The Weekly Blitz: 3 NFL Picks Against the Spread for Week 15

Kevin HansonAnalyst IIIDecember 17, 2011

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 11:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers calls out a play against the Buffalo Bills at Qualcomm Stadium on December 11, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

If you have paid attention to my NFL picks against the spread (ATS) this season, you know that I pick exactly three games week in and week out.

The goal is to finish 2-1 ATS (or better) every week, and I have exceeded my goal on a year-to-date basis.

In fact, if I have three losing weeks to close out the regular season, I would still finish at nearly 65 percent (64.6) ATS. As previously stated, that is NOT the goal, of course.

On the season, I am now 28-11-3 (71.3 percent) ATS through the first 14 weeks and find myself in a position where I like several (more than three) games, but I don't love any of them. Narrowing down this week's picks to only three was tough.

For example, I like the San Diego Chargers to cover and win outright on Sunday Night Football over the Ravens, who have been inconsistent on the road this season (losses to Tennessee, Jacksonville and Seattle). Despite their bad start (or technically bad middle since they started 4-1), the Chargers and quarterback Philip Rivers have once again gotten their post-November groove back. It's almost as inexplicable as the Tim Tebow-led post-third-quarter comebacks in Denver.

But I've decided not to go with this game as one of my three games for the week. Here are my three NFL picks against the spread for Week 15:

New Orleans Saints (-7) over Minnesota Vikings

With Vikings running back Adrian Peterson listed as probable on the team's injury report, he's expected to return after missing the past three games with a high-ankle sprain. Peterson is one of the league's best running backs and teammate Percy Harvin has been playing as well as any receiver in the league recently.

While the Vikings' offense should be fine, can they stop or at least slow down the Saints' high-powered offense?

It's highly unlikely.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees leads the NFL in passing yards (4,368) and is on a record-setting pace. In fact, Brees needs to average fewer passing yards than his worst performance of the season for the final three games to break Dan Marino's single-season record. Through 13 games, Brees has thrown for 300-plus yards 10 times.

No team has allowed more passing touchdowns (26) than Minnesota, who is tied with the winless Colts for a league-worst six interceptions.

With the 49ers having an edge based on the tie-breakers for the No. 2 seed (and first-round bye), the Saints will be fully motivated to take the lead (at least for a day until the 49ers host the Steelers on Monday Night Football) as Brees puts on an offensive clinic.

Houston Texans (-6) over Carolina Panthers

While both teams are starting rookie quarterbacks, their paths to get the starting nod are much different. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was the first pick in this year's draft, has started from Day 1 and should be the league's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (see past winners).

Texans quarterback T.J. Yates, the team's fifth-round pick out of North Carolina, is starting out of necessity as Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart both suffered season-ending injuries. That said, Yates threw his first-ever 300-yard game as the Texans clinched the AFC South and their first playoff berth last week.

While I don't expect a repeat performance from Yates, the Texans should be able to run the ball extremely well against a bad Panthers run defense. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate both rushed for 100-plus yards in this game like they did against the Browns in Week 9. Foster has eight 100-yard games (five rushing and three receiving) and Tate has four 100-yard games.

As well as Newton has played, the Texans have the league's top-ranked defense (274.9 yards allowed per game) and they are top four in both rushing and passing defense. Against a team like Carolina that has one elite receiver, Jonathan Joseph should be able to contain Steve Smith and force the other (much less talented) Panthers receivers to step up.

Cincinnati Bengals (-7) over St. Louis Rams

Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is listed as doubtful for this week's game, which means the Rams will likely go with Kellen Clemens, who has 33 pass attempts from 2008 to 2011.

That said, the Rams offense has not been particularly explosive regardless of who has been under center. No team has scored fewer points than the Rams (11.8 yards per game). Against the league's seventh-ranked defense (314.8 YPG allowed), that trend is unlikely to change.

On the other hand, the Rams run defense has been particularly bad this season. No team has allowed more rushing yards (156.8 per game) than the Rams and the Rams are one of three teams to allow an average of at least five yards per carry this season.

The Bengals have struggled recently in large part due to the level of their competition. In their past five games, they are 1-4, but those four losses have all come against 10-win teams (Pittsburgh twice, Baltimore and Houston).

Look for the Bengals to bounce back big against the woeful Rams.

For all of our Week 15 picks including our other two handicappers, click here.

Based on the accuracy results tracked by, I have been the most accurate "fantasy football expert" through the first 14 weeks of the year. If you're looking for our fantasy football rankings for Week 15, you'll find them here.

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