Three weeks left in the 2013 NFL season and there’s playoff quality football on the Week 15 slate. The Chargers victory over the Broncos on Thursday night has opened up the playoff race again in the AFC.
My record last week, 13-3.
Chicago Bears -1 @ Cleveland Browns
Jay Cutler returns to the starting lineup as the Bears continue their push to win the NFC North Division and make the playoffs.
The Browns were an iffy pass interference call away from beating the New England Patriots last weekend.
The Bears have scored the second most points in the NFL behind the Cutler/McCown quarterback tandem largely due having one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL.
The Browns have lost their last four games. They’ve put the building blocks of a playoff contender in place but are still a year away from being a dangerous team to play week-in and week-out.
The Bears win and cover to keep pace with the Lions for the division lead.
Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts -5.5
The Colts, the best team in a bad division, play the worst team in the NFL on Sunday. The Colts have gone 3-3 since their bye week. In their seven games before the bye their defense was allowing just over 18 points per game. In their six games after the bye they’ve surrendered 31 points per game.
Even if the Texans haven’t completely packed the season in behind interim-head coach Wade Phillips, beating the Colts in Indianapolis is a bit much to ask of them at this point in the season.
Colts win and should cover at home.
Buffalo Bills -2 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
This one rivals the Redskins at Falcons as the early slate’s Stinkbowl game. While this seems impossible to comprehend after their eight straight losses to the start the season, the Jaguars have won 4 of their last 5 games. It’s true that those four wins were over teams that are among the worst in the NFL but so is Jacksonville.
The Bills are sliding as they head into the final weeks of the season. They got crushed by Tampa Bay last week to run their road record to 1-4.
The Bills are better defensively but playing a second straight week in Florida along with the Jaguars on a high draft pick killing winning streak has me picking Jacksonville to win outright as the home “dog”.
The 49ers beat the Seahawks at home last week and are fighting with the Panthers for the fifth seed in the NFC. The Buccaneers have been flexing some muscle lately but the 49ers are too much for them under any circumstances. The 49ers win and cover.
Seattle Seahawks -7 @ New York Giants
Another game between a Super Bowl contender and a team playing out the season. The Seahawks lost last week in the last seconds of the game to the 49ers but they’re still the best team in football. They win and cover.
New England Patriots -2.5 @ Miami Dolphins
The Patriots are major beneficiaries of Denver’s loss on Thursday night. A win over the Dolphins solidifies their No. 1 seed going into the AFC playoffs. Miami has playoff aspirations of their own as a wild card entry.
With all that’s at stake this should be one of the best games of the weekend. The Patriots have won 5 of their last 6 games in Miami but Rob Gronkowski is hurt again.
The Patriots nearly were derailed at home by the Browns last week but are still better than most in the NFL. They stretch their winning streak to 4 by no more than a field goal.
Washington Redskins @ Atlanta Falcons -7
The Redskins’ season has degenerated into a fractured team that’s three weeks away from major coaching changes. The Falcons are finishing their own disaster after losing in the final seconds last weekend to the Packers.
Washington head coach Mike Shanahan made the decision to finish the season with Kirk Cousins at quarterback which puts another question mark on this game. The coin-flip says take the Falcons at home but they’re seven points better than no one in the NFL.
Philadelphia Eagles -4.5 @ Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings will be without Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, in other words, 90 percent of their offense. The Eagles are looking at an opportunity to nail down first place in the NFC East.
The Vikings won’t give much opposition to that goal this weekend. The Eagles win and cover.
Kansas City Chiefs -4 @ Oakland Raiders
With the Chargers victory on Thursday night the Chiefs saw a path to victory over the AFC West open up to them. They take their first step through that door by sinking the nearly dead Raiders on their home field, and they cover too.
New York Jets @ Carolina Panthers -11
The Panthers crashed last week in their opportunity to make a statement that they’re ready to be taken seriously in the NFC postseason. Fortunately for them they get to recover against a team that their defense should crush.
Normally 11 points would be a ridiculous number to expect the Panthers to cover. Not this week.
Arizona Cardinals -3 @ Tennessee Titans
The Cardinals are 8-5 and fighting for their playoff lives behind a surging Carson Palmer. The Titans are three games away from beginning a massive rebuild. The Cardinals win and cover.
New Orleans Saints -5.5 @ St. Louis Rams
The Saints struggle on the road but not in domes which is trouble for a Rams team that has settled to the bottom of the NFC West.
The Saints win and cover to continue on their way to the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys -7
Aaron Rodgers has been declared out for this game. That leaves it up to Matt Flynn to take advantage of a Cowboys defense that the Bears ripped to shreds last week.
The Packers will score but the Dallas offense is high quality and will keep this one in their win column. The Cowboys win but don’t score enough to cover the touchdown spread.
Cincinnati Bengals -3 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Bengals are gliding to a first place finish in the AFC North but succeeding in the playoffs is a different story over the past few years. Another one of the monsters in that remains in their closet this weekend is facing the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
The only thing the Steelers still have to play for this season is to trip up the Bengals on their way to the postseason. Upset special of the week. The Steelers take this game at home.
Monday Night Football
Baltimore Ravens @ Detroit Lions -6
One of the most intriguing match-ups of Week 15. Both are fighting for their postseason lives. The Lions will be looking to retain their lead in the NFC North while the Ravens battle to hold on to the sixth and final playoff seed in the AFC.
The Ravens’ has quietly moved up the No. 8 in the NFL in points allowed but will be facing the No. 6 team in scoring.
While the Lions have lost three of their last four it’s tough to pick against them at home but the six point spread puts too much faith in their ability to put the Ravens away in this game.