18 min read

Between the Lines: Betting the NFL Week 16 Edition

Trevor Lawrence Jacksonville Jaguars

Every Monday during the NFL season, I’ll compare game spreads to my own power ratings and give my perspective on whether I think the betting lines are accurate. Paying attention to the NFL market is one of the single most important aspects of successful wagering. With all the variance and volatility of pro football, placing a bet on the most advantageous side of a number is often the only difference between a winning or losing ticket.

All lines are consensus numbers across the U.S. Sportsbooks as of Monday morning. Some may not be out yet. Early lines that show great disparity with my own are highlighted in red.

Jaguars at Jets (-1), Total: 38.5

Where I set the line: Jaguars -1.5, Total: 40

These two teams had different experiences in Week 15, but this is an equally crucial contest for both outfits. That’s what will make this game hard to bet, too.

Six days out, it looks like East Rutherford, NJ will see winds of over 20 MPH and bitterly cold temperatures. That favors the New York Jets. They’re more adept to this bleak winter weather of Northern New Jersey and the winds should aid them in limiting Trevor Lawrence, who’s been at his best the second half of the season.

Jacksonville certainly has more momentum after their scintillating OT win against the Cowboys, but the Jets need this game if they want a shot at the postseason. Problem is, Zach Wilson is likely starting at quarterback on a short week. If that’s the case, I have to favor a hotter Jaguars team, even on the road on a short week, to get the job done. As we keep seeing down the stretch, the quarterback is the more crucial position in sports and the disparity in talent is wide in this contest.

Giants at Vikings (-3.5), Total: 47.5

Where I set the line: Vikings -4, Total: 46

The Vikings are coming off yet another extraordinary win against the Colts Saturday, avenging a 33-point deficit to overcome a dominant first half by Indianapolis. The Giants, to the shock of many, looked like the better team in Landover Sunday night. New York's win against the Commanders puts them in a great spot to make the playoffs, although they have some tough tests over the next three weeks.

On paper, the Vikings are clearly the better team. They’re full of veteran talent and their offense is far superior. They’re also at home. But we all know the Vikings like to play every game close. Since Week 9, which is the halfway point of the season, the Vikings have won five games by an average margin of 4.2 points. The other two games – they lost by 37 points to Dallas and 11 points to Detroit. I’m not convinced the Vikings can pull away from New York, even if they are the better team. I give them slightly more credit than the sportsbooks do but at this juncture, I don’t think this game is one to bet. I could see a Minnesota blowout or a really close game, so I have no leans, for now.

Bills at Bears (+9), Total: 41

Where I set the line: Bears +7.5, Total: 45

The Bears just continue to be disrespected by the sportsbooks, and I think we see another example of that in Week 16.

In a 25-20 loss on Sunday, it was more of the same from Justin Fields and his supporting cast, and I don’t say that in a negative way. They went toe-to-toe with arguably the best team in football. Towards the end of regulation, Fields had a chance to win the game, but Philly showed their best effort against an inferior team and secured the win. Regardless, Fields continues to make big, superstar-level plays every week, and the Bears are improving on defense and in the trenches.

This game also sets up as a tremendous let-down spot for Buffalo. Their win against the Dolphins on Saturday was essential for their AFC East title reign, knocking Miami down a peg and putting themselves comfortably in control of their destiny. Buffalo currently owns the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and they have a big-time lookahead spot against the Bengals in Week 17.

For all the reasons stated above, I think you should give the Bears another look this week. They’re at home, Fields can keep them in games, and they have nothing to lose. Chicago will also be bitterly cold and windy on Christmas Eve, which usually coincides with low-scoring. And low-scoring usually helps the underdog.

Saints at Browns (-3), Total: 33.5

Where I set the line: Browns -3, Total: 36

The obvious thing that jumps out here is the total. Cleveland stifled the Ravens on Sunday, playing great defense in sub-optimal weather conditions and relying on a sustained rushing attack. Deshaun Watson played better as well. The Saints played well against Atlanta, keeping their NFC South title hopes alive. A diverse ground-game and mistake-free quarterback play, along with great defense against a rookie quarterback in his first start, were the difference.

The total being this low is understandable, but I may still be inclined to play an over. Cleveland will be snowy, windy, and crazy-cold, but these two offenses should both be able to run on one another. Atlanta ran for 231 yards on the Saints in Week 15, after all, and the Browns are allowing five yards per carry to their opponents this season. In what should be a pretty ugly game, wagering on it may be even uglier. We’ll pass, for now.

Texans at Titans (-7), Total: 39

Where I set the line: Titans -6, Total: 40

The Titans continue to spiral, losing in Week 15 to the Chargers on the road. Ryan Tannehill was injured early but he didn’t stay out for long, and Derrick Henry found a way to snag another 100+ yard day on the ground. Their defense also played tremendously well on several occasions, intercepting Justin Herbert and making big stops when it mattered to keep their team close. Ultimately it led to a loss, and the magic we’ve seen from Mike Vrabel’s team earlier this season seems to be fading away. They should be favored heavily at home against arguably the worst team in the NFL in Week 16, but I can’t say I’d be confident enough to bet on them.

The Texans keep losing but they’re playing competitive football. Keeping a game against Kansas City to a one-score affair isn’t easy, but it should be noted that the Chiefs out-gained Houston by nearly 300 yards (502 to 219) and turned the ball over twice on potential scoring drives. Despite the final score on Sunday, the Texans did little to inspire belief from fans or their players. A late-game fumble by Davis Mills, odd play calling by Lovie Smith, and underwhelming individual player performances make the Texans a team that’s just simply hard to bet on.

Although I give the Texans some more credit than most sportsbooks, I can’t bet on them in this game. The Titans now badly need every win with Jacksonville breathing down their neck, and we all know King Henry should be able to run all over a porous Texans’ run defense. Tennessee probably makes a fantastic teaser leg this week.

Seahawks at Chiefs (-9.5), Total: 49

Where I set the line: Chiefs -7.5, Total: 48.5

The Chiefs played another game close to the vest on Sunday, eking by the Texans on the road by only six points. It was the third game this season where Kansas City was favored by double-digits. They failed to cover in each of those games, and now they face a Seahawks team that needs to win out to get into the postseason. This line opened at Chiefs -10, but it’s been bet down to -9.5 already.

The Seahawks lost in an NFC West battle on Thursday night football, falling 21-13 to the San Francisco 49ers at home. San Francisco’s front-seven and secondary was too much for Seattle, and the 49ers’ run game dropped 170 yards on a fledgling Seattle defense.

This is a tough game. As much as I want to fade the Chiefs, who can’t seem to cover big spreads, there’s an incredible amount of motivation for Seattle since their playoff hopes depend on every one of their final three games. I’d argue that Seattle matches up a little better against Kansas City’s offense, too, since the Chiefs are primarily a pass-first operation. Then again, this contest is back at Arrowhead Stadium and the Chiefs are still fighting for their chance to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC. I’ll lean Seattle, but I’m not betting this yet.

Bengals at Patriots (+3.5), Total: 39.5

Where I set the line: Patriots +3.5, Total: 41

The Bengals perilous schedule continues as they face Tom Brady’s former team in Foxboro, one week after Joe Burrow bested Brady in Week 15. Cincinnati scored only three points in the first half of that contest, but Burrow had other plans in the second. It was another near-perfect performance from Burrow. Remember how crappy the Bengals looked on Monday Night Football on Halloween? Since then, Burrow and his Bengals are 6-0 and have beaten opponents by an average margin of eight points per game. They’re +850 to win the Super Bowl, which isn’t a bad look from my purview.

The Patriots were victim to one of the strangest endings ever in an NFL game. By now you know what happens, but needless to say, that has to fire up Bill Belichick. The Patriots aren’t out of the playoff hunt, either. They own the tiebreaker over New York and right now they only sit one game out of contention.

This is an important game for both teams since Cincinnati would love to hold their new spot atop the AFC North. I don’t love fading the Patriots at home in December, but it’s also increasingly difficult to fade Burrow these days. No play for me.

Lions at Panthers (+2,5), Total: 44.5

Where I set the line: Panthers +3.5, Total: 42

The red-hot, surging Lions, who have now won six of their last seven games and sit right outside the NFC playoffs, earned a great win on Sunday in East Rutherford, NJ. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson tricked the Jets’ defense over and over again with savvy calls on Sunday, but none were more important than the Lions’ final play. Brock Wright caught a pass off a slant across the middle as New York’s defense all chased Amon-Ra St. Brown, freeing up the big tight end and providing a ton of green space in front of him. That was the go-ahead touchdown and with little time left, Wilson and the Jets couldn’t avenge the loss. Detroit is riding a tremendous wave right now and while I’m no Lions fan, it’s hard not to cheer for Dan Campbell and his team.

