NFL Best Bets: Experts Pick Week 15 Games Including Broncos-Lions, Bears-Browns and Cowboys-Bills

A trio of sharps look at five of the week's most intriguing games

December 15, 2023 9:06 am
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott calls a play at the line of scrimmage.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott has a chance for a huge win in Buffalo.
Cooper Neill/Getty

This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which football experts and handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the professional football season.

In our Week 15 edition of Best Bets, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN and Mike Golic Jr. of DraftKings share their opinions on five games that will be played over the weekend as the NFL expands its schedule to include Saturday action, including a matchup between the Cowboys and Bills in Buffalo with major playoff implications.

You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.

Vikings (+3, O/U 40.5) at Bengals

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Bengals listed as high as a 5-point home favorite. With Minnesota starting Nick Mullens at quarterback instead of Josh Dobbs, we’ve seen this line fall from Bengals -5 to -3. However, the Bengals -3 is juiced up to -115 as if it might go back up to Cincinnati -3.5. Since the line has fallen so much, it creates an opportunity to buy low on the Bengals at a deflated price. The Bengals have won two straight, their skill position players are healthy and Jake Browning looks decent. I’ll buy low on Cincy and take the Bengals -165 on the moneyline.

Gable’s Guess: After only two games, Jake Browning seems to have people in Cincinnati believing he can get them to the playoffs. The Bengals have a tough schedule, but Browning has been fun to watch. One team and one game that wasn’t fun to watch was the Vikings on Sunday, who beat the Raiders 3-0 inside of a dome in perfect conditions. Just an absolutely ridiculous result. But Justin Jefferson may be back for Minnesota and the Vikings need him as they lead the league and dropped passes. The Viking defense continues to generate turnovers at a high rate and this is an interesting matchup of backup quarterbacks with two teams that are still hanging around playoff contention. The Bengals appear in pretty good form, but I am going to take the points with Minnesota.

Golic’s Gamble: The Vikings are fresh off of the winning side of a game with the Raiders that set offensive football back 100 years. Nick Mullens finished things up in that game and gets the start here while Jake Browning’s confidence grows for the Bengals. Give me the over.

IH Best Bet: The line movement here is confusing. Will side with the home team and lay the points.

Broncos (+4.5, O/U 48) at Lions

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Lions listed as a 5-point home favorite. We’ve seen the Lions fall from -5 to -4.5, signaling some respected money grabbing the points with the road dog Broncos. Russell Wilson is 35-18 ATS (66%) as a dog in his career. Primetime dogs are 114-84 against the spread (58%) since 2020. The Broncos are in a great teaser spot as well (+4.5 to +10.5), passing through multiple key numbers. I’ll take the points with Denver +4.5.

Gable’s Guess: After beating the Chargers in LA, the Broncos have their first division road win since 2019. With that, I think Sean Payton is now certainly in the conversation for Coach of the Year. He opposes someone who has fallen out of that conversation in recent weeks with the Lions struggling, Dan Campell. When you dig into the Broncos, I don’t think all is as good as it seems. Russell Wilson and Jerry Jeudy still can’t get on the same page. Courtland Sutton has been the big producer in this offense and bailed them out quite a bit. It seems Payton wants to keep things conservative with Wilson and you wonder how far they can go with the offense operating like that. The defense is the primary reason why they have been winning games. Detroit struggled on both sides of the ball against the Bears on Sunday. They need a good effort here to regain some confidence, but it’s a lot to lay. I’m going to take the points with Denver.

Golic’s Gamble: While a lot of the focus this season has been on the failing of the Lions’ defense, my concern is more with the offense’s failings versus Chicago last week. The Broncos’ combination of stingy defense and big plays between Russ and Courtland Sutton should keep this close. I’ll take the Broncos with the points.

IH Best Bet: Consensus is hard to argue with, but don’t trust either of these teams. Will side with the over.

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Bears (+3, O/U 38.5) at Browns

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Browns listed as a 2.5-point home favorite. The public is split down the middle 50/50 and doesn’t know whether to take the points or lay them. However, despite this even bet split, we’ve seen the Browns move from -2.5 to -3. They’ve even reached -3.5 briefly throughout the week. Essentially, all movement and liability is on Cleveland. Justin Fields is just 11-18 ATS (38%) in his career as a dog. I’ll lean on the home team with the better defense. Give me the Browns on the moneyline -165.

