NFL Week 15 Picks - Early Games

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NFL Week 15 Early Games

All times Eastern

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Week 14 results: Rick: 6-9-1; Coin: 8-7-1
Cumulative: Rick: 95-108-4; Coin: 105-98-4

Thursday, December 17

Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders (-3, 53) 8:20 pm (Fox/NFLN) - The Raiders are still in the hunt for a playoff berth after their 44-27 pounding by the Colts last week, but find themselves at the back of the pack. Cleveland, Miami, Baltimore, and either Indy or Tennessee from the AFC South all have better records in the chase for three wild card slots.

This is a game the Raiders need to win, but, as Atlanta found out last week in a 20-17 loss, the Chargers are not ready to pack up and move on to next season, though they are horrible on the road (1-5). The Raiders are just 2-4 at home, thus the short line. Look for the Chargers to use every play in the book and go on 4th down often to dump their division rival. The earlier meeting was a 31-26 in for Vegas.

Coin Flip: Las Vegas

Prediction: Chargers 33 Raiders 30

Saturday December 19

Buffalo Bills (-6 1/2, 51 1/2) at Denver Broncos 4:30 pm (NFLN) - Despite their 5-8 record, the Broncos are a dangerous team when Drew Lock is healthy (he is) and their defense plays well (not lately). Buffalo comes off a major home win, topping the Steelers, 26-15.

The Bills are gaining confidence with every game and they look like a very solid team heading into the playoffs for the second straight season. League-wide, they are tied with Green Bay and New Orleans for the third-best record, behind KC and Pittsburgh. If Buffalo can stick to business and play defense like they did against Pittsburgh this may be a cakewalk.

Coin Flip: Buffalo

Prediction: Bills 31 Broncos 20

Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers (-8 1/2, 51 1/2) 8:15 pm (NFLN) - The Packers are now tied with the Saints for the top spot in the NFC and hold a tie-breaker by virtue of a week 3, 37-30, win at New Orleans, so it's unlikely that they will lose this contest. Qb Aaron Rodgers is looking very MVP-like after throwing three more TD passes in their XXX win over Detroit.

Rodgers has thrown for 3,685 yards with 39 TDs and only 4 picks. The Pack has won five of its last six, the lone defeat, 34-31 at Indianapolis in OT. Green Bay should over over a Carolina defense that's gotten worse as the season has progressed. In their last four losses, the Panthers have allowed 33, 46, 28, and 32 points.

Coin Flip: Green Bay

Prediction: Packers 42 Panthers 20

Sunday, December 20

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-5 1/2, 50) at Atlanta Falcons 1:00 pm (Fox) - This is the first of two meetings in the next three weeks for these division rivals. They play at Tampa Bay, Jan. 3 to close out the season.

If anything, the Buccaneers have a solid grip on a playoff spot, right now at the #2 wild card behind Seattle (9-4) with an 8-5 mark. This is a game they should win handily, as the Falcons have proven to be a few players short of a complete NFL team. Atlanta showed some life mid-season, winning three of four, but never got even close to .500. Last week's 20-17 loss at the Chargers put the final stake in their post-season coffin.

Coin Flip: Atlanta

Prediction: Buccaneers 26 Falcons 17

San Francisco 49ers (-2 1/2, 45) at Dallas Cowboys 1:00 pm (CBS) - The Cowboys are still alive for the NFC East, but they trail division-leading Washington by two games with three to play, making this a must-win proposition, especially since they've lost to Washington twice already. Similarly, 5-8 San Francisco must win to keep playoff hopes alive, though with Arizona and Seattle to close out the season, their upside seems very limited.

As long as Nick Mullens remains the QB for the 49ers they're going to find it difficult to win any more games this season and this road trip looks very dubious even though they're 4-2 away from home.

Coin Flip: San Francisco

Prediction: Cowboys 26 49ers 20

Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens (-13, 46) 1:00 pm (CBS) - The Ravens kept their season alive with a 47-42 win at Cleveland Monday night and get home field for the visiting Jaguars, who are challenging the Jets for the worst team in the NFL, at 1-12.

Coming off a 31-10 routing by Tennessee last week, the Jags offer little in the way of a winning formula, making this line the deepest of the week. The Ravens have statistical and physical advantages on both sides of the ball. Taking a stand against them here would be quite risky.

