Three weeks remain in the regular season and while the Packers continue to roll through the NFC with an unblemished 13-0 mark, the AFC’s top seed is very much up for grabs. Heading into the weekend, a number of key teams look to gain an edge, with the Texans taking on the Panthers, the Steelers facing the 49ers, Ravens traveling to San Diego and the Patriots butting heads with Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.
Over in the “Pick Your Knows” department, I will need to finish the last three weeks 40-8 against the spread in order to match last season’s record. Highly unlikely, but if anything, it would be nice to finish strong over the season’s final three weeks.
Last Week: 8-8
This Season: 104-104
Last Season: 144-112
It’s once again time to “Pick Your Knows” – the only time it’s not a disgusting habit – and here are Week 15’s scheduled games (with spreads as they appear through CBSSports Fantasy).
Pick Your Knows: 2011 NFL Week 15 Picks Against the Spread
Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons (-11.5)
This game features a tricky line considering the recent performance of these two teams. The Jags have struggled offensively all season, yet exploded on the scoreboard last week against the Bucs. The Falcons clearly have more talent and play much better in front of the home crowd, yet injuries have hampered them offensively. One of the main keys to this game will be Atlanta’s fifth-ranked run defense against Maurice Jones Drew. If MJD can post some solid numbers, this game could be closer than expected. If not, then it’s a blowout. Overall, the spread scares me, so I’m going to roll with the conservative pick.
KP’s Pick: Jacksonville
Update: Another Thursday blunder, as Atlanta thrashed the Jags 41-14. Worse, MJD ran for 112 yards, with a 6.6 average, making me wrong in that department, too.
Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6.5)
Tampa Bay has really struggled, and the team is likely in turmoil after rumors have escaped that Raheem Morris was almost fired earlier in the week. The Cowboys have lost two heartbreakers in a row, and now find themselves in a tight division battle with the Giants. Dallas also has lost DeMarco Murray for the year, and could see a dip in the effectiveness of its running game. But with Dallas’ pass weapons, coupled with Tampa Bay’s current issues, it’s still hard to bet against the Cowboys. Dallas covers on the road.
KP’s Pick: Dallas
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-0.5)
Matt Moore has been battling an injury this week, but did practice. Moore has played solid football and been a big reason for why the Dolphins have been more competitive. Better yet, the Miami defense has played well, specifically against the run. The Bills have been more one-dimensional since Fred Jackson went down, and with how solid Miami has been against the run, expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to need to carry Buffalo’s offense. The game forecast is windy with light rain, which could hinder the pass game, and that’s why I’m taking the Dolphins.
KP’s Pick: Miami
Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears (-4.5)
The Bears continue to struggle without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte carrying the offense. Seattle has played much better over the last few weeks. The Seahawks offense will likely face challenges against a more talented Chicago defense, especially when playing on the road. But again, the Bears have not been able to establish a consistent offense, and no matter who is running the offense, it’s hard to imagine the Bears winning this game by five points or more. That’s why Seattle is the clear selection here.
KP’s Pick: Seattle
Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans (-6.5)
The Texans continue to win games, no matter who has to leave with an injury. This week, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is on medical leave and star wide receiver Andre Johnson is likely out again. Houston has an explosive running attack, and will likely expose a Carolina defense that has been struggling often during the season. T.J. Yates has been effective as the Houston starting quarterback, leading the Texans to a last second win over the Bengals last week. I expect the Texans to win, but with Phillips, out coupled with the talent and mobility of Cam Newton, I’m banking on the Panthers to keep this game inside a touchdown.
KP’s Pick: Carolina
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (+6.5)
The winless Colts are down to just three more chances to avoid matching Detroit’s 0-16 season from a few years ago. Indy’s offense has showed a little bit of life in recent weeks, but the defense continues to get owned. Tennessee lost Matt Hasselbeck last week due to injury, but he practiced this week and could be back on the field. Chris Johnson also will likely have success running on the Colts, and a touchdown victory seems like a safe pick. Titans cover.
KP’s Pick: Tennessee
Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs (+13.5)
Top receiver Greg Jennings will be out with a knee sprain, but the Packers have enough weapons that they likely won’t skip a beat without him. James Jones will be called upon to take his place, and when Jones is catching the ball, he’s deadly – but that doesn’t always happen. Meanwhile, Romeo Crennel is taking over as interim coach in Kansas City, and he’s stated that if healthy, Kyle Orton will get the start. If not, it will be Ricky Stanzi. Orton could move the ball, but I wouldn’t trust Stanzi in his first ever NFL start. Either way, with the Chiefs in clear transition mode, it’s hard to bet against the Packers, even when favored by nearly two TD’s.
