This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Paul Bovi, a sports betting expert from VegasInsider.com who’s been handicapping games for three decades, and Brady Kannon the host of The Green Zone on VSiN, share their opinions on five games on the NFL’s slate of Week 15 matchups, including Sunday’s nights AFC showdown between the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
7-6 Bears (+177, +4.5, O/U 40.5) at 10-3 Packers
Winners of three in a row, Chicago seems to have righted the ship after a disastrous start to the season. Unfortunately for the Bears, the poor start has put them in a position where every game they play is a must-win. That will certainly be the case on Sunday when Chicago takes on a Packers team that has a great record but has not beaten a team with a winning record since Week 2.
Bovi’s take: “In a rematch of the NFL season opener, the resurgent Bears take on the Packers. While Green Bay has gone 3-2 over the last five, they were outscored in their losses by a combined 63-19 courtesy of the Chargers and most recently the Niners. Their victories were over the Giants, Redskins and Panthers with the latter having been stopped at the goal line with seconds left. The Bears have won four of five in advancing to 7-6, though a pair of those were over the 3-9-1 Lions. The lone impressive victory was their Thursday night win over the Cowboys. The Packers come in as a short favorite and, while we don’t have the utmost confidence in Mitchell Trubisky, we’ll look for the Bears to stay within a field goal on a frigid day in Wisconsin.”
Kannon’s take: “In the last couple of weeks, the Bears have gone back to allowing Mitchell Trubisky to run and I think it has contributed greatly to their success. That has helped the offense a lot. I think that’s where a lot of his talent lies and almost think he’s better throwing on the run than from the pocket. The Packers are really just not that good. We saw in the first couple of games of the season that their defense played pretty well. But the truth of the matter is, 14 weeks into the season, their defense is not very good. The Packers’ record is amazing, but they have played a very weak schedule. They haven’t played anybody really that difficult. And when they have, like the 49ers, they’ve been crushed. It’s very hard to beat a team twice in a season and Green Bay beat Chicago 10-3 at Soldier Field in Week 1. So, the revenge combined with the difficulty of having to do it twice leads me to the Chicago side with the points.”
Our Pick: Hope Trubisky stays hot and take the Bears with the points.
8-5 Texans (+130, +3, O/U 51) at 8-5 Titans
Tied atop the top of the AFC South, the Texans and Titans will play each other two times in the next three weeks. The Texans play the middling Buccaneers in the middle week while the Titans take on the first-place Saints in a much tougher matchup. Based on that alone, this is probably a slightly bigger game for Tennessee than it is for New Orleans.
Bovi’s take: “Last week, the Texans were torched by Drew Lock and the Broncos as Denver took a 31-3 lead into halftime. Houston appeared helpless on defense as the rookie quarterback from Missouri seemed to pick their defense apart at will. In their game, the Titans turned a halftime stalemate with the Raiders to a full-on blowout as the resurrection of Ryan Tannehill was on full display. The Dolphin cast-off accounted for 391 passing yards in completing 21-of-27 throws while pushing his record to 6-1 since taking over for Marcus Mariota. No need to pick a winner here as these two will move with chains with regularity. Over is the play.”
Kannon’s take “I think these teams are very equal. Ryan Tannehill has been fantastic, but if you look at Tennessee’s last few games, they’ve scored a heckuva lot of points. But I think this is a spot where the Titans might be a little bit set up for a letdown. And the Texans are certainly in a position where they have to bounce back. I think you’re probably going to get a good game here. They’re also going to play each other at the end of the season, so, while both teams are going to be trying to win the game, there might just be a little something there where they don’t throw out every trick play. It’s not a game that I’m really interested in betting, but I would lean toward the Texans.”
Our Pick: Look for points in bunches and side with the over.
8-5 Rams (-125, -1.5, O/U 49) at 6-7 Cowboys
Winners of two in a row, the Rams travel to Dallas to take on a Cowboys team that has lost three in a row yet is somehow still in first place in the NFC East. Should the Cowboys lose to the underdog Rams, that will change. L.A. would like that to happen as they almost certainly need to run the table over the next three weeks to have a shot at the postseason.
Bovi’s take: “The Rams and Jared Goff seem to have found their groove the past two weeks in churning out a pair of convincing wins over the Cardinals and Seahawks following a dreadful performance in a loss to the Ravens on Monday Night Football. They advanced to 8-5 in their quest to land a wildcard berth in the NFC. The Cowboys continue to underperform as they were dominated by the Bears in a 31-24 loss. They will have the advantage of 10 days of rest and will also be playing in their home stadium. With Dallas thin at the linebacker position, we’ll look for both offenses to generate points in what should be a four-point Cowboys win.”
