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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Week 15 NFL Predictions: December 18, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

DALLAS AT TAMPA BAY: DAL is another one of the weekly inconsistent teams vying for a playoff spot.  Sharps moved the line up to a full touchdown in some markets and they are staying far away from this TB team.   On paper, DAL have most of the advantages and should have little trouble winning this game straight up.   They should be able to run or pass and limit TB to the passing game.  DAL also has a far superior defensive line which becomes a nice edge at this time of year.  Both teams are horrendous with their red zone efficiency, but TB turn the ball over far more often.  Teasing DAL is a no-brainer in this spot.

NEW ORLEANS AT MINNESOTA: There is mixed support on both of these teams depending on where the point spread is.  I prefer to avoid all confusion and tease NO down as they continue to push for playoff seeding.  It won't really matter much who MIN has at QB because Brees should be able to have his way with an underwhelming MIN secondary.   Sharps aren't crazy about NO as a road team, but in a dome things should be much more stable for this fast-paced offense.  AP is probable, but he'll need to be a man possessed to carry this offense to the promised land.  MIN have one of the worst offensive lines in the league.  Look for NO to sustain drives at will and dominate the clock from the get-go. 

CAROLINA AT HOUSTON: This pick is going a little bit against the grain.  Sharps prefer Newton over Yates by a considerable margin, but I prefer to tease HOU down on the strength of their running game and defense.  CAR have been horrible with their yards-to-points ratio, turnover ratio, penalties, and special teams all year long.  Now they face a top tier defense.  The other big weakness CAR have is stopping the run.  With AJ out again this week HOU is going to pound the rock all game long.  It should be enough to come away with the straight up win with or without a good performance from Yates. 

TENNESSEE AT INDIANAPOLIS: Money has come in on IND in this one from the pros because they like the home field advantage, injury concerns at TEN QB, and the desperation of a winless IND team.  That sounds good in theory, but reality is what wins and loses football games.  IND have been so far and above bad in every meaningful category this season.  It's not even worth listing all the mis-matches.  Granted TEN isn't exactly the most reliable side, but they've proved that they aren't about to pack it in despite their prospects this year.  For the most part they have taken care of the ball and protected their QB quite well this year.  It also helps that CJ is finally earning some of his contract. 

CINCINNATI AT ST. LOUIS: There hasn't been a lot of movement in this game.  CIN is overpriced at the current line, but STL haven't been able to cover all year so most people are taking a pass.   I like CIN to win this game straight up thanks to their defense.  STL have had serious problems on offense all season long and will need to have one of their best mistake-free games of the year to overcome the mismatches.  Clemens is in for a long day and will need to do his best Mike Vick impersonation to avoid all the defenders who will be in the backfield.  Good luck!

DETROIT AT OAKLAND: A few weeks ago sharps would have been all over OAK as a pick em at home.  Now the winds have changed and the early money came in on DET.  I'm in complete agreement with them.  I've never felt good about putting my money on Palmer and that goes for this week more than ever.  For the most part, this season has still been all about the passing game and ability to sustain drives.  DET have a huge advantage in both areas.  In fact, DET has almost 150+ points more than OAK in their points from long drives categories.  A lot of this has to do with DET's ability to get off the field on 3rd down and score touchdowns instead of field goals in the red zone.  OAK are the complete opposite in both stats.  Don't overthink this one, roll with the favorite.

NEW ENGLAND AT DENVER: I'm not going to say much about this because it's been over-hyped and over-analyzed in the media all week long.  Simply put I'm not a Tebow believer despite his results.  He can't expect the same unlikely events to happen each and every week.  Sooner or later the bubble is going to burst and it's shaping up to be this week against Tom Brady and company.  Granted NE's secondary is horrific, but DEN is outmatched in the passing game and Tebow won't be able to keep up.  He's most effective when the game is tight at the end, but this could be over by the 3rd quarter--if not sooner.  If DEN do pull the upset, it will be thanks to their defensive line making Brady's day miserable--not thanks to Tebow's heroics. 

CLEVELAND AT ARIZONA: Put up your hand if you've watched Seneca Wallace play over the last year.  If you have, you'll know how bad he has been.  I'm not saying Kolb is any better, because he's been overrated since the minute ARI acquired him.  Yet, I don't think this CLE team has much of a chance winning on the road no matter who the opponent is.  They are 0-8 against the top half of the league and even have a couple losses against bottom feeders too.  Their only saving grace comes from their pass defense, but ARI should be able to do enough in other areas to compensate.  If CLE had a better pass rush I'd likely pass on this game, because ARI rank dead last in pass protection.  Since they don't, I have little trouble throwing them in a teaser and seeing what happens. UPDATE: Kolb is out with a concussion, but it doesn't alter my opinion on this game. Given the way he's played this year, it's not a significant downgrade.

BALTIMORE AT SAN DIEGO: If SD had been able to pull out a couple more wins this year they would likely be favored in this one.  But due to a couple freak events, SD still have a losing record and get pegged with underdog status this week.  They've blown out a couple crap teams the last couple weeks...which doesn't tell us much other than they still have the talent to be a threat.   BAL hold the advantages on the ground and the passing games are pretty much a wash.  BAL also have the edge on both the offensive and defensive lines.  Therefore anyone considering taking BAL on the point spread would be justified in doing so, but I'd prefer to tease SD up as the home dog in a prime-time game instead.  They still have a lot of motivation to come out with the win so I doubt they would go through the motions.  As long as Rivers doesn't digress into his earlier turnover machine mode, they should cover the +8.5.
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