NFL Best Bets for Week 16
Welcome to the weekly Wednesday version of “Tuley’s Takes Today” where we break down the complete NFL Week 16 card with our “takes” on each game, and even if we don’t have a Best Bet on a given matchup, we give our “pool play strategy,” especially for those in contests where they have to make a pick on every game.
Let me start with a mea culpa to my regular readers for not getting this posted overnight/early morning per usual as I was under the weather. I also want to assure any concerned that I tested negative for Covid, so that’s good, but I was out and about over the weekend and then Christmas shopping the last few days, so I picked up something. Without going into too much details, I had some symptoms, including extreme fatigue that kept me from staying up last night to finish this column in time, At least I knew my Best Bet for Wednesday on Western Kentucky has been in this column the past two days and in the VSiN newsletter – and it doesn't go until 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Hopefully that game makes me feel better.
I was also looking forward to posting this column as soon as possible after another successful week of the “dog-or-pass’ approach as we won our top plays in NFL Week 15 on the Dolphins +7.5, Texans +14, Giants +5 on Sunday night and our top 2-point, 6-point teaser on the Lions +1.5/Titans +9. Our only loss was on the Rams +7 (oh, and an ill-advised total on Falcons-Saints Over 43.5). All in all, a great weekend that we hopefully can continue into the home stretch of the season.
So, without further ado, let’s get to the NFL Week 16 schedule (and then our regular daily recaps and picks for today are at the bottom).
Note: Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of Wednesday afternoon unless otherwise noted. Check out VSIN.com's live NFL odds page for current odds
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets (-1.5)
Note: I originally passed on this game in Wednesday's column, but have since decided to go with a same-game teaser:
The Jets (7-7) are currently tied with the Patriots for the last AFC wild-card spot with the Jaguars (6-8) just one game back (and the Jaguars one game behind the Titans in the AFC South), so this Thursday nighter is much more important than anyone would have thought before the season. The Jaguars have back-to-back upsets of the Titans and Cowboys and are starting to live up to their potential that we saw flashes of earlier in the year. The Jets are leaking jet fuel – or at least some oil – with three straight losses and dropping four of their last five. QB Mike White hasn’t been cleared to play, so Zach Wilson is going to start again. It’s interesting to note the move to the former first-round pick caused the line to move to Jaguars being favored at some books, but it’s now back to Jets -1.5 as of Wednesday afternoon. With the Jets’ offensive woes but a No. 3 defense to stand up to Trevor Lawrence and the resurgent Jaguars’ offense, I was going to give out Under 37.5, but the total went as low as 36 before going back up to 37.5. I think the smarter play is to use a 2-team, 6-point teaser to give a little more wiggle room up to Under 43.5 along with taking the Jaguars up through the key numbers of 3 and 7 and getting more than a TD.
Best Bet: Jaguars +7.5/Under 43.5 in 2-point, 6-point teaser (pool play: Jaguars in all my rare contests that use Thursday Night Football).
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings (-4)
These teams have both been “doing it with mirrors” all season and were looking like they were being exposed recently, but then the Vikings pulled out the biggest comeback in NFL history on Saturday and the Giants beat the Commanders on Sunday Night Football to solidify their spot in the NFC wild-card race. Even though the Vikings’ allow the most yards per game (399.2) in the league this season, I still can’t trust the Giants’ offense (averaging just 20.5 points per game) to keep up and cover this short number.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Vikings 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 80/20 in SU pools).
New Orleans at Cleveland Browns (-2.5)
The Saints (5-9) snapped a two-game losing streak with their 21-18 win vs. the Falcons on Sunday, but they’ve still lost four of their last six; however, they have still pulled within a game of the Buccaneers in the NFC South. The Browns (6-8) are within one game of the last AFC wild-card spot, so there’s more on the line here than one would expect. The line is too short for me to take the Saints plus the points. The Browns, despite a mix of Jacoby Brissett and an unspectacular Deshaun Watson, still have the No. 8 offense at 362.6 yards per game, but the Saints’ No. 11 defense should keep them in the game. This is a good spot to give our teaser portfolio for Saturday. Our top 2-team, 6-point teaser is Saints +8.5/Panthers +9 though you can also use the Saints with the 49ers -1.5 vs. the Commanders, Raiders +8.5 at the Steelers and/or Rams +8 vs. the Broncos.
Best Bet: Saints+8.5/Panthers +9 and other teasers (pool play: Saints 55/45 in ATS contests but Browns 55/45 in SU pools).
