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Week 15 NFL Preview & Picks: Who takes hold of the Wild-Card races?

Seth Dunlap
December 14, 2018 - 7:24 pm
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A wild, and wildly entertaining, Thursday Night Football game was the perfect way to kick off the Week 15 schedule in the NFL.  The Chiefs blew a chance to clinch the AFC West division title and essentially lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, while Phillip Rivers and the Chargers lassoed their way back into contention in both races. 

Now, we get a weekend full of critically important games for playoff positioning and, most of all, in the Wild Card races.

After a two-week hiatus, The Picks are back!  Let’s try to sort out this madness.

 

Texans (-7.5) @ Jets

While the Texans are about to set (we believe) an auspicious record by becoming the first team in the re-alignment era of the NFL – and possibly the first team since the league went to a full 16 game schedule, to go an entire season without playing a team with a winning record.  The Texans are assured now that all 16 of their games will be against team at, or below, .500 when they played. 

Keep that in mind when evaluating Houston’s resume.  Also keep in mind that they haven’t been very dominant on the road.  They are 2-4 ATS in road games, and have only one double digit victory.  Plus, they just came off an emotionally crushing loss to Indianapolis. 

Pick: Texans 24, Jets 20

Against the Spread: Jets (+7)

 

Browns @ Broncos (-2.5)

Much like the Texans, the Browns have feasted at home and famished on the road.  Cleveland is just 1-5 straight up on the road, and now travel to one of the toughest places in the league to play in December.   This is where the Browns-as-playoff-contenders headlines go to die.

Pick: Broncos 23, Browns 16

ATS: Broncos (-2.5)

 

Cardinals @ Falcons (-10)

There’s been only one time in the past 30 years that a team with four or fewer wins was a double digit favorite.   That was two weeks ago when the Cardinals played in Green Bay.   Yeah, the Cardinals offense has been historically bad, scoring over 20 points just twice all season.  However, the Falcons defense has been nearly as dreadful, allowing 367 points – second worst in the NFC.   This just feels like a complete public trap line.   The smart money is either off of this game, or on the Cardinals. 

Pick: Falcons 30, Cardinals 23

ATS: Cardinals (+10)

 

Lions @ Bills (-2.5)

It’s rare that the coach of a 4-9 team deserves some credit, but in this case it’s deserved for Bills' coach Sean McDermott.  Buffalo was supposed to be the league’s worst team – not one of them, but the worst team.   McDermott’s defense has been good, just as it was for years in Carolina.  That’s why you see an fairly rare (in 2018) o/u of 39.5. 

Still, I like Matthew Stafford more than Josh Allen right now, but that debate is a lot closer than it should be. 

Pick: Lions 23, Bills 20

ATS: Lions (+2.5)

 

Packers @ Bears (-5.5)

For years Aaron Rodgers has been worth more points than any other player in football in Vegas.  We see that again here with the Bears, fresh off a dominating performance against the previously 12-1 Rams, are listed as only 5.5 point favorites at home.  Chicago, for the first time during Rodgers’ tenure in Green Bay, has a legitimate shot to humiliate the Packers in front of a Soldier Field crowd while Rodgers plays.  Don’t think coach Matt Nagy and everybody in that Bears’ locker room doesn’t realize this. 

Pick:  Bears 30, Packers 17

ATS:  Bears (-5.5)

 

Raiders @ Bengals (-3)

I’d stay way away from betting this game.  This is the epitome of a tank-game opportunity for Oakland, having just placated what remains of their fan base with a remarkable win over the Steelers.  Oakland went from a sure bet to land the top overall pick to possibly falling out of the top five.

Do you really trust the Bengals though?  They’ve lost five straight games, and seven of their last eight.  The Marvin Lewis era is probably, finally, winding down in Cleveland.

Pick: Bengals 23, Raiders 22

ATS: Raiders (+3)

 

Cowboys @ Colts (-3)

What’s given Andrew Luck fits over the years?  A ferocious pass rush and a physical, bump-and-run secondary.   Hello Dallas!

However, the Cowboys aren’t the same team on the road, and may not have much to play for considering they’ve essentially clinched the NFC East with last week’s win over Philadelphia.  This game holds much more importance for the Colts who are trying to break out of a four-way tie for the final playoff spot in the AFC.

Pick:  Colts 27, Cowboys 20

ATS:  Colts (-3)

 

Dolphins @ Vikings (-7.5)

The Vikings just fired their offensive coordinator.  In Week 15.  In the middle of a playoff race.  While they are in position to actually make the playoffs.  You’re telling me that seven days later the play-calling is going to magically resurrect this underachieving offense?  I’m not buying it.

Facing any other playoff contender I’d probably be calling for an outright upset here.  However, the Dolphins are just 1-5 on the road, and have lost by 8+ points in four of those five losses.  I’ll play the middle.

Pick:  Vikings 27, Dolphins 23

ATS:  Dolphins (+7.5)

 

Titans (-1) @ Giants

The Titans are 2-5 on the road.  The Giants are just 2-4 at home, but they’ve won four of their past five games.   Give me the hotter team at home in what’s basically a pick-em game.

Pick:  Giants 28, Titans 21

ATS:  Giants (+1)

 

Washington @ Jacksonville (-7)

This Jacksonville defense has been a complete disappointment, but that’s relative to their preseason expectations.  They’ve still been good just not generationally great as some (see: me) expected.  I’m not sure how Washington’s fourth-string quarterback Josh Johnson can be expected to score points in this spot.  I don’t mean a lot of points.  I mean points.  Any of them.   Ok, they’ll score.  But seriously, would you want to be Johnson here?

Pick:  Jacksonville 24, Washington 10

ATS:  Jacksonville (-7)

 

Buccaneers @ Ravens (-7.5)

I trust Jameis Winston like I trust that 1989 Pontiac Grand Am I drove in college.   It’s not want I really wanted to be driving, but it was the best option I had.   I just hoped it would keep running until school was out and maybe I could scrape together some money to upgrade.

Pick:  Ravens 30, Bucs 20

ATS:  Ravens (-7.5)

 

Seahawks (-3.5) @ 49ers

This line is just bizarre.  The Seahawks have built a team exactly how you’d draw it up if you’re trying to win on the road in December.  They have the league’s best running game, an emerging playmaking defense, and the best 4th quarter quarterback in the league.  Oh, and the 49ers haven’t beaten the Seahawks since before Seattle won the Super Bowl.

By the way, if you haven't watched the viral video below, created by a Seahawks blogger, please treat your eyes and ears to this masterpiece.  It's beatufil.  And awful.  Beautifully awful, and I can't stop watching it!  

Pick:  Seahawks 30, 49ers 20

ATS:  Seahawks (-3.5)

 

Patriots (-2.5) @ Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger is 2-10 against the Patriots in his career.   The Patriots are the best team in the league during the Belichick-Brady era coming off a loss.  I’m also rooting for the Steelers meltdown to continue just so the Browns-as-playoff-contenders headlines do somehow stick around.

Pick:  Patriots 26, Steelers 23

ATS:  Patriots (-2.5)

 

Eagles @ Rams (-13)

You could have gotten the Rams at -10.5 mid-week.  Now everybody from Los Angeles to Fairbanks knows about Carson Wentz’s back and most probably saw that extremely awkward Doug Pederson press conference.  Rams win big. 

Pick:  Rams 34, Eagles 20

ATS:  Rams (-13)

 

Saints (-5.5) @ Panthers

I get that professional athletes try to use anything as motivation nowadays.   But Cam Newton suddenly turning to Broom-gate screams of desperation.   Newton can’t throw downfield, and the Saints run defense has been among the best in the league all year.   Unless Christian McCaffrey turns into LaDanian Tomlinson – spoiler alert, he kind of already has – and the Saints defense continues to regress then this should be a rout.

Oh, and Sean Payton and Drew Brees always tend to shut up the doubters in prime-time.  We’re looking at you Adam Lefkoe.

Pick:  Saints 34, Panthers 17

ATS:  Saints (-5.5)

 

SEASON STRAIGHT UP:  92-41-1

SEASON ATS:  69-61-3

 

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