I'm really hoping to stay above .500 for the year's picks, but it might not be easy. I went an ugly 6-8-2 ATS and 9-7 straight up during this weird, weird week that saw the Steelers, Saints and Falcons get killed and the Seahawks win by 58 points.
103-99-9 (50.9%) ATS
128-79 (61.8%) straight-up
Luck and Griffin continued their amazing rookie crusades with last-second wins, the Lions botched another winnable game, the Jets are still alive in the playoffs despite being horrendous, the Browns won by 23 points (their biggest win since 2003), Nick Foles was a stud, the Cowboys stayed alive, the Bucs died, and the MVP comes down to Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning, two guys that we didn't even think for sure were healthy enough to play this season.
Also ... Colin Kaepernick is going to be a star QB very soon, Tom Brady embarrassed the Texans so badly that JJ Watt could lose the D-MVP to Von Miller as a result, and Calvin Johnson and AP both inched closer to breaking a couple of incredible single-season yardage records. I picked the Niners-Dolphins game exactly (27-13), and went 11-4 in my first week of ever guessing the over/under on total scores. (Not bad!)
In Draft news, KC and Jacksonville essentially locked in the 1st and 2nd picks, with KC going 1st right now by virtue of the tiebreaker. (Maybe it won't be a QB after all ... Geno Smith stock is dropping). Detroit has a chance to pick as high as 3rd, or as low as 10th. Two stud players the Lions sorely need are in that range - CB Dee Milliner and LB Manti Te'o. I'm almost rooting for Detroit to lose to Arizona, but not really, because that's humiliating.
Here are my week 15 picks:
Bengals (7-6) @ Eagles (4-9)
Predicted Line: PHI by 2
Actual Line: CIN by 5
The 6th playoff spot in the AFC is basically going to come down to Pittsburgh or Cincy, unless both teams implode and the Jets sneak in. Philly, after losing eight straight, has found a leader in Nick Foles, who was stinking fantastic against Tampa. If the next few games go well for Foles, he'll be their starting QB in 2013, and he just might save Andy Reid's job.
I'm taking the Eagles for two reasons: they're a 5-point homedog, and Nnamdi Asomugha should be able to slow down AJ Green, who is really the only weapon Cincinnati has. Although Nnamdi has had a really bad year by his standards, he's still one of the few guys alive who can limit AJ Green. Bengals 23-20.
Giants (8-5) @ Falcons (11-2)
Predicted Line: ATL by 4
Actual Line: ATL by 1
I'm pretty sure Atlanta's the better team, and should be favored by more than 1. This looks like a total overreaction spread. I'll say Falcons 28-23.
Packers (9-3) @ Bears (8-4)
Predicted Line: GB by 3
Actual Line: GB by 3
Another overreaction line. Everybody is freaking out about Brian Urlacher's injury, but Urlacher is barely the fifth best player on his own defense (Peppers, Briggs, Tillman, Jennings). By contrast, Green Bay is still without Woodson and Matthews, who are both significantly better than Urlacher. I hate Chicago and Jay Cutler was awful last week, (almost had 2 pick-sixes), but they probably shouldn't be a 3 point underdog at home. That said, Green Bay is rolling and I've picked against the Bears all season, so why stop now. Packers 27-17.
Redskins (7-6) @ Browns (5-8)
Predicted Line: WAS by 3
Actual Line: WAS by 1
Griffin is somewhere between questionable and probable. In the interests of winning ROY (not to mention they have an outside chance at the playoffs), he should definitely start. If he does, I'm taking Washington. If not, I'm probably still taking Washington. Cleveland winning 4 in a row isn't a scenario I can fathom.
Griffin is out; Kirk Cousins is starting. I guess I'll stick with the Redskins, 23-21.
Vikings (7-6) @ Rams (6-6-1)
Predicted Line: STL by 1
Actual Line: STL by 3
I managed to watch most of the Vikings-Bears game last week, and it's clear that Adrian Peterson is gunning for nothing less than Eric Dickerson's record. He needs 168 rushing yards per game over the next 3 games. Which means, he needs a big 200+ game and he'll get there. Could this be that game?
Common sense would lean towards no, because the Rams rank 6th against the run. Jeff Fisher has them playing excellent defense, only giving up 30 points twice, to QBs named Rodgers and Brady. The Rams are a tremendous 9-4 ATS this year, and Fisher has done more with less talent than any other coach in the league. Not sure who will win Coach of the Year ... Kubiak, Jim Harbaugh, Belichick maybe ... but Fisher should at least be in the discussion. He won't win it, because the Rams aren't going to the playoffs, but he's done a great job.
