NFL Week 16 Betting: Darius Butler's favorite bets of the week

Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Between the Detroit Lions' upset win over the Arizona Cardinals and the New Orleans Saints‘ home shutout against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Week 15's matchups really shook up the NFL playoff picture.

After a dominant 4-0 performance in Week 14, my picks went 1-2 in Week 15 to bring my record to 26-21 on the year. Let's get back to winning ways this week.

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Every week, I look at who has the edge in these five categories: quarterback, defense, offensive talent, play in the trenches and coaching.

Let’s get to my favorite bets of NFL Week 16.

Los Angeles Rams (-3) over Minnesota Vikings

The Arizona Cardinals‘ late-season slide continued on Christmas Day, as Kyler Murray & Co. dropped their third straight game to leave them 10-5 on the year.

As a result, the race for the NFC West is now wide open, and the Rams will be smelling blood in the water.

The edge at quarterback goes to Matthew Stafford in this one, and it's not all that close. After a concerning mid-season slump, Stafford has earned an 88.0 PFF grade over the last three weeks, the best mark among players at the position. The veteran passer has completed 70 of his 97 pass attempts for 826 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception over this three-week stretch, throwing just one turnover-worthy pass in the process.

Rams Vikings
Power Rank: Overall 8th 17th
Power Rank: Defense 1st 17th
Power Rank: Offense 6th 13th
SOS Played 26th 16th
Avg Offensive Snaps 65.3 70.4
% Run Plays 37.2% 40.6%
% Pass Plays 62.8% 59.4%
EPA Per Run -0.15 -0.12
EPA Per Pass 0.21 0.10

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Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, on the other hand, has struggled mightily over the last month, grading below 65.0 in three of his last four games and averaging a 17th-ranked 6.9 yards per pass attempt.

The battle between the two quarterbacks will be intriguing, but the matchup of the day for me will take place between Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (83.9 PFF grade) and Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson (89.8).

Even though he gave up just 25 yards on eight targets, Ramsey still earned a sub-60.0 PFF grade last week against D.K. Metcalf and the Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, Jefferson secured his 11th 70.0-plus PFF grade of the season on the back of a four-catch, 47-yard, one-score performance.

PFF's WR/CB Matchup Chart has Ramsey covering Jefferson for 18 snaps on Sunday, which would provide more than enough opportunity for the veteran corner to make his mark.

PFF’s WR/CB Matchup Chart is a fantasy football tool that you can use to help you set the best lineups. You can toggle between showing the Matchup Advantage column against all projected coverage or the individual defenders.

Cincinnati Bengals (-7) over the Baltimore Ravens

Ravens signal-caller Lamar Jackson will be missing his second straight start due to an ankle injury, while backup QB Tyler Huntley will also be missing out after being placed on the COVID-19 list.

So, it's going to be Joe Burrow vs. Josh Johnson in a vitally important Week 16 game that will go a long way toward deciding the winner of the AFC North.  Who saw this one coming?

The Bengals dominated the Ravens 41-17 in Week 7. And given how things are looking going into this Week 16 rematch, I don’t see this one turning out much better for the Ravens — the Baltimore offense just won’t be able to keep up.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow may have been snubbed for the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl, but he is still the highest-graded quarterback in the NFL entering Week 16. The second-year pro is tied for 12th among qualifying quarterbacks in turnover-worthy play rate (2.9%) and fourth in negatively graded throw rate. He also sits second in big-time throw rate (6.4%) and first in deep passing touchdowns (11).

Baltimore's lack of productivity on offense will wear on the defense. I see Burrow & Co. getting into a rhythm in the second half and coasting to a two-score win.

Dog of the Day: Detroit Lions (+7) vs. the Atlanta Falcons 

This week, I am rolling with the Detroit Lions to keep this game close to the very end.

Coming off a parlay-ruining victory over the Cardinals last week, I think the Lions continue to play hard, as they have all season long, and keep this one close against one of the worse red-zone teams in football.

Entering Week 16, the Falcons rank 29th among the NFL's 32 teams in red-zone passing grade and 23rd in successful red-zone play percentage.

Darius Butler is a former NFL free safety. He was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He has also played for the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts.

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