Between the Lines: Betting the NFL Week 15 Edition

Seattle Seahawks

Every Monday during the NFL season, I’ll compare game spreads to my power ratings and give my perspective on whether I think the betting lines are accurate. Paying attention to the NFL market is one of the most important aspects of successful wagering. 

All lines are consensus numbers across the U.S. Sportsbooks as of Monday morning. Some may not be out yet. Early lines that show great disparity with my own are highlighted in red.

49ers at Seahawks (+3.5), Total: 43.5

Where I set the line: Seahawks +3, Total: 45

The Seattle Seahawks played down to their competition for the second straight week. The lowly Carolina Panthers controlled their entire contest in Week 14, racking up 223 yards rushing and controlling the time of possession for nearly 40 minutes. It was yet another indictment on an increasingly flawed Seahawks’ defense. Of course, Geno Smith’s two interceptions didn’t help. In Week 15, they’ll host a San Francisco 49ers’ squad playing its best football of the season, even with “Mr. Irrelevant” Brock Purdy under center. 

San Francisco won their sixth straight game in a 35-7 obliteration of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, humbling the best quarterback of all time in the process. More solid play from Purdy, a steady run game highlighted by Christian McCaffrey and a clinically effective defense were too much for Brady and company to handle.

This is a huge game for the Seahawks. Now off two disappointing games and in serious jeopardy of stumbling out of the playoff picture, they desperately need a win Thursday night. If the playoffs started today, they would be out of contention. However, the 6-7 Lions are surging and could threaten Seattle.

I don’t have any strong leans on this game yet, and I probably won’t bet either side. However, I’d consider looking at the total since Seattle hasn’t been stopped anyone, and the 49ers’ rushing attack could flourish. That being said, this will be a testy divisional game, and it’s Purdy’s biggest challenge yet. This game is probably best to avoid for now.

Colts at Vikings (-4), Total: 47

Where I set the line: Vikings -4.5, Total: 46

Well, now it’s hard for the Vikings’ backers to defend their team. Minnesota allowed the Detroit Lions to gain 464 yards in their Week 14 showdown, and not once did the Vikings hold the lead. Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson tried to make a comeback at the end, snagging a few big plays to make the game seem closer, but Detroit kept them at a distance. At 10-3, Minnesota remains the No. 2 seed in the NFC, but I’m sure they don’t feel elite after what occurred on Sunday. They’ll look to get right against the Colts this coming Saturday.

The Indianapolis Colts are coming off a bye. At 4-8-1, Jeff Saturday and his team are unlikely to catch Tennessee in the AFC South standings. Even though they’re off extended rest, this doesn’t check out as an ideal situation since Minnesota will be playing for some redemption after their poor performance Sunday.

Nothing pops out about this line, although I might consider betting on the Vikings. The Colts’ defense will need to limit Minnesota for all 60 minutes to stay competitive in this matchup, and I’m not sure they can pull that off. At home, Cousins and his supporting cast should look much better, particularly on offense. I don’t trust the Colts’ offense or Minnesota’s defense. I have no strong leans at this juncture.

Ravens at Browns (+2.5), Total: 39.5

Where I set the line: Browns +3, Total: 40

This is another game where I don’t show too much disparity in the lines.

The Ravens and Browns are going in opposite directions. With Deshaun Watson back, the Browns’ offense is sputtering. In two weeks, they’ve only produced 648 yards and 16 points. Their defense is playing better, but they’re not a unit we can trust week-to-week. The Browns were outclassed in Week 14, falling to the Bengals 23-10. Two of the Bengals’ top receivers got injured early during the contest. If they hadn’t, it would’ve been a much more significant margin of victory for the home team. 

The Ravens earned a crucial victory at Pittsburgh on Sunday. They leaned on their running attack (215 yards) and avoided costly mistakes. Their defense also stepped up in numerous situations, intercepting Mitch Tribusky on drives that could have resulted in more Steelers points. Week 14 marked their sixth win in seven games. At 9-4, they sit atop the AFC North. 

This is a much better setup for Watson at home, assuming the Cleveland crowd supports the controversial quarterback. In what should be another classic AFC North battle, it’s tough to overvalue Baltimore by too many points on the road. The total, which is low, is deservingly so. Even though my number is slightly above the sportsbooks, I might take an under potentially.

Both of these defenses are playing better. Tyler Huntley—who is in concussion protocol — and the Ravens’ offense isn’t as explosive without Lamar Jackson behind center, and the Browns’ offense has looked super clunky with Watson. That would be my only lean.

Dolphins at Bills (-7.5), Total: 42

Where I set the line: Bills -5.5, Total: 44

I expect the Dolphins to be more competitive than we’ve seen in the last two weeks. Sunday night was a showcase of the Chargers’ improvements. Although some of their best defensive stars are still injured, the Chargers stifled Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins throughout the contest. They limited their offense to only 219 yards and 17 points. This was somewhat shocking since the total on that game closed at 54.5 – one of the highest we’ve seen all season. After two straight subpar performances from Miami, a divisional rematch awaits in Buffalo.

The Bills survived Sunday in another closely contested battle with the New York Jets. New York closed the distance late in the fourth quarter, making it a one-score game in the final minutes. The Jets outgained Buffalo (309 to 232 in total yards), but a banged-up Mike White didn’t have enough time to tie the game. The Bills survived in a defensive battle, but their offense hasn’t looked as prolific since Thanksgiving. Still, they’re the No. 1 team in the AFC after Week 14.

I would take Miami now. This line will probably tick down – I don’t see how it could tick up – and this is a critical game in the AFC East. Miami’s offense hasn’t looked as refined, but I trust Mike McDaniel to make adjustments. He’ll need to since this is a big revenge spot for the Bills at Orchard Park. Keep monitoring the weather for this big showdown, too. Right now, it looks like it’ll be a snowy, cold, Christmas-like atmosphere in Buffalo.

Eagles at Bears (+9), Total: 48

Where I set the line: Bears +8, Total: 51

The Justin Fields over-angle is back! The Bears finally had their bye in Week 14, but they’re coming off another game where Fields led their offense to more than 400 yards in a close contest against the Packers at Soldier Field. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game looked similar.

We don’t have to spend much time on what the Eagles did in Week 14. Philadelphia simply outclassed the Giants from start to finish. They racked up 437 yards and 48 points in their division foe’s home stadium. When it mattered, New York could barely move the ball against the Eagles defense. At 12-1, the Eagles own the best record in the NFL and look poised to make a run in the NFC playoffs.

The Eagles are deservingly big favorites on the road, but I lean toward Chicago. The Fields-led Bears are always feisty, and I’m not sure if any defense, even the high-flying, hard-hitting Eagles can ultimately limit Fields’ ground game. The Eagles should do whatever they want against Chicago’s defense, while Fields can lead the Bears to more than 20 points at home. I like an early bet on the over. 

Chiefs at Texans (+14), Total: 48.5

Where I set the line: Texans +13, Total: 47

I don’t have too much to comment on this ugly game, and I probably won’t bet on either side.

The Chiefs pulled ahead of the Broncos in the first half on Sunday, but the Broncos fought back. Denver’s defense forced Patrick Mahomes into three interceptions, something we don’t see very often. But Kansas City’s early lead was too much for Denver to overcome. Another 400+ yard game from the Chiefs’ offense and some big stops from their defense in the game’s final minutes sealed their victory.

The Texans had their game of the year on Sunday at Dallas. In the “battle of Texas,” Houston held the lead over the Cowboys for most of the second half. Their defense made one big stop after another, and Davis Mills made some critical throws down the stretch. In the end, Dak Prescott led a late fourth-quarter drive, and Ezekiel Elliott ran into the endzone to pull ahead of the embattled Texans. It’s another loss for the NFL’s worst club, but it was a valiant effort considering Houston was a 17-point underdog.

They’re big-time underdogs again in Week 15 too. I don’t like their potential as much in this contest, however, since the Chiefs are probably disappointed with their performance against Denver. No play or lean from me on this one just yet.

Cowboys at Jaguars (+4.5), Total: 48

Where I set the line: Jaguars +3, Total: 48

This is an exciting game in Week 15. We highlighted the Cowboys’ performance in the previous write-up, so let’s talk about what the Jaguars accomplished Sunday.

In one of the most surprising results of Week 14, the Jaguars defeated the Titans 36-22 in Nashville. Taking advantage of some early Titans’ turnovers, Trevor Lawrence played a mistake-free game, completing 71% of his passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns. The Titans’ defensive line, which has been ferocious in important games all season, didn’t find a single sack on Sunday. Instead, the Jaguars’ defense forced four sacks and four turnovers, creating one short field after another for their offense. At 5-8, it’s not likely Jacksonville can usurp Tennessee for the AFC South title, but it is possible. 

If the Jaguars can defeat the Cowboys at home in Week 15, they have three winnable games remaining on their schedule. Their final game of the season is another battle against the Titans, and this time it’ll be in Florida. The Jaguars are a long shot to make the postseason, but they still have a chance.

That’s why I want to bet on Jacksonville. This is another let-down spot for Dallas. They face the Eagles in a huge NFC East showdown six days after this. So bet on the Jaguars, or don’t bet on this at all. 

Lions at Jets (+1), Total: 45

Where I set the line: Jets +1.5, Total: 43

We talked about the Vikings-Lions game in detail already. Detroit has won five of their last six games. Their only loss was by a three-point margin against the AFC-leading Bills on Thanksgiving. While we can highlight how potent their offense has been, the Lions’ defense has made some huge stops. Even better, Aidan Hutchinson is growing into a legitimately elite defensive end (one sack, two tackles for a loss on Sunday). The Lions’ secondary has vastly improved in the last few weeks as well. In their last five wins, they’ve held opponents to 18.8 ppg. 

The Jets’ defense shined again in a loss at Buffalo on Sunday. It was a rainy, sloppy game in Orchard Park, which seemed to affect both offenses, but Josh Allen and the Bills’ skill players made big plays when it mattered. White, who immediately went to the hospital after the game with an apparent rib injury, couldn’t find a rhythm until it was too late. The Jets expect him to start this week. 

With only four weeks left, this is probably the most difficult scheduling spot for the Lions as they hope to continue surging into a playoff spot. It’ll be cold in Northern New Jersey next Sunday, and the Jets’ defense might be the best in the NFL.

It’s undoubtedly one of the most consistent units. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets won this game, but the Lions aren’t a team I want to fade right now, either. I’m not making any bets just yet – let’s see how this line moves throughout the week. 

Steelers at Panthers (-2.5), Total: 38.5

Where I set the line: Panthers -2, Total: 40

This is a challenging game to handicap since Kenny Pickett probably won’t play (concussion protocol), and we don’t know who Pittsburgh will start at quarterback. However, we tend to agree with where the line sits in this game.

The Panthers impressed on Sunday, traveling to Seattle and beating the Seahawks 30-24. Whenever the Seahawks attempted to mount a comeback, the Panthers’ defense held up and stymied Smith. Smith was sacked three times and threw two interceptions on top of it. The Panthers’ run game was fantastic, totaling 223 yards with six different rushers. Carolina controlled the entire contest and took advantage of Seattle’s recently porous defense.

We’ve discussed the Ravens-Steelers game already, but it’s worth noting it probably would have been even closer (or perhaps a Pittsburgh win) with Pickett in the game. Unfortunately, Pickett left in the first quarter. Tribusky then tossed three interceptions and halted numerous Steelers’ drives along the way. While Pittsburgh’s defense did its job for most of the game, their offense wasn’t so effective. As a result, I don’t have much interest in betting on this game right now.

Falcons at Saints (-4), Total: 43.5

Where I set the line: Saints -2, Total: 45

Both of these squads are coming off a bye. The Falcons and Saints have lost four out of their last five games. But, shockingly, at 5-8 and 4-9, they’re both still alive to win the NFC South since Tampa Bay is 6-7. In other words, their motivation shouldn’t wane.

The most significant unknown factor of this matchup is Desmond Ridder, the rookie quarterback Arthur Smith confirmed will start in place of Marcus Mariota in Week 15. It might act as a catalyst for the Falcons. The second half of their season hasn’t seen the same success as the first, and Smith’s call for Ridder is a smart move.

At worst, they miss the playoffs but gain a better idea of how much quarterback talent they genuinely have. At best, Ridder is a difference-maker, and they have a real shot at passing by the Bucs in the NFC South. We shall see. Either way, this is an exciting battle.

I can’t trust either defense, but Atlanta’s offense is inherently at an advantage with Ridder behind center. Why? Because the Saints have little to no game film to analyze the rookie thrower. I also can’t say the Saints deserve to be favored by any margin more than a field goal, even at home. This is also a revenge game for Atlanta, who very nearly beat New Orleans in Week 1. So, I’m putting a small play on the Falcons. 

Patriots at Raiders (-1), Total: 44.5

Where I set the line: Raiders +2.5, Total: 42

We haven’t seen the Patriots play yet – they’re on Monday Night Football in Week 14 – and the Raiders are coming off that horrific loss against the Rams on Thursday night. Since we’ve had plenty of time to digest the “Baker Mayfield Bowl” in perhaps the Rams’ hardest-fought game of the season, we’ll discuss the betting lines for this contest. 

I don’t think the Raiders should be favored. Bill Belichick vs. Josh McDaniels is not a fair fight. The Raiders’ offense tripped over itself against the Rams, and I could see the same thing happening in this game. In all likelihood, Las Vegas’ loss last week eliminates them from playoff contention since they still need to face San Francisco and Kansas City, while New England is much closer to that reality at 6-6. So, I’m betting on Belichick

Cardinals at Broncos (+1), Total: 39

Where I set the line: Broncos -1, Total: 38

This is a game Denver should win. The perpetually flawed Cardinals’ offense plays on MNF, so we’ll see how crisp they look after a bye week, but I hate this spot for them at Denver in Week 15. 

The Broncos played their most impressive game this season on Sunday, even in a loss. They forced Mahomes into three interceptions and sacked him twice. Ultimately the Chiefs put up enough points to win – shocker – but the Denver defense limited Mahomes to only seven points in the second half. The Broncos also put up their highest total of the year (28), and Russell Wilson looked more like “young Russ” in the process. Wilson threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns, despite getting sacked on six different occasions. He ran for 57 yards, too. However, Wilson is in the concussion protocol this week, meaning Brett Rypien would start in his stead. 

Traveling to Denver is always a challenging spot. It’s at elevation, it’s cold and their defense is historically exceptional. That remains the case this season. I’m betting on the Broncos as short home dogs, and I’m doing it now.

Bengals at Buccaneers (+3.5), Total: 44

Where I set the line: Bucs +3, Total: 42

No player was more disappointed by their Week 14 performance than Tom Brady. Playing against the team he rooted for growing up, Brady was seen taking pictures on his phone before the game, still idolizing the prominence of one of the NFL’s most successful franchises. But things didn’t go as planned when the game finally started.

Brady threw for 253 yards on 55 attempts, but he also threw two bad interceptions that put the game away. Even early in the third quarter, when Tampa was behind 28-0, the announcers weren’t counting out Brady and the Bucs. But the San Francisco defense was just too much. Brady was never sacked, but he was uncomfortable all game, resulting in a 36.1 QB rating.

Playing from behind and therefore never establishing the run, their defense was put in tough spots after short Tampa Bay drives led to no points. In addition, the Buccaneers’ run defense allowed 209 yards to the 49ers’ rushing attack.

The Bengals got revenge on the Browns yesterday, which was mostly a credit to their defense. Joe Burrow and company still piled up 23 points on 363 yards, but early injuries to Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins left Cincinnati’s offense more vulnerable for the final three-quarters of the game. The Bengals took advantage of Watson’s struggles, intercepting him once and sacking him on two other plays. Cincinnati is now 9-4 and in a prime position for the postseason. 

This contest begins a tough stretch for Cincinnati, where they’ll have to face Tampa Bay and New England on the road in consecutive games, followed by Buffalo and Baltimore at home. Neither of these teams can afford to lose if they want to hold onto first place in their respective divisions, which usually has me supporting the underdog, but I can’t fade Burrow right now. In addition, Boyd and Higgins may miss Week 15, so that’s another factor to keep in mind. For now, I’m not betting on this game.

Titans at Chargers (-2.5), Total: 46

Where I set the line: Chargers -2, Total: 45

Well, if the Chargers’ defense plays as they did against Miami every week, this might be a team to consider betting on if/when they make the playoffs. That’s what I was quietly saying as I watched the Chargers completely stifle Tagovailoa and the Dolphins, and I stand by it.

The Chargers had one of their most impressive performances of the season, holding an exceptionally potent Miami offense to only 219 yards and 17 points. Tagovailao went 10-of-28 for only 145 yards. 

It was precisely what Chargers fans have been waiting for since they hired Brandon Staley. Even with their injuries, a truly elite defensive mind would create a defense that shines in prominent spots. Unfortunately, they’ve been far from achieving that sort of respectability up until this point.

They were the league’s worst run-defense heading into their Week 14 matchup. But the Chargers stepped up on every Miami possession, making every throw, run or creative play call difficult for McDaniel and his team. Justin Herbert put on a master class at QB, completing 39-of-51 passes for 367 yards and a touchdown. It was a complete team effort from the Chargers on Sunday, and one they hope to carry into Week 15 and beyond.

The Titans cannot claim the same success. After turning it over four times against Jacksonville, Mike Vrabel’s team fell hard against their division foe. They sacrificed 428 yards to the Jaguars, forced no turnovers and never got a single sack. On the other side of the ball, it looked like we might see another huge Derrick Henry game against a team he historically dominates. He ran for more than 100 yards early, but when the Titans had to play catch-up, he all but disappeared from their game plan. Treylon Burks’ injury probably didn’t help as the Titans’ pass attack was clunky and inconsistent for the most part. Still, they are in first place in the AFC South.

This is a tough game between two playoff contenders and one I probably won’t bet on in the end. I show some slight value on Tennessee, but it’s worth noting the Chargers are considerably more talented. If the Chargers play as they did in Week 14, this game might not be close.

Giants at Commanders (+4.5), Total: 39.5

Where I set the line: Giants +3, Total: 43

I don’t have much to say about the Giants. They were dominated last week against the Eagles. Case closed.

Though, Week 15 should look different. This game was close in Week 13, so close it ended in a tie. I could argue Washington probably should have won, but the Giants played well in the second and third quarters. It was an evenly-matched game between two teams, and I expect more of the same on Sunday. 

It was also a game where both teams saw some reasonable offensive success (both hit 20 first downs, Washington had 411 total yards and the Giants had 316). While neither team did well on third downs (WAS: 3-14, NYG: 4-13), I suspect they’ll correct some of those failures in this rematch. I think this game favors Washington too much, and both teams can see a lot of success on the ground again. I’ll take the total over, and the New York Giants to cover.

Rams at Packers (-7.5), Total: 40

Where I set the line: Packers -6.5, Total: 4

Even though I show some line disparity, I don’t have much to say about this game

The Packers had a bye in Week 14, but they’re probably out of the playoff picture and underwhelmed about this spot. The Rams came back from a 13-point deficit to beat the Raiders on Thursday night, so they’re also off some extended rest, but I’m not sure how much we can trust a repeat performance from Mayfield. Lambeau Field is a tough place to play any time of the year, let alone in the cold of December, many miles away from sunny and comfortable Los Angeles.

This line is probably right, but when there are two teams like this, with so little to play for, I back off from placing any wagers.

WATCH: Betting the NFL Week 15 Advice


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