2022 Week 17 NFL Picks

Arizona Cardinals (4-11) at Atlanta Falcons (5-10)

The Falcons have the significant edge in DVOA (-4.0% vs. -22.0%) and are the significantly healthier team in terms of SIC score (86.9 vs. 74.1), but their passing offense has struggled mightily since benching veteran Marcus Mariota for rookie Desmond Ridder, so the Falcons can’t be trusted to cover a 5.5-point spread. The Falcons are the better side for pick ‘em purposes, but are not worth betting this week.

Atlanta Falcons 20 Arizona Cardinals 13

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -5.5

Confidence: Low

Carolina Panthers (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8)

The Panthers enter this game as the healthier team in terms of SIC score (88.2 vs. 83.6), but that has been the case for most of the season and the Buccaneers still have a significant edge in DVOA (+0.4% vs. -13.5%). The Buccaneers are favored by four points at home, but they could be favored by more, with my calculated line at Tampa Bay -5.5. There’s not enough line value here for the Buccaneers to be worth betting, but they should be the better side for pick ’em purposes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 Carolina Panthers 17

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -4

Confidence: Low

Chicago Bears (3-12) at Detroit Lions (7-8)

The Lions have gotten significantly healthier since the early part of the season and that has resulted in them going 6-2 since a 1-6 start. The Lions rank 9th in DVOA at +4.4% and are arguably even better than that suggests as it includes the Lions’ slow start to the season. The Bears have been more competitive than their record suggests, with 7 losses by 8 points or fewer, but they still rank 29th in DVOA (-21.2%) and have a good chance to lose by multiple scores against a Lions team that is significantly above average when healthy. This line is relatively high at Detroit -6, but I think there’s still enough line value with Detroit for them to be bettable.

Detroit Lions 34 Chicago Bears 24

Pick against the spread: Detroit -6

Confidence: Medium

Cleveland Browns (6-9) at Washington Commanders (7-7-1)

The Browns haven’t been significantly better since getting quarterback Deshaun Watson back from injury, but that could still change and the Browns have still been the better of these two teams this season in terms of DVOA (+2.4% vs. -4.8%), regardless of who has been under center. Because of that, the Browns should have a good chance to pull the small upset on the road in Washington, but with the Commanders only being 2-point underdogs, there is not enough here for the Browns to be worth betting against the spread. The Browns are still the pick for pick ‘em purposes though and the money line is a decent value at +110.

Cleveland Browns 24 Washington Commanders 23 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +2

Confidence: Low

Denver Broncos (4-11) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-3)

The Broncos were blown out last week, losing by 37, which actually bodes well for their chances of covering the spread this week, as teams tend to bounce back after losses like that, covering the spread at the 59.1% rate the week following a loss by 35 points or more. It’s counterintuitive, but it makes sense when you consider that teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed after blowout losses. That being said, I don’t think the Broncos are worth betting this week. They could easily be overlooked and embarrassed this week, but I’m not sure if they’re undervalued. They are 13-point underdogs in Kansas City, but the Chiefs have the significant edge in DVOA (+19.1% vs. -12.9%) and are significantly healthier in terms of SIC score (92.4 vs. 67.2), so my calculated line is right where this line is at Kansas City -13. The Broncos are still the better side for pick ‘em purposes, but they’re not bettable.

Kansas City Chiefs 33 Denver Broncos 21

Pick against the spread: Denver +13

Confidence: Low

Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1) at New York Giants (8-6-1)

The Giants haven’t blown any teams out this season, with their average margin of victory being 5.4 points and their biggest margin of victory being 8, but the Colts give the Giants one of their easiest chances at a blowout win this week. Not only are the Colts dead last in DVOA at -29.1%, but they are starting underwhelming veteran backup quarterback Nick Foles, with whom they struggled mightily in his first start last week. Because of all of their close victories, the Giants are not as good as their record, ranking 23rd in DVOA (-8.2%), but they should still be able to cover this 5.5-point spread. They aren’t bettable at that number, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

New York Giants 24 Indianapolis Colts 16

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -5.5

Confidence: Low

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8) at Houston Texans (2-12-1)

This game is technically meaningless for the Jaguars, as their playoff chances are entirely dependent on them beating the Titans next week, regardless of what happens in this game, but the Jaguars are still approaching this as a real game and will play all of their regular starters. The Texans have been slightly more competitive than their league worst record suggests, but they still rank 31st at -26.4% and this line is pretty small at Jacksonville -3, so the Jaguars (+2.0%) have a good chance to cover. We’re not getting quite enough line value with the Jaguars for them to be worth betting on the road, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Jacksonville Jaguars 25 Houston Texans 20

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -3

Confidence: Low

Miami Dolphins (8-6) at New England Patriots (7-7)

The Dolphins are the better team in terms of DVOA (8.5% vs. 1.3%), but that’s not a huge margin and they’ll be without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for this road game in New England. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is one of the best in the league and I’m still going to take the Dolphins for pick ‘em purposes, but they’re only underdogs of 2.5 points, so it’s hard to be confident in them at all. My calculated line still has the Patriots favored to win this game, at New England -1.5, so this is going to be a no confidence pick, with games rarely decided by 2 points or fewer.

New England Patriots 19 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Miami +2.5

Confidence: None

New Orleans Saints (6-9) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)

The Eagles have been one of the best teams in the league this season (2nd in DVOA at 28.3%) in large part due to being healthier than most of the league, but injuries have started to pile up in recent weeks, missing MVP candidate quarterback Jalen Hurts, stud right tackle Lane Johnson, and starting defensive backs Avonte Maddox and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. However, the Eagles are starting from such a level in terms of overall talent that, even without those players, they should be able to cover a 5.5-point spread against the middling Saints (20th in DVOA at -5.7%). There isn’t enough here for the Eagles to be worth betting, but they should be the right side.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 New Orleans Saints 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -5.5

Confidence: Low

New York Jets (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (7-8)

The Jets have been a significantly better team when Mike White has been under center this season, which he will be this week, but this line seems to take that into account, favoring the Jets by 1.5 on the road, even though the Seahawks are the better team in terms of DVOA (4.4% vs. 2.1%). The Seahawks have not played as well in recent weeks, with quarterback Geno Smith falling back to earth a little bit, but they’ll get wide receiver Tyler Lockett back this week and there’s value with them as +105 on the money line, as they should be considered slight favorites to win this game at home.

Seattle Seahawks 23 New York Jets 21 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Seattle +1.5

Confidence: Low

San Francisco 49ers (11-4) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-9)

This line shot up to 5.5 from 9.5 when the Raiders benched veteran Derek Carr for inexperienced backup Jarrett Stidham, effectively tanking the season for better draft position and not risking Carr to injury, which would guarantee his massive salary for next season. Stidham has never made a start in four seasons in the league and has struggled mightily in limited action, so I don’t think this line is high enough, especially since the rest of the Raiders could lose motivation with the front office clearly writing off the season. The 49ers already had the significant edge in DVOA before Carr was benched (+27.0% vs. -11.0%) and 9 of their 11 wins have come by 13 points or more, which I expect to happen again this week. Even with this high spread, the 49ers are worth a big bet this week.

San Francisco 49ers 27 Las Vegas Raiders 13

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -9.5

Confidence: High

Los Angeles Rams (5-10) at Los Angeles Chargers (9-6)

This is essentially a neutral site game for these teams, which is nothing new for the Chargers, who don’t have many fans in Los Angeles and as a result have gone 18-27 ATS at home since moving in 2017, as opposed to 28-17 ATS on the road. The Chargers are getting healthier (79.1 SIC score) and the Rams are one of the most banged up teams in the league (69.3 SIC score), which gives the Chargers a 6-point edge in my roster rankings, even with these two teams about even in DVOA (Chargers at -5.8%, Rams at -8.1%). The Chargers shouldn’t get any homefield advantage, so we’re getting a little line value with the Rams at +6.5, but it’s not nearly enough for them to be worth betting.

