January 18, 2022

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Fit And Go Forward

NFL Week 15 picks, previewing Chargers-Raiders, plus details on how a 17th game will work

Guys, I’d like to start things off here by saying that I have some good news and some bad news. 

The bad news it that tonight’s game between the Chargers and the Raiders is the final Thursday game of the season. Although, I suppose this could also qualify as good news, because it now means you’ll have your Thursdays free going forward to watch old episodes of “Mr. Belvedere,” which is what I generally do with my Thursdays during the NFL offseason. 

As for the good news, which is actually great news: We’re giving away FREE STUFF here at CBS Sports. Just in time for the holidays, CBS Sports digital is giving away a prize package that includes 10 cutting-edge products from Westinghouse. Everyone loves free stuff and if you want to win some, all you have to do is click here and sign up. The worst thing about working at CBS Sports is that I’m not eligible to win things like this, which is actually good news for you, because it means there’s one less person to go up against to win the grand prize. If you sign up — and you should — I’ll be rooting for you to win and if you do win, maybe I can borrow one of your 10 new gadgets? Please say yes. I love new gadgets. 

I’d love to keep talking about free stuff with you, but we’ve got a newsletter to get to. As always, if you want to share this newsletter with everyone you know — it’s a cheap and easy Holiday gift — just click here to grab the link and then send that link to everyone on your email list or just sign them up without telling them. That’s what I did with everyone in my fantasy league. Alright, let’s get to the rundown. 

1. Today’s Show: Daily fantasy advice for Week 15

Apparently, Will Brinson forgot to tell me that it’s tight end week on the Pick Six podcast or maybe he told me and I just ignored him, which is completely possible. For Thursday’s podcast, Brinson brought on fantasy guru Frank Stampfl to about the best daily fantasy plays for Week 15. The pair went over all the best fantasy options for the 12 games that are being played on Sunday and surprise, surprise, they mentioned a few tight ends. 

During the podcast, the duo offered their best value plays for the week, so let’s take a quick look at those (These are guys you can purchase for $4,000 or less). 

  • Brinson: Vikings TE Irv Smith ($3,600). After battling injuries for most of the year, Smith is finally healthy and it showed in Week 14 when he caught four passes for 63 yards and a TD against the Buccaneers. When you combine that with the fact that Kyle Rudolph is dealing with a foot injury, that means this could be a big week for Smith.   
  • Stampfl: Saints TE Jared Cook ($3,400). Over the past two weeks, Cook has been getting quite a few looks from Taysom Hill. Not only has he been targeted nine times, but he’s turned those targets into six catches, 65 yards, and two touchdowns. Now, he gets to go up against a Chiefs defense that struggled against the tight end position in Week 14, surrendering 65 yards and two touchdowns to Miami’s Mike Gesicki. 

Find the link below to listen to today’s episode — and be sure to subscribe to the podcast —  by clicking here. 

2. Getting you ready for Chargers-Raiders in Las Vegas

I’m not sure what you’re doing tonight — and to be honest, it would be kind of creepy if I did — but if I were you, I’d definitely make plans to watch this game and that’s because it’s the FINAL Thursday night game of the season. Under normal circumstances, I probably would have begged my bosses to send me to Vegas for this game, but since there’s a pandemic, I won’t be doing that, which is probably for the best, because if I went to Vegas for work, there’s a 100% chance I’d rack up the largest expense report in CBS history and I’m guessing it would probably cost me my job. For some reason, I don’t think my wife would be happy about that. 

Anyway, let’s take a look at a few keys for each team tonight in a game where the Raiders are favored by three points: 

  • Chargers: The Raiders defense has been so bad this season that they fired their defensive coordinator this week even though they were playing on a Thursday, which means the new guy (Rod Marinelli) has only had three days to prepare. Basically, don’t be surprised if Justin Herbert has a huge game. The one thing to watch here is the health of wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Both guys are listed as questionable and if they can’t go, the Chargers will lose some serious offensive firepower. 
  • Raiders: The Chargers haven’t been very good at stopping the run this season, which means the Raiders should just keep feeding Josh Jacobs until he can’t eat anymore. If Jacobs gets rolling, that will open things up for Derek Carr and if you’ve ever watched Carr, he may not be the NFL’s best quarterback, but he can be deadly when the defense is more focused on stopping the run than they are on stopping him.  

Breech’s prediction: Raiders 30-23 over Chargers.

For a more in-depth preview on this game from Jared Dubin, be sure to click here.

If you’re thinking about betting on the game, Jordan Dajani put together a full gambling preview. 

