I had an up and down week, but after that debacle in week 14, I’ll take it. A 10-9/3-2 showing leaves me at 121-113-10 and 30-24-3 for the season, so I’m still in position to finish the season strong (and at least avoid being embarrassingly under .500). There are fewer games this week that you’d call premium matchups, but what you’ve got instead are a lot of teams, especially in the NFC, who are fighting for their playoff lives and are facing “should win” games where the pressure will be on not to blow it. Time to do a character assessment to see who’s got the right stuff.
Hit the title/continue reading to check out the picks for the sixteenth week of the NFL…
(All lines as of 12/20/12 @9:30 a.m. – line credit posted per game)
Atlanta (-3.5) @Detroit (Sheridan’s)
I can tell you I am done doubting the Falcons. Their schedule hasn’t been the toughest, and we’ll have to wait and see if they’re going to finally duplicate their regular season success in the playoffs, but this team is solid and they proved it every way you can last week against the GIants. Atlanta doesn’t need this game against Detroit, but they don’t have to need it to win by more than 3.5.
Atlanta Falcons 27 Detroit Lions 21
Oakland (+7.5) @Carolina (Sheridan’s)
This is a game where the line is essentially telling you who to take. How can the Panthers be better than a touchdown favorite when they’re second tier team that finds ways lose? Easy. The Raiders stink. They are just terrible, especially on defense, where Cam Newton will have no trouble pounding them. Oakland is also traveling east for an early game, a bad spot. One more factor: Carolina may be 5-9, but they’ve won 3 of their last 4, and Cam Newton has been awesome during that stretch. Panthers win this one going away.
Carolina Panthers 28 Oakland Raiders 16
Buffalo (+4) @Miami (Sheridan’s)
This is a game where I don’t like either side. Miami is the better team here, and they’re at home, but they’re a dicey proposition to cover a spread of anything bigger than 3. And the Bills have been pretty inconsistent this season, sometimes looking halfway decent and other times not showing up at all. I’ll take the Dolphins, but I wouldn’t touch this one.
Miami Dolphins 23 Buffalo Bills 17
Cincinnati (+3.5) @Pittsburgh (Las Vegas Hilton)
Despite having put themselves in position to secure the last playoff spot, the Bengals remain a team that only beats bad teams while losing to good ones. They’ve lost to Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Denver and Dallas this season, while the teams they’ve beaten have a combined winning percentage of .339. I’d like this game a lot at less than 3, because Pittsburgh’s offense has been turning it over too much for comfort, but I’ll still take the Steelers here and hope they don’t let the Bengals hang around.
Pittsburgh Steelers 21 Cincinnati Bengals 17
New England (-14) @Jacksonville (Sheridan’s)
The trends here all say Jacksonville is a good bet to cover. Yeah, well, I’ve lost three straight with Jacksonville. The Jaguars couldn’t cover toast if you spotted them the butter and the knife. I would take New England if the spread was 20.
New England Patriots 31 Jacksonville Jaguars 10
Indianapolis (-6.5) @Kansas CIty (Sheridan’s)
This is a sandwich game for the Colts, who just lost to the Texans and will lose to them again next week, but you can’t take the Chiefs no matter what. Kansas City isn’t even a football team anymore, it’s more like an informal club where guys all dress the same.
Indianapolis Colts 24 Kansas City Chiefs 14
New Orleans (+1) @Dallas (5Dimes)
I said a few weeks ago I had a feeling about Dallas being a team of destiny this year (not to go all the way, just to win the NFC East) and I feel like I want to stick with that. This should be a good game – lots of scoring if you’re into that sort of thing – but I like the Cowboys’ chances. This is a sandwich game for Dallas, however, coming off a big win for Pittsburgh and with the Redskins on the horizon. That shouldn’t matter this late in the season with the race so tight, but with the Cowboys, you never know.
Dallas Cowboys 34 New Orleans Saints 31
Washington (-5.5) @Philadelphia (GTBets.eu)
I had to take a second look at this game, because the line went soaring after it opened. Everyone must be betting the Redskins. I don’t blame them. Robert Griffin III, by all accounts, will play in this game. The Eagles defense has improved since these two teams last met, but not THAT much, and the Eagles offense is still good for 2 or more turnovers a game, handing the opponent a short field. The Redskins have the Cowboys next week, but with a three-way tie in the east it’s hard to imagine anybody looking past this week.
Washington Redskins 28 Philadelphia Eagles 20
St. Louis (+3) @Tampa Bay (Sheridan’s)
At first blush, this looks like a game between two roughly equal teams: not good enough for the playoffs, but a cut above the bottom tier. I’m not so sure. St. Louis has played a MUCH tougher schedule than the Bucs and posted a better record while doing so. The Rams, moreover, have won 3 of their last 4 while the Bucs have dropped four straight.
