NFL Week 17: A New Year’s Day Finale To The Season

With a 3-2 record last week, the season enters it’s final week with a record in this spot of 38-35-6. A little cushion to finish over .500, but with so many teams without much to play for in week 17, it’s a confusing spot to be in. I’ll say goodbye to the 2016 season (and 2016) with these final five picks:

Houston Texans +3 over Tennessee Titans (1pmET) – The Texans have secured a playoff spot and have literally nothing to play for, stuck in the 4-seed. They may be resting some of their starters. The Titans are out of the playoffs, but would love a divisional win to close out their solid season. Still, they suffered Marcus Mariota’s injury last week, meaning their quarterback is… Matt Cassel. The Texans should be able to beat him with their back-ups.

Pittsburgh Steelers -6 over Cleveland Browns (1pmET) – The Steelers have also secured a playoff spot and can’t move out of the 3-seed. They’re resting Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell. But the Cleveland Browns just won their own personal Super Bowl last week, but getting their first win of the season. Expect them to take the foot off the gas and lose again, even against the Steelers very competent back-ups.

Miami Dolphins +9.5 over New England Patriots (1pmET) – The Dolphins have a lot to play for, but so do the Patriots. Still, a 12.5-point hole (given 3 points for the home team) is a lot of disrespect for a Dolphins team that has been firing on all cylinders on offense and playing capable defense. I think the Pats win a close one and the Dolphins cover to close out the season.

Seattle Seahawks -10 over San Francisco 49ers (4pmET) – The Seahawks can move up into the playoffs if they win, and over the 49ers, they shouldn’t have a problem winning by 14+. Russell Wilson needs to get right before the playoffs begin, and the 49ers have all but given up. Doug Baldwin is in for a huge game after a devastating injury to Tyler Lockett.

Green Bay Packers -3 over Detroit Lions (8:30pmET) – More than likely this game will determine who wins the division and enters the playoffs with a home game, while the losing team goes home. It would have seemed inconceivable for the Packers to be in this spot six weeks ago, but that’s Aaron Rodgers for you. They’ve come this far, how can you go against them? The Packers should win by at least a touchdown.

NFL Week 16: Merry Christmas For Anyone Who Plays The Browns and Bears

The comeback continues, with a 3-1-1 week last week to move to 35-34-6 overall. It’s been largely thanks to taking road teams, and almost always road favorites. Let’s continue with the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day festivities:

Christmas Eve:

San Diego Chargers -4 over Cleveland Browns (1pmET) – Going against the Browns has proven to be one of the most reliable choices you can make this season. The Chargers are going on the road to Cleveland, but getting just four points is far too few. The Chargers high-powered offense should carve up the weak Browns D, and win by two touchdowns at least.

Washington Redskins -3 over Chicago Bears (1pmET) – The Redskins are watching their playoff hopes fade away, but a win over the lowly Bears will stop the bleeding for the time being and give them something to play for in Week 17. This should be another game with a lot of scoring, but the Redskins just need a field goal victory to cover. That shouldn’t be a problem for Kirk Cousins and a trio of excellent, reliable wide receivers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3.5 over New Orleans Saints (4pmET) – The Bucs played well but lost a close one to the Cowboys last week, and if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive, they need to beat the Saints this week (and get some help along the way). For average teams without superstars, you never know if they’ll rise to the challenge. But Jameis Winston has proven to be a leader and should push the Bucs over the Saints in a close, high-scoring game.

Houston Texans -1 over Cincinnati Bengals (8:30pmET) – A.J. Green is back – one up for the Bengals. Brock Osweiler has been benched – one up for the Texans. Who knows what Tom Savage will bring the Texans in his first start ever, but he can’t be worse than the high-priced quarterback now sitting on the bench. The Texans are leading their admittedly weak division, and just being a one-point favorite at home against a Bengals team that has underachieved all year is a slap in the face. The Texans should win by a touchdown.

Christmas Day:

Kansas City Chiefs -3 over Denver Broncos (8:30pmET) – Another case of a lack of respect is the Chiefs favored by only 3 (essentially seen as an equal) over divisional rival Broncos. The Chiefs are coming off a disappointing loss to the Titans, and the Broncos need this game to keep their fading playoff hopes alive. But the Chiefs need some help too, and have a shot at a bye if they win, so expect them to step up both defensively and offensively and take care of business at home on Christmas.

NFL Week 15: When In Doubt, Put Your Faith In Rodgers and Roethlisberger (And Whoever The Browns Play)

Well, after 14 weeks, I finally hit a perfect 5-0 – just in time to bring the overall record to 32-33-5 and almost .500. This week, we’ll ride the road teams again, especially the favorites – a plan that worked last week. Here are the five picks:

Green Bay Packers -5.5 over Chicago Bears – Aaron Rodgers may be hurt, but he finally has the Packers playing well and firing on all cylinders. Their one main flaw was the running game, but Ty Montgomery has started to get comfortable in the role. The Packers need a win, and while they’ll likely take a big lead into halftime only to step off the gas and make it close in the end, I like them by a touchdown at least.

