Week 16 Sunday games: Confusion in Indy, solution(?) in Philly

Sunday, 27 December 2020 11:12 EST

Nice cover there, Vegas (both the Raiders and the sportsbooks) – that SU loss/ATS win sure did wonders for the bankroll as well as the team’s immediate future. Truly, the best possible time for your defense to wake up is in a week 16 game after you’ve been eliminated from playoff contention. You certainly have to love the way Jon “Chucky” Gruden has brought back that winning culture to the Black and Silver, too: After 15 seasons in which the team went 81-159 (for an average season of 6-10 or 5-11) – but, hey! Since Gruden’s return, the Raiders have gone 13-29, meaning *6.12* wins per year.

And then there’s the freakin’ Arizona Cardinals, limply losing to a depleted team essentially trapped in a bubble in Arizona and bringing a third-string QB with a 1-9 (now 2-9) lifetime record as a starter. Four weeks ago, Tony Romo opined that Arizona and Buffalo were the two teams who might test Kansas City’s so-called inevitability of repeating as champion; now the Cards are in mortal danger of losing a playoff spot to the Chicago Bears, which would be just about the grandest belated Xmas gift the New Orleans Saints with the no. 2 seed could’ve hoped for.

Not that NFLbets is bitter or anything.

Sunday means a comeback and NFLbets feels pretty good about two games. Firstly, there’s…

Indianapolis Colts +2 at Pittsburgh Steelers, over/under 44½ points

It’s Playoffs 101: At least one team – and typically one in each conference – peaked out too early in the season and backs into the playoffs on a losing jag. NFLbets believes it’s quite obvious that that team in 2020 is Pittsburgh (and if the aforementioned low Cards manage to survive Chicago, they’d be the second).

The Steelers may have escaped the Ravens in week 11, but that 5-point win kicked off this team’s decline. Now on a 3-game SU/4-game ATS losing streak, the Steelers offense in particular has been badly exposed and the inability to run (since week 6, Steelers RBs have managed to combine for over 90 yards just once) is clearly stifling game plans: They’re 17 of 55 on 3rd down in those games – and if you think a 31% conversion rate is crazy, consider that Pittsburgh *has faced 55 3rd downs in four games*.

Somehow the Steelers defense remains no. 1 in DVOA but has faced the NFL’s second-easiest schedule, and, assuming Washington FT wins the NFC East, Pittsburgh has dumped three straight ATS against playoff teams.

Suffice to say that NFLbets was loving the opportunity to bet against the reeling Steelers even before considering the opposition, but injury reports from the Colts side flipped the line a whopping 4 points to favor the home team. Indianapolis will be playing without OTs Anthony Castonzo and Braden Smith – quite the unfortunate news after enjoying a nice 5-1 SU/4-2 ATS run. Suddenly, the Colts with still-shaky-but-better Philip Rivers look like one of those low-ranked offenses the Steelers have been feasting on thus far in 2020.

NFLbets jumped on the Colts too early, but still believe the “upset” is rather likely. Again, Pittsburgh has been brutal on offense lately. To cite just one particularly ill statistic – Remember Chase Claypool? The overnight fantasy darling hasn’t gone for more than 69 yards in a game since week 6 and has caught barely more than half – 36 of 67 – his targets.

But we can’t really recommended taking the Colts in good conscience, so we’ll say (write?) take the under on an O/U of 44½ points, and you might consider some defensive player props on either team’s side as well.

Philadelphia Eagles -3 at Dallas Cowboys, over/under 50 points

Two questions about the Philadelphia Eagles: Is the insertion of Jalen Hurts at quarterback enough to rally this team and eke out a playoff berth? And didn’t the Eagles just do the same late substitution and ride Carson Wentz’s backup to a Super Bowl win?

Lost among the jokes and witticisms ragging on the woeful NFC East, what’s lost in the Eagles’ case is the insanely difficult schedule they’ve faced, manifesting in this, their 11th consecutive game against either playoff teams or division mates. As for Hurts, a 1-1 SU/ATS hardly makes for a decent sample size, but the 24 points the Eagles put up against the Saints two weeks ago were the most they’ve scored as well as the first over since playing the Ravens in week 6.

So yeah, excitement over a score in the mid-20s succinctly indicates how low Philly’s bar currently stands – and surely required a bump in this game’s over/under line as Hurts looks to feast on the Cowboys’ next-to-nonexistent defense.

How bad is the Cowboys defense? Bad enough to resist easy quantification. Simply put, the Dallas D ranks 31st in points allowed, better than only the Detroit Lions (hey, didn’t their head coach used to be Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator?). Take out the game at Cincinnati two weeks ago and opponents can look forward to scoring 32.8 points on average – yet somehow overs for Cowboys games are a hardly bizarre 8-6. Perhaps this is why they’ve gone 0-5 SU/1-5 ATS against playoff teams (0-7 SU/1-6 ATS if including Washington).

In short, then, we can’t imagine this game’s result to look much different from week 8’s Eagles 23, Cowboys 9 – unless Hurts has a big game, in which case things could get even more lopsided. Take the Philadelphia Eagles -3 at Dallas.

–written by Os Davis