The Panthers lost a close, mostly uninspiring battle with Pittsburgh Sunday, totaling only 209 yards in the process. Carolina’s hopes of winning the NFC South are still very alive, however, and they’ll likely need to win-out to get there.

Because of how important this game is to both teams, I don’t have a strong lean. Even on the road, the Lions deserve to be favored. The total is a little too high, in my opinion, since this game feels like it’ll follow a similar game narrative to Lions-Jets in Week 15. I’ll consider a play on the under.

Falcons at Ravens (-7), Total: 37.5

Where I set the line: Ravens -7, Total: 39

Both of these teams had games to forget in Week 15. The Ravens might’ve played their worst offensive game of the season, failing to score on multiple red-zone attempts and turning the ball over in crucial spots. Rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder looked underwhelming in his first start, struggling to escape a Saints’ pass rush that sacked Ridder four different times. Atlanta ran the ball well, but it wasn’t enough, as they tripped down the NFC South rankings even further after that loss. A chance to the playoffs feels daunting for Atlanta at this point, especially considering their schedule down the stretch.

Lamar Jackson is set to return on Sunday and that’s why this line greatly favors Baltimore. They’re at home, and their defense has played markedly better over the last few weeks. This is a bet on the Ravens situation or pass, and they also make a fantastic teaser leg.

Commanders at 49ers (-7), Total: 39.5

Where I set the line: -6.5, Total: 39

My first thought on this game is: this is a brutal spot for Washington. After a tough defeat at home on Sunday night against the Giants, Washington must travel across the country on a short week against one of the NFC’s premiere teams. San Francisco is also off extended rest following another impressive win on Thursday Night Football.

I don’t have to spend much time on this game because everything looks right. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if San Francisco blew out the Commanders. Washington has been playing better football the second half of the season, but San Francisco is a different beast right now. And, again, this spot is absolutely horrific. This is another one of those situations where you bet the favorite or you don’t bet it at all.

Eagles at Cowboys (-2.5), Total: 51

Where I set the line: Dallas -2, Total: 46

I have this “red-inked” for two reasons. Firstly, the total is wrong. This is an NFC East battle between two elites competing for the division. Since Jacksonville beat the Cowboys in Week 15, that damn-near puts the division title out of reach for Dallas, but it doesn’t mean they don’t really want to win this game. And while both teams are exceptionally talented on offense, NFC East battles typically devolve into gritty, hard-hitting, point-limiting wars. I don’t think this one will be any different. I was being humble by posting a “46” — I think this is a 23-21 type game.

The other reason why I have this in red ink is because the line is telling you who to bet. After a regretful loss to the Jaguars that was catalyzed by another interception from Dak Prescott, the Cowboys are at home where their desire for redemption should only rise. In other words, this qualifies as a fantastic correction spot.

Despite what many in the media may think, Philadelphia is not more talented than Dallas. They’re probably better coached, though. In those situations, the inferior-coached team needs to be in an ideal spot to get a win. This is that spot. I would bet the Cowboys and the under. Dallas still has a lot of pride, and I think we’ll see that primarily from their defense in Week 16.

Raiders at Steelers (-2.5), Total: 39.5

Where I set the line: Steelers -3, Total: 43

Both of these franchises are technically “in the hunt” for the AFC Playoffs, but there’s a fat chance they’ll make it. The Steelers got another solid win Sunday, their fourth in six games, mostly behind more great defense. They held Carolina to only 209 yards and sacked Sam Darnold four times. They also held the Panthers’ run-game, one that’s been dominating opposing defenses, to only 21 total yards.

The Raiders benefitted from perhaps the craziest play in NFL history to snag a victory in a game they probably should have lost. Las Vegas accrued 13 penalties for 90 yards and only gained 90 yards on the ground. The Raiders blew a 14-point lead in the second half, but they stayed in the contest thanks to some quality throws by Derek Carr to receivers other than Davante Adams, who only had 28 yards receiving in Week 15. Vegas got the win, not a vote of confidence from any onlookers.

This is another tough game to wager on. Since Pittsburgh’s defense has been so stout, they deserve to be favored. Plus, Kenny Pickett should return after sitting out Week 15 on concussion protocol. I’d only look to bet on Pittsburgh here, but this is probably a game I won’t put any money on.

Packers at Dolphins (-5), Total: 46.5

Where I set the line: Dolphins -4, 46

Three rather putrid games make the 2022 Christmas slate, starting with this barnburner. Right now, Miami is the seventh seed in the AFC Playoffs, while the Packers sit outside the group in the 10th spot. Their chances of making the postseason are rather slim.

The Packers are playing tonight so let’s first discuss the Dolphins, who looked better in a loss at Buffalo Saturday. It was an AFC East instant classic as blizzard conditions roared over the second meeting between the Dolphins and Bills in Week 15. Both teams eclipsed 400 yards in a 61-point game, but it was Josh Allen who led a game-winning, 86-yard drive on the game’s final possession. Tua Tagovailoa played well (17/30, 234 yards, 2 touchdowns) and the Dolphins stuck to their run-game, earning 188 yards on the ground. In the end, Allen was simply the difference.

The Dolphins should be favorites at home, and the total is right at that weird mid-40s mark. There’s both a sleepy and unpredictable component to this contest– neither team is a rival and neither team is familiar with the other’s style of play. Because of that, it’s hard to garner any significant edge on the betting line. We’ve seen 5-point underdogs win straight up several times this year — there’s just something awkward about that number — but Miami’s motivation should be high in a must-win scenario. Even though I give Green Bay more credit, I wouldn’t bet them.

Broncos at Rams (+1), Total: 35.5

Where I set the line: Broncos -2, Total: 36

The Rams play tonight on Monday Night Football, 11 days after their immaculate comeback game with Baker Mayfield at quarterback, while the Broncos seek their second straight win. Neither team will qualify for the playoffs.

The Denver defense stymied Arizona at home on Sunday, limiting their offense to only 240 yards, sacking Colt McCoy three times, and forcing three turnovers. Another clunky offensive performance by the Broncos didn’t matter in the end. Plus, it was hardly indicative of their true nature with Brett Rypien behind center.

The Broncos’ defense should be able to feast again in Week 16. That’s the biggest reason why this total is so low. The Rams’ defense is usually what keeps them in games, and it’s not like the Denver offense will turn around and become prolific on Christmas, either. Even though I grade this total slightly higher, I’d consider an under. Situationally, it just checks out. I can’t say I’m eager to play on any side. This is one ugly game.

Buccaneers at Cardinals (+4.5), Total: 41.5

Where I set the line: Cardinals +3.5

The Bucs keep losing and yet they remain atop the league-worst NFC South. Even in a loss, there’s some good to take from their performance on Sunday. They totaled 23 points and 396 yards, a considerably higher mark than their average (17.6 and 342.7, respectively), and in the first half their run-game showed some rare signs of life. Four turnovers, all by Brady, were the real difference in Week 15. Cincinnati had Brady uncomfortable every time he took the field, pressuring the Hall of Famer and playing tight man-to-man coverage throughout the contest. Brady and the Buccaneers will look to snag a much-needed win on Christmas.

And they’ll probably meet little resistance. Although I give Arizona more respect, this isn’t a scenario where I’d play on the home team. Tampa Bay still has the talent to cover this line, especially in an ultra-motivated opportunity with the NFC South up for grabs. This is a spot to bet on the Bucs or don’t bet it at all.

Chargers at Colts (+4), Total: 47

Where I set the line: Colts +3.5, Total: 46.5

The Chargers have won two games in a row and sit pretty in the sixth spot of the AFC Playoffs. Meanwhile, we know what happened to the Indianapolis Colts. Their playoff hopes are as slim as it gets — they’re 14th in a 16-team AFC Conference.

The Colts play hard and it’s hard to not be somewhat impressed by how well they played in the first half against Minnesota on Saturday. At the same time, it’s tough to play that poorly in the final two quarters. A team in rebuild mode once again, even at home the Colts aren’t a squad I’d want to bet on right now.

Meanwhile, the Chargers are getting the job done. Justin Herbert was sacked three times and they lost the turnover battle Sunday, but their defense has really stepped up the last two weeks. They held a desperate Titans team to only 284 yards in Week 15, including only 157 yards through the air. If LAC can continue playing stingy defense, they’ll be a formidable force come playoff time. Herbert is among the top 5 quarterbacks we trust week-to-week.

This line is right and so is the total. I can’t bet on the Chargers, on the road, against a team like Indianapolis. The Colts seem to play differently every week — every quarter, even. Obviously, the Chargers need to keep winning for playoff contention, so motivationally they have an advantage. Trusting Brandon Staley to keep his team disciplined is tough for me, though. We’ve seen the Chargers flail and disappoint plenty this season and in season’s past, so this is probably another game I’ll just avoid.