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Week fourteen was one to forget for me, a horrible loss to the Steelers for the Bengals, and a 7-9 record that’s dropped me a likely unrecoverable five games behind Dan with only three more weeks to go. The race for the playoffs are really heating up, nowhere is that more true than in the AFC North so let’s get cracking with the week fifteen games.

Gee:      Week 14   7-9                     Overall   101-107
Dan:       Week 14   10-6                   Overall   106-102

Cardinals @ Rams (-3.5)

This should be an interesting Thursday night game and I’m really not sure where to go with this one.

The Rams have just shut out two teams in a row, and even through it was against the Raiders and the Washington Semi-Professional football team, this is still some achievement. The defence has been playing better for several weeks, even before Chris Long returned, and I suspect that the Cardinals will have problems moving the ball this week. If they can find themselves a quarterback in the offseason then the Rams could be a very interesting team next year.

The Cardinals managed to somehow stop the rot last week against the Chiefs, despite yet more injuries and the play of Drew Stanton. I think that Bruce Arians has been coach of the year and I’m really looking forward to watching their defence again this week. I’m backing the Cardinals in this game as I’m fed up of picking against them, it feels like every time I do they punish me for it.

Gee’s Pick:          Cardinals
Dan’s Pick:          Cardinals

Steelers @ Falcons (+2.5)

It was pretty impressive how competitive the Falcons made their game against the Packers considering they were 31-7 down at half time. They have been playing a bit better in recent weeks as they remain at the top of the awful NFC south. The problem is that whilst their offence has always had the talent at the skill positions and has begun to play better recently, the defence is not good and has very little pass rush. In fact, they are dead last by DVOA and I don’t see that changing this week.

The Steelers defence has been shaky all season, but whilst the offence has been patchy, when they are on they can be devastating, as they proved this weekend. They have their own version of the Cowboy triplets with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers should not be in this position as they have some horrible losses, but now we are at the business end of the season they will be there or there abouts, and I expect them to have too much for the Falcons.

I can see this being a high scoring game, but whilst I would be thrilled if the Falcon could do the Bengals a favour, I can’t see it happening.

Gee’s Pick:          Steelers
Dan’s Pick:          Steelers

Packers @ Bills (+5.5)

The Bills defence really is very good and is not getting a lot of help from their offence. If you had offered them a stat line of 173 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions from Peyton Manning before the game, they would have taken your arm off. However, they couldn’t take advantage of this despite out gaining them by over one hundred yards. The problem is that having traded their first round pick for next year to get Sammy Watkins, I’m not sure how they will fix the QB problem in the offseason.

The Packers had to work to keep ahead of the Falcons in the second half, but they continue to be a step above as part of an elite four. I would love JJ Watt to win this year’s MVP, but I can only see it going to Aaron Rogers who has been playing brilliantly. Their defence is also playing more than well enough to cope with the Bills and whilst they are on the road this week, I think they are good enough to cover in this game.

Gee’s Pick:          Packers
Dan’s Pick:          Packers

Bengals @ Browns (+0.5)

The Browns lost a heartbreaker on Sunday against the Colts, and it looks like Johnny Manziel will be getting the start on Sunday against the Bengals. This is perhaps not surprising given how Brian Hoyer has struggled over the last few weeks, but whilst Johnny Football may be able to make some plays with his legs, I’m not sure if he is going to make that much difference to the offensive stuggles that this team are now going through. Their defence will keep them in this game as they have been playing really well and almost did enough last week to beat the Colts.

The Bengals never make things easy for themselves, and having picked up a game on everybody in the AFC North two weeks ago, came crashing back to the pack with a frustrating loss to the Steelers. The big plays at the end of the game were daggers to the heart, and unusual for a secondary that has held up so well throughout the season. I can’t be the only Bengals fan who is missing Mike Zimmer, and finally losing Vontaze Burfict to IR hardly inspires me with confidence given how much the defence has missed them this season. That said, AJ Green is coming of a career day and I’m sure the coaching staff will be reminding the team of the dismal result earlier this season in their Thursday night game. This is the Bengals’ easiest game left with the Broncos visiting next week and what looks like it could a huge trip to Pittsburgh to finish the season.

