NFL Week 16 Preview: Christmas Showdowns Highlight Wild NFL Season6 min read
It’s unusual for so many division winners to have appeared with two weeks left of the season. However, a bevy of teams are still left fighting for their lives on the outside looking in and there is all to play for in the wild NFC South. How will the upcoming Christmas games affect things?
With divisions on the line, we’ve broken down the weekend’s biggest games and dive into the best action as the playoffs draw ever closer.
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints (Sun 24th Dec: 6pm Sky Sports Action)
Only one game separates the top three teams in the NFC South and – with all to play for – the Falcons travel to New Orleans for a division deciding Christmas Eve showdown.
New Orleans have only lost one home game this season and score over 31 points per game in the Superdome. Taking on a young Falcons defense that has failed to live up to expectations, they should have no trouble putting points on the board.
Atlanta on the other hand – whilst being surprisingly impressive on the road – don’t look set to keep pace with the high-powered Saints (now much healthier than the side they beat two weeks ago). They average 22 points per game as a road team and will need to show more to stay in this one.
The over/under is set at 52 for this contest, and though points will be scored I think Atlanta will be too limited to push the over. I expect the Saints to get their revenge.
Total points under 52.5
New Orleans Saints winning margin 1-6 points
Jacksonville Jaguars @ San Francisco 49ers (Sun 24th Dec: 9.05pm Sky Sports Action)
Only a month ago this game wouldn’t have registered on most fans’ radars – but no team has more belief in themselves right now than the resurgent 49ers. Who would have thought Blake Bortles vs Jimmy Garoppolo could be one of the great matchups of the 2017 season?
Nonetheless, the Jacksonville defence is still the headline story, allowing only 12 points per game on the road and leading the league in sacks. My heart desperately wants Garoppolo to stay undefeated as an NFL starter, but every statistic points the other way, and this might be a bridge too far.
The only way to beat this Jaguars team will be to get an early lead and force them away from their strengths. I don’t think the 49ers have the firepower to get far enough ahead to make this happen and the Jaguars should continue to roll.
Jacksonville Jaguars -4 handicap
49ers total made field goals over 2.5
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Houston Texans (Mon 25th Dec: 9.30pm Sky Sports Action)
This isn’t quite the Christmas day matchup the schedule makers were hoping for. The Steelers have been as advertised, but the limping Texans have had too many injuries to stay relevant on the big stage.
However, on the back of an infuriating loss and without Antonio Brown I do see this being much closer than the spread would suggest. The Steelers have a habit of playing down to their opponents on occasion and very rarely blow teams out.
I have little doubt that they will walk away winners, but I don’t expect Pittsburgh to cover their huge 9 point handicap.
Houston Texans +9 handicap
Total points under 45
Oakland Raiders @ Philadelphia Eagles (Tue 26th Dec: 1.30am Sky Sports Action)
Just as with the Steelers game, Nick Foles vs the struggling Raiders isn’t the prime-time Christmas game we were hoping for.
The Eagles have a chance to lock-up home field advantage through the playoffs and should be able to take care of business. Backup quarterback Foles threw 4 touchdowns last week with no interceptions. If he can take care of the ball again the Eagles will continue to fly.
The Raiders, who would be officially eliminated from the playoffs with a loss, are in desperation mode. They have only forced 4 interceptions the entire season and have shown little to make me think they can pull of a road win here.
Philadelphia have been strong against the spread (10-4 this season), and should cover their 9-point handicap.
Philadelphia Eagles winning margin 7-12 points
Oakland Raiders total points under 19
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