Last Week: 9-7 Season Record: 112-65
So last week was a little rough compared to how I’ve done in the weeks leading up to last, but as long as I have a winning record I’m good. For the pre-Sunday games, I picked the Broncos, Lions, and Chargers. I’m writing this before the Lions game starts so hopefully that worked out. On to the picks.
Miami Dolphins (6-7) vs Buffalo Bills (7-6)
I have no idea how the Dolphins managed to make Tom Brady look like an average quarterback, but kudos to them for doing it. It also helped that Kenyan Drake had the game of his life and he looks like he could be a solid back for them. They won’t need to be quite as good against Buffalo, as Tyrod Taylor will be coming off a knee injury that may affect his mobility. I’m going to take the Dolphins in this one, which would clinch the AFC East for the Patriots.
Projected Score: Dolphins 21 Bills 17
Green Bay Packers (7-6) vs Carolina Panthers (9-4)
Aaron Rodgers is back, and not a moment too soon if you’re a Packers fan. After barely surviving the Browns, #12 will be a welcome sight. Though to Brett Hundley’s credit, if you were to tell Green Bay fans they would lose Rodgers for 7 games to a broken collarbone and you would win 3 of them with Hundley, I think they’d be at peace with that. Hundley had his ups and downs but showed enough potential that I think a quarterback-needy team may be calling Ted Thompson about him in the offseason. Rodgers will be returning against perhaps the worst possible team in the Carolina Panthers, though, whose defense can knock around anybody. The Packers offensive line will have to step it up and keep Rodgers more protected than ever so as to not only give him a chance to make a play, but to protect his collarbone. But I don’t know, I have a gut feeling Rodgers is going to lead the Packers to a victory and get themselves back into the Wild Card race.
Projected Score: Packers 24 Panthers 20
Baltimore Ravens (7-6) vs Cleveland Browns (0-13)
Soooooooooooooooooo close. The Browns had a 21-7 lead in the 4th quarter, but Brett Hundley was able to lead a terrific comeback and led the Packers to an OT victory. The Browns have 3 more chances to avoid a winless season and they’re going to have their hands full with the Ravens. However I think they actually have a chance in this one. Their offense has looked relatively competent since Josh Gordon returned, as opposing defenses now have somebody to fear. The Ravens lost stud cornerback Jimmy Smith, who likely would’ve drawn Gordon in coverage. It’ll be up to an aging Brandon Carr and rookie Marlon Humphrey (who has played pretty well this season) to try and stop Gordon. I think the Ravens will take this one, but I think the Browns will make it interesting.
Projected Score: Ravens 27 Browns 24
Houston Texans (4-9) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4)
The Texans’ season is lost and unfortunately for them, they don’t hold a first round pick because they traded it to the Browns last Draft for the right to draft Deshaun Watson, which I’m sure is a trade they would make again and again. For them, it’s mainly about getting healthy, which has been a huge issue as now they will be without Tom Savage due to a scary concussion that they inexplicably let him back into the game with. TJ Yates will get the start and I think this is going to go about as well as the last time the Texans faced the Jaguars: that is to say a curb-stomping. I’ve got the Jaguars big.
Projected Score: Jaguars 38 Texans 10
Cincinnati Bengals (5-8) vs Minnesota Vikings (10-3)
The Vikings’ 8-game winning streak was snapped against the Panthers last week, as their offense struggled to move the ball and their defense struggled to contain Cam Newton. They won’t have nearly as big a problem against the Bengals, who got their asses kicked by the Bears of all teams last week. I’m not going to spend too much time with this one, this game isn’t going to be fun for Bengals fans.
Projected Score: Vikings 41 Bengals 14
New York Jets (5-8) vs New Orleans Saints (9-4)
Both teams had a messy performance last time out, as the Saints blew several opportunities on Thursday Night against the Falcons with some dumb moments while the Jets got shut out by the Broncos and lost Josh McCown for the season. It’s going to be Bryce Petty going for Gang Green and I’m not too confident in their chances. New Orleans would have to perform a choke job for the ages to lose this game.
Projected Score: Saints 35 Jets 10
Philadelphia Eagles (11-2) vs New York Giants (2-11)
Eagles fans really can’t have nice things, can they? Amidst a win over a tough Rams team, the Eagles lost quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz for the season due to a torn ACL. Just when it looked like this might be the year a Lombardi Trophy would finally come to Philadelphia. They turn to a familiar face in Nick Foles, who had a tremendous 2013 season for them with a TD-INT ratio of 27-2. As for the Giants, so much for Eli Manning making a huge difference, I guess. They kept it tight with the Cowboys for most of the game, before the Cowboys stepped on their throats and pulled away with a 35-10 win. Despite losing Wentz, I think the Eagles will win this game, but it won’t be the blowout it would’ve been had #11 been healthy.
