Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (5-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8)

A week ago on the early line, the Panthers were 3-point home underdogs, but now they are 3-point favorites. Normally I like to go against significant week-to-week line movements like that and this is not an exception. This line moved because the Panthers pulled the upset in Seattle last week and are playing significantly better with new quarterback Sam Darnold, while the Steelers lost their quarterback Kenny Pickett to injury, but neither replacement option, Mason Rudolph or Mitch Trubisky, are significant downgrades from Pickett, while the Panthers’ play in recent weeks with Darnold is not enough to justify this much of a line movement.

The Steelers have the same record as the Panthers and a worse point differential (-66 vs. -30), but they have a significant edge in schedule adjusted efficiency (16th vs. 25th), as the Steelers have faced a significantly tougher schedule, probably the toughest in the NFL. The Steelers also were without top defensive player TJ Watt for most of the season so far and he has since returned, so they’re better than their record suggests. The Panthers probably have the better quarterback in this game and there’s not quite enough here for the Steelers to be worth betting, but the Steelers should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes at +3.

Carolina Panthers 17 Pittsburgh Steelers 16

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh +3

Confidence: Low

Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (4-9) at Denver Broncos (3-10)

The Cardinals lost starting quarterback Kyler Murray for the season with a torn ACL last week, but they were one of the worst teams in the league even before losing him, now sitting at 4-9 with a -71 point differential and a schedule adjusted efficiency that ranks 28th in the NFL. They were 11-6 a year ago, but I thought they were one of the most overrated teams in the league coming into the season, as they needed a +12 turnover margin to get to that record, which is not predictive, and they ranked just 14th in overall efficiency, barely above average. 

They also got a lot worse this off-season, losing starting wide receiver Christian Kirk, top edge defender Chandler Jones, top off ball linebacker Jordan Hicks, top cornerback Robert Alford, and their most efficient running back Chase Edmonds, with their only major addition being former Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown, who cost the Cardinals their first round pick in a trade and who isn’t a significant upgrade on Christian Kirk. Injuries didn’t help matters, as the Cardinals were already without four starting offensive linemen and top cornerback Byron Jones before losing Murray, which obviously hurts this team even more.

The Broncos are missing their starting quarterback as well, with Russell Wilson missing this week due to a concussion, and they are also in the middle of a disappointing season, sitting at 3-10 with a -44 point differential, despite entering the year as a consensus playoff contender. Their defense is still above average, which makes it the only above average unit in this game and, largely as a result of that, the Broncos have the edge in my roster rankings by a couple points, assuming talented edge defender Randy Gregory returns from injury this week as expected. There isn’t quite enough here for the Broncos to be worth betting, but we’re getting some line value with them as only 1.5-point home favorites.

Denver Broncos 20 Arizona Cardinals 17

Pick against the spread: Denver -1.5

Confidence: Low

Tennessee Titans at Los Angeles Chargers: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (7-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (7-6)

Both of these teams are 7-6, but neither has played as well as their record suggests, with the Titans seven wins coming by an average of 6.6 points per game and the Chargers’ coming by 4.3 points per game, as opposed to defeats of victory of 13.5 points per game and 10.1 points per game in their six losses respectively. Despite their similarities, the Chargers are still the significantly better team though, for a few reasons. For one, they have played a tougher schedule, while the Titans’ only win against a winning team came against the 7-5-1 Commanders, who were 1-4 at the time. 

The Titans have also gotten kind of lucky in their only two multiscore wins, getting a defensive touchdown to push the margin to 9 against the Colts, while their 10-point win over the Packers came against a team in a terrible spot, playing on a short week after an overtime game, a spot in which teams are just 2-22 ATS all-time. Despite that, the Chargers still have a slight edge in point differential (-31 vs. -35) and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is even more predictive than point differential, the Chargers have an even bigger edge.

Overall, the Titans rank 29th in schedule adjusted efficiency, while the Chargers rank 25th, not nearly as good as their record suggests, but still 1.5 points better than the Titans. The Chargers are also healthier, though largely by default. Their defense is still missing top cornerback JC Jackson, stud safety Derwin James, and dominant edge defender Joey Bosa, but their offense has gotten back their two talented wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, as well as talented center Corey Linsley, a big boost, even if they are not as good as they were a year ago when stud left tackle Rashawn Slater was healthy.

