Sunday Spreads Vol. 16: The Playoff Race Tightens
I hate late-season NFL scheduling. The structure for football in America is supposed to go like this; Friday is for high school, Saturday is for college, and Sundays are for the NFL, with a bonus game on Monday. However, in recent years, the league has gotten very greedy towards the end of every regular season. Why do we need to watch NFL Football five days in a row, especially on Christmas, when that's reserved for the NBA?
Anyways, rant over. Let's get into this week's spreads. Last week I went 10-2 on Money Line picks, and 7-4-1 Against The Spread, so here's to keeping this hot streak rolling with my picks for Week 16.
1 PM Games
Cleveland Browns vs. New York Jets
Not only were the Jets able to cover a 17 point spread last week, but they were able to do so while also getting their first straight up win of the season against the Los Angeles Rams. In complete Jets fashion, this win actually turned out to be a negative for the team, as it puts their chances at the first pick in jeopardy. Maybe now they'll actually have to build a team around Sam Darnold.
In all honesty, if the spread was in double-digits, I might have considered taking the Jets to cover. They have been steadily improving on both sides of the ball, albeit in painfully small increments. Jamison Crowder looked decent in his first start since Week 11, with 6 catches for 66 yards. On defense, Quinnen Williams recorded a sack, his third in his last 4 games. If it weren't for their offensive line, which has allowed a league ninth-worst 30 sacks this season, I would take the Jets to cover. However, in a race for the AFC North that continues to heat up late in the season as the Steelers continue to lose, I think Baker Mayfield can lead his Browns to win by at least a touchdown.
M/L: Browns (-275)
ATS: Browns -6.5 (-110)
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans
While their straight up record is nothing to be impressed by, even with last week's win against the Steelers, the Bengals have been one of the better betting teams in the league this year, with an 8-6 record against the spread. Houston on the other hand sits toward the bottom of the league at 5-9 ATS.
Despite struggling to cover all year, I think Houston will take this one at home against Cincinnati straight up. DeShaun Watson has been one of the best QBs in the league this season, throwing 27 TDs with only 4 interceptions on the year. Both teams are coming off some hot performances, with Watson throwing a season high 373 yards aided by David Johnson's 11 catches. If this spread was a bit wider, I'd consider taking the Bengals, and I won't judge you if you do, but I think we might be heading into push territory with this game.
M/L: Texans (-350)
ATS: Bengals +7 (-110)
Indianapolis Colts vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Juju has promised Steelers fans that he will no longer be dancing on team logos for the rest of the season after his team has dropped their last three games, both straight up and against the spread. Honestly, this news may bode well for the Steelers, as it may just lift whatever curse they're currently under. It's going to be tough to win out the rest of their schedule as they take on the Colts, who could clinch the AFC South this week with a win and a Titans loss to Green Bay.
As good as the Colts offense is this season, I don't think we talk about their defense enough in terms of how much they've contributed to this year's 10-4 record. They've allowed less than 100 yards per game this season, and despite playing against a pass-heavy team this week, it will definitely limit Pittsburgh's options this week. With a spread of one point, it's really hard for me to be confident in a pick for either side. However, taking the Colts ATS and parlaying it with the Money Line could be a solid combo small-money play.
M/L: Colts (-105)
ATS: Colts +1 (-115)
Chicago Bears vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The race for the first pick in the 2020 Draft has really heated up. As the Jets get their first win of the year against the Rams, people can finally start focusing on the fact the the Jaguars really suck as well. With a loss, the Bears are eliminated from playoff contention, so they won't be taking this game lightly despite how bad their opponent is.
Look for the win to come because of defense. Taking advantage of one of the worst offenses in the league, the Bears defense has only allowed an average of 22.7 points per game. Against Jacksonville, they should strive for allowing something in the 10-17 mark. Minshew hasn't thrown an interception since returning from injury, but I just don't think he's had enough time to recover to lead his team to any more wins this year.
M/L: Bears (-375)
ATS: Bears -7.5 (-105)
New York Giants vs. Baltimore Ravens
Believe it or not, the Giants actually have a quicker path to the playoffs than the Ravens right now, just one game back of Washington for control of the NFC East. The Ravens are currently locked in a tight race for the final wild card spot, with their chances of taking the North very slim. However, with the expanded wild card, I don't think it's a ridiculous notion for the AFC North to have three representatives in this year's postseason.
The Giants are no strangers to large underdog deficits this season, leading to their 9-1 record ATS in their last ten games. However, I think their hot streak ends here. A 10.5 deficit isn't ludicrous to overcome, but the Ravens offense has been very consistent in the last few weeks. Lamar Jackson will probably rush a lot with the potential absence of Marquise Brown, and bring the Ravens to a nice win before finishing their regular season against Cincinnati.
