The NFL season has reached Week 16, or as it is in reality, the real beginning of the NFL playoffs. Some teams are being officially eliminated from the postseason, some are making their case for being included in the playoff tournament and the rest are in but working on the final seeding.
Four games have been played so far this Christmas weekend. The New Orleans Saints kept themselves in the picture for the top seed in the NFC by eliminating the Minnesota Vikings from the playoffs with a 52-33 victory.
Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinched a playoff berth by destroying the Detroit Lions and the Miami Dolphins guaranteed themselves another week as the final seed in the AFC by taking advantage of Jon Gruden’s final minute brain cramp to kick a last second field goal for a 26-25 win.
Now we head into a Sunday slate of games that will further clarify the postseason picture and Nostrathomas has a prediction for all of them.
Nostrathomas has already started the weekend right. Before Friday’s game he had this to say on Twitter:
The final score made New Orleans’ game last week look closer than it was. Still think the Saints are strong enough on defense to cover. Fourth on defense in rushing yards per attempt allowed should challenge Dalvin Cook.— Tom Pollin (@tjpollin) December 25, 2020
So we’ve started the weekend 1-0 against the spread. Enjoy the rest of the weekend’s picks.
Game of the Week
There are three games that could claim this title in Week 16. I’m going to have to select the one that has the biggest postseason implications.
Tennessee Titans vs Green Bay Packers –3 (Sunday Night Football; Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI)
NFL fans are getting another outstanding Sunday night game to enjoy. Green Bay is playing for a first round by and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoff bracket. The Titans are in a dogfight with Indianapolis to lock down the AFC South title and a postseason game at home.
Both defenses are susceptible to the run so both Derrick Henry and Aaron Jones should be primed for big nights. Both teams have offenses that are dangerous on short fields. Aaron Rodgers is first in the league in passer rating. Ryan Tannehill is fourth. Neither team is very successful at mounting a pass rush so both quarterbacks should be primed for big performances.
I’m picking this game purely on home field advantage. The Packers also need this game a bit more for postseason seeding than Tennessee does.
Green Bay Packers 31 Tennessee Titans 27
Chicago Bears -7.5 vs Jacksonville Jaguars (1PM ET; TIAA Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, FL)
Chicago seems to have found out a few things about themselves over the course of the season that has put them back in playoff contention. Chicago has been rolling quarterback Mitch Trubisky to cut his reads in half. He’s been much more accurate with his throws that way too. They’re also running David Montgomery behind an improved offensive line.
With offensive coordinator Bill Lazor calling plays the Bears have been running fewer gimmicks and playing football a lot more.
Jacksonville is coming to the end of a 2020 season that has them resembling Wile E. Coyote getting pulled by an out of control rocket over cactus and through pipes. They’re looking pretty beat up heading into Week 16.
Mike Glennon is getting the start at quarterback in place of Gardner Minshew II, which makes this sort of a revenge game if you want to stretch and find some kind of drama here.
As of this writing, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals 20-12, putting Chicago’s playoff destiny back in their hands. Their first step is to unleash their improved offense against the team that’s in position to draft Trevor Lawrence with the first overall draft pick next spring.
Chicago is one of the top plays by the public this week in Las Vegas. Nostrathomas predicts that the Bears win by at least two scores.
Chicago Bears 30 Jacksonville Jaguars 18
Philadelphia Eagles -3 vs Dallas Cowboys (4:25PM ET; AT&T Stadium, Dallas, TX)
The NFC East has been the clown car of the NFL this season. Still, if you look close enough you’re going to see some positives for teams next season.
One of those positives is Jalen Hurts emerging as a starting quarterback that Philadelphia can build around in the offseason.
Philadelphia has gained over 400 yards in each of their last two games. The Eagles are also very tough on defense which is going to give them more game than they’ll need to keep Dallas sliding to the bottom of the NFC.
In Las Vegas, both the public and sharps are backing the Eagles in the game.
Philadelphia Eagles 26 Dallas Cowboys 20
Cleveland Browns -9.5 vs New York Jets (1PM ET; MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)
I gave this game as one of my best bets on my new Saturday morning NFL show on the Atlanta Sports Unlimited site. That was before it was announced that linebacker B.J. Goodson tested positive for Covid-19 and the team’s top four receivers have been identified as close contacts and will also miss the game.
Still, I’m not going to walk back on this game. New York may have beaten the Rams last week but this is still the Jets. They are last in the league in points per game and 28th in points allowed.
The Browns still have the best running back tandem in the NFL in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and Austin Hooper is a very capable pass catching tight end.
Putting money on the Jets to cover every week, no matter the opponent and their circumstances is a good way to go broke. New York is 6-9 against the spread in 2020. Take the Browns to do what’s needed to lock up a playoff spot.
Cleveland Browns 26 New York Jets 14
Best of the Rest
Indianapolis Colts vs Pittsburgh Steelers – Pick ‘em (1PM ET; Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA)
This game, between two division leaders that are looking to lock down postseason seeding, opened with Indianapolis favored by three points but has been bet down to a pick game as of Saturday afternoon. This shows the uncertainty that both public betters and sharps have towards this game.
Have the Steelers hit rock bottom and ready for a season ending recovery? While Pittsburgh’s offense has struggled, their defense is still a force. The Steelers are best in the NFL by far in bringing pass pressure and if there’s one thing that gets under Philip River’s skin is pass rushers getting up in his grill.
This is going to be a game of short passes and grinding runs. Pittsburgh gets the nod here because they’re slightly better at that style.
Pittsburgh Steelers 25 Indianapolis Colts 23
New York Giants vs. Baltimore Ravens -10 (1PM ET; M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD)
The Giants are strong against the rush, which is Baltimore’s strength. That’s the only statistical category where New York matches up well.
The usual rule when handicapping games is to never pick the road dog unless you think they can win. New York is not going to win this game. The Ravens may be having more problems this season than last but they’re still a Super Bowl contender playing at home against a team that is 31st in the league in points scored.
The Ravens have covered in their last four games. This one should make five.
Baltimore Ravens 32 New York Giants 19
Atlanta Falcons vs Kansas City -10.5 (1PM ET; Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO)
The Chiefs will be looking to lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC this Sunday. That’s not a good spot for Atlanta to be in.
The Falcons have lost four of their last five games. They also have to deal with missing Julio Jones and injuries to two of their interior offensive linemen.
Never underestimate an Andy Reid team when there are goals to be achieved.
Kansas City Chiefs 34 Atlanta Falcons 22
Carolina Panthers vs Washington Football Team -2.5 (4:05PM ET; FedEx Field, Washington DC)
The Carolina Panthers have been sinking to the bottom of the NFC since Week 5. After falling to Green Bay, they’ve lost three straight and eight of their last nine games.
It’s very difficult to pick a team that will be quarterbacked by Dwayne Haskins to win and cover. Especially after he was fined and stripped of his captaincy earlier this week for violating Covid-19 protocols.
There’s no doubt that Ron Rivera would like to win his first game coaching against his former team. The Football Team also has a ferocious defense that has allowed the fifth fewest points in the NFL this season. One additional piece of motivation for Washington is that they will clinch the NFC Least title with a win here.
Nostrathomas says that the Football Team finds a way to slip past a declining Carolina squad.
Washington Football Team 20 Carolina Panthers 1
Los Angeles Rams +1.5 vs Seattle Seahawks (4:25PM ET; Lumen Field, Seattle, WA)
Is it possible that in Week 15, the Rams were looking past the Jets to this Week 16 divisional showdown? That’s as good a reason as any for why New York escaped from SoFi Stadium with their first win of the season.
Sean McVay is currently 5-2 against Pete Carroll. He also has one of the best defenses in the league to match against the Seahawks inconsistent offense.
Take the Rams plus the points as they succeed in taking control of the NFC Westt.
Los Angeles Rams 25 Seattle Seahawks 21
Buffalo Bills -7 vs New England Patriots (Monday Night Football; Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA)
New England dominated the series between these two teams until the Bills outfought the Patriots in Week 8 at home, 24-21.
Buffalo has won seven of their last eight, most of those games in convincing fashion. In that same time, the Patriots have fallen out of playoff contention and will be playing out the string.
Buffalo will be looking to hold onto the second seed in the AFC while Josh Allen shows Belichick and company who they’ll be measuring against for the immediate future.
Buffalo Bills 29 New England Patriots 20
Game of the Weak
Cincinnati Bengals vs Houston Texans -7 (1PM ET; NRG Stadium, Houston, TX)
Cincinnati rebounded from two pathetic losses to the Dolphins and Cowboys by crushing Pittsburgh at home last Monday night. That’s all the credit the Bengals get until Joe Burrow returns in 2021.
Deshaun Watson will find a way to out-battle Ryan Finley at home.
Houston Texans 27 Cincinnati Bengals 18
Denver Broncos vs Los Angeles Charger -3 (4:05PM ET; SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles, CA)
In games where all other things are equal, take the team with the better quarterback. That team is the Loss Angeles Charges and that quarterback is rookie Justin Herbert.
Los Angeles Chargers 30 Denver Broncos 20