NFL Power Rankings Week 15
It looks like Mother Nature is going to have her say in the NFL playoff race.
December football is a completely different beast than games played during the rest of the regular season. The stakes are higher. Teams rarely have their full complement of players due to injury. Shifting motivational and situational factors come into play.
Yet the weather factor is one of the most significant influences on NFL games, and thus NFL handicapping, this time of the year. And the weather is going to have a major impact on this weekend’s Week 15 slate.
At this point in the week, no fewer than six of this week’s 16 games are forecast to be played at or below freezing temperature. And that doesn’t include the 39-degree kickoff temperatures in Seattle on Thursday, or the 36-degree temps estimated for Carolina on Sunday. Four games could see wind speeds at 10 miles per hour or higher, and two games, played in Chicago and Green Bay, will likely have temperatures in the teens with a wind chill in the single digits.
As we saw last week in Buffalo, the weather must be considered when handicapping December football. But just because the weather is crappy doesn’t mean teams can’t move the ball and score. The Jaguars-Titans and Eagles-Giants games were played in less-than-ideal conditions and saw a combined 128 points scored.
There is no hard-fast rule to how you should incorporate weather data into your wagering. There are some simple questions to consider. Is one of the teams a dome team or from a warm weather climate? Which team runs the ball better? Which team is stronger along the lines of scrimmage? Basic things like that should help you flesh out which team is more likely to be helped or hurt by inclement conditions.
Underdogs, particularly home underdogs, and the ‘under’ have been the play all season long in the NFL. Home dogs are hitting at over a 57 percent clip this year, and the ‘under’ is hitting around 56 percent for the year. Wind, cold and snow shouldn’t change those trends, only exacerbate them. Beyond that, this weekend’s weather, and its role, won’t be that much different than the NFL as a whole: unpredictable.
Doc’s Sports offers NFL expert picks for every game on our NFL predictions page.
Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-1) – There is so much to love about this team. The toughness. The experience. But something underrated about this team is a phenomenal depth that they have on offense. Their first drive was 14 plays and 84 yards for a touchdown. Seven different players caught a pass, and Miles Sanders finished it with a three-yard touchdown run. It was one of the most impressive drives of the weekend.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) – The Chiefs are now 15-0 straight up in their last 15 division games. That still doesn’t forgive them for blowing a 27-0 lead last week, though, and hanging their backers out to dry. The Chiefs are just 8-22 ATS against AFC opponents, and they are 0-7 ATS against teams with a losing record. Kansas City is 1-10 ATS after a win.
3. Buffalo Bills (10-3) – This is a revenge game for the Bills. They outgained Miami by 211 yards in the first meeting, a 21-19 loss in South Beach on Sept. 25. The home team is 4-1 ATS in this series, and Buffalo is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 home games against the Dolphins.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) – That is now five straight wins both SU and ATS for the Bengals. Cincinnati is 9-1 ATS in its last 10 games and an amazing 10-3 ATS on the season. They have been road favorites in their last four away games, winning SU and ATS in three of them – but never by more than a touchdown.
5. San Francisco 49ers (9-4) – Thursday nights have been Kryptonite for the 49ers. They are just 3-9 ATS in their last 12 short week games. Everything else is aces for the Niners, though. They are 14-3 ATS against NFC opponents and have covered the spread in six straight divisional game. San Francisco is 7-3 ATS on the road – but just 2-9 ATS in its last 11 trips to Seattle.
6. Dallas Cowboys (10-3) – Dallas has alternated ATS wins and losses over the last six weeks, and that kind of sums up how shaky this team has been. They went on the road and lost to a pathetic Packers team. Then they dominate Vikings. Then they head into the fourth quarter up only 21-19 against the lowly Colts – before exploding for 33 points. Then they nearly lose at home to the Texans. Your guess is as good as mind as to which Cowboys team is going to show up every week.
7. Minnesota Vikings (10-3) – So maybe it wasn’t Mike Zimmer’s fault the Vikings defense sucks? Maybe? Minnesota has allowed six of their last 10 opponents to score 25 or more points and have yielded an average of 30.4 points per game over their last five. And that includes games against pop gun attacks like the Jets and Patriots. The Vikings have been outgained in five straight games, and this team is leaking oil in a major way.
