The NFL adding a seventh playoff spot in each conference seems like a masterstroke because all 16 games on the docket this week have some playoff implications. Traditionally, in a six team per conference format, there would be three games, minimum, in Week 15 that are only about draft order. There are five betting numbers this week that really stand out as great plays for Week 15, so let’s go through them.
So, the Vikings went into Chicago in November as three point favorites, won the game 19-13, and now they’re only 3 or 3.5 point favorites in the rematch in Minnesota? Granted, Nick Foles played in that game, and now Mitch Trubisky is back behind center, but Chicago also was completely unable to pressure Kirk Cousins during that game, and that’s the only way to slow the Vikings offense.
The Bears are 1-2 since that loss, but would move into the final NFC wild card slot if they win and the Cardinals lose. The Vikings have won their last three NFC North matchups and just have too much firepower for the Bears. This line is too low and the +100 number looks great on a Bears vs Vikings game with a lot on the line.
Every team in the NFL falls somewhere between 8-5 and 4-9 against the spread this season, except for two, the Dallas Cowboys who are 3-10 ATS, and the Miami Dolphins, who are 10-3. The Dolphins have been, on average, 7.5 points better than the spread each week, easily the best in the NFL (the Patriots are -0.3 worse ATS, for reference).
Meanwhile, Tua Tagovailoa keeps getting a little better each week, while the exact opposite can be said for Cam Newton. Tua threw for 316 yards against the best team in the NFL last week, while Cam has thrown for 272 yards, in his last three games combined. Did you know that the Patriots have scored fewer points than every team but five (the league-worst Jets/Jaguars/Bengals, plus the Giants and Broncos)? The Patriots did beat Miami 21-11 in Week One, but these team’s fates have completely flipped since then, now this is a 8-5 team hosting a struggling 6-7 team and only getting 1.5 points. So, in one of the few instances in more than the last decade, the Dolphins vs Patriots is squarely Miami’s to win (or lose).
This matchup used to signify the Game of the Year, but the 49ers vs Cowboys is actually the matchup this week with the least playoff implications. Realistically, even if one of these teams wins out, they won’t make the playoffs. While this has been a lost year for both teams without their starting QBs, the 49ers are light years better, they have lost four of their past five, but all four games were to division leaders, Washington, Green Bay, Buffalo, and Green Bay, and three of those games were very competitive.
Meanwhile, this spread is low mostly because Dallas looked good beating the inept Bengals last week 30-7. Last week was only the Cowboys third cover of the year, and they are significantly worse than the Niners, this is a 6.5 point talent difference and you’re only giving 3.5 points.
This is the most interesting over/under number of the year, with one of the most consistent O/U teams in recent memory, the Giants, facing off against the least consistent O/U team, the Browns. The total is 45.5 points, which is fewer points than the Browns allowed to the Ravens on Monday Night. On the other side, the Giants have only played two games all season that have gone over 45.5 points. Someone has to budge, and we say here that it won’t be the Giants. No one has scored more than 27 points in eight straight Giant games.
The Browns have only scored between 10 and 27 points once all season, they’ve played games with totals like 47-42 and 41-35 (that is the past two weeks alone) but they’ve also been involved in 10-7 and 16-6 finals. It seems unlikely that Giants QB Colt McCoy will be able to score on his former team, so you can feel safe that this will look more like a Giants game than a Browns game.
The Bucs might be 6.5 points better than the Falcons on an even playing field, but it looked last week that Atlanta has packed it in for the season already, while Tampa is still chasing playoff position. Matt Ryan looked impossibly bad in Week 14, throwing three interceptions in a loss to the then-three win Chargers. Tom Brady, on the other hand, looked two decades younger than his age of 43, throwing one of the sweetest deep passes of the season to Scotty Miller.
In an extremely unusual schedule quirk, these two divisional foes have not yet faced each other this season, they will play again in Week 17. While NFC South games are traditionally chippy, the Falcons don’t appear to be playing under the same fire they started the Raheem Morris interim era with, while the Bucs are looking like the most complete team in the NFC, particularly with Drew Brees being injured. The 6.5 number seems low so grab this number right now in case it moves to 7, and be thrilled to have your money in on the team you know will try their hardest in this game.