by Ryan Meehan
There’s only three weeks left in the 2014 NFL season, and it’s crazy to think that the playoffs are just around the corner. Week fifteen began mid Tuesday with a very bizarre story out of Charlotte, North Carolina, Cam Newton was involved in a two car crash in which he suffered two transverse process fractures in his lower back and no further internal injuries. Thankfully no one was killed in this mess, and by the looks of that vehicle that is nothing short of a miracle. I know sometimes stories get twisted and exaggerated for the sake of sensationalism, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that you don’t have to read the police report to believe that truck flipped several times. To further complicate matters in any other season than this one the Panthers would be eliminated from playoff contention, but this week they’ll be starting Derek Anderson against Tampa in a game where the Panthers find themselves at 4-8-1 just a half game out of first place in the NFC South. But fret not – there are plenty of good matchups this weekend, and this is what I expect to take place in a very busy week fifteen in the 2014 NFL season.
Thursday Night Football: Arizona Cardinals (10-3) +4 at St. Louis Rams (6-7) (39.5)
Arizona broke their two game losing streak last week against an offensively inept Kansas City team, but in that same breath perhaps the Cardinals share those same struggles when it comes to putting points on the board. On paper their defense is brutal, but they can’t seem to match the same intensity on the other side of the ball. Let’s be real here, Drew Stanton on a short week doesn’t exactly sound like money in the bank. He just became a father a few weeks back too, and is hardly fit to be the leader of a one seed in a conference where the only team who shares the same record is Green Bay. I’m picking the Rams to win here, but it’s hard for me to call this an upset. I’m not totally convinced that the team the Cardinals are putting on the field at the moment is that much better the team the Rams are fielding right now. I do like the fact that St. Louis is sending a message to the rest of the league which says “We are no longer an assumed W when a team looks at their remaining games.” Trust me, they’d like nothing more than to plant one on Arizona and prove they aren’t the doormat a lot of writers predicted them to be the second Sam Bradford got hurt. And that’s exactly what I think they’ll do, as well as cover the spread.
Rams 23, Cardinals 17
Green Bay Packers (10-3) -5 at Buffalo Bills (7-6) (50.5)
I haven’t seen anything that has convinced me Aaron Rodgers shouldn’t be the MVP of this league. While I am pro-defense and think that JJ Watt has had an incredible season, I look at the relationship that Rodgers has developed with wide receiver Jordy Nelson and don’t see any way that Aaron Rodgers isn’t the league MVP at this point in time. He’s first in the Pro Bowl voting (for whatever that’s worth, but hey…) and his offensive line made the Falcons DEs look like yard gnomes in the Monday Night game. The rest of that team rallies behind their fearless leader, and that’s why they are the most solid out of all the NFC teams. Their only losses have been against Seattle, (a week one game in which the Seahawks hung their first NFL championship banner) Detroit, (who played a fantastic game on defense, one of the best defensive performances all year long) and the Saints. (A game that they probably should have won but let get away from them) Buffalo is one of the few teams that has the tools to stop a high octane QB, but they are in way over their head here and it’s not like the Packers are going to be intimidated by cold weather. Green Bay covers, but the point total is too high for me to get excited about it. Think of it this way: In Denver, total points scored between the Bills and the Broncos was 41. Now that they have their home crowd behind their defense, it’s not going to be so easy for A-Rod to throw up another 40 spot.
Packers 24, Bills 16
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) +14.5 at Baltimore Ravens (8-5) (45)
Comfortably nestled at third place in the AFC North, the Ravens are the silent serial killers in a league full of teams that aren’t quite their caliber. While I might be bored with the team’s inability to produce highlight reels full of explosive play, they are still really good. After that last-minute loss to the Chargers a couple of weeks back they could have really eaten it and packed it in. Instead they went on the road and beat a solid Dolphins team so you have to hand it to them for staying the course. They are a seven seed at the moment so that means they’d be out if the playoffs started today, but the playoffs don’t start today and they are at home this week against the Jaguars. While Jacksonville is ranked 28th in the league against the run and their coaching staff is trying to convince their defense they are indeed better than that, Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is gnashing his teeth at that stat knowing that Justin Forsett is having a breakout season. Flacco can basically take a week off in this one, but because of that fact I can’t trust the Ravens to cover.
