By The Coach and Dr. Football
The Minnesota Vikings will not make the playoffs, but the growth of the team under Mike Zimmer could continue this week. For the players in Minnesota, a battle with the Lions at Ford Field, will be a statement game.
This is the week the Vikings can prove if they’re going to be a contender or a pretender for years to come. They don’t have to win this one, necessarily, although that outcome would go a long way toward making a statement, but if they can go into Detroit and play equally with a team that will make the playoffs, then it will say something about the direction that head coach Mike Zimmer is taking them.
Now let’s be straight here: The Vikings have won two straight, but both wins came at home against the Carolina Panthers (31-13) and the New York Jets (30-24 in OT). Those are not statement wins.
This week, reality sets in. How the Vikings respond will tell Zimmer a lot about his club. After all, in Minneapolis on Oct. 12, the Lions whipped the Vikings 17-3.
“We’re getting ready to play against a very good football team this week,” Zimmer said at his weekly news conference. “The Lions are very talented on both sides of the ball. We didn’t play near as well as I’d hoped the first time we played them. This will be a good test, a great divisional game on the road.
“We’re going to have to play well in order to have an opportunity to win this game. The last time we played them, they had eight sacks. We had nine penalties, they had four and we had three turnovers, as well. We’ll have to change that if we intend to win this week.”
Our boys aren’t sure the Vikings will be a whole lot better this week. But we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Then again, if you take the Vikings to knock off the Lions, you’re going a long way out on a shaky limb.
Last week, our brilliant prognosticators did reasonably well despite all the upsets. Dr. Football had another great week, going went 11-4 (137-68-1) straight up and 7-8 (98-108) against the spread while The Coach went 10-5 (131-74-1) straight up and 8-7 (103-103) against the spread.
This week, the Doctor writes about our brilliant selections while The Coach continues to whine about the officiating. Remember, this is for recreational use only. Please, no wagering.
Let’s look closely at Week 15:
Arizona Cardinals (10-3) at St. Louis Rams (6-7)
Line: Rams by 4.5
This will be a battle of the defense as the Rams have two consecutive shut outs to defend. The Rams also have outscored their opponents 76-0 during that time as well. Time for a big letdown in Prime Time. The Coach says: The Rams are the best 6-7 team in NFL history.
Dr. Football: Take the Cardinals in an upset.
The Coach: Take the Rams to win and cover.
Oakland Raiders (2-11) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-6)
Line: Chiefs by 10.
The Raiders embarrassed the Chiefs a few weeks back and beat the 49ers last week. KC still can salvage their season, but this will be a tough fight. The Coach says: Revenge in K.C.
Dr. Football: Take the Chiefs to win but not cover.
The Coach: Take the Chiefs to win but not cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) at Baltimore Ravens (8-5)
Line: Ravens by 13.5.
The Jaguars have played better the last few weeks, which make me think they’ll be brought back to reality in Baltimore. This should be fun watching the Ravens chase Blake Bortles around all afternoon. The Coach says: Not even close.
Dr. Football: Take the Ravens to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Ravens to win and cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) at Atlanta Falcons (5-8)
Line: Steelers by 2.
The Falcons showed character last week against Green Bay, and I think that momentum will carry over under the Dome. The Coach says: Blow out.
Dr. Football: Take the Falcons in an upset.
The Coach: Take the Steelers to win and cover
Houston Texans (7-6) at Indianapolis Colts (9-4)
Line: Colts by 6.5.
The Colts can guarantee themselves a playoff spot and that’s the kind of thing that drives Andrew Luck. He’ll make it two in a row over the Texans. The Coach says: There are five quarterbacks in the NFL who will win consistently – Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. This will just be another notch in the gunslinger’s belt.
Dr. Football: Take the Colts to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Colts to win and cover.
Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) at Cleveland Browns (7-6)
Line: Bengals by 1.
Johnny Football aka “Mr. Not Ready for Prime Time” gets the start for the Browns. The Bengals won three consecutive road games before falling on their face at home last week, look for a big recovery. The Coach says: Johnny Pigskin will start, the Browns will win and The Ear will begin. Period.
