Week 15 NFL Picks

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Well, it’s Saturday and I’m just finally posting my week 15 picks. Life sucks because it keeps getting in the way of my usual football research & writing routine. Oh well. As of the time I’m posting this, there are still 20 hours to get your bets in for the Sunday games. Get on it.

Here are the week 15 picks (yes I realize some of the games have absolutely no commentary this week).

Los Angeles at Seattle (-16) | over/under 38.5

The Pick: Seattle

The Score: Seattle 29, Los Angeles 10

The Bets: Seattle (-6) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Absolutely crazy to back a 16-point favorite in an NFL game. But the Rams and other exceptionally awful teams like Cleveland and San Francisco have made this a crazy betting season.

Getting the Seahawks into a 3-way, 10-point tease is a must-do.

Miami (-3) at NY Jets | over/under 38

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 21, Miami 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

For whatever reason, I was ultra confident in the Jets to cover in San Francisco last week, and I’m jumping right back in. Ryan Tannehill’s injury affects my thinking on this game almost 0%. It’s the end of the line for the Dolphins.

Tennessee at Kansas City (-5.5) | over/under 41.5

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Kansas City 24, Tennessee 19

The Bets: Kansas City (+0.5 or +4.5) in a 2-way or 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Wow. Really feel like this game is going to play out exactly how the Vegas line suggests. Can’t get a read on a straight up bet here.

Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Cincinnati | over/under 44.5

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 24, Pittsburgh 21

The Bets: None

SuperContest: Yes with Cincinnati (+3.5)

Just feels like a half point too high for a December divisional game where the home team is playing for pride and to keep their biggest rival from getting closer to a playoff spot.

Detroit at NY Giants (-4) | over/under 40.5

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: NY Giants 25, Detroit 19

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Feels like this is a matchup of the NFL’s two luckiest teams. But really the Lions are by far the luckier of the two. Detroit has no business having won 9 games.

Indianapolis at Minnesota (-4.5) | over/under 45.5

The Pick: Indianapolis

The Score: Minnesota 21, Indianapolis 20

The Bets: Under (55.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Colts on the road against a good defense + Indy’s defense making people like Brock Osweiler look semi-competent…immediately liked Minnesota.

After a long look at these two teams, I feel good about the Vikings winning, but not by more than 4 points.

Jacksonville at Houston (-5) | over/under 39.5

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Houston 20, Jacksonville 17

The Bets: Jacksonville (+15) in a 3-way tease / Under (49.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Overreaction line to the Texans taking it to Indy on the road? As is customary in AFC South matchups, this is going to be ugly, probably particularly low-scoring.

Where are the points coming from in this game?

Green Bay (-6) at Chicago | over/under 38.5

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Green Bay 24, Chicago 18

The Bets: Green Bay (+4) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Cleveland at Buffalo (-10.5) | over/under 41.5

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 28, Cleveland 16

The Bets: Buffalo (-0.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Buffalo (-10.5)

The Bills in a 3-way tease is probably my favorite teaser component of the week. The Buffalo offense has really only played 3 bad offensive games all year. They’ll get close to 30 in this one, and there’s just no way the Browns can hang.

Philadelphia at Baltimore (-6) | over/under 40.5

The Pick: Philadelphia

The Score: Baltimore 20, Philadelphia 15

The Bets: Under (50.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

The Eagles are 2-8 in their last 10 games and they’ve given up 24 points or more in all 8 of those losses (and under 24 in the 2 wins).

The numbers say Philly will cover, but the gut instinct is that the Ravens are significantly better and they should probably be the pick as long as they’re giving up less than a touchdown.

I say ignore the line and focus on the UNDER. Lock that into a teaser right now.

San Francisco at Atlanta (-13) | over/under 50.5

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: Atlanta 35, San Francisco 23

The Bets: Atlanta (-3) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

New Orleans at Arizona (-3) | over/under 50.5

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 27, New Orleans 23

The Bets: None

SuperContest: Yes with Arizona (-3)

Oakland (-3) at San Diego | over/under 49

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: Oakland 28, San Diego 26

The Bets: Over (39) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Even though the shine’s come off the Chargers after losing 4 of their last 6, most of their games still see a lot of points. I’m confident the over will hit, but I’m extraordinarily confident the teased over of 39 will hit.

