Another exciting NFL week is here, bringing with it a lot of games with tremendous importance for playoff positioning.
Our VSiN experts -- Adam Burke, Dave Tuley, Will Hill, Wes Reynolds and Matt Youmans, along with Ben Brown of Pro Football Focus -- combine to give their opinions on every Saturday and Sunday game in Week 16.
Note: Lines are from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Friday morning.
Here are our Week 16 best bets:
Sunday, Dec. 26
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-10, 42.5) at Carolina Panthers
Youmans: Tom Brady leads the NFL with 4,348 passing yards and 36 touchdowns, but he’s also the only quarterback who was shut out last week. An angry Brady will make the pitiful Panthers pay this week, right? Maybe not. The Buccaneers will be without injured stars Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette — two of Brady’s favorite targets — plus Mike Evans’s status is questionable because of a hamstring injury. Tampa Bay’s offensive struggles are likely to continue.
Still, can Carolina do enough to cover as a double-digit dog? Maybe not. Cam Newton has lost 12 starts in a row as the Panthers’ starting quarterback and lacks the accuracy and arm strength to take advantage of the Bucs’ weak pass defense. The return of Sam Darnold is doubtful to help much as coach Matt Rhule continues to mishandle his QBs. Rhule is looking more like a college coach who’s clumsily out of his league. It’s difficult to make a strong case for the underdog, so this is a small play, but it’s not automatic that Brady bounces back in a big way with his supporting cast diminished.
Pick: Panthers + 10
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-10, 40.5)
Youmans: Jake Fromm is the latest sign the Giants have become a huge joke. The New York media is lobbying for Fromm to be the team’s starting quarterback this week, and he probably should be the starter only because Mike Glennon is useless. Aside from a couple of meaningless scores late in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss, Glennon has led one touchdown drive in 30 possessions. The Giants rank 30th in the league in scoring at 17 points per game, but don’t pin all of the blame on fired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. In the four games since Freddie Kitchens replaced Garrett, the Giants have averaged 10.8 points. Why not start Fromm, a former Buffalo reject who just joined the team Dec. 1?
Meanwhile, the Giants have played improved defense since late October, allowing more than 21 points only twice in the past eight games. The Giants beat the Eagles 13-7 on Nov. 28. Most books are showing a total of 40.5, but the South Point is offering 41, which is a key number in the totals game, so shop around.
Pick: Under 40.5
Burke: Aside from Nick Sirianni's positive COVID test, we have every reason to believe that the Eagles should win. Not only are they playing better, but Daniel Jones has been shut down for the season and that has left Mike Glennon as the quarterback for the Giants.
Glennon has not played overly well, but 10 is still a big number in the NFL, especially for a New York defense that has held its own, against the odds. The Giants offense has not provided a lot of help, but the defense is still around the middle of the pack in yards per play. Teams that don't have anything to play for may be a big question mark at this point in time, but the ability to play spoiler is important.
The Eagles should win this game, but the spread is effectively 25 percent of the total and that is a really big ask in the NFL.
Pick: Giants + 10
Los Angeles Chargers (-10.5, 46) at Houston Texans
Burke: The Texans go into Sunday’s game having only scored 14.8 points per game this season. They’re dead last in the NFL in yards per play with 4.5, have no semblance of a running game and now have to go into Week 16 without their best offensive player by a wide margin.
That player is Brandin Cooks and he is on the COVID-19 list. Cooks has accounted for 119 targets and 80 catches this season. The next closest in targets is Nico Collins with 44 and running back David Johnson in receptions with 29. Johnson has one catch over the last three games.
The Chargers have struggled defensively this season, but have mostly been victimized by the run. Houston may have to force-feed the run now with Cooks out, but for a team averaging 3.2 yards per carry, that doesn’t seem to be an optimal way to operate on offense either.
The Houston team total sits at 17.5 because we have a 10-point spread and a total of 45, but the Texans have scored more than 17 points six times in 14 games with Cooks. Now they won’t have him and two of those games came against the Jaguars. Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn is also on the COVID list and the Texans only have 29 red zone trips and only 14 touchdowns.
