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Week 15 finally wrapped up Tuesday night as the Eagles and Rams survived slow starts to pull away for easy victories. Philadelphia's 10-point win pushed, leaving bettors on both sides right back where they started and making L.A. the only profitable side of the evening. Favorites went 8-7-1 as underdogs and quietly gave up bragging rights for the third consecutive week. Despite only covering in seven games this week, underdogs still hit the moneyline more often than not.
It's typical that we will see larger spreads and more favorites covering as the season winds down. Teams that fall out of playoff contention start to make personnel decisions based on the future, creating more separation between the top and bottom half of the league.
That's why this time of the season it can be advantageous to target the middle class of the NFL. Bettors need teams they can rely on to show up. The ones with playoff dreams are surviving week-to-week with everything at stake. They are the type of underdogs that I am comfortable putting my money behind. I have targeted two games this week featuring four teams with identical 7-7 records. Both underdogs are live in each matchup with a strong path to victory. You can bet them both at moneyline odds or parlay them together for a +381 payout.
Denver (+105) at Las Vegas
Drew Lock is not a starting-caliber quarterback, but I am happy to bet the Raiders' defense makes him look like one. Lock gets to unleash a talented set of weapons on a secondary that ranks 23rd in EPA per dropback allowed and 30th since Week 8. Lock's mobility coupled with the Denver wideouts' ability to get open quickly in space should help mitigate the Raiders' pass rush. The Broncos' playoff hopes took a big hit in last week's loss, and this week presents one last opportunity to make a push.
The Raiders' offensive struggles have completely flown under the radar the past two months. Derek Carr's offense has been held to 16 points or less in six of its last seven games with the Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys being the lone outlier. I cashed in on the Raiders under in Cleveland and found a better edge this week with them lined as a small favorite. Head Coach Vic Fangio has Denver playing solid defense, allowing a stingy 13.75 points over the last four weeks while facing three potential playoff teams (KC, CIN, LAC). Bet the Broncos while you can still get them at plus money.
Miami (+135) at New Orleans
I'm getting a team that has won six straight games at +135 odds against an opponent with the same record. The level of competition has been low, but Miami's streak has been a confidence-builder that has provided a young team the mental toughness required to win close games in the NFL. Now, this week they get the opportunity to demonstrate that toughness against an opponent coming off an emotional win against its biggest divisional rival.
The first half of the season was a complete disaster for the Dolphins to the point that coach Brian Flores was on the hot seat. The second half of the season has seen the Dolphins' defense anchor the turnaround. It has been the league's No.1 unit since the halfway mark in terms of EPA per play allowed, moving up to No. 7 on the season.
The Saints are no secret. Coach Sean Payton isn't throwing on anybody with Taysom Hill at QB. That gives Flores the ability to stack the box and key on Alvin Kamara. It's most likely going to be a long day for both offenses. If the defenses have their way, it will come down to which QB can lead that one drive in the fourth quarter that secures the win. I am more confident in Tua Tagovailoa, who ranks ninth in QB success rate, making the plays down the stretch with the game on the line.
The Saints are historically overvalued at home ATS and have been a bad bet this season. New Orleans is 1-4 S/U and ATS at the Caesars Superdome. The Saints have only covered 33% of the time as favorites this season and failed to cover both times they laid points at home. Coming off a huge emotional win, this is the perfect spot to back the fish and reel in some plus money.
Stats provided by teamrankings.com, Football Outsiders, and Ben Baldwin (based on 10/90 WP).