Our very own James Scully barrels in to Week 16 with a 34-36 AT record on the season in tow. There’s a lot to play for, meaning motivation will be high in these matchups. Check out who Scully likes in his Week 16 NFL free picks with playoff hopes on the line!
*ATS (Against the Spread) / SU (Straight Up)
* PK indicates pick
*home team in caps
Washington Redskins +10 vs Tennessee Titans (Saturday 4:30 p.m. ET)
Tennessee (-10) playing their best football at the right time, stretching win streak to three with a pair of convincing triumphs the past two weeks, and Washington will struggle to move the ball behind a fourth-string QB against the NFL’s seventh-ranked total defense.
Tennessee features the second-ranked scoring defense (18.1 points per game), allowing only nine points over the last two games, and a shut out must be considered possible against the woeful Redskins. Titans exit a shut out win over the Giants, who put up 40 points on Washington the week before, and Tennessee 3-0 SU/ATS vs NFC East this year.
Derrick Henry has raised his game of late, posting back-to-back big games with 170 rushing yards and two TDs last week, and balanced Tennessee attack has scored a combined 56 points in the last two home games.
Washington playing out the string with no hope of being competitive in the final two games. Skins have placed 19 players on IR and can no longer run the ball effectively behind an injury-ravaged offensive line, with Adrian Peterson totaling 67 rushing yards on a combined 29 carries the last two games (2.3 yards a carry). And they can’t protect the passer (eight sacks last two games). The defense is beat up as well. Jacksonville couldn’t hurt them but Washington surrendered more than 400 yards per game to balanced opponents while being dominated in three consecutive losses beforehand.
A 16-13 upset of Jacksonville snapped a four-game losing streak and gave the players and coaching staff a temporary reprieve from their ineptitude, but don’t be fooled into believing the Redskins’ offense has suddenly become functional: Washington gained only 245 yards last week behind QB Josh Jackson, who clearly isn’t the answer.
This game won’t be close, lay the points with the Titans!
Week 16 NFL Free Picks – Bet Tennessee -10 over Washington!
Baltimore Ravens +4.5 vs L.A. Chargers (Saturday 8:20 p.m. ET)
In recent weeks, Kansas City, New Orleans and L.A. Rams have not been the offensive juggernaut we witnessed earlier in the season. L.A. Chargers (-4.5) are firing on all cylinders presently (33.5 points per game last four weeks) and will prove too much for a one-dimensional Baltimore.
Chargers can still win division and receive first-round bye if Chiefs lose at Seattle Sunday. Respect how the Chargers have gone on the road and won at Pittsburgh and Kansas City in the last three games, outscoring the Steelers 26-7 and K.C. 22-14 in the second half. 37yo Philip Rivers (third-ranked behind Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees by QBR) enjoying his best season with outstanding weapons at his disposal, leading a comeback from 14 down in the final eight minutes last week, and Chargers expect to have key players Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon in the line-up
Given the offense’s success, a surging Chargers defense is easy to overlook. L.A. benefited significantly from return of Joey Bosa, one of the league’s best pass rushers. Along with all-pro DE Melvin Ingram, Chargers are fantastic up front and rookie safety Derwin James proving to be a difference-maker. The defense has improved statistically during the second half of the season, rising to be the eighth-ranked overall unit, and they’ve been stingy against the run, allowing Pittsburgh only 65 rushing yards and Kansas City 60.
It’s clear the Chargers play their best football down the stretch for second-year coach Anthony Lynn, finishing last year on a 7-1 SU run and winning four straight this year (3-1 ATS last four games). I can’t envision a flat effort against a Ravens team that can’t hurt them through the air.
Baltimore struggled against a front-loaded schedule, opening the season 4-5 SU with Joe Flacco at the helm. Lamar Jackson replaced an injured Flacco in Week 10 and the schedule became much easier the last five weeks, with Jackson leading them to wins over Cincinnati, Oakland, Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Those are four of the weakest run defenses (all ranked in bottom 10) and while the Ravens performed well at Kansas City two weeks ago, losing 27-24 in OT, the Chiefs also stink against the run (26th-ranked).
This will be the first time Jackson has faced a quality run defense and without a viable passing game, Baltimore is extremely vulnerable in this match-up. Coordinators have enough film on Jackson and the rest of the offense (basically RBs Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon) to game plan against and Los Angeles can slow down any offense based strictly on running the ball.
Chargers realize they’re going up against the #1-ranked defense, with Baltimore allowing only 18.1 points and 87.6 rushing yards per game, and must keep their foot on the gas petal offensively. Ravens 7-3-1 ATS in last 11 road games but only 1-4 ATS in last five versus teams with a winning record.
Chargers 3-1 ATS last four games against Baltimore. Everybody knows Baltimore’s weakness – they can’t afford to fall behind – but no team has been able to exploit it. That changes Saturday as the high-scoring Chargers apply pressure in the first half and take the Ravens out of their comfort zone. Lay the points with the Bolts!
Week 16 NFL Free Picks – Bet L.A. Chargers -4.5 over Baltimore!
Houston Texans +2.5 vs Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday 1 p.m. ET)
Houston (+2.5) loves to play close games, with six of nine wins coming by a TD or less, and will be able to grind out another win against a Philadelphia defense that has surrendered 983 yards of offense the last two weeks.
