NFL Picks for Every Week 15 Game: Bets for Steelers vs Panthers, Giants vs Commanders, More
Cooper Neill/Getty Images. Pictured: Saquon Barkley.
December football is the absolute best.
The bye weeks are over, fantasy football playoffs are here, and all 32 teams are in play. We get huge divisional games on Thursday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night. We’ve got a full Saturday slate. Sunday brings us the first meaningful Lions–Jets game in the history of imagination.
It’s a full weekend of NFL football ahead, and it is beautiful.
By Week 15, it’s always important to pay special attention to two key factors that matter late in the year more than ever: weather and playoff implications. Weather can wreak havoc on these late games, leading to low-scoring unders and scripts that favor run-heavy teams. Playoff implications impact motivations with some teams looking ahead and others playing for their lives.
Every single game this week still has playoff implications. It’s gonna be a doozy. Let’s go around the league and make picks for every game. Picks are sorted by confidence level as always: Bet, Lean, Pass or Wait.
It’s December 2022, we’re a month from the playoffs, all 32 NFL teams are playing, and the most exciting matchup on the entire slate is a Lions-Jets game. The end is nigh.
This is a really big, really fun game. Winner moves into a great position for the playoffs as America’s favorite lovable underdog, and the teams are very evenly matched. The line is bouncing on either side of a pick’em so I’ll wait to see where it lands and monitor those Mike White and Quinnen Williams injuries.
THE PICK: Wait for Jets injury news and for the line to settle
The injuries here aren’t major by nature, but they’re impacting major actors. Cincinnati finally got Ja’Marr Chase back, but now Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are hurt. Tom Brady picked up a late thumb injury that seemed to bother him. Tampa has its usual barrage of O-line and defensive injuries as well. Let’s see how the late-week injury reports and if this line drops to the key number.
THE PICK: Wait for the injury reports
This is a really important game for both teams and a pretty fascinating matchup. The Titans defense is a pass funnel and the Chargers can’t run anyway; Tennessee wants to run all game and L.A. can’t stop the run.
I really like the Titans in this spot and may bet this one, but with both defenses ravaged by injuries, we need to wait for injury news for both sides.
THE PICK: Wait for the long injury report for both sides
I can’t tell you how unenthusiastic I will be to write about this game between two lame-duck coaches and potentially Colt McCoy vs. Brett Rypien. Don’t hold your breath on this becoming a bet by the weekend, but we need QB news before we can even try to pick a side.
THE PICK: Wait for QB injury news
This is a pretty interesting game since Atlanta rookie QB Desmond Ridder makes his debut on the road in what’s effectively a division elimination spot, but the Ridder unknown makes this a stay-away-and-learn spot. I like Ridder. He’s mobile like Marcus Mariota but offers more as a passer, and Atlanta has spent the bye week getting him ready and kept all but two games this season within six points.
But the Saints have won eight of the last 10 games in this rivalry, and Atlanta’s defense is especially bad on the road. I do like the late-season division under here. Both teams are under 43.5 in four of their last five, averaging 35.8 points per game during that stretch. Otherwise I lean Atlanta because I like Ridder but if you think Atlanta can win, the better play is Falcons +1600 to win the division, which I recommended on last week’s Friday Futures.
THE PICK: Falcons +4.5 (Pass)
OTHER ANGLES: Under 43.5, Falcons +1600 to win the NFC South
Even these stay-aways are interesting. This one is all about Bill Belichick versus Josh McDaniels. McDaniels is actually 2-0 ATS against Belichick, once in preseason and once a three-point upset with Denver back in 2009. Still, you’d think Belichick would have the upper hand against his protege.
If Rhamondre Stevenson plays, I like a receptions over. He leads the team in receptions and the Raiders are worst in the league against RB pass catchers by DVOA. Otherwise, I don’t see a huge edge here either way as well as the Raiders offense is moving the ball, so I’ll just take Belichick in a coin flip.
THE PICK: Patriots +1 (Pass)
OTHER ANGLES: Rhamondre Stevenson receptions over
Chicago’s defense is so bad that Philly could name its number here, but this is a lookahead spot for the Eagles with the big Dallas game next week that effectively clinches the division and the No. 1 seed. Philly’s run defense has been vulnerable, and that’s the one thing Chicago has done well, and Philadelphia has been worse on the road.
Underdogs of nine or more are 12-4 ATS since the start of November (75%). Justin Fields can be a gamebreaker on any play, so this is not a game I want to tease either because it really doesn’t matter if Philly loses this one as long as they’re healthy and beat Dallas on Christmas Eve.
