It’s Week 15 in the NFL, and the playoff race is heating up, which means it’s time to get serious, so we’re going to waste no time getting to our weekly picks.
Here’s how we did in Week 14.
Mike Cole: (8-7-1, 90-110-7 overall): If you think about it, being seven games out of first place isn’t that bad when you consider we’re 14 weeks into this thing.
Andre Khatchaturian: (10-5-1, 93-107-7): After a couple of rough weeks, Andre bounced back with a big showing that has him in striking distance of first place.
Ricky Doyle: (7-8-1, 97-103-7): Not the greatest stretch for Ricky, but you’re afforded a few slip-ups here and there when you start the season on a roll.
Here are our Week 15 picks with lines courtesy, as always, from our pals at OddsShark.
THURSDAY, DEC. 15
Los Angeles Rams at (-15) Seattle Seahawks, Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Rams. That’s a lot of points, and I think the Rams will have at least a little “oomph” with Jeff Fisher gone. Of the last six midseason coaching firings, three interim coaches won their first game — and two of the coaches who didn’t lost by a touchdown or less.
Andre: Rams. The Seahawks have lost four of their last five games against the Rams. For whatever reason, they always tend to struggle against St. Louis/L.A. I think the Seahawks ultimately win, but it’s going to be an ugly, nasty, low-scoring game.
Ricky: Seahawks. The Rams’ offense — a “middle school offense,” as Los Angeles running back Todd Gurley described it — absolutely stinks, and interim head coach John Fassel had just three days to prepare for a good Seahawks defense. Plus, the Seahawks just got pummeled by the Packers, so you have to think they’ll be a little extra motivated to bounce back at home. Seattle is 7-0 straight up and 5-1-1 against the spread in its last seven games after a loss. The Rams might not score.
SATURDAY, DEC. 17
(-2.5) Miami Dolphins at New York Jets, Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. The Jets are allowing an obscene 148 rushing yards per game since the beginning of November. The loss of Ryan Tannehill won’t hurt the Dolphins, if they’re able to just hand off to Jay Ajayi and let him run wild again; he ran for 111 yards vs. New York on Nov. 7.
Andre: Dolphins. Miami leads the league in defensive hurries. I think the Dolphins put some pressure on Bryce Petty and force some turnovers against the Jets, who have the worst turnover differential in the NFL. Miami is sneaky good at forcing turnovers with 21 takeaways on the season, 10th in the NFL.
Ricky: Dolphins. The early returns on Petty have been whatever, and Matt Moore is making his first start for Miami since the final game of the 2011 season. But this isn’t about the quarterbacks. The Dolphins will ride their rushing attack in this one. What a disappointment the Jets’ defense has been this season after lofty preseason expectations.
SUNDAY, DEC. 18
Detroit Lions at (-4) New York Giants, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Giants. It’s looking like there’s going to be some nasty weather at MetLife Stadium, which will make it even more difficult for Matthew Stafford and his injured finger to grip and throw the ball. New York scores on defense and finds a way to cover.
Andre: Lions. Anytime you give me the Lions with points, I’ll take them. All but one of their games this season have been decided by seven or less points. The Giants offense has also been pathetic. They haven’t cracked the 400-yard mark since Week 6 and the rainy weather isn’t going to help them much. They also love giving the ball away (24 giveaways — fourth-most) and the Lions are excellent in protecting the ball (10 giveaways — third-fewest).
Ricky: Giants. The Lions have faced a fourth-quarter deficit in 12 of their 13 games this season. That’s a dangerous way to live, and it’ll catch up to them this week against a strong Giants defense that has a knack for closing out ballgames. It’s also hard to envision Detroit’s offense putting up many points given that its banged-up running back corps hasn’t offered much and New York’s rush defense is among the NFL’s best.
Jacksonville Jaguars at (-6) Houston Texans, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans. Houston’s turnover differential is minus-7, which seems pretty bad on the surface. And it is bad. But it’s nowhere near as bad as Jacksonville’s minus-17. Even the Texans can make that hurt.
Andre: Jaguars. If there’s one thing the Jaguars have done well this season, it?s play defense. They allow just 5.0 yards per play — the fifth-lowest average in the league. The Texans also don’t have a pass rush this season. Without J.J. Watt, they have a 4.9 percent sack percentage this season compared to a 7.5 percent sack percentage last season.
Ricky: Texans. Andre missed something else the Jaguars do well: give the other team points. Blake Bortles’ 11 pick-sixes are the most for a quarterback through his first three seasons in NFL history. If the Texans’ defense can put some pressure on the underperforming QB, it could be a difficult day against Houston’s pass defense, which ranks fifth in the NFL at 212.8 yards allowed per game.
Cleveland Browns at (-10.5) Buffalo Bills, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bills. It would be the most Bills thing to sputter toward the finish line and give Cleveland its first win of the season. But the Browns are bad in just about every aspect and have been outscored by an average of 17.6 points per game over the last five weeks.
Andre: Bills. Browns quarterbacks have been sacked 48 times this season, easily the highest mark in the league. RGIII is going up against a ferocious Bills pass rush that has the league’s third-best sack percentage this season, at 7.2 percent.
Ricky: Browns. I’ll probably regret this pick by about 1:15 p.m. Sunday. But I’ve done plenty of other things I also regret, so this would be fairly low on the list. Let’s get weird and hope Marcell Dareus’ guarantee gives the Browns an extra kick in the pants.
Tennessee Titans at (-5) Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Titans. It’s going to be bitterly cold, which puts an emphasis on the run game, which could highlight the Chiefs’ loss of linebacker Derrick Johnson. Before he was injured last week vs. Oakland, the Raiders averaged 2.6 yards per carry. After he left the game, they averaged 5.2 yards per carry — and the Titans’ run game is one of the NFL’s best.
Andre: Chiefs. It?s going to be single-digit temperatures in Kansas City. Marcus Mariota is from Hawaii. There?s a good chance he?s probably never played in single-digit temperatures. What?s worse is that he?s going to be chased around by Justin Houston and the Chiefs pass rush all game.
Ricky: Titans. Tennesse is a team I like so much better when I’m getting points. Expect the Titans to ride their third-ranked rushing attack against a Chiefs’ defense that’s struggled against the run at times, especially, as Mike mentioned, with Johnson out. Also, don’t forget the Chiefs have the Broncos next week in a potentially crucial AFC West showdown, so this has the makings of a trap game.
Philadelphia Eagles at (-6) Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. The rain’s gonna be falling, the wind’s gonna be blowing, and the Ravens need to win out to make the playoffs. Gotta think all of those things — especially the first two — favor a defense-first team like Baltimore.
Andre: Ravens. The Ravens have the best rush defense in football, allowing 3.4 yards per carry, and the Eagles don’t really have much of a running game, so that means Carson Wentz is going to try to win this game with his arm. When Wentz throws the ball more than 40 times per game, the Eagles are 0-5 and Wentz has five touchdowns compared to eight interceptions.
Ricky: Ravens. Baltimore really needs a win after its Week 14 loss to New England. Fortunately for the Ravens, they’re hosting an Eagles team that hasn’t won on the road since Week 2. Philadelphia is 0-5 ATS in its last five games away from Lincoln Financial Field.
(-6.5) Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Packers. The Bears have allowed 100 or more rushing yards in each of their last four games, a stretch that includes games against Detroit and the Giants, two teams with woeful running attacks. Green Bay’s isn’t much better, but the Packers look to have something in Ty Montgomery. He’ll take some pressure off Aaron Rodgers in the frigid cold in yet another must-win for the Pack.
Andre: Bears. A 41-yard rushing game and all of a sudden the Packers might have something in Ty Montgomery? Okay. The frigid temperatures (five degrees) will neutralize the quarterback play in this game and the Bears, who actually have the fourth-best yards per play differential in the NFL, will make it a close one.
Ricky: Packers. Two words: Aaron. Rodgers.
Indianapolis Colts at (-4) Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Colts. I don’t really have a good reason for this pick other than the line seems a little too high for a team that struggles to score points and for a team that doesn’t have the best player in this game, Andrew Luck. I think he’s the difference-maker here.
Andre: Vikings. Luck against a ferocious pass rush? No, thank you. The Vikings are still good at pressuring the quarterback (35 sacks — third-most) and Colts quarterbacks have been sacked 40 times this season (second-most.) I expect Luck to get hit hard and to turn the ball over a handful of times.
Ricky: Vikings. Minnesota’s defense hasn’t been making the same noise since its early-season dominance, mostly because the team’s offensive incompetence has kept the Vikings from reaching their full potential. But the unit’s still good, and it should tee off on Andrew Luck this Sunday at home.
(-3) Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. Speaking of siding with the best player in their respective game, is anyone playing better than Le’Veon Bell (averaging 155 yards per game his last four games) right now? As long as Vontaze Burfict doesn’t blow up his knee with a cheap shot, it’s another big game for Bell and the Steelers.
Andre: Steelers. The Steelers’ pass rush has 18 sacks in the last four games when they only had 13 in the first 10 games. Now they get to play the Bengals, whose line has allowed 36 sacks (fifth-most). Also, who?s going to stop Le’Veon Bell? The Bengals allow 4.5 rush yards per carry (26th) and Bell is on a tear with 823 total yards in the last four games.
Ricky: Steelers. The best cure for a three-game losing streak? Matchups with the Eagles and Browns on consecutive weeks. Things won’t fall into place so easily for the Bengals this week, though. The Steelers are rolling, which isn’t uncommon for them in December.
New Orleans Saints at (-2.5) Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Cardinals. This is the first time since 2013 the Saints have to play consecutive road games. They did it five times (including the playoffs) and lost all five of the second halves of the back-to-back road games. Sure, that was a few years ago, but it illustrates two things: It’s hard to win the second half of two straight road games, and it’s unfamiliar territory for the Saints.
Andre: Cardinals. Carson Palmer is actually a solid quarterback at home this year. He’s 4-2-1 with 11 touchdowns and three picks and the Saints allow 7.8 yards per pass attempt this year (31st). Drew Brees has fallen off a cliff in the last two games with no touchdowns and six picks and it’ll be tough to right the ship against a defense that allows 4.8 yards per play (second-best).
Ricky: Saints. The Cardinals are 1-6 ATS in their last seven games and 4-10 ATS in their last 14 games at home. Bruce Arians probably will blow a gasket if Arizona loses its fourth game in five weeks, especially with this week’s Michael Floyd drama.
San Francisco 49ers at (-14) Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. The 49ers have lost by at least 13 points seven times during their 12-game losing streak. It’s hard to think of a reason why that number won’t grow this week.
Andre: Falcons. The 49ers’ margin of defeat has been something I’ve absolutely enjoyed tracking this season. Right now, the figure is at 14.1 points per game. The Falcons’ explosive offense shouldn’t have any problem at home against the Niners, who allow 5.9 yards per play (29th).
Ricky. Falcons. I’m cringing just thinking about the final score of this game.
(-3) Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Raiders. San Diego is on what feels like a historic run of bad injury luck this season, which only got worse with Melvin Gordon and Joey Bosa going down last week. Oakland, meanwhile, is looking for a big bounce-back effort. The Raiders will probably be a little more excited to play in sunny San Diego as opposed to near-zero temps in K.C. last week.
Andre: Raiders. What Mike said. Let me also add that the Chargers have given the ball away 30 times this season, four more than any other team. The Raiders, on the other hand, make a living off forcing turnovers and have the league’s best turnover differential.
Ricky: Raiders. This, of course, is assuming the Chargers can field enough players Sunday, because, as mentioned, injuries have ravaged San Diego’s roster. Oakland’s defense also is in a better place now than it was when the Raiders surrendered 31 points in the teams’ Week 5 meeting.
(-3) New England Patriots at Denver Broncos, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. It’s already been established you can run on Denver, and that might be even more prevalent this week if the Broncos are without linebackers Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis who are both hurt. Meanwhile, the Patriots and LeGarrette Blount just carved up Baltimore, the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense.
Andre: Patriots. I’ll take Bill Belichick against rookie quarterbacks any week. The last five rookie or first-year quarterbacks to go against the Patriots are 1-5 with a 55.6 completion percentage, four touchdowns and five interceptions.
Ricky: Patriots. The whole traveling to Denver thing admittedly scares me — the Patriots are 1-6 SU and ATS at Mile High since 2005 — but this matchup leans heavily in New England’s favor. A hearty dose of LeGarrette Blount against a leaky Broncos run defense should do the trick, especially since the Patriots typically hang onto the football, mitigating Denver’s knack for forcing turnovers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (-7) Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, 8:30 p.m
Mike: Bucs. The Bucs absolutely need to do the job on first and second down. They allow the fewest third downs per game, but when they get to third down, they have the NFL’s No. 2 third-down defense. Meanwhile, Dallas is 2-for-24 on third down in its last two games. I think Tampa does just enough to hang around and cover the spread.
Andre: Bucs. I think the Cowboys win this one, but they’re not blowing anyone out anymore. Dak Prescott seems to be struggling against tough defenses and that’s exactly what the Bucs have. They have a plus-9 turnover differential during their six-game winning streak.
Ricky: Bucs. As pointed out by CBS Sports, the Bucs have allowed just 12.8 points per game, have forced 14 turnovers and have held opposing quarterbacks to an average QB rating of 62.5 since Week 10, all tops in the NFL in that span. Prescott could have some issues.
MONDAY, DEC. 19
Carolina Panthers at (-4.5) Washington Redskins, Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. The Redskins are so bad in primetime — 6-20 since 2008. Carolina, meanwhile, is 4-3 in its last seven. Those three losses came against Seattle, Kansas City and Oakland, all of which have good defenses. I’m not going to be the one who says Washington’s defense is “good.”
Andre: Panthers. Kirk Cousins usually gets decent protection, but that might change against the Panthers’ pass rush, which leads the NFL in sacks with 39. As Mike mentioned, the Panthers’ latest losses have come against the league’s elite and two of those games were decided by three points. I’ll take the points.
Ricky: Redskins. I’ll play the role of contrarian here, as the Panthers are 1-8-1 ATS in their last 10 games on the road and the Redskins have much more to play for this week.
Thumbnail photo via Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports Images