New England (-3.5) at Denver | over/under 44

The Pick: Denver

The Score: New England 23, Denver 20

The Bets: Under (54) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Tampa Bay at Dallas (-7) | over/under 47

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 25, Dallas 24

The Bets: Tampa Bay (+17) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Tampa Bay (+7)

Carolina at Washington (-6.5) | over/under 51.5

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 31, Carolina 21

The Bets: Washington (-0.5 or +3.5) in a 2-way or 3-way tease / Over (41.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Washington (-6.5)

Possibly my favorite straight up bet of the week is Washington. They’re good for 30 at home, and the Panthers are 1-5 on the road and have essentially been stuck on 20ish points per game away from North Carolina.

Here are the season-long stats that I’m tracking:

  • Favorites are 92-106-10 against the spread (including 8-7-1 in week 14)
  • The Point Total has landed on Over 104 times, Under 101 times, and Pushed 3 times
  • I’m 111-90-7 against the spread

Enjoy week 15.

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NFL Week 15 Picks and Figuring Out All the Possible Coaching Changes

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This week’s schedule can be viewed in one of two ways:

  1. Amazing Week of Football! Out of 16 games, only two of them don’t have any playoff implications whatsoever (Washington/NY Giants and NY Jets/Tennessee).
  2. Terrible Week of Football! Other than Dallas @ Philadelphia on Sunday night, there are absolutely no matchups where both teams are realistically fighting for the same playoff spot.

Last week, the Dolphins, Bills, Browns, Chargers and 49ers all lost. Wins for each of those teams would have made this week WILDLY entertaining.

While I’m more in the camp of wanting to see two playoff teams facing each other to officially make that game exciting, there is some other excitement launching on the perfect week where our attention won’t be tough to grab. IT’S THE START OF THE JOHNNY MANZIEL ERA!

Last week would have been a tough week to debut Jonathan Football because there was just so much intrigue across so many games. This week? Not so much. Count me among the football fans who will be paying extra attention to that Cleveland/Cincinnati game even though the Browns are almost definitely out of the playoff picture.

Here are all the games that can be appreciated for football reasons this week (except I’m having trouble appreciating a lot of them):

  • Miami (7-6) @ New England (10-3) – Sunday 1pm ET
  • Pittsburgh (8-5) @ Atlanta (5-8) – Sunday 1pm ET
  • Houston (7-6) @ Indianapolis (9-4) – Sunday 1pm ET
  • Green Bay (10-3) @ Buffalo (7-6) – Sunday 1pm ET
  • Cincinnati (8-4-1) @ Cleveland (7-6) – Sunday 1pm ET
  • Denver (10-3) @ San Diego (8-5) – Sunday 4pm ET
  • San Francisco (7-6) @ Seattle (9-4) – Sunday 4:25pm ET
  • Dallas (9-4) @ Philadelphia (9-4) – Sunday Night 8:30pm ET

Before we jump into the picks, I want to expand on my quick take from the week 14 recap article where I mentioned how Jay Gruden should not be fired. By my count, there are 13(!) teams that could be looking for a new head coach as soon as December 29th. While many of those teams will ultimately choose not to fire the incumbent, it’s fun to think about which coach is most likely to be seeking other employment.

Could you imagine an offseason with 13 head coaching vacancies? That would call for a special website where someone tracks all the movements, interviews and press conferences of the candidates and the teams. And I can only think that an organized, practical and calm person like Mike Smith would be the best person to run that website and keep up with all the coaching carousel complexities. It’s fun to dream.

Here is my list of 13 coaches that could be fired, starting with the least likely and moving towards the most likely:

13. Joe Philbin – It’s not that the Dolphins shouldn’t make a change from a coach whose tenure will be most remembered for mediocrity and a bullying scandal among his offensive linemen. It’s just that they won’t. With so many years of failure in Miami, Philbin’s current record of 22-23 must feel like the start of a Hall of Fame career. Philbin can also point to his team’s record improving each of the three years he’s been there, so long as they win two more games this season.

