So, I just got off a Zoom call with Santa and I have some good news: It appears that every one of you made the nice list this year, so you’re getting my Week 16 picks as a present! Sure, it’s not the best present ever, but it’s better than a fruitcake, so don’t complain.
For me, the best thing about the holidays is that I get to enjoy my favorite Christmas drink, which as everyone knows is egg nog and tequila. Basically, I took the two things I love to drink the most around the holidays and mixed them together. I’d tell you it tastes good, but that’d be lying, but you know what? Taste doesn’t matter at Christmas, you just need something that will get you through the holiday period with your family and this will definitely do it. This drink is also a good concoction for any Bears fan that needs something to help numb the pain of the 2021 season.
Alright, I’m going to stop talking about egg nog and tequila so we can get to the picks. I’d also say I’m going to stop talking about the Bears, but I can’t do that because I have to pick their game this week.
Before we get to the Week 16 picks, here’s a quick reminder that you can check out the weekly picks from every CBSSports.com NFL expert by clicking here. If you like clicking on things then I highly suggest you also click here so you can sign up for CBSSports.com’s NFL newsletter, which I pump out four days per week. If you forgot to get someone a holiday gift, just sign them up for the newsletter. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
I also have another gift for you that’s not actually a gift, but it is a podcast of Will Brinson and I going over the biggest games of Week 16, which is arguably better than a gift. It’s short and sweet and you can listen to it below.
Alright, let’s get to the holiday version of the picks and I promise I didn’t drink any egg nog and tequila while writing this.
NFL Week 16 Picks
San Francisco (8-6) at Tennessee (9-5)
Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NFL Network)
San Francisco 49ers
I’m not sure what’s on Mike Vrabel’s Christmas list, but I’m guessing that he’d really like Santa to deliver him a healed foot for Derrick Henry, because the Titans offense has been a disaster since their star running back went down. I don’t think Santa delivers feet, because that would be weird, but maybe he’ll make an exception in this case, because the Titans are desperate.
The Titans offense has gotten progressively worse since Henry went down for the season in Week 8 and the past four weeks have been especially ugly. Since Week 11, the Titans have gone 1-3 and I’m not even sure that one win technically counts because it came against a team (Jaguars) that fired its coach three days later.
As bad as the Titans offense has been, it might actually be worse this week. For one, Julio Jones had to leave Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to play a game on just three days rest. Titans receiver A.J. Brown is eligible to come off injured reserve this week, but there’s no guarantee he’ll end up playing in the game. The Titans have played roughly eight quarters this season with all three of their key offensive players (Henry, Jones and Brown) out at the same time and they’ve averaged 6.5 points per game. I’m not saying you can’t win when you’re averaging 6.5 points per game, but that’s like asking Santa to deliver all his presents on a night where three of his reindeer tested positive for COVID. It’s just not going to happen.
What this all boils down to is that if Tennessee’s defense doesn’t play perfect football, then the Titans can’t win and even if they play perfectly, they still might not win. I mean they played a nearly perfect game against Pittsburgh on Sunday and somehow still managed to lose (The Steelers only totaled 168 yards of offense, which was the lowest yardage total by a winning team in the NFL this year).
I think the Titans need a Christmas miracle to win this game and I’m just not sure they’re going to get it.
The pick: 49ers 27-20 over Titans
Indianapolis (8-6) at Arizona (10-4)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (NFL Network)
If I were the Cardinals, I’d ask the NFL postpone this game and not because of COVID, but because I wouldn’t want to show my face in public for at least two weeks after losing to the Lions.
If Kliff Kingsbury needs something for Christmas, he might want to ask Santa to get rid of the bye week in the NFL. Since Kingsbury was hired in 2019, the Cardinals have been an absolute disaster after the bye. Over the past three seasons, Kingsbury’s record before the bye is 17-11-1 (.603 winning percentage), but his record after the bye is an ugly 6-11 (.353). We saw this play out last year when the Cards went 5-2 before their bye, only to completely collapse after their off week by going 3-6 down the stretch.
That being said, Kyler Murray has been trying to insist that this year isn’t the same as last year and that a collapse isn’t going to happen.
I want to believe Murray on this, but I can’t trust someone who just lost to the Lions. Also, it sounds a lot like he’s trying to convince himself more than anyone.
