Last week, I was 13-3. I make some tough picks, but ultimately the solid showing allows me to finally hold my head up high once again. Now, unfortunately for me, this week looks clear on paper, yet we all know that it is never that simple, so I have some upset picks that figure to get some odd looks.
I only missed on Oakland, St. Louis and Dallas last week.
Oakland lost to a Jets team that has to be the most difficult team to access week-in and week-out. I don’t even feel bad about not taking the Jets in that one.
St. Louis was my big upset pick last week. It was a lot to ask of them to march into Arizona and steal one from the Cardinals. St. Louis, while dangerous, seems to simply lack the overall talent, especially with the injuries they have encountered, to compete with complete football teams. They have to like seeing Washington lose though. St. Louis could end up with a clear top-three pick when it is all said and done because they essentially traded Washington the second overall pick, Robert Griffin III.
Dallas’ defense is awful and the Bears offense is playing incredibly well with their star receivers. I’m embarrassed that I was willing to overlook the Cowboys’ defensive woes against Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
If you have any questions or simply want to discuss my Week 15 NFL Predictions, simply contact me and I’ll try to get back as soon as I can.
Thursday, 12/12 – 8:25 pm ET
San Diego Chargers 6-7 @ Denver Broncos 11-2
Prediction: San Diego Chargers
The Broncos are 11-2, playing at home and coming off a solid, blowout win against the Titans a week ago. The Chargers had a blowout win of their own, beating the Giants in San Diego, 37-14. Now I normally don’t like to pick against the Broncos. Their offense is unstoppable and their defense is more than capable of containing opposing offenses, however, I think this is the week they trip up to an inferior opponent. Games played on Thursday night this season have lacked the offensive firepower that you see on the weekend because of the short preparation time. I think that, coupled with Wes Welker being declared inactive for Thursday’s game, could cool off the Bronco offense just enough for the Chargers to pull out the win. Also, I think it is important to keep in mind that with this being a divisional game, this should be closer than other matchups for Denver. San Diego’s head coach, Mike McCoy, was the Broncos offensive coordinator from 2010-13 when he took the Chargers job. Trust me… I know this pick could be considered a bit of a stretch, but I think the stars align this week for San Diego to get the win, even on the road.
Sunday, 12/15 – 1:00 pm ET
Washington Redskins 3-10 @ Atlanta Falcons 3-10
Prediction: Washington Redskins
Washington is bad. They can’t seem to play defense and their offense was struggling, even with Griffin III in the backfield. Now, he is being “shut down” to save him for the offseason (yeah, it’s just as weird to write as I thought it would be) leaving Kirk Cousins to lead the Redskins in the final remaining games this season. As bad as that sounds, the Falcons are, somehow, just as bad. The Redskins’ offense currently ranks ninth in the NFL and faces Atlanta’s paltry 26th-ranked defense. Cousins is a solid quarterback and with the Redskins confronting questions about “RGIII”, I think they will rally around Cousins. Atlanta will make this an interesting game this weekend, but I think the Redskins pull out the win. Washington, despite sitting Griffin III isn’t giving up. Otherwise they will have to watch St. Louis benefit from their top-five pick, courtesy of the same Robert Griffin III that is sitting on the bench so he participate in offseason activities (still doesn’t sound right…).
San Francisco 49ers 9-4 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-9
Prediction: San Francisco 49ers
Tampa Bay has been quietly winning (four of their last five), but I don’t think they can keep it going against the 49ers. San Francisco is coming off a huge win at home against Seattle, fields a top-notch defense that should continue to rattle Bucs rookie Mike Glennon and an offense that will at least control the ball long enough to systematically run the ball and beat Tampa Bay.
Seattle Seahawks 11-2 @ New York Giants 5-8
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks
I’m taking Seattle here, but this will be surprisingly close. The Giants have been playing better, but they aren’t in the same class with the Seahawks in terms of total talent. However, the great equalizer is home-field advantage and while playing New York isn’t a given like the Saints in New Orleans or the Seahawks in Seattle, hosting those same Seahawks gives you a chance. Seattle struggles to demonstrate that brash confidence on the road, partly because the 1 p.m. ET kickoff is 10 a.m. for the Pacific Time. I still think the Giants defense isn’t enough to limit Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson and company. I also fully expect this to be another game that is winnable for the Giants, yet Eli Manning interceptions doom them in a lost season. Just watch for this to surprisingly turn into a game despite the record discrepancies.