This could be a huge mistake as Andy Dalton hasn’t exactly proved himself in pressure games, but I have to keep faith for one more week. This is the triumph of hope over experience.

Gee’s Pick:          Bengals
Dan’s Pick:          Browns

Texans @ Colts (-6.5)

The Colts are leading their division thanks to the ability of Andrew Luck in pressure situations and because TY Hilton seems to have an amazing knack of getting open for huge plays in what feels like every game. However, their offence line is not good, their running game is horrible, and their defence has been playing badly recently. Having to come from behind at the end of the game against the Browns does not inspire confidence.

The Texans maybe limited at quarterback, but they have Arian Foster back and are coming off a pair of wins. Admittedly these were against the Jaguars and Titans, but you can only beat the opposition in front of you and they finished off both competently. I have feeling that JJ Watt is going to have another great game against a Colts line that has given up too much pressure recently.

I’m not sure that the Texans can actually win this game, but I think it will be closer than the six and a half points that the Colts are giving them so I’m baking JJ Watt as life is just more fun that way.

Gee’s Pick:          Texans
Dan’s Pick:          Colts

Raiders @ Chiefs (-10.5)

The Chiefs were in the game with thirty seconds to go, and had no vertical passing game to try to win but didn’t even try. This is the Chiefs’ biggest problem this season, and to top it off they have not thrown a touchdown pass to a wide receiver all year either. Their defence has been playing well with Justin Houston having sixteen sacks this year, jointly leading the league with the Ravens’ Elvis Dumervil. They will be desperate to halt a three game losing streak and avenge their week twelve loss to their bitter divisional rivals.

The Raiders have won two out of their last three games, and look to have found their quarterback of the future. That said, it is one thing to pick a couple of wins at home, it is another to go into Arrowhead Stadium and beat their divisional rivals. I don’t think they will have enough to win this game, but I have no idea what the Chiefs have done recently to get a double digit spread in this game.

Gee’s Pick:          Raiders
Dan’s Pick:          Raiders

Dolphins @ Patriots (-7.5)

The Dolphins took a narrow lead into half time against the Ravens and then fell apart in the second half. Even more worrying is that there definitely appears to be a problem with their rush defence as they got gouged for 183 yards, following up the 277 yards they gave up against the run the week before. Ryan Tannehill is running the offence within his limitations, but his is still throwing too many interceptions and they are not scoring enough points. There is an awful lot of talent on this team, but it doesn’t seem to clicking when it matters most and so a trip to snowy New England is probably not what they need right now.

The Patriots don’t lose two games in a row very often, and they righted the ship last week against the Chargers. Their secondary is playing really well and should be able to contain the Dolphins passing game, particularly as Tannehill doesn’t seem to throw the deep ball. Perhaps more worrying for the Dolphins, is the physical run game that the Patriots used to batter the Colts in week eleven, racking up well over two hundred yards in the process. I think there’s a definite chance we could see that again this week and I don’t fancy the team from Florida travelling well this week.

Gee’s Pick:          Patriots
Dan’s Pick:          Dolphins

Semi-Pros @ Giants (-6.5)

The Giants have some great young talent from this last draft, but they’ve had too many failures in the preceding drafts to maintain the depth that they need. Their have been brief periods of good play, and they are still working hard for a head coach who deserves better. They are coming of a solid win against the sinking Titans and face another of the NFL’s bottom tier of teams this week. This is not a good team, but they have enough bright spots to beat a Washington team that is in disarray. Given what happened to the Semi-Pro’s secondary against the Colts in week thirteen, it will be interesting to see how big a day Odell Beckham Jnr has.

