Welcome back to another week of Beating the Spread. As always, I’m Jake Roy and I’m joined by Brennan Rampe and Tyler Gentile. We’ll be here every Friday throughout the season, posting our picks along with some analysis.
Happy holidays QBList family! Just three weeks to go in the regular season. Maybe it’s just me, but it looks like the bookmakers have finally swallowed their pride and moved some totals down to match skillsets. It’s not every week you see a total at 31.5. I can’t think of a lower over/under ever, except for maybe Army/Navy, and they don’t even play modern football. Weather is also a factor this week with some crazy low temperatures across the midwest.
You can play along in the comments or find us on Twitter (@Jake3Roy, @808Paperboi, @phdinnfl). Assuming -110 odds we need about 53% to break even, let’s see if we can hit that magic number for the season and come out with some profit. So, without further ado, here are the lines we’ll use for Week 16!
|Jake Roy (@Jake3Roy)||Brennan Rampe (@Phdinnfl)||Tyler Gentile (@808PaperBoi)|
|Pick #1||Texans/Titans under 47.0||Bengals -3.5||Bengals -3.5|
|Pick #2||Raiders/Steelers under 39.5||Lions -2.5||Lions -2.5|
|Pick #3||Buccaneers/Cardinals under 41.0||Chiefs -9.5||Buccaneers -6.5|
|Pick #4||Lions -2.5||Buccaneers -6.5||Saints/Browns under 31.5|
|Pick #5||Vikings -3.5||Chargers -4.0||49ers -7.0|
Brutal week last time out for yours truly, just one win and four losses. Keelan Cole was out of bounds though, so I should have won both the Patriots’ spread and under in that game. No, I’m not still mad. First up this week has the Texans traveling to Tennessee in a matchup of divisional opponents. The weather across the board this week is insane, and I’m banking on it leading to poor offense. As of Wednesday, the forecast has the game-time temperature at just 13 degrees with double-digit winds. Ryan Tannehill is likely done for the year with an ankle injury, Malik Willis will take over for the Titans, and his hand size is below average. I don’t know if that actually matters, but when I run outside in the cold I have a hard time getting my keys out of my pocket when I get home, so I assume it will be harder to grip the football with small hands in this weather. The Texans’ offense is also a mess featuring injured receivers and a carousel under center. HOU/TEN U47.0
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through Heinz field, not an offense was scoring, not even the Steel(ers). Come for the picks, stay for the ambitious attempts at rhyming. Another game with a real feel in the single digits. Kenny Pickett has even smaller hands than Malik Willis. I think both teams will come into this game with a game plan of running the ball and keeping the game slow because that’s really the only option. You can try to air it out, but it’s likely not an effective strategy. The Raiders have some explosive players in Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams, but chunk plays may be hard to come by. I’ll take another under in Pittsburgh. LV/PIT U39.5
Am I going to go with all unders this week? I haven’t decided yet. But I will go with a third in Arizona. That elf Kyler Murray is done for the season, and Colt McCoy is out this week with a concussion. Trace McSorley is set to quarterback the Cardinal offense on Sunday night in front of the home crowd. Side note: what kind of twisted villain put this game on Sunday night at Christmas? Insane person behavior. Anyways, if the Bucs were at home, I would take them to cover the six and a half, but because they’re on the road and their offense can’t get out of its own way at times, I’ll go with the under yet again. The Cardinals’ defense isn’t some elite unit, but the lack of offense more than makes up for it. I can’t see the Cards getting into double digits against a very solid Tampa Bay defense. TB/ARI U41.0
I’ve said it a million times, I hate taking road favorites. I’ve also taken road favorites about a million times because I don’t learn from my own mistakes. I’m taking the Lions, on the road in Carolina. It comes down to this: Detroit needs this win to keep its playoff hopes alive. The Panthers have nothing left to play for outside of draft position; winning games doesn’t help that. With the spread under three points, I’m willing to take a shot on Dan Campbell and the Lions to win the game by a field goal. I wouldn’t play this at -3.5, but as long as the number is three or below, I’ll ride the road favorites. DET -2.5
In our last pick of the week, we head to the fraud bowl in Minnesota with the Giants and Vikings squaring off. It’s hard to call the Vikings frauds after a 33-point comeback, but just because they won the game doesn’t mean the first half didn’t happen. That has to count for something. The Giants are even bigger frauds, though. The offense has nothing going for it when Saquon Barkley isn’t effective, and the defense has had some huge meltdowns. I may be buying the Vikings a little bit too high because people will discount the first half of Saturday’s game because of the final score, but the Vikings have a chance at the one seed in the NFC and are playing at home. I’ll ride with Kirk Cousins and company. MIN -3.5
The Bengals were down 17-0 to the Buccaneers in the first half last week, but then came back and won 34-23. Tom Brady was undefeated when leading by 17 points at home in his career, which made the comeback even more impressive. Joe Burrow threw four touchdown passes and the defense caused multiple turnovers. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s halftime adjustments are something special, as evidenced by last week and both games against the Chiefs last season. They look like a threat to win the AFC again. The Patriots lost in one of the wildest endings ever. This offense is just bad, and Matt Patricia shouldn’t be the offensive coordinator. The frustration from Mac Jones is visible. Cincinnati is on a six-game winning streak and New England could lose their final three games, which would likely result in Patricia getting fired. I like the Bengals to win again while covering. Inside the Numbers: The Bengals are 6-4 as an away favorite with an average Margin of Victory (MOV) of 5.1 against the spread under Zac Taylor. CIN -3.5
