Early leans & analysis Wk 15
Early leans & analysis

NFL 2021

Week 15

What you see below is our early leans. Many of the selections below will stay the same and some will be moved into official plays with wagers on Sunday. However, there is also the possibility that we see, read or get a sense that something is not right with one of our selections and change our pick. There are several different criteria we use to grade a game and make it an official play and a lot of things can happen or change between Friday and Sunday.

We’re intent on providing our readers with the best possible selections and doing so on Sunday instead of Friday just makes more sense. We made that change two years ago and ended up going 81-57 (+64 units) in 2018, 65-59 in 2019 (+16 units) and 55-62 in last year's unusual pandemic season. Again, we’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on Friday but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST

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Sunday, December 19

JACKSONVILLE -3½ -105 over Houston

1:00 PM EST. We start doing our weekly write-ups on Tuesday or Wednesday so when Urban Meyer was fired late Wednesday evening, everything we wanted to discuss was already written on paper, thus, this was our write-up before Urban Meyer was fired:

This story is not about the Texans. This story is all about the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that is gaining quite a reputation for being the worst franchise in professional sports. By now you have either read, seen on TV or heard on the radio all the dysfunction surrounding Urban Meyer and his Jaguars. Don’t say we didn’t see it coming because we wrote about it in Week 1 and haven’t relented since. Dude is a narcissistic piece of work that bullied his way through some of the most fertile recruiting regions in America. Now the entire country is calling for his head.

Months of tension surrounding Urban Meyer has boiled over with multiple run-ins with players and other coaches in recent weeks, sources say, renewing questions in league circles about whether Meyer's stay in Jacksonville could end after just one tumultuous season. Sources say Meyer's repeated public comments shifting blame to players and coaches amid the team's 2-10 season have exacerbated frustration in the building with his hard-charging and sometimes condescending approach -- a style that many observers believed wouldn't work in the NFL even before the Jaguars hired him.

Entering Sunday's visit to Tennessee, the Jaguars have lost four games in a row and five out of six since their Week 7 bye, averaging just 10 points per game in that span. One of their best players, running back James Robinson, was benched last week under clouded circumstances. Franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence -- who has shown flashes of why Jacksonville selected him No. 1 overall in April's draft -- is completing just 58% of his passes for 2,514 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. And while the Jaguars opted not to fire Meyer in October after he stayed in Ohio instead of taking the team plane home after a Week 4 loss to the Bengals, only to be captured in viral videos at a bar with a young woman who's not his wife dancing close to his lap, sources say Meyer hasn't adjusted his approach.

In the past two weeks alone, here’s some of the reports:

Receiver Marvin Jones -- one of the locker room's most respected and mild-mannered veterans -- became so angry with Meyer's public and private criticism of the receiver group that he left the facility until other staff members convinced him to come back and had a heated argument with Meyer during practice.

During a staff meeting, Meyer delivered a biting message that he's a winner and his assistant coaches are losers, according to several people informed of the contents of the meeting, challenging each coach individually to explain when they've ever won and forcing them to defend their résumés.

Contrary to his public statements that it was injury-related, Meyer ordered Robinson's benching after an opening-drive fumble in the team’s 37-7 road loss to the Rams, then had running backs coach Bernie Parmalee stop Robinson from re-entering the game, insisting Carlos Hyde (who played for Meyer at Ohio State) stay in. Only after Lawrence questioned Meyer on the sideline about Robinson's absence was Robinson allowed to return late in the second quarter. (Speaking to reporters this week, Lawrence said: "Bottom line is James is one of our best players and he's got to be on the field and we addressed it, and I feel like we're in a good spot and the whole team, we're good.")

Several Jaguars players vented their frustration to Rams players after that game, sources say, reiterating a common complaint that Meyer -- who had no prior NFL experience -- doesn't treat them like adults. And the staff meeting follows a pattern of tense interactions between Meyer and his assistants dating back to the offseason. After opening the preseason with consecutive losses, for instance, sources say Meyer informed assistants that he was sick of being embarrassed and if the team didn't start winning immediately, some of them wouldn't be around for a second year.

There has been staff turnover since Meyer arrived in January, for a variety of reasons. Meyer's hand-picked strength and conditioning coach, Chris Doyle, resigned under pressure in February after renewed focus on the allegations of racial remarks that had led to Doyle's separation agreement at the University of Iowa in 2020. Special teams coordinator Brian Schneider took a leave of absence in May for personal reasons and did not return. Meyer's chief of staff, Fernando Lovo, left the team last month to return to the University of Texas. Tight ends coach Tyler Bowen is expected to become offensive coordinator at Virginia Tech, according to college sports and recruiting site On3.com. And more staff changes are expected after the season, even assuming Meyer stays.

We don’t know what’s true and what’s not but what we know 100% for sure is that where there is smoke there is fire. Urban Meyer is going to go down as the most hated coach by his players in NFL history. Dude is a self-serving, bully who has no appreciation for anything or anyone. He cares about one person and one person only but more importantly, this entire story and dysfunction is all over social media, which brings us to this game this week v the Texans.

We’re not crazy over here, friends. When we see the Jags not only favored but favored by -3½, you don’t think we want to take the points and run like hell? Of course we do. On Wednesday of this week, the Jags were -3 and -125, which means the books were doing everything they possibly could to deter one from even thinking of betting on the Jagwires. Who in their right mind wants to take Jax and spot extra vig along with the points? Nobody, that's who. Come Sunday, we don’t know where this price is going to land but we are keeping a close eye on it because it is very much on our radar. Combine the negative press with the Jags pathetic record and performance every week, then add in a plethora of dysfunctionality to go along with its already non-existent market appeal and we ask you one more time, Who the f**k is spotting points with the Jags this week? Us, that’s who.

Well, we thought we were done with this writeup but the game now has a new tone. You see 'Urban Meyer threatened to fire the coaching staff every week, while creating an atmosphere of fear and distrust.' Isn’t that equivalent to being in prison? Darrell Bevell being named interim coach is 'wildly popular' in Jaguars building. The replacement for Urban Meyer is viewed as the 'polar opposite' in terms of leadership style, while being described as 'collegial, hard-working and very well-liked.

If the Jaguars were -3½ with Urban Meyer, a dude they didn’t want to play for and despised, they should be -10 without him. One can only imagine the exuberance every player in that Jags locker room is feeling. That feeling can best be described as walking out of prison as a free man but there is one last task at hand. There is one final way for the players on the Jags to absolutely shame/stick it to Urban Meyer on his way out and that would be to destroy the team they play the week he was fired. There is not going to be an NFL team more jacked up this week than the Jaguars and they couldn’t have handpicked a more ripe team to run the score up on. Recommendation: Jacksonville -3½ -110

BUFFALO -10½ over Carolina

1:00 PM EST. At the time of this writing (Thursday) there are many unknowns in this game. First, there is the status of Josh Allen. Dude seems optimistic that he will play Sunday despite a foot injury. Allen suffered a left foot sprain and was in a walking boot on Monday so who knows. We’re going to assume that he’ll be ready to go but if he’s not, we couldn’t care less. Why, you ask?. Well, for one, the books don’t care and we know that because they put up a number. Therefore, if the books don’t care, we do not either. Furthermore, if Josh Allen doesn’t play, we’ll get a better number because the injury chasers will be out in full force.

The Panthers trap-game win over the Cardinals in Week 10 was a high point to the season, but these last three losses have all been by teams with losing records. As if it wasn’t bad enough picking between Cam Newton and P.J. Walker, Matt Rhules’ latest solution is to use them both. Rhiles went on to say that Sam Darnold could return from his shoulder injury and "could be a factor" since the Panthers don't have enough sub-200 yard games this year.

Carolina reminds us of a signature Kurt Angle moment. No, not the Olympic gold medal win or WrestleMania main events. This one:

The Panthers were looking like one of the surprises of the league after a 3-0 start, but inconsistency at quarterback has plagued them for the entire season and most of the blame needs to go to head coach Matt Rhule and the building of this offense. We’re not defending Sam Darnold—he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league last year and has failed to show any improvement—but nobody would be successful behind this Panthers offensive line. According to ESPN's Next Gen Stats, Carolina is 28th in the league in Pass Block Win Rate and 25th in Run Block Win Rate. Matt Rhule said he wanted to run the ball more—that's why the Panthers canned Joe Brady—but it would be futile behind an offensive line that's 28th in stuff rate. They're also last in adjusted sack rate, so passing the ball won't help either. At best, it's foolish pride for Rhule to continue to throw different quarterbacks behind this line and expect something different; at worst it's sheer negligence.

Rhule has also mismanaged the quarterback situation to an extent that might be beyond repair. Continuing to rotate in quarterbacks during the game like a college scheme isn't viable at the NFL level. Quarterbacks need to be able to get into a rhythm, and Rhule rotating in Newton and Walker within quarters as if they were playing a preseason game is poor roster management. The Panthers are a big mess and will be exposed in a massive way by a Buffalo team that destroys wounded prey. After playing New England and Tampa Bay the past two weeks, this game will appear in slow motion for Buffalo’s solid defense. If Carolina plays better than we expect, the final score will be something like 38-3. If they play like we expect, it'll be closer to 52-3. Recommendation: Buffalo -10½

Tennessee -105 over PITTSBURGH

1:00 PM EST. Ok, someone is going to have to explain this one to us. Last week, the Steelers were a 3½-point pooch, in Minnesota, on a short week. This week, Pittsburgh is again the underdog, but at home and with extra time to prepare for this game. WTF? Thankfully, we were not the only ones who had this thought, and we are appreciative of the efficient market for jumping in here and taking a stand with the Steelers.

If something looks too good to be true—it probably is. Last we checked the sportsbooks were not in the habit of giving away money. Sure these joints may have a bad Sunday or two a season, but over time, it appears to be a pretty stable business model. That’s why when a number like this gets posted, it’s a big red flag. To those less inclined to dig deep and do the work, the Steelers must have looked like a freaking gift taking back nearly a field goal at Heinz Field against the Derrick Henry-less Titans.

It’s not like Tennessee has been lighting the world on fire either. A shutout of the Jags that finally got Urban Meyer run is not going to turn any heads. The Titans’ home loss to the woeful Texans in Week 11 is still a pretty damn big stain that stinks to high heaven. The drubbing (36-13) Tennessee took up in New England as the chaser to the Texans game also does nothing for the Flaming ThumbTacks reputation. The last time the Titans won a game with conviction was Week 9 on Sunday Night Football against the Rams. The first game without their franchise player. That’s six weeks without a meaningful victory and any one of the wins over the Chiefs, Bills or Colts (twice) that came prior were on the back of big ol’ #22.

There isn’t a week that goes by where we are not out here blasting the Steelers, but when you’ve got Chase Claypool out here doing dumbass Chase Claypool shit, we can’t lay off. We could blast this goofball all day, but we’re going to leave it to the man best suited for this job. He’s a top rated radio host, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the most famous Yinzer this side of AEW Women’s World Champion Britt Baker D.M.D., Mr. “DDMe” himself, Mark Madden, “Claypool cares about nothing but himself. He is everything a Steeler shouldn’t be. The best words to describe him are expletives.” There is so much more good stuff in Madden’s article this week, that we’ll link it here.

How can a team that has been as talented as the Steelers in the Ben Roethlisberger era cash in just one Super Bowl (which was almost 13 years ago now by the way)? That’s an easy one to answer. Tomlin has allowed selfish players to run roughshod at the expense of the rest of his roster. How can a guy like Ryan Shazier, who literally nearly gave his life on the field, look Tomlin in the face when he’s let fools like Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and now Claypool do whatever the hell they want regardless of the negative impact? Dan Rooney must be spinning in his grave.

To summarize, on the best of days, the Steelers are a team we want no part of. We’ve not been fans of Tomlin for ages (not that it’s hard to call a guy out for being an idiot when he stands on the sidelines with his finger up his nose for three hours every Sunday for four months for over a decade). As Madden suggests, there is a culture problem in Pittsburgh (and has been for a long time).

We’ll let “The Super Genius” play us out. When questioning whether coach Mike Tomlin would stand up and punish Claypool for his tomfoolery, MM dropped this gem, “Tomlin will do no such thing. He’s as impotent as the Steelers’ offensive line.” Recommendation: Tennessee -105

Arizona -13 -105 over DETROIT

1:00 PM EST. It’s not often we go all Sheriff Buford Pusser and start swinging the big lumber all willy nilly, but the stars are aligned here. First and foremost, we have the Cardinals coming off a Monday Night Football shellacking at the hands of the Rams. To put into words just how much of an impact that ass kicking had on this market when we posted our money line play on the Rams around 4 PM EST, L.A. was +116. At kick-off, the “efficient market” had pounded the Cards into oblivion and the Rams were +160. Gee, do you think the appetite to lay significant road points on a short week with the banged-up Cardinals is going to be one this market will have the stomach for after losing so spectacularly just a few days ago?

