Week 15 NFL game picks: Lions stay hot with road win over Jets; Commanders top Giants in rematch – NFL.com

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Gregg Rosenthal went 8-5 straight up on his Week 14 picks, bringing his season total to 130-76-2. How will he fare in Week 15? His picks are below.
The lines provided by Caesars Sportsbook are current as of 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 15 unless otherwise noted below.

It’s Desmond Ridder time. He enters a fine setup for a rookie quarterback with an underrated offensive line, a strong running game and a quarterback-friendly scheme. The first opponent doesn’t hurt, either. The Saints’ disappointing pass rush and so-so safety play were issues against the Falcons in Week 1, but New Orleans still eked out a thrilling comeback win. Atlanta can even the score on Sunday. And if there’s any loss that could jeopardize Dennis Allen’s job, it’s losing at home to the rival Falcons to officially be knocked out of playoff contention.

Both teams have improved since a slow start to the season, making this the hardest game to pick of the week. The Panthers have been a little better lately in the ways the Steelers want to play football: Carolina consistently runs the ball and harasses opposing quarterbacks. It’s uncertain who will start at quarterback for the Steelers, and I don’t trust either Mitchell Trubisky or Mason Rudolph. Or Sam Darnold, for that matter. Keep your children away from this game.

The Bears’ offense is a great test for an Eagles run defense which has improved over the last month. Jordan Davis still doesn’t look healthy, however, and there may be no perfect defense for the way Justin Fields is playing. Luckily for the Eagles, they only have to worry about one side of the ball in this trip to Chicago. With Jalen Hurts’ enhanced timing and anticipation in the passing game, there’s nothing this offense can’t do.

I love that the Chiefs can finish off games with power running from Isiah Pacheco. I love Patrick Mahomes in a game against the Texans after hearing that Jalen Hurts is the MVP favorite. I love that Houston’s trying a quarterback platoon with Jeff Driskel. I love you all for reading the Chiefs-Texans score explanation in Week 15, as if this matchup is some mystery.

It hurts me so much to pick against the Jaguars this week. They could absolutely re-enter the AFC South race — even if they lose this game — and aren’t the sloppy Cowboys due for a loss? Trevor Lawrence is coming off the best game of his pro career, spinning it downfield with more conviction than even Dak Prescott. Dallas’ defense isn’t playing at its peak anymore, but even on a down day, the unit’s so much better than this Jacksonville D. The Cowboys’ ground attack is also vastly superior to the Jaguars’ running game. It’s not a fair fight for the quarterbacks.

Will the Lions’ transcendence travel to the Meadowlands? Their timing-based offense has looked better indoors, especially with respect to Jared Goff. Both running games are inconsistent here, and even though the Lions’ pass rush has been friskier in recent weeks, they can’t match the Jets in this area. That said, New York’s offensive line has gone from problematic to season-crushing in recent weeks. Asking Mike White to keep up in a shootout while running for his life is asking too much.

UPDATE: Jets coach Robert Saleh announced Friday that Mike White was not cleared for contact due to a rib injury, so Zach Wilson will be making the start against the Lions. I had Detroit winning when I thought White would be under center for New York, so I’m not changing the pick with Wilson taking the reins. Though I did shave off three points from the Jets’ total above, as I originally had the score at 26-24. Also, the Caesars Sportsbook odds were updated following Saleh’s announcement.

The Broncos’ offense was modestly trending up even before exploding for 28 points against the Chiefs. Denver’s defense may not be as dominant as it was early in the season, but the pass rush, possibly buttressed by a Randy Gregory return, should cook this Arizona offensive line. This pick is made under the optimistic premise that Russell Wilson clears concussion protocol and returns to action. As poor as Russ’ debut season in Denver has been, he’s a better option than Brett Rypien.

UPDATE: Brett Rypien will start for the Broncos, but the line barely moved. I feel that deeply and am not changing the score out of total confusion for what these two teams will bring to the table. And though I did not adjust the score, the Caesars Sportsbook odds are up to date as of 4:15 p.m. Friday, following Nathaniel Hackett’s announcement.

