The Complete Bettor's Guide to NFL Week 15
The sports world is popular for many reasons, but one of the more important factors is the presence of gambling. Having the ability to wager on a specific team or game increases the thrill of the competition. However, there's an obvious risk to gambling on sporting events.
This article breaks down some things to keep in mind as you consider your bets. It's not only important to focus on the attractive matchups, but it is also important to avoid the traps.
Safest Bets of the Week
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Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-8.5)
The Houston Texans will bounce back from their poor performance against the New England Patriots. However, it's unlikely that they will defeat the Indianapolis Colts by more than eight points. This game is equally as important—or perhaps even more important—for the Colts.
Indianapolis has an opportunity to make a statement with this game. They're likely to make the playoffs, but they can establish themselves as a real threat with a victory over the Texans.
Over the course of this season, the Texans defense has allowed several big performances to the quarterback. Andrew Luck could potentially have a solid game.
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals (-6)
The Arizona Cardinals might be the worst team in the entire NFL, and that's mainly because of their quarterback situation. John Skelton and Ryan Lindley are not equipped to be starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
Lindley's situation is unfortunate, as Ken Whisenhunt doesn't see a problem forcing a rookie to throw over 50 times in a game. Whisenhunt should've been fired on the spot for that decision, and there's little doubt that Lindley's confidence has been shaken.
This game is more about the poor play of the Cardinals than it is about the Detroit Lions.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Miami Dolphins (-7)
The combination of a tough Miami Dolphins defense and the struggles of the Jacksonville Jaguars offense makes this an intriguing game. Miami should be able to cover the seven-point spread by keeping Chad Henne and company out of the end zone.
However, Ryan Tannehill holds the key to making this a safe bet. He has shown the potential to put up big numbers against leaky defenses. Jacksonville's defense is allowing nearly 250 passing yards per game.
Toss-Up Games of the Week
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New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons (-1.5)
The Atlanta Falcons are always tough at home, but the New York Giants are the type of team that can get a road win. These are two teams looking to finish the season on a strong note. This game has the potential to springboard someone toward a strong playoff run.
Don't doubt how much stock these teams are putting into this game, either. It's tough to feel comfortable going in either direction when both teams have a lot on the line.
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders (-3)
The biggest thing to come out of the game featuring the lowly Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders will be about determining next April's potential draft order. Both teams are in position to make a run at the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft.
It's always a wise move to avoid making a wager on a game involving two terrible teams. This is because you never know what could be the turning point in the game. There will be a lot of turnovers, mistakes and penalties.
New York Jets at Tennessee Titans (-2)
Jake Locker's inconsistent play and the unpredictability of Mark Sanchez is all the reason anyone needs to stay away from this game. This game will likely feature more than a few turnovers, and an equal amount of big plays.
Locker is the type of player that will throw a terrible interception, and then follow it up with a big-play touchdown.
There's just no way to feel good about a game with this type of uncertainty.
Potential Prop Bets of the Week
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Under/over two touchdowns passes for Tom Brady against the San Francisco 49ers
Tom Brady is coming off a great performance against a tough Houston Texans' defense. Throughout the course of his career, he has shown that he has the ability to put up big numbers against the best defenses in the NFL.
The San Francisco 49ers arguably have a better defense than the Texans, with the 49ers' Aldon Smith's ability to rush the passer is the major difference between the two. His edge pressure, combined with the run stuffing ability of Justin Smith, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, gives this unit great balance.
Under/over six sacks by the Detroit Lions against the Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals offense is among the worst in the NFL. They've allowed a total of 51 sacks this season, which is nine more than the next highest amount allowed. That total is also impacted by their poor quarterback play.
John Skelton and Ryan Lindley don't do a good job quickly reading the defense and making proper decisions.
The Detroit Lions have excellent pass rushers like Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril. This defensive line will make things tough on the Cardinals.
