NFL Week 16 Preview and Bettor’s Guide: The joy of Christmas football!
LOS ANGELES, December 22, 2021 — Three weeks ago Jewish football fans celebrated Hanukkah by lighting Menorahs and watching football. We spun dreidels and watched football. We ate potato pancakes and watched football. Now the Christians have their turn.
With Christmas approaching, there is only one thing to do for Christian football fans on Christmas day and night. The best-unwrapped present in the world is Christmas football. This year the pleasure is doubled as there are two NFL games on December 25th.
The best way to celebrate Christmas football is to top it off with a second heaping of more Christmas football.
Yet while Christmas has many traditions, the very best tradition is one that should be the envy of other religions everywhere. Christians have the tradition of giving lumps of coal to people who truly deserve it. Long before Seinfeld wished a Happy Festivus to the rest of us, Christians were airing their grievances through putting lumps of coal in deserving stockings hung by the chimney.
Nothing symbolizes a lump of coal like a royal beating.
Tom Brady was given lumps of coal by the Saints defense. He was given more lumps of black (and blue) than Pete Puma. The entire Saints organization was given a lump of coal when Sean Payton was removed from the sideline due to Covid. Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and his defense took it out on Brady. The way he was beaten up, you would think Mike Singletary or John Randall were still playing. Remember, December is when the big dogs come out.
The Cleveland Browns were given lumps of coal when 18 players were put on the Covid list. Without head coach Kevin Stefanski, quarterback Baker Mayfield, and backup Case Keenum, the Browns fought to the very end. Yet their final lump of coal was delivered by kicker Daniel Carlson, who hit a 48-yard field goal dead center as time expired to lift the Raiders over the Browns.
As for the Raiders, their entire season has been one lump of coal.
They lost their coach and their wide receiver due to horrific circumstances unrelated to football. The victory over the Browns delayed, perhaps permanently but perhaps temporarily, Mark Davis giving lumps of coal to the entire organization after the season.
The Detroit Lions have been suffering since the curse of Bobby Layne in 1957. Yet in a holiday miracle nobody would believe, the Lions shocked the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals were given a major lump of coal in that game, although their 130-year history has been one black charcoal briquette after another one.
The Jets and Giants have offered so many lumps of coal to their fan bases that the fans may stop calling them New York and label them New Jersey.
Meanwhile, the biggest lump of coal that owners give after the holidays are the post-holiday pink-slips.
Black Monday coach firings used to occur right around the holidays. Yet thanks to the extended NFL season, the last games of the regular season are not played until January 9th. Most NFL coaches will not be given their lump of coal to the unemployment line until after the New Year.
So drink that egg nog, sing those songs, and enjoy some football on one of the holiest days and nights of the Christian calendar. Jews, get your Chinese food delivered and park yourself in front of that television. As for those who will not be watching football on Christmas, whatever religion you are, may you be given a Kingsford charcoal briquet in your britches?
Lumps of coal for everybody!
With that, here is the NFL 2021 Week 16 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point, spreads provided by SportingNews.com and all times Eastern.
Thursday, December 23, 2021, 8:00 p.m.
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) at Tennessee Titans — After srtruggling most of the season, the 49ers got to 8-6. While the NFC West division is probably out of reach, a playoff spot is very realistic. The 9-5 Titans lead the AFC South by one game but trail by one game for home field throughout the playoffs. Having the Titans be an underdog at home is quite surprising. They still play very tough defense. Mike Vrabel still knows how to coach physical football. Upset special, Titans win outright.
Saturday, Christmas Football December 25, 4:30 p.m.
Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers (-7.5) –
The 7-7 Browns showed a ton of heart in nearly winning last week with backups. Decimated by Covid, the Browns will get steamrolled by the 11-3 Packers. Having already clinched the NFC North, two more wins guarantees the Packers home field throughout the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers is a man possessed. Packers cover.
Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals (-2) —
The 8-6 Colts knocked off New England last week and at 8-6 are only one game back in the AFC South. The Cardinals at 10-4 are tied atop the NFC West and they own the tie-breaker. Yet they have lost two straight, including a humiliating defeat at hapless Detroit. Those ready to jump off the Cardinals bandwagon should pause. Yes, Jonathan Taylor can run wild. Yet so can Kyler Murray and the Arizona defense. Give the Cardinals one more chance to show at home that they are not in meltdown mode. The Cardinals are one of five teams with a shot at home field throughout the playoffs,. They will show up. Cardinals cover.
Sunday, December 26, 1:00 p.m.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-10) —
The Eagles have somehow bungled their way to a 7-7 record and a shot at the playoffs. The Giants are awful, but the spread is too high given that the Giants defense is competent. A garbage touchdown is possible. Eagles win but fail to cover.
Los Angeles Rams (-3) at Minnesota Vikings —
The 7-7 Vikings struggled to beat lowly Chicago. They are alive for the playoffs. Meanwhile, the 7-1 Rams lost three straight but since then have won three straight. At 10-4 they are tied for the NFC West lead, but the Rams do not have the tie-breaker. The Rams seem to have righted the ship, and Matthew Stafford knows the Vikings very well. The Rams are also one of five teams with a shot at home field throughout the playoffs. They have the better offense and the better defense. They will handle business. Rams cover.