Anyway, three observations concerning the Vikings:
1) Christian Ponder has clearly regressed. He was awful last week, as he's been awful for a while. Throwing off his back foot, missing open guys, panicking in the pocket. All with 9 guys in the box focused on AP. Pretty sad how his career began with so much potential and now it's tumbling to the ground. Oh well.
2) Matt Kalil is amazing. A very worthy top 5 pick last year. He held his own against a tough Bears' D-line, including Julius Peppers on several plays. It's clear how much Adrian Peterson appreciates him. And it's pretty clear he should be in the Pro Bowl.
3) The Vikings defense is crap. Other than Jared Allen of course. But that secondary looked as lost as the Lions'.
So I'm taking the Rams, I guess. I think AP runs for about 145 yards, but Ponder betrays him and the Rams win this one 26-20.
Jaguars (2-11) @ Dolphins (5-8)
Predicted Line: MIA by 4.5
Actual Line: MIA by 7.5
Miami likes to lose low-scoring, with an average score of 16-20. Jacksonville likes to lose big, 13-27 on average.
So I'm not real sure what to do with this spread. I don't think Ryan Tannehill has earned the right to be favored by 7 against anyone. Chad Henne's the better QB in this game, and he's facing his former team, which might give him some added motivation. I guess I like the Jags to keep it close. Maybe 20-14, Dolphins.
Bucs (6-7) @ Saints (5-8)
Predicted Line: NO by 3
Actual Line: NO by 3.5
I'm so sick of hearing about the Bounty thing. I hope I never hear about it again. Bucs 34-27.
Broncos (10-3) @ Ravens (9-4)
Predicted Line: DEN by 3
Actual Line: DEN by 3
Pretty sure there's a rule about not betting against Peyton Manning when he's on an 8 game winning streak. Plus, Baltimore has been overrated all year, and it's finally catching up with them, as this could be their third straight loss. How about Broncos 31-20.
Colts (9-4) @ Texans (11-2)
Predicted Line: HOU by 6.5
Actual Line: HOU by 10
I'm pretty sure Luck is good enough that he shouldn't be a 9 point dog against anyone. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure. Houston 27-24.
Seahawks (8-5) @ Bills (5-8)
Predicted Line: SEA by 3
Actual Line: SEA by 6
Remember when that idiot Richard Sherman trash-talked Tom Brady back in week 6, and I said
"It's like a mailman talking trash to Obama because they are both government employees and the mailman had a good day."
Well, Sherman has turned out to be a better mailman that anyone expected. The 2011 5th round pick (taken a whopping 110 picks after Titus Young) is already being called the best shutdown cornerback in football. By a lot of people. Including: Pro Football Focus, Ron Jaworski, Bleacher Report, WalterFootball, New England Sports Network, and of course, Himself.
So from this point forward, we have to consider Sherman's impact when picking the games. That entire Seattle defense is kicking serious butt, but Sherman just held Larry Fitzgerald to 1 catch and 2 yards, so he's their star right now. It goes to figure that he'll shut down Stevie Johnson, but the Bills' offense should still be able to move the ball a little. It's sad that Fred Jackson's season-ending injury is actually a good thing for Buffalo, because CJ Spiller is clearly the better runner, and they'll finally be forced to use him. Remember when Jackson got hurt early in the season and Spiller ran for 292 yards in 2 games?
On the flip side, Marshawn Lynch goes into Buffalo to face the team that drafted him 12th overall in 2007. I imagine Bills fans aren't too fond of him. He shmucked around for 3 years, got hurt, arrested, suspended, then was traded for a 4th round pick. Now, he's an undeniable stud and maybe a top 5 RB in the league. Crappy luck for Buffalo.
I just don't believe in taking Seattle on the road, and despite Buffalo's current 2-7 skid, I think they're playing better than their record indicates. But I will take the Seahawks outright, 16-13.
Lions (4-9) @ Cardinals (4-9)
Predicted Line: DET by 3
Actual Line: DET by 6.5
Sheesh. We really have the same record as a team that's lost 9 straight? The only good thing I can say about the 2012 Lions is that they have me really looking forward to baseball season.
Let's look at this by the matchups:
Worst offensive line in NFL history VS. Suh, Fairley, Avril = huge edge to Detroit.
