We’re gonna level with ya: There aren’t many games that stand out on this week’s NFL schedule.
Sure, there are quite a few games with playoff implications this week — such is the case this late in the season — but when you’re coming off a week that featured arguably the game of the season (49ers-Saints) and another installment of Patriots-Chiefs, it’s hard to compare.
But it’s another full slate and that means more against-the-spread picks from NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian.
Here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 10-4-2 (103-100-5 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 8-6-2 (112-91-5)
Andre Khatchaturian: 7-7-2 (100-103-5)
Here are their Week 15 picks.
THURSDAY, DEC. 12
New York Jets at (-16.5) Baltimore Ravens, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Jets. It seems reckless to go against the Ravens right now, but Lamar Jackson apparently is dealing with a hamstring injury. On a short week and coming off a tough, physical game in Buffalo last week, the Ravens might dial things back slightly this week.
Ricky: Jets. Too many points. The Ravens should pummel the Jets, but there’s reason to believe they’ll show some mercy late.
Andre: Jets. It’s the NFL’s best rush defense going up against the NFL’s best rushing team. I think the Jets do enough to limit Baltimore’s explosive ground game and they keep it close.
SUNDAY, DEC. 15
Chicago Bears at (-4.5) Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bears. Green Bay coach Matt Lafleur said Wednesday he expects a “tough-ass game” against Chicago, which might be a bad thing for the Packers who have been pushed around at times this season. Green Bay’s pass offense has looked downright incompetent at times this year, and that’s not good when the Bears come to town.
Ricky: Bears. Not only has Green Bay’s passing attack been inconsistent. Its ground game now will need to contend with the return of Pro Bowl defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who significantly improves Chicago’s run defense ahead of this crucial divisional showdown. Plus, it’s going to be frigid in Green Bay, for whatever that’s worth.
Andre: Bears. The Packers allow 4.7 yards per carry on the ground (27th in the league). Chicago will exploit this, control the time of possession and keep the ball away from Aaron Rodgers’ hands.
Denver Broncos at (-9.5) Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. Denver is feeling pretty good about itself on this two-game winning streak that included a blowout win in Houston last week. That streak might not continue here, but they should have some success on the ground against a questionable Chiefs run defense, and perhaps there might be a slight letdown for KC after its emotional win in Foxboro last week.
Ricky: Broncos. The Chiefs have dominated this matchup recently, going 8-0 SU and 7-1 ATS in their last eight games against the Broncos. But Patrick Mahomes didn’t look right after injuring his hand last week. Maybe that comes into play against a physical Broncos team that’s solid defensively and rapidly improving offensively under rookie quarterback Drew Lock.
Andre: Chiefs. Kansas City’s biggest weakness is their rush defense, but Denver struggles to run the ball and only had 71 rushing yards in the first meeting between these two teams. Denver’s defense is strong, but if Broncos can’t get the run game going and keep Mahomes off the field, they may tire out late in the game and the Chiefs will be able to pull away.
Houston Texans at (-3) Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Titans. The Texans’ defense still isn’t very good, and now they get the NFL’s hottest offense. One thing that could decide this game is when Tennessee gets into the red zone. The Titans have the NFL’s best red-zone offense (73 percent TD rate), and Houston is the league’s second-worst red-zone defense.
Ricky: Titans. Derrick Henry’s annual late-season surge is in full swing — the Titans running back has posted four consecutive 100-yard games — and it’s leading to plenty of play-action success for Ryan Tannehill, who will pick apart a Texans defense ranked 29th in defensive yards per drive and defensive drive success rate, according to Football Outsiders. Also worth noting: the Titans have the NFL’s No. 1 special teams, according to Pro Football Focus’ grades, whereas the Texans rank 29th.
Andre: Titans. Since Week 7, the Titans lead the league in yards per play. Tannehill also leads the league in yards per pass attempt by more than a full yard and he’s completing 73 percent of his passes. Houston’s pass defense isn’t that great. They are one of seven teams (along with the crappy Cardinals, Dolphins, Giants, Lions, Falcons and Raiders) to have an opponent passer rating of over 100.
Miami Dolphins at (-3.5) New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Giants. This pick is admittedly narrative-driven, but it’s Dolphins-Giants, so who really wants to dig into the numbers? Anyway, this is the Giants’ best chance at winning a game before season’s end, and it’s’ Eli Manning’s triumphant return to MetLife Stadium as the starter after a good enough performance Monday night in Philly.
Ricky: Dolphins. The Fins have been fighting, going 7-2 ATS in their last nine games. Might as well take the points, especially with this being the Dolphins’ second straight game at MetLife Stadium. (Miami covered in a 22-21 road loss to the Jets in Week 14.)
Andre: Dolphins. The Giants and Dolphins rank 30th and 31st, respectively, in coverage on Pro Football Focus. I trust gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick to take advantage of a weak pass defense more than Manning.
