Betting News & Analysis

NFL Week 16 best bets: Fade the New York Jets offense despite the easy matchup

2T1W338 Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) works under pressure by Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Calais Campbell (93) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

• Back the Washington Commanders as underdogs against the New York Jets: Offense usually wins out in the NFL, and the Jets offense has shown no ability to produce.

• Expect a defensive battle between the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears: These offenses could be in for a long day due to key schematic factors.

• Bet on Chigoziem Okonkwo to have a solid day: The Titans tight end should be able to produce against a zone-heavy Seahawks defense.

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Washington Commanders @ New York Jets (-3, 37)

This isn’t the most exciting game of the weekend, as it has more implications for the 2024 NFL Draft than the NFL playoffs.

This game features a Trevor Siemian-led Jets offense that has struggled for the best part of the season and a Washington Commanders defense that hasn't fared any better. So, what happens when a movable object meets a stoppable force?

In the NFL, offense and defense are not equally predictable, as defensive performance is far more matchup-dependent. I doubt that this Jets offense will suddenly be able to move the ball with ease just because they are facing an admittedly awful Commanders defense.

Additionally, these teams' recent performances have been heavily influenced by their recent production on late downs in very different ways. Since Week 11, no team has lost more expected points added (EPA) on early downs than the Jets. However, their overall efficiency numbers have been heavily boosted by above-average performance on late downs.

Although the Commanders have been brutal on every down, their overall metrics are greatly impacted by a late down NET EPA+ that is easily the worst in the league.

There’s no doubt that the Commanders have struggled recently, but they have also suffered from negative variance on late downs, which may be contributing to their rating in the market. Meanwhile, some of the Jets' struggles have been masked by big plays on third and fourth downs, which should balance out as time goes on.

So, these teams should be in line for two different kinds of regression as their late-down outcomes start to even out.

In terms of on-field matchup, Sam Howell’s matchup with the Jets defense isn’t as difficult as it seems due to New York’s tendency to play a lot of man coverage. Against these man coverage looks, Howell has actually been an average quarterback. It has been zone coverage that has gotten the best of Howell, as he ranks in the bottom 10 against zone shells.

I don’t think Howell will light the Jets up by any means, but there is a path to relative offensive success for the Commanders.

Best Bet: Commanders +3 (to +3)

The Jets simply don’t have the offensive ability to win by a margin. At this number, I like taking the Commanders in what should be a low-scoring battle.

Arizona Cardinals @ Chicago Bears (-4, 43)

This game features two quarterbacks with similar playstyles in Kyler Murray and Justin Fields. Both are dynamic threats to run the football and struggle when they are forced to be pure passers. As a result, both have been far better against man coverage, which causes defenders to turn their heads and lose sight of the quarterback. 

Unfortunately, neither of them will have the benefit of facing their preferred coverage, as these defenses play zone coverage at top-10 rates. I doubt that either Fields or Murray will have a lot of success through the air due to their inability to produce against zone coverage. 

Making this matchup even more difficult is the fact that both defenses have been above average at containing quarterback rushes this season, which should be even more of a focal point for these units this week against two of the best scramblers in the league.

The market has also simply not adjusted to how good the Bears defense has been since becoming healthy and acquiring edge defender Montez Sweat from the Commanders. Over the last five weeks, the Bears defense has been the second-best in the league in terms of EPA allowed per play. They have all the makings of an elite unit and should be able to shut down Murray and the Cardinals.

Best Bet: Under 43 (to 41.5)

In a game featuring one truly great defense and two offenses with difficult matchups, this total should not be set at league-average scoring. Take the under in what should be a defensive battle.

Player Prop Best Bet: Chigoziem Okonkwo over 29.5 receiving yards

The Titans tight end has a great matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, who have played zone at the second-highest rate in the league. Okonkwo has commanded an impressive 23.3% target share versus zone coverage this season, which is far higher than his minuscule 9% target share against man. 

Given that he should see zone coverage on about 90% of his routes, Okonkwo should garner a significant number of targets from Ryan Tannehill, who will take over the injured Will Levis in this game. 

Seattle has also struggled to defend tight ends all season, allowing the ninth-most yards per game to the position. Okonkwo should be able to eclipse 30 yards, thanks to this ideal matchup.

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