NFL Week 16 Lookahead Picks: Bets for Lions vs Panthers, Packers vs Dolphins
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Rodgers.
Welcome back to The Lookahead.
While everyone else is busy betting on this weekend’s games, we continue to get out ahead with a pair of picks for next Sunday. It’s all about locking in that sweet closing line value (CLV) and gobbling up easy value before this week’s results move next week’s lines.
We continue to lock in important CLV ahead of games every week, often crossing key numbers. This week, we’re grabbing one division underdog and one big favorite with two lines set to move past key numbers.
I’ve already got your NFL Week 15 picks covered, so let’s look ahead and get some CLV for Week 16.
This one is really pretty simple — I just think the Lions are a lot better.
Everyone is feeling Carolina after its big win last week against Seattle, but that’s not looking quite as nice after Thursday Night Football, is it? Truthfully, it was not that great to start with, and being in “playoff contention” just because you’re in an awful division doesn’t make you good or competitive.
Carolina has a quality defense, but the numbers say it gets worse each quarter as the game goes on, and this is still Sam Darnold, D’Onta Foreman and Chubba Hubbard on offense. Running up the middle might work against a Seahawks team that can’t tackle, but I don’t expect it to work anywhere near as well against the Steelers (in Week 15) and that could jar folks back to their senses on this Panthers team.
While everyone’s fawning over Carolina’s alleged improvement that can’t be found in the numbers, the Lions have actually improved by leaps and bounds, particularly on defense. The season-long defensive numbers betray the Lions because they were really bad to start the season, but Detroit ranks 8th in defensive DVOA over the last six weeks.
This team found some defensive answers during the bye week, and the offense has had answers all year when healthy. That midseason swoon, it turns out, was mostly just the absence of big weapons — particularly Amon-Ra St. Brown, who’s become Detroit’s Cooper Kupp in terms of both usage and importance. In games with a healthy St. Brown, the Lions offense ranks top eight both running and passing and top five overall.
It turns out a top-five offense and a top-10 defense makes a pretty good team! Is it good enough to beat the Jets on the road this weekend? That remains to be seen. But this line could get past the key number even if Detroit loses if Carolina gets exposed, and if the Lions win too, it could balloon quickly as folks hop on the Lions bandwagon.
I backed the Lions for a big closing stretch a few weeks ago before the bandwagon formed, so let’s get ahead of the game and grab them a week early here, too.
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It seems everyone has forgotten about and moved on from the Packers for the season, but the truth is this team is much more average than bad. They’ve been so wildly disappointing from preseason expectations that we’ve collectively left this team for dead.
But the Packers are still alive in the playoff hunt — even more so after Seattle’s loss on Thursday blew the NFC further open — and I think they could remind us of that with a big, comfortable Lambeau win on Monday night in front of a national audience.
Green Bay is really bad at two things in particular.
The Packers are horrendous on special teams and against the run. Against some opponents, that’s a killer combo. But against Miami, it’s not really a problem. The Dolphins have the worst special teams unit in the NFL thus far; they also can’t and barely even try to run the ball.
What Green Bay can do is defend the pass. The Packers rank sixth defensively against the pass over the past six weeks, and Miami’s once-lethal passing attack has fallen to pieces over the last couple games. San Francisco laid the blueprint, jamming those speed receivers at the line and taking away the middle of the field.
It’s probably not going to get much better for Miami on the road Saturday night in Buffalo, where snow is expected. Tua Tagovailoa looks like he’s seeing ghosts; he is not finding his receivers and his sense of timing is completely off. If the Dolphins lay a third straight egg, belief in this team could fade quickly.
Even when the Dolphins win, they’re not always winning big. Four of their eight wins this season don’t cover this line anyway.
The truth is this has almost always been too many points to give Aaron Rodgers. As an underdog of over three points, Rodgers is 14-9 ATS (61%), and he’s covered eight of nine such games since 2019, winning seven of them outright. Matt LaFleur is also 12-4 ATS (75%) as an underdog, including 9-1 ATS as over a field goal dog.
If Green Bay piledrives an already buried Rams team and the Dolphins stink again in Buffalo, I don’t see any way this line stays above the key number. I’ll grab the points, and I also want a piece of the +172 moneyline.
I give Green Bay far better than that implied 36.8% chance to win and might pick them outright.