NFL Predictions 2019: Week 15

I’m bummed because I made a lot of really good picks last week. I had about one-third of the games down cold to final score even, yet some of my choices left a lot to be desired. I went against my gut instinct on a couple decisions, especially picking winners and it cost me. I was 9-7 picking winners (134-73-1 overall) and while Denver’s win was a shocker I regret not taking Chicago at home against reeling Dallas and admit to going with emotion selecting Oakland who I knew would fade against Tennessee. In fairness, I didn’t know Jacobs was out and no question that pick change happens had I known. Still, I was 11-4-1 against the spread (110-94-4 overall) and that works. I was 10-6 on the over/under (105-101-2 overall) to finally break through in that category. The +11 week pushes my total against Vegas to +20 on the season. Now I have to really fire away during the most difficult weeks to predict.

NY Jets (5-8) @ Baltimore (11-2): The first few weeks I can’t rely on stats because they don’t exist in a reliable form, and the final few weeks I tend to throw them out as well because injuries and lineup changes make them less reliable. In this game, it’s a feel situation. The Ravens are on fire. They definitely looked mortal last week in Buffalo where the Bills were one play in the red zone from sending that game to overtime. Now they return home on a short week without much travel to bother them and taking on a bad football team. The Jets avenged their embarrassing loss to Miami, coming off an embarrassing loss to the Bengals. Results don’t lie and the team once worried about going 0-16 has now won four of five. They took the Raiders out of the playoff hunt, so that’s something. I don’t expect them to have the personnel to ruin anything for the home team here. Baltimore has nothing to look ahead to, so the trap is off. They are in Cleveland next week where unless something weird happens they will clinch the number one seed in the AFC and be able to rest starters in the finale against rival Pittsburgh. Do you really think they want to ruin that path? If anything they are anticipating next week because the Browns lit them up 40-25 in September, but is that a distraction? This is TNF under the lights and their defense is stifling. Darnold is inaccurate. He’ll be sacked and turn it over. Jackson is having a Newton 2015 type season that’s all there is to it. He hopes it winds up better in the playoffs. I expect a wipeout: Baltimore 27, NY Jets 10 (BAL -14/under 45)

New England (10-3) @ Cincinnati (1-12): The Patriots have earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to not losing consecutive games because of their track record and that was part of the reason I had them winning last week. It’s evident they are fading and their aura of invincibility is a distant memory. Every good team they have played has beaten them and their schedule this season is historically easy, especially in the travel department. They do not have the benefit of the doubt when it comes to cheating, and taping the signals of a team that has 1 win on the season? This is another black eye for them and normally I would say they are going to come out and win this game 50-0. I’m not sure they have that gear anymore. The Bengals are a bad team, no question. They are better with Dalton by a lot and also have home field. They haven’t left Ohio since November 17 and while their defense has been bad at times, it no longer looks awful for them to have allowed 90 points in losses to the Ravens and 49ers who might meet in the Super Bowl. Those are the only teams to score over 27 against them. The offense has scored 41 over the past two weeks so at least they have life. The champs have scored only 17.0 points per game in four outings since the bye week. It’s not a blowout, but of course the visitors win: New England 28, Cincinnati 16 (NE -10/over 40)

Tampa Bay (6-7) @ Detroit (3-9-1): The Bucs aren’t that bad, but Winston can’t protect the football. His turnovers shift them from a playoff team to an also ran and it’s not something he can fix. The Lions were never a good team. The early season success was a mirage and yes they lost Stafford, but they are not close to being a contender. Tampa Bay’s 4-1 roll has come mostly at the expense of bad teams, with last week’s upset (which I predicted) over Indy the lone exception. This is another bad team, and they showed a few weeks ago they can succeed in a dome by winning in Atlanta. I think it suits them. They are 4-3 on the road and lost close games in Tennessee and Seattle who are playoff caliber teams. Detroit is on a 1-8 death spiral since their 2-0-1 start that included wins over 2018 playoff teams (Chargers, Eagles) and that illustrates how much changes from season to season, and even early to late season. Their offense simply can’t keep up here, that’s the difference: Tampa Bay 27, Detroit 20 (TB -4/over 45.5)

