Luca Bercelli picks out some of the best bets in week 16 of the regular season...
"I've not been impressed with the Pack all year and receiving only 4.5pts they're very opposable."
Back the Arizona Cardinals -4.5pts @ 2.01/1
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons Sunday, 18:00
The Panthers almost lost a game that they were leading 35-7 against the New York Giants last week. That barely gets a mention after the petulant antics of OBJ and to a lesser extent Josh Norman, but it is highly relevant to this week's clash with the Falcons. The Big Cats got stomped on in the second half of the Giants game, and that's an experience they will quickly try to erase from the memory banks. Luckily for them a trip to Atlanta is exactly what the doctor ordered. Win number 15 should be a stroll against the sleepwalking Falcons so it should be a case of welcome back mojo...goodbye seven point handicap.
Back the Carolina Panthers -7pts @ 2.01/1
Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, 18:00
Both of these teams got smoked last week but on the Chicago side at least there has been a lot more good Jay than bad Jay (Cutler) this season. Unfortunately the Bears' QB has not been backed up by his D, which is ranked 20th in points allowed and not giving him enough opportunities to get it done. This game is a bit of a dud with not much to play for except pride, and as such, I made it a pick. With 3.5 points on offer for Da Bears they are my small stakes play.
Back the Chicago Bears +3.5pts @ 1.84/5
Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, 18:00
Johnny F came very close to covering the handicap for us last week, and that was against the surging Seahawks. A similar line against the eight-in-a-row Chiefs wouldn't appear at first glance to be attractive but I'm sticking with the Browns. Johnny keeps getting better and with his future at stake, there's no way he's going to throw in a dud performance. Kansas have been unconvincing (and downright lucky) in a couple of their recent wins, and although they are worthy favourites the handicap is worth a pop.
Back the Cleveland Browns +11.5pts @ 2.01/1
Dallas Cowboys @ Buffalo Bills Sunday, 18:00
One of these days the Little Boys are going to put in a decent performance and actually win a football game without any controversy. It could well be this weekend as the hot seat in Buffalo is taking on a Mount Etna feel to it for Rex Ryan. A coach who has built his career around top quality defences has actually made a good D in Buffalo much weaker...in one season. Answers to tough questions are not coming to hand for poor old Rex and he could be fighting for his job in the last two games. The Little Boys, despite all their injuries and faults, almost beat the Jets last week, and a repeat of that performance sees them comfortably win on the handicap (especially with Shady McCoy probably on the sidelines).
Back the Dallas Cowboys +5.5pts @ 2.01/1
Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans Sunday, 18:00
JJ Watt will not only have the divisional title in his sights in Tennessee this weekend, he'll also have poor old Zach Mettenberger's head firmly in the crosshairs. I say poor old because Zach is coming in out of the wilderness to deputise for the injured Marcus Mariota...and there he was looking forward to a stress-free Christmas. Houston's quarterback situation, meanwhile, has become pretty farcical with Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.Y. Yates and now Brandon Weeden all splitting duties for one reason or another. The Texans have managed to win seven games with a mixture of these mediocre QBs and I fancy them strongly to wrap up their sorry division with the W.
Back the Houston Texans to win @ best price available
Indianapolis Colts @ Miami Dolphins Sunday, 18:00
The Nosedive Bowl; both of these outfits are in serious tailspins but whereas Indy has excuses (Andrew Luck's injury), the Dolphins only have themselves to blame after sacking head coach Philbin early doors and replacing him with Dan Campbell on an interim basis. Campbell is very shouty but not too savvy, and has underused his talented roster horribly. Despite the fact that the Colts are down to Clipboard Jesus for QB duties I think they'll take the win and possibly propel head coach Chuck Pagano nearer to the Fins job (if the rumours are to be believed).
Back the Indianapolis Colts to win @ 2.47/5
New England Patriots @ New York Jets Sunday, 18:00
Todd Bowles deserves a medal for what he's achieved in his first season as the Jets head coach. He's transformed an egomaniac into a team player (Brandon Marshall), a journeyman into 'The Man' (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and a nearly man into a 1000-yard man (Chris Ivory). All of this has been achieved with the minimum of fuss, no little humour and real efficiency considering the mess left behind by Rex Ryan.
This could be the start of a Jets' dynasty and the beginning of the end for the Pats' domination (please Santa...please). After all, Belichick and Brady can't go on forever and these things are supposed to be cyclical. The job in hand, a win on Sunday, is not impossible for Gang Green but I'd like to have seen more than 3.5pts on the handicap. Still, the Planes are on a roll and the Pats need to be wary of injuries so I'll stick with them.
Back the New York Jets +3.5pts @ 1.84/5
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens Sunday, 18:00
The Steelers don't have a great record over their divisional rivals the Ravens (nine losses in 12 meetings since 2003) but they should turn this instalment of the series into a rout. All the stats are in their favour and with Baltimore struggling to mobilise an effective quarterback (Santa Clausen didn't set the world alight) after the injury to Joe Flacco, this could be a gift on the handicap. I expected a two touchdown start so only giving up 9.5pts reminds me of that fifth mince pie - too good to miss!
Back the Pittsburgh Steelers -9.5pts @ 1.84/5
San Francisco 49ers @ Detroit Lions Sunday, 18:00
I've always been quite critical of Lions' QB Matthew Stafford, believing that his stats, wins and effectiveness are all directly linked to the fact that he has one of the most dominant receivers (Megatron) in the history of the game to aim at. This season my viewpoint has changed slightly, since Calvin Johnson has had an off year but Stafford has still performed at a high level (at least in the second half of the season). If it wasn't for such a slow start Detroit could've been a factor and they should have much too much for the 'rebuilding' or some might say just shambolic 49ers.
Back the Detroit Lions -9.5pts @ 1.910/11
Jacksonville Jaguars @ New Orleans Saints Sunday, 21:05
Drew Brees is listed as questionable for this game and it's impossible to offer up a meaningful tip without knowing if he'll start or not. He's such a great player and an inspirational leader for his team (especially at home), that if he plays, I like the Saints' chances and if he doesn't I'll be dead against them. Back-up QB Matt Flynn is mediocre at best and with Jacksonville benefiting from an improving Blake Bortles, New Orleans will need to be at full strength to nab the W.
Back the New Orleans Saints to win @ best available price
Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals Sunday, 21:25
Arizona coach Bruce Arians tried to play down the loss of Tyrann Mathieu to a season-ending injury by highlighting the team's depth in the secondary. Although there is some truth to his comments, Mathieu was in the conversation regarding defensive player of the year and in my mind is irreplaceable. He could've been the x-factor that helped the Cards go all the way this season and after their bad luck down the stretch last year, it would be heartbreaking if injuries killed them yet again. Maybe they'll negotiate the hurdle, but they'll need to beat Green Bay convincingly to stay on track. I've not been impressed with the Pack all year and receiving only 4.5pts they're very opposable.
Back the Arizona Cardinals -4.5pts @ 2.01/1
St Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks Sunday, 21:25
St Louis could provide a problem or two for the resurgent Hawks, especially since the Birds have already locked up a play-off spot and will be keen to avoid injuries in what is a meaningless game. Coach Pete Carroll suggested to the press that the approach to this game would be the same as for any other, but I find that hard to believe. Add to that the fact that Seattle are down to their third string running back and St Louis has now found a way to fully utilise Todd (I'm not) Gurley and Tavon Austin and you'll appreciate why I think the Rams +13.5 are a stonking good bet.
Back the St Louis Rams +13.5 @ 2.01/1