The New Orleans Saints lead off this week’s edition of the 2015 NFL Predictions and boy do they deserve it.
After an 0-3 start and waffling at 1-4, the Saints looked like they would suffer through a second straight lost year. Since then, they’ve won three in a row capped by last week’s thrilling, 52-49 shootout win over the Giants in which Drew Brees absolutely went off. With the Titans this week and Washington and Houston after that, it’s conceivable that New Orleans is 7-4 and in the thick of the NFC playoff picture.
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Who would have thought that, eh?
There are plenty of other compelling matchups this week as well so let’s get right into this week’s picks, with all lines of course provided by Bovada LV and the home team in ALL CAPS.
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Packers (-3) over PANTHERS: Carolina did everything it could to let the Colts back into the game on Monday night before escaping with an overtime win and it feels like the Panthers might be ripe for their first loss of the year. Meanwhile, the Pack must be licking their wounds on the heels of being whomped by Denver and will bounce back strong with a nice road win.
BILLS (-3) over Dolphins: When we last left the Buffalo Bills, they were being humiliated in London by the (ahem) Jaguars. Now that they’ve had a bye, gotten quarterback Tyrod Taylor healthy and had some time to decompress, they should be able to handle a Dolphins team that was exposed in a major way last Thursday against the Patriots. This will be closer than these two teams’ Week 3 matchup, a blowout win by the Bills in Miami. But Buffalo still takes it.
STEELERS (-4.5) over Raiders: It’s so so tempting to take the Raiders here. This is a totally different Oakland team, loaded with young stars and being coached up just right by Jack Del Rio of all people. If the game were to be played in the Black Hole, this one would be easy. But a less rusty Ben Roethlisberger at home and the fact that the Steelers are now just .500 and need to win to keep from being completely left in the dust by the Bengals likely means a Pittsburgh victory, even without Le’Veon Bell.
VIKINGS (-2) over Rams: St. Louis can run the ball and play great defense which would have made them contenders 20 years ago. As it stands now, the Rams are a nice team that’s improving and if they were at home for this one, they’d have a better shot to win. But the Vikings have a great D of their own not to mention a dynamic, young receiver in Stefon Diggs. Minnesota wins a close one.
Washington (+14.5) over PATRIOTS: The truth is, the Pats will probably win this game by in excess of 25 points. But they’ve not covered as many spreads this big of late so let’s give the ‘Skins a little credit and assume, for the sake of this column, that they can put up 20 points on the Pats while holding them to, say, 34.
JETS (-2.5) over Jaguars: Perhaps this low-isn spread has to do with the Jets recent uncertainty at quarterback or their two-game losing streak. Don’t buy it. The Jaguars are coming off a bye and looked good a couple weeks ago against the Bills in London. But there’s no way Blake Bortles will be able to do much against the Jets’ defense and Jacksonville can’t stop anyone, even E.J. Manuel. This feels like a walk for the Jets.
Titans (+9.5) over SAINTS: It’s tough to imagine Drew Brees tossing seven touchdowns again or the Saints putting forth as explosive a performance as they did last week, even against a Titans team in the midst of some serious upheaval. But again, New Orleans looks as consistent as it has in some time — particularly at home — and that should lead to another win this week.
Falcons (-7.5) over 49ERS: What a disaster in Santa Clara. Colin Kaepernick was a couple yards from a championship in 2012-2013 and now he’s benched for Blaine Gabbert. This matchup is just what the Falcons, who are really struggling after their great start, could have possibly hoped for.
BUCS (+3) over Giants: Can you really trust the Giants? Can anyone? How on earth could they have lost that game in New Orleans last week? Who knows? Not much is certain but what absolutely is is that predicting what this team will do on a weekly basis is pretty much impossible. The Bucs, on the other hand, are finally showing some semblance of an identity. They avoided a second straight total collapse with their overtime win over the Falcons last week and another victory this week wouldn’t be a surprise at all.
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Broncos (-5) over COLTS: What looked like a marquee matchup prior to the season starting is now almost an afterthought. If the Colts have any pride — which they might as evidenced by their spirited comeback on Monday night — they’ll give the mighty Broncos a game. But the midweek firing of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton proved that the Colts are still completely adrift and you don’t beat a defense like Denver’s or a quarterback like Peyton Manning under those circumstances. The regression of Andrew Luck continues.
Eagles (-3) over COWBOYS: Dallas leads the league in horrible personnel decisions this season and it’s not even close. Why they continue to stick with Matt Cassel, whose been on the team for five minutes, instead of Brandon Weeden, whose been on it for two years and was putting up numbers astronomically better than Cassel has, is anyone’s guess. Tony Romo will be back shortly but he won’t be around to prevent yet another loss this week. The Eagles will take over the NFC East lead after this one.
CHARGERS (-4) over Bears: Injuries and terrible fortune have robbed the Chargers of at least a couple wins this season so it will be nice to see them finally take one against Chicago this week. The Bears are more competitive than one might expect and they have a superstar at receiver in Alshon Jeffery. But San Diego bounces back at home and takes it on Monday Night Football.
Last Week: 3-8-2
Season to date: 57-51-3