Saturday, December 16, 2017

NFL Week 15 Primer (With Picks): No Primer, Just The Picks

By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Office Christmas Parties threw us for a loop this week, so not much of an introduction (and by that, we mean we watched Office Christmas Party on DVD like 12 times and didn't have time to write one). If you're looking for some context within which to put these picks, read the intro from last week where we talk about how the NFC is getting funky and a whole bunch of games could tip scales in big ways. Anyway, let's jump right in.

For reasons unknown, the Thursday night game was the Colts and Broncos. Joe picked the Colts, Jeremy picked the Broncos, and that's all we have to say about that.

Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams In CAPS)

Los Angeles Chargers (-1) over KANSAS CITY

JC: Okay, the Chiefs burned me last week, but I’m sticking with my guns. I think they suck. I think the Chargers are the best team in the AFC West, and I don’t care that Kansas City is at home.

JP: I think we are in complete agreement on this team. Not sure how KC put it all together last week (though I am suspicious that it had a lot to do with the opponent), but Phil and Co. should roll the Chiefs this week.

Philadelphia (-7.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS

JC: We’ve seen Nick Foles be a good quarterback in a good system before. Sure, Carson Wentz was enjoying a really strong season, but purely by the numbers, Nick Foles in 2013 was strictly better than Carson Wentz in 2017. Granted, that was four years ago, but the point is it’s not like Philadelphia is turning to one of the Huard brothers or something.

JP: Oh my God, I wish the Huard brothers were still playing. They were the McCowns before the McCowns. 

Green Bay (+3) over CAROLINA

JC: Well, betting on all-out chaos in the NFC has paid off so far (Atlanta beat New Orleans, Carolina beat Minnesota, Dallas, Detroit, and Green Bay all won last week), so I might as well keep it going. Plus, Aaron Rodgers is back, and doesn’t everyone want to see Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs?

JP: Aaron Rodgers is back, and you bet your ass I'm betting on the Packers winning out, sneaking into the playoffs, then making a surprise run to the Super Bowl... Or they could lose this week, but by less than a field goal. We'll see.

MINNESOTA (-10.5) over Cincinnati

JC: Cincinnati’s offense is a train wreck to begin with, and their only two healthy running backs are both on the injured list this week, and they’re playing the Vikings, on the road. This looks like an easy win for Minnesota, even though the half-point scares me a touch.

JP: I'm actually pretty confident in this one, though the spread is about a point higher than I would have thought. Cincy put everything into that Pittsburgh game, and when the Bengals let that slip, they pretty much started waving the white flag. 

BUFFALO (-3) over Miami

JC: If the Bills are starting Tyrod Taylor, I’ll bet on them. If they’re starting anyone else, I won’t.

JP: Cue the Miami letdown after beating New England in 3, 2...

New York Jets (+15.5) over NEW ORLEANS

JC: This is the biggest line of the year and as much as the Jets probably suck with Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg at quarterback, I just can’t bring myself to lay more than two touchdowns. Like, I get that the Saints are good, and playing at home against a bad team, but this is just too rich for my blood.

JP: I've been saying it all year, but the Jets aren't THAT BAD. This looks like a 31-20 type of game to me, which ain't enough.

Arizona (+4) over WASHINGTON

JC: Fun fact - Arizona has a better record straight up than Washington, and effectively the same record against the spread as Washington (the Redskins are 5-8, the Cardinals 4-8-1).

JP: Arizona has been decimated by injury, while Washington has been decimated by wholesale institutional ineptitude for decades. So, you know, I'll take the points and the Cardinals.

Baltimore (-7) over CLEVELAND

JC: Given Baltimore’s defense and Cleveland’s offense, I’m fairly sure the Ravens could cover this spread with 3 points.

JP: Baltimore needs to bounce back in a big way if it wants to keep pace in the AFC Wild Card race, and there's no softer landing spot after blowing a game against your hated rivals than playing the Browns. 