Since their Week 12 bye, the Cardinals are 1-2 and in those three games, they’re surrendering 115 yards per game on the ground, which is not ideal when you consider the fact that they’ll be facing the best running back in football on Saturday. The Colts are 8-0 this season when Jonathan Taylor rushes for 100 yards or more and 0-6 when he doesn’t. I’m going to say he tops the century mark and the Colts end up having a Murray Christmas, which is what it’s called when you beat Kyler Murray on Christmas Day.
The pick: Colts 27-24 over Cardinals
Baltimore (9-5) at Cincinnati (8-6)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
The last time these two teams met came back in Week 7 although Ravens fans probably don’t remember much of that game because I’m guessing they’ve already repressed the memory of it. My therapist tells me that repressing memories isn’t good for you, but that advice could actually be completely made up, because when I say “therapist,” I’m actually just talking about someone who happened to be in front me in line at Target the other day.
Anyway, back in October, the Bengals beat the Ravens 41-17 and the only big thing that’s really changed since that game is the fact that the Ravens are dealing with even more injuries than they were then, which doesn’t even seem possible, because they were dealing wit a lot of injuries then. For one, Lamar Jackson is still injured. The Ravens quarterback missed Week 15 with an ankle injury and even if he plays Sunday, he likely won’t be 100%.
In the first meeting, Joe Burrow threw for more than 400 yards and he did that even though the Ravens had their star cornerback, Marlon Humphrey, on the field. This time around, they won’t have Humphrey and they could also be missing several other key starters, which makes it tough to imagine a situation where they slow down the Bengals offense. The Ravens defensive situation was so dire in Week 15 that even the wife of the team’s general manager could do nothing but make a joke about it and a pretty good joke at that.
If this turns into a shootout, you have to like the Bengals’ chances going up against a depleted Baltimore defense. On the other hand, the Ravens offense will either be led by a hobbled Jackson or a backup quarterback (Tyler Huntley) while going up against a Bengals defense that held them to just 17 points the last time around.
Although the Bengals have a long history of choking in big games, they’ve actually won a multitude of them this season, which is a good thing, because this is easily the biggest game the Bengals have hosted at home since at least the 2015 season. For some reason, I don’t think they’re going to blow this one.
The pick: Bengals 30-23 over Ravens
L.A. Rams (10-4) at Minnesota (7-7)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Los Angeles Rams
The fact that the Rams game against Seattle got moved to Tuesday this week is a good thing and a bad thing for Los Angeles. The upside is that all the players on their COVID list got two extra days to possibly record a negative test, which could potentially allow them to play against the Seahawks. On the other hand, the downside is that now the Rams only have four days to prepare for their game against the Vikings.
Actually, you know what, that’s not even the downside. The real downside is the fact that the Rams have to fly halfway across the country on Christmas Day. I mean, have you ever been to an airport around the holidays? No one wants to be there. It’s like “The Hunger Games” meets “Jingle All the Way” meets “Passenger 57.” Now, I know the Rams’ travel is chartered, but let’s be honest, anyone who spends any amount of time at an airport around Christmas is at an automatic psychological disadvantage doing anything for at least the next eight days while they mentally recover from what they just experienced.
Speaking of psychological disadvantages, Matthew Stafford could be at one in Minnesota and that’s because he doesn’t seem to have any idea how to beat the Vikings. The Vikings are extremely familiar with Stafford due to his time in the NFC North and whenever they played Stafford, they almost always won. As a matter of fact, Stafford is 0-6 in his past six games against Minnesota. Sure, the Rams have a much more talented team than anything Stafford ever had in Detroit, but the edge here for the Vikings is that they know all of Stafford’s tricks.
One thing the Vikings probably know about Stafford is that he doesn’t play well when he gets flustered. There have been six games this year where Stafford has been sacked multiple times and the Rams are 3-3 in those games. The reason that’s notable is because Stafford will be facing the defense that leads the NFL in sacks this season. The Vikings have 44 sacks on the year, which is kind of crazy when you consider that 12 teams in the NFL don’t even have 30 total sacks this season.
The Vikings have played 14 games this year and 13 of them have been decided by one score and I fully expect this one to be no exception.