Let’s get to the red elephant in the room, which is the diagnosis of Arizona’s star wideout DeAndre Hopkins. Dude will miss the rest of the regular season (at least) with a torn MCL, which he will have surgery on. Expected to miss at least six weeks, the 10-3 Cards hope to have him back for the playoffs. On the surface, it sounds like a major blow to the upstart Red Birds and their attempt to take this thing to the next level. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that Hopkins has yet to put up a 100-yard game this season. Oh, dude has already missed three games this season as well. In his two games back after that absence, D-Hop went for a combined 7-for-86 yards. Yes his TD snag in Chicago was a beauty catch, but it was the only major he cashed in on. Of the 13 targets fed to Hopkins in Week 14, he pulled in five balls. It’s a big name loss, no doubt, but it’s not one the Cardinals cannot overcome. As with any major injury, we are mindful of the injury chasers, who appear to be out in full force in Week 15.

Speaking of those injury chasers, the market faded the short-handed Lions into oblivion last Sunday in Detroit’s 38-10 drubbing in the Mile High city. We doubt the market darling Lions lost much of their luster in that game, as this is a team that this market thinks it “knows”. While just 1-11-1, Detroit City is 8-5 against the spread and as we said, that blowout loss last week was one of the book’s biggest liabilities of the day in both ticket count and cash. The Lions did what was expected. Good kitties.

Situationally speaking, the scenario for the Cards is one that the scumbag pick sellers eat up. One of the many gambling “dirt sheets” you’ll find online said this, “The situation greatly favors Detroit with the Cardinals traveling on a short week after falling to the Rams in a huge NFC West Division game this past Monday. The Lions have lost seven of their 11 games by 10 points or fewer.” Hmm, sounds familiar, eh? Never mind that the Cardinals have been arguably the best road team in the league this season. Two of their seven wins came with Colt McCoy at the helm and D-Hop missed both those contests. If one could present a reasonable argument of how the Lions can keep pace in what looks to be an armchair classic, we’d gladly listen, but all the value appears to lie with the Red Birds so we’re going to sit back, relax and enjoy the rout. Recommendation: Arizona -13-105

N.Y. JETS +9½ -105 over Miami

1:00 PM EST. Up in Jersey in week 11, the Fish defeated the Jets 24-17, but if you watched or bet that game, you know that it was a butt clincher with Miami giving up 3½-points to the “hometown” Jets. Tied 14-14 after three quarters, you likely could have found a few folks willing to sell their tickets on the Dolphins for a few pennies on the dollars. However, that was a month ago, which might as well have been a year ago. Few in this market value anything more than wins and covers, Miami got it done that day. However, this is a ridiculous ask, that being, tacking on a touchdown when all that’s really changed is the venue? Uh, what?

We know that the Jets get frog stomped week in and week out and so do the oddsmakers and the market. That’s why this line is inflated the way it is. You’ll find the Fish on many “best bets” list this week for example:

***BEST BET *Miami over New York (from Winning Points)

It’s no wonder the Jets will be missing the postseason for the 11th straight season. Nearly all of their key defensive players are out and their offense is broken. Zach Wilson has been a bust. He may be the worst of the four QB’s the Jets have used this season. Certainly, he’s been the least effective with a 6-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Miami has stepped up defensively holding their last six foes to 11 points per game. The Dolphins are 3-0 SU and ATS in their past three meetings versus the Jets, including beating them, 24-17, as 3.5-point road favorites. Tua Tagovailoa threw two TD passes to lead Miami. The Jets have managed only 20 points during their last three games against the Dolphins. Jets quarterbacks have been intercepted 20 times. New York has a hideous minus 16 turnover ratio.

All of that bullshit is true, but it is not privileged information. There’s more, too, but you get the point. Trend, trend, trend. Bye week. Trend, trend, trend. Tua is better than Wilson. Trend, trend, trend. Hell, wasn’t Tua on the bustline when this season began? Weren’t the Fins looking to dump his ass for an alleged serial sexual abuser literally a month and a half ago?

