SOUTH FLORIDA, December 14, 2016 — The National Football League was in the political spotlight when retired NFL legends Jim Brown and Ray Lewis visited Trump Tower to meet with the president-elect. The purpose was political, to help the inner cities. Yet this is also a major football story.
Ray Lewis is one of the greatest defenders to ever play the game, anchoring the Baltimore Ravens defense for 17 seasons and two Super Bowl wins 12 years apart. Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown is the greatest player in National Football League history at any position. At age 80, Brown still looks like he could run over every defensive tackle except maybe Ray Lewis. As for Lewis, people would pay millions to see him get Trump or other world leaders to do his “any dogs in the house” pregame ritual.
More importantly, these men command respect. We live in a society where far too many people lack respect for their elders. We give lip service to them, but we fall asleep when they tell war stories. The elderly should be a national treasure. Old people should be revered.
In football, the old people are revered. Jim Brown is treated like a hero over 50 years after he last put on a helmet. Ray Lewis can walk into any room and get the young kids to stand at attention. These men care about the inner cities, and they are so respected and influential in the inner cities that the next president has taken notice.
They were not at Trump Tower for politics. Brown and Lewis are about molding young boys into men and making sure those young boys avoid the pitfalls of life. Brown and Lewis have gravitas.
The NFL has had its challenges, but one thing that separates the champs from the chumps is the ability to respect the past and honor it. Peyton Manning cried when he told the world that he wanted Johnny Unitas to be proud of him. Men like Vince Lombardi, George Halas, Tom Landry and Chuck Noll still cast large shadows long after their deaths. Don Shula is forever Miami. Even players drafted after Al Davis died understand that the culture of the Raiders is his culture. The New York Giants won a football game the Bill Parcells way, by playing New York Giants football.
Fixing society is tough, but the key is to let the people who know the most do the most. Do not put elderly people out to pasture. This is one lesson the entire nation could learn from the NFL. If anyone can inspire young men in this country, it is men like Jim Brown and Ray Lewis.
With that, it is time for the next generation of players to inspire fans. Here is the NFL 2016 Week 15 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com and all times Eastern.
As John Randall said, “This is when the big dogs come out.”
Thursday, December 15, 2016, 8:30 p.m.
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-15) — Jeff Fisher became 2016’s first NFL coaching casualty, and interim coach John Fassel makes his very first start. The Rams face an angry Seahawks team smarting from a blowout loss at Green Bay. Seattle is still fighting for a first round bye, and despite the high spread they should make last week’s Rams humiliation seem like fun. Seahawks cover.
Saturday, December 17, 8:30 p.m.
Miami Dolphins (-2.5) at New York Jets — The Jets have nothing to play for, but with rookie Brice Petty they overcame a 17-3 deficit last week and won. Miami is not San Francisco, but the 8-5 Dolphins have to win with Matt Moore now that Ryan Tannehill is out injured for the year. This could be a hideous defensive slog, and Miami’s stout defense may not be enough. The Dolphins are now one-dimensional and the Jets want to save Todd Bowles’s job. Upset special, Jets win outright.
Sunday, December 18, 1:00 p.m.
Detroit Lions at New York Giants (-4.5) — Nobody in August thought these teams would both be 9-4. The Giants stunned Dallas last week with stifling defense. Matthew Stafford is a warrior with an injured pinkie, but this spread is too high given Stafford’s fourth quarter cardiac magic. Giants win but fail to cover.
Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens (-6) — The 7-6 Ravens are one game back in their division while the Eagles are done for the year. Baltimore’s defense gave New England all they could handle, and this week they will take their frustrations out on the overmatched Eagles. Ravens cover.
Green Bay Packers (-6.5) at Chicago Bears — Green Bay started 4-6 but Aaron Rodgers has said the Cheeseheads can run the table. Chicago is horrendous, and Rodgers has finally started playing like his old self the last three weeks. After beating down Seattle, they will not have a letdown. Packers cover.
Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings (-4) — Both teams were a desperate 6-6 last week but Minnesota won while Indianapolis laid an egg at home. Andrew Luck is not getting help, and Mike Zimmer’s defense will knock Luck around. However, Luck may do enough to keep this close, and Minnesota has not found offensive consistency. Vikings win but fail to cover.
Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills (-10) — The 6-7 Bills are on the brink, but they get the perfect tonic against the 0-13 Browns. Robert Griffin III wants to redeem himself as a signal caller, but Rex Ryan’s defense, despite two rough weeks, is ready to feast. Bills cover.
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5) — The 7-6 Titans shocked Denver last week at home, but going into Kansas City is a tall order. Marcus Mariota is leading a high-powered offense, but the Chiefs win games with defense and special teams. They always make a play, and they will again. Chiefs cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-6) — Houston stopped a three-game slide and stunned Indianapolis on the road last week to get to 7-6. Brock Osweiler is uninspiring, but the Jaguars are awful. Blake Bortles will throw touchdowns to both teams. Texans cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) at Cincinnati Bengals — Pittsburgh at 8-5 has a one-game lead in the AFC North while Cincinnati is done. Yet the Bengals are burning for revenge for last year’s playoff loss. The Bengals have played below their talent all year, but ruining Pittsburgh’s season will motivate them. Marvin Lewis will have them jacked up. The key will be if they can stay disciplined. Upset special, Bengals win.
New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals (-2.5) — These offenses could put 70 points on the board but both teams are done for the year. Go with whoever has the ball last, and give the Cardinals the slightest edge at home. Cardinals cover.
San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons (-13.5) — The 49ers blew a 14-point lead to the lowly Jets while the Falcons built up a 42-point lead in three quarters without Julio Jones. The 49ers have lost 12 straight games and the Falcons despite the high spread should end the suspense early. Falcons cover.
New England Patriots (-3) at Denver Broncos — The 11-2 Patriots have a one game lead in the race for home field throughout the playoffs. Denver at 8-5 needs a win after a stunning loss to Tennessee last week. Tom Brady brings the offense and Von Miller anchors the defense. Denver won with Brock Osweiler and an aging Peyton Manning. Trevor Siemian makes few mistakes. Expect a desperate Denver defense aided by a deafening home crowd to batter Brady. Upset special, Broncos win outright.
Oakland Raiders (-3) at San Diego Chargers — The Raiders are 10-3 and the Chargers are a mess, but throw out the records. The Chargers always give the Raiders their best, although in this series the home team frequently struggles. Derek Carr and Philip Rivers can both sling it, but Khalil Mack is healthy and Joey Bosa has a neck strain. With everything on the line, trust Carr. Raiders cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys (-7) — Forget that Dallas took a beating last week at the Giants. Forget that the Buccaneers have won five straight with defense. If this game was in the New Sombrero, it would be different. It is not. Expect the current version of the Great Wall of Dallas to rebound and help Ezekiel Elliott take the pressure off of Dak Prescott. Cowboys cover.
Monday, December 19, 8:30 p.m.
Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins (-4.5) — Washington at 7-5 has a playoff shot. Carolina does not. Josh Norman is thirsting for revenge against the Panthers who cast him aside. Carolina has lost some agonizing games in the fourth quarter when he other team wanted it more. That should be the case again. Redskins win but fail to cover.