Most sports fans think of NBA games for their Christmas entertainment. However, the NFL will occasionally have games on the holiday as well, and this year two are scheduled for Saturday.
Just like the previous Saturday, both games feature teams in the playoff mix hoping to solidify their spot. The Cleveland Browns need a lot of work just to get in, while Green Bay, Indianapolis, and Arizona all should make the playoffs as long as they finish the last three weeks strong.
Who wins in these two pivotal matchups? These are the Christmas Day NFL picks against the spread.
Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers -7.5
With the number one seed in the NFC theirs for the taking, the Green Bay Packers have plenty to play for in the final few weeks of the regular season. They host a Cleveland Browns team that needs a win desperately, but on the road in cold Lambeau field, can they get it done?
A lot of it comes down to whether or not Cleveland can get healthy for this matchup. As of right now, all the players who missed the Los Angeles Raiders game last week due to COVID-19 protocols will be back in action this week. That’s great news for Cleveland, as Baker Mayfield and the offense will need to be at full strength to keep up with Green Bay.
Some think that this extra rest due to COVID-19 protocols could actually play in favor of Cleveland. It did act like an off week for the team, and that is crucial this late in the regular season. There have also been some nagging injuries, and some of those players were able to get a little healthier through the break.
As for Green Bay, they sit at 11-3 on the year, but have a slim lead currently holding onto the top seed in their conference. In the last three games, they’ve been putting up a ton of numbers offensively, and they’ll be looking to keep the momentum going on their home soil. The weather doesn’t seem to be brutal by Green Bay standards, but it could slow down both offenses a little bit due to just how cold it gets in December. These are both cold-weather teams, so they should mostly be fine.
Cleveland should play solid enough, but it just seems impossible that they’ll be able to match Green Bay‘s offensive output. Rodgers has been here before, and there’s too much of a chance that Mayfield is rusty instead of sharp after the week off. It’s not like he’s been the most consistent quarterback in the NFL this season in the first place. If Green Bay can force a turnover or two early, this could get ugly in a hurry. Expect a double-digit win by the Green Bay Packers to kick off Saturday’s action. Cleveland finds themselves in deep trouble trying to make the playoffs with just two games left in the regular season.
Pick: Green Bay Packers -7.5
Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Cardinals -2
The nightcap on Saturday features two teams that have plenty of firepower, a lot to prove to the rest of the NFL, and a ton of playoff motivation. This figures to be one of the better games in all of Week 16, and it gets the primetime spot on Christmas Day.
Indianapolis is coming off a pretty tough win against the New England Patriots. The game stayed close until Jonathan Taylor did what he does best, relentlessly running the football and wearing down the defense. He rushed for 170 yards, and expecting the same type of output this week seems reasonable. In fact, he could surpass that output given the matchup.
This running attack leaves Indianapolis as one of the hardest teams in the game right now to slow down. They have won five of their last six, and Taylor is looking like a true MVP candidate. The team has more than just a running game, as Carson Wentz has done his job managing the passing game as well. Indianapolis won’t expect much out of him on Christmas, but a decent stat line with low-risk passes will work.
The Cardinals come into the game with no momentum, but things can turn around quickly in the NFL. They just lost last week to a terrible Detroit Lions team, and nothing went right for them on either side of the ball. They still lead their division, but teams are gaining fast with three weeks left.
If Arizona is to win this game and stop the skid, their defense needs to be extremely sharp. Taylor will be coming after them early and often, and the play-calling for Indianapolis has been strong to mix it up when passes are necessary. Arizona relied on outscoring teams in the beginning of the year, but with their offense not as strong, that’s faded away.
To make matters worse for Arizona’s offense, DeAndre Hopkins has been ruled out for the rest of the regular season. That’s another blow to the passing game for Kyler Murray, who hasn’t been his sharpest since starting the year as an MVP candidate.
After giving up 120 yards rushing to the Detroit Lions, it seems like Taylor is set for another big day. That alone gives Indianapolis a slight edge in this one. Since they are slight underdogs, they’re the easy pick against the spread. Indianapolis is looking more and more like one of the best teams in the NFL, and the momentum doesn’t stop with a trip to the desert. As slight underdogs, they are a solid pick considering the spread.
Pick: Indianapolis Colts +2