Sports

Unpacking Christmas Slate, AFC East ‘Title Game’

Christmas week is right here, and COVID-19 instances are spiking throughout the league, however the NFL prepare doesn’t cease rolling for both of these.

As ESPN Stats and Information identified, there nonetheless are 27 groups technically in playoff competition with simply three weeks to play. A have a look at the AFC actually illustrates the wide-open nature of issues, with the Denver Broncos, technically in final place within the West, simply three video games behind the top-seeded Kansas Metropolis Chiefs in the whole convention.

Maybe essentially the most vital recreation of the weekend is a Buffalo Payments vs. New England Patriots rematch in Foxboro that basically is an AFC East title recreation. However that’s removed from the one recreation with significance this week, and NESN.com’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle are able to make their against-the-spread picks for every recreation.

However first, right here’s how they fared in Week 15.

Now, listed here are their Week 16 picks, with traces from DraftKings Sportsbook.

THURSDAY, DEC. 23

(-3.5) San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Titans.
Gold assist me, I can’t give up Tennessee regardless of a mounting pile of proof suggesting I ought to. On this one, I feel it’s the Titans protection that generates strain on Jimmy Garoppolo, sufficient to disrupt his timing and take him out of his groove, just like what we noticed for a brief span earlier within the season.
Ricky: 49ers. San Francisco’s protection, which ranks second in rush DVOA, has the potential to make Tennessee’s offense one-dimensional. And that’s when the Titans’ shortcomings are most obvious, highlighted by 13 giveaways over their final 4 video games, throughout which Tennessee is 1-3 SU.

SATURDAY, DEC. 25

Cleveland Browns at (-7) Inexperienced Bay Packers, 4:30 p.m.
Mike: Browns.
If Cleveland is wherever close to full power, it could actually do issues to present the Packers issues, like run the ball persistently with Nick Chubb, cease the run on protection and get after the passer. There’s sufficient there to frustrate Inexperienced Bay and hold this one shut.
Ricky: Packers. Don’t just like the spot for the Browns, who’re coming off a deflating loss to the Raiders on Monday night time and now have to play on Saturday amid lingering COVID issues. The Packers, 6-0 ATS this season, ought to roll at Lambeau Subject as Cleveland begins wanting towards the offseason.

Indianapolis Colts at (-1) Arizona Cardinals, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Colts.
Arizona’s protection has sprung a leak, permitting Matthew Stafford after which Jared Goff (!) to carve them as much as the tune of a 139.8 passer ranking. They’re additionally getting run on, which is dangerous information with Jonathan Taylor coming to city, as Indy is 8-0 when the MVP candidate surpasses 100 yards in a recreation.
Ricky: Cardinals. Final week was a bizarre spot for the Cardinals, going through the Lions in-between an necessary Monday night time showdown with the Rams and a Christmas Day conflict with the Colts. As such, I’m not placing an excessive amount of inventory into the Motor Metropolis meltdown. There’s some worth right here, with the Colts in for a letdown after their Week 15 victory over the Patriots. Arizona should rating early and pressure Indianapolis to lean greater than it could like on quarterback Carson Wentz.

SUNDAY, DEC. 26

Buffalo Payments at (-2.5) New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Mike: Payments.
The accidents are beginning to pile up for the Patriots, who is likely to be with out three receivers and their beginning working again. If that’s the case, Buffalo ought to have the ability to execute a targeted recreation plan, and offensively, the Payments should really feel higher about taking part in the Patriots when the wind isn’t blowing 50 mph.
Ricky: Payments. The Patriots’ dashing efficiency in opposition to the Payments in Week 13 is considerably overrated, as Buffalo did a good job of slowing New England on the bottom outdoors of a damaged play and one different key drive. If the Payments’ protection can flip in an identical efficiency Sunday, forcing Mac Jones to really throw the soccer, Buffalo will probably be geared up to tug off the upset. Count on a greater recreation (and recreation plan) from Josh Allen and the Payments’ offense.

(-10.5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers.
I’m getting some 2019 Patriots vibes from Tom Brady and the Bucs. The offense appeared terrible Sunday night time with none type of weapons for Brady, with Chris Godwin completed for the season, Leonard Fournette to injured reserve and Mike Evans coping with a hamstring concern.
Ricky: Panthers. Too many factors to put on the street, in opposition to a divisional opponent, when you think about Carolina’s protection has been respectable at instances and it’s laborious to know what to anticipate from Tampa Bay’s offense shifting ahead.

(-9) Los Angeles Chargers at Houston Texans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans.
LA is among the many newest groups to have a COVID outbreak, and these items sometimes have gotten worse because the week goes on, not higher. If that’s the case, the Chargers is likely to be extra involved with getting in, getting a win (even an unsightly one) and specializing in a pair of pivotal divisional video games to finish the season.
Ricky: Texans. Houston is kinda pesky and unlikely to simply roll over. That’ll be additional annoying for a Chargers staff that already has had an annoying week resulting from COVID.

Detroit Lions at (-5.5) Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m.
Mike: Lions.
Detroit truly has a greater yards per play differential over the past three weeks, and Dan Campbell clearly has this staff motivated to play for him. This quantity ought to in all probability be no increased than a subject purpose.
Ricky: Lions. The Falcons have barely crushed dangerous groups, they usually’ve been blown out by good groups, together with the 49ers in Week 15. Detroit clearly falls below the previous class, however Atlanta shouldn’t be favored by greater than a subject purpose in opposition to anybody.