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-2.5) —
The 8-6 Bills are one game back of the 9-5 Patriots in the AFC East. The Patriots had their six game win streak snapped last week at Indianapolis. Two weeks ago in Buffalo these teams played a defensive slugfest. The Patriots won 14-10 by running the ball 46 times and letting Mac Jones throw only three passes. Playing an angry Bill Belichick does not end well. As good as Josh Allen and the Buffalo defense are, losing to New England at home does not bode well for a rematch on the road. Patriots cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-11) at Carolina Panthers —
Tom Brady suffered a brutal 9-0 home defeat as the Saints defense knocked the Buccaneers senseless. Brady will use that as fuel, and the Panthers are a bad team in the wrong place at the wrong time. The 10-4 Buccaneers are one of five teams with a chance at home field throughout the playoffs. They have all but wrapped up the NFC South. Yet the spread is high, and a garbage touchdown is possible. Buccaneers win but fail to cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets (-2.5) —
The 2-12 Jaguars take on the 3-11 Jets. League rules prevent this game from being canceled. The Jaguars lost at home last week to previously 2-11 Houston. The Jets gave streaking Miami all they could handle before losing late. Jets cover.
Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons (-3.5) —
The Lions shocked Arizona last week to get their second win of the year. The 6-8 Falcons are also done for the year. Yet the Lions won at home. They have not shown an ability to win a road game yet. The Lions have fought hard and lost some heartbreakers. This one could be close. The falcons win but fail to cover.
Los Angeles Chargers (-9.5) at Houston Texans —
The 8-6 Chargers suffered a heartbreaking home loss to Kansas City that pretty much sealed the AFC West. However, the Chargers are still in a strong position for a wildcard. The Texans seem to beat Jacksonville and lose to everyone else. The problem with the Chargers is that they consistently play to the level of their competition. A garbage touchdown is very realistic for the Texans. Chargers win but fail to cover.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-2) —
Both teams are 8-6, but the Ravens have lost three straight after it looked like they were cruising to the AFC North crown. Earlier in the season the Bengals went into Baltimore and stunned the Ravens 41-17. Yet two of the three Ravens losses have been by one point due to John Harbaugh going for a two-point conversion rather than the tie. Last week it a one-point loss to top-seeded Green Bay. So even though all the indicators favor the Bengals, the Ravens have the experience. Joe Burrow isn’t playing well, but expect either Lamar Jackson or Tyler Huntley to get revenge and end the skid. Upset special, Ravens win outright.
Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks (-7) —
Both teams are done for the year and will be tired from having just played on Tuesday due to Covid. The Seahawks gave the Rams all they could handle before losing, while the Bears looked lifeless against an average Minnesota team. The Bears have no offense. Expect Russell Wilson to throw anywhere and everywhere and get some small consolation in a brutal season. Seahawks cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (-10) —
The 7-6 Steelers are alive for a playoff spot. They are even only 1/2 a game out of the AFC North lead. Yet the 10-4 Chiefs have won seven straight games. The Chiefs have all but locked up the AFC West after an emotional win at the Chargers. The Chiefs have the inside track for home field throughout the playoffs. The spread is high and Mike Tomlin has beaten Andy Reid in Kansas City before, but this is different. Patrick Mahomes has too many weapons and his defense is vastly improved. Chiefs cover.
Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders (-1.5) —
Both teams are 7-7 and fighting for playoff survival. The Raiders went into Denver and beat them easily, but that was fueled by emotion in Rich Bisaccia’s first game as Raiders interim coach. Last week the Raiders barely survived against a Cleveland team playing with backup players and coaches. As awful as the Raiders have been in recent weeks, Teddy Bridgewater is out with a concussion. The Raiders tend to play better on the road than at home, but trust Derek Carr over Drew Lock. This one could go either way, but if it goes down to the final play, trust Carr and kicker Daniel Carlson. Raiders cover.
Washington Festivus Poles at Dallas Cowboys (-10) —
The 10-4 Cowboys have all but locked up the NFC Least and are one of five teams with a shot at home field throughout the playoffs. The 6-8 No-Names saw their best chance at a playoff spot expire last week at Philadelphia. The Cowboys have the talent and are finally starting to play like it. With these rivals, the cliche is to throw out the records. Yet after seeing Washington lose by 10 at Philadelphia, it is reasonable to assume they will suffer a worse fate at Dallas. Cowboys cover.
Monday, December 27, 8:00 p.m.
Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints (-3) —
Both teams are 7-7 and showing a ton of heart. The Dolphins started 1-7 and have since won six straight games. The Saints started 5-2 before losing five straight games. Yet they then won two straight. The Saints have swept Tampa Bay this year, and last week beat Tom Brady black and blue on his home field 9-0. Do not expect an emotional letdown in the Superdome. Some of the Dolphin wins have been against other very bad teams. The Saints are beating better teams. The Saints have the better defense and the better running back in Alvin Kamara. Taysom Hill is a wild card, and Tua Tagovailoa has not earned the benefit of the doubt yet. Sean Payton returns to the sideline after clearing Covid protocols. Go with the home field and the defense. Saints cover.