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Let’s take a look at all 11 NFL contests slated for Sunday’s DraftKings Sportsbook Pro Football Week 16 Spreads Pool, including my five personal favorites.
Chicago Bears (-7.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Jaguars +7.5
Don’t look now, but the Bears have quietly started to figure things out offensively. They followed up their 36-point performance against the Texans in Week 14 with a 33-point performance vs. the Vikings.
David Montgomery has looked fantastic over the past few weeks. He’s averaged 108.5 rushing yards and 34.3 receiving yards over his past four games, and he’s also scored six total touchdowns over that time frame. He brutalized the Vikings’ defense last week, averaging 4.56 yards per carry on a ridiculous 32 carries.
Mitchell Trubisky has also played much better recently. He’s averaged at least 8.43 adjusted yards per attempt in each of his past three games, and he’s also chipped in his usual 20-30 yards on the ground. He may have very well played his way into another contract with the Bears, and I truly believe that they would be in the playoffs at the moment if they stuck with him all season.
So we should be all over the Bears this week, right? I’m not so sure.
For starters, this line has moved from Bears -3.5 on the advance spread to Bears -7.5. That’s a huge line movement crossing multiple key numbers.
This also seems like the definition of a trap game. The Bears are coming off a huge divisional win over the Vikings last week, and they finish their season with a massive matchup vs. their biggest rivals in the Packers. How in the world are they going to focus on the lowly Jaguars with such a massive contest looming?
The Jaguars have not quit playing hard despite their abysmal record, so they can keep this game closer than expected if the Bears aren’t 100% focused.
Atlanta Falcons @ Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5)
The Pick: Falcons +10.5
The Chiefs continue to win football games, but they continue to do it by smaller margins than expected. They either failed to cover the spread or pushed last week vs. the Saints depending on whether you got the line at 3.0 or 3.5, and they failed to cover the spread in each of their previous five games. The last time they blew the doors off an opponent was all the way back in Week 8 against the Jets.
They’re in an interesting spot this week vs. the Falcons. On one hand, the spread on this game has dropped from 12.5 to 10.5, which does represent some value for the Chiefs. The Falcons also set up as a strong matchup for the Chiefs. Their defense is far better against the run than the pass, so Mahomes should have a field day against their secondary.
Still, the Falcons are a dangerous team to give this many points to. They are not a team like the Bengals or Jets who are going to struggle to put up points most weeks. They’re not as potent with Julio Jones sidelined – he’s been ruled out for the third straight week – but they still rank 12th in the league in points per game.
Matt Ryan is also capable of putting together drives late in the game to secure a backdoor cover. The Chiefs have allowed the Saints and Bucs to stroll through the back door in recent weeks, and it wouldn’t shock me if Ryan does the same thing this week. He’s posted a record of 5-2 in his career as an underdog of at least 10 points, and part of that stems from his ability to put points on the board after the game has already been decided.
Indianapolis Colts (-1.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Steelers +1.5
My how the mighty have fallen. The Steelers started this season a perfect 11-0, and they were the last undefeated team in the league.
That said, their play has fallen off a cliff recently. They lost games to Washington and Buffalo, and things really hit bottom last week vs. the Bengals. Losing as a 14.5-point home favorite is simply inexcusable.
The biggest reason for their struggles has been the declining play of Ben Roethlisberger. He started the year by averaging 7.57 adjusted yards per attempt through his first nine games, but he’s dipped to just 4.82 adjusted yards per attempt over his past five. He’s really struggled over his past two games, in particular, averaging 3.82 adjusted yards per attempt or less in both contests. Those are absolutely horrid numbers.
The Steelers have also given him no help on offense. Their run game has managed 68 yards or fewer in six of their past eight contests, and the Steelers’ pass-catchers have also struggled with drops. Diontae Johnson leads the league with nine drops this season, and Eric Ebron’s four drops are tied for 18th.
Still, the Steelers fit the bill as a bounce-back target.
The advance spread in this contest was Steelers -3, so we’re getting 4.5-points of spread value after last week’s performance. The Steelers also fit a nice trend. Teams who lose as double-digit favorites have historically posted a record of 44-27-2 against the spread the following week. That’s good for a return on investment of +21.2%.
Sometimes you have to ignore what your eyes are telling you and focus on the numbers, and I think this is a good spot for that.
Cleveland Browns (-9.5) @ New York Jets
The Pick: Browns -9.5
The Jets shocked the world last week by upsetting the Rams as 17.5-point road underdogs. Can the Jets pull off another upset this week? I doubt it.
The Jets got an uncharacteristically good game from Sam Darnold last week. He finished with 7.2 adjusted yards per attempt, which was his second-highest mark of the season, and he also recorded zero turnovers. Consider me skeptical that he can play reach that level of success two weeks in a row.
More importantly, the Jets were able to control the game last week with their defensive line. They finished with just three sacks, but they had Goff under pressure for most of that contest. Goff has seen a huge decrease in Pro Football Focus grade when under pressure this season, dropping from 88.8 with a clean pocket to 31.5 when pressured.
Now, the Jets are going to have to find a way to generate pressure without their best defensive lineman. They put Quinnen Williams on injured reserve this week, which officially ends his season. He was one of the lone bright spots for the Jets this season, leading the team in sacks, tackles for loss, and quarterback hits this season. In fact, Williams is the only player on the Jets’ roster with more than two sacks this season, so their pass rush could be downright abominable with him out of the lineup.
That could spell disaster against the suddenly red-hot Baker Mayfield. I have been down on the Browns all season — their advanced metrics suggest they’ve been lucky to go 10-4 — but the biggest reason for that has been the lackluster play of Mayfield. That said, he’s looked like a completely different player over the past three weeks. He’s racked up eight touchdowns and just one interception, and he’s averaged 9.72 adjusted yards per attempt. Those are elite numbers.
Philadelphia Eagles (-1.5) @ Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Eagles -1.5
The Cowboys are overrated. I’m not sure how that’s possible for a 5-9 team, but there is some legitimate playoff buzz building for this team after winning the past two weeks.
That said, diving into the box scores from those contests reveals those wins to be extremely fluky. Both the Bengals and 49ers shot themselves in the foot over the past two weeks, and the Cowboys have won the turnover battle by a margin of +7 over those two contests combined. They were also outgained by nearly 200 total yards in those games, and the 49ers put up 458 yards of total offense last week.
Basically, the Cowboys haven’t won these past two weeks so much as their opponents have lost.
Hopefully, that shouldn’t be a problem with the Eagles. Jalen Hurts has looked phenomenal since taking over at the quarterback position. He racked up more than 100 yards on the ground in his first career start, and he followed that up with 338 yards and three touchdowns through the air last week vs. the Cardinals. The Eagles were able to secure a massive upset victory over the Saints two weeks ago with Hurts under center, and he came up just short last week vs. the Cardinals.
If Hurts can play as well as he has the first two weeks, I just don’t see a formula for Dallas winning this game.
Here are the teams I’m targeting for the rest of the Sunday games. Remember, we’re looking to beat the competition and climb up the leaderboard, so I’ll be looking to gain leverage on the field and fade the public in situations where I don’t see a huge edge on the spread.
New York Giants @ Baltimore Ravens (-10.5)
Pick: Ravens -10.5
Chicago Bears (-7.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: Jaguars +7.5
Pick: Panthers +2.5
Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans (-8.5)
Pick: Bengals +8.5
Denver Broncos @ Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5)
Pick: Broncos +3.5
Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks (-1.5)
Pick: Rams +1.5
Tennessee Titans @ Green Bay Packers (-3.5)
Pick: Packers -3.5
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