Week 16 Edition
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*Note – DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: It’s Football Outsiders’ primary efficiency statistic and I believe it to be the best and most predictive measure of assessing the strength of NFL teams
**Note – All betting odds courtesy of Vegas Insider
***Note – Public betting refers to the amount of wagers taken on the spread
Records Entering Week 16
Straight Up: 153-71 (.683) Last Week: 11-5 (.688) Total: 317-172-2 (.648)
Spread: 126-87-11 (.587) Last Week: 8-6-2 (.563) Total: 276-196-19 (.581)
Over/Under: 123-95-6 (.563) Last Week: 9-7 (.563) Total: 265-220-6 (.546)
Locks: 21-4 (.840) Last Week: 3-0 (1.000) Total: 53-10 (.841)
Best Bets: 58-38 (.604) Last Week: 3-2 (.600) Total: 187-138-1 (.575)
*Note: Total records date back to 2016 season.
CAPITAL Letters indicate pick with spread
*Aster-risk denotes LOCK
Indianapolis Colts (3-11) vs Baltimore Ravens (8-6) (Saturday Game)
Spread: BAL -13.5 Over/Under: 41
DVOA: IND (28) < BAL (4)
Public Betting: BAL 58%
The Ravens’ defense and special teams, which rank 2nd and 1st respectively in the NFL, have them on the cusp of a playoff berth, but it has been their offense that has been the real story over the past few weeks. Baltimore is averaging 31 points over its last five games; and with a 3-11 Colts team that ranks 31st in points against coming to town, John Harbaugh’s squad shouldn’t have much trouble moving to 9-6.
*Baltimore 27, INDIANAPOLIS 17
Minnesota Vikings (11-3) vs Green Bay Packers (7-7) (Saturday Game)
Spread: MIN -8.5 Over/Under: 41.5
DVOA: MIN (6) > GB (13)
Public Betting: MIN 56%
The Packers will look to spoil the Vikings’ bid to claim a first-round bye, but that won’t be an easy task without Aaron Rodgers, who was placed back on injured reserve after Green Bay was officially eliminated from the postseason last Sunday. Minnesota’s dominance defensively has been well-documented, but here’s one stat you probably weren’t aware of: the Vikings are allowing a third-down conversion rate of just 26.3%; and if this stat holds, it will be the lowest third-down mark in the NFL since 2003! So yeah, their defense should get the better of Brett Hundley on Saturday night.
MINNESOTA 24, Green Bay 13
Detroit Lions (8-6) vs Cincinnati Bengals (5-9)
Spread: DET -3 Over/Under: 44
DVOA: DET (16) > CIN (25)
Public Betting: DET 64%
I’m starting to notice a theme with many of these Week 16 games: one team (the 8-6 Lions) desperately needs the game more than the other (the 5-9 Bengals). So does that mean Detroit will win this game simply because it is more “motivated?” Not necessarily. Sure, Cincinnati has been outscored 67-14 in its last two games, but the Bengals should benefit from the return of linebacker Vontaze Burfict and running back Joe Mixon from injury. Last two games aside, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Cincy play more inspired considering long-tenured coach Marvin Lewis’ impending exit.
With that said…I’ll still take the potentially playoff-bound Lions in a close one.
Detroit 21, CINCINNATI 20
Los Angeles Chargers (7-7) vs New York Jets (5-9)
Spread: LAC -6.5 Over/Under: 42.5
DVOA: LAC (10) > NYJ (20)
Public Betting: LAC 58%
The Jets have made a habit of surprising superior opponents this season, but the Chargers and their third-ranked scoring defense will get the better of Bryce Petty (43.8% completion percentage in 2017).
LOS ANGELES 28, New York 14
Los Angeles Rams (10-4) vs Tennessee Titans (8-6)
Spread: LA -6.5 Over/Under: 47.5
DVOA: LA (1) > TEN (23)
Public Betting: LA 65%
Talk about two teams heading in opposite directions. The Rams are coming off their most dominant win of the year: a 42-7 beatdown of Seattle. Tennessee, meanwhile, has lost two consecutive games to under .500 opponents (Arizona and San Francisco). But it’s not like the Titans’ struggles are a new development. After all, this is a team that needed overtime to beat the Browns — and if you’re wondering how the Titans have eight wins, look no further than the fact that they have played the NFL’s easiest slate of opponents, according to Football Outsiders. With injuries plaguing its secondary as well, Tennessee will see its grasp on a playoff berth slip further away.
LOS ANGELES 24, Tennessee 17
Cleveland Browns (0-14) vs Chicago Bears (4-10)
Spread: CHI -6.5 Over/Under: 38
DVOA: CLE (30) < CHI (21)
Public Betting: CLE 62%
Never bet on the Br — wait, they’re playing the Bears, who rank just 30th in points per drive. No matter, the Browns are even worse than Chicago.
Chicago 20, CLEVELAND 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10) vs Carolina Panthers (10-4)
Spread: CAR -10.5 Over/Under: 46.5
DVOA: TB (22) < CAR (8)
Public Betting: CAR 68%
The Buccaneers have been decimated by injuries — in short, we’d be here all day if I summarized their injury report. However, I’m always hesitant to back the Panthers because I’m still a proponent of the idea that Cam Newton is the most erratic player in the NFL. After all, just look at his quarterback ratings from the past six weeks: 128.0, 64.9, 107.5, 59.8, 120.4, 71.0. Nonetheless, though the Panthers aren’t too healthy themselves, they will take advantage of Tampa’s injury woes.