As much as the Chargers defense has struggled, it doesn’t get any easier than this matchup.
Pick: Texans Team Total Under 17.5
Tuley: At first glance, this looks too easy as the Chargers are fighting for a playoff spot and must win this game while the Texans are among the worst teams in the league, so of course the Chargers are going to win in a rout, right? These things aren’t always so simple, especially in the NFL this year where we’ve seen a lot of shocking results to show that parity is alive and well. While two of the Texans’ wins have come against the even more lowly Jaguars, they also had that 22-13 upset of the Titans in Week 11 that is cause for concern.
And, I also wouldn’t feel comfortable laying the 10 points (or especially not 10.5) as the Chargers have a long history of being unreliable favorites going back through the Philip Rivers era. You say this is a new era with Justin Herbert? Well, the Chargers are 4-5 ATS as favorites this year and 1-3 ATS in their last four games as faves, including outright losses vs. the Vikings at home and the Broncos on the road, plus a non-covering win at home against the Steelers.
Instead, we’ll look to the Over/Under where we think we find a better edge. The Chargers used to rank last in the league against the run, but are No. 28 while the Texans have fallen to No. 32. Both teams should be able to run the ball and keep- the clock running.
That effectively shortens the game and should help keep this Under the betting total, especially as the Texans average just 14.8 points per game this year, so we don’t expect them to get into a shootout. Also helping our cause is the fact that the Chargers’ main objective here isn’t to win by margin but just to get out with a win and as many healthy players as possible.
Pick: Under 46
Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons (-6, 43)
Tuley: The Lions are the gift that keeps on giving as they’re 9-5 ATS despite their 2-11-1 SU record as the oddsmakers and bettors continue to underestimate how competitive they’ve been all year long. The 30-12 beatdown of the Cardinals was particularly impressive. The Falcons are still in the NFC wild-card hunt, but they’re really not as good as their 6-8 record. Detroit QB Jared Goff was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday. We prefer he plays, but this is as much of a bet against the Falcons, so we’ll still pull the trigger if Tim Boyle gets the start.
Pick: Lions + 6
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-3, 44.5)
Tuley: Both teams are 8-6, so this is for the AFC North lead. Both have looked at times like Super Bowl contenders, but they’ve also thrown in some clunkers. One of those clunkers was the Ravens losing 41-17 to the Bengals in Week 7 when everything went wrong. However, I expect this to be a much closer game with the division lead on the line, even if Tyler Huntley has to start again in place of Lamar Jackson. I originally gave out this teaser in Point Spread Weekly when the line was Bengals -2.5 and we were teasing the Ravens up to + 8.5, but now the line has gone to 3, so we can now tease it up to 9. This week’s top teaser in my opinion is with the Bills against the Patriots as we get two live underdogs getting more than a touchdown.
Pick: Two-team, 6-point teaser with Ravens + 9/Bills + 8.5
Brown: This has weirdly turned into a contrarian pick, as Ja’Marr Chase has failed to eclipse his receiving yardage prop in all but one game since going off for 201 receiving yards in Week 7 against this same Ravens team. On one hand, the Ravens are going to be without star cornerback Marlon Humphrey, so expectations should rise for the former LSU star.
On the other hand, the Pro Bowler has appeared to hit the rookie wall, and the Ravens will likely do whatever they can to prevent a repeat performance from Chase. Be that as it may, Baltimore couldn’t stop Davante Adams in last week’s contest, so the real question surrounding this prop is whether the Bengals will opt for Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd — options that are much better than Green Bay’s secondary options at wide receiver — in this one.
Pick: Chase Over 63.5 receiving yards (-115)
Los Angeles Rams (-3.5, 49) at Minnesota Vikings
Burke: The Vikings got some tough news on Thursday that Dalvin Cook hit the COVID-19 list. It could be a blessing in disguise, though, as Minnesota boasts a top-10 pass attack by DVOA and grades very poorly in the run game. It is hard to do anything against the stout Rams defense, but attacking Los Angeles with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen is likely to be a far better strategy.
