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What another great Sunday of football. We saw teams like the Vikings, Rams, and Jaguars win in dominating fashion. We even saw a piece of paper used to decide a monumental fourth down. But most importantly, the game of the year actually was the game of the year.

For all those people complaining about the reversed touchdown catch, it was the right call per the rule. You need to maintain possession when the ball hits the ground. If you want to complain about the rule, that's fine. But the refs made the right call. Now, if the Pats win their final two, vs. Bills and vs. Jets, they clinch home-field advantage.

Good luck to the rest of the AFC having to go through Foxborough.

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Playoff Picture

AFC (bold means clinched)
Locked in: Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars, Chiefs (magic number to clinch AFC West is one)
Still alive: Titans, Ravens, Bills, Chargers.
See you next season: Dolphins, Jets, Browns, Bengals, Texans, Colts, Broncos, Raiders

My take: Patriots will win out and get the 1-seed. Steelers will win out and get the 2-seed. Jaguars and Chiefs will be the three and four seeds. As for the wild card, the Chargers need to win out and need the Titans to lose out. I think the Titans either beat the Rams or Jaguars so they get in. The Ravens will beat the Colts and Bengals both at home. The Bills lose their remaining two, @Patriots, @Dolphins, finishing 8-8 and continuing their futile playoff drought.

NFC (bold means clinched)
Locked in: Eagles, Vikings, Saints, Panthers, Rams (magic number to clinch NFC West is one)
Still alive: Falcons, Cowboys, Seahawks, Lions. Falcons own the head-to-head tiebreaker over all three of those teams. They have a high high probability of getting in. 
See you next season: Redskins, Giants, Bears, Packers, Bucs, Cardinals, 49ers

My take: The Eagles and Vikings already clinched byes. The Rams have the NFC West virtually locked up. The Saints and Panthers will make the playoffs. So we're down to one playoff spot between the Lions and Falcons. The Falcons play in New Orleans this week and at home against Carolina next. That's brutal. I think they lose both. Detroit travels to Cincy and and hosts Green Bay next week. Pretty easy. They'll win one. I really like Seattle's chances to make the playoffs. You'll see why below.

 

Nuggets from Week 15

  • Since leading the Steelers 17-3 at the half three games ago, the Bengals have been outscored 87-17.
  • The Cardinals have scored 27 points the past two weeks, all through field goals.
  • The Titans are another awful offense. They're an offense out of the 80's playing smashmouth football. All Mike Mularkey had to do was watch the 49ers offense and he would have seen what a modern day offense looks like with Jimmy G slinging darts, who is now 5-0 as an NFL starter.
  • Blake Bortles has been on a tear the past three weeks averaging 321 yards, a 7:0 TD/INT ratio, and 10 yards per attempt.

 

Rant of the Week

Another week of dumb and stupid coaching. Let's start it off with John Fox. The Bears were 4-9. Their season over. You have a young rookie quarterback who needs as many reps as he can. It's 4th-and-1 at their own 45 with 12 minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter. Lions lead 6-0. John Fox decides to punt. How can you punt when you have a running back who's big like Jordan Howard and can easily gain a yard. What's the point of coaching not to lose? The season is over already. At least be competitive. I don't even know why I watched that game, but it was so brutally boring. It's clear Fox has his Caribbean vacation already on his mind.

A little later that night, the Chiefs hosted the Chargers. KC was up 30-13 with ball at the Chargers 43 with 1:44 left in the game. LA decides to use all their timeouts to get ball back at their own 8 with 1:19 left. I didn't know you'd score 17 points in 106 seconds. And what's the pointing risking an injury when you're still very alive in the playoff hunt? So they get the ball back and instead of taking a knee, they run 4 draws and an incomplete screen to Melvin Gordon. It was fine with me to get the extra Gordon fantasy points, but how in the world can you risk an injury to your star running back in a game that was over? Anthony Lynn, you made a horrendous decision that luckily didn't cost you.

 

Survivor League Strategy

If you are still in a survivor pool, don't fret. The order of the games I pick are from my top plays to worst.

These lines are from sportsbook.ag on Wednesday.

Last week my top picks were 1-1-1, my secondary picks were 3-1-2 and the rest of the bunch were 1-6.

This week we have NO Thursday games, two Saturday games again, nine early games, three late games, NO Sunday night football game because it's Christmas eve, but two Monday Christmas Day games.

