Week 16 Picks

Posted: 12/27/2015 by levcohen in Football

I watched both the game on Thursday night and the one tonight. None of the four teams that played were particularly good, so I wasn’t expecting high-quality football. But the utter sloppiness exhibited in both games rendered them almost unwatchable. First, in the tilt between the Raiders and Chargers, Oakland won despite committing 16 penalties, many of them boneheaded, for a total of 121 yards. The Chargers? They were penalized nine times, with those yellow flags accounting for 75 yards. Meanwhile, little used David Johnson coughed up the football with 4:47 to go and his Chargers up by five, likely costing his team the game; Benson Mayowa picked up the fumble and rumbled down to the three yard line. And in the game tonight, the teams again racked up the penalties, combining for 16. But more indicative of the Eagles’ sloppiness (the Redskins largely played a clean game) was a single series in the third quarter. First, Darren Sproles muffed a punt in the rain, before quickly falling on the ball. Then, on Philly’s first play from scrimmage that drive, Sam Bradford lost the ball and was lucky to pick it back up and throw incomplete. On second down, there was another bobble, but running back DeMarco Murray held onto the ball and gained eight yards. But on third down, Chip Kelly drew up the perfect play for a team struggling to hold onto the ball in bad weather… a toss. Predictably, Murray dropped the pitch, and DeAngelo Hall picked it up and returned it for a touchdown, stretching Washington’s lead to double digits. It was a dumb call by Kelly and sloppy execution for a team that’s played poorly all season long. Mercifully, the Redskins have clinched the division. Now, at least we know ahead of time that we don’t need to watch the terrible game the Eagles and Giants will play next week. By the way, another thing that the first two games of the week had in common was an inability to rush the ball and complete run-pass imbalance. Kirk Cousins kneeldowns excluded, the four teams ran for a total of 290 yards on 91 carries. Even including sacks as negative passing yardage, they threw for 1150 yards on 189 pass attempts. There’s a reason the teams are a combined 25-35. Let’s just hope that we see some better football tomorrow and Monday night.

*= upset pick

New England Patriots (12-2, 7-5-2) at New York Jets (9-5, 7-5-2):*
Spread: Patriots favored by 3
Over/under: 45
My prediction: The Patriots are ailing, with Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman both out of this game. They don’t really need to win this one, as they’ll have another chance to sew up the #1 seed next week. The Jets, on the other hand, do need this game to maintain any real chance at making the playoffs. They should get a good pass rush on Tom Brady, and their run defense will make New England one dimensional, something they won’t be able to overcome without so many weapons. Jets win 23-16.
Jets cover

Houston Texans (7-7, 7-7) at Tennessee Titans (3-11, 4-9-1):
Spread: Texans favored by 3.5
Over/under: 40
My prediction: I think we’ve seen enough of the Titans by now to know that they stink. We also know that quarterback Marcus Mariota will not play this week after injuring his knee against the Patriots. So we’re left with Zach Mettenberger against a hungry, J.J. Watt led defense looking to close in on an AFC South title? I’ll take the defense. Texans win 21-13.
Texans cover

Cleveland Browns (3-11, 5-9) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-5, 8-6):
Spread: Chiefs favored by 10.5
Over/under: 42.5
My prediction: I’m happy the Chiefs aren’t getting as many points as an elite team would (Seattle was 14.5 point favorites against the Browns last week), because I still think Kansas City is far from elite. One thing they have proven, though, is an ability to beat inferior teams. Blessed with an easy schedule, they’ve rattled off eight consecutive wins, and have covered seven out of eight while being favored in seven out of eight. But their one non-cover was also the only time they’ve been a double-digit favorite, and I can’t bring myself to take them against the spread here or to lock them up. Chiefs win 26-20.
Browns cover

Indianapolis Colts (6-8, 6-8) at Miami Dolphins (5-9, 4-10):
Spread: Dolphins favored by 2.5
Over/under: 43
My prediction: I don’t think it’s worth writing much about the games that, in all likelihood, won’t mean anything. I say “in all likelihood” because the Colts could still win their division with a Houston collapse, but I don’t think that’s likely. I also don’t think a win here is very likely, even with a super winnable game against the Dolphins. The Colts looked putrid in their loss to the Texans, and the Dolphins have to show some fight at home, right? Dolphins win 27-21.
Dolphins cover

Dallas Cowboys (4-10, 4-9-1) at Buffalo Bills (6-8, 6-7-1):
Spread: Bills favored by 6.5
Over/under: 42
My prediction: Here’s another game that means nothing. Look, Kellen Moore might be a better quarterback than Matt Cassel, but that doesn’t make him good. Moore threw three picks against the Jets last week and will be without Dez Bryant this week. No thanks. Bills win 27-17.
Bills cover

