Football bettors need to circle these situational spots on the 2016 NFL schedule
The Oakland Raiders have an edge over the Houston Texans when the teams meet in Mexico City - at an altitude of 7,382 feet - in Week 11.
Rejoice, for the 2016 NFL schedule officially found its way to the market on Thursday evening.
For those who reside in cold-weather locales, the process of searching for your squad’s most appealing warm-weather road date can now commence. For the gamblers in the house (presumably all of us, otherwise why would you be reading this article?), we will soon find ourselves inundated with 256 sides and 256 totals to analyze and, hopefully, capitalize upon through extensive research and savvy market timing.
Our mission today is to isolate 10 matchups on the schedule that will be worth remembering due to any number of factors. You will find those games listed below.
*The pointspreads listed below are projections created by the author.
Week 1: Carolina Panthers at Denver Broncos
Date: Thursday, September 8 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Projected spread: Denver -3
Don’t put much stock into this pointspread, as we still have no idea which quarterback will be lining up under center for the Broncos in 2016 (Colin Kaepernick, anybody?). However, feel free to put plenty of stock into how the NFL Kickoff game has shaken down since its inception.
Since its inauguration during the 2002 season, the home team has gone a sterling 8-2-4 against the spread in the NFL opener, which includes a 3-1-1 ATS mark over the last five seasons. Additionally, take note that the Under has produced a record of 8-5-1 in this showdown during that span.
Revenge may best be a dish served cold, but Cam Newton and company have a tall task on their hands in trying to take down the most ferocious defense in the league at high elevation to open the season. As a reminder, Carolina went 7-2 SU and 5-4 ATS on the road last season, while Denver went 6-2 SU and 3-5 ATS at home in 2015.
Week 2: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Date: Sunday, September 18 at 1 p.m. ET
Projected spread: New England -7.5
How’s this for concise: The Patriots are 4-0 SU and ATS over their last four home contests against the Dolphins, whom they’ve defeated by an average of 23.7 points per game in the process.
However, all of that information goes to waste if Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill decides to take the next step in 2016.
Just kidding. We all know that’s not going to happen.
Week 3: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Date: Monday, September 25 at 4 p.m. ET
Projected spread: Seattle -10.5
This one is really simple. Since 2009, the Seahawks are 7-0-1 ATS at home against the 49ers, which includes postseason play.
Best of luck to you, Chip Kelly.
Week 3: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
Date: September 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Projected spread: New Orleans -4
History is littered with instances of the New Orleans Saints dominating the opposition during primetime home showdowns. And that’s exactly why you should pay attention to this Week 3 matchup, as Drew Brees and the Saints are 4-1 SU and ATS since 2011 in home divisional showdowns against the Falcons.
However, we’d also advise you to keep a close eye on the total in this matchup, as the Over is 6-2 in the last eight games played between the Saints and Falcons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Week 7: New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams (London)
Date: Sunday, October 23 at 9:30 a.m. ET
Projected spread: New York Giants -5.5
In 2008, I worked for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the club’s first season in Allentown, Pennsylvania and the fanfare was electric.
Sadly, the team was not much to speak of as the IronPigs lost their first 11 games of the season before finally breaking through against the Richmond Braves. However, what few fans realized was that each of the team’s players had little time to adjust to life in a new city, which included the rigors of finding suitable housing and learning the local landscape. These issues served as a major distraction for the team as well as a portion of the reason why the franchise struggled so mightily out of the gate.
I wax poetic on this topic because every member of the Rams organization will be going through the exact same thing over the next few months as the franchise transitions to its new home in Los Angeles. Combine those issues with a Week 6 road game in Detroit the week before the team travels to London for a showdown with the Giants, and you have a very sticky scheduling spot. To complicate matters further, the Rams will travel directly to London following the Detroit game, meaning the players and coaches will be away from Los Angeles for close to two straight weeks.