I am very hesitant this week. The favorites are rolling. They went 14-0 straight up last week (two games closed at pick 'em). If you recall, the underdogs underdogs were 53-36-1 against the spread after Week 7, since then, the favorites are 78-43-8 (not including three pick 'ems), according to Dave Tuley. Evan Abrams of The Action Network says, "favorites are having their best season in more than a decade, covering the spread at a 55.1% clip, which would be the highest mark in the league since 2005."

The favorites just can't continue to win at this pace. I've studied this weeks lines since Sunday and they are out of wack. They're enormous. There's not one game that stands out to me. This has the making of a wonk week (Bill Simmons' phrase, where underdogs with no expectation of wining win as double-digit point underdogs, and many dogs cover.

 

Top Picks for Week 16

These are my best bets in order of confidence:

Chargers -7 @ JETS

Just when I say it's going to be an underdog week, I choose the Jets. The Jets just gave it their all in New Orleans on Sunday. They lost 31-19, but the score should have been much bigger if not for two Brandon Coleman fumbles inside the red zone. The Jets had one legitimate scoring touchdown (not counting their garbage time one), which went for 12 plays and 75 yards. On it, Bryce Petty completed ONE pass for eight yards. The Jets only means of offense was through the ground. They will be able to run the ball against the 30th ranked Chargers rush defense, but they won't have the opportunity to. Their gameplay will be to run the ball, but that will chance quickly against a dynamic Chargers offense. Phillip Rivers will slice up a Jets secondary who have allowed 277 passing yards per game over their last three. The Jets are also allowing 8.3 pass yards per attempt over their last three. The Chargers need to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Prediction: Chargers 35 - Jets 16

Browns +6.5 @ BEARS

I know, I know I said I wouldn't pick the Browns again, but I can't pass this line up. How in the world are Mitchell Trubisky and the hapless Bears almost a touchdown favorite over anybody? I ranted about the Bears above, but I want to reiterate, I watched the first three quarters on Saturday and then I fell asleep because the Bears were just so boring. They played with zero passion. No one was getting excited after anything. John Fox has that vacation in the Caribbean already in mind and can't wait for this season to be over. He has to pace the sidelines in cold Chicago on Sunday in a meaningless boring game. The Browns have something to play for at least; not to finish 0-16.

I will say this though, the Bears have dominated the AFC North this year. They are 3-0 and Jordan Howard has averaged 151 rushing yards and scored four touchdowns against that division. Cleveland is surprisingly the 7th ranked rushing defense, so I expect them to slow Howard down, but he will get his 100.

Prediction: Bears 20 - Browns 16

 

Secondary Picks for Week 16

These are plays I like, a level below my best bets in order of confidence:

49ERS +4.5 vs. Jaguars

JIMMY G! JIMMY G! JIMMY G! How could I not back this stud again? He's a perfect 5-0 as an NFL starter and has looked terrific. This will be his greatest test yet against arguably the best defense in football. I love getting more than a field goal for a home team. As good as Blake Bortles has played in recent weeks, he needs the running game to click to keep the pressure off of him. Garoppolo hasn't only done wonders to the offense, but the defense as well. Over their last three, since Jimmy G took over as the starter, the Niners have allowed the fourth least opponent rush yards per attempt and opponent rushing yards per game. The Niners are 19th in passing defense allowing 231 yards per game, but over their last three, that number has dipped to 181 yards per game, 5th in the league in that span. The Jaguars are in for a battle on Sunday.

Prediction: 49ers 23 - Jaguars 20

BENGALS +5 vs. Lions

The Bengals rush defense is so bad, but the Lions haven't had a 100-yard rusher in over four years. That doesn't allow them to win any games handily. Their last two wins have been wholly unimpressive against the Bears and Bucs. Cincy has been outscored 87-17 since leading the Steelers 17-3 at the half three games ago. In the NFL, you usually don't play that poorly for that long, unless you're the Browns. Andy Dalton should be able to move the ball down the field. He is awful under pressure, but the Lions are 22nd in sacks. They are 28th in opposing passing yards per game, 17th in defensive DVOA, and struggle to get off the field on third down ranking 13th.

