Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (9-5) at Dallas Cowboys (12-2)

With the Eagles’ upset victory over the Giants on Thursday Night Football, the Dallas Cowboys have clinched the NFC East and homefield advantage all the way through to the Super Bowl. The Cowboys have said they won’t take their foot off the gas, but it’s going to be tough for them to match Detroit’s intensity this week given that Detroit is still fighting for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, the line moved a point from 7 to 6 after the result of the Philadelphia game, a significant point given that about 9% of games are decided by exactly a touchdown.

If this line was still a touchdown, this would be worth a bet, as I like the spot Detroit is in besides the fact that this game is actually meaningful for them in the standings. The Lions are at an advantage because they are in their second of two road games. Teams are 142-108 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 113-74 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 239-254 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.94 points per game, as opposed to 341-476 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.96 points per game. On top of that, the Cowboys have no real homefield advantage because their fans travel so well. They’re just 11-28 ATS as home favorites since 2010. At 6, this is a low confidence pick, but if there are any 7s still floating out there it’s worth grabbing.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit +6

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)

I’m torn on this one. On one hand, the Steelers are in a better spot than the Ravens, finishing their season with an easy home game against the Browns on deck. Favorites of 6 or more, like the Steelers are here, tend to take care of business before easy games, going 96-54 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6 or more again. The Steelers have also been great at home this year, going 4-1 straight up and against the spread in the 5 home games that Ben Roethlisberger started, outscoring opponents by an average of 16.25 points per game in the 4 victories and only losing to the Cowboys in a close 5-point game.

On the other hand, this is the biggest game of either team’s season, so I expect both teams to be completely focused, even if the Steelers have an easier game than the Ravens do next week. The Steelers are barely 6 point favorites any way and it’s arguable they are favored by a point or two too many. They rank 10th in first down rate, but the Ravens rank 16th. These Steelers/Ravens games always tend to be close anyway, with 16 of the last 21 matchups between these two teams being decided by a touchdown or less. On top of that, 10 of the Ravens’ last 17 losses have come by 6 points or fewer, as they have a strong defense and tend to keep games close. I’m taking the Ravens, but this is a no confidence pick. I’d need a full touchdown to take the Ravens with any sort of confidence.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Baltimore Ravens 19

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +6

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (8-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

These two teams met back in week 12 in a game in which the Chiefs prevailed in overtime on a last second field goal. Despite Kansas City’s win, the Broncos actually outplayed the Chiefs for most of the game. The Chiefs needed a return touchdown and a Denver muffed punt just to get it to overtime and still trailed by 8 until the final drive, when they scored their 2nd offensive touchdown of the game and converted for two. At the very least, it was a game that could have gone either way, but it’s arguably a game that the Broncos should have won outright in regulation.

That game was in Denver and this one is in Kansas City, but that actually puts the Broncos in a good spot, as comparable teams tend to split the season series, even if the road team pulls the upset in the first game. Divisional road underdogs are 61-34 ATS since 2002 in same season divisional revenge games against an opponent that previously beat them as home favorites and they also pull the upset and win straight up about half the time. These teams aren’t quite comparable though, as I have the Broncos ranked a few spots higher, so their likelihood of pulling the upset should be even higher.

The Chiefs have 10 wins, but have allowed 44 first downs and 3 offensive touchdowns more than they’ve scored. Their record is largely the result of 6 wins by 8 points or less (including two overtime victories), a +13 turnover margin, and a +7 return touchdown margin, but it’s tough to rely on takeaways and return touchdowns to win you close games, as there’s no week-to-week correlation in turnover margin and, as a result, there’s no week-to-week correlation in return touchdown margin.

The Chiefs won the turnover margin by 2 at home against the Titans last week, but still lost the game as big home favorites because they lost the first down battle 21 to 13 and the first down rate battle by 10.19%, a huge margin. Teams that win the turnover margin by 2, on average, win the game about 81.6% of the time, but the following week they win just 54.2% of the time and an have an average turnover margin of -0.1. That’s the same average turnover margin had by teams that had a +4 turnover margin the week before and the same average turnover margin had by teams that had a -4 turnover margin the week before. There’s simply no correlation between a team’s turnover margin one week and the following week.

While the Broncos enter this game 12th in first down rate differential, as opposed to 28th for the Chiefs. That gap seems bigger than it is because the gap between 12th and 28th is smaller than the gap between 12th and 4th, but the Broncos still have a 3% advantage in that metric, a significant amount. If we assume turnover neutral football, which we always should because of how inconsistent turnover margins are, the Broncos have a great chance to win this game on the road, even before taking into account any trends.

The Broncos enter this game pretty banged up, with middle linebacker Brandon Marshall and safety TJ Ward out and defensive end Derek Wolfe being a game time call, but the Chiefs are expected to be without their best defensive player, outside linebacker Justin Houston, while talented middle linebacker Derrick Johnson went down for the season with a torn achilles two weeks ago, so that kind of evens out. About 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less, but I like the Broncos’ chances to win straight up as well. The Broncos are a high confidence pick at 4 or 3.5 and I’d take them all the way down to 3 if I had to.

