Mike Ivcic’s Week 15 NFL Preview and Free Picks

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Mike Ivcic’s Week 15 NFL Preview and Free Picks ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>

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By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer

Check out the “Playoff Predictor” at the bottom of the picks column for the rest of the season.

Dallas Cowboys @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sat, 8:20pm, NFLN
Line: Cowboys by 7
Talk about folding the tents – the Bucs have been downright awful since their trip across the pond to London, and a once-promising season is now officially over. They now get a Dallas team that has one less day to rebound from a crushing loss at home to the Giants. The Cowboys have played well enough to be a playoff team, but there’s something to be said for finishing games, and they’ll look back at losses to the Jets, Lions, Cardinals, and Giants as opportunities that they let slip away if this winds up being a season that ends after week 17. This week, though, should be a “get-better” game
Pick: Dallas 38, Tampa Bay 13

Carolina Panthers @ Houston Texans
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Texans by 6.5
Two weeks in a row, the Texans have managed to pull out wins against tough opponents and stay dead even with the Patriots, Ravens, and Steelers in the AFC race. Now they get a below-average team at home, a game they’ll be expected to win and – judging by the nearly touchdown line – win handily. But things in this league are rarely what they seem, and I think the Panthers have one more upset left in them this year. I can’t pick it this week, but I’ll at least take the points.
Pick: Houston 28, Carolina 24

Cincinnati Bengals @ St. Louis Rams
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Bengals by 7
Here’s your season, Bengals fans – your team let one slip away last weekend and now stare on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Rooting for the Eagles, Lions, and Colts isn’t enough. Your team has to take care of its own business against a bad football team.
Pick: Cincinnati 24, St. Louis 10

Green Bay Packers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Packers by 14
It’s almost unfair to the rest of the NFL that the Packers got to play the worst division in all of football as their AFC-NFC crossover this year. They’ve already dispatched of the Broncos, Chargers, and Raiders, and now get a Chiefs team that gave up 37 points to the Jets. Mark up Green Bay to 14-0, and bring on the Bears on Christmas Day.
Pick: Green Bay 45, Kansas City 12

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Dolphins by 1.5
At one point this season, the Bills were 5-2 and talking about challenging not just the Jets in the AFC East, but also the Patriots for division supremacy. Seems like a long time ago, as the Bills have lost six straight and now find themselves in a must-win situation to keep from falling into last place. My prediction is that they won’t wind up in last place at the end of the season, but winning this game might still be a bit too much to ask for a team that’s clearly not the same as they were two months ago.
Pick: Miami 23, Buffalo 20

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New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Saints by 7
The Saints play well in domes. The Vikings don’t play well anywhere. Enough said.
Pick: New Orleans 35, Minnesota 17

Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Bears by 3.5
Somehow the Seahawks are suddenly in better position to make a run at the playoffs entering this game than the Bears are. That’s mostly because of the injury to Cutler, which turned the Bears from Super Bowl dark horse to playoff longshot. The offense simply cannot muster enough to win games, losing winnable contests to Denver and Kansas City in each of the last two weeks. Once again, the defense will likely perform well enough to win, but Marshawn Lynch will only need one or two big runs and a touchdown to put this game out of reach for the Bears anemic offense.
Pick: Seattle 17, Chicago 10

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Titans by 6.5
The countdown to 0-16 is at three, with each division opponent getting their chance to repay Indy for years of frustration. The Colts might actually be able to win all three games, believe it or not, as the Titans are fading from playoff contention, the Texans might be resting starters if the top two seeds appear out of reach, and the Jags are… well, the Jags. Still, it’s wise to take the opposition and the points for the rest of the season. Just don’t be surprised if Indianapolis pulls an upset one of these last three weeks.
Pick: Tennessee 27, Indianapolis 17

Washington Redskins @ New York Giants
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Giants by 7
Redskins put up a great performance but came up short against New England. I don’t think they can do that twice in a row, while the Giants have no margin for error and will bring their “A” game once again.
Pick: New York 28, Washington 10

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Detroit Lions @ Oakland Raiders
Sun, 4:05pm, FOX
Line: Lions by 1.5
I tend to think this line is still a reaction to the Raiders team that played the first half of the season, and not the one Hue Jackson is currently putting on the field. The Lions get Suh back, and Oakland isn’t built to handle a defensive line as good as Detroit’s, which will prevent any late-game covers like Minnesota pulled off last week.
Pick: Detroit 31, Oakland 17

