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Week 16 NFL Picks Against the Spread

Celebrate the Christmas holiday by betting on Gardner Minshew to cover the spread against the Cowboys and Brock Purdy to keep his hot streak with the 49ers alive. Here are our picks for the entire Week 16 slate.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

We are down to the final three weeks of the regular season. Week 16 brings us a fun Thursday-night matchup between two AFC playoff hopefuls, the Jets and Jaguars, plus a full slate of Saturday games on Christmas Eve, a Sunday triple-header on Christmas Day, and of course, the return of Nick Foles on Monday night!

Lines are from FanDuel as of Wednesday night. Stats are from TruMedia/Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted. Now, on to the picks.

Week 15 record: 7-8-1
Season record: 116-101-7

Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets (-1.5)

Zach Wilson’s box score from last week’s loss to the Lions was incredibly misleading. He threw for 317 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. On the surface, that doesn’t look so bad. But nothing Wilson did felt sustainable. He was chucking up prayer balls, and luckily some of them were answered.

As for the Jaguars, they put together an amazing comeback against the Cowboys. Doug Pederson was feeling it from a play-calling standpoint—screens, misdirection, man-beating pass concepts. And Trevor Lawrence looked terrific. The Jaguars have won three of four and have a real shot at stealing the AFC South.

I have a couple concerns about Jacksonville, though. One, they lost starting left tackle Cam Robinson last week. And two, their defense still has a lot of holes. Having said that, I trust their offense so much more than I do the Jets offense with Wilson right now.

The pick: Jaguars (+1.5)

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings (-3.5)

If you’re a Vikings fan, who cares that the team isn’t as good as their 11-3 record? Fandom is about being entertained by the team you root for and enjoying the overall experience. The Vikings have provided those things. Last week’s comeback over the Colts goes down as one of the most memorable games in Vikings history. That counts for something!

The Giants are in a good spot after their win over Washington last week. Per Football Outsiders, they now have an 89.6 percent chance of making the playoffs. Their pass rush, led by Kayvon Thibodeaux and Dexter Lawrence, did damage against Washington and should be a strength down the stretch.

I could easily see the Vikings stumbling here as they come down from that emotional victory last week, but this feels like a game in which Kirk Cousins goes full “chuck and duck” mode and Justin Jefferson makes enough plays for Minnesota to win by a touchdown.

The pick: Vikings (-3.5)

New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns (-2.5)

If we were to extrapolate the Browns’ offensive performance over the last three games with Deshaun Watson to the whole season, they would rank 32nd in expected points added (EPA) per play and 28th in success rate.

The Saints are not out of it in the wide-open NFC South. They’re still a long shot (+2000 according to FanDuel), but if New Orleans can win this game, Week 17 against the Eagles doesn’t look quite as daunting, given that Gardner Minshew might be starting at quarterback for Philadelphia instead of Jalen Hurts.

Neither team here is very good. You shouldn’t bet on this game. But I’ll take the points.

The pick: Saints (+2.5)

Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers (+2.5)

One of my favorite things about sports is when a beaten-down fan base finally gets to experience joy. The Lions’ fourth-and-inches call last week against the Jets was one of the best plays by any team all year—especially when you consider what was at stake.

We need this team in the playoffs. The Lions can win with offensive efficiency, but I also love how they’re willing to try just about anything. If they’re big underdogs in a wild-card matchup, they’re going to go down swinging.

The Panthers, meanwhile, somehow still control their own playoff destiny, despite last week’s loss to the Steelers.

Weird things happen every week, and Carolina’s defense and special teams could key an upset. But to use Ringer parlance, the vibes with this Lions team are just too good.

The pick: Lions (-2.5)

Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots (+3)

The Bengals have now won six in a row, including three victories over teams (Titans, Chiefs, and Bucs) that would be in the playoffs if the season started today. Cincinnati can win in so many different ways. They’re legit Super Bowl contenders.

I ranted on this week’s episode of Extra Point Taken about how Bill Belichick no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt.

The team-building has been terrible. The decision to hand the offense to Matt Patricia has been disastrous. The situational football and game management have been among the worst in the NFL. For 20 years, we constantly heard about the Patriot Way, how “Belichick’s teams would never” make the same boneheaded mistakes as other teams. Now? New England is sloppy pretty much every week. Last week’s game against the Raiders was more the norm than the exception.