Dr. Football: Take the Bengals to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Browns to win and cover.
Miami Dolphins (7-6) at New England Patriots (10-3)
Line: Patriots by 7.5.
The Patriots will have Week 1 on their mind as they avenge that embarrassing loss. The Coach says: I would not at all be surprised if the Patriots were still playing in February.
Dr. Football: Take the Patriots to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Patriots to win and cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-11) at Carolina Panthers (4-8-1)
Line: Panthers by 3.
No Cam Newton no win for the Panthers no matter how lousy their opponent is. The Coach says: Carolina, with or without Cam Newton, isn’t very good, but Tampa is gawd-awful, especially on the road.
Dr. Football: Take the Buccaneers in an upset.
The Coach: Take the Panthers to win and cover.
Washington Redskins (3-10) at New York Giants (4-9)
Line: Giants by 6.5.
I can’t see the Redskins winning again this year. The Giants at least have stability at QB. The Coach says: Change the mascot.
Dr. Football: Take the Giants to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Giants to win and cover.
Green Bay Packers (10-3) at Buffalo Bills (7-6)
Line: Packers by 5.
While the Packers appear to be unstoppable at home, they aren’t the same team on the road, covering the spread just once away from Lambeau since September. That being said, Buffalo hasn’t played well over the past two months against winning teams. Go with Aaron Rodgers. The Coach says: It should be downright balmy in Buffalo this weekend for the Packers. Green Bay is another team that should be playing in February.
Dr. Football: Take the Packers to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Packers to win and cover.
New York Jets (2-11) at Tennessee Titans (2-11)
Line: Jets by 2.
Both teams are playing for next year but I liked the way the Jets played hard against the Vikings. I usually don’t like teams on their second road game, but I don’t think the Jets are as bad as the Titans. The Coach says: My goodness, is this bad. It’s not only bad for football, it’s bad for American sporting culture as a whole. It will be so bad, people will be numbed into counting empty seats in Nashville.
Dr. Football: Take the Jets to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Titans.
Denver Broncos (10-3) at San Diego Chargers (8-5)
Line: Broncos by 4.
Denver always finds a way to make San Diego look silly, and this one won’t be the exception. Expect Peyton to have a big afternoon. The Coach says: San Diego will give Denver a better game than many expect. It won’t matter.
Dr. Football: Take the Broncos to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Broncos to win and cover.
Minnesota Vikings (6-7) at Detroit Lions (9-4)
Line: Lions by 8.
The Lions can win the NFC north by winning out, but it won’t be easy. The Vikings have won two in a row, albeit both wins were at home against lousy teams. Teddy can’t win here just yet. The Coach says: Another easy win for the Motor City Kitties.
Dr. Football: Take the Lions to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Lions to win and cover.
San Francisco 49ers (7-6) at Seattle Seahawks (9-4)
Line: Seahawks by 10
The Seahawks are revving up for another run at the Super Bowl while the 49ers are playing for their season. They’ll battle tough, but will come up short in a close one. The Coach says: We are watching the end of Jim Harbaugh’s career in San Francisco.
Dr. Football: Take the Seahawks to win but not cover.
The Coach; Take the Seahawks to win and cover.
Dallas Cowboys (9-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-4)
Line: Eagles by 3.5.
The Cowboys looked like Turkeys the last time these two teams met, and have been resting for the last 10 days waiting for this one. The winner takes the division, and I think that’s the motivation Dallas needs. The Coach says: The Iggles won’t lose at home.
Dr. Football: Take the Cowboys in an upset.
The Coach: Take the Eagles to win and cover.
New Orleans Saints (5-8) at Chicago Bears (5-8)
Line: Saints by 2.5.
It might just be easier to flip a coin here, as both teams are disappointments. You gotta go with Drew Brees over Jay Cutler, as Brandon Marshall is done. The Coach says: Is this Cutler’s Last Stand? Alshon Jeffery will have to step up with Brandon Marshall out. Neither team is very good, but Chicago is at home.
Dr. Football: Take the Saints to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Bears to win.