In football – and just about any other sport – throughout the course of a full season, all the lucky and unlucky breaks, turnovers, bad calls and just about anything else one could think of evens out in the end.
Anyone who has read this column even on a semi-regular basis throughout the past eight years knows I not only believe this, but I live by that philosophy. In other words, if I get a little unlucky in the first half of the season, I can expect the ball to bounce my way later in the year.
Conversely, such as the 2022 campaign, I certainly got a little lucky here and there in September and October, but wow, it has begun to turn around to the negative over the course of the past month or so.
Last week, a lineman catching a pass on third down very late in the Detroit – Minnesota game led to a basically meaningless field goal that killed my biggest bet of the year and nixed our teaser, where we have been uber-successful. A fumble by the best running back in football – Derrick Henry – completely shifted momentum in Tennessee – Jacksonville and likely turned a nice lead into a deficit, and that was that.
Those two moments put the clamps on a winning week, and now for the first time this season, we have a losing streak.
But even for the most experienced and successful bettors, losing streaks happen. The winners don’t let it get them down, and they keep doing what they do. You heard me say that last week, and with this week’s first full slate of games since Week 5 way back in early October, I am as confident as ever in this set of best bets as any I’ve had all year.
So let’s get right to it, as we make our stretch run and have ourselves a Merry Christmas! On to NFL Week 15 …
Any comments, questions, gratitude or hate mail is welcome at [email protected].
NOTES: All spreads, money lines and over/under totals (as of late Tuesday night) are provided by Caesars Sportsbook. We started the season with a mythical bankroll of $1,000. Our totals for the past week and the season are at the bottom of this column.
THE WEEK 15 BEST BETS
HOME TEAM in CAPS
1 / 6½-point teaser, BUFFALO -1 over Miami and Pittsburgh +9 over CAROLINA
WHEN: Dolphins at Bills, Saturday at 8:15 p.m.; Steelers at Panthers, Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $39 to win $30.
Teaser explanation: At most books, a bettor can parlay two teams in a “teaser” and get 6 points of cushion for each bet. However, it costs -120 to play and – like a parlay – both legs must hit to cash the ticket. In this instance, a 6.5-point teaser costs -130.
The Bills are now -1300 favorites to win the AFC East and can all but put the division on ice (so to speak) with a victory here against a team that pulled out a fluky win against them in Week 3. Just like against the Jets last week who had beaten them earlier in the season, Josh Allen and company will be looking to exact a little revenge.
Something clearly isn’t right with Buffalo, and they are not the team that started this campaign with dominant wins over the Rams and Titans, but they are still the kings of this division.
The Dolphins’ defense is like mangled-up Swiss cheese that gave up 432 yards last week to a Chargers team that needed a get-right game in the worst way.
Going through the 7 and the 3 in this spread with a Bills team that only needs to win in the icy weather of Orchard Park on Saturday night, we should be able to put this one away by the end of the third quarter.
Oh, and Tua has some lingering ankle issues, while Tyreek Hill has a new ankle injury he suffered last Sunday night.
SCORE PREDICTION: Bills (-7.5) 29, Dolphins 17. (Over 42.)
Left for dead weeks ago with my future pick of Carolina winning more than 6.5 games this season, I am suddenly alive once more. But I am not foolish enough to think they can beat up on the Steelers, no matter who the quarterback might be.
One has to think Mitch Trubisky will get the start for Pittsburgh now that Kenny .5Pickett has suffered a concussion for the second time in 2 months, but even so, they should be able to keep it close and certainly to within nine points (also going through the key numbers of 3 and 7 in the spread) in what could be an extremely low-scoring game.
SCORE PREDICTION: Panthers (-2.5) 16, Steelers 13. (Under 38.5.)
2 / ML parlay, MINNESOTA over Indianapolis and Philadelphia over CHICAGO (-123)
WHEN: Colts at Vikings, Saturday at 1 p.m.; Eagles at Bears, Sunday at 1 p.m.. THE BET: $24.60 to win $20.
