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

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