Okay, not my finest hour in Week 15, but a 3-3 week still keeps me at a healthy 12 games above .500 entering the final two weeks of the regular season. Week 16 features a lot of big favorites needing wins to stay in the race, including the Titans on Saturday. It is desperation mode for several teams, including the Ravens visiting the red-hot Chargers, and the Eagles riding St. Nick’s hot hand against the Texans. On a side note, this current Ravens predicament reminds a lot of 2008, when they had a winning record entering a Saturday night road contest in Dallas but zero margin for error and pulled off a huge win in the final game at Texas Stadium behind a strong running game. Anyway, let’s dive into some picks:
Week 15: 3-3
Season: 35-23 (.603)
Baltimore at L.A. Chargers (-4.5)
Boy is this a tough one. The Chargers are the AFC’s hottest team, having won 10 of their last 11, but now face their toughest defensive test yet in the desperate Ravens. Baltimore is much more physical than the Steelers and Chiefs teams that L.A. rallied to beat this month, and that alone should keep this one close. A loss likely ends the Ravens’ playoff hopes, and you never know what you’re going to get from Lamar Jackson, but it should be exciting no matter what. Pick: Ravens.
Buffalo at New England (-13)
The Patriots haven’t lost three straight games since 2002, so let’s get it out of the way right off the bat that there’s no way in you-know-where it’s going to happen against the lowly Bills. Still, with all the pressure on New England and now the loss of Josh Gordon, the Pats are going to be in for a bit of a fight. They actually scuffled for a while in their Week 9 win in Buffalo against Derek Anderson, a quarterback that’s lucky to have a roster spot in this league. Josh Allen is a dual-threat quarterback, and that should let Buffalo hang around just long enough for a gentlemanly cover. Pick: Bills.
Houston at Philadelphia (-1.5)
If you’ve read my blog long enough, you know I’m a bit of a pessimist when it comes to the AFC, and the Texans find themselves in a situation where a loss virtually guarantees the Patriots a first-round bye. That is a crying shame, because you could have the Pats at 11-5 at No. 2 in the AFC while the 13-3 Chargers are a road wild card team. But Nick Foles just knows how to win at this time of year, and are the Texans really a 12-4 team? Absolutely not, and you have to wonder about whether DeShaun Watson can even stay upright a week after the Jets harassed him mercilessly. The Eagles did the same to Jared Goff and should ride the Foles train to another win and possible playoff berth. Pick: Eagles.
Jacksonville at Miami (-4)
Has any team mailed it in more than the Jaguars? They are flat-out awful, and Jalen Ramsey’s comments about his head coach after the game should tell you everything you need to know about a team that was mere minutes from a Super Bowl appearance just one year ago. Miami is clinging to playoff life and has just one home loss in 2018 (to the Lions, of all teams, but with Brock Osweiler at QB). The Dolphins are fighting through tons of injuries, but at this point the Jaguars are just fighting themselves. Pick: Dolphins.
Cincinnati at Cleveland (-9)
Call me crazy, because I love where things are headed in Cleveland, but I like the Bengals to cover in this spot. This is based on nothing other than the sheer fact that the Browns are a nine-point favorite in December, something unimaginable even just a few months ago. Cleveland is riding high, but in this rivalry game you have to figure the Bengals will put up something of a fight to try and officially eliminate their cross-town rivals from playoff contention. Count on that, and then a complete flame-out in what will hopefully be Marvin Lewis’ final game next week in Pittsburgh (sorry, there’s that AFC pessimism again). Pick: Bengals.
Pittsburgh at New Orleans (-6)
Oh, this one looks so easy, doesn’t it? The Steelers may take the field knowing this game doesn’t even matter and that they’ll just need to beat the lowly Bengals at home to clinch the division. But the Saints aren’t putting up points anywhere close to the way they were last month, and they also know they have a little margin for error as far as clinching homefield advantage. Pittsburgh is going to hang tough, because beating the Patriots should give them the confidence it lost during its three-game losing streak. Pick: Steelers.