Week Fifteen NFL Preview

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by Eight Thirty Seven with assistance from J-Dub and Jason from Indiana

Here we are three weeks from the end of another NFL season, and yet again we find ourselves in a situation where a team with a sub .500 record is atop their division. Actually that’s not true, but hold on a second…it’s even worse than that. The AFC South has two teams tied for the division lead that are each under .500, and the NFC East has three teams tied for first place that are also under .500. The argument could be made that not one of those four teams are going to provide playoff caliber entertainment. I hate to sound like a broken record, but isn’t the fact that this keeps coming up sort of more proof that it needs to be rectified? This shit again? Twice? I don’t need to see any more out of the Colts or the Redskins in order for me to know why I shouldn’t need to see more than the Colts and the Redskins. This is crazy, and there are better teams who will end up getting left out of the postseason for another year until the competition committee, the league and the players association can find a way to get their fucking ducks in a row. When it happens in one division, that’s one thing but in two? One in each conference? This is out of hand. Speaking of out of hand, let’s see where J-Dub is at with his “Might as well just burn the money” gambling challenge…

J-Dub:  The theme for the J-Dub Gambling Challenge could easily be “Breaking Even”  That doesn’t sound bad, until you realize there’s no way you can make money that way.  Imagine the Titanic just remaining half-sunk; you’re not going to die, but your pants are always wet. Having said that, let’s see how I can wet my pants this week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) +1.5 at St. Louis Rams (5-8)  (41)

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The Buccaneers dropped a tough one to New Orleans this past Sunday, and the Rams pulled off a very uneventful win against the Lions at home. When this season started I was convinced that by now we’d be seeing a potential Lovie Smith firing, when in reality it’s become Jeff Fisher who might have the eject button pulled on his go kart before the year is over. Tampa is the better team right now, but St. Louis should still be on the tear they were back in late September and October and this one shouldn’t even be close. I have to think the Bucs want to not only inject themselves back into the very confusing NFC playoff situation we just discussed, but also prove that they will finish better than the Falcons and the Saints. The thing about living in the gutter is that no matter how comfortable your surroundings become, you can always see a house in the distance that you wouldn’t mind living in. The guys down in Tampa who have really worked their asses off to get back above .500 know they missed a perfect chance to go into this very winnable game at 7-6, which would have meant that they’d guarantee a .500 season if they won both games. But that didn’t happen, and I’d have to think that makes them very angry. Although the Lions are coming off of a victory and the Bucs are coming off of a loss, I like Tampa to take this and get back to .500 because you know Winston wants that ROY award. For some reason my brain is drawn to the under here as well.

837’s Prediction:  Buccaneers 23, Rams 13

J-Dub:  $100 on Tampa Bay

Jason from Indiana:  St. Louis

New York Jets (8-5) -3 at Dallas Cowboys (4-9)  (42)  

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I’m torn here…The Cowboys looked atrocious last week losing to Green Bay team that still has a lot more problems than their record would suggest, but I really don’t want to watch the Jets in the playoffs. It would be so relieving if the Cowboys could wake up and start to get some kind of something going offensively, but the odds of that happening are about equal to Jerry Jones being able to pass a field sobriety test halfway through the third quarter of this one. The Jets’ offense looked pretty damn good in a win over Tennessee on Sunday, but the Titans can’t tackle a tumbleweed and I’d rather get a blood transfusion from Charlie Sheen than watch any more Jets football. Fitzpatrick has done a pretty decent job of keeping things moving this year when Brandon Marshall is open, but if you look at the numbers it’s not like he’s going to be winning AFC Offensive player of the week anytime soon. The Jets are just straight up boring, period. Their resume is shit, and includes wins over the Redskins, Jaguars, and the Dolphins. They’ve also lost to the Raiders, Bills, Texans, and should have lost to the Giants had Tom Coughlin not handed them the game. It’s going to be hard to want to see more of that football, and if they do get in I hope whoever plays them in the first round cleans their clock so we’re done with them for the year. But at three points with the way Dallas has “played” lately they are a lock to cover for certain. The possibility that the Cowboys could come out and lay a huge egg is very real, so don’t touch the point total here even though the under is quite tempting.

