New England -16.5
The Patriots are shorthanded with Rob Gronkowski out for the year and Danny Amendola questionable, but it’s all about the opposition for this pick. The Jets are in absolute disarray as an organization: Their coach’s job status is iffy at best, one of their best players in their front seven was disciplined for a profane Snapchat message in which he basically said he doesn’t care about the game and they needed overtime to beat the 49ers.
Atlanta/Carolina — over
Two first-rate offenses that have both been playing well in recent weeks. Another plus for those betting a high score: The Falcons’ strategy is to outscore their opponent and they don’t rely on defensive stops to stay in games. Also, the Panthers’ vaunted secondary of yesteryear is long gone, and the current unit ranks last place in passing yards allowed per game. That isn’t a good formula for stopping MVP candidate Matt Ryan and his league-leading offense.
I’m doing it. It isn’t smart. It probably won’t be right. But I’m convinced the Browns won’t go 0-16 this season and with a beatable Chargers team slated to play in sloppy conditions in Cleveland, I’m going to bet on Philip Rivers throwing enough interceptions and the score staying low enough that Cleveland will have a shot. (Additionally, ESPN published a story earlier this week that alleged the Browns aren’t trying to win games. Wacky things tend to happen after the biggest media organization in America accuses you of actively not competing.)
Baltimore/Pittsburgh — under
The dialogue around this game every year is about how hard everyone hits and how it’s the toughest rivalry in the NFL. That usually leads to a low-scoring game. If it rains at Heinz Field that day, that’ll be another reason to feel safe about this pick. This is far from a sure-fire pick because the Steelers have a first-rate offense at home and the Ravens have been improving at putting points on the board. But Ben Roethlisberger has struggled in recent weeks and Baltimore owns one of the best defenses in the league.
The Lions will probably lose this game, but they are well suited to keep games close. What’s informing my pick here: Seven-points is too much for an OK Detroit team, no matter how great the Cowboys are this year.
Week 15: 2-3
Contact Jacob C. Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.