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Week Sixteen Picks

December 20th, 2019

Consistency is overvalued.

Like, my picks have been consistently mediocre these last two week. I finished week fifteen with the same record as I achieved in week fourteen: 10-6 straight up, 8-7-1 against the spread. This is not an accomplishment.

And my records for the season — 149-74-1 (.665) straight up, 112-107-5 (.517) — well, they could be more impressive, too.

And still I persevere. Like a true champion. Or a giant, stupid loser. It’s one of those things. I’ll let you know if I figure out which.

For the moment, let’s stick with what not to expect in week sixteen

Houston (-1) at Tampa Bay
If the Buccaneers offense were at full strength, I might be inclined to look for an upset here. I’m not sure I’d pick it that way given that the Texans are a win away from clinching the AFC South title, but I’d certainly feel like I needed to give Tampa serious consideration. But the Bucs offense isn’t at anything resembling full strength. And the real problem I suspect that will present is that the Tampa Bay defense is going to end up spending too much time on the field. I won’t be surprised if this one is tight deep into the second half. But in the end, I think the Texans come out on top by at least three and probably more like seven.

Buffalo (+6.5) at New England
The Bills are making things interesting in the AFC East for the first time in a long time. The Buffalo D was impressive the last time these teams met. It’s been just as impressive throughout the season. And the Patriots are banged up enough that the Bills pose a real threat. The big three predictives say home team: passer rating differential, Patriots +10.8; scoring differential, Patriots +4.4; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +19. And it’s certainly the case that if the Patriots end up with an advantage in the turnover battle, New England could win this by a touchdown or more. But I’m not expecting that. I’m expecting fans of both teams to spend the evening on the edges of their seats, right up until the Patriots put up a late field goal to get the win. New England by three.

LA Rams (+6.5) at San Francisco
The 49ers are effectively out of mistakes they can recover from. They’re either winning out and going into the postseason as the conference one seed or they’re dropping to the five seed and embarking on a journey through the NFC playoffs that starts out relatively easy (at Dallas or Philadelphia) and then turns brutal. They have to be mindful of that. And my guess is it keeps them sharp enough to expose the Rams, who have appeared lately to be playing more like the defending NFC champs, but who are actually still just middle-of-the-pack pretenders. I think the Niners take control early and end up in front by something like 17.

Jacksonville (+1) at Atlanta
The Jaguars played their best football in the early part of the season. The Falcons have played their best late. I don’t see any reason to believe either of those trends is likely to change here. I’d like the Falcons more if they had a consistent ground game, but I like them just fine without one. Atlanta by three.

New Orleans (-1) at Tennessee
The Saints are the better team (though perhaps not by quite as great a margin as one might be tempted to think). The Titans are at home and in desperate need of a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. I’m not sure that’s enough. But I have to make a pick, so I’m pretending it is. Tennessee by two.

NY Giants (+3) at Washington
I’ve done some research and it turns out it’s still not possible for both teams to lose in an NFL game. I think the Giants probably should win. But I don’t think the Giants will win. Racists by a point.

Pittsburgh (-3) at NY Jets
It the Steelers win out, they’re in the playoffs. And if the Ravens beat the Browns this week, they’ll have no real reason to field a team when the Steelers come to visit in week 17. But that only matters if Pittsburgh wins here. That should keep the Steelers focused. Pittsburgh by six.

Cincinnati (+3) at Miami
The Bengals would sew up the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft with a loss here, while the Dolphins, with a win, would move down in the draft order. That’s just about the sum of what’s interesting about this matchup. Dolphins by a touchdown.

Carolina (+6.5) at Indianapolis
No one has anything to play for here. Colts by seven.

Baltimore (-7) at Cleveland
The Ravens aren’t about to let home field advantage through the AFC playoffs slip away. They won’t even let it remain a notion for very long. Baltimore by at least 20.

Detroit (+6.5) at Denver
Not a lot to see here. But the home team still sort of has a defense. Broncos by nine.

Oakland (+6.5) at LA Chargers
The temptation to say something about how nothing will be the same the next time these teams meet is largely (though clearly not entirely) quashed by the fact that nothing is the same with either of these teams right now. Los Angeles by four.

Dallas (-1) at Philadelphia
The loser of this game moves a step farther away from a humiliating defeat to San Francisco or Seattle (or possibly Minnesota) in the wild card round. Which I suppose is just another way of saying enjoy it while it lasts, Cowboys fans. Dallas by six.

Arizona (+9.5) at Seattle
I could totally see myself picking the Cardinals here. You know, like, if I were a complete idiot. Seahawks by 14.

Kansas City (-4) at Chicago
Well, I mean, the Chicago defense is pretty good. So you never know for sure. But you kind of know for sure. No matter what happens earlier in the weekend, the Chiefs will be in contention for a first round bye as long as they win this game. They’ll figure out a way to overcome the Bears D. Kansas City by a field goal.

Green Bay (+4.5) at Minnesota
The Vikings can’t take the NFC North with a win here. In reality, they probably can’t take the NFC North at all. But they can lose the division with a loss in this game. And there’s also the possibility that the outcome of this game determines the difference for the wild card round between a visit to Dallas or Philly or a visit to Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans or Green Bay. You really want the NFC East “champ.” The Packers won’t make it easy, but I think the Vikings come out on top. I’m thinking by four.

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