For The Win: Week 15

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

Here I am again this year, back for more NFL picks. Just like last season I will still be picking all of the NFL games each week, but I will try and help some of you with some confidence and rankings of the selections - which also may assist those of you with Las Vegas trips. I tend to rate games that I like (and some extras like Over/Unders) with 1-3 "Stars", which basically highlight my best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars I don't truly like one way or the other, but will select to help those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools or other contests that they may be participating in either this week or this season. 

Week 14 was a quiet one, as I did not like most of the games and steered clear of most of them.  The results were average, as you might expect, but there are some interesting contests in Week 15, as well as some big spreads.  This week I am looking hard at the motivation of teams with just three games left, and that will influence a lot of my calls.  Let’s get started:

Note that the lines and Over/Unders are taken from VegasInsider.com

Bye week teams:  None. 

(Thursday) TAMPA BAY (+1.5) at ST. LOUIS
A short week for both teams on Thursday, and it is not a divisional matchup once again so both teams have a learning curve as far as game plans and film study.  That normally would favor the home team, but I am leaning towards taking the Buccaneers here.  Looking at the numbers of late, St. Louis is one of the worst against the pass in the last three weeks (13th-worst in fantasy points to quarterbacks, 5th-worst for wide receivers) and Jamies Winston has been playing very well of late.  Throw in that his wide receivers and tight ends are back to full strength and the scales tip towards Tampa Bay.  Now, look at what the Rams can do – run the ball with Todd Gurley.  Tampa Bay is one of the best defenses on the year in yards per carry against (second overall at 3.4 YPC, just behind Denver) and you can start to see why I like Tampa here.  Now, the last reason is that if Tampa Bay can somehow run the table, they can still get to 9-7, but that starts with a win this week and then they can worry about beating Chicago.  Of course, they will need big help to beat the Panthers in Week 17 (or the Panthers to have lost and thus not care about Week 17), but it all requires a win here.  So give me Tampa Bay.  PICK: Buccaneers

(Saturday) NEW YORK JETS (-3) at DALLAS
The Jets are 8-5, in second place in the AFC East and have the inside track on an AFC Wild Card berth.  With two games after this one with the Patriots and Bills, this has to be in the “must win” category for New York.  Dallas is all but dead at 4-9.  Pretty simple.  Ryan Fitzpatrick has the offense humming and the Jets are playing strong defense.  Better team, better motivation, easy call.  PICK: Jets

KANSAS CITY (-7) at BALTIMORE
Did you read my summary about the Jets?  Similar logic here.  The Chiefs are 8-5, second place in the AFC West and likely headed for a Wild Card spot if they take care of business.against Baltimore and Cleveland the next two weeks they should lock it up before the Oakland game in Week 17.  Now, Baltimore – they are a certifiable dumpster fire right now with Jimmy Clausen at quarterback and third string players playing everywhere.  Alex Smith should be able to throw all day against the Ravens, and Baltimore may struggle to score more than a few field goals.  Don’t overthink this pick.  PICK: Chiefs

NEW ENGLAND (-14) vs. TENNESSEE
I knew going in to this game that the spread would be high, and it is hovering right around 14 points.  Tennessee has put up some decent offense of late, but that hinges all on Marcus Mariota.  Part of me wants to take the Titans here, but Tom Brady is about to step on the gas.  So what if LeGarrette Blount is out again?  Rob Gronkowski is back, and Brady gets arguably the worst secondary at home.  Brady knows that three wins equals the top seed in the AFC, and he will not let up now with that in his sights.   The Titans and Mariota may put up some decent fight, but I can see this game as a blowout and I would not be surprised at a 38-13 type score.  Be very careful before picking the Titans based on the points here – remember that New England just beat up on Houston and held them to just six points.  PICK: Patriots

MINNESOTA (-5) vs. CHICAGO
This feels like an easy call again here.  The Vikings are in the playoff chase at 8-5 and they have the Bears at home this week.  Their next two games get progressively harder (home against the Giants, at Green Bay).  This is really a must win for Minnesota.  The good news is that the Bears lost last week at home to Washington, dashing any real chance at the postseason.  The 5-8 Bears have to run the table and hope for a minor miracle, but all signs point to the Vikings here, starting with the Bears’ inability to stop the run.  Chicago is giving up 4.7 yards per carry and they allowed Adrian Peterson to rush for over 100 yards back in Week 8.  I expect at least 125 yards on the ground for Peterson and a touchdown, and he could go off for much more as the Vikings hitch their playoff chances to their all-star tailback.  Give me the Vikings at home by more than a touchdown, 27-17.  PICK:  Vikings 

JACKSONVILLE (-3) vs. ATLANTA
Two teams heading in opposite directions – who had that figured out two months ago?  Atlanta has completely fallen off of a cliff as they were shut out last week by Carolina.  Now, Jacksonville’s defense is not going to be mistaken for the Panthers, but the Jaguar passing game is right up there with (and probably better than) Carolina.  This game could be somewhat of a shootout if Atlanta can get their offense in gear, but I am really liking the Jaguars in this spot because if they win this game and get the Texans to beat the Colts Sunday, Jacksonville is right there in second place in the AFC South with matchups with the Texans next week. They will still need help, but for this Sunday’s motivation, the Jaguars know that they have to win to stay alive.  That’s enough for me (and that Atlanta is terrible, and that Jacksonville scored 51 last week…).  PICK:  Jaguars 

HOUSTON (OFF) vs. INDIANAPOLIS
Try as I might, I cannot find a line on this game.  Based on the way I see it, though, this is a Pick ‘em, even matchup anyway, so just pick the team you like.  For me, that is the Texans.  Sure they got shellacked by New England at home, but are they that much worse off than the Colts who gave up 51 points to Jacksonville last week?  I mean, in what world is losing 51-16 going to make you a favorite the next week?  The winner here will have the inside track on winning the AFC South, and with the Texans having Tennessee and Jacksonville in the final two weeks, a win by Houston might be all she wrote for this playoff race.  T.J. Yates has had a lot of success in the past against the Colts, but late word has it that Andrew Luck is practicing, but coach Chuck Pagano just ruled him out for the week.  All bets should remain off for this game, but if I have to pick right now I give the slight edge to Houston.  PICK:  Texans 

BUFFALO (EVEN) at WASHINGTON
This one is a tough call.  Both teams have playoff hopes despite owning 6-7 records, but the path to the postseason is much tougher for Buffalo.  The Bills dropped a tough one in Philadelphia last week while Washington won on the road for the first time in more than a year.  Now Washington has to head home and try and get to .500 before a big matchup against the Eagles.  Two former Eagles will go a long way in deciding this game, as DeSean Jackson is banged up and LeSean McCoy is looking to take advantage of the Washington run defense that is giving up 4.6 yards per carry this year.  Between McCoy and Tyrod Taylor, plus a letdown by Washington after their win and possibly looking ahead to the matchup with the Eagles, I like Buffalo in a narrow victory.  This game is a complete toss-up and could go either way.  PICK:  Bills

CAROLINA (-4.5) at NEW YORK GIANTS
We will hear all the stories about how the Giants are perfect team killers, but let’s be real here – Carolina is the much better team.   The Giants found something of a ground game last week with Rashad Jennings against Miami, but 81 yards on 22 carries is not exactly setting the world on fire.  Throw in that the Panthers defense is way better than that of the Dolphins, and it will be all up to Eli Manning to try and keep pace with Cam Newton.  Odell Beckham Jr. will still be a WR1 this week even with Josh Norman covering him, but Carolina is red hot and on a mission to just team through the rest of the schedule (Giants, at Atlanta, home against Tampa Bay).  A 13-0 team giving less than a touchdown on the road seems like an easy pick to me, and if that makes this a sucker bet, well then they got me because I’m all in on the Panthers this week.  PICK:  Panthers 

