2018 NFL Week 15 Picks & Previews: Locking Up a Playoff Spot

Welcome to my Week 15 NFL Picks and Previews.  Last week was a rough week, as I went 6-10, putting my overall record at 115-92-2 (117-93-2 including TNF and Saturday).  I am still only ahead of 1 expert (Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports). This week, many teams have a chance to lock up playoff spots, but will all of the current contenders keep rolling this week, or will some fall behind as other teams rise?  The Patriots take on the Steelers, and the Saints play the Panthers in Carolina, so there’s bound to be a couple teams knocked out of contention.  Pittsburgh, who’s already just 7-5-1, faces not only New England but also the Saints on their remaining schedule.  This could open the door for the Ravens and Browns in the AFC North.  Keep reading to find out what I think, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

The Redskins won’t be able to do much offensively with Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson as their QBs.  The Jags may have struggled this season, but their defense is still easily top 10 in the NFL. This will open the door for young QB Cody Kessler and the Jaguars to put up a strong offensive game in a blowout win.  The Redskins defense will lack motivation considering how badly the offense is doing, allowing Kessler to toss multiple TD and the Jacksonville run game to dominate.

Upset of the Week

Seattle has been strong at home this season with a 5-2 record.  But on the road, they are a measly 3-3. We’ve seen what Niners QB Nick Mullens is capable of.  Against an inexperienced Seahawks defense, I could see Mullens having a big game and leading San Francisco to pull off an upset.  The Niners run game will struggle though, since RB Matt Breida is not 100%.  Seattle should have a decent game offensively, but they won’t be able to compete with Mullens’ dominance, and QB Russell Wilson will struggle to connect with any WR who isn’t named Tyler Lockett.  Mullens will prove that although he’s not the future of the Niners, he is a capable QB who can handle the weaker defenses in the league with ease.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 29-28 Chargers)

Look for QB Philip Rivers and his receivers to lead the Chargers past the weak Kansas City defense in a close, overtime game.  The Chiefs should also look very strong on offense, but they won’t be up to full speed without RB Kareem Hunt and WR Sammy Watkins.  This and the defensive struggles will cost the Chiefs late in the game.
Saturday, 4:30 PM EST (Posted to Twitter Saturday; Actual Score: 29-22 Texans)

Expect QB Sam Darnold and the Jets to put up a relatively strong game, even against the tough Houston defense.  But QB Deshaun Watson and the Texans will get by as the Jets are still held under 20. The return of RB Dont’a Foreman will boost the Texans’ offensive performance in the road victory.
Saturday, 8:20 PM EST (Posted to Twitter Saturday; Actual Score: 17-16 Browns)

Look for the Broncos to win at home in a low scoring game.  The Browns will struggle against a tough Broncos defense in Denver despite a stronger offensive season.  The strong defense as well as a big game from the Broncos RBs will lead the Broncos in their victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Led by the WR duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, expect the Vikings to secure a victory at home after losing 2 in a row.  The Vikes defense will help their case as well, but the Dolphins will make this closer than you think.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Josh Allen to lead the Bills to a home victory, taking advantage of his running abilities with RB LeSean McCoy out and RB Chris Ivory banged-up.  The Lions will look better offensively than they have been lately, but the Bills defense will prevent Detroit from providing a serious challenge.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Lamar Jackson will prove himself as Baltimore’s starting QB here, leading the Ravens to victory at home.  The Ravens D will also have a strong game, holding Tampa under 15. The Bucs offense will lack the energy it usually has in the loss, making the Ravens D’s job easier.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Jeff Driskel and his offense to outperform their expectations against the young Oakland defense.  Cincy’s run game will help, as Joe Mixon has 100+ yards rushing. But Driskel will still throw multiple TDs in the victory.  Meanwhile, Oakland will be held to just 1 TD, as QB Derek Carr has a hard time relying on his WRs, instead relying on TE Jared Cook.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Marcus Mariota should be able to find his receivers despite lacking WR depth, as the Giants defense struggles to contain Mariota’s receivers without S Landon Collins (injured) and CB Eli Apple (traded).  The Giants will fall short as the defense struggles and QB Eli Manning throws throws more picks than he throws TDs.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Colts offense should be alright against the young Dallas D.  However, QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will continue to dominate against the weak Colts defense.  Strong games by WR Amari Cooper and RB Ezekiel Elliott will lead them to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for DE Khalil Mack and the Bears defense to dominate against a Packers team that lacks talent outside of QB Aaron Rodgers.  This will allow QB Mitch Trubisky and the Bears to thrive, winning easily with the help of a strong game by their RB duo.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Matt Ryan and his receivers to dominate against the struggling Arizona defense.  The Cardinals will also put up an underwhelming performance on offense, as QB Josh Rosen struggles to find his receivers without WR Christian Kirk, even against the weak Falcons D.  The Cardinals will fall short after Atlanta’s much better offensive game.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Check back closer to kickoff for a video preview!