Carolina Panthers (14-0, 10-4) at Atlanta Falcons (7-7, 5-9):
Spread: Panthers favored by 6.5
Over/under: 47.5
My prediction: The Panthers keep winning, but they aren’t doing it in convincing fashion, which is why I believe they’ll win another close one here. I think they’re a very good team, but they might not even be one of the two best in their own conference, because the Cardinals and Seahawks are both super good. Anyway, the Falcons are obviously not in that class, but they’re coming off a nice win off the Jaguars so might be a little more confident than last time… when the Panthers beat them 38-0. I can’t pick the Falcons to win, and after that last meeting between the two teams, I can’t pick them to cover, either. Have to trust Cam Newton here. Panthers win 24-17.
Panthers cover

Chicago Bears (5-9, 7-7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8, 7-7):*
Spread: Buccaneers favored by 3.5
Over/under: 45.5
My prediction: Another meaningless game, another total tossup. These teams both confound me, but this just feels like one Jay Cutler’s Bears could pull out. As soon as you count them out, they come back with a big win. Bears win 28-24.
Bears cover

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5, 8-5-1) at Baltimore Ravens (4-10, 3-9-2):- Lock
Spread: Steelers favored by 10
Over/under: 47
My prediction: The Steelers are 10 point favorites in Baltimore??? Yup, and I can’t pick against them. Their offense is clicking on all cylinders, and Baltimore stinks, so why not take the Steelers and lock them up. In Big Ben and Antonio Brown I fully trust. Also, the Steelers might be the best team in the AFC despite the fact that they got absolutely shredded by Brock Oswiler in the first half last week. Steelers win 31-14.
Steelers cover

San Francisco 49ers (4-10, 6-8) at Detroit Lions (5-9, 5-9):
Spread: Lions favored by 10.5
Over/under: 42
My prediction: This spread surprised me a bit at first, because I didn’t really expect the Lions to be giving so many points to anyone. But the Niners are probably the worst team in football, as back-to-back losses in Cleveland and against A.J. McCarron show, and the Lions have largely been very good over the past six weeks. I still don’t want to make a habit of taking mediocre teams favored by double digits, though, so I’ll reluctantly pick the Niners to cover. Lions win 23-16.
Niners cover

St. Louis Rams (6-8, 6-7-1) at Seattle Seahawks (9-5, 7-6-1):
Spread: Seahawks favored by 13
Over/under: 40
My prediction: The Seahawks, on the other hand, are not a mediocre team. They just covered back-to-back double-digit spreads, and should make it three in a row this week against a St. Louis team that actually beat them (very) early in the season. Seattle should take Todd Gurley out of the game, which will leave the Rams with limited options assuming that Case Keenum regresses to his mean, which I’m sure he will. Seahawks win 34-13.
Seahawks cover

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-9, 7-6-1) at New Orleans Saints (5-9, 6-7-1):*
Spread: Saints favored by 3
Over/under: 51.5
My prediction: I’m not sure what will happen in this game, but I do know that there will be a lot of points, more because both defenses suck than because of any special offensive ability. I think the Jags are the better team, though, which means I’ll take them on the road, because the “Saints at home” magic has totally disappeared. Jaguars win 35-28.
Jaguars cover

Green Bay Packers (10-4, 9-5) at Arizona Cardinals (12-2, 8-6):
Spread: Cardinals favored by 4.5
Over/under: 51
My prediction: Anyone else think that the Cardinals are miles better than the Packers? I mean, Green Bay is coming off three straight less-than-impressive wins against lackluster opposition, while Arizona just drubbed the Eagles after beating the Vikings and have now won eight consecutive games. They’ve played a lot of close games at home recently, and I don’t think this will be a blowout, but I expect the Cardinals to prevail at home against a still-struggling Packers offense. Cardinals win 27-20.
Cardinals cover

New York Giants (6-8, 8-5-1) at Minnesota Vikings (9-5, 11-3):
Spread: Vikings favored by 6.5
Over/under: 44.5
My prediction: The Vikings will in all likelihood have clinched a playoff berth at this point, so this is another game with zero playoff implications. Without Odell Beckham, I have a hard time thinking the Giants are going to beat a Vikings team that is very solid at home. They could well cover, though. Vikings win 24-17.
Vikings cover

Cincinnati Bengals (11-3, 11-2-1) at Denver Broncos (10-4, 8-6):
Spread: Broncos favored by 3.5
Over/under: 39
My prediction: Finally, Monday Night Football is getting a meaningful game. After a year full of lousy matchups, MNF gets a game that is likely to determine which of these teams will get a first round BYE in the AFC. That week off would be very valuable to both teams, and I think the Broncos are a good bet to win this game, since they’ll have a revved up defense wanting to avenge back-to-back losses against an A.J. McCarron-led offense that struggled last week against the Niners. I don’t see the Bengals scoring many points here. Broncos win 23-13.
Broncos cover

Upset picks:
Jaguars over Saints
Bears over Buccaneers
Jets over Patriots

Lock of the week:
Steelers over Ravens


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