KC Joyner's Week 15 NFL pick'em selections

KC Joyner, one of the most accurate pick'em experts in the business over the past six years, details his winners for all of the Week 15 matchups.

KC Joyner

16 Dec, 2020

My Week 14 picks went 10-6, bringing my 2020 season mark to 141-66, or a 68.1 percent win rate that is tied for seventh highest among the more than 100 analysts tracked by Pickwatch.com.

 

Here are my Week 15 picks. Each section details which team is predicted to win and provides a quick summary of why that selection was made. The picks also contain a confidence value for each selection, based on a 1-10 scale with “10” being the most confident and “1” being the least confident.

 

Now on to the picks!

 

Thursday, December 17

 

Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas

 

KC’s pick: Las Vegas

 

Confidence level: 4

 

The Chargers deserve kudos for a win over Atlanta last week that was arguably their first triumph over a quality opponent this year, but the Bolts have still averaged only 214 passing yards over the past two weeks and tallied at least one giveaway in seven straight games. Those factors are a main reason the Chargers have posted 21 or fewer points in four of the past five weeks. The Raiders defense is so bad that they recently fired their defensive coordinator, but Las Vegas has held up on offense with 27+ points in five of the past six contests. The Chargers defense has allowed 27+ points in every matchup but one since Week 3, so this will likely be a shootout that favors the superior Raiders offense and lands this pick in their column.

 

Saturday, December 19

 

Buffalo at Denver

 

KC’s pick: Buffalo

 

Confidence level: 8

 

The Bills are one of the most complete teams in the NFL right now. Buffalo has scored 26+ points in five straight games and allowed just under 19 points per game over their last three contests. Take out the Arizona matchup in Week 10 and the Bills defense has given up an average of only 66.5 rush yards in their last four contests. Sean McDermott has also put together a ballhawking group on defense, as the Bills have racked up 2+ takeaways on eight occasions, including in five of the past seven games. Denver head coach Vic Fangio deserves credit for getting the most out of his talent challenged team, but those efforts won’t be enough here, as Buffalo is the easy selection in this one.

 

Carolina at Green Bay

 

KC’s pick: Green Bay

 

Confidence level: 8

 

The Packers may have the most complete offense in the NFL right now. Over the past three games Green Bay has scored 102 points, tallied 451 rushing yards, racked up 1,240 total yards, and did all of that with zero giveaways. Take away the Week 11 game against Detroit’s injury-wracked offense and Carolina has allowed an average of 418 yards and nearly 32 points per game in the past seven contests. The Panthers offense has held up well most of the time in Christian McCaffrey’s absence, but that platoon isn’t anywhere near as impactful as the Packers, so Green Bay is the option here by a wide margin.

 

Sunday, December 20

 

Tampa Bay at Atlanta

 

KC’s pick: Tampa Bay

 

Confidence level: 4

 

The bye week could not have come at a better time for the Buccaneers defense, as Tampa Bay allowed its third lowest point total and third lowest net passing yardage mark of the season last week despite facing Minnesota’s strong aerial attack. Tampa Bay’s offense also benefited, as the Bucs had their second game with 100+ rushing yards since Week 6 and had their first game with zero giveaways since Week 7. The Falcons offense went the opposite direction following their Week 10 bye, as Atlanta has tallied 17 or fewer points in three of the past four weeks and has posted 70 or fewer rushing yards three times in that span. The convergence of these factors pushes this pick in Tampa Bay’s direction.

 

Jacksonville at Baltimore

 

KC’s pick: Baltimore

 

Confidence level: 8

 

The most notable part of the Ravens game of the ages comeback win over the Browns on Monday night was the return of the Baltimore ground game. The run-centric Ravens had posted fewer than 130 rushing yards in Weeks 9-12 but over the past two games they racked up an incredible 525 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Baltimore should be able to make it three dominant ground games in a row against a Jacksonville defense that has allowed 601 rushing yards over the past three games. Add that to the game being in Baltimore and this contest leans heavily in the Ravens direction.

 

San Francisco at Dallas

 

KC’s pick: Dallas

 

Confidence level: 2

 

The 49ers go as their ground game goes. That explains why San Francisco has lost five of its last six, as their slew of running back injuries have led to the 49ers posting fewer than 100 rushing yards in four of the past six contests. The Cowboys rush defense might be just what the doctor ordered in terms of fixing this problem, as Dallas has allowed 702 rushing yards over the past four games. As much of a benefit as that could give the 49ers, San Francisco is likely to lose a lot of that advantage via giveaways, as the 49ers have posted 2+ giveaways in seven straight games. Throw in this contest being in Dallas and the Cowboys are the pick here.

 

Houston at Indianapolis

 

KC’s pick: Indianapolis

 

Confidence level: 7


Houston looked like they had turned the corner after a convincing Thanksgiving Day win over Detroit, but they have followed up that victory with two ugly losses, the worst of which was a 36-7 drubbing by Chicago that was easily the low point of a terrible season for the Texans. The Colts have won six of their past eight games mostly on the strength of a varied offensive attack, but the true key to their success is avoiding turnovers. Indianapolis is 7-1 when posting one or fewer giveaways this season versus 2-3 when they have two or more giveaways. That does not bode well for a Houston defense that has posted zero takeaways in nine games and 2+ takeaways on only three occasions, so the Colts are the selection here.

 

New England at Miami

 

KC’s pick: Miami

 

Confidence level: 6

 

New England started off the year with a 2-5 mark and had 15 giveaways in that span, but the Patriots have since won four of their last six in large part by only posting three giveaways in those six contests. The bad news for New England is they are facing a Miami defense that is expert at racking up takeaways, as they have tallied ten takeaways over the past four weeks and forced Patrick Mahomes into three interceptions for only the second time his career. The Dolphins have also allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards in four of the past five weeks, a trait that should slow the strongest suit of the Patriots offense. Merge all of these factors with this being a home contest for Miami and the Dolphins are the selection here.

 

Chicago at Minnesota

 

KC’s pick: Minnesota

 

Confidence level: 2

 

Chicago has seen an offensive renaissance with 91 points scored over the past three weeks. Part of this is due to the quarterback change, but a ton of the credit has to go to a vastly improved ground attack that has racked up 430 yards in that span. Minnesota’s defense has allowed 100+ rushing yards in all but three games this year, so Chicago can keep that trend going, but the Vikings have tallied 307 rushing yards over the past two games and thus can offset this advantage. This is one of the true tossup matchups of Week 15, but with Minnesota having an edge in offensive passing talent and hosting this contest, the Vikings are the pick.

 

Detroit at Tennessee

 

KC’s pick: Tennessee

 

Confidence level: 7

 

Few running backs in NFL history bring to mind favorable comparisons to Earl Campbell, but Derrick Henry is part of that rare group. The Titans have racked up 150+ rushing yards in four of the past five weeks and it has led to Tennessee posting 30+ points and 420+ offensive yards yards in four straight games. Both of those trends should continue against a Lions squad that has allowed 102 points and 337 rushing yards over the past three games. Detroit’s offensive consistency is why Darrell Bevell got the interim head coaching job and he will not hesitate to go with a shootout gameplan, but the Lions don’t have anyone to offset Henry so the Titans are the selection.

 

Seattle at Washington

 

KC’s pick: Washington

 

Confidence level: 1

 

The Football Team is the turnaround story of the 2020 season, as they have the lock for comeback player of the year in Alex Smith and have won five of the past seven after starting the campaign 1-5. Defense has been the key, as Washington has allowed an average of 13.8 points per game over the past month and has racked up eight takeaways in that span. Seattle’s defense has been a sieve for most of this season, but over the past three games the Seahawks have allowed 37 points and just shut down a Jets club that had scored 27+ points in three of its last four. Both teams have equal paths to victory, so Washington is the pick via home field advantage.

 

Philadelphia at Arizona

 

KC’s pick: Arizona

 

Confidence level: 3

 

The switch to Jalen Hurts at quarterback forced the Eagles to make a much-needed move to a more power rush-centric offense. That alteration vaulted the Eagles to a season high 246 rushing yards and ended a four-game streak of Philadelphia scoring 17 or fewer points. Arizona ended a skid of losing four out of five on the strength of Haason Reddick racking up five sacks and three forced fumbles, which led to the Cardinals defense giving up season lows in offensive yards and first downs allowed. The Eagles lack of a viable passing attack and Arizona having home-field advantage combine for an edge that pushes this game into the Cardinals column.

 

New York Jets at Los Angeles Rams

 

KC’s pick: Los Angeles

 

Confidence level: 9

 

Just when it looked like the Jets might be turning a corner, they had the late game defensive collapse against the Raiders and then had what was arguably their worst game of the season in a 40-3 loss at Seattle. That is an awful trend in a matchup against a Rams squad that has won four of its last five largely via a powerhouse defense that allowed 251 or fewer offensive yards in three of the past four games and has racked up fifteen takeaways in the past seven contests. These factors all point towards the Rams dominating the Jets in a similar manner to Seattle, so Los Angeles is the easy pick here.

 

Kansas City at New Orleans

 

KC’s pick: Kansas City

 

Confidence level: 5

 

The Chiefs offense is beyond phenomenal. The aggressive and highly creative defensive game plan of Brian Flores and his staff led to Miami posting four takeaways and three sacks while allowing only 94 rushing yards and forcing two three and out drives and yet Kansas City still scored 33 points and racked up over 400 offensive yards for the ninth time this year. Taysom Hill has done a commendable job filling in for Drew Brees, but New Orleans has scored more than 24 points only one time in the past four weeks. Even if the Saints powerhouse defense can mimic some of what Miami did well last week, the Chiefs are still more than capable of posting 30+ points and thus are the preferred option here.

 

Cleveland at New York Giants

 

KC’s pick: Cleveland

 

Confidence level: 8

 

Cleveland had a five-game stretch from Weeks 6-11 where their offense struggled mightily, but that is certainly not the case anymore. The Browns have scored 110 points and tallied 1,410 offensive yards over the past three weeks despite having one of the least talented group of wide receivers in the NFL. The Giants offense looked to have turned a corner offensively in late October, but they have collapsed since their Week 11 bye. Over the past three weeks, New York has posted a meager 43 points and set season lows in points scored, offensive first downs, and net passing yards against the Cardinals. Barring a miraculous turnaround, the Giants offense simply won’t be able to keep up with the Browns, so Cleveland gets this pick by a strong margin.

 

Monday, December 14

 

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

 

KC’s pick: Pittsburgh

 

Confidence level: 9

 

The Steelers should have seen this coming, as a club shouldn’t ask an old quarterback to throw the ball an average of 40 times per game over the course of a season. Pittsburgh’s abysmal rushing attack is a main factor in the decision to put the ball in the air so frequently, as the Black and Gold have posted fewer than 50 rushing yards in five of the past seven games. That might be problem were it not for facing a Bengals offense that has posted a single-digit point total in three of the past four games and could end up going with a third-string quarterback who had an atrocious 62.1 passer rating in three starts last season. Combine that with a Steelers pass rush that has a sack in an NFL record 70 straight games facing a Cincinnati offensive line that has allowed 10 sacks in the past three weeks and Pittsburgh is the slam dunk choice.