Packers over Steelers for Week 16 NFL Picks

Jason Lake

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 2:42 PM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 2:42 PM UTC

Once again, the football betting lines are on hold while we figure out if Aaron Rodgers will start for the Green Bay Packers in Week 16 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That doesn’t mean we can’t do a little homework first.

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to December 16 inclusive:

39-31-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

9-17-1 Totals

Matt Flynn has officially been redeemed. The former and current No. 2 quarterback for the Green Bay Packers is back in the NFL’s good books after a pair of victories, including last week’s monumental 37-36 comeback over the Dallas Cowboys (–4). Flynn threw four TD passes in the second half, and in doing so kept the Packers very much alive in the race to win the NFC North.

It looks like that will be the end of Flynn’s storybook tale for now. Nothing’s been confirmed as we go to press, but it’s widely assumed that Aaron Rodgers will be under center when the Packers (7-6-1 SU, 6-8 ATS) host the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8 SU, 7-7 ATS) on Sunday. The Week 16 NFL lines are on hold until we get some clarification, which could come as soon as Wednesday’s practice.

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Out Like Flynn

Flynn (89.6 passer rating in 2013) deserves all the holiday cheer in the world after wandering the NFL wilderness for the past two years. However, Green Bay supporters are desperately waiting for Rodgers (108.0 passer rating) to make his return from the broken collarbone he suffered back in Week 9. It was originally thought Rodgers would only miss about three weeks, since the fracture was relatively minor, but his timetable keeps moving. Rodgers was non-committal again on his Tuesday radio show, saying he hoped to practice Wednesday without any setbacks.

It will be a major upgrade for the Packers if Rodgers returns and plays at his usual level. According to Football Outsiders, Green Bay’s chances of winning the NFC North and making the postseason increase from 19 percent to 32 percent with Rodgers at the helm. ESPN’s Chad Millman also has Rodgers pegged at plus-11 on his latest PSVAR rankings (Point Spread Value Above Replacement), higher than any other player in the league.

That seems a little high in retrospect. Flynn has a career passer rating of 90.7, and now that he’s demonstrated his ability to continue playing at that level, it feels like it would be a major overreaction if the NFL odds shift by 11 points for Sunday’s matchup (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS). Perhaps something in the neighborhood of five points would be more appropriate; that’s the difference in PSVAR between Dallas QBs Tony Romo (96.6 passer rating) and Kyle Orton (79.7 career passer rating).

Santa’s Giant Sack

The Steelers have had the good fortune of starting Ben Roethlisberger (94.3 passer rating) in every single game this year, and he’s still doing all the good things we’re used to seeing. Unfortunately, we’re also used to seeing Roethlisberger get sacked repeatedly, and with the Pittsburgh offensive line in tatters, Big Ben has already hit the turf 40 times this year. Green Bay’s defensive line was second in the league in adjusted sack rate (8.8 percent) going into Week 14.

It would help if Pittsburgh had a viable running game. Rookie RB Le’Veon Bell (3.3 yards per carry) is getting positive reviews for his power running and his soft hands, but pass protection is not Bell’s strong suit, and he’s well outside the Top 20 at his position in both rushing DVOA (No. 28) and passing DVOA (No. 29). Baby steps.

In theory, Green Bay has the advantage in this matchup, but there’s every danger that the football betting market will overcompensate if Rodgers does indeed make his return. Make sure to compare the Week 15 NFL lines to Green Bay’s previous games before making a play on either side. I’ll put my faith in the Packers in the meantime.

NFL Pick: Take the Packers

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