After a calming 9-4-2 mark in Week 15 improved the column to 102-107-10 for the year, the Sultan of Sides returned to normal, dropping the Thursday and Saturday night games in the regular season’s penultimate week.
Thanks to the Oakland Raiders and the Philadelphia Eagles it would take an extremely successful Sunday to reach .500 before we enter the playoffs. Needless to say, with the way 2015 has gone, nobody is suffering from overconfidence.
@ New York Jets +3
It’s impossible not to side with Darth Belichick and the Patriots any time you get them for a field goal or less. If the Jets want to keep playing games well into January they would do well to pull off the upset, and this has been a surprisingly competitive Jets team.
The Patriots are suffering from injuries all across the lineup, leaving them vulnerable. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but it could happen. Patriots win 27-20
@ Tennessee Titans +3.5
Brandon Weeden is starting at quarterback this week for the Houston Texans. The same Weeden that was starting, and losing games in prolific fashion, for the Dallas Cowboys earlier this year!
Even more amazing? The Tennessee Titans are so awful we’re still siding with the road team. If Titans passer Marcus Mariota was playing it would be a different story, but he’s been ruled out. Texans win 17-10
@ Kansas City Chiefs -11
Only an idiot would side with Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns. That’s why I’m doing it.
Kansas City has won eight straight games after losing five in a row. The Chiefs are the only team in league history to pull of the feat. As hot as the Chiefs might be Kansas City has a knack of winning ugly. They blew the Baltimore Ravens out last week. A voice inside my head tells me they’re due for a scare. Chiefs win 23-20
@ MIAMI DOLPHINS 2.5
Do I have to pick this game? If an NFL game should ever end in a scoreless tie this may well be it. The Colts stayed afloat in the AFC South with Matt Hasselbeck ably replacing the injured Andrew Luck. Now that Hasselbeck’s 40-year-old body has been rendered useless from repetitive beatings? The Colts need to be put down. Miami should win this game … I think. Dolphins win 30-14
San Francisco 49ers
@ DETROIT LIONS -11
This has been a very typical Detroit Lions year for Motor City faithful. Start the year off slow, losing all hope of making the postseason long before any hopes had risen.
Then, play surprisingly good football the final few weeks to leave management thinking no major changes need to be made to the roster entering the following season. Wash, rinse, repeat. Detroit Lions football, everybody! Lions win 33-13
@ BUFFALO BILLS -7
It’s not the early ’90s, but this game still has some nostalgic value to old people. That’s about all it has. Jim Kelly, Andre Reed and Thurmon Thomas have been replaced by Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins and what’s left of Shady McCoy’s knee.
Not that Bills fans will get any sympathy from Fighting Jerry’s faithful dreaming of the Jimmy Johnson glory years. Yes, those days have officially passed. Bills win 24-14
Chicago Bears @ TAMPA BAY BUCS -3.5
This game will be decided by which team wants to lose less. Riveting late-season NFL football. The Bears were sitting in a decent position a few weeks before mysteriously losing back-to-back home games to the 49ers and Redskins. Tampa was in a similarly competitive spot before remembering that they’re still the Bucs. When both teams are bad at football and battling for draft positioning, side with the home team.
I think a smart person said that at some point, somewhere. Bucs win 28-21
@ Atlanta Falcons +7
If my memory remembers correctly, which is a 50-50 proposition, the Panthers just beat the Falcons by around a 100 points a few weeks ago. It’s hard to imagine a struggling Atlanta team reversing that result
I’ve sided against the Panthers with some success, on the basis that any NFL team is unlikely to go undefeated, but Atlanta just doesn’t feel like a team capable of hanging with the red-hot Panthers right now. Panthers win 31-14
PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ Baltimore Ravens +10
This used to be one of the great rivalries in the NFL, but since the old Ravens guard of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed retired, this game has lost some of its luster.
Pittsburgh may have the hottest offense in the galaxy right now. Wide receiver Antonio Bryant can’t be covered and it takes three defensive lineman to bring down Ben Roethlisberger.
Is it smart to expect the injury-depleted Ravens, a team with no incentive, to keep pace with the high flying Steelers? Steelers win 28-10
JAGUARS @ N.O. Saints -3
I literally flipped a coin to pick this one. The Jaguars are the younger team, and have been playing better football of late.
It’s reasonable to suggest that the road side, a young team on the rise, has more motivation to finish the season well. Compare the Jaguars to a Saints team, whose coach is already taking feelers for a new job, and has a quarterback whose better days are obviously in the rearview mirror. The times they are a changing. Jaguars win 35-24
Green Bay Packers
@ ARI. CARDINALS -4.5
The Cardinals took a hit last week losing Tyrann Mathieu for the season to a knee injury. The Honey Badger is obviously a huge difference maker in the Arizona secondary.
I expect the Cardinals to win this game at home against a Packers team that has appeared oddly out of rhythm offensively for over a month. The question is, can the Cardinals advance to the Super Bowl without arguably its best defensive player? Cardinals win 28-23
ST. LOUIS RAMS
@ Seattle Seahawks -13.5
Is there a better quarterback in the NFL right now than Seattle’s Russell Wilson? Wilson has been on fire for five weeks throwing 19 scoring passes without an interception. The only player hotter than Wilson might be his teammate Doug Baldwin.
Baldwin joined Jerry freaking Rice as the only two receivers ever to score 10 touchdowns in a four-week stretch. That’s pretty incredible.
That said, the Rams always play Seattle tough. Always. It’s some sort of psychological thing at this point. The Seahawks will win, but it won’t be pretty. Seahawks win 23-14
New York Giants
@ MINN. VIKINGS -7
Now that the Washington Redskins have won the NFC East what’s left for the Giants to play for?
Had the Philadelphia Eagles beat Washington Saturday night this game would have had all sorts of playoff implications, but now we’ll just get three to four hours of Odell Beckham-Josh Norman fight coverage during this now mostly meaningless game. Vikings win 21-13