There’s a strong Bet Labs under trend here if you need some action. Since 2013, totals at 44.5 or above for home underdogs of seven or more are 83-45-2 to the under (65%). If the total is 48 or above as it is here, that jumps to 49-18-1, a 73% under rate.
THE PICK: Bears +9 (Pass)
OTHER ANGLES: Under 48.5
The Colts aren’t as improved under Jeff Saturday as the relative hype would indicate, but the Vikings remain overvalued anyway so this is still too many points. Indianapolis probably has the best unit on the field with its defense, and the Colts allow the fewest explosive pass plays in the league which could slow this game down and keep it low-scoring and close.
The Colts have been terrible in the first half, both offensively and defensively. They’re 2-11 ATS in first halves this season. But the Vikings are horrendous in the third quarter, near last on both sides of the ball by EPA. If you’re watching live on Saturday, you might be able to play the script and get both sides here. Remember, Minnesota has only one win by more than one score.
The Colts are coming off a late bye week, and Matt Ryan is 9-5 ATS (64%) out of the bye, while Kirk Cousins is an ugly 2-8 ATS against teams with an extra week to prepare for him. Jeff Saturday on a Saturday? I’ll take the points.
THE PICK: Lean Colts +4.5
This Saturday afternoon game is one of my favorite spots of the week and will likely become a bet, but not until we get more clarity on Baltimore’s QB situation. If Lamar Jackson or Tyler Huntley are cleared to go, smash that bet button. Even if it ends up Anthony Brown or another option, I like the Ravens.
The focus on this game will be the QBs for both sides. Deshaun Watson has been terrible since returning, leading the offense to a meager 16 points in eight quarters. Cleveland isn’t passing it well, and now the run game is stalling too. But with a December game in Cleveland and these two run-first offenses, the run game matters far more than the QBs.
That’s why the key difference here is the run defenses. Cleveland has not been able to stop the run all season, but the Ravens rank No. 1 in run defense since acquiring Roquan Smith. Add in J.K. Dobbins as a real difference maker for Baltimore’s run game, and that swings this in the Ravens’ favor.
You won’t find many trends backing Cleveland. Kevin Stefansky is 9-17 ATS (35%) as a favorite, including 1-7 ATS as a division favorite. Watson is 10-15-2 ATS (40%) as a favorite and hasn’t earned favorite status yet in his return. John Harbaugh is 17-7-1 ATS (71%) as a division dog, and AFC North underdogs are 41-22-1 ATS (65%) in division games from Week 14 forward.
The Ravens have won 24 of the last 29 in this “rivalry,” and I see little reason to expect any other outcome here. It’s a lean for now while we wait for Baltimore QB news, but I won’t blame you if you just want to bet +3 now.
THE PICK: Lean Ravens +3
I’ve had this game circled for weeks, but suddenly the Dolphins look far less dangerous than they did a couple weeks ago. The 49ers throttled the Phins offense, and then Miami couldn’t find any answers against the Chargers either. They compiled under 100 yards of offense outside of two long broken plays, and Mike McDaniel is going to need to find some answers against defenses jamming his speedy receivers and taking away the middle of the field.
Buffalo has owned this rivalry of late. Miami won by two in September, but the Bills had won seven in a row before that, six by double digits. Josh Allen has killed this Miami defense that remains bad against the pass. In nine games against the Dolphins, Allen averaged three TDs a game and 317 yards of offense.
In a spotlight Saturday night division game, this could be a spot for Allen to inject himself back into the MVP race. He’s fallen out after a mid-season swoon, but the Bills are the No. 1 seed right now and no one is more important to what their team does. Allen is +2500 at DraftKings.
Allen is 9-4 ATS (69%) in primetime, and he’s been a second half god at 46-24-3 ATS (67%), especially good in games with high lines. Buffalo has been a poor first-quarter team, so if you can bet live, you might be able to get a better line below the key number if you wait for your spot.
With Miami’s offense struggling, and as good as Buffalo is getting pressure on the passer to continue to throw off Tua Tagovailoa’s timing, the under looks like a smart play. Bills unders are 10-3, and Saturday night in New York looks cold, snowy, and windy. Division unders from Week 14 forward in outdoors weather are 91-56-4 (62%).
You just can’t feel good backing this Miami offense until we see some answers.
