NFL Odds & Picks: The Week 16 Spreads & Totals Our Staff Bet Right Away
Sean Gardner/Getty Images. Pictured: Kirk Cousins, Drew Brees
Week 16 features the final island games of the NFL season — and our staff has keyed in on three of them with their early-week picks.
Find out why the Bills-Patriots spread as well as the Vikings-Saints and Titans-Packers totals are among the best they’ve already made.
NFL Odds & Picks
Vikings at Saints
Raheem Palmer: The Saints scored 29 points against the Chiefs last week, but I’m not sure there’s been a more misleading box score.
Drew Brees is a shell of his former self. He started the game 0-for-6 with a sack and an interception, then finished the game completing 15-of-34 passes for 234 yards. While he did pass for three touchdowns, one of them came off a turnover that gave the Saints a short field and the other was in garbage time after the game was all but decided.
With the decline in Brees’ arm strength, he ranks just 35th among NFL quarterbacks in air yards (5.7), so this offense isn’t particularly explosive — it’s built on timing and accuracy, both of which Brees lacks after missing a month with 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung. And while the cupboard of receiving threats isn’t completely bare with All Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas out for the rest of the season — there’s still Alvin Kamara out of the back field, wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Tre’Quan Smith as well as tight end Jared Cook — Brees will be without his best weapon to stretch the field.
On the other side of the ball, the Saints have one of the best defenses in the league. They’re holding opponents to only 3.8 yards per carry with a 43% rushing success rate, third in the NFL. And what does a Mike Zimmer-led offense want to do? Run the ball — the Vikings are fourth in run vs. pass ratio (47% run vs. 53% pass).
Last week’s game against the Bears was particularly frustrating as a football fan with the Vikings electing to go with a run-heavy approach despite how effective the pass was. They ran 25 times for 4.7 yards per carry and an expected points added (EPA) per play of -0.12, while passing 42 times for 6.6 yards per play and an EPA/play of 0.16. The Vikings have quite possibly the greatest rookie wide receiver since Randy Moss in Justin Jefferson as well as the always reliable Adam Thielen, and yet they insist on running an offense straight out of the 1970s.
The Vikings are 26th in adjusted sack rate (per Football Outsiders) and now face a Saints defense that’s sixth in sacks (40) and eighth in pressure rate (23.5%). Kirk Cousins was sacked six times in the Vikings’ loss against the Buccaneers in Week 14 — we could see a similar result on Friday.
The Vikings are 11th in offensive efficiency, but we’ve seen their scoring suffer against higher tier defenses like the Buccaneers, Colts and the healthy version of the Bears in Week 10.
The pace of this game could also lend itself to a lower offensive output. The Saints are actually 31st in offensive pace at 29.23 seconds snap-to-snap while the Vikings are 24th at 28.23 seconds snap-to-snap.
When the Vikings beat the Saints 26-20 in overtime of their 2019 playoff meeting, Brees struggled, completing 26-of-33 passes for 208 yards with one touchdown and one interception. And while the Vikings certainly don’t have the same defense as last season, Zimmer is still among the NFL’s top defensive minds, and Brees in his current form without Thomas isn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard.
This total is a point or two high, so I’m going to bet the under at 52.
Falcons at Chiefs
Michael Arinze: I cashed a ticket on the Chiefs as an early bet last week, and I’ll be looking to fade them this week.
The Chiefs have the luxury of having Superman — or rather Patrick Mahomes — as their quarterback. As a result, they seem to never be out of a game. I wouldn’t call it hubris, but rather a team fully brimming with confidence. The Chiefs do what is necessary to win football games, but they don’t often win by margin.
The Chiefs are 13-1 but only 7-7 against the spread. In fact, last week was the first time they covered the spread over their last six games. This week they’ll face a Falcons team that’s shown a willingness to be competitive since firing Dan Quinn: Under interim head coach Raheem Morris, they’ve managed to pick up four wins following an 0-5 start under Quinn.
Atlanta has made strides defensively as Football Outsiders has moved the team’s ranking up to 12th in defensive DVOA. This looks like a decent spot to fade the Chiefs as they could have a letdown after their highly-anticipated matchup against the Saints last week.
If you fade double-digit favorites in the NFL chances are you’re doing pretty well: Our Bet Labs database shows that dogs are up +17.7 units in this very spot. That’s enough for me to grab the Falcons at +10.5 — I would play this number down to 10.
Titans at Packers
Brandon Anderson: This feels like one of those college games when you know both teams are going to score a ton of points, then watch helplessly as what seems like an already impossibly high line early in the week get bet up a few more points anyway.
In many ways, the Packers and Titans are mirror images of each other: Both have elite offenses, ranking in the top three of DVOA. And yes, you are correct to assume that the Chiefs are the other top-three team, which means that in some ways, the Packers and Titans offenses are on par with what Patrick Mahomes is doing every week.
Both have quarterbacks who control the game, dial up the deep ball and have outstanding stats over the past couple seasons. Both have terrific run games, with Aaron Jones and Derrick Henry among the best backs in the NFL. Davante Adams and A.J. Brown are amazing No. 1 receiver options. And both offensive lines are good.
There’s a reason these offenses rate so highly. The Packers are averaging 31.0 points per game and have scored 30 or more in 10-of-14 games. The Titans rank first at 31.1 points per game and have scored 30 or more in 9-of-14 games.
As high as this total is, Tennessee games have gone over this numbers in seven games already this season. Green Bay games have gone over 55 in half of its games, too. Let’s just say that you’re going to want to start all your Titans and Packers in your fantasy championship.
There’s another reason these offenses have scored so many points: Because they have to. Tennessee’s defense has been terrible, and Green Bay’s has been much better. Both teams have terrible special teams, too. This shapes up to be a game in which the punters can stay at home — every possession will be a possible score, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see these teams cross 55.5 points by the end of the third quarter.
The Packers are playing for the NFC’s 1-seed while the Titans are still looking to lock up the AFC South and a home game, so both teams will go all out. We’ve got a good one this Sunday night, and barring some ugly weather in Green Bay, we should see a shootout and a line that rises toward 60 as the week goes on. Grab the over before it gets there.
Bills at Patriots
Matthew Freedman: The Bills are 9-5 against the spread (ATS) for a 24.8% Return On Investment (ROI) this season, and they clinched the AFC East thanks to their dominant 48-19 road win over the Broncos in Week 15.
And now, in the words of my freshman psychology professor, “It’s time to kill the father.”
The Bills go on the road to face the Pats for the second time this season, and I am amazed this line isn’t significantly higher.
Buffalo is better than the Patriots in all areas of the game, and being on the road is not a major impediment at all — Josh Allen is 12-5-2 ATS (32% ROI) on the road in the regular season for his career.
As for the Patriots, they are 6-8 ATS this season. And against teams with an ATS win percentage of at least 55%, the Patriots are 1-5 ATS.
The Patriots are no longer the Patriots. I would bet the Bills to -7 (-110).