Week 15 is here. And with it comes a few huge games, most notably in the AFC, where the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers will battle for the No. 1 seed, and the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers will square off with a division title in each of their sights.
As always, our pigskin pickin’ trio is back to make their against-the-spread predictions, which always prove controversial when the guys link up for their weekly podcast, “The Spread,” which can be seen above.
Here’s how they fared in Week 14:
Mike Cole: 6-8 (98-97-7 overall)
Andre Khatchaturian: 8-6 (97-98-7)
Ricky Doyle: 7-7 (95-100-7)
And now, here are their picks for Week 15:
THURSDAY, DEC. 14
(-2.5) Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. Denver does almost everything better than Indianapolis does, and while that’s not saying a lot, I’ve already said too much about this game.
Ricky: Colts. The Broncos are 0-6 ATS on the road — they’ve been outscored 183-81 in those games — and they haven’t scored more than two offensive touchdowns in any game since Week 2.
Andre: Colts. Jacoby Brissett actually has performed well despite playing some tough defenses over the last four weeks. Don’t fall for the Broncos’ shutout performance last week. It was against the Jets, who lost their quarterback in the middle of the game. Denver has no business being a road favorite against any team.
SATURDAY, DEC. 16
Chicago Bears at (-5) Detroit Lions
Mike: Bears. We’re just gonna grab the points here because Chicago is the better red zone team on both sides of the ball. Maybe the Bears turn a field goal into a touchdown, and while they might not win, that will be enough to cover.
Ricky: Bears. Chicago leads the NFL with four games of 200-plus rushing yards, including a 232-yard effort on the ground last week in a 33-7 win over Cincinnati. Detroit, meanwhile, ranks 20th in run defense after surrendering 158.6 yards per game on the ground over its last five contests.
Andre: Bears. Mitchell Trubisky has played some good football over the last two weeks, completing nearly 80 percent of his passes and not turning the ball over. The Bears also control the line of scrimmage pretty well, as they are sixth in sack rate.
(-1) Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
Mike: Chiefs. Andy Reid owns the Chargers, and if you’re going to give me a point with KC at home, I’ll take it. The Chiefs have been a home underdog just once under Reid, and they beat the Patriots 41-14 in 2014.
Ricky: Chargers. Everyone talks about the Chargers’ pass rush, and rightfully so, but their run defense has been much better of late, too. Los Angeles has allowed an average of 77.7 rushing yards in its last three games after giving up an average of 138.9 in its first 10. That improvement has coincided with the return of Denzel Perryman, who is the top run-stopper among 4-3 outside linebackers since returning in Week 10 (13 stops on 88 run snaps; 14.8%).
Andre: Chargers. The battle in the trenches will be big in this one. The Chiefs are 28th in sack rate, while the Chargers have allowed the fewest sacks in the league this season. On the other side, L.A. is fifth in sack rate and Alex Smith, who is normally good at protecting the ball, has thrown five picks in the last five games.
SUNDAY, DEC. 17
Arizona Cardinals at (-4.5) Washington Redskins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Cardinals. I’ll take the points despite the Cardinals’ offensive line issues. Both teams are banged up, and I trust Bruce Arians’ ability to get his team ready to play more than I do Jay Gruden after last week’s loss to the Chargers.
Ricky: Cardinals. The Redskins are so dinged up that coach Jay Gruden didn’t even want to think about extending last week’s game against the Chargers — “I wanted to get out of the game, get back on the plane and get ready for Arizona,” he said — and they’ll find it difficult to score points this week against a Cardinals defense that’s solid against both the run and the pass.
Andre: Redskins. Washington has had the misfortune of playing the Eagles twice, the Rams, Chiefs, Seahawks, Vikings, Saints and Chargers. That’s eight games against potential playoff teams. The ‘Skins finally get a break against Blaine Gabbert and the Cardinals, who are traveling from west to east.
(-7) Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Mike: Browns. When the Ravens run for 100 yards, they’re 6-3. They’re 1-3 when they don’t. While taking the Browns makes me uneasy, they have a very good run defense. Maybe they can keep it close?
