Call me the LA Rams because I’m starting a late-season rally!
Finally, I had a good week picking games, going 11-5 in Week 14 to bump myself up to 116-92 overall. The slate of games this week is… subpar. That’s my opinion at least, but we still have a couple of intriguing matchups that will certainly affect the playoff race.
So without any further ado, let’s try not to get embarrassed!
(Betting lines via Caesar’s Sportsbook; last updated December #13th)
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-3) [-10.0] vs. CINCINNATI BENGALS (1-12)
The best medicine to cure a two-game losing streak? The Bengals of course.
Who would’ve thought after the first half of the season that the Patriots wouldn’t be double-digit favorites over Cincinnati later in the year? Yet here we are. It’s not a testament to the Bengals, but more of the strangely inept offense displayed by New England lately. Nonetheless, this Cincinnati defense is slow and putrid, and despite some improved offense on their part ever since Andy Dalton was reinserted as the starting quarterback, it’s going to get ugly this week.
THE PICK: Patriots (-10.0)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (6-7) [-3.5] vs. DETROIT LIONS (3-9-1)
Both of these teams are out of the NFC playoff hunt but are going in opposite directions. Tampa Bay has been on a three-game streak thanks to their offense, while Detroit has been unwatchable with all of their injuries. David Blough struggled badly against Minnesota, but he should find more success against the Bucs. Meanwhile, Jameis Winston will try to play through a thumb fracture and Mike Evans is out for the year with a hamstring ailment. However, Chris Godwin has proven to be a #1 wide receiver in the NFL, and I still like Bruce Arians’ team to improve the team to .500 this week.
THE PICK: Buccaneers (-3.5)
CHICAGO BEARS (7-6) vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (10-3) [-4.5]
These two rivals haven’t met since the first game of the season, in which Green Bay pulled out a 10-3 win. Since then, the Packers are largely in the playoff race and the Bears would need a miracle to make it. Mitchell Trubisky has actually looked solid the last two weeks, throwing for six total touchdowns in back-to-back wins over Detroit and Dallas, respectively. Albeit, both of those teams are struggling, and now he has to conquer a ferocious Green Bay pass-rush that will cause havoc all game. The Packers surprisingly struggled to score against Washington last week, and it will be hard for Aaron Jones to have similar success against a more stout run defense, but I still like the Packers to sweep the season series.
THE PICK: Packers (-4.0)
HOUSTON TEXANS (8-5) vs. TENNESSEE TITANS (8-5) [-3.0]
Believe it or not, this is the game of the week. It sounds ludicrous, but even with the Bills-Steelers on primetime, this matchup has a better mesh of talent and meaning.
The winner will be the new leader in the AFC South, and even though they meet once more in Week 17 (which looks to be the primetime game then, with San Francisco-Seattle also in contention), a lot of takeaways will come from this game. The Texans are coming off an embarrassing loss at home to Denver in which their horrid defense made it look like they played the ’98 Broncos. Tennessee on the other hand… holy moly. What a turnaround since benching Marcus Mariota. Now that this team has an offensive identity coupled with a great defense, they’re a team that could make some noise if they make the playoffs. A lot of people are going to pick the upset, and I don’t blame them, but I’m sticking with the Titans. Not only will their defense give Deshaun Watson fits, but they should also be able to put up points both in the air and on the ground against this struggling defensive unit.
THE PICK: Titans (-3.0)
DENVER BRONCOS (5-8) vs. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (9-4) [-9.5]
Honestly, I’m a little juiced for this game.
The Broncos are out of the playoff hunt, but they could play spoiler for a few teams late in the year. That may start with a date on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. Since returning from injury, Patrick Mahomes has looked good, but not his usual dominant self. It’s not a large concern, especially with KC’s improved defensive play as of late, but it would be foolish to expect a monster game from him this week, especially against Vic Fangio’s defense. It will be interesting to see if Drew Lock can continue his success, but I do entrust in the Broncos to make things somewhat interesting against the AFC West champs.
THE PICK: Broncos (+9.5)
MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-10) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS (2-11) [-3.5]
Easily the Week 15 #StinkerOfTheWeek, these two terrible squads will face off in which the winner is actually the loser, and is one step closer to Joe Burrow or Chase Young.
The Giants were up 17-3 at Philadelphia Monday but proceeded to give up twenty unanswered points en route to a 23-17 overtime loss. Thankfully for Giants fans, news broke Tuesday that Pat Shurmur is expected to be let go, and general manager Dave Gettleman is on thin ice as well. Hopefully, this once-proud franchise can turn themselves around quickly, and I like their chances for a win this week. While Miami is certainly coached better and has been slightly more competitive, their complete lack of talent makes them an absolute wildcard when it comes to betting on them. Add in the tiny line, and I prefer the G-Men in this one.
THE PICK: Giants (-3.5)
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (6-7) [-5.0] vs. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-10)
The Eagles dodged a major bullet in their comeback win over the Giants last Monday, as a loss would’ve put a nail in their season. All is not well in Philly however, as now Alshon Jeffery is done for the year and stud right tackle Lane Johnson is likely to miss multiple weeks. It has been an injury-marred year for the former Super Bowl Champs, but that doesn’t mean these Redskins are a threat. Washington is dealing with its own injuries, as now Derrius Guice is done for the year with an MCL injury. It has been a disappointing season for both of these NFC East teams, but Doug Pederson should have the Eagles fully motivated this week knowing a dominant win will booster his team’s confidence heading into a crucial matchup with Dallas next week.
THE PICK: Eagles (-5.0)
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (10-3) [-6.5] vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-8)
Vegas really screwed us over with this line.
Seattle is a good team that has gotten extremely lucky in close games this season, and I was hoping they would be favored around seven or eight points despite being on the road against a Panthers team that is mailed it in. Nope, the bookmakers know what’s good.
It’s going to be a very interesting offseason for Carolina, and if they hire an offensive-minded coach, it could be a sign that they are looking to draft a quarterback early in the 2020 draft. Kyle Allen has shown he’s not god-awful but is also not the franchise savior. As for Seattle, they are still playing for a bye in the NFC playoffs, so there is certainly more motivation for them. Simple as that.
THE PICK: Seahawks (-6.5)
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-9) vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6-7) [-6.5]
Is there a more boring team in the league this year than the Jacksonville Jaguars? If their quarterback didn’t look like Uncle Rico, then what is this team’s appeal? They have some nice pieces on offense, but their defense has just gone completely under and I believe Doug Marrone sees the writing on the wall for his tenure there.
The Raiders have had more success, but they are kind of like a worse version of Seattle, where all of their wins have been by one possession or less. This may be the week for a blowout because this is a Jags team that just got 45 hung on them by the Chargers. If Josh Jacobs returns and is the bell-cow back then this is one that could get ugly. I’m not entirely confident in this pick, but Jacksonville has looked so disgraceful lately I can’t maintain any confidence for them.
THE PICK: Raiders (-6.5)
CLEVELAND BROWNS (6-7) [-3.0] vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-9-1)
The battle of the back-to-back #1 overall picks and Heisman-winning quarterbacks from Oklahoma will commence Sunday when the Browns take on the Cardinals. Both Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield have struggled this season, but I do expect them to have long and successful careers once their situations get better. Whereas the Cardinals are in the midst of a rebuild, Cleveland fans were gassing up a Super Bowl before the year started. I mean, are people really that stupid?
We should’ve known the Browns would falter given their history, but this year has been especially discouraging. I’m not sure anything could save Freddie Kitchens’ job unless they SOMEHOW make the playoffs and win a game or two. The Cardinals need to prioritize building an ideal offense for Murray this offseason, as their offensive line is still not good. Another away favorite, but I do like Cleveland in this spot. Freddie’s job depends on it.
THE PICK: Browns (-3.0)
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (9-4) [-1.5] vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (5-8)
Prior to the 2019 NFL season, these were two teams that I saw as being very similar. Solid quarterbacks, good running backs, some o-line issues, but a great defense to lean on. As it turns out, Minnesota has exceeded expectations while the Chargers are worse than I imagined, and beating the bricks off Jacksonville last week won’t sway my opinion.