Los Angeles Chargers 23 Los Angeles Rams 17

Pick against the spread: LA Rams +6.5

Confidence: None

Green Bay Packers (7-8) at Minnesota Vikings (12-3)

Given these two teams’ records, it might seem surprising that the Vikings are 3-point road underdogs, but, while the Vikings are 12-3, they’ve had to go 11-0 in one-score games and have just a +5 point differential, despite a +6 turnover margin, which is not predictive week-to-week. In terms of DVOA, the Vikings rank just 25th at -9.4%, behind the 7-8 Packers at 4.1%, so it’s not surprising the Packers are favored at home. If anything, we’re getting great line value only laying a field goal with the Packers, who have been a significantly better team at home this season (4-2 with a +8 point differential, as opposed to 3-6 and -29 on the road).

That has been the case for years, with the Packers going 49-22 ATS at home in games started and finished by Aaron Rodgers, whose QB rating is 10 points higher at home in his career, significantly above average. The Packers lost by 16 in Minnesota week 1, the Vikings’ only multiscore win of the season, but the Packers are at home now and that game would have been a lot closer if the Vikings hadn’t won the turnover battle by two. If we assume turnover neutral football, the Packers have a great chance to cover this spread and are my Pick of the Week this week.

Green Bay Packers 31 Minnesota Vikings 24

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -3

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) at Baltimore Ravens (10-5)

The Ravens are the significantly better team in DVOA (+18.7 vs. -2.0%), but their offense is not nearly the same without injured quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Ravens have had injury problems for most of the season and right now they are actually healthier around the quarterback than they’ve been for most of the season, but the Steelers are one of the healthiest teams in the league (91.1 SIC score). The Ravens won in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago without Jackson, but they needed to win the turnover battle by 3, which is not predictive, to only win the game by two, with the Steelers having the significant edge in yards per play and first down rate. We’re only getting a couple points with the Steelers this week, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes against the spread and they are a good value on the money line at +110.

Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Baltimore Ravens 16 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh +2

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills (12-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

The Bills are 12-3 and one of the best teams in the league, but the 11-4 Bengals have almost been just as good in recent weeks, as they have gotten healthier, with the Bills trending in the wrong direction injury wise. In terms of weighted DVOA, the Bills only have a slight edge (+29.9% vs. +23.4%). We’re not getting great line value with the Bengals as only 1.5-point home underdogs, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes, as the Bengals should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game outright. The money line is a decent value at +105.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 Buffalo Bills 26 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +1.5

Confidence: Low

Dallas Cowboys at Tennessee Titans: 2022 Week 17 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (11-4) at Tennessee Titans (7-8)

The Titans have collapsed in recent weeks, losing five straight after a 7-3 start. That’s not all that surprising though, as the Titans’ wins were never that impressive. None of the Titans’ wins came against teams that currently have a winning record and almost all came by slim margins of victory. Only two of the Titans’ wins have come by more than a touchdown and neither win was as impressive as that suggests, as they needed a defensive touchdown to push the margin to 9 against the Colts, while their 10-point win over the Packers came against a team in a terrible spot, playing on a short week after an overtime game, a spot in which teams are just 2-22 ATS all-time. Meanwhile, the Titans’ seven losses have come by a combined 89 points, leading to an underwhelming -43 point differential, and they rank just 24th in DVOA.

Making matters worse, the Titans have been among the most injury plagued teams in the league, missing several starters on both sides of the ball in recent weeks, and this week is the most short-handed they’ve been, as they are resting anyone who has any sort of injury in what is actually a meaningless game for the Titans, whose playoff chances are not affected at all by the outcome of this game, with a wild card spot out of reach and the division to be decided by the Titans’ matchup with the Jaguars next week.

In total, the Titans will be missing starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, four starters on the offensive line, Taylor Lewan, Ben Jones, Nate Davis, and Nicholas Petit-Frere, feature back Derrick Henry, stud interior defender Jeffery Simmons, their top-3 edge defenders Denico Autry, Bud Dupree, and Harold Landry, starting linebackers Zach Cunningham and David Long, expected starting cornerbacks Caleb Farley and Kristian Fulton, and talented safety Amani Hooker, giving them a SIC score of 53.4 which will almost definitely be the lowest in the league this week. 