The Titans, meanwhile, are missing top wide receiver Treylon Burks, starting left tackle Taylor Lewan, their two best edge defenders Denico Autry and Harold Landry, talented starting linebackers Zach Cunningham and David Long, and starting cornerbacks Kristian Fulton and Elijah Molden. This line favors the Chargers by three at home, where they have next to homefield advantage since moving to Los Angeles in 2017, going 18-27 ATS at home, as opposed to 27-17 ATS on the road, so it’s still hard to be confident in the Chargers this week, but they should be the better side for pick ‘em purposes.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -3

Confidence: None

Detroit Lions at New York Jets: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (6-7) at New York Jets (7-6)

A week ago on the early line, the Jets were favored by a field goal at home against the Lions, but this line has since shifted to favoring the Lions by 1.5 points. Normally I like to go against significant week-to-week line movements like that, but in this case it might be justified, as the Lions played well in a big victory over the Vikings, while the Jets lost their best quarterback Mike White to injury and will turn back to Zach Wilson this week. 

The Jets could also be without stud interior defender Quinnen Williams, arguably the best player on their defense, after he didn’t practice all week. I’m still taking the Jets for pick ‘em purposes because they still have the edge on the season in point differential (+21 vs. +2) and schedule adjusted efficiency (12th vs. 18th), even with a carousel of different quarterbacks under center, and they now are home underdogs in this game. This is only a low confidence pick though and, if Williams is out, I would drop all confidence.

Update: Williams out, but, for some reason, the Jets are now favored by 1.5 points. I am switching my pick to Detroit, but dropping this to a no confidence pick.

New York Jets 24 Detroit Lions 23

Pick against the spread: Detroit +1.5

Confidence: None

Dallas Cowboys at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (10-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-8)

The Jaguars are in a good spot in this game, with the Cowboys likely to get caught looking forward to a much bigger game against the Eagles next week, but this line only favors the Cowboys by four points, so we’re not getting great line value with the Jaguars, who have lost by more than four points in seven of their eight losses. The Cowboys, meanwhile, rank 7th in schedule adjusted efficiency, five points ahead of the 19th ranked Jaguars, even though the Cowboys were without starting quarterback Dak Prescott for five games. I’m still taking the Jaguars, but this is a low confidence pick.

Dallas Cowboys 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 24

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +4

Confidence: Low

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (5-8) at New Orleans Saints (4-9)

The Falcons have overachieved through the first 13 games of the season, especially on offense, where they rank 9th in schedule adjusted efficiency, but they are switching quarterbacks from capable veteran Marcus Mariota to unproven rookie Desmond Ritter, to evaluate the young quarterback in what is largely a lost season even with a solid offense. Mariota wasn’t playing at that high of a level, but it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the Falcons’ offense decline significantly with Ritter in the lineup, which would expose the problems on the rest of this team in a big way.

The Saints, meanwhile, are just 4-9, but their biggest problem has been the turnover margin (-12, 2nd worst in the league), which is not predictive week-to-week, and they rank 13th in schedule adjusted efficiency, which is much more predictive week-to-week. They’ve also been getting significantly healthier in recent weeks and are now as healthy as they’ve been almost all season coming out of their bye week, after being one of the most injury plagued teams in the league thus far this season.

In total, feature back Alvin Kamara (2 games missed), starting wide receivers Jarvis Landry (5 games missed) and Chris Olave (1 game missed), starting offensive linemen Andrus Peat (4 games missed) and James Hurst (1 game missed), stud edge defenders Cameron Jordan (1 game missed) and Marcus Davenport (2 games missed), and talented safety Marcus Maye (4 games missed) have all missed time this season and have since returned, while talented linebacker Pete Werner (4 games missed), talented center Erik McCoy (4 games missed), and top cornerback Marshon Lattimore (8 games missed) could also return this week.

This line favors the Saints by 4 points at home, but that’s not high enough, with the Saints healthy and the Falcons breaking in a raw rookie quarterback. My calculated line has the Saints favored by 6 and that could increase depending on which injured Saints are able to play. I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick for now, but I could easily end up making an update to this pick before gametime, depending on who actually ends up being active and where this line ultimately settles.

Update: Lattimore remains out, but Werner and McCoy will play, so there is enough here for the Saints to be worth betting at -4.

