I’m not a mathematician, but I do know that it is now mathematically impossible for me to beat my best bets record from last year. A year ago, I posted a 49-35-1 record with my five weekly best bets. This year, even if I were to go 15-0 over the next three weeks, I can’t finish any better than 48-36-1 — thanks mostly to my 1-9 start to the season in Week 1 and 2, which yeah, actually happened.
With three weeks remaining, my only aim is to climb above .500 — also known as respectability. To get there, I’m relying on my most trusted allies: Jameis Winston, the Chiefs, Patriots, Bears, and Dolphins. That might seem like a mostly untrustworthy group of players and teams (outside of the Chiefs and Patriots), but hear me out. I actually think Winston might be the safest bet in football right now, and there’s plenty of reasons to trust the Bears and Dolphins this week, as I’ll explain below.
Onto the picks. But first, allow me a brief moment to sigh about yet another 2-3 week.
Last week: 2-3
This year: 33-36-1
1. Buccaneers at Lions Over 47
Winston leads the league in interceptions with 23 by a wide margin (seven, to be exact) and he’s tied for the third-most fumbles. That’s the bad. The good is that Winston averages 8.0 yards per pass attempt, which ranks eighth, and he’s thrown 26 touchdowns, which is tied for second with Russell Wilson, behind only Lamar Jackson.
This — Winston’s boom-or-bust style of play — makes the Buccaneers a lock to engage in high-scoring games. Ten of the Buccaneers’ 13 games have gone over.
I don’t see why the over shouldn’t hit again. Even though the Buccaneers will be without Mike Evans, they’ll be going up against a Lions team that ranks 24th in defensive DVOA and is allowing 25.8 points per game. The Buccaneers should be able to score their normal output of points (29.1 points per game). And while the Lions’ offense is down their first- and second-string quarterbacks and now Marvin Jones, they should be able to put up points considering just how often Winston puts his defense in bad positions with his turnovers. It should come as no surprise to hear that the Buccaneers, in addition to scoring the third-most points, have allowed the second-most points (29.3 per game).
A Buccaneers game has finished with a total below 47 only twice this season.
2. Bears +4.5 at Packers
Since Matt Nagy arrived in Chicago last year, the Bears have played the Packers close. They lost by one point in Week 1 of last year before beating them by seven later in the season. In Week 1 of this year, they lost by seven in a game that came down to the final possession. I’m expecting another close game, with the Bears managing to lose by only a field goal — and I think they’ll have a chance to pull off the upset too.
I don’t think the Packers are nearly as good as their record suggests. They’re tied for the second-most wins in football, but their point differential of plus-39 ranks 11th. Put another way, they’re closer to the Chargers (plus-38) than the Ravens (plus-194). Heck, they’re closer to the Bears (plus-11) than the Ravens. Their defense is 20th by DVOA even though they have a ton of talented players. And their offense has been mostly unimpressive with only 23.8 points per game. In the past month, we’ve seen them lose by double-digits to the Chargers, struggle to put away the Panthers at home, get demolished by the 49ers, beat up on a bad Giants team, and then barely beat the Redskins at home. I just don’t see any signs that this Packers team is equipped to easily dispatch the Bears.
The Bears might not be good, but they’re playing good football right now. In his past two starts, Mitchell Trubisky is completing 75.4 percent of his passes and averaging 8.4 yards per attempt, and he’s thrown six touchdowns and two interceptions, and posted a 116.9 passer rating. And the Bears’ defense is still very good, ranking seventh by DVOA and fourth in points allowed. I think the Bears’ defense will be able to stymie the Packers’ offense, and I think the offense will be able to do just enough to keep things within a field goal.
3. Patriots -9.5 at Bengals
Just what the Bengals needed: As if the Patriots needed any more motivation after the entire world outside of New England has written off their Super Bowl chances due to their anemic offense, the Patriots have been accused of . This feels like the game where the Patriots get right on offense against the league’s third-worst defense by DVOA while their defense (still first in DVOA, by the way) shuts down a horrible Bengals offense that ranks 28th by DVOA — and don’t be surprised if the Patriots’ defense gets in on the action too. The Patriots have generated the second-most takeaways and the Bengals have racked up the fifth-most giveaways.
Patriots by a million.
Who should you back against the spread, on the money line and the total in every Week 15 NFL game? And which Super Bowl contender gets stunned? Check out the latest NFL odds above, then visit SportsLine to see their Week 15 NFL cheat sheet, all from the model that is up over $7,000 on its top-rated NFL picks.
4. Dolphins +3.5 at Giants
Fun fact: The 3-10 Dolphins are 7-2 against the spread since Week 6, which is when Ryan Fitzpatrick seized control of the starting job. Another fun fact: The Giants are awful at football. They’re somehow worse than the Dolphins at 2-11, which seems hard to believe considering we once thought the Dolphins had a shot to go winless. I don’t really know how the Giants can be favored against anyone.
Fitzpatrick is enough of a gunslinger to test the Giants’ secondary and the Giants’ secondary is bad enough that Fitzpatrick’s approach should work. The Giants defense is ranked 28th against the pass by DVOA. Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, averages 9.1 air yards per attempt, which ranks seventh, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. If Devante Parker is able to clear the concussion protocol, he should be in for a monster outing.
Either way, I’ll take the Dolphins to cover against the Giants. It’s what they’ve been doing ever since they turned to Fitzpatrick. And the Giants can’t be trusted against anyone.
5. Chiefs -9.5 vs. Broncos
Don’t look now, but the Chiefs haven’t just ripped off three straight wins, they’ve also covered the spread in all three of those wins, including a 31-point bludgeoning of the Raiders. The Broncos aren’t as bad as the Raiders and their rookie quarterback, Drew Lock, is coming off a remarkable performance in a win over the Texans, but they’re going to be outmatched against the likes of Patrick Mahomes and a Chiefs defense that is surprisingly decent.
The Chiefs have allowed only 42 points over the past three weeks. By DVOA, their defense is up to 13th and they’re sixth against the pass, which doesn’t bode well for Lock after he shredded the Texans’ 27th-ranked pass defense. I think we’re going to see Lock come crashing back down to Earth while Mahomes does what Mahomes usually does. Going into Arrowhead and hanging with the Chiefs is a really tough ask for a rookie quarterback making his third career start.
The Chiefs are rolling ever since that heartbreaking loss to the Titans a month ago. They should keep on rolling on Sunday against an inferior Broncos team.