The relatively healthy Cowboys, on the other hand, are at 86.4 and enter this game 4th in DVOA, so this is a big mismatch. The oddsmakers have pushed this line all the time to favoring Dallas by 12.5 as a result of the Titans’ injuries though, so we’re not getting any line value with the Cowboys. However, I still am going to take the Cowboys for pick ‘em purposes because the Titans’ players who do play may be less motivated than they otherwise would be in a game that doesn’t matter and that the coaching staff is treating like it doesn’t matter, resting players who would otherwise play. There’s not nearly enough here for the Cowboys to be worth betting, but they should be the better side against the spread this week.

Dallas Cowboys 23 Tennessee Titans 10

Pick against the spread: Dallas -12.5

Confidence: None

Los Angeles Chargers at Indianapolis Colts: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) at Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1)

The Chargers have 8-6, but they haven’t played quite as well as that overall this season, as their eight wins have come by a combined 33 points (4.125 points per win), while their six losses have come by a combined 64 points (10.167 points per loss). As a result, they rank just 21st in point differential, which is more predictive than winning percentage, and 26th in schedule adjusted efficiency (-4.03), which is more predictive than point differential. Injuries have been the primary reason why they have been underwhelming this season though and they have gotten a lot healthier in recent weeks, which has had a noticeable effect on their performance.

Quarterback Justin Herbert has played significantly better since recovering from an early season rib injury that he played through and he’ll have his two talented wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams together for the third straight week this week, something he only had in 2 of his first 12 starts. The Chargers’ offensive line has also been better in recent weeks with center Corey Linsley back healthy, after he missed 3 games total earlier in the season, while their defense will get a big boost this week with stud safety Derwin James back from a 2-game absence. The Chargers are still missing expected top cornerback JC Jackson, stud edge defender Joey Bosa, and talented left tackle Rashawn Slater, which are significant absences, but they’re clearly in much better shape injury wise than they were earlier in the season.

This week, the Chargers play a Colts team whose primary issue this season has been the turnover margin, tied for a league worst -12 turnover margin. That’s not predictive week-to-week though and, somewhat counterintuitively, teams with bad turnover margins tend to cover against teams with good turnover margins, with teams covering at a 54.3% rate against a team that has a turnover margin 15+ points higher than theirs, because turnover margins don’t have nearly as much predictive value week-to-week as most people think.

With the Chargers at +3 in the turnover margin, that trend applies to this game and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is much more predictive than turnover margins, the Colts haven’t been quite as bad as their record would suggest, ranking 25th at -3.96. However, the Colts benched starting quarterback Matt Ryan this week for backup Nick Foles, who will be their third quarterback of the season and who will almost definitely be a downgrade from Ryan, which will hurt their chances of covering this spread. 

This line is relatively high, favoring the Chargers on the road by 4.5 points, with 3 out of 10 games being decided by four points or fewer, but the Chargers tend to overperform expectations on the road because they don’t have any homefield advantage in Los Angeles anyway (18-27 ATS at home, 27-17 ATS on the road since moving in 2017) and the Chargers also are at an advantage as a Pacific Time Zone team in a night game against an Eastern Time Zone team, a spot in which teams cover at about a 60% rate historically. We’re not getting nearly enough value with the Chargers for them to be worth betting, but I would pick them for pick ‘em purposes, albeit for one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Los Angeles Chargers 25 Indianapolis Colts 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -4.5

Confidence: None

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Rams: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (4-10) at Los Angeles Rams (4-10)

A week ago on the early line, the Rams were favored by 1 point at home in this matchup against the Denver Broncos, but this line has since switched to favor the Broncos by a field goal, a significant swing, given that 1 in 4 games are decided by three points or fewer, with 1 in 6 games decided by exactly a field goal. That’s probably because the Rams lost by 12 to the Packers, while the Broncos beat the Cardinals by 9, but the Cardinals are one of the worst teams in the league right now because of all of their injuries, while the Packers have been significantly better this season at home than on the road, so neither of those results were that surprising, nor should they have caused a line movement like this.

