Week 16 of the NFL season gives us a big slate of games on Saturday and a trio of matchups Christmas Day, including the Packers and Dolphins in Miami.
What is worth looking at from a betting perspective? And what are the best plays to help you make smart wagering decisions?
Betting analysts Doug Kezirian, Tyler Fulghum, Joe Fortenbaugh, Anita Marks and Erin Dolan, fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings, ESPN Stats & Information’s Seth Walder and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz offer their insights into the games with tips and picks.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
Six NFL games Saturday have a projected wind chill of single digits or worse. And there are currently seven games with an over/under in the 30s, the most in a week since 2011. How do you approach handicapping with the cold weather and low totals?
Fulghum: I lean toward the under and the superior quarterback, especially when the temperature dips below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the threshold I use. For instance, I like the Bengals -3.5 and the under in their matchup at New England. This is not an end all be all — but that is generally where I start and then analyze if there is any data/trend/information that has me passing or moving to the other side.
Schatz: I put together my own methodology for predicting over/under totals this season, and it does account for both temperature (under freezing) and wind speed. Interestingly, it doesn’t have wind speed as significant until you get to 20 mph or higher. That’s the average wind expectation for only two games this weekend, New Orleans at Cleveland and Buffalo at Chicago. So my system favors going over the total a little bit on most of the cold-weather games this weekend. The big exception is Houston at Tennessee. Yes, the cold weather is going to get as south as Nashville, with a predicted high around 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and given the quality of the quarterbacks in this game (Davis Mills and Malik Willis), my system predicts a total under 30 compared to a Vegas total of 35.5.
Moody: Extreme weather can negatively impact games. Football can be played in the rain or snow. In particular, I pay close attention to forecasted sustained winds and wind gusts. Especially if they are greater than 20 mph, this could disrupt an offense’s passing game. High winds combined with rain or snow are not ideal. Like Fulghum, I lean towards the under. When it comes to weather in Week 16, I’m most concerned about the Bills versus the Bears and the Browns versus the Saints.
Dolan: It’s one thing to play in cold temperatures; it’s another thing to play in high wind. I look more at the wind than temperature. For example, the Saints-Browns matchup features the lowest total on the board with wind gusts from 35-40 mph, expected snow and temperature that will feel like it’s minus double-digits. Even if you try to take advantage of kickers in these situations, wind gusts this high will have to make an impact all around.
Marks: I’m going to have fun with this “Cyclone Bomb”. Since the notion is cold / bad weather games predominantly go under. I’m going to play a six-point, six-team teaser — teasing the games — expecting to get hit drastically by mother nature to the under. Bills / Bears (Under 46.5), Bengals-Pats (Under 47.5 points), Seahawks-Chiefs (Under 55.5) Saints-Browns (Under 38 points), Falcons-Ravens (Under 41 points) Raiders-Steelers (Under 44 points). And following up on Schatz’s recommendation — I’m also going to play New Orleans to a make a field goal in the first 14 minutes of the Bengals vs Pats game at (-120).
The Philadelphia Eagles–Dallas Cowboys (-4.5, 46.5) NFC East battle saw significant line movement while Jalen Hurts‘ availability was in question. With Gardner Minshew now starting for the Eagles this week, how are you approaching this matchup as Philadelphia attempts to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Fulghum: I love the over (46.5) in this matchup. I’m not sure the Eagles’ offense is going to suffer a massive drop in efficiency and potency. Minshew is one of the better backups in the league. He has a 41/12 TD/INT ratio for his career. The environment around him is as good as there is in the entire NFL — elite OL, elite skill position players (TE Dallas Goedert is returning) and a coaching staff that has consistently demonstrated an ability to evolve and adapt scheme in-season and in-game. On the other side, the once daunting Dallas defense has softened considerably due to injuries in the secondary and now at LB with Leighton Vander Esch. Dallas and Philly are also two of the fastest-paced offenses in the entire league. This is also the rare game this weekend played indoors and unaffected by the weather harming much of the slate. I think we see an entertaining game.
At first I loved the spot for Dallas laying the points, but after further digging into Minshew and the Eagles’ offensive structure, I slightly lean now to taking Philly plus the points. I think they can win this game outright.
Moody: My recommendation is to bet on the Eagles and take the points. With 22 career starts, Minshew is a very capable backup. In each of those starts, he averaged 243.6 passing yards. Minshew has an excellent supporting cast that includes A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. A strong Eagles offensive line that can run block and pass block well will put him in a good position to succeed against the Cowboys. There is a strong chance Philadelphia will play well enough to keep this game close or outright win.
Dolan: I am looking at Miles Sanders over 68.5 rushing yards. He had 18 carries for 71 yards in the first meeting this season. With Minshew under center, the Eagles may have to lean on the ground game. Sanders is coming off a slow week with 42 rushing yards against the Bears, but this week I believe he will step up against a Dallas defense that has been generous to running backs over the last three weeks, allowing 103 rushing yards to Travis Etienne Jr., 78 rushing yards to Dameon Pierce and 82 rushing yards to Jonathan Taylor. I don’t fully trust this Dallas defense. The Eagles’ offense will take advantage of Sanders on the ground.
