With the college football season over, other than bowl games, we get the first week of Saturday NFL games in Week 15. But before that, the schedule starts with an AFC West matchup with the Chargers visiting the division-leading Chiefs. The Saturday doubleheader features Texans–Jets and Browns–Broncos, followed by a Sunday lineup highlighted by Tom Brady and the Patriots visiting Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. The Monday night contest sees the Panthers try to keep their playoff hopes alive when they host the Saints. I went 9-7 last week, giving me an overall record of 101-117 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red
Thursday Night Football
Chargers at Chiefs (-3.5) – Both teams are dealing with injuries, as RB Melvin Gordon is a game-time decision for the Chargers after missing last week’s game, and his backup RB Austin Ekeler is in the concussion protocol and has been ruled out with the Chargers facing the short week. If they’re both out, it would open the door for rookie RB Justin Jackson to make his first starts; he has yet to record more than nine touches in a game this season. For the Chiefs, WR Tyreek Hill played through a foot injury in the team’s win last week, but he is looking like he should be able to take the field for the game in which a win would clinch the division and a first-round bye for Kansas City. I don’t think Gordon or Ekeler play, which would hurt the Chargers’ offense, so I’m going to give the points and go with the home team.
Texans at Jets (+6.5) – The Texans’ nine-game win streak came to an end when they lost to the Colts on Sunday, but they’re still in first place in the AFC South. The Jets, on the other hand, are coming off a win against the Bills but not face a tougher test against a Texans offense with QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins leading the passing attack. Jets QB Sam Darnold briefly left last week’s game with an injury, but he returned and he should be able to make the start Saturday afternoon. It won’t be easy, though, against DE J.J. Watt and a strong Houston defense. I’ll give the points on the road.
Browns at Broncos (-3.5) – The Broncos need this game to stay on the periphery of the AFC wild card chase, and they’re facing a Browns team coming off an upset of the Panthers. But that game was in Cleveland, and this one is at elevation in Denver.The Browns have been winning games since their coaching change a few weeks ago, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to pull off the victory against the Broncos because I think Broncos RB Phillip LIndsay will have a good game. But I expect a close game, so I’ll take the points.
Sunday 1PM games
Cardinals at Falcons (-8.5) – The Cardinals only managed to get a field goal against the LIons this week and now face a Falcons team with a good offense behind QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones. The Falcons don’t have a great defense, but the Cardinals probably won’t be able to take advantage of it with their subpar offense. The Falcons have been a disappointment this season, but I think they win this one easily.
Lions at Bills (-3.5) – Rookie QB Josh Allen has had some good games for the Bills since his recent return from injury as he has shown an ability to run the ball, making him a dual threat at the position. But RB LeSean McCoy suffered a hamstring injury last week that could keep him out of this contest. If he can’t play, I don’t like the BIlls’ chances to win. Even if he does play, I think the teams are pretty evenly matched, so I’ll take the points with Detroit.
Packers at Bears (-5.5) – At The Bears’ defense was impressive in Sunday night’s victory over the Rams, holding them to a season-low six points. Now they go up against QB Aaron Rodgers and a struggling Packers offense. QB Mitchell Trubisky returned for the Bears last week and should help them put points on the board this week. Bears cover at home.
Raiders at Bengals (-2.5) – The Raiders upset the Steelers at home in Week 14 and now head to Cincinnati to take on a Bengals team without starting QB Andy Dalton or star WR A.J. Green. Having QB Jeff Driskel under center isn’t an ideal scenario for the Bengals, but they likely have the best offensive player in this game with RB Joe Mixon, who should help lead to the team to a win to end their five-game losing streak..
Cowboys at Colts (-2.5) – The Colts looked good in their win against the Texans last week, but I’m kind of surprised they’re favored against the Cowboys, even with the game being in Indianapolis. The Cowboys’ offense has improved since they traded for WR Amari Cooper in October, as he has become the top target for QB Dak Prescott, giving the Cowboys a good passing game to complement RB Ezekiel Elliott‘s work on the ground. Colts QB Andrew Luck is probably the front-runner to earn Comeback Player of the Year honors, but his receiving corps leaves something to be desired outside of WR T.Y. HIlton. I think the Cowboys’ defense, which has been good this season, ends up being the difference in this game. I think the Cowboys win outright, so I’ll take the points.
Titans at Giants (-2.5) – The Giants are on a late-season surge, going 4-1 in their last five games to bring their record up to 5-8 and give them a chance to finish with a .500 mark. They’re coming off a demonstrative victory against an injury-riddled Redskins team, and now Giants QB Eli Manning faces off against Titans QB Marcus Mariota. WR Odell Beckham was a surprise inactive for the Giants last week with a bruised quad, but the team has said he’s feeling better so it looks like he could be on track to play this week. The Giants defense has been playing well of late, so I think the defensive unit will be able to limit the number of points the Titans score, so I’ll give the points.
Dolphins at Vikings (-6.5) – The Dolphins’ miracle lateral play at the end of last week’s game led them to a victory at home against the Patriots, while the Vikings scored just seven points in Monday night’s loss to the Seahawks. Now the Vikings have a short week to prepare for Miami. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has had some disappointing performances lately, and I don’t trust the Vikings offense right now. Both teams are fighting for a wild card in their respective conferences, and I think the Dolphins have a good chance to win the game so I’ll take the points.
Buccaneers at Ravens (-7.5) – Like with Allen and the Bills, QB Lamar Jackson has provided a spark for the Ravens’ offense since he took over as the starter with the injury to QB Joe Flacco. The Ravens sit just half-a-game behind the Steelers in the AFC North and still have a chance to win the division, so they need a win to keep pace in the division race.I think they win the game. I think that’s a big spread, but I think they’ll barely cover it.
Redskins at Jaguars (-6.5) – Like Injuries have really hampered the Redskins in recent weeks. QB Josh Johnson entered last week’s loss to the Giants in relief of QB Mark Sanchez — due to ineffectiveness, not an injury — and has been named the starter this week, which means he’ll be making his first start since Week 13 of the 2011 season, when he was with the Bucs. And that start comes against a good Jaguars defense, which will likely cause trouble for the Redskins. Washington lost 40-16 last week, and I expect another blowout loss this week. Jaguars win big.
Sunday 4PM games
Seahawks at 49ers (+5.5) – The Seahawks had an impressive showing against the Vikings on Monday night, but now they have a short week and have to travel down the coast to Santa Clara to face former Seattle DB Richard Sherman and the 49ers, who upset the Broncos on Sunday. The Seahawks defense has been playing well in the second half of the season, and that should continue against the San Francisco offense this week. I also expect another good game from Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. Seahawks cover.
Patriots at Steelers (+1.5) – Both of these teams suffered losses last week that could hurt their playoff positioning. I expect the Patriots to have a better bounce-back game because the Steelers have lost three straight and likely to be without RB James Conner again, and it’s been a tumultuous week for the team with some people calling for head coach MIke Tomlin to be let go after the season if the Steelers miss the playoffs. I expect Brady to lead the Patriots to a victory on the road.
Sunday Night Football
Eagles at Rams (-9.5) – This matchup pits the defending Super Bowl champion against my pick to win Super Bowl LIII. Given that scenario, a 9.5-point spread seems like a lot, but the Eagles are 6-7 this season and it was announced on Wednesday that QB Carson Wentz will not play this week as he is dealing with back spasms, and if the team falls out of the playoff race Wentz may not play again this season. That means QB Nick Foles, who led the team through the playoffs and was Super Bowl LII MVP last season, will take over as the starter for at least this week. With only about half a week to practice after the news of the Wentz injury, that will probably hurt the Eagles offense. QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley, and the rest of the Rams offense struggled against the Bears last Sunday night on the road, and now they’ll get to redeem themselves at home in another Sunday nighter. The Rams should easily win the game, and given the Wentz injury I think they win by at least 10 to cover the spread.
Monday Night Football
Saints at Panthers (+6.5) – QB Cam Newton and the Panthers are coming off a loss to the Browns, and now they have to face off with QB Drew Brees and the NFC South-leading Saints. The Panthers are currently on the outside looking in in the NFC wild card race, while the Saints need a win here to maintain the No. 1 seed in the conference.The Panthers are at home, but aside from RB Christian McCaffrey they haven’t played great of late, so I’ll give the points on the road.