We’re back with the 15th edition of MTS’ weekly picks against the spread for the 2016 season. Perry got himself back in the winning column in Week 14, posting an 8-7-1 record. While that’s not all that impressive, he did go 4-0 on his Pledges of the Week.
Perry is starting to get in stride to close out the season, and here’s what he expects from Week 15.
An asterisk denotes one of Perry’s “Pledges of the Week.” (Don’t call them “locks”; there’s no such thing!)
Week 15 Picks ATS
Thursday, December 15
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-15)
Here’s a stat that’s difficult to believe: the Rams have won their last three meetings with the Seahawks. Looking even further back, the Rams have won five of the last nine. But they won’t win this one, and it’s not because they just fired Jeff Fisher. They will keep it within two touchdowns, though. In four losses to the Seahawks since 2012, only one came by a margin greater than 14 points.
Los Angeles’ defensive line will win in the trenches and slow the Seahawk offense. Jared Goff may not be able to put up many points, but this is a team desperate for any bit of success and they’ll pull out all the stops.
Pick: Rams (+15)
Saturday, December 17
Miami Dolphins (-2.5) at New York Jets
Ryan Tannehill is extremely unlikely to play thanks to an ACL/MCL injury (even though it’s not as bad as originally feared). That makes this a battle between his underwhelming backup, Matt Moore, and New York’s Bryce Petty. The latter struggled to put up points in a dream matchup with the 49ers last week. He’ll suffer the same fate against Miami’s defense, which is a step up in caliber (if not a huge one).
Miami will sellout to stop the run, and Moore’s play will raise the question over whether he should start over a healthy Tannehill. (Then we’ll all remember this is the Jets and not get too excited.)
Pick: Dolphins (-2.5)
Sunday, December 18
Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills (-10)
Sure, Tyrod Taylor hasn’t been great this season, but neither has Rex Ryan’s defense. If the Bills are going to avoid giving Cleveland its first win of the season, then they better toughen up against the run; they’re allowing 187.3 yards per game on the ground over their last three.
Running the ball is one of the very few things that Cleveland does well. The Browns are averaging 4.7 yards per carry (fifth), but have often found themselves too far behind to continue running the ball.
With both Rex and Taylor’s jobs on the line, the two will take advantage of the myriad of things Cleveland does not do well.
Pick: Bills (-10)*
Detroit Lions at New York Giants (-4.5)
If you are planning on betting on this game, you need to monitor the status of Matthew Stafford throughout the week. If the finger injury he suffered last week is going to impede his ability to throw the football, then Detroit has no chance.
However, I don’t believe it will hinder his ability to throw too much.
The Giants have yet to beat a team with a winning record by more than four points this season; and although their offense has the talent to put up a lot of points, they have not surpassed 28 points in any game. Eli Manning is having a terrible year. Part of the blame goes to his offensive line; a bigger part goes to his decision-making.
This is just too many points for me against a Lions squad that continues to find a way.
Pick: Lions (+4.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens (-6)
The Eagles are 1-6 on the road (including six straight losses) and give up 25.7 points per game outside of Philly (versus 15.3 PPG at home). The offense has similarly stark splits; Carson Wentz’s passer rating drops to 74.8 on the road (versus 88.5 at home).
The Ravens have won four straight at home, three of which came by seven or more points, and are 5-2 overall at M&T Bank Stadium. Joe Flacco’s passer rating is a healthy 93.3 at home this season and his defense has allowed an average of 13.1 points per game.
Baltimore will bounce back from a tough loss on Monday night and add to Wentz’s road woes.
Pick: Ravens (-6)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
The Steelers defense has not allowed more than 310 total yards or 100 yards on the ground in four straight weeks. The sudden surge has them ranked fourth against the run and 11th in total defense.
Cincinnati has kept their minuscule playoff hopes alive with two consecutive victories, but this is where it ends. Without A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard, the Bengals offense doesn’t have enough to keep up with the Steelers.
Le’Veon Bell will rip off chunk after chunk against a Bengals defense that’s allowing 4.5 yards per carry (27th).
Pick: Steelers (-3.5)
Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings (-4)
After a 22-17 loss to Houston, the Colts now find themselves in a hole in the AFC South. They trail the Texans and Titans by a game, and have already lost any potential tiebreaker to Houston. Three Andrew Luck turnovers were the difference last week, and his opponent doesn’t get any easier this week. The Vikings have recorded 35 sacks this season (third) and 22 takeaways (eighth).
But the Vikings are impotent on offense; they can’t run the ball and their offensive line doesn’t allow for any sort of downfield passing attack.
It’s difficult to bank on Minnesota’s offense putting up many points, especially after struggling to cover the spread against a terrible Jaguars team. Don’t expect to see another turnover-filled game from Luck.
Pick: Colts (+4)
Green Bay Packers (-6.5) at Chicago Bears
This is a quick one. Aaron Rodgers is way too hot to bet against, even if his calf isn’t fully healthy. The Packers have entered desperation mode; the Bears are still the Bears.
