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Thursday, 24 December 2015

NFL Week 16 Picks 2015 (December 24-28)

There are only two weeks left of the regular season in the NFL as more teams begin to punch their tickets into the Play Offs.

Nothing has been set in stone in terms of Seedings but that could all change at the end of Week 16 as the likes of the New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals can lock down positions.

It is almost certain that the Seattle Seahawks will finish as the Number 5 Seed in the NFC, but that potentially changes down the stretch too and so every team in the chase for Play Off spots have things they still want to achieve.

Week 16 Picks
What was the most frustrating part of Week 15 for me personally? It has to be the Denver Broncos collapse in their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers which meant that pick was a push and I ended up with the smallest of losses.

I wasn't helped by some of the 'square' choices all dominating to the extent they did in Week 15, but it was overall a week that could have been a lot worse if not for my one 'square' choice of the Arizona Cardinals coming through and covering easily on the road at the Philadelphia Eagles.

I won't be making a pick from the LA Bowl that is being played on Thursday Night Football this week as I can't call it between the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers, but I will begin my picks from the big Saturday NFC East battle.

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles Pick: There is every chance the NFC East Division could be decided this weekend if the Washington Redskins can win on Saturday night. They travel to the Philadelphia Eagles knowing that, but a loss could open up a number of possibilities for the Eagles and the New York Giants which makes this Saturday's NFL game something special to look forward to.

It is a huge game for Chip Kelly whose future as Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles could be decided if his team fails to show up. The Defensive unit has to play better than they have in recent games, while ending the season with a losing record after missing the Play Offs last year and in the first of his years picking the personnel might not be respected by the fans in attendance.

Both teams will feel their lack of an effective running game is a big disappointment over the course of the season, but they can't ask for better opponents to turn things around against. Matt Jones and Alfred Morris take on a Defensive Line that has allowed 5.1 yards per carry over the last three games, while Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews and perhaps DeMarco Murray have seen Washington allow 5.5 yards per carry themselves.

Out of the two teams, I do think the Eagles are more likely to establish the run, but the key for both teams will be getting Kirk Cousins and Sam Bradford comfortable.

Kirk Cousins has been hot, hot, hot of late, but there is no doubting that this is a Quarter Back that hasn't played as well on the road. Beating the Chicago Bears is all good, but the Interceptions have come thick and fast on the road for Cousins and the Offensive Line hasn't protected him as well.

This week he is battling a Secondary that has allowed some big numbers so I expect Cousins to have a solid game, especially if health means inexperienced Corners for Philadelphia. Jordan Reed is a big time target, while DeSean Jackson has loved to show the Eagles what they are missing since they allowed him to move across to the Redskins.

However, I think Sam Bradford can also have a bounce back game this week as injuries have cost Washington their experience in the Secondary. If the running game is working like I think it might, Philadelphia have a great chance of extending drives and making sure the NFC East is still alive for another week.

Washington have given up plenty of yards through the air against Matt Cassel, Jay Cutler and Tyrod Taylor and Sam Bradford wasn't playing badly last week against Arizona until the game got out of hand. Bradford can't throw the Interceptions he did that effectively killed Philadelphia, but running the ball well should prevent that being as big a concern and he did look after the ball fairly well against New England and Buffalo in previous two games.

The Redskins are a popular choice as the road underdog in this game and they are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight visits to Philadelphia. However, I think their road play has not been good enough and I backed them as the underdog last week, but I have to pick the Eagles to cover this spread.

New England Patriots @ New York Jets Pick: After the slaughter the Vegas books took from the public, it might not be wise to go with a publicly backed team this week. However, I think the New England Patriots are the better team taking to the field against the New York Jets and I think they can win this game and cover what looks a trap spread when you first look at it.

The Patriots have been banged up on both sides of the ball, but Danny Amendola is potentially back to give Tom Brady more weapons Offensively while Julian Edelman is questionable. With Rob Gronkowski back, the Patriots should be able to move the chains through the air against a Secondary that has surprisingly given up some big yards.

It will be about Brady's arm as the New York Jets continue to clamp down on the rushing Offense teams throw at them. With LeGarrette Blount out I can't see New England being able to have an effective rushing Offense to help Brady, while the other concern for the Quarter Back has to be a fierce pass rush that the Jets generate against his Offensive Line which has struggled.

So I can see New England having some drives stalled thanks to the Jets' disruption up front, but Brady makes the adjustments and I still think they can score enough points to force the Jets to keep up with them.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has been playing really well in recent weeks and the pressure will be on his arm again as the Jets have struggled to run the ball in those games. It won't be much easier against the Patriots Defensive Line and Jamie Collins being back at Linebacker and I am not sure Chris Ivory gets going here which ups the pressure on Fitzpatrick.

He has dealt with that well in recent games as he has led the Jets to the brink of the Play Offs as both Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have made big plays in the passing game. Bill Belichick has been known to take away one of the players that opposing Quarter Backs rely upon and that might be key here, especially with the way Malcolm Butler has been playing at Corner Back for much of the season.

