Tuley’s Takes: NFL Week 15

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Week 15 picks from a "dog or pass" point of view"

It’s mid-December here in Las Vegas, which means the National Finals Rodeo is in town (which reminds me of one of my favorite sayings, “This isn’t my first rodeo,” which is apropos as I’ve been here in Las Vegas since 1998!).

 

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Anyway, it’s ironic (dontcha think?) that a lot of my longtime readers associate me with horse racing because of my days at the Daily Racing Form (two separate stints from 1993-1998 as an editor and 2000-2014 as Las Vegas correspondent), but I haven’t been playing the ponies much since the Breeders’ Cup, as I’ve been concentrating on the NFL as well as the wrapping up of the college football regular season and now preparing for the bowl season.

However, it’s been great to see all the horsies, as well as the cowboys and cowgirls in town.
I’m coming off quite a profitable weekend, though you wouldn’t guess that from my 2-3 ATS record in this column last week, as that was also my published record in the Circa Sports Million and Westgate SuperContest.

I won with the Rams +7 at the Ravens in their 37-31 OT loss and the Titans +13.5 at the Dolphins in their 28-27 outright upset, the biggest one of the season so far. The losses were on the Jaguars +3 in their 31-27 loss at the Browns (kind of a Bad Beat, as we also had +3.5), Eagles +3.5 in their 33-13 loss at the Cowboys, and Seahawks +10.5 in their 28-16 loss at the 49ers.

Now, despite that losing published record, I received more congratulatory and thank you emails/texts/DMs/etc. than a lot of my winning weeks, as regular readers know to usually wait on my underdog plays to get the best lines closer to game time. They also know the Seahawks closed a consensus +14.5, so the vast majority of my followers had a 3-2 ATS record as they covered in Seattle’s 28-16 loss.

In addition, we also hit with our Navy +8.5/Under 33.5 teaser on Saturday and, back to Sunday, swept our 2-team, 6-point teaser portfolio with our top plays of the Buccaneers +7.5/Bills +7.5 and Bills +7.5/Broncos +8.5 and all other combos, plus Ravens -1.

So, let’s get back on the proverbial horse and try to get to the finish line again as we break down the full 16-game NFL card (no more byes) for Week 15.

For newcomers to this column, I’m a “dog-or-pass bettor,” and my breakdown of each game will usually be from that point of view as we try to determine if the dog is getting enough points to make them a play – or if I recommend passing on the game, which is a very valid and valuable betting decision when trying to come out ahead against the books! Even if I don’t have an official Best Bet, I’ll still at least give my recommended “pool play strategy” for those who are in contests where you have to pick every game.

Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5/-3)

In my adopted hometown, I love our Vegas Golden Knights and have been trying to embrace the Raiders, though they’ve been far less successful since moving here in 2020. This Thursday night game looked good when the schedule was released back in May, but not now, with both teams underachieving at 5-8.

Oh, there’s still going to be some betting interest since it’s a standalone game, plus it’s also the first game of the fantasy playoffs for a lot of team owners, including yours truly (my opponent has Austin Ekeler, so I’ll be cheering against him having a big night). If I do bet this, it’ll probably be to use as the first leg in some 2-team, 6-point teasers with the Chargers moved up to +8.5, but not sure I’m willing to trust Easton Stick (who?) in his first career start as he’s replacing Justin Herbert. 

Best Bet: Pass, except maybe Chargers +8.5 in teasers (pool play: Chargers 55/45 in ATS contests but Raiders 55/45 in SU pools).

Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals (-3)

We get a Saturday tripleheader in Week 15, one week prior to Christmas Weekend (when we would expect this type of scheduling, though we’re getting more of these new wrinkles these days). These teams have had interesting seasons, to say the least, as they’ve both lost their starting QBs (Kirk Cousins and Joe Burrow, respectively) but are both somehow still 7-6 and in their respective wild-card hunts.

The Vikings are turning from turnover-prone Josh Dobbs to Nick Mullens, and we trust him more than Cincy’s Jake Browning. This is a lukewarm Best Bet for yours truly as we’d feel better if we were sure Justin Jefferson will play, though it appeared Wednesday to be trending that way. Still, consider it the No. 5 choice of my top plays this week.

Best Bet: Vikings +3 (pool play: Vikings 55/45 in ATS contests – higher if offered +3.5 – but Bengals still 60/40 in SU pools).

