NFL best bets for Week 16 from Steve Makinen


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NFL Week 16 Best Bets

Coming off a huge Week 15 in the NFL, I bring you another week of my Best Bets. The Jaguars’ loss at home to Baltimore this past Sunday night was the only blemish on my Week 15 slate, as I was able to complete the weekend with a 6-1-1 ATS record, my best of the season.

Hopefully, you were able to catch this column last week, or alternatively, my back-to-back appearances on VSiN’s Countdown to Kickoff show with Brent Musburger, where I discussed my plays and the methodologies behind them. I am on every Sunday with Brent at 8:30 a.m. PT. Of course, the foundation for all of my Best Bets comes from the weekly NFL Analytics Reports that we have been publishing. For the season, my record is now up to 63-40-1 ATS, good for 61.2% ATS, and at a season-high 23 games over-.500. I have a season-high 11 plays for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday on this week’s list after digging deep once again into this week’s report. Take a look.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

If any of you recall some of my analysis from the 2022 NFL season, I was very high on regularly following the games in which Cincinnati was playing in rematch games. Under head coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals have been one of, if not THE best team in the league in this regard.

In fact, in terms of trends, Cincinnati is 13-12 SU and 18-6-1 ATS L25 rematch opportunities and has won nine of the last 11 road rematches ATS. Here they get a rematch in a big game against struggling Pittsburgh, who moves on to QB #3 in Mason Rudolph as the offense can’t seem to get anything going.

The same cannot be said for Cincy behind QB Jake Browning, who has led his team to 31.7 PPG over the last three since his initial struggles against the Steelers a month ago. The difference between the execution levels of these teams is why Taylor’s team is favored. That is also a key because favorites are 6-2-1 ATS in the last nine of the CIN-PIT series in Pittsburgh. In a key game with playoff implications, one team is playing like it belongs, and the other is not.

Let’s lay the 3 points with Cincinnati (+/-0.5)

Buffalo at LA Chargers

Clearly, Buffalo has flipped the switch since falling to 6-6 a few weeks ago, as a sense of urgency has kicked in. Back-to-back wins over Kansas City and Dallas have injected them back into the playoff picture. Every game figures to be important the rest of the way.

Fortunately, while head coach Sean McDermott’s team is finally playing the type of football it is capable of, it gets a game with the team perhaps playing worse than anyone, the Chargers. They have lost five of their last six games and have been outscored 87-28 over the last two weeks. There is a reason that Buffalo is a double-digit road favorite in this one, and not only because LA enjoys literally no home-field edge. Looking back at the head-to-head series between these teams of late, favorites are 6-2-1 ATS in the last nine.

When I mentioned that Buffalo is finally playing well, a lot of it is because the running game has come alive, and not everything is on QB Josh Allen. In fact, in their last five games, the Bills are averaging 175.8 RYPG. Based on this and from a tweet I read from SportsbookBreakers on Friday, Buffalo is 15-0 ATS since Sept. 2018 with more than three days rest coming off a regular season game where they ran for at least 155 yards. One team is totally clicking, one is not. No sense in fighting it.

Let’s lay the 12-points with Buffalo (+/-1)

Indianapolis at Atlanta

The Falcons have played in 10 straight games that have been decided by single-digit margins. They are only 4-6 in those games but clearly have gotten plenty of experience in playing in tight games. They come off a game in which they struggled in nasty conditions at Carolina, losing 9-7.

That sets Atlanta up for a nice system suggesting better things could be in order this week: NFL teams that lose while allowing fewer than 12 points have also fared well in their follow-up game, going 17-7 SU and 20-4 ATS (83.3%) since 2015. I also think this scheduling spot favors the host Falcons, as they play their home finale for 2023, meaning this game figures to be more crucial for them than the Colts, who play their final two games, both very winnable, at home. If Atlanta has any hopes of staying in the NFC South race, I think they need this one.

Let’s go Atlanta -2.5 (+/-0.5) at home


Seattle at Tennessee

Seattle got an important win this past Monday night at home versus Philadelphia, its third straight point spread victory. However, getting ATS victories while not winning convincingly has proven to be a good spot in which to fade teams in recent NFL action. Take a look at the system: NFL teams that have won their last three games ATS with a point margin of +10 or less in that stretch have gone just 13-37 SU and 11-36-3 ATS (23.4%) in game #4 since 2003.

