Top 5 Betting Takeaways From NFL Week 16

It was an emotional week of NFL action that started with the Titans all but locking up the AFC South Division title with a win over the 49ers and ended with the loss of an all-time NFL legend with the passing of Hall of Famer John Madden. There is a lot to unpack this week, as we now have just 2 weeks left of the regular season before the start of the playoffs. With that, let’s jump right into this week’s edition of the top-5 betting takeaways from week 16 of the NFL!

The Cardinals Are In Freefall

The Arizona Cardinals did a great job of surviving without their all-world quarterback, Kyler Murray, when Murray missed several weeks of action with an injury earlier this season. Murray rejoined the squad after their week 12 bye, and most people expected the Cards to roll to the division title with their MVP hopeful back on the field. But that just hasn’t been the case, as the Cardinals have now lost 3 straight games, and they have gone from looking like a Super Bowl contender to a team just hoping to win a game before the postseason, in a hurry.

It is hard to place all of the blame on Murray, as he is being forced to play without his best weapon, as wideout DeAndre Hopkins is out for the remainder of the regular season, but this team is playing bad right now, and it is looking like this once-promising season is going to end in disappointment. This week’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts was especially painful as they dropped out of 1st place, and they are now a full game back of the streaking LA Rams, who themselves have won 4 straight games.

The Cards have managed to lock up a playoff spot despite the 3-game skid, so they aren’t going to miss the postseason altogether, no matter how the regular season ends, but if Arizona wants any real shot at making a deep run, they have to find a way to stop the bleeding and get some momentum going. I can’t imagine that things are going to turn around next week, as Arizona heads out on the road to play the Dallas Cowboys as +6-point underdogs.

The Cowboys have caught fire, winning 4 consecutive games, and they are coming off their best performance of the season last week, a 56-14 drubbing of the Washington Football Team. Dak, Zeke, and the Boys are running up the score and blowing teams out, and unlike the Cardinals, who are limping to the finish line of the regular season, this might be the year that Dallas gets back to the Big Game after a generation of disappointment.

The playoff picture has never been more confusing in the NFL, so projecting potential 1st round playoff matchups doesn’t have a ton of value this far out, but if the season were to end today, the Cardinals would be heading back to Dallas to play the Cowboys to open up the postseason, making next week’s game in Big D that much more important.

An 0-2 finish could see the Cardinals drop all of the way to the 7 seed in the NFC, which would see them playing either at LA, who they just lost to, or at Tampa Bay, and we all know what Tom Brady does in the playoffs. The outlook is certainly looking bleak for Arizona, and it is looking like they are going to suffer through another late-season collapse, just like they did last year when their season came to a premature ending. One and done for Arizona?

Joe Burrow Owns The Ravens

When Baltimore defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale made a comment to the media about how Joe Burrow wasn’t ready for the Hall of Fame just yet, it felt like he was poking a bear that he shouldn’t. Burrow famously torched the Ravens for 416 yards and 3 scores earlier this season, when the Bengals blew out the Ravens in Baltimore, so it was curious to see Martindale take a shot for seemingly no reason.

Burrow decided that he wasn’t going to respond, instead letting his play do the talking, and boy, oh boy, is Martindale eating his words now. Burrow had the best game of his short career on Sunday, lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 525 passing yards and 4 TDs, and again the Bengals blew the Ravens out. This one was clearly personal for Burrow and the Bengals, as they were still throwing the ball and scoring late in the game, despite the game being well out of hand.

Joey B showed zero remorse for running up the score, and the win couldn’t have been bigger for the Bengals, as they all but locked up the division title with the victory, as their 1-game lead is basically a 2-game lead as they swept the season series over the Ravens. I love when divisional opponents hate each other, as it just makes football better when there is bad blood.

And while on paper the Ravens and the Steelers have historically been the top rivalry in the AFC North Division, Big Ben is flirting with retirement, and the Steelers are looking at a multi-year rebuild, so Burrow against Lamar Jackson might be the real rivalry in the division for the next decade.

And if this week’s game was any indication of what that is going to look like, we are in for a lot of fun! We already talked about how wild the NFC playoff picture is right now, and the AFC is even crazier, as we have a log jam in the conference. There are an absurd 11 teams with records between 9-6 and 7-8, with all of those teams fighting for 5 playoff spots. The only team in the AFC that has a playoff spot on lockdown is the Kansas City Chiefs, making the next couple of weeks in the AFC wild ones!