Baltimore Ravens at (-2.5) Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals.
Since dropping Marlon Humphrey, the Ravens have allowed opposing QBs to finish 71% of passes with 5 touchdowns and a 111.7 passer ranking. In addition they rank sixth in missed-tackle share. It’s a troublesome ask for a staff that already bought smoked by Cincinnati (at dwelling) earlier this season.
Ricky: Ravens. Baltimore, second in web time of possession per drive and second in third-down protection, has a knack for conserving the sport below management, not less than sufficient to be aggressive late. Credit score the teaching, even when the Ravens’ aggressiveness doesn’t at all times repay.

Jacksonville Jaguars at (-2.5) New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Mike: Jets.
One factor I’m on the lookout for this week is poorly coached or unmotivated street groups. These groups should journey on Christmas to go play a comparatively meaningless recreation. Would possibly simply blindly fade these groups, and the Jags are certainly one of them.
Ricky: Jets. All of us can agree the Jaguars are the messiest of messes, proper?

(-3) Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Mike: Rams.
LA dealt with its COVID state of affairs properly and took care of enterprise Tuesday night time, and the teaching is nice sufficient that the Rams ought to be prepared for Minnesota on a brief week. The protection, which has allowed 40 whole factors over the past three weeks, ought to be the difference-maker.
Ricky: Vikings. The Rams are coming off back-to-back primetime divisional video games. To their credit score, they received each, however LA nonetheless feels vulnerable to a flop simply when everybody jumps again on the bandwagon. The Rams at 2-4 ATS as street favorites.

New York Giants at (-10) Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m.
Mike: Eagles.
The Giants have a putrid run protection, and regardless of the actual fact Philly performed Tuesday, the Eagles have run for not less than 175 in every of their final seven video games. They construct an early lead, salt it away, after which there’s no likelihood the equally putrid New York offense will get again into this one.
Ricky: Giants. Quarterback play is an actual concern for the Giants proper now. However this can be a massive quantity for an NFC East matchup, and the Eagles are coming off a brief week whereas coping with COVID issues, with head coach Nick Sirianni’s standing for Sunday in jeopardy.

Chicago Bears at (-6.5) Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks.
Undoubtedly falls into the dangerous staff on the street with nothing to play for factor, particularly in Chicago’s first week since formally being eradicated from playoff competition. Mainly, I belief Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll to place forth a stronger effort than the Bears as a collective.
Ricky: Seahawks. Justin Fields is coping with an ankle harm, including an additional ingredient of uncertainty for Chicago, which in all probability simply desires to take its ball and go dwelling at this level.

Denver Broncos at (-1.5) Las Vegas Raiders, 4:15 p.m.
Mike: Broncos.
The Raiders are a nasty staff with an OK quarterback. The Broncos are an OK staff with a nasty quarterback, assuming Drew Lock begins. Undecided how that calculus performs out, however I do assume the Broncos’ dashing assault and protection are ok to maintain Lock from having to go toe-to-toe with Derek Carr.
Ricky: Raiders. Actually wished to choose the Broncos, as a result of their working recreation and protection theoretically ought to journey properly this time of 12 months. However Lock is a late-game turnover ready to occur. So, I simply couldn’t do it.

Pittsburgh Steelers at (-7.5) Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Steelers.
We noticed this line change in real-time throughout “The Unfold,” dropping from Kansas Metropolis -9.5 because of the Chiefs’ COVID outbreak. Gonna nonetheless roll with the Steelers, although, who proceed to win or hold it shut regardless of not truly being excellent. *Shrug*
Ricky: Steelers. We want solely look again a number of days to see simply how necessary Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are to Kansas Metropolis’s offense. With their statuses up within the air for Sunday, it’s laborious to be ok with laying too many factors, particularly given Pittsburgh’s knack for arising with key defensive stops and unwillingness to go quietly into the night time.

Washington Soccer Crew at (-10.5) Dallas Cowboys, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys.
Dallas constructed a 24-0 lead on the Soccer Crew just some weeks in the past earlier than Washington stormed again for a fairly unbelievable cowl. Since then, WFT endured its personal COVID outbreak and has seen its playoff odds drop to 10%, per The New York Occasions’ playoff calculator. The Cowboys put them out of their distress in a giant means right here.
Ricky: Cowboys. Possibly the Cowboys get caught waiting for their Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals. However WFT simply feels prefer it has run out of fuel, for numerous causes, and Dak Prescott and Dallas’ offense ought to be licking its chops at a golden alternative to lastly hit a special gear.

NFL Week 16 picks stat

MONDAY, DEC. 27

Miami Dolphins at (-3.5) New Orleans Saints, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins.
As talked about on “The Unfold” this week, this line is not sensible to me. It ought to nearly actually be increased, particularly after what we noticed from the Saints in Tampa on nationwide TV final week mixed with New Orleans going dwelling for an additional primetime recreation. So, no, I’m not taking the bait and can put my religion in a red-hot Dolphins staff as an alternative.
Ricky: Dolphins. The Saints’ quarterback uncertainty (COVID) coupled with the Dolphins’ cross protection feels like a recipe for a recreation through which factors are at a premium.

Thumbnail photograph through Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports activities Pictures

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