LOS ANGELES, December 17, 2014 — College football has concluded its regular season, which means the National Football League can dominate the entire weekend. Saturday Night Football is just another example of how there is never too much pro football. Sadly, Thursday Night Football may disprove this theory. What makes the NFL so special is that it is mostly a once a week endeavor. Sundays and Monday nights are followed by five days of people spending time with their family. Other sports come on every night. The NFL was always exclusive.
Thursday Night Football has changed that. Kicking off the season on a Thursday night is great. Thanksgiving football is a mandatory tradition. Every Thursday is suffering because some of the games are bad and cannot be flexed out. With a race to the playoffs as exciting as ever, this week’s Thursday night game could be the worst prime time game in the history of pro football. The ratings for that game will determine how much football is too much. With that, here is the NFL 2014 Week 16 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com and all times Eastern.
Thursday, December 18, 2014, 8:30 p.m.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) — A pair of 2-12 teams should never be on prime time unless the Thursday event is the first night of the NFL Draft. The NFL should allow for flexing Thursday night games or cancel Thursday Night Football altogether. Jaguars cover.
Saturday, December 20, 4:30 p.m.
Philadelphia Eagles (-8) at Washington — The Eagles did miss a golden opportunity in losing at home to Dallas, but Washington is just awful. A blowout win here could lead to mass firings before the final game. Eagles cover.
San Diego Chargers at San Francisco 49ers (-2.5) — Both teams are in free-fall. The 49ers are at home, which has not given them much of an advantage. Neither of these teams is going anywhere, but at least the trip home will be short. 49ers cover.
Sunday, December 21, 1:00 p.m.
Minnesota Vikings at Miami Dolphins (-6.5) — The Vikings fought hard last week at Detroit before losing. Miami is having another season ending tailspin that should end the Joe Philbin era, but they have enough firepower at home to win this game. Dolphins win, but fail to cover.
Green Bay Packers (-10.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — From the Bay of Pigs to Baywatch, this game is back to being the one-sided mismatch it has been since a certain gunslinger entered the league and before Warren Sapp showed up. Aaron Rodgers will shake off last week’s loss and eviscerate the Buccaneers. A garbage touchdown late could make it close. Packers win, but fail to cover.
Detroit Lions (-7) at Chicago Bears — The Lions are winning ugly while the Bears are losing even uglier. Marc Trestman could be gone and Jay Cutler could throw more passes to the Detroit defense. After their awful home performance on Monday night, it is hard to find anything good to say about Chicago, especially with Detroit fighting for the NFC North division crown. Lions win, but fail to cover.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-6) — The winner of this game is in a stronger position to win the hideous NFC South. Home field advantage means nothing in this series, and neither team has offered consistency from week to week. By default, the Saints should be less bad. Saints win, but fail to cover.
New England Patriots (-10) at New York Jets — Everyone will miss Rex Ryan, but beating the worst team is not the same as beating the best. Bellichick and Brady will go out of their way to run up the score. If the Jets get off to a strong start, it could be just enough to stay within the spread when the inevitable avalanche comes. New England is not going to blow a chance at home field throughout the playoffs. Patriots win, but fail to cover.
Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) — This is one game where home field matters. Pittsburgh is playing old time smash mouth football on offense. Kansas City is still trying to dink and dunk West Coast style. Pittsburgh’s defense is not the Steel Curtan, but Alex Smith is closer to Steve Bono then Joe Montana. Steelers cover.
Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers (-4) — The Browns decided to throw their entire season away last week. They should have stuck with Brian Hoyer. Instead Johnny Manziel is being thrown to the wolves. Cam Newton is still in pain from his car accident, but if needed Derek Anderson is a capable backup who would love to get revenge against his old team. The Panthers are clinging to division hopes. Panthers cover.
Baltimore Ravens (-5.5) at Houston Texans — Ryan Fitzpatrick went down with a broken leg last week. Third string quarterback Tom Savage is going to be a sitting duck. The Ravens are peaking at the right time and still have a shot to win their division. The Houston defense is tough, but they are getting no help on offense. Ravens win, but fail to cover.
New York Giants at St. Louis Rams (-5) — Even when their teams missing the playoffs, Jeff Fisher and Tom Coughlin command respect for a reason. Fisher is safe for next year and Coughlin would be if the football world made sense. The Giants offense is finally showing what it could be and the Rams defense is just ferocious. This one is a home field game. Rams cover.
Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders (-6) — The 8-6 Bills are fighting for their lives, have a fantastic defense, and just shocked Green Bay. However, the 2-12 Raiders have won both of their last two home games against teams as good as Buffalo. The Raiders are improving, but Derek Carr is getting no help on offense. The Buffalo defense will shut Oakland down. Bills win, but fail to cover.
Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys (-3) — Both teams are 10-4, but Dallas won an impressive road win over Philadelphia while the Colts barely survived awful Jacksonville. Andrew Luck is turning the ball over early practically every week. This Dallas team is for real. Cowboys cover.
Seattle Seahawks (-8) at Arizona Cardinals — Arizona might be the least respected 11-3 team in NFL history solely because injuries have reduced them to playing third string quarterback Ryan Lindley. Bruce Arians keeps insisting he will not simplify the game plan, but is getting aggressive against the Legion of Boom a wise move? The Cardinals have a defense, and could win a slugfest. Teams pretend that the world is against them, but in this case it is. The Cardinals will rally around each other. Upset special, Cardinals win outright.
Monday, December 21, 2014, 8:30 p.m.
Denver Broncos (-3.5) at Cincinnati Bengals — Two teams in the AFC are for real. Denver is one of them. The rest are the typical AFC tomato cans who flame out every year. Cincinnati is one of them. Peyton Manning now has a running game and the Broncos still have a shot at home field throughout the playoffs. Cincinnati will not deserve respect until they win big games like this. On this night, they will not. Broncos win but fail to cover.