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Saturday, December 22, 2018

Week 16: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) SUNDAY EDITION



Week 16: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

Week 15 results: 8-8 (WINS); 9-7 (ATS); 8-8 (O/U)

Season totals: 144-78-2 .649 (WINS); 107-110-7 .493 (ATS); 120-101-3 .543 (O/U)

Note/Key (when applicable): Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN); Against the spread (ATS).

 The Tennessee Titans have been up and down all season, much like quarterback Marcus Mariota, whose window seems to be closing.

Washington Football 7-7 (+10) @ Tennessee Titans 8-6 (37): Titans 21-13
Saturday, 4:30 PM, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: Mostly Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: One of these teams will be going home after the game, but you’re right: Both teams might as well go home. The Titans have won three straight games to come back from the dead, largely on the legs of Derrick Henry, who has rushed for 408 yards on nearly 10 ypc the past two games and has finally learned how to run the ball in the NFL after a pep talk from Eddie George. Unfortunately for Washington their once proud defense has been shriveling by the week, and their run defense remains in the bottom half of the league, meaning the Titans could jump on Henry’s shoulders again Saturday and ride them all the way to the playoffs. Washington can barely move the ball, but either can the Titans unless Henry is running, which chews up the clock, meaning less points even for the Titans. 10-point spread in this game? Maybe that makes sense: The Titans have won three straight game by an average of 14 ppg; Washington is 1-2 in the same stretch, losing games by an average of…14 points. Washington may not score, but who ever said the Titans do?

Baltimore Ravens 8-6 (+4.5) @ Los Angeles Chargers 11-3 (44.5): Chargers 24-21

Saturday, 8:30 PM, Stub Hub Field, Carson City, CA (Weather: Partly clear; low 50s)

Reasons: Both teams are fighting for their respective divisions, which makes this game one of the most intriguing of Week 16. The Chargers 10-1 in their last 11 games, the one loss coming to the Denver Broncos 23-22 on a FG as times expired, and are in the dRiver’s seat (Get it?) after coming back from down 14 points to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 29-28 last week. The Ravens are 4-1 in their last five after a mid-season skid, the one loss in their past five games coincidentally coming in OT 27-24 to the aforementioned Chiefs. Los Angeles also managed to come back against Kansas City without Melvin Gordon or Keenan Allen, not only the Chargers two best skill players, but two of the best in the NFL. Those guys will be back Saturday, which means the Ravens need to rush the ball 60 times and chew up 45 minutes of the clock if they want to beat one of the most skilled teams on both sides of the ball in the NFL. There’s a lot of money coming in on the under, especially the first half under, but I’m here to preview the full game and the Chargers don’t need much time to score in bunches, just ask the Chiefs.

Buffalo Bills 5-9 (+12.5) @ New England Patriots 9-5 (45): Patriots 24-17

Sunday, 1:00PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Chance snow; high 30s)

Reasons: While you might think the Patriots lucked out again facing the Buffalo Bills Week 16, I point to the Patriots late season away troubles with AFC opponents, which occur for many reasons, most notably the opposing team’s chance to ruin some aspect of the Patriots impending playoff run. Well, actually, that doesn’t happen with the Bills. In fact, since Tom Brady and Bill Belichick became a thing the Bills have only beaten New England at home three times (2003; 2011; 2015). That’s absurd. This time the Bills could sink New England to a lower seed, say the 3rd seed, in which the Patriots might have to host the Baltimore Ravens. Talk about late season troubles; suffice it to say the Patriots don’t want that scenario playing out. While one might point to Josh Allen being more of a dynamic runner than the Patriots are used to facing, I would point to Tyrod Taylor and put those claims to bed. The Patriots are absolutely awful; the skills position players are hurt or haven’t recovered from being hurt, and the defensive front seven can’t stop anybody. However, they’re the Patriots and they’re coached by Bill Belichick. Knowing what they face in the playoffs I expect the Patriots to win and control their own destiny; covering 12.5 points is another story, although my track record with New England ATS is atrocious.

