Before I dive into some Week 15 news and Bovada special props, make sure you check the weather on any games you plan to wager on that are being played outdoors in the Midwest or Northeast USA this weekend. It's going to be really ugly in some places -- it could be the coldest home Chicago Bears game in history with a potential high of zero on Sunday. I am leaning "under" on just about every game in the affected areas.
I was one of those who complained when the Vikings decided to make their new stadium a dome as I'm of the belief that teams in the NFC North and AFC North should all play outdoors. Old-school football and all. But as a fan, I wouldn't be caught dead in zero-degree temperatures unless it was a playoff game. I can't even imagine playing in that.
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Just two teams have clinched a playoff spot heading into the weekend: Dallas and NFC West champion Seattle, which won that division in beating the sad-sack Rams on Thursday night. Only Detroit and the Giants can clinch a playoff spot in the NFC this weekend. Both would need to win and get help to do so, but they play each other and I went into that in my preview here at Doc's.
In the AFC, the Patriots win the AFC East with a win or a Dolphins loss on Saturday night at the Jets. New England gets a first-round bye with a victory OR Dolphins loss and Steelers loss OR a Dolphins loss and Chiefs win. There are multiple scenarios where the Chiefs clinch a playoff berth, but the easiest is to simply beat visiting Tennessee. Ditto for Oakland as it's in by winning in San Diego.
Lastly, I mentioned earlier this week that I expected a next Rams head coach prop when Jeff Fisher was fired on Monday. Bovada lists Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as the +200 favorite followed by Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan at +300. I am flabbergasted the site has Jim Harbaugh at just +500. That's simply not happening. He should be +10000 at least. The two interesting names otherwise are Jon Gruden (+700) and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll (+1600), who already said he wasn't interested in going back to L.A. I think Gruden's a possibility but don't really love anyone else on that list.
Here are some line moves or potential game-changing injury notes for Week 15.
Saints at Cardinals (-3, 50.5): Not a whole lot of interest in this one, with Arizona being eliminated from the playoffs with Seattle's win Thursday. Drew Brees has had back-to-back games without a TD pass for the first time in seven years and also back-to-back with three picks for the first time ever. So Bovada asks whether his TD passes (-175) or interceptions (+135) will be higher this week. It was rainy in Tampa last week when Brees struggled, but the week before he was home in his dome. Obviously no weather concerns here. New Orleans visited Arizona in Week 1 last year and Brees threw for 355 yards, one TD and one pick in a 31-19 loss. These Cardinals are really banged up in the secondary with safety Tyrann Mathieu maybe playing for the first time since Nov. 27 and fellow safety Tyvon Branch put on IR this week. I'd go TDs here.
Packers at Bears (+5.5, 39): Chicago is the biggest home dog of Week 15 and the Packers are taking a huge lean currently. That could change, however, as Aaron Rodgers hasn't practiced through Thursday with a calf injury suffered last week to go on top of a hamstring problem he has been dealing with. There's no question Rodgers will play, but he probably will be stationary. And good luck throwing the football in that weather. Running back James Starks suffered an apparent concussion in a car accident on Monday, so he's not looking good. Meanwhile, Chicago gets back its top receiver, Alshon Jeffery, from a four-game suspension. He and QB Matt Barkley have thus barely seen each other in game conditions. Bovada has a prop on the Bears' starting QB Week 1 next year: Barkley (+150), Jay Cutler (+200), Brian Hoyer (+500) or any other QB (+150). I think Barkley is back, but as a No. 2. I'd go with any other QB as the Bears will either draft one early or trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, who is from Eastern Illinois just like Chicago GM Ryan Pace is.
Steelers at Bengals (+3, 44): I give Cincinnati little shot of the upset here, even at home, unless A.J. Green returns from his torn hamstring and is close to 100 percent. There's actually a shot Green could play, which is surprising. Not sure I'd risk him with the Bengals' playoff hopes on life support. Green practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday and Thursday and Coach Marvin Lewis has a history of only playing guys who practice in full at least once. So Friday will be key. Green has 66 catches for 964 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games this season.
Raiders at Chargers (+3, 49.5): This line has moved slightly and the total dropped a bit likely because of the news that San Diego running back Melvin Gordon is expected out after suffering hip and knee injuries very early last week -- thus killing fantasy football players everywhere. Gordon was a bust as a rookie in 2015 but has 997 rushing yards and 419 receiving yards in 2016, ranks fifth in yards from scrimmage and has 12 TDs. Gordon rushed for 69 yards and had an 18-yard TD catch in the Bolts' 34-31 loss in Oakland earlier this season. Rookie Kenneth Farrow should start in Gordon's place. He had 16 carries for 55 yards and six catches for 23 yards last week at Carolina. Oakland is fairly healthy having played last Thursday, although rookie starting safety Karl Joseph missed that one with a toe injury and he's in doubt here.
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