(-9) New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. The Bengals’ defense is trending in the right direction, and a matchup with the Patriots’ offense isn’t as daunting as it once was. Given how porous the Patriots’ interior offensive line has looked, especially with James Ferentz at center, this could be a huge day for Geno Atkins. Cincy’s offense stinks, but they’ll score just enough to keep it in the number.
Ricky: Patriots. The Patriots are on to Cinc … wait, have people already made that joke? Anyway, maybe I’m naive, but this feels like the week New England erases some of the hysteria that’s been surrounding the team. The Bengals, quite frankly, don’t do anything well.
Andre: Patriots. Remember when New England would play cupcake opponents in the first eight weeks of the season and blow them out of the water? Well, we’re about to see that Patriots team again.
(-4.5) Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Eagles. The Redskins don’t have Derrius Guice anymore, and Dwayne Haskins has been hobbled in the pocket. Maybe there’s some momentum to be gained from the Eagles’ overtime win on Monday night, but this pick really is about Washington being bad.
Ricky: Redskins. Injuries to Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor cast more doubt over who exactly will be catching passes from Carson Wentz. The most significant development for the Eagles, however, might be the loss of Lane Johnson, as we’ve seen Philadelphia’s offense struggle mightily in the past without the Pro Bowl right tackle.
Andre: Eagles. Haskins has more than twice as many interceptions than touchdowns and is completing passes at a terrible 55 percent clip. The Eagles have the third-most QB hits and the Redskins have the second-highest opponent sack rate. Haskins will be running for his life.
(-6) Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. The Seahawks’ last five games have all been decided by one score or less. The only one that wasn’t was last week’s 12-point loss in Los Angeles. I just don’t know how good they are, and this feels like a get-right game for Christian McCaffrey, who hasn’t eclipsed 100 yards rushing or receiving in three weeks.
Ricky: Seahawks. This is a big spread when you consider the Seahawks are traveling across the country and typically play close games. But it just feels like the Panthers are playing out the string at this point, especially after firing head coach Ron Rivera ahead of their 40-20 blowout loss to the Falcons in Week 14.
Andre: Panthers. The Seahawks allow the sixth-most receiving yards to running backs and they generally play very close games. Nine of their 10 wins have been by one score. Carolina is at home and McCaffrey will have a big game and keep this one close.
(-3.5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bucs. The Bucs have the NFL’s No. 3 scoring offense, and now they get the No. 24 scoring defense. Turnovers are a major issue for Tampa, of course, but Detroit has only forced five turnovers in its last eight games.
Ricky: Bucs. The Lions have been a great team to fade recently, evidenced by their 1-6-1 ATS record over their last eight games. Now isn’t the time to get cute, especially since Tampa Bay boasts an excellent run defense and Detroit ranks 24th in yards per rush attempt (3.9) this season. Good luck, David Blough.
Andre: Bucs. Tampa Bay’s rush defense is pretty strong as they allow just 3.4 yards per carry. That means David Blough is going to have to make a lot of plays. Not good news. Jameis Winston is the king of throwing interceptions, but the Lions have forced the fewest interceptions this season with just five.
(-2.5) Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Browns. Yes, Cleveland is a mess, but Kyler Murray has been sacked 23 times in Arizona’s six-game losing streak and could be in for a long day against a Browns defense that has at least three sacks in its last eight games.
Ricky: Cardinals. Arizona does a fairly decent job of stopping the run, theoretically limiting Cleveland’s biggest strength. If nothing else, this game facilitates a great debate as to which of the two most recent Heisman Trophy winners/No. 1 overall picks will have the better NFL career: Murray or Baker Mayfield?
Andre: Cardinals. Arizona’s biggest weakness is their pass defense, but I don’t see Mayfield picking apart anyone and the Cardinals’ rush defense is decent enough to contain Nick Chubb and force Mayfield to have a high-volume game. Mayfield might have more interceptions than Progressive Insurance commercials, which is saying a lot.
Jacksonville Jaguars at (-6.5) Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Raiders. I mentioned this in the same spot last year when we all thought the Raiders were playing their final game in Oakland: Walter Football pointed out teams were 3-1 ATS in their final games in a stadium. Well, the Raiders won and covered in that spot last year, and now we get a chance to do it again — against a very bad Jaguars team. Sign me up.
Ricky: Raiders. I’m with Mike. Final game in Oakland. Let’s go!
Andre: Raiders. Make that three. Mike’s rant on “The Spread” about this game was one of the most passionate speeches I’ve ever heard.
(-2.5) Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Chargers. You obviously have to consider competition (Denver, Jacksonville), but the Chargers have allowed just 15 points per game since Derwin James returned. So he’ll solidify things on the back end, while Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa pin their ears back and get after a Vikings offensive line that still struggles some against the pass rush.