12. Sean Payton – Why is he even on here? Well, I just think any coach who leads a team that was supposed to have the talent of a Super Bowl contender to a likely under .500 record deserves to have his bosses reconsider his job. And the once-vaunted home field advantage of the Saints has disappeared as they’ve now lost four straight in New Orleans. As his team’s defense continues to struggle every single year, eventually Payton will run out of defensive coordinators to blame and the axe will fall on him. Not this year, and probably not until after the 2017 season at earliest as he’s making $8 million per year through then. But for the first time, we have our skeptical eye on you, Sean Payton.

11. Lovie Smith – He might be the most deserving of all the head coaches to get fired considering he runs the worst team in the worst division in football. And even without an answer at QB, this team has the talent to win at least six or seven games. But since he has the coaching pedigree and history, and he’s only in year one of a four-year contract, Smith’s probably going to get some chances to make this team competitive.

10. Ron Rivera – Our third consecutive NFC South coach! All is quiet on the Rivera/Panthers coaching front. That’s odd because he’s in the last year of his contract and is marching his team towards its third sub-.500 season in his four years as head coach. Maybe the awful salary cap situation and the lack of receivers is going to bail him out and get him a contract extension. Maybe Cam Newton missing this weekend’s game with a broken back is another lucky break (get it?) for Rivera as he can point to injuries and a depleted roster as reasons for a 10-loss season. If I were a Carolina fan, I would have certainly seen enough in these four years to feel comfortable moving away from Rivera.

9. Ken Whisenhunt – Here’s another guy who won’t get fired because of his name. Sure, Whisenhunt isn’t even through the first year of trying to fix the Titans, but what about the fact that he might have made them worse? In fact, the Titans are almost guaranteed to have their worst season since they moved from Houston to Tennessee in 1997. I know he’s had to deal with a revolving door at quarterback, but that’s partly his doing. The best coaches come into a bad situation and immediately make it better. Whisenhunt took over a team that finished 7-9 in 2013 and promptly turned it into a 2-14 team.

8. Marc Trestman – What happened to the Quarterback Whisperer that Trestman was supposed to be to Jay Cutler? Trestman’s inclusion on this list is pretty obvious. The Bears are about to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year (though only two of those years will be under Trestman’s leadership), and they appear to have one of the more-talented offenses in all of football. Fans are impatient and so is upper management. Sure, you can blame a rebuilding defense, but that overlooks the fact that the Bears are 25th in offensive DVOA according to FootballOutsiders.com. Teams like the Vikings, Texans and Browns are marching out better offenses than the Bears. That falls directly on Trestman. It sounds like he might be sweating out those first few days after week 17 concludes.

7. Doug Marrone – With a 7-6 record this year, it feels like the Buffalo coach is safe, but the problem for Marrone might come from the change in ownership. This team is under new management, and that new management could want to hire its own guy to kick off 2015 and the New Era Bills. Getting this team to .500 or better with EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton sharing quarterback duties should be looked at as a marvelous feat. Marrone certainly deserves more time, but the situation above him may not allow for it.

6. Jay Gruden – It doesn’t feel right that he’s on this list given how awful this team is across the board. But here’s what I’m not sure of: What if Gruden’s pitch to Dan Snyder that led to him getting the job was that he could “fix” RG3. I’m not saying that happened, but what if it did? Or what if he had all these grand plans for the star-crossed quarterback and none of that is panning out. Then, couldn’t Snyder justify firing Gruden and keeping RG3? My money’s on RG3 getting traded or cut and Gruden sticking around, but with such a batshit crazy owner, you should never feel safe.

5. Gus Bradley – The Jaguars have been saying and doing all the right things in terms of taking the long approach to rebuilding. But billionaires get just as impatient as you and I. Bradley led the Jags to a 4-12 record last year, and it looks like it might take a Herculean effort in their final three games for Jacksonville to match that mark this year. Small chunks of progress are OK, but what happens when a bad team takes a step back? Does the Blake Bortles development project save Bradley for one or two more years? Probably, but I’d never want to be the guy who just led a football team to a 7-25 record over two years.

