I’m going to make this week’s introduction short and sweet as most of you are probably running around town buying last minute Christmas stuff you don’t need. Good tidings to you and all of your traffic.
Our standings heading into the holidays represent the best present I could ever ask for: total domination.
SportsChump 117-101-6 (53.6%)
Guests 112-110-2 (50.9%)
KP 107-117 (48%)
A true Christmas miracle is not how Tiny Tim finally spoke at the end Dickens’ Christmas Carol. It’s how much football Kevin has forgotten from last year to this. He’s been consistently pooping out lumps of coal this season while I’ve been picking games with the accuracy of the Ghost of Christmas Future.
Last week was unkind for the underdogs as we saw twelve favorites win outright. That’s not tremendously surprising as this is the time of the year the better teams rise to the top of their Christmas nog and stake claim to the biggest presents under the tree.
As there are still a number of teams jockeying for playoff position, we’ll see if that holds true again.
Our celebrity prognosticator for Week 16 makes ice cream for a living. Don’t be fooled by that moniker. He’s actually one of the more shrewd bettors I’ve ever met so you may want to heed his advice. Plus he went 10-6 ATS in Week 16 last year.
To all my readers, I wish you nothing but the best this holiday season. May everyone be happy, healthy and surrounded by the ones they love!
SPORTSCHUMP’S CHRISTMAS CHEERS PICKS
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders (-5.5)
The Chargers have to rank as one of this season’s most disappointing teams although, to be perfectly honest, this is something Chargers fans have become accustomed to by now. Moving forward, we don’t know where this team will be playing next year: San Diego or Los Angeles. All we know for sure is that moving this team out of San Diego would be doing Chargers fans a favor. Honey, what did you get us for Christmas? Well, we moved the Chargers. Awww, thanks, hon! That’s the best gift I could have ever asked for. Neither of these two have much to play for other than pride. San Diego’s pride flew out the window around Week Nine. At least the Raiders seem to be going in the right direction although even they’ve lost five of their last seven. The NFL’s best Christmas gift to us all would be not submitting us to this awful, meaningless game but I’ll take the Chargers and the points. Even though they’re horrible, so are the Raiders who aren’t THAT much better than their divisional opponent.
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (-3)
I honestly thought the Redskins would be favored in this game. After all, they’re the better of the two teams, although that’s like saying this red Christmas side dish will mess up my stomach a little less than this green one. We definitely have to hand our Dysfunctional Division of the Year award, once again, to the NFC East. We’re in Week 16 and no playoff positions have been determined yet. The Redskins can win it if they win out but then again so can their opponent. So the question is… do we trust these Eagles, who have been inconsistent all year, to finally get the job done? I’ve been iffy, and wrong, on the Skins all year. Despite the fact that Kirk Cousins has impressed and we’ve finally and thankfully stopped talking about RGIII, I think the Eagles pull this one out on what should be a raucous Saturday evening in Philadelphia. And Santa will be happy not to be pelted with snowballs.
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings (-6)
You know if you eventually keep picking tails when flipping a coin, tails will eventually hit. At least, I think it will. I’ve been taking the Giants and the points for most of the season and well, sometimes, they actually cover. They just can’t win. Believe it or not, at 6-8, their playoff hopes are still alive. All they need is for Philly to beat the Skins and then to beat Philly in week 17. Of course, they also need a win this week in Minnesota or all is lost. One major problem for the G-Stinks is that they won’t have Eli’s favorite target, the sticky-handed, acrobatic Odell Beckham, Jr., who lost his temper last week and head-butted Carolina defensive back Josh Norman. Even without him, I don’t think these Giants give up without a fight. They never do. I’m taking the six.
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
I like the Bucs here. Jameis Winston has given renewed life to a franchise that hasn’t seen it in years. Jay Cutler is just going through the motions. The Bucs are the better team and three isn’t all that much to lay against a quarterback who will probably throw a pick six. Even though Las Vegas is giving this three point spread a pretty fat money line of +150, I’m still not tempted. At least not yet. Bucs cover.
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (+7)
This is the Falcons’ Super Bowl. This team has been tremendously disappointing this season. While MVP Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers have run roughshod over the division, and the league for that matter, the Falcons have only won one of their last seven. They’d love nothing more than to ruin Carolina’s Christmas. The Panthers still have their eye on a perfect regular season but heading into the playoffs healthy is probably more important. They’ve already locked up a first round bye. I’m taking the Falcons and the points just because I think they leave it all out on the field.