The pick: Vikings 34-31 over Rams
Buffalo (9-5) at New England (8-6)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
New England Patriots
The last time we saw these two teams on the field together, they were basically playing in a hurrinado, which is a word I’ve never used in my life, but I’m using it now because it’s the only one that accurately describes what these two teams had to play through back in Week 13. I don’t have the weather report from that night in front of me, but the Patriots ended up beating the Bills 14-10 in a game where I’m pretty sure the wind speeds got up to 700 mph. This was also the game where the Patriots basically ran it on every play, and to be honest, I think half the reason that happened is because they decided to set the passing portion of their playbook on fire in order to stay warm on the sideline.
This time around, there’s not going to he a hurrinado and I know that because I just checked. The weather forecast for Foxborough on Sunday is 40 degrees and sunny, which is basically beach weather for that area of the country this time of year.
The Bills have had one of the best defenses in football this year: They’ve surrendered the fewest yards and the second-fewest points, so I won’t be surprised if they hold the Patriots under 20 points. The biggest question in this game is whether the Bills offense will be able to move the ball on a Patriots defense that has given up the fewest points in the NFL this year.
When it comes to picking this game, my conundrum is that I think the Bills have a slightly more talented team, but I think the Patriots have slightly better coaching, so I’m not sure what to do here. You know what, I’m going to take a sip of my tequila and egg nog real quick and think about it.
OK, I’m ready to make the pick.
The Bills offense played as poorly as possible in the first game and Buffalo STILL almost won. This time around, I think we’ll see Josh Allen play slightly better, which will lead to the Bills getting revenge and winning.
The pick: Bills 20-17 over Patriots
NFL Week 16 picks: All the rest
Packers 30-20 over Browns Falcons 26-23 over Lions Jets 19-16 over Jaguars Eagles 24-17 over Giants Buccaneers 31-17 over Panthers Chargers 34-20 over Texans Seahawks 23-16 over Bears Chiefs 24-16 over Steelers Raiders 27-23 over Broncos Cowboys 31-24 over Washington Dolphins 24-20 over Saints
Best pick: Last week, I predicted that the Bills would score 31 points in a win over the Panthers and guess what happened? The Bills scored 31 points in a win over the Panthers. If you didn’t watch this game, and I’m guessing you didn’t because it only went to about 1.7% of the country, then you missed the Panthers holding possibly the saddest kicker tryout of all-time. After Zane Gonzalez went down with a pregame injury, the Panthers needed a kicker, so they organized an impromptu tryout session that included a running back, a wide receiver and a linebacker and the tryout session went exactly how you thought it would go.
This video is the entire argument for why running backs, wide receivers and a linebackers should never be kickers.
Worst pick: Last week, I picked the Patriots to beat the Colts and if you watched the game, you probably noticed that the Patriots definitely didn’t win. I’m not one to make excuses for my bad picks, but let’s be honest, this game was played on a Saturday and Saturday games shouldn’t count against your picks record. NFL football on a Saturday doesn’t make any sense. It would be like having Taco Tuesday on a Friday. No one wants Taco Tuesday on a Friday. Trust me, I’ve tried to make it happen.
Finally, if you guys have ever wondered which teams I’m actually good at picking, here’s a quick look:
Teams I’ve been the best at picking this year: Texans (12-2), Colts (11-3), Jaguars (11-3), Dolphins (11-3), Packers (11-3), Rams (11-3), Bears (11-3), Steelers (10-3-1). Longest current streak of picking a team’s games correctly: Bears (Eight straight games picked correctly)
Teams I’ve been the worst at picking this year: Washington (5-9), Cardinals (5-9), Saints (5-9), Titans (6-8) Longest active streak of picking a team’s games wrong: Cardinals (Two straight games picked incorrectly)
Happy Holidays everyone, and don’t forget, if you need a last minute gift idea, just get everyone in your family a DVD copy of “Fast Five.” They’ll love it and my royalty check will go way up next month, so everyone wins.
And seriously, I should have won an Oscar. And to be honest, I should also win an award for my picks against the spread from last week.
Straight up in Week 15: 11-5 SU overall: 140-83-1
Against the spread in Week 15: 10-5-1 ATS overall: 111-109-4