I had another 2-3 week, as one of my favorite bets of the year AND my strongest teaser play of the season both went down during the late afternoon’s slate of games. My hopes of finishing above .500 are pretty much done with three weeks left, but I’m still looking to finish the year strong.
As always, my picks will be separated into five categories. Keep in mind that some game theory could factor into my selections because of the large-field NFL “picks” contest I’m in. For example, I might avoid a game in an attempt to be contrarian if I think a large amount of the field will be on a certain side.
Check my Twitter on Saturday or Sunday morning for my official contest picks. Here’s what I’m currently thinking for Week 15.
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Sides I’ll use unless there’s an injury
Falcons (+10.5) over 49ers: This bet is all about the situation and injuries surrounding the matchup. The 49ers are coming off two highly contested road games at Baltimore and New Orleans, in which they took the Ravens down to the wire and lost on a last-second field goal, and then recorded one of the best wins of the year in a 48-46 victory against the Saints. Now the 49ers return home to face the Falcons as big favorites — with bigger games on deck against the Rams and Seahawks. I believe that San Francisco will win this game against Atlanta, but they have no incentive to cover the big number. Without center Weston Richburg, cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive end Dee Ford, expect for the 49ers to be tested by Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ talented offense.
Chargers (+2.5) over Vikings: There are a few reasons why I like the Chargers in this game. The first is the way they played against the Jaguars last week in a 45-10 win. It showed that the team hasn’t quit on the season even though they are 5-8. I personally make point spreads for each game, and I think this game should be a pick ’em, so there is line value at +2.5. The last reason is the Vikings have a huge home game next Monday night against the Packers, and while I don’t believe Minnesota will be overlooking their opponent at hand, the upcoming matchup against the Pack can only help my case for betting on the Chargers.
Sides I’ll likely use
Steelers (-2.5) over Bills: Amazingly, this game has been flexed to Sunday night as both teams compete for playoff spots. I’m going to take the Steelers here playing at home in primetime. Pittsburgh has an elite defense, and it’s a strong matchup for them against Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense. Buffalo only recorded 3.1 yards per play at home against the Ravens last week, so I have a hard time seeing them score. The Steelers probably won’t score much either, but quarterback Devlin Hodges has been better than Mason Rudolph. The Steelers will win this game, which is why I’m likely going to use them in a contest at under a field goal favorite.
Picks I’m considering
Buccaneers (-3) over Lions: If Jameis Winston is healthy enough to play and Matthew Stafford remains out, I would expect this line to go up. The Buccaneers are playing very well, so -3 would be a discount.
Bears (+4) over Packers: It might be hard to believe that a 10-3 Packers team is only a four-point home favorite against the 7-6 Bears, but it shows how down the betting markets are on Green Bay. The Packers only have a point differential of +39 and are not as good as their record indicates. The look-ahead line for this game was Packers -7, so you’re losing a lot of line value in the Bears at this number. That being said, I think the line move was warranted, and I’d favor the Bears in a game they need to win.
Patriots (-9.5) over Bengals: It’s definitely uncharacteristic for me to take a big road favorite, but the Patriots are coming off two losses, and Bill Belichick won’t be afraid to run up the score after New England’s latest controversy.
Texans (+3) over Titans: These teams are evenly rated, but I’m going to consider the Texans in a buy low spot after an embarrassing loss to the Broncos. I expect the Texans to bounce back against Tennessee and play like the team that dominated the Patriots two weeks ago. Side note: If the line was Titans -2.5, I would pass completely and that shows how important +3 is in the NFL.
Cowboys (+1) over Rams: The only reason I’m considering the Cowboys is because of the drastic line move; the Cowboys were a three-point favorite before the Rams’ win over the Seahawks (a result that I successfully predicted). The Rams have played better now with Todd Gurley getting more involved, and they need this game more than the Cowboys in order to make the playoffs, but I’m not sure if that justifies a four-point line move. This could be a solid buy low opportunity on Dallas at home, so I want to at least consider the Cowboys.
Games I’ll likely avoid
Eagles (-4.5) at Redskins: It looked like the Eagles were getting healthier and then wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and offensive lineman Lane Johnson went down in their overtime win on Monday. The Eagles are the team fighting for a playoff spot, but the big game for them is next week when they host the Cowboys.
Seahawks (-6.5) at Panthers: I have picked on the Seahawks all season, but I’m going to stay away here. The line is inflated, but Carolina had a very poor showing last week in the first game since Ron Rivera was fired.
Dolphins at Giants (-3.5): I was tempted to take the Dolphins here with the Giants coming off a tough loss on Monday night, but I’m not sure how Miami will respond after playing the Jets in the same stadium last week. Back-to-back trips to cold weather for a team from South Florida could be a negative.
Jaguars at Raiders (-6.5): The Raiders probably shouldn’t be favored by this much, but oddsmakers really have to set big lines involving the Jaguars. It looks like Jacksonville has quit on the coaching staff and their season.
Browns (-2.5) at Cardinals: I don’t have a feel for either team. The Cardinals let me down in Week 14, and the Browns’ locker room issues continued after a win last week against the Bengals.
Games I’ll definitely avoid unless there’s a major injury
Jets at Ravens (-15): This is the last Thursday night game of the season, and the market line has ballooned to Ravens -16.5 because of the Jets’ long list of injuries. The Ravens are on an amazing nine-game winning streak, which has included recent wins over the Patriots, Texans, Rams, 49ers and Bills, but they know winning by margin doesn’t matter tonight and staying healthy for the postseason is the priority.
Broncos at Chiefs (-9): This line seems a little short, but Patrick Mahomes suffered a hand injury last game. He’s going to play, but I’m not sure if he’ll be compromised like he was with previous injuries earlier this year.
Colts at Saints (-8): The Colts’ playoff dreams were crushed last week against the Buccaneers, but the line has gone down for this Monday night game. One factor could be the injuries suffered by Saints defensive linemen Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins. Both were placed on IR, and that’s a huge blow to New Orleans’ chances of winning the NFC.
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