Buffalo Bills -10 over Cleveland Browns – There aren’t a lot of constants this season when it comes to picking games, but here’s one: take the other side of the Cleveland Browns. The Browns are doing a great job working toward the #1 pick this season, and there’s no reason to think that changes. If the line was 25 I’d still take the Bills this week – really. Rex Ryan needs a statement win.

Pittsburgh Steelers -3 over Cincinnati Bengals – The Steelers and Bengals always play tough games, and expect a lot of penalties (especially of the personal foul variety). But the Steelers are the better team, despite looking very vulnerable on the road. They need a win to keep a one-game lead over the Ravens, and shouldn’t have a problem picking apart the Bengals decent but always-on-the-field defense.

Oakland Raiders -3 over San Diego Chargers – Whatever the over/under on this divisional battle is, take the over. Could we see a 40-30 type game? I’d expect a lot of scoring and not a lot of defense. With that said, the Raiders are better, and despite being the third road favorite I’m taking, the Chargers are barely a home team when playing in San Diego (considering they’ll likely be playing in Los Angeles as soon as next season). Derek Carr is coming off a couple off games, but should get right before the playoffs with this juicy match-up.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers +7 over Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys came off a shocking loss last Sunday night, and now have to play another tough one with the surging Bucs and Jameis Winston. While I picked the Cowboys to lose last week, I expect them to ultimately prevail in this match-up. But it’ll be close, and I could see the Bucs going with an onside kick down 4 or 5 points with under a minute to go. The Bucs should stop Zeke Elliott with their excellent run defense, but can Prescott get back on track? I don’t see it.

NFL Week 14: The Road (Teams) Less Traveled

With just four weeks left of the regular season, teams are mostly settled along a path of consistency. There are the great teams – like the Cowboys and Patriots, the awful teams – like the 49ers and Browns, and the teams fighting for a playoff slot – like the Colts and the Packers. With that in mind, week 14 should, in theory, be an easier week to predict. Not the end of the season, where teams can start resting their starters, but close enough to have a lot of data. Can we improve on our 27-33-5 record? Let’s hope so – by riding the road teams most of the way:

Cincinnati Bengals -5.5 over Cleveland Browns – Home or away, why are the Browns predicted to keep it to less than a touchdown with a single team in the NFL? Here, the Bengals don’t have to travel far for their road game, and while they continue facing difficult injuries all over the field, they shouldn’t have a problem with the lowly and winless Browns.

Washington Redskins -2 over Philadelphia Eagles – I’ve learned my lesson picking against the Redskins, who seem to consistently find a way to win. The Eagles are fading fast after a nice start, and the Redskins need to win to keep pace with the rest of the wild card hopefuls in the NFC. Yet another road team that barely has to travel, I like Kirk Cousins and the Redskins to throw all over the Eagles secondary, and win by 7+.

Chicago Bears +7 over Detroit Lions – An intra-division matchup requiring little travel means another road team to take to at the very least keep the game close. The Bears are banged up and missing key pieces, but Jordan Howard has been running well and Matt Barkley has been a serviceable 3rd QB option. The Lions will likely win, and win a close one as they have all year.

Atlanta Falcons -6 over Los Angeles Rams – The Rams are very bad, and playing at home barely helps them. The Falcons may be missing Julio Jones, but with Taylor Gabriel and other key pieces stepping up, they should still be able to win big on the road (after a fairly quiet game last week). The Falcons should make use of their solid pass-catching running backs and win by double digits.

New York Giants +3.5 over Dallas Cowboys – And after four road teams in a row, I’ve gone back and forth on Sunday night and picked against my plan and against one of the best, if not the best, teams in the NFL. I think the Cowboys win by 3 exactly, and with that extra half point, I like the Giants to cover at home. For Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott, the elements will be at play, and should make for a challenging match-up on the road against the only team to defeat them all season. With the Giants complete a season sweep? Probably not, but they have a chance.

NFL Week 13: Chiefs, Giants and Panthers Should Prevail (Or At Least Keep It Close)

Thanksgiving’s games were closer than expected, and so the point differential was key – that meant my 1-2 record during the turkey eating was due to missing the margin by a total of just 2.5 points. Let’s turn things around in lucky number week 13, and improve on the overall record of 25-30-5.

Kansas City Chiefs +5.5 over Atlanta Falcons (1pmET): The Chiefs won an incredible game Sunday night over the Denver Broncos, and now face a tough match-up against an excellent offensive force in the Falcons. But the 5.5 points gives them enough leeway that they can keep it close, behind the steady QB play of Alex Smith and surprisingly steady coaching of Andy Reid, and still, potentially, lose and cover. The Falcons may win, but only by 1-3 points.