The Patriots just had one of the most depressing wins of the season in prime time. The Raiders just had one of the most depressing losses of the season in prime time. There’s not much separating these teams’ overall play, but the total lack of cohesion on New England’s offense makes the difference here. Josh McDaniels took Patriots fullback Jakob Johnson with him to Las Vegas and is running the type of 1980s rushing attack that the Pats miss dearly. The Raiders may also get back Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow this week. This is a New England team just waiting to be put out of its misery as a playoff contender.

The Chargers are going to make us believe in them again, aren’t they? I would love to know the statuses of Bolts S Derwin James and RT Trey Pipkins, as well as Titans DL Denico Autry, for this matchup, but a healthy Mike Williams is enough to make this Los Angeles passing game whole. The Titans aren’t getting the same consistent pass rush and their cornerbacks aren’t big enough to hang with Williams. Tennessee will be able to run, and Brandon Staley’s game plans only seem to work every other week, but L.A. is the better pick in a shootout. If the Chargers win this game, they’ll be in control of a playoff spot, considering their upcoming schedule.

If the Buccaneers can’t stop the run — and they probably can’t without Vita Vea — then who are they, exactly? Tampa Bay could get back some pieces in the secondary this week (Antoine Winfield Jr., Mike Edwards) after losing cornerback Jamel Dean. And on it goes for this cursed Bucs season. Tampa’s offensive line isn’t the same without Tristan Wirfs, so Tom Brady is rushing throws more than ever. There are so many players on both teams up in the air at publishing (including the Bengals’ Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Trey Hendrickson) that it’s hard to analyze this game beyond recognizing that Cincinnati has many more avenues to the winner’s circle.

After watching the Commanders-Giants stalemate two Sundays ago, I wrote a note to pick Washington in the rematch. In short: The G-Men are less talented than every team they play, and the schematic advantage their excellent coaches provides should be less of a factor after seeing them once. A tie in Week 13 felt fortunate. With New York’s offensive line getting worse by the week, Washington’s D-line should dominate this game. Only a Taylor Heinicke turnover or three (always possible!) can save the Giants now.

Baker Mayfield‘s first Rams start was fun, but he still struggles to find the shorter, chain-moving routes that keep an offense on the field. Green Bay’s defense is soft enough — and Los Angeles’ defense is finding enough answers (Michael Hoecht! Bobby Wagner!) — to keep this game close into the fourth quarter. Once a prize of the Monday night schedule, this is now a chance to see if the Packers can keep their miniscule playoff hopes alive.

A lot has gone wrong for the Bills despite them currently being the AFC’s top seed. Two of their most valuable defensive players (Micah Hyde and Von Miller) aren’t coming back. They still haven’t settled on a No. 2 cornerback. Their running game is erratic and their complementary receivers have disappointed enough to bring back Cole Beasley. Yet the Bills have been in so many games like this as a franchise the last three years, especially in the cold, and they understand what it means to play in massive December games. The Dolphins aren’t there yet, even if they should cover in a loss like the Jets did a week ago.

The Ravens’ running game looked a lot different with Ronnie Stanley and J.K. Dobbins in the lineup last week. More importantly, their defense has dramatically improved since the acquisition of Roquan Smith. The ageless Calais Campbell will make it hard for Nick Chubb to run, and Deshaun Watson is still a beat slow on his throws. If Tyler Huntley is able to play, I like the Ravens in an upset that shouldn’t be classified as such.

The Vikings being favored by just four points at home against the Colts is way more disrespectful than Minnesota being a road underdog in Detroit. While I’ve given up hope on the dull Vikings defense improving, Kirk Cousins provided optimism by authoring his best game of the season vs. the Lions. The No. 2 seed in the NFC is Minnesota’s to lose with a favorable schedule down the stretch. 

My appreciation for Geno Smith has turned me into a Seahawks fan, so I had to check the numbers against my bias that his teammates are letting him down over the last month. It’s not bias! Since Week 10, Seattle’s dead last in rushing efficiency and 29th in defense, according to Football Outsiders. That’s not a lot of help. The Seahawks are especially soft stopping the run, which is not a good sign with Christian McCaffery and the 49ers’ offensive line just getting into gear. This score assumes Brock Purdy starts at quarterback for the 49ers.
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