NFL picks for Week 15 from Matt Youmans

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NFL best bets and predictions Week 15

For the first time this season, the Cowboys appear to be for real. Dallas finally has a big-time win in its back pocket, and quarterback Dak Prescott is the MVP frontrunner.

 

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So this seems like the right time to bet against the Cowboys.

Prescott, the new +150 favorite on the MVP odds board at DraftKings, led an impressive victory over the Eagles in Week 14 to lift Dallas (10-3) into the hunt for the NFC’s top seed. Prescott has completed 69.3% of his passes for 3,505 yards and 28 touchdowns, including 15 touchdowns with one interception during a five-game winning streak. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is all smiles, and coach Mike McCarthy is resembling a play-calling genius.

So this seems like the right time to bet on the Bills.

Buffalo (7-6) is desperate to stack wins and work its way into the AFC playoff picture. The Bills, off a thrilling 20-17 win at Kansas City, also have a quarterback with a hot hand. Josh Allen has accounted for 35 touchdowns (25 passing, 10 rushing) while throwing for 3,447 yards and running for 374 yards. His 14 interceptions aside, Allen has MVP-type numbers.

The quarterback showdown Sunday in Buffalo is about as good as it gets.

But Prescott and the Cowboys have not been at their best in big games away from home. Dallas is 7-0 on its home field, winning by an average margin of 24.4 points, and 3-3 on the road with no victories over opponents with a winning record.

There are a few negatives with the Bills — injured defensive starters AJ Epenesa and Micah Hyde are sidelined, and selfish wide receiver Stefon Diggs is ramping up his diva act, but the home favorite is hungry, and the Cowboys are getting a little overhyped.

Pick: Bills -2

My five sides went 3-1-1 last week to put the season record in this column at 34-31-5. Four more plays for Week 15 (home team in CAPS):

Steelers (+1.5) over COLTS

After home losses to the Cardinals and Patriots, Pittsburgh’s playoff chances are plummeting, and coach Mike Tomlin is the target of critics who want him fired. Tomlin is most dangerous as a ‘dog with his back to the wall, and he’s also 8-1 in his career versus the Colts. Indianapolis’ inconsistent offense finished with only 46 rushing yards in a 34-14 loss at Cincinnati a week ago. The Steelers got good injury news this week when edge rushers Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt cleared concussion protocol. This is the type of game Tomlin wins.

LIONS (-4.5) over Broncos

The Detroit defense has been in decline along with quarterback Jared Goff, who has thrown five interceptions in the past four games. Denver has won six of seven, with its defense producing 20 sacks and 18 turnovers in those seven games. This is simply a bad spot for the Broncos, who are playing their third straight road game, and it should be a get-right game for the Lions.

PATRIOTS (+8.5) over Chiefs

Nothing is wrong with Bill Belichick’s defense. The Patriots allowed an average of 11 points in their past four games. The offense is a different story, although quarterback Bailey Zappe (240 passing yards and three touchdowns) and Ezekiel Elliott (140 total yards rushing and receiving) found something positive in a 21-18 win at Pittsburgh on Dec. 7. Belichick has had extra time to prepare for this game and he schemes to take away what the opposing offense does best, so tight end Travis Kelce is unlikely to be wide open in the middle of the field all day. Kansas City is unlikely to lose three in a row, so that’s a concern, as is New England’s 3-10 ATS mark.

Eagles (-3) over SEAHAWKS

Philadelphia suddenly has problems after blowout losses to the Cowboys and 49ers, but this is also a buy-low opportunity, with the line dipping from -4 to -3. Jalen Hurts puts the Eagles in a better position to bounce back than the Seahawks, who have dropped four in a row. While Seattle is hoping quarterback Geno Smith can return from a groin injury, Smith was limited in practice Friday, and Drew Lock is not a strong backup plan.

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