A fellow troublemaker, Ryan Meehan of First Order Historians, recently asked me to submit my Week 15 NFL picks for his website, which means there are either 14 other bloggers he likes better than me or he’s saving the best for last. I’m assuming it’s the latter.
Either way, I graciously accepted.
I figured if he was willing to risk traffic by having his readers gamble their hard-earned dollars on my inclinations this holiday season, why not contribute to their delinquency.
I should preface this post by saying certain picks of mine have been sub-par this season (I currently rank dead last among the brain trust at Sports Review Magazine and have accordingly suffered their ridicule). However, I am leading my Yahoo league in games picked against the spread AND at one point this season ranked in the 99th percentile (currently 95th) among ESPN Pigskin Pick ‘Em players. That’s over a half a million sports fans, folks.
That being said, wager at your own risk.
Here goes nothing, and um… best of luck, Ryan.
First off, we have another Thursday night game, where Jacksonvilleis getting 11 points (now 12) at Atlanta. The Jags just whipped up on my lowly Buccaneers, scoring 41 unanswered from mid-way through the second quarter on. Where did they find the time? P.S. It helps when you repeatedly turn the ball over in your own end zone. The Falcons are still fighting for a playoff spot and have been a tough team to figure out all season, but this is a Thursday night game, in a dome, in the ATL, where the Falcons MUST prove they’re playoff worthy. I’m gonna go ahead and take the Falcons and lay the points for if they don’t win this one convincingly and establish some sort of confidence, there’s no way in hell they’ll win a playoff game on the road in Green Bay.
If the Falcons blow this game, I don’t want to hear a single word out of that camp the rest of the year. The Bears threw away a game to Denver just four days earlier, and I have to at least believe that the Falcons are better than the Lions so “must-win” doesn’t even do this one justice. I’d rather see the Falcons in the playoffs instead of the Lions, but if either one is just going to puss out Wild Card weekend, I guess I don’t care who makes it. It would be interesting to see the Jaguars upset them, but it’s not going to happen.
Falcons 30, Jaguars 12
Ah, the Saturday night game, and right here in my home town no less. The Bucs, well, they’re horrible, and the Cowboys are coming off a heartbreaking loss in their own building to the Gee-Men. By all accounts, the Bucs have given up on the season while the Cowboys are still fighting for a playoff spot. Despite all that, Dallas is still the better team so laying 6.5 doesn’t seem like all that big of a deal. As much as we’d all like to see Jerry Jones sulk again on national television, it won’t happen this Saturday night at Raymond James. Dallas covers the 6.5.
The Cowboys are going to have to shake themselves dry after that loss to the Giants which was probably hard to swallow. I believe they’ll do it, but only because I think with the Rams and the Colts stinking up the joint so bad this year, people are really forgetting about how inept Tampa has been. They gave up 41 points to the Jaguars last week? Did the entire defense just decide to take up heroin in the extra day they had between week thirteen and fourteen? As bad as the Cowboys looked in the last five minutes of the Giants game, I don’t believe that the Buccaneers are better than they are. Now after seeing how fast it can all fall apart, Arizona might be, but Dallas isn’t.
Cowboys 31, Buccaneers 20
The Redskins are also getting 6.5 at New York on Sunday. We’ll be seeing that number a lot this week. The Giants lead the division and are not about to give that up to the lowly Redskins. Laying the touchdown here is the smart play. As you can see, so far I’m in a giving mood this Christmas season. Just call me Santa Chump.
This is one of those “trap games” for the Giants. They’re coming off of a huge win that put them in control of their own fate, and they’ll be headed home to face a divisional opponent they should expect to beat. The Giants have this bizarre complex of losing when they play at home as of late, even though they’ve been great on the road. As a Giants fan, I’m a lot more uncertain of this game than I was of the Cowboys game (before the fourth quarter of course). If you remember the 2006-2007 Bears’ squad that went to the Super Bowl, I’m sure you remember Good Rex/Bad Rex. I’m worried Bad Rex is going to show up and ruin the Giants’ afternoon. I don’t believe that it will happen, but it’s in the back of my mind.
