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NFL Picks for Week 15
NFL Picks for Week 15

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Posted Friday, December 14 at 12:45 PM EST.

NFL 2018

This year we’re changing it up a little bit from what regular readers are used to. We have always posted our NFL writeups and selections on Friday and that will not change.

What you see below is our early leans. Many of the selections below will stay the same and some will be moved into official plays with wagers on Sunday. However, there is also the possibility that we see, read or get a sense that something is not right with one of our selections and change our pick. There are several different criterion we use to grade a game and make it an official play and a lot of things can happen or change between Friday and Sunday.

We’re intent on providing our readers with the best possible selections and doing so on Sunday instead of Friday just makes more sense. Again, we’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on Friday but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST.



DENVER -2½ -107 over Cleveland

8:20 PM EST. Denver's slim playoff hopes took a big hit after a 20-14 loss in San Francisco and now the Broncos are just 6-7 and just a half game up on these Browns, as both sides chase the 7-6 Ravens for the 6th seed in the AFC. With the Colts, Dolphins and Titans all in the mix at 7-6 as well, both Denver and Cleveland would need a lot to go their way to sneak in. The market has a short memory and both the Broncos and Brownies were both line movers last Sunday and only Cleveland was able to cash a ticket although it was Denver that was perceived to have the much easier matchup.

Wins are all that matters and whether or not the Browns were outgained in victories over the Panthers and Bengals in two of the last three weeks is largely irrelevant as time passes, Cleveland’s 5-7-1 record has to be considered a great success after failing to get even a single W last season. Every team in this league would love to improve by 5½-games, yet these Brownies have the opportunity to improve by even more. This is very much a what have you done for me lately business and the Browns have a buzz about them that the Broncos certainly do not. Baker Mayfield is exciting, Nick Chubb is electric and Jarvis Landry is finally emerging as a true number one receiver. Outside of undrafted free agent runner Philip Lindsey, what is there to be excited about in the Mile High City? With the Broncos home field edge taking a big hit this season (3-3) we can appreciate the Browns appeal but it is the Broncos that are undervalued on their home turf, while Cleveland is trading at a season high. A Saturday night, prime-time game in Denver figures to provide the right atmosphere for the Broncs to thrive in. Recommendation: Broncos -2½ -107


Green Bay +5½ -108 over CHICAGO

1:00 PM EST. This is being billed as a "revenge" game for the Bears, as they look to avenge their Week 1 loss in Green Bay. As you may remember, Chicago stormed out of the gate and had the Packers on the ropes on their home field. The Bears led 17-0 at half-time and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had been injured and his return was not certain. We all know what happened in the second half, as Rodgers led his team all the way back with a 75-yard catch and run by Randall Cobb for the game tying touchdown being the cherry on the Bears shit sundae. The Pack and Bears have been on decidedly different paths since that opening night, as Green Bay struggled to the point where former coach Mike McCarthy was fired late-season, while Chicago is at the top of NFC North with a 2½-game lead on the Vikings with just three weeks to go. A high profile primetime win over the mighty Rams last Sunday night was the statement game the Bears were looking for, but with that win comes a distinct role reversal for these two franchises, as it now the Bears that are spotting points in the driver's seat with the pooch Packers chasing.

Chicago has won seven of its last eight games, which is impressive enough on its own, but when you consider it also has a 7-1 record against the spread over that time, the Bears have been one of the best bets in the market over the last two months. However, the Bears were outgained in victories over the Bills and Lions and that 23-16 victory in Detroit on Thanksgiving could easily have been a loss if not for a couple of untimely Matt Stafford interceptions. The biggest reason for Chicago's success this season has been its defenses ability to turn the ball over and while a +13 differential in takeaways looks impressive on paper, those game-changing plays cannot be counted on from week to week. Now, that doesn't mean that the Bears won't win that battle again here against the Packers, but with Aaron Rodgers having thrown just one interception this season, one of those two extremes is likely to give. If we knew who was going to get the bounces, picking winners in the NFL would be infinitely easier, as most of these games come down to turnovers and penalties. The Packers defense isn't nearly as impressive with just seven interceptions this season, but that they've been able to hold opponents to under 25 points the last five weeks without turning the ball over makes that unit's performance even more impressive. At the end of the day, this is still a passers league and there is no comparison when lining up Rodgers against Mitch Trubisky, who without Matt Nagy as coach wouldn't last two weeks as a starter. Aaron Rodgers taking back significant points is not a bad ticket to have. Recommendation: Packers +5½ -108

