Week 15 was another great week for me picking these games, as I went 11-5 for the second consecutive week and improved to 127-97 against the spread overall. The slate for the penultimate week of the 2019 regular season is somewhat better, but a bunch of these games looks like they could go either way. Also, we have three Saturday games this week! That could also lead to more variance due to uneven scheduling this late in the season. Nevertheless, I’m going to give it my best shot.
So without any further ado, let’s try not to get embarrassed!
(Betting lines via Caesar’s Sportsbook; last updated December #20th)
HOUSTON TEXANS (9-5) [-3.0] vs. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (7-7)
The first of the trio of Saturday games, this matchup has lost some of its potential luster the last few weeks. Jameis Winston has been playing insane as of late, winning four straight games, but now Chris Godwin is likely out for this matchup along with Mike Evans. The Texans got a critical win in Tennessee last week, and a win here plus the Titans losing to the Saints would clinch an AFC South division title for them.
Quite frankly, I see a lot of similarities between these teams. High-powered offenses, shaky defenses, but solid coaching all-around. The one major difference of course is Deshaun Watson isn’t nearly as mistake-prone as Jameis. Couple that with a depleted-receiving corps and I have a good feeling this will be a good weekend overall for Texans fans.
THE PICK: Texans (-3.0)
BUFFALO BILLS (10-4) vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (11-3) [-6.5]
Well, things could get interesting here.
Buffalo is only a game out of the AFC East lead, thanks in large part to their suffocating defense that made the Steelers look like an offense from the 1950s. New England survived a quarter and a half scare against the Bengals and eventually slaughtered them, as many expected. The first matchup between these two teams saw the Pats pull out a win in a defensive slugfest, and I expect the exact same thing this week. Although New England’s offense is still a mess (despite putting up 34 on Cincy), I still trust them more than Josh Allen and the rest of the Bills on that side of the ball. These are also the freakin’ Patriots, so no one would be shocked if things just somehow come all together for them.
THE PICK: Patriots (-6.5)
LOS ANGELES RAMS (8-6) vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (11-3) [-6.5]
On paper, this looks like one of the best games of the week. Are we sure about that?
I’m not very worried about the Niners, as I can see a young team taking their foot off the gas after their insane win over New Orleans (although, the Saints beat the snot out of Indy on Monday Night Football… oh well). It’s the Rams, who laid about the biggest egg possible against Dallas on Sunday. Jared Goff still doesn’t look right, but he does have a thumb injury and his protection has been dreadful this season.
But hey, look on the bright side! All the Rams o-line has to do this week is go up against… Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Solomon Thomas. I’d be worried too. San Francisco should get back in the win column this weekend.
THE PICK: 49ers (-6.5)
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (5-9) vs. ATLANTA FALCONS (5-9) [-7.0]
Talk about playing spoiler!
Gardner Minshew and the Jags ripped out the hearts of every citizen from Oakland when they came back and beat the Raiders in the last home game ever in the coliseum. While that matchup has a sentimental effect, in reality, it was just two bad teams going against each other and one team was simply even more… bad.
The Atlanta Falcons aren’t very good either, but I trust them a heck of a lot more than Oakland or Jacksonville. Despite a porous defense, Matt Ryan is still a great quarterback, and it looks like Julio Jones might go bananas for the rest of the season with Calvin Ridley on injured reserve. It’s crazy how awful this once great Jacksonville defense has become, and I fully expect Dan Quinn’s guys to keep playing possessed in a last-ditch effort for their coach.
THE PICK: Falcons (-7.0)
BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-2) [-10.0] vs. CLEVELAND BROWNS (6-8)
This is a rematch from Week 4 when the Browns surprisingly took apart this Ravens team. Fast forward two months and Cleveland is back to being the drama-filled mess we all know and love.
The reports that Browns’ players are literally telling their opponents after games to “come and get them” is absurd, and speaks to how dismal the culture is there. It’s so bad that even with their lofty preseason expectations, they are 6-8. This may be the most dysfunctional mediocre team of all time. You would think that they are 3-11 or something.
I don’t expect Cleveland to put up any fight in this game unless Baker Mayfield goes off. Lamar will do his thing and the Ravens will lock up their bye for the playoffs.
THE PICK: Ravens (-10.0)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-3) [-2.0] vs. TENNESSEE TITANS (8-6)
One of the best games this weekend, the Saints shouldn’t take this matchup lightly.
