Usually I try to avoid cliches like the plague.
There comes a time, however, during every NFL season when the rubber meets the road, the chickens come home to roost, and Marco and I throw caution to the wind in an attempt to bottle the luck of the Irish for both our weekly NFL picks and our fantasy football teams. Not ironically at all, Andrew Luck is my starting quarterback, but that's neither here nor there.
There was a time when Marco and I were on thin ice with our readers, but in a last ditch effort to save The Spread Zone, we threw together four consecutive +.500 weeks and now we're looking like a horse of a different color. Granted, that streak came to an end Week 14 when we went 7-9 ATS, but after going back to the drawing board Marco and I have yet another ace up our sleeve.
When we started making our picks this week, we were bored to tears because we had 12-13 favorites with our initial takes. After leaving no stone unturned, we learned that the laws of the jungle in the NFL do not always support picking the obvious teams this time of year. There are weeks in every NFL season when the average gambler is seduced into thinking teams with motivation and playoff hopes are guaranteed to play harder and win. Cliches aside for a moment, the truth is every player on every team is playing for their futures in every game. You better believe that when GMs, coaches, and owners are reconstructing their teams they look at tape to see which players continue to play hard when it really doesn't matter any more.
"Unlike you, I'll be NOT playing for my job."
With this fact in mind, and because it's a fun way to roll sometimes, Marco and I have decided that every dog has its day, and with over half of the teams on the schedule playing as home dogs this week, rather than try to figure out which ones are going to win, we're taking the whole kit and kaboodle. That's right - SIXTEEN UNDERDOGS GUARANTEED TO COVER YOUR BETS. And, as always, when I say guaranteed I mean you've got a 50-50 shot.
This may put us on death's doorstep when it comes to promoting our professionalism as NFL cappers, but let's face it - that bird has flown. Here are our stats and our NFL Week 15 Picks ATS.
Last Week: 7-9 ATS
Since Week 10: 41-29-4 ATS
Over/Unders Season to Date: 118-89
Thursday Night Football
San Diego Chargers (+10.5) over DENVER BRONCOS: This might be the biggest stretch of the week, so let's get it out of the way quickly. Let's face it, the Broncos offense looks like a well-oiled machine, but a big part of building said machine was the former offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike McCoy. Now the San Diego Chargers have the real McCoy at their helm which means that we're going to jump on the (very small with lots of vacancies) bandwagon and back San Diego this week. Look, the Chargers will try to play keep away, run the ball, and use their emerging weapons to keep this close. We'll take the points, but the real play is always on the OVER with Denver.
"Way to keep it close, Eric."
Sunday All Day Football
Washington Redskins (+6.5) over ATLANTA FALCONS: Oh how quickly from grace these teams have fallen. The only difference between them is the Falcons haven't been in the media spotlight with locker room issues, head-coaching hot seats, and sophomore slumping quarterbacks recently replaced by fans of alliteration dream come true, Kirk Cousins. Cousins will make his first start of the year for the Washington Redskins, and will try to show the world that last year wasn't a fluke and that he really is a mover and a shaker. The Falcons, meanwhile, will be saying "Not my my back yard." But with their defense this year, they no longer have a back yard advantage. Look for the Redskins to rally around Cousins and keep this game within a touchdown. With no defense on either side of the ball, however, we'll take the OVER again.
"Okay Falcons, you be OSU and I'll be me."
Chicago Bears (PK) over CLEVELAND BROWNS: Can Jay Cutler make an effortless transition back into what has become a high-powered Bears offense? Does a bear poop in the woods? I've never been a big Cutler fan, but the system Coach Trestman has in place in Chicago made Josh McCown look like a superstar the past couple of weeks, and with Chicago's offensive weapons the Browns basically have one foot in the grave as we speak. Josh Gordon will continue to prove he is the best player on any field at any time, but the Bears will win this game in yet another OVER.
Houston Texans (+6) over INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: A new coach is like a new beginning. Yeah, I know Wade Phillips already coached the Texans to three straight losses earlier this year, but now he's really put his nose to the grindstone and has some new tricks up his sleeve. The Texans historically play the Colts close, they are still playing for their jobs, and they've all been playing competitive football since they were knee-high to a grasshopper. Nobody likes to lose. We'll take the points and yet another OVER.
"I have no idea why I haven't had a mini-stroke. Next question."
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (+5.5) over San Francisco Forty Niners: Home dawg, yo. The Bucs have won and covered three straight games at home and are playing like a team that might have a future in this league. The Niners might come into Tampa and knock it out of the park, but a more likely scenario is a post-division rivalry win letdown, jet lag, and a close game with a backdoor, Mike Glennon cover. Roll with the Bucs and the UNDER.
NEW YORK GIANTS (+7) over Seattle Seahawks: This pick might be the kiss of death for The Spread Zone. Trying to defend the Giants in this spot is like putting ourselves behind the eight ball. Nonetheless, we're nothing without our themes. Stats are meaningless because these teams only play ever couple of years, but the Giants have won and covered 2 of 3 dating back to 2006 and the OVER has hit 7 of 9 meetings going all the way back to 1992. Now if that isn't science, I don't know what is. We're making like Antrell and Rolle-ing with the Giants and the OVER.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (+2.5) over Buffalo Bills: I really thought this line would move in the other direction and I'd be defending the Bills in this one, but alas we're taking another home dog, knowing that 54% (I know - compelling) of the dogs of 2+ points win in Weeks 15-17. Add that to the fact that the Jags are now keeping up with the Joneses, and you've got a recipe for a solid cover UNDER the total.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (+2.5) over New England Patriots: The Patriots have been winning games by the skin of their teeth this year. And I looked up that expression and it means winning on phantom pass interference calls. Losing Gronk last week will prove too much to overcome as the Miami Dolphins show that they are the only big fish in their little pond. Take the points and the UNDER.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (+4.5) over Philadelphia Eagles: Motivation, shmotivation. The Eagles are looking at this game as a sure-fire win, but they really shouldn't count their chickens before they've hatched. The Minnesota Vikings haven't stopped playing hard all year, their locker room loves Matt Cassell, and they will not lose this game by more than a field goal. Take the points and the OVER.
NEW YORK JETS (+11) over Carolina Panthers: Too many points, even for the crappy Jets on the road. Carolina will no doubt force a couple of Geno Smiths (new slang in the NFL for interceptions), but we believe the New Orleans Saints put just enough of a chink in the armor of the Panthers to allow the Jets to keep this game within a touchdown. For all intents and purposes, the Jets season is over, so look for them to play the roll of spoiler in hopes that other teams will return the favor next year. Jets and the UNDER.
"Sweet. Got my own catch phrase in the NFL."
OAKLAND RAIDERS (+4.5) over Kansas City Chiefs: It was a dark and stormy night the last time the Oakland Raiders beat the Chiefs. Actually, it was just last December when the Raiders completed their sweep of the Chiefs. In fact, they've won and covered 5 of 7 against their division rivals and let's face it - the Raiders have sucked during that time. Why would this game be any different? We'll go against 78% of the public and back the Raiders and the OVER here.
TENNESSEE TITANS (+3) over Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals have everything to play for here while the Titans are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. We have no good reason to back Tennessee here, but how catchy is 15 Dogs and Favorite as a blog title? We'll likely be saying down the hatch with very large shot glasses before this game. We're sticking to our guns, keeping our fingers crossed, and taking the points and the UNDER.
ST. LOUIS RAMS (+5.5) over New Orleans Saints: Jeff Fisher will have his Rams in the playoffs next season, which means every game from now until then is building towards something. New Orleans is the better team, but away from home they're like a fish out of water, and the Rams have caught them in a great spot between tough division games. Take the points and watch the Rams defense outscore their offense again - OVER and out.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (+7) over Dallas Cowboys: This one feels even harder to defend than the Titans. Matt Flynn is going to have a Week 17 2011 flashback and perform like a bat out of hell against the Cowboys secondary this week. With Green Bay still clinging to playoff hopes by a thread, we like them to make this game competitive. Take the points and much like with the Denver offense, always take the OVER against the Cowboys D.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (+3) over Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are a playoff team and will likely win the AFC North. The Steelers are not and won't. The Steelers, however, as much as they hate the Ravens, will play their asses off in this division rivalry knowing perfectly well that what goes around comes around. We actually have some stats to support this pick with the Steelers going 8-1-1 ATS in their last 10 as a home dog. We like those odds and we like the UNDER.
Monday Night Football
Baltimore Ravens (+6) over DETROIT LIONS: The Detroit Lions are currently 4-2 SU at home, but they have lost 3 of their last 4 against the spread, with the only SU/ATS win coming against the Rodger-less Green Bay Packers. Although the Baltimore Ravens have only won and covered one road game all season, they haven't lost a game by more than six points since their opening day blowout loss to the Denver Broncos . I don't think anyone will argue that their team is playing better now than they have all year, and coming off a very standard, season-saving, five touchdowns in the last three minutes of the game performance against the Minnesota Vikings, we'll take momentum and the bright lights of Prime Time to keep this game close and UNDER the 48.5 total.
Good luck, happy betting, may the spreads be with you, and over and out,
Vinny and Marco