NFL Week 16 Picks — Christmas Eve Games

Posted: 12/23/2016 by levcohen in Football

There are 12 games on Christmas Eve, which means that Saturday is the Sunday of this week. The games might not be super high quality, though, since what may be the three best and most important games of the week (Pittsburgh-Baltimore, Denver-Kansas City, Detroit-Dallas) are on Christmas or Monday Night Football. There are definitely some crappy games coming tomorrow since all of the bad teams are playing. But I’m excited about Miami-Buffalo, Atlanta-Carolina, Indy-Oakland, and Tampa-New Orleans. This is also Cleveland’s second-to-last chance to win a game, and they’re only a four point underdog. Exciting! Tom Savage will make the first start of his career after leading the Texans to a comeback win over the Jaguars. His first start comes in a night game against the Bengals that the Texans need to win. Only two of the 12 games have spreads of greater than five points, so Vegas is expecting a bunch of close games. It’s not the best slate of games, but there are still things to get excited about.

*- upset pick

Miami Dolphins (9-5, 8-5-1) at Buffalo Bills (7-7, 7-7):
Spread: Bills favored by 4.5
Over/under: 42
My prediction: This game obviously has huge playoff implications for the Dolphins, who would be pretty close to clinching a playoff spot with a win but would be favored to miss out with a loss. But it also has implications for a bunch of other AFC teams. The Broncos, Ravens, and Steelers, for example, will all be rooting hard for the Bills. And, as crazy as it seems given all the talk we’ve heard about Rex Ryan getting hired, Buffalo actually still has a very slim chance of making the playoffs. They need wins in their last two games accompanied by a Miami loss to the Patriots in Week 17, a Denver loss to the Raiders in Week 17, consecutive losses by Baltimore (against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati), consecutive losses by Houston (against Cincinnati and Tennessee), and an Oakland win over Indianapolis. None of those results would surprise me, but all of them happening together is extremely unlikely. I think it’s important that the Bills still have a shot, though, because it’ll ensure that they go all out in this game. They definitely have the talent advantage against a Miami team with Matt Moore at quarterback. I know Moore looked great last week against the Jets, but that was against what’s been a horrific New York secondary this season. The Bills don’t have a great secondary, but it’s better than the Jets’. I also think Buffalo should be able to move the ball on the ground against a Miami defense that has really revved things up against the pass (thanks largely to Cameron Wake) but has continued to struggle against the run. About a month ago, Colin Kaepernick ran 10 times for 113 yards against the Dolphins. Tyrod Taylor could have a similar type of game tomorrow. I like the Bills here. Bills win 26-20.
Bills cover

New York Jets (4-10, 6-8) at New England Patriots (12-2, 11-3):- Lock
Spread: Patriots favored by 17
Over/under: 44
My prediction: I think this is the biggest spread of the season. The Jets just got destroyed by Matt Moore… at home. Now, they get to face Tom Brady and an efficient New England offense (albeit not one of the most explosive offenses of the Brady era). If the Jets show up ready to play, they’ll cover the spread, just like they did in the first matchup between these teams. But they haven’t been showing up much of late. Patriots win 31-10.
Patriots cover

Tennessee Titans (8-6, 6-7-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12, 6-8):
Spread: Titans favored by 5
Over/under: 44
My prediction: The Titans have given themselves a great chance to win the AFC South. They’ve won four of five, with victories against Green Bay, Denver, and Kansas City in that time. They place Houston in Week 17 in what may be a playoff play-in game. First, they need to beat Jacksonville, a team that always manages to beat itself. The Jaguars are talented enough to keep this close, but Tennessee’s offense is much more reliable and should do enough to win in convincing fashion against a team playing its first game without coach Gus Bradley. Titans win 27-13.
Titans cover

Minnesota Vikings (7-7, 8-6) at Green Bay Packers (8-6, 7-6-1):
Spread: Packers favored by 7
Over/under: 43.5
My prediction: The Vikings just got smoked at home by the Colts. They’re playing without Harrison Smith, their most important defensive player, so it’s somewhat understandable. But still, it’s pretty shocking that a team that was once 5-0 and had the best defense in the league is now 7-7 and ranked eighth in defensive DVOA (and 17th in weighted DVOA, which makes the most recent games worth more than games at the start of the season). Now they get to play against the resurgent Packers (sixth in DVOA) at Lambeau. Minnesota should be able to move the ball, but they always struggle to punch the ball into the end zone. Racking up a bunch of field goals isn’t going to work against Green Bay. Packers win 28-17.
Packers cover

San Diego Chargers (5-9, 7-7) at Cleveland Browns (0-14, 3-11):
Spread: Chargers favored by 4
Over/under: 44
My prediction: San Diego’s bereft of skill-position talent at this point. They lost top receiver Keenan Allen in Week 1. Then they lost Danny Woodhead. Now they’re also without Melvin Gordon. Poor Philip Rivers. The Chargers have lost three games in a row, although they kept things close against the Raiders. At the beginning of the season, they were a good team losing a lot of close games. Now, they’re an average team losing close games. I don’t think they’re going to lose this game. Thanks to Joey Bosa (who is the most polished rookie pass-rusher Browns’ All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas has ever seen) and his 7.5 sacks in 10 games, the Chargers have the #5 ranked weighted defensive DVOA. Remember, this is a defense that lost top cornerback Jason Verrett early in the season. Anyway, Rivers and the defense will be enough to defeat the Browns. Chargers win 23-13.
Chargers cover

