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For The Win: Week 16

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

Here I am again this year, back for more NFL picks. Just like last season, I will still be picking all of the NFL games each week, but I will try and help some of you with some confidence and rankings of the selections - which also may assist those of you with Las Vegas trips. I tend to rate games that I like (and some extras like Over/Unders) with 1-3 "Stars", which basically highlight my best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars I don't truly like one way or the other, but will select to help those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools or other contests that they may be participating in either this week or this season.

Week 14 was rather unkind, with injuries and upsets all over the place. Such is life in the NFL, but every week is a new week.  Time to refocus on what teams have something to play for – either a playoff push or to get ready for the postseason.  It is also important to look for teams that have packed it in for the season and are looking more at holiday plans and golf in January than finishing the season strong.  With just three games to go, that should help narrow down the 16 games to the key ones to target this week.  Also note that we have our first Saturday slate this year with two games a day earlier than usual (and this will also happen next week).  

Before we get into the penultimate week of the regular season, let’s look at motivation.  That first starts with a look at the playoff picture.  Here is a quick breakdown of each conference:

The NFC Picture

Philadelphia (12-2) has the inside track on the top seed.  The NFC East is clinched as is a bye, but one more win (or Minnesota loss) gives them the top slot. 

Minnesota (11-3) just clinched the NFC North and should get the second spot and the bye.  Two tough divisional games remain, starting with a trip to Green Bay, but I am sure that the Vikings hope that they either win or get some help to lock up the second seed before Week 17.  Even if that is not the case, Minnesota is way better than Chicago, and a home game against the Bears should provide enough cushion to get the bye.

The fun starts with three 10-4 teams – the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans and Carolina.  The Rams just went to Seattle and won, which gives them a two-game lead for the division with two games to go and nearly locks up the division for Los Angeles, but they are still in the hunt for a bye if the Vikings fall back to them.  Carolina and the Saints are in a battle for the division and a potential bye as well (although the Vikings beat Carolina).  Bottom line – all of the 10-4 teams are motivated to win in Week 16.

After Atlanta’s big win Monday, the Falcons (9-5) have far and away the best shot at the postseason for teams lacking 10 wins.  Atlanta needs one more victory to get into the playoffs, and winning out will secure the NFC South.  The problem is that they face the Saints and Panthers in their last two games, which means nothing will come easy. 

All of the other teams at 8-6 are barely alive with Atlanta moving up to 9-5.  That means Seattle, Dallas, and Detroit must win out and hope Atlanta loses their final two games thanks to the Falcons owning tiebreakers over all three teams.  That does mean, however, that all three will be highly motivated to win and force the issue, so look for the Lions to win this week and the Cowboys-Seahawks game takes on a playoff atmosphere as it is a virtual elimination game.

The AFC Picture

Turning to the AFC, New England has the inside track at the top spot after a close win over Pittsburgh.  Both teams still have to secure their byes, so both will have strong motivation for Week 16.  Jacksonville looks like a certain third seed, as the 10-4 Jaguars just locked up the AFC South and one more win should lock up that status.  Catching the Patriots or Steelers seems unlikely, but Jacksonville will probably want to stay tuned up for a Wild Card weekend home game. 

After the top three in the AFC, it starts to get tricky.  More than likely, three of the four 8-6 teams (Kansas City, Baltimore, Tennessee, and Buffalo) will make it, although the Los Angeles Chargers at 7-7 could still make some noise.  Given the schedules of the Titans (vs. the Rams, vs. the Jaguars) and Buffalo (at New England, at Miami), both will be hoping for teams that are not motivated down the stretch to offer them a chance to get one more victory.  Given the easy schedule for Baltimore (vs. Indianapolis, vs. Cincinnati), the Ravens have an inside track but the Chargers could win out and pass a Titans team that could lose their final two.  Overall though, all of the 7-7 or better teams in the AFC will be highly motivated to win in Week 16. 

As an aside – I’ve coped pretty well with the Rams and Chargers being in L.A. now, but how hard is it to not only identify one team in Los Angeles, let alone two?  And now both should make the postseason.  What a wild year.

Lots of motivation has been earmarked, and that is a lot of what I will use to make my selections for Week 16.

Here we go:

Note that the lines and Over/Unders are taken from VegasInsider.com.

Teams on a Bye Week – NONE (Byes are over!)

