Week 14 may have been filled with some minor upsets, but luckily for us at mvpsportstalk.com, we actually hit on a couple. Can we have similar success this week? Hopefully; although several of the games may seem pretty easy to predict on the surface, they’re actually much tougher than you’d expect, and there are some huge games on slate for this week. So, who’ll come out on top in Week 15? Let’s predict every game.
TNF: Jets (5-8) at Ravens (11-2)
Spread Pick: BAL (-16.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (45)
Score Prediction: Jets 6 Ravens 34
The Ravens have the #1 seed in the AFC in their sight. All they have to do is win two of their last three games, and the AFC will go through Baltimore, which is where they’ll be as they’ll host the Jets as a three-score favorite. That spread may seem like a lot on the surface, but in reality, the gap between these two teams is more than enough to warrant it. Lamar Jackson may be somewhat limited in this game due to his quadriceps injury, but at the same, he’ll still be able to do enough, and is complemented by a lot of talent around him. Plus, it helps he’s facing a Jets defense that’s depleted without star safety Jamaal Adams, and although he has his moments, there’s no way I’m going to predict that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will have an answer for arguably the league’s most complex offense. Plus, Sam Darnold has really struggled under center for the Jets when he’s under pressure, and the Ravens defense blitzes as frequently as possible. So not only will Darnold be trying to keep up in a hostile environment against a team that’ll control the clock and limits your opportunities, but this Baltimore defense is also primed to take advantage of his mistakes. There’s still enough storylines to make this a very watchable game, but I have no doubt that Baltimore wins this game by at least three scores, if not more.
Seahawks (10-3) at Panthers (5-8)
Spread Pick: SEA (-6)
Over/Under Pick: Under (49)
Score Prediction: Seahawks 30 Panthers 10
It’s that time of the year where we’ll see a lot of playoff teams face off against teams with nothing to play for- we have to take account the motivation and effort-level that each team will demonstrate. No game illustrates that more this Seahawks-Panthers matchup in Carolina; at 10-3, Seattle is still fighting for the NFC West and the #1 seed, while Carolina appears to have given up following the firing of long-time head coach Ron Rivera. Plus, it’s not as though these teams are evenly matched on paper. The Panthers defense has been abysmal as of late, both against explosive passes and against the run. Well, Seattle’s offense is all about rushing the football and taking calculated risks down the field- they should dominate in this game. Then there’s the quarterback mismatch, as Russell Wilson is not only arguably the MVP and best quarterback in football, but he dissects zone coverage (Panthers run a lot of zone), while Kyle Allen has almost twice as many turnover-worthy plays as big-time throws, per Pro Football Focus; Seattle almost seems to have a knack for forcing turnovers and capitalizing on them. Therefore, this isn’t a game that people should overthink- the Seahawks always start out a little slow, but they’re the better team and the motivated team; I expect them to steamroll through this depleted Panthers team.
Patriots (10-3) at Bengals (1-12)
Spread Pick: NE (-10)
Over/Under Pick: Under (41.5)
Score Prediction: Pats 31 Bengals 7
On Monday, it was revealed that the Patriots were under investigation for recording the Bengals’ sideline last week. Whether or not they did so intentionally, this could actually have a very positive effect on New England. After all, they’ve lost two straight, haven’t looked the same, and honestly, could use the extra reason to absolutely demolish a putrid Bengals team. Yes, New England’s offense has struggled in recent weeks, but this is a prime opportunity for them to explode- Cincinnati’s defense is still amongst the league’s worst. And even if said offense can’t improve, it may not even matter, as the Patriots defense may be the league’s best at defending the pass, and I expect that Bill Belichick will take advantage of rookie head coach Zac Taylor’s offense. Similar to the Seahawks-Panthers game, New England winning this game is essentially a lock. The question is, by how much? Given the controversy that has stemmed from their mishap, I’ll go with at least three scores.
