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BETTING

NFL Week 16 Best Bets: Trusting the Texans Defense Over the Browns

The NFL’s Week 16 schedule has plenty of important games for the playoff races on Sunday. We are looking at Carolina’s attempt to stack wins against Green Bay, Houston’s pursuit of a division title clashing with Cleveland’s lead in the AFC wild card race, and the Colts are also right in that playoff mix as they travel to Atlanta.

We make our best bets for Week 16 below, and you can always find these bets at top-rated sportsbooks.

Picks Summary


Time for Carolina to Score Some Points

The Carolina Panthers (2-12) have had a rough year, to say the least. Already firing their coach, Frank Reich, just 11 games into the season, the Panthers rank 29th in scoring on both sides of the ball.

But it has especially been rough to watch No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young struggle this much as he is ranked next to last in QBR (31.9) and looks nowhere near as good as No. 2 pick C.J. Stroud (Texans).

Maybe this is the week for Young to provide fans with some hope as he is getting a Green Bay defense at home that has already been lit up by inexperienced quarterbacks like Desmond Ridder and Tommy DeVito, not to mention a veteran like Baker Mayfield, who threw for over 380 yards and 4 touchdowns last week with a perfect 158.3 passer rating at Lambeau Field.

The Panthers are a 5-point home underdog with a total of 37.5 points. But we are looking at Carolina’s team scoring total (over/under 16.5 points).


Green Bay Packers vs. Carolina Panthers

Sunday, December 24, 2023 – 01:00 PM ET at Bank of America Stadium


How Bad Has Carolina Been?

Things have definitely not gone well for the Carolina offense this year. The Panthers rank 29th in points, 30th in yards, and 24th in 1st downs. The 17 turnovers haven’t been bad, but they are 24th on 3rd down and 29th in the red zone, so extending drives and finishing them with touchdowns have been real problems.

The Panthers have only scored 17 points in 5-of-14 games, and oddly enough, their top 4 games in points were all on the road this year.

Young passed for 200 yards in 4 straight games earlier this year, but he has not cracked 200 yards passing in his last 7 games. Maybe that can change against a Green Bay defense that has been struggling. Even if it doesn’t, the Packers are also getting shredded on the ground, so maybe this could be the week for Chuba Hubbard to shine with that running game that has perked up in the last 3 games in Carolina.

Enter Joe Barry’s Defense from Green Bay

Green Bay fans have been upset with defensive coordinator Joe Barry this season, and for good reason. The Packers have rarely done well on that side of the ball, and it has led to the Packers blowing 4 leads in the 4th quarter, tied for the most in 2023.

The Packers have been lit up by several quarterbacks and have already surrendered 4 games of 200 rushing yards. The Packers even let Tommy DeVito, an undrafted rookie on the Giants, become the 1st quarterback ever to complete 80% of his passes, rush for 70 yards, and finish a game with 0 sacks or interceptions.

Pressuring Patrick Mahomes a few times in the red zone for sacks and getting away with blatant defensive pass interference on the final drive in that upset win over Kansas City was maybe the highlight of the year for this defense.

The Packers have some good players on that side of the ball, including Rashan Gary and Kenny Clark, but the results have not been there. If they are struggling again in Carolina, then it will be hard to justify bringing Barry back for another year.

The Pick

The Packers have allowed at least 17 points in every game this season except for the 20-3 win against the Rams the week they had to start Brett Rypien at quarterback. While Young has been bad, he shouldn’t be Brett Rypien levels of bad, and maybe the win last week against Atlanta is a confidence boost for this team after making that long drive to win the game.

It also shouldn’t be another rain game, which hampered scoring last week for Carolina. We are going to trust the Green Bay defense to play its usual game, which means a real chance for the best home scoring game of the year for Young just in time for the holidays.

The gift of hope in Carolina, brought to you by a bad defensive coordinator from Green Bay.

NFL Pick: Panthers Over 16.5 Points (+105) at Bet365 (check our Bet365 Review)


Houston to Expose Joe Flacco?

The Cleveland Browns (9-5) are cooking up a wild story as they continue their playoff push with a 38-year-old Joe Flacco at quarterback. The Browns are leading the Texans (8-6) in the standings, and Houston is likely to be without rookie sensation C.J. Stroud (concussion) again in this one. Enter Case Keenum for another revenge game in his career as he once played for Cleveland.

The Browns are a 2.5-point road favorite with a total of 40 points. We know the Cleveland defense is getting the headlines with Myles Garrett and company, but this feels like a spot where Houston coach DeMeco Ryans can prove his worth and why the team hired his defensive mind.


Cleveland Browns vs. Houston Texans

Sunday, December 24, 2023 – 01:00 PM ET at NRG Stadium


Cleveland’s Turnovers

He can’t keep getting away with it, can he? Joe Flacco has gone from the couch to throwing balls all over the field against NFL defenses in the middle of a huge playoff race involving many teams.

While Flacco has certainly found some instant success with his new offense, he has thrown an interception on 3.8% of his passes, a very high rate. The Browns have turned it over 3 times in back-to-back games, which is usually a way to lose in this league. However, they managed to win both games in part due to forcing 7 takeaways on the other side of the ball.

But Flacco putting the ball in harm’s way is going to catch up to this team, especially against better opponents. You can get away with it against Matt Eberflus and the Bears, but even a team like Houston could be problematic.

DeMeco Ryans has not gotten much credit for how his defense has performed since C.J. Stroud and the offense have stolen the headlines. But the Texans did a good job of keeping the Titans off the scoreboard last week after a bad initial drive, and they held Derrick Henry to 10 yards on 20 touches. That is not a typo; they had a historically great game against a player that has destroyed them for 200 rushing yards in 4 games in the past. Henry was the first player ever to have 10 yards on 20 touches in a game.

