NFL Week 15 has some pivotal playoff-type games to be sure, but there’s also som very underwhelming games between teams that have struggled. There’s some very evenly matched games both at the top and the bottom of the heirarchy of NFL teams which leads to no apparent mismatches and the biggest spread coming into the week is just 7.5. Last week, I was stuck in the middle with an even 8-8 record but hopefully I can get things moving in the right direction with these picks this week.
As always, I’m using the spread from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’Em which doesn’t always account for last minute moves in the line. It also only uses half-point spreads to avoid pushes. The home team is identified in all caps.
New York Giants (+1.5)over ATLANTA FALCONS
The Giants and Falcons face-off as Atlanta looks to avenge its first-round playoff defeat last season. The Giants have been inconsistent, but get up for big road games like this. The G-men have gone on the road and beaten San Francisco and Dallas but have lost at Washington and Cincinnati. They looked good in their wins over Green Bay and New Orleans in the last three weeks. Atlanta has been doing their own up-and-down routine lately edging Arizona and Tampa Bay and losing to the Panthers last week, but also dominating the Saints on Thursday Night two weeks ago. Both teams can be maddeningly inconsistent, but the Giants win big games like this with regularity so I’ll take them over the Falcons even in Atlanta.
Green Bay Packers (-2.5) over CHICAGO BEARS
The Packers dispatched the Bears relatively easily at Lambeau Field earlier this season 23-10 and will look to lockdown the division while getting their eighth win in their last nine games. Green Bay hasn’t lost to a divisional foe this season. The Bears have been stumbling down the stretch losing four of their last five and falling to division-foe Minnesota last week. Chicago definitely needs the game more, but the Packers have won their last five in a row at Soldier Field and I think they’ll make is six today.
Washington Redskins (+1.5) over CLEVELAND BROWNS
The latest reports have Kirk Cousins ready to start for the ‘Skins while Robert Griffin III rests his leg. While that’s devastating news for RG3′s fantasy owners, the Redskins should be able to step up in his absence and get past the Browns. Cleveland has been playing better lately winning their last three and being within a score in every game since week 5. Washington has won their last four too, vaulting them into the NFC playoff picture. This is a tough pick since Cousins is such an unknown in his first NFL start.
ST. LOUIS RAMS (+2.5) over Minnesota Vikings
I’m surprised at the line in this one as the Rams host the Vikings in the Edwards Jones Dome. The Vikings did get a nice win last week but have dropped five of their last eight and are just 1-5 away from home this year. The Rams have been flying under the radar, but outside of a slipup against the Jets have played exceptional football since their bye-week. They’ve won their last three games against the Cardinals, 49ers, and Bills. Overall they are 4-2 at home (not counting the London game) including wins over Washington, Seattle, and San Francisco. I’m not sure I get why the Rams are home ‘dogs in this one except that Adrian Peterson is just that good. Peterson has been dominating teams, but the Rams defense held the Bills to just 61 yards on the ground last week. While they won’t be able to shut down ADP completely, they should be able to limit him enough and force Christian Ponder into making mistakes.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (-7.5) over Jacksonville Jaguars
The Dolphins and Jaguars are both not playing well at all. Miami has lost five of their last six while the Jags have dropped nine of ten. Jacksonville is just 2-11 and has lost seven of those games by more than eight points. Miami did get a home win against the Seahawks three weeks ago so maybe they can use that template to get a win this week. Ryan Tannehill has shown some positive progress throughout the season. I’d give him the edge over ex-Dolphin Chad Henne and I’d definitely give the Miami defense the edge over Jacksonville’s so I’ll take the Dolphins although I hate to give the points.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5) over NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Both defenses give up points and both offenses can score so expect a track meet in the Superdome as these NFC South divisional-foes face off for the second time this year. When the two met the first time, it was a predictably high-scoring 35-28 win for the Saints. Both teams have dropped their last three games and the playoffs may be slipping away. The Sains defense will be without safety Malcolm Jenkins and their offense will miss starting right tackle Charles Brown. Those losses and the Bucs determination to stay in the race will make this a field goal game either way, so I’ll take the 3.5 points and the visiting Bucs.
BALTIMORE RAVNES (+2.5) over Denver Broncos
Denver is rolling but have played a fairly soft schedule to this point in the year. Their wins in their eight game winning streak have come over teams that are all below .500except for Cincinnati. The Ravens themselves will be looking to bounce back from losses the last two weeks to Pittsburgh by a field goal and to Washington in overtime. This week I think they’ll bounce back and improve enough on offense under their new Offensive Coordinator to get the win at home. This game goes a long way to deciding the 3-seed in the AFC with just three weeks left in the regular season.
Indianapolis Colts (+7.5) over HOUSTON TEXANS
The Texans pass defense is shreddable as the Patriots once again revealed last week. Look for plenty of points like a typical Colts game. The Colts have won seven of their last eight and are still alive in the division as they face the Texans today and again in their season finale in two weeks. Andrew Luck will be able to exploit the Teans pass defense and at least keep Indy within a touchdown. In only one of the last five games (at Tennessee) have the Texans won by more than 8 points. I like the Colts to be in this game late and easily cover the point-spread.
Seattle Seahawks (-5.5) over BUFFALO BILLS
The Bills lost last week to the Rams at home and have only beaten the Dolphins, Chiefs, and Jags at home all year. This home game will be unlike the rest as they host the Seahawks in their annual trip to Toronto. Seattle romped at home last week against the Cardinals and finally got a nice road win their last road-trip when they beat the Bears in Soldier Field. The Bills won’t have Fred Jackson for the rest of the season and have struggled stopping the run and taking care of the ball. Forcing turnovers and running the ball are Seattle’s strengths so they should be able to win by a touchdown or more.
Detroit Lions (-5.5) over ARIZONA CARDINALS
The Lions can score points ranking 12th in the league with 24.6 points a game. They’ve lost their last five and will be ready to take out their frustrations on the Cardinals. Arizona has lost nine in a row since their 4-0 start reaching new lows by lowing 58-0 last week in Seattle. Arizona needs help at lots of positions and are quickly moving up in the draft by falling down in the standings. The Lions should win big in this one.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (-2.5) over Carolina Panthers
San Diego finally bounced back last week and played like the team many expected them to be coming into the season as they beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh 34-24. The win came out of nowhere since they had been falling apart before that game losing seven of eight with only wins against the Chiefs, Titans, and Raiders. The Panthers also have been playing much better in recent weeks and pulled off the upset of the Falcons at home last week. These teams are tough to predict, but I’ll say the cross-country trip to the West Coast makes the difference and the Chargers get another win for their lame-duck coach.
DALLAS COWBOYS (+1.5) over Pittsburgh
The Cowboys host the Steelers as both angle to get into one of the last few playoff spots. Strangely, Dallas has struggled at home but picked up a nice road win last week in Cincinnati. The Bengals loss would have helped the Steelers tremendously if they could avoided losing to the Chargers at home. Both teams are 7-6 but Dallas is 0-6 against the spread at home. The ‘Boys can’t fail to cover at some point this season and I think they’ll get the win here against the struggling Steelers. This isn’t a pick I’m confident in though as I could easily see this going either way.
OAKLAND RAIDERS (-2.5) over Kansas City Chiefs
In one of the matchups of the lower-level teams in the NFL the Chiefs head to Oakland. The Raiders have taken the last two games in this series including a 26-16 win earlier this season at Arrowhead. Two of the Raiders’ three wins have come at home but they have lost six in a row overall. The last two weeks they’ve played close with the Browns and Broncos. KC meanwhile has won just twice all season-on the road in overtime week 3 against the Saints and two weeks ago at home against Carolina. Last week Cleveland thumped them and I expect the Raiders to beat them up against this week as the teams meet at the O.co Coliseum.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-5-5) over San Francisco 49ers
The Patriots reminded us all how good they are at home in December last week against the Texans. They actually matchup better against the 49ers although the San Francisco defense does defend the deep-ball well. Brady and Belichick can gameplan their way to another big victory on Sunday Night as they take on Collin Kaepernick and the Niners in another great week 15 matchup.
TENNESSEE TITANS (-1.5) over New York Jets
The Titans host the Jets in this week’s Monday Night Football matchup. It’s an underwhelming game overall, but does give ESPN a chance to cover Tim Tebow and the Sanchez-saga all over again. Thankfully, the Jets coverage has been scaled back some the last couple weeks as it became increasingly apparent that they’re just not a good football team. The Titans Jake Locker has had his own injury and effectiveness issues, but Chris Johnson has rediscovered his form which could bode well for Tennessee against the Jets 29th ranked rushing defense.