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Week 15 NFL Picks

With a victory in Pittsburgh and a little help from the Lions, Andy Dalton and the Bengals can clinch the AFC North in Week 15. Are the Bengals a threat to the AFC’s heavyweights? (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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Last Week:  14 – 2 – 0
Season:    135 – 72 – 1

Thursday Recap

Chargers 27 at Broncos 20
Although Chariots of Backfire was the premiere sporting event of the evening, I still found time to watch Philip Rivers and the Chargers bully the Denver Broncos. It’s ok to lose from time to time, but losing to a warm weather team in your own place in the middle of December is pushing it. Consider how lopsided time of possession was (39:21 in favor of San Diego) and it’s painfully clear the Broncos got manhandled. Barring a lot of help from the Ravens, Dolphins, and Jets, the Chargers will likely be the best team not to make the playoffs. Credit the Chargers for committing to keeping the Bronco offense off the field and more importantly, making it work. 44 rushes compared to 20 pass attempts is a throwback game, one I wouldn’t have expected from the formerly overrated and now quietly underrated Ryan Mathews. Now let’s update the Jekyll and Hyde resume of the 2013 San Diego Chargers. Wins: Philly, Dallas, Indy, KC, Denver. Losses: Washington, Oakland, Tennessee, Houston. Mind-boggling.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Redskins at Falcons
The Washington Redskins are doing everything backwards. Oh so backwards. Here’s an idea. Instead of benching Robert Griffin III for the final three games of the 2013 season, why not bench him for the FIRST three games of the 2013 season? You know, when he was still recovering from knee surgery and hadn’t taken A SINGLE SNAP IN ANY PRESEASON GAME. I don’t know, maybe that would have been the time to keep Robert on the bench and let him gradually work his way back. But no, letting him struggle and suffer and scuttle any chance of the team making the playoffs was the preferred choice of the brilliant Redskins organization. I applaud you, morons. I’m happy to call you NFC East brethren. Between you and Jerry Jones, the Eagles and Giants sleep peacefully at night. (I’m picking the Redskins because they have something to play for. Kirk Cousins will want to win. Plus, Washington doesn’t even get their pick, so might as well make it as low as possible. Conversely, the Falcons have their own pick and it’d be in their best interest to lose this one, something they failed to accomplish two weeks ago in Toronto.) REDSKINS If I were Charles Barkley; Redskins +7

Bears at Browns
I’m all for the “starter won’t lose a job to injury” approach. It makes sense. But this seems like the time for an exception. The Bears are caught in the midst of a heated playoff push and Josh McCown just dropped 45 points last week. Maybe give him a quarter or two to see if the offense can maintain the momentum gained from Monday’s thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys? Jake Cutler isn’t exactly a stable dude. If he struggles early, he’s going to panic. The offense will panic. The Bears can’t win without their offense scoring points. Those days are gone. The Browns want to lose this game but apparently don’t want to all-out surrender. Otherwise they’d replace Jason Campbell with Brandon Weeden. BEARS If I were Charles Barkley; Bears -1

Texans at Colts
Things the 2013 Houston Texans made me forget: 1. Arian Foster exists. 2. Jonathan Joseph was an all-pro in 2011 and Pro Bowler in 2011 and 2012. 3. The 2011 Texans were arguably the best team in the league until Matt Schaub (yes, that Matt Schaub) went down in Week 10. It’s been a sad year in Houston. I’ve always liked this team and thought 2011 was their shot. Perhaps 2013 goes differently if they don’t blow that Seattle game in Week 4. I’m depressed. Now the lousy Colts will represent the AFC South. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -6

Patriots at Dolphins
It’ll be interesting to see how the Patriot offense looks without Rob Gronkowski. For the early part of the season they struggled. Tom Brady looked ready to choke one of his young receivers after every failed 3rd down conversion or dropped pass. But remember, they were without Shane Vereen then, too. Obviously, the Gronkowski injury will significantly hurt New England’s title chances, but I don’t think the offense will struggle as much as most do. Then again, Stevan Ridley has been nearly excommunicated at this point. If the Patriots are to have a chance, Ridley must be welcomed back into the fold to relieve some of the pressure off Brady and the passing attack. Winning in Miami is no easy task, either. The Ravens needed OT to pull out a win, the Panthers needed a last minute drive from Cam Newton, and the Chargers and Bengals both fell short. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -1

Eagles at Vikings
Adrian Peterson likely won’t play. The Eagles are rolling. Playoffs here we come. PUMP THE BRAKES. Travel back in time with “Cautious Eagle Fan That’s Been Burned by Injury Depleted Vikings Before.” The year is 2010. The out-of-nowhere resurgent Michael Vick has been the talk of the league (similar to the out-of-nowhere Nick Foles). The Eagles are 10-4 and cruising to a 1st round bye if they can get by the 5-9 Vikings and then the 5-10 Cowboys the following week. Brett Favre is done. Rookie Joe Webb will make his first NFL start. The game was moved from Sunday afternoon to a special Tuesday night broadcast due to snow. The NFC’s 2nd seed is all but sealed. …….. Then the Eagles laid an egg. A dinosaur egg. It was ugly. So ugly in fact the Eagles never got their mojo back and wouldn’t win another game until the following season. This is how quickly fortunes change in the NFL, and it often happens at the most unexpected times. So please, Eagles, remember 2010. Remember what was lost. And please don’t lay a stinker. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -5