What pained me more than the Vikings getting stung in the final seconds with a meaningless field goal last Sunday was not simply my teaser getting blown up, but it was the fact I will have to listen to my “sharp” friends gloat about being right Minnesota is the worst 10-3 team in NFL history.
They could be correct, but are they really bad enough to lose two in a row to teams with five wins or fewer in December? The Jeff Saturday surge has fizzled out in Indy, and the Vikings should get some injured players back on the roster this week, including safety Harrison Smith.
We’ll see if the Vikes can get their offense going, and they’ll be leaning on Dalvin Cook against a mediocre run D.
SCORE PREDICTION: Vikings (-4) 28, Colts 23. (Over 48.5.)
Call me slow, but it took me a while to grasp that a moneyline parlay with a four- and nine-point favorite gets me the same odds as a teaser with one extra total point. And honestly, it probably makes more sense.
Especially here, where while nothing is impossible (see the Texans nearly beating the Cowboys), it would be one of the upsets of the year if Chicago could knock off the top team in the NFC.
The Eagles have scored more points than any other team in the NFL thus far, and this week they get the Bears, who have allowed more points than all but three others. More meaningful in this one in predicted 18-degree temps with a stiff wind, Philly has the second-best rushing offense against Chicago’s sixth-worst run defense.
On the other side, even if Justin Fields can play 60 minutes, the Eagles should be able to hold them down enough not only to win but to cover.
SCORE PREDICTION: Eagles (-9) 26, Bears 14. (Under 48.5.)
3 / Baltimore at CLEVELAND under 38.5
WHEN: Saturday at 4:30 p.m. THE BET: $22.
Twenty-five degrees. A steady wind of 15 to 20 mph. A forecast of 3 straight hours of 70,000 sets of chattering teeth. Um, no thanks.
And while I have no clue who will win this game, as I write this, I don’t know who the Ravens will have available at quarterback, I do know the game plan is going to be to run the football as much as possible and keep the clock ticking.
Sometimes, they’ll be successful. Other times, they’ll just be happy to have another 3 minutes gone by. Either way, what do we think will be higher: The score of the winning team or the temperature?
SCORE PREDICTION: None, due to the uncertainty of who will play quarterback for Baltimore.
4 / NY JETS even over Detroit
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $22.
Remember a few games ago when I told you I was sick of the sharps rubbing it in they might be right about Minnesota being all that great? Well, the same goes for Lions lovers, who suddenly think their team might actually be good.
In the “this line doesn’t make any sense” department, someone needs to explain why the Jets aren’t at least -2. I get the Lions have been hot, but other than the Vikings, just who have they beat?
Their only road wins this season are at the Bears and Giants, while the Jets have won three of their past four home games against the Bears, Bills and Dolphins.
Besides all that, I trust Robert Saleh, and I loved his response last week that he thinks they’ll face Buffalo again. While maybe a bit misguided, they have to win this one to have a chance to do that, and they should even if quarterback Mike White can’t go (but it appears late Tuesday as if he will).
SCORE PREDICTION: Jets 23, Lions 19. (Under 44.5.)
5 / Dallas -4.5 over JACKSONVILLE
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $11.
One of my favorite times in a season to pick a good football team is right after they had their “awakening moment.” While Dallas was able to go on an unlikely 90-plus-yard drive last Sunday to beat lowly Houston, they most certainly received that wake-up call.
Meanwhile, the Jags are pumping their chests because they now have won three of five and likely have some unrealistic dream of winning the AFC South. Maybe it’s time for them to get their dose of reality, as well.
Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson is a cocky son of a gun, but he knows of his struggles against the Cowboys. In five seasons leading the Eagles from 2016 to 2020, he was 4-6 against them and lost five of his last seven, including two by 20 or more.
SCORE PREDICTION: Cowboys 33, Jaguars 17. (Over 47.5.)
