I’m going to keep my little intro brief this week. I have some advice here in Week 16. NFL games are hard enough to handicap in the middle of the season when you think you understand what every team is and all their strengths and weaknesses. Betting the last couple weeks, though — it’s almost impossible. There are a number of games this week where it comes down to which team is going to play hard — and that’s an extremely difficult thing to try and predict. For instance, Denver-Oakland will not be the matchup that we may have thought it would be if we looked ahead a few weeks ago. The Raiders have a roster full of veterans, who may not want to get hurt or have packed it in for the year, yet they have won two straight and will be home on Christmas Eve while the Broncos have just been eliminated from the playoff race, have to travel on the holiday, but are playing a bunch of young guys who may have something to prove to their coaches heading into the offseason. So who the heck do you pick??!!
Try and stay away from games like that — and there’s a bunch this week.
Last week, I went 9-7 straight up and 7-8-1 against the spread (ATS). For season, we’re looking at 134-73 straight up and 102-97-9 ATS. Let’s see what happens this week. Merry Christmas!
Baltimore at Chargers (-4.5)
Baltimore runs the balls at 43. yards per attempt — and they run it more than any other team in the NFL. Conversely, the Chargers give up 4.3 yards per attempts to opponents on the ground. The Ravens will want to run all day long. The problem might be that the Chargers will play that “bend but don’t break” defense and give up yards to Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson; but at some point, they’re going to make Lamar throw it. And when he does, Joey Boss and Melvin Ingram and Derwin James will be coming for him. That too is too good to be beaten by this rookie, who hasn’t shown any remarkable ability to throw the ball. Chargers, 27-20
Kansas City at Seattle (+2.5)
Seattle’s going to run the ball and KC is going to get gashed. It’s almost best for Kansas City to just concede all those rushing yards and tighten up in the red zone and against any passing attack Russell Wilson comes at them with. Chunk plays will be the key in this one. The Chiefs and Pat Mahomes have mastered those, but don’t sleep on Seattle’s ability to make big plays happen out of the passing game. Seattle, 26-24
Cool Gifts. Thanks.
Houston at Philadelphia (-1)
Let me ask you something: Are you willing to bet against Nick Foles in a “do or die” December game in Doug Pederson’s offense? Philly’s pass rush will give Houston’s offensive line fits. Eagles, 24-20
Pittsburgh at New Orleans (-6)
So the Saints offense hasn’t looked right in a few weeks. If Drew Brees & Co. struggle against Pittsburgh’s defense, then maybe I’ll start to wonder if things are okay in the bayou. I don’t expect the Steelers to keep this close. And the Saints — at home — will not shoot themselves in the foot like New England did the previous week against Pittsburgh. Saints, 34-24
Socks and Underwear
Washington at Tennessee (-10)
It’s fitting this game is being played at 4:30 on Saturday — if either team makes the playoffs that early Saturday time slot is the perfect home for them on Wildcard Weekend. The Titans defense should get after Josh Johnson and it won’t likely take much more than 17 points to win this game. Titans, 24-10
Tampa Bay at Dallas (-7)
Dallas’s offense should get back to moving the ball effectively after a disastrous game in Indy a week ago. Meanwhile, the Bucs offense can certainly be explosive but you worry about the turnovers. Jameis Winston has appeared to have fixed that problem — throwing only 3 interceptions in the last 5 games after tossing 10 in the 4 games prior. The Cowboys defense might goad him into reverting back to bad, reckless Jameis. Cowboys, 27-16
Minnesota at Detroit (+5.5)
This is a tough game to handicap because we still are trying to decipher if what we saw last week from the Vikings offense is going to be trend moving forward or if it was simply a one game blip due to the change at OC. The Lions run defense has been greatly improved since the addition of Snacks Harrison; and this is a in-division road game, where the Vikings don’t always dominate. Vikings, 24-20
Giants (+9.5) at Indianapolis
I get it — Indy is playing well on all sides of the ball. Andrew is a borderline MVP candidate, Marlon Mack has shown promising flashes as a runner, Eric Ebron is a Pro Bowler, the offensive line looks completely fixed, and the defense is coming a shutout of Dallas. But the Giants can score and in the dome, I think Eli and Saquon will be able to generate some points to keep it a game. Colts, 31-24
Cincinnati at Cleveland (-7)
Baker v. Hue, Part Two!! Cincy’s defense is not good and the young Browns know that all they can do is keep winning if they want to have any shot at the postseason. Browns, 27-17
Buffalo (+13.5) at New England
Without Josh Gordon, one wonders how this Patriots offense will look. More 2-back sets; more Chris Hogan-Philip Dorsett-Cordarrelle Patterson; more 2-TE sets? Hey, Tom Brady’s still there and he has weapons. Also, should be fun to see the very mobile Josh Allen in his debut at Foxboro against a suspect Pats’ rush defense. Patriots, 30-20
Chicago at San Francisco (+4)
Yes, on paper the Bears are much better than the 49ers. But three things make me nervous: (1) Bears just won the division by beating longtime nemesis Aaron Rodgers (and they celebrated like they won the Super Bowl); (2) long travel week with a road game on the West Coast; and (3) under Kyle Shanahan, the Niners are 7-1 straight up and 6-2 against the spread in December games. Oh, and the Bears haven’t been all that impressive in road games this year — lost in Miami, blew one week 1 in Green Bay, lost at the Giants, and escaped Arizona and Detroit by the skin of their teeth. Bears, 23-20
Rams (-14) at Arizona
Yep, tell me all about the Rams’ struggles on offense and defense lately. Tell me Jared Goff is the second-to-last QB in efficiency rating over the last 3 weeks. Yes, Todd Gurley may not be right. I understand that Cooper Kupp is, has been, and will be out. Yep, yes, I know. I also know that the Cardinals have an abysmal offense and Josh Rosen lives to throw pick-6s. This is the ultimate “get right” game for the Rams on both sides of the ball. Rams, 31-10
Coal in the Stocking
Denver at Oakland (+2.5)
The Raiders’, presumably, final game in Oakland and it could be interesting — not the game so much, but rather the Raider fans in the Black Hole. Neither team wants to play this game on Christmas Eve so give me the team that doesn’t have to travel. Raiders, 23-20
Green Bay at Jets (+3)
Sounds like Aaron Rodgers will play and that pretty much all I need to hear. The Jets are feisty, but in a game with nothing riding on it, give me the better quarterback with the better weapons. Packers, 24-23
Jacksonville at Miami (-4.5)
You can’t convince me that the Jaguars are interested in playing hard in weeks 16 and 17. On the other hand, Miami is not mathematically out of the playoffs yet, plus they are a different team when playing at home. Dolphins, 24-13
Atlanta (-3.5) at Carolina
No Cam Newton. No real motivation for the Panthers to be competitive. Falcons, 24-12
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