The Semi-Pros are in such a mess. Their o-line couldn’t protect Colt McCoy and he was taken out of the game with a neck injury that put Robert Griffin back into the game. The Semi-Pros have not announced which of their QBs will start in replacement of McCoy but given their respective play, neither are enticing prospects.

The Giants are giving a lot of points for a team of their quality, but there’s no way I’m backing the Semi-Pros this week, and with games coming up against the Eagles and Cowboys, I won’t be picking them again this year without getting an extraordinary amount of points.

Gee’s Pick:          Giants
Dan’s Pick:          Giants

Buccaneers @ Panthers (-5.5)

It’s probable that Cam Newton just can’t wait for this wretched season to end. After being nicked up for most of the season behind a bad line, he finally puts together a good performance as his team smashes the Saints, and then he’s involved in a car crash. He has a couple of fractures to the vertebrae in his lower back, similar to the injury that Tony Romo had earlier in the season. You would think that with a 4-8-1 record that it would be time to pack Newton in for the year, but in the NFC South such a record means you are only a game out from the divisional lead. In the first game of the season Derek Anderson led the Panthers to a solid win over the Buccaneers in Tampa, the question is whether the Panthers can repeat their performance last week or did the Saints just make them look good.

The Buccaneers are on a three game losing steak, but got soundly beaten by the Lions, having run the Bengals close at home the week before. Josh McCown took a real beating last week, but should have a much easier time against an anaemic Panthers pass rush and Mike Evans could have a field day against a Panthers secondary that has looked bad for most of the season. I think they have some hope in these matchups and their defence has been playing okay so I see them at least keeping it close.

Gee’s Pick:          Buccaneers
Dan’s Pick:          Buccaneers

Jaguars @ Ravens (-13.5)

This is a fairly straight forward game to me. The Ravens have a very good team everywhere bar the secondary, and the Jaguars don’t have the offence to take advantage of this. The other thing is that whilst the Jaguars have kept games close against teams with a similar record, when they have played good teams they have not only lost, but lost by a lot, including eight games by fourteen points or more.

I’m five games behind Dan and I need to make some up by taking some risks and I’ve not had a good time backing the Jaguars, even with a line this big.

Gee’s Pick:          Ravens
Dan’s Pick:          Ravens (Turns out it’s not much of a risk when Dan picks the same team as me!)

Broncos @ Chargers (+3.5)

This is a second tough home game in a row for Chargers as they follow up a visit from the Patriots with one from the Broncos. There aren’t many teams who would be able to keep both of these games competitive, but the Chargers were credible in their first game against the Patriots. Sadly though, whilst they kept it close for most of the game, the Patriots’ defence was able to clamp down and prevent the Chargers scoring any points in the second half. The problem for the Chargers is that the Broncos are ranked third in defence by DVOA and are likely to cause them problems as well.

The interesting thing in this week’s game will be the performance of Peyton Manning, who had his streak of fifty-one games with a touchdown broken last week against the Bills. There will be a lot of talk about regression and I’m sure cold weather will be mentioned in the coming weeks, but you wouldn’t bet against Manning bouncing back with a point to prove. The worrying thing for the Chargers is that Broncos seem to have found themselves a run game recently and an o-line configuration that has been playing better. It appears that the Broncos offence now has a plan B to go along with the improved defence.

There may have been some fluctuations in their performance over the year, but the Broncos have proved themselves to be one of the elite teams of the NFL, whilst the Chargers are that lit bit behind them. I think this should a really good game but I’m backing the Broncos, and Manning in warm weather, to win out in this one.

Gee’s Pick:          Broncos
Dan’s Pick:          Broncos

Jets @ Titans (+1.5)

The Titans look to have lost rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger for the rest of the season, and for a team as non-descript as the Titans there doesn’t look to be much left to play for. This week they welcome the Jets in a game that pits two teams that have a share of the worst record in the league against each other. I give a slight edge to the Jets, the players are really trying for Rex Ryan, who is a good coach that is severely lacking in talent, but then so are the Titans.

