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DraftKings is offering up a new free-to-enter pool for the 2022 NFL season. It runs for the first 17 weeks of the season, and users are allowed to pick their five favorite spreads each week. You’re also allowed one self-appointed bye week, meaning each player will pick 80 games by the end of Week 17. The players who do the best will have a chance to take home part of a $100,000 prize pool, plus millions in bonus prizes.
Let’s take a look at my five favorite picks for NFL Week 16.
The Pick: Patriots +3.5
This is a pretty interesting spot between two teams coming off wildly different results last week. The Bengals were thoroughly outplayed by the Buccaneers in the first half, but Tampa Bay simply gave the game away in the third quarter. They turned the ball over on five straight possessions – one turnover on downs, two interceptions, and two fumbles – and it’s really hard to win games that way. The Bengals were set up with short fields on each of those drives, and they responded with 27 points.
On the other side, the Patriots had one of the most inexplicable losses you’ll ever see. The Raiders tied the game on a questionable Keelan Cole touchdown, but the Patriots should’ve been able to battle it out in overtime. Instead, Jakobi Meyers made one of the worst decisions in NFL history, with Chandler Jones intercepting a desperate lateral and running it in for a score.
It’s not often that you get two teams coming off fluky results in the same game, but that’s exactly the case here. It’s only natural for the team that suffered the fluky loss to become a bit undervalued, and that’s exactly what’s happened.
The Bengals are also dealing with some key injuries on defense. Trey Hendrickson will somehow be on the field despite dealing with a broken wrist, but the team will still be without its other primary pass-rusher in Sam Hubbard as well as top corner Chidobe Awuzie. The Bengals have two other cornerbacks listed as questionable, so they have the potential to be pretty thin on defense.
The Pick: Lions -2.5
It’s always scary to hop on a bandwagon team like the Lions, who are the current flavor of the month. They’ve won six of their past seven games, and they’re looking to become just the second team in NFL history to make the postseason following a 1-6 start.
That said, I think the Lions are a really good football team. When the team has been healthy on offense, their results have been fantastic. They have three-point losses to the Eagles and Seahawks and four-point losses to the Vikings and Dolphins, so this team could be comfortably in the playoffs with some better luck in close games.
Detroit’s offense has been tremendous under Jared Goff this season, ranking in the top five in both yards and points per game. They also rank sixth in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA, so they have the potential to outscore most of the other teams in football.
Their defense is the bigger question mark, but I’m not particularly worried about them against the Panthers. Carolina is a one-dimensional squad; if you can take away the running game, they’re going to struggle to score points. They’ve won three of their past five games, but they’ve rushed for at least 185 yards in each of them. In their two losses, they have less than 60 rushing yards combined.
The Lions were able to shut down a similar offense last week with the Jets, and Zach Wilson wasn’t able to make enough plays to win the game. I expect a similar formula against Sam Darnold.
The Pick: Seahawks +9.5
The Chiefs continue to win games, but they have not made it look easy. Their defense continues to struggle, and they’ve dropped all the way to 24th in defensive DVOA. The team’s offense can cover up a lot of those deficiencies – the unit is first in both points and yards per game – but it does make it difficult to cover large spreads. Kansas City is just 4-10 against the spread this season, and Mahomes is 28-35-1 as a favorite of greater than a field goal.
The Chiefs' offense should continue to do its thing against the Seahawks, who are just as bad on defense. However, the Seattle offense should be able to pick up the slack. The team hasn’t played their best football of late, but can still sling the rock. Geno Smith was a deserved Pro Bowl selection for his play this season, and the Seahawks rank fifth in passing DVOA. Even without Tyler Lockett, Smith and D.K. Metcalf should be able to hang some points on the scoreboard.
This game should play out very similarly to most Chiefs games. I expect them to win, but I don’t expect them to win by double-digits.
The Pick: Cowboys -4.5
The big story in this contest is the absence of Jalen Hurts. He’s currently dealing with a shoulder injury, and with the Eagles having the top spot in the NFC all but sewn up, they can choose to play it safe with their star quarterback. It’s not a great development for his MVP chances, but it’s ultimately the right decision.
That means Gardner Minshew will make his first start of the year against the Cowboys. Good luck with that. The Cowboys’ defense was shredded by the emerging Trevor Lawrence last week, but they’re still one of the most intimidating groups in the league. They love to get after the quarterback, and Minshew could struggle in his first start if he’s put under heavy duress.
Additionally, the Cowboys have the clear motivational edge. They want this game badly after the Eagles won their first matchup this season, while the Eagles know this game ultimately doesn’t matter. Without their star quarterback, they might not be 100% focused, even in a heated rivalry.
The Pick: Steelers -2.5
Another week, another opportunity to profit off the Steelers. They’ve won four of six contests since T.J. Watt returned to the lineup, pushing their record to 5-2 with the star pass-rusher available. Their two losses with Watt available were by seven points against the Bengals and two points vs. the Ravens, so they are a competent football team.
The Raiders have also played well recently, but has what they’ve done really been all that impressive? They’ve won four of their past five games, but two of those wins came in overtime. The other win was last week’s gift from the officials and Meyers, and the other was a one-score victory over the Jekyll-and-Hyde Chargers. Their loss in that time frame was on the road against Baker Mayfield, who didn’t even get the playbook until two days before the game.
I have zero doubts that the Steelers are the better team in this matchup, so I have no problems laying less than a field goal with them at home.
Year-to-Date Results: 55-20 (4-1 last week)
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mlamarca) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.