NFL Betting Odds: Week 16 Line Movements & Last-Minute News
In many ways, Week 16 is the last "real" one of the 2018 regular season because there are only two games that don't feature a team mathematically alive for a playoff spot: Green Bay at NY Jets and Denver at Oakland (Monday). There will be a ton that don't mean squat in Week 17.
The word mathematically is the key, because there are a few other games where a team might be alive but it would take a miracle to get a playoff spot. I won't even go into what it takes for the Carolina Panthers to earn a wild-card spot (less than one percent chance), but it involves a couple of tie games, a Ouija board and a clove of garlic. Even the Panthers themselves realize it's a lost cause because they have shut down quarterback Cam Newton for the final two games to rest his bum throwing shoulder.
In Carolina's 6-2 start, Newton was an MVP candidate. He had 15 touchdown passes to just four interceptions along with four rushing scores. Things started going downhill for Newton and the Panthers in a 52-21 loss at Pittsburgh on Thursday in Week 10 in which Newton threw an awful interception that was returned for a touchdown. The Panthers still haven't won since, and Newton has thrown at least one pick in each game.
I thought Carolina would upset the visiting Saints on Monday night, and the Panthers played well enough defensively to do so but lost 12-9. Watched all of that, and Newton simply couldn't throw the ball downfield with his ailing shoulder. He finished with just 131 yards passing and didn't throw a TD pass for a second straight game. Newton had no touchdowns and five interceptions when throwing 15-plus yards downfield during the six-game losing streak. Newton has completed only nine passes of 20 yards or more this season, which ranks 29th in the league.
Newton's shoulder problems started after he threw 22 passes in the fourth quarter of a comeback victory against Philadelphia on Oct. 21. This is an absolute no-brainer move by GM Marty Hurney, although here's guessing it came from new ownership because neither Hurney nor Coach Ron Rivera seems likely to be back next season.
Relative unknown Taylor Heinicke, a third-year player out of Old Dominion, will start Sunday vs. the visiting Falcons, who have nothing to play for. Heinicke has attempted five total passes in his NFL career, which began with Houston. This game has had the biggest line shift of the season as far as I can tell (not counting from summer to Week 1), with Carolina sitting at -4 before taking the field on Monday and now a 3.5-point dog . The total has plummeted from 48.5 to 43.5.
There is one interesting statistical reason to watch this game if you are stuck with it: Christian McCaffrey. He has 979 rushing yards and 94 catches this season, meaning he's likely to reach 1,000 yards rushing and 100 catches on Sunday. The only other 1,000/100 players in league history were Matt Forte of the Bears (1,038 rushing yards and 102 catches) in 2014 and LaDainian Tomlinson of the Chargers (1,645 rushing yards and 100 catches) in 2003.
Here are other line moves or potential game-changing injury notes for Week 16.
Texans at Eagles (-1.5, 46): This opened with Houston as high as a 2.5-point favorite, but the Eagles looked so good Sunday night at the Rams that they are taking heavy action. The Eagles could be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss. The Texans clinch the AFC South with a win OR with a Titans loss Saturday vs. Washington AND Colts loss Sunday vs. the NY Giants. Don't think either of those latter results will happen. The Texans could clinch a first-round bye with a win and Patriots loss, but New England isn't losing to Buffalo. Finally, Houston clinches a playoff spot with a few different results, one being Baltimore losing Saturday night at the Chargers. Top Houston running back Lamar Miller is dealing with an ankle injury, but he's almost surely playing with so much at stake. Ditto Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who has his own ankle problem. He's been very quiet the past two games but has 101 receptions on the year, nine shy of Jason Witten's single-season league record for a tight end.
Bills at Patriots (-13.5, 44.5): This opened with New England at -10.5. The Patriots took a big gamble early this season in landing talented-but-troubled receiver Josh Gordon from Cleveland for a 2019 fifth-round pick. Worth the risk because of how good Gordon can be, but you almost had to expect he wouldn't make it through the season with an issue. Gordon hasn't, and his career is almost surely over now. On Thursday, Gordon announced he was stepping away from football again and shortly after the expected news came out: He has been suspended indefinitely for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. No way the NFL allows him back in. Ever. Too bad as Gordon had been pretty good in 2018, catching 41 balls for 737 yards and four scores. He's tied for second in the NFL in yards per catch. New England is now really thin at receiver behind Julian Edelman as it will mix and match Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarelle Patterson. Tom Brady also figures to use his tight ends and running backs more.
Packers at Jets (+3, 47): This line has been very interesting this week. It opened at this number but at one point saw the Jets as slight favorites because everyone assumed the Packers would sit Aaron Rodgers now that they have been eliminated from the playoffs. Wouldn't you bet against backup DeShone Kizer too? As of now, though, Rodgers plans to play, and interim coach Joe Philbin clearly doesn't have the power to stop him. This just makes no sense whatsoever. Can you imagine if Rodgers were to get hurt? I'm still not convinced he plays the entire way. Rodgers won't have Randall Cobb (concussion) or top running back Aaron Jones (put on IR). Jets won't have WR Quincy Enunwa for a second straight game.
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