It’s beginning to look a lot like… the NFL playoffs.

In case you haven’t noticed, defenses are starting to take over across the league. If you bet the Under on every game last week, you’d have been rewarded with 10 wins, 4 losses and a couple of pushes. The Cowboys and Giants both suffered shutout losses, and 6 games featured less than 30 points scored. Even the powerful Saints couldn’t do much on offense, managing only 12 points in an ugly 12-9 win over the Panthers on Monday Night Football.

When things get tighter defensively at this time of year, it’s a huge advantage to underdogs who are able to hang around in games that much easier. With that in mind, I’ve circled 4 underdogs (2 of which I’m combining on a teaser) to use on my 4 NFL predictions for Week 16. Let’s see if we can build on last week’s 2-1 performance and a 5-2 run over the last 2 weeks.

All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from at 4 p.m. eastern on December 21, 2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.

1. Baltimore Ravens +4.5 (-110) versus Los Angeles Chargers (Saturday, 8:20 p.m. eastern)

I know the Chargers still have a lot to play for. In fact, they could take over first place in the AFC West with a victory in this game and a Kansas City loss Sunday in Seattle — a combination that is hardly a longshot. LA’s been flying under the radar for much of the season after the Chiefs lit up the scoreboard and stole all the AFC West headlines throughout the first two-thirds of the campaign, and now it’s a horse race with 2 weeks left to go.

But even with all of that incentive and motivation, this sure looks like an awful flat spot for the Chargers. Just look at what happened to the Minnesota Vikings last year in the NFC playoffs, when they won on a miracle play and then were roadkill the following week at Philadelphia in the conference championship game. The Vikes were playing for a trip to the Super Bowl against Philly, but they were still flat as a pancake coming off such an emotional win. LA’s victory last week in Kansas City may not have been as big of a miracle as Minnesota’s last-second win over the Saints, but the Chargers still overcame a late 14-point deficit to win on a 2-point conversion in the dying seconds — not to mention finally beating a division rival that had dominated them over the past 5 years or so.

Baltimore is the perfect team to take advantage of what could be a flat Chargers team this week. Unlike the Chiefs, the Ravens actually play defense, so if LA finds itself in an early hole, it’s going to be a lot harder to dig out of. Meanwhile, Baltimore’s run-heavy offense isn’t prone to giving the Chargers some life with turnovers, and the Ravens can turn this game into a real grind on the ground.

Betting Prediction

LA doesn’t have a home field advantage, playing out of the 27,000-seat Stub Hub Field until the stadium they share with the Rams is completed in 2020. Baltimore’s the more desperate team, facing an uphill climb to grab the final wild card spot in the AFC. I’m not bold enough to demand the outright upset as the Chargers may still pull this one out, but I don’t expect it to be easy. Give me the 4.5 points with the Ravens in a contest that could come down to the final possession.

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2. Miami Dolphins -4 (-105) versus Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m eastern)

Can anyone explain to me why the Jaguars continue to be priced as a competitive team? This is a squad that has lost 9 of its last 10 games, yet the Jags were favored by more than a touchdown last week against a Redskins team starting its fourth-string quarterback. And of course, Washington won the game outright, dropping the Jaguars to 4-10 on the year in the win-loss department and a nearly-as-woeful 4-8-2 against the spread.

While Jacksonville continues to get too much respect in the betting market (simply based on the reputation of its defense, based on last year’s success), the Dolphins continue to not get enough. I successfully bet against them last week with the Vikings -7.5, but that was a huge flat spot for Miami — coming off the dramatic final-play touchdown to beat the Patriots — and a bigtime focus spot for Minnesota coming off a dreadful performance the previous week in Seattle. So I’m willing to excuse the Dolphins for looking awful and getting blown out in a 41-17 loss to the Vikings. If anything, it creates a great bounceback spot for Miami this week.

Betting Prediction

The Dolphins’ season has been a tale of two teams. On the road, Miami is a woeful 1-6, giving up at least 27 points in 5 straight outings. But at home, the Dolphins are not only 6-1, they’ve also defeated playoff-bound teams like the Patriots, Bears and Titans. Jacksonville’s certainly not a playoff-bound opponent (if anything, the Jags look worse with Cody Kessler at quarterback instead of Blake Bortles) and last week’s pitiful performance against Washington showed that the Jags are already mailing it in. Meanwhile, the 7-7 Dolphins still have life in the AFC playoff race, needing a victory here and a win next week over Buffalo to keep their postseason hopes alive. I’m not sure the Fish have what it takes to make it to Wild Card Weekend, but I love their chances of handling Jacksonville in this one. I’ll gladly lay the 4 points as I see the potential for Miami to win this clash by double digits.