Buccaneers (6-7) at Lions (3-9-1)
Spread Pick: TB (-4.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (45.5)
Score Prediction: Bucs 27 Lions 17
Who would’ve thought that the Buccaneers would be one game away from clawing back to .500? They got off to a very rough start to the season, but they’ve been excellent over the past three weeks, showing massive improvements on both sides of the ball. For starters, their passing attack is as dynamic as it gets, and even without Mike Evans, I expect Jameis Winston and co. to be able to stretch the field against Detroit’s lackluster secondary, especially if they utilize a lot of man coverage; Winston also won’t face much pressure from a subpar pass rush. On the other side of the ball, third-string undrafted free agent quarterback David Blough showed his true colors last week, and now with receiver Marvin Jones Jr., I can’t see the Lions keeping up, especially with Tampa Bay’s young defense playing much better- their secondary and pass rush are improving. Plus, Detroit’s offense is centered around Bo Scarborough in the power running game, but the Bucs are built upfront to neutralize that, so there will be pressure on Blough to deliver. You never know what you’re getting from the Bucs, but they seem to have turned a corner in recent weeks, are much more efficient on early downs, clearly are heading in a different direction that Detroit- they’ll win this game pretty handily.
Bears (7-6) at Packers (10-3)
Spread Pick: GB (-4)
Over/Under Pick: Over (40.5)
Score Prediction: Bears 20 Packers 27
When the Packers and Bears met up in the first game of the season, it was anticipated that it would be the first of two matchups that could decide the NFC North. Chicago hasn’t completely met their end of the bargain – they won’t win this division – but nevertheless, their recent three-game win streak has them looking more like the team they were last year- this is suddenly an exciting rivalry game. Heck, many are picking Chicago to win this game outright, which would’ve seemed unimaginable just a couple weeks ago. I’m not going to go that far, as even though I acknowledge this will be a hard-fought matchup, the Bears’ success may be overblown- though the Cowboys are better than their record would indicate, each of their last three wins has come against teams with a losing record. Chicago’s offense has improved, but a lot of that has come off of scripted plays, and facing a far better pass rush, I can see Mitch Trubisky regressing in this game. Additionally, the Bears defense has quietly been very beatable this season, so they’ll have to rely on Trubisky to come through on the road- not a great strategy. Then, there’s the main reason I like Green Bay in this game- they are one of the fastest starting teams, while Chicago is one of the slowest starting teams. If the Packers can get out to an early lead, that’ll allow their pass rush to thrive while Trubisky will be forced to play out of structure, and if that happens, this could get out of hand for the Bears. So, while Chicago has been playing better, I’m still not buying them as a team ready to go into Lambeau and win this game- they’ll be competitive, but fall just short to their rivals.
Broncos (5-8) at Chiefs (9-4)
Spread Pick: DEN (+10)
Over/Under Pick: Over (45)
Score Prediction: Broncos 23 Chiefs 31
At this point, we no longer how to preach how the Broncos’ record doesn’t properly represent them- they’ve lost five one-score games, and three games at the final minute. As a result, they’ve thrived as an under-the-radar underdog this season, as seen in their blowout victory in Houston last week. Will they have the same success this week in Kansas City? Not exactly; although I think they’ll be able to cover the spread as a ten-point underdog, I can’t seem them actually winning this game. There are some advantages Denver has, including their rushing attack versus the Chiefs’ run defense, that should keep this game close, but still, Kansas City has to win this game, right? Denver’s pass defense has overachieved, but they still don’t have much of a pass rush and are thin at cornerback, which isn’t exactly ideal facing the Chiefs’ abundance of playmakers. Plus, this is a very hostile environment, and although it’ll be a homecoming for Drew Lock, you have to wonder how he’ll handle these circumstances, especially if he’s put under a lot of pressure to match Mahomes in a shootout. This should be a tighter game than expected, but in the end, Kansas City is just the more talented team, and will win their fourth straight to advance to 10-4.