Coin Flip: Jacksonville

Prediction: Ravens 38 Jaguars 13

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (-2 1/2, 41 1/2) 1:00 pm (CBS) - For many long years, the Dolphins have been the whipping boys for New England in the AFC East. With a playoff spot within reach, Miami can take out years of frustration with a home victory and get to 9-5. A loss, and an 8-6 record would put Miami at a severe disadvantage with games at Las Vegas and Buffalo still ahead.

New England's path to the playoffs was considerably weakened last week when their offense was completely shut down by the Rams in a 24-3 win in Los Angeles. This will be the Patriots' third straight road game, usually a death knell. With Miami's defensive prowess (18.8 ppg, 2nd), this looks like the end of the line for the Brady-less Patriots.

Coin Flip: Miami

Prediction: Dolphins 24 Patriots 17

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-7, 52 1/2) 1:00 pm (CBS) - What happened to Houston? Last season, they went 10-6 and beat Buffalo, 22-19 in a wild card game. This season, they're 4-9, out of the playoff picture and were absolutely pounded by the Bears, 36-7. seems some of the players have packed it in for the year.

The Colts, meanwhile, continue to vie with Tennessee for the top spot in the AFC South at 9-4. They split their games with the Titans, but are on the short end of the tie-breaker having won by 17, but lost by 19. The only team the Colts have lost to with a losing record this season is Jacksonville, but that was all the way back in week 1. Phillip Rivers has obviously gotten more comfortable with the offense (28.6 ppg, 5th) and the defense is top-shelf. Could be blowout city.

Coin Flip: Houston

Prediction: Colts 38 Texans 21

Detroit Lions at Tennessee Titans (-11, 55) 1:00 pm (CBS) - One has to like the Titans chances here against the 5-8 Lions, especially since the Lions are 28th against the run (132.8 yards per game) and the Titans have the league's reigning and leading rusher in Derrick Henry. With 1,532 yards already, Henry is just 8 yards behind last season's total and on the verge of something historic. He needs to average 156 yards per game in his last three to reach 2000, something only seven players have ever done. Considering that Henry has rushed for 100 yards or more in a game eight times this season (and over 200 twice), it's very possible.

That said, the Titans have a unique way of keeping their opponents in games and Detroit has the ability to frustrate plungers who predict their losses, as was the case last week, scoring a late TD to draw within seven of the Packers, which was the exact spread. Figure on the Titans winning, but Matthew Stafford to find a way to thwart both the spread givers and under-takers.

Coin Flip: Detroit

Prediction: Titans 31 Lions 27

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-3, 46) 1:00 pm (Fox) - The Vikings completely fell apart in Sunday's meeting with the Buccaneers in Tampa. Leading 6-0, they allowed Tampa Bay to score 23 unanswered points before finally getting back on the scoreboard late in the third quarter. Kicker Dan Bailey missed an extra point and three field goals, and if the Vikings are to stay even marginally alive in the playoff hunt, that can't happen again.

Minnesota worked out two kickers this week in Chandler Catanzaro and Taylor Bertolet, and either one could replace the inconsistent Bailey.

Chicago snapped a six game losing streak, burying the Texans, 36-7, as Mitchell Trubisky threw three TD passes and the Chicago defense stymied Deshaun Watson and took advantage of two Houston fumbles.

The winner of this game may or may not reach the playoffs, but the loser is almost certainly to be eliminated as both teams come in at 6-7.

Coin Flip: Chicago

Prediction: Bears 30 Vikings 20

Seattle Seahawks (-5 1/2, 44 1/2) at Washington Football Team 1:00 pm (Fox) - At this point in the season, nobody wants to play the Washington No-Name Football Team, winners of four straight, including a 23-17 win at then-unbeaten Pittsburgh. Washington's last three wins have all been on the road, a remarkable feat for a team that was 2-7 just a month ago. Giving these guys 5 1/2 points at home seems some kind of death wish.

Seattle continues to joust with the Rams for the lead in the NFC West, both teams sporting 9-4 records, the two meeting next week in Seattle. The Seahawks are coming off a breezy, 40-3, romp over the helpless Jets, probably not the best tune-up for a trip to the East coast. The Seattle defense has played better of late, but it's the Washington defense that is the focus here.

Washington has allowed no more than 17 points in any of their six wins this season, twice holding opponents under 10. They will make life difficult for Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense. Dwayne Haksins is likely to start at QB ahead of injured Alex Smith (strained calf).

Coin Flip: Seattle

Prediction: Football Team 23 Seahawks 15

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