The NFL doesn’t have the same annual Christmas Day tradition as the NBA, but it’s certainly happy to get involved in the holiday festivities when December 25 falls later in the week.
Last Christmas, New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara gifted his fantasy owners and Saints bettors a six-touchdown performance in a 52-33 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
This year, with Christmas coming on a Saturday, the NFL has loaded up a two-game slate on Santa’s sleigh to celebrate. We’ll see the Green Bay Packers host the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field and then the Indianapolis Colts will visit the Arizona Cardinals in the nightcap.
I guess what they say is true, good things come in small packages.
To get you prepared for these two great games in Week 16, here are our best bets and picks for the NFL on Christmas Day.
Christmas NFL gameday odds and lines are current as of 4:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 23.
Browns vs Packers Christmas Prediction
The Green Bay Packers (11-3) have won the NFC North once again and are currently hold the best record in the NFL.
With the NFC’s No. 1 seed and a first-round bye very much up for grabs, the Packers will look to continue to take care of business at home, where they have yet to lose this year.
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The Browns (7-7) are still very much in the thick of the AFC playoff picture, but have been a hard team to figure out from week to week.
A lot of Cleveland’s inconsistency has come down to health, as quarterback Baker Mayfield has played through injury for most of the season and running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have both missed time.
The Browns also had to deal with a massive COVID-19 outbreak in preparation for their Week 15 game against the Las Vegas Raiders, which forced the game to get postponed until Monday. Even with the delay, Cleveland had to play without Mayfield, Hunt, top wideout Jarvis Landry, and many others, including Head Coach Kevin Stefanski.
- Read our Packers vs Browns predictions for Week 16.
The effects of that outbreak could still very well be felt in Week 16, as we aren’t sure who will suit up for the Browns on Christmas Day. Even if Mayfield and co. are cleared in time to play, we’ve seen players return from COVID and not be 100 percent as well as suffer from the lack of practice time.
Aaron Rodgers boasts an impeccable 23-3 career record at Lambeau in December, and I expect him to add another in the win column here.
Browns vs Packers Pick: Packers 27, Browns 16
Browns vs Packers Christmas Best Bet: Packers -7.5 (-110) at Caesars
The Browns are the physical, ground-and-pound type of team that would generally have success against the Packers. Green Bay ranks 24th in defensive DVOA against the run, while Cleveland’s offense ranks fourth in rushing DVOA.
We’ve seen the 49ers run all over the Packers in years past, and at full strength, I think Cleveland could have success here. However, I’m not sure we’ll see the Browns anywhere near full strength. Stud LT Jack Conklin (knee) is already out for the season and now center J.C. Tretter has joined the ranks on the COVID/Reserve list.
Rodgers should be able to pick apart this Cleveland secondary, which ranks in the bottom half of the league in DVOA against the pass. Green Bay has covered spreads at the highest rate of any NFL team this year, and while they might be due for some regression, I think the Packers can win by more than a touchdown.
Browns vs Packers Christmas Best Bet: Under 45.5 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
These are two of the slowest teams in the NFL when it comes to situation-neutral pace, as Cleveland ranks 31st and Green Bay ranks 28th.
The Browns will want to run the ball to keep it away from Rodgers and the Packers’ offense, which will help shorten the game. Green Bay will likely feature a more pass-heavy attack, but Matt LaFleur does a good job of keeping Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon involved in the run game and with short passes out of the backfield.
I struggle to see how the Cleveland offense scores much in this one and as long as Myles Garrett and co. can slow down Rodgers a little bit, the under should be in good shape. Plus, we can probably rely on Mason Crosby to miss a kick or two if things get dicey.
Colts vs Cardinals Christmas Prediction
The nightcap of the NFL Christmas slate is similar to the first game. The Indianapolis Colts (8-6) are in the thick of the playoff race and are looking to chase down the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South, while the Arizona Cardinals (10-4) are one of the top teams in the NFC and are looking to secure the first-round bye.
The Colts have leaned heavily on second-year running back Jonathan Taylor, who is a legitimate MVP candidate as he’s rushed for over 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns through 14 games. Indianapolis also boasts a top 10 defense, which is tied for the league lead in takeaways and excels against the run.
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That ability will be put to the test by the dual-threat ability of Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who himself would be an MVP frontrunner if not for a midseason ankle injury that kept him out a few games.
Arizona persisted without him, winning two of three games with Colt McCoy under center, as it leaned on running back James Conner and a top-five defense that is best against the pass.
Despite the difference in record, I think these two teams are pretty similar talent-wise, which should make for a compelling contest. Give me the Colts to pull off the upset and spoil Christmas in the desert.
Colts vs Cardinals Christmas Pick: Colts 28, Cardinals 27
Colts vs Cardinals Christmas Best Bet: Colts Moneyline (-105) at Caesars
The lookahead line installed the Colts as 4-point underdogs, which was great value, especially before Indianapolis defeated New England and Arizona fell to Detroit in Week 15. Even after the line movement, I still think there’s value on Indianapolis.
The Colts will have an extra day to prepare for this one after playing on Saturday in Week 15 against the Patriots, which should be helpful in the rest department as well.
This matchup is also a decent one for Taylor and the Indianapolis rushing attack, as Arizona ranks in the middle of pack in defending the run and allows 112.8 yards per game on the ground.
- Read our Colts vs Cardinals predictions for Week 16.
The Cardinals surrendered exactly 112 yards on the ground last week to Lions running back Craig Reynolds, which isn’t an encouraging sign before facing Jonathan Taylor.
If Carson Wentz can continue to limit mistakes and the offensive line can hold up against Chandler Jones and Arizona’s pass rush, I think the Colts will be in a good shape. Back Indianapolis to come out on top as your Christmas NFL pick of the day.
Colts vs Cardinals Christmas Best Bet: Over 49 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
I think there’s a chance this game turns into a sneaky shootout. Kliff Kingsbury has his essentially his full complement of offensive weapons at his disposal, outside of DeAndre Hopkins (knee), who is expected to sit out the remainder of the regular season.
After looking abysmal without Hopkins last week, Arizona’s offense should have more success this week after additional time to reorganize. Murray’s dual-threat ability is a game-changer on third down and in the two-minute drill to keep drives moving and I expect him to use his legs more than he has since returning from his ankle injury.
The Cardinals are also one of the quicker teams in the league when it comes to situation neutral pace, which helps to balance out the Colts’ slow, run-heavy attack.
- Read our NFL Christmas Props.
This total will be likely be decided by the fascinating matchup between the Colts’ offensive line and the Cardinals’ stout defensive line. While Arizona is good at getting pressure on the quarterback, the defense ranks dead last in the NFL at defending the run at the second level, while Indianapolis ranks second in run blocking beyond the line of scrimmage.
Translation: If the Colts can get Jonathan Taylor to the second level, he’s gone. I think Taylor could rip off a few big runs here, which will help propel us to the over.
BONUS NFL Christmas Best Bet TEASER: Packers -1.5 + Colts +7 (-120) at Caesars
Isn’t it great to find that last present under the Christmas tree after you thought you had already opened all your gifts?
If you’re looking for a safe play that involves both games, I don’t mind teasing the Packers down to 1.5 and the Colts up to 7.
It’s nice to get a little extra wiggle room with the Colts if the Cardinals bounce back and eke out a close win, while teasing down Green Bay should help us avoid any back-door cover possibilities.