Marks: Anyone knows me — knows I love Minshew! He has 22 starts under his belt and has played in 30 games. In 2021, he sported a 68% completion percentage with the Eagles, last season he averaged almost nine yards per pass attempt. Has a 41 to 12 TD-INT ratio over his career and possibly gets Dallas Goedert back as a gift from Saint Nick (Not Siriani of course). The Eagles’ defense is first in takeaways, meanwhile Prescott can’t help but throw interceptions (he has nine since Week 10). I love the Eagles getting the points and a great spot to use them is in a six-point, two-team teaser with (49ers -.5, Eagles +10.5, Bills -2, Giants +10, or Packers +9.5).
The New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings, both currently in the NFC playoff race, square off in Minnesota coming off of emotional wins. Do you trust the Vikings (-4, 48) to cover against the Giants or will New York keep rolling after its big win over Washington?
Fulghum: I think it’s impossible to trust this Vikings team to do anything. They certainly aren’t as good as their record suggests. Kudos for completing the largest comeback in NFL history, but they trailed Matt Ryan and the Indianapolis Colts 33-0 at halftime. That matters. Although it’s hard to like anything about the Giants’ offense beyond Saquon Barkley, Brian Daboll and his team have consistently demonstrated an ability to exceed expectations this year. I have a slight lean toward the G-Men plus the points in one of the harder games on the slate to handicap.
As far as the total is concerned, I was surprised to see it posted so high at 48. This is another game indoors that will be unaffected by the inclement weather we’ll see elsewhere. I expected this total to be something closer to 44-45, so it set off alarm bells when I first took a look. After further investigating, there are significant reasons why the total was posted much higher. For me, it’s a stay-away due to the research and my intuition being so diametrically opposed, but the market is expecting another shootout at U.S. Bank, so do with that what you will if you think the Giants can keep up.
Schatz: It’s the Fraud Bowl! Two teams that advanced stats think are quite overrated based on their win-loss records. The Vikings are an insane 10-0 in one-possession games. The Giants are an impressive 8-2-1.
Our DVOA ratings actually put the Giants (22nd) slightly higher than the Vikings (25th) at this point. The Vikings have the better defense, but the Giants are better on offense, which is more predictive. Even if you think the Vikings are the better team, however, I’m not sure how we end up with Vikings -4. The Vikings have played so many close games, and so have the Giants — doesn’t it seem predestined that this game should finish within a field goal as well? I wouldn’t call the Giants’ covering this spread “still rolling,” but I do think it will be another close game for two fairly equal teams and thus I’m happy to take Giants +4.
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On Christmas Day, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers try to stay alive in the NFC playoff race in Miami against the Dolphins (-4, 50). Can the Dolphins bounce back after their close loss in Buffalo or are you siding with Rodgers and the Packers?
Fulghum: I want to love the Packers here, but it’s a really tough spot. Miami will have a 48-hour rest advantage and home field, to boot. Rodgers has also (for inexplicable reasons) struggled tremendously playing football games in the state of Florida. If anything, I would default to playing the under in this game. That’s always scary with the explosive play ability of the Miami offense, but both of these teams are quite deliberate on offense, using much of the play clock every snap and lowering overall play volume in their game environments.
Marks: Give me the Packers and the points! Aaron Rodgers is 14-9 ATS as a dog, and the Packers have covered eight of their last nine games. Offensively, they are the healthiest they have been all season — with a full air raid arsenal, and AJ Dillon passing concussion protocol. Miami’s defense is spent — having played 250 snaps the last three games, and their offense has been sputtering — ranked 21st in that time span as well.
The Christmas night game features two reeling teams in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals. Do you trust Tom Brady and the Bucs (-7.5, 40.5) to lay the points or are you taking the home ‘dog?
Kezirian: I am playing the Bucs in a six-point teaser with Baltimore. Tampa has its issues and is the worst cover team in the league, but Arizona is starting a third-string quarterback. Trace McSorley makes his first career start and it’s on a team that may fire its coach. If the Bucs can’t get the win, then they should just pack it in.
Schatz: Our DVOA ratings still like the Buccaneers as the best team in the NFC South, and we particularly like the passing game, even though conventional wisdom says it has been terrible for weeks. Tampa Bay still ranks 12th in passing DVOA, although the offense is dragged down by a running game that ranks 30th. Even while the Bucs have been struggling over the last four games since their bye week, we have Tampa’s pass offense ranked 17th. Oh, and we still have the Tampa defense in the top 10. Now compare this to Arizona, which is 30th in offense and 27th in defense for the year. That’s before we get to the Cardinals being stuck with their third-string quarterback, Trace McSorley. He’s going to have a really hard time with this Buccaneers’ defense. Among other things, McSorley likely can’t attack their weakness in the deep middle part of the field. I do trust Brady and the Bucs to lay the points, although that’s trusting the Bucs’ defense against McSorley more than it is trusting Brady and his receivers.
Moody: My recommendation is to bet on the under. The Buccaneers rank 28th with 17.6 points per game while the Cardinals rank 18th with 20.9 points. Arizona will also have to start third-string quarterback Trace McSorley. An offensive bonanza doesn’t appear to be in the cards for this game. In terms of run blocking and pass blocking, the Buccaneers’ offensive line has struggled all season. Brady and Tampa Bay’s inconsistent offense could be disrupted by the Cardinals’ defensive front. The under has hit in 10 of the Buccaneers’ last 14 games.