NFL odds, picks, predictions for Week 16: Expert model projects Dolphins top Cowboys, 49ers edge Ravens on Christmas

Tis the season for some high-stakes football. And there is going to be plenty of it over this holiday weekend.

In the past, NFL playoff races have appeared to be clear down the stretch. That is far from the case in 2023. The wild-card spots in both conferences feel wide open, with only the Browns and Cowboys standing above tiebreaker madness for the final two spots in the AFC and NFC. The only division races at this point that feel secure are the Chiefs in the AFC West, Lions in the NFC North and the 49ers having already clinched the NFC West.

There will be plenty of games over the Christmas weekend that should help clear up the mess in both conferences. The Saints and Rams start the week on “Thursday Night Football” in a clash of 7-7 NFC teams, then the Bengals and Steelers face off on Saturday in a game between AFC North teams trending in opposite directions.

On Sunday, the Browns and Texans highlight the early window in a clash of AFC wild-card contenders. The best game of the day certainly appears to be Cowboys vs. Dolphins in the late-afternoon window with two Super Bowl contenders squaring off. And after some games with blowout potential on Christmas, the day ends with two more Super Bowl-caliber squads in the Ravens and 49ers playing one another in San Francisco.

MORE WEEK 16 PICKS: Straight up | Against the spread

Each week, Sporting News’ model will project every game in the NFL 10,000 times to generate the number of times a team wins a matchup and calculate the win probability. The model adjusts after each week as it learns more about each team and that team’s quarterback.

Listed for each game is its projected spread, according to the model, and a team’s win probability. We’ve also included updated playoff and Super Bowl odds at the bottom. The odds listed with each game are not based on bookmakers, but rather how the model sees the game playing out. We will then compare the model’s odds with those from Caesars Sportsbook, to see how bookmakers are seeing the week’s games.

Here’s how the model sees Week 16 shaping up.

NFL picks, predictions Week 16

Rams (-2) vs. Saints

Win probability: 55.5%, Rams

The Rams and Saints are keeping playoff hopes alive with both teams picking up wins in Week 15 to move up to 7-7 in a wide-open NFC wild-card race — and for the Saints, an open NFC South race. The “Thursday Night Football” clash feels almost like an elimination game as falling behind in the wild-card race, at least, where there are plenty of other contenders in the mix. Caesars likes the Rams as 4.5-point favorites at home, while the model has Los Angeles as 2-point favorites.

Bengals (-3) vs. Steelers

Win probability: 59%, Bengals

The Jake Browning-led Bengals looked fried in Week 12 when they scored just 10 points against the Steelers. Since then, the two teams have trended in opposite directions. Browning and the offense has taken off with three straight wins. The Mitch Trubisky-led Steelers have not won a game, and now will see if Mason Rudolph can do any better. Caesars and the model like the Bengals to pick up the win on the road by similar margins at 2 and 3, respectively.

Bills (-10) vs. Chargers

Win probability: 81.5%, Bills

The Chargers are down bad. Los Angeles lost Justin Herbert to a season-ending injury and were promptly demolished by the Raiders in perhaps the franchise’s most humiliating loss. The Bills, meanwhile, are fully back in the playoff race after crushing the Cowboys. This game looks incredibly lopsided, with the model favoring the Bills by 10 and Caesars setting the line at 11.

(Getty Images)

Colts (-1) vs. Falcons

Win probability: 52.4%, Colts

It is getting late early for the Falcons. Losing 9-7 to a dismal Panthers team where home fans paid 45 cents to watch is a brutal loss for a team that is still in the mix for the NFC South and the wild card. The road doesn’t get easier, as Atlanta — led now by Taylor Heinicke — heads back home to face a Colts team that crushed Pittsburgh in Week 15. Indianapolis is fully in the AFC wild-card and West division mix, and will be tough for the Falcons. Both Caesars and the model are favoring the Colts by 1.

Packers (-5) vs. Panthers

Win probability: 65.8%, Packers

Another line where Caesars and the model are in agreement (Packers by 5), Packers vs. Panthers feels like a get-well opportunity for Green Bay. The Packers have lost two straight as their NFC wild-card hopes have taken a hit, but they’re still putting up points. Carolina won by kicking three field goals against the Falcons. The Panthers would probably need more than that to beat Green Bay. 