The New England Secondary has played better than expected and recent games have seen an improvement although not against Quarter Backs in the same form as Fitzpatrick. They have been aided by pressure up front and can get after Fitzpatrick which can help the Secondary too and the Patriots can turn around a recent 1-5-1 record against the spread against the New York Jets.

It is a big game for both teams but I think New England can make enough plays on both sides of the ball to match their seven point win at home.

Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs Pick: The Kansas City Chiefs have an outside chance to win the AFC West if they can win out and the Denver Broncos are defeated, but the bigger goal is just to make the Play Offs as a Wild Card team. If the Chiefs win their remaining two games, they will be playing in the post-season and so any kind of win is important to them.

That makes this spread look too high for me as the Chiefs haven't shown they are capable of blowing teams out Offensively and I do think Johnny Manziel has played better than expected for the Cleveland Browns. If Manziel can look after the ball, the Browns have enough to at least keep this close as long as they are not focusing on trying to ruin the Pittsburgh Steelers season next week.

Kansas City have been outgained in terms of yardage in three of their last four games and that is a better indication of what is happening in their games than the final scores. I fully expect the Chiefs to be able to establish the run, which shortens the game immediately, but their passing Offense hasn't exactly been lighting things up of late.

Alex Smith does make a lot of completions, but they are short yardage gains and I expect the Quarter Back to be put under immense pressure from the Cleveland pass rush. Smith might not turn the ball over much, but he will eat some Sacks and covering double digits is a big ask unless helped by the Cleveland mistakes or Manziel playing a lot worse than he has in his last two starts.

Manziel has been helped by the fact that Cleveland have been able to establish the run, although he is capable of moving the chains in that way which helps. That should also help the Offensive Line who will be put under pressure by a strong Kansas City pass rush which is still capable of getting after the Quarter Back even in the absence of Justin Houston as they have proved.

There are some definite holes in the Chiefs Secondary that Manziel should be able to exploit, but the whole key to this game is making sure turnovers are not fatal. That did for Baltimore and Oakland against Kansas City in recent weeks and is a concern, but I think Cleveland can keep this close.

The public money is very much behind the Kansas City Chiefs who have a long winning run, but the spread is coming down which suggests the 'sharp' money is on the Browns. I like that thinking and I will back Cleveland to cover in a series where the underdog has gone 4-1 against the spread in the last five games between these teams.

Dallas Cowboys @ Buffalo Bills Pick: Neither team has much to play for now, but I am wondering if Kellen Moore is good enough to Quarter Back at the NFL level. That alone makes me believe the home team will win this game and likely cover once they pick off a couple of Interceptions, especially if Dallas are also missing Dez Bryant.

LeSean McCoy is out for Buffalo, but Karlos Williams is a decent back up and Tyrod Taylor has shown he can make the big throws from Quarter Back to give the Bills a chance to win this game.

It is a big spread when you think how well the Cowboys have played Defensively, but I can see turnovers being a factor and that simply tires a Defense out.

I can see Dallas running the ball very effectively but Buffalo might sell out to defend the run and hope to force Moore to make the plays with his arm which could be the difference maker in the game. I will only have a small interest in Buffalo because of the lack of motivation, but I expect Rex Ryan to make the right Defensive calls to force mistakes from Kellen Moore.

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons Pick: The Carolina Panthers remain unbeaten and hammered the Atlanta Falcons just two weeks ago, which means the last two games against their Divisional rivals have seen them win by at least thirty-one points each time.

I don't think the Panthers win as easily as that again, but I do think they will shut down the Falcons and put another strong win on the board as they go for the unbeaten season. Jonathan Stewart might be out, but Carolina didn't have much of a problem running the ball next week as teams continue to find it difficult to prevent Cam Newton throwing the ball to his Receivers deep down the field.

Cameron Artis-Payne is likely to get the majority of the carries for Carolina and can back up his solid week against the New York Giants. The Falcons worn down at the front and I fully expect Carolina to run the ball effectively which only exposes the holes in the Secondary that have been there for most of the season.

Cam Newton is unlikely to be under immense pressure in this one and I think he is going to be looking for another big game against a Divisional rival that is disliked. Newton should be able to go deep to Ted Ginn when he looks for him, but he has been firing the ball to all of his Receivers and I think the Falcons will have another difficult day stopping the likely MVP of the NFL.

There is a chance that Atlanta can also establish the run which will be key for them as Devonta Freeman gets to run the ball against a team that has allowed over 5 yards per carry in their last three games. However there wasn't many holes that Atlanta could blow open two weeks ago and I do wonder if the Panthers raise their game another notch to shut them down this week.

Playing behind a big deficit won't help matters, but I don't know how Matt Ryan can move the chains consistently with a pass rush surrounding him and Julio Jones being blanketed by Josh Norman again. There has been a lot of talking from the other Receivers the Falcons have but that should only inspire the Carolina Panthers Defensive unit a little more and Ryan has been guilty of some bad Interceptions which could potentially show up again.

Carolina have improved to 6-1 against the spread in the last seven games against Atlanta and I do think they are the far superior team. Divisional games can be tough, especially on the road, but Carolina crushed Atlanta here last season and I like them to win by at least seven this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: This should have been a game that had so many Play Off implications, or so the NFL thought when they put together their schedule for Week 16. Instead the Baltimore Ravens have fallen apart thanks to key injuries on both side of the ball and it is the Pittsburgh Steelers who have something to play for beyond the regular season.

