NFL Week 16 best bets and expert picks for the Sunday slate. Find best bets for NFL Week 16 featuring Colts vs. Falcons, Cowboys vs. Dolphins, Lions vs. Vikings, Cardinals vs. Bears, and Buccaneers vs. Jaguars.
NFL Week 16 Best Bets
We’re onto Week 16 of the NFL season, and this week’s slate is loaded with exciting matchups. In this article, you can find best bet breakdowns for some of the exciting games on Sunday. Check out the Lineups YouTube page for coverage of all of the NFL games this week. Let’s get to work.
Jacob Wayne’s Record: 23-17-1 (+5.3 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 18-10 (+7.1 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 15-21-1 (-7.2 units)
Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons
One of the best buy-low, sell-high opportunities in the NFL this week comes in Atlanta where the 6-8 Falcons are 2.5-point favorites over the 8-6 Colts despite losing five of their last seven games. All five of those losses have come by one possession, and while Arthur Smith’s decision-making can certainly be called into question, it’s tough to ignore the late game variance that factors into five losses by an average of 3.2 points.
On the other end of the spectrum are the Colts, who are 5-2 in one-score games this season. They are 5-1 in their last six games, but this represents the top of the market as they were outgained in terms of yardage in three of those five games. Let’s take a closer look at those five wins:
- Panthers – Bryce Young threw multiple pick sixes in a game where the Colts were outgained in yards
- Patriots – Mac Jones was benched for Bailey Zappe in Germany
- Buccaneers – Baker Mayfield suffered a nasty ankle injury during the game
- Titans – lost two fumbles in an overtime thriller
- Steelers – Mitchell Trubisky was benched after throwing two interceptions
There’s a common theme there where the Colts have benefitted from poor quarterback play and turnover variance. Indianapolis is tied for the third-most interceptions and the seventh-most forced fumbles, and – when you take away turnovers – their defense is below average in EPA per play and success rate allowed.
Desmond Ridder was benched for Taylor Heinicke this week, which will give the Falcons a boost under center. At the very least Heinicke doesn’t turn the ball over nearly as often. The Falcons enter this game with a much healthier offensive line after Kaleb McGary and Chris Lindstrom missed last week, and they should have success against a well below average Colts run defense.
On the other side of the ball, Gardner Minshew has been lucky to not have more interceptions this season as his 4.4% turnover-worthy play rate is tied for the third-highest among qualified quarterbacks. The Colts get Jonathan Taylor back from an ankle injury this week, but the Falcons have the second-best run defense in the NFL by EPA. Michael Pittman Jr.’s murky injury status also adds in downside for the Indy offense.
Every Falcons game seems to come down to the final possession, so betting on them to cover the -2.5 is tough to stomach, but it’s the right side in this game. If you want to add some security, parlay the Falcons ML with either the Chiefs or Eagles on Christmas.
Best Bet: Falcons -2.5
Dallas Cowboys at Miami Dolphins
The Cowboys were embarrassed by the Bills last week in a 31-10 loss, and they were outclassed from the jump in a game where Josh Allen only needed to throw for 94 yards to win. Suddenly, the sky is falling in Dallas, and that’s exactly when you want to buy this team – the Cowboys are 12-1 ATS after a loss since the start of the 2021 season.
Much has been made about Miami’s rapidly improving defense, and to their credit, they lead the NFL in defensive EPA since Jalen Ramsey debuted for the team in Week 8. However, they haven’t exactly faced a slew of MVP-level passers – they’ve faced Mac Jones, Aidan O’Connell, Tim Boyle, Sam Howell, Will Levis, and Zach Wilson.
That stretch does include Patrick Mahomes, but the Chiefs rank just 16th in offensive EPA since Week 8. The Cowboys, meanwhile, rank 2nd even with the egg they laid in Buffalo last week. Dak Prescott has still been the second-most efficient quarterback in the NFL by adjusted EPA/play and leads the league with a stellar 6.4% big-time throw rate. It’s far to expect a bounceback.
Tua Tagovailoa ranks just behind Prescott in those metrics, and while he’s not quite on the MVP contention level, he has ascended into one of the best quarterbacks in football. However, I have major concerns about his ability to handle Dallas’s top-ranked pass rush by ESPN’s win rate metrics. All three interior offensive line starters are out for this game while tackles Terron Armstead and Austin Jackson are listed as questionable.
Tagovailoa’s production nosedives under pressure this season. Check out the following metrics:
- Completion rate: 77.6% when kept clean, 43.2% when under pressure
- Yards per attempt: 9.4 when kept clean, 5.7 when under pressure
- PFF passing grade: 93.6 when kept clean, 56.1 when under pressure
- Passer rating: 117.5 when kept clean, 60.1 when under pressure
The way to slow down the Dolphins’ offense is to get pressure with four rushers, make Tagovailoa uncomfortable in the pocket, and throw off their timing. Dallas is well equipped to do this with Micah Parsons facing Miami’s makeshift offensive line. Tyreek Hill’s ongoing ankle injury only puts more stress on Tagovailoa here.
The 1.5-point spread in this game indicates that the Cowboys and Dolphins are evenly ranked on a neutral field, and I just can’t get there. We’re getting good value after Dallas got punked by the Bills (a team the Dolphins also lost badly to) and the Dolphins blew out a hapless Jets team. Miami still hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record since Week 3 of last season, and I’ll bet on Dallas extending that losing streak to eight games.
Best Bet: Cowboys +1.5
Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings
It may sound silly to say, but last week’s win against the Denver Broncos may have been the biggest one of the season for the Detroit Lions. At one of their lowest points after an embarrassing, yet predictable, loss to the Chicago Bears, the Lions division hopes started to get dicey as the Vikings and Packers crept up the standings.
That was until both lost as well last week, giving the Lions some breathing room atop the NFC North. They now need to simply beat the Minnesota Vikings just once out of two tries in the next three weeks, a feat that may not come as easy as they would imagine starting this Sunday.
The reason being is that the Vikings defense has turned into one of the most formidable and unique units in the NFL. Since hiring defensive coordinator Brian Flores, he has drastically turned around this unit from near dead last marks in Def Pass and Rush DVOA to now top-10 in both areas of the defense.
He calls the highest rate of the blitz, as well as the highest rate of cover 8 with very few standard designs in between. That makes it a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks to read, especially those who fold under pressure like Jared Goff.
Factor in the Vikings back end ability to maintain high coverage marks by ranking seventh in Def Pass DVOA, eighth in Def Pass EPA, and sixth in Def Pass Success Rate and production may be tough to come by for the Lions pass attack. Especially with the front fours ability to get to the quarterback, ranking ninth in Adjusted Sack Rate and 10th in Pressure Rate.
As for the Vikings offense, that’s a whole different story as they have been decimated by injuries since losing star quarterback Kirk Cousins. They now revert to third stringer Nick Mullens, a capable downfield passer who is more than able to shred the gaps in coverage when given a clean pocket.
He may very well find himself in the perfect bounce back spot as the Lions defense ranks 22nd in Adjusted Sack Rate, 23rd in Def Pass EPA, and 26th in Def Pass Success Rate. Aaron Glenn’s system has massive holes across the middle of the field, giving Mullens a chance to hit his stud group of pass catchers in stride. A group that includes Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, and former Detroit Lion TJ Hockenson.
Best Bet: Vikings +3.5
Kody’s Week 16 Wong Teaser
Double dipping on the Vikings in a best bet column? You betcha. For good reason too as this week’s Sunday slate features an underwhelming amount of Wong Teaser pieces. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans fit the mold, yet both are dealing with key injuries to their quarterbacks. The Indianapolis Colts are another option, though they have been flirting with near league-high Luck metrics.
That leaves the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys. A case for the Vikings has already been made above, yet it’s worth reminding that they have massive advantages on both sides of the ball. A unique blend of heavy blitz packages and cover 8 will have Jared Goff throwing into turnover worthy plays, while their offense has more than enough talent to pick apart their gaps in coverage.
As for the Cowboys, they enter their contest against the Miami Dolphins in the perfect buy low spot after getting thrashed by the Buffalo Bills. Their last ranking in Def Rush Success Rate was on full display, getting run over by James Cook as he carried them to a dominant win.
They now come in as an undeserving short underdog, facing a Miami Dolphins team who has yet to beat an elite opponent. Their defensive metrics have steadily risen from well below average to average, yet their quality of opponent has been severely underwhelming. Their last five games were against the New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Washington Commanders, Jets again, and Las Vegas Raiders.
Not exactly a benchmark of success, now having to face a much tougher test against the Dallas Cowboys. Especially on defense, facing a unit that ranks sixth in Def Pass DVOA, ninth in Def Pass Success Rate, and sixth in Def Pass EPA. Their coverage marks are especially intriguing as they do it at a high level while also calling the eighth heaviest rate of the Blitz.
Better yet in the Cowboys favor, the Dolphins are dealing with the injury bug at the worst possible time. Both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle have dealt with nagging injuries with Hill missing their last game against the Jets. The offensive line has also been decimated, now having to face Micah Parsons at less than 100%.
Factor in an unproven Dolphins defense against a Cowboys offense that is loaded with talent while also boasting an above average offensive line, and we may see the Dolphins struggle against another elite opponent. When the Dolphins offense sputters, they are unable to catch up in scoring pace as their defense allows opposing offenses to score at will.
