Time for the NFL Week 16 picks! Make sure to listen to the podcast with KAM, Sam,and Jeremy this week to get caught up on everything you need to know about the NFL Playoff picture. Weeks 14 and 15 of the NFL season have been the best yet. Week 16 doesn't have as many marquee games but it will go a long way towards establishing who's in and who's out of the postseason this year. Remember, we have NFL games on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. So balance your NFL viewing with the College Football Bowls that are on every night, along with your family Holiday obligations. It's the most wonderful time of the year! Here are the picks, previews, and commentary from the rest of the team at The Football Pod:
***These are Wednesday morning lines for Week 16. If you pick later in the week and need help with adjusted lines just find me on twitter, and I'll help you out. That's what friends are for!***
Indianapolis (+14) @ Baltimore:
If you're old enough to remember the Baltimore Colts, this game always throws you off. The Colts team that used to call Maryland home is going back to Baltimore to play the city's new team, the Ravens. (The Ravens that are actually the old Cleveland Browns...) Regardless, the NFL meant well when it scheduled this game for Christmas Eve. It should have been Andrew Luck leading the Colts against the Ravens defense, in a game that would have most likely featured a couple teams that were vying for Playoff spots. The Ravens have held up their end of the bargain, but the Colts have had an awful year. Luck hasn't played a snap, and we have no idea when he'll be healthy again. Baltimore has won four out of five games, the only loss was a one-point setback in Pittsburgh. This strong performance down the stretch should reward the Ravens: If they can win out by beating the lowly Colts and Bengals, the Ravens will go to the Playoffs as an AFC Wildcard team. Getting the first win of those wins shouldn't be too difficult on Saturday. The Ravens have the NFL's fourth best scoring defense, only giving up 18.3 points per game (PPG). They should match up pretty well with a Colts offense that struggles to score. Indianapolis is ranked 31st in the NFL in scoring offense, only putting up 16.1 PPG. The Colts will struggle to move the ball as well. The Ravens are top ten in total defense and top four in one of my favorite stats, yards per play (YPP). The Ravens only allow 5.0 YPP. The Colts are dead last in the league in YPP on offense. This mismatch should allow the Ravens to take advantage of field position early in this game and build a steady lead. I know it's a huge line, but the Ravens have all of the aforementioned advantages, they're at home on a holiday, and they're playing for something. The Colts are playing for nothing. Ravens to cover:
Minnesota (-10) @ Green Bay:
***Editor's note: A difficult season for Packers fans finally came to an end last week when Green Bay lost in Carolina, despite the return of Aaron Rodgers. For the first time since 2008, Green Bay will not be a Playoff team. Kimberly Ann Maley has been faithfully following each and every turn. Now Rodgers goes back to IR, and the Packers can only hope to spoil the rival-Vikings chances at the NFC's top postseason seed. Here is KAM's preview and ATS pick for Vikings/Packers.***
Within hours of Atlanta's 24-21 win over Tampa Bay on Monday night, Green Bay had placed their star quarterback, Aaron Rodger, on the injured reserve for the rest of the season. It's obvious this move was made after the Packers' Playoff window had closed for good in 2017. As much as I wanted to see Aaron play last week, I understand the decision to shut him down now. It's hard to forget the way that the Minnesota defense exploited the Green Bay offensive line the first time these teams met. It would be hard to justify playing Rodgers against that same defense with nothing to gain.
Brett Hundley will start his eighth game this season as quarterback but this time he may have to do it without his top target. Due to an illegal hit last week, receiver Davante Adams suffered a concussion, he hasn't practiced since, and it's unlikely he'll play this week. Like Rodgers, he may even be out the rest of the year. Meanwhile, Minnesota's Case Keenum will have his stable of reliable weapons at his disposal. Stephon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, and first time Pro Bowler Adam Thielen will be ready to go. Green Bay's secondary will have their hands full, as they must contain this reliable, and still underrated group.