Some of that line movement might be because Russell Wilson will play for the Broncos this week and there may have been some uncertainty about that last week, but it looked pretty clear that Wilson’s absence would be a one-game absence, so I’m not sure if that’s the case, and Wilson hasn’t played well enough this season for his return to trigger this kind of line movement anyway. Also, if this line had stayed where it was a week ago and Wilson didn’t play, the Rams would still be a good value, as the Rams are a noticeably better team than the Broncos when the Broncos have to turn to underwhelming backup Brett Rypien. 

With Wilson back, I have these two teams close to even, with the Broncos possessing a one-point edge in my roster rankings, giving us a calculated line between even and Rams -1, so we’re getting good value with the Rams as home underdogs of a full field goal. The Rams have had an equally disappointing season as the Broncos and, like the Broncos, injuries have been a big part of the reason why, but they at least have a more capable quarterback and left tackle than they did earlier in the season, since adding Baker Mayfield and Ty Nsekhe mid-season. 

If they didn’t have those two players, they wouldn’t be that interesting of a bet, but those two give them competent players at key offensive positions that they didn’t have a few weeks ago and their defense has remained solid all season, so it’s surprising to see them still be home underdogs of a field goal against another one of the worst teams in the league. The Rams are still a bad team, so I don’t want to go crazy with this play, but I think they’re bettable this week, both against the spread and on the money line.

Los Angeles Rams 17 Denver Broncos 16 Upset Pick +145

Pick against the spread: LA Rams +3

Confidence: Medium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) at Arizona Cardinals (4-10)

The Cardinals were at the top of my overrated teams list coming into the season. They went 11-6 last season, but needed a +12 turnover margin to get to that record, which is not predictive, and they ranked just 14th in overall efficiency, barely above average. They also got a lot worse this off-season, losing starting wide receiver Christian Kirk, top edge defender Chandler Jones, top off ball linebacker Jordan Hicks, top cornerback Robert Alford, and their most efficient running back Chase Edmonds, with their only major addition being former Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown, who cost the Cardinals their first round pick in a trade and who isn’t a significant upgrade on Christian Kirk.

Things have been even worse than I expected because of all of the Cardinals injuries. They have had a bunch of players in and out of the lineup all season and right now are without starting quarterback Kyler Murray, backup quarterback Colt McCoy, arguably their three best offensive linemen DJ Humphries, Justin Pugh, and Rodney Hudson, talented tight end Zach Ertz, #3 receiver Rondale Moore, starting interior defender Zach Allen, and top cornerback Byron Murphy. Not surprisingly, their quarterback injuries are their biggest concern, as third string quarterback Trace McSorley will be making his first career start this week, after struggling mightily in limited relief work thus far in his career.

All that being said, I think we are getting some line value with them, as this line has shot up to favor the visiting Buccaneers by 7.5 points. The Buccaneers have their own injury concerns, expected to be without starting left tackle Donovan Smith, top edge defender Shaq Barrett and his replacement Carl Nassib, top cornerback Jamel Dean, top safety Antoine Winfield, and top interior defender Vita Vea and, as a result, my calculated line has them favored by just 6 points here in Arizona. I have no desire to bet on an unproven third string quarterback unless I’m getting significant line value, but I would take the Cardinals for pick ‘em purposes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 Arizona Cardinals 14

Pick against the spread: Arizona +7.5

Confidence: Low

Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (6-8) at Miami Dolphins (8-6)

The Packers are 3.5-point underdogs this week, which might seem low, but 1 in 4 games are decided by three points or fewer, with 1 in 6 games being decided by exactly a field goal, so 3.5 is a higher line that some might think. As a result of that, it tends to be a trap line, as the oddsmakers know they can get people to bet on it because it doesn’t seem that high, when in reality it’s actually closer to 6 than 3, if you take into account how often games are decided by each margin of victory. Because of that, betting on 3.5-point underdogs is actually a profitable strategy in the long run, as they have covered at a 52.9% rate all-time, slightly above the 52.5% rate needed to break even. That alone isn’t a reason to take every 3.5-point underdog every week, but it’s worth taking into account.