Houston (8-5) @ Tennessee (8-5): I hate when the schedule makers put both of the meetings between teams so close together. In this case it makes for high drama because the rematch looks as if it will decide the AFC South. The Titans are peaking at the right time. During their 6-1 spurt they have beaten three teams from the AFC West and two of those stand out. A win over the Chiefs obviously was huge, but last week at the Raiders with a 21-0 second half they looked like a playoff team. The Texans suffered a colossal, cliché let down loss to Denver last week after their huge win over New England. It inflated the public opinion of them, but we’re learning the Pats just aren’t that good. Also, the Broncos did beat Tennessee 16-0 prior to their aforementioned good fortune so that team is capable. Getting blown out is I guess more humiliating than getting shut out. Either way it’s a momentum and home field advantage game. The Titans have scored 31-plus in four straight. They are tough and can physically dominate. It won’t be as cold as it could be for them, but I still like them a lot here: Tennessee 30, Houston 23 (TEN -1.5/over 47.5)

Denver (5-8) @ Kansas City (9-4): This one should be fun in the snow. It’s a preview of the 20’s with Lock against Mahomes. Hopefully both passers continue to thrive and obviously for the defending MVP his key obstacle is health. Lock is off to a fast start and looks the part, so we’ll see if he can keep it up. The Chiefs won the first meeting 30-6 and speaking of health they did so in spite of losing Mahomes during the game. The Broncos have played better football than their record indicates. Six of their eight losses have come by one possession, and a 3-6 mark in such games might be 6-3 if Lock had been the guy all season. Then this one would have serious implications. This is not a great setup for Kansas City coming off a huge win at the Pats last week. We saw how the Texans did against these guys coming off a win over the champs. It was Letdown City. They finish with three losing teams and are just playing for seeding, hoping New England slips up to give them a bye. As such, they can’t afford a choke job. Denver has the defense to make this interesting in the snow and Lock played at Missouri so the weather is fine for him. I think it’s a struggle to score and anything could happen. Mahomes gets it, but Lock has his moments: Kansas City 23, Denver 17 (DEN +13/under 46.5)

Miami (3-10) @ NY Giants (2-11): Eli Manning will get a chance to get his career record back to .500 because Jones is still hurt. On draft day this game will matter because it’s going to shift their position dramatically. The Dolphins were said to be tanking early in the season, but are a .500 team in the last six weeks and would be 4-2 if not for a last second field goal in this stadium last week against the Jets. They are familiar with playing here, so that helps. The offense has certainly stepped up in the past four weeks with 20-plus points in those games. New York has lost nine straight including a choke job on MNF when they could have played major spoiler against the Eagles. Their offense has been held to no more than 18 points in four of the last five games. I don’t think either team really has a huge edge here. It’s home field and weather, but Fitzpatrick can play on the moon. I expect the visitors to be playing hard and that makes it tricky. Usually I’d be taking New York. Without the primetime lights can they gather the emotion and end this losing skid? Yes, I think they can: NY Giants 24, Miami 20 (NYG -3/under 48)

Philadelphia (6-7) @ Washington (3-10): No one wants to win the NFC East. The Redskins are officially out and all the Eagles need to do is sweep their division foes and the title is theirs. They almost choked on MNF at home against the Giants, but finished it off in OT to end a three-game losing streak. Washington put up a fight losing 20-15 at Green Bay in a spoiler role. They come home trying to deliver what would be a crushing blow because it gives Dallas the division tiebreaker. A lifetime ago these teams met to open the season and Keenum was the starter in that one, throwing for 380 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions during a 32-27 loss that really wasn’t that close as they scored with six seconds to play. It was definitely a harbinger of things to come for Philly’s secondary. Haskins is not having a good rookie campaign so we’ll see if he can rise up here in a big moment. Wentz has a lot of pressure to deliver here a week ahead of the “NFC East title game” next week against Dallas. They haven’t played well the last two weeks against bad teams, after having played well in losses the previous two weeks against good teams. I can’t see them going down like they did in Miami because inexperience at quarterback will do in the hosts: Philadelphia 27, Washington 20 (PHI -6/over 39)

