Week 15 NFL Picks

By Travis Wingfield

I think it’s fair to liken the consistency of my picks to that of Tim Tebow’s quarterbacking in 2011. (Look at that, one sentence into the column and we have our first Touchdown Jesus reference.) The picks have been up and down, but the results have been effective and well on the plus side of things. A couple of years ago, I used to just pick out some of my favorite games but I soon realized by covering the bases and making scaled wagers on every game, I was good enough to win more than half the games and turn a profit. Here we are up over 20 units for the season. Getting in on the action early helped keep the Patriots at just a touchdown favorite (earning a push) but, unfortunately, costing me the Broncos game where magic maker quarterback did it again. Nonetheless, it was another solid week heading down the home stretch. The goal is to stay up over 30 units and record my highest wining total of all time. Here are the week 14 numbers.

Week 14 SU: 12-4
Week 14 ATS: 11-4-1
Week 14 +/-: +14 units

Season SU: 125-81
Season ATS: 106-95-7
Season +/-: +25 units

Here are the week 15 picks:

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) @ Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
Line: Falcons -11 ½

What an odd week 14 for each of these teams. Jacksonville was averaging just over 11 points per game coming into and threw up 41 against a hapless Tampa Bay team and Atlanta stormed back against the dynamic Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. There are two extremely contradicting rules that I generally follow occurring in this match-up, which makes it a small play for me. The first one is: any time it’s a severely shortened week (Thursday game,) always take the home team if it’s a quality team (and the Falcons qualify as such.) Secondly, and complete polar opposite: Atlanta has a Monday night showdown with the division’s elite in New Orleans next week. The Falcons have been up and down all year and despite the Jaguars inability to score most of the time, there have been flashes recently of Gabbert getting the ball out on time and leaning heavily on Maurice Jones-Drew.

The Jaguars are playing its third game in 11 days and a tired defense will get worn down by Michael Turner and the Atlanta ground game leading to some big plays down the field in the play-action game.

Jaguars 10
Falcons 27

Pick: Falcons -11 ½
Bet: 1 unit

Dallas Cowboys (7-6) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9)
Line: Cowboys -7

The Cowboys proved on Sunday that running the football isn’t so much of a DeMarco Murray thing as it is a Dallas Cowboys thing. The offensive line is getting after it using young, athletic guards to pull on power plays, and the explosiveness of Felix Jones to pick up chunks of yardage. Tony Romo has been stellar this year and there’s no reason to think he can’t continue against a Tampa Bay defense that has just been atrocious this season. Josh Freeman looks like a completely different quarterback and the lack of down the field explosion is allowing teams to key on LaGarrette Blount and completely neutralize the Buccaneers offense.

I’m somewhat apprehensive of the Cowboys after a complete collapse last Sunday night in a contest that would’ve nearly wrapped up the NFC East for the club. But after consecutive let downs, the Cowboys run into the worst team currently in the NFC and get out of South Florida with a convincing win.

Cowboys 28
Buccaneers 15

Pick: Cowboys -7
Bet: 3 units

Miami Dolphins (4-9) @ Buffalo Bills (5-8)
Line: Dolphins -1

Regardless of records or rosters, the Dolphins historically struggle at Ralph Wilson in December. Add to the fact that Jake Long is out, Marc Colombo might as well be out, Vernon Carey is a tree stump and Matt Moore probably won’t play, the Dolphins have no ability to protect the quarterback or throw the football. Buffalo’s defense has been completely shaken since Kyle Williams went out, but I think the club can get up to bury the Dolphins and climb out of the cellar of the AFC East for the first time in four years.

Buffalo’s offense isn’t going to accomplish much for itself either as last time these clubs met, Buffalo didn’t convert a third down and Miami’s defense is currently ranked 5th in scoring in the NFL. The Dolphins players did, however, believe in Tony Sparano and without his job to fight for, I think the team loses some of its spunk. Oh, yeah, J.P. Losman is another good reason to bet against Miami.

