Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

The Lineman’s NFL picks – Week 15

December 17, 2010

NFL/

Being the holiday season there have been a few gifts from the odds-makers the last two weeks and they helped the Lineman to a couple of nice 4-2 Sundays.

There were no presents this week but settle in for what should be an intriguing Sunday, loaded with matchups that have major playoff implications.
Record: 43-41.
Last week: 4-2. Pick of the Week: 7-7

PICK OF THE WEEK:
Denver Broncos (3-10) at Oakland Raiders (6-7)
(Line Raiders minus 6.5)

In a week jam-packed with mouth-watering matchups, this is not one of them. The Raiders playoff hopes are on life support and the Broncos have been dead and buried for months.
Only in the minds of those deranged residents of the Black Hole, do they actually believe the Raiders are a Super Bowl team but compared to the Broncos – they are.
Denver fired coach Josh McDaniels last week but the move failed to inspire the Broncos, who were spanked 43-13 by the punchless Arizona Cardinals, losing for the eighth time in nine games.
QB Kyle Orton started the season looking like the second coming of John Elway but more recently has reminded everyone why the Chicago Bears gave up on him. 
I’m not expecting a repeat of the 59-14 drubbing Oakland laid on the Broncos at Mile High stadium in October but it could be nearly as ugly with the Raiders getting healthy at just the right time.
Running back Darren McFadden, who rumbled for four-touchdowns in the Mile High nightmare, could be in for another big day against a soft Denver defence that is ranked 31st against the run.
Back in Black. Take the Raiders and give up the 6.5.
- – - -
Green Bay Packers (8-5) at New England Patriots (11-2)
(Line Patriots minus-7.5)
For a moment, I was considering making this my Pick of Week – but being a Cheesehead at heart, I just could not do it.
But loyalty will only take you so far and the Packers are in BIG trouble this week, venturing into the Dead Zone known as Foxborough, needing a win and probably having to do it without concussed quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
If Rodgers is unable to go then the Pack will turn to backup Matt Flynn and rely on the league’s top ranked defence that has allowed an average of just 14.5 points per game and a measly 8.8 points their last six.
But even an inspired Green Bay defence might not be able to keep QB Tom Brady and the Patriots top ranked offence from lighting them up like a Christmas tree.
Brady has thrown 268 passes without an interception shredding some of the NFL’s elite defences on their current five game winning streak, putting 45 points on the Jets, 39 on the Steelers and last week 36 on the Bears before stepping off the gas.
Brady has won an NFL record 26 consecutive home games and with a win on Sunday, coupled with a Jets loss, can clinch the AFC East title and a first round.

The Pack defence may be able to keep Brady from turning them into a pinata but without Rodgers they will still take a beating.
No Rodgers. No hope.
Rodgers and out. Take the Pats and give up the 7.5.
- – - -
Chicago Bears (9-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-8)
(Lines Bears minus-1.5)
Remember when the Vikings quarterback debate was Brett Favre or Tarvaris Jackson. Well this week the talk in Minny is whether to start rookie Joe Webb or journeyman Patrick Ramsey.
But with Favre sidelined with a bum shoulder and Jackson hobbled by a toe injury, that’s what it has come down to for the Vikings, a raw rookie or a veteran, who has not played a down of football since 2008.
The Bears had a five game winning streak end with crushing 36-7 loss to the Patriots last week but can lock up NFC North title with a victory over the Vikings and a Green Bay loss in New England.
Chicago has the NFL’s third ranked defence giving up an average of 17. ppg and is second best against the run yielding just 87 ypg.
Without Favre or Jackson calling plays, the Vikings are likely to rely on running back Adrian Peterson, who has seen his production drop off in recent weeks but is still the NFL’s fifth leading rusher with 1,149-yards.    
The game will be played outdoors at the University of Minnesota while repairs are made to the Metrodome roof that was damaged in last week’s snowstorm.
You have to feel for the Vikings who have endured a season from Hell.
The Favre fiasco, the Randy Moss nightmare, coach Brad Childress sacked, the Metrodome collapsing, it has been a season to forget in Minny.
Moosejaw, Miami or Minnesota, you have to believe the Vikings just want this to be over.
Take the Bears, give up the 1.5 and get out of town.   
- – - -
Jacksonville Jaguars (8-5) at Indianapolis Colts (7-6)
(Line Colts minus-4.5)
A year ago, the Colts came into Week 15 with a perfect record. This year they are fighting for their playoff lives. 
How bad are things in Indy, a Jacksonville victory would cap a stunning turnaround for the Jaguars, who would go from finishing last in the division a year ago to capturing their first AFC South title in 11 seasons and all but eliminate the Colts. As always, the Colts playoff chances ride on the arm of QB Peyton Manning, now the NFL’s quarterback Ironman at 205 games after Brett Favre’s record streak of 297 consecutive starts ended on Monday, while the Jaguars rely on a punishing ground game and the running of Maurice Jones-Drew.
Manning leads the NFL with 4,028 passing yards while Jones-Drew is second in rushing with 1,278.
Jacksonville defence ranks 28th against the pass while the Colts are 29th against the run.
Something has to give.
Take the Colts and give up the 4.5
 - – - -
Washington Redskins (5-8) at Dallas Cowboys (4-9)
(Line Cowboys minus-6.5)
One of my few rules is, never pick any game that has two teams playing out the string and nothing to play for.
But I just could not ignore this one. It called to me, “take me, take me”. 
Sad to see that this great rivalry has been reduced to playing for nothing more than pride and the Cowboys have shown a lot more of it in recent weeks than the Redskins.
The Cowboys have played with energy since Wade Philips was sacked going 3-2 under interim coach Jason Garrett – and those two losses were both by just three points to Eagles and Saints.
The Redskins, meanwhile, are in a mess winning just once in their last six.
The game is the Cowboys last at home this season and I expect them to ride into the sunset with a big win over their biggest rival.
Cowboy up. Take Dallas and give up the 6.5.
- – - -
Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) at New York Giants (9-4)
(Line Giants minus-2.5)
Eagles QB Michael Vick said he wants dog as pet one day. Eagles fans want a win, the Giants want revenge and I want to win the lottery.
It’s crunch time in the NFC East, where 9-4 co-leaders the Eagles and Giants set to square off in New Jersey with the winner earning the inside track to a possible playoff bye or home field advantage in the first round.
This is almost certain to be a close game but the Giant have been on roll winning three straight since falling 27-17 to the Eagles.
The Giants will lean on the double-barreled running threat of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw while the Eagles offence revolves around Vick, who sure to be in the cross-hairs of a New York defence that leads the NFL in sacks.
This one is more of hunch than a homerun. But sometimes you have to go down swinging.
Giant win. Take the G-Men and give up the 2.5.

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •