The stakes get even higher in the NFL this week with the postseason one week closer. Notable Week 15 matchups include a Bears/Packers NFC North clash with playoff implications, a Texans/Titans AFC South battle that also has postseason impact, a Rams/Cowboys late-afternoon clash in Dallas, and two primetime matchups (Steelers/Bills and Colts/Saints) between four contending squads.
Here’s a live look at the NFL Week 15 lines at sportsbooks along with analysis for every game on the schedule.
Week 15 NFL odds
Week 15 predictions and analysis
New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens
The oddsmakers might have invoked a mercy rule of sorts here with this spread. An argument could be made for the Ravens blowing past this edition of the Jets by considerably more than two touchdowns when it’s all said and done. Baltimore continued its tear through the league in Week 14 with a strong impressive road win against the Buffalo Bills in one of the toughest road environments. In contrast, the Jets were life and death to squeak by a 3-9 Dolphins squad, and with the help of a controversial pass interference call at that.
Late-season games on short rest tend to certainly benefit the more talented squad. The Ravens win that battle hands down. Baltimore may have a tough time getting its traditional ground attack – i.e. Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards – going against a New York defense allowing an NFL-low 68.5 rushing yards per contest. But, Lamar Jackson’s ability to traverse chunks of real estate with his legs is naturally another story. As good as Gang Green has been against running backs, they’re only middle of the pack in rushing yards allowed to QBs (176). Then, Jackson will also have a chance to do plenty of damage through the air against a Jets secondary yielding 242.0 passing yards per game, especially if Jamal Adams (ankle) is out.
Conversely, New York’s inconsistent offensive attack will have a fairly monumental task ahead of it against Baltimore’s stonewalling defense. To make matters potentially worse, it’s possible Le’Veon Bell, who coach Adam Gase recently confirmed is suffering from the flu, misses a second straight game with the short week. Backup Bilal Powell also injured his ankle in the second half of the win over the Dolphins. The matchup against the Ravens is essentially prohibitive no matter which way they turn. Baltimore is allowing an NFL-low 153.7 passing yards per game over the last three and the fourth-fewest rushing yards per contest (95.6) overall.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Were it not for their surprisingly lackluster showing Sunday against a Redskins team they likely should have stomped at home, the Packers would likely be a slightly bigger favorite in this spot. However, Green Bay just managed to squeak by Washington. In turn, the Bears extended their winning streak to three games last Thursday night against the Cowboys and thus will come into this matchup with extra rest.
While all three of those aforementioned wins have come against teams with losing records (Giants, Lions, Cowboys), Chicago, and Mitchell Trubisky specifically, has looked improved recently. This matchup could set up well for David Montgomery in particular, given the Pack’s struggles to stop the run (139.3 rushing yards per game allowed at home). Green Bay presents a lot tougher versus the pass (219.7).
The Packers could struggle to get their inconsistent passing attack going versus the Bears. Aaron Rodgers has actually been relatively ordinary the last several seasons against Chicago. In their Opening Night meeting this season, the Bears held Rodgers to 203 passing yards and Davante Adams to 36 receiving yards on four receptions. However, it’s worth noting the Bears have also been a notably more vulnerable run defense when traveling (114.8) than at home (80.4). Therefore, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams could find their share of success in this spot.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The Packers’ projected advantage has come down a full 1.5 points down to 3.5 over the course of the week. There are no notable injuries on Green Bay’s end to explain the move, but rather, plenty of public support for Chicago in this road spot. Recent history isn’t really on the Bears’ side on the series with losses in six of the last seven to Green Bay, but each of the last four contests between the two have been decided by seven points or fewer. Chicago has frequently come up short against the number when traveling this season, going 1-4 ATS in road contests.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
It was quite a Week 14 for both of these teams. The Broncos kicked off the Drew Lock era in earnest with a fairly shocking win over the Texans that saw the rookie quarterback slice and dice Houston’s secondary to the tune of 309 yards, 11.4 yards per attempt, three touchdowns and an 81.5 percent completion rate. Then, as mentioned earlier, the Chiefs accomplished what’s arguably been the most difficult team-level feat in the NFL the last several years – a road win over the Patriots.