That being said, I do think this line is a little low. The Packers have been overrated all season and, while that slowed down significantly when the Packers fell to 4-8, now with two straight wins that seems to have changed, even though those wins were against the Bears and Rams, two of the worst teams in the league. The Packers were 13-4 a year ago, but, in some ways, their significant decline this season isn’t all that surprising. Despite their record last season, the Packers finished just 10th in point differential and 11th in overall efficiency, even with an MVP season from Aaron Rodgers who, as good as he is, was no guarantee to play at quite the same level in 2022, now in his age 39 season. Add in the loss of by far their top wide receiver Davante Adams this off-season and some regression was to be expected from them, especially on offense.

In many ways, things have gone how you might expect, given the circumstances. The Packers’ defense has declined slightly due to injuries, ranking 17th in defensive efficiency in 2021 and 22nd in 2022, while their offense has fallen off significantly, falling from 4th in offensive efficiency a year ago to 16th this season, while their horrendous special teams that ranked dead last in efficiency a year ago has only been slightly better this year, ranking 27th. All in all, the Packers rank just 22nd in the NFL in overall efficiency (-1.69) when adjusted for schedule.

The Packers have also been especially bad on the road this year, going 2-6 with a -35 point differential away from Lambeau, as opposed to 4-2 with a +8 point differential at home, which is nothing new for them, as they have consistently underperformed on the road with Aaron Rodgers, whose QB rating drops 10 points on the road, far above the league average. With all that taken into consideration, I have this line calculated at Miami -7, so we are getting line value with the Dolphins, even if this line is higher than it seems at 3.5. There isn’t enough here for the Dolphins to be bettable, but I like them for pick ‘em purposes.

Miami Dolphins 27 Green Bay Packers 20

Pick against the spread: Miami -3.5

Confidence: Low

Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (7-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)

The Seahawks are 10-point underdogs in this game, which might seem like a lot considering they have a decent 7-7 record, but their offense has been their strength all season and they haven’t played as well in recent weeks, with quarterback Geno Smith falling back to earth a little bit. I expect that to continue into this week, when Smith will be missing two of his three best wide receivers, Tyler Lockett and Marquise Goodwin, for the first time this season. Injuries are a concern on defense as well, with a pair of key players, interior defender Al Woods and safety Ryan Neal, both out this week.

Of course, part of the problem for the Seahawks this week is that they are facing the Chiefs, who are at home and who are arguably the best team in the league. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Chiefs rank 2nd at +8.92, only behind the Bills (+9.80) and the Chiefs also lead my roster rankings, about 10 points above average, as they enter this game remarkably healthy for how late in the season it is, with no key players absent. There isn’t quite enough here for the Chiefs to be bettable, but I don’t expect this game to be close and I don’t have a problem laying the 10 points for pick ‘em purposes.

Kansas City Chiefs 30 Seattle Seahawks 17

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -10

Confidence: Low

New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (5-9) at Cleveland Browns (6-8)

The Saints have been among the most injury plagued teams in the league this season. They seemed to be getting healthier, with feature back Alvin Kamara (2 games missed), starting wide receivers Jarvis Landry (5 games missed) and Chris Olave (1 game missed), starting offensive linemen Andrus Peat (4 games missed) and James Hurst (1 game missed), stud edge defenders Cameron Jordan (1 game missed) and Marcus Davenport (2 games missed), starting safety Marcus Maye (4 games missed), talented linebacker Pete Werner (4 games missed), starting center Erik McCoy (4 games missed) all playing last week after missing significant time earlier in the season, but now they seem to be going in the opposite direction, with Werner, Olave, and Landry all out this week.

If the Saints were healthier, I would have had my eye on them as a potential bet this week, but without those three key players, it’s hard to be confident in them as 3-point road underdogs in Cleveland against the Browns. In fact, my calculated line is right at Cleveland -3, with my numbers saying the Browns actually have a slightly better chance to cover this spread than their opponents. With that in mind, I am going to take the Browns for pick ‘em purposes, but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week and a push is a good possibility, as the single most likely outcome of this game is the Browns winning by a field goal at home, with about 1 in 6 games decided by exactly a field goal.

