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.

 

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Week 14 Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em: Dominate Your Fantasy Playoffs

Get your team to the next round of the playoffs in no time.  I’ve mentioned below the players I am most confident about starting or letting ride the pine.  My starts and sits are below.
QB
Start
Carson Palmer
Palmer should be able to beat up the Vikings on Thursday Night.  The Vikings rush defense is still figuring itself out, and I saw a blowout coming last Thursday Night.  I would start Palmer any week, he just really stands out this week.  Still a must-start quarterback.  Why would you sit Carson Palmer this season if you have the option?!!
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick has a lock match-up over the Titans, and with the running game a little banged up, and with the Titans beginning to become a little more scary to face again, passing will be key to beat Tennessee.  The main reasons Ryan Fitzpatrick should be started is a) The Tennessee defense still needs lots of work and b) Fitzy might have a QB sneak or two himself to help the running game
Sit
Matt Ryan
The Falcons are just such an “early-season” team, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.  Matt Ryan has had what might be the worst second half of a season in his career. Well, maybe not.  This is how the Falcons typically are, even though last year was the opposite.  But I just can’t trust Matt Ryan anymore, especially when he’s trying to stop the undefeated Panthers on the road!!!  At home it might be different but this is a lock in Carolina’s favor.
Derek Carr
I just don’t trust him and the Raiders against a really good Broncos team.  This is a feast or famine team, a young, still developing quarterback, facing a tough, amazing, unstoppable Denver team.
RB
Start
Chris Ivory
Ivory is one of the only legitimate backs left on the Jets, and this lock match is time for him and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to shine, against a weakling, possibly worst in the league Titans defense.  Prove yourself as a star, Ivory.
Charcandrick West
West has been dealing with injuries, but expect him and backs Spencer Ware and Knile Davis to bounce back versus a practically empty Chargers front seven.  West has looked great in Jamaal Charles’ spot.
Isaiah Crowell
Crowell may not be on the best team but the Niners defense just plain out sucks, and expect Crowell to break free, even if NaVorro Bowman bothers him.  Crowell has emerged into a solid RB1 that could really help the Browns prevent too many struggles down the road, even if they’re long gone this season.
Sit
Latavius Murray
Murray has lived up to feast mode these past couple weeks, but it’s famine’s turn to work its magic on Murray, especially against the amazingly good Denver Broncos, who are very solid and consistent this season, and are also one of the healthiest football teams in the currently banged up NFL that’s missing many of its best superstars, and letting the less noticed guys like Murray get more.  But he’s really not. Guys like Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles and Le’ Veon Bell are.
Danny Woodhead
Woodhead, the team’s passing back has surprisingly led the Chargers horrible running game.  But they’re up against a powerhouse Chiefs rush D that will put full force into stopping Woodhead and fellow teammate Melvin Gordon.
Tevin Coleman
Coleman never fully emerged this season, but showed himself when Devonta Freeman was hurt.  But against this tough Carolina front seven, only Freeman is a good enough Falcons running back to overcome it.  The rest, like Coleman and Terron Ward, likely won’t be able to.
WR
Start
Tavon Austin
Austin had never had a breakout season until lovely old, injury filled, 2015.  This week should be a dominant week for Austin, as he faces a struggling, banged up Lions secondary, who are missing Ezekiel Ansah and Glover Quin, and are left with just James Ihedigbo.  Ihedigbo may bother him, but him and fellow teammate Wes Welker should overcome it.
Willie Snead
Snead and Brandin Cooks have struggled these past couple weeks, but even though the defense will likely blow the game, I think the offense has a chance to make an impact and really show that this team may be done, but if they improve their defense, they could have some serious potential, even with Mark Ingram now on IR.
Anquan Boldin
I know this isn’t necessarily a win for the 49ers, but veteran receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith will not be prevented from having big games against an easy Browns defense.
Sit
Amari Cooper
Cooper is very similar to Latavius Murray.  I would just leave everyone on the Raiders to ride the pine.  It’s famine’s turn to control not just these players, but the faith of the entire Oakland Raiders team.  Last week they fared well, just couldn’t beat the red hot Kansas City Chiefs.
Charles Johnson
Johnson isn’t the WR1 anymore, but he shouldn’t have slipped away from the Cardinals D as easily as Stefon Diggs should’ve.  All these Vikings receivers were not good options, and should be avoided if possible.
Kendall Wright
Wright really just has a bad match-up against one of the best secondaries in the league when it’s healthy, which it now pretty much is.  Wright, along with Delanie Walker, should not expect to have big games today.
TE
Start
Charles Clay
Even though I think the Eagles will hold on in this game, it doesn’t mean Sammy Watkins and Charles Clay can’t take advantage of a weak Eagles secondary.  Clay, the former Dolphin, has been a key weapon for Tyrod Taylor this season.  Clay should overcome a beaten up Eagles secondary that has Nolan Carroll hurt, and despite Byron Maxwell’s presence, him and Watkins can still have big days.
Jared Cook
Like Tavon Austin, Cook has potential to have a breakout day.  The difference is, Cook might do better as long as he’s left unguarded as expected.  Both could make a big impact on your fantasy team’s playoff status.
Sit
Kyle Rudolph
Rudolph has began to bounce back, but the Vikings are just facing such an overpowered defense.  Rudolph still hasn’t fully emerged, and he shouldn’t have a day every week at this stage of his development.  Rudolph still needs to work on his consistency, and that won’t call for a good day in fantasy this week.
Ladarius Green
Green and Antonio Gates are facing a premier defense in the league, and don’t expect them to do much.  The Chargers alone have very low likelihood of winning this game.  If Gates will struggle, Green won’t be any better.  He likely will even do worse than Gates does.
DST
Start
Dolphins
I think Monday Night‘s grudge match will be a game of defense, with the Dolphins having the edge.  Both defenses, the Dolphins and Giants, should keep up the good work, but Miami has the edge, so the Giants won’t score as much, earning Miami some extra points for holding them to a certain amount.
Sit
Steelers
I just think Cincy is too good and I don’t think the Steelers are at any edge in this game.  This game will be such a shootout, even the Bengals defense will be bench-able, let alone the Steelers defense.  I didn’t want to have too little faith in Cincy, or too much in Pittsburgh.
K
Start
Brandon McManus
I’ll tell you right now, Denver will win this game in a blowout, but the defense, at some points, will give Denver a challenge, even if their own defense dominates.  That’s the perfect recipe for a great day from the kicking position.  In Denver’s case, that’s Brandon McManus.  McManus has had a great bounce back season, after being held to just kick offs after losing his job to Connor Barth last season.  He was meaningless in fantasy.  Now he’s back on fantasy owners’ radars.
Sit
Steven Hauschka
In this upset I picked in my picks, the Seahawks are left to rot.  Kicker Steven Hauschka will be held to just one extra point and not do any better.  Horrible situation here for any kicker, even a star like Hauschka.  Kickers are really just based on the match-up.   You have to go week by week with them.