SEATTLE (-14) vs. CLEVELAND
Everyone is wondering who will be running the ball for Seattle this week. The matchup is great since Cleveland is bad against the run, but guess what?  They are also bad against the pass and also bad overall.  Don’t point to last week’s win over San Francisco, that is just one bad team beating up on the other one.  Seattle is red hot and tearing through the league right now, and the Browns are the next victim on the schedule.  Rather than wondering if Cleveland will cover two touchdowns, I am wondering how they will get 14 points.  I just do not see it.  Seattle should get 28 or more rather easily if they want, and the defense or special teams may add a touchdown for good measure.  I had this game as an 18-point spread, so 14 is a good number – for Seattle fans.  As for the Seattle run game, Russell Wilson might do that himself this week – he seems to be running the whole offense anyway.  Seahawks 38, Cleveland 6.  PICK:  Seahawks 

DENVER (+6.5) at PITTSBURGH
First of all, let me say that this is a good number on this game.  A VERY good number.  I had it right between a touchdown (too much) and a field goal (too little), so 6 or 6.5 is just right.  This is pointing to how well the Steelers are playing of late and how Denver is not, especially on offense.  Something tells me though that this is the game where Brock Osweiler and his teammates rally around him, step up and deliver production in the passing game.  I see this game as one of the best candidates for most entertaining of the week, but I will say that this is all based on my own gut feel and finding stats to support it would be few and far between.  Denver needs this game in a big way to get back on track, and while I am not calling for a win, I think we will see a much more competitive Denver team in Pittsburgh this week.  PICK:  Broncos 

GREEN BAY (-3) vs. OAKLAND
The Packers used the home game against Dallas last week to rebuild confidence and momentum towards the playoffs.  Rushing for over 200 yards in a 28-7 victory tends to have that effect. The Raiders won with their defense against Denver, keeping the Broncos off the scoreboard in the second half with a great pass rush, but Denver did help by dropping several catchable passes.  Factoring in that Green Bay is the better team but still needs to win to stay ahead of Minnesota (who they will face in Week 17) and a tough game next week against Arizona, the Packers have to get this victory.  Give me Green Bay by a touchdown, 27-20.  PICK:  Packers 

CINCINNATI (-4.5) at SAN FRANCISCO
On the surface, the Bengals appear to be in trouble after losing Andy Dalton.  Let’s dig deeper, shall we?  A.J. McCarron was forced into action and gave up some key interceptions to an opportunistic Pittsburgh defense, but the 49ers are nowhere close on defense to the Steelers.  In fact, San Francisco has zero touchdowns on defense this year, or special teams.  McCarron is not that bad of a second quarterback, and the supporting cast is superb for the Bengals.  Remember all the talk of Dalton being a game manager?  What do you think the Bengals’ game plan will be for McCarron?  Plus, McCarron did connect deep with A.J. Green once, so he does have some skill.  I see the Bengals hunkering down a bit with a more conservative game plan, play to McCarron’s strengths and get a solid road win to stay in the hunt for an AFC bye.  Oh yes, don’t forget – the 49ers lost to Cleveland last week.  Bengals in a laugher.  PICK:  Bengals  

MIAMI (+2) at SAN DIEGO
Two teams heading in the same direction – but that is not necessarily a good thing here.  The Dolphins almost held their own at home against the Giants on Monday Night Football, but it was not to be.  Now Miami has to travel cross country to San Diego, where the Chargers are looking towards the free agent market for warm bodies (seriously) for wide receiver help.  Does anyone really know who Javontee Herndon is?  Well, he caught five of seven targets last week for the Chargers.  Yikes.  So how do you pick this game?  Find a strength of one team and a corresponding weakness of the opposing team, that’s how.  Lamar Miller will run all day against San Diego, securing a win for Miami.  That’s it, case closed.  Drive home safely.  PICK:  Dolphins 

ARIZONA (-3.5) at PHILADELPHIA
Let me just say that one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century has to be Sunday Night Football flex scheduling.  I put it somewhere between HDTV and hoverboards. Am I exaggerating a bit?  Maybe, but if this had been the original game (San Francisco hosting the Bengals), how many would really be watching?  This game is full of intrigue as Arizona has very quietly amassed the second best record in the NFL, yet they are only favored by a few points in a trip to visit Philadelphia.  The Eagles have knocked off a big favorite lately when they went to New England, but that was about as fluky a win as you can get with three non-offensive touchdowns (interception, punt block, kick return).  Can Philadelphia get a win at home against the Cardinals?  I think not, as Arizona is one of the most balanced offenses and has a very strong defense and special teams as well.  Anything is possible, but the correct call here is to take Arizona on the road.  That said, I am steering clear of this game for my Best Bet selections.  PICK: Cardinals 