KC is still rightfully a sizable favorite in this matchup. Yet this number would have undoubtedly been higher had Denver’s game with Houston gone the way the oddsmakers expected. However, Lock could be in for a bit of a rude awakening against the Chiefs’ secondary. After limiting Tom Brady to 169 yards on Sunday, Kansas City is yielding the 12th-fewest passing yards per game (227.2). The Chiefs have also recorded 13 interceptions and 37 sacks, often making life miserable on quarterbacks overall. Their run defense is another matter, however. That could be good news for the Phillip Lindsay-Royce Freeman duo – KC is surrendering the second-most rushing yards per game (151.8) of any team on its home field.
For the Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes is reportedly dealing with a hand injury following Sunday’s win. However, coach Andy Reid confirmed Monday that Mahomes does not have a fracture, a matter confirmed by X-rays. The star quarterback is fully expected to suit up against Denver, but the challenge against Denver’s secondary is stiff. All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris helms a unit allowing the sixth-fewest passing yards per game (215.9), although they’ve been notably more vulnerable on the road (234.3 YPG) than home (194.5 YPG).
WEEKEND UPDATE: Only a half-point has been shaved off the Chiefs’ projected advantage throughout the week. Damian Williams has a chance to return from injury for KC to shore up the backfield and the public seems to be holding steady in the belief that the home squad can eventually overwhelm on both sides of the ball here, especially with the Broncos missing two starting offensive linemen in Ron Leary (concussion) and Ja’Waun James (knee). Rookie tight end Noah Fant (foot/hip) could also be limited if he does play. One interesting note is Denver’s strong performance as a road dog this year — 4-2 (66.7 percent).
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans
As just alluded to, the Texans’ notoriously inconsistent ways continued in Week 14 with their home loss to the Broncos. Fittingly, given the erratic nature of the Texans, the lopsided defeat to what had been a 4-8 Denver team came seven days after a victory over the defending champion New England Patriots. Meanwhile, the Titans are suffering from no such trouble. Tennessee has become the proverbial team that goes on a late-season run and no one wants to face. Following a 42-21 dismantling of the Raiders in the Black Hole on Sunday, the Titans have won four consecutive contests.
With both teams tied atop the AFC South and this game the first of their two head-to-head meetings, it has seismic playoff implications. Houston will have to quickly rebound mentally from Sunday’s debacle. Deshaun Watson does have reason for optimism in this matchup. Tennessee has struggled to defend the pass at home, allowing 269.8 passing yards per contest there. The matchup for the ground attack is much more unappealing. Tennessee has stonewalled the run to the tune of the 10th-fewest rushing yards per contest (105.8).
The Titans will have their pick on how to attack the Texans. As they’ve shown with Ryan Tannehill at the helm in recent weeks, they can now do that effectively through both the ground and air. Tannehill is averaging 264.1 passing yards per game in his seven full contests as a starter. He’ll have a chance to snap his curious pattern of alternating 300-yard tallies with sub-200-yard ones against a Houston defense surrendering the fifth-most passing yards per road game (291.5). Derrick Henry will also naturally be a big part of the game plan and will draw a matchup against a Texans unit surrendering 136.7 rushing yards per game over the last three.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The Titans continued as three-point favorites throughout the week, essentially making this game a Pick ‘Em when considering the typical default field-goal edge afforded most home teams. This, despite Henry being legitimately questionable for the contest due to a hamstring injury that prevented him from practicing this past week. On the other side, Will Fuller remains questionable with the same issue, and both players’ fates may be decided in pregame warmups. This series has been one of the more closely contested in terms of divisional matchups in recent seasons, making it one of the more interesting games of the week, including from a projected-total perspective (51.5 points).
New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals
Their 21-game home winning streak now a footnote in history, the Pats will look to avoid a third consecutive loss. They’re fortunate in drawing the Bengals, even on the road. Cincinnati has played better with Andy Dalton back under center. However, this A.J. Green-less passing game could still be overwhelmed by a defense the quality of New England’s. The Patriots generally did a good job, even in defeat, against Patrick Mahomes on Sunday. Dalton represents a significant step down in competition. The Pats are also well-equipped to contain a surging Joe Mixon, who’s rushed for between 79 and 146 rushing yards in four of his last five games – New England is allowing 93.0 rush yards per game, including 78.7 over the last three.