Teams coming off of a Bye Week – NONE

(Saturday) INDIANAPOLIS (+13.5) at BALTIMORE 
Baltimore may be one of the uglier playoff teams in recent memory, but they are poised to win out and finish at 10-6 and qualify for the AFC playoffs.  Their defense is formidable, but their offense is still not much to write home about.  Aside from Alex Collins breathing new life into a ground game, the Ravens have not done much offensively, but neither did the team that beat the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.  Now, do not confuse this defense for that one, but the blueprint is there for a strong defense to make a run in the playoffs, especially one with a solid run game.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, as Baltimore still needs to win this game.  I think that they can and should, but 13.5 points is a lot against a Colts team that can provide some offense.  It will be close (against the spread), but I like the Colts to cover.  Ravens win 24-13.   PICK:  Ravens

(Saturday) MINNESOTA (-8.5) at GREEN BAY 
This one looks like a statement game waiting to happen for the Vikings.  Minnesota still needs one more win to secure a bye, and the Vikings will be in prime position to take advantage of the Packers after being eliminated from playoff contention.  Green Bay’s secondary is a mess (look what Carolina did last week), so expect big things from the passing game. Of course, Green Bay in December can always mean weather, and that is a threat (cold, snow) in the long-range forecast.  Even so, Minnesota offers the better defense and running game, so I expect the Vikings to get the job done against a disappointed Green Bay team, even outdoors in Lambeau Field. PICK:  Vikings

CHICAGO (-6.5) vs. CLEVELAND 
Picking against the Browns does not feel as easy as it should.  Yes, they are 0-14 and on the road, and they face a good defense with an experienced (and error-prone) quarterback.  However, considering that their final game is in Pittsburgh, this is the last realistic chance that Cleveland has to win this year.  That is a relatively thin argument, even against the Bears.  As long as Chicago plays good defense and keeps the mistakes to a minimum, they should win by more than a touchdown.  PICK:  Bears

DETROIT (-5) at CINCINNATI
Detroit looks like an easy pick this week.  Playoff motivation?  Check.  Good offense?  Check.  Solid defense?  Check?  An opponent that has mailed it in and has a lame duck head coach?  Check.  The Bengals have scored two touchdowns in two games.  Even with the Lions on the road, I see this as a laugher for Detroit.  PICK: Lions

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-6.5) at TENNESSEE 
Tennessee has been trying to hang around and be a potential playoff team, but the reality of it all is catching up with the Titans.  Tennessee plays host to both the Rams and then the Jaguars to close out the year, and an 8-8 finish seems likely.  The Rams just went and beat up on Seattle 42-7 on the road, and I see that freight train behind Jared Goff and Todd Gurley rolling on through Sunday.  PICK:  Rams

KANSAS CITY (-10) vs. MIAMI 
I said it last week that Kansas City was a tough place to go and play, and it will likely hold true again this week.  Jay Cutler has plenty of interceptions left in him to close out the season, and Kareem Hunt is starting to look like a real feature back once again.  I like the Chiefs to get the win at home by 14+ points and win the AFC West.  PICK:  Chiefs

NEW ENGLAND (-11.5) vs. BUFFALO 
The Patriots escaped with a win in Pittsburgh last Sunday and now control their path to the top seed in the AFC.  With two divisional home games (Bills, Jets) all that stands in their way, look for the Patriots to run a ton against the porous run defense of Buffalo this week and keep their push for the #1 overall spot.  New England easily on Sunday, 34-13.  PICK:  Patriots

NEW ORLEANS (-5) vs. ATLANTA 
To say that this one is a tough call is an understatement.  The Saints and Falcons are going to be playing a game that will go a long way in deciding playoff positions, and possibly if Atlanta even gets into the postseason.  Atlanta needs one win in their last two games to qualify, but a road game to New Orleans (and then a home game against Carolina) is not easy.  The Saints need a win here to keep ahead in the division and then finish no worse than tied with Carolina, as they beat the Panthers twice this season.  All of this is great, but what about the matchups?  New Orleans has a superior defense and home-field advantage, which should help to improve New Orleans’ odds after losing to the Falcons in Atlanta back in early December.  That was the game where Alvin Kamara was concussed early, so that changed the dynamics of that contest.  I like the Saints to use their run game and defense to control this one and win by at least a touchdown.  PICK:  Saints

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-7) at NEW YORK JETS 
The Jets put up a strong fight in New Orleans last week, but they still lost by double digits.  The Chargers need this game to stay alive in the playoff hunt, and their defense should be in a rebound spot after a tough loss at Kansas City last week.  Bryce Petty is still the quarterback in New York, which should be an automatic seven points for the other team.  I like the Chargers by double digits here to get the job done and then go home for a big game against the Raiders next week.  PICK:  Chargers

WASHINGTON (-3.5) vs. DENVER
In two words – who cares.  Washington was abysmal at home but managed two touchdowns to beat the Cardinals.  Meanwhile, the Broncos won last Thursday in Denver with Brock Osweiler coming off the bench to finish off the Colts.  Both teams are just playing out the string and I would normally stay away from games like these, but if forced to decide I would go with the better quarterback and that is Kirk Cousins.  PICK:  Washington