Washington Redskins (7-6-1, 9-5) at Chicago Bears (3-11, 6-7-1):*
Spread: Redskins favored by 3
Over/under: 47
My prediction: This is going to be a tough one for the Redskins. They just got beaten both physically and mentally by the Panthers on Monday Night Football. How are they going to get up for a game less than five days later against a 3-11 Chicago team? The Bears might be 3-11, but they aren’t the Niners or Rams or Browns or Jets. They haven’t lost by more than six points in any of their last five games. They’ve been especially good against the pass recently. Now that Alshon Jeffery is back, their offense should be good enough to put up points against Washington’s struggling defense. If the Redskins stick Josh Norman on Jeffery, the Bears will be able to get production out of guys like Cameron Meredith and Deonte Thompson, both of whom had big games last week. Matt Barkley isn’t a great quarterback, but he’s been very competent. Bears win 30-23.
Bears cover

Atlanta Falcons (9-5, 9-5) at Carolina Panthers (6-8, 5-8-1):
Spread: Falcons favored by 3
Over/under: 51.5
My prediction: Neither team should have any trouble moving the ball in this one. The Falcons just demolished two of the worst teams in the NFL (LA and San Francisco), so it’s easy to forget that they were without Julio Jones for both of those games. They’ll need Jones this week, and they’ll have him. The Panthers’ struggles against the pass have been well documented. I think Cam Newton got some of his mojo back last week against the Redskins, and he should be able to continue to put up numbers against a bad Atlanta defense. This will be one of the closer and more exciting games of the day, but I like the Falcons to win on a late field goal from stud kicker Matt Bryant. Falcons win 31-30.
Panthers cover

Indianapolis Colts (7-7, 7-6-1) at Oakland Raiders (11-3, 9-5):
Spread: Raiders favored by 3.5
Over/under: 53
My prediction: The Colts aren’t good, but it’s always dangerous to underrate them because they have a quarterback who can make a lot of things happen. Andrew Luck was very efficient in Minnesota last week, and there’s a good chance he’ll have more success whenever Khalil Mack is not breathing down his neck. Mack will obviously be a problem for Indy’s maligned offensive line. The likely DPOY saw his sack streak end last week, but he was still a factor in Oakland’s win over the Chargers. I’d bet on a new streak beginning against Indianapolis. With that being said, it’s worth noting that the Raiders haven’t exactly been dominant of late. They’ve won by more than a field goal just once in the past four games and have six wins this season by between one and three points. I think that streak of close wins will continue against a desperate Colts team. Raiders win 24-21.
Colts cover

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6, 9-5) at New Orleans Saints (6-8, 8-6):
Spread: Saints favored by 3
Over/under: 52.5
My prediction: The Saints got a needed offensive explosion in their win in Arizona after consecutive down weeks. That’s probably why they’re being favored by three points here even though the Bucs were playing much better in the previous month. These teams played each other two weeks ago, and it went a lot differently than I expected. I predicted a Saints win in a shootout, and the Buccaneers ended up winning 16-11. Guess what I’m going to do this week? I’m going to pick the Saints to win in a shootout. I just trust their offense more than Tampa’s, as I still have a lot of confidence in Drew Brees and New Orleans’s passing game. I don’t put a lot of stock into the Saints-at-home thing anymore, since the Bucs are actually better on the road (5-2) than the Saints are at home (3-4). This is simply a vote of confidence in Brees and an acknowledgement that the Bucs sorely miss tackle Demar Dotson, who will miss another game with a concussion. With a healthy Dotson, I might consider picking the Bucs. But maybe now the Saints’ pass-rush will be able to get home, much like Dallas’s did against Tampa last week. Saints win 33-24.
Saints cover

Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1, 4-10) at Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1, 7-7):
Spread: Seahawks favored by 8
Over/under: 43
My prediction: The Seahawks are obviously the better team, but I like the Cardinals to cover this spread in what is basically their Super Bowl. Both defenses are playing without significant playmakers, with the Seahawks missing Earl Thomas and the Cardinals being without Deone Bucannon, Tyvon Branch, and Tyrann Mathieu. But Arizona still has Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell, and Patrick Peterson. The first two should harass Russell Wilson, while Peterson can shut down Doug Baldwin. It’s worth mentioning that these two tied in their first matchup and often play close games against each other. I think another close one is coming. Seahawks win 24-23.
Cardinals cover

San Francisco 49ers (1-13, 2-11-1) at Los Angeles Rams (4-10, 4-9-1):
Spread: Rams favored by 5
Over/under: 40
My prediction: The less I write/think about this game, the better. Please don’t watch it. Rams win 17-10.
Rams cover

Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1, 4-10) at Houston Texans (8-6, 6-7-1):*
Spread: Texans favored by 1
Over/under: 41.5
My prediction: There are two types of people in this world: those who believe in Tom Savage, and those who don’t. I’m in the second group for now, but I’m eager to join the first group because I want there to be more good — or even passable — quarterbacks. Bengals win 21-17.
Bengals cover

Upset picks:
Bengals over Texans
Redskins over Bears

Patriots over Jets


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