Despite their loss to Houston, the Titans didn’t look bad at all. Ryan Tannehill was still solid, and it really came down to a few plays here and there. I trust in Mike Vrabel to not have his football team give up. The Saints, as I mentioned before, did not pull a San Francisco and take the night off. They slaughtered Indy on Monday night, and Drew Brees broke the NFL’s all-time passing touchdown record. The Saints are always a different team outside of the dome, but there shouldn’t be any concerns about the weather in Nashville this weekend. The Titans have been a fun team to track this year, but unfortunately, I believe their playoff aspirations will vanish after this game.
THE PICK: Saints (-2.0)
CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-9) vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (6-8) [-6.5]
We should come up with a new title for certain games. We already have the #StinkerOfTheWeek (which is coming up very, very shortly). For games like Panthers-Colts, we should have the #WhyAmIWatchingThisGameOfTheWeek.
It’s one thing to have two bad teams face-off, but in my opinion, it’s ten times worse when the two most bleh units square off. I guess there is a certain level of excitement for Panthers fans, as their rookie third-rounder Will Grier will get the start for them this week. It makes sense for Carolina to get a look at him before the offseason, but it’s always worrisome when he wasn’t starting in front of the undrafted rookie Kyle Allen in the first place. The Colts have been in a downward spiral, and it will be interesting to see how they rebound in 2020.
Regardless, I’m still a huge Frank Reich fan, and Jacoby Brissett should have a better game than he did at New Orleans against an underperforming and disappointing defense.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (1-13) vs. MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-11) – EVEN
I lied before, this isn’t just the Week 16 #StinkerOfTheWeek. It’s the 2019 #StinkerOfTheYear!
Both of these teams have been downright dreadful this season. The Bengals are the front-runners for Joe Burrow, or in other words the #1 pick in the draft. It feels like ions ago when they nearly upset Seattle in Week 1, but outside of a win against the Jets, it’s been a tough season for Cincy fans. Miami, on the other hand, has had more success with less talent, but are still atrocious. Brian Flores has done a remarkable job balancing patience and success in his first season, but that doesn’t mean the team doesn’t suck.
If anybody actually puts money on this game, they should be drug tested. At the end of the day, I like Cincinnati to win for basically the same reason that I like the Giants last week versus Miami: They’re awful, but they actually have NFL-caliber players at most positions.
THE PICK: Bengals (EVEN)
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-6) [-3.5] vs. NEW YORK JETS (5-9)
Get ready for the James Conner show!
The Steelers running back will need to make sure his recently healed shoulder injury is 100% because they’re going to need to work him like a servant in this game. Mike Tomlin has decided to stick with Devlin Hodges as their starting quarterback for this matchup in New York, which may seem like sentencing yourself to death. Tomlin knows he has a nearly-elite defense, and that plus the running game is what will determine their success. I’m easily more confident in Sam Darnold and his offensive weapons in this game, and the Jets do have the second-best rushing defense in the league.
You know, I just talked myself into an upset. I simply don’t trust Pittsburgh’s offense at this point, and if they do pull out the win, it’ll be close.
THE PICK: Jets (+3.5)
NEW YORK GIANTS (3-11) vs. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-11) [-2.0]
For as awful as this game is, I do feel very confident in one of these teams.
The Giants actually pulled out a win last week, throttling the Dolphins in what was Eli Manning’s possible last start at home. it was a nice moment for the two-time Super Bowl champ, and it remains to be seen if he’ll start once more for Big Blue this week. As for Washington, they surely must’ve been happy with the way Dwayne Haskins performed last week against Philadelphia. They didn’t come out on top at the end, but if Haskins can string together a few more performances like that, the fanbase should certainly be excited for what’s to come.
With that being said, the Redskins secondary has been a train=wreck lately, and just from watching them (well, that’s an embarrassing admission), they just seem lifeless. The Giants defense is bad too, but they’re also very young and try. Is a pointless win this late in the year worth it over the chance to draft Chase Young? For Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman, it is.
THE PICK: Giants (+2.0)
DETROIT LIONS (3-10-1) vs. DENVER BRONCOS (5-9) [-7.0]
Another fairly boring game, the Broncos will host the flailing Lions in a matchup that nobody on the planet cares will care about. Drew Lock finally looked human last week, struggling mightily against the Chiefs and their suddenly impressive defense. Luckily for Lock, the Lions are an abomination on both sides of the ball, so he should expect a bounce-back performance.
Lions owner Martha Ford announced Tuesday that head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn will return in 2020. Although both have struggled in their respective roles, the franchise will be hoping to see how they’ll perform with a fully healthy Matthew Stafford next season. My guess is they’ll still be about an 8-8 team, but who knows?
Despite a decent-sized line, I’ll still go with Denver in this one. For some reason, Detroit isn’t mentioned very often with the rest of the bottom-barrel teams in the league. Hint hint, they should.
