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Week 15 NFL Picks

In keeping with the spirit of the season, the NFL has graciously handed out a Week 15 slate full of intriguing matchups with playoff implications. Enjoy… it may be the best gift you get this holiday season. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Last Week:  11 – 5 – 0
Season:     130 – 77 – 1

Thursday Recap

Bengals 34 at Eagles 13
Well, Nick Foles has a little more work to do before he cements his election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Foles has struggled with sideline passes and deep balls, and both were evident against Cincinnati. His accuracy in the red zone was also missing at times Thursday night. Though, the Eagles loss to the Bengals really had nothing to do with Foles and more to do with the same issues that have plagued the Eagles all season; turnovers and stupidity.

You know it’s been a rough season when after your team coughs up the football four times in five plays you don’t even blink. No form of failure or incompetence from this Eagles team surprises me anymore. You know how people watch NASCAR for the crashes? Well the Eagles crashed weeks ago. I’m still watching the wreckage to see what part of the car explodes next.

With that said, there were some positives from Thursday night. Brandon Graham, Trent Cole, and Fletcher Cox relentlessly terrorized Andy Dalton. All three will be on the Eagles defensive line in 2013. The Eagles secondary has also shown signs of competence over the last two weeks and Colt Anderson may have been the kick in the rear to finally spur that improvement.

Finally, I’m not as down on Thursday night’s effort as most. The Eagles battled the Bengals and looked as if they’d win the game until the wheels came off in the final 20 minutes. Three of the four Eagles turnovers in that horrific seven minute stretch were committed by rookies. The other was committed by a backup tight end. These things happen when you play rookies. They’re called growing pains. Eagles fan should get used to them, too, because there will be plenty more over the next two seasons. At this point, all I want from the Eagles is effort. I felt like I got that Thursday night.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Giants at Falcons
I know this is a game the Giants typically win, but are we sure this is the same Giants team? With the 2007 and 2011 championship teams you could always count on the defense in big games. I’m not convinced the Giants defense is capable of swinging games this year. What’s worse, the Giants secondary is New York’s most glaring weakness. Atlanta’s greatest strength is their receiving core. If this were the postseason, I’d probably take the Giants simply because Atlanta would run and hide with their tails between their legs. But it’s the regular season and the Falcons are coming off an embarrassing loss. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -1

Vikings at Rams
The early afternoon slate on Sunday is incredible. Eight games, seven with immediate playoff implications and four between current playoff teams. I only wish the NFL could flex the start times to 1:30, 1:45, 2:00, etc… as the playoffs approach so we wouldn’t have to toggle back and forth between games in the final minutes. Anyway, I love the Rams. They’re a costly penalty away from being 7-6 (instead of 6-6-1) and in complete control of their playoff destiny. If you love overachievers and can’t stand Pete Carrol, I encourage you to root for the Rams this week and against the Seahawks. The Vikings need this game just as much as the Rams. Unfortunately, Minnesota’s offense can’t play well for an entire game. Even Adrian Peterson needs help from time to time. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams -2.5

Jaguars at Dolphins
The backyard brawl that no one outside of Florida will be watching. Fittingly, I jumped on the Dolphins playoff bandwagon a week before it crashed. Oops. You know what Dan Dierdorf said during last week’s telecast of the Dolphins/49ers game? Dierdorf mentioned that, despite the talents of Devon Bess and Brian Hartline, the Dolphins needed a go-to, big time receiver. And he’s right. Too bad the Dolphins didn’t have Brandon Marshall on their roster nine months ago. Oh, wait… DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins -7

Packers at Bears
The NFL better hope the Packers win this game and finish ahead of the Seahawks in the playoff standings. If not, whoa boy. It’s inevitable that one team will be screwed over by the controversy in Seattle way back in September. The Seahawks should be 7-6 right now. In that case, the final Wildcard spot would belong to Redskins. Honestly, I can’t wait for this mess to blow up in Goodell’s face. Also, and I know no one likes to hear about fantasy, but I’d appreciate a big game, Aaron Rodgers. Thanks. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -3

Redskins at Browns
Although the Redskins defeated the Giants and Ravens in consecutive weeks, I still don’t totally trust them. It feels like they’re poised for a letdown. Playing at home against two of the league’s better teams makes it easy to stay locked in. Traveling to a weaker team’s field outside of the national spotlight often results in a bad day for younger teams. A less than healthy Robert Griffin III certainly won’t help matters. I’m prepared to look like a fool when the Redskins win by 20, but I think the Browns are the 3rd most underrated team in the league behind the Rams and Cardinals (seriously, we underestimate how bad Arizona is). BROWNS If I were Charles Barkley; No line

Broncos at Ravens
John Harbaugh has probably talked to his brother about getting some help from the 49ers Sunday night. If Baltimore knocks off Peyton Manning and the Broncos AND the 49ers take out the Patriots, the Ravens would be in line for the AFC’s 2nd seed and a 1st round bye – a huge advantage for a veteran team dealing with injuries. I confidently like the Ravens here. Their demise has been overstated. The Ravens have never been a pretty team. They win ugly and they grind, especially at home. Furthermore, Denver hasn’t played a team of Baltimore’s caliber since losing to New England in Week 5. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens +3