Detroit Lions (-3) at Carolina Panthers
The Lions (7-7) started the season 1-6 but have reversed that by going 6-1 (and a perfect 7-0 ATS) in their last seven games and have a legitimate shot at the playoffs as they’re tied with the slumping Seahawks (who have to play the Chiefs on Saturday) in a chase to catch the Commanders for the NFC’s last wild-card spot. The Panthers have clawed their way into the NFC South race as they only trail the Bucs by one game, but they missed a golden opportunity in Week 15 with a 24-16 loss to the Steelers as 3-point home favorites after winning three of their previous four games. This line is too short for me to take the Panthers ATS, but we’ll tease them up through the key numbers of 3 and 7. The Detroit defense still allows 398.5 yards per game, ranking No. 31 in the league ahead of only the Vikings, so the Panthers should be able to keep this a one-score game.
Best Bet: Panthers in teasers (pool play: Panthers 55/45 in ATS contests but Lions closer to 60/40 in SU pools).
Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5) at New England Patriots
This game is getting a lot of attention as the Bengals (10-4) have become a very public team by rebounding from an 0-2 start to go 10-2 in their last 12 games and an even more impressive 11-1 ATS. Meanwhile, the Patriots are reeling after the embarrassing way they lost to the Raiders on Sunday and they’ve lost three of four games and are in danger of missing the playoffs. A lot of people are jumping on the Bengals’ bandwagon and making them their play of the week, but all I know is Bill Belichick in “on to Cincinnati” and has always been dangerous off a loss (6-0 ATS the last six times he’s been off a loss and playing a non-division opponent, according to Marc Lawrence of playbook.com and a contestant in the Circa Friday Night Invitational).
Best Bet: Patriots +3.5 (pool play: Patriots 67/33 in ATS contests, though Bengals still 55/45 in SU pools).
Buffalo Bills (-9) at Chicago Bears
The Bills (11-3) remain atop the AFC thanks to holding the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed with their earlier Week 6 win over the Chiefs. However, we’ve had plenty of success fading them against the spread throughout the season. Even though they have the No. 2 offense in yards per game and No. 9 in total defense, they still tend to let teams stick around and are only 6-8 ATS, including failing to cover the last two games in wins over the Jets and Dolphins. And here come the Bears, who are 3-11 but have been more competitive than that when Justin Fields is on the field, including covering in a 25-20 loss to the Eagles on Sunday when they were also 9-point dogs.
Best Bet: Bears +9 (pool play: Bears 67/33 in ATS contest, but Bills still 80/20 in SU pools).
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (-4)
The Titans (7-7) were running away with the AFC South, but they’re now only one game ahead of the Jaguars after losing four straight games, including a key Week 14 loss to the Jags. The Texans (1-12-1) are on a 9-game losing streak since beating those same Jaguars in Week 5, but are playing much better than those records indicate as they’ve covered the past two games vs. the Cowboys and Chiefs and had their chances at the outright upsets. The Titans won the first meeting 17-10 in Week 8 when they were in much better form, so with the way they’ve been struggling – and averaging only 15.4 points in their last four games – I see no reason why the Texans can’t stay within a field goal of this Titans team this time around after matching the superior Cowboys and Chiefs teams score for score.
Best Bet: Texans +5 (pool play: Texans 60/40 in ATS contests, but Titans 75/25 in SU pools).
Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs (-10)
The Chiefs (11-3) are trying to beat out the Bills for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye while the Seahawks (7-7), after a surprisingly great start to the season, are half a game behind the Commanders for the NFC’s last wild-card spot. The Chiefs are between 9.5- and 10-point favorites against a Seattle offense that still ranks No. 14 in the league at 349.6 yards per game behind a reborn Geno Smith. The Seahawks started the season 6-3 SU and ATS, but then a 21-16 loss to the Buccaneers in Germany in Week 10 started a downslide that’s resulted in them going 1-4 SU and 0-5 ATS. They’re No. 29 in total defense and have allowed 25.6 points per game in those last five games to make them a risky proposition even if getting double-digit points. Personally, this is a case of “you can’t play ‘em all.” We have the reputation of betting every dog, so this is where we’re trying to be selective and weeding out the weaker dogs.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Chiefs 55/45 in ATS contests and at least 90/10 in SU pools).
Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore Ravens (-7.5)
We gave out the Falcons +7 as our top early NFL Week 16 play of the week on “The Greg Peterson Experience” on Sunday night and we’re happy to see the line climbing higher. The assumption out there has been that Lamar Jackson would be returning from his knee injury this Saturday, but he missed his eighth straight practice on Wednesday, so we’re happy to take the points being offered, especially if he doesn’t play. And, even if he does play, we’re assuming he’ll be less than 100% and maybe won’t take as much advantage of the Falcons’ No. 28 defense as he would if healthy. Atlanta lost Desmond Ridders’ debut at the Saints, but did cover as 4-point dogs in the 20-17 loss, which is all we’re looking for them to do here.
Best Bet: Falcons +7.5 (pool play: Falcons 67/33 in ATS contests, but Ravens 70/30 in SU pools).
Washington Commanders at San Francisco 49ers (-7.5)
Here’s another dog of more than a touchdown that looks appealing, but after digging deeper I’m not willing to fade a 49ers team that is really hitting on all cylinders with seven straight wins as they haven’t missed a beat with Brock Purdy. They also only have one non-cover in that run, coming in their 22-16 win vs. the Chargers back in Week 10. The Commanders have been more competitive than expected most of the season with Taylor Heinicke, but they tied and lost to the Giants in their last two games and I’m not confident enough in them against the 49ers’ No. 1 defense.
Best Bet: 49ers in teasers (pool play: 49ers 55/45 in ATS contest and closer to 90/10 in SU pools).
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-5)
This is the marquee matchup of Christmas Eve, though not that crucial as the Eagles just need to win one of their last three games to wrap up the NFC’s No. 1 seed and first-round bye. In addition, Jalen Hurts has been listed as questionable, though there’s been conflicting reports about whether coach Nick Sirianni will start him anyway. Personally, I wouldn’t mind backing this Eagles team with Gardner Minshew filling in as they’re still the more complete team (No. 3 offense, No. 2 defense) and I’m loving that the line continues to climb higher on speculation that Hurts will sit out.
Best Bet: Eagles +5 or higher (pool play: Eagles 67/33 in ATS contests, but Cowboys still 55/45 in SU pools).
Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.5)
This game is being played on the day after the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception” by the late, great Franco Harris. We’re still waiting for a nickname for the Raiders’ miracle win on Chandler Jones’ TD on the lateral from Jakobi Meyers. The Steelers beat the Panthers as both these teams are 6-8 and have a prayer in the AFC wild-card chase. This is another case where I’m not getting enough points to back the dogs but it’s in the “teaser zone,” so we can tease it up through the key numbers of 3 and 7 as I can’t see this being anything but a one-score game.
Best Bet: Raiders in teasers (pool play: Steelers 55/45 in ATS contests and just 60/40 in SU pools).
Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins (-3.5)
The Packers beat the Rams on Sunday Night Football to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, but I’m not buying it. If the Dolphins continue to increase the workload of RB Raheem Mostert (136 yards vs. the Bills last Saturday), he should gash the Packers’ No. 30 run defense and set up the passing game with Tua Tagovailoa, who should welcome the return to the warmer climate (though he didn’t fare as bad as many expected in cold and snowy Buffalo).
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Dolphins 55/45 in ATS contests and at least 75/25 in SU pools).
Denver Broncos (-2.5) at Los Angeles Rams
Baker Mayfield wasn’t able to follow up on his Hollywood comeback in Green Bay on Monday Night Football and now he brings the Rams into a Christmas afternoon game vs. the Broncos, though the game will probably be most remember for the cartoon treatment it’ll receive on Nickelodeon (remember that you read that here first!). Russell Wilson is expected to return after Brett Rypien led the Week 15 win vs. the Cardinals. I can’t quite pull the trigger on the Rams as short home dogs, but we’re happy to include it as the anchor game in our teaser portfolio.
Best Bet: Rams in teasers (pool play: Rams 55/45 in all SU and ATS contests).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6.5) at Arizona Cardinals
The Buccaneers, less than two years from their Super Bowl LV victory, continue their disappointing season as they’re only 6-8 but still leading the NFC South with a one-game lead over the Falcons, Saints and Panthers all tied for second place at 5-9. The Cardinals have lost their last four games and six of seven with the only win coming against the equally disappointing Rams. The Cardinals are also only 2-5 ATS down the stretch as they’re barely been competitive, which makes them a risky proposition even if getting a full touchdown. Tom Brady obviously has a knack for keeping his team in games, even when the offense is struggling, but the strength of the team is the defense that ranks No. 7, allowing just 314.7 yards per game. It’s looking like Arizona third-string QB Trace McSorley will make his first NFL start, which led this line to go from Buccaneers -4 to -6.5 earlier in the week. I’m still passing.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Buccaneers 55/45 in ATS contests and 80/20 in SU pools).
Los Angeles Chargers (-5) at Indianapolis Colts
Before getting to the Monday Night Football game, I should probably pause for everyone to make their jokes about the Colts and wipe away their tears from all the laughter. But even though the Colts have lost four straight games, don’t forget that it takes talent to build up a 33-0 lead vs. the Vikings even if they blew it, plus the Colts still covered as 3.5-point underdogs in the historic 39-36 OT loss (condolences to those who had them on any kind of money line). In addition, they’re 3-2 ATS under interim coach Jeff Saturday with an upset of the Raiders and a cover in their 17-16 loss to the Eagles. So, I have no problem backing them here against a Chargers team that is playing better lately (two straight wins and three of four), but have only had two wins all season by more than this spread: 10-point win over the Texans in Week 4 and 6-point win over the Dolphins in Week 14.
Best Bet: Colts +5 (pool play: Colts 60/40 in ATS contests, though Chargers still 60/40 in SU pools).
Here is the abbreviated version of Wednesday’s regularly scheduled column with recaps of yesterday’s betting results and Best Bets for Wednesday. We lost our top play on the Rangers +130 at the Penguins in a 3-2 loss but at least won our second play on the Nuggets +1.5 vs. Grizzlies. Still, that dropped our record to 34-19-1 ATS (64.2%) with our daily top play the last 53 days. Let’s get to those Tuesday’s recaps and Wednesday’s plays.
CFB: Toledo beat Liberty 21-19 in the Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday night, but didn't cover as a 4-point favorite (game stayed Under the betting total of 51.5 points). Earlier, Eastern Michigan upset San Jose State 41-27 in the Potato Bowl as a 3.5-point underdog (went Over 54).
More CFB: Faves/dogs split 1-1 SU on Tuesday, but dogs went 2-0 ATS. Over/Unders split 1-1. Overall in bowl season, faves lead 8-4 SU, but dogs have taken a 7-5 ATS lead thanks to Miami-Ohio, North Texas and Liberty covering in SU losses. Unders lead 7-4-1.
CBB: No. 22 Miami-Fla. upset No. 6 Virginia 66-64 as a 3.5-point home underdog. Wake Forest (+6.5) upset No. 14 Duke 81-70. Drake (+4.5) upset No. 15 Mississippi State 58-52. Providence beat No. 24 Marquette 103-98 in 2OT in a game that fittingly closed pick-'em.
NBA: Dogs went 3-2 SU and ATS with upsets by the Wizards (+7.5 in 113-110 win at Suns), Bulls (+1.5 113-103 win at Heat) and Nuggets (+1.5 in 105-91 win vs. Grizzlies). The Jazz (-2.5 in 126-111 win at Pistons) and Knicks (-6 in 132-4 rout vs. Warriors) covered in their wins. Road teams went 3-2 SU and ATS. Overs 3-2.
More NBA: On the season, faves lead 294-162 SU with 9 games closing pick-’em, but dogs improved to 231-210-15 ATS (52.4%). Home teams lead 284-181 SU and 236-214-15 ATS (52.4%). In totals wagering, Overs improved slim lead to 232-228-5 (50.4%).
NHL: Faves went a perfect 8-0 and Penguins were the only chalk that didn't also cover -1.5 puck line. Home teams went 7-1 as the Flames were only road fave. Unders led 5-3. On the season, faves lead 306-195 with 15 PKs. Home teams went 267-245 with 4 neutral-site games. Unders lead 255-242-19.
Wednesday Best Bets
Western Kentucky +3.5 vs. South Alabama: Regular readers of mine will remember I was high on Bailey Zappe last year at WKU and in the preseason with the New England Patriots. He, of course, shined in the regular season, too. His WKU successor, Austin Reed, was second in the nation this year with 4,247 passing yards and fourth with 36 TDs. He entered the transfer portal and appeared to be headed to Louisville but decided to return to the Hilltoppers. Western Kentucky has lost two offensive lineman to the transfer portal and this line has been all over the place. We hope regular VSiN followers grabbed more points when we gave it out on “The Greg Peterson Experience” on Sunday night and in these columns on Monday and Tuesday (it’s also been in the daily VSiN emails and the Best Bets file at VSiN.com).
Hornets +6.5 vs. Clippers: After winning with the Nuggets in an anti-swagger play against the Grizzlies, let’s return to the Association with a swagger play on the Hornets as they just snapped a 8-game losing streak on Monday at the Kings. LaMelo Ball missed the first 13 games of the season with an ankle injury, but led the Hornets to that victory with 16 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter as they continue their West Coast swing.