Last week’s NFL schedule was highlighted by some major surprises, most notably the Indianapolis Colts earning a first win of the season, coupled with the Green Bay Packers being dealt a first loss at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that had just fired its head coach.
Heading into Week 16, the playoff races continue to roll along with no seeds set in stone, and two divisions – the AFC West and NFC East – almost entirely up for grabs.
Over in the “Pick Your Knows” department, it was a solid showing for me during Week 15, as I posted eleven wins against the spread. However, I remain far behind last yaer’s pace.
Last Week: 11-5
This Season: 115-109
Last Season: 144-112
It’s once again time to “Pick Your Knows” – the only time it’s not a disgusting habit – and here are Week 16’s scheduled games (with spreads as they appear through CBSSports Fantasy).
Pick Your Knows: 2011 NFL Week 16 Picks Against the Spread
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (+6.5)
Houston’s injury report is more than two-dozen players deep, including stars such as Andre Johnson, who has already been ruled out of Thursday’s game. The Texans are playoff bound, but a shot at a bye is still within reach. Meanwhile, the Colts finally got into the win column last week. Houston is 6th in turnover margin and the Colts are 27th. The Texans still have a potent rushing attack, and Indy won’t be able to match the high-octane offense that the Panthers threw at the Texans last week. Even with all the injuries, all signs point to the Texans rebounding with a victory. Houston covers fairly easily.
KP’s Pick: Houston
Update: In a shocking development, the Colts upset the Texans 19-16 on Thursday night, making it Indy’s second straight victory, while also potentially flushing away Houston’s chance at a first round bye. Not shocking is my continued abysmal picking for Thursday games this year.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-13.5)
The Browns have been great against the pass, but the team has injuries in the secondary, most notably Joe Haden who appeared on this week’s injury report with a thigh injury. Anquan Boldin is out until the playoffs, but Baltimore still has plenty of weapons to throw at the Browns. Colt McCoy is unlikely to play and Baltimore’s second ranked run defense could keep Peyton Hillis and the run game from doing any damage. Playing at home, and likely angry from last week’s embarrassing loss to the Chargers, the Ravens rebound against its division rival and cover at home, mostly thanks to a strong performance by Ray Rice and the Baltimore defense.
KP’s Pick: Baltimore
Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills (+2.5)
Here it is once again, Tim Tebow on the road in a tight spread, while playing in a game with key playoff implications, at least for the Broncos. The biggest key you need to know is that Denver is mainly a run first team when Tebow is under center. The Buffalo defense is currently ranked 29th in the NFL against the run, giving up nearly 140 yards on the ground per game. With this in mind, it’s hard to not expect the Broncos to run wild, even on the road in a hostile environment. Denver covers in another wild Tebow finish.
KP’s Pick: Denver
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (-7.5)
The Bucs are falling apart, while the Panthers continue to struggle at times on defense, yet have enough on offense to outscore teams and force them into a shootout. Tampa Bay could have some success against a suspect Carolina defense, but this is a Bucs team that has lost three straight by double digits and eight straight overall. One of those losses includes a 38-19 blowout at the hands of the Panthers. Carolina seems like a safe pick to win, especially after taking three of their last four and getting a struggling Tampa Bay team at home. The question remains as to whether the Panthers can knock the Bucs off by more than a touchdown? My gut has been wrong a lot this year, but I’m going with Tampa Bay and the points. Panthers win by a TD.
KP’s Pick: Tampa Bay
Arizona Cardinals at Cincinnati Bengals (-4.5)
The Cardinals have allowed 47 sacks this season, the second most in the NFL. The Cincinnati defense has managed 39 sacks this season, the fourth most in the NFL. Therefore, quarterback pressure will be key in this game, with the statistical edge clearly going to the home team Bengals. Kevin Kolb will likely be a game-time decision, and with him out, the Cardinals are likely to take a hit on offense. With the Bengals needing wins and playing at home, my bet is on Cincinnati finding a way to get in the win column. Bengals cover…barely.
KP’s Pick: Cincinnati
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (+1.5)
The Raiders continue to falter and deal with key injuries. Kansas City knocked the Packers from the ranks of the unbeaten last week, and remains a team that’s in a division chase. Kyle Orton was his usual effective self last week against Green Bay, and will see the field again this week. Darren McFadden is out and Michael Bush has been limited in practice, so expect the Raiders to again be one-dimensional. Playing at home and riding last week’s momentum, I see Orton and the Chiefs getting it done yet again, especially since Oakland continues to deal with injuries.
KP’s Pick: Kansas City
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-9.5)
The Patriots got the country to stop talking about Tim Tebow for a few days, but that doesn’t mean that New England’s defense still isn’t very suspect. The Dolphins have played much better over the last month, and is definitely not the same team that got blown out by the Patriots at the beginning of the season. Miami has played well against the run, while also putting up a strong run game led by Reggie Bush. Matt Moore and Brandon Marshall should also be able to shred up a weak New England secondary. Miami has enough to keep the game close throughout. New England wins, but by less than ten points. Therefore, take Miami and the points.