Dolphins (3-10) at Giants (2-11)
Spread Pick: MIA (+3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (46)
Score Prediction: Dolphins 17 Giants 20
Why should anyone want to watch this Dolphins-Giants matchup, where the two teams have a combined record of 5-21? Well, there are actually a couple key storylines. For starters, this is technically a “tank bowl”, as the winner of this game may cost themselves a chance to land the #2 pick, which could land them star edge rusher Chase Young. As to what actually concerns this game, this also could be Eli Manning’s last ever home start, and depending on Daniel Jones’ health status, this could also be his last start as a Giant. Therefore, I expect New York to play with some motivation for once; I don’t buy the myth that’s spreading that Miami will be only team playing with any sort of edge. Manning is in a prime opportunity to go out on top, as he’ll face one of, if not the worst pass defenses in the NFL, who also cannot stop the run- this could be running back Saquon Barkley’s breakout game, which could make Manning’s job even easier. As for the other side of the ball, I’m a little worried that the Giants’ talent-deficient secondary will be exposed by a Dolphins offense that passes at an extremely high frequency, but there is one thing working in New York’s favor- their defensive line is extremely strong, and should be able to dominate against undoubtedly the league’s worst offensive line- the Giants may finally force some pressure. I think this game will come down to the wire – potentially a last-second field goal – but still, the Giants have to win at some point, right? What better time to do so than in what could be Manning’s last home start?
Texans (8-5) at Titans (8-5)
Spread Pick: TEN (-3)
Over/Under Pick: Over (51.5)
Score Prediction: Texans 27 Titans 31
Who would’ve thought that the most important game this week would be an AFC South battle between the Texans and Titans? After all, the winner of this game takes control of the division (at least until they play again in Week 17), so as far as playoff implications are concerned, both of these teams have a lot at stake. So, who will win this critical affair? It should be close and very high-scoring, but I’ll lean with the home team. Tennesee is 6-1 since turning to Ryan Tannehill, and although some of his success is due to playing poor defenses, that’s exactly what the Texans are. They have zero pass rush whatsoever, and to make matters worse for them, they allow a lot of explosive plays, which is where a lot of the Titans’ success has come from. Plus, even though they had an impressive win against the Patriots, Houston hasn’t been the same since their bye, and if I were to trust either team to get a stop in a shootout, it’s Tennesee’s defense. This is a game that could go either way, but because of that, I’ll take the better team, who also happens to be at home.
Eagles (6-7) at Redskins (3-9)
Spread Pick: WSH (+6.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (39)
Score Prediction: Eagles 24 Redskins 20
Are the Eagles too depleted at the moment? That’s a very significant question that needs to be answered- Philadelphia only had one active receiver at the end of their tight win against the Giants, and will be without right tackle Lane Johnson, receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor, and edge rusher Derek Barnett. Because of that, they must be on upset alert against a somewhat competitive Redskins team, especially on the road in a divisional matchup. However, how can they not win this game? This is one that they have to win, so I wouldn’t consider this a trap game. Yes, they’ll have to find a better gameplan than screen passes against Washington’s defense, which is one of the best at defending running back passes, but between tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, and a strong rushing attack (Carson Wentz is no slouch under center), they should be able to manufacture enough offensive production to not have this be a defensive slugfest. Plus, although said defense may not have an answer for rookie receiver Terry McLaurin, they do have a very defensive line, which will not only hurt the Redskins’ run-first offense, but will also generate a lot of pressure on Dwayne Haskins; Haskins has just a 32.7 passer rating when under pressure, per Pro Football Focus, so this isn’t a good matchup for them. I could definitely see the Redskins pulling off an upset this week, but I expect the team who’s much better on early downs and needs this game more to win, and that’s the Eagles, no matter how many injuries they have.
