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Week 16 NFL game picks: Patriots complete sweep of Bills; Bengals top Ravens for AFC North lead

Gregg Rosenthal went 10-6 straight up and 7-9 against the spread on his Week 15 NFL picks, bringing his season totals to 129-94-1 and 120-102-1, respectively. How will he fare in Week 16? His picks are below.

The lines below provided by Caesars are current as of 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 23 unless otherwise noted below.


Philadelphia Eagles
ML: -450 · 7-7
New York Giants
ML: +350 · 4-10
  • WHERE: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | FOX
  • SPREAD: Eagles -9.5 | O/U: 40.5

Bad luck: The Eagles have a quick turnaround after their Tuesday night win. Good luck: Jake Fromm is likely waiting on the other side, a few days after Garrett Gilbert. Fromm moved the ball in garbage time against the Cowboys, but it would take Rookie Justin Herbert to save these surroundings in New York. The Eagles' offense is fifth in EPA since Week 7. The Giants are 29th. Philly's worst performance in that span was a four-turnover day in MetLife Stadium, a game they can prove Sunday was fluky. 

Los Angeles Rams
ML: -170 · 10-4
Minnesota Vikings
ML: +145 · 7-7
  • WHERE: U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | FOX
  • SPREAD: Rams -3 | O/U: 48.5

The Vikings' offense and the Vikings' defense trade stretches where they play like top-five units, but it rarely happens at the same time. That's what will be required on Sunday because the Rams' units appear to finally be peaking together. It's a short week for both teams and Minnesota is unpredictable yada yada, but I'm starting to worry this Kirk Cousins slump is sticking.

New England Patriots
ML: -135 · 9-5
Buffalo Bills
ML: +115 · 8-6
  • WHERE: Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | CBS
  • SPREAD: Patriots -2.5 | O/U: 43.5

It appears the Patriots could be without Nelson Agholor (concussion) and Kendrick Bourne (COVID-19), which will make it easier for the Bills to do what they do best: shut down limited pass attacks. Part of my preseason priors can't imagine Buffalo getting swept, and Josh Allen is still capable of making plays you can't scheme for. He has to run more in this game, but I still don't quite trust the Bills coaching staff to win at the margins in situational football against Bill Belichick and a big-bodied Patriots roster designed to beat their division rivals.

UPDATE: The Patriots announced Friday that Agholor and RB Rhamondre Stevenson have been ruled out for Sunday's game, while Bourne is still on the COVID list.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
ML: -450 · 10-4
Carolina Panthers
ML: +350 · 5-9
  • WHERE: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, N.C.)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | FOX
  • SPREAD: Panthers +10 | O/U: 43

It will be easier for the Bucs to game plan without Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette with a week to prepare, but it still won't be easy. Thirty-plus points per game might not be the norm any more in Tampa, but the Bucs won't need that many this week. Matt Rhule's announcement that Cam Newton will start with Sam Darnold mixing in sounded more like a threat than a promise. 

New York Jets
ML: -110 · 3-11
Jacksonville Jaguars
ML: -110 · 2-12
  • WHERE: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | CBS
  • SPREAD: Even | O/U: 41.5

My picks have been erratic this year, but I successfully predicted both upset legs of the Texans' season sweep of the Jaguars. This has been part of a successful strategy to never pick these Jags because they make me watch them play football every week. Now comes the strategy's toughest test. This is a rare game in which Jacksonville has an edge at quarterback and New York has 17 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list as of this writing, including some of the Jets' best linemen. Still can't do it. Play the hits!

Atlanta Falcons
ML: -280 · 6-8-0
Detroit Lions
ML: +240 · 2-11-1

NOTE: Betting lines are current as of 4 p.m. ET on Friday.

  • WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | FOX
  • SPREAD: Lions +6.5 | O/U: 42.5

The Lions are the most well-coached two-win team I've seen in a long time. I especially like that they have been intentional about their strengths. They wanted a great offensive line and they have one. They are coaching up players like Charles Harris on defense to career-best play. Jared Goff is also doing his best poor man's Matt Ryan impression, which should be enough for a third win in four games if Goff gets off the reserve/COVID-19 list in time. (The pick will likely flip if David Blough or Tim Boyle starts, but I'd still happily take the Lions to cover.)

UPDATE: Dan Campbell said that Jared Goff "is highly unlikely" to play Sunday. I can't quite pull the trigger on a Tim Boyle upset after what I saw from him in Week 11 against the Browns. I still think that's too many points to give the Lions (original pick: Lions 24, Falcons 20).

Los Angeles Chargers
ML: -450 · 8-6
Houston Texans
ML: +350 · 3-11
  • WHERE: NRG Stadium (Houston)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | CBS
  • SPREAD: Chargers -10 | O/U: 46

The Texans' two best players -- Brandin Cooks and kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn -- hit the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. It might sound like I'm joking, but I don't trust Houston to score enough to cover against a quietly improved Chargers defense. The absence of Joey Bosa -- and potentially of Austin Ekeler, too -- will also hurt, but the Chargers have more depth. With both teams having COVID issues, consider this score prediction written in light pencil.

UPDATE: Austin Ekeler said Saturday he tested positive for COVID-19 again and will not play on Sunday.

Cincinnati Bengals
ML: -350 · 8-6-0
Baltimore Ravens
ML: +280 · 8-6-0

NOTE: All betting lines are current as of noon ET on Sunday.

  • WHERE: Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | CBS
  • SPREAD: Ravens +7 | O/U: 43

Choosing the Ravens at this stage of the season is not about what's logical or who's available. They are a weekly reminder of what they are not, barely able to field a legitimate roster lately, and yet they are still there late in every game, ready to break hearts again. The Ravens lost to the Bengals 41-17 when they were relatively healthy, so of course they'll win this rematch to stop the bleeding because it's 2021.

UPDATE: The loss of Tyler Huntley (reserve/COVID-19) and Lamar Jackson (ankle) is too much for a Ravens team with so many other injuries to overcome, so I now have the Bengals winning this massive AFC North matchup (original pick: Ravens 23, Bengals 20).

Seattle Seahawks
ML: -280 · 5-9
Chicago Bears
ML: +230 · 4-10

Point spreads can sometimes be confusing. The Bears, without their entire secondary, were underdogs by about a touchdown against the high-ceiling Vikings. Now the Bears are underdogs by about a touchdown against a Seahawks squad stuck deep in the mud on both sides. Seattle's style of play -- long drives allowed on defense without a ton of points and a whole lot of short offensive drives -- invites close games. I love Chicago to cover -- and a road upset with Justin Fields having a moment would not be the upset the numbers suggest here. 

UPDATE: Matt Nagy announced Friday that Nick Foles will start Sunday against the Seahawks. Fields (ankle) is questionable to play.

Kansas City Chiefs
ML:-340 · 10-4
Pittsburgh Steelers
ML: +270 · 7-6-1
  • WHERE: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Mo.)
  • WHEN: 4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
  • SPREAD: Steelers +8 | O/U: 44.5

It's depressing to have takeaways from how COVID outbreaks impact NFL games, but the most obvious ones are that the quality of the missing players matters, and the quantity is important, too. The Chiefs are dealing with both issues. This is not 2018; I don't trust Kansas City's offense without Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Honestly, I'm not sure I trust the unit with them. The Zombie Steelers defy numbers and find a way to make every game ugly close. 

UPDATE: The Chiefs activated Tyreek Hill from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday, making him eligible for Sunday's game against the Steelers.

Denver Broncos
ML: -110 · 7-7
Las Vegas Raiders
ML: -110 · 7-7

Fifty-five quarterbacks have dropped back to pass at least 30 times this season. Drew Lock is ranked 55th by Pro Football Focus in those snaps, and he's not that close to No. 54. So why am I still picking the Broncos, ensuring poor gut health while watching this game? First, the Raiders' secondary is in shambles because of COVID-19 and injuries. Lock can survive. More importantly, the Denver defense we were promised at the beginning of the season has finally arrived. It's enough to grind this Las Vegas offense to the speed of a bus in rush hour traffic.