The Texans are 5-2 when they get multiple takeaways on defense this year. One of those losses was a 21-19 game in Atlanta, so they were 6-1 against a spread of 2.5 points in those games.

If Flacco is going to be generous with the gifts of turnovers, the Texans are better coached to take advantage this week.

Case Keenum Can Do This

It sounds like Stroud is going to miss another game with his concussion, setting Case Keenum up for a 2nd start after last week’s comeback win against the Titans. Like Flacco, Keenum can write his own wild story late in the year. He also threw a pick-6 in Tennessee last week, but that looked like clear miscommunication with his receiver given the rust from not playing. Once he got past that mistake, he mostly protected the ball well outside of one miracle completion that should have been picked in the 4th quarter.

But Keenum has started over 60 games in this league and has seen everything, including defenses as stout up front as the Browns. Cleveland is not impossible to score on like other past great defenses in the last 10 or 20 years. You just can’t let Myles Garrett wreck a game.

The Texans have done such a great job on offense this year under coordinator Bobby Slowik. The receivers have stepped up, and even with Tank Dell injured for the year, they still have talent. Keenum showed instant chemistry with Noah Brown last week, for example.

The good thing about Houston’s receivers is that anyone can step up any given week, so the Browns can’t afford to focus on taking away any one receiver. It hurts not having Dell, but they can manage with the players they have.

The Pick

The Texans have scored at least 20 points in every home game this year, and they are 6-2 when they score at least 20 points. Stroud deserves a lot of credit for that, but Keenum has the experience to do this, and he’s won his 3 starts since 2020.

Cleveland still feels like a bit of an underdog without Nick Chubb and starting Flacco as their 4th quarterback of the season. Since 2020, Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski is only 2-7 ATS as a road favorite. We’d love this pick more at Texans +3, but there is a solid chance the Texans win this one outright at home. We’ll take the Texans with the points for your NFL picks.

NFL Pick: Texans +2.5 (-105) at Caesars Sportsbook (check our Caesars Sportsbook Review)


Time to Respect the Colts

A lot can still happen in 3 weeks, but the Indianapolis Colts beat the Steelers in convincing fashion last week to improve to 8-6 and give themselves a real shot at the AFC South title. They did this with Shane Steichen coaching an offense with backups at running back and with No. 1 receiver Michael Pittman Jr. going out with a concussion.

The Atlanta Falcons meanwhile look a bit lost under coach Arthur Smith, and last week’s 9-7 loss in Carolina may have been his worst loss yet. The Falcons (6-8) are fading in the NFC South race and have benched quarterback Desmond Ridder (again) for Taylor Heinicke. Will it pay off?

The Falcons are a 1-point home favorite, but we think the road team has value here.


Indianapolis Colts vs. Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, December 24, 2023 – 01:00 PM ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium


Trusting the Indianapolis Offense

It just seems like the Colts have an answer for every offensive injury this year. Gardner Minshew has done a fine job of replacing injured rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, and last week was one of his best games yet, with a season-high 3 touchdown passes against the Steelers.

Even with running backs Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss injured, the Colts ran wild with their other backs, Trey Sermon and Tyler Goodson, combining for 157 yards. Michael Pittman had 78 yards early before that hit gave him a concussion, but the Colts still scored the game’s final 30 points after falling behind 13-0.

Steichen is a Coach of the Year candidate as he continues to find a way to score points almost every week. The Colts have scored 20 points in 12-of-14 games this year.

You could make the argument that the Colts are one of the best offenses the Falcons will see this year given how easy their schedule has been. But Atlanta has not taken full advantage of it, and some of the worst Atlanta performances this year came against backups or players just coming back:

  • Titans rookie quarterback Will Levis threw 4 touchdowns in his NFL debut in an upset win over the Falcons.
  • Joshua Dobbs came off the bench just days after getting traded to Minnesota to lead a 31-28 comeback win in Atlanta.
  • Kyler Murray played his first game in 11 months for the Cardinals and led a 25-23 comeback win.

Having a bad game against Minshew should not surprise anyone when it comes to this defense.

The Move to Heinicke the Right Call?

It is hard to give Arthur Smith the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he is doing with his offense. On the one hand, Desmond Ridder’s interception was so bad in the 4th quarter in Carolina that it certainly cost the team the game, and now it cost him his job this week.

But you could also argue a pass never should have been called there, or something with better routes and design should have been called as Atlanta really just needed to burn time and add a field goal.

Ridder has not played well for much of the season, but he has had some solid moments in crunch time in those close wins. The defense let down several times too, so Ridder’s go-ahead drives were lost in the process.

But going to Henicke feels like a desperate move. His play has been average this year in 3 appearances, and he was just a solid option in Washington last season when he replaced Carson Wentz. Heinicke has some mobility to make plays, but the Colts will have takeaway opportunities as they have turned over every team they played this year. They also have allowed 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions, very good numbers for 2023.

The Pick

The Falcons have the worst spread record at home under Smith since 2021 at 7-16 ATS (30.4%). It looks even worse when you consider he is 3-10 ATS (23.1%) as a home favorite.

We are taking the better coach and quarterback in this matchup from Indy to get the job done in Atlanta.

NFL Pick: Colts +1 (-110) at Bet365

*The line and/or odds referenced in this article might have changed since the content was published. For the latest information on line movements, visit OddsTrader’s free betting odds tool.

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