Texans (-2) vs. Browns

Win probability: 57%, Texans

In a tightly contested AFC wild-card race, the Browns have given themselves some buffer room. Cleveland came back late against the Bears and survived a wild Hail Mary, and is still a game up on everyone in the race. The Texans, meanwhile, prevailed against the Titans in overtime without C.J. Stroud. In Houston, with Stroud, the Texans are slight favorites over Cleveland, with Caesars listing the Texans as 2.5-point favorites and the model going Houston by 2. But if it’s Case Keenum getting the second straight start, expect that line to move a bit.

Jared Goff (left) and Sam LaPorta (right)

Getty Images

Lions (-2) vs. Vikings

Win probability: 57.9%, Lions

The Vikings remained in an NFC playoff spot despite falling to the Bengals in overtime, but their road the rest of the way is not going to be easy. They face the Lions at home, Packers at home then Lions on the road. Losing two of those three games feels like it would be enough to knock them out of the wild-card race. The Lions got back on track in Week 15 by steamrolling the Broncos, and look to deal another wild-card contender a blow, with Caesars going Lions by 3 and the model setting the line at Lions by 2.

Jets (-5) vs. Commanders

Win probability: 68.4%, Jets

All eyes are going to be on whether Aaron Rodgers actually makes his return. He’s expected to be medically cleared, but with the Jets eliminated from the playoffs after a devastating loss to the Dolphins, New York might be better off waiting until next year to see Rodgers return. The model is assuming Zach Wilson or another backup will be the starter and still thinks the Jets have more than enough to beat the Commanders, favoring New York by 5. Caesars has the Jets favored by 3.

Seahawks (-2) vs. Titans

Win probability: 57.5%, Seahawks

Seattle stunned the NFL world with Drew Lock leading an improbable game-winning drive against the Eagles to snap a four-game losing streak and keep the Seahawks’ playoff hopes alive. Now, the Seahawks will hit the road to Nashville to face the Titans, a team that is 2-2 in its past four games where both losses came in overtime to AFC contenders. Geno Smith might be back for Seattle though, which is leading to the model favoring the Seahawks by 2 on the road, just a half-point off from Caesars’ line of 2.5 for Seattle.

Trevor Lawrence 12042023

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Jaguars (-3) vs. Buccaneers

Win probability: 59.7%, Jaguars

Jacksonville has watched its once comfortable AFC South lead fizzle to just hanging on by tiebreakers over the Texans and Colts. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers have surged to the top of the NFC South, and now host the Jaguars in a battle of Florida squads. This is the first time the model and Caesars are picking different winners, with the model favoring the Jaguars by 3, while Caesars set the line at Buccaneers by 1.

Bears (-6) vs. Cardinals

Win probability: 69.9%, Bears

The Bears surged into the playoff race and appeared to be on the verge of back-to-back statement wins before a late comeback by the Browns stymied Chicago. This is still a Chicago team playing well, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, that will now head home to face the Cardinals. Arizona beat the Steelers, but have still been blown out in two of its past three games. Caesars has Chicago as 4.5-point favorites, while the model sees the Bears as 6-point favorites.

Dolphins (-4) vs. Cowboys

Win probability: 62.6%, Dolphins

For the third straight week, the Cowboys are playing in arguably the most anticipated game of the weekend. For the second straight week, it’s against an AFC East foe. The last one didn’t go so well. Dallas was blown out 31-10. Miami is coming off a great week, having deflated the Jets 30-0. Both teams will face some pressure in this one as the Cowboys are looking to somehow rip away the NFC East crown from the Eagles, while the Dolphins are looking to pick up their first win against a team with a winning record. With this game in Miami, the model and Caesars both like the Dolphins by spreads of 4 and 1.5, respectively.

Russell Wilson

(Getty Images)

Broncos (-10) vs. Patriots

Win probability: 80.4%, Broncos

This once-great rivalry does not look like it will be all that engaging this year. This isn’t the Tom Brady-led Patriots, and outside of a puzzling win against the Steelers, they’re well closer to the No. 1 pick than they are to the playoffs. Denver took a step back in its playoff hunt with a blowout loss to the Lions, but it’s still very much in the conversation. This Christmas Eve special has the potential to be lopsided, with Caesars setting the line at Broncos by 6.5 and the model picking the Broncos by 10.