CAROLINA (-9.5) vs. TAMPA BAY
The Panthers get the Buccaneers coming off of a tough loss and on a short week.  Carolina needs the victory in this one to keep the pressure on both the Saints and Falcons in the division and also to potentially move up to get a bye.  The Buccaneer defense cannot stop anyone at this point and Tampa Bay lacks motivation, so I am taking Cam Newton to lead Carolina to a double-digit win for the Panthers in their last home game of the regular season.  PICK:  Panthers

JACKSONVILLE (-4.5) at SAN FRANCISCO 
This is an interesting matchup as the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo has been throwing well of late, but Jacksonville’s defensive strength is against the passing game.  The Jaguars should be motivated as they still have an outside shot at a bye, but I can see a letdown in this spot.  This will be a true test for San Francisco, who has shown some life of late.  The other wild card is Leonard Fournette, who could return and run well against the 49ers.  Lots of outcomes are possible here, but the most likely one is still Jacksonville by at least a touchdown.  This is one of the more interesting games of the week to see how it plays out.  PICK:  Jaguars

NEW YORK GIANTS (+4.5) at ARIZONA
Arizona has pretty much called it a year, as they managed to only trade field goals with Washington last week.  Arizona’s defense is a little banged up and Adrian Peterson is on IR, but Eli Manning and the Giants have been able to compete and push strong teams like the Eagles.  For that reason alone, I like the Giants to play well on the road and possibly get the upset, but at least cover the number.  PICK:  Giants

DALLAS (-4.5) vs. SEATTLE 
This is a virtual playoff game as the loser is officially eliminated from the NFC playoff race, but even the winner has a tough road ahead.  Dallas gets Ezekiel Elliott back after his suspension, but it might be too little too late for the Cowboys.  Seattle was just blown out at home by the Rams, so they are also reeling right now and very injured on defense.  Dallas’ offense should improve with Elliott back and I like them at home against a Seahawk defense that just yielded 42 points at home last week.   PICK:  Cowboys

(Monday) PITTSBURGH (-9.5) at HOUSTON 
Pittsburgh should win this game going away, but a letdown here may happen.  The Steelers lost a heartbreaker at home last week to New England, but they have to keep focus and win out to secure a bye.  I like them to do just that against a Texans team that is ready to call it a year after getting crushed by Jacksonville last week.  The game may not go to script for the Steelers, but their talent should carry them to victory and cover the spread – but it may not be as easy as it should be.  PICK:  Steelers

(Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-8.5) vs. OAKLAND
The Christmas doubleheader wraps up with the Eagles hosting a Raiders team that literally dropped the ball against the Cowboys, and with it their playoff hopes.  The Raiders should be eliminated officially by kickoff on Christmas night, while Nick Foles and the Eagles will be pushing to lock up the top seed in the NFC and keep Foles’ tune-up for the playoffs going.  I like Foles quite a bit in this matchup against a bad secondary, so expect a big win for Philadelphia to wrap up Week 16.  PICK:  Eagles 

BEST BETS

Once again this year I will give not only the "Best Bets" but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 "Star" scale. The more stars, the more I like that side of the game.

