With the Thursday Night schedule mercifully over, I am able wait an extra day to unveil my Week 16 Against the Spread picks.
This week’s theme is holiday gift wishes for each NFL team.
WEEK 15: 8-7
WEEK 15: 0-3
Miami Dolphins (8-6) -3 v. Buffalo Bills (5-9)
The Dolphins wish is obvious, win their final two games and get a Ravens loss. Bills fans would just like to see their team make the playoffs one of these years, their playoff drought is at 14 years and counting. You might want to go with the under on this game, it will be unseasonably warm, but very windy. ATS PICK: Dolphins
Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1) +7.5 at Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)
There should be an added bonus feature on Madden: A helmet-to-helmet hit on an opposing receiver is worth 10 points, low peel-back block on a defender would be worth a huge 40 points, taking out the opposing quarterback on a read-option earns a massive 70 points, and finally laying out a defenseless punter during a return will get, count them, 100 full points.
The wish of Vikings management is to hit the store first thing on Dec. 26 and return Josh Freeman. Sorry, already discounted items cannot be returned. The Bengals made things much tougher on themselves by laying an egg in Pittsburgh. They need a win this week plus a Ravens loss to clinch the division. Otherwise it comes down to Week 17 against Baltimore. ATS PICK: Vikings
Indianapolis Colts (9-5) +6.5 at Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)
Kansas City is in the weather bullseye this weekend, four to eight inches of snow is expected Saturday night into Sunday morning before giving way to bitter cold. The Colts appear to be finally gaining some momentum, perhaps they can replicate the Baltimore Ravens’ run from a year ago as the probable four seed.
The Chiefs got most of their holiday wishes already by clinching a playoff spot after last year’s 2-14 season. Jamaal Charles fantasy owners are probably covered as well. Now it’s time to get greedy, win out and somehow see the Broncos lose one more game. ATS PICK: Chiefs (LOCK)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10) +5.5 at St. Louis Rams (6-8)
The gift wishes of both teams are similar, to continue the momentum from recent weeks. The Rams might also like a move to a different division. All four teams from the
Group of Death NFC West won last week. But the Rams are sitting pretty with the high draft pick they will get from trading away the rights to RG-third string two years ago. ATS PICK: Buccaneers
Cleveland Browns (4-10) +2.5 at New York Jets (6-8)
Both teams would like to see a stud quarterback under the tree, whether it be Kirk Cousins or a first round draft pick. With a decent signal-caller in Cleveland next year, Josh Gordon will have Calvin Johnson-like potential. ATS PICK: Browns
Dallas Cowboys (7-7) -2.5 at Washington (3-11)
Jerry Jones would like to use his account to buy Dez Bryant a more positive attitude. Washington’s best present might be to come to the chilling realization that Kirk Cousins is their best quarterback and to trade off Robert Griffin III instead. Record high temperatures of around 70 degrees are expected in the D.C. area. ATS PICK: Cowboys
New Orleans Saints (10-4) +3 at Carolina Panthers (10-4)
NBC is not allowed to flex this game for the second time in three weeks, but sadly not much of the nation is going to see perhaps the most attractive matchup of the weekend. Both teams obviously want a division title and first round bye under the tree. Fantasy players who owned Garrett Hartley would like to see coal under his stocking to go along with his pink slip. Considering how convincingly they won just two weeks ago, it is surprising to see the Saints as underdogs. ATS PICK: Saints (LOCK)
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10) +5 at Tennessee Titans (5-9)
Two more teams who would like to put a quarterback on layaway for 2014. ATS PICK: Jaguars
Denver Broncos (11-3) -10.5 at Houston Texans (2-12)
Peyton Manning was announced as Sportsman of the Year last Sunday night, outdistancing United States soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann. That is all well and fine. But the only thing Manning wants under his tree is a Super Bowl trophy. The Texans would like to make wholesale changes and then replicate the Kansas City Chiefs’ worst to first run. In the AFC South wasteland, that is very possible. ATS PICK: Broncos
New York Giants (5-9) +9 at Detroit Lions (7-7)
The Lions’ wish is to win their first division title in over 20 years. That hill became much steeper after losses the last two weeks. The Giants would like the Eli Manning of a few years back under the tree for 2014. ATS PICK: Lions
Arizona Cardinals (9-5) +10.5 at Seattle Seahawks (12-2)
Location, location, location. The Cardinals have had a great year, but will have to beat the Seahawks and 49ers in consecutive weeks to crash the playoff party. The Seahawks will settle for winning this week and having the top playoff seed sewn up. ATS PICK: Cardinals
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8) at Green Bay Packers (7-6-1) (OFF)
The Steelers wish is to not lose a late round draft pick thanks to the Mike Tomlin Thanksgiving near-trip debacle. The Packers wish is just to win this week to make Week 17 at Chicago relevant. After three weeks of “will he play or won’t he” speculation, one has to wonder if Aaron Rodgers is simply being used as the NFL’s highest paid decoy at this point. Weather will be a factor in Green Bay, heavy snow is expected leading up to the game but should taper off by kickoff.
Oakland Raiders (4-10) +10 at San Diego Chargers (7-7)
It sounds like that the Raiders are asking Santa for the same thing as most other years: a new coach. The Chargers have had a better year than expected, they need two wins and a lot of help elsewhere to squeeze into the postseason. ATS PICK: Raiders
New England Patriots (10-4) +2.5 at Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
Well, Justin Tucker gave fantasy owners an early present on Monday night. From way downtown, bang. Now the Ravens need just two more wins to clinch the AFC North. The Patriots would like to win this to get back on track for a first-round bye in the AFC. ATS PICK: Patriots.
Chicago Bears (8-6) +3 at Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)
By the time this kicks off Sunday night, this game may mean much more to Chicago than the Eagles. Should Dallas win earlier in the day, the Eagles will have to defeat the Cowboys in Week 17 regardless. The Bears could win the NFC North this week, but will need a win plus Green Bay and Detroit losses.
ATS PICK: Bears (LOCK)
Atlanta Falcons (4-10) +13 at San Francisco 49ers (10-4)
The 49ers already have one present, a new stadium next year. Three road playoff wins would be another ambitious item to ask for. The Falcons holiday shopping list is quite lengthy, perhaps starting with some younger running backs. ATS PICK: Falcons