For The Win: Week 16 - Footballguys

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

Week 15 was tougher than expected, and the first lesson to take away is to not count on a bad team to beat a team with playoff hopes. Ranking teams in teasers is a very important step, and the mistake last week was placing the Jaguars to win over Washington at the fourth-best teaser, over Atlanta and Houston. If Jacksonville was ranked 6th instead of 4th, the week would have been a profitable one, so take note that rankings are extremely important – as is team motivation. As we turn our attention to the final two weeks with the penultimate Week 16 looming directly ahead, there are a few things to note. First, Thursday Night Football is over for the year. Second, two games are once again on the Saturday docket, as is the final Monday Night Football game – on Christmas Eve. That could be very challenging for the road team (Oakland) who has nothing to play for at this time of the year. Lots to consider, so let’s dig in. Here we go:

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

TAKE NOTE! Now that the NCAA football regular season is over, the NFL starts to put some games on Saturday in addition to Sunday and Monday – so keep all kickoff times in mind these final few weeks.

With just two weeks left in the regular season, let’s review a few things from this year:

  1. Finding a team’s true motivation can go a long way. Cleveland at home before a national TV audience playing for their first win in nearly two years – that type of thing. That will lead towards teams with playoff hopes for sure, but also final home games and trying to get to 8-8, for example.
  2. Target winners and – for the most part – ignore trying to cover the spread. Looking back at 224 games this season, only 38 games have been “covers” - Underdogs that covered the point spread but failed to win the game. That works out to be 17.5% of the games (to complete the thought, Favorites won 103 times (47.5%), Underdogs won outright a remarkable 76 times (35%) – and seven games finished right on the point spread). Since the point spread factors in less than 20% of the time, targeting winners seems like the right plan (and has worked reasonably well this season).

Using those two rules above, let’s pick some games:

(Saturday, 4:30PM Eastern) TENNESSEE (-10) vs. WASHINGTON (Over/Under 37)
Ten points feels like a lot, but look back at the two rules. The Titans have a very real shot at the postseason, and a win here probably sets up a “win and in” with the Colts in Nashville next Sunday (and probably on Sunday Night Football). Washington beat the Jaguars last week in an ugly 16-13 contest where neither team really showed much desire to win. With Josh Johnson getting his first NFL win as a starter in 11 years on and off in the NFL. Expect the Titans to roll behind Derrick Henry and their defense which shut out Dallas last week to push for a playoff chance. PICK: Titans

(Saturday, 8:20PM Eastern) BALTIMORE (+4.5 to 5) at LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (Over/Under 45 to 45.5)
Both the Ravens and the Chargers are alive in the AFC playoffs, and this matchup will likely be very much like a playoff game. Los Angeles is in a battle with the Chiefs for the AFC West title, which is in essence the race for the #1 spot in the AFC. The Chargers must win this week and next (at Denver) to have a real shot at it, and then they must hope Kansas City loses to Seattle on Sunday. Baltimore is not a lock for the playoffs at all, but a win over the Chargers could put them in the driver’s seat for not just the Wild Card (#6) spot but also give the Ravens the inside track to the AFC North. Baltimore has won three of four games behind Lamar Jackson and a stout defense, while the Chargers have been humming along since the end of September aside from a bad loss to the Broncos in Week 11. This game is too close to call, as both teams can play strong on both sides of the ball and make plays, so take the points and hope for the best. PICK: Ravens

HOUSTON (EVEN to +1) at PHILADELPHIA (Over/Under 45 to 45.5)
Houston is heading to the postseason and has the current inside track to a bye as the second seed in the AFC. If the Texans win out, they will be the #2 team in the AFC and get a bye, so the motivation is there. Philadelphia is in playoff mode already, as they must win out and hope that other games break their way to (most likely) get in as the last Wild Card team at 9-7. Both outcomes are feasible, but not shared. A loss by Houston here is not the end of the world, as the Texans should secure the division next weekend with a win over Jacksonville – but this is not the ideal plan at all. This game would have been a gimme for the Texans a few weeks ago with Houston red hot and streaking on 9-game winning streak, but a loss to the Colts in Week 13 set them back a little and now still gives both the Titans and Indianapolis an outside shot at the AFC South. The Eagles had no business beating the Rams in Los Angeles last week,but they went back to running the ball and rushing pocket passer Jared Goff. DeShaun Watson has to much elusiveness for the Eagles, and he has DeAndre Hopkins facing a depleted Philadelphia secondary. Both teams have playmakers on defense, but the recipe on offense (running the ball 31 times) that gave the Eagles a win last week will not translate well against the Texans and their top-ranked rushing defense (3.6 YPC against). PICK: Texans

CLEVELAND (-7) vs. CINCINNATI (Over/Under 45 to 46)
This one is simple enough – the Browns have a faint chance at the postseason (they would need Tennessee and the Colts to tie in Week 17) – but no matter. Cleveland can win this “Battle of Ohio” over the Bengals and not finish in last place in the AFC North (moral victory) and have them in contention for the postseason, plus have a shot at a winning record (big moral victory) with two victories. The Bengals won last week, but it was not pretty as Joe Mixon carried them over Oakland at home in Cincinnati’s final home game. Now Cleveland finishes up their home schedule, and expecting a win before that home crowd seems more than appropriate. PICK: Browns

DALLAS (-7) vs. TAMPA BAY (Over/Under 46 to 46.5)
Dallas was shut out last week by the Colts last week, a humbling performance against Indianapolis after five consecutive wins for the Cowboys. Now Dallas heads back to Texas for their final home game before the playoffs, and the Cowboys still have not clinched a postseason berth. Look for Dallas to step up their game and score plenty of points against a weak Tampa Bay defense. A big Dallas win is just what the Cowboys need, and that will give them the NFC East and ensure another home game in January. PICK: Cowboys

MINNESOTA (-5 to -5.5) at DETROIT (Over/Under 43.5)
The Vikings blew out the Dolphins in Minnesota last week behind a strong ground game and defense, so expect more of the same in Detroit this week. The Lions nearly won in Buffalo, but Detroit is really limited on offense due to so many injuries (Kerryon Johnson, Marvin Jones Jr) and trading away Golden Tate. Minnesota really needs to win this one as it is questionable how Chicago will approach the season finale against the Vikings. Minnesota needs at least one win to get to the playoffs – possibly two – but it all must start with beating the Lions. PICK: Vikings

INDIANAPOLIS (-9 to -9.5) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS (Over/Under 46.5 to 47)
Indianapolis has a clear shot at the playoffs, but they will need some help. First, they must win their last two games, and then have a few things go their way. All that is in their control is to win the games in front of them, and they did that and then some with the shutout of Dallas last week. Now Indianapolis has their home finale against the Giants, who are limping towards the end of the season. Breaking down this game is rather simple in that New York does not defend well and the Colts are peaking at the right time. A double-digit victory seems a foregone conclusion here which will help set up the regular season finale in Tennessee that could be a play-in game for the final Wild Card spot. PICK: Colts

MIAMI (-4 to -5) vs. JACKSONVILLE (Over/Under 39 to 39.5)
Miami was beat up early in Minnesota last week while Jacksonville rallied for a home game win over Washington last Sunday. None of that matters this week though, as Miami is home for the last time and hosting a feeble Jaguars squad that was lucky to win last week. The Dolphins still have faint playoff hopes, so a win is mandatory to keep them alive. Even with Frank Gore now out, Miami is far better than Jacksonville and likely the best team in Florida once again. PICK: Dolphins

NEW ENGLAND (-12.5 to -13) vs. BUFFALO (Over/Under 44.5 to 45)
The Patriots struggled in Pittsburgh last week in a tough contest, but now New England closes out the regular season with two AFC East games at home against the Bills and Jets. That soft schedule really helps Tom Brady and company, and both of these games should serve as “get right” spots for the Patriots. Winning by two touchdowns can be a tall order, but looking back to that earlier rule of “just pick winners” just points towards taking the home team and hope they blow out the Bills. PICK: Patriots

GREEN BAY (+1) at NEW YORK JETS (Over/Under 43.5 to 44)
Two teams meet in New Jersey as they look to play out the string. The Jets have made peace with no postseason, but this is relatively new for the Packers as this is the second season in a row missing the playoffs after eight consecutive trips to the postseason. Motivation could be tough for the Packers, but they are the better team on both sides of the ball and they have enough veteran leadership to get up for at least this matchup. Siding with Green Bay feels right, but a letdown would not be too surprising. Tread lightly on this one. PICK: Packers

ATLANTA (+3) at CAROLINA (Over/Under 47 to 47.5)
Note - with the recent news that Cam Newton is done for the year, throw out the previous write-up and go with Atlanta. Carolina is clearly packing it in early and there is no reason to side with them this week. PICK: Falcons

