Week 15 NFL Games – Previews and Predictions

This week 15 NFL schedule is relatively mediocre, with only two matchups between a pair of teams with winning records: the Pats-Dolphins early Sunday afternoon, and Baltimore at Detroit on Monday night. Green Bay at Dallas would be a whole lot better if Aaron Rodgers was playing, but even without him that should be a decent late afternoon game. The two other prime time games should be worth watching as well; both have a great deal of implications on the playoffs, and should be competitive: on Thursday San Diego is at Denver, and Monday night Cincinnati is at Pittsburgh. It’s tough to find a compelling reason to watch any of the other games other than perhaps New Orleans at St. Louis, or the pure schadenfreude of the Jets being eliminated from the playoffs at Carolina.

Just how much is home field worth during the regular season? Perhaps we’ll get an idea this week: home teams are favored in just six of this week’s sixteen games.


New England Patriots (10-3) at Miami Dolphins (7-6) ★★★★★
Early game on CBS; Jim Nantz and Phil Simms
The Dolphins struggled earlier this year due in large part to off-field distractions, which directly led to changes on their offensive line. That in turn resulted in both an inability to run the ball as well as breakdowns in pass protection. The last few weeks Miami has improved dramatically in those areas, though it remains to be seen if last week’s 34-point outburst was more about Pittsburgh’s defense or Miami’s offense. The Pats have struggled against inferior opponents since defeating Denver and now they are once again without Rob Gronkowski. New England has been mediocre in the red zone without Gronk, and their defense is not nearly as productive as it was earlier this year when Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Tommy Kelly were available. This game means a lot more to Miami than it does to the Patriots, and it would not be a surprise at all if the Dolphins win – but I’ll say a clutch late takeaway by Rob Ninkovich seals the victory, and Shane Vereen has another big day offensively.

Pick • Patriots 24, Dolphins 23
Patriots (pick’ em)
over 45½
Final Score: Dolphins 24, Patriots 20 … Miami covers by 4 … under by 1½


Baltimore Ravens (7-6) at Detroit Lions (7-6) ★★★★
Monday night on ESPN; Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden
Baltimore has won three straight and four of their last five, while Detroit has lost three out of four to allow Green Bay and Chicago to re-enter the division race. Conventional wisdom would be to go with the hot team over he cold club, but don’t overlook how schizophrenic the Ravens are. All four of those victories in that streak came at M&T, one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL; Baltimore is 6-1 there but just 1-5 on the road. Detroit has been turning the ball over at an alarming rate (15 in the last four games), but their offense is geared to take advantage of playing on a carpet inside the dome.

Pick • Lions 27, Ravens 24
Ravens +6
over 47½
Final Score: Ravens 18, Lions 16 … Baltimore covers by 8 … under by 13½


Green Bay Packers (6-6-1) at Dallas Cowboys (7-6) ★★★★
Late game on FOX; Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
Opponents have torched Monte Kiffin’s Tampa-2 defense all year, and the Packers should be able to do the same – especially with no Sean Lee for Dallas. The Cowboys have however been adept at inducing turnovers; they rank fifth in the NFL with 25. With Matt Flynn at quarterback Green Bay will rack up plenty of yardage and points, but Dallas holds on thanks to turnovers. Tony Romo and the offense rebounds against a banged-up Green Bay defense that has allowed 26 or more points in six of the last seven games.

Pick • Cowboys 31, Packers 27
Packers +7½
Best Play Of The Week: over 48½ (two units) ✔✔ +200
Final Score: Packers 37, Cowboys 36 … Green Bay covers by 8½ … over by 24½


Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8) ★★★★
Sunday night on NBC; Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth
The Bengals have been fundamentally solid in all phases of the game, though they don’t get the attention that other defense-first teams do. Cincinnati is top ten in both scoring defense (18.8, 6th) and offense (25.7, 9th) and has won seven of their last nine games. Despite losing All-Pro DT Geno Atkins the Bengals have not slipped, while Pittsburgh has the appearance of a boat that has sprung multiple leaks on both sides of the ball.

Pick • Bengals 27, Steelers 17
Bengals -2 (two units) ✘✘ -220
over 41
Final Score: Steelers 30, Bengals 20 … Pittsburgh covers by 12 … over by 9


New Orleans Saints (10-3) at St. Louis Rams (5-8) ★★★★
Late game on FOX; Chris Myers and Tim Ryan
The Saints exhibited no hangover from their loss at Seattle, thumping division rival Carolina 31-13. New Orleans has vastly improved from last year thanks not so much by the return of Sean Payton, but due to a vastly improved defense. The Saints are allowing only 18.7 points per game (5th) and 314 yards per game (6th), making it nearly impossible to keep up with Drew Brees and the offense. The Rams had a nice mid-season resurgence, but couldn’t get anything done against good defenses (49ers, 13 points; Cardinals 10 points) the last two weeks. The biggest obstacle for the Saints will be to not fall into the trap of looking ahead to next week’s re-match with the Panthers at Carolina.

Pick • Saints 28, Rams 24
Rams +6½
over 47½
Final Score: Rams 27, Saints 16 … St. Louis covers by 17½ … under by 4½


New York Jets (6-7) at Carolina Panthers (9-4) ★★★
Late game on CBS; Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf
Let’s see, one of the best defenses at home, angry after a loss to a division rival and looking to improve their playoff standing. On the other side we have an anemic offense and team that has been horrible on the road, that typically lays an egg after a victory. I sense a blowout, to eliminate the Jets from the post season.

Pick • Panthers 27, Jets 6
Panthers -10 (one unit) Push, -10
under 41½
Final Score: Panthers 30, Jets 20 … Push … over by 8½


Arizona Cardinals (8-5) at Tennessee Titans (5-8) ★★★
Late game on FOX; Justin Kutcher and Charles Davis
The Cardinals have been playing exceptionally well on defense, ranking 5th in the league at 312 yards per game allowed, and 7th at 19.8 points per game. Tennessee has lost four of the last five and is 2-7 over the last nine to drop out of the playoff picture with a team that doesn’t do anything exceptionally poorly, but doesn’t do anything particularly well either. Arizona can secure there first winning record since they last made the playoffs four years ago with a victory here, but their road to the playoffs is a rough one: they are at Seattle next week and then finish the season hosting the 49ers. Similar to New Orleans, the biggest challenge they face is going on the road and remaining focused on the task at hand and not looking ahead.

Pick • Cardinals 24, Titans 17
Cardinals -2½ (one unit) ✔ +100
under 42½
Final Score: Cardinals 37, Titans 34 in OT … Arizona covers by ½ … over by 28½


Philadelphia Eagles (8-5) at Minnesota Vikings (3-9-1) ★★★
Early game on FOX; Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston
After having lost ten in a row at home the Eagles have won three straight at Lincoln Financial Field, and the team most predicted to finish last in the division is currently the number three seed in the NFC. Philly did an exceptional job of neutralizing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley last week, and Minnesota should not be as much of a challenge for LeSean McCoy (NFL-leading 1,305 rushing yards) and Nick Foles (20 TD, 1 INT, NFL-best 120.0 passer rating) and the Eagle offense (3rd in yards, 409 per game; 9th in scoring, 25.7). The much-maligned Eagle defense (30th in total yards, 31st in passing yards) has actually not allowed more than 21 points in nine straight games, and faces a Viking team playing out the string without Adrian Peterson. Matt Cassel will get his shots in on that pass defense, looking for rookie Cordarelle Patterson (141 yards last week; 310 yards total in games 1-12) but Philly should roll to an easy win in this one and improve on their NFL-best 5-1 road record.

Pick • Eagles 35, Vikings 21
Eagles -4½ (one unit) ✘ -110
over 50½
Final Score: Vikings 48, Eagles 30 … Minnesota covers by 22½ … over by 27½


San Francisco 49ers (9-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9) ★★★
Early game on FOX; Dick Stockton and Ronde Barber
If you enjoy watching good linebackers, then tune into this game. Tampa Bay’s Lavonte David doesn’t get mentioned in the same sentence as San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman or Carolina’s Luke Kuechly, but he deserves to be based on his play this year. David has six sacks and five picks this year, and has recorded an interception in four straight games; he has 116 tackles, three more than Kuechly and just four fewer than Bowman. While Tampa bay has improved defensively (they lead the NFL with 29 turnovers), their offense has sputtered. Mike Glennon was the rookie offensive player of the month in November, but against the Bills he threw for just 90 yards – with 70 of those yards coming in one drive – completing just nine out of 25 passes. The Tampa Bay offense looked lost in both games against Carolina; I would expect more of the same against a San Francisco team fighting for a playoff spot.

Pick • 49ers 24, Bucs 10
49ers -5 (one unit) ✔ +100
under 41½ (one unit) ✘ -110
Final Score: Niners 33, Bucs 14 … San Francisco covers by 14 … over by 5½


Seattle Seahawks (11-2) at New York Giants (5-8) ★★★
Early game on FOX; Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch
While much is made of Seattle’s home advantage, they’re not bad away from the CLink either: their five road wins is tied for the most this season with Kansas City and Philadelphia. The Seahawks know that New Orleans and San Francisco are still right on their heels, so I wouldn’t expect a letdown here. The Giants have given up at least 180 yards rushing in four straight games, averaging 243 yards allowed on the ground during that span. That plays right into Seattle’s ball control offensive game plan, with Russell Wilson not having to do much more than hand off to Marshawn Lynch (1,042 yards rushing).

Pick • Seahawks 26, Giants 17
Seahawks -6½ (one unit) ✔ +100
over 41½
Final Score: Seahawks 23, Giants 0 … Seattle covers by 16½ … under by 18½


Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) at Oakland Raiders (4-9) ★★
Late game on CBS; Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts
Despite being exposed in losses to Denver and San Diego, the Kansas City defense still ranks 4th with 17.2 points allowed per game. At 5-1 the Chiefs know how to win on the road, and thanks to Thursday’s loss by Denver they still have a faint glimmer of hope to win the AFC West. Don’t expect to see a repeat from one of the KC losses; Matt McGloin will never be confused with Peyton Manning or Philip Rivers.

Pick • Chiefs 24, Raiders 17
Chiefs -4½ (one unit) ✔ +100
under 42½
Final Score: Chiefs 56, Raiders 31 … Kansas City covers by 20½ … over by 44½


Chicago Bears (7-6) at Cleveland Browns (4-9) ★★
Early game on FOX; Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick
Despite completing 75% of his passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-28 thrashing of Dallas last week, head coach Marc Trestman will have QB Josh McCown handle clipboard duties and re-insert Jay Cutler into the lineup. The Bears now rank 2nd in the NFL in scoring (28.3 points per game), perhaps due in part because no lead is safe with their defense (27.7 points per game, 28th). Cleveland is coming off an emotionally draining loss and has been eliminated, while the Bears are in a dogfight for the NFC North title; even though they are on the road on a short week I’ll take the team with more to play for.

Pick • Bears 27, Browns 24
Bears (Pick ’em)
over 43½
Final Score: Bears 38, Browns 31 … Chicago covers by 7 … over by 25½


Houston Texans (2-11) at Indianapolis Colts (8-5) ★★
Early game on CBS; Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots
Just when you thought things couldn’t go worse for the Texans, they did just that. Houston has now been swept by the inept Jacksonville Jaguars, which led to Gary Kubiak being fired and Case Keenum being benched. Matt Schaub once again is the quarterback, despite the fact that the team obviously has no plans for him in 2014. After having given up 38 or more in three of their last five games and losing three of their last five, a game against the Texans is just what the doctored ordered for Indy. Wade Philips was on the sideline while Kubiak was in the hospital, so his being named the interim coach isn’t going to suddenly turn this Houston team around.

Pick • Colts 27, Texans 20
Colts -5
over 45½
Final Score: Colts 25, Texans 3 … Indianapolis covers by 17 … under by 17½


Buffalo Bills (4-9) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9)
Early game on CBS; Marv Albert and Rich Gannon
The less time and effort i put into this game, the better. Maurice Jones-Drew is doubtful, so I’ll go with Buffalo and their rushing game to win and salvage a split of their Florida road trip.

Pick • Bills 21, Jaguars 20
Jaguars +3
under 43½
Final Score: Bills 27, Jaguars 20 … Buffalo covers by 4 … over by 3½


Washington Redskins (3-10) at Atlanta Falcons (3-10)
Early game on FOX; Sam Rosen and Heath Evans
It takes a very special type of underachievement for a matchup to be ranked lower than a game between the Bills and Jags. I’m not sure if going to Kirk Cousins works in Washington’s favor since Atlanta has so little game film on him to prepare with, or if his lack of experience is a detriment since he won’t be used to the speed of an NFL game. It’s probably a combination of both, which should make for a mistake-filled game.

Pick • Falcons 34, Redskins 20
Falcons -5½
over 49½
Final Score: Falcons 27, Redskins 26 … Washington covers by 4½ … over by 3½


San Diego Chargers (6-7) at Denver Broncos (11-2) ★★★★★
Thursday Night on NFLN; Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock
Full preview here

Pick • Broncos 35, Chargers 27
Chargers +10½
over 53½
Final Score: Chargers 27, Broncos 20 … San Diego covers by 17½ … under by 6½



$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Overall a so-so week – in part due to being wrong on both the line and the point total in Denver’s comeback over Tennessee – but still on the positive side of the balance sheet.

Tale Of The Tape

Week 14 Results

Straight Up: 10-6, 63%
Underdogs to win straight up: 1-4, 20%

Against the Spread: 8-8, 50%
ATS picking favorites: 3-1, 75% (0-0, +/-0)
ATS picking underdogs: 5-7, 42% (0-1, -110)
ATS Confidence Picks: 0-1, 0% (-110)
One Unit Plays ATS: 0-1, -110
Two Unit Plays ATS: none
Three Unit Plays ATS: none
Four Unit Plays ATS: none
Five Unit Plays ATS: none
110 risked, net -110; -100% ROI

Over Under Total: 11-5, 69%
Picking Over: 9-3, 75% (3-0, +300)
Picking Under: 2-2, 50% (1-1, +90)
O/U Confidence Picks: 4-1, 80% (+390)
One Unit Plays O/U: 3-1, +190
Two Unit Plays O/U: 1-0, +200
Three Unit Plays O/U: none
Four Unit Plays O/U: none
Five Unit Plays O/U: none
660 risked, net +390; +59.1% ROI

Money Line: none

Best Play of the Week: correct (Saints-Panther under); +200

3-Game Teasers: none
3-Game Parlays: none
4-Game Parlays: none

College Games: none

Week 14 Grand Total:
770 risked
net +280
+36.4% ROI


Season Totals

Straight Up: 141-66-1 (68%)
Underdogs to win straight up: 23-21 (51%)

Against the Spread: 99-102-7 (49%)
ATS picking favorites: 49-49-6, 50% (21-20, -450)
ATS picking underdogs: 50-53-1, 49% (13-9, +370)
ATS Confidence Picks: 34-29, 54% (-80)
One Unit Plays ATS: 21-15, 58% (+450)
Two Unit Plays ATS: 10-10, 50% (-190)
Three Unit Plays ATS: 1-2, 33% (-360)
Four Unit Plays ATS: 1-2, 50% (-480)
Five Unit Plays ATS: 1-0, 100% (+500)

Over Under Total: 106-102 (51%)
Picking Over: 60-48, 56% (19-12, +830)
Picking Under: 46-54, 46% (14-15, -210)
O/U Confidence Picks: 33-27, 55% (+620)
One Unit Plays O/U: 22-17, 56% (+330)
Two Unit Plays O/U: 8-9, 47% (-380)
Three Unit Plays O/U: 2-1, 67% (+270)
Four Unit Plays O/U: 1-0, 100% (+400)
Five Unit Plays O/U: none

Money Line: 2-0-1, +860

Best Play of the Week: 10-3, 77% (+2300)

3-Game Teasers: 8-6 (+610)
3-Game Parlays: 4-6 (+1520)
4-Game Parlays: 0-1 (-110)

College Games: 50-18-1, 74%; net +5415

Grand Total:
160-88-2 (65%)
35,880 risked
net +8,835
+24.6% ROI


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