Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers: 2019 Week 16 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (6-8) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-9)

The Chargers have had a very disappointing 5-9 season, a year after going 12-4, but they’ve been much better than their record suggests, entering this game 6th in first down rate differential at +4.08%, especially impressive when you consider they basically play 16 road games, as they completely lack a fan base in Los Angeles. Most of their losses have been close, with their only loss by more than a touchdown coming last week against the Vikings, a game against one of the best teams in the league that was closer than the final score (Chargers lost the first down rate battle by just 4.36% in a 29-point loss). 

Turnovers have killed the Chargers more than anything, as they rank dead last in the NFL with a -16 turnover margin and have had more than a couple losses that have swung on turnovers. Fortunately, turnover margin tends to be very unpredictable on a week-to-week basis, so the Chargers’ awful turnover margin doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll continue losing the turnover battle going forward.

One of their losses that swung on the turnover battle was their first matchup with the Raiders, back in week 10 in Oakland, a game in which they won the first down rate battle by 7.58%, but ended up losing by 2 because of a -3 turnover margin. Outside of those 3 snaps, the Chargers outplayed the Raiders significantly. The Chargers don’t have a homefield advantage, but I like their chances a lot in the rematch in Los Angeles, assuming turnover neutral football, which should almost always be assumed. 

Not only did the Chargers outplay the Raiders for most of the previous rematch, but they also have stud safety Derwin James available this time around, while the Raiders are missing a trio of key contributors on offense, running back Josh Jacobs and offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Trent Brown. The Chargers are without left tackle Russell Okung, which is a significant absence for them, but Okung only played 7 snaps in the previous matchup before getting hurt and has been absent for most of the season, so his absence is not anything new.

The Raiders, meanwhile, have had Incognito, Jacobs, and Brown on the field for most of the season, and, despite that, the Raiders have been significantly worse than their 6-8 record suggests. While their largest margin of victory this season is just 8 points, but all 2 of their losses have come by at least 18 points, with the only exceptions being a game in Houston in which they lost the first down rate battle by 9.28% and last week’s game at home against the Jaguars, who are arguably the worst team in the NFL and had lost their previous 5 games by at least 14 points prior to last week’s win. 

In terms of first down rate differential, the Raiders rank 29th in the NFL at -5.31%, a long way behind the 6th ranked Chargers. Their defense has been the biggest problem, ranking dead last in the NFL with a 41.36% first down rate allowed, but their offense, which ranks 36.06% in first down rate at 17th, could have a lot of trouble this week too without their feature back and a pair of talented offensive linemen. 

I typically don’t like betting on the Chargers at home, but I would expect this to be yet another blowout loss for the Raiders. Despite these teams records, the Chargers have significantly outplayed the Raiders on the season and they are also in a significantly better injury situation. We’ve lost line value with the Chargers going from 6.5-point favorites on the early line last week to 7.5-point favorites this week, but I still like the Chargers enough to bet on them. If this line drops back down to a touchdown before gametime, I’ll probably increase this bet.

Los Angeles Chargers 31 Oakland Raiders 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -7.5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons: 2019 Week 16 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-9) at Atlanta Falcons (5-9)

The Jaguars won last week in Oakland, snapping a 5-game losing streak, but they weren’t impressive. Not only did they lose the first down rate battle by 3.04% in a game that could have gone either way, but the Raiders are also one of the worst teams in the league, ranking 29th in the NFL on the season in first down rate differential. That win doesn’t change my opinion of the Jaguars and, prior to last week’s win, the Jaguars were the 3rd team in the past 30 seasons to lose 5 consecutive games by 14 points or more, so they still have a lot of problems. 

Their offense has been terrible all season, ranking 30th in first down rate on the season at 31.40%, and their defense has been especially bad since trading Jalen Ramsey after week 6, ranking 30th in the NFL in first down rate allowed over that stretch at 40.49%. As a result of their struggles on both sides of the ball, they have a -10.24% first down rate differential since week 6, worst in the NFL over that stretch by a large margin, with their opponents last week the Oakland Raiders having the second worst at -7.33%. 

The Falcons, meanwhile, have the same record as the Jaguars, but have been better than their record suggests and significantly better than the Jaguars, ranking 17th in first down rate differential at -0.38%, despite facing the league’s toughest schedule (58% opponents winning percentage). The Falcons started the season 1-7 before their week 9 bye, but their biggest problem was the turnover battle, as they had -0.29% first down rate differential but a -12 turnover margin. Fortunately, turnovers tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis and they’ve been +6 in turnover margin since the bye. 

As a result, the Falcons have gone 4-2, including wins on the road in New Orleans and San Francisco, despite their first down rate differential only being slightly better in those 6 games than it was before the bye (+0.12%). Assuming they play turnover neutral football, which should almost always be assumed about most teams, the Falcons shouldn’t have much trouble at home against one of the worst teams in the league. 

This line, favoring the Falcons by 7.5, suggests a large talent gap between these two teams, but I think this line should be even higher, with my calculated line being Atlanta -11. We’ve lost line value with the Falcons going from 6.5-point favorites on the early line last week to 7.5-point favorites this week, but I still like the Falcons enough to bet on them. If this line drops back down to a touchdown before gametime, I’ll probably increase this bet.

