Week 15 NFL Picks

The Vikings need a rushing attack, Justin Herbert still quietly underrated, Doug Pederson knows late season rallies, and the Giants keep failing up.

Last Week:    7 – 6 – 0
Season:        100 – 97 – 9

Thursday (8:20PM ET)

49ers 21 at Seahawks 13
The 49ers keep looking better and better as Brock Purdy has looked more than capable in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Let’s be honest here, with all due respect to Jimmy G, Shanahan has gotten the Niners to two of the last three NFC title games with nothing more than average quarterback play, so I fully expect San Francisco to be in the mix even with their 3rd string QB. Also, San Francisco must be quietly kicking themselves. Three of their four losses have come at the hands of teams with a total of 11 wins. The Bears and Broncos are tied for the 2nd worst record in the NFL. Football is weird.

Saturday (1PM, 4:30PM, 8:15PM ET)

Colts at Vikings
Minnesota took all the disrespect of being an underdog to a five win team and funneled it into an embarrassing effort worthy of all the disrespect of being an underdog to a five win team. Well done, Vikings. I think Kevin O’Connell needs to address his running game over the final weeks of the regular season for Minnesota to have a shot in the playoffs. The Vikings have the 27th ranked rushing offense and Dalvin Cook is 200 yards behind his pace from a season ago. Look at the NFC contenders. Philadelphia, San Francisco and Dallas all rank among the top ten in most pass rushing statistics. The Cowboys and Eagles are 1-2, respectively, in both sacks and sack percentage. If the Vikings can’T protect Kirk Cousins they have no shot. They have no shot of protecting Cousins without an improved ground attack. VIKINGS -3.5

Ravens at Browns
Outside of the Bengals, the AFC North has been almost unwatchable this season. The Deshaun Watson struggles are of no surprise to me and I’m a little shocked why some were so caught off guard with his lackluster performance thus far. The guy hadn’t played football in nearly two years. The Browns being out of playoff contention has probably made the transition to Watson easier in some ways. There’s no pressure on Watson to keep the team in the playoffs and no internal discussions about whether Jacoby Brissett should be playing so as not to surrender a playoff berth. RAVENS +3

Dolphins at Bills
The most intriguing game of the week and it’s in prime time with snowy weather. What could be better? This is the ultimate “I told you so” game for the Tua Tagovailoa debate. The doubters were quiet for much of the season but they’ve made a dramatic comeback the last two weeks after back-to-back dreadful performances from Tua. A third consecutive dud would almost certainly be the tipping point. What I find interesting is how Mike McDaniel has been shielded by Tua. When the Dolphins are great, McDaniel is praised as the offensive genius. When Miami’s offense is the pits, it’s Tua who takes the shrapnel. To be fair, McDaniel does try to absorb the blame, but he’s the media’s darling this season so the hits go right for Tua. BILLS -7

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Eagles at Bears
A month or so ago I worried about the Eagles run defense being a major problem without Jordan Davis and a gauntlet of the NFL’s top rushing offense’s on deck. The Eagles defense has been excellent against the run and did not allow a 100 yard rusher over a stretch that included Jonathan Taylor, Aaron Jones/AJ Dillon, Derrick Henry and Saquon Barkley. (Actually, Jones/Dillion reached 107. Dang it.) BEARS +9

Falcons at Saints
I don’t entirely know what’s going on with Marcus Mariota, but leaving the team after being benched probably isn’t great for future backup job prospects. Let’s go Desmond Ridder. Philadelphia is counting on you! FALCONS +4

Lions at Jets
Zach Wilson is back and the Jets could not be more disappointed. That team has rallied around Mike White and the players have made it quite obvious White, and not Wilson, is the team’s leader. Sports are full of 2nd chances though and this is Wilson’s. In fact, it’s probably his final chance in New York. Speaking of highly selected quarterbacks making the most of second chances… how about Jared Goff? Now, I’m not sure I’m buying all the “Detroit has their starting QB for the future” headlines, not with a top 5 pick headed their way, but it’s at least a conversation. A conversation Goff has forced Detroit into having, so good for him. JETS +1.5

Steelers at Panthers
My brother told me the Panthers players refer to interim coach Steve Wilkes as Denzel. If that’s the case, make him the official head coach right now. While I love both of these coaches, this is another matchup that demonstrates the shortage of NFL quarterbacks right now. Between the two teams, five different quarterbacks have started under center and if Diontae Johnson gets his way it would be six. I would not be excited about any of them starting for my team this week or in September 2023. PANTHERS -3

Cowboys at Jaguars
Doug Pederson knows his way around late season rallies resulting in playoff berths. In 2018, the Eagles climbed out of a 4-6 hole to finish 9-7 and were an Alshon Jeffrey drop from the NFC Championship Game. In 2019, the 5-7 Eagles reeled off four straight wins to clinch the NFC East. The Jaguars aren’t dead yet, but they’ll probably need Dallas to continue to have something to play for because the Titans will face the Cowboys in Week 17. JAGUARS +4

Chiefs at Texans
I thought last week was the week Kansas City would go bonkers and crush someone. And they did… for a quarter. Maybe this week they’ll finish the job? CHIEFS -14

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Cardinals at Broncos
Nope. No reason whatsoever to watch this one. BRONCOS -3

Patriots at Raiders
The Raiders are fun in a “let’s see what they do this week to totally screw themselves” kind of way. Going back to the 2017 NFL Draft, the Raiders have made eight 1st round selections. Three of those players are still with the team. Three are out of the NFL completely, and two more appear headed that way. It’s hard to win when you don’t hit on 1st round talent, just ask the Patriots (looking at you, N’Keal Harry and Sony Michel). PATRIOTS +1

Titans at Chargers
I want the race for the AFC South to be as interesting as possible for as long as possible, so go Chargers. I’m not sure this makes any sense because Justin Herbert gets a lot of love from knowledgeable football people, but is it possible what he’s done this year has been quietly undervalued? Look at what a difference having both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams in the lineup did for that offense. Herbert has kept that team afloat through most of the season without one and often both of those elite players. CHARGERS -3

Bengals at Buccaneers
The looks of sheer disgust Mike Evans hurls at Tom Brady on game days is the coldest thing I’ve seen on a screen since Jack Dawson froze to death. It’s pretty clear Brady is done in Tampa after this season. The Buccaneers will likely be starting over on the offensive side of the ball. So why in the world is Todd Bowles still the head coach? That team is a disaster right now and if they have any hope of salvaging the season and winning the putrid NFC South a fresh face on the sideline may provide the kick in the pants the team needs. BENGALS -3.5

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Giants at Commanders
The Seahawks are doing more for the Giants playoff hopes than the Giants are doing for the Giants playoff hopes. It’s been over a month since the Giants won a football game and they’ll probably remain in the NFC playoffs even if they lose their next two. (I’m assuming Seattle loses to the Chiefs and the Lions drop a road game to the Jets or Panthers. Sorry, they’re still the Lions.) Or, the Giants could get real crazy and maybe win a game? A win Sunday night would almost certainly put the G-Men in the playoffs for the first time since 2016. GIANTS +4.5

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Rams at Packers
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman got paid, so good for them. They deserved it. They’ve also been stuck in the horrific muck of Monday Night Football for most of the season, calling meaningless games with lackluster performances. Seriously, there have been three good games all season. I get the scheduling difficulties, but could we maybe designate two or three games a week for the final 10 weeks of the season and pick one of them a few weeks out? There have been four games all season that had two playoff teams. I’ve watched fewer Monday night games this year than I can ever remember. PACKERS -7

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