NFL Expert Picks: Ravens-Chargers, Patriots-Bills, More Week 16 Bets
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Russell Wilson
- The Action Network experts break down their favorite Week 16 NFL bets, including Ravens-Chargers and Chiefs-Seahawks.
- We've also got against-the-spread and over/under picks for Bills-Patriots, Packers-Jets and much more.
Week 16 is always one of the best regular NFL weekends of each season. And this year is no different, especially considering we have two primetime AFC showdowns with massive playoff implications on back-to-back-nights. And you just can’t beat late season meaningful Saturday NFL action.
Believe it or not, only two teams (Chargers, Chiefs) in the AFC have clinched a playoff spot headed into Week 16 — and they both are in a division that remains up for grabs. Not one single division title has been clinched in the AFC.
And while three teams in the NFC have clinched their divisions, there is still certainly plenty of postseason intrigue. The NFC East is still up for grabs, and the wild card race could still get very interesting — especially if the two leaders (Vikings, Seahawks) go down in games that are certainly no guarantee.
Our staff has angles on a number of those and other highly-anticipated Week 16 matchups, two of which we have a consensus on: Giants at Colts (-9.5) and Vikings at Lions (+6). And for even more in-depth analysis on Sunday’s slate, check out our betting guides for every single game.
Let’s get into our 15 favorite bets for Week 16, which can hopefully help you find a winner or two you otherwise wouldn’t have spotted. After a solid 9-5-1 week, our NFL staff picks now sit at 123-110-14 (52.8%) for the season.
Let’s make it five straight winning weekends as we get even closer to the NFL postseason. We will get things started with a side and total on Saturday night’s AFC showdown between the Ravens (+5) and Chargers.
>> All odds pulled on Dec. 21, so slight line variations are possible. Download The Action Network app to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets.
SATURDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Stuckey: Ravens +5 & Under 43.5
Saturday, 8:20 p.m. ET on NFLN
The Ravens offense has undergone a fascinating midseason transformation from one of the NFL’s worst rushing offenses to one of the most prolific ground games we have ever seen.
Since Jackson took over under center, the Ravens have run the ball 233 times for 1156 yards (4.96 yards per carry) in five games. That comes out to an average of 43.6 attempts per game, which is a single-season pace of 745.
Interestingly enough, that would break the single-season record held by the 1977 Raiders (681). It’s also a pace of 3,699 yards, which would also break the single season rushing yards record held by the 1978 Patriots (3,165)
- Week 11 vs. CIN: Jackson 26 for 119 (Team 53 for 267); 19 passes
- Week 12 vs. OAK: Jackson 11 for 71 (43 for 242); 25 passes
- Week 13 vs. ATL: Jackson 17 for 75 (49 for 207); 26 passes
- Week 14 vs. KC: Jackson 13 for 71 (39 for 198); 26 passes
- Week 15 vs. TB: Jackson 18 for 95 (49 for 242); 23 passes
It all starts with Jackson, who has rushed the ball 85 times for 431 yards (5.07). That’s a full season pace of 1,379 yards, which would shatter Michael Vick’s single-season QB rushing record of 1,039 yards in 2006.
As a result, the Ravens have had a stunning advantage in total plays over their opponents during that stretch.
- CIN: 75-54
- OAK: 69-56
- ATL: 77-45
- KC: 68-83
- TB: 74-47
Baltimore has averaged over 15 more plays per game than its opponents, which is almost Army-esque.
That said, the output is certainly not sustainable, as the Ravens have benefited from a five-game stretch seeing five of the worst run defenses in the NFL. However, I can say with full confidence the Ravens will at least keep up the rushing volume.
And they do get the benefit of playing another team that ranks in the bottom half of the league in rush defense DVOA (Chargers 18th).
You can run on the Chargers, especially up the middle. In fact, the Chargers don’t have a single interior defender ranked in the top 30 in run defense, per PFF — and Bosa/Ingram both rank outside the top 30 in run defense among edge defenders (min. 200 snaps).
Baltimore will run it 40-plus times and have more success doing so.
On the other side of the ball, while the Chargers had zero top-30 interior run defenders, all three of the Ravens starting down linemen in their 3-4 scheme rank in the top 30: Michael Pierce, Brandon Williams and Brent Urban.
Not many casual fans know the name Michael Pierce, but he has been dominant. PFF actually ranks him in the top 5 among overall interior linemen.
- Aaron Donald 95.1
- Fletcher Cox 92.3
- Damon Harrison 92.1
- Akiem Hicks 91.4
- Michael Pierce 90.9
Just look at that company.
The Ravens’ interior defense, in addition to Pro Bowlers up the middle in C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle, is a major reason why they rank in the top five in yards per rush (3.8). They can slow down Gordon, who’s less than 100%.
I also think the Ravens can get to Rivers … frequently. Za’Darius Smith, not Bosa or Ingram, is actually the highest-graded pass rusher (80.2) in this game, per PFF.
The Ravens can really take advantage of a vulnerable Chargers offensive line that ranks 28th in pass blocking, per PFF. The Ravens can specifically take advantage of guards Schofield and Feeney, who PFF ranks as the 74th and 98th best pass blocking guards, respectively. Even Mike Pouncey comes in at a below average 20th among centers.
And the most exploitable matchup will come against RT Sam Tevi, who PFF ranks dead last in pass blocking among all tackles at a grade of 44.5 (min. 500 snaps). Judon and Smith should live in the backfield on passing downs.
The Ravens will cover this game in the trenches on both sides of the ball — and with an advantage on special teams.
In regards to the total, I played the under at 45 — and still like it down to 43. The Ravens will stick to the run and it’s not like the they’ll be able to do much in the air against an excellent Chargers secondary.
The Ravens also have the personnel in the secondary to slow down the Chargers’ passing attack, especially with Allen hobbled. This is the second-overall defense DVOA (and second vs. pass) vs. the second-overall pass offense DVOA.
Lastly, the Chargers are a snail. LA is the slowest team in NFL, averaging a league-high 30.26 seconds per play. Expect Rivers to be fighting the play clock all game (which will also help the Ravens pass rush).
SUNDAY AFTERNOON ACTION
Sean Koerner: Lions +6 (vs. Vikings)
1 p.m. ET on FOX
I have this game being closer to +4 in my power ratings. The Vikings fired their offensive coordinator John DeFilippo after an embarrassing loss on Monday Night Football in Week 14. They felt that they needed to become more balanced and run the ball more.
Sure enough, in Week 15 they blew out the Dolphins with a season-high 220 rushing yards. They will likely go into Detroit with the same game plan, but could run into a wall.
That wall would be Damon “Snacks” Harrison, who the Lions acquired from the Giants in Week 8. Since then, the Lions have allowed 34 fewer rushing yards per game.
I think the Lions surprise here and keep it close. Take the points.
Peter Jennings: Lions +6 (vs. Vikings)
1 p.m. ET on FOX
I completely agree with Sean here.
This is simply too many points as a result of a market overreaction to last week’s results. The Lions aren’t playing for anything, but this is still a division game. Detroit makes Minnesota sweat this out.
Scott Miller: Packers-Jets Over 46.5
1 p.m. ET on FOX
The Jets have a reputation as a terrible offense — and in many cases, it’s well-deserved — but their recent output has been promising: 27 points at the Bills (No. 3 DVOA defense) and 22 points vs. the Texans (No. 7 defense).
The Packers are nowhere near that level of quality on the defensive end (24th in DVOA), which is one of the reasons this total has risen from 44 to 46.5.
In terms of Green Bay’s offense, I actually think Aaron Jones’ aforementioned injury might help this over hit. Without a reliable RB behind him, expect Rodgers to sling it early and often against the Jets.
And more passes means more chunk yardage gains and, when the incompletions inevitably occur, more clock stoppages.
New York’s defense is exactly middle-of-the-pack, per DVOA, but after digging into the numbers, I think that number is a little inflated. For one, the Jets have played the second-easiest offensive schedule.
And then there’s this: New York’s defense has seen its efficiency fall off as the season has worn on, ranking 25th in weighted DVOA defense, which puts more emphasis on recent performance.
With no weather- or pace-related red flags looming for this game, there are still a couple points of value left in betting the over here. I think this game gets into the 50s.