KP’s Pick: Green Bay
New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (+7.5)
All the key offensive pieces are practicing this week for the Vikings, most notably Adrian Peterson. Adding AP in the lineup at home means that the Vikings may be able to stick around for a good portion of the game. The biggest stat to note in this game is the Vikings being the 26th ranked pass defense, allowing 26 passing TD’s, while only managing 6 INT’s. It’s a good bet that Brees and New Orleans’ top ranked offense will torch the Vikings early, and if so, that will limit the opportunities that Adrian Peterson will get. With all this in mind, Minnesota likely will be unable to keep up. Saints cover on the road, especially playing on turf similar to their own.
KP’s Pick: New Orleans
Washington Redskins at New York Giants (-7.5)
The Redskins have been effective on offense over the last few weeks, and the Giants’ secondary has suffered through a number of injuries, and is at times, quite beatable. Roy Helu has also been the most effective rookie running back this season, and continues to provide balance to the offense. The Giants have a potent offense of their own, and playing at home, will likely be able to outlast the Redskins, especially playing to stay in a tie for the division lead. However, as solid as the Redskins have been recently, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Washington keep this game at a touchdown or less. Take the ‘Skins and the points.
KP’s Pick: Washington
Cincinnati Bengals at St. Louis Rams (+5.5)
Sam Bradford continues to struggle and remains hampered by an ankle injury. The Rams have also struggled on offense, both at home and on the road. The Bengals are fading as of late, but remain in the playoff chase, but this game should be considered a must win situation. With the talents that the Bengals have, coupled with the Rams struggles, Cincy is the safe pick to cover.
KP’s Pick: Cincinnati
Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders (+0.5)
Ndamukong Suh is back from his suspension, and will likely be a factor in the trenches. The Raiders are fading and will be without Darren McFadden once again, which will leave the offense missing its key piece. Detroit, while facing discipline issues, remains a potent offensive team, and will likely get Kevin Smith back, who has been the most effective back for Detroit over the last month. With such offensive weapons, I think the Lions will roll to a road win.
KP’s Pick: Detroit
Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5)
The Browns will be without Colt McCoy and will see Seneca Wallace starting at quarterback. Cleveland’s highly ranked pass defense should be able to keep the Arizona pass offense in check, much like they did last week against the Steelers. Wallace is a mobile quarterback and will provide a different look, and could strive on Arizona’s field. The Cardinals will likely focus on getting a solid run game from Beanie Wells, and if they can manage that, this game could be low scoring, or one that features mostly field goals. With that a good possibility, I’m taking the Browns and the points.
KP’s Pick: Cleveland
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (+6.5)
No one could have predicted that this would be such an intriguing matchup a few months ago, but here it is, as Tim Tebow and his 7-1 record as a starter face off against Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Clearly, New England’s defense has been beatable, with both the Redskins and Colts were able to move the ball on the Pats over the last few weeks. However, Tebow has required fourth quarter miracles regularly against opponents that have had either anemic offenses or that were missing key pieces. This time, if Tebow struggles to move the ball early, the Broncos – even with their talented and much-improved defense – could find themselves in too big of a hole. With how effective the Patriots have been moving the ball on offense, especially using its two talented tight ends, I see the Tebow run stopping here. Pats win by double digits.
KP’s Pick: New England
New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)
The Eagles got back in the win column last week, with Michael Vick back in the lineup. Playing at home, the Eagles will have a hostile crowd ready to harass Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense. Shonn Greene has had a solid stretch for the Jets, and the Eagles have been a team that has often struggled against the run. However, the Jets defense has struggled at times, too. With many similarities here, plus a desperate need for victories for both teams, I’m sticking with Vick and the home team. Eagles cover, but barely.
KP’s Pick: Philadelphia
Baltimore Ravens at San Diego Chargers (+2.5)
The Chargers are beginning to make that late season charge that has become all too familiar during the Norv Turner era in San Diego. The question remains whether the Chargers will be able to handle the talented Ravens, even when playing at home. San Diego’s offense has flourished over the last few weeks, but not against a team as talented as the Ravens. In a tossup matchup, I’m taking the Ravens to win by a field goal.
KP’s Pick: Baltimore
Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers (-0.5)
The last time we saw the 49ers take on an AFC North foe was on Thanksgiving night, when San Francisco was owned and dominated by the Ravens. Baltimore was able to consistently get to Alex Smith all night long, but will the Steelers? Pittsburgh has 30 sacks on the season, which is the middle of the pack in the NFL. San Francisco excels against the run, but the Steelers have focused more on the pass game, and had success with it. Ben Roethlisberger is a question mark heading into the weekend, but in the past, Pittsburgh has proven it can win without him. In a low scoring game, I’m going with the Steelers, who I think will find a way to match what the Ravens did to the Niners a few weeks back.
KP’s Pick: Pittsburgh