(No bets for the following)
Thursday at 8:20 p.m.
SEATTLE (+3.5) 23, San Francisco 20: Oh, Mabel. You have been laughing at me all week long since I picked Cleveland to beat Cincinnati last week, and I deserved it. But can you stop sending me those fruitcake emojis? I mean it’s bad enough that a woman of your age is sending emojis in the first place, but fruitcakes? I didn’t even know they had those!
We all know, however, Mabel and her best friend, Drunk Joe, are wrong way more than they are right, and this one has “STINK” written all over it. I mean, how can anything other than sheer disaster happen for a Seahawks team that was beaten up by Carolina last week? And how can the roaring hot 49ers with the newest greatest quarterback ever in Brock Purdy not roll by two touchdowns here?
We all know on short weeks, strange things happen. And while I have never been a fan of Pete Carroll, a couple of things I know he has been successful with is beating the 49ers and playing well on Thursdays. In fact, Seattle has won 17 of the past 21 meetings straight up between the two teams and nine of the past 10 games they have played on a Thursday.
After last week’s domination of Tampa Bay, I fully expect San Francisco to briefly come back down to Earth before making a run at a 49ers-Eagles NFC championship game that I can’t wait to watch. (Under 43.5.)
Sunday at 1 p.m.
Kansas City (-14) 27, HOUSTON 11: One of three or four games this week I won’t even consider playing, simply because I have been burned by double-digit spreads (both ways).
And if you are bound and determined to play this one, you should have your head examined if you’re considering taking Houston after they blew their shot at their Super Bowl last week and now face a Chiefs team that is fighting for the top seed in the AFC. (Under 49.)
NEW ORLEANS (-4) 27, Atlanta 10: It took me a few days after the Saints’ biggest choke job in several seasons to change my mind in believing they could win another game this season. However, as I began to think about the final four games, I realized the pressure is now off.
Maybe that’s it. Wouldn’t it be apropos for this team to finally go on a winning streak now that the season is all but mathematically done? Of course it would.
Beyond that, the Falcons are in a similar boat as the Saints, and they at least have admitted they’re giving up on the 2022 campaign by announcing they’re going with rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder the rest of the way. In other words, the 2023 preseason for Atlanta begins Sunday.
The Saints, who have won eight of their past 10 against Atlanta, can come out of that tunnel either ticked off like someone stole something from them and play with passion, or they can play like chumps. I am not sure why, but I am picking ticked off. (Under 43.)
Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
New England (-1) 30, LAS VEGAS 20: The Patriots are back in the playoff hunt and remained on the West Coast after defeating Arizona on Monday night. The Raiders blew a two-touchdown lead midway through the fourth quarter last Thursday to one of the worst teams in the NFL.
One team has Bill Belichick as their coach. The other has one of his pupils, who probably is better served as a coordinator.
I don’t trust New England enough to make it a best bet, but I sure as heck ain’t betting on Vegas here. (Over 44.5.)
DENVER (-3 at +100) 17, Arizona 13: Repeat after me: “Do not play this game. Do not play this game. Do not play this game.” In a contest with two backup quarterbacks likely facing off for nothing more than draft position, the ONLY thing you could potentially even think about playing is the under. (Under 36.5.)
Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
TAMPA BAY (+3.5) 26, Cincinnati 23: If the Bucs have any pride remaining, they’ll show up here in a big way. Not only that, but doesn’t this just seem way too easy to take Cincinnati here?
One telling stat in the Bucs’ favor: Although the Bengals’ O-Line has been better this season, they have been anything but great, and Tampa Bay’s defense has the seventh-most sacks in the league. Meanwhile, all that pressure Tom Brady had on him last week? Even with a banged-up front, the Bengals are third worst in rushing the passer and sacking the opposing QB.
Brady knows the division title actually is in danger with a game against Carolina looming in a couple of weeks that might actually mean something. One simply can’t bet against him in this spot here, even if it is against a potential Super Bowl candidate. (Over 44.)