Dallas Cowboys at Buffalo Bills (-6)
I bet most of us thought this would be a battle between two playoff teams battling for post-season position. Guess what, that Christmas wish must have gotten lost on its way to the North Pole. Both of these teams are under .500. Yeah, this game is that Christmas gift you looked so forward to opening only to find out it’s a toy you’re never going to use. The Bills are the more talented team here but again, I’m just not convinced they’re six points better than the Cowboys so I’m taking the points.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New Orleans Saints (pick)
It doesn’t look like Drew Brees is going to play. He’s got plantar fascia which is Latin for my fucking foot hurts. New Orleans would be foolish to start him. They might as well see what they have in their backup quarterback, whoever the hell that is. Considering Drew Brees plans on playing until he’s fifty, this might be the only playing time this guy ever gets. By the way, you get a Christmas cookie if you knew Brees’ backup’s name was Garrett Grayson. He’s no Blake Bortles even though they both have cute and kitschy names that start with the same letter. Jags win this one.
San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions (-9.5)
Wow, the Lions are actually ten point favorites over someone. This season cannot end quickly enough for the Niners and their fan base. They’re double digit dogs to a crappy team on a short week. Let’s just put it this way. If I were still alive in my fantasy league, I’d be starting Matthew Stafford this week. The Niners are 30th in the league in passing, 23rd in rushing and dead last in scoring. Not only are they 32nd in the league in scoring, the 31st place team isn’t anywhere close to them. Since Detroit can put up points in a hurry, I’ll be bold and lay the nine-and-a-half.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-12)
Ron Rivera will probably win NFL Coach of the Year but you can’t overlook what Andy Reid has done once again in Kansas City. Their eight game win streak (after losing five straight) is enough to make Philly fans wish they hadn’t run him out of town. Good thing they’re happy with Chip Kelly, right? The Browns meanwhile are still giving, Johnny Manziel, their drinking back with a throwing problem, another look. Even after winning eight straight, Kansas City’s playoff hopes aren’t guaranteed. They need this one. They’ll get it. They cover.
Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins (-2.5)
At least we can finally stop talking about Andrew Luck’s lacerated kidney. That just sounds gross, doesn’t it? If someone were to ask me the very last thing I wanted this Christmas, it would be a lacerated kidney. How would you even wrap that? The Colts brass will go back to the drawing board this off-season and try to figure out how even a healthy-kidneyed Luck was still underachieving. Meanwhile, Dolphins fans can rest assured their team will once again be irrelevant in 2016. That won’t matter this weekend though. They cover against the Colts who don’t have a single, healthy quarterback on their roster.
New England Patriots at New York Jets (+3)
This has all the makings of a trap game. The Jets need this win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Pats would like nothing more than to play spoilers to their division rival. The problem is, are the Pats healthy enough to present much of a challenge? They are 12-2 and have locked up both their division and a bye… but not home field throughout yet, something I imagine they’d want as having to travel to either Cincy or Denver is not their idea of a good time. While a Jets win here wouldn’t totally surprise me, I’ll take the Pats and lay the points.
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (-4.5)
The runner-up to dysfunctional division of the year is the AFC South. Not even Steve Harvey could mess up that announcement. The Texans have their sights set on winning this thing but at 7-7, nothing is guaranteed yet. As these teams limp towards the finish line, I can’t help but think the Texans have more to play for. I’m taking the four-and-a-half.
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals (-4.5)
It’s your game of the week right here, boys and girls. In fact, these two teams might just meet up again in the post-season in a couple of weeks. That leads me to believe that Green Bay won’t be pulling out all the stops. It might not matter though, as even if they would, the Cards are still the better team. I’m taking them to cover.
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-13.5)
Don’t look now but the Seahawks are doing exactly what we thought they’d be doing: fucking shit up. Even though they’re not going to win their division, they’ve won seven of their last eight, the only loss in that string a touchdown defeat to the team that’s leading the NFC West. Now THAT is a playoff game I want to see. The Seahawks will continue their run to the post-season by waxing a Rams team that, although they’ve won their last two games, still isn’t in the same class as Seattle.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (+10)
Wow, the Ravens are bad. Their opponent this week, the frightening Pittsburgh Steelers, haven’t officially made the playoffs yet. As a result, they might just go into Baltimore and embarrass this team. Look for Ravens fans to be leaving at half time and the entire stadium to be overrun with Terrible Towels to remind the remaining Ravens fans in the building just how terrible their season was. Steelers cover on the road.
Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos (-3)
With no Andy Dalton, I’m kind of surprised this line is only a field goal. Who would have ever thought this over/under would be 40.5? You know what? It’ll probably go under that number too. I’m taking the Broncos here. Even though they’ve lost two straight, they need this win way more than the Bengals do.
THE ICE CREAM MAN’S I DIDN’T ACTUALLY LICK YOUR FACE THAT NIGHT, DID I PICKS
Even though the Raiders are a much improved team, I believe this will be a tight game won by the Raiders… by four.
They are coming off a serious beat down and I believe they will get that run attack going against a team that’s playing great behind Kirk Cousins. He’s going into the biggest game of the year. I think he’s going to choke. I take Eagles.
Tampa’s run attack has been a huge surprise this year. The Douginator will dominate while the Tampa defense will get multiple turnovers in typical Cutler fashion.
Carolina – 7
Atlanta is the biggest disappointment in the league this year. Carolina is unstoppable with SuperCam. They will cover for the first time in a couple of weeks in a blowout.
Honestly, I’m just going with my gut instincts. In his first start, I believe Kellen Moore will keep it a tight game. Or I’m wrong and Buffalo wins by 10+ points.
Even though Detroit is finally playing some good football, it’s still not good enough to cover against a shitty team. I like San Fran in Detroit.
Johnny has made improvements, well, at least on the field. But with the Chiefs in the middle of the playoff race, they will handle the Browns, probably by twenty.
The Pats are going to show the Jets when it comes down to big time games in the playoff race, the Jets still can’t beat Brady and Belichick.
The Dolphins will win at home against a completely decimated Indianapolis team.
Weeden will manage the game and keep it close with the Texans defense sealing the victory.
I’m going to say Jags because Brees might not play so I’ll roll the dice.
The Ravens just don’t have the players to keep up on either side of the ball when facing one of the hottest teams in the NFL.
I actually like the Packers here to keep it a tight contest with a game-winning field goal.
The Rams have been better with Case Keenum behind the helm and with what better be the rookie of the year, Todd Gurley. I believe they will keep it competitive… but lose.
Somehow Eli will find a way to keep it a tight game, even without OBJ… but lose late in the fourth.
Denver will bounce back defensivel against the Bengals at home in AJ McCarron’s first career start.
KEVIN PAUL’S ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS ARE THESE TWO LAST WEEKS
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders (-5.5)
With the injuries piling up, San Diego can add Ladarius Green (ankle – questionable) and Melvin Gordon (knee – IR) to the mix. There’s no home field motivation like last week’s emotional finale which many think could be a farewell. Oakland’s playoff hopes are also dashed and the Raiders are just 2-5 at home. Other than the Week 7 meeting – a 37-29 win by Oakland in San Diego – there aren’t all that many statistics that push me in one direction or the other. Charles Woodson announced his retirement, which should provide a boost for Oakland, but because neither defense has been able to shut down high-octane offenses, I’ll bank on a high-scoring, but close game. Take San Diego and the points.
KP’s Pick: San Diego Chargers
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5)
The Redskins take the NFC East with a win, which is quite a shock considering most prognosticators had Washington finishing last in the division. Still, Kirk Cousins has matured and played rather well, especially lately. The Eagles have been hit or miss (mostly miss). Despite that, it must be noted that the Redskins are 1-5 on the road, where Cousins has been a different QB. The Eagles are motivated despite a pummeling at the hands of the Cardinals last Sunday night. Philadelphia struggles against the pass while the Redskins struggle against the run, but overall, Washington’s road record is what can’t be ignored. That and Philly’s motivation considering the division is still within reach despite such an ugly season. Hope is all the Eagles need. Philly covers at home.
