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Midweek Football Picks 2018 (September 18-20)

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Friday, 22 December 2017

NFL Week 16 Picks 2017 (December 23-25)

The final two weeks of the NFL regular season has plenty on the line for teams who are getting ready to take their place in the Play Offs which will kick off in two weeks time.

Nothing is guaranteed for many teams just yet and we saw in Week 15 how quickly the landscape can change for any team if they are not able to keep producing the wins that are required.

It cost the Green Bay Packers in Week 15 and the decision has since been made to keep Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines the rest of the way with their Play Off berth gone. The NFC South could be next in line to see some of their leading contenders go down with big games coming up between all four teams which will determine who can make it through to the Play Offs with at least one Wild Card spot likely going to a team from the NFC South.

Other teams like the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Chargers suffered some major losses in Week 15 which may cost them a place in the Play Offs.

Expect more of the same on Week 16 which is played from Saturday through to Christmas Day.

Onto the NFL Week 16 Picks.


Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: The Baltimore Ravens know exactly what they need to do if they are going to make the Play Offs and that is to win out and reach 10-6 having failed to do that a season ago from the exact same position. The schedule certainly seems favourable and I do think the Ravens are going to be playing post-season Football next month.

First up for the Ravens is the home game with the Indianapolis Colts who are going to miss out on the Play Offs again. The injury to Andrew Luck has to be a real concern for the organisation having missed as much playing time as he has and the Colts look like a team with a lot of holes to fill in the off-season to recover their once dominant place in the AFC South.

It isn't often that Indianapolis have been out of contention by Week 16 and this looks like being a really tough day for them.

Jacoby Brissett has played as well as could be expected after coming in from the New England Patriots at the start of the regular season especially with very little help around him. That hasn't changed in time for this game and the pressure on Brissett is increased when thinking of how well the Baltimore Defensive unit have been able to play even through the injuries they have sustained in the Secondary.

It can't be expected that Indianapolis will have a lot of success in this one as the team have not scored more than 17 points in any of their last five games. Despite the numbers that the Baltimore Secondary have allowed since Jimmy Smith went down for the season, Brissett has not been given the time to find Receivers downfield and is unlikely to have a lot of time in this one either.

Brissett is playing behind an Offensive Line that has struggled to protect him and give the Quarter Back time to make plays and that may be the case again this week. With little likelihood of Frank Gore helping the Colts by getting the run established, it will be down to Brissett to make the big throws and it feels like a long shot against this Baltimore Defense who are still able to make big plays.

The Colts also seem to be coming up against an improving Baltimore Offense which has finally shown some life after a struggle for much of the season. Joe Flacco is beginning to connect with some of the deep throws that propels this Ravens team and he has been well backed up by Alex Collins giving the run game a burst.

Baltimore should be able to move the chains with a little more consistency than the Indianapolis Colts with the team able to play out of third and manageable spots a little more often than their visitors. With Flacco in decent form and the Colts perhaps losing some of their motivation as they play out the season, I do think the Baltimore Ravens can record what would be a big cover on Saturday.

Indianapolis are just 2-6 against the spread in their last eight on the road and I like Baltimore to make the big plays on both sides of the ball which allows them to pull clear behind a strong Defensive effort.


Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers Pick: The air has been taken out of this game in Week 15 when the Green Bay Packers lost to the Carolina Panthers and saw their Play Off hopes go up in smoke. The fans will still want to see their team perform in the final home game of the season and try and spoil the Minnesota Vikings season, but it is a big ask for the Packers who are down some key performers.

Aaron Rodgers being moved to the IR was no surprise once the Packers were eliminated from the Play Offs and that means Green Bay go back to Brett Hundley at Quarter Back. Hundley had a tough time in his first appearance of the season when filling in for Rodgers who broke his collarbone against the Minnesota Vikings, and his challenges won't have lessened with the Vikings still performing as one of the best Defensive units in the NFL.

