For those who don’t believe in Santa, I have unimpeachable evidence that proves otherwise. This week we have NFL games on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Does it get any better?
Due to COVID-19 postponements early in the year, we will now have seen football every day of the week this season. The last couple of weeks of the season will be interesting for many reasons. One thing I’m fascinated by is the new playoff format. With only one bye per conference, how hard will teams fight for the second through fourth seeds? With mostly empty buildings come playoff time, what is there to fight for? I always liked the two byes. I thought it was a fair tier system, rewarding the No. 2 seed with a week off and a home game, while the best team got the bye in addition to the luxury of not having to leave home as long as it remained alive. The upside of this rule tweak is we get more games to watch on wild-card weekend and more games to bet on, so who am I to complain?
Let’s find some winners under the tree to unwrap for Week 16.
Rams (+ 2.5) over Seahawks:
I’ve mentioned my rule with taking 2.5: Don’t do it early. Wait for a potential 3. The downside of it going down to 2 doesn’t outweigh the upside of getting up to the key number of 3 or 3.5. Just a classic buy-low spot on a Rams team the public will certainly be soured on after losing to the lowly Jets. These teams played in November and the Rams controlled the game, leading by two scores most of the way. If this game had been played a week or two ago, the Rams would likely have been favored. In the last two seasons the Seahawks have won 21 games, but just four of those are by more than one score. This game will likely be close and if nothing else is a great teaser piece. The Seahawks would clinch the NFC West with a win. The Rams would take over first place with a win and need a victory or a Seahawks loss in Week 17 to win the division. Value here lies with the Rams.
Colts (-1) over Steelers:
Ordinarily I would be buying low on an 11-3 team coming off a few bad games, but not here. The Steelers look broken. They have multiple key injuries on defense and an aging quarterback who looks like the wear and tear of the season has zapped his arm strength. They have no deep passing game and zero running game, meaning they rely on short passes to get down the field. That means more chances for drive-killing dropped passes, which have plagued the Steelers recently. The lack of a deep threat has made it easy for teams to sit on underneath routes. A pitcher without a fastball has a hard time fooling hitters with his changeup. The Steelers feasted on an incredibly fortunate string of backup quarterbacks to build a record that looked better than it was and are now in a free fall. The Colts are tied for the lead in the AFC South and are simply the much better, more well-rounded team at the moment. I like the Colts, and I think this line may move a few points in that direction after the world watched the Steelers self-destruct Monday night.
Cardinals (-3.5) over 49ers:
Using the word “quit” is not something I’m comfortable doing. It’s insulting, and I have no way of knowing if it’s a legitimate assessment. But the 49ers appear to have checked out, and I don’t blame them one bit. It’s the end of a long season, the year after they nearly won the Super Bowl, and they have been displaced for nearly a month. Away from their homes, families and normal lives, they are living on the road and playing out the string in empty buildings with no hope of making the postseason. They have also had a grocery list of injuries, including starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, whose value has been shown in his absence with Nick Mullens struggling mightily. Giving up 41 points to Dallas tells you all you need to know. The Cardinals have recovered after a rough patch and have won two in a row. Even when the 49ers were healthy, they had difficulty stopping the Cardinals’ ground game, struggling with the speed and quickness Arizona presented. Arizona is the better team right now — and the much more interested one. Lay the points.