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Week Fifteen Picks

December 11th, 2014

I don’t mean to startle anyone, but my results in week fourteen were brutally uneven. Crazy, right? I finished 12-4 straight up, which is pretty good, and 6-9-1 against the spread, which is damned awful. On the season, I’m now 138-70 (.663) straight up, 95-110-3 (.463) against the spread. This is where I repeat my line about how glad I am that I don’t gamble. And then it’s straight on to all the stuff that won’t come to pass in week fifteen, also known as what not to expect.

Arizona (+4.5) at St. Louis
I know St. Louis has logged a pair of impressive outings these last two weeks. And I know everyone’s waiting for Arizona to fall apart. But the Cardinals aren’t the Raiders or the Racists. And the Rams aren’t the Seahawks. So I’m banking on Arizona getting to 11 wins and clinching a playoff spot before surrendering the NFC West crown to Seattle next week. Cardinals by a field goal.

Oakland (+10) at Kansas City
Last time these two teams met — a whole three weeks ago — the Chiefs were 7-3 and hot on the heels of the Broncos in the AFC West race. Kansas City’s fortunes could hardly have changed any more dramatically than they have as a result of the three-game skid that started with their tough loss in Oakland.  The losing streak has pretty much wiped out the Chiefs’ chances of reaching the postseason. KC hasn’t been eliminated numerically, but the Chiefs need more help than they’re likely to get. Still, they’re not bad enough to suffer a season sweep at the hands of an ultimately inferior division rival. Kansas City wins this one decisively. Probably by a pair of touchdowns.

Jacksonville (+13.5) at Baltimore
See, because the kind of things the Chiefs would need in order to get into the tournament include the Jaguars going into Baltimore and beating the Ravens. And in football, just like in everything else, there are things that can happen and things that simply can’t. Baltimore by 20.

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at Atlanta
I suspect that what’s going to happen in the end is that the Saints are going to carry the NFC South at an almost respectable 8-8. Until that comes to pass, however, every loss by one of the two 5-8 NFC South “leaders” increases the potential for a 7-9 (or, hell, 5-11) team to host a 12-4 or 11-5 team in the first round of the playoffs. Here comes one of those losses. The Falcons may be able to keep it close against the unimpressive Steelers pass D, but in the end I think Pittsburgh takes control by running the ball down Atlanta’s throats. Steelers by a point.

Houston (+6.5) at Indianapolis
You know what? As crazy as it may be even to consider the possibility of the Colts missing an opportunity to clinch the AFC South — not to mention damaging their chances of snatching the conference two seed from the Patriots or Broncos — particularly against a team they beat in Houston back in October, I smell an upset coming here. Texans win the turnover battle this time around and exact a bit of revenge against their division foes. Houston by a field goal.

Cincinnati (pick ’em) at Cleveland
It should be fun to watch everyone get worked up about the greatness of Johnny Manziel after the Cleveland defense manhandles Cincinnati (once again) to complete the season sweep. Browns by a touchdown.

Miami (-7.5) at New England
The Dolphins are probably a slightly better team now than they were in week one when they outscored the Patriots 23-0 in the second half and sacked Tom Brady four times en route to a 33-20 victory. The problem for Miami, though, is that New England now is a much better team than it was then. Brady hasn’t taken more than two sacks in any game since the opener. And the Patriots, over a just-concluded brutal stretch of schedule that saw them face the Broncos, Colts, Lions, Packers and Chargers, allowed a total of 30 second half points, including just three touchdowns, while scoring 71, with nine TDs. (Also, 24 of those second half points allowed, and all three TDs, were in the first two of those games. In their last home game, against Detroit, and the two-game road swing to Green Bay and San Diego, New England gave up just six total second half points.) Add a rather significant difference in weather conditions and a revived New England ground game that Miami has little chance of stopping and I think you have a formula for a rout. Patriots wrap up their sixth straight AFC East title, winning by three touchdowns.

Tampa Bay (+4.5) at Carolina
Even without Cam Newton in the lineup, the Panthers should be able to dispatch the Buccaneers. But even with Netwon, Carolina wouldn’t have won this game by more than a field goal. Panthers by three.

Washington (+6.5) at NY Giants
It’s hardly a compliment to say that a team is at least somewhat better than the Racists. But there you have it. Giants by a touchdown.

Green Bay (-5) at Buffalo
The Packers may not be quite the force away from Lambeau Field that they are at home. And Green Bay may be traveling on a short week. But, um, come on, now. Green Bay by no less than a touchdown.

Minnesota (+8) at Detroit
The Vikings have certainly improved since the last time these teams met. That’s nice and all. But what does it mean? Maybe Minnesota puts up 10 points this time. And, you know, maybe Detroit doesn’t miss a pair of field goals. So if the Lions took the last one by 14 and my math has the Vikings closing the gap by a net of one point, that gets us to Detroit by 13. Exciting.

NY Jets (-1.5) at Tennessee
This should be riveting. Jets by a field goal.

Denver (-4) at San Diego
The Chargers ought to be able to pull off the upset here, what with duck season having arrived in Denver and all. If they were a serious postseason contender, the Chargers would pull off the upset here. But they aren’t. The Chargers have been frauds all season and frauds they remain. They’re not taking this one, and they’re probably not making the playoffs. Though I suspect San Diego will make it look like a game for about three quarters, in the end, Denver comes out ahead by three.

San Francisco (+9.5) at Seattle
When the home team is surging and the road team is falling apart, it gets pretty easy to make a call. Seahawks by 16.

Dallas (+3.5) at Philadelphia
The Cowboys couldn’t get it done against the Eagles at home on Thanksgiving. I don’t see any reason to think they can turn things around in Philadelphia 17 days later. The Eagles effectively, though not literally, wrap up the NFC East title with a six-point win.

New Orleans (-3) at Chicago
Three pieces of good news for the Saints: They’re on the road, where they occasionally win a game. Even at 5-8, they have the inside track to the NFC South “championship.” And, best of all, the Bears have an atrocious pass defense. New Orleans by a touchdown.

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