“The party’s over. It’s time to call it a day.”
Well, with two weeks left in the season and my dastardly opponent going a whopping 13-3 against the spread last week, the party isn’t officially over yet as there’s still time on the clock but let’s just say the clean-up crew has entered the building. Nail, meet coffin.
Kevin’s lead is back into double digits, seemingly insurmountable but the fat lady… is… well… wishful thinking on my part.
Playoff seeding will find more clarity this weekend with another full slate of NFL games, some entertaining and others ridiculously unwatchable.
Our celebrity guest picker this week is a legend here in Ybor City. He is known simply as the Ice Cream Man. The Ice Cream Man knows quite a bit about football and handicapping. Let’s just say he does fairly well for himself with the bookies. Let’s see how he does against the likes of Kevin and me when it comes to picking every game of the week.
Best of luck, sir.
SPORTSCHUMP’S PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY ALREADY PICKS
TENNESSEE at JACKSONVILLE -3
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this will be the least watched Thursday night game in NFL history. Scratch that. That’s no limb. That’s a trunk with a solid foundation. Think about it. When’s the last time you recall a prime time game being televised featuring teams that have combined for FOUR WINS this late in the season? Roger Goodell has to be kicking himself for this one. Or maybe he just wanted a night off. Neither of these teams have anything to play for other than draft position. Tennessee has lost eight in a row and Jacksonville, they’re equally as bad. But they’re good enough to beat Tennessee at home by three in front of what should be a half-empty stadium, or half-full depending on how you look at it. Give me the Jags here and lay the points.
PHILADELPHIA -7.5 at (THAT TEAM FROM WASHINGTON)
We’re getting to that point in the NFL season where we have Saturday games. This is the first of two we’ll have before Sunday’s action. Philly desperately needs this win after they soiled the bed against Dallas last week. Philly’s secondary still has to be having nightmares about Dez Bryant, who caught three touchdowns in that game. (That team from) Washington, on the other hand, is the train wreck that keeps on giving. Every week, I read about how RGIII is bitching about something. Heck, if I played on that team, I’d be bitching too. Seven-and-a-half is a lot to lay but Philly can score in droves and they really need this win. On the flipside, I don’t know that (that team from) Washington has anything to play for anymore. They’re certainly not playing for their coach. I’ll take the Eagles to cover.
SAN DIEGO AT SAN FRANCISCO -1
My, how the mighty have fallen. The Niners were bounced from the playoffs last week thanks to their archrival Seattle Seahawks. That’s gonna leave a mark. This week, they’re only laying a single point at home on Saturday night to the Chargers?!? Something’s fishy in the bay area. Is Las Vegas trying to tell us this Niner team has given up? I mean, anyone who’s watched them lately already knows that to be true but still, a single point? They have to cover that, don’t they? I know Harbaugh’s as good as gone, that Ray McDonald was just suspended from the team and Colin Kaepernick is still wearing his hat on backwards… but a point? I have to lay it. I just have to.
MINNESOTA at MIAMI -6.5
Miami can still make the playoffs although they’re hanging on by a very thin thread. Either way, at 7-7 they’re having a better season than most of us thought they’d have. The Vikings on the other hand are who we thought they were. They’re 6-8 and winless in their own division. That’s not going to win you any invitations to the post-season. At least they know who they’re quarterback of the future is. He goes by the name Teddy. That’s more than can be said for about half the teams in the league. I like Miami here. They’re the better team.
GREEN BAY -10.5 at TAMPA BAY
The battle of the bays. God, this one’s gonna be painful. I remember the good old days when these two teams played in the same division and Brett Favre would dare Warren Sapp to sack him, which he ultimately would. These days, Favre’s doing razor commercials, Aaron Rodgers has taken his place and Tampa Bay’s modern day Warren Sapp, Gerald McCoy, is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Green Bay’s coming off a tough loss in Buffalo which may have cost them home field in the NFC. Tampa Bay’s injury report is looking like a Christmas party invite list with more people being added every week. I can’t help but think of what teams with solid passing offenses, i.e., Baltimore, Atlanta, etc., have done to the Bucs this season. The Bucs secondary is pretty pathetic which means you should start Jordy Nelson on your fantasy team. The Packers cover on the road while I drink heavily to ease the pain that has become this Buccaneer season.
DETROIT -7 at CHICAGO
Wow, are there some totally dysfunctional teams in the league or what? Think about it. Every year, there are always teams we know that are just plain bad by Week 16. Their records reflect it. But Chicago, Tampa, Tennessee, (that team from) Washington, San Francisco. .. these franchises are an absolute mess. Chicago’s Head Coach Marc Trestman might be fired by game time and Jay Cutler still has Bear fans penning out their Christmas card death threats. Now comes word that he’s being benched for Jimmy Clausen. Think about that for a second. Jay Cutler is being benched for Jimmy Clausen. I can’t determine whether that sentence sounds completely absurd or utterly believable. Either way, Clausen gets the nod while Bears fans try to digest a hearty portion of buyer’s remorse for Christmas dinner. The Lions cover here because, well, do you really need to ask?
ATLANTA at NEW ORLEANS -6
Ah yes, speaking of dysfunctional, here we have a battle for the division lead between 6-8 New Orleans and 5-9 Atlanta. Yikes! Neither of these teams can want to win this division very badly but at least, New Orleans, the home team, controls their own destiny. I do fear a back door cover from Atlanta. I like New Orleans to win this ball game but trusting them is as dangerous as trusting a loan shark. I’ll take the Saints here. I know Atlanta will come to play their hearts out but six isn’t all that much to lay for an offense that looks like (or at least used to look like) New Orleans’.
NEW ENGLAND -10 at NY JETS
Yup, go ahead and add the New York Jets to my lengthy list of dysfunctional NFL teams. Remember that scene in The Silence Of The Lambs where Clarisse Starling first meets Hannibal Lechter? She passes by the cells of all the crazy people just to get to his. That’s what the NFL is like this year. On her way to the Jets’ cell, she passed Tampa’s, San Fran’s, Chicago’s, (that team from) Washington’s with each team getting more frightening the longer she walks down the hallway. At least Hannibal brought people to the box office. The same cannot be said for any of those teams this year even though their performances have been equally as gruesome. New England needs a convincing victory to hold on to home field advantage. I’d like to say they go into New York and eat the Jets’ liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti but I think the Jets play spoilers here or at least enough to cover the number. I’ll take the ten.
KANSAS CITY +3 at PITTSBURGH
Great game here. The Steelers have been playing pretty well lately. If the season ended today, the Chiefs would be out and the Steelers would be in. Pittsburgh is lucky to be having this game at home. I’m not sure they could win this one at Arrowhead. As much as I’ve discounted the Curtain this season, often times with good reason, I’m going with the Steelers here to cover the number and nestle comfortably into playoff position.
CLEVELAND at CAROLINA -3
Johnny Manziel is still starting. I’m taking the Panthers. Next question.
BALTIMORE -5.5 at HOUSTON
You can throw Houston into that list of dysfunctional teams. This team was competitive two seasons ago. This year and last, they can’t seem to find an answer that doesn’t involve losing football games. They’re 7-7 and don’t have too much to play for. The Ravens do. They’re desperately holding on to that last playoff spot in the AFC. I’m leery about laying the points here but I do think Baltimore is the better team. I’ll take them to cover.
NY GIANTS +5 at ST. LOUIS
You can’t talk league dysfunction without mentioning the New York Giants. Man, are they bad. They’re so bad that at they’re not even as good as their 5-9 record. And the latest news to surface from the Apple is that Tom Coughlin will return for another season. Why would he bother? I’m taking the Rams.
BUFFALO -5.5 at OAKLAND
You just saw what Buffalo did to Green Bay last week, right? Yeah, it gets worse in Oakland this week. Bills cover.
INDIANAPOLIS at DALLAS -3
This right here is my game of the week. Both of these teams are clicking heading into the post-season. Indy’s clinched their division while Dallas still controls their own destiny. They need the win more than Indy does. DeMarco Murray just had hand surgery and is already practicing. That’s one tough SOB. I’m taking the Cowboys to cover this number in what should be a no-brainer if he’s healthy.
SEATTLE -7.5 at ARIZONA
If Las Vegas disrespects the Arizona Cardinals one more time with a spread like this, Bruce Arians’ head may explode. Someone should really tell him not to take things so personally. Betting lines don’t necessarily reflect how odds makers think the game will turn out as much as they reflect how they feel the betting public will lay money. Apparently, nobody in Arizona bets. The Cards, while leading their division, are on their third string quarterback which is why this line is so big. Add to the fact that Seattle is playing lights out right now and we get an eight point spread. So should I be bold and pick Seattle to embarrass Ryan Lindley (who?) or trust that the rest of the Cardinals can pull this thing out and cover the number? Las Vegas is daring you to lay the points here. I think I’m going to. I just can’t see Arizona controlling time of possession long enough for the Legion of Boom to not stick it in their ear.
DENVER -3 at CINCINNATI
Another great game here. Thank goodness. There were only like three watchable ones this week unless you’re interested in bad television. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum. Cincinnati has gone from playing Johnny Manziel in one week to Peyton Manning the next. I’d say that’s just a minor disparity in quarterbacking talent. I’m taking Denver to cover the number and keep their chase for home field advantage in the AFC alive for one more week.
THE ICE CREAM MAN’S I’M REALLY HOPING THEIR COLD PICKS
Jacksonville minus three – Better defense and Whitehurst blows
Redskins plus eight-and-a-half – RGIII has something to prove while Sanchez chokes under pressure.
San Diego plus one – San Francisco has completely lost their locker room and Kap is not as good as everyone thinks.
Atlanta plus six – Saints will win by a field goal in a tightly contested game.
Patriots minus ten – I mean, it’s the f’n Jets. They blow.
Steelers minus three – With the loss of Eric Berry, the secondary will finally be exposed. KC’s offense has been underachieving all season long.
Panthers minus three – With Cam returning and Manziel still there, the Panthers should cruise.
Texans plus five – Houston will show up defensively and keep it a close game.
Denver minus three – Peyton will bust out of his two week slump while Cincy will struggle after playing two weak teams. Dalton will have at least two turnovers.
Detroit minus seven – Lions will struggle but Clausen should be the worst statistical quarterback in the entire NFL this week. Lions pour it on in the second half and cover in Chitown.
Giants plus five – The G-Men are playing well and with the Rookie of the Year, they will go and beat St Louis in their house.
Bills minus five-and-a-half – Buffalo is riding high after beating the Pack Attack. They’ll beat down the Raiders in their own house.
Indy plus three – Colts will win because the Cowboys will be extremely flat after their huge win in Philly.
Cards plus seven-and-a-half – Arizona will cover with the return of the Honey Badger and the No Fly Zone.
Vikes plus six-and-a-half – Minnesota will have a defensive battle with Miami and Bridgewater will make enough plays to keep it close.
Packers minus ten – Green Bay will smoke the Bucs probably by twenty plus.
KP’S IT’S ALL OVER BUT THE CRYIN’ PICKS
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5)
Week 16 opens up with one of the uglier games of the week, featuring two teams that are in the mix for the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Titans have been hit hard by the injury bug, especially at the quarterback position, and now will see Charlie Whitehurst starting under center. Jacksonville, meanwhile, continues to play hard, despite its 2-12 record. Blake Bortles is questionable with a foot injury, but it appears that he will start. Tennessee’s last win was against these Jaguars on October 12th, but this is a road game, and a Titans team that has lost three of its last four games by 19 points or more. Stats aside, I look to a home team that has been sticking with tougher opponents in recent weeks. Jags cover, but barely, and in an ugly game. If you’re watching, keep the beer fridge stocked.
Against the Spread: Jacksonville Jaguars
Straight Up: Jacksonville Jaguars
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins (+8.5)
Robert Griffin III is starting again… just don’t ask Jay Gruden about it. Meanwhile, the Eagles are in a somewhat surprising must-win situation now that the Cowboys have a one-game edge in the division. While RGIII was somewhat effective last week against the Giants, statistical analysis would say that we should expect more of the RGIII-and-out version to come back to the forefront. Washington has allowed 53 sacks (2nd most in the NFL), and may have a tough time handling a Philadelphia pass rush that has the second most sacks (47). Throw in that high-octane aerial attack, led by Mark Sanchez, who while mistake prone, should have success against a Redskins pass defense that has just five interceptions (and has given up 31 TD’s). Placed in a must-win situation, don’t expect Chip Kelly and the Eagles to fall flat. In fact, look for a double-digit win. Eagles cover on the road.
Against the Spread: Philadelphia Eagles
Straight Up: Philadelphia Eagles
San Diego Chargers at San Francisco 49ers (-2.5)
In the simplest of terms, this game means more to San Diego, a team still in the playoff chase, and in need of a win. San Francisco has been eliminated and is instead buried in Jim Harbaugh rumors that are caked in maize and blue. On top of that, the 49ers are dealing with numerous injuries at the running back position, with Carlos Hyde ruled out and Frank Gore questionable due to a concussion. On the other side, San Diego will be without Keenan Allen (collarbone/ankle), but Philip Rivers is expected to play. For the distractions alone – and the fact that the Niners are likely hungover from the excessive parties thrown regarding Harbaugh’s potential departure – I like the Chargers.
Against the Spread: San Diego Chargers
Straight Up: San Diego Chargers
New England Patriots at New York Jets (+10.5)
Rex Ryan loves to face the Patriots and in the last meeting, the Jets nearly pulled off the upset. The Pats are just 4-3 on the road this season, and a few trends jump out, like New England’s 12-2 record ATS in recent games versus division opponents, plus its 6-11-1 record ATS over its last 18 road games. Each stat seems to contradict the other. The facts are clear: The Patriots are playing for the top seed, while the Jets are playing for the top pick. But New York clearly doesn’t care about the top pick, after knocking off the Titans last week. That and four of the last five games in this rivalry have been decided by three points or less. Plain and simple, Rex Ryan won’t go quietly, even if he even goes at all (for the record, I believe he finally will). This would be Rex’s last home game. Jets keep this game at ten points or less.
Against the Spread: New York Jets
Straight Up: New England Patriots
Minnesota Vikings at Miami Dolphins (-6.5)
The Vikings have given a few great teams a run in recent weeks, while the Dolphins have really struggled defensively. Joe Philbin’s job is on the line in Miami, as is the team’s faint – and likely dashed – playoff hopes. But the Dolphins are fourth in the NFL against the pass, and could shutdown a Minnesota offense that is 27th in passing offense, with more interceptions than touchdowns thrown. Despite the calls for Philbin’s job, I look at a Miami team that played well against both Green Bay and Denver at home. Dolphins cover and guarantee a non-losing season.
Against the Spread: Miami Dolphins
Straight Up: Miami Dolphins
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (+4.5)
Marc Trestman benched Jay Cutler and will start Jimmy Clausen, yes, that Jimmy Clausen. Trestman also stated that the team needs a “spark”, which is why he made the move. That comment should have come with its own laugh track. On the other side, everyone saw what Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford did against the Bears on Thanksgiving, and we should expect more of that against Chicago’s defense that is ranked 31st in the NFL. With Brandon Marshall out and Jay Cutler benched, Matt Forte is the team’s biggest remaining weapon (sorry, Alshon Jeffery). Look for Detroit to stack the box and shut Forte down with its top-ranked run defense (63.8 ypg). That leaves Jimmy Clausen to save the day, and well… c’mon… Lions cover easily.
Against the Spread: Detroit Lions
Straight Up: Detroit Lions
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-6.5)
The Saints are suddenly beatable at home, while the Falcons still have playoff aspirations and a solid offense that should get Julio Jones back this week. That should lead to the shootout that was expected between the Bears and Saints last Monday night. Atlanta’s 32nd ranked pass defense is similar to that of the Bears (31st), but as I said, the Falcons have more to play for. The Saints, led by an efficient Drew Brees, get back into the win column at home, but take Atlanta and the points.
Against the Spread: Atlanta Falcons
Straight Up: New Orleans Saints
Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans (+4.5)
The Texans brought back Case Keenum, due to its depleted depth chart at the quarterback position, and he will get the start against Baltimore. With Keenum rusty, Houston will likely look to its fourth-ranked rushing offense. Baltimore is third against the run (84.3 ypg) and has the third most sacks in the NFL (45). This could get out of hand quickly, assuming the Ravens will be able to force a plethora of pressure, along with numerous Keenum mistakes. Baltimore covers.
Against the Spread: Baltimore Ravens
Straight Up: Baltimore Ravens
Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+10.5)
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will be ready to bounce back from an ugly loss to the Bills last week. Tampa Bay’s pass defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to post a 99.1 QB rating, as opposed to Buffalo’s defense, which has held QB’s to a 73.9 rating. The Bucs will likely be forced to pass on a Green Bay defense that has 17 interceptions. For those Fantasy owners that survived with Rodgers after last week, you should be happier with this week’s results. Green Bay covers.
Against the Spread: Green Bay Packers
Straight Up: Green Bay Packers
Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5)
This is the most intriguing game of the week, considering the playoff implications. Pittsburgh has a one-game edge and is currently the #5 seed in the AFC, while the Chiefs sit one game back and on the outside-looking in as the #7 seed. The Steelers continue to be a Jekyll and Hyde team, faltering to cupcake teams, while knocking out contenders. Pittsburgh is vulnerable on defense, especially against the pass (25th in yards, with 28 TD’s allowed, too). But Kansas City is a running team, and I look for this to be a bruising battle that’s decided by a late field goal. Take K.C. and the points.
Against the Spread: Kansas City Chiefs
Straight Up: Pittsburgh Steelers
Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers (-4.5)
The Panthers expect Cam Newton to be back under center, and on the other side of the field, yes, it’s Johnny Football. The same Johnny Manziel that threw for 80 yards, with two interceptions and a 27.3 QB rating against the Bengals last week. Should we go any further with this analysis? In a word, no. Panthers cover at home, and remain in the “Toilet Bowl Division” chase.
Against the Spread: Carolina Panthers
Straight Up: Carolina Panthers
New York Giants at St. Louis Rams (-5.5)
The Rams get a few extra days rest after playing a Thursday night game in Week 15. The biggest matchup should be the St. Louis pass defense versus Odell Beckham Jr., who has been borderline unstoppable. The Rams are 10th in the NFL against the pass, and have allowed just 15 TD’s through the air. The Giants, meanwhile, are 4th in the NFL in sacks, but have allowed 11 plays of 40 yards or more. The Rams have jumped to 10th in sacks and should get pressure on Eli Manning. This could be a sloppy, low-scoring game, considering each team’s solid pass rush. I expect a few big plays from Beckham, but see the Rams outlasting the Giants at home. Take New York and the points.
Against the Spread: New York Giants
Straight Up: St. Louis Rams
Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys (-2.5)
Two injuries are key to this game. DeMarco Murray’s status (ring finger surgery on his left hand) is the biggest key, and Jerry Jones has stated that he expects Murray to play. For Indianapolis, T.Y. Hilton is questionable with a hamstring injury, and has missed three straight practices. The Cowboys own the edge in the NFC East, but the Eagles finish the season with the lowly Redskins and Giants. Translation: This is a big game for Dallas. The Colts, meanwhile, have clinched the AFC South division, but remain within reach of a first-round bye, if the Patriots or Broncos falter. Both teams are loaded on offense, but it still comes back to Hilton and Murray. Each offense would be severely altered if its star were to sit. Hilton seems more doubtful at this point, which leaves me to pick Dallas. But here’s how I see it: If both play, go with Indy. If only Hilton, go Indy. If only Murray, go Dallas. Get it? Got it? Good.
Against the Spread: Dallas Cowboys
Straight Up: Dallas Cowboys
Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders (+6.5)
With the Bills, it’s smart to look at a solid defense that leads the NFL in sacks, with 49. Oakland has played better football of late, and only allowed 24 sacks this season. Still, it should be noted what the Bills did to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last week. Sure, the Bills are traveling to the West Coast, but it should see C.J. Spiller returning to the field, which is surely to provide a spark to the Bills’ offense. All in all, Buffalo’s defense should provide too many headaches for Derek Carr and the Raiders. That and the Bills are still in the playoff hunt. Buffalo covers on the road.
Against the Spread: Buffalo Bills
Straight Up: Buffalo Bills
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (+8.5)
It’s the same ol’ song and dance with the Cardinals. Another game, another major injury, and another backup that needs to step up. This is why Bruce Arians deserves to be the NFL Coach of the Year, hands down. This week, it’s Ryan Lindley taking over at quarterback, and while at home, he’s facing a potent Seattle defense that is playing its best football of the season. The Cards are playing on a few days extra rest, and always seem to find a way. Because of that, I’ll probably regret this, but Seattle has been suffocating on defense, and can we really expect Lindley to lead Arizona to a win over the Super Bowl champs? Seattle covers on the road.
Against the Spread: Seattle Seahawks
Straight Up: Seattle Seahawks
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals (+3.5)
How is Peyton Manning feeling this week? That’s the biggest question. That, and will Denver be focusing on its running game, led by C.J. Anderson again. The Bengals continue to fend off Baltimore and Pittsburgh for the division lead, and are coming off a blowout win over the Browns. But THAT was Johnny Manziel and THIS is Peyton Manning. The Bengals also have just 18 sacks on the season, meaning that Manning will likely have plenty of time in the pocket. The Bengals gave up 40 or more points to both the Steelers and Patriots this season, and while Denver likely will not hit that mark if it continues to focus on the run, that doesn’t mean the Broncos won’t cover. In fact, they will.
Against the Spread: Denver Broncos
Straight Up: Denver Broncos