KP’s Pick: Miami
New York Giants at New York Jets (-2.5)
There are two stories with this game, one being the trash talk by Rex Ryan coupled with the refusal for Coughlin to get into that, as well as the fact that these two big city squads are fighting for a playoff spot with two weeks to play. The Giants should be ashamed after last week’s performance, and should at least see an offensive recovery against a Jets defense that is painfully overrated. Eli Manning has been great all season, and was equally as horrible last weekend. With the NFC East still up for grabs, I’m banking on Eli and the Giants to bounce back and knock off the Jets. Giants win in a close one.
KP’s Pick: New York Giants
St. Louis Rams at Pittsburgh Steelers (-14.5)
Ben Roethlisberger was clearly hampered by his ankle injury last week, and struggled against the 49ers. This week, he may not play at all. Without Big Ben, the Pittsburgh offense could see a significant decline in performance. Painfully, the Rams aren’t much better offensively, which makes this a tricky game to call, even if a guy like Charlie Batch starts. The Rams will likely start Kellen Clemens and leave Sam Bradford out. Pittsburgh should win this game by at least two scores, but I’m banking on a special teams play or a freak touchdown for the Rams, something that can keep this game at two touchdowns or less. With Big Ben hampered, rain in the forecast and a spread this high, I’m taking the Rams and the points.
KP’s Pick: St. Louis
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-7.5)
Both Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew are listed this week with ankle injuries, and therefore, one or both teams could be hampered in the run game. Each is expected to play. Per USA Today, taking the under has been the right call in the last eight games that Tennessee has played in. That stat would signal a low-scoring dogfight to emerge in this game, especially considering that the Jags are not going to blow anyone out offensively. In a low scoring affair, it’s a good bet that the game will stay close throughout. Take the Jags and the points.
KP’s Pick: Jacksonville
Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins (-6.5)
The Redskins continue to play better, completing a sweep of the Giants last week. Washington has been much improved and healthier on both offense and defense. Adrian Peterson is reportedly near 100 percent for the Vikings, and could see a workload increase this week. Last week, I said the Saints would likely score a lot, keeping Peterson off the field. The Redskins do not have the offensive firepower to make this happen, and the Vikings also have the talent in the trenches to force Rex Grossman mistakes. The ‘Skins have the edge at home, but don’t expect a victory by a touchdown or more. This game will be close. Take the Vikes and the points.
KP’s Pick: Minnesota
San Diego Chargers at Detroit Lions (-2.5)
The Chargers have hit their typical late season surge, with three straight impressive victories, highlighted by a blowout victory of the Ravens last week. The Lions are holding on to the 6th seed, while San Diego still has a shot at the division title. I like San Diego’s balance with Ryan Mathews, plus Philip Rivers and all the passing weapons. If Vincent Jackson is healthy, that adds one more piece. San Diego will just need to find out a way to keep Calvin Johnson in check. I’m going with the hot hand, and taking the Chargers to get a key road victory.
KP’s Pick: San Diego
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-2.5)
The Eagles have been red hot since Michael Vick returned, and somehow still have a chance to win the NFC East division, though help will be needed. First and foremost, to stay in it, the Eagles will need to knock off the Cowboys. Philadelphia has been beaten badly at times on defense, but more so against the run. The Dallas run game is missing something without DeMarco Murray, and the Eagles have the extra dimension with both Vick and McCoy. Playing for its playoff lives, Philadelphia finds a way to make the NFC East even more interesting, and knocks off the hated Cowboys on the road.
KP’s Pick: Philadelphia
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (+2.5)
Marshawn Lynch has been carrying Seattle’s offense, and posting consistently solid numbers in the run game. San Francisco has the best rush defense in the NFL. The way I see it, Lynch could have a decent game, but nothing spectacular, and the Seahawks may need to instead rely on the home crowd, combined with the play of Tarvaris Jackson and the pass game. Seattle plays well in front of the 12th man, but no one can trust the team’s pass offense. The Niners still have a shot at a first-round bye, and that motivation alone should get San Francisco a key road victory. Niners cover.
KP’s Pick: San Francisco
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-13.5)
The Packers suffered its first loss of the season last week, and it is clear that having Greg Jennings out of the lineup was a hit taken by Green Bay. However, the Bears have really struggled without having a healthy Jay Cutler and Matt Forte in their lineup, so points could also be a rarity for the Bears. Green Bay may not be as potent without Jennings, but the Bears have done very little without Cutler and Forte. Playing at home and wanting to lock up homefield throughout, the Packers take out their frustrations on division rival Chicago, and cover at home.
KP’s Pick: Green Bay
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-6.5)
Michael Turner continues to sit out practices as he deals with nagging injuries. Last week, the Falcons trounced the Jags, and this week get the division rival Saints, who have been clicking offensively on all cylinders, especially on turf. The home crowd will be extra amped up playing on this post-Christmas Monday night game, and as legit as the Saints have been at home and on the turf, it’s hard to not pick against them to get involved in a shootout. Atlanta is a talented bunch, but I’m banking on the Saints to manage a touchdown victory in the dome.
KP’s Pick: New Orleans