Green Bay Packers -6.5 over Houston Texans (1pmET): The Packers need a win badly, and the Texans are fading fast as they struggle to hold onto the division lead. Aaron Rodgers returns to Lambeau after a week where it appeared he got the offense back on track, and the defense looked better last week than it had previously. The Texans’ Brock Osweiler has been embarrassingly bad in recent weeks, and the oft-injured Lamar Miller can’t carry the load. Look for the Packers to win big.

San Francisco 49ers PK over Chicago Bears (1pmET): In a battle of two bottom tier teams, take the team that has at least looked decent on offense. Colin Kaepernick has performed well since taking over the starting job, although he hasn’t been able to put together a winning effort yet. The Bears though, now QB’ed by their 3rd stringer Matt Barkley, are hurting and their defense is extremely vulnerable. An ugly 16-13-type game is headed our way, but expect the 49ers to prevail.

New York Giants +6 over Pittsburgh Steelers (4pmET): The Giants may lose to the Steelers, who are fighting for their playoff life, but their offense has been firing on all cylinders and they should at least keep it close. It will be a battle of arguably the two most exciting wide receivers in the NFL when Odell Beckham Jr. faces off with Antonio Brown, and it will ultimately come down to which defense can withstand the passing assault. The Giants have proven to be the slightly better side and should keep it close enough for the cover.

Carolina Panthers +7 over Seattle Seahawks (8:30pmET): Cam Newton has struggled, and somehow the Panthers seem poised to miss the playoffs. But the Seahawks offensive line is a nightmare, their running game is a mess and Russell Wilson has been more inconsistent than any other year he’s been in the NFL. This is a juicy recipe for a Panthers defense that has played much better of late. Again with other games this week, the Seahawks may ultimately get the win, but the Panthers will be in it until the end.

NFL Week 12: Three Thursday Games To Watch While You Avoid Talking Politics

This year, even more than others, it’s important to keep politics away from the Thanksgiving table. And this year, even more than others, it will be a difficult task. Here’s one solution – football! Last week’s 2-2-1 record moved the overall record here to 24-26-5 – here are week 12’s five picks, including the three Thanksgiving games:

Thanksgiving games:

Minnesota Vikings +2.5 over Detroit Lions (12:30pmET): An inter-divisional match-up between the top two teams in the NFC North somehow doesn’t include the Green Bay Packers this year. Instead we have the Vikings, who started fast and faded quick, but won last week, and the Detroit Lions, who always somehow seem to just barely win. In their annual Thanksgiving game this year, don’t expect the Lions to continue their recent success. The Vikings defense is well-equipped to capitalize on a mistake-prone Lions offense.

Dallas Cowboys -7 over Washington Redskins (4:30pmET): The Cowboys are the best team in the NFL this year in every facet of the game. The Redskins are solid as well, but the Cowboys defense should be able to slow Kirk Cousins and his revamped offense enough to take the victory by more than a touchdown. This should be a big Zeke Elliott game too.

Pittsburgh Steelers -9 over Indianapolis Colts (8:30pmET): This line was just a few points mere days ago, but has skyrocketed up to nine points after it was rumored Andrew Luck would miss this game for the Colts with concussion symptoms. That shouldn’t stop the Steelers offense from converting on a much needed victory, with their high-powered passing game taking advantage of an extremely week Colts secondary.

Sunday games:

Seattle Seahawks -5.5 over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4pmET): Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have quietly become a major force in the NFC, and shouldn’t have a problem with a Bucs team led by Jameis Winston that often finds ways to mess up a good thing. The Bucs can compete with the Seahawks on offense and defense, and should keep it close for three quarters. But expect the Seahawks to pull away in the end by at least a touchdown.

New England Patriots -8 over New York Jets (8:30pmET): Somehow I’m taking a third road team to win by at least 6 points with the Patriots, but in a game against a longtime divisional rival, this shouldn’t be a hard choice. The Pats have been impressive since Tom Brady returned from suspension, and the running game for the Pats, led by LaGarrette Blount and now Dion Lewis, has exceeded expectations. Against a very weak Jets defense, they shouldn’t have trouble putting up 30+ in front of a national audience.

NFL Week 11: Dolphins and Redskins Keep Rolling, Pats To Win Close

We’ve seen 10 weeks of football – nine from most teams. Are the Dallas Cowboys really legit, or will they hit a wall when they face the tough Baltimore Ravens defense? Are the Tennessee Titans really a contender to win the AFC South, or will they be exposed against a week Indianapolis Colts team? Well, the truth is, I don’t have those answers, so we’re going a different direction. Week 10 was a disaster, moving my overall record to 22-24-4. Back on track in Week 11:

Jacksonville Jaguars 6.5 over Detroit Lions (1pmET) – The Lions found themselves in first place in the NFC North by simply not playing a game last week. Are they a legit contender to actually win the NFC North? Sure, maybe. But one thing they have consistently shown is that, when they win games at all, they win very close games. I could easily see them beating the Jaguars by three or four points, but the Jaguars and Blake Bortles can always hang around and keep it close (plus, their defense is playing better than usual).

