Friday, December 14, 2018

NFL Week 15 Primer (With Picks): Showdown of Your Heroes

After the craziest play of the season, the Dolphins are looking to prove they can string some wins together, while the Patriots are looking to bounce back against a desperate Pittsburgh team.
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Jeremy's Patriots and Joe's Steelers square off this week, and while we've made plans to meet up and watch the game, we're not exactly feeling that great about our respective hometown teams after this past weekend.

Both teams need the win. The Patriots need a win to be a single game behind Kansas City and the Chargers, putting them in a position to potentially steal the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC on tiebreakers. That seems especially important for them this year, considering they're 6-0 at home and 3-4 on the road, with those losses coming against the Lions, Jaguars, Titans, and Dolphins. The Steelers need a win to simply stop the bleeding - they've lost three straight and suddenly hold only a half-game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North, and a half-game lead over teams like the Colts, Titans, and Dolphins for what would end up being the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff bracket. That all doesn't even include the Broncos and Browns, who are still somehow very much alive.

Jeremy picked up some ground last week, going 9-7 overall and 4-2 on disagreements (and is like, actually kinda mad about not pulling the trigger on Miami and San Francisco and Indianapolis like he wanted to). Joe dipped back below .500 on the year, but still holds a six game lead. He also took the Thursday game this week - Jeremy didn't have faith in the Chargers with the injuries that they're piling up, but they were able to pull it out anyway.

Now for the rest of the Week 15 picks (including two Saturday games!)

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

Houston (-7) over NEW YORK JETS

JC: The Jets looked kind of okay last week, and the Texans finally had their nine-game winning streak snapped, but this should be a relatively easy one for the Texans. There's a decent chance that the AFC is headed for a four-way tie at 12-4 (which somehow the Patriots would end up winning, most likely), so let's at least root for that over the next few weeks.

JP: Ok, Houston laid the stinker it was due last week, and the Jets won a game, but come on.

Cleveland (+2.5) over DENVER

JC: The Browns are still alive for the playoffs entering Week 15. This team went 4-44 over the last three years. Now there's a non-zero chance that they make the playoffs. Football Outsiders has it pegged at 0.5 percent, but it's still a chance. I'm riding it out for as long as I can.

JP: Scrappy Browns against talented but inconsistent Broncos... Gimme the points.

Oakland (+3) over CINCINNATI

JC: Oakland has won twice in the last month and were competitive against the Chiefs in a third game. They're actually finding somewhat of a rhythm. The Bengals have lost five in a row, seven of their last eight, and haven't really looked good in any of those games. If both teams suck, I'll take the one that's trending up (barely) and getting the points.

JP: Cincy has mailed it in and Oakland is sly scrappy of late. Again, gimme the points.

BALTIMORE (-7.5) over Tampa Bay

JC: The Bucs had a nice thing going, winning two in a row and held a double-digit lead over probably the league's best team at halftime, but then gave up 25 straight points in the second half. So much for positive momentum. The Ravens squandered a game that they should have won and would have gone a long way towards locking up a playoff spot, but it's pretty clear that their gameplan of ground-pounding and defense is a good one. That should be enough to take care of the Bucs and their 25th-ranked rush defense.

JP: Baltimore is Lamar's team now, and this team is kinda scary when it's running the ball and not turning it over. At home, with the division very much in play, I'll roll with the Ravens.

Detroit (+2) over BUFFALO

JC: Detroit's defense has actually impressed me the last few weeks, beating up on Arizona and Carolina and Chicago and holding the Rams in check for most of their game. Meanwhile, the Buffalo has (gulp) the league's (gulp) No. 1 yardage defense. That is not a typo. Again - they lose games because they turn the ball over at an alarming rate. So if this is going to be an ugly rock-fight, I'll take the team that turns the ball over less.

JP: Freakin' Buffalo, man, you tricked me into betting on you and giving points last week.

CHICAGO (-6) over Green Bay

JC: Green Bay picked up a win in their first game under Joe Philbin, but now they're just a team that's coached by, well, Joe Philbin. That doesn't inspire much confidence for me. The Bears continue to be the league's best overall defense, and the Packers just don't have the offensive punch that they've had in years past.

JP: Here's a game I'm super nervous about. Aaron Rodgers has been playing really well, despite the Packers' record, and if he gets any semblance of protection, he can put Green Bay on his back. But, I think the Bears get after him again and wrap up five or six sacks.

Washington (+7.5) over JACKSONVILLE

JC: Did you see Josh Jackson put together a few nice possessions for Washington's offense last week? And did you see what Tennessee did to Jacksonville's defense last week? I'm sorry, but the Jaguars shouldn't be favored by more than a touchdown against anyone. I'm selling.

JP: Yeah, Washington is basically an NFL Europe team on offense right now (you remember NFL Europe, right?), but ain't no way I'm giving this many points with the way Jacksonville is playing.