Chris Raybon: Bucs +7.5 (at Cowboys)
1 p.m. ET on FOX
With or without Amari Cooper, the Cowboys’ core offensive strength is still Ezekiel Elliott and the run game, but that brand of football isn’t conducive to blowing opponents out.
This season, for instance, the correlation of simple passing efficiency as measured by net yards per attempt is more than three times more correlated to average point differential (0.68 correlation coefficient) than simple rushing efficiency as measured by yards per carry (0.22).
Even since Cooper joined the team, Dallas’ net yards per attempt is 6.18, 17th in the league, and well behind Jameis Winston’s mark of 6.84 (10th). I’m in agreement here with our power ratings, which have this spread at Dallas -6.
Six of the Cowboys’ eight wins this season have come by seven points or fewer, meaning they’ve outscored an opponent by enough points to cover this spread just twice in 14 games.
Mark Gallant: Patriots -13 (vs. Bills)
1 p.m. ET on CBS
The Buffalo Bills could be in for a brutal beatdown in Foxborough this weekend. By now, most folks know that the Patriots generally cover after a loss.
Since 2003, they are 38-13 against the spread (ATS) following a loss, covering by more than seven points on average. However, most people probably don’t know how they bounce back following a poor offensive showing.
After games in which they’ve scored 10 points or fewer, the Pats are 11-0 straight up and 10-1 ATS, covering by over 14 points on average.
Collin Wilson: Bengals +9 (at Browns)
1 p.m. ET on CBS
In case you missed it, the entire Browns roster got revenge in a 35-20 victory in Week 12.
A closer examination of that game, which was lined at a pick’em, shows the Bengals out gained the Browns 372-342. Cincinnati was done in by 13 penalties for 96 yards, two turnovers, and allowing the Browns to score a touchdown in all five red zone attempts.
This is a great spot for the Bengals, who have still played hard the past two weeks, covering against the Chargers and Raiders.
The Bengals have covered seven of the past eight games in this series, and an adjustment of 5 points to the line over the span of four weeks is simply too much.
Matt LaMarca: Falcons -3 (at Panthers)
1 p.m. ET on FOX
The line movement makes it tempting to jump on the Panthers as a home dog. The Falcons have not been particularly good this season, and Heinicke can’t really play much worse than Newton has over the past three weeks (6.21 yards per attempt with six interceptions and just two passing touchdowns).
That said, targeting teams with a win percentage below 40% as road favorites has historically been a decent strategy. Those teams have compiled a 49-37-4 ATS record, good for a +10.1% return on investment.
The Falcons are also coming off one of their better performances of the year last week against the Cardinals, while motivation could be an issue for the Panthers.
They gave the Saints their best shot last week, but ultimately came up short. Don’t be surprised if they come out flat now that their season pretty much over and they’re playing on a short week.
Matthew Freedman: Colts -9.5
1 p.m. ET on CBS
Over the past two years, the Giants’ ability to score and move the ball through the air have been radically dependent on the presence of Beckham.
- With Beckham (16 games): 21.6 points, 25.4 completions, 1.56 passing touchdowns, 0.75 interceptions, 280.4 yards receiving
- Without Beckham (14 games): 14.8 points, 21.4 completions, 1.07 passing touchdowns, 0.86 interceptions, 213.4 yards receiving
If Beckham is out, the Giants could struggle to put up points. Rookie running back Saquon Barkley has had a great season, but the Colts are fourth in run-defense DVOA, and just last week they held a superior Cowboys team to zero points at Lucas Oil Stadium even though running back Ezekiel Elliott had 128 yards on 18 carries and seven receptions.
On the offensive side of the ball for the Colts, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has averaged 103.6 yards per game as a home favorite with quarterback Andrew Luck in the post-Reggie Wayne era (since 2015). And the Giants are dead last in the league in pass-defense DVOA against No. 1 wide receivers. Hilton has massive blow-up potential.
I don’t generally like laying a lot of points, but I think the motivated Colts should be double-digit favorites.
Ian Hartitz: Colts -9.5 (vs. Giants)
1 p.m. ET on CBS
I’m also laying it with the Colts here.
This matchup has the week’s fastest combined situation neutral pace, which doesn’t exactly bode well for the Giants as long as Odell Beckham Jr. (quad) remains sidelined.
- Giants with OBJ since 2014 (59 games): 22.6 PPG, 261 pass yards per game
- Without (19 games): 17.2 PPG, 211.5 pass yards per game
Also, the Giants defense hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt this season. As Matt mentioned, the Giants are going to have their hands full with the fantasy monster known as “Indoor TY.” Just look at the career production split differential for Hilton:
- Indoors (68 games): 5.1 receptions, 85.4 yards, 0.47 TDs, 38% games with 100+ yards
- Outdoors (44 games): 4.2 receptions, 61.2 yards, 0.23 TDs, 20% games with 100+ yards
And finally, the Colts offensive line boasts the week’s seventh-best advantage in combined adjusted line yards per rush against a Giants defense that has allowed 143 rushing yards per game since trading Damon Harrison to the Lions.
The Colts’ strong rushing performance last week vs. the Cowboys coincided with the return of starting center Ryan Kelly, who was sidelined with a knee injury from Weeks 12-14. Marlon Mack has averaged 5.04 yards per carry in seven games with Pro Football Focus’ No. 7 overall center compared to just 3.91 in three games without Kelly this season.
The Giants don’t belong under the same dome as the Colts. Give me Cpt. Andy Luck and company.
Ken Barkley: 49ers +4 (vs. Bears)
4:25 p.m. ET on FOX
After cashing with the Panthers Monday night (somehow), I am hoping to provide a pick that won’t need a crazy touchback rule to get to the window.
Let’s go with a fade of the team that won its division last week in dramatic fashion — the Chicago Bears — that now travel across the country to play the 49ers in a game that seemingly won’t mean as much.
Yes, it’s the typical “letdown spot,” but there’s also a lot to like about the Niners’ recent play.
After winning two straight, the Niners will play their third straight home game. It’s just a mix of a bad team playing well to close the season facing a good team in a horrible situation after an enormous win last week.
And you’re getting 4! Merry Christmas.
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
John Ewing: Seahawks +2.5 (vs. Chiefs)
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC
The Seahawks are 8-6 but have outscored opponents by 71 points, which is the same point differential as the 10-4 Texans. By Pythagorean plus/minus, the Seahawks are underperforming, and it’s been profitable to bet on such teams late in the season.
Since 2003, teams with a winning record and a positive Pythagorean plus/minus have gone 176-139-18 (56%) ATS in December or later.
The Action Network Power Rankings (Seahawks +0.5) and NFL simulations (Seahawks -1.4) also suggest there’s value betting on Wilson and Co. as home dogs.
Evan Abrams: Mahomes Under 2.5 Pass TDs (-110)
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC
Patrick Mahomes has thrown 45 passing touchdowns so far this season — 11 more than any other player (Andrew Luck, 34). Over his last two games, Mahomes has thrown exactly two touchdowns against the Ravens and Chargers, who have two of the better pass defenses in the league. I also realize I am going against a QB who has thrown 28 passing touchdowns in seven road games this year, but I still feel the under holds value for a few reasons.
- Under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have allowed more than two passing touchdowns at home in only 9% of their games.
- In 30 home games in December or later under Carroll, only one quarterback has ever thrown more than two passing touchdowns against Seattle: Matt Ryan in 2010.
- Since 2011, the Seahawks have allowed more than two passing touchdowns at home just four times in 67 games.
- Seattle hasn’t allowed more than two passing touchdowns in 11 straight home games.
The Seahawks don’t have the best pass defense this season, ranking just 19th both overall and against the pass DVOA. Yet, they have allowed fewer than 21 points in exactly seven of 14 home games over the past two seasons.
It also doesn’t hurt that wind and rain are expected at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Travis Reed: Broncos -2.5 (at Raiders)
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
The Raiders took down the Steelers two weeks ago and the betting market has given them some credit since that win. While the upset over Pittsburgh was impressive, it was one game. Oakland is still a terrible football team; maybe the worst in the league.
Divisional game, home dog and any potential trend can be thrown out the window in my opinion for this game. The Bet Labs model has the Broncos favored by 5.5 in this game and I’m still able to get under the key number of three. Sign me up.
Editor’s note: The opinions on these games are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.