Sunday, Monday, football days.
Tuesday, Wednesday, football days.
Thursday . . . Saturday, football days.
In a 2020 season that has had so many schedule changes it felt as if it was close to jumping the shark like Fonzie, Week 15 presents our first Saturday games. That means there will have been a game on every day but Friday.
Favorites went 9-7 ATS last week and are 93-104-6 for the season. Home teams went 6-10 straight up and 9-7 ATS, bringing their totals to 102-105-1 and 97-105-6.
My three most confident picks are Washington, the L.A. Rams and Chicago. Avoid Philadelphia-Arizona.
BUFFALO (10-3) AT DENVER (5-8)
TV: NFL, 4:30 p.m.
Buffalo by 6; O/U: 49.5
The Bills are 6-1 at home and just 3-2 on the road but one loss was the "Hail Murray" in Arizona. Josh Allen and a firing-on-all-cylinders offense should score enough to win by seven or more points. Buffalo is one of the most complete teams in the league and will be a tough out in the playoffs.
The pick: Buffalo
CAROLINA (4-9) AT GREEN BAY (10-3)
TV: Ch. 5, NFL, 8:15 p.m.
Green Bay by 8.5; O/U: 51.5
The Packers clinched the NFC North title last week and moved into the No. 1 spot in the NFC. They’re not going to lose, but the pesky Panthers have covered six of their last seven as an underdog and with a number this big, the backdoor could always be open late.
The pick: Carolina
CLEVELAND (9-4) AT GIANTS (5-8)
TV: Ch. 4, 8:20 p.m.
Cleveland by 6; O/U: 44.5
Picking every game every week can play tricks on your mind. Like, fading the Giants at Seattle (X) and then backing them against Arizona (X). So how do I avoid that third "Family Feud" strike? Stick with your original thought and don’t waver because of one game (Good answer, Joe!) The Giants defense will show up in prime time and keep this close. Daniel Jones doesn’t look as if he can play, and that might be a good thing considering last week’s six-sack result. The Browns don’t blow teams out (their last five wins have been by 3, 3, 5, 2 and 6 points), and this could be a low-scoring defensive struggle like the Giants’ win in Seattle. Also: Colt McCoy, Jabrill Peppers and Freddie Kitchens Revenge Game!
(Editor's note: I made this pick before the news that James Bradberry was ruled out, and while that does give me pause, I'm sticking with my first instinct: The Giants' defense will still show up).
The pick: Giants
JETS (0-13) AT L.A. RAMS (9-4)
TV: Ch. 5, 4:05 p.m.
Los Angeles by 17.5; O/U: 43.5
With a spread this big and a league this unpredictable, it's tempting to take the underdog. But what's more likely: 24-10 or 38-7? The Rams didn't cover as 13-point favorites against the Giants back in Week 4 (17-9), but the Jets' defense won't have any answers for Sean McVay's offense. L.A. beat the Patriots, 24-3, on TNF, and will be well-rested to feast on the Jets the way fellow NFC West leader Seattle just did in a 40-3 shellacking.
The pick: Los Angeles
SUNDAY'S 1 p.m. GAMES
NEW ENGLAND (6-7) AT MIAMI (8-5)
Miami by 1.5; O/U: 41.5
Four days after a 45-0 win over the Chargers, the Patriots looked flat in a 24-3 loss to the Rams in the same building. New England beat Miami, 21-11, in Week 1 but has struggled in South Florida in recent seasons. And that was with Tom Brady. Miami's defense will be able to contain Cam Newton and the Pats' running game as it hands the Pats an eighth loss for the first time since 1999.
The pick: Miami
HOUSTON (4-9) AT INDIANAPOLIS (9-4)
Indianapolis by 7.5; O/U: 51
Forget about Houston’s 36-7 loss at Chicago last week. Focus more on the game before that, a 26-20 Texans loss to the Colts that could’ve been a 27-26 win if not for a late fumble near the goal line. The Colts are one of the league’s most well-balanced teams and they should win, but Deshaun Watson keeps this divisional battle close again.
The pick: Houston
DETROIT (5-8) AT TENNESSEE (9-4)
Tennessee by 11; O/U: 51.5
The Titans should put this game away early. Matthew Stafford may not play and the out-of-it Lions won't want anything to do with having to bring down Derrick Henry.
The pick: Tennessee
JACKSONVILLE (1-12) AT BALTIMORE (8-5)
Baltimore by 13; O/U: 47.5
Can you think of a greater example of a letdown situation than this one? Baltimore just won the game of the year, 47-42, over the Browns on MNF and now plays one-win Jacksonville. Sure, the Ravens will win but this is a big number. Plus, Minshew Magic is back!