Ravens 29, Jaguars 17
Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) EVEN at Cleveland Browns (7-6) (44)
The Browns have finally decided to take the plunge, and will start Johnny Football in this game. It’s a home game for them and given the attitude their fans have towards Brian Hoyer, I get it. But they’re not wrong – Hoyer only produced one offensive touchdown last week. On Monday news broke of Marvin Lewis calling Johnny Manzeil a midget in an interview with Lance McAlister of 700 WLW in Cincinnati. Lewis soon apologized, and for the first time in his career he realized that the things he say could be taken out of context. I’m sure he’s less shocked that Andy Dalton is not going to be the next Boomer Esiason, and that Marvin is hardly Sam Wyche. After a fumbled handoff in last week’s game, the Bengals collapsed as the Steelers gave Dan Patrick a perfect segment for his NBC Sports show “Turning Point”. I think that Team Ginger and the gang are in pretty safe shape here though…The Browns don’t make many explosive game-changing plays that could acquire a great deal of momentum. I think Cincy gets an early touchdown and scores two more, while the Browns struggle in the red zone under the leadership of the guy who could potentially be their future franchise quarterback. Four field goals, one TD, and one ballsy failed two point conversion gone horribly wrong. Point total is a solid under.
Bengals 21, Browns 18
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-11) +5.5 at Carolina Panthers (4-8-1) (42.5)
The story we led with could have a significant effect on the outcome of this game, but then again maybe it won’t matter all that much. Tampa has really struggled all year long, and thankfully for their sake the rest of that division has played so poorly nobody has noticed. Carolina made the Saints’ offense look laughable last week, but that’s not really that much of an achievement given what’s gone on in that building recently. That likely won’t be as easy with Derek Anderson in charge of things, but then again pretty much anybody could light up the Buccaneers in week fifteen of 2014. They’ve lost eight of their last nine games and are averaging less than eighty yards on the ground a game. Cam’s replacement will be a bit rusty, and this will be a low scoring borefest to watch. Carolina covers but seriously, please tell me you’re not gambling on this game. Point total will be way under.
Panthers 17, Buccaneers 9
Minnesota Vikings (6-7) +9 at Detroit Lions (9-4) (42.5)
Detroit is in pretty good shape here, as although the Vikings are hot right now they will hardly be able to put up a lot of points on the Lions. They’ve won six out of their last eight, and the two losses they did have were against Arizona and New England – both 10-3 football teams. They’re holding their opponents to under 63 yards a game on the ground, a number that can’t be repeated enough. Next to Seattle, they’re the most dominate second place team in their division and I still say Stafford is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league this year. The guy gets no props whatsoever. Teddy Bridgewater on the other hand is still learning the ropes and averaging south of 200 yards per game, and facing that stiff of a run defense the game will depend on his ability to throw the ball down the field. He’ll do a fair job, but overall I think that the Lions are just too tough. Although I believe in Detroit, I don’t think they cover the spread but they will win this game. Take the over for the point total.
Lions 27, Vikings 20
Houston Texans (7-6) +7.5 at Indianapolis Colts (9-4) (49)
The Texans finally got things headed in the right direction, but due to a slow start they find themselves having to wish for a laundry list full of other things to happen in order for them to end up in the playoffs. But since we know Indianapolis will be there for sure, let’s talk about them for a second. The Colts very nearly threw away a game last week where Andrew Luck threw two picks and 27 other incompletions, not numbers that he is usually known for. Indianapolis has the number one passing attack in a league where Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers are not in full body casts. But this one’s a risky spread to pick. Both of these offenses looked pretty soft in week fourteen, so I can’t say that the Colts cover even at home. JJ Watt is going to want to be the center of attention in this game, so he’ll be very dialed in but I still have the Colts winning a smart, conservative football game.
Colts 26, Texans 20
Oakland Raiders (2-11) +11.5 at Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) (41.5)
The Chiefs pretty much have a gun to their head here. I want to pick Oakland to win so bad, but I simply can’t see how the Raiders win. They wanted San Francisco’s blood in last week’s match-up, but let’s not forget they’re just two weeks removed from a 52-0 loss at the hands of a team they used to share a stadium with. Additionally they have a very poor run defense, so it shouldn’t be that hard to expect a big fantasy day out of Jamaal Charles. A win would put the Chiefs at 8-6, still out of the playoffs but alive nonetheless. I loathe writing about games like this. For some reason Chiefs/Raiders games have never held my attention, and to be honest with you if both of these teams were 13-0 right now and facing each other again in two weeks I’d still probably be watching Household Hacker videos on YouTube. I might miss a hell of a football game, but at least I’d know how to make a cheap pair of speakers out of a couple of paper plates and some pennies. Kansas City will not cover no matter what happens, but they will get out of there with a win.