Browns (6-7) at Cardinals (3-9-1)
Spread Pick: CLE (-3)
Over/Under Pick: Over (49)
Score Prediction: Browns 31 Cardinals 20
Traditionally, a battle between two teams with a combined 9-16-1 record wouldn’t be a very exciting game. However, this Browns-Cardinals matchup is different- it features the last two number one overall picks, who were also former teammates. All eyes will be on Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray when they face off in Arizona, and honestly, the better quarterback should win this game- both of these defenses are well below average units, so this should be a shootout. Still, Cleveland appears to have the upper hand. For all their faults, they’re still the more talented team on both sides of the ball. Arizona’s defense may be the league’s worst with a secondary that can’t stop anyone, and although the Browns offense is a little unorganized, they are very explosive, and the Cardinals really struggle to defend explosive passes. Plus, Cleveland is also much more efficient on early downs, which is a great indicator for winning games, and in a game that was pretty much a toss-up for me, that’s a true deciding factor. I wouldn’t be surprised if Arizona wins this game, considering it’s their last true winnable game, but still, there’s too much working in the Browns favor for me to not pick them.
Jaguars (4-9) at Raiders (6-7)
Spread Pick: OAK (-6.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (46.5)
Score Prediction: Jags 13 Raiders 31
We thought that the Raiders may have played in their final game in Oakland last season when they beat the Broncos on Monday Night Football, but as it turned out, they remained where they were for one final year. However, with them moving to Las Vegas, this will be their final home game in front of their loyal fans- the environment will be epic. In fact, considering how much Oakland rallies around their fans, I can’t see them disappointing in any way, especially against a team that’s lost by three scores in each of their last five games. The Jaguars are an absolute mess, and have seemed to quit on head coach Doug Marrone. That’s especially true with their defense, which is utterly terrible in all facets, including coverage, run defense, and tackling. Well, Derek Carr may not be an aggressive quarterback, but if he can get the ball to his top playmakers, there’s a lot of run after catch ability, and that’s without mentioning they success the Raiders should have on the ground- they’ll put up 30 points in this game. As for the other side of the ball, Gardner Minshew doesn’t appear to be the answer under center for Jacksonville, and now, he’ll be without his top receiver in DJ Chark Jr.- they are no avenues for the Jags offense to score in this game, even against a very subpar defense. Therefore, we have all the makings of a blowout, which we should all be okay with- the fans deserve to see their team go out on top.
Vikings (9-4) at Chargers (5-8)
Spread Pick: MIN (-1.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under/PUSH (45.5)
Score Prediction: Vikings 28 Chargers 17
Should the Vikings be on trap-game alert in Los Angeles? They’re a better team than the Chargers, but the gap is nowhere near as severe as the records would indicate, and it with the Packers coming to town next week, there’s a chance they overlook the Chargers. However, at the same time, Minnesota is a game back of Green Bay without the tiebreaker, so they need to win this game- I don’t expect motivation to be an issue. Plus, although Los Angeles is closer to a 8-5 team than a 5-8 team, they do have their flaws, which coincide with the Vikings’ strengths. Minnesota has one of the better edge rush duos with Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, and now, they’ll get to go up against one of the worst pass-blocking offensive lines in the NFL; Phillip Rivers generally struggles when under pressure, and is very turnover-prone. On the other side of the ball, the Vikings love to run the football, and although they afford to pass the ball more often, this is a good fit for running back Dalvin Cook- the Chargers’ run defense is very weak, and they’re not a very sound tackling team. Obviously, there’s a chance that Rivers is outstanding against a mediocre secondary, and Kirk Cousins struggles against a strong pass rush. However, that’s unlikely given the state of these two teams right now, so although I’m not confident in them, I’ll take the Vikings to get their 10th win of the season.
Rams (8-5) at Cowboys (6-7)
Spread Pick: LAR (-1)
Over/Under Pick: Over (48.5)
Score Prediction: Rams 34 Cowboys 31
How much has the public given up on the Cowboys? Well, according to Action Network, an absurd 83% of the bets in this game are on the Rams as a road favorite. Usually, such a huge gap in those numbers doesn’t work out for the majority, but in this case, their lack of faith in Dallas is warranted- the Rams should win this game. For all the talk about Los Angeles being a disappointment, they’re 8-5 and one of the top teams in football. Plus, they’re extremely well-coached, and it’s no secret that Sean McVay has tormented the Cowboys’ defense in the past; the Rams averaged 32.5 points in two matchups against Dallas. Therefore, I expect Jared Goff to tear up a defense that’s made Mitchell Trubisky and Josh Allen look like superstars, and the same goes for Los Angeles’ rushing attack- everything should be working for the Rams offensively in this game. That means that this could turn into a high-scoring affair, and if there’s a team that’s going to get a critical stop, it’s Los Angeles’ defense, which is one of the best in the league; if corner Jalen Ramsey can take star receiver Amari Cooper out of this game, this could get rocky in a hurry for Dallas. I expect this to be a very entertaining battle that comes down to the wire, but it’s impossible to trust the Cowboys right now- the Rams should keep their playoff hopes alive with a huge road victory.