Pick: Packers (-6.5)
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5)
The Titans’ 13-10 win over Denver last week was closer than it should have been. Tennessee tried to shoot itself in the foot after dominating most of the game. The Chiefs are soft in the trenches, allowing 4.3 yards per carry (25th), while only averaging 4.0 yards per carry themselves (22nd), which bodes well for the Titans’ third-ranked run game. However, Andy Reid does a nice job of disguising KC’s shortcomings, and the Chiefs don’t make a habit of squandering opponents’ mistakes.
The Chiefs are basically the retirement savings bonds of the NFL; they’re not exciting, but they’re safe and they get the job done. Their largely mistake-free play will be enough to cover against a young Tennessee team that’s still searching for consistency.
Pick: Chiefs (-5.5)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-6)
I’m not sure which is more outrageous, the fact that the Jags won’t reach six wins for a sixth straight season or that Gus Bradley wasn’t the first coach fired this year. The answer doesn’t really matter, because they both support the obvious truth that Jacksonville is a horrible team.
The Texans find themselves in the driver’s seat of the AFC South now, and have everyone but Brock Osweiler to thank for it. Bill O’Brien has taken the ball out of Osweiler’s hands and turned to his ground game in just about every down and distance.
Blake Bortles has played back-to-back turnover-free games once in his career; he wasn’t guilty of any last week. No team has picked off Bortles more than the Texans in his career, and I expect the Houston defense to put some points on the board in this one.
Pick: Texans (-6)
New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals (-2.5)
Drew Brees is in one of the worst slumps of his career, posting passer ratings of 63.3 and 48.5 in his last two. As a Saint, Brees has only posted three consecutive games with passer ratings under 91.5 twice.
The Cardinals continue to underachieve in spite of their defense only allowing 298.5 total yards per game (second). A poor excuse for an offensive line and turnovers continue to plague them.
Arizona is 4-1-1 when they don’t turn the ball over this season, and the Saints have only generated two takeaways over their last four games. Although I expect a quality performance from Drew Brees, David Johnson will be the one who truly takes over.
Pick: Cardinals (-2.5)
San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons (-13.5)
The 49ers have the league’s worst defense and have not held a team under 23 points since Week 1. The Falcons have only been held under 23 points once this season.
If San Francisco receives more than one punt in this game, I will be surprised.
Pick: Falcons (-13.5)*
New England Patriots (-3) at Denver Broncos
For many, the argument regarding the greatest quarterback of all-time is over. However, Tom Brady has not earned that appellation for his play in Denver. Throughout his career, Brady is 2-7 at Mile High Stadium, and his passer rating is a very average 84.4.
Denver has lost three of five and now sits just outside the playoffs in the AFC. The big concern coming into the season was QB, but first-year starter Trevor Siemian has not been the problem. Like we touched on with KC earlier, Denver is soft in the trenches. They have no run game to speak of and can’t stop the run, either.
The Broncos will get bullied by the Pats’ running game, setting up Brady to exorcise some of his Denver demons.
Pick: Patriots (-3)
Oakland Raiders (-3) at San Diego Chargers
Yes, the Chiefs have beaten the Raiders twice now, but it’s not time to doubt Oakland. The absence of Kelechi Osemele played a role in the loss, as did the freezing temperatures in Kansas City. Osemele should be back in the lineup in Week 15, and Derek Carr’s left pinky finger will have healed some.
The Chargers’ were hit hard by injuries last week. Joey Bosa, Melvin Gordon, and Orlando Franklin all went down. Making matters worse, Philip Rivers – their one constant early in the year – can’t stop giving the ball away. The team now leads the league in turnovers with 30.
The Raiders defense has 11 takeaways in its last five games; the unit will help out the offense that has carried them all season.
Pick: Raiders (-3)*
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys (-7)
The Bucs are riding a five-game winning streak with impressive wins over the Chiefs and Seahawks sandwiched in there. Tampa Bay’s defense has really picked it up over the last five weeks, only allowing 299 total yards per game and generating 14 turnovers in that time.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, just had their 11-game winning streak snapped by the Giants, their first loss since falling to New York in Week 1.
Although Dak Prescott has looked more like a rookie as of late, I don’t see his struggles continuing. The Bucs allow 4.3 yards per carry (24th) and will be overpowered by the Cowboys’ offensive line.
Pick: Cowboys (-7)*
Monday, December 19
Carolina Panthers at Washington (-4.5)
Luke Kuechly may make his return to the Panthers lineup this week; but even when he was in the lineup, Carolina was still getting torched through the air. With or without Kuechly, the Panthers will not be able to slow Kirk Cousins and the league’s second-ranked pass attack.
Washington’s defense has had their issues, as well, but Carolina’s offense hasn’t shown many signs of life this season. The Panthers’ poor offensive line has prevented them from getting any traction on the ground, while Cam Newton looks to be a shell of his 2015 self.
Josh Norman’s revenge game will have his teammates fired up, and Cousins will post another 350-plus performance through the air.
Pick: Washington (-4.5)
Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck (Flickr: Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.