My heart doesn’t bleed for a guy who earned $37 million guaranteed in Houston after five NFL starts in Denver and little asked of him in that stint, but it was kind of nice to see Brock Osweiler jacked up and glowing during the Broncos’ romp over the Colts on Thursday night. Most of us, save for the sadists, like a good redemption story.
In case you missed the mostly boring affair, Brock Lobster took over late in the first quarter after starter Trevor Siemian got knocked out with a dislocated shoulder. The Colts defense offers little resistance, but watch this perfect ball to tight end Jeff Heuerman in stride just over the reach of safety Matthias Farley (below). And then watch Osweiler’s jubilance after a 19-yard rushing score on a 3rd-and-9, ending with his huge leap across the goal line. (And then we’ll get to the rest of the 14-game Saturday-Sunday-Monday NFL Week 15 betting slate, and check our live NFL odds page here.)
— Sports Degens (@TheSportsDegens) December 15, 2017
BROCK OSWEILER IS MOVIN'.
— NFL (@NFL) December 15, 2017
NFL Week 15 Picks, Projections, Rodgers’ Return, Rams Edge Seahawks; Patriots-Steelers in Shootout, And The Walking Wounded Bowl
Chicago Bears (+5) at Detroit Lions: The Bears offense is almost completely one-dimensional, but fortunately the Lions struggle badly in that dimension — ranked 28th per Football Outsiders (FO) DVOA metrics in rushing defense. Especially over the last four weeks, the Lions have been getting ripped on the ground, which includes 222 rushing yards allowed to Jordan Howard (115), QB Mitchell Trubisky (53) and Tarik Cohen (44). If Chicago can control the clock via the run, they’ll be in good shape.
But Lions QB Matthew Stafford stands a really good chance to feast at home against a defense he’s torched in recent meetings. It will certainly help Chicago if they get back defensive starters on the mend — safety Adrian Amos (hamstring, limited on Thursday), DT Eddie Goldman (hip, limited on Thursday) and LB Pernell McPhee (shoulder, full participant). After a blowout win over the listless Bengals last week, the 4-9 Bears are feely pretty damn good. “We’re not playing [around]” star linebacker Danny Trevathan said this week. “It might not look that way. But we’re a tough defense and a tough team. So bring your A-game. We’re coming for them.” Bears cover. Score projection: Lions 24, Bears 21
Los Angeles Chargers (-1) at Kansas City Chiefs: In a battle between AFC West teams headed in different directions this season — in a major hurry — the Chiefs’ home field Arrowhead advantage will be stunted a bit without the usual frigid December temperature. Looks like a balmy 50 degrees. Weather aside, the Chargers defense poses a challenge with a solid pass rush and a stifling secondary. Compare with the Chiefs’ 27th-ranked defense. Kansas City has lived and died on the big play while Los Angeles has allowed the fewest completions in the league on passes 15 yards or further downfield (27%). Of course the Chiefs do have major offensive firepower (Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce), and they rip off big plays, and they’re playing for their damn lives. But I think that the Chargers are the better team, facing a familiar opponent and Philip Rivers is on a big roll. Score projection: Chargers 28, Chiefs 24
Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5) at New York Giants: Woe is the Philadelphia Eagles faithful, now suffering through the torment of Raiders fans last December and Texans fans in October: Having to cope with Sundays without young star quarterbacks lost for the season due to injury. I’ve read all week about backup QB Nick Foles’ status as an upper-echelon backup QB (nice gig), but he’s got about eight-percent the mobility and scramble-ability of Carson Wentz, who was in the MVP mix. Is Foles the new Jeff Hostetler? For more on that let’s go to Kevin Clark of The Ringer:
Speaking of ‘90s-era Giants, Lawrence Taylor joined New York Sports Pope Mike Francesa as Mike’s final guest on Thursday and finished the call by asking for singles for strippers. Really. We’re way off track but here’s the deal: That’s a lot of points lay on the road in the division but the Giants offense is horrific, the defense may be without top defender, safety Landon Collins (ankle), and I think the Eagles will rush for 200+ yards and look to step on the Giants’ throats. Score projection: Eagles 27, Giants 13
Green Bay Packers (+3) at Carolina Panthers: Aaron Rodgers said on Wednesday that “I’m not coming back to save” the Packers. Oh yes you are, Sir, but the modesty is noted. Brett Hundley showed he’s probably not destined for an NFL starting gig but did enough to help keep the Packers in the hunt until Rodgers could return from his Week 6 collarbone break. Temper expectations a bit because he’s naturally going to have a bit of rust, but Rodgers at even 75% is better than all but probably three or four QBs in the league, and his return alone should provide a huge emotional boost to the squad. Unfortunately the Packers secondary remains a wreck and lost top cornerback Davon House last week, which should have No. 1 Panthers wideouts (and fantasy owners) licking their lips.
As far as Panthers offensive weapons go, it will be Funchess, Christian McCaffrey out of the backfield, and Cam Newton’s legs; Newton now has 585 rushing yards on the season (45 per game, almost a career high) and is averaging 5.9 per carry. On the injury front, tight end Greg Olsen is admirably working through a foot break earlier this year but looks much less of a threat than before, plus star right guard Trai Turner may be out due to a concussion. This game has the look of a shootout and in those games I don’t like betting against Rodgers. But if you are betting Green Bay, make sure to get +3 (currently 2.5 at Will Hill and Westgate but 3 at MGM Mirage and Wynn). Also I like the over here (47). Score projection: Panthers 27, Packers 26
Cincinnati Bengals (+10.5) at Minnesota Vikings: The Minnesota Vikings come rowing home after a three-game road trip through Detroit, Atlanta and Carolina. The injury gods giveth and taketh: RT Mike Remmers is due back after a five-game absence (back, head) but LT Riley Reiff may be out after injuring his ankle on Sunday. Usually we think bounce back after a team gets wrecked like Cincinnati last week at home against Chicago, but this is a limited, reeling, poorly coached Bengals squad headed into rough waters where the Vikings allow fewer than 14 points per game (13.8). And Vikings top CB Xavier Rhodes (trending towards playing with hip injury) can check the Bengals’ top offensive weapon, WR A.J. Green.
Also Cincinnati has a lengthy injury report and will be missing at least a couple key defensive starters among LB Vontaze Burfict (concussion), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion), safety Shawn Williams (hamstring) and DE Carlos Dunlap (chest), among others. The Vikings have shown a lot of offensive firepower and I think they’re going to ramrod the Bengals in a get-right spot, possibly leading to Marvin Lewis’ in-season firing so they can jump on the coaching candidate carousel right after the GIants and before anyone else (Bears, Colts). Meaning Lewis will soon join Chuck Pagano and John Fox at a Sandals resort. Score projection: Vikings 31, Bengals 13
[Hey there, have you hit “like” on our Facebook page? The page is real, and it’s spectacular.]
New York Jets (+16) at New Orleans Saints: This line is scary high for an NFL game but it’s very hard to make a case for the Jets keeping it close behind backup QB Bryce Petty, set to make his fifth career start (and ninth appearance), in place of the injured Josh McCown. In that small sample, Petty has turned the ball over seven times (INTs) against three touchdowns and completed 56% of passes. If and when they get behind, look out. The Jets have played pretty decent rush defense but what happens when the Saints run for the 50th time and then Drew Brees throws a play-action bomb to Michael Thomas? Petty is going to force the ball to playmaker WR Robby Anderson and I will be waiting after finding a Marshon Lattimore interception prop (over barring too much juice). But despite the projection I’m not laying 16. Score projection: Saints 31, Jets 13
Baltimore Ravens (-7) at Cleveland Browns:
But I will bet the over (40.5) in this game. Score Projection: Ravens 28, Browns 20
Arizona Cardinals (+4) at Washington Redskins: It’s the Walking Wounded, Season-Is-Over Bowl. Both teams have been ravaged by injuries and last week the Cardinals lost starting left tackle Jared Veldheer (fractured ankle) to the injured reserve as well right guard Earl Watford (ankle) for a week-plus. “You just have to laugh and go on,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “What’s next? Get a game plan that these guys can succeed at and go win a game.” Washington’s offense has really struggled in recent weeks but Kirk Cousins should be able to manage a modest passing bounce back here in the non-Patrick-Peterson areas of the field (the slot). I won’t be betting this game but lean Washington on account of Arizona’s reshuffled, backup-stuffed offensive line, QB Blaine Gabbert’s ineffectiveness, home field advantage and the Cards’ East-coast travel. Score Projection: Redskins 23, Cardinals 17
Houston Texans (+11) at Jacksonville Jaguars: The story since Sunday is everyone’s sheer disbelief that Jaguars QB Blake Bortles looks better than competent but… good. Good accuracy, decisions and touch. Farewell, Garbage Time Bortles? It helps that there’s an elite Jaguars defense on the other side but credit where it’s due. Meanwhile their AFC South-mate Houston Texans are cratering. The defense is disassembling and they’re going from Tom Savage at QB (brutal concussion, how on Earth did he get back on the field last week?!) to T.J. Yates against the No. 1 ranked secondary. Good luck. Texans RB Lamar Miller is now averaging a career-low 3.6 yards per carry behind a wobbly offensive line that’s got no threat at QB. His counterpart Leonard Fournette could be looking at a 25+ carry, 150-yard afternoon. Score Projection: Jaguars 27, Texans 10
Los Angeles Rams (+2.5) at Seattle Seahawks: Cuts to the chase: I think the Rams win outright but the better bet is the over (47.5) with a bit of a shootout on tap. Now, behind that: Without Richard Sherman (season, Achilles) Kam Chancellor (neck), and possibly star LB Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and LB K.J. Wright (concussion) on Sunday, this defense is now the Legion of Below-Average and you can’t reasonably expect better. Look at last Sunday: On the Jaguars’ four offensive possessions after Wagner went down, Jacksonville scored three touchdowns and one field goal. The dude is at or near most tackles (115 tackles on season, fourth in NFL) and never misses a tackle. The Rams are near the top of the league in offensive efficiency (fourth), balanced with run and pass and should get back top (sort of) receiver Robert Woods this week. It’s concerning that star LT Andrew Whitworth (MCL) is banged up but he’s expected to play, same as RT Rob Havenstein. Weekly notation of Russell Wilson’s magician-ness here. But unless Wilson has a formula to clone Wagner (or Earl Thomas), I see the Rams taking control of the NFC West. Score Projection: Rams 28, Seahawks 27
Tennessee Titans (+1.5) at San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy G! Jimmy G! Mariota’s knee (sprain)! Marcus Mariota’s disappointing season (10 passing TDs, 14 INTs) continues in the Bay Area against a 49ers team, winners of three out of their last four, feeling pretty darn good about their present and future. The Titans can actually sniff the playoffs at 8-5 but have to feel discouraged by Mariota’s wobbly mechanics and now injured knee, which he’s playing through. The Titans will lean on their exotic smashmouth running attack against a Niners D that’s limited opponents to just three yards per carry over their last three games. Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s goal? “To try to get teams to be one-dimensional. So the first thing you do in the scheme is to stop the run” he said on Thursday. “Everything is designed to stop the run.” They will sell out to do that this week, force Mariota to beat them, and race the Niners to 24 points, a race San Fran will probably win. Score Projection: 49ers 24, Titans 20
New England Patriots (-2.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers: It’s a battle for AFC home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Pats are coming off a short week after a brutal 27-20 smackdown at Miami as 11.5-point road favorites, a game in which they didn’t convert a single third down in 11 tries. Oof. But nobody game plans like Bill Belichick and the Steelers have shown big cracks in the secondary (they’ve allowed 10 passing plays of of 40+ yards, ranks 28th) and now they’re vulnerable in the middle of the field (and at the line of scrimmage) due to the loss of LB Ryan Shazier. Bad timing as he’s their best LB in coverage and they have Gronk to contend with in his return from a one-game suspension. But we know that Pittsburgh is packing some serious heat with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown; the Patriots’ league-worst five yards per carry against and Malcolm Butler’s coverage will cast a pretty small shadow over Brown. This is going to be a shootout and I very slightly lean to New England in what will be an exciting game to watch. Curious to see the yardage prop on Bell. Score Projection: Patriots 27, Steelers 24
Miami Dolphins (+3.5) at Buffalo Bills: I love the Bills in this spot with the Dolphins coming off a huge Monday Night Football upset win, now headed to freezing conditions in Buffalo (forecast is 25 degrees). Bills RB LeSean McCoy probably won’t get as many carries as last week (32), but the Bills game plan should call for a very heavy dose of Shady against a Dolphins that’s been getting shredded on the ground.
Speaking of lots of carries, this stat from last week’s whiteout is pretty incredible:
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 10, 2017
Kenyan Drake has been a revelation for the Fins at running back but this is an obvious (maybe too obvious?) letdown spot for Miami and time to sell high on Jay Cutler. Score Projection: Bills 24, Dolphins 17
Dallas Cowboys (-3) at Oakland Raiders: Reeling Raiders QB Derek Carr told us how he really felt last week after Oakland’s complete no-show in Kansas City in a must-win game. “There is no easy way to put this one” he said. “We sucked.” Indeed they did and have almost the entire season. The Cowboys are coming to town after running over the Giants in a ridiculous 18-tackle and one INT performance by star LB Sean Lee. In their sights: the return of Ezekiel Elliott from suspension next week and a chance to run the table to the playoffs (with some help). In his absence, running back Alfred Morris has done a pretty decent job and this looks like a nice Jason Witten game. The Raiders defense seriously sucks and the rally was supposed to be there last week. Dallas rolls. Score Projection: Cowboys 30, Raiders 20
Atlanta Falcons (-6.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sharp money probably will be on the Bucs (3-9-1 against the spread) but with Jameis Winston’s penchant for the turnover, I just can’t pull the trigger. Julio Jones has absolutely demolished Tampa Bay in matchups past (80 receptions, 1,359 yards, 10 touchdowns in 11 games) and they simply don’t have anyone to contend with him, plus Mohamed Sanu and RB Devonta Freeman at the same time. Tampa Bay had the league’s worst defense (FO) and that was before star DT Gerald McCoy injured his biceps; he played with one arm last week due to a strain (or partial tear). I don’t see how the Bucs can slow down Atlanta’s balanced, 10th-ranked offense. Score Projection: Falcons 28, Bucs 20
Happy Week 14 to you all. Before you place any wagers, check the weather and check for any key injuries/inactives on Sunday. Also, check your bias. Hit me up on Twitter with any thoughts, comments, concerns, questions, compliments or dad jokes.