The National Football Post’s Matt Bowen picks every game on the Week 15 NFL schedule.
Dallas (8-5) at New Orleans (13-0)
Current Line: Saints -7
Can anyone beat the Saints at home? Wade Phillips and the Cowboys think so, but they need to be more efficient on offense. Two weeks ago, Tony Romo threw 55 passes in a loss to the Giants. And last week, it was the goal line disaster in which Marion Barber was stopped on four straight runs. The Cowboys should look to take advantage of a Saints secondary that struggles when Gregg Williams sends his pressure packages, but even then, can Romo outscore Drew Brees—in the Dome? I don’t see it, and the month of December has nothing to do with it. In my mind, the Saints are just a better football team than the Cowboys.
Saints 31 Cowboys 20
Green Bay (9-4) at Pittsburgh (6-7)
Current Line: Steelers -2
In October, I would have had no issues with picking the Steelers to win, but these two teams are headed in completely different directions in the month of December. In fact, it is the Green Bay defense that I have my eye on in this matchup, and that is something we didn’t expect earlier in the season. But Charles Woodson and the Pack are setting the bar for defense in the NFL right now. They can rush the passer, and they have enough playmakers in the back end to allow defensive coordinator Dom Capers to take risks in his sometimes-exotic blitz package. I will agree that Ben Roethlisberger always gives the Steelers a chance to win because of his ability to create plays from the pocket, but the Packers are too hot for me to pick against them. A FG separates them on the road.
Packers 20 Steelers 17
Miami (7-6) at Tennessee (6-7)
Current Line: Titans -3
The Vince Young injury watch will be big for this game, but I still like the idea of the Dolphins going into Nashville and winning whether we see V.Y. or Kerry Collins under center. Yes, Chris Johnson has the ability to score on any defense, but when you play Miami, how many chances do you get? The Dolphins will continue to run the ball down hill in the off-tackle power game, and the more I watch Chad Henne play QB, the more I believe that this is a playoff team that could pull an upset in January. Chris Johnson plays big, but so does Ricky Williams and Henne. A physical game that the Dolphins take on the road.
Dolphins 24 Titans 22
New England (8-5) at Buffalo (5-8)
Current Line: Pats -7
After a drama-filled early part of the week, the news has settled down coming out of New England as the Pats get ready for another divisional game with the Bills. Playing at The Ralph this time of the year can get dicey when it comes to the weather, but considering how well the Pats ran the ball against Carolina last week, I don’t see why they won’t stick to the same game plan against a Bills defense that is porous up front. Yes, T.O. should be able to separate from a New England secondary that has been mistake prone the last three weeks, but I like the Pats on the road—and I also like Randy Moss to take this Bills secondary deep down the field. It won’t be pretty, but winning right now doesn’t have to be.
Patriots 23 Bills 12
Arizona (8-5) at Detroit (2-11)
Current Line: Cards -12
The Cardinals looked flat and soft against the Niners on Monday night when they turned the ball over seven times and were gashed up front by San Fran RB Frank Gore. But, what do the Lions have to offer this week? They will once again be without QB Matthew Stafford, and I don’t see how the Detroit secondary is going to match up with Warner, Fitzgerald and Boldin. I like the Cards to play well and continue to put points on the board—and I always take Warner’s side when he is playing indoors. Card win—big.
Cards 37 Lions 13
Atlanta (6-7) at NY Jets (7-6)
Current Line: Jets -5
The Falcons played good enough to win last week against the Saints at home, but they still aren’t the same team without Matt Ryan at QB. If Ryan can go, the Falcons can beat the Jets on the road. Even though no one’s talking about Rex Ryan’s Jets, they are quietly back in the playoff hunt because they can do two things very well: play defense and run the football. I don’t see that changing, and even if Ryan is under center for the Falcons, take the Jets to win by running the ball and scoring a late touchdown on the ground to put this one away and go to 8-6.
Jets 19 Falcons 16
Chicago (5-8) at Baltimore (7-6)
Current Line: Ravens -11
A huge spread for this game — most likely the result of the Ravens producing on offense like we saw back in September. But do they do that again against Lovie Smith’s defense in Chicago? I expect the Ravens to take a lot from watching the Bears-Packers tape and continue to expose the Chicago front seven in the running game. Look for Ray Rice to have a 100-yard day and for Jay Cutler and the Bears to once again struggle to put points on the scoreboard. The Bears will hang in this game, but QB Joe Flacco puts them away with a big play in the fourth quarter.
