NFL WEEK 16: Three games remain in the regular season and a cloudy playoff picture should now begin to clear up considerably. That process began on Thursday night, when the 7-7 Rams picked up a 30-22 win over the 7-7 Saints in a game that was critical to both teams’ postseason hopes. This Week 16 features several more of those types of matchups– Bengals/Steelers, Lions/Vikings, Colts/Falcons, Jaguars/Buccaneers, Browns/Texans, to name a few– so we should be in for some great football over the holiday, with two games on Saturday, ten on Sunday, and a Christmas Day tripleheader on Monday.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind picking up a little extra cash this weekend to offset some of the expenditures (and with an anniversary and two kids’ birthdays coming up in January, the fun is only beginning for your humble author). With that in mind, my favorite games are below. Follow me in or fade me if you dare, but either way I hope that everyone reading this, no matter where you are in the world or what is going on in your life, finds some joy this holiday season. You deserve it.

Here’s what we’ve got for Week 16:

Dallas Cowboys @ Miami Dolphins (MIA -1.5, 50)

Recommendation: Miami -1.5 at 1.91

After five straight wins the Cowboys were humbled in Buffalo last week, losing by three touchdowns on a cold and rainy day. The weather will be much nicer on Sunday in Miami but the task may not be any easier, as the Dolphins have the NFL’s best offense by any measure, leading the league in both yards per game and points scored. Fins wideout Tyreek Hill, the current Baddest Man on the Planet, will be back in the lineup after missing last week’s game with an ankle injury, and with rookie speedster De’Von Achane now back in the fold and healthy, the group that hung 70 on Denver earlier this season is whole again for the first time in weeks. The Cowboys have some offensive firepower themselves, of course, but the defense isn’t as good as it appears to be statistically– they’ve dominated and padded the stats against a bunch of miserable teams but have consistently struggled to contain good offenses, giving up 32.2 ppg in their four losses. If they can’t get to Tua Tagvailoa consistently and force him into a couple of turnovers, it’s going to be a long afternoon for the visitors. This Miami team feels like a group that will eventually be stopped by Mother Nature on some miserable January afternoon in Baltimore or Kansas City, but on their home field in sunny South Florida, there’s no slowing them down. They’ll be too much for Dallas.

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos (DEN -7, 35.5)

Recommendation: New England +7 at 2.02

Incredibly, it appears as though we’re nearing the end of the Belichick era in New England. What once seemed unthinkable– Robert Kraft moving on from Belichick for performance-related reasons– now seems inevitable, as the Patriots have the worst record in the AFC at 3-11 and do not have many young, exciting players on the roster. The outlook is bleak. That being said, the team is still playing hard and they’ve actually been quite competitive in recent weeks, losing a string of one-score games before breaking through with a victory in Pittsburgh two weeks ago. They kept it competitive with the Chiefs last Sunday before falling 27-17, and they’re getting a fat 7 points this week against a Denver team whose offense has been borderline unwatchable for much of the season. Russell Wilson is not the player he once was and Courtland Sutton is Denver’s only real threat on the perimeter, so the only time the Broncos offense has really found traction this season is when they’ve been able to lean on the running game, as tailbacks Javonte Williams and Jaleel McLaughlin have combined for 1,000 yards on the ground and have really been the engine that makes the offense hum. Stopping the run, however, is just about the only thing the Patriots do really well– they lead the NFL in yards per carry allowed and rank second in rush yards per game allowed. This has all the makings of a defensive slugfest that will put you right to sleep after a long Christmas Eve dinner. Seven points is too many… Denver is not a team you can trust.

Las Vegas Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs (KC -10, 41) *MONDAY*

Recommendation: Kansas City -10 at 1.91

Despite a 9-5 record that has them perched comfortably atop the AFC West, the Chiefs are in the midst of what can fairly be called a mini crisis, as they’ve lost 3 of 5 and have failed to reach the 20-point mark in any of the losses. Fortunately for them, the perfect remedy for what ails them is coming to town: the Vegas Raiders, a team that is coming off one of the wildest 4-day spans in NFL history, as they lost 3-0 to Minnesota on a Week 14 Sunday and then turned around on Thursday and exploded for 63 points in a 42-point win over division rival Los Angeles. The Raiders are led by a rookie QB and first-year (interim) head coach, and before last week’s explosion they had dropped three straight games, including a 14-point home loss to these very same Chiefs. Of course, lopsided Kansas City wins are nothing new in this rivalry– Patrick Mahomes is 10-1 in his career against the Raiders and only 3 of the 10 wins have come by fewer than 14 points. You know Mahomes and Andy Reid want to get the offense revved up after some recent struggles, and a situation like this– a home game against a defense they play twice per year, a defense they nearly always dissect and overwhelm– is the perfect opportunity. Don’t overthink this one: it’s Patrick Mahomes vs. Aidan O’Connell; Andy Reid vs. Antonio Pierce; Chiefs vs. Raiders. It’s money in my pocket.

Baltimore Ravens @ San Francisco 49ers (SF -6, 47) *MONDAY*

Recommendation: San Francisco -6 at 1.91

For a few weeks in mid-October, this NFL season seemed as wide-open as any in recent memory, with no clear favorite in either conference and new blood like Detroit and Miami on the rise. Those days are over. Anyone who has been paying attention over the past six weeks knows that one team has established itself as the obvious Super Bowl favorite, a juggernaut that seemingly only injuries could derail. That team, of course, is the San Francisco 49ers, who are riding a 6-game winning streak that includes blowout victories over the likes of Jacksonville and Philadelphia. The Niners are pretty terrifying, ranking second in the league in both points scored and points allowed, and they’re currently healthy and playing their best football of the season. They may not lose again until NEXT season. This week they host a Baltimore team that has won four straight and is currently the top seed in the AFC, but does it matter? Will the Ravens put up more of a fight than the Eagles, Jags, Seahawks, or any of San Fran’s other recent victims? Sometimes the NFL produces these freight train teams that leave us with only two sensible options: hop aboard or get out of the way. I’ve seen enough– I’m riding with the Niners.

THE ULTRA Tues: Champions League Quarter Finals
DAQMAN Mon: Windsor NAP
THE ULTRA Mon: Serie A Preview
THE EDGE IPL Mon: Bengaluru v Sunrisers Hyderabad
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