NFL Picks Week 15: Betting Predictions for Thursday and Saturday Night Football

Barbara Bruno@allprofootballContributor IIDecember 15, 2011

NFL Picks Week 15: Betting Predictions for Thursday and Saturday Night Football

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    Picks Record Through Week 14


    Straight-Up: 142-65

    Against the Spread: 120-87

    Over/Under: 108-99

    Three weeks and counting. Unless you cheer for Seattle, the Rams, Miami, the Chiefs or the Bills—things are very exciting right now!

    Just a question: Todd Haley loses his entire offense to injury and gets fired. Steve Spagnuolo loses his first two QBs, is completely unable to score on even the Seahawks defense and he doesn’t get fired?

    And if you didn’t think that Tony Sparano (who didn’t have a QB to start with) was going to get canned the second he lost a game—I have a bridge in the desert to sell you.

    Unbelievably, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross actually said (with a straight face), “I’d like to find a young Don Shula.” Well, wouldn’t we all. Good luck with that.

    On to the picks:

Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons: Thursday Night Football

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    Straight-Up: Atlanta 

    Against the Spread: Jacksonville +13.5

    Over/Under: Under 42.5


    Jacksonville Injuries

    Who will be kicking for the Jaguars? Josh Scobee hurt his leg on Sunday and JAX signed former Georgia PK Brandon Coutu just in case. Fans better hope Scobee can rally because Coutu has zero professional stats. As in none.

    The Jaguars receiving corps will probably be minus Mike Thomas and Cecil Shorts.


    Jaguars Offense

    In Week 14, Jacksonville scored against the Buccaneers on offense, defense and special teams.

    Rookie QB Blaine Gabbert finally had a good game; he completed 19-of-33 passes for 217 yards and two TDs. He still threw two INTs, but let’s not get picky.

    The day, of course, belonged to “Pocket Hercules," Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars’ offensive stud finished the afternoon with 136 combined yards and four TDs. Yes, four. It’s a franchise record.



    I was impressed with the fortitude of a Jacksonville squad that started the year strongly only to be hit hard with injuries. They caused seven turnovers. Yes, seven.

    They forced a fumble in the end zone and recovered it for a touchdown. They intercepted Josh Freeman twice.

    The secondary features one guy named Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and one newcomer. I realize that they were playing against a severely underperforming Tampa Bay team, but the patchwork unit still came up big last Sunday.

    And now they will be getting star DB Dwight Lowery back in action. Look out, Matt Ryan.


    Special Teams

    Montell Owens caused two fumbles on punts. Colin Cloherty, who was signed from the practice squad on Friday, scooped up one for a score.


    Falcons Defense

    The Falcons still mystify me. They were lethargic and completely out of sync for the first half last week and Cam Newton and Company were running all over them.

    And then they entered the fourth quarter.

    Atlanta came storming back in the second half with some urgency and toughness against a talented but rookie Carolina QB.



    Matt Ryan continued that strange noncommittal style that has concerned me all year. I spent the first half making notes like “Is he hurt?" “What is wrong with him?”

    Julio Jones dropped three passes that I saw and Michael Turner wasn’t able to get in the groove.

    And then they entered the fourth quarter. Cam Newton threw two picks in the second half. Ryan threw two TDs in the fourth quarter.

    Julio Jones, who couldn’t catch anything for what seemed like hours, suddenly ended up with three receptions for 104 yards and two TDs.

    Atlanta also wound up rookie speedster RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who scampered very successfully against the Carolina defense.

    The Jags D is marginally more healthy than Carolina’s and those new DBs will be watching a lot of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez tape this week.

    If the fourth-quarter Matt Ryan arrives in the first quarter, Atlanta should win and cover with relative ease.


    Special Teams

    PK Matt Bryant has been sick all week, but is listed as probable.

    Remember, the Falcons are still in the wild-card mix, while the Jags just want to gain some momentum at the end of a forgettable year.


    Bottom Line

    I do think that Atlanta will win, but they are giving up 127.7 yards on the ground over the past month. I can see Maurice Jones-Drew salivating from here.

Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Saturday Night Football

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    Straight-Up: Dallas 

    Against the Spread: Tampa Bay +7.5 

    Over/Under: Over 46 


    Buccaneers Offense

    You have to feel for the Buccaneers. Josh Freeman played so poorly last weekend that he was benched in the 41-14 loss. And Tampa Bay was leading that game at one point 14-0! That’s just sad.

    I don’t care what the Bucs’ record is, LeGarrette Blount is a flat-out stud. Unfortunately, with no remaining passing game, even Blount has a hard time gaining yards. Over his career, No. 27 has averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

    QB Freeman had better manufacture some WRs quickly because 16.7 points per game (over the last three weeks) is not going to cut it against Dallas.


    Dallas Offense

    You also have to feel for the Cowboys. Yet again, they have accumulated a lot of individual talent that still isn’t translating to wins.

    Now they are down to small Felix Jones at running back plus some guy they literally just signed off the street.

    The O-line has issues. Again. (Ironically, one of their most promising is RT Tyron Smith—and he’s a rookie.) And their center had to leave the game last week and is questionable. Great.

    Tony Romo has a ton of receiving weapons and should get the ball to them frequently. But, the Bucs have a decent pass defense that is giving up fewer than 194 yards per game over the last month. That will be the crux of the matter on Saturday.



    The defensive secondary is too porous. Still. But if Josh Freeman can't get a ball to someone calling themselves a WR, it won't matter.

    Dallas must win this game to stay in the playoff hunt and I think that they will. But I’ll go with the home underdog on the spread.

    Check out my predictions for the Sunday and Monday games.