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts (-1.5)

I was on the fence about maybe recommending the Vikings teased up to +9, but feel better starting our “teaser portfolio” discussion with the middle game on Saturday. These teams are also both 7-6 in in the wild-card hunt, even after the Steelers had a disappointing 21-18 loss vs. the Panthers last Thursday night, and the Colts were mauled 34-14 by the Bengals on Sunday.

Still, we can’t see this being anything but a one-score game, so we love the Steelers +7.5 to kick off our 2-team, 6-point teasers like the Buccaneers did last weekend. The Texans (+2.5 as of this writing but waiting for CJ Stroud to clear concussion protocol) are a great early option, as well as our top recommended chalk options on the Dolphins -2.5 vs. the Jets and/or the Chiefs -1.5 at the Patriots. But for our overall recommended choice here, let’s pair it with the Cowboys +8 at the Bills in the marquee afternoon game.

Best Bet: 2-team, 6-point teaser on Steelers +7.5/Cowboys +8, plus other teasers (pool play: Steelers 55/45 in ATS contests, but Colts 60/40 in SU pools).

Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions (-4)

The Lions (9-4) lead the NFC North by two games and are one of the feel-good stories of the season, but (and this is a big BUT!!!) it hasn’t been hakuna matata (“no worries for the rest of your days”) since their Week 9 bye, as they’re only 3-2 SU and actually 2-3 ATS. Their only two covers were by a point (-2 in a 21-18 win at the Chargers in Week 10 and -4 in a 33-28 win at the Saints in Week 13). They failed to cover -8 in a 31-26 win vs. the Bears in Week 11 and got upset by the Packers on Thanksgiving and by the Bears this past Sunday. Meanwhile, the Broncos are far removed from the team that was routed 70-20 by the Dolphins in Week 3, as they’re 6-1 in their last seven games and 7-6 overall, just a game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West and in the thick of the wild-card chase. This should be closer to pick ’em, so gimme the points.

Best Bet: Broncos +4 (pool play: Broncos 65/35 in ATS contests, though Lions still 60/40 in SU pools).

 

Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns (-3)

The Bears are a little tempting here off their 28-13 upset of the Lions, especially since they did it with relative ease and actually looked like the better team, at least on that given Sunday. If this gets to +3.5 (and it looks very possible as several books were -3 -120 as of this writing early Wednesday night), we’ll add this as our sixth Best Bet on the 16-game card. I mean, Joe Flacco has stepped up for the Browns, but not enough to warrant this line moving over the key number of 3.

Best Bet: Pass, unless Bears go to +3.5 (pool play: Bears 55/45 in ATS contests – higher at +3.5 – though Browns still 60/40 in SU pools).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers (-3/-3.5)

Both teams are 6-7 and keep hanging around in the playoff conversation. The Packers rank better on offense and defense, plus the game is at Lambeau Field, so we understand why Green Bay is favored in the “Battle of the Bays” (who remembers when these two teams were NFC Central division rivals). However, going on the “eye test” from watching these two teams all season, we trust the Bucs much more and love getting the “hook” at +3.5 (though you might have to spend -115 to get it Wednesday night).

Best Bet: Buccaneers +3.5 (pool play: Buccaneers 60/40 in ATS contest, but Packers 65/35 in SU pools).

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (-2.5)

As mentioned above, the key to this game is dependent on whether Houston QB CJ Stroud passes concussion protocol. The Titans certainly showed something with their rally to upset the Dolphins 28-27 on Monday night, so they’re hard to fade here, though we also mentioned above that we would take the Texans up to +8.5 in teasers, though will pass if Stroud is not cleared.

Best Bet: Pass, except Texans possible in teasers (pool play: Texans 55/45 in ATS contests, but Titans 60/40 in SU pools).

New York Giants at New Orleans Saints (-6)

OK, who else is sick of this whole Tommy DeVito Cinderella story? I mean, sure, the Giants have won three straight games, but they’ve beaten the Commanders, Patriots and Packers and are only 5-8 and on the outside looking in as far as the playoff hunt goes, so let’s not get too carried away. “Having said that” – to quote Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” – we’re pleasantly surprised to see the Saints favored by so many points and have to take DeVito and the Giants plus the points.

Best Bet: Giants +6 (pool play: Giants 60/40 in ATS contests, but Saints still 67/33 in SU pools).