We’re not going to take anything away from the resurgence in South Beach. After a dismal 1-7 start to the season, the Dolphins have climbed into Wild Card contention, but Miami is in uncharted waters. Its stock is through the roof, while the Jets are a wad of gum on the bottom of your shoe. If the Dolphins run away with this one so be it, but we cannot recommend playing an inflated number with a football team that is average at best. If you’re looking for a little more fodder, the Dolphins have a rare appearance on Monday Night Football next week in New Orleans. Could they get caught looking ahead to that prime time showcase? Ya damn right they can. Recommendation: N.Y. Jets +9½ -105

DENVER -2½ over Cincinnati

1:00 PM EST. We want to crown Joe Burrow and the Bengals as much as the next fella, but we’re afraid it’s not going to happen this year. While the 17 game season has strung things out a little longer. At 7-6, there are a pile of teams bunched in with Cincy in Wild Card hell, including the Broncos, but much can change in just one week. ESPN predicts that the Bengals have a 30% chance to get into the postseason dance if all wrapped up today, but that number would drop to just 17% with a loss. A win and it’s 49%. You get the point. This is a volatile situation, but the Bengals are being given the respect of a team whose destiny is locked in stone behind its franchise pivot and his core of stud young wide receivers (Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins) and the reliable Tyler Boyd. However, the Bengals’ last month of the season is a meat grinder (all games against teams over .500) and their star pivot has a messed up digit.

Rarely do we discuss injuries, but when they fall on the throwing hand of the only competent quarterback on the roster, we’re going to have a closer look at the problem. As for Burrow, dude barely practiced this week and will play, but as we’ve seen with the likes of Russell Wilson this season, a throwing hand at less than 100% is not an ideal situation. If you’ve not seen the raw footage of Burrow’s mangled finger from Cincy’s Week 13 loss to the Chargers, we’ll save you the trouble. Dude’s pinky was sticking out straight sideways. Gross. It’s not a bold statement to say that the Bengals go as Burrow goes and since he’s been playing with a thumb and three fingers, Cincy is 0-2, getting outscored 67-45 and now sit third in the AFC North with the Browns and Ravens in front of it.

Meanwhile, the Broncos have quietly put together a 7-6 campaign of their own, but in a division with both Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes, ain’t nobody gonna notice Ol’ Wobbly Balls Teddy Bridgewater, who is slinging a pretty nice ball this year. Not to mention the Denver defense, which has not missed a beat since the trading of Von Miller to the Rams. Remember when the cries of tanking were coming from the Mile High City? Since then, the Broncs have gone 3-2, but have a pair of very nice wins over the Cowboys and Chargers. As for last weekend’s 38-10 waffling of the Lions? It might not impress on paper, but it was about as textbook a win as there could be for Denver. The 2021 Broncos make few mistakes, run the absolute dog piss out of the ball with the two-headed monster in the backfield that is Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. Bridgewater is Steady Teddy, doing just enough to guide this ship, but not enough to steer it off course. Finally, the Broncos’ defense, especially their secondary, is one of the top units in the league and can be a nightmare for anyone. Just ask Jared Goff (1 INT), Herbert (2 INTs), Mahomes (1 INT) and Dak Prescott (1 INT).

It wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t point out that the Broncos smacked the mighty Chiefs around Arrowhead in Week 14 everywhere except the scoreboard. That will happen when you lose that turnover battle. However, Denver owned the time of possession by seven minutes, had 22 first downs to K.C.’s 15 and outgained the Chiefs by 137 yards. Patrick Mahomes was contained to just 184 yards passing and another dozen on the ground. The Broncos are so sneaky good and nobody is talking about them. That should suit us all just fine right here. Denver is still one of the hardest places in this league to play and teams far better than the Bungles have had miserable afternoon’s at Mile High this season. Recommendation: DENVER -2½ -105

Washington +10 -105 over PHILADELPHIA

1:00 PM EST. Add the Football Team to the list of clubs that are drowning in COVID this week as they have added nearly two dozen players to the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list. Of the 20+ players on that list, a dozen were set to start here in Week 15. Now, it appears WFT will field a glorified practice squad. Given the rate of transmission on his team, head coach Ron Rivera said "Nobody expected this [Omicron] variant. Because it's spreading so quickly around the league right now, that almost feels like a matter of time. I don't think anybody expected it to be like this. Our thought might be that guys that hadn't gotten vaccinated might have come down with it at some point or another, not that it would be a crossover." In case you forget, Rivera battled cancer last year so dude is extremely immunocompromised. As for who will suit up for the Football Team on Sunday, who's to say? All we know is that this is a next man up league and the injury (COVID) chasers are licking their lips.

