BETONLINE PRO PICKS BY BARRY WILNER: NFL WEEK 16
The separation between the haves and have-nots in the NFL can be clearly seen in the standings.
Yet, last week, a majority of the top teams struggled against pretenders. Indeed, one of them blew a big lead and lost on a pick-6 in overtime when Dallas fell at resurgent Jacksonville.
Is it telling that Minnesota needed the biggest comeback in NFL history to defeat weak Indianapolis? Or that Kansas City barely got by Houston, which is on pace for the first pick in next April’s draft?
How about the Eagles, by far the most balanced of teams, playing down to the level of the Bears last Sunday? Cincinnati falling into a big hole at Tampa Bay, which looks nothing like a Super Bowl contender despite leading its division? Plus Baltimore, whose offense has disappeared without injured quarterback Lamar Jackson – think he has some bargaining leverage now? – going flat in Cleveland.
Even Buffalo, the top seed in the AFC right now, was pushed by Miami in the snow and wind? That’s not supposed to occur, but at least the Dolphins are a quality team.
December can be a nervous time for clubs in the championship chase. What did the Colts, Texans, Bears or Browns have to lose in their matchups of Week 15? Those teams can play loose, experiment with some things, and never play not to lose. They push matters because they are in invulnerable positions. They aren’t going anywhere.
Meanwhile, the teams thinking they could be headed to February in Arizona begin doing too much of exactly that: thinking. They get less natural and more tentative. They have something to protect. Only the 49ers last week among the potential top Super Bowl candidates performed as expected.
Look for more of that uncertainty from the haves in the next few weeks as the schedule winds down.
Broncos at Rams (+2 1/2)
Sorry but we can’t handle Denver as a road favorite. The Rams are showing some gumption, the Broncos not so much.
BEST BET AND UPSET SPECIAL: RAMS, 19-17
Raiders at Steelers (-2 1/2)
Because the league is commemorating the Immaculate Reception, and in the memory of the great Franco Harris, we have to pick Pittsburgh.
Eagles at Cowboys (-6)
We wonder who would be favored if Jalen Hurts was healthy. This game means far more to Dallas.
Chargers at Colts (+5)
Guaranteed the Colts won’t blow a 33-0 lead in this one. They probably won’t lead at all.
Bengals at Patriots (+3 ½)
The Las Vegas Lateral/Sin City Stiff-Arm will be replayed forever. Look for New England to be angry enough to make this competitive, but not cover.
Bills at Bears (+8)
Can’t see Chicago winning, can see the Bears keeping it relatively close in nasty weather.
Commanders at 49ers (-7)
Washington got the short end of officiating against the Giants. Now it faces the league’s hottest team.
Lions at Panthers (+2 ½)
Detroit might be the NFL’s second-most on fire team, with a playoff spot in reach. Yeah, really.
Packers at Dolphins (-3 ½)
The Dolphins are reeling – and fortunate this game is in South Florida.
Seahawks at Chiefs (-10)
It’s time for the Chiefs to take care of business and show they truly are a title contender.
Giants at Vikings (-4 1/2)
An upset here wouldn’t be a shock, particularly if the Vikings keep making major mistakes.
Texans at Titans (-3)
2021 NFL Coach of the Year Mike Vrabel doesn’t need our advice. Here it is, anyway: “Ride Derrick Henry as much as possible.”
Falcons at Ravens (-7)
Neither team can score much, and the Falcons are in that nothing-to-lose mode.
Buccaneers at Cardinals (+7 ½)
This game is at the Super Bowl site. Hey, TB12, take a good look around. You won’t be heading back there.
Saints at Browns (-2 ½)
Not much to get excited about here.
Wilner’s 2022 RECORD
Last Week – Straight up: 11-4. Against the spread: 7-7-1.
Season – Straight up: 134-74-2. Against the spread: 107-96-7.
Best Bet – Straight up: 10-5. Against the spread: 6-9. Upset Special – Straight up: 6-9. Against the spread: 7-8.