  • ONE PROP JORDAN LIKES: Agholor total receiving yards OVER 55.5 (-115): The Raiders aren’t going to have Henry Ruggs tonight, which means Agholor could see a few more targets. If that happens, the yards should pile up and if he can just hit one big play, this prop will pay. Agholor had 100 yards against the Colts in Week 14.  
  • ONE PROP I LIKE: Daniel Carlson over 7.5 total kicking points (-105): All Carlson has to do to win this prop for you is hit three field goals. The Raiders kicker has gone over 7.5 points in nine of 13 games this season. Jon Gruden is a coach who will take points however he can get them and a lot of times, that means kicking a field goal on fourth-and-short when other coaches might consider going for it. It’s hard to get good value on kicking props, but -105 is pretty solid. 

You can check out Dajani’s full gambling preview by clicking here. 

Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com via Imagn Content Services

3. Five teams can clinch a playoff spot in Week 15

If the Bills make the playoffs this year, it will mark the first time in more than 20 years that they’ll have made the playoffs in consecutive seasons. That drought could end as soon as Sunday and that’s because the Bills are one of five teams that could clinch a playoff berth this weekend. 

Let’s take a quick look at a few of the clinching scenarios for each team. I’m not going to mention any of the scenarios that involve ties, but if you’re interested in those scenarios, feel free to click here. If you do click over, be sure to bring your abacus, because things get complicated when you include clinching scenarios that involve ties. If you don’t own an abacus because you don’t trust medieval calculators, that’s probably for the best. 

Easiest way to clinch: Beat Lions AND Ravens lose to Jaguars. 
Other ways: Beat Lions PLUS Raiders loss to Chargers PLUS Dolphins loss to Patriots PLUS Browns win over Giants.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Ravens are going to lose, which means the only way the Titans will be getting in is if they win, the Browns win and then the Raiders and Dolphins both lose. That’s four things that need to go their way. If you were to create a money line parlay of that clinching scenario, you’d get odds of +800, which means you’d win $800 on a $100 bet if the Titans clinch in that scenario. I’m now secretly hoping the Titans clinch with that scenario.   

Easiest way to clinch: Beat Broncos
Other ways: Ravens lose to Jaguars 

If the Bills win on Saturday, not only do they clinch a playoff berth, but they’ll also clinch their first division title since 1995. Bills fans, if that’s not a reason to go out and buy 25 bottles of champagne so you can drink them after you slam yourself through a flaming folding table in celebration, I don’t know what is. 

Easiest way to clinch: Beat Jets  
Other ways: If Bears-Vikings ends in a tie

I probably didn’t even need to mention that second scenario, because there’s no way the Rams are going to lose to the Jets. 

Easiest way to clinch: Beat Washington 
Other ways: If Bears-Vikings ends in a tie

The Seahawks have it slightly more difficult than the Rams, but that’s only because their game isn’t as easy. If the Seahawks can’t handle business in Washington, they could still clinch a berth if the Vikings and Bears tie. I know I said I wasn’t going to mention ties, but I changed my mind, because there is nothing I would love to see more than the Vikings-Bears game ending in a tie. 

Only way to clinch: Beat Falcons PLUS Bears-Vikings ends in a tie

My biggest takeaway here is that the Buccaneers aren’t clinching this week. Even though I want the tie to happen and will be praying to the football Gods about it, I’m about 0-for-300 when praying to the football Gods. I think they hate me because I grew up a Bengals fan. 

Divisional notes

AFC West: The Chiefs have already won the division, but they can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Saints combined with losses by BOTH the Steelers (to the Bengals) and Bills (to the Broncos).

NFC South: The Saints could win the NFC South on Sunday with just a win over the Chiefs. New Orleans could also clinch if the Buccaneers lose to the Falcons. 

AFC North: The Steelers can clinch the division with a win over the Bengals, so I’d say they’re probably safe to just go ahead and start printing division champion t-shirts now. The Steelers could also clinch before they even take the field on Monday and that will happen if Cleveland loses to the Giants. 

4. NFL Week 15 picks 

In case you haven’t noticed, we love to make picks here at CBS Sports. As a matter of fact, I even love to make picks about who’s going to have the best picks each week. Two guys who almost always do a good job with their picks are Jordan Dajani and Tom Fornelli. Speaking of Fornelli, if you like this newsletter, I should have you know that he also writes a newsletter and it’s just as fun. It’s the CBS Sports HQ PM edition newsletter and you can subscribe to it by clicking here. If you’re already subscribed, then subscribe a friend and tell them it’s an early Christmas present. 