* ONE STAR *

  • (Saturday) INDIANAPOLIS (+13.5) at BALTIMORE 
  • (Saturday) MINNESOTA (-8.5) at GREEN BAY 
  • DETROIT (-5) at CINCINNATI
  • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-6.5) at TENNESSEE 
  • KANSAS CITY (-10) vs. MIAMI 
  • NEW ENGLAND (-11.5) vs. BUFFALO   
  • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-7) at NEW YORK JETS 
  • CAROLINA (-9.5) vs. TAMPA BAY  
  • JACKSONVILLE (-4.5) at SAN FRANCISCO 
  • DALLAS (-4.5) vs. SEATTLE 
  • (Monday) PITTSBURGH (-9.5) at HOUSTON     
  • (Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-8.5) vs. OAKLAND
  • CLEVELAND “FOR THE WIN” (+240) at CHICAGO
  • SAN FRANCISCO “FOR THE WIN” (+175) vs. JACKSONVILLE
  • NEW YORK GIANTS “FOR THE WIN” (+170) at ARIZONA
  • 6-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (6.1-1 ODDS):
    • DETROIT (+1) at CINCINNATI
    • DALLAS (+1.5) vs. SEATTLE 
    • (Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) vs. OAKLAND  
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1) at NEW YORK JETS 
    • JACKSONVILLE (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO 
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-0.5) at TENNESSEE
  • 7-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (8.9-1 ODDS):
    • DETROIT (+1) at CINCINNATI
    • DALLAS (+1.5) vs. SEATTLE 
    • (Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) vs. OAKLAND  
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1) at NEW YORK JETS 
    • JACKSONVILLE (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO 
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-0.5) at TENNESSEE 
    • KANSAS CITY (-4) vs. MIAMI 
  • 8-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (12.75-1 ODDS):
    • DETROIT (+1) at CINCINNATI
    • DALLAS (+1.5) vs. SEATTLE 
    • (Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) vs. OAKLAND  
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1) at NEW YORK JETS 
    • JACKSONVILLE (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO 
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-0.5) at TENNESSEE 
    • KANSAS CITY (-4) vs. MIAMI 
    • CAROLINA (-3.5) vs. TAMPA BAY  
  • 9-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (18.25-1 ODDS):
    • DETROIT (+1) at CINCINNATI
    • DALLAS (+1.5) vs. SEATTLE 
    • (Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) vs. OAKLAND  
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1) at NEW YORK JETS 
    • JACKSONVILLE (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO 
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-0.5) at TENNESSEE 
    • KANSAS CITY (-4) vs. MIAMI 
    • CAROLINA (-3.5) vs. TAMPA BAY  
    • (Monday) PITTSBURGH (-3.5) at HOUSTON     
  • 10-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (26-1 ODDS):
    • DETROIT (+1) at CINCINNATI
    • DALLAS (+1.5) vs. SEATTLE 
    • (Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) vs. OAKLAND  
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1) at NEW YORK JETS 
    • JACKSONVILLE (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO 
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-0.5) at TENNESSEE 
    • KANSAS CITY (-4) vs. MIAMI 
    • CAROLINA (-3.5) vs. TAMPA BAY  
    • (Monday) PITTSBURGH (-3.5) at HOUSTON 
    • NEW ENGLAND (-5.5) vs. BUFFALO
  • 11-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (37-1 ODDS):
    • DETROIT (+1) at CINCINNATI
    • DALLAS (+1.5) vs. SEATTLE 
    • (Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) vs. OAKLAND  
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1) at NEW YORK JETS 
    • JACKSONVILLE (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO 
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-0.5) at TENNESSEE 
    • KANSAS CITY (-4) vs. MIAMI 
    • CAROLINA (-3.5) vs. TAMPA BAY  
    • (Monday) PITTSBURGH (-3.5) at HOUSTON     
    • NEW ENGLAND (-5.5) vs. BUFFALO   
    • (Saturday) MINNESOTA (-2.5) at GREEN BAY 
  • 12-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (52-1 ODDS):
    • DETROIT (+1) at CINCINNATI
    • DALLAS (+1.5) vs. SEATTLE 
    • (Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) vs. OAKLAND  
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1) at NEW YORK JETS 
    • JACKSONVILLE (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO 
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-0.5) at TENNESSEE 
    • KANSAS CITY (-4) vs. MIAMI 
    • CAROLINA (-3.5) vs. TAMPA BAY  
    • (Monday) PITTSBURGH (-3.5) at HOUSTON     
    • NEW ENGLAND (-5.5) vs. BUFFALO   
    • (Saturday) MINNESOTA (-2.5) at GREEN BAY 
    • (Saturday) INDIANAPOLIS (+19.5) at BALTIMORE

** TWO STAR GAMES **

  • 2-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER:
    • (Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) vs. OAKLAND  
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1) at NEW YORK JETS 
  • 2-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER:
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-0.5) at TENNESSEE 
    • CAROLINA (-3.5) vs. TAMPA BAY  
  • 4-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (2.65-1 ODDS):
    • DETROIT (+1) at CINCINNATI
    • DALLAS (+1.5) vs. SEATTLE 
    • (Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) vs. OAKLAND  
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1) at NEW YORK JETS 
  • 5-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (4.10-1 ODDS):
    • DETROIT (+1) at CINCINNATI
    • DALLAS (+1.5) vs. SEATTLE 
    • (Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) vs. OAKLAND  
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1) at NEW YORK JETS 
    • JACKSONVILLE (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO 

*** THREE STAR GAMES ***

  • 3-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (1.65-1 ODDS):
    • DETROIT (+1) at CINCINNATI
    • DALLAS (+1.5) vs. SEATTLE 
    • (Monday) PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) vs. OAKLAND

PICK(S) OF THE WEEK:  Indianapolis, Detroit, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City, New England, Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina, Jacksonville, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia

RESULTS

Last Week

  • OVERALL: 8-7-1 (53.3%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 30.55-22 (58.1%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 4-3-1 (57.1%)

Season

  • OVERALL: 114-101-9 (53.0%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 239.04-229-6 (51.1%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 64-47-3 (57.7%)

Good luck this weekend!

Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com