Seattle (10-3) @ Carolina (5-8): Newton is on the block, the Panthers have fired their coach and all hell has broken loose. It couldn’t be more opposite of what’s going on for the Seahawks who have a stable coaching and quarterback situation as they march towards the playoffs. Last week’s SNF loss at the Rams was a tough one, but it came against a desperate team that has the talent of a defending conference champion. It was their first loss since October 20 and their only other losses came against 10-plus win teams (Saints, Ravens). The road really doesn’t bother them. Carolina is without Olsen and their whole season has become the McCaffrey stat show. Allen has shown enough to at least be a player at quarterback, but a franchise starter? That’s questionable. They were smoked in Atlanta last week after losing to a bad Washington team. Scoring is not a problem, but allowing 29-plus points in four straight has been an issue. Their 1-6 slide erased a four-game winning streak that had them thinking playoffs. I don’t think they have the defense to pull off this upset. At best they keep it interesting: Seattle 26, Carolina 17 (SEA -4.5/under 50)

Chicago (7-6) @ Green Bay (10-3): Who would have thought a month ago this game would have implications for both teams? The Bears are on a 4-1 roll with all the wins coming in one-score games to raise their record in such games to 5-4 on the season. They lost the season opener to the Packers 10-3 in an ugly contest. That one was a tip of the cap to the oldest rivalry in the league to start the anniversary season. This one is going to be in near freezing conditions and has a chance to be epic. On paper Green Bay feels like the heavy favorite, but we know Chicago has the better defense. If they can slug their way to the fourth quarter anything can happen. They are also well rested having played on TNF. Even if they win, they need to beat the Chiefs then win at the Vikings to even hope for a wild card. It’s a tough path. The deal here is that they have worn themselves out climbing out of the hole. Green Bay was smashed at San Francisco a couple weeks ago, and for them the more important game is next week at Minnesota where the division will be decided. However, losing this game has consequences for them in terms of playoff seeding potentially and tiebreakers. Plus it’s a massive rivalry. I think the better team does it, but I would not be shocked to see an upset: Green Bay 20, Chicago 17 (CHI +7/under 41)

Minnesota (9-4) @ LA Chargers (5-8): The Vikings are a sneaky contender in the NFC. Their defense has actually been holding them back. Until last week’s 20-7 win over Detroit they had allowed 23-plus in four straight and five of six. The offense has been fairly consistent and Cousins is having a solid season. The Chargers are long since out of the hunt in the AFC thanks to their 2-8 record in one possession games. They have somehow won three times by at least two touchdowns including last week’s blowout 45-10 win at Jacksonville. It’s a weird spoiler role for them against an opponent in the other conference. The talent is there for Los Angeles to win this game. Minnesota won’t be too worried about a raucous home crowd and weather is no factor at all. Cousins is so consistent and Rivers has been erratic so that’s the difference for me in a close game: Minnesota 28, LA Chargers 23 (MIN -1/over 45)

Jacksonville (4-9) @ Oakland (6-7): If you need any proof the NFL hates the Raiders, they scheduled their final game in the Black Hole against an expansion team. The Chargers were the first opponent in their return to Northern California, wouldn’t that have been a fitting bookend? On the plus side, this is a team they can beat. Oakland has been blasted by an average of 39-11 over the last three weeks to put them on the brink of playoff elimination. The Jaguars are in a death spiral having lost by 17-plus in five straight games. This is like the team you schedule for homecoming in high school. There is no leadership and really nothing for them to play for. On the other side, emotions will be running high. The Raiders are not going to the playoffs as injuries have derailed them. However, it looks as if Jacobs is back and the adrenaline of the situation will carry them: Oakland 28, Jacksonville 20 (OAK -4.5/over 44.5)