The Pats will get by in Pittsburgh, but QB Tom Brady will still struggle to connect with his receivers on the road.  The Steelers offense will struggle as well and their run game won’t be able to do much of anything without RB James Conner.  
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

QB Jared Goff and the Rams will look good against the depleted Eagles defense, even if they aren’t at their best.  But it’s LA’s defense that will lead the Rams to victory. The Rams defense will shut down a Philly offense that can be explosive at times.
Monday, 8:15 PM EST

The Saints should be able to get by on the road, even against Carolina.  New Orleans will not be at full strength in their third straight road game, especially after losing their momentum in an all out embarrassing loss to Dallas.  The Panthers defense will hold them back, but QB Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas will lead the Saints to victory. QB Cam Newton and his offense will make it close in primetime, but it will not be enough.

That’s all for this week.  Stay tuned for more posts soon.

 

2018 NFL Week 9 Picks & Previews: Contenders Keep Going with Close Wins

Welcome to my Week 9 NFL Picks & Previews.  Last week I went 7-7, putting my overall record at 68-51-2 (69-51-2 including Week 9 TNF).  I am ahead of 3 ESPN experts and 1 CBS Sports expert.  Look for a lot of the borderline contenders to prove themselves this week with important wins.  I think the Ravens will shut down the Steelers for the 2nd time this year, the Vikings will silence the Lions, and the Chargers will dominate the 4-3 Seahawks coming off the bye week.  The Chargers had put a 4-game win streak together prior to the bye.  Although some of these contenders will win, some will be upset. Who will fall in a shocking upset?  Who will remain elite?  Keep reading to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week

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Expect LA’s explosive offense to embarrass the young Seattle D in a blowout.  With WR Brandon Marshall a free agent, QB Russell Wilson will also struggle to find reliable open men.  Meanwhile, QB Philip Rivers will lead the Chargers to a blowout victory with 4+ TD.  

Upset of the Week

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I don’t think WR Amari Cooper will make much of a difference for QB Dak Prescott and the troubled Dallas pass offense.  Their big week against Jacksonville is a sign of big things to come, but it won’t happen this week as Tennessee’s secondary steps it up.  The Titans will bounce back from a rough October with a triumphant Monday Night victory coming off the bye as they shock the Cowboys in their first home loss of the season.  

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday Night; Actual Score: 34-3 49ers)

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Even with their third-string QB starting, I think this young 49ers offense can put together a big game considering how bad the Oakland D has been without DE Khalil Mack.  Oakland’s season will begin to fall apart despite looking okay on offense.  I don’t think they will win many more games with RB Marshawn Lynch out and WR Amari Cooper gone.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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QB Brock Osweiler somehow led for the Dolphins to victory in Week 7.  But I don’t see him winning against the Jets elite secondary.  Expect multiple interceptions here, even on Osweiler’s home turf.  QB Sam Darnold will step it up to secure a Jets victory on the road.  QB Ryan Tannehill spoiled New York’s home opener.  Darnold will look for revenge with Tannehill injured for the third straight game.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Look for Chicago’s defense to lead them to victory against another banged-up AFC East team in the Bills.  Buffalo will have to settle for Nathan Peterman at QB, although they did add another weapon in Terrelle Pryor Jr. for him.  I think Peterman will look better than usual and make this close, but there’s no way he leads the Bills to victory against this Bears defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Pittsburgh was starting to look alright without RB Le’Veon Bell.  But there’s no way they get past this versatile Ravens run defense without their star running back.  This will make it hard for Pittsburgh to outscore Baltimore.  I don’t see the Steelers defense performing any better than usual against this deep Ravens receiving corps.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Against a rebuilding Browns defense, QB Patrick Mahomes II should be dominant as usual.  I could even see him throwing 4 TD in this game. The Chiefs defense will slip a little against QB Baker Mayfield and an improved Cleveland offense, but Mahomes’ field day will be enough for them here.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Look for the Redskins to play complimentary football here in an all-around strong game.  They will utilize their versatile roster as they win at home. Atlanta’s washed-up defense will also struggle to contain QB Alex Smith’s deep receiving corps.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Look for serious regression from Detroit’s offense as they face one of the league’s best defenses without WR Golden Tate.  I have the Vikes holding them under 10 here. QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers won’t look much better, but they should manage to get by.  Don’t expect many more losses by the Vikes either. With RB Dalvin Cook healthy, things should be smooth sailing.  They’ve really only had one concerning loss this whole season.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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QB Cam Newton and the Panthers offense should ride the momentum they gathered in Week 8 to beat the Bucs in Carolina.  They should not be concerned about facing a Buccaneers D that has struggled all season. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will not be enough to lead Tampa to victory here as Carolina shuts down Tampa’s run game.  That puts a lot of pressure on Fitzpatrick, which could cause him to struggle.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

