2017 Week 15 NFL Picks

Pick of the Week

NE -2.5 @ PIT

High Confidence Picks

DEN -2.5 @ IND

OAK +3 vs. DAL

GB +3 @ CAR

WAS -4 vs. ARZ

LAC PK @ KC

Medium Confidence Picks

JAX -10 vs. HOU

TEN +3 @ SF

CIN +11 @ MIN

CHI +5.5 @ DET

MIA +3.5 @ BUF

Low Confidence Picks

SEA -2 vs. LAR

No Confidence Picks

NYG +7.5 vs. PHI

ATL -6 @ TB

CLE +7 vs. BAL

NO -16 vs. NYJ

Upset Picks

TEN +120 @ SF

OAK +145 vs. DAL

GB +125 @ CAR

New York Jets at New Orleans Saints: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

New York Jets (5-8) at New Orleans Saints (9-4)

The Jets had a brutal loss in Denver last week. Not only did they lose 23-0 to a team that hadn’t won in over 2 months (managing just 6 first downs on 48 plays in the process), but they also lost quarterback Josh McCown for the season with a broken hand. As a result, this line shifted from New Orleans -10.5 to -16. I think that’s fair. McCown was not playing at a Pro-Bowl level or anything, but he was having one of the best seasons of his career and he was the biggest reason why the Jets, despite not having a ton of talent, had been surprising teams and getting a few wins. Backup Bryce Petty, meanwhile, looked like one of the worst quarterbacks in the league in limited starting experience down the stretch last season. He’s a steep downgrade.

The Jets have also had very little success on the road this season, as most of their surprise success has come at home this season. On the road, they are just 1-5 ATS, with their 1 cover coming in a 3-point win as 2-point favorites in Cleveland, in a game in which the Browns could have easily won had they not blown numerous red zone opportunities. The Jets have a -10.33 scoring differential on the road this season, even with McCown healthy, and the Saints are easily the toughest team they’ve faced so far on the road this season. Prior to this week, their previous road games came in Buffalo, Oakland, Cleveland, Miami, Tampa Bay, and Denver.

It does help the Jets that this is their 2nd of two road games, as road underdogs are 121-80 ATS in their second of two road games off of a road loss. That’s because teams typically do better in their second of two road games, as opposed to a single road game sandwiched between two home games, but lines don’t really adjust for that. Teams are 258-276 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.90 points per game, as opposed to 379-525 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.95 points per game, a difference of about 2 points.

However, the Jets are also in a terrible spot because they have another tough game on deck, with the Chargers coming to town next week.  It’s very tough for teams to keep it close against superior teams when they have another tough game on deck. Teams are 33-55 ATS as underdogs of 7+ before being underdogs of 7+ since 2012, including 7-18 ATS before being home underdogs of 7+, which the Jets likely will be next week (+10.5 on the early line). This should be a blowout, but this line is too high for me to bet confidently on the Saints.

New Orleans Saints 27 New York Jets 10

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -16

Confidence: None

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9) at Atlanta Falcons (8-5)

The Buccaneers have been better than their 4-9 record suggests, as they enter this game 15th in first down rate differential at 0.59%, with 17 more first downs gained than allowed this season. They are just 2-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less and could easily be 6-7 had a couple things gone their way. Their losses to the Patriots, Packers, and Lions (by a combined 14 points) all came in games in which they won the first down battle, but came up just short on the scoreboard.

However, the Buccaneers also enter this game incredibly banged up. Jameis Winston returned at quarterback a few weeks ago, but hasn’t looked quite right with an injury to his throwing shoulder. He is also missing his top-2 offensive linemen, center Ali Marpet and right tackle Demar Dotson, who are out for the season. On defense, the Buccaneers are missing arguably their best two players, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and outside linebacker Lavonte David, as well as defensive end Noah Spence and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, who have been out for weeks.