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-14) at ARIZONA (Over/Under 47 to 47.5)
The Rams have not been playing well of late, and now they have a losing streak after losses to the Bears and Eagles. That should change in significant fashion with a trip to Arizona, where the Cardinals are struggling to do just about anything on offense. If ever there was a “get right” game for the Rams, this is it. Rams 37, Cardinals 10. PICK: Rams

CHICAGO (-3.5 to -4) at SAN FRANCISCO (Over/Under 42.5 to 43)
Chicago is getting close to accomplishing all that they can this regular season, having secured the NFC North last week by beating the Packers and moving to 10-4. A win in San Francisco and a win by the heavily-favored Rams in Arizona locks the Bears into the third spot in the NFC, so then the Bears will have to wait and see if there is any meaning for that final game against Minnesota. Assuming wins for the Saints and Rams in Week 16, the only way that the game may matter for the Bears is if the Rams drop to 12-4 with a Week 17 loss against the 49ers in Los Angeles. The Bears have a tiebreaker advantage over both the Saints and Rams, but Chicago needs one of those teams to lose some games. Even if the Bears know that they will be the #3 NFC team, the final regular season game could be very interesting as the Vikings may need to win and get in – and if they do, they may head right back to Chicago the next week in the Wild Card round. PICK: Bears

NEW ORLEANS (-5.5) vs. PITTSBURGH (Over/Under 53.5 to 54)
This is a tough spot for both teams here. The Saints have won the NFC South, but they are still looking to secure the #1 seed in the NFC, and the Rams are just one game back. Theoretically New Orleans can let this one game go and still get the top spot with a Week 17 victory against Carolina, but leaving it until the final week is tough plus there is the chance to lose their winning momentum after just two victories since losing to Dallas. The situation is more dire for the Steelers, who are in a playoff spot right now, but a loss here combined with a Baltimore win on Saturday will put the Ravens ahead for the division and threaten Pittsburgh’s shot at the last Wild Card slot. So, long story short – both teams come in highly motivated. The Saints are playing well on defense and Ben Roethlisberger continues to have troubles on the road. New Orleans is the better team, and covering with a 6-point victory (or more) feels very attainable. PICK: Saints

SEATTLE (+2.5) vs. KANSAS CITY (Over/Under 53.5 to 54)
Kansas City is one of the top teams in the AFC, and the Chiefs will enter Week 16 after a tough loss to the Chargers last Thursday night. Seattle is also coming off a bad loss at the 49ers, losing in San Francisco after a great four-game winning streak. Both teams will look to bounce back and put up points and defensive stops, but the Chiefs are going to struggle to slow down Chris Carson and Russell Wilson. With this game in Seattle, the Seahawks will be up for this game that may prove to other teams that Seattle can make some noise in the postseason. Getting Seattle as a home underdog looks like the right side for this challenging call. PICK: Seahawks

(Monday) DENVER (-2.5) at OAKLAND (Over/Under 44 to 45)
Week 16 wraps up with the final Monday Night Football contest of the year – oddly enough, on Christmas Eve. Motivation is tough to find in this contest, as the players may even be distracted by family plans for the next day. Even Jon Gruden may be contemplating his days in the booth on Mondays instead of on the sideline for the Raiders. Denver continues to struggle after the loss of Emmanuel Sanders as the Broncos dropped a winnable game at home to Cleveland last Saturday. Oakland is still battling and gave Cincinnati a good fight before folding last week. Look for the Broncos to ride Pro Bowler Phillip Lindsay this game on the road in Oakland in a game few people will watch. PICK: Broncos

PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: Baltimore, Houston, Cleveland, Dallas, Minnesota, Indianapolis, Miami, Chicago, Seattle

THIS WEEK'S PLAYS

The intent of this column is to give out not only the Plays for the Week in the NFL but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 Unit scale. The more units, the bigger the emphasis on that side of the game. (More units = More $$$).

The games are much more fun (and teaser friendly) this week. If you are unfamiliar with a "Wong Teaser", check out the link and learn a bit more as we have several in play for Week 14. Plenty of fun to be had this week.

NOTE - With the recent Cam Newton (out) news, scratch the Over play for Carolina and Atlanta. This also impacts the bigger (7+ team) teasers, so adjust accordingly.

* ONE UNIT PLAYS *

  • (Saturday, 8:20PM Eastern) BALTIMORE (+5) at LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
  • CLEVELAND (-7) vs. CINCINNATI
  • DALLAS (-7) vs. TAMPA BAY
  • INDIANAPOLIS (-9) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
  • MIAMI (-4) vs. JACKSONVILLE
  • CHICAGO (-3.5) at SAN FRANCISCO
  • SEATTLE (+2.5) vs. KANSAS CITY
  • (Saturday, 8:20PM Eastern) BALTIMORE “FOR THE WIN” (+190) at LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
  • 2-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER:
    • (Saturday, 4:30PM Eastern) TENNESSEE (-4) vs. WASHINGTON
    • (Saturday, 8:20PM Eastern) BALTIMORE (+11) at LOS ANGELES
  • 6-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (6.1-1 ODDS):
    • DALLAS (-1) vs. TAMPA BAY
    • MINNESOTA (+1) at DETROIT
    • INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • CHICAGO (+2.5) at SAN FRANCISCO
    • CLEVELAND (-1) vs. CINCINNATI
    • (Saturday, 4:30PM Eastern) TENNESSEE (-4) vs. WASHINGTON
  • 7-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (8.9-1 ODDS):
    • DALLAS (-1) vs. TAMPA BAY
    • MINNESOTA (+1) at DETROIT
    • INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • CHICAGO (+2.5) at SAN FRANCISCO
    • CLEVELAND (-1) vs. CINCINNATI
    • (Saturday, 4:30PM Eastern) TENNESSEE (-4) vs. WASHINGTON
    • HOUSTON (+7) at PHILADELPHIA
  • 8-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (12.75-1 ODDS):
    • DALLAS (-1) vs. TAMPA BAY
    • MINNESOTA (+1) at DETROIT
    • INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • CHICAGO (+2.5) at SAN FRANCISCO
    • CLEVELAND (-1) vs. CINCINNATI
    • (Saturday, 4:30PM Eastern) TENNESSEE (-4) vs. WASHINGTON
    • HOUSTON (+7) at PHILADELPHIA
    • (Saturday, 8:20PM Eastern) BALTIMORE (+11) at LOS ANGELES
  • 9-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (18.25-1 ODDS):
    • DALLAS (-1) vs. TAMPA BAY
    • MINNESOTA (+1) at DETROIT
    • INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • CHICAGO (+2.5) at SAN FRANCISCO
    • CLEVELAND (-1) vs. CINCINNATI
    • (Saturday, 4:30PM Eastern) TENNESSEE (-4) vs. WASHINGTON
    • HOUSTON (+7) at PHILADELPHIA
    • (Saturday, 8:20PM Eastern) BALTIMORE (+11) at LOS ANGELES
    • SEATTLE (+8.5) vs. KANSAS CITY
  • 10-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (26-1 ODDS):
    • DALLAS (-1) vs. TAMPA BAY
    • MINNESOTA (+1) at DETROIT
    • INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • CHICAGO (+2.5) at SAN FRANCISCO
    • CLEVELAND (-1) vs. CINCINNATI
    • (Saturday, 4:30PM Eastern) TENNESSEE (-4) vs. WASHINGTON
    • HOUSTON (+7) at PHILADELPHIA
    • (Saturday, 8:20PM Eastern) BALTIMORE (+11) at LOS ANGELES
    • SEATTLE (+8.5) vs. KANSAS CITY
    • NEW ENGLAND (-6.5) vs. BUFFALO

** TWO UNIT PLAYS **

  • HOUSTON (+1) at PHILADELPHIA (Over/Under 45)
  • MINNESOTA (-5) at DETROIT (Over/Under 43.5)
  • 5-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (4.1-1 ODDS):
    • DALLAS (-1) vs. TAMPA BAY
    • MINNESOTA (+1) at DETROIT
    • INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • CHICAGO (+2.5) at SAN FRANCISCO
    • CLEVELAND (-1) vs. CINCINNATI

*** THREE UNIT PLAYS ***

  • 3-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (9-5 ODDS):
    • DALLAS (-1) vs. TAMPA BAY
    • MINNESOTA (+1) at DETROIT
    • INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
  • 4-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (2.65-1 ODDS):
    • DALLAS (-1) vs. TAMPA BAY
    • MINNESOTA (+1) at DETROIT
    • INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • CHICAGO (+2.5) at SAN FRANCISCO

RESULTS

Last Week

  • OVERALL: 8-7-1 (53.3%)
  • PICK(S) OF WEEK: 6-4-1 (60.0%)
  • WEEKLY TOP PLAYS: 13.1-16 (45.0%)

Season

  • OVERALL: 110-106-8 (50.9%)
  • PICK(S) OF WEEK: 51-41-4 (55.4%)
  • WEEKLY TOP PLAYS: 333.4-167-2 (66.6%)

Good luck this weekend!

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

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