Prediction: Bengals 24 - Lions 20

SAINTS -6 vs. Falcons

The Saints and Falcons just played two weeks ago on that weird Thursday night when Alvin Kamara was knocked out early changing the entire Saints offense. The Falcons ended up winning so I expect the Saints to play with revenge on their mind, and most importantly for the division. If the Falcons win out, they will win the division. That makes this an enormous game. The Saints should have dominated the Jets on Sunday, like I mentioned above, but some stupid turnovers cost them. Atlanta really struggled with the Bucs Monday night, a team they should have dominated. They will need Devonta Freeman to have a huge game against a defense that struggled to stop the Jets run. It may not matter though because the Atlanta defense is 25th in defensive DVOA. They will struggle to get off the field in what Vegas is calling a shootout (over/under is 53).

Prediction: Saints 34 - Falcons 20

Dolphins +10 @ CHIEFS

Jay Cutler threw away the game on Sunday exactly one game after his best game all year. This game will center on the Chiefs ability to limit Kenyan Drake. He has been on a tear of late averaging 104 yards and 4.88 yards per rush. The KC defense is a bottom ten rushing defense. Melvin Gordon looked great on Saturday night, the best he's looked in weeks. The Chiefs offense has a lot of weapons, but the Dolphins know how to get off the field on third down. They ranked sixth for the season, and second over their last three. Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake will be able to get pressure on Alex Smith and keep this close. I expect Kansas City to win, but not cover this double-digit spread.

Prediction: Chiefs 26 - Dolphins 17

Seahawks +5 @ COWBOYS

The Seahawks got embarrassed last week. Thanks to John Ewing for this stat, "teams that got rolled by 35 or more points have gone 20-8-1 (71.4%) ATS in their next game. If the team is an underdog the ATS record jumps to 16-4-1 (80.0%). Seattle is a 5-point underdog in Dallas on Sunday. Less than 40% of spread tickets are on the Seahawks."

I love Seattle now.

Prediction: Seahawks 31 - Cowboys 28 

 

The Rest of the Bunch

These are games that I am not certain about. In order of importance:

TITANS +7 vs. Rams

These teams are heading in different directions. The Rams just had their most important win in years and the  Titans offense has been atrocious. The Rams are bottom ten in pass defense, but are third in rushing defense. L.A. needs to get Todd Gurley going to open up their pass game which will be tough against the Titans.

Prediction: Rams 24 - Titans 20

Bills +12 @ PATRIOTS

It always feels like the Bills play the Pats really tough in Foxborough. The beat them two of the past three years there. The Patriots will win, but not cover.

Prediction: Patriots 30 - Bills 21

EAGLES -9.5 vs. Raiders

This game is the 8:30 game on Christmas night. That's not good news for Oakland. The Eagles couldn't have asked for better matchups for Nick Foles to build confidence and get acclimated to this team. They faced the Giants who can't guard anyone last week, this week they get the bottom ten pass defense, and worst defense per DVOA, and next week get the Cowboys at home.

Prediction: Eagles 38 - Raiders 16

Vikings -9 @ PACKERS

This game is on Saturday night at 8:30. The Vikings have went 3-1 against the Packers the past two years. They need this game to continue their hopes of getting home-field advantage through the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers is on injured reserve and will be out for the year. Brett Hundley will start and that will probably be without his favorite weapon, Davante Adams. The Pack will play hard, but the Vikes are too physical.

Prediction: Vikings 28 - Packers 17

PANTHERS - 10 vs. Bucs

The Bucs just gave it their all on Monday night against Atlanta and narrowly lost. Their defense is so banged up, they allowed Devonta Freeman to rush for 126 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. I have no clue how they're going to slow down Christian McCaffery.

Prediction: Panthers 35 - Bucs 14

Colts +13.5 @ RAVENS

This game is Saturday at 4:30. And there is no way I will be watching this. I know the Ravens have blown out teams before, but this line is too much.

Prediction: Ravens 24 - Colts 13

TEXANS +9.5 vs. Steelers

This game is on Christmas Day at 4:30 p.m. I'll just take the Texans because of the same stat I used to take the Seahawks.

Prediction: Steelers 27 - Texans 20 

CARDINALS -4 v. Giants

This game doesn't matter and shouldn't have any fantasy championship week relevance, unless you have the Cards defense like me.

Prediction: Cardinals 20 - Giants 14

REDSKINS -3.5 vs. Broncos

Wow, what another great game. I like Kirk Cousins so ill take the Skins.

Prediction: Redskins 24 - Broncos 20

 

Any questions? Feel free to ask me on Twitter @Seth_Fink. Best of luck and happy holidays!

 

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