NFL Week 16 Picks
By Zach Zaffos (Twitter: @zachzaffos)
Season To Date Against the Spread (ATS):
Best Bets: 11-4 (73%)
Units: 36-21 (63%)
All Bets: 24-17 (59%)
Week 15 Recap:
2 units (Best Bet): CAROLINA (+7) OVER New Orleans
Despite a subpar effort from an injured Cam Newton, the Panthers certainly brought the effort in this one, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We mentioned subtle signs of Drew Brees wearing down in last week’s column, and after his worst performance of the season, we may have something to monitor going forward. Unfortunately, Cam was so off that it didn’t allow Carolina to win outright, but the performance was certainly enough for a ‘Best Bet’ cover.
1.5 units: BUFFALO (-1.5) OVER Detroit
It seems cruel that our pick could not cover a 1.5-point spread, despite winning the game straight up. But that’s where we were with Buffalo on Sunday. Detroit’s offense probably had a little bit more life than we expected, but I still believe we were on the right side here.
1 unit: SAN FRANCISCO (+4) OVER Seattle
Luckily, San Francisco’s outright win over a Seattle team that was essentially locked into its playoff spot allowed us to close out the week strong. We continued to tout the Niners historically unlucky turnover margin, and for the second straight week, Nick Mullens and Co. won outright as home underdogs. Regression to the mean is coming for San Francisco, and for the second consecutive year, it appears Kyle Shanahan has his team peaking in December. More on that later.
With last week’s 2-1 record in the books, we are now coming into the home stretch of the season on an 8-2 run against the spread. Before we get into the Week 16 picks, though, I’d like to first mention a milestone of our weekly column. It was Week 16 of last season when we started documenting our weekly picks for the world to see, and it’s been incredibly fun ever since, as we are 15-5 (75%) on best bets, 52-28.5 (65%) using our units, and 31-22 (58%) overall!
More than that, though – the accountability and internal pressure this column creates has made watching these games to be such a unique experience. I genuinely care more about the W for the column than for my personal bets. The weekly sweat has been awesome, and has made me research, reflect, and challenge my own strategies that much more.
So in honor of our one-year anniversary, here’s a link to our first-ever post.
And I swear, it was not intentional, but it’s scary how similar our Best Bet is to last year’s inaugural version.
SAN FRANCISCO (+4) OVER Chicago – 2 units
For the second straight season, the Kyle Shanahan-led Niners are surging in December. And I’ve said all year: Chicago is last year’s Jacksonville. Seriously, look at all of the similarities:
• League’s #1 Defense
• League’s Healthiest Defense (both under 5 total games missed by starters through Week 15)
o 2 Bears starters: Eddie Jackson and Aaron Lynch appear likely to miss Week 16’s game
• Unproven Quarterback Play
• Last Place in Division in Prior Year; Clinched Division in Week 15 in the Current Year
• Despite Clinching Division, Each Team Had Little Chance of a Playoff Bye Week
So while it may seem like déjà vu all over again, we essentially have the same handicap we had just a year ago: It’s one thing when a team like the New England Patriots or the Pittsburgh Steelers wrap up a division. That’s business as usual. But when a team like Chicago does? That’s cause for a celebration. Going from worst to first is a big deal!
And celebrations often correlate to a team having just a little bit less focus in meeting rooms for the following week’s game. This problem only intensifies when there is questionable motivation for the following week’s game to begin with.
I mean seriously, the Bears have to know the Rams are heavy favorites in their next two (at Arizona; home for SF). It is unlikely this team will get the 2-seed even if it wins out. Does it truly believe this game matters?
Furthermore, the Bears are the exact type of team you don’t want to have in this spot. Some could argue QB Trubisky has been more than respectable this season, but pundits cannot dispute that new head coach Matt Nagy has likely been the biggest reason for the improvement. Just look at how much better Trubisky’s numbers are on the scripted first drive of each game vs. the rest of it. It is night and day.
So given that Chicago is likely locked into the 3-seed, does Nagy really want to show his cards here? I sense he is a smart guy, and will more likely save his best wrinkles for the playoffs. Expect the Bears’ offensive gameplan to be pretty vanilla.
But we don’t like this game only to fade the Bears; we also love the Niners in this spot.
Did you know San Francisco, the league’s worst team in turnover margin, is 4-0 in home games this season in which it won, tied, or lost the turnover battle by 1? If you believe turnovers are random as much I do, then this is an auto-bet. Remember: Chicago is 3-4 on the road this season, and San Francisco is 4-3 despite the turnover issues. And we are getting points here!
So let’s keep it rolling. For the second-straight week, give us San Francisco as a home ‘dog over a playoff team with questionable motivation.
OTHER BET I’LL DABBLE WITH
Houston (+2) OVER PHILADELPHIA
Yes – I’m well aware that Nick Foles lit it up on national TV against the Rams last week.
However, did you know before that game, the look-ahead line here was Houston -2?
There is one simple explanation for the huge line move: The Public’s Memory.
We all know Foles led the Eagles on the magical Super Bowl run last year, and capped it off with two unbelievable performances against the Vikings and Patriots.
But do we remember that he struggled mightily in his 3 regular season starts, as well as in the Eagles’ divisional round win over the Falcons?
Or that he played like a CFL quarterback during preseason this year?
Look – the Eagles are a great story, and as much as we want to believe these ‘what-if Foles leads Philly back to the Super Bowl’ stories, the more likely scenario is that Foles plays like his true self, which may be closer to the guy who led the Eagles to 3 first downs in his last 5 drives last week than a guy who caught the Rams off guard to open the game.
In addition to the Foles overreaction, the Eagles secondary is absolutely decimated. The team is down to its 6th and 7th cornerbacks. This is not a team I want to back. Cluster injuries can be devastating.
So give me the underdog Texans coming off an extra day of rest over a tired-and-banged-up Eagles squad.
And with that, another week is in the books. As 2019 comes to a close, I’d like to thank you all for the support and readership. Here’s to continuing on what we’ve built over the past year!
Additionally, while we only have two picks, check out Zach’s Twitter (@zachzaffos) for two more games in which he has strong leans. Until next time, best of luck to us all and may the picks be with us.