NFL Betting Odds: Week 15 Line Movements & Last-Minute News
The NFL MVP race was presumed to be over following Week 14 when former favorite Carson Wentz of the Eagles was lost to a season-ending torn ACL. You can win an MVP in the NFL if you miss a few games but not if they are at the end of the season. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had been the new -500 favorite at Bovada entering Monday night's game in Miami, but Brady looked like a 40-year-old quarterback for the first time all season in the loss.
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Brady was short-arming throws all night and completed a season-low 55.8 percent of his passes for 233 yards, one TD and two picks - his third straight game with at least one interception. New England didn't have a single third-down conversion in the game. Might Brady be hurting? In the first 10 games of the season, he had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 11.0 that led the NFL as did his 314.7 yards per game. Brady completed 69 percent of his throws in that span.
However, Brady landed on the injury report following a Nov. 19 win over Oakland with an Achilles' injury. He has occasionally been limited in practices since. In the past three games, Brady's TD/INT ratio is 1.3, he's throwing for 239.3 yards per game and completing 62 percent. Brady has no TD passes and four picks when passing 15 yards or more downfield in the last three games. Perhaps the Patriots will regret trading Jimmy Garoppolo after all?
Every time anyone doubts Brady, he usually responds with a monster game, and his Patriots are in the AFC game of the year Sunday in Pittsburgh as 3-point favorites - only the 12th time in the Ben Roethlisberger era that Pittsburgh has been a home dog (team is 8-4 SU in those 12, including 2-1 vs. New England).
The winner at Heinz Field likely will be the AFC's top seed thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Steelers are guaranteed to finish ahead of the Pats in the overall AFC standings with a victory and would clinch the top seed with a win and Jacksonville home loss to Houston - the Jags win a head-to-head with Pittsburgh. Should the Pats win, the teams would have the same 11-3 records. New England should win its final two games without much trouble, home to Buffalo and the Jets. Pittsburgh should, too, as it visits Houston and hosts Cleveland. But the one concern if the Steelers do lose Sunday is that they then would have to play all their starters the final two weeks to assure finishing ahead of Jacksonville (if the Jags were to win out). Otherwise, Pittsburgh could slide into a No. 3 seed and have to play wild-card weekend. Bovada asks if Sunday's winner represents the AFC in the Super Bowl, with "yes" at -200 and "no" +150. I would expect so.
Back to the MVP prop. Brady is now down to -200, with Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown at +500, Ben Roethlisberger at +1200 and Le'Veon Bell at +3300. Believe it or not, a receiver has never won the award - you would think Jerry Rice or Randy Moss might have. There's also a special asking if any Steeler wins MVP with yes at +400 and no at -700. I might roll the dice at that price as if Brady struggles again, Brown and even Big Ben could catch him.
Here are some line moves or potential game-changing injury notes for Week 15.
Eagles at Giants (+7, 40.5): This number opened at 8 and the Giants are taking the majority of action as clearly bettors aren't sure how the Eagles will react to the season-ending loss of Wentz and whether backup Nick Foles is any good. I think the Eagles will stay focused at least this week as they still have the NFC's top seed to play for. Philly clinches at least a first-round bye with a victory and the top seed with a win and Vikings home loss to Cincinnati. Foles is given totals of 19.5 completions, 235.5 yards, 1.5 TD passes and 0.5 INTs. New York ranks 31st against the pass in yards allowed and has given up 26 TD passes and picked off only eight. Foles will have Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz after he missed last week's game with a concussion. Interim Giants GM Kevin Abrams said this week he would like to see rookie Davis Webb get some playing time, but Eli Manning is set to start again this week. Maybe it's his last home game as a Giant? They team does host Washington in Week 17, but you never know what could happen in the next two weeks. Bovada offers a special on where Eli is playing next season: Giants are -175 favorites. Next up is Denver at +300 and Jacksonville at +500.
Dolphins at Bills (-3, 39): Somehow, the first meeting of the season between AFC East rivals. This line opened at 4 and more money is starting to flow on Buffalo presumably because starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor is expected to play after missing last week's blizzard game against the Colts with a knee injury. The Fins probably would rather not see him as Taylor has faced Miami four times and has a 121.2 passer with eight touchdown passes and zero interceptions. His rating against every other team in his career is 88.2. This sure feels like a huge letdown possibility for Miami off Monday's shocking home win over New England. I feel obligated to check Weather.com for the forecast in Buffalo after last week's snow awesomeness and the fact the Fins are a warm-weather team. Forecast highs on Sunday are 29 with a 20 percent chance of precipitation but not much wind. Miami's playoff hopes are over with a loss and likely Buffalo's too.
Texans at Jaguars (-11.5, 38.5): This has the lowest total on the board and the second-highest spread after Jets-Saints (-16). Jacksonville can clinch its first playoff berth in 10 years with a victory. However, star rookie running back Leonard Fournette is in question as he hadn't practiced as of Thursday due to a quad injury. He has missed two games this season, one with an ankle injury and one for a violation of team rules. Fournette had his fifth 100-yard game of the season last week in a win over the Seahawks. He rushed 26 times for 100 yards and a score in a Week 1 blowout win in Houston. The Texans started Tom Savage that day and relieved him with rookie Deshaun Watson. Neither will be on the field Sunday. Of course, Watson is done for the year, and I'd be half-surprised to see Savage again in 2017 after the scary-looking concussion suffered in last week's loss to San Francisco. It will be T.J. Yates against the NFL's top pass defense. Taylor Heinicke, a third-year quarterback out of Old Dominion, will be Yates' backup. The Texans have won three consecutive games in Jacksonville, but that's going to end.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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