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NFL Week 16 predictions: Our picks for each gameNFL Week 16 predictions: Our picks for each game

By David Hill

Bookmakers often try to set point spreads that represent an equal probability for either side to win. They use power ratings that take into account advanced metrics like DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) or EPA (expected points added). Teams are analyzed based not on the final score of each game but on how they perform on each play, on both sides of the ball, in comparison to how other teams perform in similar situations.

As the season goes on, there is more and more data to analyze, for bettors and bookmakers alike, which means the lines get sharper and tougher to beat. Many games come down to a virtual coin flip, and more qualitative or romantic factors, like freezing winds or positive momentum, can nudge an indecisive handicapper in one direction or another. In a highly efficient market like the NFL, sometimes the math is already done and all that’s left to do is wish for a little luck.

Last week’s record: 8-7-1

Overall record: 115-102-6

All times are Eastern.


Buffalo Bills (11-3) at Chicago Bears (3-11)

1 p.m., CBS

Line: Bills -8.5 | Total: 40.5

The Bears put the Philadelphia Eagles to the test last week. Quarterback Justin Fields put up 95 rushing yards, and the defense intercepted Jalen Hurts twice and prevented him from throwing a touchdown for the first time since Week 5. They easily covered the 8.5-point spread against Philadelphia’s weak rushing defense. The offensive line struggled to protect Fields, however, allowing him to be sacked six times. This week, Chicago faces the Bills, who have the third-best rushing defense in the league. It’s going to be 3 degrees with 20 mph winds Saturday, but the Bills are no strangers to the cold. The Bears would be wise to let Fields take it easy and plan for the future. Pick: Bills -8.5

New Orleans Saints (5-9) at Cleveland Browns (6-8)

1 p.m., CBS

Line: Browns -3 | Total: 31.5

This is the lowest total of the week at 31.5 points. Last week, Deshaun Watson threw only four passes of more than 10 yards in the Browns’ 13-3 win over Baltimore. This week, running back Nick Chubb is questionable. Without him in the lineup, and with Cade York kicking field goals in 40 mph winds, it’s hard to see how the Browns score many points. In a game with such a low total, the value of each point in the spread is magnified for the underdog. The Saints are still very much in the playoff hunt and could win outright. Pick: Saints +3

Houston Texans (1-12-1) at Tennessee Titans (7-7)

1 p.m., CBS

Line: Titans -5 | Total: 37

The Titans have not looked good over the past six weeks, and they are in danger of losing their division to the surging Jaguars. Fortunately, they get the last-place Texans this week to try to get a much-needed victory. The market may overreact to the Texans’ taking Kansas City to overtime last week, but that game was deceiving. Despite the close score, the Texans were massively outplayed in nearly every category offensively. The Texans benefited from Kansas City’s drawing 10 penalties for 102 yards, and they easily covered the 14-point spread. This week, they have fewer points to help them out so they’ll need the referees even more. Pick: Titans -5

Seattle Seahawks (7-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)

1 p.m., Fox

Line: Kansas City -10 | Total: 48

Kansas City believes it is Super Bowl bound, and why not? Patrick Mahomes is playing MVP-caliber football. He has the best expected points added per dropback, and last week he completed a career-best 87.8% of his passes. But this is not a team beyond reproach.

Kansas City’s defense ranks 24th in DVOA (that advanced metric we mentioned earlier), and has given up at least 24 points in four of its past five games. This week, Kansas City faces Seattle, which has a similarly productive defense. And Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith, whose EPA per dropback used to rival Mahomes’, has dropped to ninth after some flat performances the past two weeks. Still, Kansas City has to cover the biggest spread of any team this week, and is 3-10-1 against the spread this season. Pick: Seahawks +10

New York Giants (8-5-1) at Minnesota Vikings (11-3)

1 p.m., Fox

Line: Vikings -3 | Total: 47.5

This game should be entertaining if nothing else. The Vikings will make sure of it. They’ve won 11 games and 10 of them have been by eight points or fewer. Last week, they fell behind to the Colts 33-0 just to set up the greatest comeback in NFL history and win, 39-36. The Giants are coming off their biggest win of the season against Washington, nearly guaranteeing an appearance in the playoffs. Just like the Vikings, the Giants play close games. None of their eight wins have been by more than one score. Odds are this game will be close, too. The Giants bottom-feeding defense (29th in DVOA) may give the Vikings the slight edge. Pick: Vikings -3

Cincinnati Bengals (10-4) at New England Patriots (7-7)

1 p.m., CBS

Line: Bengals -3.5 | Total: 41.5

The Bengals are playing some of the best football in the NFL right now, and the Patriots are playing not to lose each week. The point spread looks puny relative to the apparent gap in each of these teams’ performances recently. But despite 86% of the bettors backing Cincinnati, 68% of the money has been on the Patriots. Such is the value of home-field advantage, which narrows the gap between these two teams slightly. The Patriots have one of the best defenses in the league, and their coach knows how to manage a game and keep the team in a position to pounce on opponents’ mistakes. They just need to avoid making any boneheaded mistakes of their own. Pick: Patriots +3.5

Detroit Lions (7-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-9)

1 p.m., Fox

Line: Lions -3 | Total: 44.5

The Lions are doing the unthinkable: They are making a legitimate playoff run. They’ve won six of their past seven games. A win against the Panthers would bring their playoff chances up to around 56%. Last week, the Panthers lost to the Steelers after putting up a total of 21 rushing yards, their fewest since 2012. D’Onta Foreman had rushed for more than 70 yards in each of their two wins going into the Pittsburgh game. The Lions defense has been improving, but their average opponent’s yards per play is still the league’s worst. If the Panthers can get back to the run game that helped them beat Seattle and Denver, and Detroit’s defense regresses to the mean, the Panthers can cover the three points as home underdogs. Pick: Panthers +3

