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Friday, 23 December 2016

NFL Week 16 Picks 2016 (December 22-26)

The Play Off participants will start taking shape in Week 16, but a number of teams will have to wait until Week 17 to confirm their own places in the post-season.

Week 15 was a good one for the picks with a 6-1 record meaning the last few weeks have been decent and got this season moving in the right direction.

I will head straight into the Week 16 NFL Picks in this thread for the games that will mainly taking place over the Christmas weekend.

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers Pick: At this stage of the NFL season, I do tend to find the layers are factoring in 'must win' situations into the spreads. That can make things more difficult, but I am very comfortable in this opening pick from the games this weekend when the Atlanta Falcons head to the Carolina Panthers with the NFC South Division in their own grasp.

The Falcons currently lead the Division by a game from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they are facing a Panthers team who have dominated this Division in recent seasons, but who won't be playing in the Play Offs this season. It has been a disappointing 2016 for Carolina who lost the Super Bowl in February and are just 6-8 for the season, but anyone who thinks this team has given up should be watching how the Carolina Panthers have been competing since their blow out defeat in Seattle.

The Atlanta Falcons have won three of their last four games which has seen them maintain control of the NFC South, but beating the LA Rams and San Francisco 49ers is not going to impress too many people. The Falcons can win the Division by winning this game and Tampa Bay losing in New Orleans, but winning this game is going to be far from straight forward with Matt Ryan likely having to do without Julio Jones this week.

Ryan brings in one of the most potent pass Offenses in the NFL so they should feel confident even if Jones is not in the line up at Wide Receiver. It would be a surprise if the Falcons can't move the chains through the air against a Panthers team who have given up some big numbers with their younger Secondary struggling. Ryan also has the benefit of throwing short passes to the likes of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman coming out of the backfield, but Carolina have been able to turn the ball over in their last couple of games and do get some impressive pass rush pressure up front.

Both Freeman and Coleman should be able to establish the run too, but it should be noted that the Panthers Defensive Line has been better at home and might be able to make some plays in the backfield in this one.

Overall you have to think the Falcons are going to move the chains, but I think Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers can do the same on the other side of the ball. Newton played very well in the win at Washington on Monday Night Football, but this is a short week for the Quarter Back who continues to get next to zero protection from the referees.

Jonathan Stewart's running on Monday Night was very good too and the Panthers Offensive Line should be able to establish the run in this one. That does make things easier for Newton as it helps his Line in blocking when he does drop back to throw the ball against an Atlanta team who have had players like Vic Beasley come alive in recent weeks.

Giving Newton time should mean he is able to expose a Secondary that hasn't been that good this season and is missing Desmond Trufant who is the best Corner Back on the roster. With Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn Jr and Kelvin Benjamin on the Carolina Receiving options, the Panthers should have a lot of success moving the chains in this one too and they can upset their Divisional rivals.

This has the feeling of a game that will see both teams moving up and down the field, but the key is going to be which of them is able to win the turnover battle. Either way, this looks a lot of points to be giving to a home underdog who aren't playing that badly and who would love to beat a Divisional rival and attempt to spoil their season.

The short week is a concern for the Carolina Panthers, but they have beaten Atlanta in three of the last four games here and covered in each one. Getting the full Field Goal worth of points could be huge and I will take the Panthers here.

Washington Redskins @ Chicago Bears Pick: The Washington Redskins were in control of their own destiny when taking to the field on Monday Night Football, but they were pretty terrible in a home defeat to the Carolina Panthers. The Redskins have to know they need to win out the remaining two weeks to have a chance of getting back into the Play Offs and the layers are expecting the 'must win' nature of this game to entice people to back the road favourite.

That is the only reason I can give for the Chicago Bears to not only be a home underdog, but be given more than a Field Goal worth of points in this one. It is going to be much warmer than Week 15 at Soldier Field, but it still doesn't make sense for the Washington Redskins to be asked to cover just a single point fewer than the Green Bay Packers who have been in much better recent form than Washington.

It also fails to take into consideration how competitive the Chicago Bears have been and I do like the home underdog in this one.

Matt Barkley has really impressed in his time as the starting Quarter Back for the Chicago Bears and he looks to be in a position where he will be competing for the starting role next season. Jay Cutler is set to move on, but Chicago are in line for a high pick in the Draft which could be used on a Quarter Back to take over as the franchise one going forward, although a strong end to the season might see Barkley given the chance to lead the Bears into the 2017 season.