Falcons (4-9) at 49ers (11-2)
Spread Pick: SF (-10)
Over/Under Pick: Under (48.5)
Score Prediction: Falcons 0 49ers 38
In Week 15 of 2016, a very strong Falcons team, with Kyle Shanahan calling the shots on offense, blew out a struggling 49ers team. Three years later, we should get the same result, albeit in opposite fashion. Shanahan is now the head coach of the 49ers, and man, is he doing a fabulous job- this offense is being schemed to perfection right now, and just dropped 48 points in New Orleans. Now, they get to face an Atlanta defense that had been improving, but now will be without star corner Desmond Trufant; Jimmy Garoppolo should have another dominant performance this week. On the other side of the ball, Matt Ryan has been obliterated by good pass rushes all season long, and now, he’ll face a vaunted 49ers pass rush without receiver Calvin Ridley. In other words, this could get out of hand early for Atlanta, who despite some of their individual talent, do not stand a chance of keeping this game competitive at all- consider this a tune-up game for the 49ers before they take on the Rams and Seahawks to close their season.
SNF: Bills (9-4) at Steelers (8-5)
Spread Pick: BUF (-1)
Over/Under Pick: Under (37)
Score Prediction: Bills 13 Steelers 10
Brace yourselves for an absolute slugfest- the Bills and Steelers will fight for the playoff lives in Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football. Who’ll win this game? Honestly, I don’t have a clue. However, what I do know is that this will be a defensive battle; these are two of the best defenses in the NFL, yet two of the worst offenses. That means that this will come down to who can generate the one big play or the one defensive score that can win this game- this will be a game decided in very minor details. Because of that, I’ll take the Bills. Buffalo is a very disciplined team that is built to win these types of close, low-scoring affairs, and as they showed in Dallas on Thanksgiving, they’re aren’t afraid of the spotlight. There’s also more upside with their offense, whereas Devlin Hodges could be bound to struggle against one of the best secondaries in the NFL; not having top receiver Juju Smith-Schuster will hurt. The Bills just seem like a better team, and maybe it’s a hunch, but they feel like the type of team that can keep their composure in a hostile environment. Therefore, I’ll reluctantly pick them to win this game.
MNF: Colts (6-7) at Saints (10-3)
Spread Pick: IND (+9)
Over/Under Pick: Under/PUSH (47.5)
Score Prediction: Colts 30 Saints 17
After a devastating loss to the 49ers, the Saints will be looking rebound on Monday Night Football as they host the Colts, who are also coming off of a tough loss in Tampa. Therefore, both teams should be highly-incentivized to give it their all in this game, but still, I’ll take Indianapolis on the road. The Colts are a much better team than their record would indicate, as honestly, they should’ve won each of their last three games, rather than losing all four. With star receiver TY Hilton expected to back, their offense should be finally fully healthy, and they should fare well against a Saints defense that has not only been depleted by injuries, but also allowed 48 points to the 49ers last week. Meanwhile, Indianapolis against explosive passes, but as they face a Saints offense predicated on the short-passing game, the speed and coverage ability of their linebackers (Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke) will do them a huge favor in slowing down New Orleans’ offense. This feels like a letdown scenario for the Saints, who are coming off of an emotional loss. As they dwell on that loss, the Colts will take advantage, and will come out firing en route to a big victory in New Orleans.