This particular game is an extra difficult spot, not only coming off an emotional MNF win, but playing an unfamiliar opponent who has been playing gritty and hungry football despite its record. The Titans have also played much better at home this season, particularly offensively. In Nashville, head coach Mike Vrabel’s team is 4-2 SU and ATS while scoring 23.8 PPG. On the road, they are 1-6 while scoring 14 PPG. And while QB Will Levis may miss the game, I believe a fresh Ryan Tannehill should be effective and motivated. On top of that, from a head-to-head standpoint, Tennessee is on a 6-1 ATS run vs. Seattle.

Let’s take Tennessee at +3 as an attractive home underdog (+/-0.5)

Washington at NY Jets

Are we really ready to lay 3 points with a team that averages just 14.4 PPG and has only hit the 14-point mark once in its last eight games? When I saw this line, I actually felt, or even hoped for a second, that perhaps QB Aaron Rodgers was going to come back and play. No such luck and no such reason to believe that the Jets are going to break out and play well offensively when they’ve really only done so once in their last 16 halves of football.

On the other sideline, Washington has lost its last five games outright and last four ATS but even though I won by fading the Commanders last week, I liked what I saw from them against the Rams. They were quite resilient. They are actually in a good system spot here due to the losing streak: NFL teams that have lost their last four games ATS are 19-23 SU but 26-14-2 ATS (65%) in their last 42 games versus nonconference foes. Washington looks ready to finally get a win again, and the public money is on the brutal Jets.

Let’s go Washington +3 with some moneyline action as well

Jacksonville at Tampa Bay

For anyone who has closely followed my handicapping techniques this season in the NFL, you know that I like backing teams that the public has abandoned, and I like fading teams that they seem to have fallen in love with. I think those circumstances fit for this game, as Tampa Bay, off its best outing of the year, and riding a three-game winning streak, hosts reeling Jacksonville.

Prior to the last three weeks, the Jaguars would have easily been a road favorite here. Instead, they are a 2.5-point underdog. For head coach Doug Pederson’s team, the struggles of late have been self-induced, and in no game were the pesky mistakes more crucial than in last Sunday night’s loss to Baltimore. The 23-7 score didn’t justify how competitive Jacksonville was. Even still, this team is right in the thick of the race for the AFC South title. I think it’s important that they right the ship this week.

Let’s take the 2.5 points with Jacksonville plus some ML action

Arizona at Chicago

Take away three games versus the Giants, and the last time that Chicago has been favored by four points or more at home was November 10th, 2019. Is this Bears team ready for that type of respect yet, even against a team like Arizona? I’m not so sure, and it could easily be argued that the team with the better offense here is the underdog.

Since QB Kyler Murray returned for the Cardinals, they have put up a healthy 21.6 PPG against the likes of some better defensive teams allowing less than 20 on average. If they are able to “outplay” the Bears’ defense in such a way this week, they should score around 25 points. That would mean the Bears would have to hit the 30-point mark to cover this game. If you go back through the game logs since this time three years ago, they have only done that three times in their last 25 games at Soldier Field. Arizona has had a recent history of playing well in Chicago, having won their last three ATS. The Cardinals are also about a 57% point spread cover on the road over the last five years or so.

I’ll take the 4-points (+/-1) with Arizona on Sunday

New England at Denver

I went round & round on this game trying to figure out a reason why I shouldn’t take New England, and in the end, I came up with a solid reason. What do the Patriots have to play for here? Certainly, nothing when compared to the stakes that Denver has on the line. Instead, I’m going to explain why Under the total is probably the far stronger play.

When you consider how things are going for the Patriots this season, why should we expect them to even get to 14 points in this contest? Some of their better offensive players are out of the lineup, and they’ve scored just 13.3 PPG in their six road games this season. They’ve also mustered just 10.2 PPG in their last five contests overall. Of course, there could also be elements involved in a game at Denver at this time of year.

For the Broncos, things have slowed since they seemed to be getting it together during a five-game winning streak. After averaging 23.4 PPG during that stretch, they’ve dipped to 19.3 PPG since. It would figure to be a challenge to reach that level this week against head coach Bill Belichick’s defense, which has allowed just 14.2 PPG in its last five. If all that weren’t enough, Denver is on a special 17-2 Under the total run in primetime games since 2017. It all adds up to a 17-10 type of game, I believe.

