NFL Week 16 Expert Bets: Picks for Commanders vs 49ers, More
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. Pictured: Taylor Heinicke.
NFL Odds & Picks
Sean Koerner: In a week of ugly weather, this game will likely have the worst of it.
Temperatures will be freezing and there could be some snow, but more importantly, this game will likely see 25-30 mph winds with gusts up to 50 mph. It’s going to be incredibly difficult to throw the ball down field and we will likely see a run heavy game plan from both teams.
The Browns offense has struggled since Deshaun Watson’s return in Week 13 — they’ve only scored two offensive touchdowns in those three games. Their run game has been uncharacteristically below average as well, only averaging 4.0 yards per rush (22nd) over that span.
Nick Chubb was unable to practice Tuesday and Wednesday due to a foot issue, and while he was removed from the injury report, I have to wonder if it’s something that has been or could limit him going forward.
The Saints defense has been playing well of late, allowing the fewest yards per play (4.7) over the last four weeks. While they did face below average offenses over that stretch, they are a unit that has underachieved all season and could be rounding into form late.
On offense, New Orleans will be without Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry.
While Olave’s absence is a massive blow, it might not matter as much given the game conditions. In fact, I think the Saints could have the edge when it comes to an extreme run heavy game plan. They have a secret weapon at their disposal: Taysom Hill.
I expect the Saints to expand their “Taysom Hill package” and would not be surprised if they end up using him under center for most of the game. It would give them a significant advantage in a game it might be difficult to throw the ball 15-20 yards down field.
Not only do they have a talented running back in Alvin Kamara, but they have one of the most underrated players in the league right now in Rashid Shaheed. Shaheed has become a dynamic down-field threat, but his first NFL touch was actually a 44-yard touchdown on a designed run. I could see the Saints coming up with creative ways to get him the ball around the line of scrimmage.
The Browns have struggled to stop the run all season, ranking bottom three in DVOA, EPA per rush, success rate allowed; the Saints, meanwhile have been more middle of the pack.
With the inclement weather, the Saints end up having a net advantage when it comes to a run-heavy game plan and like getting them at a key number of 3 in the lowest totaled game in 10-plus years.
Sean Koerner: This is one of the few outdoor games that won’t be impacted by inclement weather, but everything about this matchup sets up for a low scoring game.
I think the best way to illustrate this is to show how each team ranks in a few key stats …
Early down rush rate (neutral situations)
Rush Defense DVOA
Yards allowed per drive
49ers (3rd lowest)
Situation neutral pace
We have two run-heavy teams, who play at a slow pace, and are good at stopping the run. So while we won’t see weather impact this game, this really is the perfect storm for the under.
I’m projecting it closer to 36.5, and since 37 is a pretty key number for totals, I like that we are getting 37.5.
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