Colts at Texans
What happened to the Texans? The offense hasn’t looked great the last two weeks but the real issues are with the defense. Over their first nine games, Houston surrendered more than 17 points only twice – once to the Packers in a loss and the other to the Broncos as a result of a late rally by Peyton Manning. In Houston’s last four games, the defense has surrendered more than 30 points three times, including a 42-14 shellacking by the Patriots. Chad Henne threw for 354 yards, Matthew Stafford 441, and Tom Brady 296 despite essentially calling off the dogs in the 4th quarter. Jonathan Joseph’s health has been an issue but one player’s injury doesn’t equal total collapse does it? If the Texans have any hopes of advancing deep into the playoffs (and even holding on to the division title), they must fix their defense and find a way to get Arian Foster rolling (Foster hasn’t surpassed 50 yards in consecutive games and has averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry in four of the last five). TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -9

Buccaneers at Saints
One of the NFL’s most compelling stories this year has been the toe-to-toe race between Drew Brees and Commissioner Roger Goodell in the “which idiot is more annoying?” campaign. Goodell is a dope for all his “player safety” hypocrisy and for single-handedly making football worse at the same time. Brees keeps blaming Goodell for the Saints struggles this season. Uh, Drew, did Mr. Goodell require you to throw nine interceptions in your last three outings with your team’s playoff hopes on the line? A word to the wise for 2013: When slobbering over teams with winning records, always check the schedule. Tampa Bay’s lone victory over a playoff competitor came against the Vikings in Week 8. Against the other five playoff competitors on their schedule; 0-5. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -3.5

Late Games (4:25PM ET)

Lions at Cardinals
A guaranteed feel good holiday story in this one. Possible outcome A: Talented, underachieving, loudmouth team led by arrogant and overrated coach stops five game losing skid and gives fans hope that 2012 was simply a “growing pains” season. Outcome B: After 4-0 start, team loses nine straight and finally wins game because the Detroit Lions forfeited. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions -6.5

Panthers at Chargers
The Chargers haven’t been good since Ron Rivera left for Charlotte to coach the Panthers. You could argue the Panthers really haven’t been good since Ron Rivera came to coach the Panthers. Here’s what I think (because I know you’re dying to hear my opinion): The Panthers will be a playoff team next year. 2011 was a transition year as the Panthers reinvented themselves under Cam Newton. 2012 was a learning/growing year; tough losses, maturity issues, learning how to win close games. The Panthers have deposited so much valuable experience into their team account that I’d be shocked if they didn’t win 10 games in 2013. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers +3

Seahawks at Bills
Do Bills fans want Chan Gailey back for another year? If Buffalo were a major city, ESPN, FOX, CBS, NBC, and even PBS would be consuming our televisions with endless stories about the Bills foolishly committing themselves to a coach that has accomplished absolutely nothing throughout his NFL coaching career. I would love it if the Bills took out the Seahawks this week simply because the Seahawks are going to make the playoffs thanks to a replacement official’s failure to understand and interpret the rules he was hired to enforce. Unfortunately, this game is in Toronto, so even though the Seahawks struggle on the road, this isn’t really a road game. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks -5.5

Steelers at Cowboys
This is a game the Cowboys typically lose. Just when fans start getting excited about Dallas’ playoff chances, the Cowboys fall flat on their face and kick every fan square in the junk. Earlier this week I picked Dallas to win this game and finish the season 2-1. I still like Dallas to win this game, but only if the Giants lose in Atlanta earlier in the day. You see, Dallas’ only realistic shot at reaching the postseason is as division champs. The Cowboys lose tiebreakers to both Seattle and Chicago; the two teams a game ahead of them in the Wildcard standings. Even if Seattle rallies to win the AFC West, the Cowboys can’t catch the 49ers unless San Francisco completely falls apart and finishes 0-3 while Dallas finishes 3-0. Furthermore, Dallas currently sits behind the Redskins in the standings with one meeting between the rivals still to come. So yeah, Dallas won’t make the playoffs, but let’s hope they do enough to warrant bringing back the mediocre Jason Garrett. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys +1.5

Chiefs at Raiders
Too many jokes, not enough nice things to say. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders -3

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

49ers at Patriots
Is there a better team in the NFL right now than the New England Patriots? The answer is no. Granted, we’ve seen equally impressive Patriot teams flake out in the playoffs in recent years, so this is hardly a guarantee, but New England is on its own level right now. While the Patriots have been blowing the doors off their opponents (scoring 40+ points in four of their last six games), the 49ers are adjusting to a new quarterback and still having limited success in the passing game. The 49ers are a really good team, perhaps the best in the NFC, but they’re not on or near the Patriots level right now. I’d be shocked if New England didn’t win by 10. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -5.5

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Jets at Titans
Monday night football goes out with a bang this season. Or not. The NFL should can Thursday night football and put two games on Monday night. This would help prevent stinkers like Jets/Titans on the NFL’s “premiere” broadcast. Obviously, this would never happen because the NFL Network wouldn’t want the lesser game, nor would they want to surrender a full night of exclusive coverage on their own network. But hey, we really care about player safety. (And yes, I’ll tune in from time to time just hoping Tim Tebow gets a chance.) JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets +1

*****

If I were Charles Barkley
Last Week: 9 – 7 – 0
Season:  104 – 97 – 7

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