Minnesota will have to contend with Cooper Kupp and a Rams offense able to function in the climate-controlled environment of U.S. Bank Stadium, away from the wintry mix and cold conditions outside. This is a tricky spot for the Rams, who just played on Tuesday against Seattle, and now have back-to-back long road trips against the Vikings and Ravens. That could lead to a little bit of defensive fatigue.
Los Angeles does have an impressive set of defensive numbers, but better offenses have moved the ball. The Cardinals had 465 and 447 yards in the two meetings. The Bucs had 446. The Packers had 399. The Vikings are closer to those types of teams than the Titans, Jaguars, Seahawks or Texans.
One thing that has held Minnesota back offensively has been third down, but the Rams defense ranks in the bottom half of the league in that department. Minnesota also has the third-ranked red zone offense and the 22nd-ranked red zone defense.
With two teams likely to try and move the ball through the air, I think we’ll get some points in Minneapolis on Sunday.
Pick: Over 49
Jacksonville Jaguars (PK, 41.5) at New York Jets
Reynolds: The whole world seemed to be on the Jacksonville Jaguars last week after Urban Meyer had his keyfob changed by owner Shad Khan. The line moved from -3 to a close of -6 at some shops, but the song remained the same as Jacksonville lost for the eighth straight time against the Texans.
While Trevor Lawrence continued to struggle with consistency, offensive coordinator and new interim coach Darrell Bevell did find a way to get the benched James Robinson back involved in the offense and having players like Laquon Treadwell step up after not receiving much opportunity under Meyer.
The Jets currently have 20 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list and have also been without head coach Robert Saleh, who tested positive on Wednesday.
There are some + 1s still in the market, but the Jacksonville bandwagon cleared in a hurry after last week’s home loss. When everyone else is jumping off that’s when I want to jump on, or maybe just hop on. It is Jacksonville after all.
Pick: Jaguars PK
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-2.5, 43.5)
Brown: Devin Singletary has had an interesting year as the Buffalo Bills running back. He lost playing time and carries to Matt Breida in the Monday night game in Buffalo a few weeks back; however, the third-year player has played more than 60 snaps in each of the last two games, earning a combined seven targets while catching each one.
Against New England, the Bills are a 2.5-point underdog; therefore, they should be in a passing-heavy game script. In such cases, Singletary should catch one or two passes to overcome his reception prop.
Pick: Singletary Over 12.5 receiving yards (-111)
Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks (-6.5, 43)
Burke: As a general rule, the lower the stakes, the more wide-open the game will be. The Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks have nothing to play for on Sunday, but playing out the string, combined with the chill of Mother Nature, should be enough to make a low-scoring game out of this battle.
The weather has been rough in Seattle throughout the week, as the city dealt with coastal flooding on Thursday and will replace that with snow by the weekend. Both of these teams are accustomed to playing in poor conditions, but it won’t make football any fun on Sunday with temperatures around 30 and flakes flying around. Not only that, but these are two pretty bad offenses. The Bears rank 28th in yards per play and the Seahawks are 18th, but a lot of that has to do with some big plays for DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Quietly, the Bears are ninth in yards per play against, but have only forced 12 takeaways, so they’ve struggled to create those big plays.
Chicago knows that Matt Nagy is in a lame-duck head coaching situation. The Seahawks will retain Pete Carroll, unless he or the team feels like a change is needed. This is a Seattle team that is among the worst in the NFL on third down and only has 34 red zone trips to show for 14 games of action.
Points will be hard to come by in this game between the weather and two inefficient offenses. There just won’t be a lot of energy for this game.
Pick: Under 43
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5, 45)
Tuley: Everytime we want to write off the Steelers, they step up to get a big win and remain in the playoff hunt, like they have two of the past three weeks over the Ravens and Titans. While the Chiefs are playing better (especially on defense) in their seven-game winning streak to get back atop the AFC’s chase for the No. 1 seed, they still tend to let teams stick around and I just can’t see them blowing out the Steelers. This line has been moving lower with more than a dozen Chiefs, including Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, on the reserve/COVID list, so it certainly helps our changes if the Chiefs are short-handed, but we still like the Steelers to stay within a TD even if both teams at full-strength.