Ricky: Vikings. Still not trusting the Chargers. The return of Adam Thielen is a major boost to Minnesota’s offense, which can lean heavily on Dalvin Cook early and take some shots late. The Chargers rank 21st against the run, per Pro Football Focus.
Andre: Chargers. Since Week 8, Los Angeles ranks in the top three in yards per play and yards allowed per play. This is a good team that’s shot themselves in the leg because of dumb turnovers and bad luck. All eight of their losses have been by one possession, so if I’m getting points at home, I’m taking L.A. every time.
Atlanta Falcons at (-11) San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. The 49ers have been hit as hard as any team in the league by injuries recently. They have two divisional games left on tap after this one, including a Week 17 game in Seattle that might be for the NFC’s top seed. This just feels like Matt Ryan and the Falcons sneak in the back door for a late cover.
Ricky: Falcons. The Niners are coming off back-to-back hard-fought games against the Ravens and Saints — two of the best teams in the NFL — and have a couple of huge contests on deck beyond this Sunday. Smells like a perfect letdown spot.
Andre: Falcons. The 49ers have allowed more than 100 yards on the ground in every game since Week 5. Their defense looks exhausted after a series of grueling games and their Week 4 bye seems like is catching up to them. Atlanta’s offense is potent enough to keep this close.
(-1) Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Rams. Don’t be surprised if another slow start does in the Cowboys, who have been amassing a whole bunch of their seemingly good offensive numbers in garbage time. This week, they get a desperate Rams team that is finally healthy and averaging nearly 16 first-half points per game the last three weeks. If they can build an early lead, they should be able to take away Dallas’ offensive balance.
Ricky: Rams. It’s the unstoppable force (Rams’ pass rush) versus the immovable object (Cowboys’ offensive line), and the smart money is on Los Angeles’ defense to disrupt Dallas’ offensive game plan. The Rams rank first in hurry percentage, second in pressure percentage and fourth in sacks despite having just the 18th-highest blitz rate. This shows the Rams — anchored by Aaron Donald, of course — can wreak havoc without sending extra bodies, in turn maximizing their coverage downfield, where Jalen Ramsey will limit Amari Cooper much like Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore did three weeks ago.
Andre: Rams. L.A. is second and fourth in rush defense and coverage, respectively, according to Pro Football Focus. Their run defense is especially legit. They’re one of six teams that allow fewer than four yards per carry and that’s after they allowed 285 rushing yards against the Ravens. They will be able to slow down Zeke. When Zeke doesn’t crack 100 rushing yards, Dallas is 2-6 this season.
Buffalo Bills at (-2) Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. I’m worried Buffalo is on the way down, especially after going all out last week vs. Baltimore. That they’re taking on a Steelers defense that ranks top five in run and pass defense DVOA this week makes me think it could be a long night for the Bills.
Ricky: Steelers. The Ravens, who blitz more than any team in the NFL, really got into Josh Allen’s face last week, and it wasn’t pretty for the Bills quarterback, who completed just 7 of 24 passes against the blitz and 1 of 16 passes when pressured, according to ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques. It could be the same story Sunday night in Pittsburgh. The Steelers, who have the league’s sixth-highest blitz rate, rank first in sacks and pressure percentage. Allen, meanwhile, ranks 28th in QBR against the blitz (ahead of only Daniel Jones, Mason Rudolph and Mitchell Trubisky) and dead-last in adjusted completion percentage when pressured.
Andre: Steelers. Duck Hodges is completing more than 70 percent of his passes and is averaging 8.5 yards per carry. That would be third in the NFL if he had enough pass attempts to qualify. He’s not just dinking and dunking around. The Steelers defense has allowed more than 200 passing yards just twice since Week 4. They also lead the league in sacks and have only allowed 22 sacks, so they have the trench advantage. Since Week 4, they’ve allowed the fewest yards per play. Josh Allen, who is completing fewer than 60 percent of his passes, is in for a long night.
MONDAY, DEC. 16
Indianapolis Colts at (-9) New Orleans Saints, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Saints. New Orleans needs to get right after last week’s home loss to San Francisco, and the Colts — who have allowed 79 points in their last two games — should be the perfect remedy. Indy gave up 542 yards last week and only kept it close by forcing four turnovers; Drew Brees and the Saints won’t be as generous this week.
Ricky: Saints. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome always is rocking, but the volume kicks up another notch at night, where the Saints are 17-3 SU and 16-4 ATS in their last 20 primetime home games. The Colts have improved against the run since Darius Leonard’s return, but their secondary leaves much to be desired, setting up a favorable matchup for the Saints’ offense.
Andre: Colts. Indy keeps games close. Six of their seven losses have been by one possession.
Thumbnail photo via Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports Images