The key to Philadelphia’s upset last week was the ability to run the ball straight at a deteriorating Rams defense but don’t expect Josh Adams or Wendell Smallwood to hurt Houston. Texans owns the league’s fourth-best run defense and can frustrate an Eagles ground game that recorded only 34 rushing yards two weeks ago.
Both teams have issues in the secondary. Philly’s are injury-related, losing six defensive backs including both starting CBs this season. Houston’s schemes haven’t been working as they’ve given up 1,022 passing yards the last three weeks, with Andrew Luck (386 passing yards) and Baker Mayfield (397) both shredding the back end of a solid overall defensive unit.
Houston brings a terrific front seven to the equation, with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney anchoring a ferocious pass rush and All-Pro Benardrick McKinney heading a fine LB corps, and they have a pair of good safeties in Justin Reid and Tyrann Mathieu. This is the first year under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel (a five-time Super Bowl-winning assistant) and I think Houston will find a way to slow down the Eagles pass game.
Deshawn Watson has been solid of late and the possibility exists for a breakout game from the second-year QB with a high ceiling.
Trends favor the home team. Houston has never beaten Philadelphia (0-4 SU/1-3 ATS), has gone 2-9 ATS in the last 11 December games and 0-3 ATS versus the NFC East this year. However, Philly has played better on road with a 1-5 ATS home record in the last six games and Houston 3-1-1 ATS in the last five road games.
Turnovers have been the biggest difference between teams. Houston takes care of the ball, with no giveaways in seven of the last eight games and a +10 turnover differential (third-best). Philadelphia gives the ball away, with turnovers in seven of the last eight games, and have forced only 15 takeaways this season (tied for 21st). That’s a significant edge for the Texans!
Philly has struggled at home this season and an emotional letdown is certainly possible following one of the biggest upsets in team history (won as 13.5-point underdogs at the Rams). Look for Houston to make enough plays to prevail, take the Texans!
Week 16 NFL Free Picks – Bet Houston +2.5 over San Philadelphia!
Buffalo Bills +13 vs New England Patriots (Sunday 1 p.m. ET)
Defense wins in December. And while it’s unrealistic to expect a straight-up victory, Buffalo (+13) has the defense to stay within an inflated number against a struggling New England offense. Give me the points in this scenario.
Easy to understand why many will side with the home team. New England 5-1 ATS at home this year and 11-1 ATS when favored by 10+ points over the last three seasons. And the Patriots have never lost three consecutive December games under Bill Belichick.
But times change and New England appears to have peaked earlier this season when outscoring Indianapolis, Kansas City and Chicago in succession. The offense declined in recent weeks, with New England scoring only nine points combined in the second half of the last two games and a once-proud ground game failing to reach the century-mark in both contests. Patriots have also looked old and slow on defense, allowing rookie Jaylen Samuels to run for 142 yards last year (7.5 yards per carry) and giving up a total of 442 rushing yards the last three games.
Buffalo has improved significantly down the stretch under superb second-year coach Sean McDermott. Bills brings the league’s second-ranked defense to Foxboro, allowing only 292.2 per game, and Brady will be facing the top-ranked pass defense (only 187 passing yards per game).
The offense’s transformation has paid dividends with wins in three of the last five games. Buffalo couldn’t score earlier in the season, failing to eclipse 13 points in six consecutive outings, but they’ve averaged 23.8 points per game over the last five weeks as QB Josh Allen continues to develop. They’re capable of running the ball successfully on Sunday.
Bills 2-1-1 ATS in last four games at New England, holding the Pats to 20 or less points three times, and I expect another low-scoring affair between divisional rivals who know each other well. Take the points with Buffalo!
Week 16 NFL Free Picks – Bet Buffalo +13 over New England!
Chicago Bears -4 vs San Francisco Forty Niners (Sunday 4:05 p.m. ET)
Chicago (-4) still has a chance at a first-round bye and with Mitchell Trubisky at the helm, they’ve feasted upon non-divisional foes with a losing record, winning four such games this season by a combined 129-41 margin. Look for another beat down against San Francisco, who has showed some fight in recent weeks but figures to have little left following back-to-back upsets.
Trubisky had no interceptions nor lost fumbles in last week’s win and that’s so huge for the Bears, who are extremely formidable when the QB doesn’t give away the ball. San Fran doesn’t take away the ball from opponents, forcing only five turnovers all season, and rank last in turnover differential (-22). Love the development of Chicago’s RB Tarik Cohen, who has proven to be an outstanding complement to Jordan Howard, and the improving ground game has recorded 409 rushing yards the last three games.
One of the best defensive units this decade, Chicago is allowing only 18.9 points and 83.6 rushing yards per game. They’ll put a lot of pressure on a Niners offense that hasn’t scored more than 20 points in three of the last four games.
Kudos to San Francisco for playing better in recent weeks against Denver and Seattle, but injuries continue to exact a supreme toll for a team playing with the third-string QB and back-ups at all the skill positions. CB Ahkello Witherspoon (knee) and RB Matt Breida (ankle) left last week’s game and with limited personnel, Niners will get pushed around against Chicago, who is big and talented on the offensive and defensive lines.
Chicago enters with enormous momentum and a 7-1 ATS record in the last eight games. They’ll make a statement by carrying their form on the road, lay the points with the Bears!
Week 16 NFL Free Picks – Bet Chicago -4 over San Francisco!
James Scully is a professional handicapper who hails from the great state of Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesScully.