My car lost a battle with a giant buck this week – and I’m not talking about Giannis Antetokounpo. First and most importantly, we are all ok. It was actually THE WIFE driving to the eye doctor, when a giant buck flew from the woods and slammed into the front right side of my car. Perhaps that’s the definition of irony, because this deer was apparently the one that actually needed the eye exam. He probably needs a lot more by now. I thought of this story as the intro for a few reasons. For one, it is a heinous inconvenience, so it sits there in your gut, kind of like a convenience store burrito would. More so, it feels a lot like this week’s NFL slate, which has made picking my Week 15 Best Bets quite the challenge. The entire week of games feels like a series of Chris Farley movie references. Let me explain.
Movie buffs probably have likely picked up on one reference. It’s the deer scene from Tommy Boy and how I visualize a giant buck taking out my car piece by piece. It also symbolizes what has happened to the NFL schedule in recent days. You just sit there and watch it unravel.
Second, there’s the NFL season as Christmas approaches. For the most part, we have navigated through the ongoing pandemic with minimal impacts. That is, until this week. The lines were all over the place as the COVID-19 absences began to pile up. The Washington Football Team have 21 players on the list this week alone. Other teams such as the Cleveland Browns were hit hard, too.
It has all escalated so quickly, much like the downhill scene from Black Sheep.
GO AWAY, COVID!
Now, here we are, trying to find smart Week 15 Best Bets from a list of games littered with injury designations and COVID-19 absences. Three games have been moved. Las Vegas-Cleveland was shifted from Saturday to Monday. Two Sunday games were shifted back to Tuesday.
Despite the changes, we have no idea how rosters will be impacted. It’s a crapshoot. So, like the aforementioned Giannis does regularly, let’s seek out a slam dunk.
The Wife Hates SportsChump Rolls On
As a reminder, Chris Humpherys (the SportsChump) – a good friend of mine through years and years of blogging – has a pick ‘em contest rolling with me for the football season. We pick our top five games by confidence (against the spread – ATS). Top selections can be from either the NFL or College Football slate. We invite a special guest each week to challenge us.
Here are our Week 15 Best Bets for the week (all ATS for the NFL slate). The list is ranked in order of confidence, from $50 down to $10 (in fictional dollars, as the SportsChump prefers).
Week 15 Best Bets: The Wife Hates SportsChump – The Giannis and Farley Edition
DraftKings Sportsbook: Week 15 NFL Lines | College Football Lines
KP’s Picks: The Wife Hates Sports
$50 NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (-5.5)
The Rams showed us what they were made of following last week’s monstrous win over the Cards. L.A. has won seven of nine against the Seahawks, a stat that surprised me (and helped solidify this pick). As mentioned, the COVID-19 list is making picks a challenge. Tyler Lockett and Alex Collins are on the list as of this posting. The Rams have key players like Von Miller on it, too. DK Metcalf and Aaron Donald each haven’t been practicing. Overall, these are picks based on reasoning, so you have to take a leap. OBJ is fitting well in Los Angeles, Cooper Kupp is flourishing, and Matthew Stafford has played strong. Combine that with L.A.’s recent track record in this rivalry, and I’ll take the Rams to cover at home.
$40 NFL: Green Bay Packers (-5.5) at Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson has yet to miss a game due to injury. He is currently a game-time decision. Tyler Huntley filled in admirably last week and nearly led Baltimore to a shocking comeback in Cleveland. Still, the bigger concern here is Baltimore’s patchwork secondary. Injuries have led to a depth chart littered with unproven or inexperienced players. That was not much of an issue facing the Browns and its pass attack. This is Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. This is a QB that can find the flaws and pick apart a defense. On top of that, the Ravens have allowed an NFL-most 47 sacks this season. The Packers also crack the top ten against the run. Give me Green Bay to cover on the road.
$30 College: Independence Bowl: UAB Blazers vs. BYU Cougars (-6.5)
Full disclosure: I don’t know a whole lot about this UAB team. ESPN isn’t exactly flocking to put them on TV in my local area. Yes, this is an 8-4 squad. However, checking the schedule, I see a lack of big names on the calendar. Liberty has a future NFL Draft QB. That was a 36-12 loss. Georgia is in the CFB Playoff. That was a 56-7 loss. UTSA is ranked (34-31 loss). The Blazers also lost to Rice. That’s also a food (sorry, Rice grads). On the flip side, BYU (#12, 10-2) has faced some stronger competition. More importantly, the Cougars features a high-flying offense that has scored 30 or more points in half of its games. To help avoid some of the COVID-19 NFL games, I’ll take BYU to cover and win by a TD.
$20 NFL: Washington Football Team (+9.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
As of Friday, the line was at 9.5 points and well off my radar. Washington has 21 players on the COVID-19 list. That includes a number of starters and its top top QB’s on the depth chart. Both Terry McLaurin and J.D. McKissic are in concussion protocol. So, it is borderline insane to take the Football Team. Although, Ron Rivera has an uncanny ability to get the most out of his backups, while keeping his team motivated and in games. Just look at the Dallas game last week. That should have been a blowout. Now, the game has been moved to Tuesday night. Again, because of all the COVID-19 absences. The Eagles and their fans are not happy about it (and rightfully so). As for the game, I’m banking on enough key WFT players to be available by Tuesday. Assuming that, give me Washington and the points.