The Lions are one of the most dangerous teams in the league right now. They started off 1-6 and are now 7-7 with a solid chance of making the playoffs as the seventh seed in the NFC. The offense is an explosive unit and the defense has improved. Jared Goff is having his best year since 2018 when he took the Rams to the Super Bowl. The Panthers had a very small chance of winning the NFC South, but that probably isn’t happening after their loss to the Steelers. Pittsburgh has a mediocre offense whether it’s Mitchell Trubisky or rookie Kenny Pickett that starts for them. Last week, it was Trubisky, and the Steelers won 24-16. The Panthers are now 5-9 and now have to play Detroit. I like the Lions to win and cover. Inside the Numbers isn’t applicable here. This is a gut pick in a game featuring two teams headed in opposite directions. DET -2.5
The Chiefs needed overtime to defeat the Texans, but they got it done and won the AFC West for the seventh straight year. Patrick Mahomes will likely be the MVP of the league this year because of how well he’s been playing. They had three consecutive road games, but they’re going to be back at home for the first time since Week 12. The Seahawks looked like they were going to make the playoffs as a wild card or perhaps even as a division winner, but now it looks like they may not make it at all. They lost two home games in a row to Sam Darnold and rookie quarterback Brock Purdy. Geno Smith has been one of the biggest surprises of the year and Seattle should keep him, but the defense has been horrendous all year long. I don’t know how they intend to slow down Kansas City, and wide receiver Tyler Lockett will not play due to a finger injury. I think the Chiefs could win this one by a lot. Inside the Numbers: The Chiefs are 11-10-2 with an MOV of 6.7 against the spread in non-conference games under Andy Reid since 2018. KC -9.5
The Buccaneers are 6-8 after blowing a 17-point lead to the Bengals, but because the NFC South is so bad, they still have a chance to make the playoffs. Their final three games give them a great opportunity to finish 9-8 and sneak in. The Cardinals have been a pretty disappointing team this year and they lost to the Broncos last week. Arizona’s third quarterback Trace McSorley will make his first career start, and it will likely be a disaster. Kliff Kingsbury’s future with the team remains uncertain, but DeAndre Hopkins was suspended for the first six games of the season, Marquise Brown was out for about a month, Zach Ertz suffered a season-ending injury, and Kyler Murray suffered a torn ACL that might make him miss some of the 2023 season. That’s a lot of injuries and could grant Kingsbury another year. The Buccaneers should win this game. Inside the Numbers: Although the Buccaneers are 9-13 against the spread as away favorites since 2020, their MOV is 6.7. TB -6.5
The Chargers defeated the Titans 17-14, but Tennessee had so many injuries. It should have been a blowout, but a win is a win. Los Angeles is very close to making the playoffs, and their next opponent is the Colts. Indianapolis blew the biggest lead in NFL history last week. They were up 33-0, and then lost 39-36 in overtime. Jeff Saturday was not a good hire as an interim head coach and there’s no way he comes back next year. Matt Ryan has been benched once again, and Nick Foles will start for the first time this season. Last week’s loss wasn’t Ryan’s fault, but it looks as if he might have played his final NFL game. The Colts are just a mess right now and they need a new quarterback and a new coach. It will likely be a couple of years before they’re relevant again. Inside the Numbers: The Chargers are 11-10-1 with an MOV of -0.1 against the spread in conference games under Brandon Staley. I’m taking the Chargers anyway. LAC -4.0
All this Cincinnati team does is cover. They are now a league-leading 11-3 against the spread and are 19-3 ATS dating back to last season including the playoffs. The spread has shifted down to -3, but I’m just not convinced this “sharp” money is warranted. Yes, the Patriots have an elite defense, second in DVOA and EPA/play, but the Bengals’ offense, fifth in DVOA and fourth in EPA/play, will be very difficult to slow down. The Matt Patricia-led offense, 25th in DVOA, and 24th in EPA/play, on the other hand, is not going anywhere, even against this slightly above-average defense Cincy possesses. They are 12th in DVOA and ninth in EPA/play defensively. The covering Cincinnati machine should get it done once again in New England this week. CIN -3.5
It is hilarious to see a game in the NFL with this low of a total, but the intense wind, rain, and cold across the nation will have all of the scoring dampened down this week. This game stands out more than the rest however and is the lowest on the board. In fact, this is the lowest total in the NFL since 2008 when the Browns hosted the Bengals (total of 31) in a 14-0 loss. It’s listed as low as it is because Cleveland is expecting sustained winds of 25-30 mph, with gusts up to 40-50 mph. The temperature will also be in the teens, but football is most affected by wind, not rain. Remember the Bills and Patriots MNF blustery snow game last season? New England threw the ball three times(!) in a 14-10 loss at Buffalo.