NFL Week 1 Picks: Football Is Back

Football is back and better than ever!  So are my picks.  I’ve included a team of the week guessing segment at the bottom.

Lock Of The Week

Bengals, 30, Raiders, 13

The strong Bengals defense, made up of Vontaze Burfict, AJ Hawk and Geno Atkins has by far enough capability to stop a near last place Raiders offense.  Trent Richardson and Michael Crabtree, the latest additions, will be stopped by their guards most of the game, and Derek Carr will be a clear sack target.  The Raiders offense clearly has a lack of weapons to compare to strong Bengals D-Line and overall defense, ranked 4th overall by my preseason fantasy rankings.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, it may be hard to run for it, with Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck on watch, but Weapons like A.J. Green and young tight end Tyler Eifert.  They’ll be facing a weak Raiders secondary.  So, there isn’t much to explain.  The Bengals are clear winners of this meeting.

Notable Locks

Carolina over Jacksonville

New York Jets over Cleveland

Philadelphia over Atlanta

Upset of the Week

Rams, 24, Seahawks, 23

Although the Seahawks have a leading defense, the loss of superstar safety Kam Chancellor will be a setback on the “12 man team”.  So, the Rams passing game should step it up, even if the best they got is Tavon Austin and Jared Cook.  Austin and Kenny Britt are primed for a breakout with Zac Stacy broken down.  They can partially outsmart the Seahawks secondary, and get at least a few TDs out of it.  Running the ball?  That’ll be tougher, especially with Bobby Wagner and Michael Bennett covering them.  Maybe they can squeeze out a clutch rushing TD, but probably not.

Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson aren’t in a great position either.  Robert Quinn, Alec Ogletree and Aaron Donald should stop them.  Passing?  They can try Jimmy Graham a couple times but he can’t score infinite touchdowns.  The wide receiver options are slim, with Golden Tate and Percy Harvin, 2013’s main targets, elsewhere.  The ‘Hawks are left with Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and rookie Tyler Lockett.  They also have clutch options Ricardo Lockette and Chris Matthews.  The Seahawks are panicking at this point.  Looks like it’s jut an off day for The Legion of Boom.

Notable Upsets

Chicago over Green Bay

Other Games

Patriots, 23, Steelers, 21

Jets, 23, Browns, 7

Dolphins, 24, Redskins, 14

Colts, 30, Bills, 17

Broncos, 31, Ravens, 6

Texans, 30, Chiefs, 14

Buccaneers, 28, Titans, 24

Panthers, 17, Jaguars, 14

Chargers, 20, Lions, 17

Eagles, 37, Falcons, 24,

Cowboys, 27, Giants, 24

Bears, 27, Packers, 26

49ers, 27, Vikings, 20

Saints, 21, Cardinals, 17

Team Of The Week

Clues

  1. The coach coached a playoff team in the 2014 season.
  2. This team has not been above .500 for 2 or more years
  3. An important receiver departed this team this off season
  4. This team is in the NFC
  5. This team was named after the city’s most popular baseball team

What team is it?

Guess in comments.