THE PICK: Lean Bills -7
OTHER ANGLES: Under 42.5
We grabbed Cowboys -6 on The Lookahead last week and the line moved against us after Dallas’s scare against Houston and Jacksonville’s big win over Tennessee, but I’m not sure either game told us a ton. The Titans defense was ravaged by injuries, and the Texans caught every bounce but the Cowboys won anyway. The line didn’t cross any important number, and I still like Dallas.
This is a look-ahead spot for the Cowboys too, just like Philly, but the difference is that Dallas should have woken up a bit after the Houston scare. Jacksonville is moving the ball well especially by air, but Dallas has the league’s best pass rush and ranks No. 2 in Passing Defense by DVOA.
Jacksonville ranks near the bottom of the league defensively since the start of October, so the Cowboys should keep the offense rolling. Eight of 10 Dallas wins this season have come by at least a TD, so unless you think they can lose this, take America’s Team.
Both offenses are playing well, but the trends like the under. Doug Pederson home unders are 33-13 (72%), including 12-3 (80%) with Trevor Lawrence, while Dak Prescott road unders are 27-17 (61%). Unders have hit 67% of the time this season in games featuring a home underdog. I’m not sure this correlates with a Dallas cover, though, so I wouldn’t necessarily parlay the two.
THE PICK: Lean Cowboys -4
OTHER ANGLES: Under 47.5
This game is a classic reminder to bet the number, not the teams.
Kansas City is playing a different sport than Houston, but the Texans quietly rank 10th in Defensive DVOA the last six weeks and have failed to cover this line only twice this season.
The trends love Houston. Double-digit underdogs are 14-7 ATS (67%) this season, and home dogs of 10 or more are 35-18 ATS (66%) from December forward historically. Patrick Mahomes is 5-10-1 ATS (33%) as more than a 10-point favorite, and Lovie Smith is 13-7 ATS (65%) as a 9-point dog or worse.
I won’t play the moneyline this week after two emotional Houston games against Deshaun Watson and the in-state Cowboys, but I’ll swallow hard and bet the number again.
THE PICK: Lean Texans +14
On the one hand, the Packers have only two wins by more than three all season and both of those were against the Bears. On the other hand, the Rams are definitively worse than the Bears. The Baker Mayfield comeback was fun, but let’s not forget the Rams were lifeless for most of that game and have been terrible most of the season.
These teams were supposed to be Super Bowl favorites and have both disappointed, but let’s not pretend the disappointment is the same. The metrics still say the Packers are a solid side, while the Rams are just bad. Green Bay’s biggest flaw is its run defense, but the Rams can’t run the ball anyway. The Packers are good against the pass, and Aaron Rodgers should have all day to pick apart this faltering L.A. defense.
Rodgers is 9-3-1 ATS (75%) coming out of the bye, and he’s 23-11-1 ATS (68%) at home in primetime. These aren’t the usual Packers, but they’re not the usual Rams either. Green Bay has been a slow starter so you might wait for a better line, but if you’ve got this below -7, I’d bite. The Packers are still alive, just a little, for the playoffs. If Seattle loses Thursday night, they’re even more alive, and this might just well become a Bet for me.
THE PICK: Lean Packers -6.5
We’ve been riding the Steelers for a month since T.J. Watt’s return, and I see no reason to stop now. Pittsburgh’s defense ranks third in DVOA with Watt on the field this season, top five against both the run and the pass. Pittsburgh is running the ball well and playing genuinely good football. And though Kenny Pickett is a question mark, Mitch Trubisky has also played well and may not be a real downgrade from the rookie.
Everyone’s excited about Carolina right now, but the underlying numbers tell us this team hasn’t really been a whole lot better under Steve Wilks than they were for Matt Rhule. The defense has always been solid but the offense is still pretty bad, and Sam Darnold has no shot against this Steel Curtain. He’s 4-8 ATS (33%) as a favorite and has no business being a favorite here. Carolina might be able to play bully ball against a Seahawks defense that can’t tackle, but that won’t fly against Pittsburgh.
This isn’t a traditional Rah Rah Mike Tomlin spot. He’s 40-17-1 ATS (70%) as an underdog from Week 5 forward, but that spot is better at home, in the division, and after a big loss. This is none of those things, but Tomlin is a perfect 6-0 both ATS and straight up as an underdog after a division loss in that spot.
The Ravens game has also been a bellwether for Pittsburgh’s following game. When the Steelers beat the Ravens, they come out flat the following week and are 6-12 ATS (33%) in our system. But when they lose to Baltimore, the Steelers are 11-5 ATS (69%) the following week, champing at the bit to get back on track.
The wrong team is favored, and this line is an overreaction to Sunday. Pittsburgh is the far better side. I’ll play the moneyline too.
THE PICK: Bet Steelers +2.5 & ML +125
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We just got this game two weeks ago, and my cap is the same: I love the under.
Were we lucky to cash our under 40.5 a couple weeks ago in a 20-20 tie? Yeah, sure, only a tie saved us there and yes we are contractually obligated to roll over our bet and go back to the well here. But the truth is that that game played out exactly as expected and was under easy until that late Washington drive to tie it up.
Both of these defenses rank top six pressuring the quarterback, and both of them are bottom six in pass protection. That sets up a game where neither team can pass much and puts this on the run, and it likely means a faster script too. Washington’s defense ranks 5th in DVOA over the past six weeks, but neither offense is playing particularly well.
Washington games have gone under 40.5 in nine of their last 11, and the trends love the under. From Week 14 forward, division game unders in outdoor weather are 91-56-4 (62%). They’re also 106-79-1 (57%) with a home division favorite of under seven in that spot. This is effectively a playoff game for both teams, so I expect it to be low-scoring and close. And if the line drops, non-Monday primetime unders with a total from 36 to 40 are 40-20 (67%). I’ll grab the under now before it has the chance to drop.
If we love the under, we should feel good about a division underdog catching above a field goal. Daniel Jones is 15-5 ATS (75%) as a road underdog, and he’s 9-4 ATS (69%) as a division dog. I lean Giants with the line this high, and I don’t mind playing with the under as a +264 SGP if you like New York.
THE PICK: Bet Under 40.5
OTHER ANGLES: Lean Giants +4.5
Seattle Island has been taking water for a month now. The Seahawks defense is faltering badly, and Seattle’s run game has gone dry. Seattle Island has been evacuated and the team’s playoff hopes are trending quickly in the wrong direction.
But I’m going back to the Island one more time.
This is less about matchup and all about the situational spot. Seattle is at home in a division rivalry game with its season effectively on the line getting more than a field goal against a seventh-round rookie QB making his road debut in front of a tough crowd on a short week with no Deebo Samuel.
Look, I don’t love the matchup either. San Francisco is red hot, and the Seahawks can’t tackle lately and are out here playing the Raiders, Rams, and Panthers even or worse in recent weeks. San Francisco’s YAC guys could run rampant through this defense, and the 49ers pass rush could turn Geno Smith into a pumpkin. It doesn’t feel good to bet Seattle in this spot — but sometimes that’s exactly why we have to do it.
Seattle has won 15 of 18 in this division rivalry, and the Seahawks have won 10 of the last 11 in Seattle. This is one of the last true home field advantages in football, and the 12th Man will be roaring on Thursday night. Geno Smith can beat this Niners secondary with big plays to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. He needs to show how much readier he is for this moment than Brock Purdy.
At the end of the day, we’re playing the number — I want the +3.5 above the key number — and backing the trends.
And goodness are there myriad trends backing these Seahawks. My BetLabs systems make the biggest trend advantage of any game so far this season: 14 for Seattle, 0 for San Francisco. Some trends that stick out:
- Pete Carroll after a loss: 44-27-4 ATS (62%)
- Carroll on a short week: 7-3-2 ATS (70%)
- Carroll as an underdog: 46-29-3 ATS (61%), including 19-10 ATS (66%) as a division dog
- Geno Smith as an underdog: 18-11-1 ATS (62%), including 9-2 ATS (82%) as a division dog
- Kyle Shanahan as a favorite: 21-28-1 ATS (43%), including 5-9-1 ATS (36%) as a division favorite and 4-8 ATS (33%) as a favorite without Garoppolo
- Division dogs Week 14 forward that lost the last matchup by 8 to 20 points: 81-59-2 ATS (58%)
- Division dogs Week 14 forward that failed to cover the last matchup by 7 to 14: 60-41-1 ATS (59%)
- Home dogs of 3+ vs. opponents coming off at least a 3-game home stand: 34-17-1 ATS (67%), including 16-3-1 ATS (84%) in December
We’re going back to the Island one more time for the holidays. I won’t get cute and play the moneyline. I’ll take a close loss. I’ll savor a backdoor cover. I don’t care how we get there: Seattle Island, one last time.
THE PICK: Bet Seahawks +3.5