Projected Score: Eagles 27 Giants 20
Arizona Cardinals (6-7) vs Washington Redskins (5-8)
The Cardinals have been a tricky team to figure out of late. They’ve been dealing with all these injuries to key players, yet here they are still alive in the playoff hunt. They’ve played 3 straight games against teams in a playoff position and they won 2 of them, all with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, who surprisingly hasn’t been that bad. They take on a Redskins team that has gotten blown out in back-to-back weeks and they just look out of it. I don’t expect them to really have it in this one and don’t look now, but I have the Cardinals at 7-7.
Projected Score: Cardinals 28 Redskins 17
Los Angeles Rams (9-4) vs Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
This is the start of a REALLY fun slate of 4:00 games. This game is basically a de facto playoff game, as the winner will gain full control of the division. If the Rams win, I believe that will clinch them the division, as they would hold the tie breaker and the Seahawks won’t be able to surpass them. The Seahawks won the previous matchup between these two teams in a low-scoring affair, however that was when their defense was relatively healthy. They’ve held their own without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, but things got ugly at times last week against the Jaguars, which included postgame antics where defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson tried to fight a fan (though to Jefferson’s credit, the fan allegedly threw a beer and called him the ‘n’ word. If I’m Pete Carroll, I’d be okay with looking the other way if one of my guys wanted to fight a fan that did that). I think I’m going to take the Seahawks in this game, though and only because it’s in Seattle, a place where the Seahawks just don’t lose, especially big games.
Projected Score: Seahawks 28 Rams 24
New England Patriots (10-3) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2)
Oh boy, this is going to get fun. This is the other high-impact 4:00 game and it’s a doozy, as it features arguably the two best teams in the NFL. The Patriots are coming off a weird loss to the Dolphins, but they get Rob Gronkowski back from suspension, which will be a huge lift. Since 2010, when the Patriots are without both Gronk and Julian Edelman, they are the worst in the NFL at moving the football. The Steelers are coming off a very exciting win over the Ravens, in which they had to overcome an 11-point 4th quarter deficit to win 39-38. Antonio Brown is on a run the likes of which we’ve never seen, as he could feasibly reach the 2000 yard mark this season, which has never been done by a receiver before. I think the Patriots are going to struggle to contain him, but I also think they will come away with the win. They just don’t lose back-to-back games and I’m confident that Bill Belichick will have a gameplan ready to thwart the Steelers, though it will take a Hell of a coaching performance.
Projected Score: Patriots 31 Steelers 28
Tennessee Titans (8-5) vs San Francisco 49ers (3-10)
The Titans are coming off an ugly 12-7 loss to the Cardinals in which they struggled to do anything. Marcus Mariota has really regressed this season and it’s tough to watch. They take on a 49ers team that looks like it has an extra spring in its step since Jimmy Garoppolo took over. Jimmy G’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but his insertion into the starting lineup has created a newfound energy with this team and they’re 2-0 since he became the starter (fun fact, Garoppolo is undefeated in his NFL career at 4-0). I’m going to go with the 49ers to make it 3 in a row. I think the momentum they’re riding will carry them to victory over a Titans team that’s headed in the wrong direction.
Projected Score: 49ers 23 Titans 17
Dallas Cowboys (7-6) vs Oakland Raiders (6-7)
This game could get interesting. It seems like the Cowboys are starting to regain their footing amidst the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, as they’ve found that using a stable of Alfred Morris and Rod Smith has been very effective, especially in the passing game. The Raiders will be without stud receiver Amari Cooper due to injury and I think they’re going to struggle in this game. The Cowboys are picking up some momentum as they try and sneak back into the playoff discussion while the Raiders just look like they’ve given up on this season.
Projected Score: Cowboys 27 Raiders 17
Atlanta Falcons (8-5) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9)
The Dirty Birds beat the Saints on Thursday Night and will now have a few extra days to prepare for the Buccaneers, as they’re now playing on Monday Night. That’s 10 days of preparation that the Falcons get vs about 6 for the Buccaneers. You can’t ask for a better schedule than that if you’re the Falcons. Throw in the fact that the Buccaneers have been wildly inconsistent and careless with the football and you’ve got the potential for a primetime nightmare for Tampa. I’ve got the Falcons in a blowout.
Projected Score: Falcons 42 Buccaneers 13
Those are my picks for Week 15 of the NFL season. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.