Carolina 27, TAMPA BAY 20
Atlanta Falcons (9-5) vs New Orleans Saints (10-4)
Spread: NO -5.5 Over/Under: 52.5
DVOA: ATL (15) < NO (2)
Public Betting: NO 50%
The Falcons may have held the Saints to just 17 points when these teams met a few weeks ago in Atlanta, but odds are that won’t happen again. Dan Quinn’s squad has some talented players on the defensive side of the ball, but they still rank just 25th in defensive efficiency according to Football Outsiders. More importantly, they’re also ranked just 30th in run defense efficiency, so I’ll take the dynamic duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara (who suffered a concussion in the first quarter when these teams last met) to guide New Orleans to victory.
NEW ORLEANS 28, Atlanta 21
Denver Broncos (5-9) vs Washington Redskins (6-8)
Spread: WSH -3.5 Over/Under: 40.5
DVOA: DEN (32) < WSH (19)
Public Betting: WSH 61%
The Broncos have been playing musical chairs at quarterback over the past few weeks. This week they’ll go back to Brock Osweiler after his terrific performance last Thursday against the Colts (70.6% completion percentage, 147.7 quarterback rating). But when you consider that a) Osweiler’s career quarterback rating is 77.2 and b) Indianapolis has one of the worst defenses in the NFL, it’s clear that his great outing last week was a fluke. I’ll side with Kirk Cousins and company.
WASHINGTON 24, Denver 16
Miami Dolphins (6-8) vs Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)
Spread: KC -10.5 Over/Under: 43.5
DVOA: MIA (27) < KC (14)
Public Betting: KC 53%
Both the Dolphins and Chiefs rank in the bottom half of the NFL in nearly every major defensive category (DVOA, yards per play, points per drive, etc), so I think this game will be high-scoring. But the key will be turnovers, as these two teams rank on completely opposite sides of the spectrum with respect to turnover margin: Kansas City is 3rd in the NFL (+0.9 per game); Miami is 30th (-0.8). If Jay Cutler protects the ball, the Dolphins will have a chance…but that’s a big if.
KANSAS CITY 38, Miami 24
Buffalo Bills (8-6) vs New England Patriots (11-3)
Spread: NE -12 Over/Under: 47.5
DVOA: BUF (24) < NE (5)
Public Betting: NE 51%
New England’s offense has a decisive edge over Buffalo’s, as it ranks 1st in the NFL in both yards and points per drive. Tyrod Taylor and company, meanwhile, rank just 28th and 23rd in those respective categories.
But there is one major concern for the Patriots in this matchup: their run defense, which ranks dead last in the league in opponent yards per rush attempt (4.9). If LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher, can have a similar performance as Le’Veon Bell had last week against the Patriots’ front-seven, the Bills should be able to control the clock and limit New England’s opportunities to score. There’s still little reason to believe, however, that Buffalo’s 23rd ranked scoring offense is potent enough to actually pull the upset.
New England 28, BUFFALO 17
Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4) vs San Francisco 49ers (4-10)
Spread: JAC -4 Over/Under: 42
DVOA: JAC (7) > SF (26)
Public Betting: JAC 64%
Pro Bowl defensive backs Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, along with Defensive Player of the Year candidate Calais Campbell (14.5 sacks), have been the main reason why the ‘Jags are still in contention for a first-round bye. But the biggest surprise of late has been Blake Bortles and this Jaguars passing offense, which is averaging 10.0 yards per attempt (first in the NFL) over the past three weeks. Since San Francisco’s secondary is poor (it ranks just 31st against the pass), I’ll take Jacksonville to overcome Jimmy Garoppolo and the emerging 49ers.
JACKSONVILLE 27, San Francisco 20
New York Giants (2-12) vs Arizona Cardinals (6-8)
Spread: ARZ -3 Over/Under: 40.5
DVOA: NYG (29) < ARZ (18)
Public Betting: NYG 52%
Lost amid Arizona’s unremarkable campaign is the fact that its defense ranks 4th in the NFL in opponent yards per play. So I’ll take the Cardinals to beat the anemic Giants in a low-scoring game.
Arizona 17, NEW YORK 16
Seattle Seahawks (8-6) vs Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
Spread: DAL -5 Over/Under: 47.5
DVOA: SEA (12) > DAL (11)
Public Betting: DAL 54%
Expect Seattle to come out with a chip on its shoulder after getting blown out by the Rams. However, I don’t think the Seahawks’ struggles will end because Ezekiel Elliott’s return from a six-game suspension undoubtedly helps a Dallas offense that averaged just 18.3 points without him (compare that total to the 28.5 points per game the Cowboys averaged with Elliott active in the first half of the season). Russell Wilson will keep the game close, but Dallas will ultimately squash Seattle’s playoff hopes.
Dallas 28, SEATTLE 24
And lastly, here are my Best Bets for Week Sixteen…
- TEASER: MINNESOTA (-2) over Green Bay & Minnesota vs Green Bay UNDER 48
- TEASER: LOS ANGELES (-0.5) over New York & NEW ORLEANS (+1.5) over Atlanta
- TEASER: LOS ANGELES (+0.5) over Tennessee & CAROLINA (-3.5) over Tampa Bay
- WASHINGTON (-175) over Denver
- Miami vs Kansas City OVER 43.5
- New York vs Arizona UNDER 40.5
- SEATTLE (+5) over Dallas