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Week Sixteen Picks

December 22nd, 2016

And the beat goes on. In week fifteed, once again, I came out OK picking straight up, considerably less than OK against the spread.

My 12-4 week straight up gets me to 142-80-2 (.638) for the season. My 7-9 finish against the spread brings my increasingly impressive record for the season to 100-121-3 (.440).

Let’s see how much worse things can get. Here’s what not to expect in the week ahead.

NY Giants (-2.5) at Philadelphia
There are a number of ways the Giants can clinch a postseason berth this weekend, but the simplest is by completing a season sweep over the Eagles. With Philly in a five-game slide and looking defeated, I’m anticipating the Giants will take the direct path to wild card weekend. And since the trip from East Rutherford to Philadelphia hardly counts as traveling, I’m thinking no one gets a real advantage from the short week. Accordingly, I’m looking for New Jersey to come out on top by at least a field goal.

Washington (-3) at Chicago
The Racists are fading a bit faster than I had anticipated. But almost no one loses to the Bears. Washington by two.

Miami (+3.5) at Buffalo
I wonder if either team will bother to throw the ball in this game. Bills by three.

Atlanta (-3) at Carolina
The Falcons aren’t getting to a first-round bye. But a win at least keeps their hopes alive. More important, a win here moves Atlanta one step closer to sewing up the NFC three seed and at least one home game. Is any of that predictive of a result in this game? Not so much. For that, we’ll have to fall back on the fact that the Panthers really don’t match up against the Falcons better now than they did back in October. Atlanta by 10.

Minnesota (+6.5) at Green Bay
With a win against the Vikings at home, the Packers will position themselves to take the NFC North title in their week 17 visit to Detroit. It’s been more than two months since the Vikings last beat a good team. They’re not reversing that trend now. Packers by four.

NY Jets (+16.5) at New England
The Patriots appear to be getting better as the season goes on, and they’re driving for home field advantage through the AFC playoffs. The Jets aren’t even trying anymore. I’m not sure there’s a whole lot more that needs saying. Here are the (completely insane) big three predictive stats for this game: scoring differential, Patriots +8.9; passer rating differential, Patriots +26.1; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +25. (Oh, hey, here’s something.  This game will mark a full season since New England’s last defensive touchdown — week 16 of last season against the Jets in New Jersey — three full seasons since their last pick six. Might be a good opportunity to reset the clock on both.) New England by 21.

Tennessee (-5) at Jacksonville
A Titans win ensures that we get an AFC South Championship game between Houston and Tennessee in week 17. That (and, you know, the thing with the Jaguars being in complete disarray) just about ought to do it. Titans by nine.

San Diego (-6) at Cleveland
You know what you get when you look at a team that gives up 26 points per game traveling across the country to play at 1 p.m. and still come away feeling like they should win fairly easily? A realization that, yeah, 0-16 really is going to happen in Cleveland. San Diego by a touchdown.

Indianapolis (+3.5) at Oakland
The Raiders are in a battle for the AFC West crown and in contention for the conference one seed. The Colts are sliding uncomfortably into the off season. Oh, and, uh, Indy still can’t stop the run. Raiders by six.

San Francisco (+3.5) at Los Angeles
Maybe you care, but I don’t. In a game that features three turnovers per team, the home squad comes out ahead by a point.

Tampa Bay (+3) at New Orleans
The Saints no doubt would love to erase the memory of their bad experience in Tampa two weeks ago and effectively eliminate their division rivals from playoff contention all at the same time. I think they’ll pull it off. New Orleans by four.

Arizona (+8.5) at Seattle
Although the Seahawks can clinch the NFC two seed and a first round bye with a win here and some help, the reality is that they’re actually going to have to make an effort next week at San Francisco. Because they’re getting the win, but they’re not getting the help. (I suspect they’ll survive the experience.) Seahawks by seven.

Cincinnati (+2) at Houston
The Texans are going to find a way to lose this game. And yet they’ll still have a chance to take the AFC South championship if they can pull off a win at Tennessee next weekend. Bengals by four.

Baltimore (+5) at Pittsburgh
The Steelers are a win away from being guaranteed the AFC three seed and at least one home game in the postseason. Who they’d face in the first round is very much in question. And the muddle for the six seed doesn’t really get any less muddly with a Baltimore loss here. Steelers by a field goal.

Denver (+4) at Kansas City
The Broncos aren’t officially done, but their season ended last week. Chiefs by six.

Detroit (+7) at Dallas
In which the Cowboys clinch the NFC one seed (unless the Giants hand it to them on Thursday night) and the Lions take another step toward losing the NFC North title to Green Bay. Dallas by 10.

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