My Week 15 plays were as average as it gets. I finished the week with a 7-7 overall ATS record, and went 3-3 for a small loss on my recommended wagers. Hopefully things improve this weekend.
I find it particularly difficult to cap games late in the year. A lot of lines are inflated because oddsmakers know that the public will be looking to bet on teams that “need to win”. However, it’s hard to make a case for a lot of the underdogs because they have nothing to play for. It looks as though some teams have already mailed it in, and while it’s tempting to snatch the points with a bunch of them, it’s really difficult to pull the trigger.
Anyways, without further ado, here are my Week 16 selections.
Falcons @ Lions: I haven’t pulled any punches when writing about Jim Schwartz or the Lions this season, but as ugly as their results have been, things haven’t been all that bad for them. Prior to last week’s dismantling at the hands of the Cardinals, the team played a four-game stretch in which they lost all four, but could just as easily have won all four. First they lost to the Packers by four in a game in which they had a chance to mount a drive that could have ended in a game-winning score. They followed that up with a three-point loss to the Texans in overtime and had multiple chances to score in that extra session, then they lost by two to the Colts in a game they looked like they were going to run away with, and finally they lost by seven to the Packers after holding a 14-3 lead. Now they get an overrated Falcons club that has played down to its competition all year. The Falcons have had trouble with the Cardinals, Raiders, and Panthers in recent weeks, and were even blown out by the Panthers in a second meeting with them. Following a statement win over the New York Giants, Atlanta could come out flat in this one. Atlanta’s been surprisingly poor against the run when you consider their record, allowing 4.5 yards per carry, 23rd in the league. They’ve tried to give Jonathan Babineaux some help in the middle of the line but it doesn’t seem they’ve been able to find a combination that works against the run. John Abraham would love to get at Matthew Stafford, but the Lions will exploit the matchup and deliver heavy doses of Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell. With all that said, Atlanta’s been finding ways to win, while Detroit’s been finding ways to lose. I won’t call an upset here, but I think the Lions will definitely be in the game from start to finish. Falcons 24, Lions 23
[UPDATE: I'm an idiot.]
Titans @ Packers: What a terrible game that was on Monday night. Why would the NFL punish us like that? The one bright spot came when Chris Johnson ran for a 94-yard touchdown to show the world he’s still got it. That doesn’t bode well for the Packers in this one, because they’ve been lousy against the run, allowing a 100-yard rusher in three of their last four games. That’s about as much as I want to say about the Tennessee offense. They’ve improved defensively as the season has progressed, although it may have been tough to tell on Monday night. The team received zero credit on Monday night despite forcing four interceptions, and limiting Mark Sanchez to 131 yards. Aaron Rodgers is not Mark Sanchez, but the Packers have had trouble in pass protection, and the Titans can exploit that, racking up a whopping 15 sacks in their last four games. They started the year as one of the worst teams at stopping opposing tight ends, but have become very effective at stopping tight ends in recent weeks. Jermichael Finley does a pretty good job of stopping himself sometimes with all the drops. Green Bay needs him to step up this week with Jordy Nelson out, but his rapport with Aaron Rodgers may be beyond repair. Now’s the time of year that teams lean on their running game, especially in the cold at Lambeau, but the Packers haven’t had a 100-yard rusher in 41 games, and last week were without even a 35-yard rusher. Tough to place all the blame on the backs though, as the offensive line that’s been so poor in pass protection hasn’t been much better when run blocking. In the end, Green Bay will win this game. As far as the spread is concerned, this line was -7.5 a week ago, and I didn’t see anything on Monday to think Tennessee is five points worse than they were last week. Packers 24, Titans 14
[UPDATE: I still don't have much of a feel on this game. The Packers struggled to put away the Jags at home earlier this season so I'm not really comfortable laying double-digits with them at this point. It wouldn't surprise me if they blew out the Titans though.]
Raiders @ Panthers: What’s left to say about the Oakland Raiders that hasn’t already been said? They did nothing to impress me last week against the Chiefs, and now they have to play a 1:00 PM ET game, which will feel like a 10:00 AM game to them. Their stud, Darren McFadden, has not shown much this year, rushing for over 100 yards only once on the season. Carson Palmer looked like he may have been a good fit at times last year, but he’s been a disaster this season. Carolina has been good at getting opponents off the field, holding them to a 37 percent conversion rate on third downs, the fifth best mark in the NFL. The only thing worse than the Raider offense is the Raider defense. The team has no discipline, and their gap control is lousy which should lead to some big holes for both DeAngelo Williams and Cam Newton to run through. Their secondary has been just as bad, and the Panthers gain 7.74 yards per pass play, the second highest average in the league. The Raiders have a slew of players that have been with the team for a long time, and it feels like many of them don’t care whether they win or lose anymore. Cam Newton has been red hot lately, finally making adjustments to the adjustments teams made in response to his strong rookie campaign. Newton hasn’t committed a single turnover since Week 10, throwing for 10 touchdowns in the five games since then. This game should be decided by halftime. Panthers 34, Raiders 10
[UPDATE: I wish the Panthers had something to play for here because I would gladly lay the points with them. Carolina is far more talented than Oakland and should be able to put up points at will, but I really can't trust them to show up with maximum effort in a meaningless game.]
Bills @ Dolphins: The Bills didn’t put on much of a show in Toronto last weekend, but I think they put up a better effort this weekend. Arizona faced a similar situation last week after they themselves allowed Seattle to put up a fiddy burger. They beat up Detroit, and while I don’t think this game will be as one-sided, I do think Buffalo will put together a strong game on both sides of the ball. Buffalo did move the ball well in their game with Seattle, but their three turnovers really sunk the offense. The team’s young offensive line has done a good job of protecting Ryan Fitzpatrick, while also opening up big holes in the running game. Buffalo has averaged 5.1 yards per rushing attempt on the year. Cameron Wake was a stud up here in Canada, and his game has translated well in the NFL, but I think he’ll have trouble with Bills rookie tackle Cordy Glenn. C.J. Spiller has been one of the most explosive backs in the league, a fact evident to everyone except Chan Gailey. He’s a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. While there wasn’t much that went right for the Bills last week, one of the positives was the 103 yards gained by Spiller on only 17 carries. With Fred Jackson out of the picture, Gailey will continue to lean on Spiller as the every-down back. On the other side of the ball, the Bills will likely have to do most of their work against Reggie Bush. The Bills surrendered 178 rushing yards to the Seahawk running backs last week, and that doesn’t include what Russell Wilson did to them. That performance doesn’t reflect how Buffalo’s played against the run of late, as they’ve limited each of their last four opponents to no more than 67 rushing yards. In the last meeting between these teams, Bush compiled only 20 yards on 10 carries. I like Buffalo to bounce back. Bills 17, Dolphins 16
[UPDATE: I also would really like to bet on Buffalo but it looks like they've mailed it in. If this game was taking place midseason, I would surely have a bet on the Bills today, but again, I can't be sure that they'll be putting forth any effort today.]
Bengals @ Steelers: This is a matchup that the Steelers have dominated for a good while now, but I think the pendulum has finally swung over to the other side. Pittsburgh doesn’t have the dominant offensive front that they used to. The running game has been hit-or-miss all year, not something we can often say about the Steelers. Todd Haley has tried to devise a game plan that gets the ball out of Ben Roethlisberger’s hands quickly, and while he isn’t getting sacked as often, Roethlisberger doesn’t seem to care for Haley’s offensive philosophies. Big Ben voiced his displeasure with his new offensive coordinator after last week’s loss to Dallas. Haley has never played the game at any level, and that doesn’t go over well with many of his players. While the Steelers look to smooth things over on that front, the Cincinnati defensive line will be looking to steamroll Roethlisberger. The defensive line has had little trouble getting to the quarterback this year, leading the NFL with 43 sacks. Their issues have been with stopping the run, although those issues appear to be in the past. Over the last month, they’ve limited opponents to just 2.6 yards per carry. Offensively, BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been a revelation for the team after being cast off by the Patriots. The Law Firm has rushed for over 100 yards in four of his last five games. As a team, Cincinnati rushed for 157 yards last week against Philadelphia. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green will go up against a Pittsburgh pass defense that ranks 2nd in the league, but Tony Romo did what he wanted to against them last week. Cincinnati holds a major edge in terms of turnover differential in this one as well. The Bengals stand at plus-3, while the Steelers are at minus-14. Also, don’t forget that Cincinnati is coming off an extended rest after playing on Thursday. I think the Bengals are ready to pull off the upset. Bengals 23, Steelers 20
[UPDATE: I really think that the Bengals are the better team right now. Pittsburgh is fully capable of figuring out their problems and laying waste to Cincinnati today, but until I see something out of the Steelers, they're going to be a fade team.]
Patriots @ Jaguars: This game is a bit of a head-scratcher. Bill Belichick is famous for taking away the top offensive weapon of his opponent. He’ll focus his attention on what they do best, take that away, and force them to beat him with something else. I’m not sure what he focuses on here, because the Jaguars stink at everything. I suppose he could spend his week game planning against Josh Scobee. In all seriousness, Jacksonville has been better with Chad Henne under center, although after a half season of Blaine Gabbert they could have brought Jeff George in out of retirement and gotten better quarterback play out of him too. Montell Owens has been the Jacksonville back to do the most with his touches since MJD went down, despite needing to shake off the ‘fullback’ label before getting his shot. New England’s secondary can be exploited, so it’s likely Jacksonville leans more on Henne as he gets back in sync with big-play receiver Cecil Shorts. It’s easy to play-up the fact that New England is coming off a loss and likely wants to blow Jacksonville out of the water, but New England has covered in only 5 of their last 21 attempts as double-digit favorites. In addition to that, home underdogs getting more than 8 points are 21-2 ATS on the season. Houston will take the top seed in the AFC, while Denver has the second seed all but locked up with games against Cleveland and Kansas City remaining on their schedule. This game doesn’t actually mean a whole lot to the Patriots, so they could use it to try to get Stevan Ridley back on track, as he’s been dealing with fumblitis lately. New England wins, but Jacksonville keeps the score respectable. Patriots 27, Jaguars 17
[UPDATE: Nothing's changed here. This is a really big number and while I can easily see the Patriots winning this game by five touchdowns, I'll jump on the line value with Jacksonville. The Jaguars have kept things respectable with the Texans and Packers, so why not the Patriots?]
Colts @ Chiefs: It’s tough to make anything Andrew Luck does less exciting. A pay-per-view of the kid brushing his teeth would likely turn a handsome profit, but the Kansas City Chiefs haven’t made for much of an opponent this year. This week though, they may be able to exploit Indy’s biggest weakness. The big issue with the Kansas City offense is no secret. The team has dealt with poor quarterback play for years. However, their running game is the envy of most teams in the league. Jamaal Charles is back to the form that saw him rack up over 1,900 yards from scrimmage in 2010, and he’s primed to go off in this game. Indianapolis’ struggles with stopping the run are well documented. They’re allowing opponents to rush for 4.7 yards per carry on the road. When these teams met last season Kansas City rushed for 194 yards, and that was with Jamaal Charles watching from the sideline. Things don’t line up well for the Colts this week, as this game is sandwiched in between a pair of meetings with the Texans. Even in more favorable circumstances the team hasn’t won big. On the year they’ve been outscored by 49 points despite winning nine of 14 games. This is as good a spot as any for the Chiefs to pull off an upset, but I don’t think they do it. Head coach Chuck Pagano is scheduled to re-join the Colts on Monday, and I think they want to have a playoff spot sewn up by then. Colts 27, Chiefs 23
[UPDATE: Here's another spot where I'd love to wager on the dog but just can't muster the energy to do it. Kansas City is coming off of a shutout loss which is usually a good spot for a team to rebound but they appear to be yet another NFL teams that's mailed it in already.]
Saints @ Cowboys: Is it reasonable to expect an A-effort from the Saints for this game? Going on the road when eliminated from the playoffs is always tough, but this one has an added benefit for failure. Sean Payton’s likely landing spots are New Orleans and Dallas. A Dallas loss makes it more likely that Jason Garrett gets the axe, meaning another option for Payton. If Garrett leads the ‘Boys to the playoffs, maybe he keeps his job, and that means Payton stays home in New Orleans. Whether they show up or not, Tony Romo will have little trouble with the New Orleans secondary. Pittsburgh’s secondary ranks tops in the league in terms of passing yards allowed, and Romo and the Cowboys torched them last week, so New Orleans shouldn’t pose much of a test. Even DeMarco Murray should come away with a big day. Murray rushed for 5.8 yards per carry against the Steelers last week. Murray is a strong, downhill runner, and that does not bode well for a New Orleans defense that is fast, but has trouble with big runners like Murray. He’s not the type of guy to bust off many big plays, but Murray is consistent, and that is what the Cowboys need, because they don’t want to see Tony Romo in 3rd-and-long situations. The New Orleans offense had a big week against Tampa Bay, but they really haven’t travelled well this year. Drew Brees leads the league in interceptions, and this season it seems like he’s liable to throw just about any game away, especially on the road. The Cowboys won’t make things easy on him with a defensive secondary that was re-built in the offseason to stop the pass, and a strong pass-rush led by DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer who have combined for 21.5 sacks on the year. Dallas wins this game, setting up a crucial meeting with the Redskins next weekend. Cowboys 34, Saints 24
[UPDATE: Dallas has always been a team that buckles under the pressure late in the season, but this year seems to be different. With DeMarco Murray back in the lineup, the Cowboys offense has looked like an elite unit and I just can't picture the Saints slowing them down. I still like Dallas quite a bit.]
Redskins @ Eagles: The Redskins expect Robert Griffin III back, and that completely changes the complexion of this game. Griffin dominated the Eagles in Week 11. He completed 14-of-15 passes for 200 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing for 84 yards. Even so, we’ll most likely see extra touches for Alfred Morris this weekend. This game sees the Redskins installed as the biggest favorites they’ve been under Mike Shanahan. It’s understandable since Philadelphia has covered the spread in only three of their last 18 home games. Since firing Juan Castillo the Eagles have allowed 16 touchdowns without an interception. The difference in turnover margin between these teams is enormous. Washington is a very respectable plus-13, while Philadelphia is minus-22, tying them for the worst mark in the league. LeSean McCoy will return for them on Sunday, but only in a limited role. He’s less likely to cough the ball up, but he’s no stranger to fumbling issues himself. Either way, Philadelphia should put the ball on the ground more than the average team. Nick Foles made his first career start against Washington in Week 11. He completed 21-of-46 passes for 204 yards and two interceptions in that game. He’s improved steadily since then, including a very respectable outing inside the division against the Cowboys, but he took a big step backward last week. Tough to blame him for that though, as the Cincinnati pass defense is among the best in the league. Andy Reid is famous for having his team well prepared out of the bye week, and while this isn’t a full bye week, the Eagles are coming off of additional rest. However, there appear to be too many issues with the team right now to correct in 10 days, and I think Washington wins this one comfortably. Redskins 28, Eagles 17
[UPDATE: I never really had a good feel for this game. Robert Griffin III is back for the Redskins but quarterbacks tend to struggle in their first game back from injury, so I'm not comfortable laying six points on the road. Washington was -3.5 at home to the Eagles a month ago and now they're laying six points away from home. That's a big adjustment.]
Rams @ Buccaneers: A couple weeks ago it looked like this game could have had some playoff implications, but these teams have all but given away any playoff hopes they might have had. In Week 15 against a Minnesota team that’s been terrible on the road, the Rams allowed the Vikings to build an early lead, forcing them to the air. Sam Bradford throwing the ball 55 times is not a recipe for success in St. Louis. Bradford has Danny Amendola back, and an emerging Chris Givens, but even against a terrible Buccaneer secondary, the Rams will want to keep the ball on the ground. St. Louis has been most successful when pounding the ball on the ground with Steven Jackson. Tampa Bay has done all they can to keep their opponents from running the ball successfully, but if Jackson can run on the 49ers, he can run on anyone. Defensively, St. Louis features a pair of solid pass-rushers in Robert Quinn and Chris Long who have combined for 17 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss on the year. They’ll make things difficult for Josh Freeman, as will Cortland Finnegan, who will likely be matched up with Vincent Jackson. Freeman and the Bucs are coming off an embarrassing shutout at the hands of divisional rival New Orleans. Freeman threw four interceptions and needs to make better decisions if the Bucs hope to win consistently. Doug Martin looks to be a strong option out of the backfield, especially after a week in which Adrian Peterson ran all over the Rams, but Martin has hit the rookie wall and has been limited to 3.8 yards per carry over his last six games. My biggest concern with the Buccaneers is that it feels as if they are quitting on Greg Schiano, the same way they quit on Raheem Morris a year ago. Jeff Fisher is more likely to have his troops ready. Rams 19, Buccaneers 17
[UPDATE: This game could really go either way. In the end, I just trust the Rams a little bit more because they've been so good in the underdog role this season. Tampa looks like their falling apart just like they did at the end of last season and I'm not sure they'll be ready to play after having their postseason dreams destroyed last week.]
Chargers @ Jets: If you thought Monday’s game was ugly, you may want to look away from this one. Greg McElroy gets the start for the Jets. I watched a lot of this kid at Alabama, and he does not belong in the NFL. He’ll play the role of game-manager, spending most of his day handing the ball off to the team’s stable of running backs. When he does drop back to pass, he should have plenty of time as the Chargers have compiled the seventh-fewest sacks in the NFL. Carolina just rushed for 148 yards against San Diego, and that doesn’t include what Cam Newton did to them. On the defensive side of the ball, the Jets are one of the few teams that actually have fewer sacks than the Chargers do, with 26. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has quietly been one of the better players on this defense, and the Jets will need him to come up with a big game here. He’ll face a struggling Chargers offensive line that hasn’t done a very good job of protecting Philip Rivers. Rivers isn’t one to scramble, so if the Jets can collapse the pocket, the Chargers will be in for a long day. Rex Ryan should bring plenty of pressure, and that will force Rivers to make some mistakes. Rivers has forced the ball into some bad spots this year, and he’ll likely be called on to throw the ball a lot in this one. Ryan Mathews is out and the Jackie Battle experiment resumes in San Diego. He had a couple good games early in the season, but he lacks the explosiveness of Mathews. New York should win this one, but it won’t be pretty. Jets 13, Chargers 10
[UPDATE: Neither of these teams inspires any sort of confidence whatsoever. I'm going with the Jets because teams tend to rally around a new quarterback in his first game but there's no chance in hell I'd put a cent down on this game today. Any team could look like an appealing dog against the Jets but the Chargers are epically bad.]
Giants @ Ravens: The Giants have alternated dominant performances with lousy ones since their bye in Week 11 and if that pattern holds true, they’re due for a strong effort in this game. Last week in Atlanta the team fell in love with Kregg Lumpkin after a couple big runs early in the game and it cost them several chances at points. He was deemed to have the ‘hot hand’, but failed to come through in several key situations. Ahmad Bradshaw is expected back this week, which makes the team’s running back situation a lot clearer. A return to practice for Hakeem Nicks this week also bodes well for his rapport with Eli Manning. The Ravens are mired in an ugly losing streak and it appears that they are going to stumble their way into the playoffs. Heading home usually solves any problems the team is having, but they’ve lost their last two home games. The firing of Cam Cameron did little to solve the team’s offensive woes, as Jim Caldwell’s play-calling abilities aren’t up to snuff quite yet. In his first offensive series he called a screen to Vonta Leach, a handoff up the middle for Ray Rice, and a quarterback sneak by Joe Flacco that led to a fumble and a turnover. Caldwell will call his second game on Sunday, while on the other sideline Kevin Gilbride and Eli Manning have been together since 2004. The injuries are piling up for the Ravens on the defensive side of the ball, and they just aren’t capable of stopping opponents the way they once could. The unit was torched by Peyton Manning brother last week, and now it’s Eli’s turn for a big day against this once proud group. I expect New York to bounce back in a big way after last week’s embarrassing loss. Giants 38, Ravens 20
[UPDATE: No change here. This is probably my favorite play of the NFL season. The Ravens have been outgained in nine of their past ten games and will run into a Giants squad that's stewing after their shutout loss last week. New York IS a good football team, Baltimore ISN'T.]
Vikings @ Texans: This game does pack some playoff implications. The Texans still haven’t sewn up the top spot in the AFC, while the Vikings could sneak their way into the playoffs. With that said, all eyes will be on Adrian Peterson as he looks to break Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. Minnesota has a great offensive line and Peterson has done a stellar job of finding holes and running in space, but the team has absolutely no passing game to speak of. Christian Ponder’s top target, Percy Harvin, is out for the year, and Kyle Rudolph can only do so much. The Texans have been exploitable lately, but they’ve been getting beaten through the air. I don’t think Minnesota can beat them through the air. Wade Phillips probably doesn’t think so either. He’ll throw eight, nine, maybe even 10 men in the box to stop Peterson. Any and all run blitzes he has in the playbook will be shown on Sunday. J.J. Watt has had a heck of year bringing down quarterbacks, but I think even he will turn his attention to stopping Peterson. As I said, this defense has struggled in recent weeks, and they would love to send a message to the league by thwarting Peterson’s shot at the record. On the other side of the ball, the Texans remain as efficient as ever. The team has a stellar plus-15 turnover margin, and has scored at least 21 points in 12 of 14 games this season. Andre Johnson is reverting back to the form that made him a superstar, while Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels remain dependable targets as well. The Viking secondary was picked apart by Sam Bradford last week to the tune of 377 yards and three scores, so Matt Schaub should be able to do whatever he wants this week. Arian Foster should find some success on the ground as well against a leaky Vikings run defense. Minnesota has allowed opposing rushers to gain 4.9 yards per carry over the last three weeks. Houston locks up the top-seed in the AFC this weekend. Texans 24, Vikings 13
[UPDATE: Houston hasn't really looked good in the past month but I just can't pick the Vikings to cover when they're unable to throw the ball. Christian Ponder has connected on only one of his past 16 throws of 15+ yards. That's putrid.]
Browns @ Broncos: I’ve said numerous times that the Browns are one of the better teams to back in the NFL. The reason is that no one else wants to, so they get plenty of favorable numbers. It looks like they’re getting one this week as well. A week ago this spread was at -9.5, and it’s now moved up to -13. The Browns stumbled last week against the Redskins, but that was as a favorite. Now they’re in the more familiar role of big ugly dog. Brandon Weeden has more interceptions than touchdowns on the year, but he’s actually looked pretty good at times this season. Fellow rookie Trent Richardson has been scoring in bunches lately, with six touchdowns in the last four weeks, but the Broncos have been very good against opposing rushers this year. Even if Richardson gets stymied on the ground, the Browns can keep him involved in the passing game. The Broncos should give the Browns young receivers some trouble in man coverage, but Greg Little is stepping up as a legitimate compliment to Josh Gordon, and last week Dennis Pitta exposed the issues Denver has had defending tight ends this year. The Browns have done a good job of slowing opposing passers, but I don’t expect them to shut down Peyton Manning. Joe Haden is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, so he should limit what Demaryius Thomas can do, but number two receivers have had a lot of success against Cleveland, so Eric Decker should keep that trend going. Peyton Manning has been sacked five times in the last two weeks after getting sacked just three times in Weeks 4 through 10, so pass protection may be an issue for the Broncos. The Browns should put up a better effort than they did a week ago, and while they won’t win this game, they should keep the final score respectable. Broncos 31, Browns 21
[UPDATE: I was pretty close to betting the Browns +13 earlier this week but I don't want to get in front of the Peyton Manning train right now. Denver is capable of playing a bad game and still winning by two touchdowns so I laid off. I still think Cleveland is the right side though.]
Bears @ Cardinals: This game features two struggling offenses, and two of the best ball hawking defenses in the league, so this could get ugly. No defense goes after the football the way the Bears do, whether it’s Charles Tillman punching at the ball, or a safety jumping in front of a pass, the Bears know how to set up short fields for Jay Cutler and the offense. A big issue for the Bears has been keeping Cutler upright, but they get some good news this week as Arizona has racked up only 10 sacks in the last six weeks. The Bears likely won’t call on Cutler very often, as Matt Forte should find plenty of running room against an Arizona defense that has allowed 175 rushing yards per game over the last four weeks. If he can keep the chains moving consistently, then the Bears can keep the ball out of Cutler’s hands. When the quarterback has thrown, it’s been to Brandon Marshall more often than not. Marshall leads the NFL with 107 receptions and is second in the league with 1,398 receiving yards. The Bears defense has sputtered of late, but a matchup with the Cardinals should solve any issues they’ve been having. Ryan Lindley doesn’t belong in the NFL, and he’s about the only quarterback, pro or otherwise, that can’t complete a pass to Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona’s running game hasn’t been much better, and the last thing they can afford to do is fail to pick up yards on early downs and set up third-and-long situations for Lindley. The Bears have struggled against the better teams in the league, but they’ve taken care of business against the league’s lesser team. I think they continue that trend against the lowly Cardinals. Bears 24, Cardinals 3
[UPDATE: I think that Chicago's poor play in recent weeks has set us up with a very favorable line here. Arizona was held to under 200 yards of total offense last week against Detroit, but were able to rout the Lions because, well, the Lions are the Lions. The Bears make a statement today.]
49ers @ Seahawks: The Seahawks enter this game as the league’s hottest team, scoring 108 points in their last two games, while the 49ers enter riding high after a statement win over the Patriots last Sunday night. Seattle showed that they can run the read option as well as anyone, with Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch combining for over 200 yards on the ground against a normally stout Buffalo front. Lynch is on a heck of a roll, with 241 yards and four touchdowns in the last two weeks, averaging more than 11 yards per carry in each of those games. If Lynch can run hard against the 49ers, it will take a lot of pressure off of Wilson and the Seattle passing game. Wilson struggled in San Francisco in Week 7, completing only 9-of-23 passes for 122 yards and an interception, but he’s been stellar since then, with 16 touchdowns compared to just three turnovers. He’ll oppose another explosive, young quarterback. Colin Kaepernick didn’t use his legs all that often on Sunday night, but he did complete five passes that went for 24 yards or more. Any questions about whether or not Alex Smith should go back under center should have been put to rest after that performance. Frank Gore ran for a score in that game, and he continues to pound the rock as well as anyone this year. It sounds like Richard Sherman will be around for this game. He’ll match up against Michael Crabtree, and likely shut him down. The Seahawks pass defense has allowed only 6.3 yards per attempt on the year, fifth best in the league. Seattle getting this game at home could make all the difference, as they have the best home field advantage in the league. It also doesn’t hurt that San Francisco is coming off an emotional win against New England. That certainly took a lot out of them. I’ll roll with Pete Carroll and the Seahawks in a HUGE statement game. Seahawks 20, 49ers 13
[UPDATE: Seattle is now a 1.5-point favorite so I'm glad I got in on them at +1 yesterday. I really think the Seahawks are going to win this game for all of the reasons outlined above, and the loss of 49ers' defensive end Justin Smith makes me even more confident.]
[BLOG PROGRAMMING NOTE: On a side note, I won’t be posting a Week 16 Recap and Monday Night Pick tomorrow. Seeing as how there is no Monday Night Football game, that wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. I’ll be heading out to visit family for the majority of the day and I’d just like to take this opportunity to wish everyone Happy Holidays. I appreciate all the regulars that like to post here and hope that everyone enjoys their time this holiday season. Thanks for reading.
I won’t spend too much time here.
Assuming I have all teams remaining, here would be my top selections in order of confidence:
1. New England at Jacksonville (even though I like the Jags +14.5, the Patriots are more likely to win than any other team this week.)
2. Denver vs. Cleveland
3. Green Bay vs. Tennessee
4. Houston vs. Minnesota
5. Carolina vs. Oakland
6. Washington at Philadelphia
7. Chicago at Arizona
8. Indianapolis at Kansas City
Week in and week out, you will get a look at my spreadsheet which shows my confidence in each selection.
The ‘Strength of Pick’ column indicates how confident I am in my selection with 1 being the most confident and 14 being the least confident.
The ‘Initial Reaction’ column indicates my confidence when the game lines were first released.
The ‘Mid Week’ column indicates my confidence on Wednesday.
The ‘Final Selection’ column indicates my final picks against the spread.
It’s one thing to show you a table indicating who I like in each game, but it’s another thing to actually show you where I’m throwing my money down.
I rate my plays on a scale of 3* to 6* with a 6* play qualifying as my top play. I would estimate that 1 out of every 25 plays earns a 6* distinction, with approximately 50% of my plays earning a 3* distinction.
I’m rolling with six plays this week–one Saturday night play and five for Sunday. I’m also going with my second 6* play of the season. If you’ve been reading this blog on a weekly basis, it won’t come as a surprise at to who I absolutely love this week.
6* New York Giants -1 (-118) – 5 Dimes
This is my second 6* play of the season and it’s the second time I’m betting against the Ravens. At -3, I’d reduce this to a 5* play but I’m still super-confident in the Giants’ ability to bounce back. New York is the superior team here but Baltimore’s track record in home games (which means nothing anymore) allows us to grab a favorable line. Jump on -1 ASAP.
4* Dallas Cowboys -2 (-110) – SIA
There are a lot of ways you can bet this game, but I chose to go with -2 @ SIA. All of the -1s on the board have some extreme juice (in the 25-30 cent area), and it’s just not worth it to pay that much for one point. I could have also gone with Dallas -3 at plus money, but I think that -2 is the way to go here.
3* Detroit Lions +4.5 (-110) – SIA (Saturday) – LOSS
I wouldn’t have taken the Lions here but at +4.5, I can’t pass it up. Most sportsbooks have it at +3.5 right now but you can grab a 4.5 at SIA or BoDog and that definitely makes it worth a play. The Lions may not be winning games at home but they’re definitely keeping them close.
3* Jacksonville Jaguars +15.5 (-115) – SIA
All sportsbooks have this line at 14.5 except for SIA, and while the extra point likely won’t make a difference, I’ll pay an extra five cents just in case. I am by no means confident in this play, but there is really good value with the home dog here. I’ll hold my nose and take the Jags.
3* Chicago Bears -5.5 (-107) – 5 Dimes
I’m a little hesitant to bet on such a big public play, but the Bears look like the right side to me. Chicago has been porous in the last month or so but I think that that allows us to grab a good line here. The Bears have beat up on the dredges of the league all season and I think the same is the case here. I’d play this for 3* all the way up to -6.5–at -7 I’d pass.
3* Seattle Seahawks +1 (-105) – BoDog
BoDog is the only sportsbook where the Seahawks are still underdogs, as the line is a pick’em in every other spot. Snatch it up now. San Francisco’s big win over New England on Sunday night turned a lot of heads and allowed us to get the Seahawks as a home dog here. I think the wrong team is favored.
That’s it for me this week. I will update my thoughts on each game on Sunday morning.
Good luck! Let me know your top selections.