This line has moved from Atlanta -3.5 on the early line to -6 this week, but, with McCoy and David both going down, I think that’s fair. The Falcons have a top-5 roster on paper and are relatively healthy and finally playing more like they did last season. I can’t be confident in the Falcons though. We’ve seen the Steelers and Patriots both have flat games on Monday Night Football in tough situations against divisional opponents in the past two weeks and we could see something similar this week, as this game is sandwiched between a pair of games against the division leading Saints on Atlanta’s schedule. The Falcons are still the pick for pick ‘em purposes as long as this line is less than 7.

Atlanta Falcons 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -6

Confidence: None

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (7-6) at Cleveland Browns (0-13)

Last week, I selected the Browns as 3.5 point home underdogs against the Hundley and I picked them to win straight up. They led by 14 going into the 4th quarter and had a 90% chance of winning with just a few minutes left in the game, but the Packers came back, pushed it to overtime, and then scored a touchdown in overtime when they just needed a field goal, meaning they didn’t just win, but they also covered. I also picked Indianapolis +3.5 in Buffalo, so I lost against the spread in two games where I had a 3.5 point underdog in overtime. Making matters worse, I had the Browns money line in a 50:1 parlay with the money line of the Eagles, Vikings, Falcons, and 49ers, who all won.

This week, I am a lot less confident in the Browns, and not just because of what happened last week. The Browns have been competitive in more games than you’d think this season, despite their record, and could easily cover the 7 here. However, the Ravens have had a lot of success against low level teams this season. They’ve beaten the Bengals, the Browns, the EJ Manuel led Raiders, the Matt Moore led Dolphins, the Brett Hundley led Packers, and the Tom Savage led Packers by a combined 121 points, with all 6 wins coming by at least a touchdown. Their defense isn’t as good since they lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith, but their offense has been a lot better in recent weeks thanks to the emergence of lead back Alex Collins

The Ravens are also in a great spot because they have another easy game on deck, as they host the lowly Colts next week. Favorites of 6 or more are 70-42 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6 or more again, as teams tend to take care of business against inferior teams when they don’t have any upcoming distractions on the schedule. We are getting some line value with the Browns, who are better with receivers Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman back and who have been competitive in most of their recent games, but I can’t take Cleveland with any confidence this week.

Baltimore Ravens 19 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +7

Confidence: None

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (6-7) at Buffalo Bills (7-6)

The Bills pulled out an overtime victory at home against the Colts last week 13-7 with Nate Peterman under center, a game they could have easily lost on several occasions. As a result, the Bills are now 7-6 and turn the team back to starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who returns from a one-game absence with a knee injury. The Bills are not nearly as good as their record though. They rank 23rd in point differential at -50 and 31st in first down rate differential at -6.44%.

The Dolphins have had their share of issues this season, but they’ve been better in recent weeks. People thought they were crazy for trading away Jay Ajayi at the trade deadline, but new starter Kenyan Drake has proven to be a much better fit in this offense and has given this offense a new dimension in recent weeks, as he’s taken over as the feature back with backup Damien Williams out. They’ve also been better defensively since getting safety TJ McDonald back from suspension. Last week’s win at home over the Patriots may not have been a complete fluke, especially since the Dolphins easily beat a capable Broncos team the week before.

Last week’s win puts the Dolphins in a terrible spot, as teams tend to be flat off of wins as home underdogs. Teams cover at a mere 45% rate off of a home upset win. However, the Bills aren’t in a great spot either, as they have to face New England next week in Foxboro, a game in which they will almost definitely be double digit underdogs. Teams are 50-86 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs, as it’s understandably tough to play your best when you have a really tough game on deck.

On top of that, divisional home favorites are just 25-62 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road underdogs. The Dolphins are probably the better team and definitely in the better spot, so I like getting more than a field goal with them. About 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less, so getting Miami +3.5 gives us some significant cushion if the Dolphins can’t pull the upset. The Dolphins are worth a small bet if you can get 3.5.

Buffalo Bills 19 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Miami +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (11-2) at New York Giants (2-11)

The Eagles may have won the battle and lost the war in last week’s big road upset victory in Los Angeles over the Rams, as they have lost quarterback Carson Wentz for the season with a torn ACL. It’s a huge blow to this team’s Super Bowl chances, but I don’t think it’s a completely crippling blow. Prior to the season, I had the Eagles getting a first round bye in the NFC and I wasn’t even completely sold on Wentz at the time. This team is a lot more than just Wentz, even as Wentz was in the middle of an MVP caliber season.

Wentz isn’t the only player the Eagles have lost since the start of the year, as guys like left tackle Jason Peters, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, and running back Darren Sproles are out for the season, but no one is completely healthy at this point in the season. The Eagles still have a strong supporting cast, including a talented defense and one of the best offensive lines in football. Foles is obviously a downgrade from Wentz, but he’s one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league and has some success as a starting quarterback. He struggled with the Rams in 2015, but that could easily be the result of terrible coaching by Jeff Fisher’s staff. Both Case Keenum and Jared Goff lead NFC contenders right now after getting away from Fisher’s coaching, so why couldn’t Foles at least capture some of his pre-Rams form, back when he was a low end starter at worst with Chip Kelly’s Eagles.

Given all that, I was expecting to make a bet on the Eagles this week in New York against the Giants, but, for some reason, this line barely moved from last week to this week, despite the Wentz injury. Favored by 8.5 points on the early line last week, the Eagles are still favored by 7.5 this week, line movement that is almost completely meaningless. The Giants did lose talented safety Landon Collins possibly for the season last week, but that doesn’t nearly cancel out the loss of Wentz. The Giants didn’t even look that bad last week, keeping it tied with the Cowboys until the 4th quarter, when the Cowboys ripped off a few big plays to pull ahead. If they are motivated for this divisional matchup, they could definitely keep it close. With that in mind, I’m taking the Giants at +7.5, albeit for a no confidence pick. This is just too much line value to pass on.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +7.5

Confidence: None

Tennessee Titans at San Francisco 49ers: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (8-5) at San Francisco 49ers (3-10)

This is one of the tougher games of the week for me. I’ve had the Titans as a top-10 team all season and their record at 8-5 looks pretty good, but it’s hard to deny how underwhelming they’ve been lately. If it weren’t for front door covers on long garbage time touchdown runs by Derrick Henry against both the Colts and the Texans, the Titans would have covered the spread just once in the last 10 weeks and that was a 4-point win as 3-point road favorites in Indianapolis.

With a tougher schedule and worse luck in close games, they could easily be a 5-to-7 win team right now and they aren’t as talented as they were earlier in the year, with quarterback Marcus Mariota banged up and Derrick Morgan and DaQuan Jones out with injury in the front seven on defense. This is still a talented roster despite injuries, but they don’t seem well coached, so they could continue to underperform like they have for the past couple months.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have won back-to-back games since Jimmy Garoppolo took over as starting quarterback and have been playing much better defense in recent weeks thanks to the play of rookies Ahkello Witherspoon and Reuben Foster. However, those two wins came against the Bears and Texans and the 49ers still have a lot of holes on this roster, especially with right tackle Trent Brown out for the year. This line is at San Francisco -2, so we’re not really getting line value with them like we had been in recent weeks.

The Titans are also in a good spot in their second of two road games. Teams are 258-276 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.90 points per game, as opposed to 379-525 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.95 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. They’re in an especially good spot because they lost last week, as road underdogs are 121-80 ATS in their second of two road games off of a road loss. I have this line calculated at Tennessee -2.5, but I can’t be confident in the Titans at +2 because we might not know quite how bad Marcus Mariota is injured or quite how good Jimmy Garoppolo is. The money line does make some sense though.

Sunday Update: This line has moved to +3 in some places Sunday morning. That’s worth a small bet if you can get it. The Titans are more talented than they’ve played lately and the 49ers still have a lot of holes on their roster.

Tennessee Titans 19 San Francisco 49ers 17 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +3

Confidence: Medium