It has been good news for Barkley that he has had the support of Jordan Howard at Running Back who has found the holes and hit them with speed. Howard would have seen the runs that Jonathan Stewart had in the Monday Night Football game against Washington and has to feel he can establish himself in this one to ease the pressure on his Quarter Back.

That will also mean Barkley is given the time to make his throws as Washington's pass rush perhaps takes a step longer to get to him with the run game working. With Alshon Jefferey back in the Wide Receiver Number 1 role, Barkley can make plays against this Secondary which has struggled outside of Josh Norman and Chicago can make some big plays.

The more important factor for me to want to back the Chicago Bears is how well the Defensive unit have been playing. However there are some concerns that 'Fat' Rob Kelley could have a huge outing as the Bears Defensive Line has just had a few problems shutting down the run of late and were bamboozled by Ty Montgomery last week in the loss to the Packers.

If Washington can run the ball, it might give Kirk Cousins the chance to produce a bounce back game after struggling for the most part in Week 15. Jordan Reed's limitations have really hurt the passing game while Cousins could be under intense pressure from the Chicago pass rush if they are in third and long situations. That pressure has seen the Secondary play well and the Bears might have some opportunities to turn the ball over and give them a chance to stay within this number at the very least.

The Bears are playing their final home game of the season, but they were beaten by Washington here last December. That loss came by just three points and I will back the Bears to cover the spread this season with more than a Field Goal start.

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers Pick: Who would have thought the Minnesota Vikings would be on the verge of exiting the Play Off race in Week 16 of the season after beginning the 2016 campaign with a 5-0 record? Injuries on both sides of the ball have taken their toll on the team and a blow out loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15 means the Vikings will be out of the running with another loss in Week 16.

They could have done with facing the Green Bay Packers a few weeks ago when it looked like the Packers had lost their way, but a four game winning run now makes them favourites to win the NFC North.

Aaron Rodgers did say the team could go 6-0 and run the table and it looks like the banged up Quarter Back could be right. He is dealing with some injury issues, but Rodgers has been playing very well and is boosted by Ty Montgomery finally giving Green Bay a running game worth talking about. Montgomery is likely to have the majority of carries against the Minnesota Vikings Defensive Line which has been banged up and begun to give up more rushing yards than they would be comfortable with. This should mean Green Bay are in third and manageable for much of the afternoon, a position from which Rodgers should thrive.

Minnesota also miss Harrison Smith in this one which is a huge blow in the middle of the field. Aaron Rodgers showed he can exploit those kind of holes when the Seattle Seahawks pitched up without Earl Thomas and the Quarter Back should have a very nice outing as long as his Receivers can hold onto the ball. It is warmer at Lambeau Field than the conditions Green Bay faced in Chicago in Week 15 so I expect the Packers to move the chains with some consistency.

On the other side of the ball it looks like Adrian Peterson's return to the Minnesota Vikings has come too late. He didn't find a lot of room in the blow out loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15 and suffered a setback which may mean Peterson is not on the field for this vital game in Green Bay. While some teams have been able to exploit the Green Bay Defensive Line on the ground, Minnesota have not run the ball effectively all season and without Peterson it will be tough for the Vikings.

They might make some big plays on the ground, but mainly this is going to come down to Sam Bradford and not many would back him in a potential shoot out with Aaron Rodgers. Bradford had been put under pressure by his Offensive Line when dropping back to pass and that should be the case again in this one if Minnesota are in third and long at any time in the afternoon. While I do think Bradford can manage some drives, he has to be careful of the way Green Bay have turned the ball over especially if Bradford is being asked to push to stay with the Packers.

Those turnovers could be critical when it comes to the spread and I like the home favourite to cover in the form they have been in. The Packers are scoring plenty of points while the Defensive unit have been better during the four game winning run which should have success against the Minnesota Vikings who are used to playing indoors at this time of the season.

The Vikings are just 2-5 against the spread in their last seven visits to Green Bay and I can't see their banged up Defensive unit keeping them in this game. I think the Packers win by at least a converted Touchdown in this one and move onto the 'winner takes all' game at the Detroit Lions in Week 17.

Indianapolis Colts @ Oakland Raiders Pick: The Oakland Raiders might have clinched their Play Off berth for the first time since 2002, but they have plenty left to play for. Winning the AFC West and finishing with a Wild Card is a huge difference maker in the Play Offs- doing the former means a likely Wild Card Round bye and at least one home Play Off game, the latter means playing in the Wild Card Round and likely needing three road wins to make the Super Bowl.

