Who could have imagined how chaotic the end of the 2021 NFL season would be! Tons of upsets continue to leave us without a clue of the overall pecking order – only one team (Packers) has clinched a playoff spot – and COVID-19 outbreaks are leaving teams short-handed. Heck, we just had a Tuesday night doubleheader!
Today, let’s take a look at the Week 16 slate. Every week, I’ll be providing my projections on the outcome of each game, and then contextualizing what to do with that information: best bets, teasers, parlays, survivor picks, and much more!
These projections started with me using projected PFF grades to decipher the true talent of every team. From there, I utilized those projections to establish each team’s offense and defense rank, which allowed me to derive how talented each team is compared to the average team with a neutral field; as the season goes, I’ll be analyzing PFF data and other key metrics to continue to update each team’s offense and defense ranking. Adding in an adjustment for home field, and, what do you know, each game had a projection! The combination of the foundation of it starting objectively, and then the mixture of subjective analysis to make it less of a “blind” projection, will hopefully lead us to where we want to go. You can consider these, based on the subjective touch, predictions instead of pure projections, but, hey, it gets us in the same place!
Enough rambling; it’s time to get to the point of this article! Let’s completely preview Week 15 from a betting perspective!
All Stats via Pro Football Focus
Week 16 Personal Projections
LAC (-9.5) at HOU
Last week, I sided with a big favorite with the Bills over the Panthers. It came down to the wire, but Buffalo was able to cover as 10.5-point favorite. Now, I’m going back to the well with the Chargers over the Texans.
I cannot say enough positive things about Justin Herbert; he’s been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. However, what I am very excited about is his average depth of target in his past three games:
- Week 13: 10.3 yards
- Week 14: 8.2 yards
- Week 15: 9.9 yards
As I wrote earlier this year, the key to the Chargers offense was letting Herbert throw the ball down the field, something he has done very well. He is averaging 18.2 yards/pass attempt and a 96 PFF grade when throwing 20+ yards down the field, and it’s nice to see the offense finally allowing him to flourish. Is it a shock that they’ve averaged 35 points per game over their past three games? Nope!
The Texans, on the other hand, aren’t clicking on all cylinders. Davis Mills has played better as of late, but he is still PFF’s lowest-graded passer (53.9) this year. Meanwhile, Houston has the league’s worst PFF coverage grade. Have fun trying to keep up with Herbert throwing to Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and co. Yes, Los Angeles may be without center Corey Linsley and edge rusher Joey Bosa in this game- they are on the COVID-19 list. However, so is Texans receiver Brandin Cooks, who has been practically their entire source of offensive production this year! I’ll take the Chargers to win by double digits here.
BUF (+2.5) at NE
From a big favorite to an underdog, and back to the Bills once again!
This matchup, which will likely decide the AFC East, features the top-two teams in point differential. However, in a very tight matchup like this one, I am going to side with the team with explosive offense. The Bills have full confidence in their quarterback, Josh Allen, and thus are one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the NFL. The Patriots, on the other hand, rely on their rushing attack, making them very game script dependent.
The Patriots run a lot of man coverage on defense, which works to the benefit of Buffalo. Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis have generally performed very well against man coverage, and could be difference makers in this game. The Patriots, on the other hand, simply do not have the same amount of explosive playmakers to score points against a very difficult Bills defense
In a matchup between passing and running the football, I’ll always side with the former. The last time these two teams, the weather played a major role in favoring New England, and Buffalo was still in position to win. In better conditions this week, I expect the Bills to show themselves as the better team. I wish I was getting three points here, but with the confidence I have that Buffalo can win this game outright, I’ll still pick them as a 2.5-point underdog.
LAR (-3) at MIN
Remember when people were worried about the Rams after they lost two straight games to the 49ers and Packers? Times have changed. All of a sudden, Los Angeles has a strong chance of winning the NFC West, which is quite the turnaround from a few weeks ago.
What has changed? Matthew Stafford and the team’s passing attack is clicking on all cylinders. He’s averaged 8.5 yards/pass attempt over his past three games, while he’s had big-time throw rates of 8.8 and 9.1 over the past weeks, respectively. This is an explosive passing attack, and if you don’t have the secondary to slow them down, you’re in trouble.
Well, I guess the Vikings are in trouble. Their highest-graded cornerback, Cameron Dantzler, has a 63.7 PFF coverage grade this season. That is less than ideal. Without much of a pass rush either currently, I see little chance that the Vikings are able to slow down the Rams offense. On the other side of the ball, a bottom-six pass-blocking offensive line, per PFF, now has to face the defensive line with the highest PFF pass-rush grade in the NFL. This is just not a good matchup for Kirk Cousins and co., and the end result is likely a loss a lot uglier than just three points.
BUF (+8.5) at NE
GB (-1.5) vs CLE
Aaron Rodgers vs an injured Baker Mayfield. That’s all I have to say about teasing Green Bay down to 1.5 points, while teasing the Bills up to 8.5 points is a no-brainer given that I like them at (+2.5). With an underdog and a favorite, it’s the perfect, well-balanced teaser.
Parlay (Four Games and Eight Games)
LAC (-9.5) at HOU
BUF (+2.5) at NE
LAR (-3) at MIN
ARI (PK) vs IND
BAL at CIN (Over 44.5)
TB at CAR (Under 44)
TB (-10) at CAR
JAX at NYJ (Under 41.5)
I’m forcing myself to deliver an eight-game parlay, which is by far the worse option over the four-game parlay, which I’m going to delve into in focus. You know about the first three picks, but what about the Cardinals over the Colts? This opened as a five-point spread, but, now, it’s a pick-em; that’s quite the overreaction to one week of football. The quarterback mismatch between Carson Wentz and Kyler Murray is colossal, and Arizona is an offense better equipped to deal with zone-heavy defenses, which is exactly what the Colts are. I’ll buy the Cardinals at their lowest point, while fading Indianapolis at their highest point.
LAC at HOU
TB at CAR
I’ve already made my case for the Chargers, and the Bucs are a similar favorite. The Panthers have the league’s worst PFF graded pass-blocking offensive line, second-worst receiving corps, and second-worst passing grade; they plan to rotate Cam Newton and Sam Darnold this week. Explain to me how that is supposed to compete with Tom Brady and a Bucs team that will be looking to get back on track after an embarrassing primetime loss? This is a matchup between arguably the best offense and the worst offense, so they’re a strong pick as well.
Parting Bold Predictions
Justin Herbert Throws For Five Touchdowns
Josh Allen Throws For Over Twice As Many Yards as Mac Jones
Kirk Cousins Gets Sacked Five or More Times
(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)