Tennessee (+3 at -120) 28, LA CHARGERS 24: Do you think Derrick Henry hasn’t been thinking about that fumble last week against Jacksonville that turned the entire game around last week? He wasn’t the same after that (in turning a potential 21-13 lead into a deficit), and now he gets the second-worst rushing defense in the NFL?
I know my skeptic friends have called me a Titans lover, but I might like them in this spot more than any other all year. Mike Vrabel runs circles around Brandon Staley, and Henry might go for 150 and 2 TDs in a game Tennessee must have – if for nothing else – to turn their psyche around. (Over 47.)
Sunday at 8:20 p.m.
WASHINGTON 17, NY Giants (+4.5) 14: I so wanted to pick the Giants in this spot to win straight up, but I simply couldn’t pull the trigger. However, this looks like a great position for them to cover. They were just in an awful scheduling spot – having to play Washington two weeks ago and again here with Philly sandwiched in between.
The last one ended in a tie, so why would this be more than a field goal apart, especially with the fact there is little home-field advantage for DC? The G-Men looked like a lock for the playoffs just a few weeks ago, while the opposite was true for Washington.
Both need this one in the worst way, and I expect a dogfight. (Under 40.)
Monday at 8:15 p.m.
GREEN BAY (-7) 27, LA Rams 13: Yeah, yeah, we told you in our daily best bets last week that Baker Mayfield was going to pull a rabbit out of the hat. But you don’t expect lightning to strike twice, do you?
The football is going to be as hard as a rock, and who knows how to throw in 10-degree weather better than Aaron Rodgers? By the way, the Rams are 21st in the NFL against the pass and worse than that as of late, and will wish they were back in sunny L.A. by halftime. (Over 39.5.)
HOW WE DOIN’?
Note: TIES ARE NOT COUNTED IN MY RECORD, which could result in a different total of games in the “straight up” and “against the spread” categories, as well as with totals.
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Week 14 best bets: 1-4 (-$74). Season best bets: 40-29 (.580; +$82.50 on season). Week 14 all picks against the spread: 5-8. Season all picks ATS: 108-93 (.537)
STRAIGHT UP (no spread)
Week 14: 8-5. Season: 119-86 (.580).
Week 14: 8-5. Season: 111-95 (.538).
(click on week to view)
Week 14: 1-4 best bets (-$74); 5-8 ATS; 8-5 straight up; 8-5 over/unders.
Week 13: 1-4 best bets (-$70); 9-6 ATS; 7-7 straight up; 6-9 over/unders.
Week 12: 3-2 best bets (+37); 11-4 ATS; 12-3 straight up; 8-7 over/unders.
Week 11: 1-3 best bets (-$81); 5-7 ATS; 9-5 straight up; 7-7 over/unders.
Week 10: 2-3 best bets (+$16); 7-7 ATS; 6-8 straight up; 6-8 over/unders.
Week 9: 4-1 best bets (+52.40); 9-2 ATS; 9-4 straight up; 5-8 over/unders.
Week 8: 4-1 best bets (+$69); 9-6 ATS; 13-2 straight up; 6-9 over/unders.
Week 7: 3-2 best bets (-$5); 5-9 ATS; 6-8 straight up; 9-5 over/unders.
Week 6: 4-1 best bets (+$62.60); 9-5 ATS; 8-6 straight up; 6-8 over/unders.
Week 5: 3-2 best bets (+$2); 10-5 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 10-6 over/unders
Week 4: 4-1 best bets (+$37); 9-6 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 10-6 over/unders
Week 3: 3-2 best bets (-$5); 5-11 ATS; 8-8 straight up; 8-7 over/unders
Week 2: 4-1 best bets (+$57); 7-9 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 12-4 over/unders
Week 1: 3-2 best bets (-$15); 8-8 ATS; 6-9 straight up; 10-6 over/unders