NFL Picks: Week 15

197883.jpg

NFL Picks: Week 15

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

There are very few things that can keep me from these picks. Earlier in the year, I deferred in the name of the Celtics taking their talents to South Beach. A few weeks ago, it was because LeBron was taking his talents back to Cleveland. And this week marks the third time in 15 chances that NFL picks take a back seat because . . .

Antoine Walker's taken his talents to the D-League!

I'm headed up to Maine to check in on everyone's former favorite Celtic, and will report back Friday. In the meantime, enjoy an abridged version of my Week 15 Picks.

I went 23-10 last week, based on my new units system. And by "new" I mean new for me. I know I didn't invent it. Here's a quick recap and then it's on to the picks.

Games are broken into three categories:

1. Both teams are in playoff contention.

2. Only one team is in playoff contention.

3. Both teams have already checked out.

Games from Category 1 will count three times (win or lose), Category 2 games will count twice and Category 3 will count once. Makes sense, right?

Here we go

CATEGORY 1

The Game: San Francisco at San Diego (-10)

I wish a blowout loss to the Chargers could put us out of our 2010 Niners misery. That finally, we'll be able to move on, forget they ever existed and stop wasting time our wondering if maybe (just maybe!) they'll turn a 1-6 (and then 3-7) start into a playoff birth.

Instead, that won't happen until Week 16 when San Fran's blown out by the Rams.

The Pick: Chargers (-10)

The Game: Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-5)

So, let me get this straight. Peyton Manning is in the midst of one of the worst statistical stretches of his career. His offense is banged up. His defense is a mess. He's throwing picks like Brett Favre in his prime. "What's wrong with Peyton?", everyone freaks out. Then he has one good game against a really bad Titans team and everything is right with the world. Really? It's that easy? The Titans?!

The Pick: Jaguars (5)

The Game: Kansas City (-1.5) at St. Louis

I'm officially rooting for the Rams to emerge from the NFC West, if for no other reason than because Steven Jackson deserves it. The guy's been killing himself for that franchise since 2004, hasn't made the playoffs since his rookie year, and has yet to have a winning season. You know I love my Chiefs, but this one's for Steven

The Pick: Rams (1.5)

The Game: New Orleans at Baltimore (-1)

The 10-3 Saints have beaten only two teams with a winning record. Only one of those came on the road. That one came against Tampa.

The Pick: Ravens (-1)

The Game: Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants (-3)

Why is it news that Michael Vick wants to own another dog? Seriously, can't we just stay focused on the issues that really matter? For instance, what kind of dog will he get? Pug? Ooh, maybe a Jack Russell? This is interesting stuff, right?!

The Pick: Giants (-3)

The Game: Atlanta (-6) at Seattle

A battle of first-place teams! God, that just feels dirty, but regardless of the piece of trash division that the Seahawks currently call home, they are, in fact, very much in playoff contention and I think their insane home-field advantage helps keep this game close.

The Pick: Seahawks (6)

The Game: N.Y. Jets at Pittsburgh (-6)

Oh, Marky. It's OK. I know you've had a rough go at it lately, but I have just the cure for what ails you. That's right . . . Pittsburgh! And 12 of the meanest, dirtiest, "we aren't happy until we concuss you defenders" in the league. Good luck, champ!

The Pick: Steelers (-6)

The Game: Green Bay at New England (No Line)

You really get the sense that Aaron Rodgers will sit this one out, which really gives me the sense that I'll take the Pats against Matt Flynn, regardless of where the line finishes.

The Pick: Patriots (-Whatever)

CATEGORY 2

The Game: Denver at Oakland (-6.5)

There's no other way around it and I'm sure the Bills' Steve Johnson agrees God is punishing the Broncos for refusing to play Tebow.

The Pick: Raiders (-6.5)

The Game: Chicago at Minnesota (-1.5)

It's hard to really trust the Bears based on last week, so I'm going with the Vikings and rookie QB Joe Webb, based mostly on this.

The Pick: Vikings (-1.5)

The Game: Detroit at Tampa Bay (-6)

The Lions registered their face-saving win last week against the Packers, and can now look ahead to next season not that it would against the Best Worst Team in the NFL!
The Pick: Buccaneers (-6)

CATEGORY 3

The Game: Cleveland at Cincinnati (-1.5)

Eric Mangini announced on Thursday that Colt McCoy is his starter for the rest of the season. Great news for Browns fans, but awful news for gamblers, because with Jake Delhomme out of the mix, I don't know what to think.

Oh wait, yes I do . . . Carson Palmer!
The Pick: Browns (1.5)

The Game: Washington at Dallas (-6)

Rex Grossman alert. I repeat, we have a major Rex Grossman alert on our hands, people. He's not officially slated to start yet, but his name is officially in the conversation. Abort! Abort!

The Pick: Cowboys (-6)

The Game: Houston at Tennessee (-1.5)

When the most interesting storyline heading into a game is that the opposing No. 1 receiver and cornerback beat the crap out of each other a few weeks ago, then . . . eh, you're not doing bad for a one-star game.
The Pick: Titans (-1.5)

The Game: Buffalo at Miami (-5.5)

I really think last week's Miami win was more a matter of the Jets' ineptitude than any sort of Dolphin resurgence. Not to mention it's hard to experience any real resurgence when you started off the season by digging yourself into a hole the size of the Chilean miners'.

The Pick: Bills (5.5)

The Game: Arizona at Carolina (-2.5)

This is hands down the worst game on the 2010 NFL schedule, and in accordance, I'd like to personally shake the hand every single Panthers fan who makes the trek to Bank of America Stadium. You, my friend, are a true fan. OK, so come on, all 15 of you, line up!

The Pick: Panthers (-2.5)

RECORD:

Last Week: 23-10
Overall: 118-100-4

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

MORE:

But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."