This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Paul Bovi, a sports betting expert from VegasInsider.com who’s been handicapping games for three decades, and Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, shared their opinions on five games on the NFL’s slate of Week 16 matchups, including Sunday’s winner-take-all NFC East showdown between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
10-4 Bills (+230, +6.5, O/U 36.5) at 11-3 Patriots
With only a single road loss this season, the Bills travel to New England at 6-1 in games away from Orchard Park. To improve on that record, their offense will have to put up some points against a Patriots defense that held Buffalo to just 10 points in their first meeting in late September. Winners of four out of their last five, the Bills have an outside shot of seizing the AFC East crown from the Patriots if they can win this Saturday matchup.
Bovi’s take: “The Patriots are the likely top seed regardless of the outcome here as New England owns the superior record vs common opponents. Still, the Bills have the opportunity to host a wildcard game with a strong finish. The line hovers around a touchdown which is rich considering the Patriots’ offensive woes this year, which were once again evident in their 34-13 win over the Bengals last week as they were actually out-gained. But, they were able to take full advantage of four interceptions from Andy Dalton. Feel like the Pats get the win, but with the pricey number, the preference is to the low side of the total.”
Gable’s take: “The Bill just pulled off a big win in a tough environment in Pittsburg and had four interceptions in that game, which was huge. They were also able to rush the ball against a pretty good Pittsburgh run defense with over 130 yards on the ground. That was a big test for them in Pittsburgh and they looked really good in that game. The Patriots on the other hand, their defense dominated the Bengals, but the offense still has not come alive. They had fewer than 300 total yards against a really bad defense. While the defense may be able to keep them in this game here with the Bills, the offensive struggles could really come back to bite the Patriots unless Brady can start making some big plays. Don’t be surprised if you see some sort of a special teams or a defensive touchdown in this game as well. This is certainly a game to look at that prop to take advantage of.”
Our Pick: Four of their last five games have been under 36.5. Go under.
11-3 Saints (-140, -3, O/U 50.5) at 8-6 Titans
The Saints roll into this game fresh off a beatdown of the Titans on Monday Night Football that saw Drew Brees set the NFL’s all-time passing touchdown record. The Titans are currently on the outside of the playoffs looking in and could really use a win to help improve their postseason chances ahead of their season finale against the Houston Texans. New Orleans could also use a win to help their chances of locking up the No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC.
Bovi’s take: “Last week, the Titans suffered a disappointing loss to the Texans 24-21. The Titans appeared poised to grab an early 7-0 lead however their receiver had the ball dislodged near the end zone and a Texans player was able to take it 90 yards the other way, leading to a score. Prior to that, they had missed a field goal. While both teams will play with desperation — the Saints to gain a first-round bye and the Titans to make the playoffs — I have to feel New Orleans is the more talented team here and will get the win.”
Gable’s take: “Though they could only muster 21 against the Texans last week, the Titans had looked really strong offensively in the prior four games and had scored over 31 points in every game. Ryan Tannehill was on a tear and still had a decent showing. But the Saints … Drew Brees just had an unbelievable game. Michael Thomas has looked incredible most every single week. The Saints defense is going to cause problems again I think. If the Texans defense caused issues for the Titans and slowed them down with the streak that they were having, I think the Saints defense is stronger and will probably keep them in check as well, but it’s almost a must-win here for the Titans.”
Our Pick: Look for both teams to pull out the stops and take the over.
12-2 Ravens (-500, -10, O/U 49) at 6-8 Browns
When these teams met for the first time earlier this year, the Browns actually had a convincing 40-25 win in Cleveland. Following that game, both teams were tied atop the AFC North at 2-2. Since then, the Ravens have gone undefeated while the Browns have lost six out of eight. With a win, Baltimore can clinch the top seed in the AFC and give themselves the option of resting players next week if they so choose.
Bovi’s take: “Much has changed since the Browns hung 40 on the Ravens in a win earlier this season in what may have been quarterback Baker Mayfield’s best performance of the season. At the time, the Ravens were without cornerback Jimmy Smith and have since added corner Marcus Peters in a trade with the Rams. Both will be in the lineup here. The Browns have lost several key defenders since then, by way of suspension, injury and, in one case, outright release due to a Twitter outburst. Laying 10 points on the road is rarely a sound strategy so we’ll opt for the over here as the Ravens get the better of a higher-scoring affair.”
