NFL Betting Guide: Week 16 (Saturday)

The Eagles have shifted to moderate underdogs in light of Jalen Hurts' injury. Has the market swung too far in Dallas' direction, or should we expect the Cowboys to pull away at home?

Do you think you know a lot about NFL football? Try regularly picking five games against the spread.

Even with all the information and advanced stats, elite sports bettors are lucky to get about 53% to 54% of -110 (even probability) bets correct. It's essentially flipping a coin.

That being said, people -- myself included -- try. There are plenty of contests, media personalities, and other casual games at work or with friends that pick five games each week against the spread to see how they fare.

Using NFL odds from FanDuel Sportsbook, here are my five picks against the spread and a couple of totals I like this week. Play or fade as you please.

Week 15 Recap

Last Week: 1-3-1
Year-to-Date Record: 41-31-1 (55.4%)

Our first push had to come at some point, and Tennessee delivered it. I was just glad it wasn't a loss.

The only winner was the Jaguars' upset of Dallas, with Jax coming back from 17 points to do so.

The losers were a heartbreaker in New York, a wild one in Minnesota in which they couldn't quite come back from to cover, and a game I don't want to address further in Washington.

Our totals split last week, too. We've got work to do on Christmas weekend.

Note: The fifth pick towards our record this week is the Broncos (-2.5) vs. Los Angeles. That full breakdown is in Sunday's betting guide.

Spread Picks

Pick #1: Eagles (+4.5) at Cowboys

For one game, Gardner Minshew isn't this different from Jalen Hurts.

In limited action last year that included a start, Minshew posted 0.30 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, and it's 0.54 this year on four total attempts. For context, Patrick Mahomes is at 0.32 for the year. We're dealing with small samples, but Minshew has been serviceable enough to not dock Philadelphia a massive amount.

However, this line has moved a massive amount. Three points for Hurts' injury doesn't sound like a lot, but it's crossed the 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0-point gulfs that are key numbers when betting spreads.

I expected to be fully on the Cowboys as a sharp home favorite. Now, I'm getting a key hook with the squad I still believe to be the better team on a neutral field, and the one-week quarterback drop doesn't appear to be massive. I'm also not as concerned about Dallas' lethal pass rush, which has been neutralized to just one sack in the past two weeks.

The 'Boys also have some key defensive injuries on this short week, too. Outside of Hurts, Philly's report is pretty clean. Two weeks ago, I'd have loved Dallas, but the Birds can get this done despite missing their MVP candidate.

Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Eagles 23-20

Pick #2: Seahawks (+10.0) at Chiefs

I try my best to find Santa's nice list, and I think the public's insistence to bet on the Kansas City Chiefs is just my present as an adult.

The 11-3 Chiefs are 4-10 against the spread (ATS). They've done this despite facing the second-worst strength of schedule among the teams with 10 wins. This team doesn't run the ball well, and they've got numberFire's seventh-worst schedule-adjusted defense. Hurts' injury will likely lock up what is a rightful MVP for Patrick Mahomes. Without him, this KC bunch isn't a playoff team.

Mahomes, though, hasn't been enough to cover the spread. He's 13-24-1 ATS as a favorite of at least 3.5 points, and Mahomes' vaunted November and December record (34-5 straight up) has translated to just a 17-20-2 ATS record.

I actually get a Seattle team this week that's good, too. They're numberFire's 15th-best offense overall with a healthy Kenneth Walker III, who has proven to be effective running the ball. Geno Smith and his strong perimeter weapons have flashed against weaker defenses, too.

I've been taking -- and cashing -- large spreads against K.C. with bad teams. Seattle isn't a bad team. Watch the outright here in cold weather, too.

Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Chiefs 20-17

Pick #3: Commanders (+7.0) at 49ers

At the very least, the Commanders will make Brock Purdy earn this one.

The 49ers' game plan with Purdy has been simple and genius -- hand the ball to Christian McCaffrey because he's good and the Niners can run it well. He's gotten 73 touches in the past three weeks, carrying this San Francisco offense in tow.