837’s Prediction:  Jets 24, Cowboys 11

J-Dub:  $50 on NY Jets

Jason from Indiana:  New York Jets

Buffalo Bills (6-7) EVEN at Washington Redskins (6-7)  (44)  

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Bills fans have to be seriously hating on the fans of the opposition this week, as they find themselves in third place against a team that will likely win their division with the same record. The Redskins are at the moment playing better than anyone else in the NFC Least at the moment, and the Bills aren’t living up to the hype created week-to-week by their loudmouth jackass of a head coach. Suffice to say, this is hardly must-see-TV and if anything you might be able to get a hold of a sportsbook to give you a prop bet so you can take the over on fumbles. I’m not going to get too much into this one, but I know that while Buffalo would have to have a lot of things swing their way to get in Washington controls their own for the most part so they will play as inspired football as a Kirk Cousins-led team can play and I believe they take this one. Total is spot on.

837’s Prediction:  Redskins 24, Bills 20

J-Dub:  $50 on Washington   

Jason from Indiana:  Washington

Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) -8.5 at Baltimore Ravens (4-9)  (42) 

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Perhaps the biggest shocker out of all the injuries that have happened over the past month had to have come when Seattle Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls broke his ankle on Sunday at the hands of one Chris Canty. Chris Canty? Really? I thought that guy’s career was over when the Giants cut him three years ago. But such is the case with what has become of the Ravens defense in 2015. Here’s a fun stat:  The Ravens have given up sixty points this year to the Browns alone. Ouch. They will likely continue to struggling against the surging Chiefs, who are looking every bit like the playoff team I so desperately hope they’ll end up becoming. Once again here, the game manager thing comes up, but I think even on the road this one shouldn’t be much of a challenge for them. They have to win every game from here on out to secure a decent seed, but if they can take this one and then knock out a joke of a Browns team two days after Christmas, they will have went from a team that started horribly to having a ten win season. We give a lot of coaches shit on this site for being mediocre, and it’s no secret Andy Reid’s career has seen its share of that. But he is to be commended for turning around what looked like an abortion clinic fire week five into one of the more solid teams in the NFL to watch. Baltimore has brought nothing to the table and have given up on Harbaugh completely, and although I don’t think he’ll lose his job on Black Monday if they haven’t turned it around by week five of next year he’ll be next year’s Joe Philbin. I would actually say avoid betting on this one, but if you can’t stop once you pop go ahead and take Kansas City to cover and I like – but don’t love – the under.

837’s Prediction:  Chiefs 22, Ravens 12

J-Dub:  Disaster of the Week

Jason from Indiana:  Kansas City

Carolina Panthers (13-0) -5.5 at New York Giants (6-7)   (48)  

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The Carolina Panthers absolutely destroyed the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, but that might be an indicator of how bad the Falcons are more than how good Carolina truly is. But “How good IS Carolina?” is a fair question, one that is likely to be answered in the weeks to come. At 13-0, they have become the poster children for how to build a complete football team. With Cam Newton getting a ton of attention and everyone everywhere talking MVP, the discussion about how well of a job Ron Rivera has done seems to have gotten buried and that’s a shame. He’s taken a team that went into the playoffs with a losing record and still won a game and turned them into the only NFL team that is keeping the 1972 Dolphins’ champagne on ice for the time being. Then there’s the Giants. Boy, where to start? They could be 10-3 now, and came very close to almost letting Miami creep back into that Monday night game. They’ve blown so many fourth quarter leads it’s not even funny, and I really can’t say with some of the mistakes they’ve made that they really stand a chance here. Carolina is dangerous as hell when it comes to exploiting the shit those mistakes, so 5.5 points seems like it would be a solid cover. Believe it or not I like the over here because Eli had the most efficient game of his career on Monday night, and although it may be too late he’s at least going to put points on the board. But the Giants defense definitely ain’t gonna show up, and a lot of kids in New Jersey could get free footballs on Sunday.

837’s Prediction:  Panthers 33, Giants 21

J-Dub:  $50 on Carolina

Jason from Indiana:  New York for the straight up upset (SHOT CALLER!)

Chicago Bears (5-8) +5.5 at Minnesota Vikings (8-5)  (43)  

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The Bears blew a chance to tie the Redskins last week when kicker Robbie Gould very uncharacteristically missed a field goal at games end, propelling Washington to the top of the NFC East and further digging themselves a hole that is now too deep to get out of. The Vikings are looking to rebound from a tough Thursday night loss at Arizona, one which saw them lose their third of four…the lone win against a Falcons team that they could have probably beat in their sleep. Minnesota is kind of playing at the opposite pace of what they did last year:  They started out very weak last year and really began to pick up steam towards the end, and this year they started out crazy good only to struggle down the stretch. Since they don’t have a whole lot of recent playoff experience, I can’t trust them as a legit contender that can win a postseason game unless this is a blowout of epic proportions. Even if they win, there’s no reason why the Vikings shouldn’t steamroll the Bears at home so that they only have to win one of their last two to finish with ten wins.  The line seems low to me, and the way Vegas is treating the Vikings maybe they know something we either don’t know or have been suspecting but just haven’t had the balls to put in print. I like the under here, the Bears took forever to get their offense going last week. Look for Chicago to score a meaningless touchdown late in this one.