Giants 24, Redskins 16
The Green Bay Packers’ quest for perfection should not end in Kansas City, although stranger things have happened on a football field. The Pack just lost Greg Jennings to a knee injury but that shouldn’t have affected the line all that much. It’s currently Green Bay minus 13.5 (just moved to 14). If this were a night game at Arrowhead, I’d be inclined to take the points, but it’s not, so I won’t. They play at 1 o’clock and there will be more fans there to see the freak show that has become Aaron Rodgers than can name the starting quarterback for Kansas City (Tyler Palko). Take Green Bay and lay.
At least Todd Haley got out of having to coach this one. Once again, no shot this week for the Packers to be beat. They continue to look very, very good and from what it looks like, they’re going to get Greg Jennings back the divisional round of the NFC Playoffs. I’ll discuss trap games later on but this is no going to be one of them. I fully expect the Packers to score at least 30 points against a Chiefs team who has been over the place throughout the 2011 season.
Packers 38, Chiefs 17
New Orleans is a dome team and clicking on all cylinders. Minnesota plays in a dome and is not nearly as good. New Orleans wants to wrap up their division and they’re only a seven point favorite. That’s a snap for Drew Brees. I’m taking the Saints and giving.
Remember the drama that surrounded this game when these two teams met in the NFC Championship just two years ago and then all of the anticipation that followed when the two teams met in the season opener? I hope you do, because it’s all gone now. The Saints should be able to blow that defense out of the water, and the only reason I’m picking the Vikes to score 26 points is because this is a home game. As I’ve said before I think the Saints are the only team in the NFC that really believe can challenge the Packers, and this game should give them another opportunity to reiterate that to the rest of the league.
Saints 39, Vikings 26
Chicago is as banged up as can be. They’ve lost their starting quarterback and running back, yet are still playoff-eligible. The game is a must win for the Bears, who are 3.5 point favorites. The Seahawks just slammed the Rams (who hasn’t this season?), but are coming off a short week. Chicago’s offense is struggling but I’ll rely on the Bears defense to perhaps come up with a touchdown and cover against Seattle.
This is your “sort of upset special” here. I would like to comment on the Skittles thing. I do enjoy Skittles, but it’s a stupid promotional idea gone awry and I’m sure Marshawn Lynch won’t be doing it next year when he gets traded to somewhere they bring the nice cameras to broadcast the games. He had another big night though, and although the Bears can stop the run I would think they’d be pretty heartbroken after last week’s loss, after which Brian Urlacher called Tim Tebow “a good running back”. See, ever since the Bears lost Jay Cutler (and then Forte) they’ve kind of been bitter pricks. You see in the postgame interviews (we do here at least) and in the way they expect everybody else to feel sorry for them because their quarterback got hurt: It’s football. Look at the Texans right now. They couldn’t even celebrate their first ever trip to the playoffs because they’re riding a 10-3 record into the playoffs with a guy whose own mother can’t even look at the field. The Bears could have sucked it up and gotten over it, but instead they’ve ended up being chokers.
Seahawks 24, Bears 17
Since the Miami Dolphins just fired their head coach, I waited until the eleventh hour to find a point spread, which was finally released as Buffalo minus a half a point. This game screams reversal of fortune. The currently unemployed Tony Sparano had his team playing well. After losing seven straight to start the season, the fish won four of five before losing to the Eagles, ultimately costing Sparano his job. After signing Ryan Fitzpatrick to a $59 million contract, the Bills have lost six straight. I expect the Bills to break that slump at home where giving a half a point should be a no-brainer.
There’s a Suicidal Tendencies song that represents how I feel about this game. It’s called “I Don’t Give a Shit”, and it’s one of my favorite songs because sometimes you just don’t care. Sometimes you wish you just fast forward through the low points of a season, but something tells me ESPN isn’t going to lead with this game on The Blitz. Buffalo showed promise early on, now they’re pathetic. Miami just lost their coach, and they WERE pathetic when the season started and had turned things around up until the Philly game last week.
Dolphins 16, Bills 14
As Cam Newton continues to battle it out with Andy Dalton for the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, his team’s playoffs chances are long gone. This Saturday, he travels to Houston to play the 10-3 Texans who rank 3rd in the league in opponents passing yards and 4th in opponents rushing yards. Quite the intriguing matchup since Cam can do both of those things quite well. The Panthers are a 6.5 point underdog (I told you we’d be seeing that number a lot). Without looking up his record, I’m guessing Cam has fared pretty well against the spread this season. Against a banged up Houston team, he might just do it again. But if I were at the ticket window and had the opportunity to take a playoff team, at home, against a team that is 4-9, and only have to lay a touchdown, I’d go ahead and take the home team, which is what I’m doing this week.