4. Mike Smith – How this guy’s not at the top of my list is beyond me. He’s easily the worst in-game coach of this entire group. Imagine if an NFL team stuck you at the head coach position randomly with no advanced warning. Sure, you theoretically know what a coach is supposed to do, but you’d have no idea how to work your headset, what any of the play calls mean, which players play on special teams, what the proper way is to call a timeout or challenge a play…you’d be so overwhelmed even the coin flip would confuse you. And that, ladies & gentlemen, is Mike Smith in a nutshell. I don’t need to go on and on about the many reasons this man should be fired. My only concern is that Arthur Blank gets hoodwinked into extending Smith once again if he somehow gets the Falcons into the playoffs. For that reason, and because these next three coaches seem like locks to be leaving their teams, I’ve got the worst coach in football as only the fourth most likely to be fired after the season.

3. Rex Ryan – Let me go on record saying I don’t think the Jets should fire Rex Ryan. Painful as it is to admit, he’s a good coach. Even if he’s only OK from an offensive standpoint and outstanding defensively, that’s still better than a lot of the other head coaches around the league. He’s been saddled with terrible QBs his entire time in New York, and recently the roster has become a dumpster fire. Get rid of the General Manager, resign Rex for three more years, and start over. But it seems like a foregone conclusion that he’ll be out after week 17.

3a. Jim Harbaugh – Confession time. In the original version of this column, I completely forgot about Harbaugh all together. That’s a huge oversight because much like Rex Ryan, it feels like a foregone conclusion that he’ll be leaving. And just like with Ryan in New York, I think it’s a huge mistake for the 49ers to get rid of Harbaugh unless he wants to be let out of his contract really really badly. He’s just too good of a coach to give up on.

2. Tom Coughlin – Times they are a-changin’ in New York. The speculation for New York’s other team is that Coughlin will step down rather than officially be fired. This is one I’m not sure about because you always need to ask, “Oh yeah, who are you gonna replace him with that’ll be any better?” And I’m not sure anyone will be immediately better than Tom Coughlin.

1. Oakland Raiders – Needless to say, they have an interim head coach in Tony Sparano right now and it’s highly unlikely he keeps the job. It sounds like the Raiders are going big after Jim Harbaugh, Jon Gruden and probably a bunch of other high-profile guys who will ultimately say no and then laugh to themselves about how crazy they were to even consider Oakland.

And now for the week 14 picks.

Arizona @ St. Louis (-4.5)

  • The Pick: Arizona
  • The Score: Arizona 26, St. Louis 13

From the most simplistic point of view, we have a 10-3 team getting 4.5 points against a 6-7 team. That doesn’t make sense. But the Cardinals aren’t being treated like a normal 10-win team because of their Drew Stanton situation and a rash of injuries across the roster.

This line is a representation of what we’re going to see with St. Louis next season. They will absolutely be a wildly popular “sleeper playoff” pick. But they’ll be so popular they’ll become overrated, which is what I think is going on with this particular point spread. The Rams bandwagon is about to explode under its own weight. Jump off with me if you’re smart.

Pitttsburgh (-2.5) @ Atlanta

  • The Pick: Atlanta
  • The Score: Atlanta 27, Pittsburgh 24

Hey, if the NFC South is the worst division in NFL history, what does that make the Steelers? A loss to Atlanta on Sunday would give the Steelers a 1-3 record against the league’s worst division this year.

I made a promise to myself after last week to never again bet on games involving an AFC North team, and I plan to stick with that. This is a stayaway game for me. If Julio Jones plays at close to 100%, I like the Falcons outright.

Washington @ NY Giants (-6.5)

  • The Pick: Washington
  • The Score: Washington 20, NY Giants 19

I joked two weeks ago that the Giants might be officially tanking at this point. With a win last week in Tennessee, they disproved that theory. And sure, they don’t have a shot at the #1 overall pick in the 2015 Draft. But with only a one-game lead over Washington, don’t you think the Giants at least want a shot to draft before their division rival. And aren’t the PotatoSkins thinking the same thing? No team wants another team in its division taking a franchise player just one or two spots before they were going to draft that guy.

With both teams tanking, you gotta take the underdog and assume it’s going to be an atrocious, low-scoring debacle.

Miami @ New England (-8)

  • The Pick: New England
  • The Score: New England 37, Miami 17

It’s the Patriots at home in December in a year where their defense has become dominant right before our eyes. That should be enough. But in case you need more, remember that the Dolphins are dead men walking this week. Their bad loss at home to Baltimore in week 14 killed their playoff chances, and now they travel to cold New England with not much to play for.