New York Giants 5-9 (+9) @ Indianapolis Colts 8-6 (46.5): Colts 24-13
Sunday, 1:00PM, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Odell Beckham Jr. is out again, which means the Colts 6th-ranked rush defense will stack the box against Saquon Barkley and force Eli Manning to embarrass himself. The Colts are battling for the 6th seed, or are they? The AFC South has three teams also battling for playoffs spots, although Houston has a two-game advantage with two games remining. Yet there are many tiebreakers to be sorted should the Colts, or Titans, win out and the Texans lose out. Regardless, the Colts have everything to play for while the Giants don’t. 

This is the idea, but it won't be on the wings of Carson Wentz for the second season in a row.

Houston Texans 10-4 (+1) @ Philadelphia Eagles 7-7 (45.5): Texans 27-24

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lincoln Financial Stadium, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: What a coincidence, we just talked about the Houston Texans, and here they are, facing the one team in the NFL no one wants to face right now with zero room for error and two divisional teams breathing down their backs for the AFC South title. What a scenario for a team that had won nine straight games and was the hottest team in the NFL until they lost a Week 14 game to the one team they couldn’t affords to lose to (IND) and suddenly aren’t even locks to make it the playoffs, let alone win the AFC South title. The Texans attrition levels haven’t quite reached the Eagles levels, but it’s not looking good heading down the stretch. Will Nick Foles turn into Saint Nick and bring gifts to Philadelphia or will the Texans recognize the situation and get the win they need to put all the doubts to rest?

Jacksonville Jaguars 4-10 (+4.5) @ Miami Dolphins 7-7 (39): Dolphins 20-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: Sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: The Florida Bowl should be a fun one. The Jaguars might be the worst NFL team east of the Mississippi River and the Dolphins wouldn’t even be relevant if it weren’t for the Miracle in Miami. So next time someone gets excited that “14 of 16 games have playoff implications”, remember they’re talking about statistical improbabilities like this game when they’re saying that.

Green Bay Packers 5-8-1 (+1) @ New York Jets 4-10 (44): Packers 24-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny; low 40s)

Reasons: This game has zero playoff implications and I wouldn’t count on Aaron Rodgers to help you in any fantasy capacity. Green Bay gets their first road win of the year.

Cincinnati Bengals 6-8 (+7) v. Cleveland Browns 6-7-1 (45.5): Browns 24-19
Sunday, 1:00 PM, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Weather: Snow; low 30s) 

Reasons: The Bengals started the season 4-1 and the Browns started the season as the Browns, but what difference 10 weeks makes. Suddenly the Bengals might actually consider firing Marvin Lewis and Baker Mayfield might run away with the 2018 ROY, even if Saquon Barkley amasses 2,000 yards from scrimmage and owns the rookie TD record. What Mayfield has done for the Browns is nothing short of amazing, especially considering the coaching inconsistencies, to put it politely. The only shot the Bengals have is if they suddenly come to life and live only to ruin Cleveland’s season, but these young kids are hungry. 1-31 to a serious shot at the playoffs and a distant shot at the AFC North title. Holy shit.

If the Dallas Cowboys want to win out it's going to take efforts from both of the guys pictured here.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-9 (+7) @ Dallas Cowboys 8-6 (46.5): Bucs 23-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: I don’t trust the Cowboys at all and the Buccaneers are the last type of team Dallas wants to face right now, because if Tampa Bay has anything left to play for it might be Jameis Winston’s pride and even his place with the organization after an up-and-down year, but one in which Jameis is the 5th-rated QB in the league since getting the starting job back from FitzMagic. The Cowboys are banged up and feeling themselves, a horrible combination in Week 16. The Bucs will face their third top-10 defense in a row, which has made people forget this team can put up 30 points any given Sunday, but the truth is this Cowboys team is as good as any of them, and does so without the fresh legs the Baltimore Ravens defense enjoys. Any other team with these numbers would get the no-brainer nod, but I’m sticking to my “Dallas goes 8-8 this season” guns, because I simply don’t trust them in clinching situations.

Minnesota Vikings 7-6-1 (-5.5) @ Detroit Lions 5-9 (43.5): Vikings 21-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Vikings are atrocious on the road, going 2-4-1 averaging fewer than 13.5 ppg with an offense that includes Stephon Diggs, Adam Theilen, Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook. Oh yeah, and Kirk Cousins. You like that?! Neither do I, and the ineptitude could likely cost them a trip to the playoffs. The Lions are averaging 17.8 ppg over their last nine games since coming back from their bye week, so we’re in for a doozy.