837’s Prediction:  Vikings 26, Bears 14

J-Dub:  $50 on Chicago

Jason from Indiana:  Minnesota

Houston Texans (6-7) OFF at Indianapolis Colts (6-7)  (N/A)  

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Last week everyone in the AFC South lost except for Jacksonville. That loss came at the hands of Indianapolis, who lost to the Jags by 35 points. As previously discussed, one of these two teams is going to end up winning the AFC South and if I wanted one to make it obviously I’d select Houston. That said  it’s hard for me to justify either of these teams making the postseason at all, because although I hate the Colts with the burning fire of a thousand crematories the Texans don’t really deserve to be there either. In that surge where they were winning all of those games, while JJ Watt was still playing well and getting all of the press it was their secondary that was winning the sideline battles and keeping Houston afloat. That secondary got eaten alive by a banged up Gronk and a slew of second-stringers on Sunday Night Football, and now even I want to turn my back on them with this being a home game for Indy. But I just can’t do it…the Colts are such a joke and there’s no way the Texans blow this one even if Ryan Leaf throws on pads and has to get back there. I couldn’t imagine a less interesting game to gamble on with the holidays approaching, but I guess if I had pick a team to I like Houston here. Whatever the under it, grab that shit and run like hell.

837’s Prediction:  Texans 19, Colts 17

J-Dub:  Dog of the Week

Jason from Indiana:  Houston

Atlanta Falcons (6-7) +3 at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-8)  (49)  

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Putting up zero points in any professional sport other than soccer is fucking humiliating. It has to be one of the worst feelings an athlete can experience, and 53 guys wearing Falcons uniforms made just that happen against Carolina last week like the mob had suitcases full of money waiting for them in the visitor’s locker room. When the other team is taking Facebook pictures at the two-minute warning, it’s safe to say they don’t consider you to be worthy opponents. Speaking of taking out overachieving team, the Jags put Matt Hasselback on the grass all day in their stomping of Indianapolis but for them they are just about out of it if they can’t win this game. I’d love to see them do it. Fuck it, you know what? The season is almost over I’m taking the Jaguars here. The Falcons haven’t brought anything to the table and although they are still in the playoff hunt they shouldn’t be. I like the Jaguars to put Atlanta back in their place – at the middle or bottom of the NFC South where they belong. Let’s see them extend this losing streak and have double digit losses. I’m bailing on all things Matt Ryan from this point forward. Jaguars cover, I laugh uncontrollably, and collect on the over.

837’s Prediction:  Jaguars 43, Falcons 20

J-Dub:  Trap Game of the Week

Jason from Indiana:  Jacksonville

Tennessee Titans (3-10) +15.5 at New England Patriots (11-2)  (47)  

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The Patriots got some fantastic news on Monday when they were told that X-rays on Jonathan Freeny’s hand came back negative and was upgraded to questionable for this game. And since we all know in Belichick’s mind that means they will for sure be playing, I’m certain he’ll be hitting the field even though they probably don’t need him to be. After two straight one possession losses, New England came out and smacked the red right off of those awful Texans jerseys on Sunday Night Football and proved they just hit a rough patch. A home game against Tennessee should be just what the doctor ordered for the Patriots, and you know Belichick has plenty of defensive looks for rookies like Marcus. Mariota has looked good at times, but he hasn’t been able to translate what he’s been doing to wins. New England covers easily, and yes I’m on that horse again. Part of me wants to think they won’t but they will as Gronk is back and for real indeed. Like the over, but don’t love it.

837’s Prediction:  Patriots 37, Titans 17

J-Dub:  $25 on Tennessee

Jason from Indiana:  New England

Cleveland Browns (3-10) +16 at Seattle Seahawks (8-5)   (43) 

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I can’t believe I’m typing this sentence, but the Seahawks have scored 173 points in their last five games. They’ve seemed to figure out the perfect balance of managing the running game and still pulling explosive plays out of their asses, and they’ve found a real gem in Tyler Lockett who in my opinion should win Rookie of the Year even though I doubt he will. They’ll get a chance to inflate those numbers even more, as they host a bad Browns team that seems to be experimenting with their play calling in the same manner that bad seventies musicians experimented with LSD. Johnny Soccerball won a decision against the 49ers at home on Sunday, but I’m not giving anybody credit for wins against San Francisco in their own building this year. The upside of this for Cleveland is that if they are seriously evaluating Manzeil to see if he’s of NFL caliber in the long-term, at least they’ll get to see how he responds to a defense that is hell bent on destruction from every conceivable angle. I have a feeling the level of trash talking that is going to come from two teams who couldn’t have any less to do with each other is going to be severely elevated just based on ego alone, as you know there will be no shortage of that here. But even after I said all that, sixteen is a huge spread to feel good about so I’m taking the points. Avoid the total altogether.

837’s Prediction:  Seahawks 28, Browns 17

J-Dub:   $100 on the Over

Jason from Indiana:  Seattle

Green Bay Packers (9-4) -3 at Oakland Raiders (6-7)  (46.5)  

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Even after they tarred and feathered the Cowboys on Sunday, you get the feeling that the Packers are just not all there. They should have been able to rack up at least 42 against Dallas, and while they will ultimately be judged on what they do in the playoffs like a New England – because of the caliber QB both those teams have – they don’t have the kind of regular season prowess that the Patriots typically do. Case in point – if for some reason Green Bay ends up facing the Arizona Cardinals or the Carolina Panthers on the road the weekend of the divisional playoffs, they are going to get absolutely fucking crushed and everybody reading this knows I’m right. So having to play a team like the Raiders on the road could easily be a trap situation for sure. Oakland is coming off of a win against Denver where their defense played some amazing football in the red zone, but their offense really struggled to put it together when it counted. Had the Broncos not played so poorly they’d likely have lost that game, but they made it happen somehow. If they can make it work they’ll be .500, but for some reason I just don’t have the balls to say they do. Three shouldn’t be that challenging so Green Bay covers and take the under here for sure.

837’s Prediction:  Packers 25, Raiders 16

J-Dub:  $100 on Oakland

Jason from Indiana:  Oakland

Denver Broncos (10-3) +7 at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)   (44.5) 

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The Broncos losing to the Raiders would have easily been the funniest part of this matchup in any other week, but if you saw any of the squabbling that went on at the beginning of the PIT/CIN game last week you’ll know that there was some “fighting” going on but it looked so weak on television. Antonio Brown is one of the best receivers in the game, but I can’t help but wonder why he felt the need to throw an open handed “punch” during the first quarter of that game. Grown men don’t slap each other. I get that it would have been a poor decision on his part to get ejected from what was a very important divisional game against a tough first place rival, but I think our collective respect for the guy dropped a little after seeing his sissyboy antics. At least last year when he kicked Browns punter Spencer Lanning in his dome he did it with force, and most importantly he didn’t look like a pussy in front of the whole country. Speaking of getting kicked in the head, Brock Osweiler got his mangina punched in at home against the Raiders last week in a game where Oakland’s leading rusher had 27 yards on 12 carries and their quarterback was an anorexic 12 for 29 for 135. Hoo boy, am I glad I didn’t watch that one. The Broncos are going to have a really rough time heading forward, they are essentially in just as bad shape as Cincinnati is with their current QB situation, and unless their plan is to win it all in with a dominating defense like the 2000 Ravens did it looks like another early out for them. Pittsburgh has a slight advantage at home, but I’m taking the points here because I don’t feel that confident that the Steelers are dominant enough to cover. It will be close, and if you’re feeling fruity take the over.

837’s Prediction:  Steelers 27, Broncos 22

J-Dub:  $200 on Denver, $200 on the Over

Jason from Indiana:  Pittsburgh 

Miami Dolphins (5-8) +1 at San Diego Chargers (3-10)  (45)   

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The Chargers continue their world tour of incompetence by doing a homecoming show at Qualcomm where the Dolphins come to town this Sunday afternoon. I heard Chris Berman spewing some bullshit on The Blitz Monday morning about how “You have to respect Philip Rivers for staying competitive when a lot of these game don’t matter…” Yeah, here’s the thing about that…No. I don’t have to respect a guy who’s on a 3-10 team that has dropped six in a row and whose only home wins have come against the Browns and the Lions. Rivers pulled one over on all of us for years, and there’s no way I’m going to let that continue. The Dolphins somehow couldn’t get the Giants to blow their fourth quarter lead in the Gruden Game, which is unfathomable to even comprehend. But San Diego is just plain awful, and these two teams play in roughly the same climate so I’m taking Miami and the under because there won’t be a ton of offense in this one. Leave the Ambien in your medicine cabinet, you won’t need it.

837’s Prediction:  Dolphins 10, Chargers 6

J-Dub:  $50 on Miami

Jason from Indiana:  San Diego

Cincinnati Bengals (10-3) -4.5 at San Francisco 49ers (4-9)  (40.5) 

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I have a confession to make: I probably watch the last drive of Super Bowl XXIII late at night more than the end of any other football game. It’s just a magical and masterful piece of NFL history, but this game probably won’t be nearly as eventful or produce the same result. The Bengals lost Andy Dalton in the Pittsburgh game, so the reigns will be turned over to one AJ McCarron…a guy whose girlfriend makes more headlines than he does. He made a couple of nice throws in that game, but I have more faith that the lead singer of Staind has a great relationship with his parents than I do in AJ McCarron winning important games for the Bengals. He’ll win this one, but with Denver next and the playoffs coming there might not be a guy over the past ten years who’ll be thrown to the wolves more intensely than this cat. The 49ers are so far beyond bad it’s not even funny, and I’m out of jokes to tell about that team. Kaepernick isn’t funny, Gabbert isn’t funny, and aside from that one monster fart that Jim Tomsula ripped at that press conference back in October he isn’t funny either. The Bengals win but don’t cover so take the points and avoid the total because we really don’t know what an AJ McCarron start looks like just yet.

837’s Prediction:  Bengals 17, 49ers 14

J-Dub:  $50 on Cincinnati

Jason from Indiana:  San Francisco

Arizona Cardinals (11-2) -3.5 at Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)   (50.5)

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Philadelphia has won their last two games, but they are in for a real surprise if they think Arizona is going to be a cakewalk. Although they didn’t do it in convincing fashion, the Cardinals were able to sneak out of the Minnesota game with a win and they’ve now taken seven games in a row. That’s pretty brutal, especially when you consider they played the Bengals and the Seahawks in that stretch. The Eagles took out the Bills Sunday, but are still probably a little bit hungover from their win against the Patriots in Foxboro the week before. I am still very suspect of the Eagles’ abilities…They are really just a couple of poorly thrown balls away from getting stomped in the same fashion they did in the two weeks previous to the New England game. In case you forgot about it (and I’m sure most Eagles fans have given their drinking habits) they lost each of those games by an average of twenty nine and a half points to the Bucs and the Lions. This one probably won’t be nearly as much of a blowout as I want it to be, but they will cover and Philly will go back to being the same Eagles team they were when they couldn’t do anything right. 50.5 seems reasonable, but I am looking for this to be a shootout on both ends.

837’s Prediction:  Cardinals 33, Eagles 24

J-Dub:  Lock of the week – $300 on Arizona

Jason from Indiana:  Arizona

Detroit Lions (4-9) +3 at New Orleans Saints (5-8)   (50.5)  

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Both the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints did not live up to expectations this year, and both could likely lose their head coaches at season’s end. Regardless of what happens in this game, those decisions have probably already been made and nothing short of a miracle is going to change the fate of Caldwell or Payton. But if they’re gone, I can’t really fault either franchise for making a change. The Lions almost won the NFC North last year, and some would argue they should have won the Wild Card game against Dallas that was marred by horrid officiating. It probably doesn’t help Payton a whole lot that Drew Brees is still putting up impressive numbers towards the end of his career while nobody else in that locker room is listening to a goddamn word either one of them are saying, but they are now six years removed from that Super Bowl win and I bet Tom Coughlin would say “tough shit” to Payton after they both likely meet the same fate that cold January Monday morning in 2016. Looking ahead to next year it probably wouldn’t hurt for the Saints to bolster their offensive line and running game as Brees gets into the later stages of his career, and the Lions are going to have to give Stafford more pieces to work with as well as beef up their defensive line to the strength it was when both Suh and Cliff Avril were on that side of the football a few years back. But seriously, fuck this game. Take the over and don’t get near the spread.

837’s Prediction:  Saints 34, Lions 31

J-Dub:  $25 on the Over

Jason from Indiana:  New Orleans

Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.

Eight Thirty Seven

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2 thoughts on “Week Fifteen NFL Preview

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