How many times does a coach have to say there isn’t a quarterback controversy until you’ll finally believe them? For us, it’s going to take a few more tries from Nick Sirianni. Maybe it’s because the Eagles brass dropped Carson Wentz like a sack of rotten onions in favor of the flashy Jalen Hurts just a year ago, or maybe it’s because this is a win first league, but we’re not buying it. The career statistics between Hurts and Gardner Minshew are very comparable. Minshew looked like a field general against the Jets (which we take with a grain of salt), but with Hurts still nursing that sore ankle, Minshew might get the call again here. If he does, that is going to dictate the way we lean in this game.

The two pivots were supposed to split the starter’s reps at practice, which is not normal for a team that has a clear cut #1. Hurts is trying his best to make himself available to play, we don’t blame him. When your team dumps their franchise QB for you after an injury, you might also want to stay on the field. As it stands, we’re going to assume that Hurts get the nod. If he does, the Football Team will be on our radar. If not, we’ll likely pass. Recommendation: Washington +10 -105

SAN FRANCISCO -9 over Atlanta

4:05 PM EST. There are a number of factors at work here that are influencing the 49ers to be underpriced. First, Atlanta is 6-7 and still in the hunt for a playoff spot. Second, the Dirty Birds are coming off a sound performance last week when they traveled to Carolina and beat the Panthers 29-21 but were up 29-14 before giving up a meaningless late TD. Third, Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been one of the better defensive masterminds at generating pressure for the greater part of a decade, and the pressure calls he schemed up were amplified to the max in the Falcons' win over the Panthers. Panthers quarterbacks Cam Newton and P.J. Walker were under constant duress throughout the game, and that resulted in not only a sack, but two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Recent results combined with wins and losses influence the market more than anything else. Atlanta has been competitive, they’re only a game under .500, they’re in the playoff discussion and the last time the market saw them, the Dirty Birds left a positive impression.

Meanwhile, the 49ers beat Cincinnati last week but what sticks out is Cincinnati scoring two fourth quarter TD’s to send the game to OT while the 49ers were gasping for air on defense. The week before, the majority of the market backed San Francisco spotting three points in Seattle and what followed was the majority of the market ripping up their tickets in disgust, as San Fran would get shut out in the second half and lose 30-23. This week, the market looks to be about split on this game but we’re going to suggest that the 49ers are underpriced or perhaps more accurately is that the Falcons are grossly getting way too much credit.

The Falcons show up in San Francisco right when all of the parts of the 49ers offense are coming together. The 49ers struggled with injuries to key players this year, but when the key players are all there, this offense is as good as any.

Congrats to Atlanta for putting together their best DVOA performance of the season last week but it is now time to sell, sell and sell some more. It was only the second time they have finished a game with a positive DVOA, the previous time being Week 7 when they posted a 0.7% total DVOA in a 30-28 win over Miami. The fact that Atlanta somehow put together this performance and remains 32nd in DVOA for the season is objectively hilarious. The Atlanta Falcons are somehow playing the dangerous game of being 6-7 while being dead last in DVOA and having a point differential of -108. The 49ers are about to put them out of their misery. Recommendation: San Francisco -9 -105

BALTIMORE +7 -105 over Green Bay

4:25 PM EST. Talk about a gift from the football gods. While the status of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is apparently in doubt, dude missed practice all week and it does not take a rocket scientist to take one look at this price and question whether or not he’s going to play.

Enter “Great Value Lamar” Tyler Huntley, who no joke might be the best quarterback on this roster. While we tease Huntley, we like him. A lot. Dude is doing everything he can to convince the Ravens to NOT pay Jackson a king’s ransom in the offseason. The Ravens will probably do it anyway because these teams cannot help themselves, but owner Steve Bisciotti would be wise to look to the Bills in their handling of Josh Allen and then decide if he wants to give $250-million to a pivot who runs better than he throws. Baltimore was dead in the water last week in Cleveland until Jackson left the game with an injury. When Huntley came in, he immediately made an impact and almost let the Ravens all the way back from 21 points down to win the game. These guys love this dude and it shows. Go do your thing, Tyler.

