Week 16 of the NFL season gets underway with a Sunday morning (AEDT) triple header of games with huge playoff implications.
Houston and New England can clinch their respective divisions in their games while the 49ers and Rams both have plenty on the line when they face off in the final one of the day.
There’s plenty more on the line as the action continues with the NFC East and NFC North both in position to be clinched as well, with last season’s NFC Champion Rams facing elimination.
We’ve got previews and betting plays for every game right here, so check out who we are backing.
The Texans travel to Tampa looking to secure back to back AFC South titles and their fourth in the last five years. To do that they need to get past one of the league’s more intriguing quarterbacks in Jameis Winston who is going to have to get by without his top two receivers. Bruce Arians system should allow the Buccaneers to keep this one close but with his penchant for turnovers, even the mediocre Texans defence should be able to force enough to keep them in front and take all the intrigue out of their Week 17 clash with the Titans.
New England is looking for its 11th straight AFC East title but they have been kept on their toes by a feisty Buffalo Bills outfit that is on the verge of just their second playoff berth since 1999. Sean McDermott knows how to get after Tom Brady and cause headaches so this should be a very low scoring affair. In Week 4 it was New England scraping home 16-10 and a similar scoreline looks like the play here. That being said, Brady and Belichick don’t lose meaningful games to the Bills and given they need this game not just for the hats and t-shirts, but to keep their edge in the race for the first-round bye alive. For some extra value, I’ll also back New England’s rookie receiver N’Keal Harry to continue his progression after an impressive touchdown grab last week against the Bengals and find the end zone again as they try to get him ready for the playoffs.
The Rams are holding on for dear life in the playoff picture, needing to win out and hope the Vikings lose out. Unfortunately for them, the 49ers won’t be interested in doing any favours as they still try and edge out the Seahawks for the NFC West title. After ceding the lead in an unlikely loss to the Falcons last week, and taking into account the Rams no-show in Dallas, I have to back the 49ers to respond and pick up a decent win here.
Some games this weekend are huge, others… well I guess could be huge for April? Washington and the Giants are jostling for playoff position and not much else. The Redskins have been decent since bringing in Dwayne Haskins which is enough to scare me off automatically backing the Giants. Instead I’ll back Giants receiver Darius Slayton to continue his good run and score a touchdown for the third straight game. In part because if it hits early on, I won’t have to even pay attention if this comes on Red Zone later in the morning.
Despite last weekend’s disappointment going down to Buffalo, the Steelers can still control their playoff destiny and the Jets are the perfect opponent to get them a step closer to securing that Wild Card berth. You can’t fault the way their defence has performed all season, holding their last four opponents under 20 points and the Jets look like they’re ready to pack it in and just enjoy the holiday season. I’m expecting the Jets to be held to something in the single digits which will make life a whole lot easier on their limited offence that can operate from a position of strength in the whole game. If any points get scored here, it will probably be by the Steelers.
Pittsburgh’s main rival for that AFC 6th seed has a really tough ask with the Saints coming to town, although it’s not by any stretch of the imagination automatic that the visitors will just cruise here. For starters, they are on a short week after destroying the Colts on Monday Night Football, and it’s Drew Brees’ first full outdoor start of the season (he was injured early against the Rams). Since his return, every start has been in warm weather or indoors and we all know that as good as Brees is, there’s a drop off between indoor Brees and in the elements Brees. He will still have no trouble getting the ball to his receivers and moving it up and down but the Titans have to like their chances of creating a couple of turnovers. Tennessee will be able to move the ball against an up and down Saints defence and the entire Titans team will be desperately hoping they can win this game and keep their playoff hopes alive. Because of that, I’ll back the over as the teams trade scores all afternoon.
The Falcons have actually looked competitive these last couple of weeks. Unfortunately it’s come a few weeks too late for a playoff push but early enough to screw up their draft position. If nothing else these guys are putting together some pretty solid resumes for wherever they wind up after the offseason clear out so give them credit for that I guess.
It’s another one of those dead rubber matches with both teams eliminated from playoff contention. Perhaps the only meaningful storyline to follow in this game is if you play fantasy and need a big game from Christian McCaffery. Both of these sides have been pretty good overs bets this season and while there’s a chance they have both packed it in already, I’m expecting points.
Mathematically the Browns can still make the playoffs… stop laughing. Back in the real world though this game is all about Baltimore and the team’s quest for the number one seed. Cleveland was one of two sides to beat the Ravens this year in a game that still has pretty much everyone scratching their heads wondering how. This is all set up for a Ravens revenge game and I’m expecting them to seal the number one seed in emphatic fashion. I would also love to have a bet on one of the Browns receivers doing something stupid on the sideline like getting into an argument with a head coach but that would be way too short to make it worthwhile.
Despite their best efforts earlier this season, the Dolphins have found a way to be competitive over the last few weeks. Sure the talent is somewhat limited but Brian Flores has managed to convince them they have a chance, even if they don’t. Cincinnati on the other hand can clinch the top overall pick in April’s draft with a loss here so what reason do they have to go all out, aside from trying to keep the team from finding an upgrade this offseason. Miami should win this, so back that.
In early November the Chargers went to Oakland as favourites only to be upset by an at the time surging Raiders team. Things have changed quite a bit since then as injuries halted Oakland’s momentum and they appear to have raised the white flag on their playoff push. No Josh Jacobs, no Trent Brown and no… well a whole lot of other people as well. Those injuries are just too much for Oakland so it’s going to be a case of backing against them rather than placing full faith in the Chargers.
Another dead rubber here so we won’t spend too much time on it. But aside from a poor performance against a playoff bound Chiefs, the Broncos haven’t looked too bad since turning to Drew Lock. I like them to win a low scoring encounter in a very close battle.
The NFC’s current top seed hosts division rival Arizona in a game that promises plenty of points. Arizona has given up 21 or more points in every game this season and over 30 on six occasions while the Seahawks just keep rolling with the ball. After putting 30 up on Carolina last weekend, this should be a great chance for the Seahawks to build some confidence ahead of a huge game against the 49ers next week.
The NFC East title could be decided here as Dallas heads to Philadelphia looking to give themselves an early Christmas present. History is very much in their favour with the Cowboys winning their last four games against the Eagles including a 37-10 demolition in October and they ae coming off a big win over the Rams last week. Neither team has been overly impressive this season but I have to back Dallas on the basis that, while they haven’t looked good a whole lot this year, they have not looked as objectively bad as the Eagles have at times.
The Bears are done in terms of playoff hopes and perhaps the biggest favour the Chiefs can do is to give Mitch/Mitchell Trubisky a night to forget so Chicago doesn’t think he’s still a viable option. For the Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes is still not anywhere near 100%, yet managed to disembowel the Broncos defence in the snow last week. It will be cold in Illinois but dry so I like the Chiefs track team to get them off to a fast start and then keep the clock moving in the second half.
*LATE CHANGE WITH DALVIN COOK OUT*
Full disclosure, originally I had backed the Vikings to win a close game but with the development that Dalvin Cook is going to miss this game and a big injury cloud hanging over his backup Alexander Mattison, it’s worth the late change.
Minnesota can still steal the NFC North but the Packers have their eyes on a much greater prize in a first round bye. With Cook set to miss this game, the Packers suddenly become a much better value play. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing in Minneapolis for Aaron Rodgers though, his last win away to the Vikings came in 2015, but this Vikings defence can be thrown on. I’ll take the Packers in an upset to make for an intriguing final weekend of action for them as they jostle with the Saints, 49ers and Seahawks for the top spot in the Conference.