Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. COVID, and specifically, how it affects the football games we love to watch, and perhaps, legally wager upon. This week, the NFL announced they had 65 positive tests Monday and Tuesday. Mathematically, that’s over two cases per team, but we all know it doesn’t work like that with communicable diseases.
The cases are clustered. Cleveland has more than a dozen, and the Rams have close to 10. Washington has over 20 players and staff in the protocol. Notice, I’m using vague numbers here, as the cases keep coming, and any specific number would likely be obsolete by the time this is published.
So, the question becomes, how do we, as handicappers react?
First, how serious is the outbreak? Most of the time, losing a player or two for the week isn’t something we should overreact to, assuming it’s not an elite QB. If there’s a full-blown outbreak, how strong is the organization, and how good is the coach? Good organizations value and acquire depth and should be equipped to handle a short-term loss of multiple players. Good head coaches hire good coaching staffs who can get replacements ready to play on short notice.
Finally, stay on top of the news. Things change fast, and we need as much time to evaluate these situations as possible.
Most importantly, please stay safe. We, or at least I, have the luxury of talking about these things in the abstract. Unfortunately, for too many, it’s not abstract. Football players are big, strong, incredibly conditioned athletes, and even they are affected by this. As much as we want to get back to normal, it’s not normal, and not normal is only getting worse as winter approaches.
The bye weeks are over (finally), and we’ve got a full slate of sixteen games. So Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, it’s a football fiesta!
(Standard disclaimer – Week 15 NFL Betting Lines – All opinions are my own and may or may not reflect those of this website. “Analytic Lines” are ELO point spreads from fivethirtyeight.com, and “Vegas Lines” are courtesy of thelines.com, current as of the writing of this article. Predicted Line (“PL”) is my early week estimate of where the Vegas line would be set. Chosen games are those with a multiple point variance between the Vegas and Analytic Lines for the Week 15 NFL Betting Lines.)
Five out of nine last week is technically profitable, but I need to be better to get my season-long numbers to profitable. ELO struggled again, going 3-6, and is now barely over .500 for the season.
Game of the Week – Jacksonville at Tennessee: We start off with a layup. Jacksonville is the most dysfunctional team in the league. At least they were until Urban Meyer was fired. So does Houston wrest the “Most Dysfunctional” mantle from them now? Stick around to find out.
Dallas at Washington: ELO and I both had the Football Team at home. Neither of us takes pride in the comeback that almost made this score respectable after the debacle that was the first half of this game.
Seattle at Houston: ELO had a slight lean to Houston. I never saw it. Tyrod Taylor or Davis Mills is an utterly pointless question.
New Orleans at New York Jets: I thought playing outdoors in December might be too much for the Saints. The Jets showed they’re bad enough to overcome (undercome?) any structural scheduling advantage they may have.
Atlanta at Carolina: Flag-waving time for the Panthers. The weight of having to carry the CMC-less offense looks like it’s taken its toll on the Panthers’ D.
New York Giants at Los Angeles Chargers: Getting hurt may be the best thing that ever happened to Daniel Jones’ Giants career.
Buffalo at Tampa Bay: Give Buffalo credit; they made a game out of it when they should have been blown out. Tampa’s complacency almost cost us the cover. Thankfully they scored a TD in overtime to pull it back in.
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona: Where did that come from? The Rams looked like they might miss the playoffs for a month, then look like world-beaters on Monday night. Not For Long, indeed.
Upset of the Week – Baltimore at Cleveland: I’ll admit when Lamar Jackson left the game, I thought all hope was lost for the Upset of the Week, but Tyler Huntley was plucky, the Browns almost collapsed, as they are wont to do, and we pulled off the “backdooriest” of backdoor covers.
Last week: My picks, 5-4; Analytics, 3-6
Season: My picks, 48-53-1; Analytics, 51-50-1
Game of the Week
Las Vegas at Cleveland – Analytic Line: CLE (-6.5), Vegas Line: CLE (+1), PL: CLE (-6)
My predicted line and I assume ELO’s are based on Cleveland being relatively full strength and not COVID-ravaged. I’m going to stick with them. They were able to beat Denver earlier in the year with Case Keenum, D’Earnest Johnson, and their defense. I think they can topple the Raiders with Keenum, Nick Chubb, and Myles Garrett in full wrecking ball mode.
Make It A Parlay – Other Week 15 NFL Betting Lines
Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers – Analytic Line: LAC (+0.5), Vegas Line: LAC (+3), PL: LAC (+3.5)
KC has probably been the best team in the league over the last six weeks. This game will likely determine the AFC West champion. I think this is a field goal game either way, so I’ll take the points with the home team on a Thursday night.
New England at Indianapolis – Analytic Line: Pick ‘Em, Vegas Line: INDY (-2.5), PL: INDY (+1.5)
I’m legitimately surprised the Colts are Vegas favorites here, given how much hype the Pats have been getting over the last month or so. Another game with huge AFC playoff implications, another game I think is a field goal either way. I’ll take the home team in this one, as well.
Arizona at Detroit – Analytic Line: DET (+11.5), Vegas Line: DET (+13.5), PL: DET (+9.5)
Two touchdowns feels like too much to give to a west coast-ish team playing a 1:00 PM eastern game following a Monday nighter. However, Detroit’s been mostly good enough at home to cover this number.
Carolina at Buffalo – Analytic Line: BUF (-9), Vegas Line: BUF (-10.5), PL: BUF (-9.5)
Carolina finishes at Buffalo, at New Orleans, and plays Tampa twice. I don’t see a win in there. Given their disastrous QB situation and collapsing defense, I doubt we see a cover in there, either.
Washington at Philadelphia – Analytic Line: PHI (-4.5), Vegas Line: PHI (-9.5), PL: PHI (-5.5)
I don’t know what to think of Philly, other than they probably shouldn’t be double digits favorites over a competent team, even if they are coming off the bye.
Houston at Jacksonville – Analytic Line: JAX (-1.5), Vegas Line: JAX (-4.5), PL: JAX (-3)
I would have taken Jacksonville this week if Urban Meyer was still there. But, with him gone, this feels like the Lock of the Week.
New York Jets at Miami – Analytic Line: MIA (-14), Vegas Line: MIA (-9.5), PL: MIA (-8.5)
ELO is laying the smackdown on the Jets. Can’t say I disagree. Fish coming off the bye, Jets are playing out the string. I’ll lay the double digits.
Atlanta at San Francisco – Analytic Line: SF (-8), Vegas Line: SF (-9.5), PL: SF (-8.5)
Atlanta’s not good enough to make a trip to the west coast and hang with the Niners, who should be riding high after their OT win in Cincinnati last week.
Green Bay at Baltimore – Analytic Line: BAL (+2), Vegas Line: BAL (+5.5), PL: BAL (+3)
I’m assuming Lamar Jackson doesn’t play. However, I’m still taking the Ravens to cover, if only because the Packers’ special teams are so wretched. I can’t imagine John Harbaugh hasn’t been licking his chops all week, and the Ravens’ superiority in that phase will be enough to keep the game close.
Upset of the Week
Dallas at New York Giants – Analytic Line: NYG (+4), Vegas Line: NYG (+10.5), PL: NYG (+6.5)
Yes, the Giants QB situation is a disaster, but this is three straight road games for Dallas. They looked like they lost some steam in the second half last week, so there’s no way I’m laying double digits on them this week.
If you are looking for more Week 15 NFL Betting, check out Chris Molina’s Top 5 Player Props every Friday!