Merry Christmas, pass the remote!
Before you really have to dig in for the holiday, we’ve got a full week of NFL football that begins Saturday afternoon and runs all the way through Monday night as the fat man does his toy run.
And perhaps the greatest gift of all is that Week 16 in the NFL probably won’t suck. So, that’s cool.
Speaking of sucking, Week 15 was a rough one for the NESN.com trio of Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian when it came to their against-the-spread picks. They’ll try to right the ship this week with a last-ditch attempt to get back on the “nice” list.
Here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 7-8-1 (107-109-4)
Ricky Doyle: 3-12-1 (112-104-4)
Andre Khatchaturian: 6-9-1 (115-101-4)
And here are their Week 16 picks, with lines courtesy of OddsShark.com.
SATURDAY, DEC. 22
Washington Redskins at (-10) Tennessee Titans, 4:30 p.m. ET
Mike: Redskins. As our friends at OddsShark pointed out, this is the lowest total of the week, currently sitting at 37 points. If it’s going to be that low-scoring, I’ll grab the points.
Ricky: Titans. Not sure the Redskins can score a touchdown in this game. Not only do they have the Alliance of American Football’s Josh Johnson starting on the road for the second straight week after previously making only one start since 2009, but Jordan Reed remains out, and Vernon Davis and Josh Doctson both are dealing with injuries, leaving Johnson with basically no weapons to work with.
Andre: Redskins. The Titans have finally established an identity as a run-heavy team, but the Redskins are second in forced fumbles. I just don’t see that many points being scored in this game between two really bad quarterbacks. Plus, the Redskins will force some turnovers to keep this game close.
Baltimore Ravens at (-4.5) Los Angeles Chargers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. Baltimore’s rush numbers have been insane since Lamar Jackson took over, averaging more than 230 rushing yards per game while running it on nearly two-thirds of its plays. The Chargers, when allowing 100 rushing yards or more, are just 3-5 against the spread. If the Ravens can have any sort of success on the ground, they can slow things down and make it close.
Ricky: Chargers. The Ravens have four wins in Jackson’s five starts, but it’s worth noting those victories came against bad defenses that rank very poorly in terms of tackling. It’ll be far more difficult for Baltimore’s rushing attack to gain traction this week, and the whole one-dimensional offense thing simply won’t work. Jackson, who has nine fumbles this season (including at least one in each of his starts), might even cough up the football a few times. Oh, by the way, the Ravens are traveling across the country to play on Saturday night (five days’ rest), while the Chargers are well-rested after playing on Thursday night last week (eight days’ rest).
Andre: Chargers. The Ravens’ recent recipe for success might work against the Bengals, Raiders, Falcons, Chiefs and Bucs, five of the nine worst defenses in terms of yards allowed per play, but it won’t work against the Chargers, who have the best yards-per-play differential in football. The Chargers also have the second-fewest giveaways and are going up against a Ravens team that’s 31st in takeaways and 25th in turnover differential. Philip Rivers protects the football, LA gets on top and forces the Ravens to actually throw the ball with Jackson.
SUNDAY, DEC. 23
(-3.5) Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. This is one of many, “Well, I have to pick someone” games this week, and I’ll take the team with Matt Ryan at quarterback over the team with Taylor Heinicke at quarterback.
Ricky: Panthers. I liked the Falcons much more as underdogs against a one-armed Cam Newton. But with Heinicke now starting for the Panthers, the line has shifted dramatically, and so has my pick. I’ll take the points and hope Christian McCaffrey touches the ball on every offensive play for Carolina. He totaled a season-high 14 catches for 102 yards against Atlanta in Week 2 and could enjoy similar success this week, given the Falcons rank 30th in tackling (per Pro Football Focus) and 29th in defending running backs in the passing game (per Football Outsiders).
Andre: Panthers. The Panthers will heavily rely on their ground game in this one to win. Atlanta allows nearly five yards per carry and the Panthers average more than five yards per carry. Atlanta has also allowed the most receptions and third-most receiving yards to running backs.
Buffalo Bills at (-13) New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. If the Patriots don’t come out amid all the questions, the Josh Gordon drama, and while facing a rookie quarterback, and don’t absolutely paste the Bills, it might be time to start making funeral arrangements for the Patriots’ dynasty. These are the spots they typically thrive in.
Ricky: Patriots. The Patriots just aren’t as good as they used to be. And that was before losing Josh Gordon. Still, New England usually beats up on AFC East opponents and is 13-2 ATS in its last 10 games when favored by 10 or more points. James White will get more touches, Chris Hogan will carve out a bigger role in the offense and the Patriots will win by a few touchdowns.
Andre: Bills. Bad news for Josh Allen: Quarterbacks with fewer than 20 games of experience are 0-11 with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions against the Patriots since the start of 2016. But the Bills have the second-best yards-per-play differential in football since Week 10 (!). Patriots win, but Bills keep it close.
Cincinnati Bengals at (-9) Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Mike: Browns. Cleveland hasn’t been this big of a favorite since 2007! Anyway, life is waaaay too short to spend too much time thinking about Browns-Bengals.
Ricky: Bengals. Joe Mixon quietly leads the AFC in rushing yards (995), and the Browns rank 29th in run defense and dead-last in tackling, per Pro Football Focus. Plus, laying nine(!) points with the Browns?! 2018 really has sent everyone off the deep end.
Andre: Browns. The Browns have won four of their last five and their last three losses are against first-place teams. Their rush defense held the impressive rushing offenses of Carolina and Denver to below 100 yards, so if Mixon is stuffed and Jeff Driskel has to throw, expect the Browns to run away with this one.
(-3) Green Bay Packers at New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Mike: Packers. The line bounced all over the place, with the Jets favored as late as Wednesday before Aaron Rodgers declared he’d play. Green Bay can’t actually go the entire season without a road win, right?
Ricky: Jets. Rodgers might play. He might not. And as crazy as it sounds, it probably won’t matter. The Packers can’t get out of their own way outside the friendly confines of Lambeau Field.
Andre: Packers. New York’s only win over the last eight games has come against the Bills. Green Bay is not as bad as its record suggests. The Packers are 10th in yards per play differential and have an elite quarterback. Since Week 8, the Packers had to play the Rams, Patriots, Seahawks, Vikings and Bears ALL on the road. Rodgers can’t do it all by himself, but he’ll be able to beat a Jets team that is 29th in yards per play differential.
Houston Texans at (-2.5) Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans. On “The Spread” this week, none of us could figure out this line. It’s fishy because the Texans just seem like the superior team. Losing Lamar Miller hurts and having to defend the Eagles’ pass rush is no easy task, but Houston protects the ball and should move it at will against a still-depleted Eagles secondary.
Ricky: Texans. Don’t be fooled into thinking the stars are aligning for another Eagles Super Bowl run. Their defense and their offensive line — two key factors in last season’s title — simply aren’t as impactful, and the supposed magic of Nick Foles can only go so far. The Texans aren’t just one of the hottest teams in the NFL, having won 10 of their last 11 games. They also haven’t committed a turnover in seven of their last eight games, so it’s hard to imagine them beating themselves in Philadelphia.
Andre: Texans. I’m not falling for the Foles sequel. The Eagles just aren’t very good. They’re 25th in yards per play differential and they allow nearly five yards per carry on the ground. They’ve also allowed nearly 1,000 yards over the last two games. Houston has the third-best turnover differential and best rush defense in terms of yards allowed per carry. Philly won’t be able to run the ball and this could be a high-volume game for Foles.
Jacksonville Jaguars at (-4) Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. The Jags have scored 28 points over the last three weeks — combined. They might put up a goose egg here, especially against a Miami team that is 6-1 at home compared to 1-6 on the road.
Ricky: Dolphins. Has any team mailed it in more than the Jags?
Andre: Dolphins. Miami’s yards-per-play differential is minus-1.73 away from Miami, but 0.2 at home. That’s the largest home-road difference in the NFL. Jacksonville has the third-largest home-road difference, so being on the road doesn’t help them. Ryan Tannehill is 4-0 with 11 touchdowns and three picks at home this season and the Dolphins have the sixth-best yards per play figure at home.
(-5.5) Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Mike: Lions. If Detroit can’t get up for its final home game of the season with a chance to derail a division rival’s playoff push, then Matt Patricia probably doesn’t deserve another season.
Ricky: Vikings. Minnesota finally placed an emphasis on running the football last week. See what happened? The Vikings hung a season-high 41 points on the Dolphins. Expect a similar approach (and similar success) in the Vikings’ second game since firing offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.
Andre: Vikings. When Minnesota runs the ball for fewer than 90 yards, it is 1-5-1. The Lions have a mediocre rush defense, so Minnesota should be able to run the ball and take some pressure off Kirk Cousins, who is 7-1 this year when throwing the ball 40 times or less.
New York Giants at (-9) Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.
Mike: Giants. The Colts have only been favored by this many points once since 2014, and they didn’t cover, barely beating Miami by three as a nine-point favorite earlier this season. This might make me sound dumb, but I’m just not ready to trust them as such a big favorite yet.
Ricky: Giants. The Colts’ defense just pitched a shutout, while the Giants’ offense laid a goose egg in Week 15. That weird coincidence leads me to believe the Giants might even win this game outright, because things always seem to go haywire when you least expect it.
Andre: Colts. Indianapolis stuffed Ezekiel Elliott and they should be able to do the same against Saquon Barkley. The Colts allow fewer than four yards per carry. Eli Manning might be forced to throw the ball a ton this week. He is 0-9 when throwing the ball more than 35 times a game this year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (-7) Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys. The Cowboys’ pass rush is going to force Jameis Winston to make quick decisions, which isn’t really his forte. Also, remember when Andre thought the Bucs were good?
