NFL Betting Guide: Week 15 (Saturday)
A special slate means a special betting guide.
We'll still go through our five contest picks against the spread and Sunday totals in our normal betting guide, but we've got Saturday games from here on in. As a result, we'll want to see if we can find some betting action inside of those, too.
Using NFL odds from FanDuel Sportsbook, here are my picks for Saturday's games. Play or fade as you please.
Vikings -3.5 (-118) - 1.0 Units
Over 47.5 (-110) - 0.5 Units
Believing the Minnesota Vikings are overrated has become so mainstream that they might actually be underrated.
Even with a negative point differential, the Vikings are a good team, and these visiting Colts aren't. At home, Minnesota is 11th in our nERD rankings, and Indianapolis is an ugly 31st. This line would be a minimum of six points with the Patriots, Buccaneers, or Dolphins, but there are percentage points of value here for every purple logo on a point-differential graphic.
We know Matt Ryan and the passing attack are the weakness of the Colts' offense. Minnesota is numberFire's fifth-best team against the rush, so this game will be on his shoulders. Plus, the Vikes get the seventh-best pressure rate (34%) in the NFL on opposing passers.
Oddsmakers and sharps have been too high on this Indy team all year (5-8 ATS), and, in a bad matchup for Jonathan Taylor and their rushing attack, this might be the most egregious example yet.
I also have a slight lean to the over here. While 66% of bets are on this one to fall short of 47.5 points, 54% of the money is on the over. I get that sharp action; both of these teams have below-average defenses, per our nERD ranks. Plus, this game rates out with the second-best average situation-neutral pace of the entire weekend.
These two bets also go well together; the points laid with Minnesota are inherently less valuable in a game with more of them available.
Over 38.0 (-105) - 0.75 Units
Betting the spread here is a bit difficult without quarterback news. I'd lean towards the Browns regardless, but this is an alternative way of mining the value that is the public perception around Deshaun Watson at the moment.
Understandably, there's a sect of people who want Watson to fail, but in the long run, he'll improve Cleveland's offense over what Jacoby Brissett brought. Watson posted -0.38 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back two weeks ago, and last week, that mark was already up to -0.04.
As is, the Browns are already numberFire's 13th-best offense, so this low total should already pique our interest. Even better, Cleveland sports the model's seventh-worst defense, so the Ravens should score, too.
Tyler Huntley appears good to go for this one, but even with the fleet-footed Anthony Brown, Baltimore's primary plan of attack should be rushing the ball into the Browns' sixth-worst rushing defense. J.K. Dobbins did post a stellar 66.7% rushing success rate last week against a tough Pittsburgh defense.
55% of bets in this contest are on the under, but 52% of the handle is on the over. We'll follow that small split.
Bills -7.0 (-105) - 0.5 Units
Under 44.5 (-110) - 0.75 Units
I'll likely be selling Tua Tagovailoa for the remainder of the year.
Tua's schedule has fooled us a bit. Amazingly, the Dolphins played six below-average defenses (per our nERD ranks) in the past seven weeks. He's averaged 0.30 Passing NEP per drop back in that time. For context, Patrick Mahomes is at 0.33 for the year.
In five games this year against top-12 passing defenses in numberFire's model, Tagovailoa has posted 0.11 Passing NEP per drop back, which is below the league average. That might seem like cherry-picking, but he's got a top-10 passing defense for all four games to end this season.
That starts in Buffalo, where a nor'easter is scheduled to hit prior to Saturday. If Miami's passing game can't get going due to weather, they're our 22nd-ranked rushing offense and 17th-ranked overall defense. They are going to be in line to get walloped by the Bills in their domain.
Bets are relatively even on both the spread and total to this point, but if Miami can't score, Buffalo should cover a multi-score lead. The under is the safer play if Josh Allen's recent struggles continue -- or the weather badly inhibits both offenses equally.