Ricky: Browns. I’m not confident in Cleveland’s ability to win this game — the Ravens have won 17 of the teams’ last 19 head-to-head matchups dating back to 2008 — but I’m also not confident in Baltimore’s ability to cover a seven-point spread. The Ravens are 4-11 ATS in their last 15 games as favorites of five or more points, and it doesn’t help they’re entering a second straight divisional road game after a hard-fought loss to the Steelers in Week 14.
Andre: Ravens. The Ravens are second in turnover differential and have feasted on poor teams by forcing turnovers. The Browns, meanwhile, are dead-last at minus-21. Cleveland quarterbacks have a passer rating of 62.2 — nine points fewer than the next-worst team.
Cincinnati Bengals at (-11) Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. The Vikings just played three consecutive road games, but they should have a chance to get right at home needing just a win to clinch the NFC North. Plus, the Bengals are the Bengals.
Ricky: Vikings. This marks the largest point spread the Bengals have faced since drafting quarterback Andy Dalton in 2011, and for good reason. They stink, and the Vikings should feast on Cincinnati’s run defense, which ranks dead-last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (132.1).
Andre: Vikings. The Bengals’ last three wins have come against bottom-feeders like Cleveland, Denver and Indianapolis. Andy Dalton has thrown only one interception in the last eight weeks, but Cincinnati is somehow still 27th in the NFL in turnover differential. Despite not turning the ball over, Dalton has only completed 57 percent of his passes in that same span.
Green Bay Packers at (-2.5) Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. If the Packers run the table, Aaron Rodgers should get MVP consideration and I’m only half-kidding. He’s going to have to be absolutely perfect to overcome that Carolina defense, especially with the Packers trying to stop a Panthers offense that woke up last week.
Ricky: Packers. Aaron Rodgers. He’s good.
Andre: Packers. Carolina has a negative yards-per-play and turnover differential, which tells me at some point the Panthers are going to regress to the mean. They’re not as good as their record suggests, and Aaron Rodgers is the perfect man to expose them.
Houston Texans at (-11) Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Mike: Jaguars. Let me remind you what happened the first time these two teams met: Tom Savage was sacked six times in the first half, as the Houston offensive line allowed 10 sacks for the game. And, well, the Texans’ O-line is even worse now. #PrayForTJYates
Ricky: Jaguars. T.J. Yates. He’s not good.
Andre: Jaguars. The Jaguars continue to lead many important defensive categories, and that doesn’t bode well for the Texans.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. (No line)
New York Jets at (-16) New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m.
Mike: Saints. The Jets lost 23-0 last week and will be starting Bryce Petty on Sunday. It took nearly an entire season, but the Jets finally are who we thought they were.
Ricky: Saints. The Jets produced just 100 yards of total offense last week. Woof. Even if they improve this week, it’s hard to imagine them scoring many points against the Saints’ defense, which is particularly strong against the pass (ranked fourth in the NFL, per Football Outsiders) and are coming off a two-sack, three-interception performance against Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
Andre: Jets. The Saints will win the game, but the Jets are decent defensively. They’ll be able to make some plays with their running game and eat some clock. Opposing quarterbacks have completed less than 60 percent of passes against the Jets’ defense.
(-7.5) Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Eagles. The Carson Wentz injury sucks, but the Eagles should rally behind Nick Foles, who, all things considered, is a good enough NFL backup. Plus, the Giants are a mess.
Ricky: Eagles. Philadelphia has the NFL’s top-ranked run defense in terms of yards allowed per game, while New York’s rushing attack has struggled for most of this season. That means Eli Manning will need to carry the Giants, and if you haven’t noticed, that hasn’t exactly been a recipe for success.
Andre: Giants. The Giants are 2-8 in their last 10 against the Eagles, but six of those losses were by one possession. This being a divisional road game for the Eagles with their backup quarterback, I foresee the Giants keeping this close.