Getting some rest would be important for the Raiders, especially for Quarter Back Derek Carr, but the Raiders are only a game ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs and will lose the tiebreaker if they finish with the same record as the Chiefs. In Week 16 both Oakland and Kansas City are facing desperate opponents with the Indianapolis Colts heading to California off the back of an impressive win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 15.

The Wild Card spots are beyond the Colts, but they are only a game behind in the race for the AFC South Division title and winning out may give them a chance to make the Play Offs although they do need plenty of help. Andrew Luck and company can't think beyond this game and I think getting the hook on the start on the handicap looks very appealing in backing the road underdog this week.

Luck has been under pressure to make the plays, but Frank Gore could have a big game in his return to the Bay area having previously starred for the San Francisco 49ers. Gore isn't playing behind a really strong Offensive Line that paves the ways for big yardage, but he can do enough to keep the Oakland Raiders Defensive Line honest and rip off some big gains from time to time to keep the pressure off the franchise Quarter Back.

Running the ball has helped the Indianapolis Offensive Line protect Andrew Luck, although they will be tested by some fierce pass rush pressure Oakland can generate. The Secondary have also been playing well in recent games, although Luck is clearly the best Quarter Back they have faced since facing Cam Newton in Week 12 who had a very big outing against them.

As long as Luck can avoid the Interceptions, Indianapolis can move the chains and have success in this one and give themselves a chance to win this game outright.

That might be more of a slight chance if Carr is still banged up at Quarter Back for the Oakland Raiders which has made it difficult for him to take the ball under Center. It has had a knock on effect on how well Oakland have been able to run the ball and the Colts Defensive Line has been playing well in recent games which suggests they can put the pressure on the Quarter Back to make the plays to beat them.

The injured finger on the throwing hand of Derek Carr has most definitely had an impact on the passing game in recent games which is a concern going against an improving Colts Secondary. The Colts can get some pressure up front, although Carr is still able to get the ball out of his hand quickly, but the injury has had an impact on the accuracy. Michael Crabtree has been banged up which means teams can focus on taking away Amari Cooper and it looks like it might be a tough outing for the Oakland Raiders on the Offensive side of the ball.

That coupled with Indianapolis' chances to move the chains makes the road underdog appealing getting more than the Field Goal start in this one. Andrew Luck is capable of throwing the Colts into contention and anything more than a Field Goal worth of points would have appealed to me in this one. I will take the points with this road underdog and look for them to keep things close at the very least.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans Pick: The Houston Texans are still in command of the AFC South going into the final two games of the 2016 regular season and all despite persisting with the worst starting Quarter Back in the NFL in Brock Osweiler. Well Bill O'Brien had enough as the Texans struggled in the home game with the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 15 and yanked Osweiler onto the bench and brought in Tom Savage as the new Quarter Back.

Savage played well enough to be given the starting role the rest of the season and Osweiler looks an incredible mistake made by the Texans. However I do think this move has come at the right time for the Texans and I think they will respond by producing a big game in Week 16 when hosting the Cincinnati Bengals who are out of contention in the Play Offs.

I really thought the Bengals would be a significant underdog in this one so getting the points with the home team looks very appealing to me. This is not a great spot for the Bengals who lost a big home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15 and finish off with a chance to ruin the Baltimore Ravens season next week in their final home game of a disappointing season.

With that in mind, I am not sure how much Cincinnati will get themselves up for this game even if the Houston Texans have beaten them twice in the Play Offs in recent memory. The Texans have done that with worse Quarter Backs than Tom Savage and I can see the entire team rallying around their new leader and producing a big performance in the late game on Christmas Eve.

A bigger problem for Houston than the Quarter Back position might be the injury to Lamar Miller which could see the Running Back miss out in Week 16. His absence would be a blow because the Texans would have found a way to get Miller established and thus open up the passing lanes for Savage at Quarter Back and keep the Bengals off balance. Alfred Blue has deputised for Arian Foster in the past and isn't a bad replacement, but Miller's absence would still be felt.

However Savage has also shown he is more willing to throw further down the field than Osweiler was and that should mean a reawakening for DeAndre Hopkins at Wide Receiver. Savage has to be aware that the Bengals Secondary have played a little better in recent games and have been capable of turning the ball over, but I do think the Quarter Back can have a solid outing with his Offensive Line opening up some running lanes too.

In what has been a tough season for the Bengals, there are little signs they are going to be feeling sorry for themselves and instead will produce a big effort in their remaining games. This does look a bad schedule spot for them though and it is up to Andy Dalton to try and help them compete. It is a big test for Dalton who might be coming into the game without Jeremy Hill at Running Back, although the return of AJ Green could not come fast enough.

