NFL Week 15 best bets: Can Bills defense freeze Dolphins as heavy favorites?


We’ve reached the point of the season when you’re getting Saturday games and you might have shifted your attention away from your fantasy team that didn’t make the playoffs. That makes these picks become even more fun to track.

Let’s try to find winners and break the run of back-to-back .500 weeks. With four weeks to go in the regular season, the record stands 10 games over .500 against the spread and four bets over .500 overall (including underdogs on the moneyline and player props).

Last week’s record: 3-3 overall; 2-2 versus the spread; 0-1 in the upset pick on the moneyline; 1-0 on player props.

Season record: 43-39-2 overall; 32-22-2 versus the spread; 3-11 in the upset pick on the moneyline; 8-6 on player props.

Saturday prime-time game: Bills -7 vs. Dolphins

The Bills might have lost some of their early-season luster, which is why this is a good time to bet on them. They still rank No. 2 in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), and they’ve beaten division rivals the past two weeks by an average of 11 points. The Dolphins are coming off back-to-back road losses during which their offense sputtered. I usually don’t like big spreads against good teams, figuring the Dolphins are talented enough to keep it close (or win, as they did in Week 3). The Bills have won by double digits in their last three snow games and by at least a touchdown in their last four games in freezing temperatures. This game could be cold and snowy, but that hasn’t meant low-scoring outings for Buffalo.

Premier Sunday afternoon game: Chargers -3 vs. Titans

As much as a Mike Vrabel-coached team as an underdog is appealing (the Titans are 22-15 as regular-season underdogs in his coaching career), Tennessee’s pass defense is a concern — as is its three-game losing streak. The Titans’ pass defense is No. 28 in DVOA and has surrendered 754 yards over the past two weeks. Now they have to stop Justin Herbert? He threw for 367 yards last week against the Dolphins, and the Chargers are a different offense when their top pass catchers are healthy. I have doubts about the Chargers’ defense stopping the run against Tennessee, and the mounting injuries don’t make it any more comforting. This is a bet on Herbert’s ability to score points against the Titans.

Underdog on the moneyline: Ravens +120 at Browns

Hunting for an underdog to win outright can be a difficult task, so let’s go with a defense ranked No. 8 in DVOA. The absence of Lamar Jackson is why the Ravens are underdogs, but Tyler Huntley can keep games close — he’s 2-3 as a starter, with the three losses coming by five combined points. Baltimore will stay in this game, and it’ll be able to run against a defense ranked No. 30 in rush defense DVOA. Don’t forget special teams, where Baltimore is first in DVOA. Those are good ingredients for an upset.

Two weeks after these teams played for a tie with the Giants as 2.5-point underdogs, New York now gets two more points. The Commanders are at home, coming off a bye week and could have Chase Young back, so it’s understandable why they’re favored. But this number is too high given the way that game went in the first meeting. The Giants have the defensive line to remain competitive, and if the running game looks better than it did against Philadelphia, they’ll be in contention in the fourth quarter. Take the points in a game that could come down to a field goal. Saquon Barkley had his worst game of the season in the previous meeting based on rushing EPA (expected points added); he must play better on Sunday for the Giants to cover.

Monday prime time: Packers -7 vs. Rams

The Packers return from the bye week with slim hope of making the postseason. The Rams are riding a Baker Mayfield wave of excitement. The way to beat the Packers is to run through a defense ranked No. 32 in the NFL in rush defense DVOA. The Rams rank No. 26 in rush offense DVOA; they seem ill-equipped to beat Green Bay that way. These admittedly are not your Packers of recent seasons, but you must go back to 2018 to find a December loss at Lambeau Field. Five of the seven wins during that period were by more than seven points. If Aaron Rodgers has one last stand for Green Bay this season, it should come after a bye week against a bad Rams team.

Patterson has topped this mark just once in his past six games, so perhaps you’re skeptical. But the Falcons are starting Desmond Ridder and could seek easy completions. Patterson topped this yardage total in 11 games last season with a different quarterback. He also averaged 10.5 yards per reception last season compared to 5.9 yards per reception this season. A quarterback change could be the key to pushing Patterson past this total.

(Photo of Matt Milano: Megan Briggs / Getty Images)


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