There are too many different potential scenarios in the AFC right now to have any clue who is getting into the postseason, let alone trying to project who they might play once they get there, but both the Ravens and the Bengals are in that mix of those teams trying to get in, which means we could see a 3rd matchup between these rivals again this year.

Here’s to hoping we see Bengals/Ravens part 3, and if we do get another chance to see Burrow light up the Ravens, that Baltimore has their best player on the field next time, as Lamar Jackson missed this one with a high ankle sprain. One thing I know for sure is that if Baltimore does play Burrow and his Bengals again this season is that Wink Martindale is going to keep his Burrow bashing to himself. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

Russell Wilson Is Done In Seattle

There was a lot of speculation that Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson wanted out of Seattle in the offseason. That didn’t end up being the case as Wilson returned to the Jet City, but after a disappointing year in Seattle, it is looking like Wilson’s time leading the Seahawks is coming to an unceremonious end. Even in a season where basically the entire league is still in the playoff hunt with 2 weeks left to play, the Seahawks are one of a small handful of teams out of contention.

Russ wanted out when things were going well for the Seahawks, and after this disaster of a season, it feels like it might be time to blow things up and start over. That starts with trading away Wilson, potentially to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are looking for a replacement for Ben Roethlisberger, who is probably going to hang them up after this season.

We could speculate all day long on where Wilson might end up, but the fact of the matter is that in the NFL, you are never winning a Super Bowl without an elite QB, and even with as poorly as Hustle and Bustle Russell has played this season, I do still see him as a borderline elite signal caller. That being said, Wilson is going to be 34 next year, and he is almost certainly on the downside of his career.

Wilson played 10 years in Seattle and never missed a game until this year, and his body has taken a beating. Statistically, this will be the worst season of his career, and by a fairly wide margin, and his QBR of just 47.6 is going to keep the market on him at least somewhat limited. Wilson has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in each of his last 2 games and has only thrown for over 300 yards once all year, and that came way back in week 2, in an overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

It is safe to say that Wilson is ready to move on with his career, and I would think that he would get another shot to start somewhere, Pittsburgh or otherwise, but in the NFL, when you are done, you are done, and it is very rare that we see guys bounce back from terrible seasons like this late in their careers. One thing I do know for sure, though, is that I won’t be betting on the Seahawks anymore this season.

This week’s last-minute, home-field loss to a bad Chicago Bears team was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Seattle, and even with the lowly Detroit Lions coming to town next week, I have zero confidence that the Seahawks are going to take care of business and win the game, let alone cover the outrageously overpriced -7-point line. It is sad to see a Hall of Fame career come to an ending like this, but Father Time beats us all at some point (Tom Brady excluded, obviously), and the end is near for Russell Wilson in Seattle.

The Miami Dolphins Continue To Catch Breaks

The Miami Dolphins became the first team in NFL history to have a 7-game winning streak and a 7-game losing streak in the same season when they went into New Orleans this week and knocked off the Saints for their 7th straight win. After being left for dead earlier this year with a 1-7 start, Miami now has a real shot at making the playoffs. In fact, if the season were to end today, Miami would be in the postseason, which would go down as one of the greatest mid-season turnarounds of all time.

But even with as impressive as this streak has been, you have to take these results with a grain of salt. If you go back over a month ago, you will see that I actually predicted this unlikely run for the Dolphins. And as much as I would like to toot my own horn for calling this unlikely turnaround, it really wasn’t all that hard to see coming, as Miami has been the recipient of several big breaks that have led to this winning streak.

The schedule has been laughably soft for Miami in the last couple of months, as none of the 7 teams they have beaten on this current winning streak would be in the playoffs if the season were to end today. We have talked at length today about how just about every team in the NFL is still in the playoff hunt, so to see Miami somehow find 7 games in a row, all against teams that aren’t going to make the playoffs, is a really nice stroke of luck and they have taken full advantage of it.

This week that luck continued as the Dolphins played against a Saints team that had an absurd 22 players missing due to COVID-19 protocols and injuries. It was so bad for the Saints that they were forced to start guys that were signed off of other team’s practice squads the day of the game. I know everyone is getting destroyed by COVID right now, but what is going on down in NOLA is particularly painful.

And even though the Dolphins caught a huge break against the Saints, they still didn’t look very good and never really could pull away. The ‘Fins D did a great job of stopping rookie QB Ian Book and the Saint’s offensive attack, but to see Tua and company struggle to move the ball against a depleted Saints D was disappointing. I was not a believer in Miami, at least in terms of them actually being able to win a playoff game, and after seeing them play so poorly against what was basically a college-level team, I am officially a hater of this Dolphins team.