Arizona Cardinals +2.5 over Minnesota Vikings (1pmET) – The Cardinals and Vikings opened at a pick ’em, but since then the line has moved 2.5 points in the right direction. Are the Vikings in trouble of losing again this week? Absolutely. The Cardinals are the better team offensively, and their defense has improved to nearly the level of the Vikings. Maybe Minnesota and their defense pulls off a one-point win, but I think the Cardinals take it to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Miami Dolphins -1.5 over Los Angeles Rams (4pmET) – They’ve won four games in a row – don’t expect the Rams to stop the Dolphins this week either. The line has shifted 2.5 points in a favorable direction as well, and the Jay Ajayi-led Dolphins should be able to keep their wild card position intact with a win against a bottom dweller Rams team. Jared Goff makes his debut for the Rams, which is certainly the big unknown in this matchup. But there’s a reason he’s been sitting on the bench while Case Keenum has struggled.

San Francisco 49ers +13 over New England Patriots (4pmET) – The Patriots will beat the 49ers. No one is expecting otherwise. But 13 points? The Patriots can run up the score, but with Colin Kaepernick at the helm recently, the 49ers have shown they can score too (albeit in losing efforts so far). I could see the Patriots up by 14+ at halftime, then take the foot off the gas a little to preserve their health and let the 49ers get back into the game a bit. Also, no Rob Gronkowski for the Patriots.

Washington Redskins -3 over Green Bay Packers (8:30pmET) – Sunday night’s matchup is a game between two teams moving the opposite direction. The Packers have looked miserable, both on the field and on the sidelines, while the Redskins have found a way to win when they needed to. Every week it feels like the Packers are going to get back on track (like last week, in a losing effort). Enough – the Redskins are for real, and the Packers need to pack it in and start looking for next season.

NFL Week 10: Trump Fans on the Patriots Get A Yuge Win, Cowboys Keeps Rolling

We’ve worked our way past the halfway point of the NFL season, and teams are starting to emerge as better, or worse, than we thought they were. With that, the NFL lines have been closer than ever, as a large number of pretty good teams have bunched up in the middle. What does that mean for the week 10 lines? Well, we’ll see, and take my 21-20-4 (now winning) record with us:

Minnesota Vikings +2.5 over Washington Redskins (1pmET) – I’ve written for weeks now how overrated the Vikings were, depleted with injuries and a suddenly-stagnant offense. After a hot start, they have severely leveled off. But with all that said, I see them getting back on track against an equally overrated Redskins team. The Redskins can score in bunches, but their defense is ripe for giving a struggling offense a chance to fire up the engines. I see the Vikings getting right this week and winning in Washington.

Green Bay Packers -3 over Tennessee Titans (1pmET) – We’ve been down this road before, and it hasn’t ended well. The Packers have see-sawed all year, and despite excellent play from Aaron Rodgers, they have nobody at running back, and their great-on-paper wide receivers very rarely step up and perform. But all their games are close, and I could see them pulling off a victory over the Titans by 4-7 points. And in this case, that’s all you need.

San Diego Chargers -4 over Miami Dolphins (4pmET): The Chargers started off losing some heartbreakers, but have come back and are right in the playoff mix. The Dolphins started really slow, but with Jay Ajayi at the helm, they’ve run off an impressive streak of victories. Someone’s momentum will be impacted this week, and I think the Chargers ride on into their AFC West battle. Quite simply, they are the more reliable team on both sides of the ball.

Dallas Cowboys +2.5 over Pittsburgh Steelers (4pmET): I struggled with this one – both teams are great, and you could make an argument the Cowboys are due for an off week. But something about the Dak Prescott-Zeke Elliott combo doesn’t account for off weeks. The Steelers need a win badly, and maybe they get one here by a point or two. But I could see the Cowboys hanging around and ultimately relying on their better-than-expected defense to take the victory for them and stay on track as the top of the NFC.

New England Patriots -7.5 over Seattle Seahawks (8:30pmET): A typical game between Pete Carroll’s Seahawks and his former team the Patriots would be a close one, with a line in the three to four point ballpark. But this is a different season. Russell Wilson isn’t right, still dealing with injuries forcing him to become a pocket passer. The Seahawks usually-reliable defense has been equal parts disappointing and sorely banged up. And Tom Brady has been unbelievable, perhaps the MVP of the league despite missing four games. For Trump fans Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the Pats will emerge victorious as well on Sunday night, and win yuge.