New England (-3) over PITTSBURGH

JC: I’m not going to lie, Pittsburgh’s pass rush scares me, especially after watching the last few Patriots’ games where the offensive line has struggled to keep Brady upright. All things considered, though, last week’s loss to Miami doesn’t overly concern me. They were without their best offensive player, and a loss at this point in the season probably serves as more of a wakeup call than anything. The Patriots still control their own destiny, and with two mediocre divisional opponents at home in Weeks 16 and 17, this game should go a long way towards the  No. 1 seed in the NFC.

JP: This game will determine the No. 1 seed in the AFC and, until further notice-
1. The AFC goes through Foxboro.
2. I am betting against the Steelers, who have won eight in a row straight up, but lost four of their last five against the spread.
3. Brady and Belichick own the Steelers.

Given those three facts, how can you not take the Pats, especially when you only have to give a field goal?

Dallas (-3) over OAKLAND

JC: Say it with me now: All. Out. Chaos. In. The. N. F. C.

JP: That, and I think Oakland is just not all that good this year.

Atlanta (-6) over TAMPA BAY

JC: After watching part of Tampa Bay’s game last weekend, I think I’ve figured out what their problem is. Their only hope of stopping a team’s passing game is the opposing quarterback throwing multiple balls into their waiting arms, and then intercepting about half of those balls. Otherwise, they’re going to get torched deep. Atlanta seems like a team capable of torching them deep.

JP: Yeah, Tampa Bay is butt. Bummer. 

Here Are The Picks We Disagree On (Home Teams Still In CAPS)

JC: DETROIT (-5) over Chicago

I kinda like both of these teams as value plays, and have done reasonably well with picking their games so far this year, but it’s tough when they’re going up against each other. I guess at least the Lions have something to play for (technically, they’re still alive in the NFC playoff race), so I’ll go with them.

JP: Chicago (+5) over DETROIT

I too like both of these teams more than Vegas, but Chicago has been my sneaky good play all year, and these two played a one-score game a few weeks back. 

JC: JACKSONVILLE (-11) over Houston

Do not be alarmed - Blake Bortles, over the last two weeks, has a QB Rating north of 120. This is not a drill. Houston’s defense has been in free fall over the course of the season, and they’re starting T.J. Yates at quarterback.

JP: Houston (+11) over JACKSONVILLE

Blake Bortles has been playing well for two weeks, even though the entire rest of his body of work tells us he's unreliable, and a complete liability for this ballin' defense and running game Jacksonville has built... Time for a regression!

JC: SEATTLE (-2.5) over Los Angeles Rams

After a tough loss in Jacksonville, the Seahawks find themselves on the outside looking in to the NFC playoff bracket. Seattle hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2011, but they’re probably going to need to win out, because they lose the head-to-head tiebreaker against Atlanta (their most likely competition for the No. 6 seed). That will need to start here.

JP: Los Angeles Rams (+2.5) over SEATTLE

I get that the Seahawks have their backs against the wall, but it mat be time to consider the fact that Seattle is just way too beat up on defense to get to the playoffs in a competitive NFC. I mean, this was already a skeleton crew with Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril and a bunch of other guys out, but now Bobby Wagner (who may be the best LB in football right now), is a game time decision for Sunday. The Rams, meanwhile, are mostly healthy and primed to win the division.

JC: Tennessee (+1.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

Like, I get that Marcus Mariota is slightly hurt, and I get that Jimmy Garoppolo has led the 49ers to two straight wins on the road, but those were against Chicago and Houston. Let’s see what he can do against an actual football team before we start laying points with a 3-10 team against a team that’s likely to make the AFC playoffs.

JP: SAN FRANCISCO (-1.5) over Tennessee

I love watching Marcus Mariota, but is he secretly terrible? He's fun to watch, but he's had multiple picks three of the last four weeks as the Titans make their playoff push, and he's throw only 10 TDs, compared to 14 picks, which is second-worst in the NFL, behind only Cleveland's DeShone Kizer. Basically, Mariota has regressed in every category from the last two seasons and, after promising starts, he and Jameis Winston are starting to look like guys who may never be true franchise QBs.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 11-4-1
Season: 103-96-9
Last Week's Disagreements: 4-0-1
Season's Disagreements: 29-31-1

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 7-8-1
Season: 106-93-9
Last Week's Disagreements: 0-4-1
Season's Disagreements: 31-29-1 

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