Happy Holidays to everyone reading this page, and I hope you had a better betting week than I did in Week 15. For just the third time in NFL history, the team with the best record in the league – the Cardinals – lost to the team with the worst record in the league – the Lions. Tom Brady was shut out in a game for the first time in 255 games as the Saints earned a 9-0 win in just the second game this season with no touchdowns. There were just 40 touchdowns scored on Sunday, the lowest on a 10-game Sunday since 1994.
Needless to say, it was an awful Sunday for the betting public, and know that you weren’t alone if you were a big loser – there’s a reason sports betting is so profitable for the sportsbooks and it takes hard work to maintain a consistent winning record. However, I have a good feeling these Week 16 games are going to bring more betting success and I’m very excited for a few of the biggest matchups. Let’s dive into the Week 16 games.
My Week 15 record: 12-4 SU, 10-6 ATS, 6-10 O/U
My record overall: 140-83-1 SU, 130-94-1 ATS, 114-109-1 O/U
Thursday, December 23rd
San Francisco 49ers @ Tennessee Titans
Now that the 49ers are fully healthy on offense, I’m not sure there’s a single team that boasts as much blue-chip talent as they do. No, Jimmy Garoppolo is not an MVP-level quarterback. However, he’s proven time and again that he’s very capable of making good decisions and getting the ball to his playmakers consistently. George Kittle recently became the first tight end in NFL history to record a touchdown and 150+ receiving yards in consecutive games while Deebo Samuel keeps moving the chains on the ground and through the air. Elijah Mitchell’s knee injury is an ongoing concern, but Jeff Wilson Jr. looked excellent for the first time this season last week with 21 carries for 110 yards and a score. Tennessee’s defense is better than most give the team credit for, and they held Pittsburgh to just 2-11 on third-down last week, but I don’t expect the same level of success against San Francisco. With Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, and Julio Jones all injured, Ryan Tannehill is helplessly under-supported in this offense, and I don’t have much confidence in his ability to move the ball against San Francisco with the weapons at his disposal.
San Francisco 49ers: S Jaquiski Tartt (ankle) Q, LB Azeez Al-Shaair (elbow) Q, RB Elijah Mitchell (knee) O, LB Dre Greenlaw (groin) O, DT Maurice Hurst (calf) O
Tennesee Titans: WR Julio Jones (hamstring) Q, OG Rodger Saffold (shoulder) Q, LB David Long (hamstring) Q, CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle) Q, DT Teair Tart (ankle) Q
Tennessee Titans: OT Taylor Lewan, OG Rodger Saffold, OT Kendall Lamm, CB Elijah Molden
Matchup To Watch: George Kittle (SF TE) vs. Kevin Byard (TEN S)
My Pick: 49ers win 23-17, 49ers cover, under 44.5 points
Saturday, December 25th
Cleveland Browns @ Green Bay Packers
The Browns seem to have a habit of out-producing expectations even when key players are missing, but a win on Monday would have been the true definition of pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Nick Mullens performed admirably, but he didn’t have the necessary familiarity with the playbook or chemistry with his teammates to lead a high-powered offense. Cleveland will be hoping to get Baker Mayfield back for this game, but they will be in a tough spot regardless as they are playing at Lambeau on Christmas on a short week. According to FiveThirtyEight, a loss here would give the Browns just a 9% chance of making the playoffs, so this is a must-win for them. Aaron Rodgers is arguably the MVP favorite after Tom Brady had a brutal game on Sunday night. This primetime game will be an excellent opportunity to put together more highlights in front of a national audience. Both teams have stout run defenses – they both rank top-12 in yards and touchdowns allowed – but both also have elite run games, which could be a big part of the outcome of this game. I’m tempted to get money on the Browns +7.5 now because I believe the line could move once we get further confirmation of players coming off the COVID-19 list, but the best way to bet this game is likely with the Packers as part of a bigger teaser.
Update: The more I think about this game, the more I think this is a brutal spot for the Browns. They’re on an extra short week with COVID-19 issues galore playing on the road in Lambeau Field on Christmas. This one could get ugly depending on which version of Baker Mayfield we see, but I think the Packers win by at least 10 points.
Cleveland Browns: DE Myles Garrett (groin) Q, DT Malik Jackson (knee) Q, K Chase McLaughlin (illness) D, S John Johnson (hamstring) O
Green Bay Packers: OT David Bakhtiari (knee – ACL) O, OT Billy Turner (knee) O
Cleveland Browns: QB Baker Mayfield, QB Case Keenum, OT Jedrick Wills, C JC Tretter, RB Kareem Hunt, WR Jarvis Landry, CB Greg Newsome, CB Troy Hill, DE Jadeveon Clowney, DT Jordan Elliott, LB Tony Fields II, DT Malik McDowell, S Ronnie Harrison, OG Drew Forbes
Green Bay Packers: WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling,
Matchup To Watch: Davante Adams (GB WR) vs. Denzel Ward (CLE CB)
My Pick: Packers win 28-17, Browns cover, under 50 points
Indianapolis Colts @ Arizona Cardinals
I don’t think anyone would have expected this game between the Cardinals and Colts to be carrying this much weight this late in the season, but both teams have outperformed expectations this year. Indianapolis is coming off arguably its biggest win of the season over the #1 seeded Patriots, while Arizona is coming off easily its worst loss of the season against the Lions, who previously had just one win. A lot went wrong in that game for the Cardinals to get the loss, but the biggest thing that stood out to me was Jared Goff’s ability to complete passes downfield – he threw for three touchdowns to no interceptions finished with a stellar passer rating of 139.7. Arizona let Craig Reynolds, a running back the Lions found on Craigslist, to run all over them with over 100 yards. The Cardinals have allowed 4.6 YPC this season, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL, and their inability to stop the run will hurt their ability to play efficient defense down the stretch. Indianapolis is one of the healthiest teams in the league at the right time of the season, and with DeAndre Hopkins out, the Colts should have no problem slowing down the Cardinals’ offense. I certainly expect a better performance from Arizona this week, but I like the way the Colts match up, and I’m betting on the team with the much more impressive momentum.
Update: The absence of the Colts’ offensive linemen is a concerning factor for this game given how much of the offense revolves around runs up the middle. Arizona should bounce back this week, and it’s an added bonus that you get to bet on the team that’s seeing much less of the betting volume – fade the public on this one.
Indianapolis Colts: C Ryan Kelly (knee) O, S Andrew Sendejo (concussion) O
Arizona Cardinals: RB James Conner (heel) Q, WR Rondale Moore (ankle) Q, DE Zach Kerr (ribs) Q, DT Jordan Phillips (knee) O, WR DeAndre Hopkins (knee – MCL) IR
Indianapolis Colts: OG Quenton Nelson, OG Mark Glowinski, CB Rock Ya-Sin, DE Kemoko Turay
Arizona Cardinals: C Rodney Hudson, P Andy Lee
Matchup To Watch: Rodney Hudson (ARI C) vs. DeForest Buckner (IND DT)
My Pick: Cardinals win 26-23, Cardinals cover, under 50 points
Sunday, December 26th
Detroit Lions @ Atlanta Falcons
Jared Goff is coming off his best game of the season, and likely one of the best of his career, as he completed 80% of his passes and threw for three touchdowns to no interceptions. Rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown continues to impress in his debut season; he finished with eight catches for 90 yards and a touchdown last week, his third straight game with 8+ catches. He’s been much more critical to the offense with D’Andre Swift, and T.J. Hockenson sidelined, although he’ll likely see a lot of A.J. Terrell this week, the second-year player who has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL this season. Offensively, the Falcons have struggled to get enough going lately as they have scored 13.8 points per game over their past six games. However, this is a matchup where some of their top skill players can get going. Cordarelle Patterson has been a revelation at running back, and he should take advantage of one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Kyle Pitts could have a breakout game in this matchup, as well. As fun as the Lions’ win on Sunday was, I have to trust the veteran Matt Ryan here against a defense he should be able to pick apart.
Detroit Lions: RB D’Andre Swift (shoulder – AC joint) Q, WR Josh Reynolds (thigh) Q, DE Michael Brockers (knee) Q, WR Kalif Raymond (shoulder) Q, OG Jonah Jackson (back) Q, LB Julian Okwara (ankle) Q, CB Amani Oruwariye (thumb) O, CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (undisclosed) O, LB Alex Anzalone (shoulder) O
Atlanta Falcons: WR Tajae Sharpe (foot) D, WR Calvin Ridley (personal) NFI-R
Detroit Lions: QB Jared Goff, WR Quintez Cephus, WR Trinity Benson
Atlanta Falcons: DE Marlon Davidson
Matchup To Watch: Amon-Ra St. Brown (DET WR) vs. A.J. Terrell
My Pick: Falcons win 24-20, Lions cover, over 42 points
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
This game carries massive weight in the AFC North, especially after Monday the Browns lost to the Raiders. The winner of this game will be the odds-on favorite to win the division, while the loser will have to fight hard for a playoff spot in a crowded AFC race. Baltimore could be starting Tyler Huntley again this week with Lamar Jackson’s health still in question. Still, Huntley was incredibly impressive against the Packers last week with two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in a near-win that came down to the wire for Green Bay. Mark Andrews is on a heater right now with 21 catches for 241 yards and three touchdowns over his last two games, both of which were with Huntley, who has hyper-targeted his uber-athletic tight end. That could be a problem for Cincinnati if Logan Wilson, their coverage linebacker, cannot play this week. Cincinnati could also have a tough time keeping the pocket clean for Joe Burrow with Riley Reiff out, especially with Odafe Oweh continuing to emerge in his rookie season. However, the Ravens are dealing with a bundle of injuries to their secondary, and Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins should be able to take advantage. The Bengals torched the Ravens’ secondary the last time these teams played as Joe Burrow threw for 416 yards, and it’s hard not to see a similar outcome with Baltimore missing critical players like Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith, who played in that game.
Baltimore Ravens: QB Lamar Jackson (ankle) Q, QB Tyler Huntley (illness) Q, DE Calais Campbell (thigh) Q, WR Devin Duvernay (ankle) Q, OG Ben Powers (foot) Q, OT Patrick Mekari (hand) Q, OT Tyre Phillips (knee) Q, CB Tavon Young (concussion) Q
Cincinnati Bengals: RB Joe Mixon (ankle) Q, LB Logan Wilson (shoulder) Q, TE Drew Sample (foot) Q, OT Riley Reiff (ankle) IR
Baltimore Ravens: LB Pernell McPhee, LB Justin Houston, CB Jimmy Smith, WR Sammy Watkins, CB Chris Westry, DE Justin Madubuike, LB Chris Board, LB Kristian Welch, S Geno Stone
Cincinnati Bengals: WR Mike Thomas, CB Chidobe Awuzie
Matchup To Watch: Ja’Marr Chase (CIN WR) vs. Anthony Averett (BAL CB)
My Pick: Bengals win 27-20, Bengals cover, over 44.5 points
Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings
The Rams’ win over the Seahawks on Tuesday wasn’t as important as their win over the Cardinals the week prior, but it was certainly impressive. We already know Cooper Kupp is the best receiver in the NFL and Matthew Stafford has incredible chemistry with him, but the emergence of Sony Michel as a power runner gives the offense another dimension. The defense was also dominant on Tuesday as they held Seattle to ten points. Von Miller had his best game with his new team with Aaron Donald playing great as well. Minnesota’s offensive line will not be able to contain those two star pass-rushers. The Vikings are expected to be without Dalvin Cook this week after he tested positive for COVID-19, a significant absence for the team. Adam Thielen is also a question mark, and while Justin Jefferson is one of the most productive receivers in football, the offense isn’t the same without Cook and Thielen. Kirk Cousins has struggled under pressure at times this year, and the Rams can certainly bring the heat. With a couple of turnovers from Minnesota and a balanced offensive approach from Los Angeles, this should be another Rams’ win.