BUFFALO -2½ -106 over Detroit

1:00 PM EST. The 5-8 Lions are 2-4 on the road but just beat the Cardinals in Arizona. The 4-9 Bills are only 2-4 at home and lost their last two games but if we’re playing value, over and under-reactions and intangibles to try and find the best side to play, we have to lean the Bills. You see, after the first month of the season, it looked like the Lions could be a threat while the Bills looked like a sure 0-16 team. Fast forward to the final three weeks and the narrative is much better for the Bills than it is for the Lions.

Forget that Detroit beat Arizona last week and take a look under the hood. Injuries (and a trade) have decimated the offense and defense and the Lions have exceeded 20 points just once in the last seven games. There's not a lot of building for tomorrow going on with all the missing players and HC Matt Patricia's singular achievement was beating his old team. Matthew Stafford was questionable to play last week because of his back but kept his 127-game starting streak alive. He only passed for 101 yards and no scores and that was in perfect conditions. The conditions at Orchard Park in December are never perfect. To make matters worse, what in world is going to motivate the Lions to go into Buffalo and play inspired football when they have Minnesota and Green Bay on deck to close out the season. Those are two two division rivals that the Lions can knock out of the playoffs, thus, anything they have left in the tank will be saved to try and make life miserable for that pair.

Josh Allen is making strides towards becoming the quarterback the Bills wanted when they spent their 1.07 pick last April. His passing production was anemic for much of the year and then he missed four games due to injury. His return in Week 12 brought back a new kind of quarterback. He's thrown better with three touchdowns over three games and he's rushed for 99, 135 and 101 yards over those three games, thus becoming the best rushing quarterback over the last three weeks in NFL history. Allen has also started to gain more chemistry with Zay Jones and even Robert Foster. Buffalo’s loss last week looks worse than it was, as the Bills deserved much better and they also deserved better in Miami the week previous. Being the superior team on the field two weeks in a row has resulted in zero wins for the Bills but they’re close. We 100% trust that they’ll be the superior team here too, only this time the opposition isn’t going to get lucky. The Bills actually have some swag these days while the Lions have none. The Bills closed as a 4½-point favorite against the Jets last week and lost outright. That undeserving result has them a smaller price this week when they should actually be a bigger price. Consider the Bills a deflated favorite and swallow the points. Recommendation: Buffalo -2½ -106

MINNESOTA -7½ -106 over Miami

1:00 PM EST. At 7-6 and tied with the Ravens for the Wildcard in the AFC, the Dolphins are very much alive in the playoff picture. If the season ended today, Miami would miss out but they close the season against the Vikes, Jags and Bills so the playoffs are within reach. With a worse record at 6-6-1, the Vikes would make the playoffs if the season ended today as the sixth seed. Thus, Minnesota controls its own fate while the Dolphins need help but it is safe to suggest that if Miami wins out, they’ll very likely get in. That said, Miami isn’t likely to win out and its misery starts here.

What follows a euphoric win is almost always a big letdown. Euphoric wins like Miami’s miracle over the Patriots often last well into the night and beyond. It lingers for days and now this weak group has to hit the road again, where they are 1-5, to play a team that was embarrassed and ripped apart by every media source from one end of the continent to the other. The Vikes disgusting offense and horrible play calling came under so much scrutiny in that Monday loss to Seattle that the Vikes were forced to fire OC John DeFilippo. When the Vikings hired DeFilippo this offseason, it was fair to believe they had brought in one of the top up-and-coming offensive minds in the NFL. After all, he had just played a role in winning the Super Bowl with Nick Foles under center.

