Week 15 NFL best bets: A play on every game

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Week 15 of the very unique 2020 NFL season is here.

With COVID-19 concerns in several games, be sure to check injury reports as we get closer to kickoff. Our experts Drew Dinsick, Dave Tuley and Matt Youmans combine to give their opinions on every game.

All odds as of Thursday evening, from VSiN's NFL odds page.

Buffalo Bills (-6, 49.5) at Denver Broncos

Tuley: This is the second game on the Saturday betting rotation, but it’s being played first at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT. The Broncos came through for us on Sunday with a 32-27 upset of the Panthers. I already had this game circled for another Denver pick as the advance line was Bills -5. It re-opened at Bills -4 on Sunday afternoon (which seemed right to me considering the Broncos’ victory, and I still felt OK recommending them at + 4), Of course, the whole NFL-viewing world saw the Bills beat the Steelers 26-15 on Sunday Night Football and the line was re-posted at -4.5, and has been getting steamed higher. It appears to have settled at 6, which is good enough for me (though I’ll still wait to see if we get + 6.5 or better as the public continues to back the Bills.

Pick: Broncos + 6

Dinsick: We are in the time of season where injuries are starting to add up and cluster injuries can make a meaningful difference in a handicap. There are several examples of this in Week 15, and the Broncos secondary is a good example. Denver’s top four defensive backs are now out -- Bryce Callahan, Kevin Toliver and Duke Dawson were all added to the Injured Reserve this week joining Essang Bassey while AJ Bouye remains out due to suspension. This would be problematic in a normal week of action, but it’s especially concerning with Josh Allen and the fourth-best passing offense in the NFL coming to town. Buffalo is currently averaging 0.248 EPA per dropback in a season where Allen has ascended to a bona fide top-10 QB. The Bills defense has not covered themselves in glory this season clocking in as the No. 21 unit in EPA per play allowed.

Drew Lock is coming off of his most impressive performance of the season and has a nice matchup against the Bills defense. Worst-case scenario, Lock has shown an ability to produce points in garbage time this season which opens up the opportunity for an Over play with the total sitting at only 49. Fair price in this spot is close to 55 by my numbers with the most likely outcome of Bills 31, Denver 24, so the over is the first play on my card for Week 15. 

Pick: Over 49

Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers (-8.5, 51.5)

Youmans: My hunt for live underdogs might normally lead to the Panthers, who have covered five in a row on the road and are 7-1 ATS in their past eight as ‘dogs for coach Matt Rhule. A thigh injury is expected to continue to sideline running back Christian McCaffrey this week, so I can’t quite get there with Carolina. Plus, the Packers should be focused favorites as they attempt to hold the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

There’s also the matter of Aaron Rodgers chasing down the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes in the MVP race. Rodgers has 39 touchdown passes and four interceptions on the season, including 10 TDs and no picks during a current three-game win streak. For those who want action on this Saturday game, putting Green Bay on a teaser ticket and knocking the number down to 2.5 seems the safest way to play it.

Pick: Packers -2.5 on a teaser with Colts -1

Tuley: I won by fading both these teams this past Sunday, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that I’m taking the Panthers getting more than a TD. Carolina has been competitive for the most part this season at 7-6 ATS despite a 4-9 SU record and Teddy Bridgewater & Co. can keep within a TD of Aaron Rodgers, even if McCaffrey isn’t ready to return. Though Rhule said Tuesday that he doesn’t expect McCaffrey to play, I would like our chances better if he did (but don’t wait for an announcement as you’re sure to lose at least a point of line value if he were cleared).

Having said all that, this is a good spot to start our weekly teaser portfolio discussion. These have been profitable most of the year, though the Week 14 results weren’t as strong. They started great in the early games this past Sunday, but only went 5-4 overall. This week's teasers that capture the key numbers of 3 and 7 include Packers -2.5, Colts -1, Patriots + 8.5 and possibly Bears + 9. Mix and match as you see fit depending on your own handicapping. I’m on the fence with that Bears teaser, just like my reluctance to include the Saints + 9 and the Cowboys + 9.

Pick: Panthers + 8.5, but also using Packers -2.5 in teasers

Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts (-7.5, 50.5)

Youmans: A case can be made for the Colts as the second-best team in the AFC at this point, although it’s not easy to claim that when Philip Rivers is the quarterback. Indianapolis ranks No. 6 in total defense (327 ypg) and now faces a Houston offense that was lifeless in a 36-7 loss at Chicago last week. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is getting little support from his depleted surrounding cast of receivers and running backs. Rivers was solid in the Colts’ 44-27 win in Las Vegas while passing for 244 yards and two touchdowns with no picks or sacks. T.Y. Hilton had two touchdown receptions, and Jonathan Taylor carried the ball 20 times for 150 yards and two scores. The coaching edge certainly goes to Frank Reich, and the Colts need to keep winning in a tight AFC playoff race.

Pick: Colts -1 on a teaser with Packers -2.5

Detroit Lions at Tennessee Titans (-11, 51.5)

Tampa Bay Bucs (-6, 49.5) at Atlanta Falcons

Tuley: Surprisingly, these NFC South rivals have not met this season and will now meet twice in the last three weeks. The Buccaneers are obviously the better team and should be favored on the road, but I don’t think the line should be this high. The Bucs have let lesser teams (Bears and Giants) stick around and were lucky to cover last week due to Dan Bailey forgetting how to kick (three missed FGs and a missed PAT); besides, the Falcons have been more competitive since Dan Quinn was fired, so give me the points.

Pick: Falcons + 6

New England at Miami Dolphins (-2, 41.5)

Youmans: New England is a flawed team in many ways, and coach Bill Belichick has known it all along. Belichick is sticking with quarterback Cam Newton because Newton’s running ability gives the team the best chance to win. The Patriots’ lack of talent at the tight end and wide receiver positions would not help Jarrett Stidham succeed as a passer. Despite their problems, the Patriots are 4-2 in their past six games, including a 45-0 victory over Chargers in L.A. on Dec. 5. Belichick’s schemes made Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert look lost. As VSiN handicapper William Hill noted in his “Point Spread Weekly” column, Belichick is 27-5 against rookie quarterbacks as New England’s coach. On deck is Dolphins rookie Tua Tagovailoa, who completed less than 60 percent of his passes in two of the past three games and took a total of 10 sacks in those three games. Tua is in a tough spot with Miami’s offense depleted at the skill positions because of injuries.

The Patriots have shown obvious improvement on defense and special teams in recent weeks, so they should have a good shot to win this if Newton can create some offense. Banking on Newton is risky; betting on Belichick is reassuring. In what should be a low-scoring game, I’ll take the points.

Pick: Patriots + 2.5

Seattle Seahawks (-5.5, 44.5) at Washington Football Team

Dinsick: The four-game win streak by Washington has warped the perception of this squad beyond fair valuation in the market as they head into their most difficult offensive test of the last two months.  Their recent schedule has afforded the talented defense from Washington the ability to dictate game states and hang around just long enough to eke out wins. This will not be enough against a Seahawks offense that has been scoring at an extremely efficient clip, particularly through the air, which matches up well against the weakness in Washington’s defense, the secondary.

Russell Wilson is a master at avoiding the heavy pressure and letting plays mature down the field, which is the exact recipe that will hurt a Washington team that relies so heavily on generating pressure and creating disruptive sacks. The Seattle defense has also benefited from playing poor offenses in the last month, but the quarterback situation for Washington is dire. It is unknown if Alex Smith, who left the game Week 14 with a calf injury, or Dwayne Haskins will get the start on Sunday, but either player is going to have a very hard time keeping pace with the high-flying Seahawks. Fair price in this game is more than 7 points by my numbers so the Seahawks are a play at -5.5.

Pick: Seahawks -5.5

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-3, 46.5)

Tuley: These teams are both 6-7 and two of the hardest to figure out on a week-to-week basis. The Vikings grinded out a 19-13 win on Monday night in Week 10 and I expect a similar black-and-blue division battle. The Bears snapped a six-game losing streak with their 36-7 rout of the Texans in which they looked like a team that could still get in the playoffs. Getting the points is the way to go in a close game like this should be, but I haven’t grabbed the + 3 yet as we’re seeing most books at Vikings -3 -120 and assuming we’ll get + 3.5 by the weekend.

Pick: Bears if it gets to + 3.5, plus possible inclusion in teasers

Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens (-13, 47.5)

Tuley: Yep, Lamar Jackson’s running back from the locker room and throwing a TD pass on fourth-and-5 against the Browns was amazing. And I hoping that leads to more and more people betting them against the Jaguars this week with another overinflated line. I was glad I passed on the Jags against the Titans, but I saw enough magic from Gardner Minshew to be willing to back them in this spot. Besides, this could be a classic letdown spot for the Ravens, especially as their goal here is to get out with a win and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Pick: Jaguars + 13

San Francisco 49ers (-3, 45) at Dallas Cowboys

Tuley: This game has been flexed out of the Sunday prime-time game and into the early window at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT. The Cowboys routed the Bengals 30-7 on Sunday, but I’m not putting that much stock in that win. The 49ers are 1-5 SU/ATS in their last six games, but they’re really not that bad and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dallas; defense helps the 49ers’ offense break out of its slump (which is just as much a matter of scheduling as anything else as their last four games were against the Saints, Rams, Bills and Washington). This total looks like it’s shaded a little low, so ...

Pick: Over 45

Dinsick:  Andy Dalton continues his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde season, coming off an impressive win over the Bengals. We have enough data now to conclude that his success or futility is largely driven by how much pressure the opposing defense can generate, which is bad news for Week 15 as he draws a 49ers team that is coordinated by Robert Saleh, a master of crafting unique ways to pressure the QB.

