NFL Betting Guide: Week 15 (Sunday)
Do you think you know a lot about NFL football? Try regularly picking five games against the spread.
Even with all the information and advanced stats, elite sports bettors are lucky to get about 53% to 54% of -110 (even probability) bets correct. It's essentially flipping a coin.
That being said, people -- myself included -- try. There are plenty of contests, media personalities, and other casual games at work or with friends that pick five games each week against the spread to see how they fare.
Using NFL odds from FanDuel Sportsbook, here are my five picks against the spread and a couple of totals I like this week. Play or fade as you please.
Week 14 Recap
Last Week: 3-2
Year-to-Date Record: 40-30-0 (57.1%)
My heart rate on Sunday afternoons doesn't appreciate this recent trend in our five picks.
Once again, we dropped the 1 p.m. eastern games, setting up for an awful day. The Giants got blown off the field by Philadelphia, and the Browns had a chance to make it a one-score game in Cincinnati late but ultimately faltered.
Then, we rallied in the afternoon. The Broncos pulled off a miraculous comeback to cover against Kansas City, the Panthers handled business in Seattle, and Justin Herbert got the last laugh in Los Angeles against Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins.
For the first time all year, we also hit both totals. It was a tremendous week, and we'll look to continue a steady, consistent year in Week 15. We've had a winning week in 12 of the 14 thus far.
Pick #1: Jets (-1.5) vs. Lions
This is my favorite line of the week -- and one of my favorite this year.
With ugly weather expected on the east coast all weekend, Jared Goff and the Lions will be forced into the elements to keep their win streak alive. Regardless of the forecast, Goff hasn't been close to the same guy away from Ford Field.
He's posted 0.31 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back at home this year. For context, Patrick Mahomes is at 0.33 overall for the year. On the road, Goff has tanked to 0.05 Passing NEP per drop back, which is comfortably below the league average.
I know the Jets are dealing with some injuries up front, but this is still the third-best overall defense in the league, per numberFire's nERD model. Importantly, Sauce Gardner will be active to face Amon-Ra St. Brown, which has been the key to halting the Lions. They've scored just six total points in two games where St. Brown was held under 50 receiving yards.
If that's the case, Gang Green will win this game with Mike White, Zach Wilson, or yours truly under center against our nERD model's worst overall rushing defense. Projecting this sharp drop in Detroit's offensive efficiency, I'd take this line up to 6.5 points.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Jets 22-16
**Editor's Note: This line shifted to Jets +1.5 in light of the news Zach Wilson would start this game on Friday. This is still an official contest pick at either line.**
Pick #2: Jaguars (+4.0) vs. Cowboys
Dallas loves to run the ball, holding the seventh-lowest pass rate over expectation in the NFL. The Jags, though, are numberFire's 10th-best rush defense. They've been pretty solid stopping the run, but they're also our third-worst pass defense. That means this offense should be on Dak Prescott's shoulders.
Plus. Jacksonville's offensive line allows the lowest pressure rate (20%) in the NFL. That's an absolute must facing Dallas' league-best pass rush (40% pressure rate), and it's a similar formula we used to pick the Packers to cover -- at home -- against this same Cowboys squad a few weeks ago.
Now, can Prescott have some success here? Sure. He's eighth in the NFL in Passing NEP per drop back (0.20) among those with at least 150 attempts. This number is friendly, though. It's ceding over a field goal to a team that's already 3-2 against the spread (ATS) at home.
70% of bets are on the Cowboys to rebound in this one. Head for the hills.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Cowboys 23-20
Pick #3: Titans (+3.0) at Chargers
This is a sublime matchup for the Titans in a classic buy-low, sell-high spot from last week.
Tennessee was blown off the field by Jacksonville, whose pass-heavy style gave their struggling secondary fits. There's some concern about that here given the Chargers are fourth in pass rate over expectation. However, they're much more well-positioned to protect this weakness in Los Angeles.
I just discussed Jacksonville's run defense, which helped neutralize Derrick Henry. This week, Henry gets to attack numberFire's fifth-worst rushing defense against Los Angeles. Plus, it's now L.A. that should be forced to be truly one-dimensional given the Titans are our sixth-best rushing defense.
The Bolts are 2-7 ATS this year as a favorite. Brandon Staley's odd, analytical-but-also-not-analytical decisions are great to add variance to his squad as an underdog, but it's a hair-pulling nightmare having to lay points that he actively gives away. Mike Vrabel, on the other hand, is 22-17 straight up as an underdog in his career. That gap -- in this historical position -- couldn't be starker.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Titans 24-21
All those early-season rumblings about the Giants have come laughably to fruition.
Their defense was the main concern, and they now sit eighth-worst in numberFire's nERD ranks. With the league's 16th-best passing offense, Daniel Jones (0.04 Passing NEP per drop back) has shown he can't reliably beat teams without the help of Saquon Barkley and a top-five rushing attack, per numberFire.
They probably won't get a ton out of Barkley on Sunday. The Commanders are our top-ranked rushing defense, and they bottled Barkley to 63 rushing yards in ostensibly five quarters two weeks ago.
These teams battled to a tie that day in New Jersey. The Giants' two offensive touchdowns came from a short field and a 55-yard bomb to Darius Slayton. Overall, New York was outgained by 96 yards. Now, Washington has had a bye week and nothing to do but prepare for this contest that would all but lock them into the postseason. The Giants spent the past week getting violently humbled by the division-best Eagles.
Given the tie, laying this many points with the Commies doesn't make much sense at first. After all, 65% of bettors agree and are backing the G-Men. A large chunk of me thinks Washington rolls in this primetime, must-win affair.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Commanders 24-13
Totals of the Week
Pick #1: Patriots at Raiders (Over 44.5)
The Raiders can be a turbulent ride to bet on, but there is one constant: their awful defense.
If last week's meltdown against Baker Mayfield hours into Mayfield's Rams tenure didn't give you the hint, Las Vegas is the worst pass defense in the NFL. In fact, they're so bad that the Raiders are, per our nERD ranks, the 28th-best squad with our 11th-best offense. It barely makes sense in an offensively-drive league.
That means Mac Jones and the Patriots should have their best day at the office in some time. While Rhamondre Stevenson is looking iffy to play, Damien Harris has returned to practice. Plus, this is a deep wideout corps that can lean on Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne through their current injuries.
Vegas has only faced four top-16 defenses in numberFire's model, but they've posted 22.5 points against those four squads. Their star-studded offense hasn't been shut down by them so far.
Despite receiving only 54% of bets, 65% of the money is backing the over in this contest. It's one of the few places to bet an over with weather impacting several games on this slate.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Raiders 24-23
Pick #2: Steelers at Panthers (Under 37.5)
Two of the best defenses in the NFL will square off in Carolina on Sunday.
The Panthers are easy to see. They're 11th in numberFire's model in overall defense, and they've carried the squad through some wretched offensive showings to -- somehow -- still be alive for the NFC South title. After last week's beatdown of Seattle, they might be in the driver's seat.
However, the Steelers' defense won't pop in analytical models. They were borderline awful without T.J. Watt, but with him, they've been sensational. In the weeks he has played, they have allowed -0.01 Offensive NEP per play, which is the sixth-best mark in the NFL for those five weeks.
Kenny Pickett is practicing, but this is still a battle between the rookie and Carolina's Sam Darnold. All in all, these two lead the 13th and 4th-worst offenses in our model, respectively. Plus, these teams combined for the sixth-worst average situation-neutral pace this weekend.
Just 54% of bets are on this under, but 82% of the handle is. Sharps have made their move.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Panthers 17-13