Dallas Cowboys
ML: -475 · 10-4
Washington Football Team
ML: +380 · 6-8

NOTE: Betting lines are current as of 4 p.m. ET on Friday.

  • WHERE: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
  • WHEN: 8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
  • SPREAD: Dallas -10 | O/U: 47

Way back in Week 14, the Cowboys' defense manhandled Washington in every way possible. Not much has changed since then, except for a lot of WFTers going on the COVID list, which should be improved by Sunday night. I keep expecting this Dallas offense to snap out of its funk at some stage, but a division game for the second time in three weeks doesn't feel like the spot. I'll take the points with Taylor Heinicke back in the fold

UPDATE: WFT got some key players back this week like Taylor Heinicke and safety Kam Curl. But they lost even more, with All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff heading to the COVID list, while William Jackson has a new injury, Landon Collins (foot) just landed on IR and Antonio Gibson's toe is newly banged up. I've lost faith WFT has enough to keep the game close (Original pick: Cowboys 24, Washington 16).


Miami Dolphins
ML: -130 · 7-7
New Orleans Saints
ML: +110 · 7-7

Two of the strangest teams of 2021 face off on Monday Night Football in a game that could determine their playoff fate. We don't deserve any better, but perhaps the Saints do. With the news Thursday that third-stringer rookie Ian Book will start at QB, the Saints are fighting more uphill than usual. Not to mention, the status of their standout tackles remains uncertain as of this writing. The Dolphins are so extreme with their aggressive blitzes on defense that the Saints may never pass at all. New Orleans is hyped and cohesive enough to win a game entirely on defense, but the quarterback news was enough to make me switch my pick.

UPDATE: Tackle Ryan Ramczyk, LB Demario Davis and several others were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday.


Arizona Cardinals
ML: -130 · 10-4-0
Indianapolis Colts
ML: +110 · 8-6-0

NOTE: Betting lines are current as of 4 p.m. ET on Friday.

I'm basing this pick largely off Indianapolis' running game exploiting an Arizona run defense I've been suspicious of all season. However, if the Colts' offensive line is not at full strength -- Pro Bowl LG Quenton Nelson missed practice this week with an illness -- I may flip back to the Cardinals.

UPDATE: Nelson is indeed out, as is the rest of the Colts' starting interior offensive line, which is why I'm changing the game score (Original pick: Colts 24, Cardinals 23). The Colts are not the Colts when their offensive line is not right -- see their September results.

Cleveland Browns
ML: +280 · 7-7
Green Bay Packers
ML: -350 · 11-3

I thought the Browns showed some fight over the last two weeks, despite the ending of Monday's loss to the Raiders. Cleveland's running game could be a difficult matchup for Green Bay's weak run defense, and the Browns' edge rushers could be problematic if the Packers tackles aren't back. Availability for both these teams is crucial, but I'm assuming Baker Mayfield will be back and Myles Garrett will play. Whether they win or not, the Browns can absolutely keep this closer than 7.5 points.

UPDATE: The Browns activated Baker Mayfield, as well as Case Keenum and Jarvis Landry, off the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday.

San Francisco 49ers
ML: -160 · 8-6
Tennessee Titans
ML: +140 · 9-5

These are two similarly rugged teams that want to run the ball, with one big exception: The Titans can't pass protect. That won't get better with Tennessee down two starting offensive linemen. Julio Jones' surprise availability and A.J. Brown's anticipated return gives the Titans a chance, and Mike Vrabel has the rare defensive front that could win enough to force Jimmy Garoppolo into mistakes. But there's a reason the Titans have lost three of four while the 49ers have won five of six. San Francisco is better.

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