NFL Expert Picks: Patriots-Steelers, Seahawks-49ers, More Week 15 Bets

NFL Expert Picks: Patriots-Steelers, Seahawks-49ers, More Week 15 Bets article feature image
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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown

  • The Action Network experts break down their favorite Week 15 NFL bets, including Patriots-Steelers and Cowboys-Colts.
  • We've also got against-the-spread and over/under picks for Packers-Bears, Bucs-Ravens, Eagles-Rams and much more.

Week 15 got off to a wild start with a crazy Chargers comeback win in Kansas City. With that win, not only did Los Angeles end its nine-game losing streak to the Chiefs, it also clinched a playoff berth.

Believe it or not, the Chargers became the fourth team to have clinched a playoff spot headed into this weekend, joining:

  • Rams
  • Chiefs
  • Saints

We could see that number grow by the end of the weekend, as three teams can join those four postseason squads with a win. Those teams include:

  • Cowboys
  • Bears
  • Seahawks

The Patriots and Texans could also clinch with a win — but they need help elsewhere. Regardless of what happens this weekend, the sixth spot in both conferences and the AFC North will remain up for grabs headed into the final two weeks of the season

Our staff has angles on a number of the most highly-anticipated Week 15 matchups — many of which have enormous playoff implications. In addition to the many games with direct and indirect playoff implications, we will cover plenty of other action, including a consensus bet on Cowboys at Colts (-3), numerous over/unders and bets for both primetime games on Sunday and Monday.

And for even more in-depth analysis, check out our betting guides for every single game.

Let’s get into our 15 favorite bets for Week 15, which can hopefully help you find a winner or two you otherwise wouldn’t have spotted. After a nice 11-5-1 week, our NFL staff picks now sit at 114-105-13 (52%) for the season.

Let’s make it four straight profitable weekends as we inch closer to the postseason, starting with  that consensus pick in Indianapolis.


>> All odds pulled on Dec. 14, so slight line variations are possible. Download The Action Network app to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets.


SUNDAY EARLY ACTION

Stuckey: Colts -3 (vs. Cowboys)

1 p.m. ET on FOX

Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus will be a huge asset for the Colts this weekend, as he previously served as the Cowboys’ linebackers coach from 2011-17, including the role as passing-game coordinator the previous two seasons.

He should be very familiar with the strengths, weakness and tendencies of the Cowboys defensive personnel — particularly at linebacker, which the Colts can exploit with their efficient short-passing attack.

Red zone efficiency should also play a huge role. The Colts lead the league with 19 tight end touchdowns, while the Cowboys have just one. That discrepancy shows in regards to offensive production within the 20.

Dallas ranks 30th in the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage at 46.34%. And if you think the signing of Amari Cooper has helped address that problem, you’d be mistaken. Over their past three games, the Cowboys have scored touchdowns on just 33.3% of their trips inside the 20. That’s worst in the league over that span.

Conversely, Indianapolis’ offense has had no such issues, ranking seventh in the NFL with a 68% red zone touchdown percentage. The Colts have been even better in Indy, where they have the third-highest home red zone touchdown percentage (78.26%), trailing only Pittsburgh and and Atlanta.

This is a tough spot for the Cowboys to go on the road after an enormous win over their rival that essentially clinched the NFC East title.

It’s time to sell Dallas here after five straight wins, all of which came by one possession, with the last three coming at home.

Scott Miller: Colts -3 (vs. Cowboys)

1 p.m. ET on FOX

I agree with Stuck here.

The first metric I look at for the team playing the Cowboys: Rushing defense. Indianapolis ranks fifth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric and sixth in yards per rush.

If you want to get real fancy, the Colts are third in a metric called Stuffed Rate, which measures how often a defense tackles a running back at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Dallas runs the ball at the fourth-highest rate of any team on first down (36.7%), and the Colts have the defense to turn those early down rushes into losses.

On the offensive side, Indy’s stellar line should be able to keep Andrew Luck upright (fourth in adjusted sack rate allowed) against a Cowboys defense that is much better to attack through the air (12th in DVOA) than on the ground (fourth).

Luck and T.Y. Hilton have shined when playing at home together, and I expect that to continue in a game the Colts will be far more motivated to win.

Dallas has a 99.5% chance to make the playoffs, according to our simulations, while Indy needs a win to keep pace with the Ravens for the wild card.

Travis Reed: Lions +2.5 (at Bills)

1 p.m. ET on FOX

This isn’t exactly the marquee game of the week, but it is the best value on the board according to the Bet Labs simulations. A few weeks ago the Bills were the laughing stock of the league and for some reason they are now getting some respect from the betting market.

Giving 4.5 points to the Jets last week was too much and the numbers say the Lions should be small road favorites this week.

I am still holding out hope that this line gets to the key number of three points, but I will also have some money on the Lions moneyline for the outright win.

Geoff Schwartz: Ravens Over 27 Points (vs. Bucs)

1 p.m. ET on CBS

The Ravens’ offense with Lamar Jackson under center isn’t sustainable in the future. However, it’s working in the present because they are playing an awful run defenses.

In fact, with the Buccaneers coming to Baltimore, the Ravens will have faced the five worst run defenses in a row. So, once again, the Ravens will move the ball at will on the ground.

To make matters worse for this Bucs defense, they have amazingly allowed 39.8 points per game on the road. Yes, 39.8!

Even if the Bucs defense finds a way to slow down the Ravens, Jameis Winston could help this bet with a few turnovers against the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

John Ewing: Bucs +7.5 (at Ravens)

1 p.m. ET on FOX

The Ravens are 7-6 on the season and sixth in the AFC playoff race entering Week 15. For Baltimore to make the playoffs, it needs to win at home against the Buccaneers on Sunday.

The public often overvalues home field advantage and must-win games for fringe playoff teams (win percentage of 50-67%) in Weeks 15-17.

Betting against teams like the Ravens in this situation has gone 118-88-5 (57%) against the spread since 2003 according to our Bet Labs data.

PJ Walsh: Titans-Giants Under 43.5

1 p.m. ET on CBS

Tennessee struggles on offense, ranking 23rd overall in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and just 24th in passing offense. The Giants are better at 14th overall and 16th through the air, but Odell Beckham Jr. is reportedly expected to miss the game, which should seriously handcuff New York’s explosiveness.

The Giants and Titans are also two of the slower teams in the league, ranking 19th and 25th, respectively, in situation-neutral pace.

And finally, the weather should make big plays in the passing game even more challenging as the forecast is calling for steady 14-mph winds and a decent chance of rain, specifically during the second half of the game.

Chris Raybon: Dolphins-Vikings Under 44.5

1 p.m. ET on CBS

Zimmer just fired his offensive coordinator for not running the ball enough, and any type of renewed commitment to the run could actually result in a less explosive attack for the Vikings.

Miami is the fifth-worst team at preventing opponents from gaining passing first downs on early downs but fifth-best at doing so against the run.

On the other side of the ball, you have a Dolphin’s team that runs at the sixth-highest rate on early downs facing a Vikings defense that stops the run and plays good situational football, ranking first in both third-down and red-zone conversion rate.

 

Ian Hartitz: Raiders-Bengals Over 46

1 p.m. ET on CBS

I usually prefer taking the over with a pair of good quarterbacks, but the Raiders and Bengals defenses might just be bad enough to do the trick anyway.

Derek Carr and Jeff Driskel should always be approached with extreme caution, but both offenses have exhibited enough explosiveness and consistency to warrant some optimism in this matchup.

Overall, the Raiders-Bengals’ matchup boasts top-three marks in combined explosive pass play rate and combined net yards per pass attempt.

The cherry on top? Neither defense boasts a pass rush that figures to cause much concern for either quarterback.

Evan Abrams: Joe Mixon Scores TD (-110)

1 p.m. ET on CBS

I agree with Ian on the over. I also think Bengals running back Joe Mixon will have a big day against an Oakland defense that ranks 31st in DVOA, 32nd against the pass and 27th against the run.

Even after an upset win against the Steelers last week, the Raiders’ “weighted defense” (DVOA defense adjusted so that earlier games in the season become gradually less important) still ranks dead last in the NFL.

The Raiders have allowed rushing touchdowns in each of their past three games and Mixon is coming off a career-high 26 carries against the Chargers. He also added five catches for 27 yards.

In their last game against Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley, the Raiders allowed a season-low 2.11 yards per carry, but they are still allowing 4.84 yards per carry — the seventh-worst mark in the league. I think Mixon gets in the end zone at least once in a high scoring affair.

Danny Donahue: Packers +6 (at Bears)

1 p.m. ET on FOX

The Bears’ primetime win on Sunday night was the perfect setup for an overreaction spot in Week 15.

Not only did the Bears outperform as a three-point dog in the most-watched game of the weekend, but with that game taking place in Chicago, it left bettors with a clear takeaway that it’s hard to play in Chicago during cold months.

Historically, though, that really hasn’t been the case, at least when it comes to covering spreads. In our Bet Labs database (which dates back to 2003), the Bears are just 16-22-1 (42.1%) ATS in December and January at home.

On top of that, since the Bears have been great to their backers this season, covering by an average of five points through 13 games, they’re susceptible to seeing inflated lines this time of year.

In the last five weeks of the season, fading teams still holding a cover margin of five points has gone 124-84-6 (59.6%) ATS since 2005.

Our power ratings make this game closer to Chicago -4, so I’ll happily take the two free points and bet against the overreaction.

SUNDAY LATE AFTERNOON ACTION

Collin Wilson: 49ers +3.5 (vs. Seahawks)

4:05 p.m. ET on CBS

It’s back to the well for a third week in a row with the 49ers.

The Niners fell victim to turnovers in their last game against the Seahawks, highlighted by a 98-yard pick-six by linebacker Bobby Wagner.

San Francisco out-gained Seattle 452 to 331 in total yards while averaging 6.1 yards per play in that game. In fact, the Niners rank fourth in the league in adjusted net yards per play at +0.6.

I expect the Niners’ front seven to get pressure against a Seahawks’ offensive line that ranks 29th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate.

San Francisco should be able to extract revenge with a rush defense that ranks top 10 in power success, second-level yards and open field yards.

Sean Koerner: Steelers +3 (vs. Patriots)

4:25 p.m. ET on CBS

Even with Ben Roethlisberger banged up, I had this game either being a pick ’em or Steelers -1.

It’s pretty clear that Roethlisberger is set to play this week. We already saw him return to the Week 14 game after suffering his rib injury to engineer a touchdown drive that was too little, too late.

This line just seems like an overreaction to the Steelers’ loss to the Raiders that likely wouldn’t have occurred if Big Ben played the entire game.

Matthew Freedman: Steelers-Patriots Over 52

4:25 p.m. ET on CBS

This has the highest over/under on Sunday’s slate. Both the Steelers and Patriots are top 10 in situation-neutral pace this season, and Roethlisberger and Tom Brady are top eight in pass attempts.

Since 2013, the Steelers and Pats have played each other four times in the regular season. And with an average over/under of 49 points in those games, they’ve combined to score 57.25 points per game (per the RotoViz Team Splits App).

Since Antonio Brown’s first All-Pro campaign in 2014, the Steelers have had a 16-6 over/under record at home against non-divisional opponents with Roethlisberger at quarterback, which has been good for a 40.9% return on investment for over bettors (per our data at Bet Labs).

Against teams that don’t have the benefit of playing them two times per season, the Steelers tend to find themselves in shootouts at Heinz Field.

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Mark Gallant: Eagles +11.5 (at Rams)

8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

Does Nick Foles starting help this bet? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. He did win Super Bowl MVP, so he’s not exactly your standard backup.

Why I like the Eagles doesn’t have to do with their quarterback, though. It has everything to do with the Rams.

The Rams’ record is better than what it should be if you are a believer in point differential. Their winning percentage is .846, but their Pythagorean expected winning percentage is below .700.

Historically, in the final three weeks of the season, it’s been a strong bet to fade teams whose Pythagorean winning percentage is at least 12.5% worse than their actual winning percentage.

Those teams have covered less than 40% of the time in these spots, but when they’re favorites of at least a touchdown, they’ve covered less than 30% of the time.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Ken Barkley: Panthers +6.5 (vs. Saints)

Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN

It was nice to finally fade Houston and have it pay off last week. This week, I’m on Carolina — one of the worst teams in the league over the past month or so.

Sure, they Panthers have lost five straight games, but I mean, who hasn’t? (Oh… a lot of teams). Anyway, the market has now stretched to the point that they’re almost a touchdown dog at home in an outdoor game against a divisional opponent who plays in a dome. Love it.

New Orleans has had an incredible season, no doubt, but after losing to Dallas, it needed a rally in the fourth quarter just to beat Tampa last week. The Saints’ current form is much worse than their average, and I think this number is simply too high in a back-to-back travel situation against a desperate Panthers team.


Editor’s note: The opinions on these games are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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