Under/over 300 yards of total offense by the Baltimore Ravens against the Denver Broncos
It's rare that you see an NFL team make a major coaching change this late in the season. However, the Baltimore Ravens decided to replace offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with Jim Caldwell. There will be immediate pressure on Caldwell to increase the offensive production.
This week's matchup against the Denver Broncos is a difficult game for Caldwell to make his debut at offensive coordinator. Denver has a lot of talent on defense, including an elite pass-rusher in Von Miller. His ability to generate pressure on the quarterback is complemented by strong secondary play from players like Champ Bailey.
Top Elimination Pool Pick of the Week
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
The New Orleans Saints got some good news this week, as all the players suspensions from the bounty case have been negated. For the first time this season, players like Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma can finally put this situation behind them and play football.
This reduction in stress will help the Saints score a win against the Tamp Bay Buccaneers. However, the Saints' talent on the field will be the determining factor.
Tampa Bay possesses the worst pass defense in the entire NFL. This group is allowing over 310 yards passing per game, and Saints quarterback Drew Brees should have one of his better performances of the season. The Buccaneers don't boast the offensive fire power to keep pace with Brees and company.
That task is made more difficult by the fact that the Buccaneers must travel to the Super Dome. The noise level in the Super Dome gives the Saints excellent home-field advantage, and makes it difficult for opponents to communicate.
Injuries That Could Have a Major Impact This Week
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Robert Griffin III vs. the Cleveland Browns
The Washington Redskins will have a hard time defeating the Cleveland Browns if Robert Griffin III misses the game. This offense isn't the same without Griffin in the lineup. But, as it stands, the talk seems to indicate that he could play on Sunday.
However, any injury to a knee is a dangerous situation. Griffin and the Redskins must be careful not to further damage the knee.
Even if Griffin suits up, he'll still be feeling some effects of the injury. There's a great chance that he won't be playing at 100 percent.
Dez Bryant vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers
The game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers has a ton of playoff implications. This only makes the status of Dez Bryant that much more important. Dallas needs all of their playmakers in order to find success against a tough Steelers defense.
Bryant's situation is complicated, as he wants to play but the injury appears to be significant. The situation has been made even worse after Jerry Jones said that he will leave the decision to play up to Bryant.
Jay Cutler vs. the Green Bay Packers
This is a must-win game for the Chicago Bears, as another loss could spell the end of their playoff hopes. In order to defeat the Green Bay Packers, Chicago needs Jay Cutler to play and remain healthy throughout the game.
With the poor play of the offensive line, Cutler is the only quarterback on the roster capable of surviving. The Bears are just a different team when Cutler is out of the lineup.
It appears that he's in line to make the start, but a sore neck is the type of thing that can pop up throughout the course of the game.
Lock of the Week
Detroit Lions (-6) at Arizona Cardinals
The Detroit Lions have had plenty of disappointing moments this season. However, the truth is that this is a team with a ton of talent. They boast elite players like Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, and the defense generates a strong pass rush that disrupts the timing of the offense.
These are the main reasons why it's safe to bet on the Lions this week. The fact that they're playing the Arizona Cardinals only makes this an easier choice.
Arizona's quarterback situation makes it a struggle for the Cardinals to even make each game competitive. Last week's 58-point loss to the Seattle Seahawks was just an embarrassment.
The Lions won't win by 58 points, but they'll have no problem covering the six point spread.
Stay-Away Game of the Week
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Green Bay Packers (-3) at Chicago Bears
This game features a very desperate Chicago Bears' team needing a win against their division rival. Chicago has lost four of their last five games, and they are dangerously close to falling out of the playoff race. That's what makes this game against the Green Bay Packers so important.
The problem is that the Bears have lost their last five games against the Packers. Their loss this year was a 13-point loss where Chicago looked terrible.
Despite the Packers' dominance over the past few years, it's always a good idea to stay away from divisional matchups. This is especially true when one of the teams is in a desperate situation.