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3. New York Jets +3 (-120) versus Green Bay Packers (Sunday, 1 p.m. eastern)

Speaking of teams that are getting too much respect from the oddsmakers, here are the Green Bay Packers. Yes, I unsuccessfully bet on Green Bay last week at Chicago, but that was the Packers’ last chance for the playoffs, playing a team they’ve historically dominated and fading the Bears after a huge win against the Rams. Green Bay missed covering the spread by just a couple of points, thanks to a last-minute field goal that narrowed the Bears’ lead to 7 points, and maybe that’s why the books haven’t made a big point spread downgrade to the Pack this week.

The Packers are obviously dead, Aaron Rodgers doesn’t look at all like himself (there’s growing sentiment that the Pack should just shut him down for the rest of the year and get him healthy for 2019), and I don’t see how Joe Philbin is a candidate to become the full-time head coach going forward. So why is Green Bay, a team that yet to win a game on the road this season, laying a full field goal on the road this week? The only logical explanation is a lack of respect for the Jets on their home field, an opinion that I simply don’t agree with.

Betting Prediction

New York pushed the spread as 7-point home dogs last week against Houston, but anyone who backed the Jets should have cashed a ticket. The Jets came all the way back from a big first-half deficit to take the lead in the final minutes, only to see the Texans answer back with a go-ahead touchdown, then kick a last-minute field goal to win by 7. Sam Darnold looks like the real deal at quarterback, and this team is still fighting hard for embattled coach Todd Bowles, covering 2 straight spreads as underdogs before last week’s competitive showing against the AFC South-leading Texans. Look for the Jets to bring similar effort and passion to the field this week, knowing that this might be their final chance to win one for Bowles since a visit to New England is on deck next week.

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4. 2-Team, 6-Point Teaser (-110): San Francisco 49ers +10 (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. eastern) and Seattle Seahawks +8.5 (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. eastern)

Think the Bears were excited last week after clinching their first NFC North championship since 2010?

I’m not sure how they fly across the country this week and bring any sort of emotion and intensity with them. Even though the Bears technically do have something to play for (the Rams’ loss last week opened the door for Chicago to grab the #2 seed in the NFC, but the Bears need to win out and have the Rams lose 1 of their last 2 games), a letdown is clearly in store for a team that wins with emotion and intensity. Heck, even if the Bears hadn’t locked up the North last week, I’d be interested in fading them as they take a dramatic step down in class after taking on the Packers and Rams over the past couple of weeks.

Betting Prediction

San Francisco is in a letdown spot of its own, having upset the hated Seahawks last week in overtime. That’s the only reason I’m not taking the 49ers +4 instead of using them in a tease to move the spread to 10. But you could easily argue that a San Fran +4 play still makes sense, considering how well the Niners have played recently at home. They’ve won 3 of their last 4 games in their friendly confines, allowing an average of 17 points per game in those 3 victories. Chicago’s offense is hardly explosive, and in what should be a lower-scoring affair, taking the points with the underdog looks even more attractive.

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For the other leg of my teaser, I’m going to take another home dog and push the number up over the key number of 7. Seattle is notoriously tough to beat on its home field, but it’s even harder to blow out the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field — and with the Hawks coming off last week’s poor showing in San Francisco, I love a bounceback effort from Seattle.

Betting Prediction

Meanwhile, Kansas City looks to rebound from a loss of its own, but that was a demoralizing defeat in which the Chiefs simply got beat, not necessarily one in which they played poorly. Andy Reid teams have a history of getting too conservative and struggling down the stretch when games matter the most, as does the Chiefs franchise (just check out their playoff history at home if you’re not sure what I mean). KC’s offense is nowhere near as explosive following the suspension of Kareem Hunt, wideouts Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins are banged up, and even Patrick Mahomes is slowing down. With so much on the line for both Kansas City and Seattle, I see this game being decided by one possession, giving us plenty of value with the Seahawks +8.5.

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