Chiefs 20, Raiders 13
Miami Dolphins (7-6) +9 at New England Patriots (10-3) (48)
Miami’s last chance to make a realistic playoff push is going to have to go through Foxboro, and I have this odd feeling it’s not going to be a pleasant trip. Bill Belichick has a very good memory for a man of his age, and he hasn’t forgotten that week one loss which would put him ahead of Denver in the playoff standings. Sure the Pats own the tiebreaker regardless, but you know Uncle Bill will use whatever excuse he has to in order to make sure that he gets his revenge on the Dolphins. Miami has absolutely no shot to win this game, the Pats played very well against San Diego in the second half and this environment is going to be more than Ryan Tannehill can handle. It may very well be the loudest stadium he’s ever played in throughout his pro or college career. The Fins will leave Massachusetts at .500 when the final gun sounds, and the Pats will cover the spread and satisfy the over.
Patriots 38, Dolphins 14
Washington Redskins (3-10) +7 at New York Giants (4-9) (46.5)
In the first matchup between these two teams, the Giants went into FedEx Field and absolutely crushed Washington so bad for a few days everybody forgot the nickname controversy. Neither team would really recover after that, with the Giants losing their next seven games before finally getting it together against an awful Titans teams just last week. With Colt McCoy injuring his neck last week, the Redskins have no choice but to start Subway spokesperson and occasional quarterback Robert Griffin the Third who enters this game with Vegas putting no faith in him whatsoever. The Skins are so bad they’re a touchdown dog against a 4-9 squad which went two months without winning a game. They got smoked by the Rams at home last week, and late Monday there were reports circling that at times Robert Griffin has stayed out on the field and punted the ball for up to 45 minutes after practice is over. Weird? Maybe…Sad? For sure. The point total should go over here, I’m aware that the Skins didn’t score a single point last week but the Giants’ defense has been terrible no matter where they play. Big Blue covers in a very sloppy game.
Giants 32, Redskins 17
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) -1.5 at Atlanta Falcons (5-8) (51)
This is a tricky one. Pittsburgh turned on a dime last week and made the Cincinnati Bengals vanish in a heartbeat after taking advantage of an unexpected turnover late in the game, and Atlanta hung with Green Bay in a tough game that they could have came very close to pulling out on Monday Night. It’s funny these two teams have records which are mirror images of each other: The Steelers look great about 8/13th of the time, and then the remainder of time they look like dog shit on fire. The same thing can be said for the Falcons if you flip the circumstances, with very few exceptions. The gun is technically to their head here, because I see no possible way that the Bears beat the Saints on Monday Night Football. Atlanta has to win this game. But the Steelers are looking very good to me as of late. They’ve won five out of their last seven, and appear to be miles away from the team that lost to the Browns 31-10 on October 12th. I love the point total for the over here, it’s hard to think that both of these teams couldn’t put up at least 52 points so that should be easy money. I like the Steelers to cover in this one, but to be brutally honest this is one I’d stay away from on all fronts because it could go either way.
Steelers 31, Falcons 24
Denver Broncos (10-3) -4 at San Diego Chargers (8-5) (50.5)
The Chargers have had a tough couple of weeks. After an exhausting comeback against the Ravens, they were simply outplayed at home by the Patriots and now they find themselves in a similar predicament against one of the most explosive offenses in football. The Bills played Denver well last week but although San Diego’s defense is tough at times, Peyton Manning is going to know every look they throw at him so it’s not like he won’t be prepared. And last week was a bit of a freak on the control chart for the Broncos – they are due for another big scoring game and if they can get ahead of Rivers & Company early this could be it. Denver easily covers the spread here, and this could very well be the beginning of the end for the Chargers. Point total is a safe over, but be on the alert for a big injury in this game as the pace will be very fast. Somebody’s going to blow out an ankle.
