I’m going to let you in behind the curtain for this piece. It’s currently 9:48 P.M. on Wednesday, December 14th (which also happens to be my birthday). I’ve got a 12-hour drive tomorrow from San Francisco to Tacoma, Washington to go back home for the holidays. So, safe to say, I’m going to keep this one short. I was thinking about doing 15 words for each pick in honor of this being week 15 of the season but I didn’t want to be writing a bunch of broken sentences like a caveman. So, I’m not going to give myself an arbitrary limit on my picks, other than needing to get them done soon so I can go to bed. Now, I present to you my picks for each game of week 15 of the NFL season, the abridged version.
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) over Seattle Seahawks
This won’t necessarily be the next great addition to a fairly storied relied considering that Geno Smith and Brock Purdy will be the starting quarterbacks, but this should be an entertaining NFC West battle. The Seahawks’ offense has obviously been surprisingly good this season but they’ve already had their worst game against the season against the Niners in week two, and that defense might be even better now. Plus, a struggling Seattle defense makes it hard to trust them against a legit contender, so I’m not going to.
Minnesota Vikings (-4.5) over Indianapolis Colts
A lot of people, such as myself, were wrong about the Vikings as underdogs against the Lions last week. But the Colts aren’t the Lions, they’re actually bad. The Vikings have proven that they are definitely not as good as their record suggests they are, but they are still better than the Colts. Remember, this team still has Justin Jefferson, and he alone is enough to cover the four-and-a-half points.
Baltimore Ravens (+2.5) over Cleveland Browns
What have the Browns done to warrant being favorites over a likely playoff team? They beat the Texans (congrats, anyone can do that) and then lost to the Bengals, a team that is comparable to the Ravens. Sure, Baltimore won’t have Lamar Jackson, and may not even have Tyler Huntley either, but it still has a ton of other talented players. The Ravens are simply a better team and I believe they have constructed a roster good enough to beat the Browns even with their third-string quarterback.
Buffalo Bills over Miami Dolphins (+7.5)
Both these teams are very good and should do their part to make this a highly watchable game. Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Stefon Diggs, and Gabriel Davis will all surely make some plays, most of which lead directly to points, Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa are two of the best quarterbacks in the league this year. The Dolphins have already beaten the Bills once this year, and while I don’t see them pulling off the sweep, I do think they can keep this game close enough to stay within one score.
Atlanta Falcons (+4) over New Orleans Saints
I believe in Desmond Ridder and am picking the Falcons because of it. The Ridder era officially begins in Atlanta this week, and while it may be brief, hopefully it’s fun. I also hope he unlocks parts of their offense, particularly the passing game. The Saints will give them a challenge because their defense is still formidable, but at the end of the day, they aren’t going to stand in the way of Ridder getting out to a hot start in his first-ever start.
New York Jets (+1) over Detroit Lions
This game sounds like a game a few years ago that you would watch in order to bore yourself to sleep, but that is no longer the case. The Lions have one of the most exciting offenses in the league and the Jets have one of the best defenses in the league. You wouldn’t expect these two teams to provide a potentially elite offense-defense matchup but here we are. I like the Jets because they’re the underdogs and getting a point but also because I can see the Lions coming down a bit after last week’s big win over the Vikings.
Kansas City Chiefs (-14) over Houston Texans
This one isn’t even going to get more than two sentences because it’s just that simple. The Chiefs are one of the best teams in the league and the Texans are far from that, give me Kansas City by whoever many points, I don’t care.
Philadelphia Eagles over Chicago Bears (+9)
I’m going a little wild with this one because there is no logical reason to expect the Bears to keep this game close against the Eagles. But we have seen the Eagles play close games this season, even to bad teams like the Colts. The Bears can run the ball incredibly well thanks to Justin Fields, so that should allow them to drain some clock and prevent Philly from getting too many drives. All the Bears need is a couple of stops and they can surely cover the spread, but a win seems incredibly farfetched.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5) over Carolina Panthers
I’m starting to buy into the new-look Steelers with Kenny Pickett under center. At the start of the season, I believed in Pittsburgh because Mike Tomlin had never had a bad season but, at the start of the season, it looked like that might change. The Steelers still aren’t heading for the playoffs, but some good play by Pickett, George Pickens, T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and others can help them finish the season strong. Also, I refuse to believe in Sam Darnold no matter what he does this year so I cannot in good conscience pick them in this game.