Cleveland Browns 20 New Orleans Saints 17

Pick against the spread: Cleveland -3

Confidence: None

Washington Commanders at San Francisco 49ers: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Washington Commanders (7-6-1) at San Francisco 49ers (10-4)

The 49ers began this season just 3-4, but they had a lot of injury problems early in the season and, once they got healthy and acquired feature back Christian McCaffrey in a trade, the 49ers looked like one of the best teams in the league and a legitimate Super Bowl, with among the most non-quarterback talent in the league. Their Super Bowl ambitions seemed to be threatened when starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down for the season with an injury a few weeks ago, leaving unproven 7th round rookie Brock Purdy as the starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

However, Purdy has more or less picked up where Garoppolo left off, playing well enough to win and taking advantage of all of the talent around him to push the 49ers’ winning streak to seven games. Now the general consensus seems to be that the 49ers aren’t any worse off with Purdy under center, but I think that might be a little premature, given that he’s still only played about two and a half games and the rest of the league is just starting to learn his tendencies. It’s possible he will continue playing this well and prove to not be a downgrade, but I think it’s too early to say that definitively.

This line, favoring the 49ers by a touchdown over a capable but underwhelming Commanders team, seems to assume that Purdy will continue playing as well as he’s played and that could be the case, but, if he happens to have his first bad game this week, the 49ers will definitely be overvalued as favorites of this many points. With that in mind, I am going to take the Commanders for pick ‘em purposes, but I can’t be confident enough in them to bet on them, as Purdy could easily continue playing at the level he’s played at, in which case a multiple score win by the 49ers would definitely be possible.

Update: Safety Kamren Curl, one of the Commanders’ best defensive players, is surprisingly out for this game. Despite that, this line has dropped to 6.5. I am going to change this pick to the 49ers, but for a no confidence pick.

San Francisco 49ers 24 Washington Commanders 17

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -6.5

Confidence: None

Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore Ravens: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (5-9) at Baltimore Ravens (9-5)

The Falcons are 5-9, but they’ve been impressive on offense this season, ranking 7th in schedule adjusted efficiency, with their defense being their big problem, ranking 29th in schedule adjusted efficiency. Offensive performance tends to be significantly more consistent week-to-week than defensive performance, so teams with strong offensive numbers and poor defensive numbers tend to do better going forward than teams that are the opposite. However, the Falcons made the decision to bench veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota for rookie Desmond Ridder a couple weeks ago, which makes sense to do in the long-term, as they want to evaluate a potential long-term starter, but, in the short-term, it will likely have the effect of hurting their offensive performance, which will further expose their defense. 

The Falcons only lost by three in New Orleans in their first game with Ridder under center last week, but they lost the first down rate battle by 1.69 and the yards per play battle by 1.33%, which are significantly more predictive than the final score. Ridder himself particularly struggled last week, throwing for just 97 yards on 26 attempts (3.73 YPA, as opposed to the 7.40 YPA that Mariota averaged this season), with the Falcons’ running game being the one to keep the team competitive last week (5.92 YPC on 39 carries), which is a concern because passing game performance tends to be significantly more predictive than running game performance. It’s possible Ridder will be better in his second start this week, but their passing game will almost definitely be worse going forward with Ridder under center rather than Mariota, who has since gone on injured reserve with a knee injury.

All that being said, it’s surprising to see the Falcons as underdogs of 6.5 points on the road in Baltimore, facing a Ravens team that is starting backup quarterback Tyler Huntley in place of injured star quarterback Lamar Jackson. Huntley has led the Ravens to just 26 offensive points in about 2.5 games since taking over for Jackson, so it would be hard to take them as big favorites with any sort of confidence. In fact, my calculated line is just Baltimore -5, so we’re actually getting a little bit of line value with the Falcons, even with the underwhelming and unproven Ridder under center. There’s not enough here for the Falcons to be bettable, but they should be the right side in what figures to be a low scoring game between two run-first offenses that have significant passing game problems.

Baltimore Ravens 19 Atlanta Falcons 14

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +6.5

Confidence: Low