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Week 15 NFL Picks, Aiding And A'Betting: Falcons-Seahawks, Saints-Ravens, Eagles-Giants

Among the oddsmaker favorites in Week 15 are Carolina and Cincinnati - which means it's time to get your gamblin' on. The Falcons travel to Seattle, Michael Vick hits the Big Apple, and Baltimore can deliver a decisive blow on Atlanta's behalf.

Last week reminded me there's an actual downside to gambling. Tennessee covered because of its coach's incompetence, Washington covered because of its kicker's ineptitude, and New Orleans covered because, well ok, only I thought St. Louis would win. Seriously, if that kind of tomfoolery continues, someone might overreact and make sports betting illegal.

The picks:

San Francisco @ San Diego (-9 1/2). Thursday night gives us a devastating matchup of two bad teams, yet there are somehow playoff implications for both. And I say "bad," if only to go against the still-beating mantra that San Diego is a sleeping giant. Of course, that line of thinking will extend another week due to San Fran's ineptitude. This one should be boring by the second quarter, if it was ever interesting to begin with. PICK: San Diego

Atlanta (-6) @ Seattle. So I hit my third NFL stadium of the year last Sunday, venturing up to Charlotte for the Falcons-Panthers game. And the atmosphere was basically what you'd expect around a one-win team - Carolina fans openly admitting they were rooting for a loss (for draft purposes), a crowd evenly split for both teams, and not even a single taunt thrown my way from an often bitter rival. Even the weather fit the general mood, with gray skies, cold wind, and occasional tears. It seemed a pretty low-energy win for Atlanta, which makes a cross-country follow-up a little less daunting. PICK: Atlanta

Cleveland @ Cincinnati (-1 1/2). It's no secret the Bengals may be shopping Carson Palmer in the offseason, but I laughed when Peter King suggested they might get a second-round draft pick for him. Can you imagine paying that price for a guy who might actually get cut before next season? A guy behind only Eli Manning in the "most 2010 interceptions" race? Sure, he was the first overall pick at one point, but he's absolutely not a franchise guy anymore. I fully expect Colt McCoy (rookie, third-round pick) to outplay him on Sunday. PICK: Cleveland

Washington @ Dallas (-6). All you need to know, peeps. PICK: Dallas

Houston @ Tennessee (-1 1/2). In two minutes last Thursday, Titans coach Jeff Fisher became an NFL villain on par with Jerramy Stevens, Leonard Little or Drew Brees - players who make me understand Philly-style battery-chucking. Down nine against Indianapolis with a minute to play, Tennessee gets into field goal range. With the seconds draining away - 32, 31, 30 - everyone watching the game knows exactly what to do: kick the field goal, get the onside kick, go for the game-winning touchdown. Because, down nine, a touchdown doesn't help. But Fisher keeps his team on the field - 19, 18, 17 - play after play - 10, 9, 8 - and Kerry Collins connects with Bo Scaife - 4, 3, 2 - for a touchdown. There's 0:00 on the clock, and the Titans lose 30-28, just covering the three-point spread. Fisher didn't play to win, he played to cover, and that's seems to me a coaching sin 100x worse than tripping a player from the sideline. Why isn't this a bigger deal? (And yes, I bet Indy. Duh.) PICK: Houston

Jacksonville @ Indianapolis (-4 1/2). A sly underdog for "game of the week." A wobbly Colts team hosts Mr. Maurice Jones-Drew with the AFC South on the line (and it looks to be the only early game Atlanta viewers will see). PICK: Jacksonville

Kansas City @ St. Louis (-1 1/2). This line was a bit hard-to-find, with Kansas City's QB situation in flux - in fact, I'm sure once Matt Cassel is declared the starter (looking likely), the Chiefs will be a 3-point favorite. This is what I have to go with now, though, and I'll still side with Sam Bradford at home. PICK: St. Louis

Buffalo @ Miami (-5 1/2). Mystifying fact of the week, to go along with the mystifying allure of this game (seriously, it could be good): I've been singing the Sara Lee jingle incorrectly my entire life. Yes, I know, it's mystifying I've been regularly singing a food company's jingle for 34 years, but that's not the point. Go ahead, sing it to yourself. "Nobody, dum, dum, dum, Sara Lee!" So did you say "Nobody does it like Sara Lee?" As I have been for three-plus decades? Check it: the actual lyrics are "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee." For realz. Isn't that not a double negative, no? Wouldn't "Everybody likes Sara Lee" be a little simpler? I'm disheartened and confused, only partially by the fact something like this could dishearten and confuse me. PICK: Buffalo

Philadelphia @ NY Giants (-3). Technically, Atlanta doesn't really have a rooting interest in this game - but not so technically, I'd much rather face Eli Manning in the playoffs than Michael Vick. Go, Giants, go. PICK: Philadelphia (drat)

Detroit @ Tampa Bay (-5 1/2). As I'm writing this, I'm watching a recording of the Atlanta-Tampa Bay game. And it only cements my belief Atlanta is setting up for a deep playoff run (yes, I'm talking about Atlanta here, because Detroit/Tampa Bay is crap). I mean, there are charmed circumstances, but the 2010 Falcons are living a charmed totality. Down 10 points in the 4th quarter, Atlanta not only gets the Eric Weems kickoff return, but a downright silly 3rd-and-20 conversion, an egregious pass interference call against the typically sneakier Ronde Barber, a horse-collar personal foul, a TD pass that practically scraped a Buc DB's hand, and a sick Brent Grimes INT. If any one of those things don't happen - plus a missed John Carney field goal, a Roddy White forced fumble, a Kroy Biermann pick-six, Matt Ryan driving the field in a single minute against the Baltimore D, the last minute against Green Bay, any many more - Atlanta might not see a home playoff game. Or, hell, the playoffs at all. All of those things did happen, though. So while the national media scoffs, and our fellow NFL fans don't pay attention, and the Patriots top the power rankings, and the AFC is believed to be the best, the Falcons are doing what they need to do. And damn, I'm thinking they might get it done. PICK: Tampa Bay

Arizona @ Carolina (-2 1/2). I wrote that last bright-eyed, flowery jinx after three vodka and Sprite Zeros. (Which coincidentally is what you'll need, times five, to get through this game.) PICK: Arizona

New Orleans @ Baltimore (-1 1/2). There will be a lot to learn here, kiddies. The Saints have scored at least 30 points in five straight games. Baltimore has allowed 30 points only once this year. And as a bad movie's title once told us, something's gotta give. PICK: New Orleans (this ain't show friends)

Denver @ Oakland (-6 1/2). Really, what do you have to lose, Denver? Name Tim Tebow the starter already! It will be educational for you to learn what you have in your first-round (snicker) pick. And it will be absolutely hilarious for the rest of us! Win-win! (Well, except for the actual game. That will be a loss.) PICK: Oakland

NY Jets @ Pittsburgh (-5 1/2). The Broken Egos @ The Broken Bodies. PICK: Pittsburgh

Green Bay @ New England (-10). This line, finally found after the sports books were almost exhausted, obviously thinks Matt Flynn will be under center for Green Bay. I'm willing to roll with that, if only because a hazy, concussed Aaron Rodgers wouldn't do much better. For the record, I have zero problem with the Pats being ranked above Atlanta in any "power ranking" - they're stupid good. Plus, I have a feeling we'll get the opportunity to see that battle shake out in Dallas (these vodka/Sprite Zeros make me a cocky bastard, don't they?). PICK: New England

Chicago (-?) @ Minnesota. No, that's not a typo - as of Thursday morning, this game doesn't have a line. Minnesota's quarterback situation is shaky at best, and the oddsmakers are waiting to see if its Brett Favre, Joe Webb or the just-signed Patrick Ramsey under center. Hell, they don't even know what state this game will be played in, with rumors now circulating that the Georgia Dome is in play. I'll update this with a pick once things take shape. UPDATE: USA Today is reporting Chicago as a six-point favorite, so let's roll with that. The game will stay in-state and be played at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium - which will keep the NCAA's "no alcohol" policy intact (meaning it's a great time to be a flask retailer in Minneapolis). Monday's bourbon-soaked forecast? Snowy, with a daytime high of 22. As for the game, I'll roll with the Joe Webb-backed underdog only because it will probably be a low-scoring affair. (Oh, and fantasy geeks - check to see if Webb is eligible at WR in your league. It'll either be the smartest or dumbest thing you've done all season.) PICK: Minnesota

Last week: 7-9-0
Overall: 113-88-7

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.