Jazz: Week 15 was clearly the one I was waiting for. I came within one pick of a clean sweep, going 6-1 and landing me at 58-47 on the season. (The Raiders let me down at the last minute against the Cowboys.) It wasn’t enough to catch Ed, but I’ve got two more shots at it. And if nothing else, I should at least be able to stay above .500 on the season.
Ed: Week 15 would have been the week I was waiting for … if it hadn’t been for that bad call at the end of the Steelers-Pats game. Knee down, ball breaks the plane with control — that’s a touchdown. Instead, the Steelers are effectively one game down for home-field control of the playoffs, and Jazz gets the 6-1 instead of me. Still, 5-2 is a better week than most of my later scores, and it puts me up tp 61-44 for the season and guaranteeing me a winning record.
Jazz: Only two of our regularly featured games are up since the Vikings played Green Bay yesterday. The Jets welcome the LA Chargers to New Jersey (1:00 pm, CBS) and are only playing to be spoilers at this point. We’re also missing our starting QB for the rest of the season. The Chargers have a couple of sack-happy pass rushers and one of the best overall defenses in the league. I hate to say it, but Los Angeles wins this one 27-20. The Steelers play the Texans in Houston on Christmas day (4:25 pm Monday, FOX) and this is great news for Ed. Houston is a team in mid-collapse and also relying on a backup QB while fielding the worst scoring defense in the league. Big Ben and company will clean up the stadium with a 34-14 blowout. For a third match, let’s toss in a game with some playoff implications on the Gulf Coast. The Atlanta Falcons travel to the Big Easy to play the Saints (1:00 pm, FOX). The Saints actually lost to Atlanta only two weeks ago, but they were missing some key players who have now returned. Also, New Orleans has a lot on the line here. They’re tied with Carolina at 10-4 and could still lock up the NFC South title with an assured trip to the post-season. History won’t repeat itself today as the Saints win this one 27-21.
Ed: All right, enough moaning and griping — time to look forward. The Chargers constantly seem on the cusp of success, only to fall back. However, they have generally played well enough to knock off weaker competition, and they should today as well. Their defense making the difference, so Charger over Jets 24-13. The Steelers will be too much on both sides of the line for the Texans, even if they tend to play down to the level of their competition. After the Pats loss, though, they can’t afford to take their foot off the pedal. I’ll also predict a blowout, 30-10. (Can we all agree to root for the Bills to upset the Pats in Foxboro for some justice, though?) The Falcons and Saints give up the same number of points per game (20.1), but New Orleans scores six points a game more on offense. It’s tough to pick against Brees at home, and I’m not going to do it. Saints win a shootout, 31-28.
Jazz: Here’s four more with varying degrees of playoff significance (or perhaps none at all) but which should at least be competitive.
- Browns at Bears (1:00 pm, CBS) – I know, but how do you NOT pick this game? The Browns have yet to chalk up a win this season, but this could be their last chance at glory. Chicago is still the favorite, but they’re one of the only teams racking up fewer passing yards and total yards than Cleveland. The Browns are just a sentimental favorite at this point so I’ll go with the Christmas Eve miracle and pick Cleveland to win it 14-12.
- Jaguars at 49ers (4:05 pm, CBS) – San Francisco has been racking up some wins with their new QB, but they’ve got a big problem on their hands today. The Jaguars aren’t scoring a ton of points, but their defense is about the toughest in the league right now, particularly on takeaways, points allowed, sacks and pressuring the quarterback. That will be too much for the 49ers today. Jags win it 24-12.
- Seahawks at Cowboys (4:25 pm, FOX) – This was supposed to be a tough game for the Cowboys, but Seattle’s defense has been missing in action lately and they’ve suffered some embarrassing losses. Plus, the Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliott back and that should put them over the top. Dallas wins 27-17.
- Raiders at Eagles (Monday 8:30 pm, ESPN) – The Monday Night Football game will probably fail to draw much in the way of ratings as everyone is napping after Christmas feasts or just going to bed early. They won’t miss much with this game, which the Eagles will dominate 34-16.
- Browns at Bears (1:00 pm, CBS) – This is a game with deep playoff implications … in 2020, when next year’s draft picks mature enough to become impact players. Seriously, Jazz? Ah well, why not? Da Bears are bad, but they’re not that bad. Cleveland’s not going to score their first win on the road, not against the 8th-ranked defense in the league. Bears win 17-14, which is not coincidentally the average number of points these teams put up each week.
- Jaguars at 49ers (4:05 pm, CBS) – This might be a fun test of Jimmy Garoppolo’s new role as starting QB. He’s won three in a row, but now has to face a playoff-caliber team, one with the best defense in the league in points allowed. This game may be closer than one would think, but it’s still going to be the Jags winning it on defense, 24-20.
- Seahawks at Cowboys (4:25 pm, FOX) – Seattle got thoroughly embarrassed at home against the Rams. They may want some vindication, but with Ezekiel Elliott off his suspension, they won’t find it in Dallas. Cowboys 28-20, with Russell Wilson making it interesting in the 4th quarter.
- Raiders at Eagles (Monday 8:30 pm, ESPN) – For a while, it looked like the Raiders had some magic working this season, but their discipline and focus dissipated about midway through the season. The real drama on Christmas night will be waiting to see if Marshawn Lynch gets tossed again for unsportsmanlike conduct. Nick Foles will keep the Eagles’ home-field record spotless with a 27-17 win.