(Monday)  NEW ORLEANS (-3) vs. DETROIT
Week 15 closes out with a matchup between two losing teams in New Orleans as Detroit travels to visit the Saints.  This game has next to zero impact on the playoffs, although the Saints have a slim chance, but could be eliminated by kickoff.  Realistically, New Orleans has a shot at a respectable finish at 8-8 if they win this contest, then close out the season with a home win against Jacksonville then a short trip to visit Atlanta in Week 17.   The Lions lost another winnable game last week to the Rams, yielding a big day to Todd Gurley last Sunday.  While Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate could keep this one interesting, Drew Brees is a much better quarterback at home and on Monday Night Football, I am going to take Brees against Detroit most every time.  This game has the highest total of the week, and I see it going that way in a 34-30 type affair.  PICK:  Saints 

BEST BETS

Once again this year I will give not only the "Best Bets" but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 "Star" scale. The more stars, the more I like that side of the game.

* ONE STAR GAMES *

  • (Saturday) NEW YORK JETS (-3) at DALLAS
  • KANSAS CITY (-7) at BALTIMORE
  • MINNESOTA (-5) vs. CHICAGO  
  • JACKSONVILLE (-3) vs. ATLANTA
  • CAROLINA (-4.5) at NEW YORK GIANTS
  • GREEN BAY (-3) vs. OAKLAND
  • CINCINNATI (-4.5) at SAN FRANCISCO    
  • 6-POINT TEASER: KANSAS CITY (-1) at BALTIMORE (UNDER 48)
  • 4-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (2.65-1 ODDS):
    • KANSAS CITY (-1) at BALTIMORE
    • MINNESOTA (+1) vs. CHICAGO  
    • GREEN BAY (+3) vs. OAKLAND
    • CINCINNATI (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO     
  • 5-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (4.5-1 ODDS):
    • KANSAS CITY (-1) at BALTIMORE
    • MINNESOTA (+1) vs. CHICAGO  
    • GREEN BAY (+3) vs. OAKLAND
    • CINCINNATI (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO    
    • (Saturday) NEW YORK JETS (+3) at DALLAS  
  • 6-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (7-1 ODDS):
    • KANSAS CITY (-1) at BALTIMORE
    • MINNESOTA (+1) vs. CHICAGO  
    • GREEN BAY (+3) vs. OAKLAND
    • CINCINNATI (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO    
    • (Saturday) NEW YORK JETS (+3) at DALLAS
    • CAROLINA (+1.5) at NEW YORK GIANTS  
  • 7-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (10-1 ODDS):
    • KANSAS CITY (-1) at BALTIMORE
    • MINNESOTA (+1) vs. CHICAGO  
    • GREEN BAY (+3) vs. OAKLAND
    • CINCINNATI (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO    
    • (Saturday) NEW YORK JETS (+3) at DALLAS
    • CAROLINA (+1.5) at NEW YORK GIANTS
    • JACKSONVILLE (+3) vs. ATLANTA  

    

** TWO STAR GAMES **  

  • 6-POINT TEASER: JACKSONVILLE (-3) vs. ATLANTA (OVER 42)

*** THREE STAR GAMES ***

  • None this week.

PICKS OF THE WEEK: Jets, Chiefs, Vikings, Jaguars, Panthers, Packers, Bengals 

RESULTS

Last Week

  • OVERALL: 8-8 (50.0%) 
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 7-8 (46.7%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 1-2 (33.3%)

Season

  • OVERALL: 108-97-3 (52.7%) 
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 153.4-147-1 (51.1%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 45-41-2 (52.3%)

As always, questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.


More articles from Jeff Pasquino

See all