Here are my Week 16 picks with confidence level selections. The picks with a confidence level of 1-5 will be available for all NFL Pickwatch readers.
The picks with a 6+ confidence level, a group of selections that have netted a 137-50-1 record over the past two seasons (including a 54-22-1 mark this year), will be available exclusively to Pickwatch Pro subscribers.
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Now let’s get to this week’s picks!
San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans
KC’s pick: San Francisco | Confidence level: 4
The 49ers have won five of their last six games by excelling in running the ball (144.7 yards per game average in that span) and stopping the run (77.8 yards allowed per game). Their defense has also developed into a takeaway machine, as after tallying only five takeaways in the first eight games this year, San Francisco has racked up 12 in the past six, including 2+ in five of those contests. This has led the 49ers to post 23+ points in six straight and 30+ in four of those matchups. Tennessee’s offense will get a boost by having A.J. Brown and Julio Jones back together in the lineup for the first time in many weeks, but Jones doesn’t look to be at full strength and Brown could battle injury rust, so the 49ers are the clear option here.
Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers
KC’s pick: Green Bay | Confidence level: 7
Outside of the first game of the year and a three-game slump at midseason, the Packers offense has been extremely productive all season long. Their defense played up to that form earlier in the year and it led to Green Bay being the best team in the league for a while, but that is no longer the case, as the Packers defense has done a terrible job of late. Green Bay has allowed 28+ points in four straight games and 280 rushing yards over the past two weeks despite facing the subpar Bears offense and an incredibly banged up Baltimore squad. That might be problem were it not for the offense’s ability to win shootout games (those where each team scores 24+ points), as Green Bay is 4-1 in those matchups and 3-1 in the past four games. Cleveland just doesn’t have the ability to slow the Packers offense and they certainly can’t generate enough offense of their own to win a shootout, so Green Bay is the pick by a fairly wide margin.
Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals
KC’s pick: Indianapolis | Confidence level: 4
It seems like a long time ago when the Cardinals were 7-0 and there was talk about their ability to go undefeated, as Arizona has since gone 3-4 and is in danger of losing the NFC West division title and having to go into the playoffs as a No. 5 seed. Offense is a part of the problem, as the Cardinals have scored more than 23 points only once since Week 9, but defense is actually the major culprit, as Arizona is last in the league in points allowed per drive since Week 12. That is a terrible place to be against a Colts offense that has rushed for 226+ yards in four of the past six games and has racked up 455 rushing yards over the past two weeks. Indianapolis also has incredible ball hawking skills, having tallied 2+ takeaways in all but three contests this year. The road trip won’t be easy, especially on a short week, but the Colts are trending much better headed into this matchup and thus land this selection.
Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons
KC’s pick: Atlanta | Confidence level: 1
There isn’t a more enthusiastic team than Dan Campbell’s Lions, as injuries and an 0-10-1 start would have caused most clubs to give up, but Campbell’s squad kept fighting and has now won two of its last three. A lot of this is due to improved offensive play, as Amon-Ra St. Brown and Craig Reynolds have propelled Detroit to three consecutive games with 300+ offensive yards and 100+ rushing yards. There isn’t a more hit-miss team in the NFL than Atlanta, as they alternated between wins and losses in all but two weeks this year. The Falcons have seen offensive improvement via Russell Gage and having both Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis available in the backfield, but they’ve still scored 17 or fewer points in four of the past six. The gut instinct says to pick the Lions, but the Falcons are coming off a loss and are at home, so the tiebreaker goes to Atlanta by the slightest of margins.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
KC’s pick: Tampa Bay | Confidence level: 8
Just when the Buccaneers were finally getting healthy on defense, their offense takes a major hit and loses Chris Godwin to a season-ending injury in the Sunday night game against New Orleans. They also could be without Leonard Fournette for the rest of the year as well. The good news on that front is Tampa Bay will get Antonio Brown back in the lineup this week and they have Ronald Jones to take over as the power back in this offense. Carolina has floundered following a 3-0 start, as they have lost nine of their past 11 and four straight. The Panthers passing woes have been myriad this year, as they have tallied 200+ net passing yards only once since Week 4. Carolina gave up 27+ points in each game in the current losing streak and has the capacity to make that streak five consecutive, so Tampa Bay gets this one by a wide margin.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
KC’s pick: Cincinnati | Confidence level: 2
Baltimore is only two failed two-point conversions away from having a 10-4 record and the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but the reality is they have lost three straight and four of their last six. Injuries are certainly an issue, as not having Lamar Jackson in the lineup is a huge hindrance, but Baltimore has averaged only 16.6 points per game in the five contests prior to last week’s 30-point breakout against a Packers defense that has fallen apart of late. Cincinnati is faring slightly better in its recent games, going 3-2 since its Week 10 bye and losing by only three to San Francisco in Week 14. These teams trend very closely in a wide swath of advanced metrics, so there isn’t much of a difference there, either. This means going with the healthier team, which also happens to be the home team, is the way to go, so check this one off for Cincinnati.