Atlanta Falcons 5-9 (+4) @ Carolina Panthers 6-8 (50): Falcons 24-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: Cam Newton is done for the season. So are the Panthers and Falcons.

Chicago Bears 10-4 (-4) @ San Francisco 49ers 4-10 (42.5): Bears 23-17

Sunday, 4:05 PM, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Sunny; mid-60s)

Reasons: This would be the perfect trap game for the Bears, no pun intended, but then again it wouldn’t be a trap if the Bears just put out the reserves or played to stay healthy for the playoffs. No, the Bears have seeding to play for, and the 49ers aren’t going away quietly, especially after it was reported this week how hard the 49ers went to the hoop on Khalil Mack, just to be denied. I can imagine keeping Mack in the Bay was something the Oakland Raiders wanted no part of. This is the perfect game for the Bears to stay sharp, as Nick Mullens is no practice squad defensive back anymore, and the 2nd seed means staying home instead of taking Mitch Trubisky on the road for the playoffs. The real question is, how badly will the Bears miss Eddie Jackson?

The Los Angeles Rams aren’t the same team without a healthy Todd Gurley.

Los Angeles Rams 11-3 (-14) @ Arizona Cardinals 3-11 (47.5): Rams 27-17

Sunday, 4:05 PM, Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ (Weather: Indoors) 

Reasons: 11-3 v. 3-11. 14-point spread. One team is supposed to win the Super Bowl. One team is arguably the worst team in the NFL. So why does this feel so weird? I guess it’s because the Rams have lost two straight, new ground for this Hollywood scripted team, and with Todd Gurley banged up and Cooper Kupp gone, this offense isn’t the same. The defense also never lived up to the hype, although most of us knew that beyond Aaron Donald there was a lot of smoke and mirrors. Los Angeles can’t lose, literally and figuratively, but 14 points is a lot, even for the Rams, who have only won three games by 14 or more points this season (14 being a push, keep in mind), although one of those was a 34-0 blowout of these very Cardinals.

Pittsburgh Steelers 8-5-1 (+6) @ New Orleans Saints 12-2 (57): Saints 27-24
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Saints have been a shell of themselves the past few weeks, and to make things even stranger than Drew Brees averaging fewer than 200 passing ypg the past four games, the Saints defense has been the reason the Saints are still the NFC’s top seed. The Steelers are reeling, 1-3 in their last four games, the one win a 17-10 squeaking by the tired skill-less New England Patriots, averaging 21 ppg over that stretch, about a TD less than they’ve been averaging all season. Much like the Saints, the Steelers defense has come alive and kept the Steelers alive, but they haven’t faced a team like the Saints at home in that stretch.

Kansas City Chiefs 11-3 (-2.5) @ Seattle Seahawks 8-6 (53.5): Seahawks 24-23
Sunday, 8:20 PM, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: Rain; mid-40s)

Reasons: Home underdogs is a strange place to be for the Pete Carrol-coached Seahawks, but then again, the Seahawks don’t see many quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes (48 total TDs; 11 INTs) or the explosive Kansas City Chiefs. That explosiveness has dwindled the past few weeks with the absence of Kareem Hunt, and the depth at WR has been affected by the absence of Sammy Watkins, who, despite your laughter, can still spread the field and provides the same level of speed the Chiefs are accustomed to. Then there’s the Seattle weather. The Chiefs aren’t quite the same team everyone has come to fear, while the Seahawks are the team everyone is talking about hating to face right now. Apparently, Las Vegas agrees to an extent, making Seattle 2.5-point underdogs at home, which means on paper the Chiefs should probably win, but in reality, they probably won’t. The young Chiefs could be glued to that television screen Saturday night, which could be a good or bad thing for Sunday’s game.

Denver Broncos 6-8 (-2.5) @ Oakland Raiders 3-11 (45): Broncos 20-17
Monday, 8:15PM, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA (Weather: Rain; low 50s)

Reasons: Aren’t games like this exactly what the flex schedule is for? Oakland tanks and aims for 14 first round picks in next year’s NFL draft.

Stay tuned for Tuesday's Gone: Week 16 #NFL Game Reviews coming Wednesday!

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