Good luck trying to make sense of anything that transpires on an NFL field these days.
If there was such a thing as a sure bet, Arizona beating lowly Detroit would rank pretty high on the list in Week 15. Well, that is why you play the games because the Cardinals stumbled badly against the Lions and some other wild happenings jumbled up more than one division race.
It’s another week of key showdowns and wondering just which players will take the field and which ones will be sidelined due to the spread of COVID-19.
This is the kind of week that can separate the contenders from the pretenders not only on the field of play, but also among those who bet online.
The Green Bay Packers have already clinched a division title. There are some crucial games for division leaders Tennessee, New England and Arizona.
San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans
Odds: 49ers -3½
What to know: The total set by the Las Vegas odds has gone over in the last five San Francisco-Tennessee games. The total is at 44½.
This Thursday night showdown is a pretty good way to kick off Week 16 of the NFL season.
The visiting 49ers were considered to be an afterthought in the NFC playoff race before winning five of the last six games. The run began with a pair of rare comfortable wins for a 49ers team that has played in eight one-score games.
Deebo Samuel has not just become a 1,000-yard receiver but he is also the second-leading rusher for the 49ers.
This Tennessee team is a bit baffling. At times the Titans look like the best team in the AFC, but they have lost to the lowly New York Jets and Houston Texans.
The defense has rebounded nicely after a tough showing against New England by allowing 19 points in the last two games, but quarterback Ryan Tannehill has just seven touchdown passes in the last seven games as a once-comfortable lead in the AFC South is down to one game.
Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers
Odds: Packers -8
What to know: The Green Bay Packers have covered in the NFL picks against the spread in their last six home games.
As far as the Cleveland Browns, welcome to the AFC North where no team can take control of the division race and no team seemingly can be eliminated either.
Cleveland could have helped its cause immeasurably with a win over the Los Vegas Raiders on Monday, but the two-point loss only made the Browns’ hopes of reaching the playoffs more challenging.
If running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt had been healthy all season, it is highly unlikely that Cleveland would be sitting above .500. However, they are far from the only team to deal with running back injuries.
Green Bay became the first team to clinch a division title, running away with the NFC North. The question is whether beating up on the rest of the teams in what is probably the weakest division in the NFC will help or hinder Green Bay’s Super Bowl hopes.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers created plenty of drama in the offseason about the possibility of leaving the Packers, but he is currently the front-runner for the NFL MVP award. Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception in his last four games and has completed 78.4 and 74.2 percent of his passes in the last two games.
Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals
What to know: Indianapolis has covered against the NFL point spreads in its last five road games.
Two teams heading in different directions meet up in an intriguing AFC-NFC showdown.
Indianapolis (8-6) stumbled to a 1-4 start but once the Colts decided to increase second-year running back Jonathan Taylor’s workload, things started to change.
Taylor didn’t have more than 17 carries in those first five games. He has had at least 19 carries in five of the last six games. The Colts went 5-1 over that stretch to move within a game of first-place Tennessee in the AFC South race. The Colts have the highest-scoring offense in the AFC and Taylor is literally running away with the NFL rushing title.
Listen to the official voice of the #Colts, @MayTayColts, lead Jonathan Taylor into the endzone on his 67-yard run that broke a franchise record and helped seal the victory over the #Patriots on Saturday night! ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/aCbVo9j4Ej
— 1075 The Fan (@1075thefan) December 20, 2021
The Arizona Cardinals (10-4) followed up a loss to the division-rival Los Angeles Rams with a baffling performance against a terrible Detroit Lions team. Aided by four first downs courtesy of Arizona penalties, the Lions jumped out to an early 17-0 lead and recorded a pretty comfortable 30-12 win.
Arizona seemed to be in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs, but now has a fight on its hands just to win the NFC West title. Losing star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for the rest of the regular season isn’t going to help its cause.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
Odds: Bengals – 2½
What to know: The Baltimore Ravens are 10-3 against the spread in their last 13 games against AFC North teams.
Does anybody want to win the AFC North?
Baltimore (8-6) seemed ready to secure the division for the fifth time in the last 11 years but coach John Harbaugh twice decided to go for a two-point conversion in the final minute when an extra point by All-Pro kicker Justin Tucker would have sent the game into overtime. Both conversions were no good so rather than be in a position to be the No. 1 seed for the AFC playoffs, the Ravens are tied with Cincinnati atop the AFC North and are in danger of missing the playoffs.
An injury to quarterback Lamar Jackson as well as the loss of multiple cornerbacks to injury have slowed the Ravens, but if they miss the postseason, it can’t be blamed solely on injuries.
Cincinnati (8-6) is one of three teams with winning overall records and losing marks at home. Cincinnati has lost four of its last five home games and needs to figure out a way to win at home this week against a Baltimore team that has made a living in winning tough division games late in the season.
Quarterback Joe Burrow has been held under 200 passing yards in three of the last five games. Cincinnati has won the three games when he failed to top the 200-yard mark and gone 0-2 when he went over 300 yards. That is one of those statistics that make no sense because the Bengals will need an aggressive and productive Burrow during their playoff push.
Burrow (+600) is the No. 2 pick behind Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott in the NFL Comeback Player of the Year odds.
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
Odds: Patriots -2½
What to know: The New England Patriots have won 17 of their last 20 home games against the Buffalo Bills.
This AFC East race has had enough post twists to make a Hollywood producer green with envy.
Buffalo (8-6) appeared on the verge of pulling away from its division rivals before the New England Patriots got hot and went flying right by the Bills and into first place. Miami suddenly has ripped off six wins in a row and is applying pressure to the two teams ahead of them.
How many times over the years have the Patriots welcomed their nearest division competition to Gillette Stadium and found a way to dismiss their challenger en route to another division title? A win would give New England (9-5) a two-game lead on Buffalo and a sweep of the season series.
Quarterbacks can’t be much more different than Buffalo’s Josh Allen and New England’s Mac Jones in terms of their background and style of play. Neither of them will list the most recent game among their best efforts. Jones had two interceptions in a loss to Indianapolis and Allen’s lack of accuracy issues in December continued in a win over Carolina.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
Odds: Chiefs -10
What to know: The Pittsburgh Steelers are 4-2 against the spread in their last six games against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs (10-4) have won seven in a row and their last five home games, and a blowout loss at home to Buffalo back in October seems like ancient history. The Chiefs would have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs if the postseason started right now and winning playoff games at Arrowhead Stadium is no walk in the park.
After the Kansas City defense led the Chiefs to a six-game winning streak, the last game turned into one of those offensive shootouts that brings out the best in Patrick Mahomes, who threw for 410 yards in an overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers that opened a two-game lead in the AFC West.
Pittsburgh (7-6-1) deserves credit for finding ways to win as nine of its last 10 games have been one-score contests. The Steelers have gone 6-2-1 in those games to keep their playoff hopes alive. Pittsburgh has shown the ability to beat the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans while tying the Detroit Lions and losing to the Minnesota Vikings, so who knows what is going to happen when the Steelers face the AFC-leading Chiefs.