Look Between the Lines: Handicapping Week 16 in the NFL

BY foxsports • December 17, 2014

James Hernandez has more than 15 years in the sports handicapping industry and contributes weekly for FOXsports.com as our betting expert. Have comments or questions? Make sure to email him at jameshernandez1981@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @jhern81.

Philadelphia Eagles (-7) over Washington Redskins

After a deflating loss at home to Dallas the Eagles will need to regroup quickly in order to keep their postseason hopes alive. Lucky for them they have a date with the hapless Redskins. During their current six-game losing streak, Washington has been outscored 170-86 -- and four of the six defeats were by double-digits. Although rookie head coach Jay Gruden just received the dreaded "vote of confidence" from upper management, he still has to be upset with the fact that Robert Griffin III is still his only option at quarterback. It's hard to find blame in Gruden, considering that all three of his career victories have come with someone other than RG3 under center. You should back the team still playing for something, as the Redskins continue to give the Kardashians a run for their money as television's most dysfunctional makeshift family. 

San Diego Chargers (+3) over San Francisco 49ers

Does anyone else here feel like the wrong team is favored? Both teams are coming off of losses, however only San Francisco has been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. With the uncertainty surrounding their head coach it appears as if San Francisco is just going through the motions to end the season and San Diego may be able to capitalize on a team that has checked out. Despite losing the previous two weeks, the Bolts still control their playoff fate and wins the final two weeks of the season will ensure them a second consecutive Wild Card berth. These are two franchises headed in opposite directions so be sure to go with San Diego as Rivers and his guys dig deep to extend their playoff hopes for one more week.

Detroit Lions (-6.5) over Chicago Bears

Even the "Curse of Bobby Layne" won't be enough to put an end to the dumpster fire known as the Chicago Bears and their three-game losing streak. Despite having five wins on the season, there is a legitimate argument to be made for Chicago being the worst team in the NFL. Let's face it; no team is doing less with more. Jay Cutler's atrocious play looks even worse considering he is the highest-paid player in the NFL. Chicago lost its will to fight weeks ago, so go with the Lions as they easily win and cover to set up a week 17 showdown for the NFC North division title versus the Pack.

Atlanta Falcons (+6.5) over New Orleans Saints

After 15 weeks of forgettable football, the NFC South will be one step closer to crowning a division winner on Sunday. Both the Falcons and Saints have played subpar football for the majority of the season, but the rules say each division will have a winner and that division winner will host a playoff game on Wild Card weekend. Defense has seemingly been optional for both these teams -- they rank 31st and 32nd in total defense. Look for Matt Ryan and Drew Brees to air it out early and often and the quarterback who can self-inflict the least amount of damage will likely be the victor. It's hard to imagine a scenario where either of these teams should be favored, so I am just taking the points here as the lesser of two evils. This is a game you bet and forget about until it's time to check the final score, because sitting and watching this contest in its entirety is a punishment no one should have to endure.

Baltimore Ravens (-4.5) over Houston Texans

As rookie head coach Bill O'Brien contemplates whether to start Thad Lewis or Case Keenum on Sunday, his counterpart John Harbaugh is devising a game plan that will keep his Baltimore Ravens alive in the AFC playoff chase. Whomever gets the starting nod for Houston will have their work cut out for them as they prepare to face a veteran defense that has been playing playoff football since a Week 14 trip to Miami. Look for Joe Flacco to test a vulnerable secondary with the deep ball as Baltimore hopes to get the Smiths (Torrey and Steve Sr.) a few trips to pay dirt. Justin Forsett and his 1128 yards rushing should pace a very underrated running game as the Ravens chew up clock and control time of possession in order to exhaust the elite pass rushing of Watt and company.  This time of year there are two types of teams: those playing for the postseason and those just playing out the string. Once again take the team with something to play for as Baltimore wins and covers a tough road contest in Houston.  

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