NFL Week 16 Early Betting Picks, Trends: 2 Short Underdogs, 1 Favorite to Take Now
Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Colts RB Jonathan Taylor
Why write something when I can tweet it and then embed it in an article?
Week 15 was one of the weirdest of NFL action I can remember.
And we have four more games left.
I'm sure Week 16 will be totally normal.
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 20, 2021
With three weeks left, this season certainly feels like the longest in NFL history — because it is.
Although I’m not a trends bettor, I find that using the Action Labs database helps me identify spots I should consider further when analyzing games.
All lines are from the Action Network NFL Odds page.
Abbreviations: Against the spread (ATS), return on investment (ROI).
Colts +2 at Cardinals
- Kickoff: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
- TV: NFL Network
Carson Wentz doesn’t feel like the kind of quarterback who can lead a team to a title. He has passed for fewer than 200 yards in each of the Colts’ four most recent wins. In a statement-making 27-17 win over the Patriots in Week 15, he was just 5-of-12 passing for 57 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
But after starting out 1-4, the Colts are 7-2 over the past 10 weeks. Even though they are limited by Wentz, they have two significant factors in their favor in almost any matchup.
First, running back Jonathan Taylor can seemingly produce against any team he faces (NFL-high 1,854 yards and 19 touchdowns from scrimmage).
In a tough matchup on Saturday, he ended the Patriots’ comeback attempt (and my fantasy season) with a 67-yard sprint to the end zone.
Jonathan Taylor reached a top speed of 22.13 mph on his 67-yard game-clinching TD run, the fastest speed by a ball-carrier this season.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 19, 2021
Second, the Colts are No. 2 in defensive rush expected points added (EPA) per play (-0.141, per Ben Baldwin’s RBs Don’t Matter website). Against teams without a dominant passing attack, they can present significant defensive resistance.
The Cardinals looked like a team without a strong passing game in Week 15. In an embarrassing 30-12 loss to the Lions, quarterback Kyler Murray managed just 257-1-1 passing on 41 attempts, and since returning from injury in Week 13 he has averaged just 6.6 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A, vs. his pre-injury 9.0 AY/A from Weeks 1-8).
Murray looked helpless without No. 1 wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last week, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury has put his fake sharpness on full display over the past few weeks with his in-game decision making.
I think the Colts match up well with the Cardinals, and this is the exact spot to bet against Kliff Kingsbury.
Against Kingsbury, visitors are 13-9 ATS (13.8% ROI), and underdogs are 12-8 ATS (15.7% ROI). Road dogs? They are 9-4 ATS (32.9% ROI).
On average, Kingsbury has underperformed the spread by a margin of -6.9 points as a home favorite.
- Action: Colts +2 (-110) at DraftKings
- Limit: Pick’em (-110)
Bills +2 at Patriots
- Kickoff: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS
Defensively, the Bills and Patriots are comparable. The Bills are No. 2 in EPA per play (-0.104); the Patriots, No. 3 (-0.094).
Offensively, the Bills probably have the edge in that they have quarterback Josh Allen and the Patriots don’t. As much as I like rookie Mac Jones, who is No. 4 in composite EPA and completion percentage over expectation since Week 7 (0.131), he is still just a limited first-year player.
And the market has historically undervalued Allen in this spot. In the regular season, he is 17-8-2 ATS (28.7% ROI) on the road and 15-7-2 ATS (29.2% ROI) as an underdog. As a road dog, he is 9-3-2 ATS (38.7% ROI).
On average, Allen has outperformed the spread by a margin of +6.3 points as a road dog.
- Action: Bills +2 (-110) at PointsBet
- Limit: Pick’Em (-110)
Cowboys -10 at WFT
- Kickoff: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
- TV: NBC
It’s not as if the entirety of quarterback Dak Prescott’s career can be broken down to one split … but it kind of can.
Against his NFC East rivals, the Cowboys passer has overperformed. Against non-divisional opponents, Prescott has been less than mediocre.
- Prescott in Division: 21-8 ATS | 41.9% ROI
- Prescott Outside Division: 25-29-2 ATS | -9.2% ROI
On average, the Cowboys with Prescott have outperformed the spread by a margin of +5.2 points against the NFC East. They haven’t just beaten their division. They’ve dominated it.
The Football Team is beleaguered with COVID-19 issues and will be playing on short rest off their rescheduled Week 15 game (moved from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday night) — and they’ll be facing the No. 1 defense in EPA per play (-0.110).
Ten points is a lot to lay against a divisional opponent, but the Football Team could enter this game on death’s door, and the Cowboys are still in the running for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
I wouldn’t bet this past -10 — and it’s -10.5 at some sportsbooks — so I’m grabbing it now at a number I can live with.
- Action: Cowboys -10 at FanDuel
- Limit: -10 (-110)