Kannon’s take: “These teams are definitely headed in opposite directions. The Rams really appear to be on the rise. One handicapping angle over the years has been to always go against the team that loses the Super Bowl and that was the Rams. And L.A. did not look good for really the first half of the year. There were a lot of situations where you expected them to show up and they did not. But it seems they’ve kind of shook off that hangover and they’re really starting to reappear. On the flip side, Dallas continues to spiral downward. It’s so confusing because they have so much talent on that team. This could certainly set up as a spot where they bounce back, but I think it’s the wrong opponent because you’ve got a Rams team that’s on the rise. It’s hard for me to bet this game because I think it’s very difficult to know which Dallas team is going to show up. But, I would lean towards the Rams here because I think they certainly have the better coach. They also have a better defense and I think their offense is playing better currently.”
Our Pick: The Rams should keep rolling. Take L.A. and lay the points.
9-4 Bills (Even, +1.5, O/U 38) at 8-5 Steelers
Coming off a loss to the Ravens, the Bills still have a chance at seizing the division crown in the AFC East if things break their way. They’ll need some help and they’ll also need to win all their games, starting with this one against the resilient Steelers. Winners of three in a row, Pittsburgh is not an easy matchup and will also be healthier than they’ve been in weeks with running back James Conner and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster expected to return to action.
Bovi’s take: “With theses cities only 219 miles apart, count on at least a few Bills fans to make the trek to Pittsburgh while the AFC East still hangs in the balance. After a disastrous 0-3 start, the Steelers have reeled off wins in eight of the last 10 to put themselves in the hunt for an AFC wildcard berth. Their last five wins have been by a touchdown or fewer with one of those coming against the Ryan Finley-led Bengals, while another was the result of a missed Adam Vinatieri kick. The Bills are the better team and should get the win as they continue their breakthrough season.”
Kannon’s take: “Whatever the case is for the Steelers’ offense with regard to injuries, it is really poor. The Steelers have had a lot of success and I give them a ton of credit because they’ve been doing it without their star quarterback, but they haven’t really beaten anybody in the last four or five weeks except for the Rams. So, I favor the Bills here. I think the Bills are the better team. I like Josh Allen. He’s an incredible athlete and I love what he’s able to do with his legs. And this defense is absolutely for real. So, I think you have the better team here catching a couple of points. I think the Bills absolutely have the better team and win the game.”
Our Pick: Bet on Buffalo’s defense and take the Bills with the points.
6-7 Colts (+300, +8.5, O/U 46.5) at 10-3 Saints
Losers of three in a row, the Colts have stumbled down the stretch following a hot start. They’ll take on a New Orleans team that lost a shootout at home on Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers and will be looking to get back in the win column. Indy is banged up but may get back No. 1 receiving option T.Y. Hilton in time for Monday night’s game.
Bovi’s take: “What looked like a division crown has turned into a season of heartbreak for the Colts. Indy relinquished a 17-point lead over the Bucs Sunday by losing their fifth game in six tries. Injuries to key players have played a role in their demise as did a last-second missed field goal in a two-point loss to the Steelers. The Saints also come in on a down note as they failed to hold onto a last-minute lead in what was a 48-46 nailbiter loss to the Niners. With a win, New Orleans would have had the inside track to hosting the NFC Championship game. At this point, they are deadlocked with the Packers in their quest for a first-round bye. The Saints will get this win over the offensively starved Colts.”
Kannon’s take: “I actually think it’s kind of a bad spot for the Saints because it’s hard to get up off the mat after a back-and-forth heavyweight fight like they played in Week 14. And to come out on the losing end at home as well almost makes it even more difficult I think. I believe it’s going to be difficult for them to bounce back. The other thing is. if you look at some of the numbers, the Saints are just 7-17 against the spread as a home favorite when they’re coming off of a loss. Especially laying close to 10 points here, you’re really asking a lot of them in a difficult situation. On the other hand, the Colts really should have won their game last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they just could not close it out. Playing on Monday Night Football, I believe, is very much of a positive for Indianapolis Colts. They’re going to get up for this game. So, this is kind of like their Super Bowl and their playoff hopes are on the line. I think the Colts definitely stay within the number here.”
Our Pick: Those are a ton of points. Take ’em and go with the Colts.
Last Week’s Picks: 0-5, Season: 34-36
Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.