The problem for Hundley is that Green Bay are also going to be without Davante Adams who has proven to be his favourite Receiving target in his time at Quarter Back for the Packers. It only increases the challenges for Hundley to try and move the chains through the air against a tough Minnesota Secondary who can get a lot of pressure up front and are likely to be chasing the Quarter Back whenever the Green Bay Packers get into third and long situations.

Green Bay could have success if Hundley tucks the ball in and tries to run for First Downs or by handing the ball off to whoever starts at Running Back. The Vikings have not been as stout against the run as they would have liked in recent games, although I do think that number is skewed by their game with the Carolina Panthers and I would expect Minnesota's Defensive unit to make the big plays to set the team up in a strong position.

I am expecting the Vikings to win this game behind that Defense, but the cover of a big number is a little more awkward. However I do think Minnesota have done enough Offensively to think they can get the better of a Green Bay team who are going to find it tough to pick themselves up from the disappointment of knowing their season ended in Week 15.

This is also a Green Bay team who are suffering some real problems in the Defensive unit with injuries and lack of form from players in the entire back seven. They can still be tough up front, but Minnesota have a couple of capable Running Backs and the ability to have those players leak out and catch balls to take a number of yards down the field which should keep the Offense in third and manageable spots.

Case Keenum is having a career year at Quarter Back and has talented Receivers to expose the problems Green Bay are having in the Secondary too so I do think the Vikings move the chains with some consistency. Recently the Offensive Line has had some troubles so perhaps the Packers can get to Keenum and maybe force a couple of errant throws, but I expect the Vikings to win the field position battle for the most part and I like their chance to not only win, but win big.

I feel better knowing Brett Hundley won one out of four home games that he has started for the Packers and the three losses have come by 9, 13, and 23 points with some Offensive issues. While some players would want to play spoiler for the Vikings, who are still chasing the Number 1 Seed in the NFC, the majority will be feeling what this could have been if Rodgers had not been injured and I think that may be the overwhelming emotion in the whole Stadium.

A steady performance from the Vikings should then be enough to win this game by double digits and see Minnesota build the momentum for the Play Offs.


Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints Pick: The NFC South is a very competitive Division going down to the final two weeks of the regular season and in Week 16 the 10-4 New Orleans Saints host the 9-5 Atlanta Falcons. It has only been a couple of weeks since these teams met in Atlanta in a game that was won by the Falcons, but the New Orleans Saints have to believe they can earn a measure of revenge this time around.

One of the key moments of the first meeting between these teams was the early hit that knocked out Alvin Kamara. It just underlined how important Kamara has already become for the New Orleans Saints with his ability to run the ball but also the featured player Drew Brees looks to when it comes to a safety blanket for the Saints.

Kamara didn't miss a single game after being knocked out of the game at Atlanta and was looking sharp in the win over the New York Jets in Week 15. The Saints will still want to clean up some of their play with stupid turnovers and dropped passes taking a few points off the board in that victory, especially as the Falcons are one of the better teams out there.

Atlanta have shown some power at the Defensive Line as they have been able to slow down the run in recent games including a big effort in the first game with the Saints. Once again I would suggest a healthy Kamara would have made a big difference along with Mark Ingram in that game and I do think the Saints will have more success in this one.

They can also use short passes to Kamara and get the Running Back out into space from where he can make plenty of yards after the catch. That will ease any pass rush and also open things up for Drew Brees against an Atlanta Secondary that have some playmakers, but also showed their vulnerabilities in the Monday Night game with Tampa Bay in Week 15.

With the Saints moving the ball more successfully than they did in the first game with Atlanta, the pressure will be on Matt Ryan and company to try and fight fire with fire. They do have an explosive running game which should at least give the Falcons a chance to move the chains and it is important for the Falcons to do that against one of the more under-rated Defensive units in the NFL.

Kenny Vaccaro being moved onto the IR is a big blow for the Saints, but this is a Secondary who have been the most improved Secondaries in the NFL this season. They should be able to find a way to clamp down on the Receiving threats Atlanta bring to the field, while I also think Ryan is not playing as well at Quarter Back as he would have liked.