After that ugly display in prime time, it’s not going to be easy for many in this market to spot a converted TD with the Vikes but we’re big supporters of getting behind teams off an ugly prime-time loss. You may also read or hear this week that Kirk Cousins has a career 4-24 record against opponents who have an above .500 record and that none of the Vikings victories have come against a team over .500 this season. That meaningless fodder is even more reason to get behind the Vikes this week.

You see, the Dolphins have been hot garbage on the road and Minnesota's defense could really themselves a day against Miami's offensive line. Miami’s pass rush is also one of the league’s worse and now an offense under scrutiny with so much talent is in line to rip apart someone. It is worth noting that in the Monday night game, the Vikings actually outgained the Seahawks 276 yards to 274 and ran just six fewer plays than Seattle. The final score was 27-7 but is was 3-0 for the longest time and Minnesota could have very easily won. After the season, metrics will likely point to Minnesota being a better team than its final record and we promise you that the other teams in the NFC are praying that their first round opponent isn’t the Vikings. We’re also trusting that the oddsmakers are taking a position here by hanging this big number out there and we’re hoping that it stays at -7 because we’re going to pounce all over it. Recommendation: Minnesota -7½ -106

Arizona +9½ -108 over ATLANTA

1:00 PM EST. In December, a team's mindset is everything and we have to wonder what the Falcons are going to have left here after racking up their fifth straight loss last Sunday in Green Bay. The Dirty Birds are usually right in the thick of things this time of year, so this uncharted path into the offseason is new for Matt Ryan and company, but if last week's effort in Wisconsin is any indication, the four-win Falcons will be moving up the draft board rather than down it. Head coach Dan Quinn said his team lacked "focus" and after racking up 13 penalties and a pick-six, it's hard to argue with that assessment. Quinn also said this week that he was going to be evaluating "everything" to make sure he does anything he can to "get it right." Quinn, too, is no doubt being evaluated here, as Atlanta is just two years away from that epic meltdown in the Super Bowl versus New England but it appears this regime has peaked, which put Quinn and his staff on the hot seat. Matty Ice just signed a new five-year $150-million contract extension back in May, so you know he's not going anywhere. Sure, Quinn was extended for three years as well, but that was before this team embarrassed themselves this season. If the Falcons are in fact a "dead" team, and the coach's messages are falling on deaf ears, don't think that GM Thomas Dimitroff won't save his own ass first. He was there long before Quinn and has a long time working relationship with ownership that goes back 10 years.

The Cardinals’ goose is cooked as well, but this is not news in the desert, as Arizona has been down in the dumps all season. Last Sunday, the Cards lost to the Lions and when those dopes on Fox picked the Red Birds, we tweeted this, "Fox panel on Cards as upset pick of week. You can start unloading on Lions now and that's no joke either. They can't wrap their heads around an upset and only take underdogs that are +2½ or less." As we wrote in our Week 14 preview, the Cards were in a tough spot after upsetting the Packers in Green Bay, as that upset was about as big as they get. One week removed from that and a loss later and Arizona figures to be sharper here, although they played a very decent game last week despite the score. The Cards proved to be a tough out in Green Bay and are capable of stepping up again here. The Falcons are going to have to play a near flawless game just to cover this significant number and if they are not "focused," the Cards could potentially win this game outright. Recommendation: Cardinals +9½ -108

Tennessee +1 over N.Y. GIANTS -107

1:00 PM EST. After hitting what appeared to be rock bottom earlier this season, the Giants are on the comeback trail after winning four of their last five games. A 40-16 blowout victory over the Redskins in Washington last Sunday actually flatters the home side, as the G-Men went with many of their backups after storming out to a 40-0 lead. Rookie runner Saquon Barkley went over the 1000 yard rushing mark last week and was the first Giant to post that number in six seasons. When you mix in his 78 receptions for another 629 yards through the air, Barkley is easily the most dynamic first-year running back since Adrian Peterson. Barkley is likely the cornerstone of many fantasy football team's that are in the hunt this weekend, but the extra attention that comes from that very popular by-product of the NFL only makes the spotlight on him and the Giants even brighter. New York has likely played itself out of a top-five draft pick and a couple of more wins just might knock it out of the top 10. On paper, the Giants have played their way back into the playoff conversation, but do not get sucked up in that narrative. According to Football Outsiders, the G-Men have just a 1.4% chance to make the playoffs. They'd have to win out and get a ton of help. For a team that already took all the crap that comes with being a bottom feeder, these wins now are in spite of their future. New York was outgained in wins over the Bears (68-yards) and Tampa Bay (151 yards) and won both of those games by just a field goal. A 27-23 Monday Night Football win over the Garoppolo-less 49ers is nothing to be proud of and neither is embarrassing Mark Sanchez and the Redskins. Now we're not suggesting the Giants should be mailing it in the rest of the way, but their price is no doubt inflated here against a Titans team has proven to be a tough out.

While we are mindful of not paying a premium on teams that are coming off a huge primetime win, a 30-9 drubbing of the Jaguars at home on a short week isn't going to carry much weight in this market. However, that game could have turned on a couple of plays, but fortunately for us, the luck was on our side last Thursday night. The Jags had all the momentum after a Tennessee special teams blunder that led to a safety and then they picked off Marcus Mariota, but failed on a fourth down attempt to cash in on that turnover. You've seen the next play 100 times already, as Travis Henry racked up more yards on one play than he did in the two months prior. The Titans went up 13-2 and never looked back. With a loss earlier this season to Buffalo, a pair of double-digit losses the last month to Houston and Indy, as well as that stinker against the Jets in Week 13 where the Titans had to steal a win on the last play of the game, it's going to be easy to discount Tennessee’s status as a contender, but this line says they've got a shot to win it so that where our lean is here. Recommendation: Titans +1 -107

CINCINNATI -3 -111 over Oakland

1:00 PM EST. The Cincinnati Bengals have dropped five in a row. Along the way they lost Andy Dalton and A.J. Green and also lost by scores of 51-14 to New Orleans, 35-20 to the Browns and 24-10 to the Broncos. Last week the Bengals closed as a 16½-point dog to the Chargers and although they covered easily, the market is not going to give the Bengals much credit for a game that the Chargers were completely uninterested in with the well-documented big game versus the Chiefs on deck. The narrative surrounding the Bengals and replacement QB Jeff Driskel is that the entire team is just playing out a bad hand. Cinci’s stock is still one of the lowest in the business.

We never thought we’d be suggesting that the Raiders stock is high but here we are in Week 15 and that’s precisely the case. The Raiders stock isn’t Dallas Cowboys-high for instance but among the dregs in this league and that includes the Bengals, Oakland’s stock is soaring after beating the Steelers last week and coming within a whisker of beating the Chiefs the week prior. Furthermore, Derek Carr has thrown for over 600 yards combined the past two weeks with five TD’s and no interceptions. Three weeks ago, the Raiders were in Baltimore and although they lost 34-17, that game was 20-17 going to the fourth quarter. Yes indeed, Jon Gruden has these Raiders trending in the right direction and we’re going to be first in line to bring the hammer down against them.

We highly doubt that the Bengals are not showing up here in its final home game of the season. Surely, they don’t want to embarrass themselves against a weak team. And what about the Raiders? After two massively intense games against teams they wanted to play and do well against, the Raiders will head to the frigid East Coast where it is forecast to be below freezing (9° F - 1° C) for a 1 PM EST start for their most meaningless game of the year sandwiched right down the middle between Kansas City, Pittsburgh and the following two games. The Raiders close out the season with a big game at home against Denver next week with a chance to knock the Broncos out of the playoff picture and then they end the year in Kansas City. Seriously, what motivation will this rancid team bring with them this week? This game is nothing more than a massive inconvenience for the Raiders and we’ll look to exploit not only the unfavorable situation but the buy-low, sell high angle too. Recommendation: Cincinnati -3 -111

JACKSONVILLE -7½ -105 over Washington

1:00 PM EST. Whose stock is lower? Jacksonville is coming off a Thursday night disgusting performance against the Titans in a game they lost 30-9. The Jags looked and played like they would have rather been anywhere else on the planet besides in Tennessee to play a football game. Meanwhile, the Redskins lost something like 120-10 to the Giants with Saquon Barkley racking up about 1000 yards for the day. We would have to say that Washington’s stock is lower than Jacksonville’s but that doesn’t mean we want us some Washington.

Before this past Sunday, Josh Johnson hadn't thrown a pass since 2011. The Redskins were down 40-0 to the Giants at home and put Johnson in to start the fourth quarter. He played decently against the third-and fourth-string defensive units the Giants had thrown out there but it was garbage time yards and points. For the ‘Skins, the hits keep coming. We now know that Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, Josh Johnson and Mark Sanchez may have played their final NFL snap. Time is a flat circle. Less than a year after the Washington Redskins said goodbye to the infamous Kirk Cousins and his massive contract, Mark Sanchez compiled a 0.0 rating through three quarters in the Redskins 40-16 blowout loss to New York Giants. If the Giants wanted to, they could have finished with a 60-0 victory. Josh Johnson is likely Washington’s starter here but he’s on his fifth NFL team and hasn't completed more than 20 passes in any season since 2009. Yeah, this should go well. The Redskins were never a top passing team with Alex "game manager" Smith, but at least his low yardage did not come with turnovers. Now, the Redskins are losing the ball much more than scoring with it. Frankly, we’re not sure how it can get much worse for the ‘Skins. Despite their down season as a whole, the Jaguars still rank fourth in the NFL in defensive pass efficiency so if Johnson can keep this game close on the road, then so be it but we’re not going to overthink this one. The G-Men were a steal against the Redskins last week and the Jaguars are a steal this week against a fifth string (might as well be 10th string) QB. Recommendation: Jacksonville -7½ -105

Tampa Bay +7 +103 over BALTIMORE

1:00 PM EST. Mathematically, the Bucs have not been eliminated so it’s not like they have nothing to play for. As for the Ravens, they hold the sixth seed in the playoffs right now (barely) so every game is a “must win”. Must win is a phrase you are going to hear repeatedly over the next three weeks and it’s an angle you’ll hear pick-sellers and pundits use often. We’ll use it too -- only we’ll use it to bet against these “must win teams” because we’re almost always getting inflated points against them. Such is the case here.

Baltimore won and covered in Kansas City last week despite getting continuously screwed over by the zebras. You can read all about that screw-job here:


That loss in K.C., in OT no less, ended Baltimore’s three-game winning streak. Only a half game behind the Steelers, the Ravens have a good shot at winning the division but if they fail, they'll end up in the logjam for the No. 6 wild card. We’re just giving you the skinny on the possible outcomes but at the end of the day, it’s still all about value and right now, Baltimore’s stock is a little too high and therefore doesn’t warrant being better than a converted TD favorite over the Bucs.

The question surrounding the Ravens this week is which QB will John Harbaugh turn to. It's all a bit college football, but Lamar Jackson is 3-1 as a starter and even in the loss to the Chiefs, he threw for two touchdowns for the first time while maintaining his normal 70+ yards as a rusher. Jackson had his ankle rolled last week during overtime and had to give way to Robert Griffin so he could throw a few incompletions. Harbaugh said Jackson would be fine but he has not indicated his plans now that Joe Flacco is back from his hip injury. Truth is, oddsmakers don’t give a f**k which QB starts so we don’t either. There’s an old adage that says if you have two QB’s, you have to decide between than you have none. Lamar Jackson is not NFL caliber and Joe Flacco is a massive risk spotting points. Therefore, if it doesn’t matter which QB starts -- the oddsmakers have clearly reflected that by not waiting to post a number--than if Flacco is a big risk, so, too, is Lamar Jackson. If we’re betting the Bucs, which QB do we prefer to go against? We don’t give a f**k either.