While the Vikings offense may still be underrated, the defense is anything but. The unit is top three in the NFL in scoring defense, total defense, rushing yards allowed, and passing yards allowed. Minnesota should be able to win this game, but it's at Lambeau where Green Bay has won many times as underdog. Ten points is too many; Packers to cover:
Los Angeles Rams (-7) @ Tennessee:
In case you missed it, the Rams went to Seattle last week and dethroned the Seahawks in the NFC West. They didn't beat around the bush, they didn't wait their turn, and they didn't ask nicely. Nope, they just showed up and dominated the Seahawks. It was how Seattle used to treat everyone else in the division. Maybe the Rams are just that much better now. Maybe the Seahawks' many injuries finally caught up with them. Or maybe, as discussed on the podcast this week, Seattle has too many culture problems to overcome. Regardless, we shouldn't take anything away from the Rams. LA was ready for the moment; Seattle wasn't, and that division race is essentially over. Now the Rams will travel to Tennessee to match up with a Titans team that has plenty of its own issues. My opinion is that the Titans were generally exposed in their Week 11 loss at Pittsburgh. Including that game, the Titans have lost three of five, and their last two in a row. Tennessee hasn't had to deal with many good quarterbacks this year, but it's been a struggle when it's happened. Losses to the Raiders, the Texans (when DeShaun Watson was playing), the Steelers, and the rejuvenated 49ers have shown us that much. Now Jared Goff and the Rams are coming to town. Thanks to the big win in Seattle, the Rams can clinch their division with a win in Nashville. It would be the Rams first Playoff appearance since 2004 and the franchise's first division title since 2003. But after crushing the Seahawks is this a natural letdown spot for the Rams? The Titans should get their best effort of the season. They can still clinch an AFC Wildcard slot by winning out. To get one of them on Sunday they'll have to stop the Rams rushing offense. LA is seventh best in the NFL, at 123.9 YPG. But Tennessee has the third best rushing defense in the league, only giving up 87.2 YPG. So this is actually a decent matchup for the Titans. Not that the Rams can't find a way to move the ball and score points through the air. LA is top ten in total offense, and the Rams are third-best in the league at yards per pass attempt (YPA) at 7.6 Moreover, LA is tied with Philly for the best scoring offense in the NFL. On paper it sounds like a mismatch. But despite the loss to San Francisco last week, Tennessee did get one of Marcus Mariota's best games of the season. The Rams have been consistent all year so I don't expect a letdown, but I do think we'll see a great effort from Tennessee. This is much more of a must-win game for the Titans. I'll take the desperate team getting a full score at home:
Miami (+11) @ Kansas City:
Kansas City finally had another good game last Saturday night in the AFC West's de facto division championship. The Chiefs were great and the Chargers never got off the bus. Credit to KC for holding serve at home and reasserting their standing in the West. Now the Chiefs can win the division officially by beating the Dolphins on Sunday. Miami is still one of the very worst offenses in the NFL. The Dolphins average 18 PPG, ranked 26th in the league, and they're even worse when it comes to moving the ball: Miami is ranked 28th in total offense, and they only average 4.8 YPP. That's 27th in the league. The equally awful numbers in YPG and YPP tell us that the Dolphins lack consistency and big plays, both. KC's defense is not great, but the Chiefs are definitely better at Arrowhead. This is another matchup where one team (the Chiefs) are playing for everything and the other (the Dolphins) is just looking to go home for the Holidays. Chiefs to cover and keep the momentum going:
***For more on Kansas City's recent turnaround, check out Jeremy DeBottis's weekly Chiefs commentary.***
Buffalo (+12.5) @ New England:
Buffalo is having one of its better seasons in recent memory. At 8-6, the Playoffs are actually a somewhat realistic hope. If you're a Bills fan you can read everything you should be rooting for this weekend here. The best thing the Bills can do, of course, is upset the Patriots. It would be a long shot at home, but at Foxboro, it's almost impossible. Remember, the Patriots most likely still need to win out to guarantee the AFC's top seed, and home field advantage, in the Playoffs. New England certainly can't afford to trip up here. The Patriots won by 20 points three weeks ago in Orchard Park. They absolutely own this series. Some games require a lot of analysis. Some don't. This one falls into the latter category. Don't overthink it. Patriots to win big:
Atlanta (+5.5) @ New Orleans:
Both of these teams won last week but neither was overly impressive. The Saints let the lowly Jets hang around well into the fourth quarter before scoring a touchdown and winning by double digits. The Falcons were taken right down to the wire by the Buccaneers. So both won, but neither covered. These two played in Atlanta just two weeks ago and the Falcons won a sloppy game, 20-17. The favorite in this series is only 1-7 ATS in the last eight meetings, as the games have been sporadic and unpredictable. But New Orleans has been great at home this year. The Saints are 6-1 in the Dome, and that includes six straight wins. Their only loss at home came way back in Week 2 to New England. Both teams would like to run the ball on Sunday. The Saints have the 5th best running attack in the NFL; the Falcons aren't too far behind with the 8th best ground game. Since neither is outstanding at stopping the run, both teams should have some success. I like New Orleans to win again at home, but Atlanta to keep it close. Falcons to cover a pretty big number for a divisional game between winning teams:
Los Angeles Chargers (-7) @ New York Jets:
***Editor's note: It's been another long season for the New York Jets. But fortunately, Greg Armstrong has chronicled all of it for us. And if you're keeping score (we are), Greg is an excellent 11-3 ATS picking Jets games this season. So despite the Jets struggles, you've hopefully put Greg's insights to work. In between sports talk radio segments and his work for TurnOnTheJets.com, we caught up with Greg to get his take on the Chargers-Jets game this week.***
Coming off a surprisingly decent effort in New Orleans, the New York Jets return home for the final team this season to take on the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers played in a huge prime time game last Saturday night, but pulled a typical Chargers move and got dismantled by the Chiefs. When you consider how poor the Chargers played in Kansas City, and the fact that the Jets play much better at home, the seven point spread seems a little lofty.