THE PICK: Broncos (-7.0)
OAKLAND RAIDERS (6-8) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (5-9) [-7.0]
Let me be honest with you guys. Sometimes, I’ll pick a team to cover even though I’m fairly certain they’re not going too. I know I know, what’s the point of that? Allow me to explain.
The Raiders are awful. They have taken some baby steps from their miserable 2018 season in terms of record, but they still possess a -112 point differential, worse than the Cardinals, Jets, and Giants. Meanwhile, despite a 5-9 record, Los Angeles is +9, which is only two points worse than Houston! So what does that mean?
The Chargers are easily better than the Raiders in every facet of the game, but they are very unreliable, perhaps the team with the least confidence in the league. I simply cannot pick the Raiders to cover this spread because in my viewpoint, it’s more likely they get bodied than keeping it close. Got it now?
This might be the worst section of this article I’ve ever written, which means stay away from this game in real life.
THE PICK: Chargers (-7.0)
DALLAS COWBOYS (7-7) [-1.5] vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (7-7)
Dallas. Philadelphia. Sunday. 4:25 P.M. The NFC East title on the line. Who’s going to screw themselves?
Both teams have suffered from hard times this year. Dallas, with all of the talent in the world, just can’t seem to take down any formidable opponents (excluding the Rams last week). For the last several weeks, Philly needs a last-minute miracle to stay alive in this race. I will say this though: Carson Wentz is having a good year. Not as good as Dak, but when you look at the dearth of weapons at his disposal, it’s hard to put the blame on him.
I like the Cowboys in this game. Not just because of the Eagles’ injuries and lack of defensive prowess. I just believe Dallas rediscovered their formula for success: Establish the run and make Dak manage the game while allowing him to make some splash plays. If they have a similar performance as the one last week, this team could be scary in the playoffs.
THE PICK: Cowboys (-1.5)
ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-9-1) vs. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-3) [-9.5]
In this NFC West matchup, the Cardinals will look to play spoiler for the second straight week. After knocking Cleveland from the AFC playoff picture last Sunday, Kliff Kingsbury’s team will now look to rip away the #1 seed in the NFC that the Seahawks currently possess.
Kyler Murray looked really good last week against a solid Browns defense, and now he gets a weak Seattle secondary that is prone to allowing big gains which always keeps games closer than they should. Of course, having Russell Wilson makes up for that, and Chris Carson is solidifying himself as a star running back. At the end of the day, I like Seattle to win, but it will be close. This Arizona team has shown they aren’t a pushover.
THE PICK: Cardinals (+9.5)
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-4) [-6.0] vs. CHICAGO BEARS (7-7)
Despite the Bears being eliminated from playoff contention, this should be an entertaining primetime game Sunday night on NBC.
The main reasons that Chicago regressed this season were 1) Their defense has been good, but not nearly as elite as last year and 2) Mitchell Trubisky’s development has stagnated. Speaking on behalf of the latter, the third-year gunslinger (maybe not the most accurate word) returned to his inefficient ways against Green Bay last week, and it’s safe to say next year is do or die time for Trubisky. I can see this playing out similarly to Marcus Mariota and the Titans, especially if they bring in a respected backup.
Kansas City has always been good, but now they’re starting to look terrifying each passing week with their defense playing as well as it has. It’s always nice when you don’t need to solely rely on Patrick Mahomes to win you ball games.
There is always a chance this Bears defense can make things somewhat interesting, but with them already looking towards next season, who knows if they’re going to go all out in this one.
THE PICK: Chiefs (-6.0)
GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-3) vs. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-4) [-5.5]
Truly saving the best game for last, these two NFC North powerhouses will square off Monday night with the division title in mind.
Green Bay, for as good as their record is, still doesn’t appear to have the trust of many onlookers. Maybe it’s because Aaron Rodgers, who is having a fine season, simply hasn’t played to his potential this year. To myself, it’s more of the Packers finally having a balanced offense with a solid running game, and oh yeah, A GOOD DEFENSE FOR ONCE!
You could also make the argument that despite their loss to Green Bay in Week 2, the Vikings have looked like the more impressive team. They have dealt with injuries to Adam Theilen and now Dalvin Cook this year, but their four losses have been by an average of a little over six points. Now that they’re home, in which they are undefeated at the season, by the way, the momentum surely swings in their favor.
It’s always hard to bet against an Aaron Rodgers-led team in primetime, but this Vikings team has been playing well enough on all cylinders that it may not be much of a shock if they win handily.
THE PICK: Vikings (-5.5)