If the Patriots beat the Jets, a win for the Steelers here will put them into the Play Offs, but I have to think Baltimore would love to play spoilers in their last truly 'big' game of the year. Unfortunately I don't think they have enough to really knock the Steelers off their stride, especially after Pittsburgh came back from a big deficit to beat Denver last week and momentum is behind them.

Ben Roethlisberger has been playing very well thanks to a trio of Receivers that will make big plays for him in Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton. I find it hard to see how the Baltimore Ravens will slow that trio down although their Defensive effort has been commendable despite all the problems they have had.

Pittsburgh have been helped by DeAngelo Williams taking over from Le'Veon Bell effectively and he will also find a little room to move the chains on the ground. That will only open things up more for the Steelers who have every chance of embarrassing a long-time rival while they are down.

It is still unclear who will begin at Quarter Back for Baltimore as Matt Schaub is trying to recover from injury while some suggest Ryan Mallett will be analysed this week. Whoever is back there is going to be under pressure from a surprisingly effective Pittsburgh pass rush and they won't be expecting too much support from the rushing Offense.

However, the Quarter Back will find some holes in the Pittsburgh Secondary that could see them have some success throwing the ball. One big concern for Baltimore has been the inability to protect the ball against Interceptions and this Steelers Defense might bend, but they can pick off balls which could be critical in getting over this number of points.

It is a huge spread for a road Divisional game, but I am finding it hard to see Baltimore scoring enough points to keep up with Pittsburgh over the sixty minutes. I think the Defensive unit will play tough out of pride, but turnovers could be key as this Steelers team can score plenty of points and the additional possessions should be enough to see them win big.

Pittsburgh are 5-2 against the spread in their last seven games in Baltimore, but obviously they haven't been asked to cover this number too often. However, I think the momentum from last week carries over this week and I like Pittsburgh to find a way to win by at least ten points.

St Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks Pick: The NFC West has been decided, but the Seattle Seahawks will look to continue with their momentum and hope to wrap up the Number 5 Seed in the NFC. The Arizona Cardinals have gotten away from Seattle, but the Seahawks are one of the form teams in the NFL and also have the experience of playing December-February football over the last couple of years.

There will be a bit of revenge on the Seattle minds as they head into Week 16 after losing to Divisional rivals the St Louis Rams in Week 1 and I think they will play with that added motivation behind them. The Rams have won two in a row, but they have been outgained in both games in terms of yardage and this is a difficult Stadium to visit as they well know.

The Rams are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight visits to Seattle and recent performances suggests that is unlikely to change.

St Louis have an Offensive issue of being over-reliant on Todd Gurley and the running game to get them moving but I am not sure the rookie is going to have a lot of success. The Seahawks have thrived on stopping the run and their weakness has been through the air as the Legion of Boom have made some poor mistakes by the standards they have set.

Unfortunately I don't think Case Keenum is the Quarter Back to make Seattle pay and St Louis might struggle to move the chains with anything approaching consistency this week. Keenum will likely be under some pressure and Seattle have found a way to shut down the pass against better passers than the one they face this week and it could be a long day for the Rams.

It is harder seeing that being an issue for Seattle who should still be able to run the ball with Christine Michael taking over from the injured Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls. Michael had a fairly strong game last week and figures to find some room against this St Louis Defensive Line which is better rushing the passer than shutting down running lanes.

The Offensive Line have also offered better protection to Russell Wilson who has responded by putting together a few really good games to get into late MVP contention. Doug Baldwin being ruled out would be a blow with the Wide Receiver in great recent form, but I still think Wilson can find his targets down the field and the balanced Offense could be key for the home team.

Seattle have a bunch of momentum behind them at the moment and I think they are going to be better on both sides of the ball in this one. The Seahawks have won four of their last five home games against St Louis by double digits and momentum plus motivation of revenge makes me favour them to win this by a wide margin too.

Remaining three picks are below.

MY PICKS: Philadelphia Eagles - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
New England Patriots - 3 Points @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Cleveland Browns + 10.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Buffalo Bills - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Carolina Panthers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers - 9.5 Points @ 1.90 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Seattle Seahawks - 12 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers + 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
New York Giants + 7 Points @ 1.85 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Denver Broncos - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Week 15: 3-4-2, - 0.18 Units
Week 148-2, + 10.12 Units
Week 138-3, + 8.06 Units
Week 122-10, - 14.18 Units
Week 113-4-1, - 1.38 Units
Week 103-6, - 5.54 Units
Week 96-2, + 8.08 Units
Week 80-1, - 1 Unit
Week 72-4, - 4.23 Units
Week 63-5-1, - 3.33 Units
Week 53-5-1, - 3.48 Units
Week 44-3-1, + 2.24 Units
Week 38-2, + 9.03 Units
Week 24-5, - 1.71 Units
Week 15-2-1, + 6.46 Units

Season 201562-58-7, + 9.96 Units
Season 201477-80-2, - 8.47 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

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