DELRAY BEACH, SOUTH FLORIDA. December had been quite the month for holiday football, religion-based or otherwise. For two weeks, Jews got to experience Hanukkah football. In a rare occurrence, both the first and last nights of Hanukkah fell on NFL Sunday. This week the Christians have their turn.
While there are no games on Christmas Day, the Oakland Raiders play on Christmas Eve. They host archival Denver in what should be a brutal Christmastime battle between these bitter rivals. Nothing says Christmas like this Black Hole, although some diehard fans are more temperamentally suited for Halloween. Given the way the season has gone, the Raider Nation may instead celebrate Festivus and use halftime to air their grievances.
Christian America empathized with Jews trying to balance the Festival of Lights with the beautiful television festival that is NFL football. This week we celebrate with Christians across the globe. For Christian football fans on the East Coast, the Raider game may not end until after 11:30 p m. Catholics, have your driveway plowed and your engine hot so you can make it to Midnight Mass on time. (At least in those parishes that still offer the option.) If the Raider game goes into overtime, you can either tape the game or tape Midnight Mass – perhaps from the Vatican – depending on your commitment to either or both.
Lastly, for those Holiday Football fans staying home to watch Thursday Night Football, do not do so. There are no NFL games this week until Saturday.
What a marvelous time of year. Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men, and football on television. It truly is a wonderful life.
Holiday Football: NFL 2018 Week 16
With that, Holiday Football fans, here is the NFL 2018 Week 16 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by OddsShark and all times Eastern.
Saturday, December 22, 2018, 4:30 p.m.
Washington Redskins at Tennessee Titans (-10) — Both of these teams are still alive for a playoff birth, which is a fancy way of saying they are not going to the playoffs. Josh Johnson is not playing badly. But at home the Titans should be able to take care of business. Titans cover in this first of many NFL Holiday Football matchups.
Saturday, December 22, 8:20 p.m.
Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Chargers (-6) — The Chargers are playing lights out on offense, but Baltimore does have the league’s best defense. The 11-3 Chargers just won major road games in consecutive weeks, and Pittsburgh is coming of an emotional win at home against New England. Yet with the 8-6 Ravens fighting for their playoff lives, expect a slugfest. Chargers win but fail to cover.
Sunday, December 23, 1:00 p.m., round one
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns (-7) — Forget Cincinnati’s win at home against Oakland that snapped their losing seven out of eight games. They are terrible. The Browns have won four of their last five games. Their defense is real. The Holiday Football Dawg Pound in Cleveland will be rocking. The spread is high, but trust the defense with this game on the line. Browns win but fail to cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys (-7) — Dallas stubbed its collective toe in a horrendous loss last week at Indianapolis to drop their record to 8-6. Tampa Bay is terrible and has no defense. Expect Ezekiel Elliott to run around, over and through the Tampa Bay defense. Cowboys cover.
Minnesota Vikings (-5.5) at Detroit Lions — The 7-6 Vikings have disastrously underachieved. But the Lions have cratered. Their one-time home field advantage is non-existent. Expect Matthew Stafford to complete a couple passes to Mike Zimmer’s defense. Vikings win but fail to cover.
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-13) — The Patriots have lost two straight games, but they will win the AFC East for the billionth straight year. The spread is high. But an angry Patriots team could wrap this game by the end of the first quarter. Patriots cover.
Green Bay Packers at New York Jets (-1) — Both teams are awful. Go with Aaron Rodgers over Sam Darnold. Upset special, Packers win outright.
Sunday, December 23, 1:00 p.m., round two
Houston Texans at Philadelphia Eagles (Pick) — The defending Super Bowl champions are not dead yet. After an emotional road win over the Rams, they take on a Houston team that has won 10 of their last 11 games, but with little flash or pizazz. Deshaun Watson is playing well. But rooting against Nick Foles around Christmastime is a bridge too far and a bet too far. Eagles score a Holiday Football win.
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (-3.5) — The Panthers gave New Orleans all they could handle before suffering their sixth straight loss in gut-wrenching fashion. Yet At 6-8 and still clinging to faint playoff hopes, go with the home team with everything to play for over the perpetually underachieving road team with nothing to play for. Panthers cover.
New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts (-9) — The Giants had been playing better in recent weeks but looked horrendous at home in front of Houston. The Colts shellacked and shut out Dallas last week. Dallas is far better than the Giants. Do the math. Both Andrew Luck and Eli Manning will complete passes to the Colts. Colts cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Miami Dolphins (-4.5) — At 7-7, Miami is somehow still alive for a playoff birth. Again, trust the home team fighting for its life over the road team that has thrown in the towel. Dolphins cover.
Sunday, December 23, 4:00 p.m.
Los Angeles Rams (-13.5) at Arizona Cardinals — Yes, the Rams are still a very good 11-3 team despite two straight losses. Yes, the Cardinals are awful and in contention for the top draft pick. The spread is too high for a road game, especially since Arizona fights hard at home. Rams win but fail to cover.
Chicago Bears (-4) at San Francisco 49ers — The Bears have won two straight big games at home against the Rams and at rival Green Bay. They may be due for a letdown. The 49ers just beat Seattle at home. They have the league’s worst record but are a different team at home. A Holiday Football upset special: 49ers win outright.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints (-7) — Pittsburgh snapped a three game losing streak with a defensive bonelock win over New England. The Saints just have too much firepower on offense. At 12-2, a win would lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs for the Saints. Pittsburgh at 8-5 is clinging to its AFC North lead by 1/2 a game, but they do not have the defense to stop Drew Brees playing in the Superdome.
Sunday, December 23, 8:20 p.m.
Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5) at Seattle Seahawks — The 11-3 Chiefs lost a shocker at home against the Chargers after blowing a 14 point lead late. The Seahawks lost at lowly San Francisco last week. Both teams will be angry. The Chiefs are the better team than the 8-6 Seahawks, but the 12th man looms large in Seattle, particularly during this week of Holiday Football. The Chiefs need a win to get closer to home field throughout the playoffs. The Seahawks need a win to survive and make the playoffs. Patrick Mahomes is amazing, but trust Russell Wilson at home. Upset special, Seahawks win outright.
Monday, December 24, 8:20 p.m.
Denver Broncos (-2.5) at Oakland Raiders — The Broncos are a bad 6-8 team and the Raiders are an awful 3-11 team. However, the Raiders have improved in recent weeks. Derek Carr has found his stride. Last week Oakland played with four rookies on the offensive line. However, The Raiders beat up the Broncos in Denver before collapsing late and losing 20-19 on the final play. The Black Hole will be fired up in what could be the final Raiders game ever in Oakland. The emotions will be overwhelming, and the Raiders will feed off of that. Upset special, Raiders win outright.
Enjoy this upcoming weekend of Holiday Football contests. And enjoy the Christmas holidays with your family and friends.