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BETTING

NFL Week 16 Betting Analysis For Saturday’s Games: Rudolph to the Rescue in Pittsburgh?

Mason Rudolph Pittsburgh Steelers v Detroit Lions
Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers calls a play in the huddle in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions. Emilee Chinn/Getty Images/AFP

The NFL must have liked the Bengals and Steelers playing on a Saturday in December so much last week that they are doing it again for Week 16. This time it is a rematch against each other with Mason Rudolph taking over at quarterback. In the night game, the Buffalo Bills will try to keep their playoff surge going against the Chargers, who fired Brandon Staley after last week’s embarrassing 63-21 loss in Vegas.

We found our favorite bet for both games on Saturday in Week 16, and you can always find them at top-rated sportsbooks.

Picks Summary


Another Backup QB Bowl in Pittsburgh

The Bengals have not played a game where both teams finished with their intended starting quarterback since Week 10 against C.J. Stroud and the Texans. You can say the same about the Steelers when Week 10 was their last such game between Kenny Pickett and Jordan Love (Packers). It has been a year of injuries and backup quarterbacks.

But Jake Browning has looked much better than anticipated for the Bengals, and the Steelers are struggling with every quarterback they put on the field. This time it is Mason Rudolph’s turn as it does not sound like Kenny Pickett has a great shot to return in time for Saturday’s kickoff, a must-win game for the Steelers (7-7).

The Bengals are a 2.5-point road favorite with a total of 38.5 points. But we think this has a good shot of both teams scoring at least 15 points despite the 16-10 final in Week 12.


Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Saturday, December 23, 2023 – 04:30 PM ET at Acrisure Stadium


Why the Steelers Can Score 15 Points

The Steelers are turning to Mason Rudolph for the simple fact that they are not scoring enough points, and Mitch Trubisky is turning the ball over with awful interceptions. Rudolph may not be the answer either, but let’s consider some interesting facts:

  • Rudolph has led the Steelers to at least 16 points in 9-of-10 career starts.
  • The only time he didn’t was a 21-7 loss to the Browns in 2019, the game infamous for Myles Garrett swinging Rudolph’s helmet at his head at the end of the game.
  • Rudolph produced a 16-16 overtime tie at home against the 2021 Lions in his last start.
  • When Rudolph passed for 315 yards against the Browns in 2020, it was the first time in over 40 starts in games without Ben Roethlisberger since 2004 where the Steelers produced a 300-yard passer.
  • Rudolph has thrown 16 touchdown passes on 387 career attempts (4.1%).
  • Kenny Pickett has 13 touchdown passes on 713 career attempts (1.8%).

Rudolph definitely has his flaws, but in a league where we just watched Drew Lock come back to beat the Eagles, you never know anymore what can happen. Also, the Bengals are a defense that the Steelers have done well against recently. The Steelers scored 30 points against them last year at home, and while they only scored 16 points in Cincinnati in Week 12, Diontae Johnson dropped a touchdown, and the Steelers had over 420 yards of offense for the first time since 2020.

For the season, the Bengals rank 30th in yards allowed and just gave up 24 points at home to Nick Mullens of the Vikings.

Why the Bengals Can Score 15 Points

Jake Browning’s first NFL start did not go well in Week 12 against Pittsburgh, but he did average 8.7 yards per pass, which is encouraging. He has led the team to 34, 34, and 27 points in the 3 starts ever since, and he said after the Jacksonville upset that he just needed a start under his belt to get comfortable. We believe him.

Browning’s passing success rate is 50.3% this season, which would rank No. 3 in the league in 2023. Likewise, his 8.7 yards per pass attempt would rank No. 2 to only Brock Purdy (9.9), the MVP favorite.

Browning has been very impressive, and he has talented receivers around him. Ja’Marr Chase has a chance to return to action this week, and the Bengals still have Tee Higgins, who made an incredible touchdown against the Vikings last week. Browning is giving his guys chances, and they are making plays.

The Steelers are also very vulnerable in the secondary due to injuries to their safeties, including Minkah Fitzpatrick, and they lost Damontae Kazee to suspension for his hit against Michael Pittman Jr. last week.

The Pick

The Bengals have allowed at least 16 points in 12-of-14 games this year. Mike Tomlin is looking for more points, and we think he gets them with Rudolph, even if it means another 16-point game after the team scored 13 in Indy before going scoreless the rest of the way.

Cincinnati dropped 37 points in Pittsburgh last year. While that was with Burrow, Browning has been impressive, and he is a better quarterback this week than he was before his initial start in Week 12. We are going to trust him to get to at least 15 points in this one.

NFL Pick: Both Teams to Score 15+ Points (+100) at Bet365 (check our Bet365 Review)


Bills Ready to Blow Out Another Team?

The Buffalo Bills (8-6) may still have a lot of work to do to get into the playoffs, but they are playing great right now after a 31-10 demolition of the Cowboys. They get to face a reeling team in Los Angeles that had to fire Brandon Staley after giving up 63 points to the Raiders last week.

The Bills are an 11.5-point road favorite with a total of 42.5 points. We are looking at the spread.


Buffalo Bills vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Saturday, December 23, 2023 – 08:00 PM ET at SoFi Stadium


Buffalo’s Domination

The Bills were in rare form against Dallas, leading 31-3 at one point and only giving up a touchdown to the league’s top scoring team during a garbage-time drive when Dallas probably should have prioritized the health of key starters over scoring.

The Bills did it in unique fashion too as they ran James Cook for 179 yards and only asked Josh Allen to throw 15 passes for 94 yards. Typically in big games, the Bills lean heavily on Allen and never hand the ball off to the backs, which has hurt them over the years. But whether it was the rain or film study with the Dallas defense, they rode Cook and the ground game to one of their best performances of the year.

Buffalo is no stranger to blowout wins as it already has 5 wins by at least 21 points this year. Also, since firing offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, the Bills only have 3 turnovers in their last 4 games with no games with multiple giveaways. If the Bills keep protecting the ball like this while playing great defense against top quarterbacks like Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes, then they should get into the playoffs and cause damage there.

Next up is Easton Stick and the Chargers.

The Chargers Are Stuck

At 5-9, the Chargers look like a team that has given up on the season. Without Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen, the Chargers certainly wanted no business in Vegas last week. Multiple lost fumbles early in the game put the team behind with the Raiders feasting on short fields, then the Raiders returned back-to-back turnovers for touchdowns to make it 63-7 in the 4th quarter.

We always wondered what this team would look like without Herbert holding the glue together, but it was an impossible situation for Easton Stick in his 1st NFL start. He only had 5 incompletions when the Raiders had 49 points on the board, so it’s not like it was his fault the blowout was so bad.

Stick did eventually throw for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns, but a lot of that production was in garbage time after it was 63-7. Amusingly, the Chargers finished the game with a 113.7 passer rating as Stick’s 2 lost fumbles do not hurt that number. But it was the first game in NFL history where a team had a passer rating above 85.0 and lost by 40 points. Even in Stick’s 1st start, the Chargering brand was strong with something historic in a loss.

The Bills just nearly kept the Cowboys out of the end zone with the luxury of only one turnover late in the game. What do you think they could do to Stick and a lame-duck interim coach in their first game?

The Pick

This one could get ugly fast too if the Bills do not overlook this game. You worry about a backdoor cover in this one, but Buffalo has 25 wins by at least 12 points since 2020, the 2nd-highest total in the league (49ers have 27). We’ll trust them to look great again and win this game by at least 2 touchdowns as the Chargers look forward to 2024.

NFL Pick: Bills -11.5 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook (check our Caesars Sportsbook Review)

*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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