Picks of the Week, NFL week 16: Focusing on Baltimore, the South

Wednesday, 18 December 2019 21:57 EST

NFLbets has been eschewing betting on AFC South and NFC South intradivisional games for most of this season, but AFC South vs NFC South? Now those games might be worth betting, and this one certainly looks like a lucrative one…

Houston Texans -3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In terms of ATS records, things are nicely even – The Texans are 7-7 ATS and 5-4 ATS again against non-AFC South teams; Tampa Bay is 6-7-1 ATS overall and 4-4-1 against non-NFC South teams. The only oddity with either of these two overall is the Buccaneers’ strange trip to just about .500: After starting the season 2-2 ATS/SU, the Bucs suffered a 1-5 SU (0-6 ATS) jag and chased that with the 4-0 SU (3-0-1 ATS) run they’re currently on. However, note that all four wins came against non-playoff teams.

Additionally, Tampa Bay has been a poster child for home field disadvantage in 2019, and the Buccaneers are the NFL’s only winless team ATS at 0-5-1. But overall, the home team is 93-123-5, a winning percentage of just .443. So all things considered, NFLbets is throwing away the ATS numbers for this one and instead we’re just betting the football.

To wit: Take the Houston Texans -3 at Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay offensive line is once again without OT Donovan Smith – not great news, considering the OL has given up 26 sacks on top of Jameis Winston’s 19 interceptions in the past nine games – as well as Winston’s favorite target, WR Mike Evans. Currently bottom-10 in most passing categories, the Houston pass defense isn’t scaring anyone since J.J. Watt’s latest early-season exit, but Winston’s generosity has been almost unprecedented. (Even the Detroit Lions got one last week, and they’re dead last in interceptions…)

On the other side, the Tampa Bay defense’s passing stats look pitiable indeed, but the Bucs’ ranks of 32nd and 30th in passing attempts and yardage, respectively, may be put on the propensity for Tampa Bay to engage in shootouts. Nine times have Buccaneers games gone over 50 points scoring this season, and we’re thinking that’s exactly the sort of game Deshaun Watson and his Texans want going into the playoffs. So we’ll also take the over on an O/U of 49½ points.

Baltimore Ravens -10½ at Cleveland Browns

NFLbets doesn’t like to lean on off-field material in formulating bets, but with these two teams in 2019, avoiding factoring in the intangibles is impossible. The post-Sunday news in the NFL this week includes stories on Browns players taunting the Arizona Cardinals sideline – in a game they’d go on to lose by two touchdowns to a 3-win (now 4-win) team.

And while the Myles Garrett helmet swing demonstrated to a new generation how the Browns can lose even when the actual game score is in their favor, Freddie Kitchens & Co. have done little good for NFL bettors. At a league second-worst 4-9-1 ATS, NFLbets would normally be tempted to bet on regression to the mean. But with these guys publicly imploding, how could you bet on them at this point?

Particularly against the Ravens powered by Lamar Jackson, who is clearly on a mission to destroy even team in the league who passed on him in the first round of the 2017 draft (so, then, every team in the league). Baltimore’s own intangible: These guys don’t let up against anybody. Since the bye in week 8, the Raven’s average result has been a 22½-point win. In those seven games, just two came down to a touchdown or less.

The Browns don’t stand a chance. Take the Baltimore Ravens -10½ at Cleveland.

Jacksonville Jaguars +7½ at Atlanta Falcons

Here’s another one NFLbets just doesn’t get. Sure, it’s tough to give more than a TD on a team that’s 5-9 SU (6-8 ATS) and playing for nothing, but playing for nothing seems to be the Falcons’ bag since *that* Super Bowl. In 2017, they got off to a 4-4 SU start before going on a 6-2 tear. In 2018, a 4-4 SU start was chased by a five-game losing streak and mathematical elimination from the postseason; then they went 3-0 SU (2-1 ATS including a ½-point loss in week 17). And this year? Their opening 1-7 SU has been followed by a 4-2 SU/ATS run, including 3-2 against their division mates and the big win at San Francisco last week.

During said six-game run, Matt Ryan and the offense appears to have normalized, with Ryan good for 9 TDs against just 4 interceptions thrown – hardly mind-blowing numbers for a former MVP candidate but respectable at least.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars are heading in a familiar downward direction. The last-minute SU win at the Oakland Raiders last week – it’s almost as though Chucky forgets his guys are supposed to be tanking this season – snapped a 0-5 SU/ATS run in which the Jags lost by an average score of 35-11. And the defense is regressing as well, having surrendered at least 236 yards passing in each of the last four games while also allowing 195 or more rushing yards in four of the last six. Finally, just three times in 2019 have the Jaguars outgained their opponent on offense.

For Jaguars fans – all 14 of them – it’s unfortunate their team couldn’t have caught the Falcons in the first half of the season; NFLbets just can’t envision even an ATS upset here; the Jaguars’ score may be in single digits. Take the Atlanta Falcons -7½ vs Jacksonville, and take the under on an O/U of 46½ points.

NFLbets’ Picks of the Week last week: 1-2.
NFLbets’ Picks of the Week this season: 38-26.

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