Betting games late in the NFL season does pose a few extra things to consider than betting early season games. Not only do you have to factor in weather issues, but a team’s motivation to win could be a huge factor. If a team has nothing left to play for, it could hurt their performance against the spread.
Also, you don’t want to make motivation the ‘end all, be all’ factor. Players on bad teams are still playing for contracts this offseason and roster spots next year. You have to toe a thin line at this point in the season.
We pick ever NFL game against the spread and throw out a few upsets in Week 16 of the 2016 NFL season.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (+2.5) – My pick is New York Giants
The Eagles come into this game on a five-game losing streak and are 1-4 ATS during this downward slide. All five opponents were playoff-caliber, so many didn’t expect them to fare well during that part of their schedule. The Giants are playing out of their minds and have only allowed a touchdown in each of their last two games. That is surprising since they have been without DE Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants took care of business against Philly back in early November when the Eagles were playing better. I think they will cover on the road on Thursday night.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (+4.5) – My pick is Tennessee Titans
The Jaguars fired head coach Gus Bradley after their loss last week. The dismissal has been expected for weeks. Betting on a game, in which a team fired their coach the previous weekend, can be a tough call. Teams have bounced back in the past and won their next game…and teams have been blown out as well. I still think Bradley is a good coach. The Jags are a flawed team on offense and their defense is still very young. Usually when a team wins or covers the following week after firing their head coach, it means the coach wasn’t very good or the team quit on him. I don’t think either scenario fits this case. The Titans are a playoff-level team and they should cover this one on the road.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-7) – My pick is Green Bay Packers
It has really been a tale of two seasons for each team in 2016. The Vikings are struggling to keep up the pace they started out and the Packers are sprinting to the finish line. The Vikings played like garbage at home against the Colts last week. Indy was actually able to run the ball on the ground, which they haven’t really done against any other team this season. The Packers relied heavily on RB/WR Ty Montgomery last week. Green Bay lost to Minnesota earlier this season, but that was back when both teams were ‘different.’ This point spread could be very close to the final score. I’d love this a lot more if it ever slides to -6.5, but I still have to take the Packers to cover the touchdown point spread.
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-16.5) – My pick is New England Patriots
Oh man, it’s been quite awhile since I picked a cover of this large of a point spread. I think the last time I picked a cover this large was also for a Pats game. I just think the Jets are one of the worst teams in the NFL and the Patriots are one of the best. Also, New England isn’t the kind of team to lay off the gas during a game. They will stretch out a lead and I think they will cover this monster spread.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-4) – My pick is Miami Dolphins
Many bettors would be turned off by betting on a backup quarterback on the road, but I said it last week, I think Matt Moore is a slight improvement over Ryan Tannehill. I don’t see Moore turning the ball over as much and he has played very good the last two weeks. The Bills aren’t going to make the postseason and they have a lameduck head coach. I’m not saying the Bills will pack it in, but the Dolphins are a better team, so I’ll take the points.
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (+3) – My pick is Atlanta Falcons
I said it last week, but I haven’t had a great feel for the Panthers this season. They are so hot and cold from week to week that I haven’t seen any consistency all year. Carolina does come into this game 3-1 ATS in their last four games. Atlanta has a similar record against the spread the last month and their offense has been clicking. They have scored at least 38 points in four of their last six games. Carolina is prone to give up big passing plays and Atlanta has made a living off making such plays. I have to take Falcons to cover.
San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns (+6) – My pick is San Diego Chargers
Bettors have made a living off betting against Cleveland this season. The Browns are 0-8 ATS in their last eight games. They have lost by double-digits in their last seven contests. San Diego have struggled to put up a lot of points the last two weeks with RB Melvin Gordon, but teams have railroaded Cleveland’s defense. Offenses tend to look healthy in a hurry against them. A point spread would need to be double-digits for me to even think about laying a dime on Cleveland right now.
