be a Lions cover this week."
But we're appropriately far from a unanimous consensus here. This year's pick leaders are both on the Falcons, who have to eventually break through at home and really need this one. They'll point out that while the Lions have exceeded expectations despite their overall record and talent, they've still suffered four 18-plus-point losses this season.
In this case, we're only talking about 5.5 points, but the Falcons haven't been trustworthy in years. Bettor beware.
Score Prediction: Falcons 23, Lions 20
Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) at Houston Texans (3-11)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -9
Our only unanimous decision of the week comes with the Los Angeles Chargers laying nine points on the road against a Houston Texans team that beat the Jags last week but might not have the makeup or the talent to repeat that against a hungry opponent.
"A big, big part of me wants to take the Texans here," O'Donnell confessed, "but it's time for Justin Herbert and the Chargers to act like a playoff team. The second-year star quarterback didn't get a chance to take the field in overtime against the Chiefs last week, and L.A. should take out that frustration on an inferior Texans team in Week 16."
Both of the Chargers' wins this month have come by double-digit margins, and now they're working on extra rest following a strong performance despite the loss to the Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Texans have added receiver Brandin Cooks to the reserve/COVID-19 list.
You might be tempted to fade the public here, but without a double-digit spread, it might not be worth it.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Gagnon: Los Angeles
Kenyon: Los Angeles
O'Donnell: Los Angeles
Rogers: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Score Prediction: Chargers 31, Texans 13
Baltimore Ravens (8-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)
DraftKings Line: Cincinnati -2.5
The Cincinnati Bengals haven't swept the Baltimore Ravens since 2015, but they've favored to do exactly that at home Sunday afternoon. With Cincy laying a tricky 2.5 points, the panel is divided.
Gagnon on the underdog: "Baltimore hasn't lost four in a row since 2016. This team is too talented, experienced and well coached to let that happen with its season on the line here, and I still don't trust a Bengals team that has been outscored 77-60 in the month of December."
Kenyon on the Bengals with the points: "Baltimore has dropped three games in a row by two points or fewer and they're getting 2.5 this week, but the Ravens' banged-up secondary faces Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins this week. Expect the Bengals to throw all over the Ravens at home this week and win by at least a touchdown."
Naturally, we encourage those taking the points to consider buying up to +3 to cover themselves in the event of a field-goal game.
Score Prediction: Bengals 24, Ravens 21
Chicago Bears (4-10) at Seattle Seahawks (5-9)
DraftKings Line: Seattle -6.5
The Seattle Seahawks may have had their bubble burst in a loss to the Rams on Tuesday night, and now they're on supershort rest Sunday against a Chicago Bears squad with nothing to lose. That's scary, but a slim majority of the crew is still backing Seattle as a 6.5-point favorite.
"A complete lack of trust in Bears head coach Matt Nagy and the offensive game plan he and his staff will put together is the only reason to favor the Seahawks outside of the game being played in Seattle," Sobleski said. "Justin Fields may be talented, but the Bears have no idea how to properly utilize the young quarterback's skill set. At least Seattle has won two of its last three contests."
Nobody in the NFL has a worse ATS record than Chicago (4-10), and we're still talking about a Seattle team with Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll. Plus, the Seahawks are technically still alive in the NFC wild-card race. It's possible they'll fight as a result of that, or simply because Wilson feels the need to make a statement before this brutal season comes to an end.
This is his chance, but he's also arguably lost the benefit of the doubt with recent struggles. This one isn't easy, but all five Seattle victories have come by seven-plus points this season.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 26, Bears 17
Denver Broncos (7-7) at Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)
DraftKings Line: Las Vegas -1
If not for a last-second field goal to beat a depleted Browns team Monday night, the Las Vegas Raiders would be 0-3 straight up and against the spread in their last three games. But now they're on short rest for a Denver Broncos team that is superior in terms of points differential and DVOA.
They're laying just a point at home, but the majority of the panel is on the Broncos, who should be fired up to get revenge for an October loss to Las Vegas.
"This call is about the immense excitement surrounding Drew Lock—said no one ever," Davenport said. "The Broncos have a much better defense than the Raiders, and the Vegas offense hasn't exactly been on fire in recent weeks. For all Lock's problems, he has a better arm than Teddy Bridgewater, so if he can avoid killing Denver with turnovers, this is a game the Broncos should (and will) win."