Cleveland Browns @ Arizona Cardinals
Sun, 4:15pm, CBS
Line: Cardinals by 6.5
It’s tough for me to really look at the Cardinals as a touchdown better than any team in this league, but that’s what happens when a team plays out west and flies under the radar to a 6-7 record. Technically, they’re still alive in the playoff race, and should be able to pick up a win here. I just think the Cleveland defense, with 10 days off to rest and prepare, keeps this one close.
Pick: Arizona 20, Cleveland 17

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos
Sun, 4:15pm, CBS
Line: Patriots by 7
Vegas finally figured out how to make a line in a Broncos game. As I said two weeks ago before the Denver-Minnesota game, either Denver should be favored by 3 or should be at least a touchdown underdog. Well here’s the touchdown underdog, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually taking Bill Belichick over Tim Tebow.
Pick: New England 28, Denver 20

New York Jets @ Philadelphia Eagles
Sun, 4:15pm, CBS
Line: Eagles by 3
Look, as a Jets fan I know as well as anyone that Gang Green in capable of self-destructing at any point. That said, it’s hard to argue with the performances the last two weeks, even if it was against Washington and Kansas City. Quite frankly, the Eagles aren’t a whole lot better than those two teams, so expect another win for the Jets in this one.
Pick: New York 24, Philadelphia 16

Baltimore Ravens @ San Diego Chargers
Sun, 8:20pm, NBC
Line: Ravens by 3
NBC wanted Tebow here, but the Pats said no. Instead the Chargers could see their playoff hopes finally come to an end, OR the Ravens could give the Steelers an opening to claim the division outright – remember, Baltimore won both head-to-head games and thus wins the tiebreaker. Expect this to be the final nail in the coffin of head coach Norv Turner and the exclamation point on one of sports’ most underachieving groups of the last decade, joining a top 10 list that also includes the Eagles, Mets, Cowboys, Sharks, Capitals, Suns, Cavaliers, Canucks, and Dodgers.
Pick: Baltimore 30, San Diego 21

Pittsburgh Steelers @ San Francisco 49’ers
Mon, 8:30pm, ESPN
Line: 49’ers by 2
If the Ravens do win Sunday night, that will make this the marquee game of the weekend – a first this season for ESPN. San Francisco may have lost their chance at homefield with their loss to Arizona last weekend, but with a Falcons-Saints matchup looming the final weekend, San Fran still has to believe they can finish as the 2-seed. Meanwhile Pittsburgh may be able to reclaim control of the division, or at the worst continue to keep pace in the hopes the Ravens falter. This isn’t the same Steelers team that’s been to two Super Bowls in the last three years, so they will need Heinz Field more than ever in the postseason to get back to the title game. This is on the west coast, though, so advantage Niners.
Pick: San Francisco 24, Pittsburgh 20

Straight Up: 140-66
Against Spread: 101-94-11

1. Baltimore Ravens
2. New England Patriots
3. Houston Texans
4. Denver Broncos
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
6. New York Jets                   
7. Cincinnati Bengals
8. Tennessee Titans
9. Oakland Raiders
10. San Diego Chargers
11. Buffalo Bills
12. Miami Dolphins
13. Kansas City Chiefs
14. Cleveland Browns
15. Jacksonville Jaguars
16. Indianapolis Colts
Changes: None this week, as I still think the Bills will ultimately finish ahead of Miami, thanks to their division win over New England in week three.

1. Green Bay Packers
2. New Orleans Saints
3. San Francisco 49’ers
4. New York Giants
5. Atlanta Falcons
6. Detroit Lions                      
7. Dallas Cowboys
8. Seattle Seahawks
9. Chicago Bears
10. Arizona Cardinals
11. Carolina Panthers
12. Philadelphia Eagles
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14. Washington Redskins
15. Minnesota Vikings
16. St. Louis Rams
Changes: Switched Atlanta and Detroit because Falcons will win the tiebreaker at 10-6 based upon conference record. Also moved Arizona ahead of both Philadelphia and Carolina.

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