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Week 15 Takeaways
by Dennis Ranahan

This season the three teams that have been the favorites for the public to bet on are the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints. All three teams have explosive offenses and all three teams have solid holds on first place in their divisions.

But, did you know that in December none of those three teams have a winning point spread record and combine a for 2-7 mark against the line? The Rams and Saints are 1-2 against the line, and the Rams are also 1-2 straight up this month. The Chiefs are 0-3 against the spread in December and haven’t beaten a line since their November 4th win over the Cleveland Browns.

The reason teams that get off to a quick start often fade down the stretch is twofold. First, high expectations are met with maximum resistance, and second, as far as the point spread results are concerned, they are controlled by bloated lines designed to trip up the teams most bet by the public.

While any of these three frontrunners could regain their early season form and win Super Bowl LIII, the team more likely to end this season with the ultimate victory is one that is geared to be challenged right now and leading with their defense. By my numbers, it would also have to be a team that is good enough to win in a bad situation, or as we refer to them in the office, rulebreakers.

The team that fits the bill that also leads with their defense, is the Houston Texans. Last week, they were in a horrible spot when they met the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. The game played perfect for what I surmised would be a Jets point spread cover and possible win, and instead, the Texans came out with the victory and pushed on a bloated point spread.

In search of a team with both talent and the proper motivation on a season-to-season basis, the Texans are the squad no one may notice until they win it all.

The Chicago Bears continued their march from four straight last place finishes to first place in the NFC North Division. They gained revenge for a crushing opening day loss suffered in the amazing come-from-behind win by the Packers on the opening weekend, and earned their first division title since 2010, with a 24-17 victory, over Aaron Rodgers and company last Sunday at Soldier Field. The Green Bay loss also eliminated the Packers from playoff consideration.

Chicago joins the Saints and Rams as division winners this season, but unlike New Orleans and Los Angeles, the Bears success on the field has been anchored by the unit that most often dictates ultimate winners, their defense.

My preseason AFC Champion pick of the Los Angeles Chargers have continued their pursuit of the Kansas City Chiefs since Andy Reid’s squad won in Los Angeles on opening day. Now, with their revenge win at Arrowhead Stadium last Thursday, the Chargers have caught Kansas City in the win/loss column but still trial for the division title based on division record. The Chiefs only AFC West loss was last week’s game to Los Angeles, while the Chargers lost both the opener to Kansas City and a mid-season contest against the Denver Broncos.

For the Chargers to win the division, they would need to win out and have the Chiefs lose at Seattle this week or at home against the Oakland Raiders in their season finale.

Philip Rivers and company have done a great job, but if they are to snatch the title away from the front running Chiefs, they need to beat the Baltimore Ravens at home on Sunday. This is a huge task, given Baltimore needs the game for survival and the Chargers are operating with a playoff berth assured and following that huge emotional win in Kansas City.