Ramblin’ Fan’s NFL Picks and Predictions: Week 15


With the closing days of the NFL regular season coming, we are starting to see ever increasing spread sizes. Week 15 has six games with a team favored by at least a touchdown. With the top tiers and bottom tiers clearly distinguished, it’s looking like this may be the week to capitalize on books large spreads to nab some underdogs.

What is the spread? In the gambling world, a “spread’ is a term used to handicap games by allowing a team to lose or win by a certain number of points while still winning for a bettor. If the Rams are +3 against the Seahawks, that means that the Rams could win outright or they could lose by two points and still be a victory for a bettor. In the same situation as above, the spread could also read as the Seahawks -3 which again would mean they have to win by three or more points to cover the spread.


Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams (-4.5)

Though it seems like a Cardinals playoff berth is almost certain at this point, these final three games have huge implications. Three straight NFC West clashes could mean the difference between home field advantage and a wild card. Arizona is 7-0 at home this season, but just 3-3 on the road this season. After shutting out the Redskins, the Rams have dealt consecutive blanks to opponents for the first time since 1945. In the past two weeks, St. Louis has five interceptions and 13 sacks. Shaun Hill is doing everything necessary to not lose games and the defense has been putting the Rams in the position to win games. It is this simple, if the Rams can generate a pass rush with their front four they will win the game. In six wins this season, St. Louis has 27 sacks compared to just eight in their seven losses. When these teams met earlier this season the Cardinals benefitted from a fourth quarter meltdown by Austin Davis. Hill will not implode and the Cardinals are only average on the road this season. Rams win 24-13 (Rams cover)


Pittsburgh Steelers at Atlanta Falcons (+2)

A 21-point beat down of the Bengals has officially put the NFL on notice about the Pittsburgh Steelers. An offensive gameplan built around balance and speed has created one of the most dangerous teams with the ball. The Steelers still lack good secondary play, A.J. Green went for 224 yards last week, but the front seven has been gelling well and doing their best to hide those issues. The Falcons managed to go into Lambeau last week and prove that the Packers are not unbeatable at home despite a loss. There is no doubt what Atlanta brings to the table, an offense that can keep up with any team in the league when they are clicking. However, poor offensive and defensive line play have made the Falcons anemic this season. This is going to be a trap game because the Falcons speed at receiver and the Steelers Jekyll-and-Hyde play on the road. Falcons win 31-24 (Falcons cover)

Washington Redskins at New York Giants (-6.5)

The term “dumpster fire” immediately comes to mind when you think of the Redskins. Washington gained a measly 206 yards against the Rams last week, most of which was once the game was well out of hand and St. Louis started dropping into preventing defense. The constant crown chants for RGIII have clearly created a huge decision for this team in the future. It’s either Jay Gruden or RGIII, but one of them can’t be with the Redskins next season. The Giants certainly looked good against the terrible Titans last week. The future looks bright with Odell Beckham Jr. and Andre Williams both going for over 100 yards offensively. New York can’t run away from their mediocrity and can only go 7-9 if they win out. Years of terrible drafts have made the Giants void of talent, but they can still dominate a train wreck of a team. Giants win 21-17 (Redskins cover)

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-7.5)

The illusion of the playoffs is gone in Miami, but that does not squash all hope for the Dolphins. The offense still has room to grow under Bill Lazor’s offense and the defense still remains one of the most underrated in football. The offensive line still needs fixing, as Ryan Tannehill continues to get pummeled (six sacks last week). There has not been a better team this decade than the Patriots, with 12 straight seasons of 10 plus wins. Though Tom Brady gets the headlines, the Patriots defense continues to play well this season. Against Philip Rivers, who had averaged 8.2 yards per pass with a 79 percent completion percentage in the previous two weeks, the Patriots defense forced the quarterback down to 5.7 yards per pass on 20/33 passing. The ‘Fins will always play the Patriots tough, but beating New England in Foxborough is not going to happen. Patriots win 28-21 (Dolphins cover)

Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5)

Don’t look now, but the Raiders have won two of their last three games. Oakland’s dominance of the 49ers resulted in their biggest victory, 11 points, since 2012. The growth of Derek Carr has been impressive, but the defense showed up big last week with two interceptions, five sacks while only allowing 4.0 yards per pass. The Chiefs have now dropped their past three contests, but only by an average of 6.3 points per game. Offensively, Kansas City has been rather anemic as their conservative approach has led to a non-threatening passing attack, which has allowed teams to fill the box against Jamaal Charles. In all honesty, the only reason the Raiders topped the Chiefs a few weeks ago was thanks to two huge runs by Latavius Murray and it’s unlikely the Raiders get that type of luck again. Chiefs win 28-21 (Raiders cover)

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-7)

As the weeks go by, it has become more apparent that Bill O’Brien deserves the Coach of the Year award. The Texans have won seven games already, after winning just two last year, thanks to the rookie head coach’s ability to adapt his scheme to his players. Houston needs a quarterback, but they don’t need one to win them games, rather they need a pivot to manage the game and limit turnovers. The Colts will make the playoffs, thanks entirely to Andrew Luck. Aside from Luck and the passing game, Indy is very beatable. The running game is near non-existent and the secondary is beat-up and allowing a lot of points. There is time for the Colts to fix these issues, but they are not facing pushovers over the next two weeks. Ryan Fitzpatrick should be able to do some impressive things against the Colts D, but the Texans 28th ranked passing defense will be shredded by Luck. Colts win 35-24 (Colts cover)

Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens (-14)

There is nothing to be said about the Jaguars offense that hasn’t already been said. They are a young, boom-or-bust team that will grow up. The defense in Jacksonville, which is allowing 377.2 yards per contest, is another issue. The true top flight young talent is not there on the Jags defense, something Gus Bradley will need to address this offseason. The Ravens are third in the AFC North, despite an 8-5 record, but they are facing a weak end stretch. The front seven playing better than they have all season, 12 sacks and 84.3 rushing yards per game allowed in the past three weeks. An explosive offense is dangerous, but the secondary continues to be porous without Jimmy Smith. Justin Forsett will likely have field day against the bad Jags front seven and the Ravens will walk away with an easy win. Ravens win 24-14 (Jaguars cover)

Green Bay Packers at Buffalo Bills (+4.5)

It was not always pretty, but the Packers dominated 50 minutes against the Falcons and asserted themselves as the favorites in the NFC. And if the Cheesehead’s are hosting games in the playoff’s it will be almost impossible to beat Aaron Rodgers who is amazing at Lambeau field. Though the Bills lost, there are a lot of positives to take away from last week. First, Buffalo halted Peyton Manning’s streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass. Secondly, the Bills did not roll over putting up 14 points in the fourth quarter to make the score look better than it probably should. The Packers will roll in this one as the Bills biggest advantage, the weather, will be negated by a midwest team. Packers win 31-21 (Packers cover)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (-3)

Not shockingly, the Buccaneers lost once again last week. It seems that the coaching staff is auditioning running backs for next season as Doug Martin was the only one to see the field last week. Martin managed 22 yards on five carries, so maybe the running game has been completely abandoned. The biggest thing the Bucs need to fix immediately is their third down conversion rate, going an abysmal 13-42 in the past three weeks. The Panthers will rest their playoff hopes on Derek Anderson as Cam Newton will not be suiting up this week after a car accident on Tuesday. In the vet’s only start of the season, against the Buccaneers, he threw for two touchdowns while completing 70 percent of his passes. This could be the rare chance for the Bucs to get a win, but Anderson has proven time and again to be serviceable in small bursts.  Panthers win 17-13 (Panthers cover)

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns (-1.5)

Inconsistency is the name of the Bengals game lately. After just squeaking past the hapless Bucs, Cincy got destroyed by the Steelers. The secondary, which was one thought to be team strength, has struggled without Mike Zimmer and have been extra bad against fast receivers. Though they are tops in the AFC North, they will be on the way out if they don’t fix defensive issues. It was only a matter of time before the terrible Brian Hoyer was benched in favor of Johnny Manziel. Hoyer, whose game management was once an asset, has led to one touchdown drive in his past 29 drives at quarterback. No matter who is leading the charge for the Browns, they will be unable to keep pace with the Bengals offense. Bengals win 28-17 (Bengals cover)

New York Jets at Tennessee Titans (+2)

It may be surprising, but Geno Smith was not awful for the Jets this week. After his first throw went for a pick-six, the signal-caller went 17-29 for 254 yards and a touchdown. Though this season is a complete wash and when the Jets have a new coach, it seems unlikely Smith will be in the plans. And we are back to Jake Locker. With Zach Mettenberger out for the season we’ve seen all the audition tape we will see of the Met-Show this season. The Titans are a mess all over and it’s likely the team goes best quarterback available in the draft. This game will be hard to watch, if for some reason you choose to watch it, but the Jets will win thanks to a mediocre effort from Smith. Jets win 14-13 (Titans cover)

Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers (+4)

The Broncos won, but it certainly not convincing. Denver’s offensive line did nothing to stop a Bills’ pass rush, which caused Peyton Manning to throw two interceptions and no touchdowns. Luckily the Broncos defense and C.J. Anderson carried the team to a win, but this team does not look nearly as good as it did last year. To quote Dennis Green, The Chargers are who we thought they were. It seems that San Diego is still a notch below the top tier of teams in the AFC. The most glaring hole is the offensive line, which has had issues with truly athletic pass rushers this season. That is something that the top teams have and without better protection, Philip Rivers will be getting hit. The Chargers will put up a good fight and the game will close, but the Broncos pass rush will be too much. Broncos win 31-28 (Chargers cover)

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-8)

A Vikings win over the hapless Jets is not a huge accomplishment, but the play of Teddy Bridgewater is a huge positive for the Vikes. In the past two games, the rookie has completed over 70 percent of his passes and has four touchdowns to one interception. And don’t look now, but Minnesota can finish with a winning record. There is no better dark horse team right now than the Lions. Their combination of incredibly strong defense and high flying offense makes them scary come the winter months. Losses at Arizona and New England are worrisome, but don’t be surprised if Detroit ends up as a world beater in the playoffs. The Lions defense will force the Vikings into a shootout, where Detroit has a clear advantage. Lions win 35-17 (Lions cover)

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-10.5)

San Fran continues to lack an identity and the idea that Colin Kaepernick can carry the team offensively is misguided at best. Kaepernick continues to make bad decisions almost constantly, but without a running game Jim Harbaugh needs to rely on the pivot. The 49ers are set to fully implode very soon. The Seahawks are the exact opposite of the 49ers right now. Seattle is playing their best football of the year, thanks in large to Russell Wilson. In the four games Wilson has completed 67 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no turnovers. If you would look at this game at the start of the season it would be a toss-up, but now the Seahawks should run over San Fran. Seahawks win 24-17 (49ers cover)

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5)

The Cowboys have had 10 days to digest their loss to the Eagles on Thanksgiving. Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray had no answer for the Eagles defense in that game with the quarterback tossing two picks and the back only notching 73 yards. Dallas easily dispatched the Bears in their last outing and is playing like a top 10 team in the NFL. The Eagles, coming off a loss to the Seahawks, know that this game could easily be for home field in the playoffs. Playing in Philly is huge for the Eagles as three of their four losses have come on the road this year. Obviously, the Eagles will need to be as prepared for the Cowboys as they were the first time, which I think happens. Eagles win 35-27 (Eagles cover)


New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears (+3)

The Saints are somehow still in playoff contention, despite losing four of their last five.  The offense just is not getting it done and Rob Ryan does not have the proper personnel to run the defensive scheme he likes.  This offseason may not be a pretty one in the Windy City. The coaching staff continues to make poor decision offensively and seem to rely on Jay Cutler too much. The defense has allowed 30 or more points in four of their past six contests. The problem with the Saints is on the field, not on the sidelines and that will give them the win. Saints win 28-14 (Saints cover)