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Week 15 NFL Picks

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Last Week: 8-7-1
This Week (so far): 1-0
Season: 103-99-7

Last Week: 10-5-1
This Week (so far): 0-1
Season: 108-94-7

Washington @ Atlanta (-7)

Ryan: I don’t think I can remember a team that was more amusing to observe from an impartial standpoint than this year’s Redskins. A hatable coach pretty openly campaigning to get fired by an odious owner — who is trying to figure out a way to fire Shanahan without paying him — is delightful, and I feel a little bit bad for RG3 as being collateral damage in the middle. (But obviously not bad enough to keep this whole situation from being hilarious.)

I have several favorite aspects of this story. The first is Mike Shanahan appearing genuinely humble and concerned with RG3′s well-being and need for a full offseason before snakily leaking this story the next day:

The next-best part was Brian Billick going on Mike and Mike  and saying that Shanahan is not a lame duck, but someone who is assured he will be back next season and acting in accordance with the franchise’s long-term best interest.

The reality is that benching RG3, who has played poorly all season and does really need to get himself healthy, is in the best interest of Washington. BUT, Daniel Snyder probably doesn’t see it that way, and Shanahan definitely would rather take his $7 million and go home rather than have to endure all of this crap for another calendar year.

After watching them blow an 11-point halftime lead against the Rodgers-less Packers, I’m really not sure Atlanta should be seven-point favorites over anybody. Washington covers. 

Asif: Here’s Jason Whitlock psychoanalyzing RGIII for ESPN. I don’t really have much to say about this other than I wonder where Shanahan keeps his incriminating photos of Jason. My favorite part about the whole Redskins – RG-III – Shanahan kerfuffle is it gives me a new, novel reason to call the Redskins and their fans racist. Kirk Cousins sucks and Atlanta covers.

San Francisco (-5.5) @ Tampa Bay

Ryan: Reason no. 98373978 why the Internet is the greatest place on Earth: here’s what Nick Saban and Mack Brown would look like if they flip-flopped hair (via Cork Gaines):

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 4.24.24 PM

I know Tampa’s been having a bit of a renaissance in recent weeks, but it seems like they should be bigger underdogs in this game. 49ers cover.

Asif: Smells like free money. Niners cover.

Arizona (-2.5) @ Tennessee

Ryan: It is very bizarre how I weigh my inconveniences. The air conditioning unit in my bedroom was in the wall in a manner that lets a ton of cold air in, and it’s been especially frigid this week so I’ve slept two nights on the couch and am petrified of even entering my room. The solution is as easy as texting the maintenance guy for my apartment, but I’ve been procrastinating because it seemed like a lot of effort to do that and to clean up my room a little bit, at least enough so he has a free path of getting there without stepping on my clothes. And yet.

Anyways, as Chicago reached single digits, I finally relented and have no earthy idea why I didn’t just do that sooner.

Cardinals cover.

Asif: Both of these teams are good enough to beat truly bad teams, but not good enough to beat good teams. So… Cardinals cover.

New Orleans (-5.5) @ St. Louis

Ryan: There are some of these games that are tempting to pick the underdog, until I envision what it would be like in my head if the Saints go up two scores quickly. I’d have to spend two hours trying to use my football karma to urge Kellen Clemens into a backdoor cover. No thanks. Saints cover.

Asif: Wait, what? Saints cover.

Seattle (-7) @ NY Giants

Ryan: I’m like a week or two late on this, but the coverage of JJ Watt and Russell Wilson’s off-field wonderfulness is reaching a level where it almost distracts us from how outstanding they are at football. SportsCenter devoted approximately 20 hours of my time the last few weeks saying how great a person Wilson is because he carries around some shitty duct-taped wallet a little girl made for him, as if he is doing that for any other reason than for lazy reporters to gush about it.

Yeah, yeah west coast team flying East for a 1pm start. But it seems like the Giants have quit, and I don’t want to go against the Seahawks coming off a loss. Seattle covers.

Asif: I don’t care that this game is in New York, there’s no way this line should be less than 10 points. Seahawks cover.

Chicago @ Cleveland (-1.5)

Ryan: I know that Marc Trestman is with his team on a daily basis and surely understands his quarterback situation better than a fledgling blogger, but it’s bizarre to me that he is going back to Jay Cutler in the middle of Josh McCown’s sorta hot streak. Yes, Cutler has greater upside and they need some final evaluation before deciding what to do with his future. However, it seems as though McCown gives the team a better chance to win right now.

I still don’t get why they aren’t favored this week, though. Bears cover.

Asif: Looks like Cutler is going to start this game, so… Browns cover.

Houston @ Indianapolis (-6)

Ryan: I already did an Extra Mustard post on this, but you should totally watch Andrew Luck give an impassioned pep talk to his fantasy football teammates:

Colts cover.

Asif: I’m convinced that the Colts aren’t any good, but the Texans actually suck. Colts cover.

