Home Elos Games Posts
MENU
Week 16 Circa Picks

Last week was an odd week. I could have been 5-0. The Titans and Packers were well on their way to covering going into the fourth quarter. And yet both teams blew up towards the tail end of things. The Titans were all too giddy turning the ball over on drives that they should have been able to close out given the success of their ground game. Meanwhile, the Packers defense checked back into their hotel rooms halfway through the fourth quarter. It was sad. Though to be fair, I was also lucky with Buffalo managing to cover against a Carolina team missing a punter.

And so here we are, week 16. The contest is all but over for me. Unless I completely run the table (highly unlikely), I’ll be placing somewhere outside the money. Not good. But lessons were learned. Quite a few lessons actually. After the season ends, I’ll need to create a document detailing my thoughts on the coaches around the league. The way these coaches operate and the way their teams play against other organizations perceivably inferior to them needs to be documented, as their management dictates the outcome of so many games.

Anyway, let’s go ahead and finish out the season on a positive note.


Packers @ Browns (+7)


Latest Results

Packers @ Ravens
Raiders @ Browns

Key Injuries

Green Bay survived its trip to Baltimore mostly unscathed, despite the close finish. As we get closer to game day, we’ll need to see whether the Packers will put any key players on injury watch.

Cleveland’s biggest issue is COVID. By the time Saturday comes around, either Baker Mayfield or Case Keenum should be healthy. On top of that, a number of other players will be returning as well. It’ll be paramount to check their injury report as the week progresses.

History

Neither of these two have much history together. Both offenses run schemes and concepts predicated off Mike Shanahan’s style of offensive football, so theoretically, their defenses should be able to hone in on some of the tricks both offenses will be pulling come Saturday.

Weather

Chilly, with some rain expected


Undecided


Green Bay covers if
Cleveland’s offense proves hopeless against a defense that’s played at a high level sporadically this season. The Browns cannot be allowed to mount any sort of comeback late in the game once the Packers have a sizable lead
- AND -
Baker Mayfield is starting at quarterback.

Cleveland covers if
they can score touchdowns against a Green Bay defense known to soften once the game winds down. It’s imperative for Cleveland to establish some sort of ground game here behind Nick Chubb. The burden of production cannot rest solely in Baker Mayfield’s hands
- OR -
Baker is still dealing with COVID, forcing Case Keenum to start at quarterback. Unlike Mayfield, Keenum may actually connect with other skill players beyond Jarvis Landry.


Colts @ Cardinals (-1)


Latest Results

Patriots @ Colts (Saturday Night Football)
Cardinals @ Lions

Key Injuries

The Colts left the contest against the Patriots fairly healthy, though an eye should be kept on their offensive linemen.

For the Cardinals, Zach Ertz and Rondale Moore are dealing with issues keeping them from fully practicing. Just like with the Colts, it’s worth keeping an eye on the practice report as the week progresses. Jordan Phillips may be sidelined as well.

EDIT: Indianapolis is down three offensive linemen entering tomorrow’s game. Not good for a team that loves to run the ball. If Carson Wentz is responsible for maintaining production on offense, it won’t be pretty. Wentz has yet to impress in a major game this season.

Zach Ertz will be playing, but James Connor and Rondale Moore hasn’t practiced at all this week, putting their status tomorrow in jeopardy. Likewise, their center will be a game-time decision pending the results of his COVID test.

History

No recent history between these two given this is an inter-conference match. But if there’s one thing Arizona’s defense has struggled against time and time again this season, it’s stopping opposing rushers. Outside of a few games, the Cardinals have been pretty pathetic at limiting their opponents’ rushing yardage. Though it remains to be seen whether the defense can truly stop a ground game if it dedicates itself wholeheartedly to that cause.

Weather

Doesn’t matter much, as this is a dome game


Undecided


Indianapolis covers if
Jonathan Taylor pops off yet again for big yardage.

Arizona covers if
their defense truly makes a concerted effort to limit Indy’s ground game, forcing the Colts to rely on Carson Wentz to matriculate the ball down the field
- AND -
the Cardinals can force some turnovers by regularly hectoring Wentz. Indianapolis’ offensive line is ravaged by COVID, which will make pass protection an issue for Indy.


Bills @ Patriots (-2.5)


Latest Results

Panthers @ Bills
Patriots @ Colts (Saturday Night Football)

Key Injuries

The Patriots lost a few receivers in their fight against the Colts last week. N’Keal Harry and Nelson Agholor suffered some injuries that may keep them sidelined when the Bills arrive next Sunday.

The Bills are dealing with COVID sweeping through their locker room. Cole Beasley has been ruled out after contracting the disease. Trench players on both sides of the ball are expected to join him on the inactive list, most notably pass rusher A.J. Epenesa.

History

When these two teams met just a few weeks ago, the Patriots rolled these Bills with the ground game alone - Mac Jones only threw the ball three times. Despite Buffalo stacking the box with eight or nine people, it didn’t matter…the Patriots ran the ball to their heart’s delight.