The Bengals’ defense offers an opportunity for the Patriots to get their moribund running game going. Cincy is allowing an NFL-high 183.0 rushing yards per contest. Sony Michel has rushed for over 50 yards only once in the last five games. He could see a steady diet of touches in this spot. However, Tom Brady will also be looking to right his own ship. The future Hall of Famer has completed under 56.0 percent of his attempts in four straight, and in five of the last six. A Bengals secondary allowing a 64.0 percent completion rate could certainly help him get back on track.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The Patriots’ projected advantage climbed another half-point to 10.5 throughout the week. Nothing has really changed on the injury front for either squad, with Julian Edelman (shoulder) and Mohamed Sanu (ankle) likely to play through their questionable tags. The Pats are 4-3 (57.0 percent) versus the number as road favorites this season with an average margin of victory of 13.1 points. The Bengals check in 1-3 ATS as home underdogs and sports a cumulative scoring shortfall of 9.0 points in those contests.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
The Seahawks finally put in a clunker in Week 14, falling to the Rams by a 28-12 score. Russell Wilson failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time since Week 14 of last season and Seattle mustered just 12 points overall. However, the Panthers weren’t any better. Carolina didn’t see a “first game under interim coach” spike in performance against the Falcons, dropping a 40-20 decision.
Seattle will have a clear path to get its offense back on the right track against Carolina. The Panthers’ suspect run defense seems to only be worsening as the season goes on. They’re surrendering the most rushing yards per game (175.0) over the last three contests, and 139.7 per home game overall. Chris Carson will be in for a heavy workload with Rashaad Penny tearing his ACL in the loss to the Rams. Then, Carolina is also a worse pass defense at home, surrendering 241.5 passing yards per game at Bank of America Stadium.
In turn, the Panthers could find a path of least resistance through the air versus Seattle. Following Sunday night’s game, the Seahawks now allow the fourth-most passing yards per game (271.2). Kyle Allen has certainly fallen on some tough times after an excellent start to his starting tenure. However, weapons like D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and Christian McCaffrey do give him some potent options to try and exploit that weakness with.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The Seahawks have maintained their projected 5.5-point advantage throughout the week. On the injury front, Greg Olsen (concussion) will remains sidelined for Carolina. Trends that apply in this spot would include Seattle’s 5-2 mark against the number as an away team and Carolina’s 2-4 mark ATS as a home team. Motivation may ultimately make the difference, with the Seahawks still having playoff positioning at stake and the Panthers playing out the string under an interim coach.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions
The Buccaneers put on another edition of their season-long 1980s-era Air Coryell Chargers revival tour Sunday against the Colts. Tampa Bay managed to outpace Indy in a track meet by a 38-35 score that was once again a tribute to Bruce Arians’ offense and an indictment of coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense. Meanwhile, Lions rookie quarterback David Blough tumbled back down to earth versus the stingy Vikings defense on the road after a stellar Thanksgiving home showing against the Bears.
Jameis Winston is dealing with a slight fracture of his right thumb suffered in Sunday’s win, but he reportedly will try to play through it. If he takes the field in Week 15, he’ll take aim at a Lions defense surrendering the most passing yards, by far, of any team on its home field — 332.5 per game. However, Winston will likely have to do it without Mike Evans, who’s considered very doubtful due to the hamstring injury he suffered while catching a touchdown pass.
The Lions will undoubtedly become the latest team to try and exploit the Bucs’ significant deficiencies in the secondary. Detroit certainly has the receivers to do it in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, but it remains to be seen how successful Blough will be in getting them the ball consistently. The matchup for the Lions’ running game shapes up as a lost cause on paper – Tampa Bay is surrendering a league-low 75.5 rushing yards per contest, including the second-fewest rushing yards per road game (70.1). Conversely, Detroit is generating just 102.8 rushing yards per game.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The Buccaneers have been on the move this week, with their projected advantage climbing a full two points to 5.5 as of Saturday afternoon. Tampa will officially be without Evans, while Arians has confirmed Winston will play despite his questionable status. Meanwhile, the Lions lost Jones to injured reserve this past week with an ankle issue he suffered during the final possession of last Sunday’s loss to the Vikings. Paired with the fact it’s Blough at the controls again for Detroit this week, the public is down on Detroit being able to keep up with Arians’ aggressive playcalling.