Belichick can still put together great defensive game plans, so maybe the Patriots find a way to slow down Joe Burrow and company. But the more likely scenario is that Mac Jones is yelling at Matt Patricia in the third quarter as the Patriots continue to slide.

The pick: Bengals (-3)

Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears (+8.5)

There’s a certain volatility that should be expected from the Bills. But if we zoom out, this team is 11-3 and is currently the no. 1 seed in the AFC. Their +135 point differential is second in the NFL. They haven’t lost a game by more than three points. And their three losses have come by a combined eight points. Bottom line: It hasn’t always looked pretty, but the Bills are pretty much exactly where everyone expected them to be before the season.

As for the Bears, last week was the full Justin Fields experience. He made some spectacular plays. He missed some routine throws. And the fact that he doesn’t have much around him was glaring from start to finish during a loss to the Eagles.

Having said that, the Bears defense—and specifically their secondary—was feisty and competitive. I don’t expect Chicago to pull off the upset here, but I do think they can keep it relatively close.

The pick: Bears (+8.5)

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (-3.5)

The wheels appear to be coming off for the Titans. The offense was already struggling, and now, according to Paul Kuharsky, Ryan Tannehill is likely out for the season. Malik Willis is expected to start this game and could be the guy going forward. The Titans defense showed up last week against the Chargers, and they’ll try to hold the Jaguars off in the AFC South.

Betting on a game featuring Willis vs. Davis Mills seems unwise. But I generally like Mike Vrabel’s teams when their backs are against the wall. This one could easily burn me, but give me the Titans.

The pick: Titans (-3.5)

Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs (-10)

The Chiefs had 502 yards of offense last week, compared to 219 for the Texans. Yet Kansas City needed overtime to escape with the win. Patrick Mahomes became the second quarterback in NFL history to throw 40+ passes, complete over 85 percent of them, and surpass 300 yards in a game (the other was Lamar Jackson in 2021).

The Seahawks have lost four of five and are fighting for their playoff lives. They’ll go forward without wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who suffered a broken bone in his hand during last week’s loss to the 49ers. It’s possible that things snowball for the Seahawks, but this is a big number. They can still move the ball through the air, and I trust Pete Carroll to have them primed to keep this one competitive.

The pick: Seahawks (+10)

Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore Ravens (-7.5)

Lamar Jackson has not practiced this week, so it looks like the Ravens will roll with Tyler Huntley once again. They have to be kicking themselves for losing that game last week against the Browns; Baltimore had so many opportunities to put points on the board but just couldn’t get out of its own way. The good news? Running back J.K. Dobbins looked terrific, and the Ravens ran for 198 yards as a team, averaging 7.1 yards per carry.

As for the Falcons, they competed to the end against New Orleans last week but ultimately fell short. Desmond Ridder looked very much like a rookie making his first career start, completing 13 passes for 97 yards.

There’s a scenario in which this is just an ugly, low-scoring game, both teams stick to the run all afternoon, and the Falcons keep it close. But this Ravens defense is a physical group that will likely force Ridder into a mistake at some point. I think Baltimore rebounds here.

The pick: Ravens (-7.5)

Washington Commanders at San Francisco 49ers (-7)

If the season ended today, I think Nick Bosa would be my Defensive Player of the Year. He leads the NFL with 15.5 sacks, and Bosa’s 38 QB hits are 10 more than any other player. The 49ers, both according to my opinion and DVOA, have the best defense in the NFL.

Brock Purdy has surprised most of us and played really well, but it feels like one of these weeks, he’s going to take his lumps and commit multiple turnovers. Maybe that happens in this game, given that Washington’s defense has played pretty well this season.

But I’m tired of betting against Purdy and losing. And San Francisco’s pass rush should give the Commanders big problems. I think the Niners take care of business.

The pick: 49ers (-7)

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-4.5)

The Jalen Hurts injury (sprained throwing shoulder) throws a wrench into the Eagles’ season, but the truth is they’re in pretty good shape to handle it. The Eagles need just one win in their final three games—at Dallas, home against the Saints, home against the Giants—to lock up the no. 1 seed in the NFC.

