2018 NFL Picks Week 16: About Last Week...
Last Week: 5-10-1
Maybe it was silly attempting to emulate a mythical creature last week. Rather than rising from the ashes, I just kind of scattered them around and made a bigger mess. Now we only have two weeks left to salvage this suddenly sputtering season. The pick of the week once again counts on the 49ers losing, but we have 15 other games to cover before kickoff on Saturday evening. Happy holidays!
Tennessee Titans -10 vs. Washington Redskins
I still don’t know what to make of the Titans, and picking them as ten-point favorites might look like a really bad idea mere minutes into the game, but this ludicrous Josh Johnson experiment has to explode in Washington’s face at some point. With Tennessee at home and Derrick Henry on a roll, I think the Titans can win 24-10.
Baltimore Ravens +4.5 at Los Angeles Chargers
The only thing more dangerous than underestimating the Chargers is expecting the Chargers to make a game simple. Bringing the turnover-averse and across-the-board competent Ravens into town where L.A.’s second-favorite NFL team has no notable home-field advantage is a recipe for an ugly affair. Baltimore’s rushing offense will be able to control the clock well enough to keep this a one-score game.
Cleveland Browns -7 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
I really hope the Browns continue to do well enough to convince management to hire Gregg Williams on as their full-time head coach. They can take another step in that direction by completing a season sweep of the Bengals, who are now down every player of note. Of course Cleveland could fall apart and lose this game outright, but they’ll really need to fall hard in order to come up short against this version of Cincinnati.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +7.5 at Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys’ loss to the Colts last week was closer than the final score would suggest, and their defense still played well, but something about the team just doesn’t inspire confidence. Maybe it’s Jason Garrett’s unchanging demeanor or the re-disappearance of Amari Cooper, but I don’t like them giving more than a touchdown. The Buccaneers haven’t struggled to score points on the road this year, and if they can get to 21 I think they’ll cover this spread.
Detroit Lions +6 vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Lions haven’t played inspired football recently, but the Vikings are still struggling to put it all together. Maybe this is the week Minnesota plays a complete game and establishes themselves as an NFC contender, but it’s more likely they continue to make dumb mistakes (see: Kirk Cousins’ ugly pick-six up 17-0 last week). Detroit doesn’t have much to play for, but they’ll keep it close at home and lose in a boring, ugly fashion.
New England Patriots -13 vs. Buffalo Bills
The Patriots look more vulnerable this December than they have in years, and the Buffalo defense is legitimately good, but there are two major factors in their favor. First, the Bills’ best running back plays quarterback, and their best quarterback is likely buried on the roster at a different position. It’s a great recipe for beating the Lions at home, but traveling to Foxboro is a different story. Second, the Brady-Belichick Patriots haven’t had any trouble with this iteration of Buffalo. They’ve won the last four meetings by an average of 19 points, and three of those games were in Buffalo. New England will right the ship this week and come away with an easy win to keep pressure on the Texans.
Green Bay Packers EVEN at New York Jets
Maybe they assumed Rodgers would sit out the rest of the season when they set this line; I don’t know how else they came up with an even spread for this matchup. Sam Darnold can’t stop turning the ball over, Aaron Rodgers still looks scary against any defense outside of Chicago, and Joe Philbin is probably only a slight downgrade from Mike McCarthy. I will regret this decision only if I hear the announcers say Brett Hundley’s name.
Houston Texans +1 at Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles picked up a nice win over the Rams last week, but I think it’s a little premature to say they’ve regained their Super Bowl form with Nick Foles under center. Deshaun Watson will face a lot of pressure from Philadelphia’s front, but he’ll make enough plays with Deandre Hopkins to keep the Texans in the lead. On the other side, the Houston defense will make life significantly harder on the reigning Super Bowl MVP than Los Angeles did, and the Eagles will fall back to their season average of 22.2 points per game. It’ll be close, but Houston will pull it out in the end (please don’t give Tom Brady another bye week).
Atlanta Falcons +2.5 at Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton’s injury has finally been announced (a little late, guys), and I like Atlanta against whoever Taylor Heinicke is. The Panthers have fallen a long way since their 6-2 start, but it’s a risk they’ll face as long as Cam Newton continues taking the hits he does. When he stays healthy, they can go 15-1; when he doesn’t, the ceiling just isn’t high enough to make a playoff run. Atlanta’s win over Arizona last week doesn’t really mean anything, but at least they’ll be playing with their starting QB.
Indianapolis Colts -9 vs. New York Giants
Odell Beckham Jr. has another mysterious injury, and we saw last week what the Giants look like with only Saquon Barkley as a threat. New York’s defense isn’t good enough to limit the Colts to 23 points at home like the Cowboys did, so unless Saquon can pick up 3 or 4 touchdowns himself, they’ll be out of the game early. I like Indianapolis at home after watching them shut down the one-dimensional Dallas offense last week.
Jacksonville Jaguars +4.5 at Miami Dolphins
I wish I never had to pick a Jacksonville game again, at least until they found a league-average quarterback. I don’t think Miami is any good, though, and with that in mind I prefer the team with at least one strength. Avert your eyes!
Los Angeles Rams -13 at Arizona Cardinals
The Rams have had a rough couple weeks against the Bears and Eagles, but the Cardinals have had a rough year. Josh Rosen is under constant pressure, the defense has been slipping since a strong start, and nothing suggests they’re ready to turn it around during this season. The Rams need a bounceback, and this trip to Arizona couldn’t have come at a better time.
Chicago Bears -4 at San Francisco 49ers
I had a lot to say about the 49ers last week, so naturally we witnessed a monsoon and a death-defying performance by Nick Mullens. I tuned into the last five minutes of the game and saw the Seahawks tee off on San Francisco’s 3rd-string quarterback at least five times. Such a lack of protection bodes ill for the Niners against Khalil Mack and the rest of the Bears defense, and I trust Chicago’s offense just enough to think they’ll walk away with a convincing victory.
Pittsburgh Steelers +5.5 at New Orleans Saints
I have no idea what’s wrong with the New Orleans offense, but something has clearly changed since their casual romp over the Falcons in Week 12. They’re a much better team than the Steelers, but playing in a dome will mitigate some of the usual drop-off from Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense. The Steelers never do what you expect them to, and coming in as 5.5-point underdogs presents them with a great opportunity for an upset.
Kansas City Chiefs -3 at Seattle Seahawks
This isn’t entirely about how disappointed I was in Seattle last week, but I can’t say it isn’t influencing my mindset at all. More importantly, Kansas City should be able to keep up their scoring against Seattle’s questionable defense, and the oddly imposing Chiefs’ pass rush will make life difficult for Russell Wilson. Sure, he’ll hit some big plays from outside the pocket, but the Seahawks just don’t have enough firepower to keep up with Kansas City all game.
Denver Broncos -2.5 at Oakland Raiders
Denver is almost as depleted as Cincinnati, but there’s no reason they should lose to the Raiders. Neither team has much to play for, which makes this a perfect Christmas Eve game; no one should be eager to watch, but it’s there if you want to put something on as you wind down the night.
That's all for this week! Kick back, grab a drink, and feel free to blame me if you put money on these picks and come out behind. I won't compensate you, but maybe your significant others will send their wrath in my direction instead of yours.