Arizona (+9.5) over ATLANTA

JC: Uh, the Falcons have lost five straight and failed to cover in all five games, and they're giving almost ten points? I get it, the Cardinals are really bad, but, like, what exactly do the Falcons do well? They have no ground game to speak of and a patchwork defense. Meanwhile, Arizona's defense is occasionally mediocre and the Falcons haven't scored more than 20 points since early November. If this is a low-scoring affair, do we really expect Atlanta to cover a 10-point spread?

JP: What is with these bad teams getting huge lines? I get that they're playing even worse teams, but man, it's hard to have faith in the Falcons and Jaguars.

Seattle (-3.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

JC: Four straight wins for the Seahawks. 8-3 in their last 11 games. Losses to the Rams (twice) and Chargers, and that's it. This team is a buzzsaw, and they're still only 16-1 to win the NFC. Someone is going to get very rich betting on the Seahawks over the next month.

JP: I would bet Seattle if this line was six points higher.

New England (-2.5) over PITTSBURGH

JC: I was very prepared to bet against New England here, considering how terrible they've been on the road this year and how inconsistent they are on both sides of the ball, but giving less than a field goal against a team that's lost three straight games and can't get out of their own way seems like a fair price.

JP: Ugh.

I have to say, I love living in Massachusetts. It's a great place. I plan on raising kids here and participating in the annual New England traditions of complaining about the weather, taxes and roads, but never leaving because this place is so darn quaint and the schools are great. That's all gonna be fun until I retire to Vegas.

But, the one thing I hate about living here is that, every year, for an entire week, I have to be reminded about how Tom Brady owns the Steelers. And dammit, he does. Brady has made me miserable so many times. I love watching him play, but sometimes I want to see his perfect face broken down like the avocados he uses to make his ice cream.

But that never happens against the Steelers, and this line should be three points higher. This will hand the Steelers their fourth straight loss, and push them (improbably) below Baltimore in the division, all with a game AT NEW ORLEANS looming next week.

I hate everything about this game. But yeah, gonna be fun watching it in a bar in Boston.

New Orleans (-6.5) over CAROLINA

JC: This makes five straight losses for the Panthers, three of which coming against the Lions, Bucs, and Browns - three teams that they just shouldn't lose to. The Saints have actually looked less than impressive on offense the last three weeks, even (they only mustered 312 yards against Atlanta on Thanksgiving night), but I'm just not buying Carolina as the team to knock New Orleans off the perch.

JP: Man, maybe the Panthers just stink.

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

JC: KANSAS CITY (-3.5) over Los Angeles Chargers

I have to hand it to the Chargers - they knew that I had picked Kansas City to cover, so they went for two with four seconds left knowing that no matter what happened, they'd cover the spread and screw me over. If they went to overtime, there's a chance for the Chiefs to win by six on a touchdown. They wanted to avoid that at all costs.

JP: Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5) over KANSAS CITY

I'm gonna call this team San Diego until the day I die, and I don't care that Stephen A. Smith doesn't know any of their active players. Anyways, go San Diego... Superchargers!

JC: MINNESOTA (-7.5) over Miami

I'm not quite sure I'm going to get over the way the Patriots-Dolphins game ended last Sunday. The Dolphins on the season are 7-1 in games decided by one possession and 0-5 in all other games. They've been outscored by 55 points on the season. Yet they inexplicably keep winning games. Hopefully a big Minnesota win makes me feel better.

JP: Miami (+7.5) over MINNESOTA

Teams haven' exactly fared well after beating the Patriots this year, but man did Minnesota look out of sorts last week, especially on offense. If nothing else, this feels like a close one.

JC: INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over Dallas

I'll take this one just because it makes the AFC Wild Card picture substantially more interesting and opens the door in the NFC East also. I don't think this is the correct pick but it's certainly the more interesting one.

JP: Dallas (+3) over INDIANAPOLIS

Oh, well if you've already said my part for me...

JC: NEW YORK GIANTS (-2) over Tennessee

I'm all-in on the Browns and Giants making the playoffs this year. Do you hear me? All in. ALL IN. It's happening.

JP: Tennessee (+2) over NEW YORK GIANTS

I've been on the "New York is gonna ruin some seasons" bandwagon lately, mostly because of the Giants' absurd collection of skill talent. Well, with OBJ on the bench for another week, and Tennessee fighting for its playoff life (and getting points), I have to jump off, at least for one week.

JC: LOS ANGELES RAMS (-11) over Philadelphia

I really don't like this line, mostly because the Rams haven't been beating up on teams. They took care of business against the Lions and 49ers but against everyone else they've been barely skating by. If Carson Wentz was playing and this line was a few points trimmer, I would absolutely bet on the Eagles here.

JP: Philadelphia (+11) over LOS ANGELES RAMS

Never bet against Big D**k Nick!

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 9-7
Season: 93-108-7
Last Week's Disagreements: 4-2
Season's Disagreements: 33-39-1

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 7-9
Season: 99-100-7
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-4
Season's Disagreements: 39-33-1

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