With the winter solstice only five days away we go into the Sunday of week fifteen with Dan’s Dad extending his lead in the picks competition to two points, but first there’s a deceptively fiendish trivia questions to deal with.

‘We’re all rushing round getting ready for the holidays but: Which team was last in the league for rushing yards in 2017/18?

This is not the kind of thing that just rattles round my brain, but the Bengals were pretty awful last season and it was a major point of emphasis in the offseason plus the reason we change line coach for the first time in something like twenty years so I’m going to suggest the Bengals, and even if they weren’t actually last they will be pretty damn close.

‘Difficult one this week… I don’t think either our Dolphins or Bengals will have been particularly high up the rushing rankings last year but I’m basically guessing based on whose runners I can’t name off the top of my head. I think I’ll go for Detroit, but it’s a complete guess.’

Cardinals @ Falcons (-8.5)

The Arizona Cardinals are tricky team to read other than them being bad. Two of their three wins have come on the road, but then two of their three wins are against the 49ers. This week they travel to face a four win Atlanta Falcons team who mainly win at home, but haven’t managed that in five games. You would give the Falcons the edge in this game but the Cardinals have possibly been better on the road and this feels like too many points to lay as a team who haven’t won since week nine.

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

Lions @ Bills (-2.5)

The Detroit Lions got a win in Arizona, but their offence has been hobbled by the injuries to Marvin Jones and Kerryon Johnson and this week they travel to face a Buffalo Bills team who have a defence that ranks third by DVOA. This could be an ugly game and with the Bills only needing a field goal to cover I’m going to back the home team. Nervously…

Gee’s Pick:      Bills
Dan’s Pick:      Bills

Packers @ Bears (-5.5)

The Green Bay Packers won last week, despite Joe Philbin losing both his coach’s challenges inside the opening two minutes of the game but it is one thing to beat the badly travelling Falcons at Lambeau Field and another to travel to face Chicago and their number one by DVOA defence. With their win against the Rams last week the Bears continued to make the case that they should be taken very seriously, even if Mitchell Trubisky looked every inch the quarterback coming back from a should injury. Still, Matt Nagy has done a really good job of aggressively planning for his team and leaving Vic Fangio alone to helm a terrifying defence. The Packers have not won on the road this season and whilst I’m not saying it isn’t possible in this game, with Khalil Mack fully integrated into the Bears’ defence I don’t expect Rodgers to be able to pull of the kind of comeback performance he managed in week one. That said Rodgers has a habit of making anyone who picks against him look foolish and I can’t bring myself to do it in this one.

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

Raiders @ Bengals (-2.5)

The Cincinnati Bengals managed to keep the score respectable against the Chargers in LA last week but between the poor defence and the injuries it is hard have much faith in them at the moment. The Oakland Raiders beat the Steelers last week with some help from the Steelers but their defence is in fact ranked worse than the Bengals by DVOA. Their offences may actually rank closely but the Raiders have won two out of their last four games. This is the last home game for the Bengals this season and my numbers say this is a good pick for the Bengals but on recent form I just can’t do it. I hope to be proven wrong.

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

Cowboys @ Colts (-2.5)

This should be an absolutely cracking game as the Dallas Cowboys have found their formula in recent weeks thanks to the combination of a top ten defence and an offence that has really nailed down how to use Ezekiel Elliott and that was transformed by the addition of Amari Cooper even if you can debate the price they paid to do it. This week they travel to Indianapolis to take on a Colts team who bounced back from a bad loss against the Jaguars to beat the Texans last week and who have won six of their last seven games since starting the season 1-5. Andrew Luck looks like the quarterback we all thought he could be and the Colts actually rank better by overall DVOA than the Cowboys although the Cowboys have won five straight. That said, it looks like Zack Martin could be out this week and the Cowboys were pretty lucky to beat the Eagles in overtime last week and with this being their first road game since week eleven I’m going to pick a Colts team who only need a field goal to cover.

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

Titans @ Giants (-2.5)

I have struggled to pick the Tennessee Titans all year and this week is no exception as they are coming off a good win against the Jacksonville Jaguars and take their 7-6 record to face a New York Giants team who have won four of their last five games. I’m not sure I’m qualified to write about the Giants’ resurgence other than to mention the form of rookie running back Saquon Barkley who is third in the league in rushing total and is averaging five point four yards per game. In fact the Giants are ranked seven places higher by overall DVOA despite being two games back by win record. The Titans have lost their last four games on the road and have just placed starting right tackle Jack Conklin on IR so I am going to reluctantly back the Giants, but honestly I have no idea what will happen in this game.

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

Dolphins @ Vikings (-6.5)

The Miami Dolphins beat the Patriots last week with a last second miracle play but could fall back to earth with a bump this week as they take their five straight road losses to Minnesota to face a faltering Vikings team. The dysfunction on offence was enough to cost John DeFilippo his job as offensive coordinator and it will be interesting to see if this sparks the offence in the final three games as Mike Zimmer will hope. The Vikings currently have the last wildcard spot despite their problems but they can’t afford to drop games now. This feels like too many points to lay given the uncertainty on offence but the Dolphins road form has been awful and if Zimmer gets the running game he seeks then perhaps the Vikings can have more control of the game. That’s the way I’m leaning although I’m not entirely sure why. If I’m wrong it will cheer Dan right up.

Gee’s Pick:      Vikings
Dan’s Pick:      Dolphins

Buccaneers @ Ravens (-7.5)

Don’t look now but the Buccaneers have won two of their last three games and didn’t exactly get humiliated by the Saints last week although the Saints won pretty convincingly. This week they travel to Baltimore to face the second ranked defence by DVOA who held a wounded Chiefs offence in a game the Ravens could very well have won. The Ravens are very much in contention for the NFC North but with a visit to the LA Chargers next week they cannot afford to lose this game or the season ender against the Browns. The commitment to running the ball since placing rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson into the starting line-up has transformed the fortunes of the Ravens and I expect them to win out in this game but this line is just a little too rich for me.

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

Washington @ Jaguars (-6.5)

This might be a contender for least attractive game of the season given Washington’s current form and injury situation plus the Jaguars woeful season. It’s hard to see the Jaguars as this big a favourite against anyone, except that Washington just shipped forty points against the Giants. With the level of quarterback play on display this could be a truly ugly game so I’m going to back Washington based on that principle alone but it should be remembered that remarkably Washington are not out of the playoff hunt yet.

Gee’s Pick:      Washington
Dan’s Pick:      Washington

Seahawks @ 49ers (+5.5)

The San Francisco 49ers are a bad team, but they picked up their third win of the season last week and scuppered the Broncos hopes of the playoffs. Still, they welcome a Seahawks team who are finishing the season strong and who are on a four game winning streak. In fact, of their five losses this season only one of them was to a team that currently has a losing record and I fancy them to run out winners in this one. This is a lot of points, but not quite enough to make me back the 49ers, even if my spreadsheet might indicate otherwise.

Gee’s Pick:      Seahawks
Dan’s Pick:      49ers

Patriots @ Steelers (+1.5)

There is something rotten in the franchise of Pittsburgh who have lost three straight games, with the loss to the Raiders being particularly hard to explain. This would account for them getting points at home and that might be really tempting except that the Patriots always seem to find a way to beat the Steelers and are coming off the kind of loss that Brady and Belichick will be desperate to wash away with a win. The Steelers look like they could be without running back James Conner for a second week thanks to a high ankle sprain and I am just not going to bet against the Patriots in this situation

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

Eagles @ Rams (-9.5)

Given that Carson Wentz has been ruled out of this game with a fractured vertebrae it feels unlikely that the struggling Eagles will turn round their fortunes against a Los Angeles Rams team who will be desperate to get right after their loss to the Bears last week. The line is somewhat concerning though, but this is a different Eagles team than last year, as much due to the loss of offensive coaches as it is the players, and given their beat up secondary I think the Rams could get back to winning in a big way this week.

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

Saints @ Panthers (+6.5)

The final game of the week would have been a huge matchup just a couple of weeks ago, but given the Carolina Panthers have lost five games in a row it feels like the result is much less in doubt this week as they welcome the New Orleans Saints. Still, this is a divisional game and the Saints offence has looked a little less transcendent in the last couple of weeks, which is perhaps not that surprising as their mid-season form really was remarkable. This is the third straight road game for the Saints and so the points are enough to make me pause as whilst I think the Saints will win, I don’t know if it will be by a touchdown. I could regret this as Cam Newton’s shoulder and the Panthers’ form makes me nervous, but I’m very hesitantly going to back them to a lot better than their last prime time game against the Steelers.

Gee’s Pick:      Panthers
Dan’s Pick:      Saints