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NFL Week 15 Picks

NFL Week 15
 
Thursday, Dec. 16
 
8:20 p.m. ET (NFL Network)San Francisco 49ers">49ers (5-8) at San Diego Chargers (7-6)
Even without Antonio Gates (which is getting to be a too-regular occurrence), Philip Rivers is going to have enough juice to muster up 132 passing yards and tie Dan Fouts for most 4,000-yard passing seasons (three) in Chargers history. He'll also have enough weapons to get past San Francisco.
 
Sunday, Dec. 19
 
1 p.m. ET (Fox)New Orleans Saints (10-3) at Baltimore Ravens (9-4)
Classic case of the more desperate team winning. Even though the Baltimore D was terrible down the stretch at Houston (allowing 99- and 95-yard fourth-quarter drives), I say the Ravens have a couple of second-half stops in them. Side note: The last time these teams met, in 2006, Steve McNair outdueled Drew Brees, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another.
 
1 p.m. ET (Fox)Arizona Cardinals (4-9) at Carolina Panthers (1-11)
Every Panthers fan worth his/her PSL has to be thinking: Don't go blowing the chance to pick Andrew Luck (assuming the Stanford quarterback comes out) first overall next April by actually showing up, playing hard and winning this thing. Broadcast Note of the Week: Got the short straw, eh, John Lynch?
 
1 p.m. ET (CBS)Cleveland Browns (5-8) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-11)
I don't have a good feel for this game, but I feel confident in saying it's the last time Marvin Lewis and Eric Mangini will head-coach against each other.
 
1 p.m. ET (Fox)Washington Redskins (5-8) at Dallas Cowboys (4-9)
Three months since Washington opened the season with a 13-7 win over Dallas. Seems like three decades ago.
 
1 p.m. ET (CBS)Jacksonville Jaguars (8-5) at Indianapolis Colts (7-6)
So it comes down to this: fourth quarter, Lucas Oil Stadium, AFC South on the line ... and I say David Garrard makes enough plays to win the game. For a few reasons, but mostly because I think the Jacksonville defensive front is going to pester Peyton Manning quite a bit more than he's used to in these matchups. I also believe Garrard's clutch enough to play big in the fourth quarter. He's been good recently against Indy (101.9 rating, five touchdowns, one pick in last two games), and when I ran into owner Wayne Weaver at the NFL meetings in Fort Worth on Wednesday, he raved about his quarterback's preparedness and work ethic. There's something about these Jags. I trust them in a big game like this.
 
1 p.m. ET (Fox)Buffalo Bills (3-10) at Miami Dolphins (7-6)
This says a lot about my trust in Fred Jackson (5.5 yards per rush in his career against Miami) and Ryan Fitzpatrick, even though the Dolphins D has been playing great. And it says a lot about my lack of faith in Chad Henne.
 
1 p.m. ET (Fox)Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) at New York Giants (9-4)
Toughest game of the weekend to call. The difference, for me, is the quickness of the Giant front in dealing with Michael Vick. He's going to make eight or 10 big plays in this game; there's no doubt in my mind about it. But Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora can create a strong edge presence that few teams can, and Antrel Rolle plays the kind of hybrid linebacker-safety that can play tricks on a quarterback. On the other side of the ball, I say Tom Coughlin tries to play keepaway the way he learned under Bill Parcells. Coughlin was on the Giants' staff when Parcells played clockball to beat the Bills in the Super Bowl 19 years ago, and I think he'll try his run-dominating best to keep Vick to seven or eight possessions.
 
1 p.m. ET (CBS)Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) at St. Louis Rams (6-7)
I make this pick thinking Matt Cassel will play for Kansas City, though I have no inside information that he will. I like the Rams because I think they'll keep Jamaal Charles from dominating them the way he's dominated other fronts; Steve Spagnuolo has always had the knack to create special packages to frustrate special players. Amazing to think that a Chiefs-Rams game in mid-December could be so huge for the races in both Western divisions.
 
1 p.m. ET (Fox)Detroit Lions (3-10) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5)
We haven't focused much on LeGarrette Blount in Football America this fall. But if I told you Blount -- known mostly for slugging the Boise State player last season after a game -- would be the key man in the running game for a team likely to win 10 games and contend for a wild-card spot, and if I told you he'd be rushing for 4.5 yards per carry, you'd be a little surprised. Or shocked. I am. But that's a huge part of this team's success. Credit GM Mark Dominik for not being scared off by Blount's baggage and snatching him on waivers when the Titans released him at the end of training camp.
 
1 p.m. ET (CBS)Houston Texans (5-8) at Tennessee Titans (5-8)
The Titans have a big bark on defense, but they've been pretty gummy against the Texans recently. Matt Schaub's last three versus Tennessee: eight touchdowns, no picks, 112.0 rating. The focus here is obviously on the Andre Johnson-Cortland Finnegan rematch, and I'll give eight catches, one touchdown and zero blown stacks to Johnson.
 
4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)Atlanta Falcons (11-2) at Seattle Seahawks (6-7)
Fourth roadie in five weeks for the Atlantans. They've won in the Central (St. Louis, Green Bay at home), Eastern (at Tampa and Carolina), and now they take the six-hour jaunt diagonally across America to Seattle, traveling Friday and working out at Qwest Saturday, hoping to take the 12th Man out of the game early. The 6-7 Seahawks have everything to play for, and Pete Carroll will have the bitterness of the disaster at Candlestick expunged by kickoff. But it won't be enough to beat a better team.
 
4:15 p.m. ET (CBS)Denver Broncos (3-10) at Oakland Raiders (6-7)
Oakland gets to 7-7. Denver gets to Tim Tebow.
 
4:15 p.m. ET (CBS)New York Jets (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3)
I see the Sal Alosi story giving way to the Mark Sanchez story by halftime of this game. I see a better than 50-percent chance that Mark Brunell relieves Sanchez. And I see Troy Polamalu making a play or two, again, to inject himself into Tom Brady's MVP race.
 
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)Green Bay Packers (8-5) at New England Patriots (11-2)
Looking more and more like Aaron Rodgers won't play. And from what I saw in Detroit, Matt Flynn against Bill Belichick is about as fair a fight as Peter King against Manny Pacquiao.
 
Monday, Dec. 20
 
8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)Chicago Bears (9-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-8)
Five below zero. Antarctica football. Fiftieth anniversary celebration of the franchise in the Twin Cities. First outdoor home game for the Vikings in 29 years. Ridiculous, silly ... but very satisfying. Adrian Peterson's the best man on the field, and whoever plays quarterback for the Vikings won't matter.
 

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