It has meant settling for Field Goal attempts rather than Touchdowns and I think that is going to be a problem for the Falcons in Week 16. The other issue that almost cost the Falcons the win in the first game with the New Orleans Saints were the Interceptions thrown by Ryan and he is going to have to be a lot better with a healthier looking Secondary even with the absence of Vaccaro.

I do like the Saints for some revenge over the Falcons and the win would put them pretty much into the Play Offs. They would likely have won in Atlanta if not for the Alvin Kamara injury and I think the Running Back has a big game in revenge for the hit that knocked him out of that game two weeks ago.

New Orleans are also playing the better Football on both sides of the ball and I don't think they make the same mistakes that almost certainly made things a lot tighter than they needed to be in Week 15 against the New York Jets. On the other hand Matt Ryan has not played to the level he produced in 2016 and I think Drew Brees outplays him and helps the Saints win this by around a Touchdown.

The Saints also have an incredible 22-4 record against the spread when hosting a team with a winning record on the road and they are 5-1 against the spread in their last six Divisional games. I will back the Saints to win in Week 16 to move one step closer to securing the NFC South.


Miami Dolphins @ Kansas City Chiefs Pick: Sometimes you have to admit when you are wrong and I have to say I jumped off the Kansas City Chiefs bandwagon a little early. I saw a team who had no momentum and a poor run and I could not see how they could turn things around, but the Chiefs have won back to back games in impressive fashion which means the Chiefs may be the favourites to win the AFC West.

The win over the Los Angeles Chargers last week was a big one for the Chiefs who dominated on both sides of the ball and that means winning out will be enough for Kansas City to take the Division. In fact one more win will be enough for the Chiefs who are destined to finish with the Number 4 Seed in the AFC which means hosting a Wild Card game in a couple of weeks time.

Hosting the Miami Dolphins, who are out of Play Off contention after another non-show in a loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 15, looks to be the chance for the Chiefs to keep the wins coming.

With Kareem Hunt looking like he has broken through the rookie wall, the Chiefs have been running the ball very effectively again, although that will be tested by a stout Miami Defensive Line. That Line is still playing hard, but there is a reason to think they could be waiting for the revenge game against the Bills next week where Miami can spoil a Divisional rivals season.

Even if the Defensive Line does show up to play tough, Kansas City know they can use Hunt as a Receiver coming out of the backfield where he can make players miss in the open field. Alex Smith will likely use Hunt as a check down option and perhaps even employ a few screens just to open up the running game by getting Hunt out into space.

Smith has to be given a lot of credit for the way the Kansas City Chiefs have been playing as he has been producing some big time throws at Quarter Back. The deep ball has returned to the Offense, while Smith continues to look after the ball with the kind of success that will see teams looking to bring him in if he does leave Kansas City in the off-season as most are expecting.

Battling a tough Miami Defensive unit will see some drives stall, but I think Smith can have a solid outing against them by mixing in the short passes with a few deep balls to open things up. I certainly think the Chiefs have every chance of moving the ball with some consistency and they will also feel they can win the field position battle on the other side of the ball.

It won't go all Kansas City's way, especially when the game is close as I do think Kenyan Drake has offered Miami the kind of running game that Jay Ajayi failed to do before being traded to Philadelphia. Drake has hit the holes where they are and his hard running has sparked the Dolphins, although the challenge will come against the Chiefs Defensive Line who have picked up their play significantly in recent games.

The main issue is always going to be which Jay Cutler decides to come and play in Week 16- he is making all the right noises about wanting to play in 2018, but Cutler could easily go back to the broadcast booth after Week 17 and so it is hard to see how his motivation levels are gong to be for this game.

Cutler had a great game against the New England Patriots two weeks ago, but last week he was pretty terrible against the Buffalo Bills to end the Miami lingering Play Off hopes. He will be under pressure from the Kansas City pass rush if the Dolphins are not able to move the chains on the ground, while Cutler has to be aware of the way the Chiefs have been able to turn the ball over of late.