St. Louis Rams 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
NY Giants (-1) @Baltimore (BetLegends.eu)
I wouldn’t touch this game. When’s the last time the Ravens would have been a home underdog? When’s the last time the Ravens would have been a home underdog to a team with a worse record than them? That’s how bad the Ravens look right now, especially on defense. They’re falling apart. Injuries are the great equalizer, and Baltimore not only has key players out, they have a lot of injured guys on the field who aren’t playing at close to 100%. I can’t not take the Giants here.
New York Giants 28 Baltimore Ravens 24
Minnesota @Houston o/u 44 (Wynn Las Vegas)
I like the line on this game enough to put it in Best Picks, but I also like the under here. Both of these teams will look to establish the run and will stick with it. The Vikings passing game is non-existent, so they’ll just keep giving it to AP, and he’ll do what he does. Meanwhile, the Texans always want to establish Arian Foster. The Vikings defense has played well down the stretch, and while I like the Texans to win the game, I figure this to be a methodical game with few big plays.
Houston Texans 23 Minnesota Vikings 20
Cleveland (+14) @Denver (5Dimes)
You’d have to be insane to bet against Peyton Manning, but I’m doing it here. The Browns are a lot better than they’re getting credit for, and unless their offense disappears completely, they should be able to cover a 14 point spread. Denver can win this game easily and still not cover.
Denver Broncos 28 Cleveland Browns 17
San Francisco (-1) @Seattle (Las Vegas Hilton)
What a great game this is shaping up to be: two of the NFL’s best defenses, and division rivals to boot! The reality here is that the Seahawks need this game a lot more than the 49ers. They’re still fighting for a playoff berth and can’t afford a loss. The 49ers can lose this game and still win the division, and they’re coming off a HUGE win over the Patriots. I’d look at the under here too, but it seems a little too obvious so I’m staying away from it. Sometimes an anticipated big defensive struggle actually turns into a higher scoring game than anyone would have thought.
Seattle Seahawks 23 San Francisco 49ers 21
San Diego (+1) @NY Jets (BetLegends.eu)
I have no real feel for this game at all, but I’m taking the Jets to reward them for benching Mark Sanchez and not making us watch him play anymore. I’m also rewarding them for playing Greg McElroy instead of Tim Tebow, because that opened up a whole other can of worms. To his credit, Tebow isn’t the kind of player to publicly complain, but naturally everyone stuck a microphone in his face after he got passed over for the starting job and he obviously wasn’t too pleased with it, meaning he’ll be playing somewhere else next season. Whoever said only women like soap operas obviously never watched the Jets for a season.
New York Jets 27 San Diego Chargers 21
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Tennessee (+11.5) @Green Bay (Sheridan’s)
Under Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have been a very consistent bet in games where they are a prohibitive favorite. Tennessee’s defense is pathetic, and Rodgers should have this game over by the half. I’d even take a look at the over here, but I trust the Titans to hold up their end to score enough points.
Green Bay Packers 31 Tennessee Titans 17
New Orleans @Dallas o/u 51 (YouWager.eu)
Both of these defenses are in for a long day Sunday. Tony Romo has been playing very well, picking the rest of his team up, and Drew Brees is coming off a slaughtering of Tampa Bay. It is hard to see how either unit will get a lot of stops, and I’m counting on plenty of scoring all game long.
Dallas Cowboys 34 New Orleans Saints 31
Minnesota (+9) @Houston (5Dimes)
I know Christian Ponder is dreadful, but he’s been dreadful for two months and the Vikings are still in the playoff hunt. Adrian Peterson has a shot at single season NFL rushing record and Minnesota has needed every single yard he’s gained. The Vikings have a brutal final two games, and I don’t expect them to win here, but I don’t know how the Texans are giving 9: over the last month or so, they got taken to overtime by two bad teams, lost to New England and beat the Titans and Colts. This game should be closer than a touchdown.
Houston Texans 23 Minnesota Vikings 20
Chicago (-5.5) @Arizona (Sheridan’s)
I somewhat predicted the Bears’ current collapse by just looking at their schedule. Their losses this season are to Green Bay twice, Houston, San Francisco, Minnesota and Seattle. That’s a combined record of 59-24-1. But that’s ALL of their losses. They’re 8-0 against the rest of the teams on their schedule (combined winning percentage of .424). So the Bears are a team that can’t beat good teams. But they can beat bad teams, and Arizona is one of those. Chicago isn’t ready to go home yet. That’s what the first round of the playoffs are for.
Chicago Bears 27 Arizona Cardinals 17