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Houston will struggle offensively, as WR Demaryius Thomas doesn’t provide much of an upgrade over WR Will Fuller.  Plus, Denver’s secondary knows Thomas very well and will be able to shut him down. The Broncos will edge out a victory in a low scoring game as WR Courtland Sutton steps it up with Thomas flipping sides.  Don’t expect much scoring though. This is a battle of two of the AFC’s best defenses.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

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The Rams will stay undefeated with a road win over New Orleans.  Their elite defense will come ready to shut down QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara and the Saints offense.  Even with WR Cooper Kupp back, the Rams won’t be at full speed on offense. But they should get past the Saints thanks to elite defense and a last minute, victory-securing TD.  
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

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If RB Sony Michel and TE Rob Gronkowski are healthy, this will be a blowout.  Otherwise, it could be close.  QB Aaron Rodgers will struggle to find open men here, as the Patriots secondary will keep Rodgers’ small number of dependable receivers well covered.  The Pats offense will be back to dominance if they have Gronk and Michel.  But after New England’s hiccup without them last week, I don’t think the offense would be the same without them.  I think they will be able to play, but I’m not an injury expert. Either way, New England should win and remain undefeated at home.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for more NFL posts soon, including my mid-season report (I usually post it after Week 8, but have delayed it until after Week 9 to the chaotic playoff picture we have right now).  Hopefully, Week 9 will settle some things.

2018 NFL Week 8 Picks & Previews: Could be Exciting Sunday with Many Close Games

Welcome to my NFL Week 8 Picks and Previews.  Last week I went 8-6, putting my overall record at 61-44-2 (62-44-2 including Week 8 TNF).  I’m hoping for at least 9 or 10 wins this week to get ahead of the ESPN and CBS Sports experts I am trying to compete with.  I am ahead of just 1 expert from each website.  This week, expect a lot of close, exciting games.  Even Vegas is predicting this, as many of their NFL point spreads this week are under 4.  But with lots of close games comes lots of surprises.  Who will pull a shocking upset?  Who will stand strong and win as expected?  Read below to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week (MNF)

Stay tuned for a potential video preview closer to the game!

There are not many locks this week, but the Patriots should be able to take down the QB Josh Allen-less Bills with ease.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in Buffalo, and it doesn’t matter that it’s Monday Night Football.  Expect QB Tom Brady and the Pats to dominate here, taking an early lead and running with it.  The Patriots defense isn’t going to go from shaky to shut down in a week, but it should hold a struggling, banged-up Bills offense to 20 or less points. One thing this offense does have on the New England is a strong run game.  New England has continued to struggle against strong run games this year.  But I don’t expect much else from the Bills offense, and the Pats should end up winning by 10 or more.

