Each week during the 2021 NFL season, TheLines will examine how the coming week’s NFL lines have changed relative to preseason or prior expectations. Often, early lines can give an objective look at teams’ relative talent levels, absent week-to-week recency bias when the weekend results take hold. Let’s take a look at NFL Week 16 spreads and see which numbers have changed and, potentially, why.
Tracked lines below come from FanDuel Sportsbook. Prices are -110, unless otherwise noted.
Two Big NFL Week 16 Spread Moves
A couple of games moved significantly off the look-aheads among NFL Week 16 spreads. One them had a team come in with a result way off-market in Week 15, but the other did not. Let’s take a look.
|Game||Look-Ahead Line||Dec. 22, 2 p.m. ET|
|San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans||Titans -1 (-108)||49ers -3.5|
|Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals||Cardinals -3.5||Cardinals -1.5 (-108)|
Colts At Cardinals
The offense has taken a major hit with the loss WR DeAndre Hopkins. Amazingly, the Lions passing game outproduced them by a significant margin, meaning this doesn’t look like a total fluke.
Also, that Lions loss came a week after another pretty convincing defeat to the Rams.
Interestingly, they turned the tables with a very Belichickian win, getting the victory purely by minimizing their own mistakes while letting the Patriots make a ton. It seems hard to imagine they can beat the Cardinals with a 60-yard passing effort from Carson Wentz.
If you believe that this is just a rut and the Cardinals were rightfully rated among the top teams, the market has offered a dream spot to buy them against a red-hot Colts team that just got a pretty non-predictive win.
49ers At Titans
Another game that looks to match two teams going in opposite directions.
This time, however, it’s much more difficult to parse where this massive move comes from. Sure, the Titans lost on the road to the Steelers. But, the market expected a close contest and the Steelers indeed won by one score with the Titans having the ball and driving to the Steelers to try to win the game and the end.
The 49ers beat the Falcons by 18, but that doesn’t tell the real story. The Falcons couldn’t get a stop to save their lives but they repeatedly drove to the red zone and failed on 4th and short. A couple of plays go differently and they probably cover the +8ish closing line.
The Titans have lost three of four, with the lone victory coming over the Jaguars. One of the losses was to Houston and another came by 23 to New England. Their market has very likely bottomed out. They still have a solid defense, ranked 11th in EPA/play, and AJ Brown could return this week.
Getting a key number here at home, they’re worth a look.
Other Notable NFL Week 16 Spread Moves
A few other lines moves were smaller but danced through or off of key or semi-key numbers.
|Game||Look-Ahead Line||Dec. 22, 2 p.m. ET|
|LA Chargers at Houston Texans||Chargers -10.5||Chargers -9.5|
|NY Giants at Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles -8.5||Eagles -10|
|LA Rams at Minnesota Vikings||Rams -3.5 (-105)||Rams -3 (-105)|
|Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks -7 (-105)||Seahawks -6.5 (-112)|
|Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys||Cowboys -8.5||Cowboys -10.5|
Chargers At Texans
A slight move here with the Chargers no longer laying double digits against the Texans. The Chargers played to market expectations, basically, losing a tight one to Kansas City. They also come in with extra rest.
We can be pretty certain, then, that line move comes from the Texans actually looking like a professional football team for two straight weeks.
In Week 14, they lost in somewhat respectable fashion to the Seahawks. Davis Mills actually showed a pulse as he threw for 331 yards without a turnover. In Week 15, they went on the road and beat the Jags by 14 despite losing the turnover battle 1-0. Mills again played in a way that didn’t scream he should be coaching the local high school team instead.
If this passing offense has reached the level of merely bad NFL unit, rather than off-the-charts worst in the league, the Texans can definitely cover some double-digit lines down the stretch.
Giants At Eagles
Where the Texans offense looks to be rounding into semi-respectable form, things are quite the opposite in New York. The Giants had yet another comically inept week on that side of the ball. This time, they turned it over four times to the Cowboys.