Pick: Steelers + 8.5
Reynolds: The Steelers kept their playoff hopes alive last Sunday with a win over the Titans. Pittsburgh did it with defense forcing four Tennessee turnovers. The Steelers offense certainly did not have much to add to the cause, as they only managed 168 total yards and an average of 3.7 yards per play. That will not get it done against a Chiefs defense that has held four of its last six opponents to single-digit point totals.
Melvin Ingram is the latest addition to the Kansas City defense and he gets an opportunity for revenge against back-to-back prior employers - the Chargers last week and the Steelers this week. There is still a possibility that DL Chris Jones returns from COVID protocols and the KC front four of Ingram and Jones, along with Frank Clark and Jarran Reed, has been dominant over the last several weeks.
However, COVID has now hit the Chiefs offense as both Hill and Kelce are in the protocols. The Steelers defense still ranks second in the NFL with 41 sacks. Although the Chiefs have had a couple offensive explosions, both of which were against the Raiders, the defense has carried this team back to the top of the AFC.
Pick: Under 45
Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders (-1, 41.5)
Youmans: If Derek Carr has a future as the Raiders’ franchise quarterback, he needs to win a game like this against a mediocre Broncos team going with a backup quarterback. Las Vegas has lost three consecutive home games while scoring 15, 14 and 13 points. Carr was fortunate to put 16 points on the board in Monday’s win at Cleveland, a day after Drew Lock and the Broncos took a 15-10 loss to Cincinnati. The Raiders’ defense is playing well enough to shut down Lock, and it would be a big boost for Carr if injured tight end Darren Waller can return.
Picks: Raiders -1 and Under 41.5 (half-unit each)
Brown: Jerry Jeudy pulled a disappearing act in Week 15, going 0fer on five targets. Drew Lock has targeted Jeudy at a higher rate than any other Broncos pass-catcher, with Jeudy accounting for almost 20 percent of Lock’s targets and 30 percent of his air yards in his first two seasons. The aDot matters from a reception prop standpoint, and Jeudy’s 14.3 helps explain the low percentage of catchable targets. These trends could hold for Jeudy in Week 16 and he can still finish under his reception total. Even in a best case scenario, the plus price on this prop is too enticing to ignore.
Nate Hobbs will likely be removed from the COVID-19 list later this week and does provide a difficult test for Jeudy’s slot matchup. Las Vegas has been vulnerable in coverage, but it’s typically been through tight end production, which is the position Las Vegas ranks dead last in defending. If Fant is effective over the middle, there may only be a few situations where Lock looks deeper to Jeudy. Completing the attempt is the next challenge and that lack of opportunity is more than enough reason why PFF’s prop tool finds 11.4% edge on Jeudy to go under 3.5 receptions.
Pick: Jeudy Under 3.5 Receptions (+ 106)
Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys (-10.5, 47)
Hill: 4-1, 4-2, 4-1. Those are the turnover stats from the Cowboys’ last three games, all in the Cowboys favor, and all Cowboys victories. Last week, with an identical point spread, the Cowboys were outgained in terms of yards per play against the inept Giants, and haven’t had the same high-powered offense we saw from them in the first month of the season. These teams met two weeks ago, and Dallas was held to just over four yards per play on offense.
In their victory vs the Saints in Week 14, the Cowboys surrendered over 400 yards and were outgained in terms of yards per play. Simply put, the Cowboys domination, in terms of recent final scores, is misleading and not representative of their play down to down. Their success recently has been largely predicated on turnovers, which can be extremely fickle. Getting 11 points in a division game where there is familiarity is too many for a team that has been living off of extreme turnover luck. Washington dropped a ball deep in Cowboys territory down 27-20 late in their previous meeting, as they held the Cowboys offense in check. This line is inflated, take the points.
Pick: Washington + 10.5