People aren’t giving Kirk Cousins enough credit for the year he’s having, leading the league in passer rating while completing 70% of his throws. Those stats have also been with a banged-up Adam Thielen and, outside of Stefon Diggs, a shoddy receiving corps. Philip Rivers had success against Jacksonville because their defense is abominable, but the same can’t be said for Minnesota. It will be hard for them to replicate that same success.
THE PICK: Vikings (-1.5)
LOS ANGELES RAMS (8-5) [-1.5] vs. DALLAS COWBOYS (6-7)
Talk about a game that has lost a good amount of appeal.
With the Cowboys’ recent skid, they don’t quite look like the powerhouse many expected them to be. It looked like they quit on Jason Garrett last week against Chicago, and now the Clapper has to take on a resurgent LA Rams team desperate to make the playoffs. As much as the media likes to trash on him, it appears the Dallas players truly love playing for Garrett. He seems like a good guy, but he’s just so bland and has been the es-man for Jerry Jones over the past decade. The Cowboys are going to need a vintage Zeke Elliot game this week, and they’re also going to need Jared Goff to stumble along the way for the Rams. Still, I like Dallas in a small upset, just to add intrigue for their matchup with Philly next week for the division.
THE PICK: Cowboys (+1.5)
ATLANTA FALCONS (4-9) vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (11-2) [-11.0]
The Falcons are another team out of the playoff hunt but it doesn’t mean that this game can’t be entertaining.
We’ve already seen Atlanta pull off the biggest upset of the year against the Saints in Week 10, so can they pull off another one against the elite 49ers? It’s not out of the question. While their defense will certainly give up more than it’s fair share of points, Matt Ryan and the offense can go tit-for-tat with them. Last week against New Orleans was the first game this season we’ve seen the Niners display any sort of defensive inabilities, so maybe they’re easing their foot off the gas before the postseason. Add in the double-digit line, I entrust in Atlanta to at least hang in tight. This does feel like it could blow up in my face, however.
THE PICK: Falcons (+11.0)
BUFFALO BILLS (9-4) vs. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-5) [-1.5]
This week’s Sunday Night Football game is a riveting matchup between… Josh Allen and Duck Hodges. Remember how I said this week’s slate is hot garbage?
These two organizations are currently the two AFC Wild-Card teams, and being in the wild-card is the only way they can stay in the playoffs. The Bills put forth a masterful defensive performance in their loss to Baltimore Sunday, but unfortunately, we saw bad Josh Allen again. The sophomore signal-caller didn’t throw a pick, but only completed 44% of his passes with an average of 3.7 yards per throw. Yikes.
As for Pittsburgh, they’re another team that will have to rely on their defense. Hodges has been an upgrade over Mason Rudolph, but he simply doesn’t make another plays with his arm to be considered a threat to this Buffalo defense. Hopefully, James Conner returns this week because he would be a boon to this offense.
With a matchup this tight, I foresee a well-coached, grind-it-out duel where I prefer Pittsburgh because of their defensive-line pressure and their ability to play a clean game.
THE PICK: Steelers (-1.5)
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (6-7) vs. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-3) [-9.0]
This is one of those games that brings a tear to your eye, as you wonder about the magic that could’ve been displayed in a late-season game between Drew Brees and Andrew Luck.
The Colts haven’t bottomed-out like many expected after Luck’s surprise retirement, but they are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. The Saints, on the other hand, just keep chugging along despite a tough home loss to San Francisco last week. Drew Brees had his best game of the season, throwing for nearly 350 yards and scoring six total touchdowns. It would be crazy to expect that once more this week, but I do like his chances of success against these Colts. Unless Marlon Mack has a crazy game, I don’t see a scenario in which this Jacoby Brissett-led offense puts it to New Orleans.
I’m a big fan of Indy, from their head coach Frank Reich to the talent put in place by Chris Ballard, but more changes will need to be made this offseason to ensure they are a yearly playoff-threat post-Andrew Luck.
THE PICK: Saints (-9.0)