Tampa can score and they can stay in games. Outside of a 48-10 loss to the Bears way back in Week 4, the Bucs beat Cleveland in OT, lost to Atlanta by five, lost to the Giants in New Jersey just four weeks ago, had a chance to beat the Saints last week, crushed San Fran three weeks ago, 27-9 and lost by just seven to the Panthers two weeks ago. This 5-8 squad could easily be 8-5, as they also have a three-point loss to the Bengals and a three-point loss to the Steelers. The Bucs defense is playing better lately and if Tampa just happens to score the first TD, a distinct possibility indeed, the Ravens will be chasing a cover the rest of the afternoon and very likely won’t get it. Regardless, we’re getting great value against an overpriced favorite and that’s all we are interested in. Recommendation: Tampa Bay +7 +103

INDIANAPOLIS -3½ +107 over Dallas

1:00 PM EST. The Colts are 7-6, but they’re also a bounce or two away from being much better than that. With a great quarterback and an entirely under the radar defense, Indy is a still threat to make the playoffs. A big reason for the Colts turnaround on defense has been Darius Leonard, as he leads the league in tackles. He's averaging over 11 tackles per game, which is the most by a rookie in almost two decades. Leonard is from unknown South Carolina State, but he burst onto the national scene after his effort in the Senior Bowl. Leonard is one of those players that can see it and sniff it out before it happens and he's able to go sideline to sideline with ease and he is absolutely in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Colts are on a nice run (6-1), but they are not getting the same love from this market as the surging and very popular Cowboys.

What a difference a couple of months can make, as the Cowboys and czar Jerry Jones were getting raked over the coals for trading a first-round draft pick for underperforming wide receiver Amari Cooper. Dallas is now 5-1 since the deal went down and firmly in control of the NFC East and Jones is getting consideration for "Executive of the Year." Since arriving in Big D, Cooper leads the league in yards (642) and touchdowns (six). Sure multiple injuries removed the Redskins from the equation, as will the apparent season-ending back injury suffered by Carson Wentz, but wins are all that matter and the Cowboys are racking them up. A victory here for Dallas would have it clinch the division and when a popular public team like Dallas starts to gain steam, it does not take long for its price to become inflated. The margin of victory in those five straight wins by Dallas is just 5.4 points with last Sunday's 29-23 win over the Eagles coming in overtime. On paper, it should have been a blowout in favor of the 'Boys, as they outgained Philly by 320 yards. A 13-10 smothering of the high flying Saints on Thursday Night Football in Week 13 carries a ton of weight as well, as Dak Prescott outgunned Drew Brees. Prescott had been highly criticized earlier in the season, but he is coming off a 455-yard passing game against the Eagles and now his stock is also trading at a premium. Have we not seen this movie dozens of times already? As soon as the Cowboys get rolling and expectations are high, they hit the skids like a ton of bricks. Can one player make that much difference? Probably not a player like Amari Cooper but it has coincided with said success so he’s getting a lot of credit. Dak Prescott is not a great QB. The Dallas Cowboys were beatable for weeks and they’re still beatable, especially on the road against an AFC opponent after two big wins and finally, and most importantly, we get Andrew Luck and the Colts at a discount. Merry Christmas to you too. Recommendation: COLTS -3½ +107

SAN FRANCISCO +3½ -108 over Seattle

4:05 PM EST. Boy oh boy would it ever be easy to make a case for the Seahawks here. For one, Seattle is 8-5 and unless they lose out, they are going to the playoffs. Even if they lose out, they could still make it at 8-8 but the point is that they’re a playoff team that is peaking with four wins in a row capped off by Monday’s prime time win over the Vikings. Furthermore, Seattle hosted the 49ers just two weeks ago and barely broke a sweat in murdering them, 43-16. Why would this one be any different? How about we ask the Jets, who lost to Buffalo 41-10 just three weeks prior to beating them last week. You see, players and coaches resent getting whacked, especially to a division rival and it’s not like the Seahawks are some powerhouse team that can run over others. No, the Seahawks are a .500 football team that is blessed, as every bounce, break and call usually goes in their favor.

Seattle beat Minnesota last week 21-7 but were outgained. The offense was stuck in neutral the entire game. Two weeks ago was that aforementioned blowout win over these 49ers but three weeks ago, this blessed squad marched into Carolina, got dominated on the stat sheet but came out smelling like roses again in a 30-27 undeserving win. The Seahawks have morphed into a run-first team. They are the only "run most" offense in the NFL and everything they do makes it difficult to understand how they win. Last week for instance, Wilson only accounted for 10 completions and 72 passing yards. Against San Francisco two weeks ago, Wilson threw for a pedestrian 163 yards and the 49ers outgained Seattle in the air, 386 to 163 and overall, 452-331. However, Seattle won the turnover battle, 3-0. Complacent from winning and from putting a beatdown on these 49ers very recently, the Seahawks have the Chiefs on deck next week in Seattle and may show up in body only here. On its sharpest day, Seattle is beatable and we highly doubt it’ll be sharp for this one.

Nick Mullens threw for 332 yards and two scores on the Broncos last week and 414 yards and two touchdowns in Seattle two weeks ago. He's scored in all five starts and appears to getting more comfortable with each passing quarter. However, at 3-10 and completely out of the playoff discussion, the 49ers are being overlooked and forgotten. They shouldn’t be and we’re the beneficiaries. This is a well-coached team that had a lot of things go wrong this year. They can score, they can move the chains and they’re not going to be playing conservative football. The 49ers are playing this game to win and if the statistics, minus the turnovers, are anything like the last time these two played in Seattle two weeks ago, the 49ers will be on the right end of the outcome. Great spot, great number and we’re calling the dog outright. Recommendation: San Francisco +3½ -108

PITTSBURGH +2½ -102 over New England

The Steelers dug themselves a hell of a hole by losing outright in Oakland as a double-digit favorite last Sunday and now they have the Ravens breathing down their necks for the top spot in the AFC North. That loss likely did a ton of damage to those survivor pools that are still in play and in the market, a loss to the Raiders will do nothing to raise your stock. However, as a buy-low option, the Steelers have got to be one of the better plays on the board, as they've dropped three straight games (including a high profile collapse against the Chargers on SNF) and also lost five in a row to these Patriots, which will be a fact the pundits will eat up when breaking down the Xs and Os of this game. Injuries will also be a hot topic, but the status of running back James Conner does not matter, as he himself has proved by filling in for Le'Veon Bell, that the Steelers system deserves a lot of the credit for their running back's success.

The Pats are still the Pats and although they were the victims of what's being dubbed the "Miami Miracle", that loss did nothing to discredit them in a market that adores them when it matters most. Truth is, New England doesn’t warrant being favored in Pittsburgh. Tom Brady threw for 358 yards and three touchdown against the Fish but that was his best effort since before midseason. Brady came into Week 14 with only four touchdown passes over his five previous games and even experienced two games without any TD passes - both on the road. New England is also just 3-4 on the road with ugly losses to Detroit, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Miami. One of those four teams has an outside chance of going to the playoffs and three of those four teams are hot garbage. The Patriots three road wins came against the Bears 38-31 (lucky to win), Buffalo and the Jets. Seriously, is that the road résumé of a team that deserves to be favored in Pittsburgh?

