Pudge’s Picks – Week 17 2014

It was another terrible week for me picking games against the spread. I finished 5-11 picking against the spread, and just 8-8 picking games straight up. The inability of the Panthers and Lions to each score one more point could have netted me two more wins against the spread.

For the season, my record is 122-117 against the spread and 154-85-1 picking straight. I’m just hoping that I don’t fall below .500 against the spread. Which basically means that I have to get at least six games correct this week. Normally, that wouldn’t be that big of an obstacle, but based off the past two weeks that would mark significant improvement.

* All lines are from ESPN.

Carolina Panthers (6-8-1) at Atlanta Falcons (6-9)
Sunday, December 28 at 4:25 pm ET on CBS

*Line: Falcons (-3.5)

The Falcons aren’t the healthiest of teams going into this week’s game, particularly in the secondary. That however won’t be a huge problem since they should be using Desmond Trufant to shadow the Pantehrs’ top wideout in Kelvin Benjamin. And outside Benjamin, none of the Panthers other receivers represent major threats.

The Falcons will also be getting a big boost from the return of Jon Asamoah to the lineup, as he’ll have to help a green center in James Stone try to deal with defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. The second-year tackle missed the Falcons-Panthers from earlier this season and is the latter’s best defensive lineman. So hie added presence could certainly make a different.

The key for the Falcons is whether their defensive “resurgence” last week against the Saints was a one-time anomaly or whether they can put forth that caliber of performance for consecutive weeks. If they do, then they should be able to pull off this win at home. But if quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers’ ground attack gets going, it could be a long, sleepless night for Falcons head coach Mike Smith.

Spread Pick: Panthers
Straight Pick: Falcons

Cleveland Browns (7-8) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
Sunday, December 28 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line: Ravens (-8.5)

The Browns are starting another rookie quarterback in Connor Shaw this week. That doesn’t bode well against a quality defense like the Ravens. But the Ravens might need to be a bit more concerned about their own offense, as Joe Flacco is coming off a terrible game. The Ravens haven’t had much success establishing the run lately, and their offense has suffered. But luckily, they face a porous Browns run defense, so things should get back on track this week as they fight to get in the playoffs.

Spread Pick: Ravens
Straight Pick: Ravens

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) at Houston Texans (8-7)
Sunday, December 28 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line: Texans (-9.5)

Case Keenum was good enough to win last week, although it was really the strong effort of the Texans defense that won that game. One assumes that unit should again look good against a Jaguars offense that is arguably the worst in the league. But the Jaguars have played a bit better as of late, which makes me believe that they can at least cover. But the Texans have covered four straight weeks, and I’m not going to go down picking the Jaguars.

Spread Pick: Texans
Straight Pick: Texans

San Diego Chargers (9-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-7)
Sunday, December 28 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line: Chiefs (-2.5)

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has a spleen injury
that will keep him out of the game, meaning that Chase Daniel will get the start under center. I’ve never been overly impressed with Daniel over the years, but he can be an effective quarterback assuming Jamaal Charles shows up and has a big day against a Chargers defense that gave up 355 rushing yards to the 49ers last week.

Spread Pick: Chargers
Straight Pick: Chargers

New York Jets (3-12) at Miami Dolphins (8-7)
Sunday, December 28 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line: Dolphins (-5.5)

I don’t really trust the Dolphins, but given how beat up the Jets are in the trenches, they should have little issue winning this game at home. Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison are sporting injuries, while center Nick Mangold is also hurt. The Dolphins defensive front is among the best in the league and that should have Geno Smith under pressure all game.

Spread Pick: Dolphins
Straight Pick: Dolphins

Chicago Bears (5-10) at Minnesota Vikings (6-9)
Sunday, December 28 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line: Vikings (-6.5)

The Bears are reverting back to Jay Cutler at quarterback, which I think probably could provide a boost. But the Vikings are simply better at this point. Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is coming off arguably his best game of the year against a Dolphins defense that is significantly better than anything the Bears sport. Division games are usually close, but the Vikings should win in the end.

Spread Pick: Bears
Straight Pick: Vikings

Buffalo Bills (8-7) at New England Patriots (12-3)
Sunday, December 28 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line: Patriots (-3.5)

The Patriots are rolling and are near unbeatable at home in December. It’s really more a question of whether the Bills can keep this close. Given how poorly quarterback Kyle Orton has played over the past month, that seems doubtful. But one can never sleep on the Bills defense, particularly their front four, especially against a Patriots offensive line that is as prone to giving up pressure as they have been in 2014.

