NFL Week 16 Predictions: Best Picks Against Spread

NFL Week 16 Predictions: Best Picks Against Spread article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Lamar Jackson.

Every week during the 2023-24 NFL season, I'll be sharing my favorite picks against the spread (ATS) and betting card for every Sunday slate in my NFL predictions and picks.

For reference, my season-long sides record in this file sits at 33-15 (68.75%) for +16.45 units after last Sunday's sweep.

For my expert picks against the spread in Week 16, I'm targeting one bet per day on Saturday, Sunday and Monday across this lovely holiday weekend of NFL action.

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Saturday, Dec. 23
8:00 p.m. ET
Chargers +12.5 (Play to +11.5)

This is your weekly buy low, sell high spot of the week.

A few times per season, I will have a bet that is almost entirely based off a situational spot, assuming I also show line value. This fits that bill.

The Chargers check all of the boxes here after losing 63-21 to the Raiders, which led to the firings of head coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco. Historically, teams have seen a slight bump the week after moving on from their coach within a season, which may be even more of a factor in this particular scenario as it looked as if L.A. may have quit on Staley last Thursday. The new staff may also switch some things up, adding an element of surprise that Buffalo won't have on film.

While the Chargers will benefit from extra rest and preparation, Buffalo must head across the country on a short week after its third straight massive game following contests against the Eagles, Chiefs and Cowboys. Not only does that rest advantage mean more late in the season, I could see the Bills coming out a bit flat.

Ultimately, I'm selling high on the Bills, who have suddenly became everybody's Super Bowl sleeper just one month after those same people wrote them off. I'm also buying the Chargers after getting absolutely embarrassed by Las Vegas. These are still professional athletes with pride. I'd expect to get their best effort under interim coach Giff Smith.

Generally speaking, teams are never as bad or as good as they may appear on a week-to-week basis in the NFL after outlier results. To wit, teams that lost by 35-plus points the previous week have gone 75-44-6 (63%) ATS over the last 20 years, covering by 2.5 PPG.

When underdogs, that ATS record improves to 58-29-5 (66.7%), including a gaudy 17-3 (85%) ATS mark when catching more than 10 points, covering by 9.7 points per game, including 16-1 after the month of September. Additionally, teams who allowed 50-plus points the previous game have covered at a 60% clip the following week (65% at home).

I won't sit here and pretend to wax poetic about Easton Stick — or really any part of this Chargers team — but I think this line is a too inflated in a superb situational spot.

Trending: Over the last 20 seasons, double-digit home underdogs have gone 73-53-1 ATS (57.9%).

Pick: Chargers +12.5 (Play to +11.5)

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Sunday, Dec. 24
1:00 p.m. ET
Falcons -1

Let's roll with the Dirty Birds at home in another buy low, sell high spot.

I'm simply just not a believer in the Colts, who are a major regression candidate in the final weeks of the regular season.

Let's just take a look at what the Colts have done since Oct. 1. They have gone 6-5 over that span with five losses against the Rams, Jaguars, Browns (with P.J. Walker), Bengals (with Jake Browning) and Saints. None of those opponents would qualify as elite, but I wouldn't classify any as bad losses, per se.

Over that same time frame, they have six wins, which have come against the Titans twice (once in overtime), Panthers, Patriots, Bucs and Steelers thanks in large part to a +8 turnover margin against six teams that may all miss the playoffs — three of which have quarterbacks that have since been benched. Color me not impressed with a team that has gone 5-2 in one-possession games with the second-most takeaways (24) in the league across a very favorable schedule.

I have a ton of respect for head coach Shane Steichen, who the Eagles clearly miss from a play-calling perspective. He's gotten the most out of this group, but the Garnder Minshew mistakes are looming. On the season, he has thrown for 14 touchdowns to eight interceptions despite only making 12 Big-Time Throws to 21 Turnover-Worthy Plays, according to PFF.

Indy also is dealing with a number of key injuries on this side of the ball at right tackle and across its skill positions. Even kicker Matt Gay, who has struggled of late, missed practice on Wednesday with a hip injury.

Plus, teams can't really run on Atlanta, which ranks second in EPA per Rush and ninth in Rush Success Rate. As a result, the Colts will have to lean on the arm of Minshew, which could lead to some overdue costly mistakes.

While I'm selling the Colts at what I believe is the top of their market value, I'm also buying the Falcons after a terrible loss to the Panthers. Keep in mind that came in the final seconds in horrendous weather conditions without a trio of critical pieces in the trenches. Hopefully, right guard Chris Lindstrom, right tackle Kaleb McGary and defensive tackle David Onyemata can return as they were at least close to playing last Sunday.

