Week 15 of the NFL season is underway and it has brought crucial matchups between divisional rivals in both the AFC South and NFC East.
Peyton Manning has one last chance to capture the division title in a home game against Jack Del Rio’s upstart Jacksonville Jaguars, while Michael Vick and the Eagles soar into the Meadowlands to try and gain an upper hand in the race for the divisional crown.
Here are my top five upsets of the week. For the record, an upset is defined by the line Vegas Sets. I have listed the line of each game.
For all intents and purposes this is the AFC South Championship game. If Jacksonville can complete the season sweep of the Colts they will claim their first AFC South Championship in franchise history and first division title of any kind since 1999. Standing in the way is Peyton Manning and the six-time AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts.
This game features a Colts offense with a prolific passing game against the league’s last ranked stop unit against the pass. On the other side of the ball the Jaguars possess a dominant running game that matches up nicely against Indianapolis’ soft run defense. This should be a high-scoring affair.
This game, as most do in the NFL, will come down to turnovers. Peyton Manning has proven time and time again this season that he will make the crucial turnover at the worst possible time. Will he be able to avoid that ugly habit on Sunday? Possibly.
The Jaguars will be without top pass rusher Aaron Kampman in this game, who dominated the first matchup between these two teams. Kampan is out for the year with a torn ACL. Manning will have plenty of time to operate and pick apart this defense.
That being said, in a game that will without a doubt be close until the very end, I cannot side with Manning this season. He has been too shaky.
Pick: Jacksonville (+5) 31 Indianapolis 28
Why is everyone so down on the Jets all of a sudden? They got hammered by the Patriots on national T.V. and came out predictably flat against the Dolphins. These are the same Jets that were in the discussion as the best team in the league prior to the Monday Night Football fiasco. The fact the Pittsburgh is favored by six is great value.
The Jets have not been playing well on the offensive side of the ball, but neither have the Steelers. This is a matchup of two tough defenses in a cold weather football game. A close, low-scoring, defensive struggle shouldn’t surprise anybody.
Pick: New York (+6) 17 Pittsburgh 16
For some reason the worst team in the league is favored to win a game. Jump all over this situation. The Cardinals are playing decent football with John Skelton under center, and I think they will add a rare tally to their win column on Sunday.
Pick: Arizona (+2.5) 27 Carolina 20
The Eagles have a chance to secure the NFC East with a victory over Eli Manning and the New York Football Giants on Sunday. Philly has given Manning fits recently, as he has eight interceptions to just three touchdowns in his last three meetings with the division rival Eagles.
I really like the Eagles in this spot. The best is yet to come from Philadelphia’s offense. If Michael Vick and company can get their red zone struggles taken care of, it could be a long day for the Giants. An interesting stat to note is that the road team has won five of the last seven games between these clubs. I’ll side with road underdogs here.
Pick: Philadelphia (+3) 31 New York 27
While it may be a small margin, the Chiefs are favored in this contest. I cannot quite figure out why that is. The Rams are playing at home where Sam Bradford and company are 4-2 this season.
Another important factor is Kansas City’s quarterback situation. Will it be Bordie Croyle or Matt Cassel under center for the Chiefs? If it is Matt Cassel, will be be 100 percent? I have my doubts.
The Rams should handle the Chiefs, who are coming off of an emotional road loss to the Chargers.
Pick: St. Louis (+1) 23 Kansas City 13
The Rest of the Week 15 Picks
Buffalo Bills (+5) - Bills 20 Dolphins 10
Dallas Cowboys (-6) - Cowboys 31 Redskins 13
Houston Texans (+1.5) - Texans 27 Titans 23
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-5.5) - Buccaneers 28 Lions 20
Baltimore Ravens (-1) - Ravens 31 Saints 21
Atlanta Falcons (-6) - Falcons 35 Seahawks 24
Oakland Raiders (-7) - Raiders 24 Broncos 7
Green Bay Packers (+?) - Patriots 28 Packers 27
Chicago Bears (-?) - Bears 17 Vikings 13