The dream is alive!!!
After the Bengals' win on Thursday night, the Browns; playoff chances took a bit of a hit (down to a 0.4 percent). But all that really means is that the Bengals can’t win again. And given that their final two games are against the Steelers and Ravens, that’s almost likely.
I’m not crazy enough to believe that the scenario could actually play out. But I am crazy enough to dream about it.
Let’s go to the lines…
(Gamble at your own risk. The home team is in CAPS. The lines are from SportsBook.com.)
BROWNS (+1) over Redskins
Even if Robert Griffin III plays, there’s no way that he’s going to be close to 100 percent. And without his legs, he just isn’t as special. I think he can still beat you with his arm, but it’s his running ability that opens up so much in that passing game.
The Browns' defense has been very good of late, giving Cleveland a chance to win every game. Brandon Weeden will be able to pass on what it is a very poor Redskins defense.
I really like the Browns’ chances in this game if Griffin doesn’t play. If he does and is only 75 percent, I still think we’ll win. But if he’s anywhere close to 100 percent, I’ll be quite worried. He’s such a special player when completely healthy. Luckily for the Browns, it doesn’t appear he will be this week.
Packers (-3) over BEARS
It’s been five weeks since I went on a long diatribe about how great the Bears were, their resilience and how they personified “team.” They’ve gone 1-4 in that stretch and Jay Cutler seemingly gets the crap kicked out of him every week.
The Packers haven’t exactly been lighting up the NFL this season. They don’t rank in the top 10 in offensive or defensive passing and rushing. But they have won seven of their last eight games, which is good enough reason for me to pick them in this NFC North battle.
FALCONS (-1.5) over Giants
I don’t love either of these teams. They both appear to very good and have occasionally explosive offenses. But they’ve also both lost games that left you scratching your head (Atlanta last week against Carolina, and the Giants against Philadelphia and Cincinnati).
With that said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of these win the Super Bowl this season. The NFL is as wide open as I can remember it. There are teams that are not currently in position to make the playoffs that I could see going on a run and winning it all. It’s just one of the many things that make the NFL so great.
As for this game, I’m taking the Falcons at home, especially with such a small line.
Buccaneers (+3.5) over SAINTS
Tampa Bay has let me down the past couple weeks. I thought the Buccaneers were looking like a team on the rise and one of those teams that was poised to explode on the league. But they’ve dropped three straight, capped with a disappointing home loss to the Eagles last week.
So when all else fails, take the points.
RAMS (-2.5) over Vikings
Speaking of streaks…the Rams are on a three-game winning streak and have what appears to be a pretty good defense. Their offense isn’t anything to write home about. But going against a one-dimensional Vikings offense, I like their chances.
No one has been able to curtail Adrian Peterson this season except Christian Ponder and his pathetic passing attack (if you can even call it an “attack”). Also, the Vikings are 1-5 on the road this season. So there’s that, too.
Jaguars (+7) over DOLPHINS
I’ll be honest and say that I don’t have a great reason for this one. I just don’t feel comfortable laying seven points with the Dolphins no matter who they’re playing.
Broncos (-3) over RAVENS
I’ve bagged on the Ravens for past several weeks, calling them “frauds” and other such things. So it brought me great joy to see that a team three weeks away from the playoffs fired its offensive coordinator and handed the reins to a guy who’s never called a play in his life. And this is also looking past the fact that its defense should be of more concern than its offense.
But go ahead, Baltimore, continue to blow up your team mid-season. I certainly don’t mind.
Colts (+8.5) over TEXANS
This will be a defining game for Andrew Luck and the Colts. They have a chance to take control of the division and make Houston fans bemoan that the Texans couldn’t take advantage of the season without an elite QB in Indianapolis last year.
This is also a huge game for the Texans after getting blown out (and that’s putting it nicely) by the Patriots last week. They need to show the league that they’re a legitimate Super Bowl contender and not a team that can get rolled over by truly great teams.
Panthers (+3) over CHARGERS
Much thanks to the Chargers for picking last week against the Steelers to finally show up. Last week aside, this game is a matchup of what many people would call two of the most underachieving and inconsistent teams in the NFL.
This game is a gambler’s nightmare. You don't know if the game or bad version of either team will show up. When in doubt, take the points.
Seahawks (-5.5) over BILLS
The Seahawks haven’t been very good on the road this season (2-5). But could a sane person bet against a team that won by 58 points last week? I can’t.
Lions (-6.5) over CARDINALS
I’m employing the same logic for this game. As unimpressive as the Lions have been this season, the Cardinals are H-O-R-I-B-L-E. They do nothing well. Not even spell.
COWBOYS (+2) over Steelers
As bad as the Steelers looked last week in Ben Roethlisberger’s return, I’m surprised that they’re favored in this game. The Cowboys' offense has been pretty good at home, and that’s what I’m banking on here, especially with the Steelers banged-up secondary. It’s hard to pass on taking a home underdog…unless it’s the Cardinals, obviously.
Chiefs (+3) over RAIDERS
No one cares about this game, so I’ll make it quick. I’ll take the Chiefs' running game over the Raiders' awful run defense. That is all.
PATRIOTS (-5.5) over 49ers
I said this last week about the Patriots’ matchup and it ended up being a blowout, but this should be a great game. The 49ers have a great defense, but Tom Brady is having an MVP season and has been carving up defenses lately like a turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
Five-and-a-half points is a lot for a game between two very good teams. But I just can’t bet against Brady and Belichick in a big game in prime time. New England by a touchdown.
TITANS (-1.5) over Jets
When breaking down the teams last week that had legitimate chances of making the playoffs ahead of the Browns, I may have dismissed the Jets (6-7) a little too lightly. I didn’t notice how easy their final games were.
After getting blown out by the Patriots in Week 12, they squeaked by the Cardinals and Jaguars. Now they have games at Tennessee (4-9), home against the Chargers (5-8) and then at Buffalo (5-8). The Jets aren’t any good, but they could run the table against that putrid slate. Let’s just say their chances are better than the Browns’ chances of running the table.
With all that said, I like the Titans this week at home because, well, I really think the Jets aren’t any good. Their quarterback situation is a mess and their leading receiver is Jeremy Kerley. Does that sound like a team you want to take on the road?
The Jets will lose at least one of these finals three games. This one might be the best bet.
Last week: 6-8
Browns picks: 8-4-1
You can follow Benjamin Flack on Twitter @ClevelandFlack.