A big week last week has got me to a very comfortable mark here in 2018, and I don’t intend to slow down any time soon. Unfortunately, there will be some teams that slow down at a most inopportune time, and perhaps some of those teams’ struggles will aid the New England Patriots in yet another Super Bowl quest, much like the Chiefs did with their Thursday night meltdown. At any rate, let’s jump right into Week 15’s picks:
Last week: 5-1
Houston (-7) at New York Jets
Remember what I said about aiding the Patriots? Let’s start with Houston, who, with a loss, will guarantee that New England gets a bye for the ninth straight year (!). The Patriots’ only remaining game against an NFL-caliber team is this Sunday, which means the Texans have to win out. That kind of pressure will break a Texans team that was simply due to lose last week to Indy, and in no way is a 12-4 team at its core. This may not be the week, but I expect the Jets to fight hard, and if Houston pulls it out, it will still likely lose next week in Philly. Take the points here. Pick: Jets.
Cleveland at Denver (-1)
This spread has dropped from three to one, but I’m not buying it. The Broncos are being swept under the rug after losing to the 49ers, and I understand why. But they are a different team at home and Vance Joseph is fighting for his job. The Broncos have some big wins under their belt this year and I can’t see them throwing in two straight absolute stink-bombs, even against an improved Browns squad that has more than met its wins quota here in 2018. Pick: Broncos.
Dallas at Indianapolis (-3)
The Colts did the Patriots a big favor last week in denting the Texans’ hopes for a bye, and have been red-hot since a dismal 1-5 start. That’s because they have the league’s most forgotten elite quarterback in Andrew Luck. Indy is looking more and more like a playoff team, and this looks like a classic letdown spot for the Cowboys after their rousing overtime win against Philly last week that all but wrapped up the NFC East. Much like Indy’s Texas-based opponent last week, the Cowboys are simply due for a letdown, and the Colts should get it done at home. Pick: Colts.
Green Bay at Chicago (-5.5)
Call me crazy, but I like the Packers to give the Bears all they can handle in this spot. Surely the Bears have fresh in their minds the memory of blowing a 20-point lead at Lambeau Field on opening night. The Packers looked much more cohesive under Joe Philbin last week and would love nothing more than to at least slow the Bears’ march to an NFC North title. I’m not sure Green Bay can win outright, but I like them to keep it close throughout. Pick: Packers.
Miami at Minnesota (-7.5)
There’s been this unsettling theme this year where any team that beats the Patriots, perhaps understandably, lays a massive egg the following week (the Jaguars, Lions, Titans are a combined 0-3). After that rousing win, the Dolphins, too, could be in for a major drop-off, but the lackluster Vikings are the great equalizer here. There is absolutely no sense of urgency or cohesiveness for a Minnesota team that has exactly zero signature wins to its name in 2018, and now just fired its offensive coordinator on the heels of a putrid performance in Seattle. Even if the Dolphins can’t muster up the same energy from their incredible Week 14 win, I refuse to give a team that lost 27-6 at home to the Bills seven points, ever. Pick: Dolphins.
Oakland at Cincinnati (-3)
Much like the Cowboys, the Raiders hit their season pinnacle last week and seem ripe for a big-time letdown against a franchise whose middle name is “Letdown.” Still, the Bengals have to win a game eventually, and this is basically their last chance to do it. A Bengals win also likely guarantees Marvin Lewis another seven years at the helm in Cincy, so chew on that, long-suffering Bengals fans! Pick: Bengals.
Seattle (-3.5) at San Francisco
This looks so easy that, of course, you know it won’t be. The 49ers went all December 2017-ish with their upset win over Denver last week and now get a Seahawks team riding high on a short week. All the pressure is on Seattle here, and while I think Seattle can squeak by, it won’t be anywhere near as easy as its 43-16 win over the Niners two weeks ago. Pick: 49ers.