With that in mind, let’s check out one pick from each guy for Week 15: 

  • Dajani: Browns (-4.5) at Giants. The Giants starting quarterback in this game is either going to be a hobbled Daniel Jones or Colt McCoy and whoever it is, they’re going to have to face a Browns pass-rush that includes Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon. That almost doesn’t seem fair. Dajani’s pick: Browns 28-17 over Giants. 
  • Fornelli: Chiefs (-3) at Saints. This is going to be Patrick Mahomes against either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston and if you’ve ever seen any of those three quarterbacks play, then you’ll understand why Fornelli is picking the team quarterbacked by Mahomes. Fornelli’s pick: Chiefs 30-24 over Saints. 

For a look at Fornelli’s “Best Bets” for Week 15, be sure to click here. If you’re looking for the rest of Dajani’s Week 15 picks — he picks every game — be sure to click here.  

USA Today

5. Details on how a 17th game will work

Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement that was approved back in March, the NFL is allowed to extend the regular season to 17 games as soon as next year. Of course, due to the pandemic, there’s no guarantee that’s going to happen. If the league doesn’t feel comfortable with the idea of adding more games to the schedule, then there’s a good chance we’ll get a 16-game season next year with a 17-game schedule added in 2022 or 2023. 

With that in mind, the NFL’s 32 owners held a conference call on Wednesday to talk about the 17-game schedule — and although they didn’t vote on whether to implement it for 2021 — they did approve the scheduling formula that will be used once the 17th game is added. 

Here’s what we know: 

1. The 17th game will be an AFC vs. NFC game. 
2. The two conferences will alternate who gets the extra home game each year (If AFC teams were to host in 2021, then NFC teams would get to host in 2022).  
3. Teams will play against a team that finished the prior season at the same spot in the standings (For example, as the 2020 AFC West winner, the Chiefs would play an NFC team that also finished in first place in 2020). 

Based on that information, my guess is that the formula will also include teams from one AFC division playing teams from an NFC division at least every other year. Under the current formula, a team like the Chiefs only plays each NFC division once every four years. In the Kansas City example, if they start playing each NFC division every other year, they’d play all four teams in the NFC East next season plus the team in the NFC North that finishes at the same spot in the standings in 2020 (The NFC North game would only be added if the 17th game is added). If there’s no 17th game added in 2021, then they’d just play the four teams in the NFC East. On a somewhat related note, I’d like to go ahead and bet the Chiefs in all four of those NFC East games. 

6. Super Bowl LV odds: Packers make jump

The Lombardi Trophy is named after former Packers coach Vince Lombardi, but we might have to rename it the LaFleur Trophy with the way Matt LaFleur has the team playing right now. Not only do the Packers currently hold the top seed in the NFC, but they’ve also moved up one spot to become the second overall Super Bowl favorite heading into Week 15.  

Let’s check out the odds. 

1. Chiefs +180 (Bet $100 to win $180)
2. Packers +650
3. Saints +700
4. Rams +1100
T-5. Bills +1200
T-5. Steelers +1200
T-7. Buccaneers +1400
T-7. Seahawks +1400
9. Ravens +1600
T-10. Colts, Titans +2800

Worst odds: Broncos and Panthers +10000 (Bet $100 to win $100,000)
Best value: Colts +2800 or Browns +4000

Apparently, the oddsmakers weren’t impressed with the way the Browns lost on Monday night, because Cleveland took a tumble. Going into Week 14, their odds were listed at +2800, but now they’ve dipped all the way down +4000. Now, the Browns generally have the worst luck of any team in the NFL and they haven’t made the playoffs since 2002, so I wouldn’t be extremely confident putting money on them to win the Super Bowl, but they have a great rushing attack and a solid defense, which is sometimes all you need to win in the playoffs. 

7. The Kicker!

As you guys may or may not have noticed, I don’t write the newsletter on Wednesdays and that’s mostly because I have to take the entire day off so I can research fun kicking facts. This week’s fun kicking fact comes to us from ESPN.com and it’s about the Jaguars. 

Some teams — like the Ravens — don’t have to worry about their kicking situation. However, the Jaguars are in the opposite boat, they literally have to worry about it every second of every day and that’s mostly because they don’t usually even know who their kicker is going to be from week-to-week. 

Through 14 weeks, the Jaguars have had a total of SIX kickers attempt at least one field or extra point, which is the most by any team since the merger in 1970. If you want to stump people this weekend, just ask them to name all six kickers that the Jags have used. 

I wasn’t going to tell you the answer to that question, but then I realized there’s nothing I hate more than trivia questions that don’t have an answer, so here’s the list: Josh Lambo, Stephen Hauschka, Aldrick Rosas, Brandon Wright, Chase McLaughlin and Jon Brown. 

If anyone actually got that right, I should rename this section of the newsletter after you. Anyway, let’s hope Chargers-Raiders is half as crazy as Ravens-Browns. See you guys Friday!

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