After Week 14 dropped our season record to .500, Week 15 kept it there. Thankfully that keeps the goal of finishing above .500 alive with just two regular season weeks to go. Maybe this week can help take some stress of what’s probably going to be a strange Week 17.
Remember these picks are strictly for fun and entertainment purposes and please for your sake do not take these picks as gambling advice. Lines used here come from the Westgate Las Vegas via OddsShark. Home team in CAPS.
Washington (+10) over TENNESSEE
I still have a hard time favoring Tennessee by double digits over anyone, even an injured Washington team. Washington had an ugly win against Jacksonville last week and the offense might be a little more dynamic with Josh Johnson at quarterback. That doesn’t mean much because the offense wasn’t any kind of dynamic previously, but they might be able to keep this just close enough to hold the deficit under 10. Though this could just as easily be a 38-10 Tennessee win. I hate trying to figure out the Titans.
CHARGERS (-4.5) over Baltimore
Hook this game into my veins. The Chargers have been one of the most fun teams in football and might be one of the most balanced in terms of having a good offense and good defense. The offense will go against one of the league’s better passes defenses, with the Ravens fourth in ANY/A allowed. Then on the other side of the ball, the Chargers have to figure out how to slow down Lamar Jackson, who has been getting increasingly better and had his best game last week. The Chargers are a better team and getting healthier, but this should be fun either way.
DALLAS (-7) over Tampa Bay
The one thing that makes Tampa Bay dangerous in a given week is a borderline reckless offense that lives by the deep ball and lives with the turnovers. Dallas has the cornerbacks who could potentially keep that in check and while the Cowboys are only 24th in interceptions forced per drive on defense, the Tampa offense gives plenty of opportunities. The Tampa defense also gives plenty of opportunities for the opposing offense to score a ton of points.
INDIANAPOLIS (-9.5) over Giants
The Giants were mauled on both side of the line by Tennessee last week and that’s only going to get worse against Indianapolis. Another game without Odell Beckham and this shouldn’t be close.
Houston (+2.5) over PHILADELPHIA
Houston’s defense will be a much tougher test for the Eagles and Nick Foles than the Rams’ was. More pressure from across the line and better cornerbacks will give a better look at what the Eagles can expect. On the other side of the ball, Philadelphia will have to slow down Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins and it’s hard to imagine a defense ranked 20th in pass defense DVOA and is still injured will be able to handle that.
Jacksonville (+4) over MIAMI
Lately, there’s been one game per week that just hurts to think about. This is that game. Don’t think about this game.
Green Bay (-2.5) over JETS
There have been two Packers game since the firing of Mike McCarthy and we got a great game against a bad defense and a bad game against a great defense. We learned pretty much nothing. The firing was always supposed to be about 2019, so much change wasn’t expected, though there should still be enough firepower to take advantage of a Jets defense that has gotten progressively worse over the course of the season. The unit ranks 16th in defensive DVOA, but 25th in weighted defensive DVOA, which puts more emphasis on the most recent weeks.
CLEVELAND (-8.5) over Cincinnati
One of these teams currently employs Hue Jackson and the other is favored by 8.5 points. It’s not that simple, but the Browns have been playing great football over the past few weeks. The Browns are 14th in weighted offensive DVOA and fourth in offensive DVOA since Week 9 when they fired Jackson and Todd Haley. Cincinnati’s defense is 31st in yards allowed per drive and points allowed per drive.
Minnesota (-5.5) over DETROIT
Minnesota took advantage of a bad Miami defense in the first week with Kevin Stefanski as offensive coordinator. Good news, the Lions are 31st in defensive DVOA. They’re 17th against the run, which doesn’t really help since Mike Zimmer wants that established, but there should be few problems throwing the ball. The Vikings have the No. 6 defense by DVOA and face a Lions team ranked 22nd on offense. Advantage everywhere: Minnesota.
Buffalo (+13) over NEW ENGLAND
This pick still feels weird to me as I type it out, but 13 is a lot of points, Buffalo’s defense is quite good, and the Patriots have been good but not dominant lately. Add in no Josh Gordon and whatever weird stuff Josh Allen is doing on the ground while still not being able to throw the ball all that well and this game has a potential to be sloppy and close.
Atlanta (-3.5) over CAROLINA
Cam Newton is shut down, the defense in Carolina is falling apart, and there is really no hope for the Panthers. For as much heat as Steve Sarkisian gets, the Falcons’ offense really hasn’t been a problem this season. They’re 10th in offensive DVOA, fourth in yards per drive, and fifth in points per drive.
Chicago (-4) over SAN FRANCISCO
I like what Kyle Shanahan is doing for Nick Mullens — short open throws that allow for a ton of yards after the catch. But this is still a Bears team that’s really good. Why is this line only four points? Even with home field advantage, we’re saying the 49ers are only seven points worse than the Bears? This was a team favored for the first overall pick before last week. Nothing about this makes any sense to me, so congratulations to San Francisco on the win, probably.
Rams (-14) over ARIZONA
Arizona’s defense has been ok at times — it ranks 10th in yards allowed per drive — but also not at others — 21st in points allowed per drive. Defenses have been holding the Rams by not reacting to their pre-snap motion and not allowing them to run as much play-action. Arizona might not be able to pull that off and the offense certainly won’t be able to put up enough points to keep it close.
NEW ORLEANS (-6) over Pittsburgh
New Orleans hasn’t looked great over the past three weeks, but they still came out 2-1 and had all three of those games on the road. Now they’ll come back to the Superdome to face a Steelers team that has not defended the pass well this season — 21st in pass defense DVOA. Meanwhile, New Orleans is up to sixth in defensive DVOA and third in weighted defensive DVOA after a poor start to the season.
Kanas City (-2.5) over SEATTLE
If Chargers/Ravens is game 1a to be excited for this week, Chiefs/Seahawks is 1b. Kansas City still has the advantage here with the best offense in the league against a defense that has slipped a bit over the past few weeks. Still, sign me up for a battle of Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson making ridiculous things happen in primetime.
Denver (-2.5) over OAKLAND
It’s nice of ESPN to end the Monday Night Football schedule with a game we can completely ignore on Christmas Eve. Oakland is 28th in points per drive, 31st in pass defense DVOA, and 27th in run defense DVOA. If Denver can’t do whatever it wants on either side of the ball, there need to be some changes in the offseason — though there might be anyway.
Last week: 8-8