Best Bet: Vikings +9 / Cowboys +7.5
Arizona Cardinals vs. Chicago Bears
The Bears were quite unlucky to lose to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Chicago’s new and improved defense held up their end of the bargain, consistently putting Joe Flacco and the Cleveland offense in tough situations. They dominated the turnover battle, setting aside two inconsequential interceptions on tipped hail marys- one to end the first half, which would have been overturned if properly reviewed, and one on the final snap of the game.
Luke Getsy struggled with playcalling again, but there were plenty of opportunities on offense, the two biggest of which were negated by horrendous drops. It was the third time the Bears blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead this year, tying an NFL record. According to ESPN analytics, the odds of losing all three of those contests were just 0.003%, yet Chicago pulled it off.
All of this goes to say that the Bears’ record does not come close to reflecting their level of play, especially that in recent weeks. The sportsbooks are treating them like a 5-9 team when realistically, they’ve played more like a 8-6 squad, or at least 7-7.
The run defense has been one of the NFL’s best over the past few months, and ever since trading for Montez Sweat, the pass defense has taken a tremendous step up as well. The former Washington edge rusher already leads the team in sacks, and the unit’s EPA against the pass has climbed nearly to league average after starting the year near the bottom.
Of course, the offense is much more dynamic with Justin Fields, who missed just about 4.5 games injured. Heading into the Browns game, in which he faced the league’s best pass defense and had those two completely anomalous picks, he had racked up a passer rating of 92.1 with 221 rushing yards across three games since returning to the lineup.
This week, they’re hosting a Cardinals team that has struggled even after Kyler Murray has returned. A quarterback can’t fix the defense, and Arizona’s is just about the worst by DVOA against both the pass and the run. They have no method by which to stop Fields, DJ Moore, and Chicago’s stable of running backs. It should be a refreshing experience for the Bears offense, who will be eager for some success after a tough, windy day in Cleveland.
Murray will also be running for his life against the revamped Chicago front seven, who can make his life hard both as a passer and a rusher. He doesn’t really have an arsenal of receivers with which to challenge a shaky secondary, Chicago’s greatest weakness. With every factor favoring Chicago’s side, this should be a rare comfortable win at Soldier Field.
Best Bet: Bears -4
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s been a few weeks since the last impressive outing for the Jaguars defense. The Ravens only scored 23 points, but they mustered almost 400 yards of offense, and were seemingly sleepwalking through much of the game, as they led essentially the entire time. Before that, Jacksonville allowed a total of 65 points to the Browns and Bengals, both of whom were starting backup quarterbacks.
It’s been a tough three-game skid as Jacksonville has been forced to run the gauntlet of the AFC North, one of the league’s toughest divisions, but concerns about the defense are very real after a hot start to the season. The Ravens were able to run at will, which they often do, but allowing Joe Flacco and Jake Browning to throw all over them- the two combined for 665 yards in their outings against the Jags- is alarming
Enter Baker Mayfield, coming off of the only perfect game by QB passer rating ever thrown by a visitor to Lambeau Field. The former Cleveland Brown has launched himself into the fringes of the Comeback Player of the Year Award race, amidst a truly resurgent campaign. Tampa’s defense has taken a tremendous step backwards this year by all accounts, especially a secondary that can’t slow down anybody. The Bucs also still cannot run the ball whatsoever. Still, the wins keep coming- three in a row now, two of which were on the road- and Mayfield’s air offense is the biggest reason why.
Of course, not all of the credit goes to Tampa’s new quarterback. Offensive coordinator Dave Canales has done wonders for the passing scheme, providing another career revival to Mayfield after doing very similar work with Geno Smith last year in Seattle.
The personnel is strong as well. Future Hall of Fame wideout Mike Evans is playing some of his best football, as he’s crossed the thresholds of 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns once again, and Chris Godwin hasn’t quite been at his best but is still an excellent #2 option. The o-line continues to be in or around the top-10 by most metrics, giving Mayfield the time he needs to find his downfield options.
That being said, the back end is incredibly vulnerable for Tampa. They’re 26th in PFF’s coverage grade, almost entirely propped up even that far by star safety Antoine Winfield Jr; the cornerback room is entirely devoid of useful NFL players.
Trevor Lawrence hasn’t been perfect this year, but he’s tied with Dak Prescott atop the big time throws leaderboard, per PFF. Even if he’s out, this shows that the offense has plenty of potential to create some chunk plays against Tampa. The Bucs are also one of the most blitz-heavy units in the league, but still don’t apply much pressure, so it should be a comfortable day for the Clemson legend.
Both teams will have plenty of opportunities to score points, making for a very fun matchup and a great betting opportunity. This number provides good proximity to key totals including 43 and 44, and slightly less-close access to 47, 48, and 51.
Best Bet: Over 42.5 Points