I would assume the Bills do a better job limiting the Patriot ground game, but the bigger concern now comes with facing New England’s air attack now that weather isn’t an issue this Sunday.

Weather

Cold, but tolerable for both these franchises


Patriots -2.5


New England covers if
they rack up points this time around by having their passing game take the lead on offense. Buffalo has yet to actually witness Mac Jones coordinate the air attack, so New England has a bit of an advantage there. It would also help if the Patriots confuses this Bills defense by scheming new ways to rush the ball.

Buffalo covers if
their defense learns from its mistakes from their outing two weeks ago, this time shutting down New England and preventing Mac Jones from developing too much rhythm at any point in the game.


Rams @ Vikings (+3)


Latest Results

Seahawks @ Rams (Tuesday Night Football)
Vikings @ Bears (MNF)

Key Injuries

The Rams were missing a good number of players to COVID last week. A decent number of them (if not most of them) should be returning this Sunday for the outing against Minnesota.

Speaking of which, Minnesota seems to be mostly healthy, though Kirk Cousins is dealing with some rib issues. Sore ribs can really be insufferable to a quarterback averse to pressure in the first place.

History

It’s been nearly three years since these two danced. Oddly enough, most of the key people in that meeting will be reprising their roles this week - Mike Zimmer, Sean McVay, Kirk Cousins, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, Dalvin Cook, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, Andrew Whitworth, etc.

Anyway, that game was an exciting shoot-out. Minnesota in particular needed to make a statement after losing embarrassingly against a Buffalo outfit billed as 17-point underdogs. Kirk Cousins was able to march his offense down the field time and time again, but Jared Goff was able to match him shot-for-shot. In the end, Goff and the rest of the Rams were able to get the best of Minnesota, winning by a full touchdown.

Weather

Dome game


Rams -3


Los Angeles covers if
Sony Michel and the Rams six-man offensive line can continue chewing off big yards on the ground. In turn, Minnesota will be forced to play a safety closer to the line of scrimmage, thereby opening up crossing routes for their receivers, chiefly Cooper Kupp
- AND -
their defense can stonewall Dalvin Cook on a good number of his rushes. Even though the Rams opt to field more pass coverage specialists than actual box defenders in their base defensive formations, the way their defensive front is organized along the line of scrimmage makes them better suited to stop zone-running offenses. Lining five men wide along the line of scrimmage with a nose tackle positioned right over the center and two defensive ends set over the B gaps works wonders against an offensive line used to executing zone-running blocking schemes. So long as the majority of the defensive linemen can win their battles against their trench counterparts, opposing offenses will have a hard time executing zone runs.

Minnesota covers if
Dalvin Cook can burn these Rams for significant yardage. Kirk Cousins cannot be trusted with the burden of production, not against a defense tailored to defend against passes
- AND -
their defense can keep Los Angeles from getting much going on the ground.


Steelers @ Chiefs (-7.5)


Latest Results

Titans @ Steelers
Chiefs @ Chargers (TNF)

Key Injuries

Steelers are dealing with a few COVID illnesses of their own. The only worrying name on their COVID reserve list is Devin Bush. Without Bush, Pittsburgh will be missing some juice along the middle of their defense.

COVID has been sweeping through the Chiefs locker room lately. The most concerning cases are Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Travis Kelce has been confirmed to be vaccinated. If Hill hasn’t taken the shot though, the Chiefs are down their best weapon on offense. Hill is likely to be joined by some offensive and defensive linemen, so Kansas may begin the game with untested prospects starting for them.

EDIT: Harrison Butker is confirmed out as he’s unvaccinated. Kansas will now depend on somebody coming off the streets to kick field goals for them.

History

It’s been a good minute since these two met. Pittsburgh has normally played Andy Reid’s Chiefs pretty well, but this year, Pittsburgh’s offense has lot some punch now that Ben is on the cusp of retirement. Meanwhile, Kansas has been on a bit of an upturn the past couple weeks, largely thanks to the efforts of their defense. It’s pretty obvious whether they cover depends on whether the Chiefs ever relax on defense against this hapless Pittsburgh offensive unit.

Weather

Decent weather all around


Undecided


Pittsburgh covers if
Tyreek Hill and some starting offensive linemen are inactive this week
- AND -
the Chiefs promise to let up and play some easy defense should they have a multi-score lead going into the fourth quarter.

Kansas City covers if
Tyreek Hill does end up playing this week and their offensive linemen holds up in pass protection despite losing a man or two to COVID
- OR -
Kansas fully commits to riding up the score against Pittsburgh, definitively preventing them from mounting any sort of comeback.


Lions @ Falcons (-5.5)


Latest Results

Cardinals @ Lions
Falcons @ 49ers

Key Injuries

For the Lions, Penei Sewell and D’Andre Swift are expected to return after being sidelined last week. The bad news comes at quarterback though - Jared Goff is dealing with a COVID infection. Now Goff is vaccinated, so he stands a realistic chance to join the rest of the roster this Sunday over in Atlanta.