Atlanta Falcons (5-9) at Baltimore Ravens (9-5)

1 p.m., Fox

Line: Ravens -7.5 | Total: 37.5

Quarterback Desmond Ridder’s debut last week did not go well. He threw for 97 yards on 26 pass attempts and leaned heavily on Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson to move the ball in the 21-18 loss to the Saints. Allgeier had a career-high 139 yards and a touchdown, and he averaged 8.2 yards per carry. The Ravens had hoped to see Lamar Jackson return to the team this week. Since Jackson left the game in the first quarter of their Week 13 game against Denver, the Ravens have scored two touchdowns in three games. Last week against the Browns, they didn’t reach the end zone once. Jackson was absent from practice Tuesday, however. If he doesn’t play, the Ravens will need their defense, which has held teams to 3.8 yards per carry, to shut down Allgeier. Pick: Ravens -7.5

Washington Commanders (7-6-1) at San Francisco 49ers (10-4)

4:05 p.m., CBS

Line: 49ers -7.5 | Total: 38.5

San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns against the Seahawks last week and clinched the NFC West. Purdy has managed the team well, but has thrown only three passes more than 20 yards. Perhaps the 49ers simply haven’t needed him to throw it deep. Their offense is a well-oiled machine, with a league best points per play margin over the past three weeks. They have built up big first half leads in their past five games. If they can do the same thing this week, and nurse the lead in the second half, the Commanders can sneak in a cover. Pick: Commanders +7.5

Philadelphia Eagles (13-1) at Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

4:25 p.m., Fox

Line: Cowboys -5.5 | Total: 45

Jalen Hurts sprained a shoulder against the Bears and won’t play this week. Gardner Minshew fills in, and the Cowboys are 5.5-point favorites. But even before the news of the Hurts injury, the Cowboys opened as 1.5-point favorites, which essentially meant the teams were considered even but Dallas had home-field advantage. These teams match up extremely well, and if Hurts had been healthy this game, it most likely would have been a blockbuster. With Hurts out, it may come down to whose defense is better. The Eagles have the edge there, since Dallas has some cluster injuries on defense, and the Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the league. Pick: Eagles +5.5

Las Vegas Raiders (6-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)

8:15 p.m., NFL Network

Line: Steelers -3 | Total: 39

Both of these teams need to win out their remaining three games: the Raiders to make the playoffs, and the Steelers to keep coach Mike Tomlin’s streak of winning seasons intact. Last week, the Steelers were 2.5-point underdogs to the Panthers, and this week they are laying three points to the Raiders. That’s a huge swing in market sentiment, especially with Kenny Pickett in concussion protocol. Pittsburgh will be about 8 degrees with a -4 wind chill Saturday night, which will make things uncomfortable for the Raiders. But if they have anything left in the tank, they’ll bring it. Pick: Raiders +3


Green Bay Packers (6-8) at Miami Dolphins (8-6)

1 p.m., Fox

Line: Dolphins -4 | Total: 48.5

The Dolphins let a fourth-quarter lead slip away in a snowball-filled game in Buffalo last week. Despite the loss, they played well enough against one of the best teams in the league that they should have earned some confidence for the Packers this week. Raheem Mostert racked up 136 of the team’s 188 rushing yards against one of the NFL’s top rushing defenses, and the Packers have one of the league’s worst. And the Dolphins continue to have an elite passing attack with receivers Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. Still, Aaron Rodgers believes the Packers can still make the playoffs. They have yet to beat a top-10 offense this season. Pick: Dolphins -4

Denver Broncos (4-10) at Los Angeles Rams (4-10)

4:30 p.m., CBS and Nickelodeon

Line: Rams +2.5 | Total: 37

If you’re looking for a game to skip so you can spend some holiday time with your family, this might be it (or if you want to do both you could opt to watch the kid-pandering Nickelodeon broadcast). Both of these teams are trying to run out the clock on their seasons. The Rams are officially out of the playoffs after a loss to Green Bay, and the Broncos are essentially playing to save coach Nathaniel Hackett’s job. Pick: Broncos -2.5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) at Arizona Cardinals (4-10)

8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: Buccaneers -6 | Total: 41.5

Colt McCoy left the game last week with a concussion and is day-to-day. If he doesn’t play, third string quarterback Trace McSorley will get the start for Arizona. Tampa Bay’s defense has been the bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season, holding teams to an average of 314.7 yards. If McSorley plays, he may not get the ball past midfield. Pick: Buccaneers -6


Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) at Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1)

8:15 p.m., ESPN

Line: Chargers -4 | Total: 47

Yes, the Chargers have quarterback Justin Herbert, and he has kept them alive in countless games they otherwise should have been out of. Despite his generational talent, the Chargers still are only the 24th best offense according to DVOA. Their offensive line has a hard time blocking, and their average rush picks up only 3.7 yards, worse than every team’s but Tampa Bay. Yes, the Colts have put their best player, running back Jonathan Taylor, on injured reserve. And yes, they are coming off the worst collapse of any team in NFL history. But the Colts nearly have a top-10 defense, and they’re getting points at home. This is a tougher spot for the Chargers than it may appear. Pick: Colts +4

Betting market data is taken from Action Network’s Public Betting data, and lines are taken from Unabated’s real-time-odds tracker.

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