Last week we were treated to one of the best weekends of football in recent memory. Of course everyone has seen or heard about the frantic ending to many of the early games on Sunday, but by my count, there were also seven games in week 14 where both teams were fighting for their playoff lives or their playoff seeding. That’s an aggressive amount of relevant games.
Sadly that won’t be the case in week 15 as we have only three matchups that fall into that category: New England @ Miami, Green Bay @ Dallas and Baltimore @ Detroit. And even those games don’t feel too compelling. The silver lining is that sometimes the most boring-sounding Sundays turn into the craziest. Maybe it’ll be a week of upsets galore. Maybe we’ll see Calvin Johnson, Josh Gordon or Alshon Jeffrey do something we’ve never seen before. Maybe 12 of the 32 quarterbacks will leave their games with injuries. Or maybe it’ll be a true calm before the storm. One last week of order before chaos ensues during the season’s final two weeks and into the playoffs.
Since I finally found a winning formula last week, I’m sticking with it this week. My girlfriend Julie didn’t quite outpick me in week 14 as I predicted. She went 9-7 against the spread while I went 10-6. When I asked her on Tuesday if she wanted to make picks again this week, she was unsure, so I taunted her Golden Tate style by saying how poorly she did last week and how much I own her in picks. She quickly agreed to make the week 15 picks.
(Side Note: Her comments are in the quotations while I add my own comments to her picks in parentheses.)
Let’s get to it:
San Diego @ Denver (-10.5)
Julie’s Pick: “This is my upset of the week. San Diego. (She comes out guns blazing!!) “No one would ever pick them because of the cold weather factor and the -10 spread.”
Ross’s Pick: Before you decide to take San Diego and the points, I should inform you that the smallest margin of victory for the Broncos at home this year is 10 points. Their other six home games have been wins by: 22, 16, 32, 16, 24 and 23 points. For this reason alone, I’m taking Denver to cover with a 41-27 win. (CONFIDENCE PICK)
Washington @ Atlanta (-7)
Julie’s Pick: “Oooh oooh oooh, and I know that the guy with the three initials…RG3!!…he’s out for the season. So maybe Atlanta…but wait, Washington’s backup is gonna be the next Tom Brady. I’m going with Washington.”
Ross’s Pick: For my money, the best outcome of this new quarterback arrangement in Washington would be for Kirk Cousins to suffer a season-ending injury this week. That would force Mike Shanahan to either reinstate RGIII as his starter or make an even bigger mockery of the most celebrated position in professional sports by starting Rex Grossman. We’re probably not lucky enough to see this happen. Instead the Redskins will continue their efforts to redefine the phrases “mailing it in” and “quitting on the team.” Atlanta covers with a 34-13 win.
San Francisco (-6) @ Tampa Bay
Julie’s Pick: “San Francisco won last week, right? And Tampa Bay won last week too, right? Then of course it’s Tampa Bay because they’re at home…and they’re on a high streak.”
Ross’s Pick: The backdoor cover feels like a lock in this game. This is probably a tough game for San Francisco to get up for. The Bucs aren’t half bad anymore. It feels like Tampa Bay covers but San Francisco wins 30-27.
Seattle (-7) @ NY Giants
Julie’s Pick: “Seattle because they won’t have liked that loss from last week. Boom. Seattle back on track.”
Ross’s Pick: The Seahawks don’t need this game at all. They finish with two home games and as long as they win those, they get the #1 seed. I think it’s impossible for them to play inspired football this week. The Giants get the win, 33-29.
Chicago (-1) @ Cleveland
Julie’s Pick: (She has an emotional breakdown because these are the two teams she always picks, apparently…but, you know, she’s been doing this for all of one weeks.) “Cleveland’s probably mad about that loss to the Patriots last week.” (45 second pause) “I’m gonna go with the Bears. It’s almost like Cleveland should have won last week, so you’d almost expect that they’re due for a win. But they’re gonna be too depressed. Chicago wins.” (I’m calling it now. “Team X is mad about last week’s outcome” is the new “Team X has the cold weather advantage” in Julie’s analysis.)
Ross’s Pick: The Bears finally fulfilled my lofty aspirations for them last week. I just can’t pick against them after finally seeing them fire on all cylinders. If Cleveland takes away Alshon Jeffrey and the deep pass, the Bears will just lean heavily on Matt Forte, who’s having a sneaky awesome season. Chicago wins 31-24. (CONFIDENCE PICK)
Houston @ Indianapolis (-6)
Julie’s Pick: “Easy, Indy.” (I press her for a reason.) “Because that’s an obvious cold weather advantage.” (I tell her it’s in a dome.) “But is the dome heated?…” (Checkmate)
Ross’s Pick: I’m riding the “Indy has nothing to play for” theory. That’s the only reason I’m picking Houston to cover…and win! 33-30.
Buffalo (-2) @ Jacksonville
Julie’s Pick: “Jacksonville because -2 isn’t that much and Jacksonville has the home field advantage.”