This game should play out similarly with the conditions and offenses in play. Since Deshaun Watson took over the Browns have scored only two offensive touchdowns over the last three weeks. They played in a poor weather game last week at home and won in a low scoring 13-3 affair over the Ravens. The Saints aren’t an offensive juggernaut by any means either. They’re just 23rd in DVOA and 21st in EPA/play. There won’t be any passing or field goal kicking in this historically low total game, so take the under. NO/CLE U31.5
I’m rolling with another covering machine, which is a chalky play this week, but who cares about that sort of mumbo jumbo? Detroit has the second-best ATS record of 10-4 this season, has won six of their last seven games, and what I really care about is the Lions’ drastic improvements in defending the run. Since week nine, Detroit is 8th in DVOA against the run (10th overall, 13th in EPA/play) and has allowed only one running back to surpass 70 yards on the ground. In recent weeks they’ve held Saquon to just 15/22, AJ Dillon/Aaron Jones to a combined 20/59 line, Travis Etienne to 13/52, and Dalvin Cook to 15/23. All the Panthers want to do on offense is run the ball with Sam Darnold at QB, and if they can’t do that then they are at a loss. Just look at what happened against the Steelers last week.
The Jared Goff can’t play in the cold narrative will be tested this week, but the offense he has led, sixth in DVOA and ninth in EPA/play, has been on fire all year, and we’re just asking for a field goal cover here. I think they find their way against a subpar defense, 20th in DVOA and 12th in EPA/play, and continue their covering and winning ways this week. DET -2.5
Washington is coming off a heartbreaking and controversial loss to the Giants, and I expect the heartbreak to continue against San Francisco, who is an absolute wagon at this stage of the season. Winners of seven straight, the 49ers can’t be stopped, even if their star players get hurt. Kyle Shannahan should seriously be looked at for Coach of the Year (Currently 15/1) with the way the team has performed despite the numerous injuries, namely to the Quarterback position. He has people thinking Brock Purdy is the next Tom Brady, and some are actually wagering Purdy to win Offensive Rookie of the Year with only two starts under his belt.
As for this week’s opponent, the Niners face an underwhelming Commanders squad. They have a solid defense that ranks in the top ten in DVOA and EPA/play, but that’s pretty much offset by their anemic offense that is in the bottom seven in both of those metrics as well. The 49ers, on the other hand, are ninth in DVOA and sixth in EPA/play on offense and are the class of the league with the #1 defense by both metrics. It’s a steep line to lay with such a low total, but I don’t see the Commanders putting up more than two scores. They only managed 12 points against the Giants last week. San Francisco teased down to -1 with the Bucs down to -1.5 is an excellent look/option as well. SF -7.0
I’m ready to lose this one already. The Bucs are so hard to trust with their league-worst 3-10-1 ATS record, but I’m going to give them a shot in this situation going up against a third-string quarterback. Trace McSorley makes his first career start for Arizona with both Colt McCoy and Kyler Murray out. Even with both of those QBs healthy, the Cardinals have had one of the worst offenses this season. They’re 30th in DVOA and 28th in EPA/play, and their defense rates nearly as bad–27th in DVOA and 17th in EPA/play.
I don’t see the red birds managing to score much at all with McSorley. Their team total sits at 15.5 and I’d lean to the under there. If that’s the case then we’re really asking for Tampa to put up around 21 points or so and they should find a way to get that done. The Bucs haven’t been the outstanding defense we all expected, but they haven’t been too shabby either ranking 11th in EPA/play and 9th in DVOA on the season.
One glaring trend combating the Bucs ineptitude to cover is Kliff Kingsbury’s horrendous record in the back half of seasons. Including his coaching record at Texas A&M he is 45-24-1 in weeks 1-7, and 17-49 in the remainder of the year. With that also in mind, I love the Bucs teased down to -1.5 this week with the current -7.5 spread it is listed at now. TB -6.5
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)