Broncos 34, Chargers 21
New York Jets (2-11) -1 at Tennessee Titans (2-11) (42)
I know you’re going to be glued to your television set for this one. Who wouldn’t be? Who would want to miss a game between two teams that have four combined wins and account for virtually none of the primetime games? This match-up sucks. Sarcasm doesn’t even work as an angle here, and as Blade would say – This short attention span Christmas is for real. That’s code for “don’t waste your time here”. Don’t get me wrong I think the Jets are a better team overall, but that’s not really saying much and this pick is done solely out of spite. I’d like to see the Jets lose all of their last three games, and I feel stupid giving gambling advice about a game that’s this bad.
Titans 24, Jets 20
San Francisco 49ers (9-4) +10.5 at Seattle Seahawks (7-6) (38)
This has to be an ideal setup for Seattle here: You just beat a great Eagles team in Philadelphia in which you held their quarterback to under a hundred yards passing. Your defense appears to be every bit as terrifying as the one which helped you win the Super Bowl last year. And what is your reward for the week that follows? You get to head home and face the San Francisco 49ers, a team whose loss against the 1-11 Raiders is actually the least of their worries at the moment. The 49ers have a coach who has already been shopping around for another job and doesn’t agree with management with no chance in hell of returning next year, and a quarterback in Colin Kaepernick who has went from a cheerful dude in press conferences to an overpaid spoiled little brat that isn’t producing at all. It seems simple enough to say that their failure to score points is causing them to pile up losses, but that’s really what it is. The Seahawks on the other hand are a completely different story. After a somewhat sluggish start in which they had plenty of offensive troubles of their own, they are now once again the killing machine that led them to the franchise’s first Lombardi trophy last year. The soundtrack to whatever is going on in their own heads must make Slayer’s “Show No Mercy” look like Michael Bolton’s Greatest Hits Collection. After holding their opponents to six total points in the previous eight quarters, they looked almost disappointed they gave up two touchdowns on the road against a very good Philadelphia offense. As much as I thought Wilson did look better last week against the Eagles, I still get 38 as a fair point total here but I’d take the over even with how shitty the Niners’ offense is playing. Hawks cover easy, and I look for this to be the final moment the kite string pops. I’m talking Kaepernick snapping at the press conference, another Tweeted apology from the owner, and then Harbaugh to be gone by Monday afternoon.
Seahawks 30, 49ers 10
Sunday Night Football: Dallas Cowboys (9-4) +3 at Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) (55.5)
This is your game of the week right here. The Blood Bowls are some of my favorite games from the late 80s and early 90s era, and since that is when I began watching football this matchup has always stayed with me as one of the best rivalries in the NFL. This is a crucial game for the Philadelphia Eagles. If Dallas loses, it’s bad news for them but it’s not the end of the world because they still own the tie-breaker over Seattle due to head-to-head. If the Eagles lose this really complicates their situation because if for some reason Arizona ends up winning the NFC West, Seattle would own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Philadelphia per the game last week. There were reports that leaked last week which stated that the Cowboys may be in trouble with the league for failing to report that Tony Romo has played for the past months with injured ribs. So I would question if he’s 100% back from that injury, which he clearly wasn’t in the first match-up between these two teams. When it comes down to it, I just can’t see Philadelphia losing two games in a row, Mark Sanchez or not. For that fact if nothing else I have to take the Eagles here…Keep in mind they beat the tar out of the Cowboys on the road Thanksgiving Day, so I am taking them to cover the spread in a very frantic game. Point total looks good for the over.
Eagles 32, Cowboys 25
Monday Night Football: New Orleans Saints (5-8) -2.5 at Chicago Bears (5-8) (53.5)
After seeing what will probably be an excellent Sunday night football matchup in Philly, Monday Night Football brings us a bit of a yawner. Technically the Saints are still in playoff contention, but whoever does sneak in from that division is going to get crushed instantly in the first round. There isn’t a potential five seed in either conference that couldn’t beat up on the Falcons, Saints, or Panthers so if we really want to get down to brass tacks, this game is technically fucking meaningless. The Bears surrendered 41 points at home to Tony Romo last week, so even with as dysfunctional as the Saints have been on offense Drew Brees would be a great start for your fantasy team. I’d avoid the over here because although New Orleans has been awful on defense so far this season, if Jay Cutler was having a hard time caring about the direction of this team when they were still in the mix…What makes you think that he’ll give a rat’s ass now that they are mathematically eliminated? Saints cover.
Saints 33, Bears 13
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