Cleveland (6-7) @ Arizona (3-9-1): This is a fun game on the schedule because each team has a Heisman winner from Oklahoma who was taken first in the draft at quarterback. Murray vs. Mayfield will be entertaining to watch. The Browns are still in the hunt in what has been a frustrating season thanks to winning four of five. Next week against Baltimore will be the final nail to their coffin even if they do get this done. After winning their first two road games they have lost their last four. This should be a wild game with both teams playing loose. The Cardinals have lost six straight and half of those have come at home where they are just 1-5-1 on the season. Late in the year with a couple losing teams hooking up I generally favor the home side. Freddie Kitchens has to be fired and it could happen sooner than later if they lose here: Arizona 28, Cleveland 26 (AZ +3/over 47)

LA Rams (8-5) @ Dallas (6-7): The Rams might be back. It was one thing to smoke the Cardinals and quite another to comfortably handle the Seahawks. As they reach for a wild card in the hopes of defending their conference title in the playoffs next week’s trip to San Francisco looms large. It’s pointless if they can’t get this win and their backs are firmly still up against the wall. The Cowboys are in a deadlock atop the NFC East, but ironically don’t have to win this game. Next week in Philadelphia is their division championship basically, assuming they win the finale against hapless Washington. I’m very interested to see how this goes. Momentum seems to be clearly on the side of the visitors. The home side has lost three in a row against contenders and is 0-6 against winning teams on the season. That’s a lot to overcome. At what point does it become expected for them to lose when it counts? At the very least they have a couple extra days of rest having lost on TNF in Chicago last week. I think this team has talent and has hung tough against good teams. Sooner or later they have to win one right? Los Angeles has been so inconsistent. I feel as if they are the better team here, but the situation favors the home team. Dallas is due and I see them delivering when it counts for a change: Dallas 24, LA Rams 21 (DAL +2/under 49)

Atlanta (4-9) @ San Francisco (11-2): What’s this? A 4-9 team playing the 49ers? That’s clever. The Falcons have played decent football since the bye week, winning three of five. However, two of the wins were over the Panthers who have faded. They are going to struggle on the road against a physical defense, especially with Ridley out. It’s always fun to play spoiler but can they really make life difficult for San Francisco here? The 49ers are coming off a huge win at New Orleans that set them up for the top seed. They have to take care of Seattle on the road in the finale, but it’s all in front of them. This is a spot for a letdown, but they are at home and I don’t see them having too tough of a time scoring on the Falcons. Their defense was for sure rolled in the dome. It’s a different deal at home, and weather isn’t a factor. I think they roll: San Francisco 34, Atlanta 19 (SF -10/over 45.5)

Buffalo (9-4) @ Pittsburgh (8-5): These are the teams currently slotted for wild cards in the AFC so it makes sense for this game to be flexed to SNF. The Bills will be in really good shape if they come out on top and the way things are going it’s not unrealistic for them to think a win next week at New England gives them a chance to shock the world by stealing the AFC East. The Steelers are playing with house money given all their offensive injuries. Duck is not Big Ben, yet his steady hand has helped this team stay on a 7-1 run. It’s pretty unreal to think they lost by 2 points to Seattle, 4 points at San Francisco and in OT against Baltimore early in the season. Those are all double digit win teams. All they do is win. Their defense has kept them in games and they find a way. Buffalo has a good defense too. It’s been a fight for respect all year for the Bills who earned some on Thanksgiving in Dallas. This is more of that on SNF with a playoff atmosphere. I see them as more talented overall, and even if Tomlin has coached his rear off this season, eventually a matchup happens that isn’t favorable. This is it: Buffalo 21, Pittsburgh 17 (BUF +1.5/over 36.5)

Indianapolis (6-7) @ New Orleans (10-3): By kickoff the Colts could be just about done in the AFC playoff chase. They have dropped five of six, four of those by no more than 4 points to fade from contention. Their fans have to be frustrated because there is little doubt Luck would have won most of those games had he been able to continue his career and play this season. Now they are on the brink of elimination and from my standpoint almost in spoiler mode here. The Saints are off a heartbreaking loss to San Francisco that cost them the pole position in the race for the top seed in the NFC. They are clearly the better team here. This is their regular season home finale and if they want to earn a bye week this is a must-win situation. Next week at Tennessee is a rough task for them. It’s imperative they take care of business and they will: New Orleans 31, Indianapolis 20 (NO -8.5/over 44)

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