Week 15 NFL Picks: Underdogs Ready to Steal Spotlight

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVDecember 13, 2013

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 05:  Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs past  D.J. Swearinger #36 of the Houston Texans during the game at EverBank Field on December 5, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

One of the most unpredictable and evenly-matched NFL seasons in recent history is just three weeks away from ending, and most of the league's squads are still desperately eyeing playoff contention. 

As teams enter Week 15, huge matchups are revealing themselves from coast to coast and favorites are emerging. However, as this season has indicated seemingly more often than not, you can't ever count out underdogs in any matchup.

For these select few, the slate has opened up for them to secure an improbable victory and either get into position for a run at the playoffs, or build confidence heading into 2014. 

Here's a look at the sure-fire bets to pull off an upset in Week 15.

Week 15 NFL Picks
Buffalo BillsJacksonville JaguarsJaguars
Chicago BearsCleveland BrownsBears
Houston TexansIndianapolis ColtsColts
New England PatriotsMiami DolphinsDolphins
Philadelphia EaglesMinnesota VikingsEagles
Seattle SeahawksNew York GiantsSeahawks
San Francisco 49ersTampa Bay Buccaneers49ers
Washington RedskinsAtlanta FalconsFalcons
New York JetsCarolina PanthersPanthers
Kansas City ChiefsOakland RaidersChiefs
Green Bay PackersDallas CowboysCowboys
New Orleans SaintsSt. Louis RamsSaints
Arizona CardinalsTennessee TitansCardinals
Cincinnati BengalsPittsburgh SteelersBengals
Baltimore RavensDetroit LionsRavens
Steven Cook's picks

Miami Dolphins (vs. New England Patriots)

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 08: Lamar Miller #26 of the Miami Dolphins avoids the reach of Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 8, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Miami won the game 34-28. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It's not very often that an upset pick jumps off the page like this one, but this makes so much sense that it may be a stretch to even peg it as a surprise pick. 

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 8:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is sacked in the first half against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

You've probably heard of the Patriots' story by now. Season-long injury problems to the pass-catchers have forced Tom Brady to use some unknown characters in the offense. The situation was significantly remedied by the return of Rob Gronkowski, but he tore up his knee in Week 14. 

Brady threw 17 times (completing 12) to running-back-turned-wideout Shane Vereen after Gronk went down in the win against Cleveland last week. That says it all. 

Spectacularly, the Pats have found a way to pull out some improbable victories to get to 10-3, but face one of their toughest matchups of the season. The Dolphins have won three of their last four (would be four straight without a last-minute loss vs. Carolina), and Ryan Tannehill is playing particularly well—having not gone under 60 percent completion in over a month and making winning plays. 

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 08:  Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins under center against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on December 8, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Week 8 against the Pats was the last time Tannehill went under 60 percent or 200 yards passing, and it also marked the last game in which he threw multiple picks. Since, he's made major strides as a quarterback, and teams have started to figure out New England's defense (given up at least 24 points in each game since Week 8). 

Unless Randy Moss is cloned for New England or Tannehill rediscovers his turnover-prone ways, the Dolphins will get past their AFC East rival at home. 

Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Buffalo Bills)

Dec 5, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; A Jacksonville Jaguars fan celebrates a lead in the first quarter against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

The average NFL fan killed off the Jaguars some two months ago, buried them in the backyard and forgot all about them. Since, they rose from the dead to turn into one of the AFC's hottest teams with few noticing. 

As ESPN's Twitter account noted, the Jags are still in the playoff race, even after starting out 0-8:

Jacksonville will be visited by struggling AFC opponent Buffalo over the weekend, who has lost five of its last six contests and isn't playing well on either side of the ball. A 27-6 loss to Tampa Bay—of all teams—last weekend shows just how far the Bills have fallen since showing glimpses of promise early on. 

Just about all the Bills can do on offense is run the ball, and the Jags haven't given up an 80-yard rusher since Week 8—that was against the 49ers. Rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel will have to have plenty of success through the air to win this one, which isn't in the cards after throwing four picks against the Bucs last weekend. 

The Jaguars' defense is a completely new unit from the one that started the season, and they'll suffocate yet another foe over the weekend to continue their emergence.

Baltimore Ravens (at Detroit Lions)

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 08: Inside linebacker Jameel McClain #53 of the Baltimore Ravens takes the field during player introductions before playing the Minnesota Vikings at M&T Bank Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Baltimore Ravens
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Lions must be wishing that they faced the defending Super Bowl champs a couple of months ago. After starting 4-6 and looking like a shell of themselves, the Ravens have fired off three straight wins. 

Visiting the pass-happy Detroit Lions in Week 15, Baltimore's resurgent pass defense will be tested in a way that it hasn't seen since Week 1 against the Broncos. While some of the Ravens' secondary members could've used their words a bit wiser heading into a matchup with Calvin Johnson, they've backed up the talk as of late by holding two of the last three QBs they've faced to under 50 percent completion.

Meanwhile, Joe Flacco has found his stride again after a slow start and rediscovered his big-play potential. He's thrown a 50-plus-yard pass in two of his last three, and played his best in the fourth quarter—a key trait that put a ring on his finger a year ago. 

The Lions have lost three of their last four, and that lone win was a Thanksgiving drubbing of the Packers. It can be debated whether Green Bay even showed up for that game. 

Baltimore's front four is strong enough to handle Joique Bell and Reggie Bush up front and will sell out against the pass. It may not be enough to bottle up Megatron entirely, but it will be enough to score more points than the opposition. 


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