Ross’s Pick: “This is as bad as Houston being favored by three at Jacksonville last week. The Jaguars aren’t terrible and these opponents kind of are. Jacksonville should be favored at home against any team that’s not at least .500 right now. I say the Jaguars get their fourth win in a row, 27-24. And don’t look now, but Jacksonville could finish the season 7-9 while putting up a 7-1 record in the second half of the year. Stunning, right? (CONFIDENCE PICK)
New England (-1.5) @ Miami
Julie’s Pick: (She tries to abstain for the second straight week.) (Then she makes our dog decide, and based on a slight movement of the dog’s foot at the exact right moment, Miami is the pick.)
Ross’s Pick: I’d also like to abstain. I just have no idea how the Patriots will come out in the post-Gronk world. If I wasn’t a jinx, I’d write about how something special seems to be going on with the Patriots this year. And that’s why I’d pick them. That’s my way of saying I’m taking New England to cover and win, 30-23.
Philadelphia (-5) @ Minnesota
Julie’s Pick: “Minnesota lost last week when they should have won, huh? Yeah, I’m picking them. They deserve one this week.”
Ross’s Pick: You can’t pick a Peterson-less Minnesota in this game. It’s just not smart. Toby Gerhart might be out too. Imagine getting to play against Matt Cassel while knowing he has absolutely no running threat to bail him out. I’ll take Philadelphia to win 37-23. (CONFIDENCE PICK)
NY Jets @ Carolina (-11)
Julie’s Pick: “Not the Jets. Nobody likes the Jets.” (Damn, it’s comments like those that make me think we can take this relationship from casual fling to something a little more serious.) “I’m picking Carolina.”
Ross’s Pick: This line could be 57 and I’d be taking Carolina. You just can’t trust Geno Smith on the road against a playoff-bound team that happens to have an incredible defense. Carolina wins big 38-15.
Kansas City (-5) @ Oakland
Julie’s Pick: “Oakland. Those fans are brutal and will get in your head. And they got killed last week. It can’t happen twice in a row.”
Ross’s Pick: As I mentioned in Tuesday’s recap column, beware of Kansas City for the rest of the regular season. They’ve got nothing to play for. The focus should be on keeping everyone healthy and working on any weaknesses that have been exposed this year. I’m assuming Jamaal Charles starts to get a lighter workload during this final stretch. The Raiders cover and win, 23-20.
Arizona (-3) @ Tennessee
Julie’s Pick: “Tennessee. They were so close to an upset last week that they’ll easily cover three this time.” (They lost by 23 points last week.)
Ross’s Pick: I still like the idea of Arizona nipping at the heels of the 49ers for a playoff spot, especially when there’s a potential huge game looming between them in week 17. I don’t love the Cardinals offense on the road against Tennessee, but I’m hoping their defense will balance things out. We’re in for a low-scoring game as Arizona gets the win 17-10.
New Orleans (-7) @ St. Louis
Julie’s Pick: “New Orleans. I just like picking them.” (Last week it was “New Orleans ‘cuz of Katrina.)
Ross’s Pick: One of those rare road games where I don’t worry about the Saints that much. It’s in a dome. The Rams have lost at home to several playoff teams this year. I worry about the backdoor cover a little, but I think the Saints know they need to keep winning to stay ahead of Carolina. Let’s go with a Saints win, 34-24.
Green Bay @ Dallas (-7)
Julie’s Pick: “Is Aaron Rodgers back?” (I inform her that he most likely isn’t…) “I’m gonna take Dallas then. They can take advantage of a team that lacks any stability right now.”
Ross’s Pick: I wholeheartedly agree with Julie on this one. The Packers are 1-4-1 since Rodgers went down. They have no chance with Matt Flynn. Dallas covers, 31-17. But if Rodgers should end up playing, I’m calling this pick null and void.
Cincinnati (-3) @ Pittsburgh
Julie’s Pick: “I wanna say Cincinnati because I’ve never liked Pittsburgh, but I’m gonna say Pittsburgh.”
Ross’s Pick: “I know the Bengals aren’t locked into their playoff position yet, but I feel like ultra-conservative Marvin Lewis is going to treat the next three games as if it’s more important to stay healthy than to fight for the #2 seed. And for the most part, these AFC North games belong to the home team. So I’m going with Pittsburgh in a 27-20 win. (CONFIDENCE PICK)
Baltimore @ Detroit (-6)
Julie’s Pick: “Can you tell me how many underdogs and how many overdogs I’ve picked so far?” (Yep, overdogs. I can’t make this stuff up. I tell her it’s an even split.) “Then Detroit obviously because it’s unrealistic to think that many underdogs would win in a week.
Ross’s Pick: It’s impossible to trust Detroit at this point. They should have run away with the division as soon as Rodgers got injured. Instead they’re just 2-3 since that NFC North-altering moment. And Baltimore just won’t go away. I lack faith in both these teams so I’m going with the one that has a championship pedigree. Baltimore covers and wins, 30-28.
For those of you keeping score at home, in week 15 Julie’s taking:
- 7 Favorites & 9 Underdogs
- Of those 9 Underdogs, 7 are Home Dogs & 2 are Road Dogs
- 9 Favorites & 7 Underdogs
- Of those 7 Underdogs, 5 are Home Dogs & 2 are Road Dogs
Enjoy week 15!