Week 14 is now in the history books. Week 15 came quickly for the Rams, in a Thursday night matchup against the division-leading Arizona Cardinals. In a close, hard-fought defensive struggle, the Rams lost to the Cardinals 12-6, officially eliminating St. Louis from the playoff race. In another close battle yet to be decided, I'll be looking to make a move on the leader in the weekly Pigskin Picks contest.
This season has produced many surprises, but none more unexpected than the rise and fall of teams in the NFC. Last year, the Saints, Seahawks, 49ers, and Panthers had a combined record of 48-16. This season, they're a combined 25-26-1. In contrast, the Lions, Cowboys, and Cardinals were a combined 25-23 in 2013. In 2014, they're sporting a combined 29-11 record. Such is the ebb and flow of the NFL from season-to-season.
Week 14 Results
|Week||Wins Straight Up||Wins vs Spread||Hot Picks vs. Spread||Rams Straight Up|
|Last Week||11 5||7 9||1 2||1 0|
|Season||146 61 1||117 90 1||21 20 1||7 6|
Pickwatch is a site devoted to tracking weekly picks results from NFL experts, analysts, and media types. This year, they're tracking 129 experts on a weekly basis. I'm competing against them again this season, and will publish the weekly results!
How did I fare against the experts in Week 14? There were many close games last weekend, and a number of upsets. My 11-5 record was good enough to move into 2'nd place in the overall standings, only 1 win behind the leader, CBS Sports' Jamey Eisenberg. There's plenty of time left in the season to overtake the leader. In 2013, it took me until Week 15 to catch - and surpass - the leaders. TST's own Ryan Van Bibber stands in a tie for 107'th overall, with a record of 126-81 on the season.
How did I make out with my "Hot Picks Against The Spread" last week? Oakland pulled off the huge upset, defeating the San Francisco 49ers 24-13. Houston won easily and covered the spread against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In a shootout, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Atlanta Falcons, but fell short of covering the spread. Record for the week: 1-2.
2014 NFL Team Records
|NFL ATS RANKINGS|
Dubs' Pigskin Picks - Week 15
|Home||Away||Spread||Straight Up||Vs. Spread||Score|
|St. Louis||Arizona||StL 6||St. Louis||Arizona||20 16|
|Atlanta||Pittsburgh||Pit 1||Atlanta||Atlanta||23 20|
|Buffalo||Green Bay||GB 4 1/2||Green Bay||Green Bay||29 17|
|Indianapolis||Houston||Ind 7 1/2||Indianapolis||Houston||27 20|
|Kansas City||Oakland||KC 11 1/2||Kansas City||Oakland||24 14|
|New England||Miami||NE 9||New England||New England||27 17|
|NY Giants||Washington||NY 7 1/2||NY Giants||NY Giants||27 17|
|Carolina||Tampa Bay||Car 5 1/2||Carolina||Tampa Bay||23 20|
|Baltimore||Jacksonville||Bal 15 1/2||Baltimore||Jacksonville||29 17|
|Tennessee||NY Jets||NY 2 1/2||NY Jets||NY Jets||20 17|
|San Diego||Denver||Den 4||Denver||Denver||30 24|
|Detroit||Minnesota||Det 8 1/2||Detroit||Minnesota||27 20|
|Seattle||San Francisco||Sea 10 1/2||Seattle||Seattle||27 16|
|Philadelphia||Dallas||Phi 3||Philadelphia||Philadelphia||24 20|
|Chicago||New Orleans||NO 3||New Orleans||New Orleans||30 24|
Hot Picks Against The Spread
Denver over San Diego - Since their Week 11 loss to the Rams, the Broncos have rung off three straight wins. Denver is in a battle with the Patriots for the Number 1 overall seed in the AFC, and can't afford a loss at this stage of the season.
Green Bay over Buffalo - The Packers are fighting for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They've won their last five games, on the backs of an offense led by Aaron Rodgers, who's having a season for the ages.
Seattle over San Francisco - These two teams are heading in opposite directions. The Seahawks have won their last 3 games, and once again look like Super Bowl contenders. The 49ers are in the midst of a meltdown, losing their last two games, including an embarrassing loss to the Oakland Raiders last week. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 19-3 just two weeks ago in San Francisco.
Check out The Sports Geek for NFL picks, betting odds, tips, and strategies. The site is loaded with information related to sports betting.
Arizona Cardinals 12 - St. Louis Rams 6
In Turf Show Times' weekly staff predictions, I shared the following thoughts and prediction for the game between the Cardinals and Rams:
The Rams lost 31-17 the last time these two teams met in Week 10. A lot has changed in the interim. The Cardinal's offense has been struggling since the season-ending injury to QB Carson Palmer. Arizona is 2-2 in their last four games. Conversely, the Rams are on fire, and have won three of their last four games. The defense has been a dominant force, allowing only 34 points combined in the Rams' last four games. The over/under for this game is 39.5 points. I'm going with the under, and the Rams defense coming through with another dominant performance for the win.
Prediction: Rams 20, Cardinals 16
The Rams were 6 point favorites heading into the game. Although I picked the Rams to win the game, the spread was too high for my liking. I figured on a tight, relatively low-scoring affair, with a few key plays deciding the outcome.
In a close game, turnovers, big plays, and penalties can ultimately decide the outcome. They turned out to be keys in the Rams' loss to the Cardinals. Tre Mason's fumble in the first quarter, deep in Rams territory, led to a game-tying Arizona field goal. Michael Floyd's 49-yard reception in the second quarter led to a field goal, and a 6-3 Cardinals lead. A 36-yard pass interference call against Janoris Jenkins in the third quarter led to yet another Cardinals field goal, and a 9-3 lead. The Rams are 4-0 this season in games without a turnover/giveaway, and are 0-4 in games where they've had a negative turnover differential.
The less-than-stellar play of both QB Shaun Hill and the offensive line loomed large in the loss to the Cardinals. Scoring three points in an NFL game - no matter how well your defense is playing - virtually guarantees a loss. Upgrading the offensive line (particularly the center and guard positions), and quarterback position (a quality backup plus an early round draft prospect behind Sam Bradford) will be right at the top of the Rams' shopping list in the off-season.
On a positive note, the Rams' defense continues to shine, and will be a top-five unit next season. In the last five games combined, the defense has allowed only 46 points on the scoreboard.