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

Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Las Vegas Raiders (6-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)

Both of these teams got off to slow starts to the season, with the Raiders starting 2-7 and the Steelers starting 2-6, but both teams have had more success in the win/loss column in recent weeks, pushing both teams up to a record of 6-8, still technically on the fringes of playoff contention. Neither team’s turnaround is all that surprising though. For the Raiders, their biggest problem early in the season was close losses, as all but one of their losses during their 2-7 start came by just one-score, with the Raiders going 0-6 in one-score games over that stretch. 

The Raiders have continued playing a lot of close games in recent weeks, with each of their past five games since their 2-7 start being decided by one-score, but the Raiders have had more success in those games, winning four of five. Part of it is they’ve gotten healthier, with top cornerback Nate Hobbs (6 games missed) and top linebacker Denzel Perryman (3 games missed) returning a few weeks ago and two of their top offensive weapons Darren Waller (8 games missed) and Hunter Renfrow (7 games missed) returning last week, but a team’s record in close games tends to even out in the long run anyway.

For the Steelers, their biggest problem early in the season was their strength of schedule, with six of their eight opponents during their 2-6 start entering this week with a .500 record or better, including five teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. In their last six games, they have faced four opponents with losing records and have won all four, while losing to both teams they have faced with winning records over that span. The Steelers have also benefited from having more talent healthy and on the field in recent weeks as well, specifically the return of reigning Defensive Player of the Year TJ Watt from injury, after he missed 7 games early in the season.

Overall, I have the Raiders as the slightly better team in my roster rankings, which is not surprising when you consider that the Raiders have three wins against teams that are .500 or better, while the Steelers have just one. With the Raiders being the slightly better team, we’re getting a little bit of line value with them as 2.5-point road underdogs, as this line suggests that the Steelers are the slightly better team, given that home teams have won by an average of 1.5-2 points over the past few seasons. My calculated line is even and, while I would need this line to move up to a full field goal to be worth betting, the Raiders should be considered about 50/50 to win this game, so the money line is a good value at +120.

Las Vegas Raiders 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Las Vegas +2.5

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (11-3) at Chicago Bears (3-11)

The Bills haven’t been quite as dominant this season as they were last season, when all of their wins came by at least 12 points, leading to a +194 point differential that led the league. However, they have played better in one-score games, going 5-3 this year, after going 0-5 a year ago, which led to them going “just” 11-6, despite their league leading point differential. The Bills’ point differential is also still the second best in the league, only 8 points behind the Eagles, who have benefited significantly from a league leading turnover margin of +12, which is not predictive week-to-week (Buffalo is only at +1). In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is more predictive, the Bills lead the league at +9.80.

The biggest reason why the Bills haven’t been as dominant this season as last season is they have had more injuries and, while some key players have returned, they still are without several for this game, including starting center Mitch Morse, talented safety Micah Hyde, top edge defender Von Miller, key reserve edge defender Boogie Basham, top interior defender Ed Oliver, and key reserve interior defender Jordan Phillips. They’re facing a Bears team that is one of the worst in the league at 3-11, but the Bears have been competitive in most of their games, with 7 of their 11 losses coming by one-score, so the Bills aren’t guaranteed to blow them out in this game, especially on the road.

The Bills are also in a tough spot, as they have to play a much tougher game against the Bengals next week and easily could overlook the Bears as a result, with favorites of a touchdown or more covering at just a 42.0% rate against an opponent who has a winning percentage that is 50%+ lower than their next opponent’s winning percentage, which is the case here, as the Bengals are currently 10-4.

I’m still taking the Bills as 8-point favorites, as the Bills still have five double digit wins this season, mostly against teams better than the Bears, who are unlikely to be as good offensively this week with their talented starting guard duo of Cody Whitehair and Teven Jenkins being out due to injury, further exposing a defense that has been horrendous since losing edge defender Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith to trades and safety Eddie Jackson to injury. However, there isn’t enough here for the Bills to be worth betting, as big road favorites in a bad way.

Buffalo Bills 34 Chicago Bears 24

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -8

Confidence: Low

Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (7-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-9)

The Lions started the season 1-6, but have since won six of the past seven games to get back to .500, putting themselves very much in the mix for a playoff spot. In some ways, their improvement was predictable. Four of their first six losses came by one score, despite having significant injuries on offense and a defense that was the worst in the league, which tends to be less consistent week-to-week than poor offensive play. In recent weeks, their offense has been significantly healthier, their defense hasn’t been quite as bad, and they’ve won three of four one-score games, leading to them winning six of their past seven games.

There are some reasons to believe they won’t be quite as successful going forward as they have been in their past seven games though, as they have had a +9 turnover margin over those seven games, which is not predictive week-to-week. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is much more predictive, the Lions rank a middling 16th on the season and, even though they’re healthier than they were earlier in the season, the Lions are also a middling team in my roster rankings, about a half point above average.

This week, the Lions face the Panthers, who have also been significantly better in recent weeks, particularly since switching to Sam Darnold at quarterback, who has been by far their best option under center this season. After being one of the worst few teams in the league in schedule adjusted efficiency earlier in the year, the Panthers have moved up to 24th (-3.88), and, with Darnold under center, they are only about one point below average in my roster rankings. 

