D. Ross Cameron / Associated Press
Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Week 15: Patriots at Steelers
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Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Reports around town indicated that the game between Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints two weeks ago may have been the most bet-on Thursday Night Football game ever.
That title could be short-lived; Thursday night’s edition could top it. Two of only four teams in the NFL with at least 10 wins, and divisional rivals at that, face off when the Chiefs host the Chargers as 3.5-point favorites.
In terms of quality, it’s likely the best matchup the much-derided midweek game has provided since it was expanded to its current 13-week format six years ago. If only the game had the stakes to match.
Regardless of the result, the Chiefs will still come out favored to win the AFC West. That’s because they hold a one-game lead over the Chargers, which they already defeated 38-28 as 3.5-point underdogs in Week 1, and hold the divisional-record tiebreaker.
Los Angeles would not only need to beat Kansas City tonight, but also hope Seattle or Oakland can knock it off in the final two weeks. That explains why Kansas City is still a minus-900 (risking $9 to win $1) to win the AFC West with Los Angeles coming back at plus-600 (risking $1 to win $6).
Regardless, a game between two of the top five favorites to win the Super Bowl should stir sports books. That’s a change compared to the usual atmosphere around a mid-December Thursday Night Football game.
Check below for Talking Points’ Week 15 picks against the spread. The overall record on the year now stands at 107-91-9 after a 9-7 showing last week. Picks are listed in rough order of confidence and separated into three categories. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side.
Green Bay Packers plus-6 at Chicago Bears In their first game under Joe Philbin, the Packers looked the closest they have in weeks to the team that was expected at the start of the season. And at the start of the season, they were a 3-point favorite in this spot. The Bears have exceeded all expectations, but a 9-point in-season swing without any major injuries is astronomical.
Indianapolis Colts minus-2.5 vs. Dallas Cowboys Sell high on the Cowboys, which are a solid middle-of-the-pack team but not a Super Bowl contender as they’re suddenly being priced. They’ve now won five straight by a touchdown or less — a type of run that’s bound to regress — but haven’t beaten a team as strong as the Colts on the road all year.
Denver Broncos minus-3 vs. Cleveland Browns Cleveland has improved dramatically, but Denver still remains ahead of it in terms of efficiency on both sides of the ball per Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings. The Broncos are also only a game out of a wild-card spot and have one of the NFL’s strongest home-field advantages.
Buffalo Bills minus-2.5 vs. Detroit Lions Always prefer to fade teams racking up more than 4,000 miles in travel in a week like the Lions, which are coming off a successful trip to Arizona. It’s a bonus that the Bills have been one of the most improved teams in the NFL over the last month.
Carolina Panthers plus-6.5 vs. New Orleans Saints Think of the Panthers as the polar opposite of the Cowboys: Their demise is being greatly exaggerated after losing a string of close games, with four straight coming by a touchdown or less. Carolina is only a half-game out of the playoffs and more than talented enough to secure a wild-card spot.
Pittsburgh Steelers plus-2 vs. New England Patriots Been burned by the Steelers many times in the series — they’ve lost six of the last seven and failed to cover in four of the last five against the Patriots — but that’s no reason to lay an outlandish price that has swung three points from last week. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has regularly excelled despite injuries throughout his career, and running back James Conner may also return.
Washington Redskins plus-7 at Jacksonville Jaguars Despite the betting market reacting to the contrary, Washington’s 40-16 loss to the Giants wasn’t any worse than Jacksonville’s 30-9 no-show at Tennessee. The Jaguars were outgained by nearly 4 yards per play, and are every bit as constrained on offense behind Cody Kessler as the Redskins are with Josh Johnson, or whoever they trot out at quarterback this week.
San Francisco 49ers plus-4.5 vs. Seattle Seahawks Would have been a play at plus-6, but the line has continued to move toward San Francisco — with good reason. The 49ers didn’t get beat nearly as badly as the 43-16 final indicated when they went to Seattle as 10-point underdogs two weeks ago.
Cincinnati Bengals minus-3 vs. Oakland Raiders Jarring to see the Raiders command three-fourths of the action after a season full of the betting public fading them every week. The line on this game last week was Cincinnati minus-4.5, and the Bengals’ 26-21 loss to the Chargers as 17-point underdogs was just as impressive as the Raiders’ 24-21 win over the Steelers as 11-point underdogs. The 1.5-point move is not warranted.
Kansas City Chiefs minus-3.5 vs. Los Angeles Chargers Best plan might be to sit this game out and enjoy, or perhaps get involved with a live wager if an opportunity presents itself. Only going with the Chiefs because this spread would have been at least a point higher a couple weeks ago, and perhaps the Chief’s cutting of Kareem Hunt and the Chargers’ three-point win at the Steelers are being overvalued.
New York Giants minus-2.5 vs. Tennessee Titans A pick based strictly on betting numbers with the spread falling below 3 points on the home team. The Giants and the Titans look like evenly-matched bet-against teams at the moment.
Los Angeles Rams minus-9.5 vs. Philadelphia Eagles With Carson Wentz looking unlikely to play, prefer to pick off the Rams at one of the few sports books still offering them at less than double digits. Philadelphia’s defense has been one of the worst in the league, allowing 6.1 yards per play, and should provide an opportunity for Los Angeles’ offense to get back on track.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers plus-8 at Baltimore Ravens Every Buccaneers’ game is a carnival of mistakes, but at least they can move the ball consistently. Hard to lay more than a touchdown with a Ravens’ team that ranks in the NFL’s bottom five in gaining 5.2 yards per play.
Arizona Cardinals plus-9 at Atlanta Falcons Betting market has been off on Atlanta all season, as the Falcons are an NFL-worst 3-10-1 against the spread. They’ve suffered far too many injuries to be laying nearly double digits to any team.
Houston Texans minus-6 at New York Jets During their two-game covering streak, the Jets have been outgained by nearly 250 total yards and 2 yards per play. That at least makes their minor resurgence a mirage, if not an outright miracle.
Minnesota Vikings minus-7 vs. Miami Dolphins Number looks exactly right, but counting on an extra pop from the Vikings’ offense with the switch from John DeFilippo to Kevin Stefanski. The Dolphins’ 7-6 straight-up mark is the NFL’s most deceiving record considering they have a minus-55 point differential.