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
KC’s pick: New England | Confidence level: 1
Buffalo gets a chance to redeem itself in this contest after the frustrating 14-10 loss to the Patriots in the Lake Erie gale in Week 13. Buffalo may decide to try to mimic the Colts run-centric approach to do this, as New England gave up 226 rushing yards to Indianapolis in Week 15 and 270 to the Titans in Week 12. That trend could fit in well with a Bills ground game that has racked up 292 rushing yards over the past two weeks. The problem for Buffalo is their rush defense has allowed an average of 163.6 rushing yards over the past five weeks and will face a New England rushing attack that gained 222 yards against the Bills in their earlier matchup and has posted 100+ rushing yards in all but three games. Buffalo also isn’t built to be a ground-centric team on offense, so it’s not the highest percentage path for them. Merge that with this game being in New England and the Patriots are the preferred option.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets
KC’s pick: New York | Confidence level: 3
It doesn’t get any uglier than this, as these are arguably the worst two teams in the NFL right now. As bad as the Jets are, the Jaguars offense has to be the most talent challenged platoon in the league, as Jacksonville hasn’t scored more than 17 points since Week 6 and scored 10 or fewer points in five of those eight games. As bad as New York’s offense is, they have posted 17+ points in five of the past six, including 24 against a very strong Miami defense last week. That’s enough to propel the Jets ahead in this pick.
Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks
KC’s pick: Seattle | Confidence level: 5
It seems that the further Russell Wilson gets from the date of his finger injury, the better he seems to play. That’s likely an indicator that he came back a bit too early from that ailment and thus should be viewed through a prism of being fully healthy now. The problem for Wilson is that the talent around him is not in the same shape, as DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have both battled physical ailments of late. That could open the door for Chicago to keep up, as the Bears offense has been playing better recently as well, but 10 giveaways over the past three games, including at least three in every game, is a terrible trend for the Chicago offense. Add that to this being a cross country road trip for the Bears against Seattle’s fired up “12s” and this pick goes to the Seahawks.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
KC’s pick: Kansas City | Confidence level: 4
The overwhelming factor in this contest is whether Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce will be cleared off the COVID-19 list in time to be able to start. If they are, this has a ton of elements pointing in the direction of the Chiefs, as Kansas City should be able to run almost at will against a Steelers rush defense that has allowed 443 yards over the past two weeks. Add that to a passing game that features the talents of Patrick Mahomes, Hill and Kelce and the game being in Kansas City and it’s tough to see many paths for a Steelers victory, but the uncertainty regarding Hill and Kelce’s availability keeps this selection at a “4” confidence level.
Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
KC’s pick: Denver | Confidence level: 2
The Raiders did get a win over Cleveland on Monday night, but that victory was a debacle since the Silver and Black nearly blew a 10-point lead against a Browns club that was obliterated with injuries and COVID. Las Vegas does seem to do a good job of stepping up when they are motivated, as they were at the end of that contest and on Thanksgiving in the win at Dallas but take those two games out of the equation and the Raiders have lost every game since their Week 8 bye and scored 16 or fewer points in those games. Denver has had its ups and down while going 4-3 in its last seven, but they have consistently run the ball (133+ rush yards in four straight) and slowed opponents aerial attacks by allowing fewer than 200 passing yards in four of the past five. That consistency stands out when compared to the Raiders, so the Broncos are the pick.
Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints
KC’s pick: Miami | Confidence level: 3
Despite being on a six-game win streak, there is a question as to whether the Dolphins are actually this good, as their wins have come against Houston, Baltimore (in a short week road matchup for the Ravens), the Jets (twice), Carolina, and the Giants. What can’t be questioned is Miami’s superb metrics in many areas, as the Dolphins have racked up 14 sacks over the past three weeks, have allowed only 87.7 rushing yards per game in the win streak, and generated 14 takeaways in the victories. The Saints were on a downward spiral until two weeks ago, they lost five straight prior to wins over the Jets and Buccaneers. That former victory isn’t much to write home about and New Orleans seems to have Tampa Bay’s number, at least during the regular season. The Saints also have a one-dimensional offense with the banged-up Taysom Hill under center, so Miami’s hyperaggressive defense should be able to stay impactful all through this contest. Merge that with the Dolphins having scored 20+ points in five straight and the Saints having scored 17 or fewer points in three of the past four and Miami is the selection.
KC’s 6+ confidence level picks, a group of selections that have gone 137-50-1 over the past two seasons (including a 54-22-1 mark this year), are available exclusively to Pickwatch Pro subscribers.