Week 15 in the NFL brings a slew of critical, potentially close games and a few massive favorites. That makes it another challenging week of making picks and predictions against the spread in the 2020 season.
Last week, there were some frustrating beats thanks to second-half surges and late-game weirdness. Still, the key is survival and pushing on to the next fearless forecast of pro football prognostications.
Stats of the Week
Week 14 straight up: 9-7
Week 14 against the spread: 8-8
Season straight up: 132-76
Season against the spread: 111-92
Here’s breaking down the latest late-season full-game slate, with action on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday this week:
Thursday, 8:20p.m. ET, Fox, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video
The Chargers matched the Falcons’ sloppiness at home in Week 14 and were fortunate to escape with a last-minute victory. The Raiders were awful defensively at home against the Colts to the point of Jon Gruden firing former coordinator Paul Guenther. The Raiders will run the ball well with Josh Jacobs and have a more mistake-free passing game with Derek Carr to keep their distance from Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler.
Pick:Raiders win 31-24 and cover the spread.
Sunday, 4:25p.m. ET, CBS
Patrick Mahomes was unfazed by his three-interception game in Miami and kept throwing strikes to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. The Saints, typically nastyagainst the run, will rebound after getting gashed by the Eagles, but that wont matter much because Mahomes will go to work on their weakness in cornerback and safety coverage, extending plays while avoiding pressure. Whether it’s Taysom Hill or Drew Brees, the Saints QB will face a tougher inside-out pass rush with limited passing available on short-to-intermediate routes, especially in the middle of the field. A heavy dose of Alvin Kamara keeps the Saints in it, but Mahomes’ magic delivers at the end.
Pick:Chiefs win 27-24but fail tocover the spread.
Sunday, 1p.m. ET, Fox
The Buccaneers put together a lot after the bye in turning back the Vikings. Their run defense looked mortal, but their pass rush got revved up and their coverage tightened. Tom Brady gave them good complementary football, even while leaving some big pass plays on the table, thanks to Ronald Jones providing good balance in the power running game. The Falcons look like an absolute offensive mess around Matt Ryan, save for Calvin Ridley, with a hamstring Julio Jones. They also have stopped running the ball and can’t handle a versatile, deep receiving corps.
Pick:Buccaneers win 30-13 and cover the spread.
Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS
The Patriots areable to only win battles of attrition where they can grind with their running game, defense and special teams. This game screams of that for Bill Belichick. The Patriots don’t pass the ball well but the game plan suggests that’s the Dolphins’ strength to avoid anyway. Cam Newton and the backs will be called upon to rush often while Belichick schemes to get the betterof another rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa, who will likely bewithout wide receivers DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant and tight end Mike Gesicki. Brian Flores learned well from Belichick but the master makes it a season sweep.
Pick:Patriots win 17-13.
Saturday, 4:30p.m. ET, NFL Network
The Bills are red-hot after taking down the 49ers on the road and Steelers at home with Josh Allen locked into Stefon Diggs and his other receivers. At the same time, the Bills are running ball effectively enough in good situations. Allen will have time to pick apart Vic Fangio’s defense with somebalance to take pressure off him. Drew Lock is coming off his best game as a Bronco, but there won’t be as many receivers running free here and game script will force them out of the running game at home.
Pick:Bills win 27-20 and cover the spread.
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, NFL Network
The Panthers’ schedule keeps taking Teddy Bridgewater through his former foes in the NFC North. Bridgewater should get D.J. Moore back to help their passing potential, but he still will be lacking the ideal weapon to attack the Packers defense without Christian McCaffrey. Expect Bridgewater to see a lot of second-half blitzes once Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones have passed, caught and ran Green Bay to a significant lead.
Pick:Packers win 38-23 and cover the spread.
Sunday,1 p.m. ET, CBS
The 49ers’ defense keeps grinding away despite their offense continuing tomake more mistakes than big plays with Nick Mullens. Here they can go back to effectively running the ball at a high level with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., while they contain a slumping Ezekiel Elliott on the other side. Mullens can pick apart the Cowboys with the short, quick passing game in the middle of the field. Andy Dalton will get stuck seeing plenty of heat behind his shaky offensive line.
Pick:49ers win 23-20.
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
The Lions have a terrible run defense and that immediately destroys their chances of success against Derrick Henry. Ryan Tannehill will use his back to keep making the typical big pass plays off play-action. Meanwhile. the Lions have limited receiving firepower with which to attack the Titans’ secondary and there’s a chance that Matthew Stafford, with his battered ribs may miss the game.
Pick:Titans win 31-20 and cover the spread.
Sunday, 1p.m. ET, CBS
Speaking of horrible run defenses, the Texans have one, too. The Colts are back to being a dominant running team with Jonathan Taylor and a little bit of Nyheim Hines. Philip Rivers is in a groove having locked into T.Y. Hilton as his big-play go-to guy. Deshaun Watson has seen the skill player help crumble around him for different reasons.
Pick:Colts win 27-17 and cover the spread.
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
This serves as a pseudo wild-card elimination game for both 6-7 teams behind the Cardinals. The Vikings won the first meeting in November in Chicago, 19-13. They will have better success running the ball with Dalvin Cook in the home rematch and Justin Jefferson will continue to be a matchup nightmare in the downfield passing game. Mitchell Trubisky has provided a nice offensive spark for the Bears but here the zone scheming causes problems for him on the road.
Pick:Vikings win 24-17 and cover the spread.
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox
The Seahawks took full advantage of their get-well game against the Jets as they went back to running the ball at a high level and maximizing the limited passing attempts of Russell Wilson with calculated downfield shots. That will bode well to pound away on Washington’s front seven to ease the pressure on Wilson. The Seahawks’ defense has come together with better health and may get a big break in getting to face an offense without Alex Smith and Antonio Gibson.
Pick:Seahawks win 23-13and cover the spread.
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
The Jaguars are turning their offense back to Gardner Minshew in their constant search for that elusive second win. That’s not coming here. The Ravens are coming off two strong offensive performances with Lamar Jackson and the running game partying like it was 2019. Minshew will be pressured into mistakes outweighing the spark he provides. Jacksonville has zero answers for Baltimore on the ground.
Pick:Ravens win 34-17 and cover the spread.
Sunday, 4:05p.m. ET, Fox
Sam Darnold and Adam Gase aren’t the future of the Jets. They are hardly the present. Their offense is inept and the defense still stinks without Gregg Williams. The Rams are the anti-Jets with the superior offensive-minded coaching of Sean McVay backed by Brandon Staley getting everything out of Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and the entire defense.
Pick:Rams win 33-0 and cover the spread.
Sunday, 4:05p.m. ET, Fox
Jalen Hurts gets another start after his spectacular rushing and strong passing effort in the win over the Saints. This isn’t a bad first road start for the rookie, on the opposite side of the QB he replaced at Oklahoma, Kyler Murray. The Eagles’ defense comes in hurting while Murray is back fully healthy. Both former Sooners will be motivated to put on a show in the desert. The Cardinals have the more reliable playmakers around their quarterback, and that makes the slightest difference.
Pick:Cardinals win 31-27 but fail to cover the spread.
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
The Browns are coming off a grueling, physical emotional game against the Ravens. The Giants showed no offensive life with a still hurting Daniel Jones in losing to the Cardinals last week. They will fare better making plays in a surprise Sunday night opportunity, fueled by the defense and Jones’ running.
Pick:Browns win 23-20but fail to cover thespread.
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Steelers’ offense is in a slump. The Bengals’ defense is playing better than expected of late. Pittsburgh will get well in this game, but it’s hard to expect this to be a revolutionary explosive game for Ben Roethlisberger and the running game to suddenly hit. That means going back to the basics of grinding with their form of short-passing ball control. The Bengals have shown fight without Joe Burrow and they will keep from being totally embarrassed at home.
Pick:Steelers win 24-13 but fail to cover the spread.