Atlanta has gone 2-5 over its last seven games. However, unlike the Colts, the Falcons have simply come up on the short end of the stick countless times in close games. They've gone 1-5 in contests decided by five or fewer points over that stretch with losses by five, three (final minute TD), two (last-second FG), four (last-minute TD) and two (last-second FG). That's five losses by a combined 16 points — four of which came on a last-minute go-ahead score.

I'm admittedly not a fan of what head coach Arthur Smith has done this year in a number of areas, but the narrative could easily be drastically different with a few better bounces.

It's worth noting that Atlanta made another change at quarterback, going back to Taylor Heinicke. I believe he serves as an upgrade over Desmond Ridder, who threw games away with horrendous turnovers you just don't see at this level. In 2023, Ridder has thrown for 10 touchdowns with 10 interceptions and 11 fumbles. Yikes.

Heinicke gives the Falcons their best shot to attack an overrated Colts defense devoid of talent outside of Kenny Moore in the slot and a pretty talented defensive line.

Give me the Falcons laying this short price at home where they have played much better.

Trending: Gardner Minshew is 2-10 ATS (40.9%) in his last 12 starts as an underdog, failing to cover by 2.55 points per game on average.

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Monday, Dec. 25
8:15 p.m. ET
Ravens +6 (Play to +4.5)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years as a Ravens fan and bettor, John Harbaugh is always worth a long, hard look as an underdog.

Since 2018, the long-time Ravens coach has gone 19-4 ATS (82.6%) when catching points. He will always have his teams buttoned up in a spot like this with a great game plan and superior special teams, where the Ravens will once again hold an edge on Monday night.

Ravens are underdogs for just the second time this year.

Will it be used in John Harbaugh’s messaging this week heading into Monday’s game at 49ers?

“It was mentioned, sure,” Harbaugh said.

— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) December 20, 2023

Similarly, Lamar Jackson owns a gaudy 15-1 ATS mark as an underdog or favorite of less than a field goal. He’s also 19-1 SU against the NFC in his career, which is a stat you’ll likely see multiple times leading up to kickoff.

It’s a bit overblown since the Ravens have been much better than many of the NFC teams Jackson has faced. However, I still bring it up for two reasons.

There is some validity to the fact that defenses that don’t face Jackson often have a bit of an adjustment period early on in games since they aren’t used to his speed. I also believe the AFC vs. NFC angle is at least worth something based on the performances of the two conferences in 2023. For the season, the AFC has gone 41-31 SU against the NFC, which includes two previous AFC North victories over the 49ers.

From an injury perspective, the Ravens will miss rookie sensation Keaton Mitchell as an explosive option out of the backfield. However, starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley practiced on Wednesday, which is a good sign ahead of a key matchup with Joey Bosa. Harbaugh also stated he has no concern over the status of Zay Flowers after the receiver missed practice on Wednesday.

It's the 49ers who actually have much bigger questions on the injury front. Criminally underrated wide receiver Jauan Jennings, who also thrives as a blocker, is in concussion protocol. The defense could also be severely shorthanded. Earlier in the season, the 49ers had major issues in coverage before benching Isaiah Oliver for Deommodore Lenoir, who has played at a very high level since being inserted into the starting lineup. Lenoir is day-to-day with a rib injury that could ultimately force Oliver back into the lineup.

More importantly, the 49ers were without their two best interior defensive linemen — Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead — with a few key depth pieces also suffering recent injuries. Without those two in the lineup, the Cardinals averaged eight yards per carry. That could prove problematic against the league's best rushing attack in the NFL (at least statistically), spearheaded by a mobile quarterback, which have given the 49ers trouble in the past. San Francisco also runs a lot of Cover 2 and 3 looks — Jackson has shredded those this season under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens have one of the best defenses in the NFL that will provide San Francisco with one of its tougher tests of the season. Baltimore's stop unit has no glaring weaknesses from a personnel perspective, but defensive coordinator Mike McDonald doesn't get enough credit for his versatile game planning on a weekly basis. He can potentially confuse Purdy into a critical mistake or two, while exploiting some of the holes San Francisco has along the offensive line.

I have the 49ers power rated as the best team in the league. They have an unbelievable dynamic offense that no defense will shut down, but the Ravens can get a few stops and keep up on offense.

Ultimately, I just don't see the gap between Baltimore and San Francisco being as wide as some respected oddsmakers. Therefore, I happily took the 5.5 points with this battle-tested bunch that boasts the superior defense and special teams.

I think this goes right down to the wire and lives up to the hype.

Trending: The Ravens have gone 6-1 this season on the road, where they have allowed the fewest points (14.4) and yards (270.3) in the league.

Pick: Ravens +6 (Play to +4.5)

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