It’s probably time to hand the keys to Jake Fromm, as Mike Glennon has played himself to the bench. Fromm entered late in the loss to Dallas and fired his first 12 professional passes, completing six for 82 yards.
The market has low expectation, and rightfully so. Keep in mind Fromm was a 2020 fifth-round pick whom the Bills already showed the door.
The Eagles woke up from a slow start and dominated Washington. There’s no reason they can’t pound the rock all day here against a Giants defense that’s 29th in run defense EPA/play and missing its top interior run stuffer in Dexter Lawrence.
One concern here is Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni testing positive for COVID and having symptoms. It may be wise to ensure key players do not test positive as well.
Rams At Vikings
It’s a bit surprising that this line moved toward the Vikings considering they looked really poor on offense this week. They managed just 87 yards passing against a crew of backup defensive backs for the Bears, winning based almost purely off turnovers.
The Rams offense looked stuck in the mud once again, too, though. Seattle should have been an easy target for their passing game since they rank 28th in pass defense DVOA, but the offensive line failed to do its part as Matt Stafford absorbed sacks on several critical downs.
Perhaps this is merely a reaction to Minnesota getting extra rest instead of the other way around.
Bears At Seahawks
Speaking of that Vikings game, the other side of that was the Bears scoring far less than they probably deserved. Between the 20s, they looked like a machine, marching down the field repeatedly.
Once they got there, things took a drastic turn for the worst on high-leverage downs. The Bears went a combined 4-for-19 on third- and fourth-down plays. They also kindly provided tape for coaches everywhere on how not to secure the football as they fumbled three times and lost them all.
Obviously, some bad luck factors into the latter issue, and the former should get some positive correction by sheer regression to the mean. The Seahawks are far from scary, so it seems reasonable the line corrected slightly below a TD especially with the Hawks flipping from the rest advantage to a disadvantage as well.
Football Team At Cowboys
Again, we have a game among NFL Week 16 spreads where the rest situation shifted quite a bit. This time, Dallas went from a neutral rest spot to a big advantage with the Football Team playing on Tuesday.
Now, Washington faces a short week to try to figure out how to move the ball against a Dallas defense that throttled it to the tune of 3.6 YPP just two weeks ago.
Washington’s roster remains in flux as well. They’ve been one of the teams hit hardest by COVID and have a ton of injuries to boot. The secondary in particular looks thin. That’s not good against a Dallas receiving corps with an abundance of weapons.
NFL Week 16 Spreads, Movement Tracker
|Game||Look-Ahead Line||Dec. 22, 2 p.m. ET||Dec. 26, 9:30 a.m. ET|
|San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans||Titans -1 (-108)||49ers -3.5||N/A|
|Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers||OTB||Packers -7 (-115)||N/A|
|Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals||Cardinals -3.5||Cardinals -1.5 (-108)||N/A|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers||Buccaneers -11||Buccaneers -11||Buccaneers -10.5|
|LA Chargers at Houston Texans||Chargers -10.5||Chargers -9.5||Chargers -10.5 (-114)|
|NY Giants at Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles -8.5||Eagles -10||Eagles -10.5 (-114)|
|Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals -2||Bengals -2.5 (-114)||Bengals -7 (-115)|
|Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons||Falcons -6.5||Falcons -6 (-106)||Falcons -7 (-104)|
|Jacksonville Jaguars at NY Jets||Jets -1 (-108)||Jets -1 (-108)||Jets -1.5|
|LA Rams at Minnesota Vikings||Rams -3.5 (-105)||Rams -3 (-105)||Rams -3 (-118)|
|Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots||Patriots -2||Patriots -2.5||Patriots -1|
|Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks -7 (-105)||Seahawks -6.5 (-112)||Seahawks -6.5 (-115)|
|Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders||Broncos -1||Raiders -1||Broncos -1|
|Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs -8.5||Chiefs -7.5||Chiefs -10.5 (-115)|
|Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys||Cowboys -8.5||Cowboys -10.5||Cowboys -9.5|
|Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints||Saints -3 (-112)||Saints -3 (-114)||Dolphins -3 (-104)|