Let’s go UNDER 34 (+/-1.5) in Denver-New England

Las Vegas at Kansas City

The best stretch of football that we have seen from Kansas City recently came in the last outing versus the Raiders about a month ago, when the Chiefs rallied from a 14-0 deficit to win 31-17. They were a nine-point road favorite that day. They are only laying 10-points here at home. Explain that one to me. Are oddsmakers really selling us on the thought that Las Vegas is much-improved from that fluke absurd win over the Chargers last Thursday night? I tell you what, I, for one, am not buying what they are selling, and in a special holiday game at Arrowhead, I expect Kansas City to flex its muscles.

Let’s take a look at a couple of the analytical reasons I have my eye on this game as well. First, with KC having not covered a game since that last one versus the Raiders, NFL teams that have lost their last three games ATS, all when favored, are on a 39-11 SU and 31-17-2 ATS (64.6%) run when favored in the next game as well. Second, in rematch games, Las Vegas is on a 3-9 SU and ATS skid on the road and scoring 15.2 PPG in its last 16 road contests as such. If that weren’t enough, the Chiefs have won their last 10 same-season rematch games versus the Raiders, going 8-2 ATS.

Let’s lay the 10-points with Kansas City (+/-1)

NY Giants at Philadephia

There are a lot of times throughout an NFL season when a team will look completely different than they did a week ago. Sometimes it is predictable. Anyone who watched Countdown to Kickoff last week with Brent Musburger saw Johnny Avello from DraftKings predict the struggles of QB Tommy DeVito and the Giants at New Orleans. This coming off a game in which he looked spectacular versus Green Bay.

Now, facing a 13.5-point line at Philadelphia, I believe there is far more motivation and reason to believe New York will play better. First off, the line is not befitting of a team that is struggling like Philadelphia currently is. The Eagles are not only #29 in the league in my recent ratings, but there are also internal issues going on. They’ve switched defensive coordinators, and there are rumblings of player chemistry issues. Philly has lost three straight games outright and ATS and has to be questioning itself at this point.

Take a look at the system: NFL teams that have lost at least their last three games outright have gone 51-32 SU but 32-48-3 ATS (40%) when favored by three points or more since 2013. A win is all head coach Nick Sirianni’s team needs to get it turned around, but it doesn’t say anything about winning by more than 14.

This game is also going to be a high-profile standalone contest, and strangely, rookie QBs (like DeVito) have fared well in such contests: Rookie quarterbacks have fared reasonably well under the spotlight of non-Sunday games lately, going 12-13 SU but 17-8 ATS (68%) in their last 25 such tries. Moreover, they are 16-5-1 ATS (76.2%) in their last 22 Monday contests.

Let’s take NY Giants +13.5 (+/-0.5) to make this Christmas contest competitive

Baltimore at San Francisco

What a fantastic game we have lined up to wrap up the Week 16 NFL action, as two of the favorites to meet in the upcoming Super Bowl go head-to-head, and both come in playing very well. It is for this reason that I’m not liking the fact that the number has reached 5.5 points. I’m also a bit concerned by what I watched Arizona QB Kyler Murray do to the 49ers’ defense last week, as he helped put up 29 points and 436 yards of offense.

Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson is just as capable, if not more, and has always been fantastic in the underdog role. In fact, he is 10-5 SU and 13-2 ATS as such, with his teams scoring 24.8 PPG in those contests. If Baltimore gets anywhere near that total, it will be difficult even for the 49ers surging offense to get it done.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s team comes off a 45-point outburst against the Cardinals, but from a point spread covering perspective, that doesn’t help them in this week’s game. Note the system: Teams that scored 45 or more points in their prior game have gone 20-14 SU but 11-23 ATS (32.4%) when favored at home by three or more points since 2012. Finally, anyone following me this season knows I’ve been hitting on MNF games using the trends from the Analytics Report. One for this week states that in MNF games pitting non-conference opponents (AFC vs. NFC), home teams are 22-21 SU but 11-30-2 ATS (26.8%) in the last 43.

I like the Ravens to cover the 5.5 points (+/-1) in an uber-competitive game

For more system matches and key trends, check out the Week 16 NFL Analytics Report.

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As one of the original founders of StatFox, Steve Makinen has been in the business of sports betting and data analysis for almost 25 years now. In his time in the industry, Steve has worked in a variety of capacities on both sides of the betting counter, from his early days of developing the StatFox business, to almost a decade of oddsmaking consulting for one of the world's leading sportsbooks, to his last seven years as Point Spread Weekly and Analytics Director with VSiN. Steve has always believed that number crunching and handicapping through foundational trends and systems is the secret to success and he shares this data with VSiN readers on a daily basis for all of the major sports.