Picking games in the final two weeks of the NFL regular season tends to be less complicated as teams have different agendas heading towards the end of the year.
Which teams desperately need a win to stay in the playoff picture? Who has a division title sewn up and is merely looking to get to the postseason healthy? Who is out of the playoffs and using the final two weeks to evaluate talent? Which teams have been completely decimated by injuries and starting a third-string quarterback? And which teams have completely tuned out their coaching staff and already booking tee times for Dec. 29? Looking at those guidelines can lead to a very good win-loss record against the spread in Weeks 16 and 17.
Week 15 record: 9-6-1
Season record: 122-98-3
Tennessee Titans (2-12) +3.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)
I’ll make this simple: Who needs to lose this game to increase its chances of being able to draft Marcus Mariota more? Jacksonville is committed to Blake Bortles and thus less likely to tank this game.
ATS pick: Jaguars
Philadelphia Eagles (9-5) +7.5 at Washington (3-11)
Just a friendly reminder to those playing in fantasy football championships, don’t forget about the two games on Saturday starting at 4:30 p.m. ET. Washington is also in position to draft another Heisman winner, although Dan Snyder may have to part with four more draft picks to trade into the top slot.
ATS pick: Eagles
San Diego Chargers (8-6) +1 at San Francisco 49ers (7-7)
This is an easy game to pick. The Chargers are fighting for a playoff spot while Jim Harbaugh mulls $8 million a year offer from the University of Michigan. Another distraction for the 49ers is the release of defensive end Ray McDonald after another damning allegation against him.
ATS pick: Chargers
Detroit Lions (10-4) -9 at Chicago Bears (5-9)
Great news for DFS players as lame duck coach Marc Trestman has named Jimmy Clausen as his starting quarterback while Jay Cutler serves a secret mission to overthrow Kim Jong-un. For his career, Cutler is 45-72-2 against the spread. Barring a Packers loss, this game is not critical to Detroit, who can win the NFC North with a Week 17 win.
ATS pick: Lions
Minnesota Vikings (6-8) +6.5 at Miami Dolphins (7-7)
Another easy game to pick, as Dolphins players have tuned out head coach Joe Philbin, who simply doesn’t have the passion needed to be a NFL head coach. Minnesota has been strong down the stretch.
ATS pick: Vikings
Atlanta Falcons (5-9) +6 at New Orleans Saints (6-8)
New Orleans can close in and possibly clinch the NFC South with a win. Julio Jones again looks iffy at best for the Falcons.
ATS pick: Saints
New England Patriots (11-3) -10 at New York Jets (3-11)
After he gets let go in less than a fortnight, Rex Ryan will talk freely about how anyone would be better off as a cook at Steak n’ Shake than coaching the Jets.
ATS pick: Patriots
Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) +3 at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)
The Steelers control their own destiny in the AFC North with two home games to close the season. Look for Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown to lead countless teams to fantasy championship glory.
ATS pick: Steelers
Green Bay Packers (10-4) –10.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12)
Obviously the Packers should win, but I do not like the double-digit spread. As longtime Packers fans know, no matter what their record is, Green Bay never wins in Tampa. A carryover effect from last week’s debacle in Buffalo may also come into play.
ATS pick: Buccaneers
Cleveland Browns (7-7) +3 at Carolina Panthers (5-8-1)
This game was off the board until Thursday, but it appears Cam Newton will play against a Cleveland team that represented its own car wreck last week.
ATS pick: Panthers
Houston Texans (7-7) +5 at Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
Another easy pick, the Ravens remain in AFC North contention while Houston trots out third-string quarterback Tom Savage. Enough said.
ATS pick: Ravens
New York Giants (5-9) +5.5 at St. Louis Rams (6-8)
Nosebleed tickets for this one have soared to $12 on the secondary market in recent days. Fantasy owners have no reason not to play Odell Beckham Jr., but the Rams have been playing some of the best defense on the planet over the past month. Cheesy Championship trophy dreams could be ruined in this game.
ATS pick: Rams
Indianapolis Colts (10-4) +3 at Dallas Cowboys (10-4)
The marquee game of the weekend serves as another referendum on whether the Colts can truly match up with the game’s elite. The questionable statuses of T.Y. Hilton and DeMarco Murray, along with the late time slot, will cause fantasy owners migraines.
ATS pick: Colts
Buffalo Bills (8-6) -5.5 at Oakland Raiders (2-12)
For the first time in recent memory the Bills are playing meaningful December football games. But their own wagons may be circled in the East Bay by an Oakland team that has won its last two home games. Derek Carr is also playing better than Kyle Orton.
ATS pick: Raiders
Seattle Seahawks (10-4) -8 at Arizona Cardinals (11-3)
The Cardinals reign as a No. 1 seed and NFC West leaders comes to an end this week. Get ready for Ryan Lindley and the Cardinals going to New Orleans for a Wild Card game in two weeks.
ATS pick: Seahawks
Denver Broncos (11-3) -3 at Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1)
Unlike the Thursday night package, Monday Night Football ends the year with a very meaningful game. Peyton Manning has slumped badly in recent weeks and I would not be surprised to see the Broncos bow out in the divisional round.
ATS pick: Bengals