Chiefs (-17) vs. Raiders

Win probability: 91.9%, Chiefs

The Raiders bludgeoned the Chargers in perhaps the most dominant win in the rivalry between those AFC West foes. They’re not facing a sinking Los Angeles team in Week 16. They’re facing a motivated Chiefs team that is still looking to click on offense after only scoring 27 against the Patriots. The model sees this as the biggest blowout of the week, setting the line at Chiefs by 17 while Caesars is giving the Raiders a slightly better chance, making them only 10-point underdogs.

Eagles (-14) vs. Giants

Win probability: 88%, Eagles

Philadelphia has now lost three straight games, and in the process, it has fallen to second in the NFC East. It has a cushy landing to try and help the team get back to the top down the stretch, facing the Giants at home, the Cardinals at home then the Giants on the road. Caesars is listing this game as the expected blowout of the week with the Eagles as 11.5-point favorites while the model is favoring Philadelphia by 14 in what is expected to be the second Christmas walloping.

49ers (-2) vs. Ravens

Win probability: 57.7%, 49ers

NFL fans get a real gift for Christmas to end the night in a potential Super Bowl preview between the 49ers and Ravens. The model has the 49ers as NFC favorites (58.9 percent) and Super Bowl favorites (34.6 percent) with the Ravens as AFC favorites (49 percent) and next-best Super Bowl team (25.8 percent). In San Francisco, the model is picking the home team by 2. Caesars has the 49ers as heavier favorites, putting the line at 5.5 in favor the 49ers.

Updated NFL projections 2023

AFC East

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Dolphins 12-5 78.2% 21.6% 99.9% 18.2% 16.4% 7.1%
Bills 10-7 21.8% 41.3% 63.1% 0.0% 5.7% 2.3%
Jets 7-10 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Patriots 4-13 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

AFC North

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Ravens 13-4 97.1% 3.0% 100.0% 72.1% 49.0% 25.8%
Browns 10-7 3.0% 72.5% 75.4% 0.4% 0.9% 0.3%
Bengals 10-7 0.0% 23.1% 23.1% 0.0% 0.8% 0.4%
Steelers 8-9 0.0% 4.5% 4.5% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0%

AFC South

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Jaguars 10-7 59.0% 28.8% 87.8% 0.0% 2.8% 0.9%
Texans 10-7 20.5% 41.8% 62.3% 0.0% 1.1% 0.2%
Colts 10-7 20.5% 37.2% 57.7% 0.0% 0.7% 0.2%
Titans 6-11 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

AFC West

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Chiefs 11-6 99.3% 0.4% 99.7% 9.3% 22.4% 9.6%
Broncos 9-8 0.6% 25.5% 26.1% 0.0% 0.3% 0.1%
Raiders 7-10 0.1% 0.3% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Chargers 6-11 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

NFC East

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Eagles 13-4 64.2% 35.8% 100.0% 5.0% 17.4% 7.7%
Cowboys 12-5 35.8% 64.2% 100.0% 1.8% 11.1% 5.2%
Giants 6-11 0.0% 0.5% 0.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Commanders 5-12 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

NFC North

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Lions 12-5 95.1% 4.9% 100.0% 0.7% 11.2% 4.9%
Vikings 8-9 4.9% 42.7% 47.6% 0.0% 0.5% 0.2%
Packers 8-9 0.0% 14.1% 14.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Bears 7-10 0.0% 2.8% 2.8% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

NFC South

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Buccaneers 9-8 58.3% 15.6% 74.0% 0.0% 0.3% 0.1%
Saints 9-8 36.4% 16.4% 52.8% 0.0% 0.4% 0.2%
Falcons 7-10 5.3% 8.1% 13.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Panthers 3-14 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

NFC West

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
49ers 13-4 100.0% 0.0% 100.0% 92.5% 58.9% 34.6%
Seahawks 9-8 0.0% 55.2% 55.2% 0.0% 0.2% 0.1%
Rams 8-9 0.0% 39.8% 39.8% 0.0% 0.1% 0.1%
Cardinals 4-13 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%


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