The breaks will keep coming for Miami this week as they will play at Tennessee against a Titans team that won’t have their best player, Derrick Henry. Now, to be fair to the Titans, they have managed to stay afloat without the NFL’s best running back on the field, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t still a great opportunity for Miami, as this game would look a lot different with Henry on the field.

The Dolphins control their own destiny, and a win over the Titans would be huge for their playoff chances, but I just don’t see it happening. And a loss would be damning to their chances at breaking through with a playoff appearance, as they play host to the New England Patriots in week 18, against a Pats team that will likely be playing for a division title. Having to beat Bill Belichick in January, with a division title on the line, might be the hardest thing to do in football, and I don’t see any way that the Dolphins are up for it.

Wins are wins in the NFL, and I hope I am not coming off as just a hater of the Dolphins here, but it always has been and always will be a what have you done for me lately league, and an 0-2 finish would almost certainly end with Miami missing the playoffs. That doesn’t mean this run wasn’t fun, and there are lots of reasons to be optimistic for this team’s future, but I don’t see any more wins coming for Miami the rest of the way out.

I guess it would only be fitting to see this team, that is the streakiest of all-time, finish their season on yet another streak, this time a 2-game losing streak to close out the year. Sorry Dolphin fans, but there is always next year, and the play is to fade the “Fins this week on the road against the Titans.

Well, that is unless fate intervenes yet again and the Titans lose their entire roster to COVID like the Saints did this week. Wait it out to make your play, but assuming the rosters are intact in Tennessee on Sunday, make your play on the Titans.

Can The Raiders Win One For Madden?

The NFL lost a giant this week when John Madden suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. We could talk about Madden all day long, but I think the best way to describe his impact on today’s game would be to say that he is a Hall of Fame coach and a Hall of Fame broadcaster, and neither of those are going to go down as his lasting legacy.

Millions of kids know his name from his long-standing video game that quite literally changed the face of video games and brought generations to the sport that never got to see him coach or call a game. Madden quite literally changed the landscape of both the NFL and the video game world with his groundbreaking Madden NFL game, and the longtime Raiders head coach’s name may never be forgotten.

Raiders owner Mark Davis lit the Raiders home stadium torch in honor of Madden, and then the Raiders went out and picked up a huge win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Whatever your feelings on the afterlife might be, you have to know that the Raiders players are going to feel Madden on the field and in the locker room, as this truly is a win one for the Gipper type of moment for Las Vegas.

The Raiders have easily had the most turbulent season of any team this year, as they watched their head coach get fired for emails he sent a decade ago, saw both of their most recent 1st round draft picks get cut from the team for off the field behavior, and were in the midst of another late-season collapse. But with wins in each of the last 2 weeks, both coming against teams that they are competing against for the playoffs in the AFC, the Raiders have a real shot at making the postseason with just 2 games left to play.

The Raiders draw a tough hand this week, as they have to play at Indianapolis against a red-hot Colts team that has won 6 of their last 7 games. That being said, the Colts are going to be without their starting quarterback as Carson Wentz just popped hot for the “Rona, so the door is wide open for an upset.

In week 18, Las Vegas hosts the LA Chargers in a game that very well could be a playoff eliminator for both squads. That is a tough schedule, and while technically the Raiders will need some help to get in, even if they go 2-0, if they can win even one of those games, they will have a shot at prolonging their season.

Can the death of their franchise’s greatest star bring this team together enough for a couple of unlikely wins to make a push for the postseason? Or will this go down as yet another nasty blow in what has been a season full of them for LV?

As a Las Vegas resident that has yet to fully embrace our new hometown team, I will tell you that Vegas would love to get behind the Raiders as they try to live up to the legacy of one of the greatest coaches of all time. Traumatic incidents such as this can have a very powerful effect, and I think it just might give the Raiders the edge they need to finish strong and make the playoffs, with Madden in their hearts and on their minds.

Wrap Up

There you have it, folks, my top-5 betting takeaways from week 16 of NFL action. Things move quickly in the NFL, and you have to make sure that you are staying on top of all of the latest news each week. Thanks for reading, and make sure that you swing by TheSportsGeek’s NFL picks page, where our team of expert handicappers bring you free NFL picks for each and every game this season!

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Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL

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