Week 16 of the 2018 NFL season begins Saturday with a pair of games possessing playoff implications. Washington (7-7) visits Tennessee (8-6) to kick off the doubleheader (NFL Network, 4:30 p.m.). That’s followed by Baltimore (8-6) at the Los Angeles Chargers (11-3) in prime time (NFL Network, 8:20 p.m.)
Currently, the playoff race is crowded because many teams have a shot at wildcards. And the championship picture has become muddled because early-season superpowers have cooled off. Let’s see if VSiN’s estimate of “market” Power Ratings can provide helpful context.
Jonathan Von Tobel (co-host of “Betting Across America” from Atlantic City every Saturday and Sunday morning on VSiN) and I make a good-faith effort each week to capture how “the market” sees all 32 teams in relation to each other based on point spreads. We used three points as a standard for home field, then build a scale based on common sense and recent pricing. Let’s start in the NFC, where there’s an obvious disconnect at the very top.
NFC: LA Rams 88, New Orleans 87, Chicago 83, Dallas 82, Seattle 82, Minnesota 82, Philadelphia 81, Green Bay 80, Atlanta 79, Tampa Bay 78, NY Giants 76, San Francisco 76, Detroit 74, Washington (with Johnson) 73, Carolina (with Heinicke) 73, Arizona 71.
The Rams are -14 at Arizona this week, which means they have to go 17 points apart on our “neutral field” scale. That’s the full “best-vs-worst” scope at the moment in the whole NFL, not just the NFC.
Oddsmakers and influential bettors keep showing massive respect to the Rams. Yet, the team is a woeful 2-8-1 ATS its last 11 games! They haven’t played like an “88” very often over the last three months. Given losses the last two weeks to Chicago and Philadelphia, the Rams could well be an 84-85 (or worse) in reality come January.
New Orleans has cooled off too, posting a 1-2 ATS mark the last three weeks. It would be 1-3 ATS if not for a slew of Atlanta turnovers on Thanksgiving night. If you watched the Saints lose to Dallas, or eke out a win this past Monday vs. Carolina, you know they’re not currently in dominating form either.
In terms of Saturday action, the market doesn’t see “Washington with Josh Johnson” as anything approaching playoff caliber.
AFC: Kansas City 87, New England 85, LA Chargers 84, Pittsburgh 84, Baltimore 83, Houston 82, Indianapolis 82, Tennessee 80, Denver 78, Cleveland 78, Miami 76, Buffalo 75, Jacksonville (with Kessler) 75, NY Jets 74, Cincinnati (with Driskel) 73, Oakland 73.
The once dominant Chiefs are 1-5-1 ATS their last seven games (the Rams and Chiefs pushed against each other). New England is 2-3 ATS its last five games, showing particular weakness away from home. Pittsburgh is 1-3 ATS its last four. With those teams also looking “overrated” by the market, we could see very competitive football in both conference playoff brackets.
Good news for Saturday night. Closeness and quality from the Ravens and Chargers suggest a battle that should look and feel like a playoff war.