NFL Picks Week #16 (2019 regular season)
NFL PICKS (WEEK #16)
BY PROFESSOR MJ
Written Wednesday December 20th, 2019 at 10 a.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)
PICK #1: Baltimore Ravens -10 at Cleveland Browns (rated 4 stars)
Let me reveal to you one of my favorite betting angles in the NFL: backing a very strong team that faces a divisional foe against which they lost earlier in the year.
That’s exactly the case here. The Ravens inexplicably lost 40-to-25 at home in Week #4 against the Browns. This is clearly going to be payback time. Baltimore won’t travel to Cleveland with the intention of winning the game; they’ll be out there to CRUSH the Browns.
The Ravens also benefit from three extra days of rest after playing last Thursday against the Jets.
I read many reports about multiple Browns players wanting out of Cleveland, including Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. This team has been a huge disappointment and head coach Freddie Kitchens is simply doing a poor job. This is quite simply a dysfunctional team. A big edge to Baltimore in terms of smart coaching.
The Browns are not well equipped to stop Baltimore’s running game; they currently rank 26th in terms of rushing yards allowed per game.
Baltimore holds an 8-2-1 record against the spread (ATS) in their last 11 meetings in Cleveland. Also, the Browns are 0-3-1 ATS at home when facing teams with a winning record.
The Ravens would secure the number one seed in the AFC with a win. There is no doubt they will bring their “A” game. Baltimore wins big.
PICK #2: Buffalo Bills +6.5 at New England Patriots (rated 4 stars)
In the first meeting between these two squads back in Week #4, the Pats won a close 16-to-10 game despite four turnovers by the Bills. Buffalo racked up 375 total yards versus 224 for New England.
If not for Josh Allen’s ill-advised passes, the Bills could have won this game. He has learned the importance of protecting the ball since then, as shown by his 15 TD passes versus just three interceptions.
New England is 1-5 ATS against teams with a winning record. Meanwhile, notice that the Bills are 3-1-1 ATS over their past five matchups at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots have been a shaky team recently; their 34-to-13 win over the lowly Bengals doesn’t mean much. As for Buffalo, after a small mid-season slump, they are definitely trending up and playing smart football.
In my opinion, the point spread is inflated due to New England’s 20-year domination. They haven’t been that good recently. Their defense has been regressing a bit, although still good. Julian Edelman will likely suit up, but he’s battling a couple of injuries and he didn’t look comfortable last week (he only caught two passes).
Buffalo’s defense has allowed 16 points per game on average. Their pass defense is outstanding, and their run defense has improved a lot over the past few games.
It seems clear to me that the Patriots have much less than a 50% chance of beating the Bills by 7 points or more. I wouldn’t be surprised if Buffalo won the game outright. I’m taking the Bills to cover.
PICK #3: Houston Texans -3 at Tampa Bay Bucs (rated 3 stars)
When the regular season is nearing the end, the motivation factor is big. I find it difficult to pick a team that has nothing to play for, when facing a team that is fighting for the playoffs or for its seeding. It might even be possible that referees tend to favor the team that needs the game the most.
In this case, the Bucs have won five of their past six games, but these wins didn’t occur against power houses. They beat Detroit, Indy, Jacksonville, Atlanta and Arizona. Also, their two receivers by far, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are both out. That leaves Jameis Winston with much fewer reliable targets. Speaking of Winston, he leads the league with 24 interceptions; the player in second position has 18.
At first sight, this game might be viewed as a sandwich game for the Texans since it is right between two meetings with the Titans. However, the game against Tampa is so important that there’s not way they will take it lightly. If Houston wins and the Titans lose against the Saints (a likely scenario, the Texans would be crowned AFC South champions and wouldn’t need to fight hard next week.
Only the Dolphins have allowed more points than the Bucs this season. Watson, Hopkins, Fuller and company won’t have trouble scoring this Saturday.
I am predicting a 14-point win for Houston.
PICK #4: New Orleans Saints -2.5 at Tennessee Titans (rated 3 stars)
Boy, the Saints offense has looked unstoppable the past two weeks. After scoring 46 points against the stout 49ers defense, they added 34 more Monday night against the Colts (all 34 points were scored through the first three quarters, and they didn’t try hard in the final quarter because of the large lead).
I know the Titans will be fighting for their playoff lives at home, but I wouldn’t feel good betting against the Saints offense. Meanwhile, Ryan Tannehill looked more shaky last week against a mediocre pass defense from Houston.
I noticed that Tennessee has faced just three winning teams this season: Buffalo, Kansas City and Houston.
If you think the Saints might struggle on grass, think again. New Orleans is 4-0 ATS in their four most recent games on grass.
PICK #5: Pittsburgh Steelers -3 at New York Jets (rated 2 stars)
When the odds came out, I loved this play. As the week goes on, I am liking it less and less…
First, I’ve talked often how I think highly of safety Jamal Adams. According to the latest news, he has a good chance to be back from his foot injury. That’s bad news for the struggling Steelers offense.
I’m also worried about the Jets offense; they are a respectable group. They were able to move the ball fairly well in Baltimore last week. Over the past six weeks, Sam Darnold has thrown 11 TD passes versus just 3 picks. Granted, except the Ravens he did not face stingy defenses: Miami, Cincinnati, Oakland, Washington and the G-Men.
That being said, I’m going with Pittsburgh since the game matters much more to them, their coaching staff is light years ahead of New York’s, and some data suggest backing them in this matchup.
As a matter of fact, here are three pieces of information favoring the team from Pennsylvania:
- The Steelers are 4-0 ATS after losing a game outright, which is the case here since they were defeated by the Bills last week.
- They have beaten the spread in four of the latest five meetings with the Jets.
- The Jets hold an 0-5-1 record ATS during their past six games in December. Perhaps Darnold doesn’t feel too good playing in cold temperatures…
One more thing: Le’Veon Bell’s holdout last year made a lot of Steelers players mad. They are going to be extra motivated to smash him and his new squad.
PICK #6: Dallas Cowboys -1.5 at Philadelphia Eagles (rated 1 star)
Man, these two teams have been fairly unpredictable this season, but I’ll give it a shot.
Even though some of my betting angles are favoring Philly, I’m still going to go with the most talented team, the Cowboys.
I wouldn’t feel good betting this Eagles team that is missing so many wide receivers. After losing speedy DeSean Jackson earlier this season, they now lost Alshon Jeffery to a foot injury and Nelson Agholor seems unlikely to be on the field this Sunday.
That leaves the Eagles with unproven guys at wide receiver. Hopefully, the Cowboys’ coaching staff will be smart enough to double-cover Zach Ertz, who is basically the lone catching threat left in their roster.
On top of that, running back Jordan Howard does not look ready to be back in action either.
Quarterback Carson Wentz has been holding on to the ball too long, and he often ends up getting sacked or fumbling the ball. The situation won’t improve with so few weapons at his disposal. He has to hope left tackle Lane Johnson will be able to suit up, otherwise he’ll have Demarcus Lawrence in his face all game long.
The possibly cold weather could help Philly, though, especially when facing a dome team like Dallas. However, did you know the Cowboys are 6-1 ATS over their past seven games in Philadelphia? They have also beaten the spread in each of the past four meetings with the Eagles overall.
Let’s be honest: Philly won its past two games, but they struggled mightily to get victories against the lowly Giants and Redskins. Those wins were unimpressive.
I am not grading this pick higher because of the cold weather, but also coaching. I trust Doug Pederson a lot more than Jason Garrett to make smart moves during the game. Morever, both teams have been pretty inconsistent so it seems harder to get a good grasp of what’s likely to happen this Sunday.
PICK #7: New York Giants +2 at Washington Redskins (rated 1 star)
Not many people are feeling overexcited about this upcoming game between a couple of weak teams. But from a sports investing perspective, all games are potential good value bets!
Daniel Jones is expected to be back under center after missing two games with an ankle injury. I’m not sure if it’s good news or not, but that’s the situation. Personally, I believe the Giants have a better chance of winning with him as the quarterback, mostly because he is more mobile than Eli Manning.
New York has beaten the spread in each of their past eight (!!!) games on grass. They also hold a 10-2 ATS record as road underdogs recently. Over the past 13 meetings with the Skins, the G-Men have beaten the spread on 9 occasions.
Meanwhile, Washington has been doing badly against divisional opponents; they are 1-7 ATS versus NFC East teams! Also, the last six times they were favored in a game, they covered the spread just once…
Washington’s secondary is banged up; they have three guys listed as questionable.
For all those reasons, I’ll put my money on the Giants as two-point dogs in D.C.
Merry Christmas, my sports investing friends! Enjoy your time with family!
(Sports Betting Expert / University Professor / PhD in statistics)