The Steelers mounted a comeback against the Raiders that should have sent the game into overtime but Chris Boswell slipped and missed his final second field goal. The Steelers tried out kickers this week but it looks like Boswell survived. Now, as the Steelers prepare to host the Patriots in a game with major playoff implications, their stock is low and there is chaos surrounding them. From inconclusive X-rays that kept Ben Roethlisberger on the bench in Oakland, to kicking tryouts, problems with the running game and former Steelers such as Rocky Bleier publicly ripping the team for its three-game losing streak. The only way out is to stare down the dragon that the Steelers continually fail to slay. The presence of the Patriots -- marking a brutal, upcoming three-game stretch that could keep Pittsburgh out of the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Steelers had the Patriots dead to rights a year ago when Jesse James’ sure TD was overturned in one of the most controversial calls in history. Imagine that -- the Patriots getting a call going their way. Two plays later, Ben Roethlisberger would get picked off in the end zone to seal the Patriots 27-24 win.

In any event, the Steelers last three losses were all games they were in a position to win but failed. They could have just as easily gone 3-0  over that span (all one score losses) and then there would be no controversy but results carry so much more weight than the ingredients. Recency bias and latest results have the Patriots wrongly billed as the chalk.

That said, the Patriots are not invincible but they’re quieter than the Steelers. The Steelers are a bunch of weed-smoking divas and Big Ben, who points his finger when they lose,  might be the biggest diva of them all while Tom Brady is the polar opposite in that when his team loses, he takes the blame. He’s pure class with the talent and football IQ to back it all up. Big Ben has talent too, obviously, but lacks those same intangibles and puts his foot in his mouth at just about every press conference.

Finally, there’s the coaching mismatch. Bill Belichick against Mike Tomlin is equivalent to Bill Gates versus Homer Simpson in a game of scrabble. It is those intangibles that may have us backing off the Steelers here but if we’re looking for value in the numbers, Pittsburgh a dog at home to this beatable edition of the Patriots would be the way to go and we just might do it. Recommendation: Pittsburgh +2½ -102

Philadelphia +12½ -110 over LOS ANGELES

6:20 PM EST. When the Eagles opened this week as a +9 point pooch in this Sunday night showdown in Los Angeles, we had to scour Twitter to see if there was something the oddsmakers knew that we didn't, as that was a significant number to post after both teams were coming off of high profile losses. When word surfaced that quarterback Carson Wentz was going to miss this week and likely the rest of the season with a back injury, it all sunk in that those in charge of setting the lines had a good idea that was the situation and preemptively acted accordingly. Now when the Wentz news hit the mainstream, this line instantly went up and we’re suggesting that the oddsmakers had a pretty damn good idea that Wentz wasn’t playing and set the number at +9.

Again, the original number had already accounted for the fact that Nick Foles was going to start and so this price is even more inflated than it already was. It wasn't that long ago that Foles was called upon to start the biggest game of his life and one of the most important in franchise history and as we recall, he passed that Super Bowl test with flying colors taking home the MVP. Foles had a lot to prove that day and he still does here, as this is his chance to make a case to be a starting quarterback next season and as we've seen with the many injuries around the league, there is a lack of quality at the league's most important position. This line is disrespectful to both the Eagles and Foles and it would not be a shock if they responded as such.

The Rams have clinched the NFC West and even with that loss to the Bears, they still have a full two-game lead over the Bears for one of the two Wild Card Weekend byes. L.A. closes out the year with games against the Cardinals and 49ers and so their path to the number one seed is also easier than that of the Saints, who are also 10-2, but face the Panthers twice and the Steelers to close out their season. The Rams should be able to sleepwalk their way to one of the top two seeds. As L.A. has proven all season, a win and a cover are two different things and when given the opportunity to run up the score, the Rams have not taken it. If they break out to a big lead here, it would be no surprise if Sean McVay calls off the dogs and if the Eagles bring their best, the Rams are going to have to play error-free football to cover this number. A lousy turnover or bad call from the officials is all it takes to rip up a ticket when laying this kind of lumber. Taking back this pile of points would be the prudent play. Recommendation: Eagles +12½ -110       

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