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December 21, 2017

Week 16 NFL picks

For the gambling degenerates, here are my Week 16 NFL picks. To note, the helmets indicate who I think will win the game, not cover the spread. At the end of the picks, I'll note a few teams that I like based on the spread.

Colts at Ravens (-13.5): The Ravens have not yet wrapped up a playoff berth, but can do so with a pair of wins over the garbage Colts and Bengals. They need this game, and the Colts haven't had anything to play for in since October, hence the 13.5-point line.

Vikings (-9) at Packers: With a Vikings loss, the Eagles would wrap up home-field advantage before they even played on Christmas night. But with Aaron Rodgers now on injured reserve and Brett Hundley back behind center, that's not going to happen.

Buccaneers at Panthers (-10): Again, we're going to see a theme here, but the Panthers need this game, and the Buccaneers have been done since Jameis Winston started eating pregame W's, hence the 10-point spread. I hate these games from a gambling perspective.

Browns at Bears (-6.5): The Browns' final two opponents are the Bears and the Steelers, both on the road. The Bears are a 4-10 team that has looked OK at times (win over the Steelers, for example), or downright putrid (blowout loss to the Eagles). The Browns are hoping for the putrid version, so as not to join the 2008 Lions as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history. I don't see it.

Lions (-4.5) at Bengals: The Bengals have completely packed this season in, losing Week 14 to the Bears 33-7, and then Week 15 to the Vikings 34-7. If that pattern holds true, the Lions will win this game 35-7.

(Also, the Lions need this game to keep their playoff hopes alive.)

Dolphins at Chiefs (-10.5): Again, the Chiefs need one more win to clinch the AFC West, while the Dolphins are done, hence the 10.5-point spread.

Bills at Patriots (-12): This is a rare Week 16 matchup of two teams with something to play for, as the Bills are still 8-6 and fighting for their playoff lives, while the Pats are trying to wrap up home-field advantage. So why is this spread as big as some of the others? Because the Pats are the Pats, and the Bills have a point differential of -42.

Falcons at Saints (-5.5): The winner of this game is in the playoffs. When these two teams faced each other two weeks ago, Sean Payton had a meltdown and helped cost his team the game. I like the Saints to bounce back in the rematch at home.

Chargers (-6.5) at Jets: The Chargers battled back after an 0-4 start, and had their chance last week to overtake the Chiefs for the AFC West lead. In true Chargers fashion...

Still, again we have a team that still needs the win vs. one that is already done.

Rams (-6.5) at Titans: The Titans can get in the playoffs with a win, paired with losses by the Ravens and Bills. There are even scenarios in which Tennessee can get in if they lose each of their last two games. This team isn't good, they're limping to the finish line after ugly losses to the trash Cardinals and Niners, and are likely going to be the least qualified playoff team in the NFL this year.

Broncos at Redskins (-3.5): Eh, who cares? Redskins, I guess.

Jaguars (-4) at 49ers: Yes, I know the Niners are suddenly a juggernaut now that they seem to have found themselves a quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo. But the Jaguars have been winning impressively, and a four-point spread seems too good to be true. OK Vegas, I'll bite. 

Giants at Cardinals (-3.5): Steve Spagnuolo knows he's fired after the conclusion of this season, so he couldn't care less about the Giants' draft position. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are trotting out Blaine Gabbert at quarterback and Kerwynn Williams at running back to close their season. The Giants are going to screw around and win this game, potentially losing their No. 2 draft position to the Colts. The Colts don't need a quarterback, but they could certainly trade out of that spot with a team that does.

Update: Oops, apparently the Cards are starting a still-injured Drew Stanton in this game instead of Gabbert, because that's a smart thing a 6-8 team should do. 

Seahawks at Cowboys (-5): The Seahawks strike me as a prideful team, but holy hell it's hard to pick them after the 42-7 lambasting they took from the Rams last week in their own building. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have won three straight, so brace yourselves for some "If the season were two weeks longer..." nonsense from Cowboys fans.

Steelers (-9) at Texans: The Steelers can still earn home field advantage if they win out and get help from the Patriots. Meanwhile, they have to keep winning to fend off the Jaguars for a first-round bye, as they are creeping up behind them at 10-4. So here's another "Needs it vs. quit on the season" matchup. I normally hate big point spreads, but I like this one. The Texans have lost by double-digit points in each of their last three games, including a home double-digit loss to the 49ers. I'll lay nine.

Raiders at Eagles (-8.5): The Eagles struggled mightily against Eli Manning and the Giants' quick passing offense a week ago, and now they'll face a quarterback in Derek Carr who is second in the NFL in "snap-to-throw" time, at an average of 2.44 seconds. Still, the Eagles are the superior team and have an eight-game winning streak at home. The defense has to wake up at some point before the playoffs begin, right? We'll see.

There are a number of scenarios in which the Raiders will be eliminated prior to this game, the most likely of which is if the Chiefs beat the Dolphins, and the Ravens beat the Colts, both of which are highly likely. I'd buy the 8.5-point line before it jumps when the Raiders know they are officially out of it.

• Picks against the spread: Lions (-4.5), Rams (-6.5), Jaguars (-4), Steelers (-9), Eagles (-8.5)

• Eagles picks: 11-3
• 2017 season, straight up: 152-72 (0.679)
• 2017 season, ATS: 28-25-2 (0.527)
• 2016 season, straight up: 171-94-2 (0.644)
• 2016 season, ATS:  41-34 (0.547)
• 2015 season, straight up: 163-93 (0.637)
• 2015 season, ATS: 46-30-2 (0.605)

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