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-8.5)

We trust our readers to have high reading comprehension skills, so we trust that since we already recommended the Dolphins -2.5 in teasers that our followers aren’t expecting us to now give out the Jets plus the points (though it does sometimes happen if I like a shot at a middle, like we hit last week with the Rams +7 and the Ravens teased down to -1 in their 37-31 OT victory). In this case, however, the Dolphins routed the Jets just three weeks ago in that standalone Black Friday game, and we don’t expect anything different here. In addition to anchoring a couple of teasers from other games, we’ll combine this with the Chiefs -2 as our most recommended early Sunday teaser (1 p.m. ET kickoffs).

Best Bet: 2-team, 6-point teaser on Dolphins -2.5/Chiefs -2, among others (pool play: Dolphins 55/45 in ATS contests and at least 90/10 in SU pools).

Kansas City Chiefs (-8) at New England Patriots

This is similar to the Dolphins game in that we already recommended the Chiefs teased down to -2 and are pairing it with the Dolphins -2.5 in the early games as this game was moved to 1 p.m. ET as the first Sunday night game this season to be flexed out of the primetime slot. We’ve had a lot of success fading the Chiefs again this year, but we’re passing in this spot even though the Patriots did show signs of competency in their 21-18 upset of the Steelers last Thursday.

Best Bet: 2-team, 6-point teaser on Dolphins -2.5/Chiefs -2, among others (pool play: Chiefs 55/45 in ATS contests and 80/20 in SU pools).

San Francisco 49ers (-12.5) at Arizona Cardinals

There was a time when a double-digit NFL underdog was an automatic play (and we did cash when the Seahawks went to +14.5 on Sunday against these same 49ers as well as the Titans +13.5 at the Dolphins on Monday night), for yours truly, Dave Tuley, especially a home DD dog. However, I’m going to pass on the Cardinals, even though they upset the Steelers 24-10 the last time we saw them before their bye. Besides, the 49ers won the earlier meeting 35-16 and are back in winning form. 

Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Cardinals 55/45 in ATS pools on principle, but 49ers at least 90/10 in SU pools).

Washington Commanders at Los Angeles Rams (-6)

The Rams are still clinging to wild-card hopes at 6-7, so I guess we can’t totally ignore this game. But I want to anyway. The Commanders are a shell of the competitive team we saw earlier in the year, so not willing to take them plus the points. I’m sure some will recommend teasing the Rams down to pick-’em, but I’m not in that camp.

Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Rams 55/45 in ATS contests and 80/20 in SU pools).

Dallas Cowboys at Buffalo Bills (-2)

We schedulemakers have done a decent job of giving us at least one marquee game each week, and this is it for Week 15. It almost lost a lot of luster if the Bills had lost to the Chiefs on Sunday and been on the outside of the AFC wild-card race, but I can’t help feeling that the wrong team is favored. I mean, you don’t need any analytics to know the Cowboys (10-3) have outperformed the Bills (7-6) all season.

I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to pull the trigger with the Cowboys getting less than a field goal but tease them up through the key numbers of 3 and 7, and it’s one of my favorite bets of the day. It’s the top teaser option in the “afternoon slate,” and we mentioned earlier the games that we’ll be teasing and anchoring with the Cowboys.

Best Bet: 2-team, 6-point teaser on Steelers +7.5 from Saturday to Cowboys +8, among others (pool play: Cowboys 55/45 in all SU & ATS contests).

Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars

This is a good Sunday nighter (hopefully doesn’t end up a dud like last Sunday’s highly anticipated Eagles-Cowboys battle) with the Ravens (10-3), the AFC’s current No. 1 seed and holding a two-game lead in the AFC North, taking on the Jaguars (8-5), leading the AFC South by a game.

I watched both teams closely early Sunday as I lost with the Jaguars +3.5 in their 31-27 loss at the Browns and won with the Rams +7 in their 37-31 OT loss at the Ravens (and also had the Ravens -1). The Jaguars, with Trevor Lawrence less than 100 percent, still showed enough to back them here while getting more than a field goal at home (less thrilled at +3, so shop around even if it costs -120 to get the hook). Also, remember that the Jaguars won their last five games last season, so we expect them to close strong again.

Best Bet: Jaguars +3.5 (pool play: Jaguars 67/33 in ATS contests, though Ravens still 60/40 in SU pools).

Philadelphia Eagles (-4) at Seattle Seahawks

I usually like a home dog on Monday Night Football (though shame on me for passing on the Giants in their 24-22 upset of the Packers this past Monday), and the Seahawks’ “12th man” home-field advantage has served me well over the years, but this looks like a prime bounce-back spot for the Eagles against a Seattle defense that ranks No. 28 in yards allowed per game.

Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Eagles 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 75/25 in SU pools).