Spread Pick: Patriots
Straight Pick: Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) at New York Giants (6-9)
Sunday, December 28 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line: Giants (-2.5)

The Eagles’ secondary is one that tries to be a big, physical unit, but that will probably play right into the hands of the ultra-quick Odell Beckham this week. But at the end of the day, I just can’t put my faith in this Giants team even though that means I have to put some in Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Spread Pick: Eagles
Straight Pick: Eagles

New Orleans Saints (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-13)
Sunday, December 28 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line: Buccaneers (+3.5)

I’m just trying to figure out why I should take the Bucs. Other than thinking that with nothing to play for, the Saints lay an egg. But I don’t see that happening.

Spread Pick: Saints
Straight Pick: Saints

Indianapolis Colts (10-5) at Tennessee Titans (2-13)
Sunday, December 28 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line: Titans (+7.5)

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has been down as of lately, and it’s just timely that he gets to face a weak Titans defense to get back on track one last week before the playoffs.

Spread Pick: Colts
Straight Pick: Colts

Dallas Cowboys (11-4) at Washington Redskins (4-11)
Sunday, December 28 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line: Redskins (+6.5)

The Redskins finally showed some life last week against the Eagles, but that likely doesn’t repeat against the Cowboys. While the Cowboys will be smart to save DeMarco Murray this week but even without him, they should be able to beat the Redskins.

Spread Pick: Cowboys
Straight Pick: Cowboys

Oakland Raiders (3-12) at Denver Broncos (11-4)
Sunday, December 28 at 4:25 pm ET on CBS

*Line: Broncos (-14.5)

This is a game that I designated from the start of the year as one of the few winnable games for the Raiders, mainly because I expected the Broncos to have a top seed in the playoffs already locked up and resting their starters. That is not the exact scenario that exists today, but isn’t that far from the truth. That makes me believe the Raiders can cover.

Spread Pick: Raiders
Straight Pick: Broncos

Detroit Lions (11-4) at Green Bay Packers (11-4)
Sunday, December 28 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX

*Line: Packers (-7.5)

Aaron Rodgers having a calf injury doesn’t bode well for the Packers. The Lions defense mostly manhandled the Packers offense earlier this season, and without a healthy Rodgers to wheel and deal his way to victory, there might be a repeat performance this week. Fortunately, the Packers are playing at home and both teams are fighting for seeding in the NFC. I trust the Packers a bit more in a must-win game than I do the Lions, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be close.

Spread Pick: Lions
Straight Pick: Packers

Arizona Cardinals (11-4) at San Francisco 49ers (7-8)
Sunday, December 28 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX

*Line: 49ers (-5.5)

Logan Thomas is getting the start against the 49ers. While that should be an upgrade over Ryan Lindley, it probably won’t be the spark the Cardinals offense desperately needs. The 49ers are not a good bet either, but they are at least good enough to score more than 14 points. I’m not sure I can say the same about the Cardinals.

Spread Pick: 49ers
Straight Pick: 49ers

St. Louis Rams (6-9) at Seattle Seahawks (11-4)
Sunday, December 28 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX

*Line: Seahawks (-12.5)

The Seahawks are getting Russell Okung back just in time, as they will need him and center Max Unger to face a formidable Rams pass rush. While the Rams have done a better job than most at pressuring Russell Wilson and limiting him as a passer, they simply lack the playmakers on offense to really pull off this win on the road.

Spread Pick: Rams
Straight Pick: Seahawks

Cincinnati Bengals (10-4-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)
Sunday, December 28 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC

*Line: Steelers (-2.5)

The Steelers smoked the Bengals by 21 points a few weeks ago in Cincinnati, so one should only presume that the Steelers should be fine at home this week. But that’s not the way it typically works in the NFL. The Bengals are coming off a resurgent win against the Broncos on Monday Night last week, but one thing that stood out in that game was how so much of it had to do with their run game and defense and not Andy Dalton. One would think they’d need Dalton to show up this week, which isn’t the best bet one could make.

Spread Pick: Steelers
Straight Pick: Steelers

About the Author

Aaron Freeman
Founder of FalcFans.com