8. Baltimore Ravens (9-4) – I think that Baltimore is lucky to be facing Deshaun Watson this week. If Jacoby Brissett was starting for the Browns, then the Ravens would absolutely lose this game. They should’ve lost the first meeting with the Browns, a game in which Baltimore was outgained by 80 yards and benefitted from a litany of Cleveland fumbles, missed field goals and penalties. The Ravens are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games in Cleveland, and the road team is 19-7 ATS in this series.
9. Miami Dolphins (8-5) – This team is pathetic on the road. They have had to come from behind in all three of their road wins this season, twice overcoming double-digit deficits. In their four road losses, they have been outscored 123-66 and they have surrendered an average of 31.4 points per game away from home this season.
10. Tennessee Titans (7-6) – This team is getting exposed. The reality is that they were never as good as they looked during their winning streak to get to 7-3. The Titans are No. 29 in total offense, No. 25 in total defense, and they have been outscored by nearly three points per game this season. They profile closer to a 6-11 dud than they do a playoff team. Yet here we are.
11. Seattle Seahawks (7-6) – The home crowd should have fun making things tough on rookie quarterback Brock Purdy this week. The Seahawks have dominated this series over the last decade, going 16-6 ATS in their last 22 games against the 49ers and 9-2 ATS in their last 11 home games against San Francisco. Those numbers include Seattle’s 27-7 loss in San Fran this September.
12. New England Patriots (7-6) – It’s still just impossible to get excited about a team with a ceiling as low as New England’s. Bill Belichick will spend all week pretending that he barely knows Josh McDaniels. The truth is that after the Patriots beat Las Vegas this weekend, Belichick would be better served poaching McDaniels and bringing him back to Foxboro to fix this pathetic Patriots offense.
13. New York Jets (7-6) – I know all the talk is about how tough Mike White is by playing through his injured ribs. White may play this week, but he is not going to play well. If you have ever had a serious rib injury, it is absolutely brutal. Every breath is torture. I will be absolutely stunned if he plays a full game and plays well for New York this week. Joe Flacco isn’t an option. But if they were ever going to go back to Zach Wilson, this would be the week.
14. Detroit Lions (6-7) – Who is playing better than the Lions right now? They have covered the spread in six straight, with five outright wins, and they are averaging 28.9 points per game over their last seven games. This week will be their first road game in a month, though, and we’ll see how they handle the elements (and a rugged Jets defense).
15. Los Angeles Chargers (7-6) – It is incredible the difference that Mike Williams makes on this offense. If Keenan Allen and Williams had been healthy all season, this team would be threatening 10 wins and nipping at the Chiefs, not battling for a Wild Card. Justin Herbert had to run for his life all Sunday night. If the Chargers line doesn’t play better against the Titans, then Herbert is going to get smothered.
16. Washington Commanders (7-5-1) – It is put up or shut up time for the Commanders. They have had two weeks to prepare for this home game against a Giants team that they just tied on Dec. 4. Washington was at home last week, while the G-Men got their bell rung by the Eagles. If the Commanders can’t win this game, they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.
17. New York Giants (7-5-1) – Like the Titans, the Giants are getting exposed now for overachieving early in the season. The Giants have been outgained by an average of 40 yards per game and outscored by nearly three points per game this season. They are in the bottom third in the league in offense and defense and, frankly, they aren’t any good. The road team is 5-1 ATS in the Commanders series, and the Giants are 4-0 ATS in their last four games in Washington. New York is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) – Tampa Bay is a pathetic 1-9 ATS in its last 10 games, and the public has been slow to embrace just how pathetic this team is. Also, I called out Donovan Smith last week because he is probably the worst left tackle in the league and holds on nearly every other play. Sure enough: a blatant Smith holding call erased a 60-yard Mike Evans touchdown early against the 49ers.