The Bengals have struggled to run the ball anyway this season and now they are down to a third string Running Back with Giovani Bernard and Hill likely to be absent. Rex Burkhead could be a decent Back at this level and will get the majority of the carries, but the Houston Defensive Line will feel they can lock him down and force Dalton to take to the air to beat them.

Even that will be a test for Dalton despite the return of Green at Wide Receiver. While the Texans haven't been able to get a lot of pressure on the Quarter Back, they have done enough to give their Secondary a chance to lock down and Houston simply haven't given up a lot of yards through the air over the course of the season. I do think Dalton can have some success with the Receivers he has, but the Texans will feel they can put the Offense in a strong position to win this game and I do tend to lean towards that unit winning this battle on this side of the ball.

Turnovers are hard to judge and has to be the biggest concern for an inexperienced Quarter Back in Tom Savage, although it isn't as if Brock Osweiler was producing clean games. His threat to throw down the field should open things up for the Offense and I do think the Texans are facing Cincinnati at the right time and can win this game. The players will know they are not being believed in as the home underdog and I think they can produce a big effort and I will take the point on offer.

Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs Pick: There is still a lingering hope for the Denver Broncos that they can make the Play Offs in the defence of their Super Bowl crown, but they have to win out and get help. That is surprising when you think the Broncos can reach 10-6 with two wins, but that has been the strength of the AFC this season.

The Broncos will recognise that in their own Division where they are third in the standings behind the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs who they visit on Christmas Day. The Chiefs can still win the AFC West if they can finish with the same record as the Raiders, but they do trail by one game although still in a very strong position to at least finish with a Wild Card spot.

Winning the Division is obviously still the target for the Chiefs so the home loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 15 looks like one that will hurt. Now they need to win out and hope Oakland lose at least one more time, but the Chiefs can't overlook the threat the Denver Broncos bring into this game despite the fact they have lost three of their last four games.

The problem the Broncos have faced all season is being able to run the ball effectively which is the key to Gary Kubiak's Offensive game plan. The injury to CJ Anderson hurt, but Devontae Booker hasn't been good enough and so Justin Forsett has been brought in. Forsett will have the majority of the carries in this one and there is an opportunity for him to get the run established considering some of the problems Kansas City have had in stopping the run, but it will be tough unless Trevor Siemian gives them a reason to drop more men into coverage.

Siemian hasn't been helped by an Offensive Line that has had some real difficulties in protection and who were eaten up by Justin Houston in the first game a few weeks ago. It will be a tougher night to throw with the conditions as they are set to be anyway, but Siemian has at least been smart enough to know that punting the ball isn't a loss with the Defense on his side and that has meant avoiding the big turnovers which can be costly.

He has some top Receivers that can make plays if the conditions allow for better throwing conditions in the second half though and Siemian had success when these teams met earlier in the season in a game which Denver should really have won.

Running the ball looks like it is going to be very important in the conditions and Kansas City will feel they can do that even against this stout Denver Defensive Line. There have been some improvements in the yard per carries, but the Broncos have given up 156 yards per game on the ground over their last three games. The Chiefs will look to pound the ball to keep the Offense in third and manageable spots throughout this game and they won't go too far from the game plan in the conditions.

Spencer Ware will be the bigger name in the contest than Alex Smith at Quarter Back, and it will be tough for Smith to get anything done consistently if Ware is not running the ball. The Denver Defensive unit have been brilliant in the last few weeks and the Secondary have been taking away the ball from the opponents while scoring Touchdowns to help the Offensive unit out. That came to a head last week when there was an argument that almost led to physical repercussions between the Defense and Offense after the loss to the New England Patriots which has put the Broncos on the brink of seeing their season come to an end.

Smith is clever enough with the ball to avoid the Interceptions, but he will be challenged in these conditions as much as Siemian will. It is going to be the turnovers that decide the game, but I do think we will see another close game between these Divisional rivals. The Broncos have won on their last four visits to Arrowhead Stadium and they moved the ball much better when these teams met earlier in the season, earning more than 190 total yards than the Chiefs.

The Special Teams play from the Kansas City Chiefs likely gives them the edge, but I would be surprised if this is a game settled by more than a Field Goal and I will take the road underdog with the points.

MY PICKS: Carolina Panthers + 3 Points @ 2.05 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Chicago Bears + 3.5 Points @ 1.85 Coral (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Houston Texans + 1 Point @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Denver Broncos + 3.5 Points @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

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