Absolutely no running game VS. Detroit's pretty good linebackers = huge edge to Detroit.
John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, or recently acquired Brian Hoyer = huge, huge, huge win for Detroit.
Larry Fitzgerald VS. Chris Houtson = huge win for Arizona.
The rest of the Cardinals weapons VS. the Lions' secondary = crap against crap. Could go either way.
Cards' defensive line VS. Lions' O-line = decent edge to Arizona.
Stafford VS. a defense that can rush the passer pretty well and cover pretty well too = tie.
Calvin VS. Patrick Peterson = edge to Calvin, obviously, but Peterson is good.
Leshoure and Bell VS. 30th ranked rush defense = edge for Lions
Tony Scheffler, Mike Thomas and Kris Durham VS. Cards' secondary = edge to Arizona.
Ken Whisenhunt VS. Jim Schwartz = edge to Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald says the Cardinals have quit = edge for Lions.
Calvin Johnson's pursuit of single-season record = edge for Lions.
Both coaches trying to keep their jobs = tie.
Homefield advantage = edge to Cardinals
Lions feeling embarrassed, disrespected, angry = edge for Lions.
Cardinals just can't wait for this season end = edge for Lions.
4pm EST game = edge for Cardinals.
Just heard the official word. Ryan Lindley will start.
He was worse than numbers can possibly explain in his 3 starts (no offensive touchdowns, 3 defensive touchdowns), but I'm going to refrain from making fun of him because if any defense could give up a 300 yard, 3 TD game to Ryan Lindley, it would be the Lions. In fact, I'm almost positive that will happen.
I'll say Lions win, 31-21.
Panthers (4-9) @ Chargers (5-8)
Predicted Line: SD by 2
Actual Line: SD by 3
Both teams were very impressive last week, but have found ways to lose close games all season. Carolina is the better team with the better QB and better coach, and I'm really, really sick of the Chargers after all the ways they ruined my fantasy season(s). Panthers 27-13.
Steelers (7-6) @ Cowboys (7-6)
Predicted Line: DAL by 2
Actual Line: PIT by 2
This line probably dropped a point or two because of Dez Bryant's broken finger, which is stupid. Anyway, the guy who would have guarded Dez, Ike Tayor, is also out, as are Pittsburgh's #2 and #3 cornerbacks. The secondary is in shambles, which is why they were thrashed by Phillip Rivers last week. Both of these teams and deeply flawed and deeply talented, and both need to win this game. A loss knocks Dallas out completely, while Pittsburgh can afford to lose as long as they beat the Bengals next week, which we all know they will. So I am actually going to take the homedog; I think the absence of Dez just means good games for Austin, Witten and Murray. Cowboys 33-30.
Chiefs (2-11) @ Raiders (3-10)
Predicted Line: OAK by 3
Actual Line: OAK by 3
So much for my idiotic belief in Brady Quinn. Apparently a few profound words at a press conference doesn't make someone a good quarterback. I won't make that mistake again.
Oakland may actually want to lose this game, because it gives them a solid chance at the #1 or #2 pick and finding a franchise QB. Their defense is AWFUL (28th against the pass, 26th against the run, 30th in total yards, 31st in sacks, 32nd in points allowed, 29th on third downs) so even if they intend to stop Jamaal Charles, they might not be able to. Offensively, they're not much better. They only gain yards in garbage time. And to top it all off, Oakland is horrible at home: 5-10 over the past two years, and 5-27 ATS against sub .500 teams. So long story short, I'm taking the Chiefs! Man, I'm an idiot. KC 26-13.
49ers (9-3-1) @ Patriots (10-3)
Predicted Line: NE by 7
Actual Line: NE by 4.5
Winning 7 in a row is always amazing. What's more amazing is scoring more than 40 points per game during that stretch. And it wasn't against a bunch of cupcake defenses; those 7 defense average a rank of 13th best in the NFL, and would be a tad higher if they all hadn't just taken turns getting whipped by the Patriots. So all that to say, if they can thrash Houston, St. Louis, Miami and Buffalo's above average defenses, why can't they do the same to San Francisco? When in doubt, Tom Brady covers the spread 59% of the time, so take the Pats. New England 37-27.
Jets (6-7) @ Titans (4-9)
Predicted Line: NYJ by 3
Actual Line: TEN by 1.5
The stupid idiot Jets are going to win again and stay in this playoff race. I actually hope they make the playoffs so Peyton Manning can eradicate them by about 40 points in the first round. Jets win this one, 22-20.