NFL Picks: Week 15


NFL Picks: Week 15

By Rich Levine

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


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)


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)


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)


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

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

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

BOSTON, Mass – Malcolm Subban says that he believes that he can still be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

While that’s admirable on some level for the sheer, brazen self-confidence involved in saying this after getting yanked from a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden, pretty much all of the evidence points out the contrary. Nearly two years after getting pulled from his NHL debut in against the St. Louis Blues after giving up three goals on six shots, Subban was pulled from Tuesday night’s appearance after giving up three goals on eight second period shots with the Bruins desperately in need of a quality start in goal.

He maintained a defiantly confident tone after another humbling NHL effort against Minnesota, and that’s a testament to the maturity and mental toughness of the person behind the goalie mask.

“It sucks. Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one. Obviously it sucks, but what can you do now, right?” said Subban, who has now allowed six goals on 22 career shots faced in two starts. “Obviously I want to be a number one goaltender in the league. I was a high pick for a reason. I have the potential, and I just have to show it. Obviously I haven’t done that so far yet, but I think I’m getting closer to it. Honestly, I think I can do it right now. I just got to show it. Obviously, I didn’t [do it] today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Given the stunningly bad quality of his two NHL starts combined with a thoroughly pedestrian body of work at the AHL level over the last three years, there is literally zero tangible evidence Subban is tracking to be a franchise goaltender. Instead he’s the emergency goaltender called on by the Bruins only after Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have both been shelved by injuries, and he’s now flunked the two pop quizzes when the NHL team needed him to come through.

Meanwhile, a sizeable selection of goaltenders taken after him in the 2012 NHL Draft class have already proven their NHL worth and broken through at the elite level: Matt Murray, Frederik Anderson, Connor Hellebuyck and Joonas Korpisalo.

Subban was hoping all along to break through this season in Boston, but things went south on him quickly with a Bruins team not playing well in front of him. The first goal was a fluttering Charlie Coyle shot that trickled between his glove hand and the top of his leg pad. The third goal was a softie low and to the glove side, power play strike authored by Ryan Suter. It added up to poor goaltending and shoddy defense, but it also added up to a Bruins goaltender that didn’t even give his hockey club a chance to win.

“It could be a combination of both. There are some goals – I’m not going to lie – there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had. But I’m not here to talk about a goaltender who’s in one of his first few games because he let in a couple of bad goals,” said Julien. “We were terrible in front of him and we weren’t any better, and that’s the big picture. That’s more important.

“I don’t care who’s in net. I think when you have some injuries you need to be better in those situations and we weren’t good enough tonight. It doesn’t matter if Tuukka [Rask] is in net and we had injuries up front, or we’re lacking players here or there. You’ve got to let the system take care of the game. If you play it the right way, you have a chance to win. When you don’t, you don’t. That’s what happened [against Minnesota].”

There’s no question the defense in front of Subban wasn’t nearly good enough, and Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug in particular struggled to lock things down in the defensive zone. The wide open shots from the slot - like the Chris Stewart score in the second period that arrived 12 seconds after Minnesota’s opening goal - are indicative of a hockey club that’s not sticking to the game plan once things start to get a little wonky.

But this is about a player in Subban that should be entering the NHL stage of his career after being a first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and anybody would be hard-pressed to see him as an NHL goalie after failing in each of his first two NHL starts. Combine that with the lack of dominance at the AHL level over the last three years, and there’s a better chance that Subban will be a major first round bust for the Bruins rather than suddenly develop into a late-blooming No. 1 goaltender in Boston.

The scary part is that Subban and fellow young netminder Zane McIntyre are all the Bruins have for Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden, and perhaps longer than that if Rask can’t make rapid progress with his lower body injury.

Maybe Subban can be a bit better than he’s shown thus far, and the four goals allowed to Minnesota were not all his fault. The bottom line, however, is that Subban should be up for doing this job right now. Tuesday was a big chance for the young goalie to make a statement that he was ready for it.

Instead he looked like the same goalie that’s been pulled from two of his first four AHL starts this season, and plays like a goaltender that’s never going to truly be ready for the call in Boston.