For the Jets to win outright, they'll have to come out with a similar game plan as to what we saw last week. The Jets had some success running the ball on the Saints below-average run defense. The Chargers have a run defense that ranks in the bottom quarter of the league so the Jets must exploit that. A heavy dose of Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire should be in order. But even if the Jets establish a run game, Bryce Petty will have to be better. He's been very inaccurate and I'm not sure this is something that can be fixed. Certainly not in a week or two. His best bet for success is deep balls, especially to big targets like Austin Seferian-Jenkins. All season, I've been clamoring for Seferian-Jenkins to get more looks downfield. Maybe Petty can finally make this happen. The LA secondary is a little ball hawkish and they aren't afraid to take chances. Whether it's Seferian-Jenkins, Robby Anderson, or anyone else that Petty is targeting, he must be aware of the Chargers' coverage and their defensive backs' tendencies.
Defensively, the Jets will need to need to force Philip Rivers into one of his typical late December, error-filled games. Forcing turnovers to give Petty and the offense a shorter field will go a long way towards victory. This may be the last chance for Jamal Adams to get his first interception of the season, and I think he will. Regardless of who gets the turnovers, the Jets must get more than the three points they scored off of three turnovers last week.
I think this is a game that the Jets will keep close into the fourth quarter, but ultimately a couple Petty turnovers will doom them. The Jets don't have enough talent to overcome mistakes and that will cost them. Jets to cover, but Chargers to win, 30-27.
Jacksonville (-4) @ San Francisco:
Earlier this season the 49ers made an excellent trade, sending a mere second round draft pick to New England for Jimmy Garoppolo. Even if Garoppolo didn't blossom into a Pro Bowler, it was worth a second round pick. Teams spend first round picks on much more unproven players. Following the trade, San Francisco wisely kept Garoppolo on the bench. There was no need to rush him into action, win meaningless games and damage their draft stock. But late in a loss to Seattle, the "starter" got injured and Garoppolo had to come into the game. He threw a touchdown that did nothing more than make the score look a little closer, but hey, he looked good doing it. And the next week the 49ers had no choice but to play him thanks to the injury. Since then, the 49ers have won three straight and Garoppolo gets better each week. San Francisco clearly has its franchise quarterback of the future. Kudos to John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan for pulling this off... All of that being said, Garoppolo now faces the biggest test of his young career. Jacksonville is coming to town, and the Jaguars bring with them the league's best scoring defense. Just how good are the Jags? They lead the NFL in scoring defense, a full 2.4 points better than the next best defense, the Minnesota Vikings. Jacksonville is also top three in total defense, and tops in the league at allowing the fewest YPP. Quietly, the Jags are also a top five scoring offense. Yeah, Jacksonville puts up over 26 PPG. That number may be inflated a little due to the defense, but quarterback Blake Bortles is playing much better over the last month. In his last three games he's completing over 70% of his passes with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. In two of those three games he's gone over three hundred yards. Jacksonville should also have Leonard Fournette back in the lineup. The defense, Bortles's continuous improvement, and Fournette's availability should be too much for San Francisco. Jags to cover on the road:
Seattle (+5) @ Dallas:
***Editor's Note: Rick York was on thefootballpod a few short weeks ago to lay out the Dallas Cowboys improbable, but possible, path to the Playoffs. Now America's Team is on a three game win streak. Rick's hopes are up, but first Dallas has to take care of Seattle on Christmas Eve. Here's Rick's preview and pick ATS.***
Merry Christmas! But will it be a Happy Cowboys New Year? Since we last saw Ezekiel Elliott, the team has gone 3-3 and kept Playoff hopes alive. I'll admit I'm surprised, and due to the three game winning streak, starting to feel the slightest bit of hope. Now Zeke is ready to go as Dallas hosts Seattle on Christmas Eve. The Seahawks have not looked very good lately and they're still missing some key defensive players. This opens the door for the re-energized Cowboys to win their fourth straight and continue their Playoff push. Despite some of their recent struggles, Seattle still has a Super Bowl winning coach/quarterback combination, and enough play makers that you don't want to face them in a big game. But because of their injury situation on defense, it should be possible for Dallas to get the ball moving early. Todd Gurley and the Rams thrashed the Seahawks last week. The Cowboys should try to get it going on the ground with Elliott early. If Dallas can get a lead in the first half, then Russell Wilson will need to drop back to pass a lot since the Seahawks run game is almost non-existent. The Cowboys are playing well up front, and the defensive line should be able to keep pressure on Wilson all afternoon. Wilson will need to rely on a lot of scrambling and connecting on some deep routes to keep Seattle in it. But over the last couple games - losses to the Jaguars and the Rams - opponents have figured some of this out. Dallas will hopefully put the game tapes from the last couple weeks to use.
