I went 2-3-2 in my contest last week with pushes on the Texans and Seahawks. Because I included both of Saturday’s games, I made those picks earlier than usual. With a Friday matchup and three Saturday games this week, there’s a chance that I’ll once again tweet my picks before Sunday.
For the rest of the regular season, I will be publishing this article on Wednesday due to the holiday schedule. I’ll share my thoughts using the most up-to-date point spreads and put an emphasis on playoff scenarios. I have categorized the NFL slate into three sections based on playoff standing.
Note: My picks could change based on information and any news that is not factored into the contest line. I will discuss and finalize these picks on a Periscope show I host called Weekend Warriors. The show will be live for an hour on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET and can be seen on Stadium’s Periscope channel or Stadium’s Twitter.
Here are my thoughts for Week 16.
Games That Matter For Both Teams
Vikings at Saints (-7): The first game of the week is on Christmas and features a rematch of a NFC Wild Card game from last year when the Vikings upset the Saints in New Orleans. The Vikings are mathematically in playoff contention, but losing at home to the Bears last week pretty much crushed their hopes of returning to the postseason. The No. 1 seed is slipping away from the Saints after two straight losses, but they would clinch the NFC South with a win here. I think the Saints do enough to win this game, but I wouldn’t pick them against the spread.
Dolphins (-3) at Raiders: Like the Vikings, the Raiders’ playoff hopes were basically dashed by a division rival last week. As for the Dolphins, they control their own fate. If they win their last two games, they’ll finish 11-5 and go on the road for Wild Card weekend after the Bills secured the AFC East in Week 15. I don’t think I have picked the Raiders at all this season, but will consider them here as a home underdog because there shouldn’t be much of a downgrade from Derek Carr to Marcus Mariota at quarterback. The Dolphins also closed as a home underdog against the Patriots last week because of offensive injuries, so it’s hard to justify them as a road favorite in this game.
Colts (-1.5) at Steelers: I thought the Steelers deserved a pass for losing to Washington and the Bills because those two losses occurred in a stretch where they played three games in 12 days. But after losing as two-touchdown favorites to Ryan Finley and the Bengals, we have to completely reassess what we think of the Steelers. The market responded by re-opening the Colts as a short favorite in a game where the Steelers were a 2.5-point favorite before the debacle in Cincinnati. In most situations, I would bet on a team when the line moves drastically against them. I just can’t in this situation due to how both teams are trending.
Giants at Ravens (-10.5): This game matters for the Giants because they still have a chance at the NFC East title, but it matters a lot more for the Ravens. Baltimore is in a good spot to go 11-5 with this game and a trip to Cincinnati on deck. They’ll also need another AFC playoff contender to lose a game, like the Dolphins, in order to make the postseason. One factor to monitor is who starts at quarterback for the Giants after Colt McCoy made his second start in three weeks this past Sunday night.
Rams at Seahawks (-1.5): Even after downgrading the Rams coming off a loss to the winless Jets, I think the line for this game is correct. You can definitely argue that it’s a good spot to bet on the Rams after their embarrassing loss — maybe they were looking ahead to this game? The Seahawks would win the division with a victory here, while the Rams need to win this game to tie the Seahawks, completing the season sweep of Seattle in the process. At this point, teasing the Rams up to over a touchdown would be my approach in this game.
Eagles (-2.5) at Cowboys: The winner of this game could keep their playoff hopes alive if Washington loses to the Panthers. My first thought is I’m not sure if the Eagles should be favored on the road. Rookie QB Jalen Hurts has had two strong starts in the underdog role, but now it’s different as the favorite. The Eagles are also decimated in the secondary with injuries, so I need to see if they’ll be getting any help in that area. I’m pretty hesitant on backing this Cowboys team, but I think it’s the side I would lean for now.
Titans at Packers (-3.5): There are a lot of intriguing angles in this game. On the sideline, we’ll see Packers head coach Matt LaFleur coaching against the team he was the offensive coordinator for in 2018 under Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. There’s also plenty of playoff significance to sort through, and it’s important to note this game is on Sunday night, meaning that the Packers could have the NFC’s No. 1 seed locked up before kickoff if the Saints fall to the Vikings on Friday. As for the Titans, they’d clinch a playoff spot with a win and would have a chance to clinch the division if the Colts lose earlier in the day. Even if the Saints win, the Packers don’t need this game because they would have another chance to clinch the top seed at the Bears in Week 17. The Titans need this game more, and they should have success running the ball against the Packers’ defense.
Games That Matter For One Team
Buccaneers (-9.5) at Lions: The Buccaneers will make the playoffs with a win on Saturday. The line has quickly climbed from Buccaneers -7.5, so I would stay away at the current number.
49ers at Cardinals (-5): The Cardinals control their playoff fate, while the 49ers were officially eliminated last week. The look-ahead line was Cardinals -3, but it’s slowly moved to Cardinals -5. It appears that QB C.J. Beathard will get the start for San Francisco for this Saturday afternoon game since Nick Mullens is out of the season. The Cards appear to be more motivated, but I would be cautious backing them here because I expect a formidable effort from Kyle Shanahan’s team with the chance to spoil a division rival’s season.
Browns (-9.5) at Jets: The Jets picked up their first win of the season, but it’s one that could cost them the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. The Browns are the team this game matters for as they improved to 10-4 last week. With a win and some help this weekend, they could clinch a playoff spot.
Bears (-7.5) at Jaguars: You can argue that this should be in the “Games That Matter For Both Teams” section because the Bears can still make the playoffs, and the Jaguars want to lose so they can eventually secure the No. 1 overall pick and draft Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. Since Lawrence is now in play for Jacksonville, the line has soared to over a touchdown after the Bears were just a 3.5-point favorite on the look-ahead line before Week 15. While the Bears are going to be an extremely popular teaser leg this week, there’s line value on Jacksonville due to the inflated spread.
Panthers at Washington (-2.5): This game between Ron Rivera’s Washington Football Team and the franchise he used to coach got moved to later in the day to coincide with the NFC East tilt between the Eagles and Cowboys. The line says Washington is the better team, but I personally think it should be a pick’em after giving Washington the home-field advantage. With the playoff pressure on Washington, I like the idea of taking the Panthers at an underdog price and also using them in teasers.
Falcons at Chiefs (-10.5): When the Bengals led the Steelers by 17 points at halftime on Monday night, I tweeted out a recommendation for this game. The Bengals won, and now the Chiefs just need to win one of their final two games to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC. I’m a little hesitant to take the Falcons after blowing a 17-point second-half lead against the Buccaneers in their final home game of the season, but this game being less important for Kansas City is a strong enough reason to consider Atlanta.
Bills (-7) at Patriots: The Bills are in the driver’s seat for the No. 2 seed in the AFC, while the Patriots were just eliminated from playoff contention for the first time in 12 years. That’s all built into the current price, so this game will likely be a pass for me.
Games That Don’t Impact the Playoffs
Broncos at Chargers (-3): When the Anthony Lynn-led Chargers are a favorite in a game, I usually look toward the other side. In this case, I’ll probably pass entirely since both teams have an eye on 2021.
Bengals at Texans (-8): Despite this game not mattering for the playoffs, I think I’m going to use the Texans for my contest. It’s a big spread, but the Bengals are coming off a home win against the Steelers in primetime, setting up a potential letdown spot after the shocking victory against their biggest rival. Taking the Texans to cover the first half spread is a bet I will be looking to make this weekend.