NFL Betting Predictions: Week 16 Opening Line Report and Picks
I'm sure you have heard of the butterfly effect, where even the tiniest change to a system could have colossal impacts. Like how a butterfly flapping its wings may result in a tornado weeks later across the globe. There was a terrible movie on the subject starring Ashton Kutcher in 2004 on the topic. But, then, all Ashton Kutcher movies are terrible.
For example, what if a flipped coin to determine a draft tiebreaker between the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers had turned just one more revolution in 1970? Both clubs had finished 1-13 in 1969 and the NFL had to flip a coin to determine who got the top pick in the 1970 draft. The Bears' only victory that season was over the Steelers, but there was no head-to-head tiebreaker then. Pittsburgh won and took a quarterback from Louisiana Tech by the name of Terry Bradshaw. Chicago was so crushed it traded the No. 2 pick to Green Bay.
What does this have to do with Week 16 in the NFL? The Bears are NFC North champions for the first time since 2010 in large part because of their stunning trade on the eve of the season to acquire Raiders Pro Bowl linebacker Khalil Mack. He has turned the Bears from a good to dominant, Super Bowl-caliber defense.
The Bears head to San Francisco this Sunday, and did you know that the 49ers made an offer to Oakland before Chicago? Reports are that the Niners' offer was close to the Bears', but Oakland chose Chicago because it thought the Bears would be much worse than San Francisco this season and thus be sending back better draft picks. That seemed like a wise decision at the time because the Niners were a supposed rising power with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, but their season collapsed when he did with a torn ACL in Week 3 in Kansas City.
Had the Raiders chosen differently, they could potentially hold the top two picks in the 2019 draft: Theirs and San Francisco's. Instead, the Bears will hand over a pick in the high 20s. The Bears are -3.5 at the 49ers this Sunday in what's largely a meaningless game with Chicago essentially locked into its playoff future (third seed in NFC) and the Niners simply playing for the top pick. San Francisco won in Chicago in Week 13 last year, 15-14, in what was Garoppolo's first start with the team. Former Bear Robbie Gould kicked the winning 24-yard field goal in the final seconds. All 15 points were courtesy of Gould; the Bears have been searching for a good kicker ever since letting him go.
With two more Saturday games this week, we'll address both in this space. We'll come back in Friday's Line Movement/Last-Minute News story with some of Sunday's games. Individually this week, I will examine Sunday's most intriguing matchup (Chiefs-Seahawks) and the Monday night finale (Broncos-Raiders).
Redskins at Titans (-10, 37.5): I'll be shocked if this isn't the lowest-scoring game of the week, and obviously oddsmakers agree with that small total. These are two of the least exciting teams in the NFL if you are into interesting offensive schemes and a lot of passing. That was clearly on display Sunday as both won to keep their playoff hopes alive; the loser here is done. Washington won for the first time since Alex Smith broke his leg, ending a four-game losing streak with a 16-13 victory in Jacksonville. Can't say I saw that coming, but then again, why should I have had any faith in the Jaguars. Dustin Hopkins hit the winning 36-yard field goal as time expired. Josh Johnson, signed off the street recently when Colt McCoy also broke his leg, made his first start in more than seven years and threw for a score, rushed for 49 yards and didn't turn it over. About the best one could expect from the journeyman.
I was leaning against the Titans at the Giants on Sunday but changed my mind when Odell Beckham Jr. was ruled out a second week in a row. That allowed the Titans to stack the box to stop Saquon Barkley, and they did in a 17-0 win, the franchise's first shutout since 2000. New York had 260 yards of offense, 47 on the ground. Congratulations if you have Derrick Henry in your fantasy football playoffs because he had a historic game in Week 14 and followed it up with 170 yards and two scores on a career-high 33 carries. His 408 yards are the most ever in consecutive games in Titans/Oilers history. The great Earl Campbell held the mark of 405. The pick: Redskins (at +10.5) & "under."
Ravens at Chargers (-5.5, 45.5): The Ravens haven't played in Los Angeles considering they have only been in existence since 1996 and there was no team back in L.A. until last year - Baltimore didn't play either the Rams or Chargers in 2017. The Ravens kept their hold on the AFC's last wild-card spot with a 20-12 home win over Tampa Bay on Sunday. Lamar Jackson threw for 131 and a score and rushed for 95 on 18 carries. Gus Edwards continued his late-season surge out of nowhere with 104 yards on 19 carries. Overall, Baltimore ran for 242 yards on 49 carries. John Harbaugh has completely overhauled his offense since Jackson took over under center. Baltimore is in the postseason if it wins out and it closes home vs. Cleveland.
The Bolts could tie for the NFL lead with 13 wins this year … and still be a wild-card team. That's because they have the misfortune of playing in the same division as fellow 11-3 team Kansas City, which wins any tiebreaker. The Chargers shockingly won in K.C. last Thursday, 29-28, despite trailing by 14 points three times - including with under four minutes left. Kudos to Coach Anthony Lynn for going for 2 and the win after Philips Rivers hit Mike Williams on a TD pass with four seconds left. Rivers then hit a wide-open Williams for the 2-pointer. It was easily the game of Williams' young career with seven catches for 76 yards, two scores and that 2-pointer. He needed to step up because Keenan Allen left with a hip injury. He's dealing with a hip pointer and could miss Week 16. Running back Melvin Gordon is expected to return after missing the past three with a knee injury. The pick: Ravens.
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