I’m actually taking the Panthers here because they looked decent last week and the Texans don’t have a whole lot to play for. I still think that next year Carolina will get their shit together but they just couldn’t pull it together early on so they’re sunk. The Texans are really banking on this TJ Yates kid, and you know what’s really nuts? Due to conference records, Houston still owns the one seed. I have a feeling they won’t for much longer.
Panthers 28, Texans 20
Tennessee (-6.5) travels to press their luck against the winless Indianapolis Colts. For the record, I’m still having problems determining the difference between Curtis Painter and Blaine Gabbert. At least Gabbert has a few wins under his belt. Titans starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck suffered a calf injury last weekend. His status for Sunday’s game is uncertain, which is odd considering there’s already a line out. Las Vegas must not think there’s too much of a difference between him and Jake Locker. The standard rule of thumb is to take home teams and the points in divisional rivalries, even if the home team sucks. I’ll stick by that rule since it generally pays off. I mean, the Colts have to win eventually, don’t they? Take Indy and the 6.5
OK, so I laid into Jake Locker pretty hard in the wrap-up piece and I apologize for that. Not because I feel bad for what happened, because I know he’s playing the Colts this week so about 5 or 6 days from now I’ll be sitting in this very same chair writing about how he put up all these incredible numbers against an 0-13 team. (It might be a different chair should I spill something on this one between now and then, but you get the point…) The Titans still have a shot at the Wild Card, but not really.
Titans 32, Colts 18
As you’ve probably noticed, laying six-and-a-half points is a common theme this weekend. Guess what the line is in the Cincinnati-St. Louis game. Six-and-a-half. Guess who I’m taking. Psyche! I’m taking the Rams at home to cover.
Ry’s pick: There is nobody that would love to run into the St. Louis Rams more than the Bengals. I mean, a lot of teams would love to play the Rams because they’re terrible, but Cincinnati NEEDS to. With all of the muscle they’ve faced on their schedule the past few weeks, a trip to St. Louis seems like a gift. As weak as it sounds, I figure if the Bengals can finish 8-8 this season it’s a good building block for the future. Andy Dalton will continue to get better as time progresses, and that process will likely expedite itself now that he’s played an entire NFL season. After seeing the fourth quarter of that Rams game on Monday night, I don’t have a whole lot of good things to say about them. How patient can you be? I look at it this way: No one likes to have to clean their house. But if you don’t have a choice, you have to get out the vacuum and do it. The Rams are getting to the point where they have no choice. Sure, they were 6-10 and just that Seattle game from going to the playoffs last year, but in all fairness they were also terrible. In other words, get the vacuum.
Bengals 33, Rams 10
Okay, once again, I have a potential playoff team in Detroit on the road, laying 1.5 against a team that just laid an egg in Green Bay and may very well have given up on its season. I’ll take Detroit all day as they continue to make their playoff push.
I couldn’t possibly be less interested in a game between two teams with a winning record than I am here. I’m sick of the Lions and their underhanded below-the-belt play, and I saw enough of the Raiders on that Todd Marinovich special last night to last me the rest of my life. If Detroit does make the playoffs, it’s the Bears fault for blowing two games against AFC West opponents at the end of the season. Maybe it’s the Lions’ chance to redeem themselves and do the same, but I doubt it.
Lions 20, Raiders 6
Ah, the match-up everyone’s been waiting to see: Tom Brady versus Tim Tebow. GQ’s wet dream. Patriots coach Bill Belichick HAS to have an answer for this guy, right? To be perfectly honest, I feel uncomfortable picking the winner in this game, for fear of lightning striking. We’ve all been waiting for Tim Tebow’s run to come to an end and the Pats are just the team to do it, or are they? The Patriots are not very good defensively, ranking last in the league against the pass. It’s a good thing Tebow can’t throw the ball, right? Can you see I’m stalling? The Pats are laying six on the road. Las Vegas has to be losing money on Timmy this season. Here’s where they make it back. Go ahead and take the Pats to cover, then expect a post-game press conference where both quarterbacks pay compliment to each other to nauseating levels.
