Bye weeks are over and we will have 16 games every week from here on out as the NFL playoff picture comes together. For whatever reason, adding the 18th week seems to have made the regular season so much longer, even though it just means one more game for every team.
These last four weeks will be very interesting from a betting standpoint. “Tanking” teams will have inflated underdog prices. Playoff teams in “must-win” situations will have a premium placed on their lines. Market entry will continue to be important, but with the flu, injuries and COVID-19, timing might be more about luck than anything else.
Nevertheless, here are a few early lines that stand out for Week 15:
Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns (-6.5, 43.5)
The Raiders are back on the road to play in another chilly city for a second straight week. This line might seem fairly big given the placement in the standings for these two teams, but the Raiders have had major offensive issues in the red zone and on third down, plus the Browns are better than their record. Cleveland’s losses have come primarily against division leaders and playoff teams, plus the Browns have dealt with a ton of injuries this season.
It is a short week with a quick turnaround after a division game against the Chiefs for Las Vegas. Cleveland’s recovery time is also limited, but without the travel. The Raiders beat Cleveland in the cold and wind last year in a game that basically could have swung either way and was significantly impacted by the conditions. That puts the Browns in a revenge spot.
Las Vegas has a good pass rush, but the run defense is suspect and Cleveland should be able to control the game. By letting the Ravens back in the game, this line didn’t adjust too much more from the lookahead, going from -5.5 to -6.5. The Raiders never got themselves into the game against the Chiefs to fall further back in the playoff chase, and Derek Carr’s postgame comments insinuated that not everybody is buying in at this point.
Patrick Mahomes throws two touchdown passes and the Kansas City Chiefs take advantage of five Las Vegas Raiders turnovers in a 48-9 blowout win.
Dec. 12, 2021
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (-1, 44)
Both teams come off of a bye here for one of two Saturday games in Week 15. The Colts are the home squad here, and this is a very good matchup. Some would say it features two of the AFC’s best teams. The Colts took some initial money on the +2 lookahead line from Westgate Superbook, and the line settled in at pick em.
While many will point to the bye week being a benefit for Bill Belichick, who is the GOAT of game-planning, New England’s off week might be more of a detriment. We’ve seen a lot of top teams struggle off of the bye this season, particularly on offense. The Patriots have gotten great play from Mac Jones and the running backs, but the Colts’ offense is also very solid with an elite rushing attack and an improved Carson Wentz.
Frank Reich has planned enough for the Patriots that he knows how to attack the Belichick defense. The Colts’ defense is very talented and likely better than the returns we’ve seen thus far. I believe that a bye week for a team that is rolling like the Patriots is actually a bad thing and sort of stunts the momentum. We’ll see where this line goes as the week moves along, but I think the Patriots have met their match here and the line suggests Indianapolis stacks up well.
Ahead of Thursday’s showdown with the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs, Justin Herbert made quarterback history in the Chargers’ 37-21 win over the New York Giants.
Dec. 12, 2021
Dallas Cowboys (-11, 45) at New York Giants
You never know what the weather might have in store in mid-December at the Meadowlands, as the Cowboys hit the road for a division game the second straight weekend. This is a big number for Dallas. Certainly the Giants have underperformed this season and Daniel Jones has been banged up a lot this season, but this is a big spread with a low total and a tough spot for the Cowboys.
In the first meeting, Jones was concussed and Saquon Barkley left with an ankle sprain. The Giants trailed 17-13 early in the third quarter, but the wheels came off and the Cowboys rolled to a 44-20 win. Dallas was favored by a touchdown in that home game way back in Week 5. If we assume two points for home-field advantage, we’ve seen an eight-point adjustment between these teams. That seems like a little bit of an overreaction, even if the Giants have not had a great season to this point.
Getting double digits against a warm-weather team for a division game with a low total seems like a pretty reasonable bet.
Pick: Giants +11
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