Patriots (PK) and first half under 24 One thing about Super Bowls is they don't tend to start with a bang.
Week 16 picks
Chargers (+1.5) at 49ers
Despite being banged up, the Chargers find themselves in a favorable spot, as San Francisco saw its playoff hopes snuffed out last week by the Seahawks. For a team that has appeared in the last three NFC Championship Games and continues to be embroiled in off-the-field controversy – the rampant Jim Harbaugh rumors were compounded by Ray McDonald’s release on Wednesday – the Niners’ focus and ability to get up for this game has to be questioned. In addition, they are sure to be feeling the effects of the Seattle game, as every team this season has both lost and failed to cover the week after playing the bruising Seahawks. Add in the short week to recover and the 49ers figure to be a shell of themselves, both physically and in terms of motivation. The Chargers, on the other hand, remain very much alive in the AFC playoff race. They are coming off back-to-back losses to the Patriots and Broncos, but battled in both games on the strength of a rejuvenated defense that held those prolific offenses to an average of under 5.5 yards per play and 22.5 points. Philip Rivers is ailing and won’t have his two primary weapons in Ryan Mathews and Keenan Allen, but the gritty veteran should make enough plays while the San Diego defense imposes its will over a San Fran offense that has averaged just 4.0 yards per play and 7.7 points during the three-game slide that sealed its postseason fate.
Seahawks at Cardinals – under 36.5
This is a low total, but it’s downright microscopic given how the explosion of scoring has pushed what used to be 37s and 38s into the low 40s. With that said, this number would probably have to dip under 35 before it would be worth considering the over. Ever since Carson Palmer went down in Week 10, the Arizona defense has been outstanding, allowing more than 19 points just once in six games. In that span, they’ve held the opposition to under 5.4 yards per play and 14.7 points per game (which includes a 500-yard, 29-point outlier in Atlanta) while racking up 25 sacks and forcing nine turnovers. While the Cardinals’ D has more than picked up the slack to help account for the loss of Palmer (and now Drew Stanton), the Seattle defense has been even more dominant lately. Since a 24-20 loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City, the Seahawks have surrendered a total of 27 points during a four-game winning streak that has seen them absolutely suffocate the Cardinals, Eagles and 49ers twice. With Arizona set to play their third- and fourth-string quarterbacks, it’s going to be near impossible for them to reach the end zone without the benefit of a special teams or defensive touchdown. And as throttling as the Seahawks defense has been, their offense has been merely pedestrian, just once cracking 20 points while averaging 19.8 during the win streak. Get ready for a knock-down affair waged in the trenches.
Vikings (+6.5) at Dolphins
At this time of the year, gauging a team’s motivation becomes an integral handicapping tool. Just two weeks ago, the Dolphins appeared on a path to the playoffs, but consecutive losses to the Ravens and Patriots have reduced those realistic aspirations to a pipe dream. Joe Philbin is widely rumored to be on the chopping block after a second straight late-season fade, and his players don’t seem to be ready to go all out to save their coach. That’s not a good combination going into an interconference game against a Vikings team that has quietly put together a 7-1 ATS stretch and won four of its last seven straight up while playing with an eye toward the future. A major reason for the opposite directions these teams find themselves headed in is red zone production. The Vikings rank 13th in the league with a 56.25 percent touchdown rate in the red zone, and that number jumps to 66.67 percent over the last three weeks. The Dolphins sit at 26th overall with a 47.54 mark, but they’ve converted just 28.57 percent of their scoring opportunities into touchdowns over the last three weeks. Defensively, Minnesota checks in at a rock-solid 51.22 percent for the season (12th overall), with Miami a middling 17th at 55.56 percent. However, the discrepancy is far greater over the last three weeks, as the Vikings have allowed just 9.09 percent of opponents’ red zone chances to turn into touchdowns, while the Dolphins have fallen apart to the tune of a 63.64 mark. Bettors should take the points with this live ‘dog.
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