Ravens 23 Bears 10
Cleveland (2-11) at Kansas City (3-10)
Current Line: Chiefs –2
Do I pick the Browns for the first time in 2009? After their performance on defense in the win over Pittsburgh last week, it is hard not to like the Browns against Matt Cassel and the Kansas City offense. I am still not sold on Brady Quinn as the future for the Browns, but if does protect the football again, I am going with the Browns. I see an average day from Quinn and a defense that forces three turnovers for Cleveland. Take the Browns to get their third win of the year.
Browns 23 Chiefs 19
San Francisco (6-7) at Philly (9-4)
Current Line: Eagles –8 ½
I think we all can agree that Mike Singletary’s football team in San Fran is going to play physical up front, and regardless of what we want to believe about QB Alex Smith, this is a team that wins with the running game of Frank Gore. But, if they have to keep pace with McNabb and the big-play Eagles, can they do it? If the Niners force turnovers on defense, they can get out of Philly with a win. But I don’t see it happening. No one is slowing down the Eagles right now and I am taking Philly to win and hold onto first place in the NFC East.
Eagles 30 Niners 17
Houston (6-7) at St. Louis (1-12)
Current Line: Texans –10
We can always count on the Texans to take care of the teams they are supposed to beat, and just as they did last week at home against the Seahawks, look for Houston to score often against the Rams. Outside of Steven Jackson, I can’t find a reason to pick the Rams here in an upset, and I completely expect Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson to light up the St. Louis secondary. Houston needs this game to stay in the wild-card discussion and I think they win big.
Texans 41 Rams 16
Cincinnati (9-4) at San Diego (10-3)
Current Line: Bolts –6 ½
What is the story with Carson Palmer? He says his elbow is good, but his production is telling a different story. I do see the Bengals getting production form RB Cedric Benson, but is that enough to head out west and beat the league’s hottest team? Lots of emotion for this Cincy team this week, but I can’t pick against Philip Rivers right now, who should start hearing his name in the MVP discussion. LT scores twice in the red zone and the Chargers take their ninth straight at home.
Bolts 27 Bengals 19
Oakland (4-9) at Denver (8-5)
Current Line: Broncos -14
With Bruce Gradkowski at QB, I like this Raiders team to compete with anyone. But can Charlie Frye execute the game plan with enough efficiency to win on the road? Any option is better than JaMarcus Russell, but this is a game where the Broncos establish the run game early with Knowshon Moreno and work with the short field that is given to them by Mike Nolan’s defense—the same unit who picked off Peyton Manning three times last week. I am taking Denver to beat Frye and the Raiders.
Broncos 26 Raiders 14
Tampa Bay (1-12) at Seattle (5-8)
Current Line: Seahawks -6 ½
I like Seattle at home because they have the weapons in QB Matt Hasselbeck and options outside the numbers that can take care of a weak Tampa secondary. Although the Seahawks have been a disappointment this season, I don’t see how rookie QB Josh Freeman is going to score enough points to keep the Bucs in the game. Take Seattle to win, and watch another learning experience for Freeman in one of the league’s toughest venues.
Seahawks 24 Bucs 13
Minnesota (11-2) at Carolina (5-8)
Current Line: Vikings –9
I expect the Panthers to follow a basic game plan against Brett Favre by rushing four and dropping seven into coverage, hoping that they can force some turnovers at home. But even then, do they have enough on defense to stop RB Adrian Peterson? Look for Carolina to play a ball-control game on offense, but to compete with Favre, they will have to test an average Minnesota secondary down the field at times to get some points on the board. In saying that, WR Steve Smith must be a big part of the game plan to pull the upset. Does it happen? No, Favre and A.P. are too good for the Panthers under the lights.
Vikings 30 Panthers 17
Monday Night Matchup
NY Giants (7-6) at Washington (4-9)
Current Line: Giants –3
The ‘Skins are dangerous right now because they are balanced on offense and Greg Blache’s defense is getting pressure on the QB. The issue I have with the Giants has always been their defense this season, and after last week, I have no reason to believe that they have enough playmakers in the back end to give Eli Manning and this Giants offense good field position to work with. The ‘Skins have been much better since Clinton Portis went down with an injury, and I think it continues on Monday night. Santana Moss beats the Giants down the field in the fourth quarter as the ‘Skins pull off the upset—and further clouds the NFC wild-card race.
‘Skins 24 Giants 23
Last week vs. the spread: 8-8
Overall vs. the spread: 67-60-3
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