The last weekend of autumn brings with it the first full slate of NFL games since October, and it also brings a trio of Saturday games as America’s Game spreads its wings and its schedule. With only four games left in the regular season, the playoff picture may become a little bit clearer over the next few days or might have fans reaching for tiebreaking scenarios when play ends on Monday night. Here, now is my week 15 picks and prediction for every NFL game on the Week 15 schedule.
San Francisco -3.0 (9-4) at Seattle (7-6): The NFC West leading 49ers head to the Pacific Northwest to take on the former divisional leading Seahawks, who have lost their last two home games and three out of their last four overall. Seattle needs a win on Thursday Night Football to have any chance to catching the ‘Niners in the NFC West since a win would give them a season sweep and an insurmountable lead. San Francisco has been able to play just about anyone at quarterback this season with three different QBs posting wins, the latest being Brock Purdy, who manhandled Tampa Bay last week. Being a favorite on the road in Seattle is no easy feat, something the top scoring defense in the NFL is likely up for (SF only allows 15 points per game). And with the Seahawks allowing 25 points a game and the ‘Niners posting 24 PPG it may be a bit of a surprise that the road team is only giving up three points at the betting parlors. For me, it is time to put the Seahawks to bed in the NFC West and let them think Wild-Card for the rest of the regular season … give me San Francisco -3 to win and cover in this game.
Indianapolis (4-8-1) at Minnesota -4.0 (10-3): The Saturday NFL schedules kicks off in Minnesota where the Vikings host the Jeff Saturday coached Colts. Since defeating the Raiders in his first game, Saturday has lost three straight games, pushing them towards the NFL Draft and turning their owner into a laughingstock, again. The Vikings, despite losing to the Detroit Lions last week, can clinch the NFC North with a home win in this game and move one step closer to locking up the second seed in the playoffs. Bettors are getting Minnesota at a discount this weekend thanks to the Vikings lost last week since they outscore the Colts about eight points per game on average, with oddsmakers only asking Purple backers to lay half as much in this game. So, unless you foresee Indy posting a 400+ yard offensive performance, the play here is easy to make … Taking Minnesota -4 to win and cover.
Baltimore (9-4) at Cleveland -2.5 (5-8): The middle game of Saturday’s triple header sees what could have been a battle for the AFC North, with the Browns now closer to player spoilers than making a run at the divisional title or Wild-Card berth. With the injury to Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson having many worried about his long-term future in the league, Cleveland has been made a slight home favorite in this game at the same time Baltimore is on the verge of falling back into the Wild-Card mix and out of their perch atop the division. This game also marked the first time QB Deshawn Watson will play in front of his new home fans in Cleveland after splitting his first two starts in Houston and Cincinnati. While I doubt anyone from the NFL Network will dive too deeply into Watson’s history, one can only hope the commentators won’t scream “They Love Watson in Cleveland” if/when he does something on the field. Should be around 30 degrees at game time Saturday afternoon with a refreshing 15 MPH breeze to help keep these two offensively challenged teams in check … with the Browns having the better QB, the pick here is a home team win and cover, so I am taking Cleveland in a game most NFL game won’t mind missing.
Miami (8-5) at Buffalo -7.5 (10-3): The AFC East takes centerstage under the primetime lights of Saturday night as the second place Dolphins head north to take on the division leading Bills. Buffalo has won four in a row coming into this game with the last one being their first over a divisional opponent (the Jets) while the hope to balance out a Week Three loss in Miami in this matchup. Miami is playing their third straight road game this month after losing to the Chargers and 49ers in their last two where they only scored 17 points in each game. The mini-losing streak has allowed the Bills Mafia to reclaim the divisional lead and have chants of MVP rain down upon their quarterback Josh Allen. Believe it or not, there may be some snowfall during this game, but there’s not expected to be much wind, perhaps ideal weather for the playground offensive and stout defense of the Bills. The betting pattern for this game has been interesting in the first half of the week, with 60% of the wagers taking the 7.5 points, but barely one-third of the overall money is supporting Miami, which means the bigger bets are on the Bills, not the Dolphins. Miami scores and allows 24 points per game, an odd state for an 8-5 team; but since I don’t believe the Dolphins will be able to post 24 points against the Bills here, the pick is easy for me, Buffalo -7.5 to win.
Philadelphia -9.0 (12-1) at Chicago (3-10): The Jalen Hurts express reaches Chicago this weekend when the NFL’s best Eagles take on the Bears. Philly is trying to lock out the NFC’s best record and a first-round playoff bye as they start play this weekend with a two-game advantage over the Vikings and Cowboys respectively. The Bears, well, need talent at almost every position on the field, with the jury still out of at QB where Justin Fields has been a one-man band, leading to Chicago’s poor record. Bettors of all types are taking the big road favorite in this game as NFL fans know the Bears are done for 2022 and the Eagles are flying high and ready for the postseason to begin right now. This pick is easy, Eagles -9.0 for the double-digit win and cover.
Atlanta (5-8) at New Orleans -4.0 (4-9): The drama surrounding the departure of Falcons’ QB Marcus Mariota ended Wednesday night when the team around he would be having season-ending knee surgery. Mariota had left the team after their last game December 5th in Tampa Bay and had not been seen at practice since. Desmond Ridder, who replaced Mariota during their game against the Bucs will start this weekend, so expect this point to rise before gametime. This game doesn’t have much interest surrounding it unless you believe Tampa Bay is going to continue to lose and allow the NFC South winner to enter the playoffs with a losing record. It will be fitting to see these two games at 5-9 after this game since their division has been so bad this year, but it’s difficult to see the Falcons doing anything in this game. New Orleans -4 to win and cover.
Detroit (6-7) at NY Jets -1.0 (7-6): Even if I wasn’t a life-long Jets fan, this game would be very interesting to me since both teams, believe it or not, are playing for something on the third Sunday in December. The Lions arrive at Met Life Stadium a hot team after going 3-1 in November, including a win at the Giants, and have started December on a two-game winning streak after losing on Thanksgiving to Buffalo. Meanwhile, the Jets have slipped to the bottom of the stacked AFC East and are the only team in the division without a playoff spot heading into this weekend. They are lost three of their last four games, but the Jets have won their last two home games going back to November 6th against the Bills and November 27th against the Bears. I have been a fan of the Lions all season and only wish they had won some of those close games earlier in the season; but those hard knocks have paid off now because they are the better team offensively right now, with the Jets relying too much on the league’s third-ranked defense and now, a backup quarterback in Mike White to lead them to the postseason. While I will be rooting for this pick to be wrong, I have more faith in the Lions right now, so I am taking Detroit +1 to win a close game here.
Pittsburgh (5-8) at Carolina -3.0 (5-8): In a game made for family and friends (only) to watch, these two 5-8 teams take to the field in another “who cares” matchups that will flood the NFL schedule for the rest of the season. Kenny Pickett won’t be able to play QB for the Steelers against former AFC North foe Baker Mayfield, who was released by Carolina and has already won a game for the Rams. Instead, it will be PJ Walker lined up behind center for the Panthers in a contest pitting two teams who haven’t been able to average more than 20 points per game this season. Both of these teams have decent wins on their ledger this season as well as bad losses, but if you believe in the Seahawks, then you must buy into the Panthers, who knocked off Seattle on their home field just a week ago. That’s why my soft pick in this game is Carolina -3 to win at home.
Dallas -4.0 (10-3) at Jacksonville (5-8): How can a team with twice as many wins this late in the season only be a 4-point favorite? What do the oddsmakers see in this game that the bettors don’t? The fans of the Cowboys are laying down their cash on the money line and against the spread, but how is Dallas not a bigger favorite? The respect that is held for the Jaguars is clear in this game and, perhaps the win over Tennessee last week is more important than the Cowboys win at Minnesota just a month ago. Jacksonville was up for a divisional game last week and will crash back to earth this week against a Cowboys team who will take over their stadium on Sunday. Dallas -4 for the win and cover in north Florida.
Kansas City -14 (10-3) at Houston (1-11-1): Yes, America, Kansas City is playing Houston this week in a matchup of two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum. KC is hoping the Buffalo Bills slip up and they can take the top spot in the AFC playoff picture, and Houston is counting their first-round picks in next spring’s NFL draft. Two out of three bettors are taking the points here just out of principle since laying two touchdowns in an NFL game is taboo for many of those who follow pro football. Otherwise, there are no good reasons to take Houston here unless you see someone get hurt at practice this week for KC, take Kansas City -14 to win and cover.
Arizona (4-9) at Denver -2.5 (3-10): Stay away from this train wreck unless your fantasy team is in the postseason, and you have players in this game on your rosters! The traveling Cardinals are a better offensive team with Colt McCoy at QB this season, period. The Broncos settled for Russell Wilson when getting Aaron Rodgers didn’t work out during the offseason, now will watch their draft picks to Seattle. Taking the Cardinals +2.5 to win and an uneventful game.
New England -1.0 (7-6) at Las Vegas (5-8): Are the oddsmakers getting back at the Patriots after years of domination by making them small favorites against bad teams? Why else would New England be only a one-point favorite against a team that can’t hold a fourth quarter lead? Las Vegas has blown four leads of 13 or more points this year, but are just a one-point home underdog to the Patriots? What gives? Does anyone expect Josh McDaniels to outfox his former boss Bill Belichick, the person who talked him out of going to Indianapolis just to take on the dumpster fire that is the Raiders franchise? New England big in this game because the Raiders should be playing in the XFL next year until they get their act together.
Tennessee (7-6) at LA Chargers -3.0 (7-6): The bloom is off the rose that are the Tennessee Titans with last week’s lost the Jacksonville further proof the AFC South is a bunch of .500 teams and Houston. The Titans will still likely win their division and host a playoff game, however, with the Chargers only having a Wild-Card berth to shoot for this season, this home game is bigger for the Bolts by a lot. True, the Titans have lost three straight and would love to get back into the win column, but they have faced better teams during that time (Cincinnati, at Philly, Jacksonville) and shown how below average they are compared to recent years. The Chargers and won two of their last three, they are playing better and have a better team, which is why they will win and cover.
Cincinnati -3.5 (9-4) at Tampa Bay (6-7): Will a division leader be two games under .500 by the end of the weekend? If the oddsmakers are right, the answer is yes since the Bengals are favorited to go on the road to win their 10th game of the season at the expense of the Buccaneers, who will still lead the NFC South win or lose. The betting market has lost faith in Tom Brady this season as money is coming in from all directions on Joe Burrow and his bunch of Bengals, and with good reason. Cincy has played well of late and is poised to take over the AFC North lead from the Ravens by the time this weekend is over while Tampa Bay has look scarily bad for long periods of time within many games and over the course of this season. The fault lies in the running game for the Bucs, where they have barely managed to average 70 yards per game, leaving a 45-year-old QB to fend for himself from the playbook he wanted to run after Brady himself ran Bruce Arians out of the town as part of his return to the team from retirement. The result, a 6-8 Tampa Bay team will leave the field on Sunday after Cincinnati (-3.5) wins and covers with easy.
NY Giants (7-5-1) at Washington -4.5 (7-5-1): The Wild-Card involving two of the four NFC East teams goes primetime on Sunday night as the Giants visit Washington. These two teams played to a 20-20 tie just two weeks ago, with NBC happy to air the rematch his week. The Commanders had a bye week last week, making many question the competitive balance of the schedule this late in the season while the Giants were rough upped by the Eagles last week in a game that was never competitive. The loser of this game may be out of the playoff picture if Seattle wins, and the winner of this game would have a tiebreaker over the other that may push one team out of the NFC postseason at year’s end. New York is limping to the finish line this season having already been bitten by the injury bug, their weaknesses as a team are also being exposed as QB Daniel Jones has managed to win games while not playing well for 30 minutes or more. Washington is the better team and will be well rested for this contest, they will also have Chase Young back on the field manning their defense as each team looks to find a few more points or prevent a few being scored by the other team. The home team is better right now in this game and New York is about to be revealed as a fraud who won some games they shouldn’t have in a season they weren’t supposed to win, messing up the team’s timetable for years to come. Washington wins and covers the 4.5 points with a late touchdown to seal a double-digit victory.
LA Rams (4-9) at Green Bay -7.0 (5-8): When will NFL fans and media learn that if you want to see who will have a bad season just look at the late December ESPN Monday Night schedule. You would have probably earned big money if you predicted both of these teams would be so far under .500 this late in the year, with both starting QBs (Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers) dealing with injurie. Oddsmakers don’t appear impressed with the first impression Baker Mayfield made in his Rams’ debut after the former Brown and Panther put together two TDs drives in the fourth quarter, including going the length of the field to win the game with three seconds to spare in a win. This week, however, Mayfield head to ten-degree Lambeau Field, where the Packers will make one final stand this season before fading away for the holidays and the postseason. While a touchdown might look like a lot for Green Bay to be yielding, but, at home against a team who is ready to mail in the rest of this season, the Packers -7 is an easy bet on this meaningless Monday Night game to end Week 15.
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