By Neil Keefe
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Let’s pretend Week 14 never happened. I already have. Week 14? Huh? What’s that?
We’re coming down the stretch in the NFL regular season with just three weeks left, and I’m clutching the white flag for this picks season in my right hand the way Tom Coughlin holds his challenge flag all scrunched up in his hand. After last week’s disaster, I have accepted that maybe the .500 overall plateau isn’t a place I will see this again season since it isn’t a place I have seen in months.
This weekend is a big week for New York City football, and the meaning of the Giants-Jets Christmas Eve game next Saturday hangs in the balance of what happens this Sunday. Both teams control their own destiny, but the Giants are in better shape than the Jets since they can lose of their next two games as long as they beat the Cowboys in Week 17 at home. The Jets could technically lose another game, but after battling to gain control of the No. 6 seed, and with the Raiders and Broncos holding tiebreakers over them, another loss for the Jets could end their season.
So, let’s forget about what happened in my picks last week, and let’s look at what matters now and that’s the first of the final three weeks of the 2011 NFL regular season.
Week 15 … let’s go!
(Home team in caps)
ATLANTA -11 over Jacksonville
I made this pick on Twitter on Thursday since I knew that my picks wouldn’t be up until Friday. If I took the Jaguars I probably would have just surrendered the picks season last night.
2011 might go down as the worst season for Thursday Night Football (New Orleans-Green Bay in Week 1 doesn’t count since that was an NBC game and not an NFL Network game) and Monday Night Football ever. The Jaguars played on Monday Night Football in Week 13 and lost by 24 points. They played on Thursday Night Football this week and lost by 27. Now I know that a lot goes into these schedules and there are limits on how many times a team can play on each, but when was it ever a good idea to have the Jaguars on either Thursday Night Football or Sunday Night Football?
Since 2000, the Jaguars have made the playoffs twice in 12 seasons (I’m including this season since they’re 4-10). They have had three winning seasons in that time (their last winning season was in 2007) and they haven’t won their division since 1999. Remember when the Lions played on Monday Night Football in Week 5 and you kept hearing about the Lions’ return to Monday Night Football for the first time since Oct. 8, 2001? There’s a reason the NFL didn’t use the Lions in that time slot for 10 years until they became competitive again. It’s about time the Jaguars received the Lions treatment.
Dallas -7 over TAMPA BAY
The Bucs haven’t won since they beat the Saints at home in Week 6. (How again did they beat the Saints?!?!) They are currently riding a seven-game losing streak after starting the year 5-2. And to top it off, they lost last week to the Jaguars 41-14! 41 points allowed … against the Jaguars! The same team that you just spent time reading me rip apart and personally ban from national TV indefinitely. After the first Jaguars drive on Thursday night, I honestly didn’t know if they would get a first down in the entire game. That same team beat the Bucs just six days ago? I have to take Dallas here, but I will be a Bucs fan on Saturday night.
NEW YORK GIANTS -7 over Washington
In reality, I think that the Giants will probably make me suffer through 57 minutes of “Giants football” and then win on a field goal in the final minutes, but not before the Redskins put one last scare into the G-Men and me. I would have to be foolish to think this game would end any other way. But I have to go into the game with the mindset that the Giants won’t deliver a letdown performance after their season-saving win last week. I believe in the Giants! (I tried to type that last sentence with a straight face.)
Green Bay -14 over KANSAS CITY
Usually picking a team to cover two touchdowns on the road would be crazy. But usually the team you’re picking isn’t 13-0 with 84 points in its last two games. And usually the team you’re picking against hasn’t put up just 10 or less points in the last six weeks and isn’t starting Tyler Palko.
Miami -1.5 over BUFFALO
There are two games that mean absolutely nothing this week and this is one of them … (Scroll down to Cleveland-Arizona.)
New Orleans – 7 over MINNESOTA
The Saints cover spreads. The Vikings usually lose close games. Then again the Vikings haven’t seen Drew Brees in a dome.
Seattle +3.5 over CHICAGO
The Seahawks are playing like they can get into the playoffs with one of the two wild cards despite having seven losses already. The Bears were 7-3 with Jay Cutler and now 0-3 without him, and lost to Palko and the Chiefs 10-3 in Week 13. It’s all over for the Bears.
Carolina +6 over HOUSTON
I know it’s T.J. Yates, but it’s the Panthers defense. Like come on, how long can the Texans really keep this winning streak going with a cast of JV quarterbacks?
Tennessee -6.5 over INDIANAPOLIS
Now is not the time to get fancy and pick the Colts to cover a spread even if they have the last couple of weeks. Tennessee still has something to play for, and the only thing the Colts have to play for (Andrew Luck) they already locked up weeks ago.
Cincinnati -6.5 over ST. LOUIS
Remember when everyone thought Sam Bradford was going to be the Next Big Thing? I mean maybe he might, but I have watched him now a handful of times this year, including this past Monday in what was one of the worst quarterback performances of 2011, and all I hope is that Andrew Luck doesn’t end up being “as good” as Sam Bradford is.
Detroit -1 over OAKLAND
I have thought about this game way longer than anyone should be thinking about the spread of a football game unless they have the mortgage and a pair of college tuitions on the line. Thankfully, that’s not me. But when I look at the mixed results on the Raiders schedule, I just can’t trust them. (Don’t get me wrong … I don’t trust the Lions either. I just trust them more than I trust the Raiders.)
DENVER +7.5 over New England
The Boston media bashes the Patriots after every performance even though they are — and are going to win their division (again) and probably going to receive a first-round bye for the first time since 2007. For some reasons Bostonians think that the Patriots should score a touchdown on every drive and that their defense should post a shutout every game. Very reasonable expectations from very reasonable people.
Aside from wanting the Giants to win and the Cowboys to lose, the next most important thing this week is that Tim Tebow beats the Patriots.
New York Jets +3 over PHILADELPHIA
I want the Jets to win because I want the Christmas Eve game to have full meaning for both teams. And I want the Jets to win because I want the AFC playoff picture to remain the same the rest of the way to set up a Jets-Patriots first-round matchup in Foxboro. Giants Fans For Jets, Round 2?
Cleveland +7 over ARIZONA
… And this is the other one.
But seriously, the Browns aren’t good, however they hang around in games against other teams that aren’t good. Their games against the Colts, Dolphins, Seahawks, Rams and Jaguars have been decided by an average of 3.4 points. The Cardinals are in that same group with those other bad teams, and I don’t think the Cardinals should be giving seven points in any game this season.
Baltimore -2.5 over SAN DIEGO
I don’t care that the Ravens lost on the West Coast earlier in the year to the Seahawks. Give me the Chargers against a better team, and I will always take the better team no matter what the line is. I’ll even take the supposed worse team against the Chargers the way I have on several occasions this season. It’s the Chargers! Hasn’t the football world learned anything these last few years?
Pittsburgh +2.5 over SAN FRANCISCO
A Monday Night Football game that might actually be good? I don’t believe you. In the Falcons-Jaguars write-up, I wrote about how bad the Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football games have been this year, and it’s true. The last five Monday games have been decided by 17, 24, 25, 31 and 38 points, and for the season, the games have been decided by an average of 14.3 points.
Last Week: 5-11-0
Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilKeefe