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December 24, 2020

Week 16 NFL picks

Eagles NFL
122420BrandonGraham Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Graham

For the gambling enthusiasts, here are my Week 16 NFL picks. To note, the team logos 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. All the below spreads are courtesy of the consensus Week 16 odds at


Vikings at Saints (-7): Two weeks ago, the Vikings were 6-6 and they looked like they had a path to the postseason. Nope. After season crippling losses to the Bucs and Bears, they're essentially on life support.

Drew Brees got his "sea legs" game out of the way last week against the Chiefs. He'll be better this week against the Vikings' suspect secondary.


Buccaneers (-9.5) at Lions: Matthew Stafford and the Lions' offensive line are beat up, and the interim coaching staff isn't even allowed in the building currently due to COVID-19 virus tracing

Stafford's hand will be shook.


49ers at Cardinals (-5): The Cardinals need to win to stay ahead of the Bears for the final playoff spot in the NFC. Luckily for them they get to face Nick Mullens. The Niners have lost 6 of 7, with all 6 losses coming by at least 8 points. A 5-point line indicates that oddsmakers think these two teams are kinda-sorta close. They're not. The Cardinals are slightly above average team, while this injury-ravaged version of the Niners is trash.

Update: Mullens is hurt, and I missed the memo on that. Oops. C.J. Beathard will start instead. So, even better for the Cardinals.


Dolphins (-3) at Raiders: The Raiders' last four games:

  1. 43-6 loss to the Falcons.
  2. Extremely lucky 31-28 win over the then winless Jets.
  3. 44-27 loss to the Colts.
  4. 30-27 loss to the Chargers.

The Dolphins have been undervalued by oddsmakers all season long, and that continues here, as they are very clearly the much better team. I'll gladly lay the 3.


Falcons at Chiefs (-10.5): Even if the 13-1 Chiefs lose their next two games, and either (or both) of the 11-3 Bills and 11-3 Steelers win their next two games, the Chiefs will very likely get a first round bye anyway, on a "strength of victory" tiebreaker. So in reality, the Chiefs' final two games don't mean much, even if they haven't officially clinched yet.

Still, the Chiefs can put an end to all doubt with a win over the Falcons, and Kansas City's starters will be motivated by getting an extra week of rest Week 17, so I imagine they'll take care of business here, in the hopes that a jolly post-game Andy Reid will tell them "I'll see you on Thursday!"


Browns (-9.5) at Jets: The Jets got their win. Now they'll go back to getting slaughtered the final two weeks, and hope the Jaguars win one more game.


Colts (-1.5) at Steelers: This line was originally Colts (+2.5), and I would have jumped all over that. I still kinda like it at Colts (-1.5), as this Steelers' 11-0 start has proven to be fraudulent. They've lost three straight, with two of those losses coming to the Football Team and Bengals.


Bears (-7.5) at Jaguars: The Bears have actually scored 30 or more points in each of their last three games. They're playing well enough to keep putting pressure on the Cardinals.


Giants at Ravens (-11): The Giants have failed to score 20 points in each of their last four games, and they're averaging 12.3 points per game over that span. 


Bengals at Texans (-8): This is a game of note for the Eagles, in that if the Eagles lose, they'll definitely jump the Texans in the draft order if Houston wins, and they'll probably jump the Bengals if Cincy wins.


Broncos at Chargers (-3): Another game with draft order implications, but otherwise, who cares?

WASTEAM logo 2020.gif

Panthers at Football Team (-2): The Football Team suddenly has distractions galore, and while it's hard to pick them as a result, it's even harder to ignore that their defense is playing extraordinarily well. The Football Team pass rush isn't going to care that Dwayne Haskins was maskless in a club. They're going to control the line of scrimmage and put pressure all day on Teddy Bridgewater. 

I almost fell for the distractions angle, and shame on me for that. Washington is a just a much better team, and they'll win. I'll even lay the 2.


Eagles (-2.5) at Cowboys: The Eagles have been favored in six games this season. They are 2-3-1 in those games, and only covered the spread once:

 Week OpponentLine Result 
 1 At Football TeamEagles (-5.5) Loss, 27-17 
 2 RamsEagles (-2) Loss, 37-19 
 3 BengalsEagles (-5) Tie, 23-23 
 7Giants Eagles (-5) Win, 22-21 
 8Cowboys Eagles (-2.5) Win, 23-9 
 10At Giants Eagles (-3.5) Loss, 27-17 
 16At Cowboys Eagles (-2.5) ??? 