Buffalo (-2) @ Jacksonville

Ryan: The Jaguars have won four out of five games, which is unfathomable considering they were headed down the path of historical putridity right before that. It’s been truly astonishing. Jacksonville covers.

Asif: Yucky. Buffalo covers.

New England (-2.5) @ Miami

Ryan: For the first time in awhile, I eschewed the Red Zone Channel last Sunday and went out to a bar with four screens. I had it perfect, getting there about 15 minutes before kickoff and monopolizing the screens with the best games. As I told my friend Matt, the worst case scenario in this equation is some Browns fan who comes in the middle of the second quarter — always alone — and asks for his game. And of course it fucking happened.

The guy then had the audacity to LEAVE when Cleveland was leading New England in the fourth quarter. Even if he rightfully sensed the Browns’ impending doom, arriving late and leaving early — and messing up my flow — was wholly unacceptable.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that it hasn’t happened, but I still haven’t seen anyone write anything really dumb about the Dolphins overcoming the adversity they caused for themselves. Let’s give it one more win. Miami covers.

Asif: It’s pretty amazing that the Pats are still in position to potentially grab a first round bye. When you consider that they’ve lost their two best defensive players for the season and only had their receiving corps together for a couple weeks, their record is a lot more impressive than it appears at first blush. New England covers.

Philadelphia (-4.5) @ Minnesota

Ryan: I had a five-day stretch this week where I ordered chicken shawarma three times. It’s been really cold outside. Anyways, there are few greater feelings in life than the moment where you remember that you have leftovers in the fridge. Since I work from home and have no respect for the traditional order of meals, this inevitably means I’m in for a phenomenal breakfast with minimal effort. It’s glorious.

The Eagles have won five in a row and they aren’t getting the respect they deserve. Philly covers.

Asif: Nick Foles is the best quarterback in the NFL. Philly covers.

Ryan: Stop that, no he’s not. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers are still definitely better.

NY Jets @ Carolina (-11)

Ryan: Gwen Knapp did a great job over at Sports on Earth describing why Cam Newton’s supposed redemption is sorta a false narrative:

Any connection between Newton’s lack of sulking and the flipped record amounts to classic chicken-egg theory. There isn’t even compelling evidence that the visible attitude shift improved him as a quarterback. The separation between his immature and mature models represents a natural improvement for any player over three years more than it suggests a diva downgrade. In the realm of advanced stats, his Rate+ makes the case with almost comical precision. Rate+ measures each quarterback’s passing stats against the league average, and it shows that Newton went from 100 (or the league average) as a rookie to 101 as a second-year player and 102 now.

The widely held notion that he endured a sophomore slump last year is not borne out very heartily by the statistics. He had a better passer rating in 2012 than 2011 (86.2 vs. 84.5), averaged more yards per attempt in his second year (8.0 vs. 7.8) and threw five fewer interceptions (12 vs. 17). He fumbled more in 2012 (10 times vs. 5) and scored fewer rushing touchdowns (8, down from 14), but he ran for slightly more yardage as a slumper than as a rookie (741 vs. 706). In this, the year of ostensible redemption, he is on a pace to throw and run for fewer yards than he did in the two previous ones.

In reality, as I wrote a few weeks ago and Knapp expands upon, the biggest difference for the Panthers this season has been their stout defense. Carolina covers.

Asif: The Jets are the least fun team to watch in the NFL, unless you like horrible battles of attrition marred by terrible QB play. Carolina covers.

Kansas City (-4) @ Oakland

Ryan: Feels like stealing. Chiefs cover.

Asif: This makes no sense. KC covers.

Green Bay @ Dallas (-7)

Ryan: Rodgers is out, and I don’t really feel like talking about this game too much so I’m gonna discuss the idea of having a “strike zone” in football. When you see Randall Cobb and Rob Gronkowski go down after taking a helmet to the kneecap, it’s horrifying. But, that is really the only way to get Gronk down when he has momentum, so I’m not exactly sure what the defender is supposed to do, especially when he knows a five-figure fine is coming his way.

I think if there is some sort of torso strike zone in the NFL, it’d only be fair if defensive backs were allowed to bump receivers all the way down the field until the ball is in the air. (Whitlock talked about this idea more in-depth a few weeks ago.)

Cowboys cover.

Asif: Goddamn it, just play Rodgers so that I can avoid elimination in fantasy football. Dallas covers.

Cincinnati (-3) @ Pittsburgh

Ryan: What Asif’s about to say. Cincy covers.

Asif: One of these teams is good, the other is not. Bengals cover.

Baltimore @ Detroit (-6)

Ryan: I’m not exactly sure why the Lions are favored by this many points. The Ravens have won three in a row and, as a reader pointed out to me, would have a top-5 defense if not for their Week 1 debacle against the Broncos. But, I’m still not picking them — 1) I’ve had remarkable success in these picks going entirely against my instinct, and 2) I’m picking the Lions every week from here on out as an emotional hedge. Detroit covers.

Asif: Megatron gonna show them the old man strength. Detroit covers.

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