Given that they’re only slightly below average with Darnold under center, the Panthers should have a good chance to win this game at home against the middling Lions, who are probably not going to have the same turnover success they have had in recent weeks. Despite that, the Panthers are 2.5-point underdogs in this game. I would need a full field goal for the Panthers to be worth betting against the spread, but the money line is a good value at +125, as the Panthers should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game,

Carolina Panthers 24 Detroit Lions 23 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Carolina +2.5

Confidence: Low

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (1-12-1) at Tennessee Titans (7-7)

The Titans started the season 7-3, but have since fallen back to earth with four straight losses, leaving them in a battle for a playoff spot, even in the weakest division in the AFC. That’s not all that surprising though, as the Titans’ wins were never that impressive. Their only win against a team that is 6-8 or better right now came against the Commanders, who are 7-6-1 now, but were just 1-4 when they were starting Carson Wentz against the Titans. On top of that, all of the Titans’ wins have been close, with several that could have gone either way. 

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 84 points, leading to an underwhelming -38 point differential, despite a below average schedule. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Titans are even worse, ranking 30th at -6.25.

The Titans are also extremely banged up, which has been a problem for them for most of the season, but things have gone from bad to worse recently. Already without talented left tackle Taylor Lewan for the season, the Titans will also be missing their other two best offensive linemen, center Ben Jones and right guard Nate Davis, this week, while quarterback Ryan Tannehill is out after reaggravating an ankle injury that cost him two games earlier this season, forcing raw rookie backup Malik Willis into action, after he struggled mightily to move the ball through the air in his previous stint as the starter. 

The Titans’ defense will get back top edge defender Denico Autry, starting safety Amani Hooker, and possibly every down linebacker Zach Cunningham this week, but they remain without four expected week one starters, edge defender Harold Landry, linebacker David Long, and cornerbacks Kristian Fulton and Elijah Molden. Their defense isn’t in horrible shape, but their offense looks like one of the weaker in the league with a backup quarterback throwing to an underwhelming receiving corps with basically all of his capable offensive linemen injured.

Luckily, the Titans are facing the Texans, who have the worst record in the league at 1-12-1, but the Texans have been more competitive than that suggests. If you exclude games started by horrendous backup Kyle Allen, the Texans have just three losses by more than 10 points and four losses by more than one-score this season, so they’ve been competitive most of their games, as long as Allen isn’t the starter. They still rank dead last in schedule adjusted efficiency, but not by a wide margin and they’re only a half-point behind the Titans in that metric.

The Texans are also going in the opposite direction injury wise, getting talented edge defender Jonathan Greenard back from a 9-game absence last week and getting top cornerback Steven Nelson and top wide receiver Brandin Cooks back this week, from absences of 2 games and 4 games respectively. With the Titans missing a significant amount of talent and starting an unproven backup quarterback, the Texans actually have a half point edge over them in my roster rankings.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting great line value with the Texans, as this line has dropped all the way down to three in the wake of all of the Titans’ injuries, most notably Tannehill’s absence. However, we are still getting some line value, as I would consider these two teams about even and the Titans are also in a tough spot, having to play a much tougher game on short rest next week on Thursday Night Football, a spot in which favorites cover at just a 43.2% rate. 

The bad spot the Titans are in may be somewhat offset by the Titans having to play with a backup quarterback, which usually makes a team more focused, but it’s also very possible the Titans overlook their 1-win opponent this week, which could easily result in the Texans doubling that win total. Even if they can’t pull the outright upset, I think there’s enough here for the Texans to be worth betting at this number.

Tennessee Titans 17 Houston Texans 16

Pick against the spread: Houston +3

Confidence: Medium

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

New York Giants (8-5-1) at Minnesota Vikings (11-3)

Both of these teams have impressive records, but both teams have needed to have a lot of success in close games to get to these records, which tends not to be sustainable long-term, as victories by larger margins are more predictive of future success than close victories. The Vikings have gone a ridiculous 10-0 in one-score games, with just a 1-3 record in games decided by more than one score, while the Giants are 8-2-1 in one-score games and don’t have any wins by more than one score, going 0-3 in games decided by more than 8 points. 

As a result, the Vikings have just a +2 point differential and rank just 20th in schedule adjusted efficiency (-1.13), while the Giants have a -25 point differential and rank 27th in schedule adjusted efficiency (-4.81). This line seems to take into account that the Vikings are not as good as their record, but I think it overrates the Giants, only favoring the Vikings at home by four points, even though the Vikings have a 3.5-point edge in schedule adjusted efficiency. The difference is even bigger in my roster rankings, with the Vikings being relatively healthy and the Giants having significant injury concerns, including the absence of their two best cornerbacks and their top safety, leading to the Vikings having a 7-point edge in my roster rankings. 

Overall, my calculated line favors the Vikings by seven, which might seem high, given how many close games the Vikings play, but, while they don’t have many wins by more than one-score, seven of the Vikings’ eleven wins have actually come by four points or more, while all five of the Giants’ losses have come by more than four, so I feel confident in the Vikings at this number. This isn’t a big play, but Minnesota should be bettable this week.

Minnesota Vikings 27 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -4

Confidence: Medium