Oakland @ Kansas City (-10.5)

  • The Pick: Oakland
  • The Score: Kansas City 24, Oakland 18

Other than an incompetent referee ripping a win away from the Chiefs in Arizona last week, the most troubling thing I saw was Alex Smith repeatedly throwing less than 10 yards down the field on the game’s final drive when time was running out. Whether it’s his limitations or the lack of good receivers, this offense doesn’t go unless Jamaal Charles is having a monster day. Either way, this line is higher than I’m willing to go on Kansas City at the moment (and Charles hasn’t practiced this week, in case that helps convince you).

Houston @ Indianapolis (-7)

  • The Pick: Houston
  • The Score: Indianapolis 34, Houston 30

Cleveland’s choke job against Indy last week ended any realistic scenario where Houston steals the AFC South. The Texans have to end the season with one more win than Indy based on tiebreakers. So if the Texans go 3-0 and Indy goes 0-3…not going to happen.

Can the Texans sneak in as a Wildcard? They’re currently “the best” of the five 7-6 AFC teams, but need to catch and pass two of the 8-5 teams (Pittsburgh, San Diego and Baltimore). It sounds like they can’t afford any more losses this season. I don’t see it. But congrats are in order for Houston for having a solid bounceback season after 2013’s disaster. The scheduled helped, but they still had to go out and win the games. Now there’s just that small matter of finding a quarterback.

As for the point spread…I noticed the Colts have demolished every crappy team (Jacksonville, Tennessee, the Giants and Washington), but haven’t really had any blowouts (except for the Cincy game) against mediocre or good teams. The Texans aren’t crappy. I think this will be similar to Indy’s 33-28 win over Houston two months ago.

Cincinnati @ Cleveland (PICK)

  • The Pick: Cleveland
  • The Score: Cleveland 16, Cincinnati 6

 

Remember, games featuring a single AFC North team, let alone two of those teams, are a complete stayaway at this point. Add the Johnny Manziel unknown to the Bengals’ sudden troubles with winning at home and you might as well flip a coin…which is exactly what I did for this pick. My coin said Cleveland.

 

Jacksonville @ Baltimore (-14)

  • The Pick: Baltimore
  • The Score: Baltimore 35, Jacksonville 0

 

The Jaguars are probably rooting for Baltimore as much as any Baltimore player or fan is. They don’t want to fall down the draft board with more wins when the season’s already over. And this year they’ve got some stiff competition at the bottom of the league (the Jets, Oakland, Tennessee, Washington, Tampa Bay).

 

The Ravens own the bad teams this year, especially at home. A shutout seems almost a given.

 

Green Bay (-5.5) @ Buffalo

  • The Pick: Green Bay
  • The Score: Green Bay 31, Buffalo 21

 

The Packers are 3-3 on the road. In two of their three road wins, they won by only a field goal. So yeah, they’re a very different team away from Lambeau Field. With the Bills having the 2nd best defense in the league according to FootballOutsiders.com, the instinct here is to grab the points and think that defense can slow Aaron Rodgers down. But I worry that at the end of this game we’ll all be kicking ourselves for going against Rodgers in December in a season where he’s putting up some of the greatest numbers in the history of the QB position.

 

Tampa Bay @ Carolina (-3)

  • The Pick: Tampa Bay
  • The Score: Tampa Bay 26, Carolina 6

 

First of all, the value of Cam Newton to the Carolina Panthers according to Vegas is three points. That’s how much this line changed when Newton was officially announced as out for this game on Wednesday. Just thought you’d like to know.

 

Second of all, with news coming Wednesday that Newton wasn’t at fault for the accident, why haven’t I heard about Carolina fans hunting down the other driver who was at fault? Shouldn’t this be more of a story? Or at least grant me this: If Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning had been in an accident that caused them to miss at least one game at the end of the year that could have HUGE ramifications on their team’s postseason chances, the person who caused that accident would possibly have to go into hiding for a bit, right?

 

Either way, leave it to the NFC South, am I right? A team that hadn’t won a game in 62 days, the Panthers, gets a key road win that puts them just a half game out of first place with three winnable games remaining on the schedule but now they’ll have to do at least past of it with Derek Anderson. I’m taking Tampa Bay because I apparently suck as much as this division does.

