NFL Week 16 Free Pick - Pittsburgh vs. New Orleans

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Jay Ginsbach

December 21st, 2018

The big game of Week 16 is in New Orleans where the Saints (12-2) host the Steelers (8-5-1) in a key interconference clash with playoff implications.  New Orleans has already won the NFC South division and can secure the NFC No. 1 playoff seed with a win. The Steelers are in first place in the AFC North but just a half game in front of the Ravens. Pittsburgh still has a 70% chance to win the division according to fivethirtyeight.com and a 75% chance to make the playoffs. With motivation being a huge factor in these late season games, which side is worth backing in my NFL Week 16 free pick? Read on to find out!

NFL WEEK 16 FOOTBALL BETTING Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints Sunday, December 23rd – Mercedes-Benz Superdome – 4:25pm ET Odds: Saints -6 (53)

The Saints are still No. 1 in the NFC in scoring offense averaging 32.8 points per game despite scoring 31, 10, 28 and 9 points in their last four games. They return home from a 3-game road trip off a Monday night win at Carolina 12-9. But while the Saints offense has averaged just 283 yards per game over their last four contests, it’s the Saints defense that has really stiffened, allowing 17 or less points in each of their last six games. The Saints run defense is No. 1 in the NFL allowing just 79.1 yards per game and 3.7 yards per rush.

The Steelers may have saved their season last week snapping a 3-game losing streak with a big win over New England 17-10. Pittsburgh used balance on offense with 158 rushing yards and 218 passing yards as rookie RB Jaylen Samuels made his second start in place of injured James Connor and rushed for 142 yards on 19 carries. Connor is likely out again with a high ankle sprain, and QB Ben Roethlisberger will go to the air more often this week with success to his tight end and two 1,100-plus yard receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

While the Steelers are the side of interest, note that New Orleans has been assessed a league-low 29 penalties in their six home games this season. That’s more noteworthy this week, as the officiating crew calling this contest, led by referee Craig Wrolstad, has only assessed 38.73% of penalties against NFL home teams in their 13 games this season. That’s by far the lowest in the league, where an average of 48.55% of penalties are assessed against the home teams. In only one of the 13 games that Wrolstad’s crew has officiated this season has the home team been penalized more than the visiting team.

Still, in spite of the ATS notes below, the officiating concerns, and QB Drew Brees’ likely success passing this week, lean towards the Steelers top-10 offense and defense with plenty to play for as the playoffs approach.

ATS Notes: The Saints are 12-0 SU and 11-1 ATS at home with a .500 or greater record when hosting a .500 or greater non-division opponent.

NFL Week 16 Free Pick – Pittsburgh Steelers +6.0

Fairway Jay is a professional handicapper based out of Las Vegas. He focuses primarily on the four majors along with college football and college basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.