Miami Dolphins at New York Giants
The Dolphins started their season off in what must have seemed like a living hell to their fans, coaching staff and players. Now, down the stretch, they’re giving hell to almost any team put in front of them. Miami almost notched their fourth win of the season before falling by a game-winning field goal to the Jets, but a controversial pass interference call that went in New York’s favor and helped make that decisive kick possible looms over the defeat. Meanwhile, the Giants face off with the Eagles on Monday night in a game Eli Manning will start for Daniel Jones (ankle).
Miami owns the league’s worst ground game by far, so any attacking they do will primarily have to come through the air. That may not set up as well for the red-hot Ryan Fitzpatrick as the overall numbers would lead one to believe. While New York is surrendering the most passing yards per road game of any team by far (312.8), they’ve been a completely different secondary at home. The G-Men allow just 204.3 yards through the air per MetLife Stadium contest.
It remains to be seen if it will be Manning or Jones under center for the Giants by the time this game rolls around. New York will enjoy favorable matchups all over the offense against Miami, however, especially if Evan Engram is also able to make it back from his foot injury for this game. The Dolphins are playing very competitively for the most part in recent games but still allow 146.3 rushing yards per away tilt, the second-highest figure in the league.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The Giants lost a half-point of the projected 3.5-point advantage they owned at the start of the week. It’s officially Manning for at least one more start in place of Jones on Sunday. The veteran was solid against the Eagles in the Monday night loss, throwing for 203 yards and two touchdowns in the narrow loss. He’ll be without Engram again this week but will otherwise be working with a full arsenal of offensive weapons against Miami’s porous defense. Manning-helmed Giants teams have been positively middling (31-31-1) against the number in non-conference games during his 14-plus season as a starter heading into 2019. Also of note is the fact New York is 1-5 (16.7 percent) ATS at home this season while a feisty Miami squad is 4-2 against the number on the road.
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
The Eagles face the Giants on Monday night in a game Philadelphia badly needs to keep its thin playoff hopes alive. The Redskins played with plenty of heart in Lambeau Field against the Packers on Sunday, shaking off a poor start to narrowly fall by a 20-15 margin. They pulled off the feat without Trey Quinn (concussion) and Paul Richardson (hamstring) available in the receiving corps as well.
The Eagles will do well take a lesson from the way Washington hung with Green Bay – on the road, no less – for four quarters. Philadelphia’s offense has been inconsistent throughout most of the season. Carson Wentz will look to stay upright against an aggressive Redskins front that’s now out to play spoiler and naturally has nothing to really lose at this point in the season. Coach Doug Pederson may need to turn away from his preference of featuring the passing game in this spot to have the best chance of sustained success – while Washington allows a modest 225.0 passing yards per game, they’re surrendering 143.3 rushing yards per home contest.
The Redskins have been heavy on the run game under interim coach Bill Callahan, with both Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice the beneficiaries. However, Guice suffered what appears to be an MCL sprain at minimum against Green Bay on the same knee in which he suffered a torn ACL in summer 2018. He’s already been ruled out for Week 15. Peterson and Chris Thompson will thus be left to try and break through the brick wall the Philly run defense has been (91.0 rushing yards allowed per contest). Rookie Dwayne Haskins has a much better matchup with the Eagles yielding 294.7 passing yards per road game, but he’s still firmly in the NFL acclimation process after just three starts.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The Eagles saw their six-point projected advantage come down a half-point during the week after their narrow comeback win over the Giants last Monday night. Philadelphia continues to look like a mediocre squad and now will be playing without Alshon Jeffery (foot) for the remainder of the season. Then, they’ll also be missing Nelson Agholor (knee) and Jordan Howard (shoulder) for this contest, leaving them with a significantly talent-starved offensive attack. The fact they’re facing a raw rookie in Haskins that’s also playing with an abbreviated set of weapons helps. But, Philly does come in with a 2-4 mark (33.3 percent) against the number on the road, a figure matched by Washington at home.
Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals
The Browns picked up another relatively ugly win in Week 14, besting a game Bengals team by eight points. Baker Mayfield was far from sharp in throwing for 192 yards and two interceptions. Meanwhile, the Cardinals succumbed to a red-hot Steelers squad at home by a 23-17 score, as the Air Raid offense continued to look in need of a serious late-season refueling.
If there’s to be a game this season where Mayfield looks like the quarterback many expected in 2019, this would likely be it. Arizona is allowing the most passing yards per contest (294.2). Odell Beckham is playing through a sports hernia issue. Nevertheless, he, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku and even Kareem Hunt could all enjoy abundant success versus a Cardinals team that can’t seem to slow anyone down through the air. Nick Chubb and Hunt could likewise thrive on the ground. The cumulative weight of the amount of plays the Arizona defense has been forced to log is taking its toll on the front seven – the Cards now surrender 125.7 rushing yards per home game.
Arizona has the misfortune of being currently dysfunctional at the position group that would be best positioned to take advantage of a weakness in the Browns defense. That would be the running game, as Cleveland is now yielding 128.2 rushing yards per game after allowing Cincy’s Joe Mixon to touch them up for 146 yards Sunday. The Browns have been at their worst on the road in that regard, allowing 145.2 rushing yards per contest when traveling.
WEEKEND UPDATE: There’s essentially a clean bill of health here on both sides but the Browns’ projected advantage has climbed another point to 3.0 over the course of the week. The total of 49.5 points here is also interesting, considering each team has underwhelmed offensively at times. The Over is 4-3 in the Cardinals’ home games, but that’s partly offset by the Over’s 2-4 mark in Cleveland’s road contests. Neither team has performed particularly well against the number in the home/road splits that apply this week, either, but a higher-scoring contest seems very much within the realm of possibility.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders
What increasingly looks like the Doug Marrone Farwell Tour continued Sunday. Jacksonville was lambasted by a Chargers team whose prior claim to fame had been failing to gain enough separation from most teams to avoid an avalanche of heartbreaking losses. Meanwhile, the Raiders took a three-touchdown whupping of their own from the Tennessee Titans, dimming their playoffs hopes further.
That the Raiders are nearly a touchdown favorite speaks to just how bad the Jaguars have been recently. That held true Sunday despite Minshew Magic making its return to the starting lineup. There will be opportunities for the rookie QB and his pass catchers against a Raiders secondary that’s been almost as bad as Arizona’s. However, the fact D.J. Chark is now “week-to-week” with the ankle injury he suffered versus Los Angeles doesn’t do Jacksonville any favors.
The Raiders will hope to have Josh Jacobs back in action from his shoulder injury for this game, as the matchup could hardly set up better. Jacksonville has been an absolute doormat versus the run. They project to be even worse in remaining games with linebacker Myles Jack on injured reserve. If Jacobs is unable to go for a second straight week, the duo of DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard could have more opportunities than game script allowed them against the Titans.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The Raiders saw their projected advantage climb a point to 6.5 over the course of the week. There are notable injury issues at play on either side. Chark will miss Sunday’s contest, while Jacobs is officially questionable but has stated he plans to play. This sets up as another game where the projected total may be just as appealing a wager as the spread. Oakland has become more vulnerable on defense as the season has gone on and Minshew should be more comfortable in his second game back at the helm. Even without Chark, he’ll have the likes of Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley and Keelan Cole to work with at receiver.
Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers
The Vikings rebounded nicely from a close Monday night loss to the Seahawks in Week 13 to take care of business against the David Blough-led Lions on Sunday. Meanwhile, as just alluded to, the Chargers convincingly buried the Jaguars on the road by 35 points, giving them a rare reprieve from a highly disappointing season overall.
In Los Angeles, the Vikings run into a tough secondary that’s done an excellent job limiting big production from most air attacks. That could present a problem for Kirk Cousins if Adam Thielen, who, at last report, is still battling to eliminate scar tissue from his hamstring, is forced to miss another game. The Chargers run defense has been stout in its own right, even more so on the road (100.6 YPG allowed). Dalvin Cook is essentially matchup-proof, but he may have a more challenging time moving the sticks than usual.