Upset of the Week

This would be a shocker given Kansas City’s performance in Denver and Denver’s tendency to perform far better at home.  But it’s hard to beat the same team twice, especially when they are riding the momentum of a 45-10 victory including a spectacular defensive game.  I understand that it was the Cardinals, but momentum is momentum. Thanks to this momentum, I think Denver’s D will do surprisingly well in stopping Kansas City’s dominant offense.  This all-offense Chiefs team will struggle against a Broncos offense that has improved from 2017. TE Travis Kelce will catch Kansas City’s lone TD as the rest of the offense is overwhelmed by the Denver D in an upsetting loss.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night)

Expect a low scoring game as the Texans shut down defense overwhelms QB Brock Osweiler and the young Miami pass offense.  Expect the Dolphins backfield to struggle as well, with Houston’s defense holding them under 50 yards combined. I don’t see the Texans dominating on offense, but it will be enough thanks to a strong game by WR DeAndre Hopkins and the front seven’s performance.
Sunday, 9:30 AM EST (Posted to Twitter before the game)

I don’t think Jacksonville’s defense will look as sharp as usual in London, especially after 4 Jaguars defenders were arrested last night.  But they will improve from the surprising struggles of the last couple weeks.  Look for QB Blake Bortles to regroup and rebound after being replaced last week, leading the Jags to a surprising London victory.  But Philly should keep it close with strong run defense against the troubled Jags run game.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

In this battle of two of the league’s rising defenses, don’t expect much from either young QB.  QB Mitch Trubisky and his receivers will put up a dud against New York’s amazing secondary. But the Jets offense won’t be looking any better with RB Bilal Powell and most of their best receivers hurt.  Chicago’s defense should come up clutch, holding the Jets under 10 and saving Chicago the game.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Browns tied the Steelers in Cleveland, but don’t expect as close a game in Pittsburgh.  The Steelers will make up for RB Le’Veon Bell’s continued absence with a dominant day by WRs Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.  Pittsburgh’s D should also appear surprisingly better, holding the Browns young offense under 20.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Jameis Winston and his TE duo to lead Tampa to victory against a Bengals defense left with holes after losses in free agency.  QB Andy Dalton and his receivers should make this close, but the defensive problems will begin to stab them in the back. The Bucs will win on the road thanks to another big day on offense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a strong game out of QB Cam Newton and the Panthers offense.  But the Ravens versatile defense should slow them down significantly.  However, Baltimore’s receivers will still struggle to keep up as Newton’s multi-TD game is enough to lead Carolina to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

 

I know most people would call me crazy for expecting 34 points out of the Giants.  But this is a team that beat the 5-3 Houston Texans.  I don’t think the G-Men are really as bad as they seem.  Even the GM has given up.  But I think the Giants will turn it around and win a few games before the season ends.  They have a talented, star-studded offense.  All they need is a QB who can manage that.  If QB Eli Manning cannot, maybe another QB on the roster is the answer.  WR Odell Beckham Jr. will be kept busy against CB Josh Norman, but you can expect strong games out of RB Saquon Barkley and New York’s other offensive weapons. The Redskins will make this close with a clutch offensive performance, but I have them falling just short.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Matt Patricia’s Lions to win another one on home turf as they begin to look like legitimate contenders.  The Seahawks should be able to overwhelm the Lions D, one of Detroit’s biggest flaws this year.  But QB Matthew Stafford’s 3 TD game should be enough for a Lions home victory.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

The Colts should make this close with a surprisingly strong offensive performance led by QB Andrew Luck and WR T.Y. Hilton.  They will take advantage of a weak, rebuilding Raiders D.  But expect Oakland to shine on offense against Indy, who has one of the worst defenses in the league.  It doesn’t matter if WR Amari Cooper is here or not. The Raiders will miss Cooper and injured RB Marshawn Lynch, but should still manage to win. If they can beat the Browns in Oakland, they can do the same to Indy.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST
I was tempted to pick the Packers in an upset as the Rams offense struggles without injured WR Cooper Kupp.  But this versatile Rams defense is just too good to allow 20+ points to a Packers offense that lacks WR depth despite an amazing QB in Aaron Rodgers.  Defense will win the Rams this game as they remain undefeated.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Arizona’s only win so far this year was in San Francisco.  I think they can beat the QB Jimmy Garoppolo-less 49ers again in Arizona.  They will be led by strong games out of young QB Josh Rosen and RB David Johnson.  The Niners should look decent on offense and make this close.  But I think the Cardinals will hold on on home turf.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

 

I think Minnesota’s offense will be slowed by a young Saints D that just added CB Eli Apple.  But the Vikings defense should look even better, holding the Saints under 20 points and to just 1 TD.  This shut down defensive performance should lead the Vikes to victory.

That’s all for my picks and previews this week.  Stay tuned for more NFL posts soon, including my midseason report next week.