This week, McCaffrey should have a tough time making ground. Washington is numberFire's top overall rush defense, and they're also a top-10 D against the pass -- and overall. Purdy's largely beaten up on three defenses performing poorly at present, but the Commanders don't fit that description.

Totals can also lean you in one direction on the spread. Sharp money is pounding under 36.5 points here; 79% of the handle is in that direction despite the under receiving just 35% of bets. If they're right, the 7.0 points -- including a key number -- are intrinsically more valuable with the Commies.

Washington also now needs to win to get into the playoffs. S.F. is essentially locked into a battle with Kirk Cousins in one location or another. Motivation could make a difference, too.

Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: 49ers 19-16

Other Selections

Panthers (+2.5) vs. Lions

The Lions might have to go into a timeout this week if they win because I'm just badly underrating them, but I love this spot for Carolina.

Detroit has won six of seven games, Dan Campbell is getting award buzz, and the Lions are on track for the playoffs. The Panthers just lost to Mitchell Trubisky at home. How is this line just 2.5 points, and further, how -- with 88% of the bets on Detroit -- did this line move toward Carolina (from 3.0) to get to that number?

Carolina could rekindle their game plan from two weeks ago. They ran for 233 yards on Seattle, and Detroit is a great candidate for the same pounding on the ground. They're numberFire's third-worst rush defense.

Plus, the Panthers are wildly underrated. The red zone didn't go their way last week, but Sam Darnold is averaging 0.16 Passing NEP per drop back -- above the league average -- since he took over, and this rush attack has posted the 14th-most Rushing NEP per play despite facing the Broncos and Steelers' tough defenses.

And Carolina would stay alive for the division with a win. Against Jared Goff in the cold, I think they get it.

Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Panthers 16-13

Totals of the Week

Pick #1: Giants at Vikings (Over 47.5)

I'm sure a few totals in the 30s will hit the over, but extremely adverse weather conditions made it hard for me to find an over. This dome -- and matchup -- will do.

Minnesota is a good start; 8 of Minnesota's 13 games have gone over their projected total this year, including last week's 36-33 circus where they scored at will in the second half. Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, and the rest of what we rank as the 11th-best offense should have no issues scoring on our eighth-worst defense, the New York Giants.

Big Blue's offense is definitely the risk to this total. They're just 16th in our offensive rankings, and Minnesota's rush defense is 2nd in those same ranks. Saquon Barkley would be at risk of getting bottled up here if he didn't just dent Washington -- the top rush defense -- for 120 scrimmage yards and a score.

Still, the Vikings never make anything easy. They've played one-score games in 10 of their 14 contests this year, so if we have a solid idea their own offense will move the ball and score, we know the Giants probably end up making plenty of ground, too.

A somewhat-neutral 53% of the bets are on the over, but 78% of the cash is. We can follow the green.

Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Vikings 27-24

Pick #2: Texans at Titans (Under 35.5)

There's no expected heavy precipitation or wind in Tennessee -- just chilly temperatures and two bad offenses.

The situation-neutral pace in this game is poor on paper, and it'll get even worse this week. Malik Willis is likely starting for the Titans, and the raw prospect has all but eliminated Tennessee's passing game in the two games he started. He's posted a hideous -0.57 Passing NEP per drop back this season and can't play the position well at the NFL level yet.

Of course, Derrick Henry is the looming concern given his historical ownership of the Texans, and with Willis under center, Henry went nuts in a 17-10 win earlier this year in Houston. You can only score so many points running the ball, though.

Davis Mills (-0.05 Passing NEP per drop back) hasn't been good enough to exploit Tennessee's grave weakness -- their secondary. That's why Houston struggled to score in this clash earlier this year, and Mills and the Texans are averaging 15.0 offensive points in three games with a sub-60-degree ambient temperature this season.

Sharps are on the under, too -- 77% of the money is backing the under despite just 40% of the tickets doing so.

Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Titans 17-13