Gable’s Guess: The Browns are on their fourth quarterback of the season with Joe Flacco. Ironically, the passing game has never looked better. I think Flacco fits in very well with their scheme and he’s been able to throw downfield and take some shots. As long as the offensive line can keep him upright, we’ll probably continue to see some good things from him and this offense. But here come the Chicago Bears with this newfound confidence about them. Their defense is generating turnovers. They have nine interceptions since Week 10, the most in the NFL in that timeframe. They’ve also got 10 sacks in their last four games. Still, Justin Fields remains inconsistent at quarterback. Cleveland’s defense plays very well at home and if Chicago’s defense continues to ramp up and play at a high level…I’m going to go with the under here.

Golic’s Gamble: Joe Flacco is still elite? Somehow, he has provided the consistency for this offense through two games that $230M of Deshaun Watson could not. We always said this Browns roster just needed average QB play to be a playoff team — and with him under center that feels strangely possible. Laying the points.

IH Best Bet: Cleveland’s defense has been great all year and Flacco may be their best QB. Laying the points.

Cowboys (+2, O/U 50.5) at Bills

Appelbaum’s Assessment: The line opened with the Bills listed as a short 1.5-point home favorite. The public thinks the wrong team is favored and they’re rushing to the window to grab the points with the Cowboys. However, despite 64% of bets taking Dallas, we’ve seen this line move further toward the Bills from -1.5 to -2. This signals a sharp “fade the trendy dog” reverse line move on Buffalo. The Bills are only receiving 36% of bets but 66% of the money, further evidence of pros backing Buffalo. Give me the Bills on the moneyline -130.

Gable’s Guess: Despite winning in Kansas City, Buffalo is still on the outside looking in for the playoffs. I think they need to win out as they backed themselves into a corner with the start they got off to. The Cowboys had a nice decisive win against the Eagles, but the schedule turns now for them. James Cook had a tremendous game against the Chiefs and he’s been really impressive since the Bills changed offensive coordinators. We’ll see if he gets continued usage. The Cowboys’ offense has been a machine this year and I expect points in this one. I’m taking the over.

Golic’s Gamble: Buffalo remains in playoff mode from here on out and got a huge win to stay alive versus KC thanks to Kadarius Toney’s gaffe. While that does feel big, Kansas City is getting by more on reputation than reality this season. Dallas is the real deal and will get it done this week. Taking the points with the Cowboys. 

IH Best Bet: The Bills really need this game but they seem very shaky. The Cowboys are better. Taking the points.

Ravens (-3.5, O/U 52.5) at Jaguars

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Ravens listed as high as a 6.5-point road favorite. The public expects a Ravens blowout and 73% of bets are laying the points with Baltimore. However, despite this lopsided betting, we’ve seen Baltimore fall from -6.5 to -3.5. Some shops are even inching down to Ravens -3. This indicates smart money grabbing the Jags at home plus the points. Jacksonville is super contrarian in a heavily bet primetime game, receiving only 27% of bets. Primetime dogs are 114-84 ATS (58%) since 2020. Shop around for the hook and give me Jags +3.5.

Gable’s Guess: The Ravens were probably fortunate to get the win against the Rams on Sunday in overtime, but Lamar Jackson was great once again. He threw for 316 yards with three touchdowns. It may be Baltimore who comes away with the No. 1 seed in the AFC at this point. The Jaguars have lost to two backup quarterbacks in a row, but they claim they aren’t concerned. Honestly, after this tough game against Baltimore, they shouldn’t have any concerns with their remaining schedule, but things have not been pretty between the penalties and the turnovers. The Jaguars have been beating themselves the last couple of weeks. Trevor Lawrence wasn’t 100% last week, but I’m still going to take the Jaguars at home with the points.

Golic’s Gamble:  It’s been an eventful two weeks for Jacksonville’s defense. They allowed the Bengals previously dreadful rushing attack to get going before giving up big chunk plays and multiple scores to Browns tight end David Njoku last week. A defense struggling to defend against tight ends and against the run? Sounds like a good week to be Baltimore. I will lay the points.

IH Best Bet: Don’t have a good feel on the line so, even though it’s a primetime game, will go with the under.

Last Week: 3-2; This Season: 35-32-2

Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate based on injuries, the weather and other factors. Double-check the odds before betting.

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