These are two teams that seem to be trending in opposite directions. I like the Cowboys chances in this game much more than I did two weeks ago. It's not a lock by any means, but I think they have the momentum to get the win here. Or (as usual) they're just building up the high in preparation for the let down. Cowboys to cover but we'll re-evaluate next week...
Pittsburgh (-10) @ Houston:
We spent much of the podcast debating it this week, but my take remains the same on the Steelers last week: It's not that they got screwed out of a touchdown on the Jesse James play. It's that they botched the rest of the series inside the goal line. Worse yet, Ben Roethlisberger can't seem to acknowledge he screwed it up. Mike Tomlin has handled all of it pretty well. Roethlisberger has not. Can the Steelers get over their normal internal drama and back to winning? It's unlikely that the Patriots will slip up, but if they do, the Steelers can still win the AFC's top seed. First they have to take care of business on the road in Houston. The Texans are limping to the end of a miserable season. Losing both DeShaun Watson and JJ Watt for the season has taken a toll. The Texans have lost four in a row and they haven't scored more than 16 points in any of those games. Their defense has gotten worse too. They give up over 145 YPG on the ground in their last three. When the Steelers have been at their best this year, they run the ball with LeVeon Bell and get him involved int the short passing game too. Look for them to do both on Christmas Day. Steelers to cover the big number :
Oakland (+10) @ Philadelphia:
Carson Wentz is out for the rest of the year, but give the Eagles credit. They needed to avoid a trap game against a rival in backup Nick Foles's first start last week and they did. It was sloppy at times, but Foles played pretty well. The Eagles were down 14 points early, but then Foles threw four touchdowns, the defense got a late goal line stand, and the Eagles came out on top. Now they're back in Philly for a game with Oakland that should be an easier win. The Raiders have really struggled on the road this year. They're only 2-5 outside of Oakland. The Raiders also have a lot of problems on defense; they're ranked in the bottom half of the league in scoring defense and total defense. They give up 5.7 YPP, which is the fifth worst in the NFL. So that defense has to contain the Eagles offense. In Philly. The Eagles are tied with the Rams for the best scoring offense in the league. And they go for 5.7 YPP on offense, the same number that the Raiders give up. Expect Philly to show us the same balanced offense that they've had humming for several weeks now. They'll get little resistance from a Raiders teams is ready for their disappointing season to end. Eagles to fly high and cover the big number:
Did you like our NFL picks this week? Hate the picks? Want to play along and teach us how to pick? Let our experts know what you think:
|Sam finally had a decent season in 2016 and hit a 55% success rate on his NFL picks. So your best bet is to fade his picks this year. It won't hurt his feelings.|
|The voice of thefootballpod.com, KAM's so good that she's been known to pick both NFL and college games. She'll share her picks as long as you don't trash talk her Packers.|
|Need power picks and the power sweep, both? Then look no further than Kevin's picks. This Western Pennsylvania football product knows the game as well as anyone.|
|She's not only the best bartender in town, but #PaytonsPicks set the pace in 2016, to the tune of a 56% success rate! Catch her if you can. Or just wisely follow her picks.|
|He's our resident Cowboys expert, so you'll hear from Rick a lot this year. As for his picks, #RicksLocks are as money as Dallas playing as the one seed in the NFC Playoffs.|
|Founder of theredbeat.com, and a contributor at turnonthejets.com, Greg is the newest member of the team. He's the biggest Jets fan we know (and willing to admit it...)|
|After making the rounds on the podcast circuit for years, we finally have our Kansas City Chiefs expert weighing in, writing columns, and picking games. So pay attention!|
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