Speaking of turnovers, the Raiders D has just four takeaways in the team's last seven games. Throw in a new injury to defensive back Johnathan Abram and the Broncos look like the pick in this quasi-pick'em.
O'Donnell: Las Vegas
Rogers: Las Vegas
Score Prediction: Broncos 24, Raiders 23
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)
DraftKings Line: Kansas City -7.5
The Kansas City Chiefs haven't lost since Week 7 and have covered five consecutive spreads. Oddsmakers might be teasing us with the hook in this case, but even with that knowledge, it's still pretty hard to back the Pittsburgh Steelers +7.5 on the road Sunday.
The vast majority of the panel is laying the points.
"I really want to believe the Steelers can make this a scrappy, close game," Rogers said, "but the Chiefs are on fire right now. They've scored 82 points in their last two games and nearly ran for 200 yards against the Chargers. Pittsburgh's run defense is nonexistent, giving Kansas City's offense a ground option to fall back on if their high-flying passing attack is contained. It's a must-win game for Mike Tomlin's team, but I think they're simply outmatched in this road contest."
The Steelers never seem to die, but they're ranked 20th in DVOA. They beat the Titans despite just 168 yards of total offense in Week 15, and that ain't sustainable. Monitor the statuses of Pat Freiermuth and Devin Bush for Pittsburgh and buy back half a point if you can at a decent price, but K.C. looks like the pick.
Davenport: Kansas City
Gagnon: Kansas City
Kenyon: Kansas City
O'Donnell: Kansas City
Rogers: Kansas City
Score Prediction: Chiefs 30, Steelers 17
Washington Football Team (6-8) at Dallas Cowboys (10-4)
DraftKings Line: Dallas -10.5
It sure feels as though the NFC East dominates deadlocked panels this year, which makes sense because it's been the league's most unpredictable division for about a decade. This time, we have a hung jury with the Dallas Cowboys laying 10.5 points at home against a depleted and potentially exhausted Washington Football Team.
O'Donnell on the Cowboys: "Dallas upended the Football Team in Washington only a couple of weeks ago, and the thinking should be that WFT is ready to return the favor and at least cover a double-digit spread. But it's also time for the Cowboys to fully realize their potential. This is a team still with a shot at a No. 1 seed in the NFC, and I'm willing to roll the dice on them proving their worth ahead of a showdown with the Cardinals next week."
Sobleski on the WFT: "The 10.5-point spread makes this particular contest interesting. Yes, the Cowboys should win. But Washington has either outright won or lost by 10 or fewer points in its last seven contests. Taylor Heinicke's possible return to the lineup should provide a boost as well."
Washington's defense has been hit hard and has allowed 27 points in back-to-back games, but quarterback Dak Prescott hasn't been himself in some time for the Cowboys. This is a tricky one.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 30, Washington 20
Miami Dolphins (7-7) at New Orleans Saints (7-7)
DraftKings Line: New Orleans -3
We wrap up the week with a deadlocked panel for a matchup between .500 teams, with the New Orleans Saints laying a generic three points at home against the Miami Dolphins. Sorry for the lack of payoff.
Kenyon on the Saints: "The Dolphins are one of the hottest teams in the league, reeling off six straight wins. But five of those wins have come against the Texans, Jets (two times), Giants and Panthers. Not exactly worldbeaters. They face one of the league's best defenses in the Saints, who are coming off a shutout win over Brady and the Buccaneers. The Saints covering three points at home should be one of the safer bets of the week."
Davenport on the Dolphins: "Yes, the Saints have an excellent defense. Yes, the Saints just shut out the Buccaneers in Tampa. But the Dolphins are one of the NFL's hottest teams after winning their sixth straight game last week. Miami's defense is pretty danged good too. And I have more confidence in the Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense than in Taysom Hill and the Saints—especially if the Fins get rookie wideout Jaylen Waddle back."
It looks like that'll happen, but will it be enough against a D that hasn't surrendered a touchdown in the last nine quarters? We'll see, but we're clearly on the fence.
Gagnon: New Orleans
Kenyon: New Orleans
Rogers: New Orleans
Score Prediction: Saints 20, Dolphins 17
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