That could be the reason Kansas City are able to cover a big spread as they earn the extra possessions to get this done. The number does offer Cutler the chance for a backdoor cover which is a concern, but the Chiefs have blown out their last couple of opponents who are both superior to Miami and I think they are able to do the same here.

Kansas City are 5-2 against the spread in their last seven at home and Miami have struggled against the better teams they have played outside of that win over New England. I will look for the Chiefs to force a couple of turnovers which helps them move clear of the Dolphins in a big home win which sees Kansas City book their Play Off spot.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers Pick: The Carolina Panthers ended the Green Bay Packers hopes of making the Play Offs, but they have to be careful that their own are not left in a precarious position. Their destiny is clearly in their own hands as the Panthers will make the Play Offs by winning out, and could also potentially win the NFC South by doing that, but losing their remaining two games would likely leave Carolina on the outside looking in.

Two Divisional games are a tough way to conclude the season, although they are facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who have underachieved significantly in 2017. Some had the Buccaneers down as the favourites to win the NFC South Division so their 4-10 record is likely going to lead to some significant changes in the off-season.

The Buccaneers at least played hard in a narrow loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football and they still have a big part to play in who gets to the Play Offs with games against Carolina and New Orleans to finish the season. Tampa Bay may feel they should have knocked off the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15, but I don't think they will spend too much time feeling sorry for themselves knowing they have nothing to lose.

Injuries have really hurt Tampa Bay all season, but at least Jameis Winston will get a chance to finish the season at Quarter Back. There is still plenty of believers who think the Buccaneers can win with Winston at Quarter Back, but the whole team will need better luck with health and also perhaps some better Coaching to fulfil the potential they have.

Doug Martin could be missing for a second week in a row having been suspended by the team ahead of the Week 15 game with the Falcons. Peyton Barber took his chance at Running Back with a good performance and I think he has every chance of some strong gains on the ground against the Panthers Defensive Line which has had a few issues stopping the run.

That would be huge for the Buccaneers and Winston who had a good showing last week and was only let down by a couple of key mistakes. One was a fumble inside the red zone while the Buccaneers would have tied the game with a Field Goal at the end which was missed. Winston will be glad of the run support from Barber to ease the pressure the Panthers will bring up front against this poor Offensive Line, while the absence of Thomas Davis does mean there should be more passing lanes for the Quarter Back to exploit.

It does feel like a game in which Tampa Bay can move the chains and have success in scoring points against the Panthers, but I also think Cam Newton is playing at an extremely high level and is likely going to lead his team to a win. Newton might not have many Receiving weapons these days, but Greg Olsen is back and last week he showed how well he is playing by out-battling Aaron Rodgers.

Newton, Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey should all have success running the ball against the Buccaneers who have struggled up front all season. That should help the Panthers control the clock and keep the Offensive unit in third and manageable spots, while also meaning Newton is able to find some big passing lanes to move the chains through the air too.

I do think the Panthers win this game and likely do it fairly comfortably, but Tampa Bay have every chance to earn a backdoor cover in this one with the way they have been playing. The way Carolina will control the clock on the ground might mean the number in the spread is a little too big to cover and the game with the Falcons might also be distracting if the Panthers move into a two score lead which allows the Buccaneers a way back in to cover.

Tampa Bay have enough Offensively to score enough points to keep this close and I will take the points on offer here.


Los Angeles Chargers @ New York Jets Pick: The Week 15 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers felt like a Division decider between those two teams. It was the Chiefs who came out on top, and that has left the Chargers in a desperate position to try and make it two teams from Los Angeles playing Play Off Football in January.

The only way it works for the Chargers is by winning out and hoping the likes of the Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills collapse. They will likely need two of those teams to lose both games they have remaining, but that is a possibility and the Chargers have to take care of business of their own.