The pick: Jacksonville
LOCK OF THE WEEK
SEATTLE (9-4) AT WASHINGTON (6-7)
Seattle by 5.5; O/U: 44.5
Washington’s four-game win streak has catapulted it to the top of the NFC East, and it’s been all about defense. It has allowed 9, 16, 17 and 15 points, and one of those wins was at then-11-0 Pittsburgh. What happened the last time Russell Wilson and Seattle played a solid defense from the NFC East? Oh, right, the Seahawks lost, 17-12, to the Giants two weeks ago. Even if Alex Smith can't play, this young Washington defense led by Chase Young can key an upset win. Don’t be surprised if Seattle struggles as it did against the Giants. WFT FTW!
The pick: Washington
SAN FRANCISCO (5-8) AT DALLAS (4-9)
San Francisco by 3; O/U: 45
When I hear 49ers-Cowboys, it instantly brings me back to my childhood and all the classic NFC playoff matchups in the 90s. This one is a far cry from that. You shouldn’t make too much of Dallas’ 30-7 win at Cincinnati, but why is San Francisco favored by a field goal? It should be closer to a pick ‘em. Dallas, still in it in the NFC East against an out-of-it 49ers team, is a good value play at home.
The pick: Dallas
CHICAGO (6-7) AT MINNESOTA (6-7)
Minnesota by 3; O/U: 46.5
Kirk Cousins was 0-4 against the Bears until a 19-13 win at Chicago on MNF in Week 10. This is a big game for the NFC wild-card race, so expect a close one that could be decided by a field goal. Considering the mess that is the Vikings' kicking game, take the points.
The pick: Chicago
TAMPA BAY (8-5) AT ATLANTA (4-9)
Tampa Bay by 6; O/U: 49.5
The Bucs and Falcons play again in Week 17, so the first meeting this late in the season makes it a little more unpredictable. Tampa Bay has more to play for, but this spread feels a couple points too high. Remember, Tampa Bay’s 26-14 win over Minnesota last week was misleading: It gave up a ton of yardage and benefited from three missed field goals and an extra point. In a lost season, you look for silver linings, and beating Tom Brady is just that for Atlanta. (Just don’t take a 28-3 lead, guys).
The pick: Atlanta
4 p.m. Games
GAME OF THE WEEK
KANSAS CITY (12-1) AT NEW ORLEANS (10-3)
Kansas City by 3; O/U: 51.5
I’ve struggled trying to be on the right side of Kansas City games this season (4-8-1 ATS) and picking against the defending champs is always risky. But I’m doing it, anyway. New Orleans just had its nine-game win streak snapped and lost grasp of the No. 1 seed in the NFC. In what could be a Super Bowl preview, this feels as if it could be a 27-24 thriller either way. Could the Saints defense do what so many teams can’t: Stop Patrick Mahomes from a late game-winning drive? Yes, NO can.
The pick: New Orleans
PHILADELPHIA (4-8-1) AT ARIZONA (7-6)
Arizona by 6; O/U: 49.5
Just because the Cards decked the Giants doesn't mean they'll fly past the Eagles in this battle of the birds. This is way too many points. Philadelphia is finally feeling good about itself after Jalen Hurts gave the offense a little boost and helped end New Orleans' win streak at nine. Those good vibes should carry over in a close contest.
The pick: Philadelphia
PITTSBURGH (11-2) AT CINCINNATI (2-10-1)
Pittsburgh by 13; O/U: 40
Pittsburgh went from 11-0 to 11-2 in seven days but now the schedule makers throw them a break. The Steelers already beat the Bengals, 36-10, and that was with Joe Burrow. Cincinnati’s offense has scored 10, 7 and 7 points the last three weeks without its starting quarterback.
The pick: Pittsburgh
STAFF PICKS AND STANDINGS
(best bets in bold)
98-104-6 overall, 9-5 best bets
Last week: 8-8
Buffalo Carolina L.A. Rams Giants Miami
Houston Tennessee Jacksonville Washington Dallas
Chicago Atlanta New Orleans Philadelphia Pittsburgh
Last week: 11-5
Denver Green Bay L.A. Rams Cleveland Miami
Indianapolis Tennessee Baltimore Seattle Dallas
Chicago Atlanta Kansas City Arizona Pittsburgh
Last week: 10-6
Buffalo Green Bay LA Rams Cleveland Miami
Indianapolis Detroit Jacksonville Seattle Dallas
Minnesota Tampa Bay Kansas City Arizona Pittsburgh
Last week: 9-7
Buffalo Green Bay L.A. Rams Cleveland New England
Indianapolis Tennessee Jacksonville Seattle San Francisco
Minnesota Tampa Bay Kansas City Philadelphia Pittsburgh