Los Angeles will have a chance to notch consecutive wins for only the second time all season. Although the Chargers have an excellent running back duo in Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, their best shot at consistent success comes through the air. Depending on which Phillip Rivers shows up, that could be exploited by Los Angeles. The Vikings allow an elevated 248.0 passing yards per game on the road.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The Vikings, who have plenty to play for in this spot, have actually seen their projected advantage shrink a full point to 1.5 throughout the week. The Chargers do essentially have a clean bill of health and home-field advantage, but Minnesota notably gets Thielen back from a long absence due to a hamstring injury. That stands to make their passing game a lot more potent and potentially helps open up running lanes for Cook. Neither team brings a very impressive body of work against the spread in the home/road splits that apply — the Vikes are 3-4 vs. the number when traveling, while the Bolts are just 1-3-1 ATS at home.
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers
The Falcons certainly had the Panthers’ number this season. They dismantled Carolina for the second time in 2019, posting a 20-point win at home in Week 14. However, Atlanta did lose Calvin Ridley for the season with an abdominal injury. And San Francisco defied the odds with a late drive in New Orleans to notch a 48-46 win that exceeded virtually anyone’s scoring expectation.
Matt Ryan and company are taking a major leap up in competition, however. Despite Sunday’s outlier, the 49ers’ pass defense has been the stingiest in the NFL the majority of the season. Without Ridley available, San Fran should be able to devote even more resources to Julio Jones and Austin Hooper. Devonta Freeman also sees a notable downgrade in matchup. The 49ers are nothing like the generous Panthers; San Francisco is allowing a much more restrictive 116.6 rush yards per contest.
The Niners have certainly proved capable of winning games with various styles of offense. Their successful venture into New Orleans demonstrates how much of a gunslinger Jimmy Garoppolo can be when called upon. The presence of Emmanuel Sanders has clearly made everyone in the air attack better. The matchup against the Falcons’ 23rd-ranked pass defense (258.4 YPG allowed, including 281.8 on the road) makes another prolific afternoon very possible.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The 49ers lost only a half-point off their projected advantage this week, still making them 10.5-point favorites. San Francisco is in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the NFC and will naturally be fighting hard to maintain that standing with the Saints and Packers nipping at their heels. Other than Ridley, injuries shouldn’t be an issue for either squad here, either. San Fran has been solid ATS at home (3-2-1) while the Falcons are 2-4 (33.3 percent) versus the number on the road. Those figures lend some credence to the notion of a cover even with such a large number.
Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys
The Rams may or may not be fixed for the long term. But, they at least have some serious momentum building after back-to-back wins. Their Week 14 victory over the Seahawks is certainly one they can hang their collective hat on. They also seemingly have a chance at a third straight win, considering the disheveled nature of a Dallas Cowboys squad that’s lost three straight and has yet to beat a team with a winning record.
Despite the Cowboys’ recent struggles overall, Jared Goff is going to face a much stiffer challenge this week than he did against the porous secondaries of the Cardinals and Seahawks the last two games. The Cowboys are still allowing just the seventh-fewest passing yards per game (216.4). They’ve been a bit more generous on the ground, especially at home (122.5 YPG allowed). Thus, Todd Gurley, who seems to be stepping back into a workhorse role, could have some opportunities for chunk yardage.
Dallas sets up for a potentially long day against crafty coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense. Phillips will likely have a little extra juice in his blitz-heavy scheme against the team he once coached, especially since disrupting Dak Prescott is a key to success versus the Cowboys. On paper, the Rams rank in the top half of the league against both the run (104.3 YPG allowed) and pass (221.2 YPG allowed). Consequently, Dallas will likely need to bank on hitting some big plays to have a chance to cover as the slim favorites they currently are.
WEEKEND UPDATE: This number flipped over the course of the week. The Rams have gone from one-point underdogs to 1.5-point favorites as of Saturday afternoon. Public faith in the Cowboys seems to be spiraling, especially as it increasingly looks they’re playing under a lame duck coach. On the health front, both teams will play with their usual arsenal of weapons with the exception of Gerald Everett (knee) missing another game for the Rams. However, Tyler Higbee has turned in back-to-back 100-yard games in Everett’s stead. Of note as well is the fact the Rams have been elite against the number as a road team this season (5-1), a sample that includes a 4-1 mark as a road favorite.
Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Tomlin’s name is being tossed around as a Coach of the Year candidate. The fact a Ben Roethlisberger-JuJu Smith-Schuster-James Conner-less Steelers team is a favorite against a 9-4 legitimately good Bills squad is a ringing endorsement of his merit with respect to that honor. Pittsburgh’s 23-17 win against the Cardinals in Week 14 featured another true team effort from the Black and Gold. Rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges turned in a mistake-free effort (his one fumble was recovered by the Steelers), the ground attack got contributions from multiple players and the defense once again played effectively aggressive football.
The challenge gets exponentially tougher for the Pittsburgh offense in this primetime matchup. The Bills did a very good job overall on otherworldly Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in their Week 14 loss to Baltimore. They limited the MVP candidate to 40 rushing yards at 3.6 yards per carry. Hodges will likely be saddled with an ultra-conservative game plan against a Buffalo secondary that shuts down the pass (191.5 YPG allowed) and makes plenty of disruptive plays (nine interceptions, 38 sacks). The running game may not have much chance to consistently keep the Buffalo defense honest, either – the Bills are allowing just 95.3 rushing yards per game on the road.
However, a big part of the reason this game carries a microscopic 36.5-point projected total as of Monday night is because the Pittsburgh defense is even more of a game-changing unit. Facing a quarterback who likes to throw caution to the wind like Josh Allen, they could especially be poised to disrupt in their own right. The Steelers have an NFL-high 48 sacks and the second-most interceptions (18). Allen has taken 34 sacks on the season and could find himself holding onto the ball for extended periods versus a Pittsburgh secondary that’s helped limit the opposition to 209.8 passing yards per game, including 165.3 over the last three.
WEEKEND UPDATE: This is another big mover this week, with the public/sharps jumping on the Bills as 2.5-point underdogs early and whittling that number down to 1 as of Saturday afternoon. Buffalo presents as the much more complete team than Pittsburgh, which will once again be down Smith-Schuster (knee) and Vance McDonald (concussion) as well. Conner does have a chance to return and is listed as questionable. The Steelers own an NFL-best 5-2 (71.4 percent) mark against the number as a home team, but they’re just 2-2 as home favorites. The Bills counter with a 5-0-1 mark versus the spread as a road squad, including 3-0-1 as a road dog.
Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints – Monday Night
The Colts may be about to succumb to the numerous key injuries that have plagued their offense in particular this season. Indianapolis’ 38-35 loss to the Buccaneers in Week 14 was their third straight, and their fifth in the last six overall. Indy officially lost two more bodies Monday (Adam Vinatieri and Parris Campbell with knee and foot injuries, respectively). Meanwhile, the Saints are still firmly in the thick of the NFC picture. However, they’re smarting after dropping a 48-46 decision at home to the 49ers on a field goal as time expired.
Indy may thus be catching the Saints at an especially inopportune time. The New Orleans defense that gave up 349 passing yards and four touchdowns to Jimmy Garoppolo on Sunday has typically been nowhere to be found this season. The Saints are still surrendering a modest 222.7 passing yards per game at home even when factoring in Garoppolo’s production. Jacoby Brissett may also be missing T.Y. Hilton (calf) again Sunday, and as mentioned above, he’ll definitely be without the speedy Campbell.
The Saints had no problem moving the ball up and down the field against what had been a nearly impenetrable 49ers pass defense. Therefore, they may be licking their chops this week upon seeing the tape of Jameis Winston’s 456-yard, four-touchdown performance versus Indianapolis. The Colts are now allowing 277.3 passing yards per game on the road while giving up just 91.5 per game on the ground when traveling. Therefore, a pass-heavy approach from New Orleans wouldn’t surprise and could be the key to the Saints having a chance to separate enough to cover such a large number.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The money has been heavy on the Saints’ side this week. They started off as eight-point favorites Monday and are up to 9.5 as of Saturday afternoon. The Colts do seem to have a realistic chance of getting Hilton back, but given his lower-body injury, he’ll almost assuredly be on a snap limit if he does play. The Saints are on track to get Jared Cook back from his concussion and Indy also sees both starting cornerbacks (Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore) sporting questionable tags, potentially dampening their prospects of keeping up over four quarters. The Colts are 3-1-2 as road underdogs this season. Meanwhile, the Saints are just 2-4 ATS as home favorites and have played multiple close games in the Superdome.