So that's somewhat alarming. In Week 16, they'll face a team that has had a similar season as themselves in the Dallas Cowboys. Similar how?

  1. Talent was overrated before the start of the season.
  2. Lots of injuries at key positions.
  3. Each has their share of aging, declining, and/or underperforming players.
  4. Both teams have played better in recent weeks, after they were all but dead and buried.

There are significant matchup advantages for each team in this game:

• The Eagles' new offensive identity is their rushing attack behind Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders, while the Cowboys' run defense has been atrocious this season. Also, the Eagles' edge rushers have favorable matchups against the Cowboys' backup offensive tackles.

• The Cowboys WR trio of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb should give the Eagles' injury-plagued secondary problems. Defensively, DeMarcus Lawrence vs. Matt Pryor is a significant advantage for the Cowboys, even with Lawrence not having lived up to the $21 million/year contract he signed in 2019.

During the Doug Pederson era, the Eagles have a combined record of 15-5 in the final quadrant of the season.

 20162017 2018 2019 2020 
 2-23-1 3-1 4-0 1-1 

Even in down seasons, the Eagles have played their best team ball down the stretch.

Both teams are coming off a pair of encouraging performances. The Eagles beat the then 10-2 Saints, and nearly completed a comeback against the likely playoff-bound Cardinals. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have two straight wins in which they have scored at least 30 points, however, those performance came against the Brandon Allen-led Bengals and the Nick Mullens-led 49ers.

Both of these teams stink, but I guess I trust the Eagles' encouraging performances against good team more than I do the Cowboys' wins over the Bengals and Niners.


Rams at Seahawks (-1): This game is a little bit like the Eagles-Cowboys Week 16 game a year ago, in which the Cowboys would have clinched the division with a win, while an Eagles win meant that the Eagles could clinch in Week 17 with another win of their own or a Cowboys loss.

Same scenario here. Just substitute the Seahawks with the Cowboys, and the Rams with the Eagles.

Anyway, obviously this is the biggest game of the season in the wildly overrated NFC West. I'll take the Seahawks, I guess, with no conviction.


Titans at Packers (-3.5): The Packers' run defense doesn't look bad on paper, mainly because they've had a lot of leads in games. They're allowing 110.1 rushing yards per game, which is good for 11th in the NFL. However, they're allowing 4.5 yards per carry, and opponents are getting first downs on 30.7 percent of their carries, which is second-worst in the NFL.

There's no better power rushing attack in the NFL than the Derrick Henry-led Titans. Henry already has 1,679 rushing yards and 15 TDs this season on 5.2 yards per carry. The NFL's top five rushers:

 NFL rushing leadersYards 
 Derrick Henry, Titans1,679 
 Dalvin Cook, Vikings1,484 
 James Robinson, Jaguars1,070 
 Aaron Jones, Packers968 
 Nick Chubb, Browns931 

That is a huge gap from No. 1 to No. 3, and Henry has a chance at 2,000 yards.

Anyway, I can't shake the memory of the Packers being completely unable to stop the 49ers' rushing attack in the NFC Championship Game last season, and I'm skeptical that their run defense has improved substantially since then. I like the chances of the Titans running it all over this Packer defense, and sure, I'll also take 3.5 points.


Bills (-7) at Patri*ts: Ding dong the witch is dead.


• Picks against the spread: Cardinals (-5), Dolphins (-3), Football Team (-2), Titans (+3.5)

• Eagles picks: 8-5-1

• 2020 season, straight up: 149-72-1 (0.673)
• 2020 season, ATS: 42-28-3 (0.596)
• 2019 season, straight up: 160-107-1 (0.601)
• 2019 season, ATS: 42-35-3 (0.544)
• 2018 season, straight up: 173-94-2 (0.647)
• 2018 season, ATS: 41-36-2 (0.532)
• 2017 season, straight up: 181-86 (0.678)
• 2017 season, ATS: 36-32-2 (0.529)
• 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)

• Last 6 years, ATS: 243-189-12 (0.561)

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