For an organization that will be dealing with plenty of distractions in regards to its move to Los Angeles, this two-week stretch serves as yet another curveball thrown into an already complicated equation.
Week 8: Oakland Raiders at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Date: Sunday, October 30 at 1 p.m. ET
Projected spread: Tampa Bay -1
If you haven’t heard it already, consider this your warning: the Oakland Raiders will be the trendy “sleeper” playoff pick in 2016. But that previous statement doesn’t guarantee the Raiders will be able to sleepwalk their way into the AFC postseason. Oakland’s 2016 schedule includes three different back-to-back road situations, the second of which serves as the most alarming.
In Week 7, the Silver and Black will play a Sunday road date at Jacksonville one week before a Sunday road contest at Tampa Bay, and there are two reasons why that Buccaneers showdown deserves to be circled.
First, back-to-back east coast road dates with early start times can wreak havoc on west coast franchises. Second, the non-conference Tampa Bay road date takes place exactly one week before a marquee Sunday night home showdown against division-rival Denver.
Essentially, what we have here is your classic lookahead spot combined with the second leg of an east coast back-to-back. If there’s a more obvious trap game on the 2016 NFL schedule, I have yet to identify it.
Weeks 7 and 14: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland vs. Cincinnati
Date(s): Sunday, October 23 at 1 p.m. ET and Sunday, December 11 at 1 p.m. ET
Projected spread(s): Cincinnati -10.5 and Cincinnati -6.5
On a sunny, sun-kissed Sunday afternoon in December of 2012, Carolina head coach Ron Rivera took his Panthers across the country to San Diego to face the Chargers as 3-point underdogs. But when the dust had settled on that fine winter afternoon, Carolina stood victorious by way of a 31-7 annihilation that left more than a few patrons scratching their heads.
Why are we referencing this obscure matchup in the Cincinnati-Cleveland section of all places? Simple. Part of the reason why Rivera and his Panthers had so much success against San Diego on that Sunday afternoon was because of inside information.
For those who don’t remember, Rivera actually served as the Chargers defensive coordinator from 2008-2010, so he had intimate knowledge of both San Diego’s personnel and Norv Turner’s offense.
Which brings us to the two matchups between Cincinnati and Cleveland scheduled to take place in 2016. For those who may have forgotten, new Browns head coach Hue Jackson served as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015, so he has a real good idea of what the Bengals will be throwing at him this season. So much so, in fact, that the Week 14 matchup between these two clubs in Cleveland could wind up as one of the upcoming season’s biggest upsets.
However, be advised that the initial encounter between Cincinnati and Cleveland this year (Week 7) will serve as the fifth road date in the season’s first seven weeks for Jackson’s Browns, which could lead to both fatigue and sloppy play.
Week 9: Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks
Date: Monday, November 7 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Projected spread: Seattle -9.5
During the Pete Carroll era, the Seattle Seahawks are 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS when playing at home on Monday Night Football while winning by an average of 10.2 points per game.
But more importantly, take note that every single Monday night home game during the Russell Wilson era has stayed Under the total (0-3 O/U), with a total average score of 30 points serving as the result through three contests. Each of these three games has featured a dominating defensive performance on behalf of the Seahawks, who have permitted an average of just 9.6 points per game at home on Monday night since 2012.
Take note that this is Buffalo’s first trip to the Pacific Northwest since November 28, 2004.
Week 11: Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders (Mexico City)
Date: Monday, November 21 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Projected spread: Houston -2.5
For one reason and one reason only: This game will be played at an altitude of 7,382 feet.
To put that into perspective, Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver is located at an elevation of 5,280 feet. Now, this may not appear to be that significant of an issue, but be advised that Oakland will enter Week 11 fresh and rested thanks to a Week 10 bye, while Houston will play a road game at Jacksonville the Sunday before traveling to Mexico City in order to participate in a showdown that will be played at the highest elevation in NFL history.