We Pick the Raiders, and It Goes Downhill From There: NFL Week 15 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. Lines, team rankings, and standings as of 12/11/14 (before the Thursday night game).  All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.]

KANSAS CITY (-10) vs. Oakland

The Basics:

Kansas City: 7-6, 3rd AFC West, #26 total offense, #16 scoring offense, #8 total defense, T-#4 scoring defense

Oakland: 2-11, 4th AFC West, #32 total offense, #31 scoring offense, #14 total defense, #28 scoring defense

Derek: Kansas City is probably going to be way more motivated, as they’ll want to get their vengeance after Oakland embarrassed them on Thursday night a few weeks ago. That said, I’m not laying 10 points with the Chiefs against anyone. And hey, if Latavius Murray got 112 yards on four carries in their first meeting, imagine how many he’ll get as the starter! Give me the Raiders.

Will: I’m riding the Raiders! They’re still in the basement of nearly every statistical category, but they’re playing hard and hanging in there, real lunchpail kinda guys. The Chiefs will have a tough time scoring 10 points let alone winning by that margin. I like Oakland.

BALTIMORE (-13.5) vs. Jacksonville

The Basics:

Baltimore: 8-5, 3rd AFC North, #10 total offense, #7 scoring offense, #15 total defense, #6 scoring defense

Jacksonville: 2-11, 4th AFC South #31 total offense, #32 scoring offense, #27 total defense, #29 scoring defense

Derek: That’s quite a spread, though the Ravens usually cover at home. The Raven secondary is in shambles, but that may not be a huge problem going against Blake Bortles. I side with the Ravens.

Will: This is an enormous line, which is about right since Jacksonville is enormously bad. Baltimore has been a little up and down, but they’re taken care of business against bad teams: They beat Tampa Bay 48-17, Atlanta 29-7, and Tennessee 21-7. Joe Flacco is elite when playing against piles of garbage. Baltimore takes it.

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at ATLANTA

The Basics:

Pittsburgh: 8-5, 2nd AFC North, #2 total offense, #6 scoring offense, #16 total defense, #21 scoring defense

Atlanta: 5-8, 1st NFC South, #8 total offense, #10 scoring offense, #32 total defense, #24 scoring defense

Derek: There doesn’t figure to be a whole lot of defense in this one, especially if Julio Jones is good to go. Last week, I picked the Steelers because it seemed like the Bengals would win. This week, it seems like the Steelers will win. So I’m going with the Falcons. Science!

Will: I have no idea what to make of Pittsburgh, but surely they’re good enough to beat the Falcons by a field goal, right? Atlanta has been frisky lately, and they’re actually capable of scoring a lot of points, but I pick Pittsburgh if only because that will throw the NFC South cripple fight race into disarray.

INDIANAPOLIS (-6.5) vs. Houston

The Basics:

Indianapolis: 9-4, 1st AFC South, #1 total offense, #2 scoring offense, #18 total defense, #19 scoring defense

Houston: 7-6, 2nd AFC South, #15 total offense, T-#12 scoring offense, #25 total defense, T-#7 scoring defense

Derek: I thought Indy could cover against Cleveland last week, but they did everything they could to lose and somehow won but didn’t cover. That was on the road, though. Indy is pretty good at home against mediocre or bad teams. I think they can beat the Texans by a touchdown.

Will: I still have the taste in my mouth from that Browns-Colts game; it tastes a bit like dirty coins. Indy’s offense should be able to score big points in this one, but I think Houston can lean on its running game to keep Andrew Luck off the field. The Texans have won three of four since their bye week, and I think Houston can at least cover.

CLEVELAND (-1) vs. Cincinnati

The Basics:

Cleveland: 7-6, 4th AFC North, #13 total offense, #21 scoring offense, #20 total defense, #11 scoring defense

Cincinnati: 8-4-1, 1st AFC North, #17 total offense, T-#18 scoring offense, T-#28 total defense, #15 scoring defense

Derek: I haven’t forgotten the whipping the Browns gave the Bengals in their first meeting. Now, Johnny is starting, and I imagine he’s been doing everything in his power to make sure he can gloat at Marvin Lewis after the game. I support the Browns.

Will: I mean, it’s Johnny time, bro. Here we go Brownies.

NEW ENGLAND (-7.5) vs. Miami

The Basics:

New England: 10-3, 1st AFC East, #7 total offense, #3 scoring offense, #13 total defense, #9 scoring defense

Miami: 7-6, 2nd AFC East, #21 total offense, T-#12 scoring offense, #6 total defense, T-#7 scoring defense

Derek: The vengeance factor is in effect, as the Dolphins took down the Patriots earlier this year. The Patriots won’t be wilting in the Miami heat this time. The men of Foxboro get their revenge.

Will: I mean, the Patriots’ only loss in three months was at Lambeau. They’ve averaged 38.6 points in their last five victories, winning by an average of 21.6 points. The Dolphins are no pushover, but the Pats haven’t been pushing teams over, they’ve been punching them in the throat and then kicking them into lava pits. Pats dispatch the marine mammals.

CAROLINA (-3) vs. Tampa Bay

The Basics:

Carolina: 4-8-1, 3rd NFC South, #19 total offense, #23 scoring offense, #19 total defense, #23 scoring defense

Tampa Bay: 2-11, 4th NFC South, #29 total offense, #28 scoring offense, #21 total defense, #26 scoring defense

Derek: Derek Anderson! Josh McCown! Set your DVR’s, everyone! Only one team can come out on top in this (somehow) high stakes NFC South matchup! Uh, I’ll take the points?

Will: I can’t believe the NFC South still exists and we have to discuss it every stupid week. Cam Newton got in a car wreck and emerged relatively okay, and this game is going to be a car wreck, so I’m taking Carolina. I don’t care if that makes sense. Whatever.

NEW YORK GIANTS (-6.5) vs. Washington

The Basics:

New York: 4-9, 3rd NFC East, #14 total offense, T-#14 scoring offense, #23 total defense, #22 scoring defense

Washington: 3-10, 4th NFC East, #12 total offense, T-#26 scoring offense, #10 total defense, #25 scoring defense

Derek: Much like last week, I’m imagining Odell Beckham doing whatever he wants and possibly setting some records. He was pretty incredible last week, and that was against a less dysfunctional team on the road. The Redskins may have completely given up. I’ll take the Giants.

Will: Hahahaha oh man this is a brutal game. Poor Giants and Redskins fans. Washington appears to have hit rock bottom, so I’m banking on them to have one last bit of fight in them, for some dumb reason. I’ll take Washington.

Green Bay (-5) at BUFFALO

The Basics:

Green Bay: 10-3, 1st NFC North, #6 total offense, #1 scoring offense, #26 total defense, #18 scoring defense

Buffalo: 7-6, 3rd AFC East, #22 total offense, T-#18 scoring offense, #5 total defense, T-#4 scoring defense

Derek: I’m really going to regret taking Kyle Orton over Aaron Rodgers, but Buffalo has a very good defense and the Packers aren’t as good outside of Lambeau. I almost considered saying the Bills would win outright, but I dumped a bucket of ice water on my head and now I’m good. I’m just going to pick the Bills and move on before I change my mind.

Will: I am not on board with you even one tiny little bit. I like Buffalo, they have a fine team, and Rodgers isn’t quite the same outside Wisconsin, but I gotta think that Green Bay can win by a couple field goals. Cheese > chicken wings.

DETROIT (-8) vs. Minnesota

The Basics:

Detroit: 9-4, 2nd NFC North, #16 total offense, #24 scoring offense, #2 total defense, #1 scoring defense

Minnesota: 6-7, 3rd NFC North, #28 total offense, #25 scoring offense, #12 total defense, #13 scoring defense

Derek: Who’s going to score points for the Vikings? The Lions have one of the best defenses in the league, and the Vikings are going to combat it with Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Asiata, Charles Johnson, and newly signed Ben Tate. Seems like the Lions only need to score nine points to cover. I think they will.

Will: Hey, you better respect the Vikings, they’ve won four of their last six! Look it up, it’s true!

(Ahem: Those four were against Tampa, Washington, Carolina, and the Jets, so you’re right not to respect them, and you’re also right to pick Detroit. I’m taking the Lions too.)

New York Jets (-2) at TENNESSEE

The Basics:

New York: 2-11, 4th AFC East, #25 total offense, #30 scoring offense, #7 total defense, #27 scoring defense

Tennessee: 2-11, 3rd AFC South, #30 total offense, #29 scoring offense, #30 total defense, #31 scoring defense

Derek: One of these teams has to win this week. What a bummer. Ugh. Jets?

Will: Did Roger Goodell institute a mandatory “four crap games per week” rule to drive up ratings for the good games? There’s no way I’m watching this. Whatever, I’ll take the points. Go Titans.

Denver (-4) at SAN DIEGO

The Basics:

Denver: 10-3, 1st AFC West, #4 total offense, #5 scoring offense, #4 total defense, #16 scoring defense

San Diego: 8-5, 2nd AFC West, #20 total offense, T-#14 scoring offense, #9 total defense, #12 scoring defense

Derek: Peyton Manning scored two fantasy points last week. Two. We’re going to get an angry, out-for-blood Manning in this one. Bad spot for the Chargers. I’m going with Denver.

Will: Hey now, this could be a nice ballgame. The Broncos handled the Chargers easily in their first matchup, The Emmanuel Sanders Game at Mile High. The Broncos have looked human recently, especially the Thomases. The extra point in the spread makes it just tantalizing enough for me to back the Chargers. Please don’t make me look stupid, Philip.

SEATTLE (-10) vs. San Francisco

The Basics:

Seattle: 9-4, 2nd NFC West, #11 total offense, #11 scoring offense, #1 total defense, #2 scoring defense

San Francisco: 7-6, 3rd NFC West, #24 total offense, T-#26 scoring offense, #3 total defense, #10 scoring defense

Derek: Heh. I’m not saying anything about this one. I don’t want to jinx it. I’ll save my thoughts for next week’s NFL Recap, should I still have them. Seahawks.

Will: Wowzers, this is a large line. Big line. Nice, fat, Tony Montana-sized line. How quickly things have fallen apart for the Niners. As good as Seattle has been playing recently, they’ve barely averaged 20 points a game. Despite looking like some fungus that grows on a pumpkin months after Halloween, I’m taking San Francisco.

PHILADELPHIA (-3.5) vs. Dallas

The Basics:

Philadelphia: 9-4, 1st NFC East, #5 total offense, #4 scoring offense, #24 total defense, #20 scoring defense

Dallas: 9-4, 2nd NFC East, #9 total offense, #8 scoring offense, #22 total defense, #17 scoring defense

Derek: The Eagles destroyed the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Now the Eagles are coming off a rough loss to the Seahawks, as if they needed any extra motivation. The Cowboys may have thrown us off their scent by beating the Bears, but it’s still December. I’m not convinced. Eagles cover.

Will: Agreed. The Cowboys may have one impressive December victory, but it was in early December. Now that everyone has flipped the page on their calendars, there’s no way that Dallas wins another one this month. I like Philly.

New Orleans (-3) at CHICAGO

The Basics:

New Orleans: 5-8, 2nd NFC South, #3 total offense, #9 scoring offense, #31 total defense, #30 scoring defense

Chicago: 5-8, 3rd NFC North, #18 total offense, T-#18 scoring offense, T-#28 total defense, #32 scoring defense

Derek: It’s time to predict a game between two of the most inconsistent and unpredictable teams in the league! In that scenario, I’ll be siding with the home underdog.

And by the way, what a strange line. Does this mean the Saints would have been favored by more than a touchdown if the gave was in New Orleans? I would love to have wagered against them in that spot.

Will: This is a strange line. I know Chicago has been disappointing, but so has New Orleans, right? The Saints have lost four of five and have given up 27-plus in each game. I don’t see how they’re favored by this much.

Until, that is, I realize it’s a prime time game starring Drew Brees and Jay Cutler, and the Bears have allowed 30-plus six times, including two of more than 50. The law of narrative states that we will see a lot of Sad Jay Cutler memes by Tuesday morning. I can’t wait. Saints take it.

Last week

Derek: 11-4-1

Will: 8-7-1

Overall

Derek: 57-44-1

Will: 41-36-1



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