Setting the stage for the final week of the NFL regular season
NFL favorites posted a 10th consecutive winning Sunday, finishing 6-5-1 against the closing number. Over the past 10 Sundays, favorites have hit at a combined clip of 72-41-7 ATS (63.7%). Three of the five underdogs that got to the window did win outright: Seahawks +4.5, 49ers +4 and Bengals +3.
Home teams and unders dominated the day, as the former finished 9-2-1 against the spread, while nine of the 12 games stayed under the closing total. In fact, after both unders cashed in Monday’s games, unders finished 13-3 overall in Week 16. Only three of the 12 games played on Sunday finished with a final margin of seven or fewer points.
The two Pennsylvania teams clinched playoff berths before any other teams in the NFL this season, and both came away victorious on Monday. However, both have serious question marks on both sides of the ball.
Pittsburgh’s offense will need a healthy Antonio Brown to make a deep run, and their defense will need to somehow find a way to compensate for the loss of Ryan Shazier. After allowing Alfred Blue and Lamar Miller to rush for a combined 163 yards on 26 carries (6.3 ypa), the Steelers have now allowed their last three opponents to run for 407 yards on just 72 carries (5.6 ypa) since placing Ryan Shazier on IR.
In other news, did you see that DeAndre Hopkins catch? Silly.
In regards to the other Pennsylvania team across the turnpike, the secondary still has questions to answer moving forward, and we all saw the importance of Carson Wentz on third downs last night. Philadelphia came into this week ranked second in the NFL in third down conversion rate (45.37%), primarily due to Wentz’s creativity, accuracy and pocket presence. Last night, Nick Foles played the entire game without converting a single third down. The Eagles’ lone third down conversion out of 14 attempts came on a Corey Clement run. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott came up clutch in the end, but he also missed another chip shot.
Lastly, thoughts and prayers if you bet Oakland +8.5. They truly need to ban laterals at the end of games. At least Doug Peterson didn’t kick the extra point, which would have ruined Christmas for a few more out there.
As we get ready for the final week of the NFL regular season, the following five games will have zero playoff implications:
- Texans at Colts -3.5
- Packers at Lions -7.5
- Chiefs at Broncos -3.5
- Redskins at Giants +3.5
- Cowboys at Eagles N/A
Let’s now take a look at the updated playoff picture for both conferences in order to set the stage for the other 11 games that involve at least one team with some form of postseason motivation.
AFC Playoff Picture
- Patriots (12-3)
- Steelers (12-3)
- Jaguars (10-5)
- Chiefs (9-6)
- Ravens (9-6)
- Titans (8-7)
Still Hopeful: Chargers (8-7), Bills (8-7)
Eliminated: Raiders (6-9), Dolphins (6-9), Bengals (6-9), Jets (5-10), Broncos (5-10), Texans (4-11), Colts (3-12), Browns (0-15)
- Since we already know each of the four AFC division winners, the first four spots in the AFC will remain static unless the Jets (+16.5) upset the AFC East Champion Patriots this Sunday. As long as New England holds serve at home, the path to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through Foxborough.
- The AFC North Champion Steelers, who locked up a first-round bye after Monday’s win in Houston, can only finish as the number one seed with a home win against the Browns (+16.5), and a Patriots loss.
- Despite a loss in San Francisco, Jacksonville clinched the division after Tennessee lost at home to the Rams. The AFC South Champion Jaguars also clinched the 3 seed in the AFC, which means they will host a playoff game for the first time since 1999. If they lose to the Titans for the second time this season on Sunday, they will meet for a third time in Jacksonville next weekend (unless the Ravens lose).
- The AFC West Champion Chiefs will travel to Denver this week for a meaningless divisional game, since they have already locked in the four seed. Kansas City will host either the Ravens, Bills or Titans next weekend (the Chargers can only get in as the six seed).
- Both the Ravens and Titans control their own destiny in Week 17 home games against teams not playing for anything other than the role of potential spoiler. The Ravens will host a Bengals team that they defeated 20-0 earlier in the season, and the Titans will host a Jaguars team that they defeated by 21 points earlier in the season. Baltimore will also make the playoffs with a loss to Cincinnati (+10) if either the Bills (-3) lose or tie at Miami and/or the Titans lose or tie against the Jaguars. Tennessee can only get in with a loss (or tie) if the Bills and Chargers also both lose (or tie).
- The Bills currently sit on the outside looking in, but they do still have a chance. Buffalo’s easiest path involves a win at Miami and a Ravens loss. A less likely path would include a win at Miami plus losses (or ties) by both the Chargers and Titans. Similar to Buffalo, the Chargers need help to get into the postseason. Los Angeles’ only path includes defeating Oakland (+7), hoping Tennessee loses (or ties) to Jacksonville, and then either getting a Ravens win/tie or Bills loss/tie.
NFC Playoff Picture
- Eagles (13-2)
- Vikings (12-3)
- Rams (11-4)
- Saints (11-4)
- Panthers (11-4)
- Falcons (9-6)
Still Hopeful: Seahawks (9-6)
Eliminated: Cowboys (8-7), Lions (8-7), Packers (7-8), Redskins (7-8), Cardinals (7-8), Bears (5-10), 49ers (5-10), Buccaneers (4-11), Giants (2-13)
- We do know five of the six NFC playoff teams headed into the final week of the regular season, but only Philadelphia knows their seed with full certainty, as the NFC East Champion Eagles clinched the number one seed with Monday’s victory over the Raiders. Only three of the four divisions have crowned winners through the end of Week 16.
- The NFC North Champion Vikings still have not wrapped up a first-round bye, but they can do so with a home victory or tie against the Bears (+12.5) and/or by getting a win from at least one of the Saints (-7.5), Falcons (-4) or Rams (-4). Minnesota can only drop out of the two seed by finishing in a two-way tie with the Panthers.
- If the NFC West Champion Rams defeat the 49ers (+4) at home on Sunday, they will finish as the number three seed and host either the Falcons or Seahawks in the first round. Los Angeles has no path to a first-round bye, but could potentially drop down a seed with a home loss and a Saints road win.
- The Saints sit in the driver’s seat of the NFC South, since they swept the season series with Carolina. New Orleans will clinch the division, the four seed and a home playoff game against the Panthers with a road victory in Tampa Bay (+7.5) and/or a Carolina road loss in Atlanta (or with a tie and Panthers tie). The Saints do not have a path to a first-round bye, but could move up to the three seed with a win and a Rams loss.
- If the season ended today, the Panthers would head to New Orleans in the first round, but Carolina can actually finish anywhere between the second and fifth seed. In order to win the division and host the Saints in the first round as the four seed, Carolina needs a win and a Saints loss. If they also get a Rams loss, they will move up to the three seed, and they could even finish as the two seed with a win and losses by the Saints, Rams, and Vikings.
- The Falcons know they are in with a win over Carolina and/or a Seattle loss (or if both tie). The Seahawks must defeat the Cardinals (+7.5) in Seattle, and hope Carolina (+4) takes down (or ties) the Falcons. According to this New York Times simulator, the Seahawks have a 28 percent chance of grabbing the six seed.
Key Week 16 Injuries:
Bengals RB Joe Mixon – Ankle (?)
Bengals LB Jordan Evans – Concussion (?)
Bengals S Shawn Williams – Concussion (?)
Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict – Shoulder (?)
Chargers S Adrian Phillips – Ankle (?)
Cowboys LT Tyron Smith – Knee (?)
Cowboys DT Maliek Collins – Knee (?)
Giants S Landon Collins – Forearm (OUT)
Giants WR Sterling Shepard – Neck (?)
Giants TE Evan Engram – Ribs (?)
Jaguars LT Cam Robinson – Abdominal (?)
Jets RT Brandon Shell – Concussion (?)
Jets DE Leonard Williams – Back (?)
Lions CB Nevin Lawson – Concussion (?)
Packers WR Jordy Nelson – Shoulder (?)
Packers RB Aaron Jones – Knee (?)
Packers TE Richard Rodgers – Shoulder (?)
Rams LG Rodger Saffold – Ribs (?)
Redskins DT Ziggy Hood – Elbow (?)
Saints LT Terron Armstead – Thigh (?)
Titans RB DeMarco Murray – Knee (Doubtful)