KP’s Pick: Philadelphia Eagles
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (+2.5)
The Texans can clinch the division with a win and a loss by the Colts. But nothing will come easy considering Houston’s lack of depth at the quarterback position. Brian Hoyer (concussion) remains questionable while T.J. Yates is out for the year with a torn ACL. That could leave Brandon Weeden, who was ineffective earlier this season with Dallas. On the other side, Tennessee will also be without its starting QB. With Marcus Mariota out, Zach Mettenberger gets the start. This game should be sloppy and inefficient, leaving the most effective defense to pull out the win. In this case, that’s Houston. Texans cover.
KP’s Pick: Houston Texans
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (+10.5)
When was the last time a spread was this high for a Ravens-Steelers game? With the heat that emanates from this rivalry, should it be this bloated despite Pittsburgh’s high-octane offense and Baltimore’s depleted roster? That’s the real question. Then again, Baltimore QB Matt Schaub is questionable to play (concussion, chest), which could lead to another start for Jimmy Clausen. CB Jimmy Smith left last week’s game with a thigh injury and is also questionable. Baltimore needs its top corners available (and 100%), considering Pittsburgh’s arsenal of weapons. The Ravens have just four INT’s this season as it is. All signs point to Pittsburgh having a big day offensively, leaving the question about how heated the rivalry is. Can Baltimore be fired up enough to keep it a close contest? Don’t bet on it.
KP’s Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers
New England Patriots at New York Jets (+3.5)
The Jets have an extra day of prep and rest following last Saturday’s win over Dallas. Home field advantage, too. The Patriots remain depleted in the run game and likely will focus on the pass when facing New York’s run defense that is ranked second in the NFL (82.8 ypg). More injuries for New England on offense, with Brandon LaFell questionable and Danny Amendola doubtful. That leaves players like Gronk and James White, who will need to come up big for the Pats. The Jets have the talent to win, but it all comes down to Tom Brady, as it always does. New England typically finds a way. Therefore, give me the Pats.
KP’s Pick: New England Patriots
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (+7.5)
The Panthers escaped New York undefeated last week, but not without some controversy. But 14-0 is 14-0 and Cam Newton continues to make a case for NFL MVP. The Falcons, meanwhile, still have faint playoff hopes and that will serve as motivation in front of the home crowd. Then again, Julio Jones has been Atlanta’s primary weapon and he will be facing Josh Norman for the majority of snaps. Throw in the fact that Carolina’s defense has 22 INT’s and we are looking at a frustrating day for Matt Ryan. Carolina may be feeling additional pressure to go undefeated, but that won’t prevent me from taking them. Panthers cover.
KP’s Pick: Carolina Panthers
Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins (-3.5)
It’s been a long season for the Colts, with numerous injuries and disappointing losses. The 6-8 record has led to negative headlines, with conversations on Andrew Luck heading to season-ending IR and T.Y. Hilton questioning the team’s play calling. Then there is the Dolphins, a team that has fired numerous coaches and made the bumbling Chargers look like a juggernaut last week. Miami is 27th against the pass, while also allowing 31 TD’s through the air. Indy is 29th against the pass, so both teams could fare well airing it out. But the biggest key is the fact that Indianapolis can still win the division, while the Dolphins are out. Matt Hasselbeck is efficient enough under center to either keep the game at a field goal (or win it outright). Give me the Colts on the road in a must-win.
KP’s Pick: Indianapolis Colts
Dallas Cowboys at Buffalo Bills (-6.5)
The Cowboys get an extra day of rest following last Saturday’s loss to the Jets, while the Bills continue its NFC East stretch of games. Kellen Moore will start for the Cowboys and at this point, anyone but Tony Romo has failed to get the team on a solid run. However, the Bills have injuries, too, most notably to LeSean McCoy and Robert Woods. Karlos Williams is also banged up, but expected to anchor the ground game. Then again, with Sean Lee healthy, Dallas should be stronger against the run and therefore capable of keeping this game close against a depleted (and eliminated) Bills squad. Take Dallas and the points.
KP’s Pick: Dallas Cowboys
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-12.5)
Johnny Football faces yet another red-hot team (and solid defense) on the road. Last week against Seattle, Manziel threw for 161 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. Nothing to write home to Mom about. Good luck facing a Chiefs defense that is both 7th against the run and having 20 INT’s on the year. Throw in the efficiency of Alex Smith plus a raucous Arrowhead crowd and Kansas City should have no problem winning for the ninth consecutive time. Chiefs cover.