Seahawks at Giants
Seattle hasn’t clinched anything but a playoff spot yet. However, it would take a miracle for anyone to steal the NFC’s top seed from them. They own head-to-head tiebreakers over the Saints and Panthers. The 49ers still have a fighter’s chance but would need to win out and pray Seattle loses two of it’s final three. That would give San Francisco the division record tiebreaker. Why do you care? You probably don’t. Just know that Seattle can clinch the NFC West with a win and a 49ers loss. (I could see the Giants winning this game. Seattle has little to play for. They’ll be traveling east after a big divisional game to play a lousy opponent. And Eli Manning has only thrown 20 interceptions on the year to go with 16 touchdowns…. Uh, forget I said anything.) SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks -7

49ers at Buccaneers
Again, a west coast playoff team traveling east to play a subpar team at 10AM Pacific Time after a very emotional win over a hated division opponent. With the Cardinals surging, the 49ers can’t afford a let down against a feisty Bucs team. Also, the 49ers should be thinking about that 5th seed. It’ll take a lot of help to pass Carolina, but if the 49ers can do it, it’ll likely land them the NFC North champ in Round 1 and New Orleans in Round 2 instead of traveling to Seattle, where San Francisco has been bludgeoned two years in a row. Another thing to keep in mind, Mike Glennon hasn’t played well in three weeks. Tampa Bay’s defense will need to give Glennon some points in order to win. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers -5.5

Bills at Jaguars
The Jaguars are winners of four of five. Yes, all four wins came against teams with losing records, but who cares. The Jaguars are playing well for an extended stretch for the first time since David Garrard was any good. Conversely, the Bills have dropped five of six and are somehow still favored in this one. JAGUARS If I were Charles Barkley; Jaguars +2

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Chiefs at Raiders
How would you rate the AFC’s playoff teams? After Thursday night, is there even a definitive number one? The Chiefs should be able to replicate San Diego’s approach; run the football, control the clock. Yet, they’ve failed miserably in two attempts against Denver this season. The Patriots lost Gronk. The Colts are a mess. Are the Bengals the most consistent AFC playoff team? Is this possible? I can’t even wrap my head around this right now. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs -5

Jets at Panthers
I always like to look at what happened to good teams the week before they return home. The Saints were clobbered by the Seahawks before last week’s beatdown of the Panthers. The Panthers return home this week after said beatdown. Translation: The Jets are in store for a whooping. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers -11

Packers at Cowboys
I think it’s pretty clear Aaron Rodgers isn’t all the way back from his collarbone injury. Or maybe the Packers are playing coy in hopes of gaining an edge. My guess is Rodgers isn’t as ready to return as he or the team hoped he’d be by now. Obviously, I’m not Mike McCarthy or anyone involved in deciding whether or not Rodgers plays Sunday, but here’s what I think the Packers are weighing: 1. Is it worth rushing our franchise cornerstone back this week with the Lions hosting a feisty Ravens team in front of a national audience? Furthermore, the Bears go to Philadelphia next week in front of a national audience to battle one of the NFL’s hottest teams. In other words, Green Bay could squeak by in Week 15 with a loss, a Detroit loss, and could even survive a Chicago win. That would put the Bears atop the division at 8-6, drop the Lions to 7-7 and the Packers to 6-7-1. The risk would be hoping the Lions drop one of their final two against the Giants or Vikings (away). That’s somewhat wishful thinking. With the Bears it’s a bit more realistic. As previously mentioned, the Bears go to Philly next week and will meet a city soaking up every ounce of a meaningful December nightcap. In Week 17, the Packers will visit the Bears and, assuming Green Bay wins in Week 16 (at home against Pittsburgh) and Chicago loses in Philly, the Packers would pass the Bears in the NFC North with a win and a final record of 8-7-1. So yeah, it’s complicated, but rolling the dice with wins and losses is the wiser risk than rolling the dice with your franchise star. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; No Line [If Rodgers plays, I pick the Packers.]

Cardinals at Titans
Arizona is hanging around, just waiting for the 49ers or Panthers to screw up. Unfortunately, the Cardinals’ horrible division record will require them to finish a game ahead of San Francisco, meaning the 49ers must lose two of their final three (@TB, ATL, @AZ) while Arizona wins out (@SEA, SF). So yeah, that’s probably not happening. That leaves the Cardinals catching the Panthers. Since Arizona owns the tiebreaker, only finishing with an equal record is necessary. The Panthers have the Jets this week, host the Saints and then finish at Atlanta. It’s hard to imagine the Panthers finishing worse than 2-1, which would require the Cardinals finishing 3-0. Even worse, if Arizona, Carolina and San Francisco finish in a three-way tie, the Cardinals would be the odd man out. It’s been a good run, Cardinals. See you in 2014. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals -3

Saints at Rams
I thought the 2013 Rams found themselves in Weeks 8 through 12. Then they looked flat against the 49ers and got crushed by the Cardinals. It appears they’ve thrown in the towel on yet another disappointing campaign. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -6.5

Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)

Bengals at Steelers
This is actually a really big game for the Bengals. A loss combined with a Ravens win in Detroit on Monday would hand Baltimore control of its own destiny in the AFC North. Baltimore could then win out and take the division. I like this Bengals team. They’re resilient. Given the injuries in New England and the defensive struggles in Denver, it’s not totally crazy to think Cincinnati could represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. In fact, a Baltimore-Cincinnati title game wouldn’t even shock me at this point. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -3

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Ravens at Lions
The Lions desperately need this win to hold off the Packers and keep pace with the Bears. The Ravens desperately need this win to maintain their Wildcard spot and stay alive in the AFC North. Once again, I’m picking against Jim Schwartz whenever he meets a good opponent. Also, I’m going to get crushed this week. I just picked nine road favorites. Home dogs going 0-9? Doubtful. I’m screwed. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens +6

*****

If I were Charles Barkley…
Last Week: 10 – 6 – 0
Season:    101 – 99 – 7

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