Ricky: Cowboys. The Bucs’ offensive numbers are skewed, to some extent, by their fast start to the season. The unit has been trending in the wrong direction, especially since these guys can’t run the ball. And let’s face it: Tampa Bay’s defense is trash.
Andre: Cowboys. Tampa Bay does a terrible job running the ball, averaging four yards per carry, and Dallas’ defense allows the second-fewest yards per carry. Winston is mistake prone, and if he’s throwing the ball a ton, it’s not good news for the Bucs, who have a minus-16 turnover differential (31st). Tampa also allows nearly five yards per carry on the ground, which is good news for Ezekiel Elliott, who leads the league in rushing yards.
(-4) Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Bears. One of many potential letdown spots this week, but it’s so hard to put faith in Nick Mullens against that defense.
Ricky: Bears. The 49ers have won back-to-back games. Sweet. Now it’s time for a shot of reality against a clearly superior opponent, and something tells me it won’t go down smooth.
Andre: Bears. The Bears are mediocre on the road and the 49ers are pretty decent at home, but let’s not overcomplicate this. Chicago has the best turnover differential (plus-13) and the 49ers have the worst (minus-22). Mullens has also taken 13 sacks over the last four games and he’s going up against a Bears team with the fourth-most sacks this year.
(-13.5) Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Cardinals. That’s a lot of points. Maybe the Rams get right and win by 30, but they won’t need a huge effort to beat Arizona. Might as well play it relatively safe, just make sure you get the win and get out of town. Maybe that’s enough for an Arizona cover.
Ricky: Cardinals. Jared Goff has been awful the last few weeks, and Arizona actually isn’t that bad against the pass (11th in DVOA, per Football Outsiders). With Todd Gurley dinged up, take the points.
Andre: Rams. Los Angeles has gotten away from the run in the last two games. Don’t expect the Rams to do that this week against the Cardinals, who allow the second-most rushing yards per game. In their last three meetings, the Rams have outscored the Cardinals 99-16 with two shutout victories.
Pittsburgh Steelers at (-5.5) New Orleans Saints, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Saints. Drew Brees’ passer rating is 40 points higher at home than on the road, and New Orleans averages 10 more points per contest. Might there also be a little bit of a letdown for Pittsburgh after last week’s win over the Patriots?
Ricky: Steelers. Pittsburgh isn’t a team that’s likely to get run out of the building, even if New Orleans ultimately prevails. The Steelers, who are 10-2-1 SU in their last 13 road games, should be able to spread the field and do enough damage against the Saints’ defense. Meanwhile, four of New Orleans’ starting offensive linemen are on this week’s injury report, so Pittsburgh’s pass rush (second in sacks and sack percentage) must be salivating.
Andre: Saints. New Orleans allows fewer than four yards per carry, so this should be a tough game for Pittsburgh’s running game. This means Ben Roethlisberger might throw the ball a ton, which might seem great since he has elite receivers going up against the weak Saints secondary, but he’s just too mistake-prone. The Steelers are 28th in turnover differential. Brees isn’t going to make mistakes. Roethlisberger will — especially if Pittsburgh can’t get the run going.
(-2.5) Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. The Chiefs just look off since releasing Kareem Hunt, and playing at night in Seattle is a tough task for anyone. The numbers are ridiculous, as the Seahawks are 15-3-3 ATS in night home games, 10-2 ATS in night games as underdogs and 9-0 ATS in December night games.
Ricky: Seahawks. AFC teams are 1-12 SU in Seattle since 2012 (Russell Wilson’s rookie season), with that lone win being the Chargers’ Week 9 victory this season. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are 6-8-1 ATS against NFC teams since 2013 (Andy Reid’s first season with Kansas City). The trends point toward the Seahawks, as does Seattle’s ability to run the football and finish drives.
Andre: Seahawks. I think the Chiefs are the better team, but this will be a bad matchup for Kansas City. Seattle is a very run-heavy team and the Chiefs just can’t stop the run, as they allow more than five yards per carry. Seattle is also fifth in time of possession. Finally, it seems like teams are figuring out Patrick Mahomes. He has 11 picks in his last 10 games.
MONDAY, DEC. 24
(-2.5) Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Raiders. This *might* be the final game for the Raiders in Oakland, so you’re going to get an even more jacked-up crowd against a Broncos team that is seemingly playing for a lame-duck coach. And I love this nugget from Walter Football: The last four teams who moved their franchise went 3-1 ATS in their last home games before moving.
Ricky: Raiders. Merry Christmas, Oakland.
Andre: Raiders. The Broncos rushing attack is excellent and they go up against a very weak defense, but there is zero chance the Raiders lose in what could be their final game in the Black Hole. Derek Carr has 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last nine games. He’ll put together some strong drives and force the Broncos to get away from the running game.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images
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