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NFL picks 2017, Week 15: Experts expect Steelers upset, Rams road win

Can’t miss picks for every game in Week 15 from our panel of nine experts.

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

What was it about last week’s picks? Everyone struggled. The best of our panelists barely topped .500 for the Week 14 games. But that was last week. The question we should be focusing on now is whether or not that cold streak will carry over to Week 15.

We make these picks straight up, not against the spread, and, while I can’t speak for everyone on the panel, these are calls you make with instinct. That comes with a certain level of bias. You make picks based on the opinions you’ve formed of a team over time. But that can be tricky in a sport where the season is confined to just 16 games. This week’s biggest game, New England at Pittsburgh, is instructive of that.

Everyone, even the computer (that smart-ass computer that thinks it’s soooo great because it’s outpicking me this season), had the Patriots beating the Dolphins on Monday night. Duh. It’s a gross mismatch. And if they played 10 games against each other, all things being equal, the Patriots would probably win eight of them.

Last week, they didn’t have Rob Gronkowski. And maybe, just maybe, they spent a little more time thinking about the Steelers and all the chatter from Pittsburgh lately about how great it would be to beat the Patriots. I know that’s unimaginable that Bill Belichick wouldn’t be focused on the game at hand instead of the week after next, but these are still human beings with all the little quirks and biases those creatures carry.

There’s also the fact that Tom Brady has struggled to beat the Dolphins as consistently as the other two AFC East teams. He’s only got a .677 win percentage against the Dolphins compared to .774 against the Jets and .900 against the Bills.

Add it all up and there was enough there to justify a pick against the Patriots last week. So why didn’t anyone pick them to lose? Because it’s the Patriots vs. Dolphins.

What about this week’s game, the battle for AFC supremacy happening in Pittsburgh?

Our panel is split 5-4 in favor of the Steelers. Why is that? Recency bias? Home-field advantage? The Steelers offense heating up over the last four weeks? You can point to a lot of reasons, all with merit.

On the flip side of that, consider Brady has statistically a better chance of losing to the Dolphins than the Steelers over the course of his career. He’s lost only twice to them in nine games for a .777 win percentage, and he’s thrown 24 touchdowns against just three picks in those nine games. His 114.2 rating against the Steelers is better than any other opponent, except the Falcons.

There’s also the fact that the Patriots under Belichick don’t lose back-to-back games very often. In fact, that’s only happened four times, twice in 2015, since 2011.

Injuries are big in this one too. The reason I picked the Patriots to win this game is because the Steelers defense just isn’t the same without linebacker Ryan Shazier. How much they miss Shazier was evident last week when they gave up 38 points to the Ravens, who also posted a season high 414 total yards of offense. It’s not going to be hard for New England to move the ball.

OK, enough about that game. If you take one thing away from this ramble, be careful with assumptions.

This is an important week to check back on picks. When the panel submitted its picks this week, Aaron Rodgers had yet to be cleared to play. As of publish time, we still don’t know if he’ll start. I’m assuming most of our panelists believe he will since the Packers get a 5-4 edge this week from the group. If it’s confirmed that Rodgers will start, I expect a few folks will want to change those picks.

That’s my reminder about the rule allowing panelists to change up to two picks by the end of the week to account for circumstances exactly like this one!

We have a guest this week, once again. This time it’s Joe McAtee from Turf Show Times, SB Nation’s home for all things Rams and my old stomping grounds. Those Rams have a tough game this week, in Seattle against the Seahawks, but there are only three takers for the home team in that one.

OK, here are the picks you’ve been waiting for!

NFL Picks, Week 15

Games RVB Stephen White Geoff Schwartz Harry Lyles Jr. Jeanna Thomas Adam Stites Joe McAtee (Turf Show Times) Joel Thorman OddsShark computer
Games RVB Stephen White Geoff Schwartz Harry Lyles Jr. Jeanna Thomas Adam Stites Joe McAtee (Turf Show Times) Joel Thorman OddsShark computer
DEN vs IND DEN DEN IND DEN DEN IND DEN DEN IND
CHI vs DET CHI CHI DET DET DET DET DET DET DET
LAC vs KC LAC LAC KC LAC LAC KC LAC LAC LAC
MIA vs BUF MIA BUF BUF MIA BUF BUF BUF BUF MIA
BAL vs CLE BAL BAL BAL BAL BAL BAL BAL BAL BAL
CIN vs MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN
NYJ vs NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO
PHI vs NYG PHI PHI PHI PHI PHI PHI NYG PHI PHI
ARZ vs WAS ARZ WAS WAS WAS ARZ WAS WAS ARZ WAS
GB vs CAR GB CAR CAR GB GB CAR GB GB CAR
HOU vs JAX JAX JAX JAX JAX JAX JAX JAX JAX JAX
LAR vs SEA LAR SEA LAR LAR LAR SEA LAR SEA SEA
NE vs PIT NE PIT NE PIT NE PIT PIT PIT NE
TEN vs SF SF TEN SF SF TEN SF TEN TEN SF
DAL vs OAK DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL OAK
ATL vs TB ATL ATL ATL ATL ATL ATL ATL ATL ATL
Last week 6-10 7-9 7-9 9-7 8-8 9-7 8-8 9-7 7-9
Season total 119-89 123-85 132-76 138-70 130-78 132-76 136-72 124-84 126-82
Mantra: Informed assumptions are the way to making better picks.

The worst call in the NFL last week