Gable’s take: “I don’t even know if the Browns can remain competitive here. The Ravens are the odds-on favorites to win the Super Bowl. They’re on pace to break the team rushing record for the NFL right now. They made defensive adjustments after that loss to the Browns at the beginning of the year and the unit has played a lot better. They know they need this game to clinch the No. 1 seed, so I don’t think there’s going to be any letup here this week. I just don’t see the Browns being able to stick around here. If they can somehow win here, that would absolutely be the highlight of their year, beating the Ravens twice. This could be the second-to-last game that Freddie Kitchens coaches.”
Our Pick: Ten points does seem very high. The over is the safer play.
7-7 Cowboys (-125, -1.5, O/U 46) at 7-7 Eagles
Though neither of these teams has really played well enough to deserve it, the winner of this game will represent the NFC East in the playoffs and actually host a first-round playoff game. On paper at least, the Cowboys project to be the much better team as they have a +90 point differential on the season compared to Philly’s paltry +6. But, it’s the Eagles, not the Cowboys, that have won two in a row and will be play host to this matchup.
Bovi’s take: “After losing four of five, the Cowboys rose from the ashes in Week 15 while manhandling the Rams 44-21 in a game that was never competitive. Running backs Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliot combined for 248 yards rushing in the win. The Eagles got their second straight come-from-behind win over an inferior opponent as they defeated the Redskins 37-27 last week. Quarterback Carson Wentz connected with wide receiver Greg Ward Jr. as the clock ticked down to 26 seconds. Philly has been decimated on offense with injuries and will need a superior defensive effort here as they don’t figure to do much scoring. While the Cowboys have superior talent, they have been unreliable from week to week. Side with the under.”
Gable’s take: “Last week was by far Dallas’ most complete game and they looked dominant on both sides of the ball. Whereas the Eagles have played two lesser teams the last two weeks in the Giants and Redskins and both have been close games where they’ve had to come back and win in the fourth quarter. Carson Wentz has mostly played well and stepped up when they’ve needed it and they’ve had other guys step up as well. Miles Sanders has had a really good rookie season for them. Boston Scott emerged in that Giants game. They’re going to need those guys. This game means everything for both teams.”
Our Pick: Very, very nervously take the Cowboys and lay the points.
11-3 Packers (+195, +5, O/U 46) at 10-4 Vikings
Though the Packers won when these division rivals matched up in Week 2, it was actually just the first time in five games Green Bay emerged with a victory over Minnesota. The Vikings are the only team in the NFL with a perfect record at home this season (6-0) and can move into a tie with the Packers atop the NFC North with a win as well as improve their position in the conference’s playoff field. With a win, Green Bay would lock up the division title, no small feat for a team that missed the playoffs last season.
Bovi’s take: “The Packers have been struggling of late as they went all-out to hold on versus the Panthers, Redskins and Bears while they also suffered embarrassing losses to the Chargers and Niners. They are battling to gain a first-round bye here. While they own the tiebreaker over the Vikings, a win by Minnesota here would force the Packers to beat the Lions in Week 17 to claim the division. The Vikings come into this one off a blowout of the Chargers as LA gifted them with seven turnovers in the 39-10 win. Minnesota struggled on defense at times this year while the Packers give up plenty of yards on the ground. We’ll call for a higher scoring game.”
Gable’s take: “This is one where I definitely think it’s pointing towards a Vikings’ victory. The Packers seem the same as the Seattle Seahawks: their records are outstanding but they’re almost paper tigers when you look at what the point differential is in their wins. They play very close games and win them. They’re not blowing anybody out. So at some point, they’re going to regress and start losing these close games. I could see the Vikings taking care of business at home here. Minnesota is a tough place to play. I just feel this is going to be a tough spot here for the Packers to come away with a victory.”
Our Pick: Tough cover for the Vikings. Look for primetime points with the over.
Last Week’s Picks: 1-4, Season: 35-40
Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.