Los Angeles Rams at (-2) Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Rams. The Rams are getting healthy with Robert Woods and Connor Barwin expected back, while Seattle is already banged up and could be without leading tackler Bobby Wagner. That could open the door for a big day from Todd Gurley after Jacksonville gashed Seattle for 156 rushing yards in its win last week.
Ricky: Rams. Los Angeles’ pass rush (fourth in sack percentage) could cause serious problems for Seattle’s inconsistent offensive line. On offense, the Rams must feature a heavy dose of Todd Gurley, who had just 16 touches (13 carries) in last week’s loss to the Eagles. The Rams are 2-4 when Gurley gets 20 or fewer touches and 7-0 when he exceeds that mark.
Andre: Rams. How valuable has Russell Wilson been for the Seahawks this season? He’s accounted for 81 percent of the team’s total offense. If that total stands at the end of the season, it’ll be the highest mark of all time. Unfortunately for Seattle, it’s going to take more than just one man to beat the Rams, who have a major advantage in the trenches. The Rams turned the ball over five times to the Seahawks in their last meeting and still only lost by six.
(-3) New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. It never feels good to go against the Patriots, and while getting Rob Gronkowski back will help, the injuries on the other side of the ball might be too much to overcome against Pittsburgh’s explosive offense. New England’s also at the end of a brutal stretch of five road games in six weeks across the continent.
Ricky: Patriots. Since 2003, the Patriots are 37-13 ATS following a loss. That 74 percent cover rate is by far the best mark in the NFL — the Saints are second at 59.8 percent — and they’ve covered their spreads by an average of 7.8 points. Gronk is back, and the Patriots’ stellar offense will be, too.
Andre: Steelers. The Pats simply are too banged up on defense. The Steelers are second in sack rate and we’ve seen Tom Brady struggle in the last few weeks when he gets pressured. Also, Ben Roethlisberger is 4-1 this season when throwing the ball 40 or more times. The rest of the league is 19-56.
Tennessee Titans at (-2) San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: 49ers. People actually might show up for Jimmy Garoppolo’s first home game. He’s been as advertised and will only continue to get better as he learns Kyle Shanahan’s offense. That Marcus Mariota is dealing with a knee sprain won’t help the Titans, either.
Ricky: 49ers. I’m going to ride the Jimmy G hype train until it’s no longer warranted. So far, so good.
Andre: 49ers. The Titans are regressing to the mean. They have a minus-7 turnover differential in their last four games and Marcus Mariota has looked like trash against some bad opponents, like Arizona, Houston and Indy. The 49ers, on the other hand, seem revitalized under Jimmy Garoppolo.
(-3) Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys. I don’t get how the Cowboys are a three-point underdog here, which probably means I’m missing something important. The Cowboys are 6-1 with Sean Lee in the lineup (not counting the Atlanta game when he got injured), and he’s proving to be one of the most important defensive players in the NFL.
Ricky: Cowboys. The Raiders’ defense has been brutal, and that’s troubling with the Cowboys’ offensive line looking much better over the last couple of weeks. Derek Carr also has been awful under pressure this season, so DeMarcus Lawrence’s impact could be substantial.
Andre: Cowboys. The Raiders allow the most yards per pass attempt, and they’ve only recorded two picks this year. Also, Dallas’ defense has forced six turnovers in the last two games, and the Cowboys’ running game has rushed for more than 300 yards in that span.
MONDAY, DEC. 18
(-6) Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. The Bucs’ four wins this season have come against the Jets, Dolphins, Giants and Bears. Those teams aren’t very good. The Falcons are, and Atlanta should be able to exploit a Bucs pass defense allowing 7.8 yards per attempt (31st in the NFL).
Ricky: Falcons. Where do I begin? Several trends point against Tampa Bay, including its 3-9-1 record ATS this season (second-worst in the NFL behind Cleveland’s 3-10 mark). But let’s just all agree the Bucs, losers of three straight, aren’t in a good place right now.
Andre: Falcons. Atlanta boasts the second-best yards-per-play differential and Matt Ryan will have an easy time against a Bucs defense that’s allowed the most yards per play this season.
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