Koerner’s Week 15 NFL Power Ratings: Best Bets According to My Projected Spreads & Over/Unders
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Mike Tomlin, Ezekiel Elliott, Deshaun Watson
- Sean Koerner uses his projected spreads and over/unders to find the best Week 15 NFL bets.
- Find his power ratings (and picks) for Bills-Steelers, Rams-Cowboys and more.
Which home underdog is worth a bet this week? Where’s the value in the key Texans-Titans matchup? What about the primetime games?
Like every week, I’ll use my projected spreads and over/unders to identify the best NFL bets, so we’ll identify my favorite picks for Week 15 below.
Note that I highlight differences in teams’ actual record vs. their Pythagorean expectation (which you can learn more about here).
Now let’s dig in.
Odds as of Wednesday morning and via DraftKings, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
Jets at Ravens
Current odds: Ravens -16; 45.5
My Projections: Ravens -15; 44
Thursday Night Football
With Lamar Jackson injuring his quad last week, this game was off the board until it was confirmed he was expected to play on Wednesday morning. He was injured on the third play of the second half, so we got to see him play through the injury for nearly an entire half. He appeared to be fine, at least visually, but ran only four times for 16 yards after that play (excluding kneel downs).
There’s reason to believe we may not see Jackson at 100% capacity running the ball on the short week. And to make matters worse, the Jets are very strong against the run, as seen by their No. 2 rank in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA, so we could see the Jets potentially limit the Ravens’ main strength: Running the ball.
There isn’t much value in taking a stab at the spread, but I believe the matchup will be an ideal environment for the under. The Jets will have a hard time moving the ball against a Ravens defense that’s been white-hot since landing Marcus Peters in Week 7. They’ve held opponents to fewer than 170 passing yards and a five-to-six touchdown-to-interception ratio in four of the seven games since.
If the Ravens get out to an early lead, which is likely, it’ll force each offense into a game flow that’ll play into the defense’s strengths. This also grades out as the slowest expected pace game of Week 15.
The market opened at 44.5 and has been bet up to 45.5, and I like the under at any price 45 or above. It would also make sense to bet the under during the game if/when the Ravens get out to a lead of 7-0 or more as that will be when the game really starts to favor the under.
The only scenario that could favor over would be if the Jets take an early lead of a touchdown or more, but that’s unlikely as 15-point underdogs, which is why I’m taking the under.
Pick: Under 45.5
Buccaneers at Lions
Current odds: Buccaneers -3; 47.5
My Projections: Buccaneers -3.5; 46
Jameis Winston is one of the toughest quarterbacks to handicap simply due to his wide range of outcomes. He can look like an MVP candidate for a drive, a half or even a game, then an error-prone-disaster-on-the-verge-of-being-benched the next. This can be seen by the very fact he is tied for second in touchdown passes and has thrown the most interceptions on the season.
So how can we take advantage of this in a sneaky way?
My hypothesis is to avoid betting the spread altogether and look at the moneyline. The moneyline is typically derived from the spread, but when it comes to the Bucs, we should expect a wider range of outcomes. Therefore the strategy is to bet the Bucs on the moneyline when they’re an underdog and against them when they’re the favorites.
Testing this out in the Bet Labs database, it appears to be a winning strategy. Backing the Bucs on the moneyline for all of Winston’s starts as an underdog would’ve resulted in 16-31 (34%) +$343 won (ROI 6.9%). Fading Winston on the moneyline as a favorite by taking the other team on the moneyline has gone 9-11 (45%) +$210 won (ROI 10.5%).
It’s worth nibbling on the Lions +165 to win this game.
The under also has some value here. On paper, this matchup appears as a shootout as both passing offenses are above average while both passing defenses are below average. However, both teams lost key wide receivers this week in Mike Evans and Marvin Jones. Both excel at stretching the field, so their absence will sap two explosive players from this game.
Neither team will effectively run the ball, but in a matchup that’s expected to be close, it could lure each to at least attempt to establish the run.
Looking at the market behavior, we see an odd split: 64% of the tickets are on the over while 71% of the money is on the under as of writing (see live public betting data here). Only 28 games in our Bet Labs database (since 2006) have seen 60% or more of the tickets on the over and 65% or more of the money on the under. The under has gone 16-11 (59%) in those games.
Picks: Lions ML +165; Under 47
Eagles at Redskins
Current odds: Eagles -4.5; 40
My Projections: Eagles -4.5; 40
My projections are right in line with this market.
The Eagles should be closer to -6 here, but with a cluster injury at wide receiver, it’s enough to move their power rating down 1 to 1.5 points. Lane Johnson is also likely to miss this game, which means they may have a tougher time stopping the Redskins’ solid defensive line — which generates pressure at the third-highest rate — from getting to Carson Wentz.
Given the lack of talent the Eagles will have available at wide receiver, it may allow the Redskins to focus on trying to take away his safety valves in tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Sharps are likely thinking a similar outcome. The market opened at Eagles -4.5, which has drawn 65% of the tickets and 83% of the money, yet the line is dropping to -4 at the sharper books.
I’m certain sharps are leaning Redskins, but I’ll be waiting until we have more clarity on Johnson’s or Nelson Agholor’s status before betting money on a Dwayne Haskins-quarterbacked team.
Lean: Redskins +4.5
Bears at Packers
Current odds: Packers -4.5; 40.5
My Projections: Packers -5; 40.5
The Packers are currently the second-luckiest team in terms of their actual record (10-3) vs. their Pythagorean expected record of 7.5-5.5. A lot of it has to do with their 5-1 record in one-score games, which can often lead to the market overrating them.
Meanwhile the Bears are trending up with Mitchell Trubisky flashing some of the upside we saw in 2018, using his legs to pick up chunk gains when nothing is available for him in the passing game. Akiem Hicks is also due back, which should help improve their run defense considerably.
The market opened at Packers -5, but sharp action has moved it to -4.5, which is about right to me.
The total has been parked at 40.5 despite there being a tickets vs. money split similar to the one we discussed in Bucs-Lions: 61% of the tickets have come in on the over while 62% of the money has come in on the under.
My projected total is right in line with the market, but I don’t always simply make bets based on my power ratings as they’re only one piece of the puzzle. This matchup lends itself to the under based on a few factors. First, this is graded as my second-slowest paced matchup of the week. We can also expect a low percentage of explosive plays. In fact, this is the lowest graded game for explosive play potential at -10%.
Forty-one is a key number in over/under betting, so I’ll be waiting to see if this reaches 41 or 41.5 before potentially taking the under.
Lean: Under 41
Patriots at Bengals
Current odds: Patriots -9; 40.5
My Projections: Patriots -9.5; 41
It should come as no surprise that the Patriots are receiving 80% of the action, yet they’re down to -9 after opening at -10. Sharps are absolutely behind this line movement, and I would assume it’s because they were able to get the Bengals at a cheap price with Andy Dalton as the starter.
Let’s set the record straight: The Bengals are a very bad football team, but they’re not as bad as their record indicates. Their Pythagorean expected record is 3.1-9.9 despite letting rookie Ryan Finley — arguably one of the worst quarterbacks to start a game this season — start three games.
I’m also betting the scandal involving the Patriots allegedly having a video crew record Cincinnati’s sideline last week disrupted their game planning enough to be a minor factor.
Lean: Bengals +9.5
Texans at Titans
Current odds: Titans -3; 50
My Projections: Titans -4; 48
Ryan Tannehill’s strong play has been one of the more surprising stories of 2019. Now he faces a Texans defense that laid down last week, allowing Drew Lock to drop 309 passing yards and three touchdowns in his second career start.
The Texans have struggled to generate pressure with J.J. Watt on the shelf as they have the second-worst pressure rate at 18.3%. Tannehill, meanwhile, has excelled with a 127.3 QB rating when working from a clean pocket. That happens to be the highest mark of qualified quarterbacks, meaning the Texans will have trouble slowing down this Titans offense.
The Texans could be without one of their more explosive players if Will Fuller is unable to suit up.
Titans -3 is only a lean for now because I want to see if the market moves down to -2.5. I’ll also wait to pull the trigger until we know the status of Fuller and Derrick Henry.
Lean: Titans -3
Seahawks at Panthers
Current odds: Seahawks -6; 48
My Projections: Seahawks -4; 49
I’ll be making a play on the Panthers here, but it’s a matter of timing the market to get the best number. The Seahawks opened as 5.5-point favorites, and with 89% of tickets and 76% of money coming in on them, the line has moved up to -6. I can see it ultimately moving up to 6.5 or 7.
Books likely realize sharp action will come in on the Panthers if this lines reaches 7, so expect that to happen when books need heavy action on Carolina to balance it out.
One metric I’ve been tracking lately is fumble recovery luck. I’m essentially looking at how many expected lost/recovered fumbles each team should have if they had a league-average recovery rate. The assumption is that we shouldn’t expect teams to be better or worse at recovering fumbles, therefore teams that have seen either good or bad luck are likely to regress to the mean.
The Panthers should have recovered 3.5 more fumbles (bad luck) while the Seahawks have a -2.5 rating (good luck) — that’s a +6 advantage in fumble luck for the Panthers, the second-highest mark of the week. Now I’m not saying they should recover a ton of fumbles in this game, rather I’m saying that turnovers tend to have a huge underlying impact on how we view the strength of teams.
The Panthers also have a +3.2 edge in Pythagorean expected record differential, in large part because the Seahawks have a 9-1 record in one-score games. This is a buy-low opportunity for the Panthers. Many have written them off after firing head coach Ron Rivera, but this offense is more than capable of hanging with the Seahawks and pulling off a backdoor cover (if needed).
Still, there’s no sense in locking the Panthers in yet — wait until it peaks in the 6.5-7.5 range.
Lean: Panthers +6
Broncos at Chiefs
Current odds: Chiefs -9.5; 46
My Projections: Chiefs -9.5; 46
Patrick Mahomes is expected to be fine after injuring his hand last week, but we do need to monitor his status before playing this spread or total.
However, this is the perfect matchup to focus on in-game betting.
We’ll have a better sense of how Mahomes’ hand feels after a drive or two. And Andy Reid admitted to operating a more conservative offense after Mahomes suffered the injury, so if they march down the field with a short-passing, run-heavy offense to score in either of their first two possessions, I’ll come in on the under.
The Broncos are a run-heavy team and should have success against Kansas City’s run funnel defense. However, once they start trailing and are forced into a more pass-heavy game plan, the Broncos will be forced to attack the strength of the Chiefs, who have improved against the pass under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Kansas City now ranks sixth in Football Outsiders’ pass defense and would be a much stiffer test than what Drew Lock saw against the Texans.
Lean: Live under
Dolphins at Giants
Current odds: Giants -3.5; 46.5
My Projections: Giants -5; 47
Luckily I didn’t end up pulling the trigger on Jets -5 last week — sometimes the best bet you can make is by not making one at all. I’ll be taking that route again by not taking a side in a Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Eli Manning matchup.
Still, I’ll very likely bet some player props for this matchup, so be sure to follow me in our app to see which I play.
Jaguars at Raiders
Current odds: Raiders -6.5; 45
My Projections: Raiders -4; 45.5
All underlying metrics show value on the Jaguars on this number, but the human element needs to be factored in here. The Jaguars have completely given up, especially on defense, so it’s hard to trust them right now. Additionally, this is the Raiders’ last game in Oakland.
Similar to the Dolphins game, I’m not interested in trying to find value with so many conflicting variables. I’ll only be taking a stab at player props from this matchup instead.
Browns at Cardinals
Current odds: Browns -3; 48
My Projections: Browns -3; 48
I’m right in line with this market, so this is a pass for me.
Vikings at Chargers
Current odds: Vikings -2.5; 45.5
My Projections: Chargers -1.5; 45
I almost don’t know where to begin with this one.
Sportsbooks don’t set lines as a way to predict how games will end — their main goal is to divide the action evenly. And it just so happens that having a market where millions of dollars helps set where the line ultimately closes creates an extremely accurate forecast for NFL games.
The public has become increasingly sharp over the years as access to data and timely news is more readily available than ever. It makes the market incredibly sharp, in general, and tough to beat.
This is a rare game in which the wrong team is favored. The market has demanded that it be.
The Vikings opened as 2.5-point road favorites, which was pummeled by 82% of the tickets and 86% of the money. So why hasn’t the line gone up to the key number of -3? Sharp money. I can almost guarantee you books have either already received sharp money or know they’ll get sharp action at 3, so the line has been frozen.
The Chargers have been one of the unluckiest teams this season. They have a +2.8 edge in Pythagorean win differential over the Vikings, which is largely due to a 2-8 record in one-score games.
The Chargers also happen to be one of the unluckiest teams in fumble recoveries while the Vikings have been one of the luckiest. It comes out to a +6.7 edge in fumble luck for the Chargers — another signal that identifies hidden value on a team moving forward.
The Chargers’ pass defense has been lethal, allowing fewer than 185 yards passing to seven of their past 10 opponents. Stud safety Derwin James returned from IR two games ago, which only improved their stout defense. The Vikings rely heavily on running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, but each are likely to be less than 100% as they’re dealing with injuries.
The Chargers are going to be my play of the year, but I’ll want to see if the market can push it up to +3 before pulling the trigger. You might have to act fast if it does, though, with all signs pointing to sharps not allowing that number to be available for long.
Pick: Chargers +2.5 (but wait for +3)
Falcons at 49ers
Current odds: 49ers -10.5; 47.5
My Projections: 49ers -10.5; 46
I’m in line with this market, so this is another a pass.
Rams at Cowboys
Current odds: Rams -1.5; 49
My Projections: Cowboys -1.5; 47.5
This market has been fascinating to follow.
The Cowboys opened at -3, but 90% of the action has poured in on the Rams to move it all the way to Rams -1.5. That’s a massive line move that required both public and sharp money to move off a key number of 3 and even flip the favorite. I
t’s likely due to Dak Prescott spraining his left hand and injuring his right index finger. Any time a quarterback as valuable as Dak is likely to play at less than 100%, it’s hard to handicap this early in the week.
However, the market hasn’t been correlating the injury with the total. It opened at 48 and has been bet all the way up to 49. I highlighted this type of inconsistent market behavior when Ryan Finley was benched for Andy Dalton. That over/under ended up moving up about three points while the spread only improved by a half point — the two line moves didn’t line up and it offered a ton of value on the Bengals at +3 against the Jets. We’re seeing that a bit here.
Prescott and Jared Goff both struggle against pressure. The Rams rank second in generating pressure while the Cowboys rank 10th. I expect both teams to lean on the running game more, which will keep the clock running and prevent it from becoming a shootout.
It’s worth pointing out that I do have this projected to be the fastest paced game of the week, but for the reasons above and the inflated number, I still like the under.
Pick: Under 49
Bills at Steelers
Current odds: Steelers -1; 36
My Projections: Steelers -1.5; 36
Sunday Night Football
My power ratings are not the main factor driving this play. The Steelers are a mismatch for the Bills, and the market behavior is making it clear that sharps agree. Despite 76% of the tickets and 80% of the money coming in on the Bills, the line has stayed at -1.5 and is trending toward -2.
Devlin Hodges is 3-0 as the starter and I expect the Steelers will continue to use him as a game manager while leaning heavily on the run game. James Conner practiced in full on Wednesday, so they appear set to get their stud running back back and it couldn’t be better timed.
The Bills tend to play a softer zone defense that shuts down boundary wide receivers and limits the passing game at the expense of being vulnerable against the run. The Steelers offense sans Big Ben is equipped to do just that.
The Steelers also lead the league in generating pressure at a 31.0% clip, and Josh Allen is terrible against pressure as seen by his 54.2 QB rating when faced with it.
Pick: Steelers -1.5
Colts at Saints
Current odds: Saints -9.5; 46
My Projections: Saints -8.5; 47
Monday Night Football
I’m close to the market here, so this is a pass for me.