Philadelphia Eagles 8-5 @ Minnesota Vikings 3-9-1
Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles
The Vikings continue to play hard, almost pulling out a win in Baltimore a week ago, but I have to take the Eagles here. Philly has been on fire lately on offense and the defense is really starting to buckle down. Minnesota also may be down Adrian Peterson and the Vikings defense is one of the worse in the NFL (31st) playing against Philly’s third-ranked offense. Look for big games from Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy for the Eagles in what could turn into a shootout that Minnesota simply can’t keep up with.
New England Patriots 10-3 @ Miami Dolphins 7-6
Prediction: Miami Dolphins
New England just experienced a huge loss with Rob Gronkowski tearing his ACL and MCL. Gronkowski’s injury has huge ramifications as New England’s offense suddenly is back to relying heavily on rookie receivers and other relatively unknown playmakers. The Patriots are still 10-3 even after going nearly half the season without Gronkowski, but there is a current trend that is worth mentioning. The Patriots are 3-1 since their bye week with every game during that stretch being decided by four points or less. Over the last three weeks – all wins – the Patriots needed some heroics to beat Denver, were dangerously close to losing the Texans and needed an incredible turn of events to pull out a win, in Foxboro, against the Browns. Could any of those things happen again leading to a Pats win? Sure, but I like Miami here. The Dolphins benefit more from their loss to New England back in Week 8 and are hot right now with Ryan Tannehill calling the shots. I’m taking Miami, who is fighting for their playoff lives right now.
Buffalo Bills 4-9 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 4-9
Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars
I still love the long-term prospects of Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel, but I have to take the Jaguars this week at home. The Jaguars have actually won four of their last five, are playing solid defense and have an offense doing just enough. The Jaguars defense has been playing hard over that stretch and I expect that to continue at home against the Bills. Again, I do like the direction of the Bills, as I outlined in my Season Outlook, but I have to take the hot hand right now, which… oddly enough… is Jacksonville.
Houston Texans 2-11 @ Indianapolis Colts 8-5
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis needs to get back on track or they could backing into the playoffs and making a frighteningly quick exit. The Colts can’t run the ball and their receiving core can’t carry the offense. The Colts defense has been atrocious in recents weeks contributing the Colts getting blown out early in games. Reggie Wayne’s injury is hurting this offense more than anyone thought it would. The Texans, on the other hand, still have talent and should be next season’s Kansas City Chiefs (first-pick to playoffs), but for now they are a team in shambles. I like Houston to have a quick start, but the Texans haven’t been able to close out a game all season. I expect that to continue.
Chicago Bears 7-6 @ Cleveland Browns 4-9
Prediction: Chicago Bears
Cleveland has played valiantly all season, but they just don’t have the talent at key positions (see the quarterback position) to be real threats. The Bears though are getting Jay Cutler back, knowing that Josh McCown is a fantastic fall back plan, and Cutler’s ability to an offense that is clicking. Nobody can shut out both Marshall and Jeffery at this point. Jeffery is a star in the making. It will be interesting to see how the Browns use shutdown corner Joe Haden to counter one or both of those receivers. Throw in Matt Forte as a versatile weapon out of the backfield and I have to take the Bears over Cleveland.
Sunday, 12/15 – 4:05 pm ET
Kansas City Chiefs 10-3 @ Oakland Raiders 4-9
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland is cooling off after a surprising start at the beginning of the season while Kansas City seems to be expanding their offense and becoming more explosive as their defense deals with injuries. I’m taking the Chiefs who, when getting quality offensive output, are a real postseason threat. Teams built with defense and a great run game don’t lose games they should win. This is one of those for the Chiefs.
New York Jets 6-7 @ Carolina Panthers 9-4
Prediction: Carolina Panthers
Carolina was picked apart by Drew Brees and the Saints offense last week, but the Jets are not led by Drew Brees, but rather Geno Smith. Smith has been outrageously inconsistent this season and facing off with the Panthers top defense, it could be very hard for the Jets to generate points.