A significant mismatch exists on the other side of the football as well, the Cowboys are one of the most poorly coordinated defenses in the league and consistently miss basic assignments and exhibit lackluster tackling. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is likely to develop a game plan that will exploit these weaknesses, especially in the run game, which could create a lopsided affair where San Francisco dominates time of possession and forces Dallas into obvious passing situations for Saleh to take advantage of. Considering the coaching mismatch at play, the fair price should be a little greater than 4.5 by my numbers, so the Niners are the play on the side in this contest. 

Pick: 49ers -3

New York Jets at Los Angeles Rams (-17.5, 43.5)

Tuley: The Jets obviously let us down in their 40-3 loss to the Seahawks after closing as 16.5-point road underdogs. But they’ve been good to us lately (and I blame the FG-kicking unit as two missed FGs kept the Jets from any momentum that could have come from staying relatively close early). Double-digit underdogs are still profitable at 11-8-1 ATS entering this week, so I’m still going to bet the Jets at the best price I can; however, in case they get rolled again, I won’t be using in as many contest entries this week (plus there are more ‘dogs I also like this week, so we don’t have to put all our proverbial eggs in one basket).

Pick: Jets + 17.5

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5, 49.5)

Dinsick: Fantastic matchup on tap in the desert as both the Eagles and the Cardinals are fighting for their playoff lives in a game that features the last two Oklahoma Sooner QBs, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts. The Eagles come in hot having upset the Saints in Week 14 on the back of a solid performance by Hurts, who at a minimum represents a meaningful upgrade over Wentz given the infrequency with which he commits turnover-worthy plays and how his mobility can help sustain offense. Murray and the Cardinals also come in off a big road win having throttled the Giants in Week 14 in all three phases of the game.

Lost in the excitement over the Eagles win was another cluster injury for the team, this time at the cornerback position. Philadelphia lost starting CB Avonte Maddox and S Rodney McLeod were both added to the Injured Reserve this week and the other starting CB, Darrius Slay, remains in the concussion protocol and may not be available. This suggests replacement level players will be tasked with coverage on DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk, which spells disaster for Philadelphia and will force a game plan that is aggressive and focused on scoring to help keep pace with the dynamic Cardinals offense. Thankfully for the Eagles, they come into the game with the aforementioned QB upgrade and a healthy set of receiving options for the first time all season. Considering the importance of the game and the injury situation of the defense, this sets up well as a true shootout and the over is in play at 49.5. Fair total should be 51 by my numbers with the potential to go even higher with the right game state. 

Pick: Over 49.5 

Kansas City Chiefs (-3, 51.5) at New Orleans Saints

Youmans: It’s not comforting to side with Taysom Hill, especially when Patrick Mahomes is the opposing quarterback, but this is a decent situational spot for the Saints as home ‘dogs. With home games remaining against the Falcons and Chargers, it appears Kansas City will coast to the top seed in the AFC. This stop in New Orleans is a potential speed bump because the Saints will be more motivated off their first loss since September and the Chiefs, who are 0-5 ATS in their past five, are playing back-to-back road games. All of the urgency is with the underdog as the Saints pursue a better playoff seed in the NFC.

The New Orleans defense had allowed a total of 44 points over a five-game stretch prior to the loss at Philadelphia in Week 14. Let’s call the outing against the Eagles an aberration. The Saints are solid in the secondary and put pressure on QBs, and Mahomes was not sharp in his past two games. I jumped on this at + 4 early in the week and will stick with the Saints after the line move. However, hold out to see if + 3.5 reappears because that’s likely to happen.

Pick: Saints + 3

Cleveland Browns (-6, 44.5) at New York Giants

Tuley: With both teams in playoff contention, this game has been flexed to Sunday Night Football. These aren’t the same ole Browns and it looks like they earned some more bandwagon jumpers despite their Monday Night Football loss to the Ravens as this line was Browns -3.5 but was bet up to -4.5 during the middle of the week. Then, on Thursday, it was announced that New York CB James Bradberry was being put on the reserve/COVID-19 list and will miss this game, and that has pushed this line up to -6 as of Thursday night. However, I’m sticking with the G-men and will wait for the line to peak as more people jump on the Browns and hopefully drive this line further.

The Giants put in a clunker in their 26-7 loss to the Cardinals, but I think QB Daniel Jones was rushed back and should have a better showing in this game if healthy (if he’s out, we’re OK with Colt McCoy managing the game like he did in Seattle two weeks ago). Even though the Browns are 9-4 SU, they’re only 5-8 ATS, so they’ve let lesser teams stick around such as non-covering wins against the Bengals (twice!), Texans and Jaguars.

Pick: Giants + 6 or higher

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