Even NFL teams likely heading into the playoffs are susceptible to a bad loss at this point of the year. The key for those picking games is to find the squads on the brink of an upset.
As teams get complacent with big leads in the standings, they tend to lose focus going into tough games. Meanwhile, those still fighting hard have the ability to shock the league with big wins.
This mental aspect is often unaccounted for when it comes to betting lines, and it leads to some interesting options for underdogs to come through on Sunday.
Here is a look at full picks against the spread for Week 15, followed by a few favorites who should be on upset alert.
Note: All spread info courtesy of Vegas Insider as of Dec. 11.
|San Diego Chargers||Denver Broncos||DEN -10.5||Broncos|
|Washington Redskins||Atlanta Falcons||ATL -7||Redskins|
|San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||SF -5.5||49ers|
|Arizona Cardinals||Tennessee Titans||ARI -3||Titans|
|New Orleans Saints||St. Louis Rams||NO -5.5||Saints|
|Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||SEA -7||Seahawks|
|Chicago Bears||Cleveland Browns||CLE -1||Bears|
|Houston Texans||Indianapolis Colts||IND -5.5||Colts|
|Buffalo Bills||Jacksonville Jaguars||BUF -2||Jaguars|
|New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins||NE -2.5||Dolphins|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Minnesota Vikings||PHI -5||Vikings|
|New York Jets||Carolina Panthers||CAR -11||Panthers|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||KC -4.5||Chiefs|
|Green Bay Packers||Dallas Cowboys||N/A|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Pittsburgh Steelers||CIN -3||Bengals|
|Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||DET -6||Lions|
Spread info via Vegas Insider
Arizona Cardinals (-3) at Tennessee Titans
Even though the Titans have lost four of their last five games, they are playing much better than their record indicates. They have been competitive in virtually every game this season, although a few late mistakes have consistently led to losses.
However, they should be able to move the football against the Cardinals, who will have to play without second-leading tackler Tyrann Mathieu. The rookie defensive back suffered a torn ACL and LCL in the last game and will out for the year, according to Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports.
This loss will be significant, as the player formerly known as "Honey Badger" was one of the biggest playmakers on an improved defense. Without him, there will be more openings in the secondary for Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and the rest of the Titans receiving corps.
Meanwhile, Tennessee had been doing a good job of stopping the pass until it faced Peyton Manning in Week 14. Carson Palmer is not Peyton Manning, and he will struggle against an underrated defense to lose a key game on the road.
New England Patriots (-2.5) at Miami Dolphins
Even though the Patriots continue to win games, they have certainly not looked dominant in recent weeks. After an impressive come-from-behind victory against the Denver Broncos, they struggled to narrow triumphs over the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns, two teams with a combined six wins.
With the big tight end in the lineup, the Patriots have averaged 32 points per game. This is a big jump compared to the average of 20.8 points without him.
Miami has a strong enough pass rush to put pressure on Tom Brady, and he will not have his safety net tight end to lean on. This will cause problems offensively, and the Dolphins will be able to escape with a much-needed victory over their division rivals.
Buffalo Bills (-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars
This game does not exactly involve playoff contenders, but this would still be an upset according to the line. However, it is clear that the oddsmakers are simply late to the party to find out the Jaguars are not as bad as we thought.
Jacksonville has won three games in a row and four of the last five after an 0-8 start. The squad is fighting hard under first-year head coach Gus Bradley, and there are clearly a lot of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Meanwhile, the Bills have been fading fast with a pair of embarrassing losses in the past two games. They ended the Atlanta Falcons' five-game losing streak before falling by three touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After rookie quarterback EJ Manuel threw four interceptions in the last game, it is hard to trust him to do much on the road in Week 15. The Jaguars should continue their recent success with another home win in this game.
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