Gee’s Pick:          Jets
Dan’s Pick:          Titans

Vikings @ Lions (-7.5)

In the last couple of weeks the Lions seem to have got their offence working again, and have kept themselves in the fight for a playoff spot. They have a sequence of three divisional games including a final game against the Packers in Lambeau Field. Their defence has been playing brilliantly for most of the season and have led the league by DVOA for weeks. They are one of four teams with a nine and four record and it will be a travesty when we have to lose one for the which ever team makes it out of the NFC South.

This week the Lions welcome a solid Vikings team who have improved across the season and have got themselves to a 6-7 record with a solid effort on defence and a top ten rushing attack. I don’t think that they have enough to beat the Lions in Detroit, but they have won their last two games and only lost to the Packers by three points and I have a feeling they will keep this one close.

Gee’s Pick:          Vikings
Dan’s Pick:          Lions

49ers @ Seahawks (-9.5)

There are only so many ways that you can write that the coaching situation in San Francisco is a mess, with all the problems swirling round Jim Harbaugh and an offence that is stuttering, all letting down a solid defence. Even the play of rookie linebacker Chris Borland, who leads the teams in tackles, won’t be enough to wash away the aftertaste of a bitter loss to the team from across the bay. If losing in Oakland wasn’t bad enough, they now have to travel to Seattle.

The Seahawks defence is back with a swagger and they have looked like their old selves for three games in a row. Holding the Eagles to fourteen points in Philadelphia is really impressive and they must be salivating at the prospect of welcoming the misfiring 49ers this week. This number should make me pause, particularly given the shortcomings of the Seahawks passing attack, but they beat the 49ers by sixteen points in San Francisco and I think this could be a very long day for the visiting team.

Gee’s Pick:          Seahawks
Dan’s Pick:          Seahawks

Cowboys @ Eagles (-3.5)

The Eagles offence got suffocated last week against the Seahawks, managing only a pitiful 139 yards of total offence from a unit that is still fifteenth by DVOA despite the difficulties they’ve had in Chip Kelley’s second year. This week they welcome the Cowboys who are coming off a sold win against the Bears, but it is only two weeks since the Eagles soundly beat the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving.

I expect Tony Romo to look better than he did in that game as he won’t be working on a short week with a back injury, but the Eagles defence has shown that it can give the Cowboys’ offence problems and the Cowboys defence has looked shaky for weeks now. This could be the perfect pick me up for the Eagles as they go from playing against the fourth best defence in the league by DVOA to the twenty-fourth.

I don’t think the game will be as lopsided as it was in Dallas, but I think the Eagles get back on track in this game.

Gee’s Pick:          Eagles
Dan’s Pick:          Eagles

Saints @ Bears (+2.5)

This is just a mess of a game, and I’m sure this is not what the schedulers had in mind when they designated this game for the prime time Monday night slot before the season.

The Bears continue to struggle and have now lost receiver Brandon Marshall for the rest of the season, although they’ve not been making the best use of him up to now. The defence is a horror show and the offence has been over reliant on screens and short passing, making surprisingly little use of Matt Forte’s talents in the run game or Jay Cutlers big arm in the vertical passing game.

The problem with picking a side in this one is that the Saints are not much better, coming off a fourth home loss in a row. The Saints have only won one game in their last five and yet somehow still have a share of the lead in the NFC South. The defence has been horrible, with Rob Ryan’s vocal breakdowns on the sideline being a feature throughout the season. The Saints offence has shown flashes of its former glory and statistically is not bad, ranking in the top ten by DVOA, but it has been misfiring at crucial moments and something has not seemed quite right with Drew Brees all season.

I almost feel like I am blindly picking this game, but the Saints still have something to play for and the Bears are just horrible on defence. Meanwhile, whilst Drew Brees seems a little off, his stats are really not that much different to previous years, where as we know very well what Jay Cutler is at this point.

Gee’s Pick:          Saints
Dan’s Pick:          Bears

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