NFL Predictions and Picks: Week 15

NFL Dec 18, 2021

2021 NFL WAGERING RECORD

65  Wins

56 Losses

2  Pushes

I had a really bad Week 15, losing $1,290,  The only person who had a worse week than me was Urban Meyer, and he walked away with $9 million after being run out of Jacksonville.

This is a tough week to figure out.  The reason is — COVID protocols and injuries.

We’ve seen lots of unpredictability the last few weeks.  Starters are getting pulled from games at the last minute.  Early this week, at least 30+ players tested positive for COVID, including several starters for the Cleveland Browns.  That moved the Browns-Raiders game (Saturday) off the board.  The NFL is challenging enough to pick winners on normal weeks.  But right now, it’s really unusual.

The biggest takeaway from last week’s games (a disaster for me) was so many favorites winning and covering.  That really hurts an underdogs player and contrarian, like me.  It makes me hesitant to take lots of points or bet against substantial line moves.  When lines are moving in these circumstances, it’s typically because there’s a breaking development likely to impact the game.

Treading lightly, here we go.  I have six picks this week:

Pittsburgh +1 vs. Tennessee (-110)

Here’s another spot where it’s tough to bet the home team in the face of recent circumstances.  No doubt, the Titans have exceeded all expectations while the Steelers have struggled much of the season.  But let’s look at the motivation.  Despite all the inconsistency, Pittsburgh remains very much alive in the playoff race (does anyone want to win the AFC North this year?).  A win here gets them right back into the hunt.  Meanwhile, the Titans have basically locked up the AFC South title and can probably coast the remainder of the season.  Note the dropoff from the Titans offense the last three games, averaging just 16 PPG.  Let’s also give the Steelers some credit for their play at home.  It wasn’t pretty, and that tie to the Lions sticks out like a sore thumb, but Pittsburgh is still 4-0-1 their last five at home.  Making the Steelers an underdog looks like the wrong side given all the factors, plus Pittsburgh has 10-days prep time since they last played on Week 14-Thurs.

***Line is now Pittsburgh -2, so I like our number.

Pittsburgh Team Total OVER 9.5 in first-half (-130)

See the reasons listed above.  Steelers have struggled early in games, but I still think there’s enough offensive talent to reach the 10-point mark by halftime in a critical home game.

Houston +5 vs. Jacksonville (-110)

Houston’s situation is horrible, but Jacksonville’s might be even worse.  The breaking news of Urban Meyer’s firing was interesting because it happened on a Wednesday, arguably the worst possible time to make a coaching change (most coaches are fired on Mondays, right after losses).  It’s impossible to predict how the Jaguars will react.  Some say it will “spark” a better performance, but can interim coach Darrell Bevell turn things around in 3 days?  He’s been the offensive coordinator for a team that’s averaged 9.1 points in the last seven games.  Laying -5 here seems crazy (I checked COVID reports; Texans appear to be okay in that regard).  Houston destroyed Jacksonville in the first meeting and while that might not mean much now, I can’t see how Jacksonville deserves to be laying this many points.  So, give me the dog and I’ll hold my nose.

***Line is now Jacksonville -3, so I really love our number here.

Atlanta +9 vs. San Francisco (-110)

The Falcons have been inconsistently bad this season, but they’re somehow 6-7, in second place in their division, and in the hunt for the final NFC playoff spot.  A win here, and Atlanta becomes a .500 team.  The Falcons, who look so bad in so many games that count, also have a way of doing the unexpected.  They probably won’t win this game, but there has to be enough talent on offense and enough heart to keep this one close.  San Francisco doesn’t merit laying -9 at home chalk.  Yes, the 49ers are the better team.  But not 9-points better.  I’m taking the dog.

***Line is now 8-8.5, so we have a slight edge with the early bet.

TEASER:  Philadelphia -2.5 vs. Washington / Tampa Bay -4.5 vs. New Orleans (-120)

The rested Eagles host Washington this week, which has been decimated by COVID losses.  We saw what happened to the WFT last week with two starting OL and the TE out, as the mismatched home team got steamrolled and fell behind 21-0.  Their situation on offense looks even worse this week, with a total of 21 players possibly out for this game.  Aside from a bad game a few weeks ago at NY Giants, the Eagles have scored 20+ in 10/11 games and should roll up points against a defense with a stunning 14 players on the roster reportedly out for Sunday’s game.  Yes, laying -9 does seem like a ridiculous number of points.  But in this spot, assuming these reports stay accurate, it’s justified to make the Eagles a huge favorite.  ///// In the other leg of the teaser, I’ll take the NFL’s champion at home on Sunday night in a revenge spot against a New Orleans Saints team that’s struggling miserably at the QB position.  I don’t want to lay double-digits with this big favorite, but teasing them down to less than a touchdown appears to have added value.

***Line is now Phila -8, and plenty of us are pissed this game was moved, which nullifies all action and makes me have to re-bet it.  I’ll stick with the teaser but won’t bet the side now because Washington COVID situation might improve.  Really bullshit move here by the NFL here to penalize one team that, for whatever reason, is healthier.  Why didn’t the NFL cancel last week’s Washington-Dallas game on Sunday (three offensive starters out for Washington).  Really bad, inconsistent decisions here.

Chicago Team Total OVER 9.5 in first-half (-120)

Late addition (Saturday) for Monday night’s game — give me the home team Bears hosting MNF game which probably plays into a strong effort, especially versus inconsistent Vikings.  This is also Chicago’s second straight night game in a row.  Bears’ offense played much better in last game — led 27-21 at the half in Green Bay.  Based on recent improvement, it seems they should be able to reach the 10+ point total in the 1H, which is all it takes to cash this ticket.  I’ll lay -120 on the prospect the Bears will play well early in the game.

FINAL SUMMARY OF THIS WEEK’S BETS:

Pittsburgh +1 vs. Tennessee (-110)

Pittsburgh Team Total OVER 9.5 in first-half (-130)

TEASER:  Philadelphia -2.5 vs. Washington / Tampa Bay -4.5 vs. New Orleans (-120)

Houston +5 vs. Jacksonville (-110)

Atlanta +9 vs. San Francisco (-110)

Chicago Team Total OVER 9.5 in first-half (-120)

NOTE:  THIS IS THE FINAL REPORT FOR WEEK 15.