Playing back to back road games is tough for any team especially when you think the Chargers have to play on the East Coast in an early kick off. That has to be the biggest factor going against the Chargers in this game at the New York Jets who have overachieved this season but who are now dealing with the injury bug.

Josh McCown's injury at Quarter Back really hurts the Jets and that means Bryce Petty is back behind Center for a second game in a row. One of the problems for Petty is the inconsistent performances from the Running Backs and they may not be able to take as much advantage of Los Angeles' struggles up front with that in mind.

It wouldn't be a surprise if the Chargers also make more of an effort to stop the Jets running the ball and making sure they force Petty to beat them through the air. If they can put the Jets in third and long spots, the Chargers pass rush and strong Secondary play could give Petty plenty of problems and lead to drives stalling or, in a worse case scenario, turnovers and a loss of field position.

The key to this game as far as I am concerned is how quickly the Chargers can bounce back from what was a really poor performance in the loss at Kansas City. Philip Rivers had been playing at a high level prior to that loss and he does have the chance to get the Chargers back on track and at least have a shot to make the Play Offs in Week 17.

Rivers should be supported by Melvin Gordon who will be running against a Jets Defensive Line dealing with injuries and expected to be shorthanded. The Defensive Line has been the strength of the Jets, but you can see the impact injuries have had up front and the Chargers should be able to move into third and manageable spots from where Rivers can take over through the air.

The Quarter Back has produced some nice numbers in recent weeks and is throwing into a Secondary who do give up some big yards. Rivers has to make sure he looks after the ball after seeing the Jets give Drew Brees some issues last week, but his Receivers can help by securing the football and I do think Los Angeles can move the chains with success throughout the afternoon.

Rivers should be throwing from a clean pocket and he has some big Receiving weapons here even though Hunter Henry is out for the rest of the season. I do like the Chargers to cover here and improve their 14-6-1 record against the spread in their last twenty-one road games.

All respect to the Jets who have played well as the home team against the spread, but I think the Chargers will prove a little too good on both sides of the ball and win this one by double digits.


Jacksonville Jaguars @ San Francisco 49ers Pick: So the Jacksonville Jaguars are almost certainly going to be playing Play Off Football this season and still have an outside shot at winning a First Round bye. They need to win out and hope the Pittsburgh Steelers drop both remaining games, but ultimately this has been a season of success with the Jaguars almost certainly going to finish with the Number 3 Seed in the AFC.

That will be wrapped up this week if they can win at the suddenly live San Francisco 49ers who knocked off the Jaguars Divisional rivals Tennessee at home in Week 15. Jimmy Garoppolo has come in as the starting Quarter Back for the 49ers and I really do think they have found their franchise passer who has helped San Francisco win all three starts since he took over from CJ Beathard.

Wins over Chicago, Houston and Tennessee are decent enough, but this is the biggest test Garoppolo and the 49ers have faced since he took over as starting Quarter Back. The Jacksonville Defensive unit is right up there with the very best in the NFL and Garoppolo can't afford any errant throws in this one.

To be fair to Goroppolo, the problems are that there isn't a lot of Receiving talent for him at San Francisco and he is making the best use of what he has got. There is a hope he can hand the ball off to Carlos Hyde to make some plays on the ground, but the San Francisco Offensive Line has had problems both in run blocking and pass protection and so I think the majority of work will have to be done by Garoppolo.

He will be under pressure at times and that is where he has to think like his mentor Tom Brady and make sure he is not pushing the ball into difficult positions. The Jaguars will be a tough Secondary to deal with considering the turnovers they are able to create, while Garoppolo has to make sure he looks after the ball if he is being taken to the ground by the Defensive Line.

I do think Garoppolo has shown the talent to think he can have some success in this one, but he is facing a Quarter Back in Blake Bortles who is doing his best to ram his critics words back down their throats. Many believe the Jaguars are 10-4 despite Bortles rather than him being a key piece of the team, and that won't have changed despite three top games from the Quarter Back.