Los Angeles Rams: CB Darious Williams (back) Q, TE Tyler Higbee (illness) IR/COVID-19
Minnesota Vikings: WR Adam Thielen (ankle) Q, C Mason Cole (elbow) Q, RB Dalvin Cook (illness) IR/COVID-19
Los Angeles Rams: OT Joe Noteboom
Minnesota Vikings: RB Dalvin Cook
Matchup To Watch: Justin Jefferson (MIN WR) vs. Jalen Ramsey (LAR CB)
My Pick: Rams win 28-24, Rams cover, over 48.5 points
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
Early forecasts show relatively mild weather conditions in Massachusetts this week, so it’s unlikely we see another “wind bowl” like the last time these teams faced off. The winner of this game will likely win the division, so it’s exciting that this matchup will allow the teams to play at their best with the weather not playing a massive factor. The Bills will not be pleased with how they lost to their division rival. At the same time, Mac Jones attempted just three passes a couple of weeks ago, and Josh Allen will present more of a challenge for the New England defense with the ability to throw the ball more consistently. Gabriel Davis has been a standout player for the Bills lately in his second pro season with four touchdowns over the last three weeks, and he’s going to be a significant X-factor in this game. J.C. Jackson, New England’s top corner, will see a lot of Stefon Diggs in coverage this week, and it will be up to guys like Jalen Mills and Myles Bryant to keep Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, and Gabriel Davis in check. The Bills are certainly not the same elite pass defense without All-pro cornerback Tre’Davious White, but we haven’t seen Mac Jones elevate the offense in a neutral or negative game script all season. I expect the Bills to be fired up with a brand new game plan for their divisional foe, and I like Josh Allen to go into Foxborough and take hold of this division.
Buffalo Bills: WR Emmanuel Sanders (knee) Q, S Micah Hyde (back) Q, DT Star Lotulelei (personal) Q, DE A.J. Epenesa (ankle) Q
New England Patriots: RB Damien Harris (hamstring) Q, WR Nelson Agholor (head) Q, S Adrian Phillips (knee) Q, K Nick Folk (knee) Q, DT Christian Barmore (knee) Q, C David Andrews (shoulder) Q, RB Brandon Bolden (knee) Q
Buffalo Bills: WR Cole Beasley, WR Gabriel Davis, OG Cody Ford, OG Jon Feliciano, DE A.J. Epenesa, OT Dion Dawkins
New England Patriots: RB Rhamondre Stevenson, WR Kendrick Bourne
Matchup To Watch: Stefon Diggs (BUF WR) vs. J.C. Jackson (NE CB)
My Pick: Bills win 26-20, Bills cover, over 43.5 points
Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Jets
The NFL world bought into a weird narrative where the Jaguars would suddenly improve their play across the board without Urban Meyer on the sideline, and I pushed back on that when I picked the Texans to win. Trevor Lawrence didn’t look much better as he was thoroughly outplayed by Davis Mills and let another game go by without a touchdown pass. It’s convenient to blame Meyer for all of Lawrence’s struggles, but at a certain point, he has to answer for some of his pitiful play as well. The Jets showed they had some juice last week with a performance against the Dolphins that had all Miami bettors nervous well into the second half. However, Zach Wilson wasn’t particularly impressive as he completed just 56% of his passes and was sacked six times. New York’s poor offensive line has become a problem in recent weeks, and Jacksonville’s Josh Allen will look to take advantage. The Jets also suffer from a lack of consistent pass-catchers with Elijah Moore and Corey Davis out for the year, and the Jaguars’ duo of Shaquill Griffin and Tyson Campbell will have the upper hand. I don’t feel great about it, and I wouldn’t bet on this game, but I like the Jaguars to win here.
Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Carlos Hyde (concussion) Q, OT Cam Robinson (neck) Q, C Brandon Linder (quadriceps) Q, S Rayshawn Jenkins (ankle) O
New York Jets: OT George Fant (knee) Q, DB Elijah Riley (neck) Q, DT Quinnen Williams (shoulder) Q, LB C.J. Mosley (back) Q, DT Sheldon Rankins (knee) Q, WR Jamison Crowder (calf) D
Jacksonville Jaguars: LB Josh Allen, WR Laviska Shenault Jr., OG Ben Bartch
New York Jets: TE Ryan Griffin, OG Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, DE John Franklin-Meyers, QB Joe Flacco
Matchup To Watch: George Fant (NYJ OT) vs. Josh Allen (JAX DE)
My Pick: Jaguars win 20-17, Jaguars cover, under 41.5 points
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are fighting for their playoff lives and a loss here would give them an absolute uphill battle to making the postseason. Philly will be hungry for revenge, however, after the Giants bested them in the first meeting between these teams this season. Daniel Jones was playing in that game, however, and while he didn’t play especially well, I still have a lot more confidence in him than I do in Mike Glennon. Sterling Shepard didn’t play in that first game, but his season-ending Achilles injury hangs over this team as its skill-position players have not been able to stay healthy. The Eagles have some key pieces on the injury report, including Jalen Hurts, Miles Sanders, and some starting offensive linemen. However, assuming Hurts is able to play, the Giants’ banged-up front seven will likely struggle to contain Philly’s run game. While the Eagles only put up seven points in the first matchup, they collected over 200 rushing yards and turnovers held back an otherwise impressive offensive performance. The Eagles’ pass defense will make life difficult for Glennon and whichever skill players end up playing while Philly’s run game should dominate once again. With a bit better luck in the turnover department, the Eagles win this time around.
New York Giants: RB Saquon Barkley (ankle) Q, WR Kadarius Toney (oblique) Q, TE Kyle Rudolph (ankle) Q, DE Leonard Williams (triceps) Q, OT Andrew Thomas (ankle) Q, OG Ben Bredeson (ankle) O, WR Sterling Shepard (Achilles) IR
Philadelphia Eagles: QB Jalen Hurts (ankle) Q, RB Miles Sanders (quadriceps) Q, OT Jordan Mailata (ankle) Q
New York Giants: CB Adoree’ Jackson, CB Aaron Robinson, WR John Ross, LB Cam Brown, DB Keion Crossen
Philadelphia Eagles: DE Ryan Kerrigan, OT Andre Dillard, OG Landon Dickerson
Matchup To Watch: Kenny Golladay (NYG WR) vs. Darius Slay (PHI CB)
My Pick: Eagles win 27-14, Eagles cover, over 40.5 points
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers
Talking heads will admonish Tom Brady for his angry outburst directed at the Saints’ bench and his lack of ability to elevate his team against the Saints as he lost to New Orleans for the fourth time in as many regular-season games since arriving in Tampa Bay. However, the big concern for Tampa is the injuries to the offense, rather than anything related to Brady. Chris Godwin will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, while Mike Evans, Leonard Fournette, and Antonio Brown are questionable for this week’s game. Luckily, the Bucs may not need a ton of offensive output to beat Carolina without scoring punch. Cam Newton has been nothing short of awful since rejoining the team this season, and it’s not hard to be left wanting for Sam Darnold – yes, that Sam Darnold – when you watch this team play. Tampa has progressively gotten healthier on defense, and their front seven will overwhelm a poor Carolina offensive line. The under is my favorite bet in this matchup, and whether or not the Bucs can cover will come down to which skill players can play. For now, I’m taking the Bucs to cover on the back of a couple of timely turnovers and a much better effort from Tom Brady.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Leonard Fournette (hamstring) Q, CB Richard Sherman (Achilles) Q, CB Jamel Dean (illness) Q, LB Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) Q, S Antoine Winfield Jr. (foot) O, WR Mike Evans (hamstring) O, WR Chris Godwin (knee – ACL + MCL) IR, LB Lavonte David (foot) IR
Carolina Panthers: WR D.J. Moore (hamstring) Q, K Zane Gonzalez (quadriceps) Q
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Jaelon Darden, DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches, WR Breshad Perriman
Carolina Panthers: OG Pat Elflein, OG Dennis Daley, S Sam Franklin, DE Azur Kamara, QB Matt Barkley, DT Derrick Brown
Matchup To Watch: Mike Evans (TB WR) vs. Stephon Gilmore (CAR CB)
My Pick: Buccaneers win 23-10, Buccaneers cover, under 44 points
Los Angeles Chargers @ Houston Texans
The Chargers were a week behind on the COVID-19 crisis as critical Austin Ekeler, Joey Bosa, and Corey Linsley have all tested positive. It wouldn’t be at all shocking to see this extend past those players – as we saw last week, when it rains, it pours when it comes to these COVID-19 outbreaks. Justin Herbert has arguably been playing better than any quarterback in the NFL lately, and he would have elevated himself right into the MVP conversation had the Chargers been able to pull off the win over the Chiefs in overtime last week. While Austin Ekeler might miss this week’s game, the duo of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams will be too much for the Houston pass defense to handle. If Ekeler is going to miss this week, look out for Justin Jackson to have a great game, as well. Davis Mills has been playing solid, consistent football, but a matchup against the Chargers’ secondary will be challenging, even if Bosa isn’t there to create pressure. The Texans also don’t have a running back to take advantage of the Chargers’ poor run defense. Keep an eye on the COVID-19 reports for Los Angeles, but for now, it’s hard to imagine them not running away in this game.
