Both teams will be trying to avoid their 10th loss of the season as the Jacksonville Jaguars visit the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16. Game time is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 22 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Fans in local markets can watch the game on Fox.
Oddsmakers view the Falcons as 7-point favorites at home with an over/under of 45.5 points. Be sure to check out a complete list of the Week 16 NFL betting odds.
If nothing else, the Jaguars can breathe a sigh of relief after snapping their five-game losing streak last week. Gardner Minshew threw a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to erase a 16-3 deficit and deliver a 20-16 win for the Jags. On the heels of five lopsided losses in a row, the otherwise meaningless win must have felt like a huge weight lifted from the Jags.
As Minshew continues to state his case to be Jacksonville’s starting quarterback next season, the Jaguars will try to finish out 2019 the right way. The Jaguars trail the Colts by a game in the AFC South, and with a head-to-head meeting with Indy next week, the Jags can at least avoid a last-place finish if they’re able to win their last two games of the season.
Of course, the Falcons are showing no signs of packing it in early despite being all but eliminated from playoff contention after starting the season 1-7. Atlanta pulled off a crazy upset last week over the 49ers, who could end up being the top seed in the NFC. The Falcons have now won four of their last six games, a stretch that also includes a win over the Saints.
If nothing else, Dan Quinn is stating his case to keep his job after the season. He appeared to be on his way out the door at the midway point in the season. However, the Falcons haven’t quit on their head coach, even though they’ve had nothing to play for during the second half of the season. It Atlanta can stay hot and win the final two weeks of the season, they’ll avoid a last-place finish in the NFC South and end up with a somewhat respectable 7-9 record.
Admittedly, this is a big spread for a 5-9 team to cover. But Atlanta’s second-half surge is no fluke. The Falcons have proven that they can beat good teams. More importantly, they’re playing better on both sides of the ball than they were earlier in the season. On the other hand, Jacksonville’s win last week feels like it could be a one-time occurrence. They were dreadful in the preceding weeks, so I’m not buying a late-season turnaround. Despite some reluctance, I’ll lay down the points and lean toward Atlanta to cover at home.
Offensively, the Falcons weren’t overly convincing last week. But they put together a decent performance against one of the best defensive teams in the NFL. Julio Jones was unstoppable, catching 13 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He and Matt Ryan are still a great tandem and I’m not sure the Jacksonville defense has an answer for them.
Even with an inconsistent running game, the Falcons have scored at least 20 points in 10 of their 14 games this season. More importantly, they’re averaging 27 points per game in their last six games. Ryan has limited his interceptions during that span compared to the first half of the season. The kicker is that Ryan and the Falcons are facing a Jacksonville defense that gave up 35 points per game during their five-game losing streak. It’s going to take more than one good half against the Raiders to convince me the Jaguars have turned things around on that side of the ball.
Meanwhile, I remain skeptical of the Jacksonville offense. At times, Minshew has come through in big moments the way he did last week. However, he rarely puts together a full game, as the Jags tend to go cold for long stretches. That’s why Jacksonville hasn’t scored more than 20 points in six straight games. If Minshew doesn’t tap into his magic in the fourth quarter, the Jags are liable to be limited to single digits. Also, leading receiver D.J. Chark is listed as questionable after sitting out last week, potentially taking away one of Minshew’s favorite targets.
To be fair, I still don’t have a ton of faith in the Atlanta defense. However, the Falcons have managed to put together some solid performances on that side of the ball over the last six weeks. They held their own against San Francisco’s rushing attack last week and did the same against Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers the previous week. If they can hold Leonard Fournette to a reasonable total on the ground, the Falcons shouldn’t worry too much about Minshew and the Jacksonville passing attack beating them.
I’ll admit that this game is a little bit of a tossup because of how flawed both sides are. However, the Atlanta offense has shown a fair amount of explosiveness during the season, which isn’t something I can say about the Jaguars. Also, I can’t get past the Jags losing five of their last six games by at least 17 points. The Falcons have been good enough during the second half of the year to keep up that trend, so I’ll bank on Atlanta covering the 7-point spread at home.