$10 NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (+6)
At first, I penciled in the Vikings for this game. Then, I researched it a bit further. First, the recent Bears-Vikings rivalry history is quite surprising. Would you believe Chicago has won five of the last six games against the Vikings? It surprised me, too. Defensively, both teams have loaded up in the sack department. The Vikings lead the league with 41 sacks. Chicago is tied for fourth with 36. Win ugly. Justin Fields will need to use his feet and be creative in the pocket, but there has been improvement from him as the season has progressed. Finally, we can’t ignore Kirk Cousins and his 1-9 record in primetime. Adam Thielen remains up in the air as the game approaches. For me, it comes down to whether the Bears (24th against the run) can handle Dalvin Cook. At home under the lights, Chicago keeps it close.
Let’s check in on the SportsChump…
Let me have $50 on New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (-2)
The New England Patriots have won seven straight games. I believe that’s something ridiculous like the 11th time over his career that Bill Belichick has had a winning streak of that magnitude. Over that stretch, they’ve beaten some pretty good teams too, including the Chargers, Titans, Browns and Bills. Even more impressive is the fact that four of those seven wins have come on the road. To quote Willie Nelson, the Pats are on the road again facing the Indianapolis Colts, who might be the most consistent playoff-bound team New England has played over that stretch. They’ll also be facing the best running back they’ve had to defend in Jonathan Taylor. Thanks to their streak, the Pats have a comfy two-game cushion in the AFC East.
The same cannot be said for Indy, who still needs a little help to partake in the post-season. They’re currently in but a win at home would certainly bolster their chances. I know I’ve lost in the past going against the Pats. Anyone who has underestimated them has. But I’m still not convinced we haven’t crowned them prematurely. I’m taking the Colts in what should be a raucous Saturday night in Indianapolis, especially after the Colts cover the 2 in a win.
I’ll also take $40 on Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles (-7)
The Eagles are laying seven to the Washington Football team this weekend, if you got it in time. Then COVID hit the nation’s capital and wiped out half their roster, moving the line to just shy of ten. It wasn’t long ago that we were revering Washington as one of the hottest teams in football. That’s because they were. They won four straight contests with wins against Tampa, Seattle and Vegas. They only recently lost a close one to Dallas. Ron Rivera had his football team playing right with the playoffs in sight.
Similarly (both teams are 6-7) Philadelphia wants a taste of the post-season and looks to take advantage of their divisional rival’s misfortune in order to get there. A depleted roster couldn’t have come at a worse time for Washington who was looking to make a playoff push. It’s been a valiant effort but I’m not sure they’ll have enough manpower to stop a Philly team that’s solid at home and coming off a bye. I’ll take the Birds minus the seven.
Another $30 on Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3 ½)
I’m flipping the script on this pick thanks to the long-overdue firing of the man Jim Rome calls Pervin’ Liar. I was initially about to ask why the Jacksonville Jaguars were laying three-and-a-half points against the Texans. Houston’s bad but the Jags aren’t much better. Both teams have only two wins on the season. Season-long rumblings emerged from Jacksonville about a locker room divided.
Then, with the swiftness of Art Modell pulling the Browns out of Baltimore, Urban Meyer was fired before sun-up. The straw that broke the coach’s back was a recount of a former kicker suggesting that Meyer had once kicked him, all the while calling him names. Under Meyer, I’m taking Houston and the points. Now that he’s gone, I’m taking the Jags and laying all day. Like a breath of fresh air, the Wicked Coach is gone and the Jags will be playing with new signs of life. I’ll take the newly revived Jaguars at home to cover the 3 ½.
I’ll take $20 on Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions (+13)
I saw something I didn’t like out of Arizona on Monday night: a chink in their armor, an errant Kyler Murray. Of course, there is no shame in losing to a potent Rams team but the Rams were depleted going into Arizona. The Cardinals had them right where they wanted them, not to mention a lock on the top seed in the NFC. They couldn’t seal the deal. This week, they’ll have a scrimmage against the lowly Lions but they’re laying a hefty number. By all accounts, this is a game the Cardinals should win easily, pitting one of the league’s best teams against one of its worst.
But I can’t help but think the Lions might see this as their Super Bowl, a litmus test for just how good they can be. Lest not forget, Jared Goff has seen this ‘Zona defense before having played five seasons with the Rams in their division. It looks to me like the Cards, despite their 10-3 record might be working out some kinks while the Lions have one last gasp to give it all they got. Lions leave it all on the field. Give me Detroit plus the fourteen.
And finally, $10 on Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers (+2)
I feel like that last Steelers fan to leave the stadium as they muster one final drive against an opponent, only to fall short yet again. Everybody in the stadium knows it but me. Despite the season they’ve had, despite their 6-6 record, the Steelers are still somehow alive in the playoff hunt. Go figure. This weekend, they’re hosting a Titans team that is 9-4 and sits atop the AFC South but still has question marks. Are the Titans good enough to go into Pittsburgh and seal the deal? Are the Steelers dysfunctional enough to lose another game when despite all odds, they still control their own destiny?
Call me kooky but I have faith that Tomlin and company can muster up enough mojo in this final Big Ben stretch to make one last push. I know they just lost to the Vikings but it’s a game they almost won in the final seconds, despite playing like crap. They’ve had ten days to stew about that. It’s back to the drawing board. Sunday, they execute. Let me have Pittsburgh at home plus the two in what will soon become an even more muddied AFC playoff picture.
Add your Week 15 Best Bets in the comments section below.
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