Los Angeles Chargers: CB Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion) Q, S Derwin James (hamstring) Q, TE Donald Parham (concussion) Q
Houston Texans: CB Jimmy Moreland (illness) Q, S Justin Reid (concussion) Q
Los Angeles Chargers: RB Austin Ekeler, DE Joey Bosa, C Corey Linsley, WR Jaylen Guyton, DT Justin Jones, QB Chase Daniel, DE Joe Gaziano, WR Andre Roberts, CB Tevaughn Campbell, DB Trey Marshall, LB Chris Rumph II, CB Kemon Hall
Houston Texans: WR Brandin Cooks, K Ka’imi Fairbairn, DT Jaleel Johnson, DE Jake Martin, DT Maliek Collins, DE Derek Rivers, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, DE Jonathan Greenard, OG Lane Taylor, C Justin Britt, OG Tytus Howard, DT Roy Lopez, S Lonnie Johnson, DE Jordan Jenkins, LB Eric Wilson, DB A.J. Moore, S Eric Murray, LB Christian Kirksey, S Terrence Brooks, CB Terrance Mitchell, C Justin McCray
Matchup To Watch: Brandin Cooks (HOU WR) vs. Asante Samuel Jr. (LAC CB)
My Pick: Chargers win 33-20, Chargers cover, over 46 points
Chicago Bears @ Seattle Seahawks
It’s difficult to put into words how painful it was to watch the Bears attempt to cover against the Vikings on Monday night if you were a Chicago bettor like myself. At every turn, everything that could go wrong did between untimely turnovers, questionable penalties, and poor coaching decisions, and yet, the Bears hung around and likely should have been good for a backdoor cover. However, it’s hard to have watched that game and not think Matt Nagy needs to be fired as soon as possible. Justin Fields made a few boneheaded mistakes typical of a rookie quarterback, but there are times where he looks like the best quarterback in this rookie class and his upside is massive moving forward. For this week, I do like the Seahawks to win this game as Russell Wilson seems to be getting healthier, despite the team’s poor offensive performance on Tuesday. This is a difficult game to handicap as neither team has a chance to make the playoffs at this point of the season, and motivation is difficult to predict when the postseason is no longer in play. Public money is hammering the Seahawks, and it may be a good idea to fade the public, but I can’t back the Bears after the excruciating experience of last week.
Chicago Bears: QB Justin Fields (ankle) Q, S Eddie Goldman (finger) Q, WR Marquise Goodwin (foot) Q, OT Jason Peters (ankle) O, WR Jakeem Frant (concussion) O
Seattle Seahawks: WR DK Metcalf (foot) Q, RB Alex Collins (abdomen) Q, DT Poona Ford (knee) Q, OG Gabe Jackson (knee) Q, WR Freddie Swain (ankle) Q
Chicago Bears: DE Akiem Hicks, WR Allen Robinson, CB Jaylon Johnson, S Tashaun Gipson, TE Jesper Horsted, TE Jesse James, LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe, RB Ryan Nall
Seattle Seahawks: CB D.J. Reed, RB Travis Homer, OT Brandon Shell, TE Will Dissly, DE Kerry Hyder, DT Bryan Mone
Matchup To Watch: DK Metcalf (SEA WR) vs. Jaylon Johnson (CHI CB)
My Pick: Seahawks win 27-17, Seahawks cover, over 42.5 points
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are firmly in control of the AFC West after wins over the Raiders and Chargers in four days. It was fantastic to see Travis Kelce get back on track after a down stretch, and he caught ten passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns while Tyreek Hill had 12 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown. Those two will create problems for a Pittsburgh defense that had been bleeding points for the past month before last week. The Steelers’ defense looked like the team from last year for the first time in a while last week, but I’m not sure I’m totally sold as D’Onta Foreman still ran for 100 yards, and the Titans were missing several key pieces. While Justin Herbert had a productive game, Kansas City’s defense has emerged as one of the best in the NFL over the past several weeks and will get its best player, Chris Jones, back this week. Ben Roethlisberger has struggled to throw the ball against much worse secondaries, and if Pittsburgh can’t generate offense early, this game threatens to get out of hand. Kansas City hasn’t been in the habit of blowing teams out this season, but that could change this week with a Pittsburgh team that generated just 168 yards of offense against a weak Titans defense last week.
Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger (pectoral) Q, TE Pat Freiermuth (concussion) O, DE Chris Wormley (groin) O
Kansas City Chiefs: CB L’Jarius Sneed (personal) Q
Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Devin Bush, OT Zach Banner, LB Marcus Allen, RB Anthony McFarland, DT Isaiah Buggs
Kansas City Chiefs: WR Tyreek Hill, TE Travis Kelce, CB Rashad Fenton, OT Mike Remmers, OT Lucas Niang, OG Kyle Long, K Harrison Butker, LB Nick Bolton, P Tommy Townsend, DB Armani Watts
Matchup To Watch: Travis Kelce (KC TE) vs. Minkah Fitzpatrick (PIT S)
My Pick: Chiefs win 27-10, Chiefs cover, under 46 points
Denver Broncos @ Las Vegas Raiders
Teddy Bridgewater suffered a scary concussion in which he was knocked out cold on Sunday in the Broncos’ loss, and he was taken to the hospital from the stadium. While he is now out of the hospital, he’s in concussion protocol, and it would be surprising to see him out there this week. That means we get to see more of Drew Lock, which has Broncos fans everywhere trepidatious, to say the least. Lock completed just 50% of his passes in the loss, and while he did toss the game’s only touchdown, his last three drives ended with a red-zone fumble, a punt, and a turnover on downs. It’s hard to trust Lock against an ascending Raiders defense, especially given the team’s pass-rushing rotation of Maxx Crosby, Carl Nassib, and Yannick Ngakoue as Lock struggles under pressure. Denver has been playing excellent defensive football despite all of its injuries, and the effort against Cincinnati in holding Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins to just three catches for 25 yards was incredibly impressive. However, the defense only gets you so far, and the writing is on the wall that Lock likely can’t get Denver out of the cellar of the AFC West.
Denver Broncos: S Kareem Jackson (back) Q, DT Mike Purcell (thumb) Q, TE Albert Okwuegbunam (knee) Q, DE Shelby Harris (ankle) Q, DE Dre’Mont Jones (foot) Q, S Caden Sterns (shoulder) Q, LB Kenny Young (concussion) Q, QB Teddy Bridgewater (concussion) O
Las Vegas Raiders: LB Denzel Perryman (ankle) Q, LB Will Compton (personal) Q, LB Darron Lee (undisclosed) Q, TE Darren Waller (knee) D, S Jonathan Abram (shoulder) O
Denver Broncos: C Lloyd Cushenberry
Las Vegas Raiders: CB Nate Hobbs, OG Jermaine Eluemunor, S Roderic Teamer, CB Brandon Facyson
Matchup To Watch: Hunter Renfrow (LV WR) vs. Bryce Callahan (DEN CB)
My Pick: Raiders win 23-16, Raiders cover, under 42.5 points
Washington Football Team @ Dallas Cowboys
If you have Cowboys’ players on your fantasy team, you weren’t thrilled with their approach to the game on Sunday as they played about as conservatively as possible. Early in the first quarter, a Jourdan Lewis interception put Dallas in position to score an easy red-zone touchdown, and from that point on they didn’t push the ball downfield. Dak Prescott finished with just 217 passing yards, but the Cowboys had 125 rushing yards as a team and rode their defense to a dominant 15-point win. Micah Parsons is the Defensive Rookie of the Year lock and a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and now that DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are healthy, the Dallas front seven can absolutely bully opposing offensive lines. Washington’s O-line hasn’t been very good all season, and while the expectation is that Taylor Heinecke will be back in time for this game, he struggled mightily in these teams’ first matchup. Dallas’s seven-point win in the first meeting was misleading – they led by 24 points at halftime before allowing Washington to come back into the game – so perhaps they don’t take as conservative an approach this time around. However, I wouldn’t be banking on a massive performance from Dak Prescott and the Cowboys can probably ride their impressive defense to another divisional win this week.
Washington Football Team: S Landon Collins (foot) Q, CB William Jackson (ankle) O
Dallas Cowboys: OT Tyron Smith (ankle) Q, RB Tony Pollard (foot) Q, DE DeMarcus Lawrence (foot) Q
Washington Football Team: CB Kendall Fuller, OG Brandon Scherff, QB Kyle Allen, LB Cole Holcomb, DE Nate Orchard, C Tyler Larsen
Dallas Cowboys: CB Jourdan Lewis, WR Simi Fehoko, S Malik Hooker, DT Trysten Hill
Matchup To Watch: Micah Parsons (DAL LB) vs. Charles Leno Jr. (WAS OT)
My Pick: Cowboys win 27-17, Cowboys cover, under 47 points
Monday, December 27th
Miami Dolphins @ New Orleans Saints
The Saints may have just come up with the defensive performance of the year in shutting out Tom Brady, regardless of which offensive players the Buccaneers were missing. Cameron Jordan had a statement performance with two sacks and two tackles for a loss, Chauncey-Gardner Johnson picked off Tom Brady late in the game, and the defense frustrated Brady to the point that he was shouting at the opposing team’s coaches in a rare lapse of poise for the veteran. If the defense was capable of pushing Brady to the brink, it’s hard to imagine Tua Tagovailoa having much success in this game behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Jaylen Waddle will be back to take some pressure off Tua and keep working towards the rookie catch record, but the Dolphins will likely be unable to run the ball against the most efficient run defense in the league. Taysom Hill wasn’t asked to do much on Sunday to win the game, and I still don’t particularly trust him, but the Dolphins just let the Jets scrape their way to 24 points, and they score the fifth-fewest points per game in the NFL. The strength of this game is the defense, and we shouldn’t expect many points in this game. I trust New Orleans to maintain better control of the ball at home to get a crucial win as they fight for a playoff spot.
UPDATE: Ian Book is expected to make his first career start this week, and as someone who watched plenty of him play in college, I can tell you he’s not very good. Brian Flores should have a field day against him, and I can’t in good conscious back the Saints to win in spite of the rookie getting the start.
Miami Dolphins: S Jevon Holland (illness) Q, RB Phillip Lindsay (ankle) Q
New Orleans Saints: OT Terron Armstead (knee) Q, WR Tre’Quan Smith (shoulder) Q, DE Marcus Davenport (shoulder) Q
Miami Dolphins: C Greg Mancz, TE Cethan Carter, LB Duke Riley, RB Lynn Bowden, CB Justin Coleman
New Orleans Saints: QB Taysom Hill, QB Trevor Siemian, OT Ryan Ramczyk, LB Demario Davis, S Malcolm Jenkins, RB Dwayne Washington, DB J.T. Gray, DT Christian Ringo, DT Jalyn Holmes, LB Kaden Elliss, OT Jordan Mills, OG James Carpenter, S Jeff Heath, TE Adam Trautman, TE Juwan Johnson
Matchup To Watch: Jaylen Waddle (MIA WR) vs. Marshon Lattimore (NO CB)
My Pick: Dolphins win 19-13, Dolphins cover, under 39 points