Randall the Handle's NFL Week 15 selections:
Seahawks (6-7) at Bears (7-6)
LINE: CHICAGO BY 3½
With three straight losses, Chicago’s playoff hopes aren’t quite down the drain but they are circling the bowl. Knowing that a trip to Green Bay is on deck and then finishing in division at Minnesota, this one becomes crucial. It sets up very well as price may be reduced because of the imprint placed in the betting public’s mind after the Seahawks’ consecutive wins in a pair of prime timers. But defeating the disappointing Eagles and woeful Rams, both at CenturyLink Field, does not provide enough qualifications to be slotted in this price range against a cold-weather and desperate host.
TAKING: BEARS –3½
Panthers (4-9) at Texans (10-3)
LINE: HOUSTON BY 6½
This one appears short-priced and with good reason. The Texans have proven to be gritty during this seven-game win streak, considering the injuries to several key personnel. But with division secured, don’t be surprised to see them take an unintentional afternoon off. While rookie QB T.J. Yates has filled in admirably, still prefer rookie-of-year candidate Cam Newton and his versatile offence to third-stringer Yates. Houston has faced Blaine Gabbert twice, Colt McCoy, a regressing Josh Freeman and rookie Andy Dalton during current streak. A hiccup here would not surprise.
TAKING: PANTHERS +6½
Redskins (4-9) at Giants (7-6)
LINE: NY GIANTS BY 7
Those pesky Giants. Can never count them out, can you? But for whatever reason, they are better for our pocketbooks when taking points. That thought is corroborated when you track the G-men’s 1-11 mark versus spread in past 12 home games against teams with a losing record. The Redskins have their warts but their past four contests have all been competitive with Dallas, the Jets and Patriots included in that set. There is not much separating the NFC East teams and Washington plays its division tough with five covers in past six against its foes.
TAKING: REDSKINS +7
Cowboys (7-6) at Buccaneers (4-9)
LINE: DALLAS BY 7
Buccaneers remain in a tailspin having lost seven straight but still unwilling to trust the bumbling Cowboys as a full touchdown road favourite. Let’s not forget that the Bucs have defeated the Saints and Falcons on this field and in a featured Saturday night affair, a big effort can be expected.
TAKING: BUCCANEERS +7
Titans (7-6) at Colts (0-13)
LINE: TENNESSEE BY 6½
The Titans need to win out in order to qualify for the post-season but with a pair of dinged up quarterbacks and the possibility of overlooking these winless Colts, an upset would not surprise. Indianapolis actually out-gained Tennessee in earlier contest, that one held in Nashville.
TAKING: COLTS +6½
Saints (10-3) at Vikings (2-11)
LINE: NEW ORLEANS BY 6½
Saints may not be as goofy as the Cowboys, Chargers or Eagles but with previous losses at Tampa and St. Louis while barely holding on in Tennessee last week, we’re not anxious to endorse them at this price when outside of Louisiana. For a two-win team, the Vikings remain tenacious and should maintain that here.
TAKING: VIKINGS +6½
Packers (13-0) at Chiefs (5-8)
LINE: GREEN BAY BY 14
A premium is required when backing the Packers and despite obvious disparity between these two clubs, we can’t advise overpaying for the prized commodity. With Kansas City rid of its awful coach, QB Kyle Orton should be able to start and Green Bay is being cautious with its starters after losing one last week.
TAKING: CHIEFS +14
Bengals (7-6) at Rams (2-11)
LINE: CINCINNATI BY 6½
We’d rather watch the Kardashians than the Rams. But the Bengals are no great shakes lately, having dropped four of five and not covering a spread since Nov. 6. Rams happy to be home after a couple of games on west coast and with Cincy hurting in its secondary, the host should hang around.
TAKING: RAMS +6½
Lions (8-5) at Raiders (7-6)
LINE: DETROIT BY 1
There’s not much shame these days in getting blown out in Green Bay and with the Raiders returning home after dropping a pair on the road, don’t be surprised to see them rebound against these Lions. Detroit’s defence is imperceptibly poor and Oakland gets a playmaker back.
TAKING: RAIDERS +1
Browns (4-9) at Cardinals (6-7)
LINE: ARIZONA BY 7
Cardinals are hot. Browns are not. With a little luck and three winnable games ahead of them, Arizona could find its way to the playoffs. Cleveland’s offence remains one of the lamest units around and one that is incapable of trading points against a capable counterpart.
TAKING: CARDINALS –7
Patriots (10-3) at Broncos (8-5)
LINE: NEW ENGLAND BY 6½
The thing about fairly tales is that there is usually a gloomy part before the happy ending. We’re not sure how the Tim Tebow story will end but the sad part is about to occur. Denver’s miraculous run has been aided by some fortuitous scheduling. However, with the Patriots stopping by, the gig is officially up.
TAKING: PATRIOTS –6½
Jets (8-5) at Eagles (5-8)
LINE: PHILADELPHIA BY 3
Nothing can be said about the Eagles that hasn’t been said before but one thing they can do is sack opposing quarterbacks (42, second in the league). With an easily rattled Mark Sanchez at the helm for the Jets, expect Philadelphia to apply enough pressure to create ample opportunity for a Philadelphia win.
TAKING: EAGLES –3
Ravens (10-3) at Chargers (6-7)
LINE: BALTIMORE BY 2½
Defeating the Jaguars and Bills does not suddenly make everything okay in Chargerland. However, those two wins present us with a glorious opportunity to spot a small price with a superior Ravens squad. Baltimore’s disruptive defence is too much for San Diego to contend with.
TAKING: RAVENS –2½
Bills (5-8) at Dolphins (4-9)
LINE: Game is currently off the board due to uncertain status of Miami QB Matt Moore.
Steelers (10-3) at 49ers (10-3)
LINE: Game is currently off the board due to uncertain status of Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger.
Last week’s record: 11–5
Follow Randall: twitter.com/randallhandle