New Orleans Saints 24 Atlanta Falcons 17

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -4

Confidence: Medium

New England Patriots at Las Vegas Raiders: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (7-6) at Las Vegas Raiders (5-8)

This is one of the toughest games of the week to predict. Both teams have several key offensive playmakers who are questionable, talented pass catchers Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow for the Raiders and top running backs Rhomandre Stevenson and Damien Harris, as well as top wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, for the Patriots. When I factor those five players in as legitimately questionable, my calculated line is Las Vegas -1, which is right where this line is. Depending on injuries, I could land on either side of this game, albeit unlikely for a bet on either side. I’m taking the Raiders for now because they’re slightly healthier and are getting slight value in my roster rankings, but this is a no confidence pick for now and it could easily be a push.

Update: Both teams got favorable injury news, with Stevenson and Meyers active for the Patriots and Renfrow and Waller active for the Raiders. This line has moved to 2.5 though. I’m going to take the Patriots at that number, for a no confidence pick.

Las Vegas Raiders 19 New England Patriots 17

Pick against the spread: New England +2.5

Confidence: None

Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) at Houston Texans (1-11-1)

This line is high, favoring the Chiefs on the road by 14, but the Chiefs are arguably the best team in the league, while the Texans are arguably the worst team in the league and I don’t think this line is quite high enough, especially with the Texans missing their two best wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins and their feature back Dameon Pierce. My calculated line has the Chiefs favored by 17 and, while that’s not enough for them to be worth betting at this number, given the likelihood of a backdoor cover in a game that is otherwise a blowout, the Chiefs are still the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Kansas City Chiefs 33 Houston Texans 16

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -14

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (4-9) at Green Bay Packers (5-8)

The Packers are a disappointing 5-8, a year after finishing 13-4, but in some ways it’s not that surprising. Despite their record last season, the Packers finished just 10th in point differential and 11th in overall efficiency, even with an MVP season from Aaron Rodgers who, as good as he is, was no guarantee to play at quite the same level in 2022, now in his age 39 season. Add in the loss of by far their top wide receiver Davante Adams this off-season and some regression was to be expected from them, especially on offense.

In many ways, things have gone how you might expect, given the circumstances. The Packers’ defense has declined slightly due to injuries, ranking 17th in defensive efficiency in 2021 and 25th in 2022, while their offense has fallen off significantly, falling from 4th in offensive efficiency a year ago to 16th this season, while their horrendous special teams that ranked dead last in efficiency a year ago has only been slightly better this year, ranking 29th. All in all, the Packers rank just 24th in the NFL in overall efficiency when adjusted for schedule, about 3.5 points below average.

The Packers have been overrated for much of the season, but that doesn’t seem to be the case any more and, in fact, I think we’re getting good value with them here at home as 7-point favorites against the lowly Rams. As much as they’ve struggled this season, the Packers are 3-2 in Lambeau, as opposed to 2-6 away from home and that’s nothing new, as Aaron Rodgers has a QB rating that is 10 points better in his career, significantly above average, and, as a result, is 48-22 ATS at home in games he starts and finishes. 

The Rams are also in a bad spot, as they could be flat after such a big comeback win last week against the Raiders, pulling a big upset in the process. Historically, teams cover at just a 42.1% rate after a home win as underdogs of five points or more, as it’s tough to bring that kind of energy two weeks in a row. Even though they’re an underwhelming team, the Packers are still significantly better than the injury plagued Rams and, when you consider the homefield advantage the Packers have, they should be favored by even more than a touchdown, especially with the Rams in a bad spot. I am hoping this line will drop to 6.5 before gametime, so I am leaving this as a low confidence pick at 7 for now, but I may ultimately end up betting on the Packers even at 7.

Green Bay Packers 23 Los Angeles Rams 13

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -7

Confidence: Low

Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)

Historically, this would be a spot where a Tom Brady led team would be an automatic bet, as he 46-13 ATS all-time against a team with a better record than this, 60-32 ATS all-time as an underdog or favorite of less than three, and 36-14 ATS after a loss when not favored by a touchdown or more. However, Tom Brady has not played at the same level in his age 45 season this year and the Buccaneers don’t have a great roster around them, so we’re not getting any line value with them as 3.5-point home underdogs against the surging Bengals, who have eight wins by four points or more. 

If I were to bet on the Buccaneers, it would almost be a pure bet on a spot and I’m not sure if that justifies a bet anymore at this point in Brady’s career. I might still bet on the Buccaneers if they get both Antoine Winfield and Tristan Wirfs back from injury, as they are a different team when those two key players are in the lineup, but they are both considered legitimately questionable, so this is a low confidence pick for now. Depending on the final injury report and where this line ends up, I may update this pick.

Cincinnati Bengals 26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +3.5

Confidence: Low