Washington Redskins at Chicago Bears (+3) – My pick is Chicago Bears
This will be Washington’s fourth road game in their last five weeks. After looking like a potential playoff team midseason, they have fell back down to Earth. They have struggled to run the ball at times and QB Kirk Cousins can’t do it all for them. Bears QB Matt Barkley has put up some nice yardage through the air, but has thrown a few too many picks. The Redskins secondary aren’t ballhawks, so I think he may avoid committing too many turnovers. The Bears have been within a field goal of two potential playoff teams (Green Bay & Detroit) and I think they will also keep this one close. I’m taking the points.
Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders (-3) – My pick is Oakland Raiders
The Colts season was supposed to be over after losing to Houston two weeks ago, but they didn’t get the memo. They smoked Minnesota last week and they were able to be a balanced team on offense for the first time all season. Oakland has been humbled the last two weeks by Kansas City and barely squeaking by San Diego. QB Derek Carr injured a finger on his throwing hand a few weeks back and he is having difficulty throwing with a glove. His numbers have taken a nosedive since putting on a glove. This game could be close to the line, but I have to take Oakland to cover. The Raiders have more on the line since they still have a shot at homefield advantage and a win would help secure a bye in the first round.
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (-3) – My pick is San Francisco 49ers
Man, I feel sorry for those in the Bay Area that will be stuck with this game on television. This game is a coin flip, so I’ll take the Niners since Carlos Hyde has been playing well for them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-3) – My pick is Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is an interesting game. These two teams faced each other just two weeks ago with Tampa Bay winning 16-11. The Bucs then followed that win with a loss against the Cowboys. The Saints offense came back to life against the Cardinals winning 48-41. Tampa Bay’s defense gave up well over 100 yards on the ground against Dallas and that appears to be the weakest part of their squad. Their pass defense is still playing well and will give Drew Brees fits. The Bucs still have a lot left to play for this season. This game will be tight and I have to take the points.
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-7.5) – My pick is Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals defense may have some issues right now, but the Seahawks offense has been spotty. They have only been able to score a lot of points when their defense puts the offense in a favorable position. Arizona RB David Johnson has had quantity in terms of touches against Seattle in his career, but the quality hasn’t been there. His yards per carry and catch are abysmal. We all know Seattle is a strong home team, but Arizona has won there a couple times over the last few years. I think that half-point could make a world of difference, so I’ll take the points.
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (-1.5) – My pick is Cincinnati Bengals
The Texans are going with Tom Savage as their starting quarterback this week. I guess his fate as the starter will be based on this game. Houston has only done ‘just enough’ this season, but still find themselves tied atop the AFC South. They have weapons on both sides of the ball, but they have struggled to show up on offense in many games. Cincinnati is a better team than their record would lead you to believe. They might be under .500, but they have played every opponent close in the second half of the season. This game could be tight and I have to go with the Bengals in this contest.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-5) – My pick is Pittsburgh Steelers
The Ravens and Steelers have one of the best rivalries in the NFL. Their games are also fun to watch. Baltimore have bested Pittsburgh in six of the last seven meetings. The Ravens are 4-2-1 ATS during that stretch. The Ravens beat the Steelers 21-14 in early November, but that was before RB Le’Veon Bell caught fire. The Ravens are playing well right now, but the Steelers are humming on offense. I have to take them to cover at home.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (-3) – My pick is Kansas City Chiefs
The Broncos are another team that is flawed on one side of the ball, but is one of the best on the other. There are rumors of in-fighting between their offense and defense. The Broncos have struggled to score into the twenties for the better part of the season and have only scored a combined 13 points the last two weeks. They could find themselves out of the playoffs with their hopes fading week after week. The Chiefs have been consistent all year and have won eight of the last ten games. Those two losses were by less than a field goal. I think they are just balanced team and will cause problems for Denver QB Trevor Siemian. I have to take Kansas City to cover.
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys (-7) – My pick is Dallas Cowboys
Dallas was nearly automatic against the spread the first ten weeks of the season. They have since lost four-straight games against the spread. The Cowboys are a public team, so it was odd in the first place that they were covering games week after week. This spread may feel like a few points too high, but they’ve earned that kind of respect in Vegas. It could be close, but I have to take Dallas to cover.
*These picks are for entertainment purposes
Sweetbob’s NFL picks against the spread record in previous seasons:
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob