December 23, 2020

NFL Best Bets: Week 16

We’re 15 weeks into the NFL season and yet we’re still seeing surprises.

Who could have foreseen both the Jets and Bengals winning last week as double-digit underdogs? It’s just yet another lesson that you never know what can happen in the NFL.

With just two weeks left in the regular season, there's still plenty of time to take what we’ve learned about every team and try to make some smart picks.

In honor of the holiday season, we give you our best bets for Week 16 of the NFL season.

Indianapolis Colts -2 at Pittsburgh Steelers

After three straight losses, the time has come to jump off the Steelers bandwagon. Keep in mind that there were plenty of skeptics when the Steelers were the last remaining unbeaten team, so we can’t say we’re shocked to see them stumble late in the season.

The fact is that the Steelers are a team that can’t run the ball consistently, which has put too much pressure on an aging quarterback who isn’t playing well lately in a pass-heavy offense. Ben Roethlisberger has gone back-to-back games completing less than 60% of his passes and five straight games averaging less than six yards per pass. He’s also thrown six interceptions in those five games.

If the Cincinnati defense was able to figure out the Pittsburgh offense, the Steelers aren’t likely to have much more success against the Colts. Indy’s defense is at least slightly above-average, helping the Colts win five of their last six games, including three in a row. Meanwhile, the Colts have scored at least 26 points in six straight games with rookie running back Jonathan Taylor coming alive over the last month.

In other words, the Colts aren’t likely to be stifled by the Steelers' top-notch defense, enabling the Colts to pull out a close win in the Steel City.

Baltimore Ravens -11 vs New York Giants

Even with the NFC East title within their grasp, the G-Men have struggled lately, especially on offense. Whether it’s Daniel Jones or Colt McCoy at quarterback has become irrelevant. Neither one is getting the job done right now, as the Giants have scored a combined 13 points over their last two games. They’ve now gone four straight games scoring less than 20 points, and they’ve played some poor defensive teams during that span, giving us little reason to believe the New York offense can suddenly turn things around.

On the other side, the Ravens are suddenly one of the hottest teams in football. They might barely sneak into the playoffs, but they’ll be dangerous once they get there. Lamar Jackson has the Baltimore offense rolling once again with the Ravens averaging a little over 40 points per game during their three-game winning streak.

While the New York defense will put up some resistance, it’ll be tough to keep Baltimore out of the end zone. With little chance of the Giants keeping pace in a shootout, we feel oddly confident about the Ravens covering 11 points.

Cincinnati Bengals +8.5 at Houston Texans

Okay, we don’t want to overreact too much to the Bengals knocking off Pittsburgh on Monday night. After all, Ryan Finley didn’t even reach 100 passing yards in the game. But the Bengals did get their running game going with Giovani Bernard, which is something they should be able to replicate against a porous Houston defense.

In fact, the Texans might be bad enough defensively for Finley to have a little success, especially since Cincinnati has talented receiving options.

Let’s keep in mind that the Texans are a lowly 4-10 on the season, and two of those wins came by a touchdown or less. Even with Deshaun Watson being the most overlooked player in the NFL this year, the Texans don’t exactly fit the mold of a team that should be favored by eight points.

Houston can’t run the ball and struggles to keep Watson protected. The Texans are also without two of their top three receivers, Will Fuller and Randall Cobb. That’s not a formula for a lot of points against a Cincinnati secondary that’s brimming with confidence after Monday’s win.

The Texans might survive, but we like the Bengals to stay within a touchdown.

Los Angeles Rams +1.5 at Seattle Seahawks

It’s important to remember not to overreact to one game, even if it’s a loss to the previously winless Jets. Remember that this wasn’t the first time the Rams had a disappointing loss this season, and they’ve always bounced back. With victories in the final two weeks of the season, Los Angeles can still win the NFC West, so there will be plenty of motivation after last week’s humiliating loss.

Equally important, this matchup doesn’t favor Seattle. The Seahawks have an offensive line that has allowed Russell Wilson to get sacked 40 times in 14 games. Meanwhile, the Rams have a fierce pass rush that’s led by Aaron Donald, who allows the LA defense to pressure the quarterback without a lot of blitzing. That combination helped limit the Seahawks to just 16 points the first time these teams played with Wilson getting sacked six times and turning it over three times.

Unless they suddenly fix their issues along the offensive line, the Seahawks will have similar problems, which is why we like the Rams in a virtual toss-up game.

Buffalo Bills -7 at New England Patriots

The Bills have the AFC East wrapped up, but don’t expect much complacency when they invade New England on Monday night. Buffalo will want to secure the highest seed possible in the AFC playoffs. The Bills will also want to rub in the face of Bill Belichick and the Patriots, who are officially eliminated from playoff contention.

If the Pats fall behind early, will they have the resiliency and the pride to keep fighting and make the game close? We don’t know because New England has never been in this position under Belichick.

Plus, Josh Allen is starting to look like an MVP candidate again, throwing eight touchdown passes and only one interception in his last three games. He has Stefon Diggs, who might be the best wide receiver in football this year.

Not to be forgotten, the Buffalo defense is rounding into form, holding three of their last four opponents to 20 points or less. As long as the Bills keep their foot on the gas, we feel confident that they can handle a seven-point spread against the Patriots.

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