 

NY Jets (-3) @ Tennessee

  • The Pick: Tennessee
  • The Score: Tennessee 6, NY Jets 2

 

I guessed that Tennessee would be a three-point favorite. Well then.

 

What about these two teams makes any line other than Tennessee -3 feasible? They’re the same. They both suck. They both have to start from scratch with the quarterback depth chart. They both rank in the bottom five of almost every important statistical category. I just don’t see how the Jets are so much better that they’d be road favorites. I know we make jokes all the time about how we should be able to keep certain games off the Red Zone Channel entirely, but maybe we can finally do it with this game on Sunday. Who even has fantasy players in their starting lineup from either of those two teams?

 

Denver (-4.5) @ San Diego

  • The Pick: Denver
  • The Score: Denver 33, San Diego 26

 

I know the Chargers won three in a row before Sunday night’s loss to New England, but I still don’t see a fully operational team, especially on offense. The Broncos can play a similar defense to New England and potentially execute offensively better than the Patriots did.

 

Much like the Texans, the Chargers should probably get any idea of winning the West out of their heads right now. Even if they beat Denver on Sunday, they’d almost definitely need the Raiders to beat Denver in week 17. That sounds impossible, and even if that somehow happened, the Chargers would need to win out at San Francisco and at Kansas City.

 

Minnesota @ Detroit (-8)

  • The Pick: Detroit
  • The Score: Detroit 38, Minnesota 15

 

The Vikings are 4-2 in their last six games and they haven’t lost by double digits since week 6 when they faced, who else, Detroit.

 

But I’m going with the Lions because it seems like there’s a very specific blueprint for beating them this year, and Minnesota doesn’t have the means to follow those instructions. The Detroit defense should swallow up any offense the Vikings throw at them. And a lack of great pass rush on Matt Stafford will make things easy on the Lions offense. This might be my favorite pick of the week.

 

San Francisco @ Seattle (-10)

  • The Pick: San Francisco
  • The Score: Seattle 27, San Francisco 23

 

You’re right that I’m crazy to expect much out of the 49ers after Seattle held them to just three points 17 days prior to this game. All San Francisco did after that game is lose badly in Oakland.

 

We always do this thing where we mentally eliminate any team that has to win three in a row to close out the season to qualify for the playoffs. But someone’s going to surprise us and go on a run. It shouldn’t even be a surprise since there are dozens of three-game win streaks across all teams over the course of a year. The 49ers themselves have had two separate three-game win streaks this season.

 

Wouldn’t it be just like the NFL for the team with the hardest remaining schedule to be the one that goes 3-0 to sneak into the playoffs? I’m going with San Francisco to win outright.

 

Dallas @ Philadelphia (-3.5)

  • The pick: Philadelphia
  • The Score: Philadelphia 31, Dallas 14

 

It would be funny to see Dallas win this game but lose in Washington in week 17 to blow their playoff spot to the Eagles. That’s my favorite scenario for this division.

 

But I think the Cowboys’ defense could make Mark Sanchez look like a keeper, and it just feels like Dallas has a bigger hole in their roster (secondary/pass rush) than the Eagles.

 

New Orleans (-3) @ Chicago

  • The Pick: Chicago
  • The Score: Chicago 25, New Orleans 23

 

This is fucking nuts. How can you make the Saints a full field goal favorite on the road?

 

Here are the Bears’ five wins in 2014: @San Francisco, @Jets, @Atlanta, home against Minnesota, home against Tampa Bay.

 

Here are the Saints’ five wins in 2014: home against Minnesota, home against Tampa Bay, home against Green Bay, @Carolina, @Pittsburgh.

 

The Saints’ victories aren’t noticeably better than the Bears’ wins, are they? I just don’t see how the line swung so far in New Orleans’ direction.

 

I’d like to tell you there’s no need to watch two 5-8 teams battle on a meaningless Monday Night Football game, but the Saints could enter this game with a chance to take a one-game lead in the NFC South! Must-see TV!

Enjoy week 15!

Week 15 NFL Picks: Running Back the Girlfriend’s Picks

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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
And I’m taking:
  • 9 Favorites & 7 Underdogs
  • Of those 7 Underdogs, 5 are Home Dogs & 2 are Road Dogs
And finally, we have the same pick in 8 of 16 games.

Enjoy week 15!