The luck stops here. Call it luck, call it divine intervention, call it whatever you want to call it, I expect it to end against the Patriots. I’m not going to say it’s impossible for Denver to win, but I can’t see Tebow beating Brady in a shootout. What’s even weirder is you’d think Denver has the advantage since they have a defense and the Patriots are struggling in that respect lately. And as for Vince Wilfork taking issue with Rodney Harrison’s comments, I would remind Vince that they did give up 27 points to the Redskins last week, which isn’t something to be proud of. Regardless, this is where we all wake up from the Tebow dream.
Patriots 21, Broncos 10
Can someone explain to me why the Jets are GETTING three points in Philadelphia? Why’s that? Because the Eagles are suddenly hot again after winning one straight? If I had to pick one line that was way off this weekend, it’d have to be this one. This may be another sucker bet but I have to take the Jets and the points.
Ry’s pick: Sure, the Jets won last week but let’s remember the Kansas City team which they beat. They were playing a team who already knew that their coach was getting fired after the game, and outmatched them at every position. The Jets are the better team but the Eagles have new life (the football players, not the coach) after that win over the Dolphins last week. Eagles play spoiler. (Editor’s note – don’t send me any “homer” emails about this since Koz is a Pats fan. I could sit here all night and give you plenty of reasons why on any given Sunday the Eagles would be a better team than the New York Jets. They may not be as well-structured as the Jets, but sometimes you don’t always need that to win games.)
Eagles 24, Jets 21
Cleveland is in Arizona getting 6.5. Who cares? Go ahead and take Cleveland, like it really matters. By the way, if you’re gambling on this game, you really need to reassess your priorities.
The Browns don’t seem to be scoring a lot of points lately. The Cardinals don’t either,but they do have a fancy for turning up the volume right before the gun sounds. I suppose it doesn’t matter, but I am interested in seeing how Arizona rebounds from an average year and how the career of Beanie Wells progresses. That’s not so much the case for Cleveland. They’re going to be AFC North cellar dwellers for a very, very long period of time and I certainly won’t be losing any sleep over it. And as stated earlier they should be heavily punished for their cove-rup of the whole Colt McCoy thing.
Cardinals 24, Browns 6
Can we just go ahead and call this the game that gets Norv Turner fired? The Ravens travels to San Diego where they’re laying two. Baltimore has to keep pace with Pittsburgh in the AFC North so while it’s not a must win to keep their playoff hopes intact, it’s definitely one they want to have. On the other hand, the Chargers have little to play for. If they want Turner out, they’ll roll over, which is what I expect to happen. Take Baltimore and lay the deuce.
Boy, do I hope the Ravens smoke the Chargers on Sunday. If they don’t I’m going to be disappointed. They should, as all three other AFC teams who are at 10-3 could potentially lose, which would put the Ravens in the driver’s seat to have home field throughout the playoffs. I know I just picked the Pats to beat Denver, but anything’s possible and the Ravens better hope that’s the case. (Better to see the Broncos 9-5 than the Patriots 11-3). You could make the argument that even though the Steelers “get” to play the Rams and the Browns the last two weeks of the season it’s unlikely they would be able to move ahead of Baltimore which they would need to do since the Ravens own that tiebreaker, but I’ve seen stranger things happen.
Ravens 27, Chargers 16
And finally we have a Monday Night game worth watching. I’d rather reinstate my dormant, Netflix account than be forced to watch the Chiefs, Rams, Colts, Seahawks or Jaguars again. Pittsburgh travels to San Francisco, without the services of their frequently fined linebacker James Harrison, who has once again been slapped on the wrist for his vicious hit on Colt McCoy. The 49ers, a 1.5 point favorite, have been the league’s biggest surprise this season. This Monday, they welcome a banged up Pittsburgh team to Candlestick Park. This is their chance to shine. Even though San Fran has already clinched their division, and a playoff spot, they still want to prove they can play with the best. I expect them to cover.
Game of the week, really looking forward to it. Either way it’s going to tell us one of two things: If the 49ers lose by a significant margin, it could prove that they’ve been a little overrated up until this point. If the Steelers lose, we’ll affirm what we already know – that they are very beatable on the road – but probably voice a little more of an opinion on the matter since they are slowly becoming further and further away from the team that won Super Bowl XL. In football you get old fast, I know Roethlisberger’s still young and that’s promising, but look around that roster and you can start to see what I’m talking about. Starting to smell BS in the Niners camp though so have to take the Steelers here.
Steelers 26, Niners 23
On behalf of both of us, happy wagering, everyone .