The 2016 NFL regular season only has two more weeks remaining, but the final set of games played during this calendar year ends now. While we all like to count our statistics on a season-by-season basis, we are somewhat alone in this endeavor.
The industry of picking games against the spread – namely, those who set the spreads – has been torn apart in 2016 due to the inexplicable success of the easy and ‘obvious’ teams. The tide never did turn, and it is clear that the industry, as a whole, will have suffered mightily by the lack of ‘traps’ failing to trigger.
Certainly, the future is not so dim. Things will correct. They always do. But not everyone would be in agreement. Because not everyone believes we are in the middle of an outlier.
On a holiday weekend that has forced the entire Sunday schedule of games – with the exception of two – onto Saturday, absolutely nothing is normal in Week 16. And, since the ‘new normal’ has been accepted 15 weeks into the season, this presents the perfect time for a covert strike by the spreads.
Such an event also coincides perfectly with one last attempt to salvage the 2016 success rate – again, since the industry often operates year-by-year, not season-by-season. If there were ever the opportunity to make a move, it would be now, not January 1st.
We always look for ‘traps,’ and found that an abnormally high number are present, this week, from both favorites and underdogs. We are not surprised. We have been waiting for this, all season.
Below are predictions for each game against the spread. Spreads have been taken from various websites and are subject to change. The spread in parenthesis denotes the selected team. An asterisk denotes a confidence pick.
*Confidence Picks – 2016 Season: 46-53-3 (Last Week: 4-4)
(2015 Season: 69-45-2) (2014 Season: 61-46-2)
All Picks Against Spread – 2016 Season: 103-113-8 (Last Week: 8-7-1)
(2015 Season: 143-117-7) (2014 Season: 149-114-4)
Indianapolis Colts (+3.5) at Oakland Raiders
In nearly the exact same position as last week, the Indianapolis Colts are going on the road to face a tough opponent while getting a little more than a field goal worth of points. Only, the strength of this week’s foe is the exact opposite of what last week’s team brought to the table.
The Raiders finally clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2002 – in which they lost in the Super Bowl – when beating the Chargers, last week. In addition, a Week 15 loss by the Chiefs moves Oakland back to the top of the AFC West, where the Raiders can now fight for one of the top seeds in the AFC.
On the other side of the game, Indianapolis continues to play some of the most erratic football in recent seasons, bouncing back-and-forth between wins and losses, poor performances and blowout victories. At 7-7, the Colts can be argued as either one of the better or worst teams in the league. At least, over the course of the entire season.
Despite the alternating outcomes, Indianapolis has actually settled down in the second half of the season. After a 3-5 start to the year – that included a loss to the Jaguars – the Colts are now 4-2 in their last six games. It is imperative to note that one of the two losses was against the Steelers on national television without quarterback Andrew Luck. The other was a division game against a rival that simply rose to the occasion. Elsewhere, the Colts knocked off the Packers, Titans, Jets, and Vikings in the process of moving back to a .500 record.
For a team built on offense, it should be relatively straightforward as to how the Colts have stabilized. That is, most of their offensive playmakers are now healthy. In a league that rewards teams with dangerous passing attacks, a team led by Andrew Luck with weapons should be making a playoff push.
The same has been true for the Oakland Raiders, all season. The team’s offense is ranked in the top-six for both points and yards, and it is the single reason why the Raiders already clinched a playoff berth with two games left in the season. In reality, the offense has to play this well, since the team’s defense is one of the worst in the league.
Unfortunately for Oakland, we cannot blindly ignore some eye-opening performances by its offense in recent weeks. It was easy to forgive the Raiders’ passing attack for falling short in Kansas City under extreme temperatures, but scoring only 19 points in San Diego the following week is concerning. If we look further back into the games against Buffalo and Carolina – both at home – we find that the Raiders trailed 24-9 in the second half against the Bills, while squandering a 24-7 lead against the Panthers in back-to-back weeks. Granted, Oakland won both games – and three-of-its-last-four – but such performances are warning signs for an offense that had been flying extremely high.
The Raiders may be one of the best teams in the AFC, but they are in the process of regressing slightly towards the mean. Indianapolis is trending up and will be fighting for every win it can get to stay alive in the playoff chase. Despite the records, it is actually possible that the Colts have been playing better football than the Raiders over the past few weeks.
Indianapolis wins by four and beats the spread.
Denver Broncos (+3.5)* at Kansas City Chiefs
With a marquee game against the Tennessee Titans immediately following a division win on national television, the Chiefs are thrown right back into the spotlight for a third consecutive week when they host the Broncos on Christmas night. For arguably the most under-represented, forgotten excellent team in the league, Kansas City certainly finds itself in dramatic situations week-in and week-out.
The manner in which the Chiefs lost to the Titans is nothing short of heart-breaking – a last-second, 53-yard field goal that came after Tennessee’s kicker missed the first attempt which was nullified by a time out – but Kansas City is not the only team playing on Sunday Night Football with a bitter taste in their mouths.
When the Chiefs and Broncos last met, it was another Primetime event on a Sunday night only five weeks earlier. Denver erased a 9-0 Chiefs lead – all of which came from Kansas City’s defense and special teams – to eventually carry an eight-point lead into the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. A rare collapse by the Denver defense sent the game to overtime, where the Broncos would again blow a lead and ultimately lose in the final seconds.
Heart-broken, meet heart-shattered.
Since its home loss to the Chiefs, the Broncos have simply not been the same team. Their only win in the last three weeks came against the lowly Jaguars – and was aided by three Jacksonville turnovers, at that. Denver has decreased its offensive production in each game since Week 12, scoring only three points in Week 15, and an average of eleven points-per-game over its last three contests. This 1-3 skid now puts the 8-6 Broncos behind three teams for the final Wild Card spot. Of course, when a team collapses so quickly, we look for opportunities to buy the rebound.
Denver has clearly been hamstrung by the lack of a running game, but Devontae Booker managed 79 yards against Kansas City five weeks ago. As a whole, Denver rushed for 124 yards against the Chiefs, the most since Week 7, and second-highest total since Week 3. As noted in recent weeks, the Chiefs are actually terrible at stopping the run, allowing at least 99 rushing yards to the last nine consecutive opponents.
The Broncos were able to turn their biggest weakness – no run game – into a strength when they faced the Chiefs in Week 12 and, obviously, had the blueprint to erase a nine-point deficit and turn it into an eight-point lead. It evaporated last time. It won’t happen again.
The Broncos win by two points and beat the spread.