Atlanta Falcons 31 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -7.5

Confidence: Medium

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles: 2019 Week 16 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (7-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

The Cowboys had their most impressive performance of the season last week, convincingly beating a solid Rams team in a 44-21 game in which they won the first down rate battle by 5.88%. That’s not all that surprising, as they’ve been better than their record this season. Including the Rams’ game, their average margin of victory is 18.57 points per game, while their average margin of defeat is just 5.71 points per game. That gives them a point differential of +90, 6th in the NFL, which suggests they’ve played significantly better than their 7-7 record suggests. They also rank highly in first down rate differential at +4.57%, 5th in the NFL.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost line value with the Cowboys in the past week, with this line moving from even a week ago on the early line to Dallas -2.5 this week. The Eagles have been up and down this season, but they’ve been about an average team overall, ranking 15th in first down rate differential on the season at +0.58%. I have the Cowboys calculated as 3-point favorites, but there’s not nearly enough here for the Cowboys to be worth betting on, especially with quarterback Dak Prescott barely getting practice reps this week while dealing with a shoulder injury.

Dallas Cowboys 27 Philadelphia Eagles 24

Pick against the spread: Dallas -2.5

Confidence: None

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings: 2019 Week 16 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (11-3) at Minnesota Vikings (10-4)

The Packers have a one game lead over the Vikings in the NFC North and they won the previous matchup between these two teams back in week 2, but the Vikings have been the more impressive team on the season. While 7 of the Packers’ 11 wins have come by one score or fewer, the Vikings have just 2 wins by one score or less. As a result, the Vikings have a significant edge in point differential at +119 to +47 and in first down rate differential at +4.78% to +0.70%. The Packers are closer to full strength injury wise, with the Vikings missing feature back Dalvin Cook with injury, but I still have the Vikings a couple points better than the Packers in my roster rankings. Given that, the Vikings have a great shot to win the re-match, after falling just short in Green Bay (21-16), where the Packers are close to unbeatable with Aaron Rodgers under center (43-22 ATS since 2011).

Unfortunately, we’re not getting any line value with the Vikings, as the odds makers seem to recognize that the Packers haven’t played quite as well as their record suggests and, as a result, have made them 4.5 point underdogs in Minnesota. My calculated line is actually Minnesota -4, so we’re getting the slightest bit of line value with the visitors, but not nearly enough to take either side with confidence. This is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Minnesota Vikings 24 Green Bay Packers 20

Pick against the spread: Green Bay +4.5

Confidence: None

Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins: 2019 Week 16 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (1-13) at Miami Dolphins (3-11)

Both of these teams have had miserable seasons, with a combined 4 wins between the two teams. The Bengals only have one win, but they’ve been a more competitive team than the Dolphins, with just 6 double digit losses, compared to 9 for the Dolphins, and a point differential of -148, compared to -194 for the Dolphins. In terms of first down rate differential, the Bengals hold the edge at -3.91% to -7.19%. That’s despite the fact that the Bengals have faced a significantly tougher schedule, with a 57% opponents combined winning percentage, as compared to 47% for the Dolphins. 

The Dolphins have been better in games started by veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, rather than young quarterback Josh Rosen, with a 4.47% better first down rate in Fitzpatrick’s 11 starts as compared to Rosen’s 3 starts, but the Bengals have also been better in games started by veteran Andy Dalton, rather than young quarterback Ryan Finley, with a 4.41% better first down rate in Dalton’s 11 starts as compared to Finley’s 3 starts. The Bengals have also benefited from the return of left tackle Cordy Glenn in recent weeks and overall actually rank 24th in my roster rankings, while the Dolphins rank dead last. 

With that in mind, we’re getting good line value with the Bengals as just 1-point road favorites, as I have this line calculated at Cincinnati -4. The Bengals are also in a better spot. This isn’t a particularly meaningful game for either team other than being a relatively easy opportunity to pick up a rare win, but the Dolphins could completely look past the Bengals with a trip to New England on deck, while the Bengals have a much easier game on deck at home against the Browns. The Dolphins will almost definitely be double digit underdogs next week and teams are are just 33-64 ATS since 2008 before being double digit divisional underdogs. I thought about making this my Pick of the Week, but couldn’t bring myself to make arguably the most meaningless game of the week my top pick. I do like the Bengals a lot this week though.

Cincinnati Bengals 24 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -1

Confidence: High

Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets: 2019 Week 16 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6) at New York Jets (5-9)

The Jets had intentions of competing in 2019, after an off-season spending spree, but they’ve had a disappointing season and sit at just 5-9, out of the playoff race entirely, with two weeks left in the season. They’ve actually been even worse than their record suggests, ranking 27th in first down rate differential at -4.15%, despite having tied for the easiest schedule in the league, with a 43% combined opponents record. 

Part of that is they were without quarterback Sam Darnold for 3 games early in the season, but his return hasn’t come close to solving all of their problems. Since week 7, they rank 18th in first down rate differential at -1.06%, which isn’t terrible, unless you consider that they’ve faced teams that rank 22nd or worse in first down rate differential in 7 of 9 games over that stretch. The two exceptions were the Patriots and Ravens, games against top level teams in which they lost the first down rate battle by 10.27% and 22.84% respectively.

This week the Jets face the Steelers. On offense, the Steelers resemble the terrible teams the Jets have mostly faced in recent weeks, ranking 26th in first down rate at 31.87%, but defensively they resemble the Patriots and Ravens, ranking 5th in first down rate allowed at 33.15%. I have this line calculated at Pittsburgh -3, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with the visiting Steelers, who are favored by 2.5 points, but there’s isn’t nearly enough here for this game to be worth betting. 

Pittsburgh Steelers 13 New York Jets 10

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -2.5

Confidence: None