KP’s Pick: Kansas City Chiefs
San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions (-8.5)
The Lions are playing on short rest following its Monday night win in New Orleans – a victory that had a number of positives come out from it, especially offensively. This week, the Detroit defense should have its share of highlights facing a San Francisco front that has given up 49 sacks (most in the NFL). But don’t fret, everyone’s favorite OC Jim Bob Cooter should have time to shine, too, considering the Niners are 26th against the pass and 27th against the run. Expect a big day from Matthew Stafford. Lions cover at home.
KP’s Pick: Detroit Lions
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5)
The Bucs have had a few days extra rest since its “Ketchup and Mustard Bowl” with St. Louis last Thursday. The Bears are actually 4-3 on the road, one of the few positives for a team having a down season. Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) is expected to play and will be needed in if Chicago is to stick with Tampa Bay’s offense which features Jameis Winston, Doug Martin, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Tampa Bay is 4th in rushing offense and will be facing a Chicago defense that while 26th against the run, has allowed just 4 carries of 20+ yards (tied for the fewest in the NFL). With Chicago’s success on the road and Tampa Bay’s up-and-down inconsistency, I’ll take the Bears and the points in a tight game.
KP’s Pick: Chicago Bears
Jacksonville Jaguars at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
The Saints are playing on short rest following a Monday night loss to the Lions, but the bigger question mark is the health of Drew Brees, who has a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. Brees is listed as day-to-day and wants to play (but is reportedly in extreme pain). Considering the Saints are eliminated from playoff contention, Brees could easily be held out. That leaves Blake Bortles and a strong Jacksonville passing game that will be facing a Saints defense that has allowed 39 passing TD’s on the season. That’s enough to take the Jags.
KP’s Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-13.5)
The Seahawks will continue its RB committee of Bryce Brown and Christine Michael, which worked well last week against the hapless Browns. The Rams are a little better against the run, but still 22nd in the NFL (118.1 ypg). St. Louis has also had a few extra days rest to prepare for the trip to Seattle. While the Seahawks are a red-hot team, the Rams always find a way to play them tough. Dating back the beginning of the 2012 season, the Rams-Seahawks rivalry has had 5 of the 7 games in that span finish at a touchdown or less. Expect a talented St. Louis defensive front to hold Seattle’s backup RB’s in check, paving the way for a game closer than the 13 1/2 point line. Take St. Louis and the points.
KP’s Pick: St. Louis Rams
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals (-4.5)
This should be considered the game of the week, considering the starting QB’s in the Cincinnati-Denver game on Monday night. Aaron Rodgers vs. Carson Palmer and plenty of NFC playoff positioning, too… “Getcha popcorn ready”! Arizona is arguably the most balanced team in the NFL, ranking first in total offense (422.9 ypg) and 7th in total defense (329.6). But the loss of Tyrann Mathieu (torn ACL) will most definitely put a hit on Arizona’s talented secondary, opening doors for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay pass game. That is, if the Pack’s receivers are more consistent at getting open. Both teams have a ton to play for and I’m banking on Aaron Rodgers to push this game to the final minutes. Take GB and the points.
KP’s Pick: Green Bay Packers
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings (-5.5)
Odell Beckham’s one-game suspension was upheld, leaving the Giants without its best overall player. That’s a crucial blow considering New York’s must-win situation and desire to stay in the NFC East chase. Add in a New York defense that is last against the pass (308.4 ypg) and it could be a long day for the Giants. Despite Eli Manning under center, the loss of OBJ may be too much to overcome. Give me the Vikings at home by at least a touchdown.
KP’s Pick: Minnesota Vikings
Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos (-3.5)
It was one of the best MNF matchups on paper this year, only to see the QB matchup morph from Manning-Dalton to Osweiler-McCarron. It should still be a dandy, albeit more defense-oriented. Osweiler has been inconsistent and unable to push the Broncos to four quarters of dominance. Denver has struggled in the 2nd half over the last two weeks and this one won’t be a cake walk, considering Cincinnati’s talented defense that has allowed just 16 passing TD’s in 14 games. The Broncos are no pushover on ‘D’ either. In fact, Denver features the league’s top overall defense (279.9 ypg), ranked first against both the pass and the run. As a result, AJ McCarron will likely struggle to move the ball down the field. Overall, this smells like a 13-10 type of barn burner game, so give me Cincy and the points in a tight one.
KP’s Pick: Cincinnati Bengals