Week 15 NFL betting picks and predictions from Adam Burke

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NFL Week 15 best bets and betting odds

Bye weeks are in the past and the playoff chase is on. There are a lot of meaningful games in Week 15 and a lot of competitively-lined games as well, so it could be a very interesting set of results depending on how things fall.

Three Saturday games are on the schedule this week and professional athletes are creatures of habit, so we’ll see if there are any unique elements to those games, especially for the traveling team, whose itinerary gets altered more so than the home team. At this time of the year, everybody is banged up and beaten up, so those recovery days are very important to say the least. All kinds of considerations this week.

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Here are my favorite Week 15 NFL picks:

(Odds as of December 14, 10:25 a.m. PT)

Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns (-3, 38.5)

A lot is being made of the Bears defense and the dramatic turnaround that they’ve had this season. This was a group that was among the league’s worst last season in a bevy of statistical categories, but this year’s group has greatly improved, especially over the last few weeks. Since Week 9, the Bears are ninth in scoring defense, tied for second in takeaways, and fifth in yards per game allowed.

For the season, the Bears are third in Rush EPA allowed, but 27th in Dropback EPA. Since Montez Sweat arrived in Week 9, Chicago is sixth in EPA/play overall and has improved to fifth in Dropback EPA. This is a completely different unit with his addition and they’ve continued to be a top-10 unit against the run.

Cleveland is really playing with a patchwork offensive line now. Tackles Jed Wills and Dawand Jones are both out for the season. Center Ethan Pocic left last week’s game. While the Browns normally get the ball out quick and Joe Flacco is a veteran, I can’t help but feel like he gets pressured a lot in this game.

On the flip side for Cleveland, while their defense has been exceptional this season, they’ve done so with a lot of unbridled aggression. It is a lot harder to be aggressive against a mobile QB like Justin Fields. Since he returned from injury, Fields has two passing touchdowns and a rushing score against  no turnovers. He’s accumulated 830 total yards and they’ve won two of those three games, along with giving the Lions a real scare in Week 11.

I don’t love this matchup for Cleveland in a lot of ways, especially with the litany of injuries. I think the Bears are very live.

Pick: Bears +3

Atlanta Falcons (-3, 34) at Carolina Panthers

The Falcons have a “don’t screw it up” game this week against the 1-12 Panthers and I think that will lead their offense to be very vanilla as they hit the road for Charlotte. The only way that the Panthers can hang around in a game is by forcing takeaways and they boast the worst run defense in the NFL by Rush EPA and it’s not particularly close.

Atlanta won’t have much incentive to let Desmond Ridder throw and they haven’t played many games outdoors or played that well offensively when they have, so it makes sense to be very conservative. That is going to lead to a low-scoring game in this one in my opinion.

Carolina’s offense is bad, as we all know. The stats are all out there and Bryce Young hasn’t really shown any improvement. The team also hasn’t improved since getting rid of Frank Reich, who may not be a great coach, but is pretty widely-regarded as a sharp offensive mind. The Falcons have a top-10 defense by EPA/play and have had one of the best rush defenses all season long.

I don’t see a lot of explosives here from either team and I think the Falcons rely a lot on the run in a game where they just try to avoid mistakes and get out with a win.

Pick: Under 34

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