“DumDum” was Discount Double Check(ing)® up and down the field on the Bears Sunday night, as per usual in a 45-30 Green Bay win. The Packers are now 10-3, in total control of the NFC North and currently sit as the #1 seed in the conference ahead of the Buccaneers and Cardinals (both also 10-3). To say the Packers’ stock is high might be the understatement of the week, but when you combine that fact with the woes of the Ravens, Green Bay is going to have much shine here. However, we cannot get behind spotting road points with the Packers in this situation.

Next Saturday is Christmas Day and for the moment (goodness knows which game gets shuffled next), the Packers are set to host the Browns. That's a pretty big goddamn deal. It's like playing on Thanksgiving and Monday Night Football combined. Most of the western hemisphere will be home. What the hell else are they going to watch? The eyes of the sporting world and anyone else they can rope in will be watching this game, do you think Dr. Diva gives two shits about a sunny Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, sans Lamar? Us either. Recommendation: BALTIMORE +7 -105

L.A. RAMS -4 -105 over Seattle

4:25 PM EST. Ain’t no party like a COVID party, Bay Bay! Count the Rams in on what has become the theme of the week—a roster so totally loaded with COVID that any of y’all could walk by SoFi Stadium and get picked up for the practice squad.

Warm bodies are a premium in the L.A. camp in Week 15. We could list everyone on the Rams who is in league protocols, but needless to say, the only dude’s that matter who aren’t are Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Sony Michel, Aaron Donald and Von Miller. No offense to the rest of the Rams’ roster, but we’d take our chances with those five dudes and any other four frozen or so scrubs you can scrap up to silence the Seahawks and their pompous head coach.

At 5-8, and coming off a win in Houston (WOOOOOOOOOOO!), Pete Carroll is out here stylin’ and profilin’—talking all kinds of nonsense about how his team can win out and sneak into the playoffs. Playoffs??!! PLAYOFFS!!?? This dude must be higher than Mount Rainier. Pete, buddy, lay off the hippie lettuce and take a moment to loosen those khakis. Full offense intended, a win over the Texans means nothing. In fact, it means less than nothing. We don’t care if it was a “complete” victory as Carroll said in the aftermath. What does that even mean anyway? Ah, he’s such a loser it’s infuriating. We don’t know how this dude’s family can stand his ass. Maybe that’s why he’s still coaching at 70—nobody is looking for him to do anything but keep those fat checks coming.

In addition to being totally whacked out of his skull with regards to the Seachickens’ playoff hopes, Carroll also took the time to let everyone know just how much better his team and the great state of Washington has dealt with the pandemic. The ‘Chickens do not (currently) have any members of its roster in COVID protocols (the only team league-wide), but that’s not enough for Pete, he’s got to rub it in, "Our state is not fighting or bickering over taking care of one another. It’s a really smart community that has decided to take this thing on. Not 100%, but more so than most." Washington currently sports the 10th best cases per 100K in the USA (if you were interested in such things). Meanwhile, California, where the Rams play, is tied for sixth. Oh, there are also about 32 million more people in the Sunshine State to boot. The point? Pete is talking out of his ass again. Don’t forget to mask up. Recommendation: L.A. RAMS -4 -105

TAMPA BAY -11 -105 over New Orleans

8:20 PM EST. Usually, we like to make these Sunday Night Football write-ups a little longer than the others, but if you’ve made it this far, you know that we cannot help ourselves. That’s why there are a dozen or so paragraphs on the freaking Jaguars and Texans. However, in this game, we only need four words. Thomas. Edward. Patrick. Brady. Junior. Shit! OK, we lied, we need five words.

We’ll leave Brady’s struggles with the Saints since arriving in Tampa (1-3) to the talking heads, the pick sellers and any other pundits who wish to feast on that low hanging fruit. Hell, we’ll help them make their case for the Saints, who are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven meetings with the Buccaneers. That includes a 36-27 win in New Orleans earlier this season as a 4-point pooch. Also in that run are a pair of regular season victories in 2020—most notably the “shocking” 38-3 bum spanking that Drew Brees and friends put on Brady and his new ‘mates on SNF last November.

We mentioned Brees because it’s worth noting that he was at the helm for both of those wins in 2020, while Jameis Winston (who had a pretty big chip on his shoulder after being cut by Tampa) led the Saints in Week 7. Here in Week 15, a pretty petty Brady will go one on one with Taysom Hill. Do you think Tommy Boy is going to let a third string tight end go throw-for-throw with him when the lights are the brightest? Tha’ fuck outta here. Recommendation: TAMPA BAY -11 -105 

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