Dolphins 6
Bills 17

Pick: Bills +1
Bet: 1 unit

Washington Redskins (4-9) @ New York Giants (7-6)
Line: Giants -7

It’s difficult to fathom this Redskins team beating a far superior Giants squad, but that’s what happened in week one. The Giants M.A.S.H unit on defense was shredded by Rex Grossman and the newly put together offensive line couldn’t protect Eli Manning. These things have been sewn up since then and Manning is having his best year as a pro. His late game brilliance coupled with his improved accuracy attacking downfield has put him into that self-proclaimed “elite” status that he mentioned back in August.

The Redskins just don’t match-up here. The offensive line remains a problem (just as it has for the past few years,) it won’t be able to answer Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora, the middle of the defense won’t be able to ward off the Giants from having balance on the ground and the Giants, seething for revenge, will put a whooping on the boys from the nation’s capital.

Redskins 12
Giants 27

Pick: Giants -7
Bet: 2 units

Tennessee Titans (7-6) @ Indianapolis Colts (0-13)
Line: Titans -7

The only time the Colts are capable of scoring points is when trailing 31-3 against the NFL’s worst defense. Unfortunately for the Fighting Orlovsky’s, the Titans defense is strict on the corners, and fast on the edges spelling major problems for a lethargic protection scheme and bored receivers. Cortland Finnegan can continue to shut Reggie Wayne out of this season to forget and Derrick Morgan can abuse Anthony Costanzo at the point of attack.

Jake Locker has been giving this Titans team a shot in the arm, but I like the road team even if the wily game manager, Matt Hasselbeck, is a healthy play. Tennessee closes with the hapless Colts, Jags and then a week 17 trip to Houston to take on a team that probably won’t have much to play for. The Jets may control their own destiny for the 6 seed, but the smart money is on the Titans.

Titans 24
Colts 3

Pick: Titans -7
Bet: 3 units

Carolina Panthers (3-10) @ Houston Texans (10-3)
Line: Texans -7

It hasn’t been eye-popping, but T.J. Yates economical approach to the weekly game-plan and late game heroics are certainly noteworthy. I haven’t been a believer of the rookie from North Carolina and, frankly, I’m still not. This is his easiest test to date in terms of formidable defense; it’s the other rookie quarterback that I like to bet on. The Panthers defense has been atrocious in both facets of the game, but I don’t think the Texans are playing to blow any teams out and that’s why the smart play is Carolina. The Panthers are getting seven points against a team that wants to shorten the game, pound the rock, and play steady defense. That is not a formula for covering large spreads and Cam Newton has been known to sneak in a backdoor cover a time or two this year.

Panthers 13
Texans 19

Pick: Panthers +7
Bet: 1 unit

Green Bay Packers (13-0) @ Kansas City Chiefs (5-8)
Line: Packers -14 ½

The teams that are putting up big point totals on the Packers defense are elite groups that basically do similar damage to all the defenses in the NFL. The Chiefs, led by Tyler Palko, aren’t even capable of scoring 20 points in a game regardless which defense is on the field. Mix in a group that relies on turnovers, plays the football, and takes a lot of gambles, and you have a recipe for disaster for the home team. The Chiefs are one of many teams this year that has been completely decimated by injury. The only strength the Chiefs currently have is the best cornerback duo in the National Football League but, unfortunately for Kansas City, the Packers greatest strength is its receivers. Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr match-up well with most, especially with Greg Jennings out, but Aaron Rodgers has many more weapons in his arsenal and is not afraid to use them. The best 20 game stretch for any quarterback to ever play the game continues this Sunday in the Packers second straight massacre of an AFC West club.

Packers 38
Chiefs 3

Pick: Packers -14 ½
Bet: 3 units

Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) @ St. Louis Rams (2-11)
Line: Bengals -7

It’s interesting to see multiple teams in the NFL completely incapable of moving the football or scoring points at all in an era where offense is king. Perhaps the demand for quality quarterbacking, depth at receiver and multiple tight end sets has let the cupboards somewhat bare across the NFL landscape. The Rams are one of this teams that display no ability or threat to ever light up a scoreboard. The offensive line play is atrocious, Sam Bradford is playing on one foot, and Brandon Lloyd is the only thing close to an NFL receiver that the Rams feature. Not to be out-done, the secondary has been riddled with injuries (10 cornerbacks have missed games for St. Louis: TEN!)