Sunday, 12/15 – 4:25 pm ET
Green Bay Packers 6-6-1 @ Dallas Cowboys 7-6
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
This is a hard game to predict in that the Packers are not the same without Aaron Rodgers at the helm, yet the Cowboys defense is atrocious. Let me go on record saying I was wrong to think the defense would improve vastly over last season’s model. They are opportunistic, but when you can’t force a punt over the course of two full, separate games that’s too much to overcome. So, with that preface, I am taking the Cowboys. Rodgers is potentially coming back this week. If he does, I don’t think the Cowboys will be able to slow down Green Bay. Same goes with the report that Eddie Lacy could miss this week’s game to injury. With Lacy and Rodgers out, this is pretty clear to me that Dallas should win. If they play or at least Lacy plays, it is a much closer contest. I will still take the Cowboys, who have only lost to the Broncos all season at home, but a lot hinges on the injury reports as the week progresses.
Arizona Cardinals 8-5 @ Tennessee Titans 5-8
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals
Arizona is a very good football team. Their defense ranks fifth in the NFL in yards allowed per game behind a suffocating run defense and a solid pass defense. That pass defense is missing rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu to season-ending injury, who has been great this season, but Tennessee and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick aren’t the team to successfully challenge the Cardinals’ secondary. Fitzpatrick has played well, but this Titans team is flawed in the run game and pass game. Their defense isn’t elite, or capable of carrying the offense and matched up against a surprisingly balanced Cardinals team, when Carson Palmer is protecting the football, I don’t think Tennessee will be able to pull off the home win.
New Orleans Saints 10-3 @ St. Louis Rams 5-8
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
I’ll keep this quick. The Saints three losses this season have been on the road against New England, on the road against the New York Jets, and on the road in Seattle. That is three outdoor away games. This is a road game, but is indoors, which shouldn’t have any effect in the effectiveness of the Saints offense. The Rams are team that is talented and could surprise teams, but St. Louis is one of those teams that can surprise teams lacking an identity as the Bears were a couple weeks ago in St. Louis (with Josh McCown at quarterback) and the Colts who have been reeling since their home loss to the Rams in Week 10 (Indy lack an offensive identity without Reggie Wayne healthy). Unfortunately for the Rams, the Saints are well aware of their playoff aspirations and what they are all about on both sides of the ball. That’s where the discrepancy in talent is just too much for the Rams to overcome.
Sunday, 12/15 – 8:30 pm ET
Cincinnati Bengals 9-4 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 5-8
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
I’m taking the Bengals here. Now, I can tell you that A.J. Green will be effectively contained by the Steelers secondary and Andy Dalton will struggle. He always does against the Steelers defense and, frankly, it doesn’t matter that Pittsburgh’s defense is only 13th in the NFL… they will torment the Bengals offense. I just don’t think Pittsburgh will be able to move the ball enough to pull off the win. Playing at home is an advantage, but over the last four meetings at Heinz Field they have split the matchups. Both teams know how to win on the road in this rivalry. The Bengals defense is playing very well and with the litany of options at Dalton’s disposal on offense, I think the Bengals win a tight one. Look for someone like Giovani Bernard or Marvin Jones to be a key player in this one.
Monday, 12/16 – 8:40 pm ET
Baltimore Ravens 7-6 @ Detroit Lions 7-6
Prediction: Detroit Lions
I’m taking the Lions. The Ravens still don’t impress me. The Lions, despite losing last week in a snowstorm, seem like the more dangerous team, particularly at home. Plus… there’s this little gem. Rookie Baltimore safety Matt Elam was asked about defending “Megatron”. He said,
“Big, fast, athletic, unstoppable, freak… He’s pretty old, so I don’t know how physical he’ll be… He’s a big guy, but he’s older. I guess when they get older they’re not going to be as physical, you know what I’m saying? We’re going to have to be physical, make him uncomfortable.”
No, Matt… we don’t know what you are saying. The 28-year old Johnson is a monster that Elam just stabbed with a stick. You think he makes catches like this by avoiding the physicality of the game? The last time somebody challenged Johnson was when Dez Bryant said he could do whatever Johnson did.
I’m taking the Lions in this one.