Much of the national conversation around the Cowboys this week has focused on Dak Prescott, but it’s fair to wonder how good this defense is going to be down the stretch. Dallas is down two of its starting three corners, with Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis out. And last week, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch suffered a shoulder injury that could sideline him for a short time. The Cowboys can still rush the passer, and cornerback Trevon Diggs is a playmaker on the back end, but elsewhere there are weaknesses to exploit. The Jaguars lit them up for 503 yards in Week 15.

Assuming Gardner Minshew starts at quarterback here, look for the Eagles to lean on a quick passing game, screens, misdirection and the run game. Philly’s focus the first time these teams met was on not letting Micah Parsons wreck the game, and that figures to be the focus once again.

The Eagles’ offensive and defensive lines have been dominant for much of the season and specifically in the past few weeks. I think they have enough around Minshew to keep it close and potentially pull off the upset.

The pick: Eagles (+4.5)

Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.5)

I am prepared to be wrong, but sadly, I think this is it for Mike Tomlin’s streak. He’s gone 15 straight seasons without a losing record, but if the Steelers fall here to the Raiders, the best they’ll be able to do is 8-9. This was supposed to be a transition year, and they have glaring holes on the roster. But once again, it feels like Pittsburgh has overachieved.

The Raiders blew another lead last week but still ended up with a win. They were up 17-3 at halftime before letting the Patriots score 21 straight. Derek Carr found Keelan Cole for a 30-yard touchdown with 32 seconds left, and then Chandler Jones ran in one of the most improbable touchdowns in NFL history.

There’s no reason to trust either of these teams, and taking Josh McDaniels on the road against Tomlin doesn’t feel great, but the Raiders at least move the ball offensively most weeks. I’ll take the points.

The pick: Raiders (+2.5)

Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins (-3.5)

Guess where the Packers offense now ranks, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric? Seventh! It’s probably too little, too late, but their run game has looked fantastic, and Aaron Rodgers with his group of young pass catchers has shown improvement. Watching Monday night’s game against the Rams made me wonder: Do the Packers just run it back next year? In October, it felt like they’d move on from Rodgers, but now you could make the case that with a couple tweaks, this could be one of the better offenses in the NFC in 2023.

As for the Dolphins, I was mostly encouraged by their performance Saturday night in snowy Buffalo. Their run game was impressive, and the explosive plays to Tyreek Hill are there every week. The Packers are playing better of late, but I don’t trust their defense in a spot like this.

The pick: Dolphins (-3.5)

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Rams (+2.5)

If you are finding time to watch this game on Christmas, it can mean only one thing: Your family is annoying the hell out of you and you need to get away. (Entirely possible, and we won’t judge you!)

It sounds like Russell Wilson will return to the lineup for the Broncos, and their defense has been one of the best in the NFL. Baker Mayfield could have a tough time in this one.

I’ve been impressed with how hard the Rams have played defensively. They’re not great, but they’re competitive and don’t make life easy for opponents. Combine that with how badly the Broncos have struggled offensively, and I’ll take the points.

The pick: Rams (+2.5)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals (+7.5)

The Bucs continue to be a truly miserable team. They went up 17-0 last week against the Bengals, then got outscored 34-6. Tampa was just recklessly giving possessions away. This is a team that knows it’s not very good.

Speaking of which, the Cardinals are coming off of four straight losses. Colt McCoy suffered a concussion last week, so Arizona will turn to third-string QB Trace McSorley.

On the surface, you look at this game and see Tom Brady vs. McSorley, and convince yourself to take Tampa. I’m not doing it. Maybe the Bucs win in a blowout. But they are so sloppy and disjointed every week that I don’t think I’d trust them to cover 7.5 points against anyone right now.

The pick: Cardinals (+7.5)

Los Angeles Chargers at Indianapolis Colts (+4.5)

It looks like Colts owner Jim Irsay needed to find another person to blame after his team’s epic meltdown last week against the Vikings. The Colts are benching Matt Ryan for the second time this season and will now turn to Nick Foles under center. One of these weeks, Irsay will realize it’s not the coach or the quarterback or the offensive coordinator. This team simply isn’t very good.

The Chargers scored one touchdown in the first three quarters against Tennessee last week. The game was tied at 14 with under a minute left before Justin Herbert engineered a game-winning drive. I’m still all in on Herbert, and this team is well-positioned to get into the postseason. But there’s no way I’m trusting them to cover this number.

The pick: Colts (+4.5)