2016 NFL Picks: Week 16
Last Week: 7-5-1
- Tennessee Titans -5 at Jacksonville Jaguars
- Washington Redskins -3 at Chicago Bears
- Buffalo Bills -3.5 vs. Miami Dolphins
- Baltimore Ravens +5 at Pittsburgh Steelers
- Denver Broncos +3.5 at Kansas City Chiefs
- Dallas Cowboys -7 vs. Detroit Lions
That's more like it! After three weeks of treading water, we broke through in Week 15 and now sit just one game back of .500 for the season. Had we received any help from the Chargers (whose coach surrendered), the Ravens (who let Carson Wentz carve them up in the two-minute drill) or the Chiefs (who scored 14 points in the first quarter and only 3 after), we'd already be above even! As it stands, our original goal of 60% is still possible, but would require us to pick our next 26 games correctly. My self-confidence borders on delusional, but that's a stretch. We can still make this season a (hypothetically) profitable one, though, and we'll hope to do exactly that over the next two weeks.
We're picking fewer games this week, but hopefully the decrease in quantity will lead to an increase in quality. It's hard to believe we're almost at the end of the regular season, but all of the evidence is there: playoff scenarios are talked about endlessly, the Lions started their season-ending skid with a loss to the Giants, and Aaron "Stupid, Sexy" Rodgers melted my Bears with his dragon breath. Time is running out. To the picks!
Tennessee Titans -5 at Jacksonville Jaguars
Fellow QQ Contributor Yax and I have made a bet before each of the last two seasons on the performances of Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles. Such behavior is unlikely to convince anyone we're mentally stable, but here we are. I won by a hair last year, as Bridgewater finished five points ahead of Bortles in QBR. This year it looked like the tables had turned when Teddy went down with a gruesome knee injury before the season started. I was ready to accept my fate, but after an impressive come-from-ahead loss to the Texans on Sunday, the Bortortle has contributed negative points for the season. This surprisingly solid Titans team (13th in Total DVOA) should be able to beat Jacksonville by at least a touchdown, especially with Blake's help.
Washington Redskins -3 at Chicago Bears
Last week's loss to the Packers encapsulated my standard progression of emotions regarding the 2016 Bears. There's the initial apathy, knowing they have little chance to win the game; the affirming sight of them losing in the second half; the surprise at Matt Barkley's inability to fully torpedo our chances with his tepid play; and finally, a reminder that these are the same Bears with the same coach, destined for the same results. With nothing to play for this season, John Fox elected to kick a game-tying field goal from the four-yard line with just over a minute left. A successful chip shot and a 60-yard bomb from Aaron Rodgers later, the Packers were lining up to kick a game-winner. Despite encouraging signs of competence, this Bears team isn't very good. The Redskins need this game to stay in the playoff hunt, so they'll stroll into whatever-we-call-Soldier-Field-now and win comfortably. They can neutralize our league-best (?!) pass rush with their 3rd-ranked offensive line, they'll run and pass with relative ease on our 18th-ranked defense, and Matt Barkley will play like the fourth-year journeyman quarterback he is.
Buffalo Bills -3.5 vs. Miami Dolphins
This line suggests people were impressed with Matt Moore's performance against the lowly Jets last week, who have the worst pass defense in the NFL by DVOA. The Dolphins are aggressively average, ranking no higher than 12th and no lower than 22nd in any phase of the game. The Bills, meanwhile, are 1st in offensive rushing DVOA and 3rd in adjusted sack rate, but rank 31st in both defensive rushing DVOA and adjusted sack rate allowed. They can run the ball and rush the passer, but they'll also let you do the same things to them. Buffalo is a difficult team to figure out, but with Miami flying into the frigid north (where they've lost the last three meetings by a combined score of 81-27), their ground game should take over.
Baltimore Ravens +5 at Pittsburgh Steelers
Football Outsiders included an interesting blurb about the Steelers in this week's DVOA rankings:
It must be really smart to pick a game involving them, then! The Ravens are currently ranked 10th in total DVOA on the strength of strong defense and special teams units. If the Pittsburgh offense was clicking like we thought it would coming into this season, I'd have more confidence in their ability to cover this spread at home. Instead, they rank 10th in offensive DVOA and haven't scored over 30 points since Week 5. Add in the history of this rivalry (the Steelers have only won by five points or more once in their last twelve meetings) and it looks like this one should stay close.
Denver Broncos +3.5 at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City's collapse against the Titans is absolutely affecting my judgment of this line. For their first score of the game, the Chiefs handed the ball off to Tyreek Hill, who ran 68 yards for a touchdown. They sensed an advantage, and proceeded to give him the ball...zero more times. I don't think their gameplan will be as bizarre this time around, but it's difficult to construct a scenario where the Chiefs blow the Broncos out of the water. Losing by a field goal like they did in Week 12 would be enough for a cover with Denver +3.5. Sounds good to me!
Dallas Cowboys -7 vs. Detroit Lions
The collapse is underway. The Lions were well ahead of the Packers and seemed on track to take their first division title since 1993 until Matthew Stafford tore ligaments in his throwing hand against the Bears in Week 14. I don't want to jump to conclusions based on one game against a very good Giants defense, but I'm concerned the injury played a part in their seven-point showing. If Detroit can't take advantage of the Cowboys's 22nd-ranked pass defense, they'll have a hard time keeping pace with a Dallas team looking to clinch the top seed in the NFC. It would just be so Lions to completely implode this week, and one of the most reliable historical trends in the NFL is the Lions's tendency to LIONS their fans. How's that for some advanced statistical reasoning?