M/L: Ravens (-550)
ATS: Ravens -10.5 (-110)
Atlanta Falcons vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Our second of two double-digit spreads today, the Atlanta Falcons are heavy underdogs against the defending Super Bowl Champs. While the Chiefs already clinched the AFC West, their work in the regular season is not yet done, as they still need one more win to clinch a first round bye.
The Chiefs have won nine straight since dropping a game to Las Vegas in Week 5, making it only their second loss since Week 10 of last season. In terms of the spread, Kansas City is a measly 7-7 ATS, but I think Mahomes and the NFL's current best offense should have no problem bringing that record to a winning ratio against the Falcons. The Chiefs average margin of victory, currently at 8.9 points per game, is below the spread, and they haven't won by more than one score since the Jets in Week 8. However, they're on the tail end of the tough part of their schedule, so a 2-score victory isn't too ridiculous this afternoon.
M/L: Chiefs (-550)
ATS: Chiefs -10.5 (-110)
4 PM Games
Carolina Panthers vs. Washington Football Team
This game I recommend avoiding for several reasons. First, it's a one point spread. Not very fun. Second, We're still unsure as to who will be the starting quarterback today for Washington, as Alex Smith may take some more time to recover from his calf injury. Dwayne Haskins had a solid outing in a 20-15 loss to Seattle last week, throwing for 295 yards and a TD, and he could do the same against a much weaker Panthers team. His passes are caught by a steadily improving receiving staff led by tight end Logan Thomas.
If you're going to make a bet on this, I'd wait until they announce who will be starting. Regardless, the Football is fighting to control their top spot in the NFC East, so a bet for Washington isn't a bad idea.
M/L: Washington (-115)
ATS: Washington -1 (-110)
Denver Broncos vs. Los Angeles Chargers
With two wins in a row and two covers in a row, the Chargers look to end their regular season on a high note and extend their win streak in a revenge game against the Chargers. Justin Herbert, who has quickly risen to a heavy favorite for offensive rookie of the year. He's going to be the difference maker in this game, as both teams will have to rely on offense with each of their top pass rushers out. As we've seen plenty of times this season, Denver can rely a lot less on their players under center than LA.
M/L: LA Chargers (-150)
ATS: LA Chargers -2.5 (-115)
Los Angeles Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks
Another 1-point spread, the Rams bested the Seahawks 23-16 in Week 10, taking advantage of a weak Seattle defense and an injured offense. Seattle is still struggling in the defense department, with a pass rush unit that still has a long way to go before ensuring playoff success, but the offense has continued to improve. Seattle's running game has greatly improved, and with all three major backs healthy, they'll have a strong ground game to back up Russell Wilson. Seattle's run game currently averages around seven yards per carry led by Chris Carson, who has 568 yards on the season.
In their last six games against Seattle, the Rams have won five, averaging 31.8 points and 450 yards per game. Most haven't been this close, however, and I think Wilson will be able to come up clutch when his team needs it and try to fight for that second seed in the NFC.
M/L: Seahawks (-115)
ATS: Seahawks -1 (-110)
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys
Jalen Hurts has brought the Eagles slightly up to speed in his first two career starts, averaging 25 points per game in a victory against the Saints and a one-score defeat against the Cardinals. The Eagles won a decisive victory against the Cowboys in their first meeting of the season, but that was with third string Quarterback and Tik Tok meme Ben DiNucci behind center, whose tenure ended after two losses with no touchdowns. He didn't throw any interceptions, so that's a plus I guess.
With Andy Dalton at QB this time, the Cowboys offense is relatively healthy and up to speed. Dak Prescott is questionable, but he's been underperforming pretty much the entire season. Looking at the injury report, I think Philly will take this due to Dallas simply being too banged up on the defensive end. Look for the Eagles to win and cover.
M/L: Eagles (-160)
ATS: Eagles -3 (-115)
Sunday Night Football
Tennessee Titans vs. Green Bay Packers
This is a great matchup, with plenty on the line for both teams. For Green Bay, a win means a bit more cushion in their first week bye. For Tennessee, it means a chance to stay in the race for the AFC South. Two great quarterbacks in Rodgers and Tannehill, as well as two great running backs in Jones and Henry, it's going to be a true clash of the Titans.
For my money, Green Bay has the edge, but it's going to be very close. Despite being solid straight up, both teams are actually pretty mediocre against the spread. Tennessee has been playing some of the best football they've played in the Tannehill era, and Derrick Henry is on his way to an MVP. If it comes down to the ground game to settle a tight QB battle, Henry and the Titans will be able to keep it within a field goal.
M/L: Packers (-160)
ATS: Titans +3 (-110)