19. Cleveland Browns (5-8) – Deshaun Watson has been the quarterback for 24 drives over two games with the Browns. He’s produced 16 points for his team, two for the opposing team, had six drives end via turnover or on downs, and had 10 end in punts. Not great!
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8) – Pittsburgh is 7-2 ATS in the game after failing to cover the spread, and they are 4-1 ATS in their last five games against a team with a losing record. Something tells me this defense is going to chew Sam Darnold up and spit him out.
21. Las Vegas Raiders (5-8) – Josh McDaniels deserves all the blame for Las Vegas’ passive game plan against the Rams last Thursday. Devonte Adams made two of the best catches of the weekend on his first two targets – and Vegas threw his way just once more the rest of the night. Also, watching McDaniels screw up the clock at the end of the first half gave me all the insight I need into why this team keeps blowing leads.
22. Green Bay Packers (5-8) – My hope is that the Packers demolish the helpless Rams this week, convincing people that maybe Green Bay has a late-season run in them. They don’t. This team is only marginally better than the Bucs right now.
23. Carolina Panthers (5-8) – Run the ball and play defense. It’s not complicated. Carolina pounded the ball on the ground 46 times last week against the Seahawks. They aren’t going to have the same success against the Steelers this week. They will need to show the same commitment, though. The Panthers are just 8-19 ATS in their last 27 home games and just 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games in December.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-8) – Zay Jones has been hot for the Jaguars. He has received 43 targets and made 29 catches over his last four games. His matchup with Trevon Diggs this week will be one to watch. The Jaguars are 5-12 ATS after a win, and they are 2-6 ATS after scoring 30 or more points.
25. Atlanta Falcons (5-8) – Desmond Ridder is getting the call from the bullpen this week. My expectations are pretty low. And that has little to do with Ridder. Marcus Mariota got scapegoated for Atlanta’s collapse. (And Mariota left the team. He’s gone. He quit.) But Atlanta’s skill position talent is pathetic, and the offensive line is one of the worst in the league at pass protection. Ridder isn’t going to make up for any of that.
26. Arizona Cardinals (4-9) – It is hard to imagine how things could have gone worse for Arizona ever since Kyler Murray signed his extension this summer. And if Kliff Kingsbury can’t find a way to outsmart Nate Hackett this week, then Kingsbury should never coach another NFL game.
27. New Orleans Saints (4-9) – How much different would this team’s prospects look if they had just held on to that 13-point lead in the final four minutes against Tampa Bay last Monday night? I don’t see how that loss doesn’t linger. But we’ll see if a visit from their hated rivals draws out some effort from this sagging team. The Saints are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 against Atlanta.
28. Indianapolis Colts (4-8-1) – I feel like coming out of a bye week it is going to hurt not having a traditional, experienced coaching staff. There is no telling how Jeff Saturday and Co. have spent these last two weeks, especially considering that this team has nothing to play for.
29. Chicago Bears (3-10) – One of the subplots of Chicago’s final four games has to be the performance of Chase Claypool. He hasn’t shown or done much since the Bears acquired him for a second-round pick, and rumor has it he doesn’t understand the offense. The Bears need to find out if this guy is a bust or if he can be a viable No. 2 option next year next to Darnell Mooney.
30. Los Angeles Rams (4-9) – I love the fact that people are still trying to talk themselves into Baker Mayfield as a viable NFL starter. I hope he continues to play well enough over this final month to convince someone, somewhere that he deserves another starting gig, because I will bet against this guy anytime, anywhere.
31. Denver Broncos (3-10) – I’m really curious what would have happened if Brett Rypien had not gotten hit while he threw on his fourth quarter interception. He was cranking up to throw it toward the end zone from about the 45-yard-line, and it looked like he had a receiver behind two defenders. Unfortunately, we will never know as his pass popped right up in the air for a lollipop interception for L’Jarius Sneed.
32. Houston Texans (1-11-1) – It has been an emotional couple of weeks for the Texans. First, they had a revenge game against Deshaun Watson. Then they had their rivalry game with the Cowboys. I’m wondering what they have left in the tank this week for the Chiefs. The Texans are 8-19 ATS in games after they cover a spread.
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