Dallas Cowboys over Jacksonville Jaguars (+4.5)
This spread may not seem like enough points to pick the Jaguars to cover without winning but I don’t agree with that. The Cowboys’ defense has clearly been exceptional once again this year, but it also looks like Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars’ offense are finally hitting their stride and should be able to score on them. They won’t be able to stop Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard on defense because nobody seems capable of doing so, but if Lawrence can build on his great play from last week, then Jacksonville can keep this game close.
Denver Broncos (-2.5) over Arizona Cardinals
I said I wasn’t going to pick the Broncos for the rest of the season, so call me a liar because here I am. In my defense, I didn’t foresee the Cardinals heading into this game without Kyler Murray, or the Broncos maybe actually figuring out how to play offense. There are very few teams in worse positions to succeed than the Broncos, but the Cardinals may actually be one of them. Plus, a good strategy to use when you can’t figure out who to pick is to go with the team with the best unit in the game, and since the Denver defense is legitimately good, I’m going with the Broncos.
Las Vegas Raiders (-1) over New England Patriots
Call me a sucker for the dramatic, but I’m picking Josh McDaniels to beat his former boss and mentor Bill Belichick on Sunday. The Raiders have really turned things around big time and will have most of the best players on the field in this game, which certainly helps. If this spread were bigger then I’d go with the Pats because I can see Belichick having the perfect plan to beat his former offensive coordinator but the spread is just one point, and I don’t feel confident that the Patriots can win this game. This will be a huge win for Las Vegas and McDaniels and prove that the first season of his tenure has not been a disaster even if it also hasn’t been a success.
Los Angeles Chargers (-3) over Tennessee Titans
I believe that the Chargers will carry over their momentum from last week’s win over the Dolphins on Sunday Night Football and beat the Titans. The Tennessee defense is going to be a challenge for Los Angeles, but with Justin Herbert throwing to Austin Ekeler and a healthy duo of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, I think the Chargers can get it done. It also helps that the Titans just aren’t much of a threat on offense. The Chargers can just sell out to stop Derrick Henry (which is easier said than done) and rely on the Titans being unable to move the ball through the air (which they make seem like is way easier said than done).
Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I’m not sure I even have to explain this pick too much. The Bengals are good. Like get back to the Super Bowl good. The Buccaneers are bad. Like get dominated by Brock Purdy bad. Joe Burrow is much better than Purdy, so unless the Bucs have orchestrated a total 180 from last week, things might get ugly. Tom Brady is obviously a legend and has made some outstanding game-winning drives lately, but the Bengals aren’t the Saints or the Rams so that isn’t happening again.
Washington Commanders over New York Giants (+4.5)
These teams are extremely even. How do I know that? Because they tied when they played a few weeks ago. That makes it pretty easy for me to pick the Giants since they are getting the points as the underdog. So if another tie happens, then I’m covered. But I’m picking the Commanders to win because I still believe they’re the better team and will make the playoffs, which they probably won’t be able to do without a win here.
Green Bay Packers (-6.5) over Los Angeles Rams
In another year (like maybe 2021) this would have been an awesome Monday Night Football game. But in 2022, it is not. There are a few reasons to watch it still. Like Baker Mayfield’s first start as a Ram, which is coming after last week’s heroics. There is also the chance that Aaron Rodgers does something crazy, either on the field with his arm or off the field on some podcast (I wouldn’t be surprised if he calls into the Joe Rogan Experience on the sideline between the first and second quarters). I still have a little bit of belief in the Packers left over from the offseason so that’s why I’m picking them to win and cover. But also they’re the better team and if they lose this game then it could mark the official end of the Rodgers era (at least in Green Bay).