For Atlanta, Deion Jones is likely to return after sitting out last week’s game against the 49ers with injury.

EDIT: Dan Campbell told reporters Jared Goff is unlikely to play. There’s little reason to assume he’s trying to fool folks, though then again, he may be playing possum in order to lull the Falcons into playing at less than full potential.

History

These two teams contended against one another last season, albeit with different coaches and a different quarterback starting for the Lions. So that game only holds so much predictive potential with respect to this year’s game.

If anything, the information more relevant here is that both teams have been pretty terrible through the season. Atlanta has won more games, but it’s not as if Detroit’s been worse - had fortune blessed them a bit more this season, the Lions would be sitting here with another two or three wins to their name. So it’s fair to say both franchises have found themselves mired in the dregs. Despite that, Atlanta is billed here as a decisive favorite.

Weather

Dome game


Falcons -5.5


Atlanta covers if
Detroit starts a second-string quarterback to replace the always-lovable Jared Goff
- AND -
the Falcons with their myriad of blitzes manage to hit home against whoever’s forced to be Detroit’s signal caller.

Detroit covers if
their defensive front can rattle Matt Ryan as much as the 49ers managed to last week.


Ravens @ Bengals (-2.5)


Latest Results

Packers @ Ravens
Bengals @ Broncos

Key Injuries

Where to start with the Ravens? Baltimore’s still in the middle of a COVID epidemic tearing their locker room apart. More players are expected back after finding themselves in COVID limbo last week. But Devin Duvarney is not expected to play, which would hurt special teams considering he’s been an ace punt returner. What may honestly hurt more is the potential loss of Odafe Owah. He and Tyus Bowser have been carrying the Ravens pass rush.

Chidobe Awuzie is likely out for the Bengals as he works through a COVID infection. But nobody else critical will be sidelined for Cincinnati, so expect them at near full strength.

History

When these two faced earlier in the year, the Bengals outright dominated the Ravens. Can Cincy pull off another blowout victory against the reigning division champs? That remains to be seen…Cincinnati was able to gut Baltimore earlier in the season thanks to the latter’s tendency to send out blitzes constantly, leaving their cornerbacks isolated against the Bengals skill players. Burrow had no qualms throwing the rock to Ja’Marr Chase in single coverage, regardless of who covered him.

But I consider Wink Martindale an elite defensive coach for good reason. And Wink should be able to adjust here, especially given the current state of the defense. I expect Baltimore to practice so much more zone coverage, with only four guys sent to rush the passer on most snaps. If Baltimore does that, the Bengals will have an unquestionably harder time matriculating the ball downfield, even against a defensive outfit missing so many of its key personnel.

Then again, it’s obvious to me that Baltimore needs to run the ball to see some measure of success against a Bengals defense that’s been sneakily playing well. Last time, Lamar and his men were only productive on about 40% of their runs before the game got out of hand. Can they improve against Cincinnati this week? I don’t see much reason why, though it’s possible the Bengals will lighten their rushing defense against Tyler Huntley, who’s more inclined to operate as a pocket passer compared to somebody like Lamar.

Weather

Pretty good weather by December standards


Undecided


Baltimore covers if
the Ravens find ways to run the ball better with Tyler Huntley as the signal caller instead of Lamar
- AND -
their defense keeps themselves from going too blitz-happy against a quarterback that excels against the blitz.

Cincinnati covers if
Wink Martindale hasn’t learned a thing from the last outing against them
- OR -
Baltimore’s rushers are still unable to find much rhythm running the ball.


Bears @ Seahawks (-6.5)


Latest Results

Vikings @ Bears (MNF)
Seahawks @ Rams (Tuesday)

Key Injuries

The Bears will start Nick Foles in place of the injured Justin Fields. But even scarier is that Akiem Hicks will be out. Akiem Hicks was such a difference maker last week, especially in the ground game.

Seattle will still be missing the services of DJ Reed at cornerback, but every other key player is expected back. Good news considering Tyler Lockett was missed last week in a major game against the Rams.

History

No recent history. This Bears team morale has to be called into question after that ugly defeat last week against the Vikings. Minnesota did absolutely everything in its power to hand the game to the Bears and Chicago absolutely refused to do anything with the opportunities the Vikings generously gave them. Sad.

One thing to note - the books have clearly taken a side here with the Bears. Despite over 95% of the money being placed on the Seahawks, the sportsbooks absolutely refuse to move the line to the key number of 7.

Weather

Rainy, cold, and a little windy. Sloppy play is expected.


Bears +6.5


Chicago covers if
Nick Foles steps up in an emergency role and performs far better than expected
- AND -
the Bears can rush the ball very effectively behind David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert
- AND -
the Bears defense work in unison to frustrate the Seahawks on a clear majority of their drives.

Seattle covers if
Nick Foles fails to do much under a Nagy offense built on quick passing
- OR -
the Bears are too demoralized to play quality defense.