It is hard to believe that there are only three weeks left of the regular season. Of course, it would usually only be two weeks, but the NFL added the 18th week and that means one more set of games before the playoffs. Hopefully this current COVID outbreak and the adjusted protocols allow players, fans and bettors to enjoy the postseason to the fullest.
Lines are out for Week 16, but there are a lot more uncertainties than usual. Along with COVID worries, there are two Monday games and two Tuesday games to finish up the previous week.
The thing about COVID is that it can work both ways. It can hurt you with the line that you get or help you with a number that you’d have no chance of getting as news breaks. It is a risk that simply comes with the territory right now in the NFL.
Here are two early lines I like for Week 16:
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5, 44.5) at Tennessee Titans
This is a short week for the Niners, who have to make the long trip to Nashville and play on Thursday night, but this is a story of two teams going in opposite directions. San Francisco is playing extremely well right now. The 49ers grade highly in advanced metrics like DVOA and the Titans are falling off the face of the earth without Derrick Henry. Ryan Tannehill isn’t good enough to carry this offense and Julio Jones is hurt once again. AJ Brown may return this week, but that still doesn’t appear to be enough.
The lookahead line for this game was primarily a pick-em, but after Tennessee blew a lead to Pittsburgh and San Francisco looked strong in the win over the Falcons, the line reopened with the 49ers a clear road favorite. Tennessee had four more turnovers in the game against the Steelers and has turned the ball over 13 times in the last four games.
Normally a short week and travel across two time zones is a bad thing, but the 49ers can keep their eyes on the prize. The Titans, who have scored 20 or fewer points in four straight games, have to try and figure out how to stop this tailspin. That seems like a herculean task in just a few days.
Pick: 49ers -3.5
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-2.5, 44)
The rematch should have tamer weather conditions than what we saw in the first meeting just a few weeks ago between the Bills and Patriots. New England won 14-10 in a game played during a major winter storm, but the weather obscured the real story of that matchup.
The Bills knew that the run was coming and still could not stop it. Patriots QB Mac Jones had three pass attempts in the game. New England ran the ball 46 times for 222 yards. While it is true that the Patriots had a 64-yard touchdown run in there, it is worth noting that the Buffalo defensive numbers are propped up by playing a very weak schedule. The Chiefs, Bucs, Titans (with Henry), Patriots, Colts and Panthers all ran for at least 120 yards on the Bills defense. The teams that Buffalo has held under 120 yards are the Jaguars, Washington, Steelers, Dolphins twice, Jets, Texans and Saints. None of those teams run the football effectively.
Buffalo’s offense still has all sorts of problems. They just managed 4.8 yards per play against Carolina, as Josh Allen was just 19-of-34 passing. Something is off with the Bills. The Patriots are in a bounce back spot after a rare bad game against the Colts. Expect this line to go up as the week moves along.
Pick: Patriots -2.5