Certainly the marquee game in Week 15, all due respect to Denver-Baltimore, is San Francisco at New England, an incredibly tough back-to-back for the Patriots after thumping the Texans on Monday night. Right now, New England and San Francisco are the respective-odds on favorites in the conferences. Thus Bovada offers a Week 15 special on whether that’s the Super Bowl matchup: “no” -1500 and “yes” +750.
So why would the odds be so long? Probably because neither the Pats nor Niners are likely to have the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. In the NFC, it’s going to be the Falcons barring an epic meltdown. And the Niners could slip potentially to No. 3 behind Green Bay as well should the Packers win out and San Francisco lose this week. As for New England, it remains a game behind the Texans for No. 1 but obviously would hold a head-to-head tiebreaker. Houston should win the next two weeks at home vs. Indianapolis and Minnesota. The Pats have this week’s tough one but should win in Week 16 at Jacksonville and Week 17 at home vs. Miami. So it could come down to Houston at Indy in Week 17. The Denver Broncos also could be in the mix but lose any tiebreaker to Houston and New England. Still, I would roll the dice on yes here. It’s great value, and No. 1 seeds haven’t been winning many Super Bowls lately.
Speaking of the Falcons, there’s a prop on whether they win a playoff game: with yes at -160 and no at +120. Matt Ryan is 0-3 in the postseason in his otherwise great young career, with two of those losses at the Georgia Dome. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who the Falcons will face in the divisional round, but it’s probably going to be the Giants or Packers. How comfortable would you feel then? If one of the wild-card teams (Seattle, Chicago as of now) were to pull an upset in the opening round, then you would have to like Atlanta’s chances at home. But I would take no here as I expect it to be either New York or Green Bay visiting the Georgia Dome.
Bovada offered a prop a few weeks back on whether the Cardinals and Eagles would each lose out to close their regular season. No was a favorite on both, and Philly now doesn’t have to worry about it. But the Cardinals are a joke, having just lost last week 58-0 at Seattle. It was the worst loss in franchise history and fourth-biggest margin of defeat in a shutout. Arizona had two more first downs (10) than turnovers (eight). So now Bovada has a prop on whether Arizona loses out: yes -140, no +100. Let me put it this way: Ryan Lindley is starting this week vs. Detroit. Then the Cards face the Bears and 49ers. Uh, take yes.
Finally, I can’t do my weekly props story without touching on a head coach’s future. This week it’s again Cleveland’s Pat Shurmur. Will he be the team’s head coach in 2013: yes -150, no +110. Way back when, Shurmur was considered the second-favorite to be the first fired behind Buffalo’s Chan Gailey. But the Browns are showing life, having won three straight and it should be four but for a blown game in Dallas. Cleveland could easily lose out though, having to face the Redskins, Broncos and Steelers. I don’t think 5-11 will cut it. Plus, you hear those rumors of owner Jimmy Haslam somehow luring Nick Saban. Take no.
Sportsbook.ag Week 15 Leaders
For the second straight week a rookie led the NFL in passing yards in Week 14, this time Philly’s Nick Foles with 381 against the Bucs. I think I have hit that prop twice this year and both against Tampa Bay’s lousy pass D. Maybe I should just go chalk on passing yards. The rushing leader was Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles (a guy I have picked twice in 2012 to no avail) in a loss at Cleveland. Only the Chiefs could lose by 23 when their guy runs for 165. My pick there, Adrian Peterson, was No. 2. Chicago’s Brandon Marshall had the most receiving yards with 160. The Giants put up 52 points against the Saints but didn’t win the weekly scoring title: Seattle improbably put up 58 against Arizona.
The passing yardage favorite in Week 15 is once again Drew Brees at +350. He’s still putting up decent yards but has been off of late. But the Saints do host
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Tampa Bay. The Bucs are the only team allowing more than 300 yards passing. Yeah, why not, let’s go there. The rushing favorite is again Peterson at +300. I have run out of superlatives for this guy and hope he does break Eric Dickerson’s record. However, I don’t like him at a pretty good St. Louis defense. I am going out on a limb and taking Baltimore’s Ray Rice at +800 against Denver, even though the Broncos have a Top-10 rush defense. The Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron partly because Rice wasn’t getting enough touches. New OC Jim Caldwell has said that will change there’s a Bovada prop on Rice’s carries this week, set at 19.5. Let’s believe Caldwell for now.
The receiving favorite is a bit of a surprise: the Giants’ Hakeem Nicks at +400. He has been beaten up all season and a bit of a disappointment. That seems like a misprint. I’m taking Calvin Johnson again at +500 against Arizona. As for highest-scoring team, the favorites are New Orleans and Houston at +400. Take the Saints to go with Brees’ big day in the wake of the bountygate resolution.
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