Denver Broncos 17 Kansas City Chiefs 16 Upset Pick +170

Pick against the spread: Denver +4

Confidence: High

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1) at Houston Texans (7-7)

The Bengals were expecting to get top wide receiver AJ Green back from injury this week, after a 4-game absence with a hamstring injury. Green even said he was playing this week. However, at the end of a lost season, after getting eliminated in a close loss to the Steelers last week, the Bengals have decided to shut Green down for the rest of the regular season. Green won’t be the only absent Cincinnati player this week either, as he’ll be joined by top linebacker Vontaze Burfict and tight end Tyler Eifert, their top pass catcher in Green’s absence. Despite that, this line has shifted from 3 on the early line last week to 2.5 this week. The Texans could be without starting running back Lamar Miller, but we’re still not really getting any line value with the Bengals anymore. They’re still the pick here, but this is a no confidence pick because a field goal Houston victory is definitely a strong possibility.

Houston Texans 17 Cincinnati Bengals 16

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +2.5

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (9-5) at Carolina Panthers (6-8)

The Falcons are 9-5, but they’re actually even better than that suggests, as they’ve gone 9-5 despite a 3-4 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. In fact, they rank 2nd in the NFL in both first down rate differential and point differential, ahead of the NFC leading Dallas Cowboys in both categories. This week, they get a couple of key players back from injury, with top wide receiver Julio Jones returning from a 2-game absence and starting defensive end Adrian Clayborn returning from a 3-game absence. The Panthers, meanwhile, are in a tough injury situation, missing two starters on the offensive line and top defensive player Luke Kuechly. That being said, we’re not getting great line value with the Falcons as 3 point road favorites. I wish this line was still 2.5, as it was earlier in the week when it opened. At 3, this is a no confidence pick.

Atlanta Falcons 27 Carolina Panthers 23

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -3

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (9-5) at Buffalo Bills (7-7)

These two teams finish their regular seasons in pretty much completely opposite fashions next week. While the Bills get an easy road game in New York against the lowly Jets, the Dolphins have to go home and host the New England Patriots. Teams are 73-58 ATS since 2012 before being 4.5+ point road favorites, which the Bills should be next week, and 43-93 ATS over that time period before being 4.5+ point home underdogs, which the Dolphins should be next week. In addition, the Dolphins are in a much worse injury situation.

The absence of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is obvious, even if backup Matt Moore is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league, but they’re also without top cornerback Byron Maxwell, who has really been playing well in recent weeks. The Bills will be without left tackle Cordy Glenn, but they are definitely in the better injury situation overall. Even before injuries are taken into account, the Bills have played slightly better than the Dolphins this season, entering 15th in first down rate differential, as opposed to 20th for the Dolphins.

When this line opened at 3.5, I was hoping it would eventually come down to 3 by gametime. Instead, the opposite happened, as the line has since jumped to 4.5. I would have put money on the Bills as 3 point home favorites, but I’m not nearly as confident in them as 4.5 point home favorites, especially given that about 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer. The Bills could easily outplay the Dolphins all game, but allow a late backdoor cover to give the Dolphins the cover. I’m still taking Buffalo, but it’s a low confidence pick.

Buffalo Bills 23 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -4.5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (1-13) at Los Angeles Rams (4-10)

These two teams met back in week 1 in what ended up being an absolute rout by the hometown San Francisco 49ers. Not only did the 49ers shutout the Rams, but they won the first down battle 28 to 10 and moved the chains at a 41.56% rate, as opposed to 16.67% for the Rams, a differential of 24.89% that is still one of the biggest single game first down rate differentials of the season. Since then though, the 49ers have lost 13 straight by an average of 15.23 points. The Rams haven’t been much better, entering this game at 4-10, with their 4 victories coming by a combined 18 points and their 10 losses coming by a combined 149 points, giving them a -131 point differential on the season, which is only ahead of the Browns and 49ers.

The 49ers actually still rank higher than the Rams in first down rate, though they’ve been ravaged by injuries this season and are missing, among others, cornerback Jimmie Ward, defensive end Arik Armstead, middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman, and safety Eric Reid for the season. All 4 of those players played in the week 1 matchup and those were arguably their best defensive players before going down. Now they’re working with a skeleton crew on defense and things are not much better on offense, where left tackle Joe Staley, easily their best player on either side of the ball, will miss his 3rd straight game with a hamstring injury. The Rams have had some injuries this season, most notably to defensive end Robert Quinn, their top pass rusher who is out for the season, but they definitely have an advantage in terms of injury situations.

Despite that, we’re still getting line value with the 49ers as 5 point underdogs in Los Angeles. The Rams are probably a little bit better of a team, but this line should be much closer to 3 in favor of the host, as these two teams are more or less even. That being said, there’s not enough here for me to be confident in the 49ers, especially since both teams are in a pretty good spot. The Rams have lost back-to-back games by 21+ and teams are 44-29 ATS in that spot since 2002, as teams tend to be overlooked, embarrassed, and undervalued in that spot. However, they are not undervalued as 5 point home favorites. They probably won’t be overlooked by a team that has lost 13 straight. And, they probably aren’t entering this game any more embarrassed than the 49ers are. On the flip side, for the 49ers, road underdogs on a 7+ game losing streak are 56-32 ATS since 1989, as teams also tend to be overlooked, embarrassed, and undervalued in that spot.

It also helps the 49ers that they’re in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 142-108 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 113-74 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 239-254 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.94 points per game, as opposed to 341-476 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.96 points per game. However, with a tough home game against the Seahawks on deck, the 49ers are in a tough spot, as teams tend to struggle before tough home games, going 18-40 ATS since 2012 before being 7+ point home underdogs, which the 49ers almost definitely will be next week. I’m taking the 49ers because I’m expecting a field goal game, but I couldn’t be confident betting any money on them.

Los Angeles Rams 16 San Francisco 49ers 13

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]