The Bengals have collapsed against the superior foes but can rebound with a couple of favorable games on tap. Andy Dalton continues to be judicious with the football and I haven’t seen a rookie receiver bust onto the scene like A.J. Green has since Randy Moss. Dalton to Green should account for more than enough points for the Bengals to stroll in this one.

Bengals 24
Rams 10

Pick: Bengals -7
Bet: 2 units

New Orleans Saints (10-3) @ Minnesota Vikings (3-10)
Line: Saints -7

Although the game is indoors, the Saints have struggles on the road regardless of the opponent. Adrian Peterson should play and Christian Ponder has exceeded all early expectations this year. He’s pin-point accurate, has grasped the scheme extremely quickly, honed in his pre-snap reads, and is getting the production from Percy Harvin that Bret Favre got. The Saints will score points on the Vikings, don’t be mistaken about that. The Minnesota secondary is aging and lacks direction which leads to a lot of high yardage totals. Drew Brees will have his day, but it’s the soft interior of the Saints defensive line that Peterson can abuse setting up Ponder to be quite dangerous in the play-action passing game. The Saints are also going to be peeking ahead to that big Monday night showdown with the Falcons. Saints win, but do not cover in this one.

Saints 28
Vikings 24

Pick: Vikings +7
Bet: 2 units

Seattle Seahawks (6-7) @ Chicago Bears (7-6)
Line: Bears -3 ½

I have really shifted gears on my view points on the Seahawks. Tom Cable has infused a zone-blocking scheme that has taken Marshawn Lynch’s production to new heights (he still dances and pokes around too much for my taste) but over-coming these injuries on the offensive line has to start taking it’s toll at some-point. Paul McQuistan filled in admirably at right guard but losing Russell Okung shifted him to left tackle and the Bears have a certain defensive end on that side that will take exception to a back-up trying to block him.

Even though the Bears offense won’t be able to muster much against a Seattle defense that features the best safety tandem in the National Football League, it’s Julius Peppers destroying the entire offensive game-plan of the Seahawks that I’m betting on. The Bears season is on the line and it’s time for the defense and special teams to win a game. Devin Hester will make a big play that changes this football game.

Seahawks 10
Bears 16

Pick: Bears -3 ½
Bet: 2 units

Detroit Lions (8-5) @ Oakland Raiders (7-6)
Line: Lions -1

The Raiders have completely imploded and lost a grasp on the 2011 season. That organization is the most snake-bitten in the NFL over the past decade. Well, second to its opponent on Sunday, the Detroit Lions. Ndamukong Suh returns to the line-up and will have a dramatic impact. The big man is going to be even more fierce and impossible to block following a two game time-out from the commissioner. The Raiders want to pound the football, wear down the defense and rush the passer to preserve tight leads. The Lions offense is one of the fabulous five in the NFL (and I love betting on offense.) The Raiders secondary is predicated on speed and will not defend the physically imposing Calvin Johnson or Brandon Pettigrew with much ease.

I like an inspired Lions football team to win a game that it absolutely has to have with a difficult San Diego team in town next week and the perfect Packers in the final week of the season.

Lions 31
Raiders 17

Pick: Lions
Bet: 4 units

New York Jets (8-5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-8)
Line: Eagles -3

Michael Vick gave a spark to an otherwise dead Philadelphia team and showed what the team has been capable all year last week in Miami. Trent Cole and Jason Babin were virtually unblockable and, frankly, if I didn’t despise everything about New York Jets football, I’d be concerned about the well-being of their adorable little quarterback. The Jets offense still stinks regardless of what it did to Kansas City last week. Shone Greene might get his yards against the two ends playing 9 techniques on the edge, but when the Jets are forced into 3rd and long, Mark Sanchez will spend more time on his back than doing that stupid little airplane celebration that makes the nation puke.

