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Patriots

Week 15 NFL Picks: 49ers, Bengals Heading In The Right Direction As Season Winds Down

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Colin Kaepernick (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

Colin Kaepernick (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — With snow falling on seemingly every 1 p.m. game last weekend, millions of football fans flocked to Twitter or talk radio to say the same thing: “Imagine if the Super Bowl is played in this weather!”

Some veered off that path and instead went with, “Do you really want the Super Bowl played in this?”

To that, I give a resounding, “Hell yeah.”

This is football, people! It’s not meant to be played in perfect conditions, under sunny skies on fake turf. It’s meant to be played by men, on patches of dirt, in freezing temperatures and underneath driving rain storms. Putting the Super Bowl — the biggest game for the biggest sport — inside a dome is an affront to football and everyone who believes in what is right.

Personally, I hate how football teams walk off their pristine fields after game without so much as a grass stain on their pants or hunk of mud stuck to their helmet. Does the new fancy field turf make the game safer, and does it allow for incredible athletes to make jaw-dropping plays every week? Sure, but I’ll contend until my death that Nov. 14, 2006 was the darkest day in Patriots history. That was the day when the team removed its grass in favor of artificial turf.

I know MetLife Stadium has artificial turf, and I know that snow in Philadelphia and D.C. in early December doesn’t mean there will be snow in New Jersey in February, but hey, a Super Bowl where the elements play a factor? That’s just the way it should be.

(Home team in caps; Wednesday lines)

San Diego (+10) over DENVER
I don’t get on my soapbox very often. I think people who do that are just the pits. But allow me for one moment to rail against the NFL for allowing Wes Welker to even be a possibility to play in this game. The man suffered a concussion on Sunday, his second in a month and his God-knows-how-many of his career. The man has gotten hit harder than anyone for the past eight or so years, and we all know he’s as tough as they come, but the fact that Welker’s status for this game has been discussed and debated this week as a real possibility tells you everything you ever need to know about how much the NFL cares about players, their brains and their long-term mental health. That would be: squat. He’s not playing, but it’s sick that it was even a possibility.

(Excuse me while I climb down from the box of soap.)

Anyway, if this were a Sunday game, I’d love the Broncos to roll right along. But it’s a Thursday game, and Thursday games are sloppy, and it’s hard for teams to work in their game plans during the week of practice when there is no week of practice. It’s therefore difficult to operate on all cylinders and score a thousand points, which the Broncos seem capable of. So maybe the Chargers can hang within 10 points like they did a month ago.

New England (-2) over MIAMI
If there’s one major benefit of the Patriots’ inability to show up in the first half lately, it’s that this line is about eight points lower than it would have been if the Pats had just played normally in recent weeks. I will take it.

JACKSONVILLE (+1) over Buffalo
I’ve just been taking Jacksonville every week. Those guys are so lukewarm right now! If you had told me two months ago that I’d be picking Jacksonville on a regular basis in December, I’d probably tell you, “Wow, my record is going to be awful by then.” I’d be so accurate.

INDIANAPOLIS (-5.5) over Houston
Wade Phillips. The end.

Philadelphia (-4.5) over MINNESOTA
Matt Cassel in. Adrian Peterson’s out. The end.

Seattle (-7) over NEW YORK GIANTS
This is the week that the Giants do the impossible — they will quit and therefore look worse than they have all season. That is no small accomplishment, considering what a sad collection of football players they’ve been all year, but I believe in the Giants.

San Francisco (-5) over TAMPA BAY
I love the way the 49ers are playing right now. Last year, they were just flat-out better than everybody. This year, they’re learning how to win when the scale isn’t tipped quite as far in their favor. That’s very good for them long term … but this week? They’re just flat-out better than their opponent.

Chicago (+1) over CLEVELAND
Poor Cleveland. You just have to feel bad for Cleveland, its fans, its players, its residents, anyone who’s ever been there for 30 minutes to catch a connecting flight, Drew Carey, any birds that may pass through on their way south for the winter … really anyone and anything having to do with Cleveland. It’s cruel being born there and having to suffer through the local teams’ painful failures and curses and whatever you want to call it when you lose games when you’re up by 12 with two minutes left. Yeah, the officials made a terrible pass interference call to help that loss along, but perhaps it was just to spare Cleveland some additional pain that would have come from a precise Tom Brady drive.

Point is, there’s no recovering from that. Not when sharpshootin’ Luke McCown is coming to town. (Or smokin’ Jay Cutler.)

Washington (+6.5) over ATLANTA
Is there any doubt that Kirk Cousins is about to step in for Robert Griffin and have one of those 400-yard, four-touchdown kinds of days? That’s obviously the next logical step in this fascinating soap opera in D.C.

Meanwhile, if I told you right now that the Falcons actually ended their season three weeks ago, forfeiting the remainder of their schedule, you wouldn’t believe me … but you’d still have to look it up to make sure. That’s how far from relevance they have fallen.

Mike Shanahan may be one haymaker away from getting fired, but the Falcons aren’t the team to provide it.

CAROLINA (-11) over New York Jets
At first I took the Jets with 11 points here, but then I looked at how they’ve performed on the road. They’re 1-5, with that one win being a two-point victory over the Falcons, and I just told you their season ended three weeks ago and you had to check it on Google, so I wouldn’t call that a quality win. Their five losses are by an average of 21.4 points. They are so bad on the road.

Kansas City (-4.5) over OAKLAND
There is not one reason to take the Oakland Raiders in this game.

TENNESSEE (+3) over Arizona
I don’t feel like investing in a semi-indoor/perfect weather team traveling to play in the cold, OK?

New Orleans (-6) over ST. LOUIS
One way to negate the Saints’ road woes? Put them in a dome, where they’ll feel right at home.

DALLAS (-7) over Green Bay
The Packers are “pessimistic” regarding Aaron Rodgers’ ability to play Sunday. In a related story, I am pessimistic regarding the Packers.

Cincinnati (-3) over PITTSBURGH
Somehow, some way, the Bengals became a good December team. They went 4-1 in December last year en route to making the playoffs, and they’re 2-0 thus far this year. A team doesn’t win in December by accident. A pile of wins in the final month of the season is indicative of a team that does what’s necessary down the stretch.

I think the Bengals will get it done … provided Mike Tomlin stays off the field.

Baltimore (+6.5) over DETROIT
The Lions are the most maddeningly inconsistent team in the league, which really wouldn’t bother me at all if I didn’t have to make these picks in a public forum. Meanwhile the Ravens are trending in the right direction, rounding into a shape where you can almost start believing in them to make some noise in the next month. Almost. For now, they look fit enough to trust with the points.

Last week: 9-7
Season: 87-111-9

Read more from Michael by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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