As we head into the NFL regular season's final three weeks, most bettors have a feel for the internal hierarchy within the league. You know who's good, you know who's bad, and you know whom you'd never put in a teaser again if your life depended on it (damn you, Eli Manning).
In theory, that's a good thing. Having more data means your bets come from a place of knowledge and data—not feeling. The problem is that as you're getting better information, so is Vegas. And if there is anything that is an inalienable truth about sports betting, it's that the oddsmakers' data will always be better than yours.
As such, values become fewer and farther between as the season progresses. The lines tighten to the point where you're attempting convoluted 15-team parlays just to give yourself something worth rooting for. I love losing $100,000 because Antonio Brown wears a size 13 rather than a size 12 more than the next guy, but every once in a while I like to, you know, treat myself to a steak dinner with my NFL winnings.
Fifteen-team parlays are a quick way to make sure the only steak you're eating is Salisbury. So in the interest of giving in this holiday season, perhaps we should focus on the few areas where you are actually likely to make money.
With that in mind, here's a complete outlook for the Week 15 NFL spreads, along with a couple betting tips for the weekend's action.
|NFL Week 15 Spreads, Predictions|
|San Diego Chargers||Denver Broncos||DEN -10.5||Broncos|
|Buffalo Bills||Jacksonville Jaguars||BUF -2||Jaguars|
|Chicago Bears||Cleveland Browns||PK||Bears|
|Houston Texans||Indianapolis Colts||IND -5.5||Colts|
|New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins||NE -2.5||Patriots|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Minnesota Vikings||PHI -4.5||Eagles|
|Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||SEA -7||Seahawks|
|San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||SF -5.5||Buccaneers|
|Washington Redskins||Atlanta Falcons||ATL -7||Falcons|
|New York Jets||Carolina Panthers||CAR -11||Jets|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||KC -4.5||Chiefs|
|Green Bay Packers||Dallas Cowboys||DAL -7||Cowboys|
|New Orleans Saints||St. Louis Rams||NO -5.5||Saints|
|Arizona Cardinals||Tennessee Titans||ARI -3||Cardinals|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Pittsburgh Steelers||CIN -3||Steelers|
|Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||DET -6||Ravens|
Bet of the Week: Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5) over Minnesota Vikings
Do yourself a favor and bet this line now. The reason this line hasn't jumped to a touchdown or more is because Adrian Peterson is made of teflon. After a scary foot injury that looked almost guaranteed to be season-ending on Sunday, further testing showed no Lisfranc injury, no fractures and no tears. Peterson is already out of his walking boot and is preparing to practice Friday, per Ben Goessling of ESPN.
A.D. is not a human being, so his superhuman healing powers may make him ready to go on Sunday. With Minnesota sitting at 3-9-1 coming into this week and well out of the playoff race, though, it would be shortsighted (read: stupid) for Leslie Frazier to toss him back into the lineup this early. I suspect Peterson will be ruled out on Friday.
You know what that leaves, people? Sixty minutes of Matt Cassel and Toby Gerhart as less than a touchdown underdog. And with Gerhart also nursing an injury, we're looking at Cassel plus a gimpy Gerhart or something called Matt Asiata.
The Eagles defense is terrible, but it's not that terrible. A 4.5-point line here is the Christmas gift that might be the difference between your kids getting a PS3 and a PS4 this year.
Philly might turn into fool's gold come playoff time, but there's no area here where Chip Kelly's offense shouldn't soar. The Vikings rank 30th in opposing passing yards and 22nd against the run. They don't rank much better metrically either, with Football Outsiders having them No. 27 overall and Pro Football Focus having them No. 24. LeSean McCoy might fool around and finish with back-to-back 200-yard games.
Seriously, just stop reading this now and go make yourself some free money.
Stay Away: Washington Redskins vs. Atlanta Falcons (-7)
The Redskins feel like a perfect storm for the enterprising bettor. Their entire locker room is in disarray. Their franchise quarterback is being "shut down" in a move that feels more like a power play from a coach actively trying to get fired than something done to protect him from long-term injury. The defense is a damn tire fire.
Everything that can be bad about a football team is going on in Washington right now. And that's exactly how you get a line where the Falcons—the horrible, horrible 3-10 Falcons—are favored by a touchdown over another professional football team.
I understand the logic. Washington is so bad that it's impossible to not feel like Mike Shanahan's 53-man bastion of incompetence would be a seven-point underdog against Florida State or Auburn.
That said, there is no available data that shows Atlanta is worthy of being a seven-point favorite against anyone. The Falcons have won three games this season by a combined 18 points; none of their victories have been by more than one score. The Redskins' three wins? They've also come by 18 points, with only one triumph coming by two scores. Atlanta has a far better point differential and is almost certainly the better team in a vacuum, but we're talking about two sides that each have one win since the beginning of November.
Odds are Atlanta will win. Matt Ryan has been a bit turnover prone this year, but he's not been as bad as you would think. Ryan has a quarterback rating of 89 and a QBR of 63.9; his career quarterback rating is 90.6, and his career QBR is 69.3. Matty Ice has thawed, but when it comes to picking apart the Redskins' blind-mice secondary, I have faith that 300 yards should be the bare minimum.
What makes this a stay-away is how Washington will react to this fiasco. Dealing in emotion isn't typically my bag, but there has to be some sort of competitive response here, right? After absolutely laying down against the Chiefs and then undergoing all this nonsense, it feels like we're either about to see the breaking point or one last resurgence.
I just know I don't want my money laying on either side.
Week's Most Confusing Line: Lions Favored by 6 Points over Ravens
The Lions are a talented football team. You can't look at this collection of talent and not see the potential for a deep playoff run. Matthew Stafford is one of the best dozen quarterbacks in the league. Calvin Johnson is the best wide receiver of this generation. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are arguably the best defensive tackle duo on the league.
The Lions are also losers of three of their last four games. Two of those losses came against Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, who are a combined 9-17 on the season. The other loss came to Philadelphia last week during a game in which Lions players looked as if this was their first time seeing snow. While the one win in that timeframe was a 40-10 thrashing of Green Bay, it's worth noting that Matt Flynn was prominently involved.
Suffice it to say, the Lions aren't playing very well right now.
The Ravens, on the other hand, have won three straight and four of their past five. Four of those games were decided by one score, and a 20-17 win over the Bengals was Baltimore's only positive result against a half-decent team. But the run has been good enough to put the defending Super Bowl champs back in the driver's seat in the race for the No. 6 seed in the AFC, a position that will be vitally helped with a win in Detroit on Monday.
Truth be told, this looks like a pretty even matchup. Detroit is a thoroughly middling team in every facet, ranking No. 15 offensively, No. 14 defensively and No. 16 on special teams, per Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings. The Ravens are a bottomless pit of despair on offense, but they boast a top-10 defense and the league's second-best special teams, per the same metrics. Detroit has a plus-25 point differential for the season. Baltimore is at plus-17. Neither side has played a particularly difficult schedule.
Because they pay me money and such, I'm supposed to have an opinion on which team wins. I'm a sucker for talent, so Detroit would probably get the nod on a money-line bet in which my life was in danger.
That doesn't really matter, though, because this line makes less than zero sense. Standard vig for the home team is three points. That means the oddsmakers think the Lions are three points better on a neutral field, which may be the case, but nothing we've seen over the past month has shown that.
On the bright side, teasing Baltimore up is probably the easiest money you can make this week.
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