The speed on the offense of the Eagles is too much for a Jets defense missing Jim Leonhard to overcome. Lesean McCoy continues to be a force and Bart Scott will have issues tracking him from sideline to sideline in this game. The Jets are in control of their own destiny but have an awfully tough road to hoe the final three weeks of the season. Rex Ryan is 0 for 2 on promised Super Bowls in “Noo Yawk” and will likely miss the post-season altogether this year. At what point to Jets fans get tired of the unfulfilled promises?

Jets 14
Eagles 24

Pick: Eagles -3
Bet: 2 units

Cleveland Browns (4-9) @ Arizona Cardinals (6-7)
Line: Cardinals -7

The Browns are a team in complete disarray. They cannot stop the run, they do not rush the passer, that cannot move the ball through the air, and the red zone offense is despicable. This week, Cleveland runs into the hottest team no one is talking about relying on steady defense and big plays from Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson. I’m convinced that the latter is capable of shutting down the entire miserable Cleveland receiving corps by himself and the Cardinals are still thinking post-season at this point in the season.

John Skelton or Kevin Kolb, it doesn’t matter, the Cardinals will do what they want to do and shut out the Browns offense and win this game.

Browns 12
Cardinals 20

Pick: Cardinals -7
Bet: 1 unit

New England Patriots (10-3) @ Denver Broncos
Line: Patriots -6

I’ve patiently been waiting for this game like a child anticipating Christmas. The Broncos, while impressive, are simply not good enough to compete with the upper-echelon teams and until they show it, will be held in somewhat elite regard. Giving only six points to a vastly inferior team bodes quite well for Tom Brady, the Patriots, and my pocket book. New England is a team that preaches sixty minutes of football and offers an explosive offense that can bury Tim Tebow before his Jesus magic sprinkles in late. The Broncos hosted the Lions (an elite offense) earlier in the year which was an October pick of the month for me. The Lions went on to win 45-3 because Denver just cannot keep up with a team capable of scoring on its defense.

The one concern I have (and it’s a miniscule concern) is New England’s ability to stop the run. However, it’s 2011, and a good passing offense beats a good ground game any day and the Pats lay the wood to the Broncos handing Tebow just his second loss of the season.

Patriots 31
Broncos 16

Pick: Patriots -6
Bet: 8 units *This is the December pick of the month.*

Baltimore Ravens (10-3) @ San Diego Chargers (6-7)
Line: Ravens -2 ½

It’s difficult to bet against the Chargers under Norv Turner in December as the San Diego gears up for another late post-season run. With the news of Denver and Oakland both suffering defeat earlier in the day, the Chargers obtain the opportunity to gain a lot of ground and make this AFC West race a lot more interesting. Phillip Rivers has a group of veteran, physical receivers that can take advantage of a shortened Baltimore secondary and attack the field vertically capitalizing on Ed Reed’s propensity to take gamble after gamble. When Baltimore has failed to run the ball and relied on the arm of Joe Flacco, good things don’t happen. Couple that with a coast to coast trip and I think you’ll see an offensively challenged and lethargic offense for the Ravens.

The Chargers have everything to play for while the Ravens are fighting for a #1 seed still. I don’t expect any emotions to missing in this game, just play the percentages that San Diego always wins this time of year and the Ravens have had some notable stinkers on long road trips this season.

Ravens 13
Chargers 22

Pick: Chargers +2 ½
Bet: 3 units

Pittsburgh Steelers @ San Francisco 49ers
Line: 49ers -3

With Ben Roethlisberger limping around on one foot, the Steelers offense struggles to move the football. When the escape ability is subtracted and Big Ben cannot extend plays, the passing game takes a hit with its rather mundane pass protection. The Niners refuse to have the ball ran on them so I don’t see the Pittsburgh offense accomplishing a whole lot in this game. However, what is Alex Smith capable of against a ferocious Steelers defense? There isn’t going to be much scoring in this game, my lean is on Frank Gore carrying the Niners to a victory but, in all honesty, the safest route in this contest is probably the under.

Steelers 10
49ers 15

Pick: 49ers -3
Bet: 1 unit

Week 15 units at risk: 39 units
Season +/-: +25 units

Enjoy the games.

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