Bortles is going to be at his very best in this one too because he is facing a San Francisco Defensive unit that are far greater than the sum of their parts. The key for the Jaguars is to not turn the ball over and Bortles has been looking after the ball, but the pressure will be on the Quarter Back with the San Francisco Defensive Line finding a way to shut down the run.

That has also helped the Secondary who have made some good plays in recent games, although facing Mitchell Trubisky, Tom Savage and a hurt Marcus Mariota has helped. Bortles has been playing better than those three Quarter Backs and could have Allen Hurns back in one of the Receiving positions, but I am also not convinced that Bortles can continue playing at the level he has been.

It all adds up to the points looking very favourable here for the home underdog. I love how San Francisco have played with a competent Quarter Back at the helm and they are doing enough Defensively to keep this close. The key will be how much Jimmy Garoppolo can look after the ball against a team who have turned over the ball on a regular basis, but I think he is playing well enough to do that and I like the 49ers with the points.

The Jaguars will be focused with a chance still there for home field advantage, but they could be looking ahead to the Tennessee game and earning revenge over a Divisional rival who beat Jacksonville earlier this season. With the improved performances from the 49ers, the home underdog can bark in this one.


Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: Two 8-6 teams meet in Week 16 with their futures very clear- both the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks need to win out and hope for the dominoes to fall their way if they are going to make it back to the Play Offs.

It makes the big game in Arlington that much more important with everything on the line and the Dallas Cowboys have the benefit of getting a fresh Ezekiel Elliot back in the line up. They have not played badly without him, but Elliot is a special runner and he opens everything up on the Offensive side of the ball.

A few months ago that may not have mattered against a tough Seattle Defensive unit, but the 'Legion of Boom' has been decimated by injury. Only Earl Thomas can really say he is playing with any health and we saw how Bobby Wagner struggled with his injury last week as Todd Gurley trampled all over the Seahawks in a stunning loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

It might be difficult for Elliot to pick up from where Gurley left off simply because of the lack of Football he has played, but the Running Back looks in fantastic shape. The Dallas Offensive Line is playing as well as they have at any point this season, although I am concerned about the Tyron Smith injury which may keep him out, and I do think they can pave the way for some big runs from Elliot and his back ups.

Things are helped by the injuries to the Linebackers of the Seahawks and that has seen the Defensive Line worn down and giving up some big plays. With Elliot likely making some big gains on the ground, things should open up for Dak Prescott who is going to employ bootleg and play-action to attack a Secondary that has missed their top talent for a few weeks now.

Writing off Russell Wilson is tough though with the Quarter Back showing he is capable of just 'winning' when you don't think it is possible. Wilson is due a bounce back after a tough outing against the Rams, but it might be a tough ask for the competitor when the Defensive unit are not helping out.

It means Seattle have to score almost every time they have the ball and that is difficult when the Offensive Line doesn't offer much protection and the running game just hasn't been there. This Dallas Defensive Line have played at a high level of late and they will feel they can get the better of the Seattle Offensive Line and at least force Wilson to scramble and make the plays in adverse situations.

Wilson has shown he can do that, but the Cowboys Secondary have stood up with a pair of young Corner Backs showing signs they could be a quality duo for years to come. The concentration will be tested as Wilson extends plays, but the Cowboys have shown they can turn the ball over too and I do like their chances to keep their Play Off hopes alive through to Week 17.

The Seahawks have shown they are a team that does bounce back from a loss in the right manner, but the injuries on the Defensive side of the ball are hard to ignore. You have to think they play hard after the embarrassing way they were blown away by Los Angeles Rams last week, but I think Elliot takes the headlines on his return and he can help the Cowboys win and cover in this Week 16 game.

MY PICKS: Baltimore Ravens - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Minnesota Vikings - 8.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
New Orleans Saints - 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Kansas City Chiefs - 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers + 10 Points @ 2.05 Coral (2 Units)
Los Angeles Chargers - 6.5 Points @ 1.86 Bet Fred (2 Units)
San Francisco 49ers + 4 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys - 5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

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