NFL
December 16, 2020
BY Bryan Zarpentine

NFL Best Bets: Week 15

We’re getting down to the last few weeks of the NFL regular season, and this week marks the beginning of the end for teams fighting to earn a spot in the playoffs.

There are also a few limited opportunities still available to put your bets down and make some money before the regular season ends. We’ve racked our brains and come up with our five best bets for Week 15.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers -6.5 at Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons had a nice run after Raheem Morris took over as the interim coach, but they seem to be back where they started. In fact, Atlanta might be in worse shape because Matt Ryan has struggled in recent weeks.

Ryan threw three interceptions last week and now has 11 picks on the season. His accuracy has also been all over the map over the past month, in part because his offensive line is letting him down, Julio Jones is battling an injury and the Atlanta running game is nonexistent. 

As for the Bucs, they are far from perfect. However, they have the kind of pass rush that can give Ryan and Co. problems, especially if Todd Gurley continues to be a non-factor in the Atlanta backfield. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay offense is always a threat to score a lot of points. The Bucs aren’t exactly clicking on all cylinders at the moment, but there’s so much talent around Tom Brady that finding the end zone is inevitable.

In a dome environment, we like the Buccaneers to run wild and beat the Falcons by more than a touchdown.

Miami Dolphins -2 vs New England Patriots

It’s awfully difficult to figure out the Patriots these days. One week they’re demolishing the Chargers 45-0, and then a few days later in the same stadium, they look as impotent as ever against the Rams.

The Rams had New England’s one-dimensional offense figured out last week. Cam Newton may get some yards on the ground, but as soon as the Patriots need him to throw the ball, it’s over. Former New England assistant Brian Flores should have them figured out. It also helps that the Dolphins have conceded the second-fewest points in the NFL this year.

To be fair, we’re still not completely sold on the Miami offense. Tua Tagovailoa is showing signs of improvement with every passing week. But his supporting cast leaves a lot to be desired, especially with DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki listed as questionable.

That being said, Tagovailoa looked fine with a diminished supporting cast late in last week’s comeback effort against the Chiefs. Plus, the Dolphins shouldn’t need that many points to cover a field goal.

Los Angeles Rams -17.5 vs New York Jets

The Jets have officially thrown in the towel, right? How else can you interpret a 40-3 loss one week after nearly stealing a win against the Raiders.

The Seahawks didn’t even make a lot of big plays down the field. They simply marched up and down the gridiron as if the New York defense wasn’t even there. It had the look of a team that’s done trying, which makes us feel a little better about the 17.5-point spread.

Plus, the Rams are one of the best teams in the NFC and will know that they need to keep winning ahead of next week’s showdown with the Seahawks. A week ago, the Los Angeles offense was led by rookie running back Cam Akers, who put on a show. Even if the Rams don’t get that kind of effort again, Jared Goff and his receivers are more than capable of doing serious damage against the Jets.

Keep in mind that the Jets have already won three games this year by more than 17 points, so they should be able to do it against the Jets.

Kansas City Chiefs vs New Orleans Saints: Over 51.5 points

We’re not comfortable choosing either team against the spread. The Chiefs are beating everyone but not by wide margins while the Saints are coming off a loss in a game they should have won. However, we feel pretty, pretty, pretty good about this game turning into the entertaining shootout that we all want it to be.

The Chiefs have scored at least 30 points in eight of their 13 games this season, so they’re a safe bet to cover more than half of the 51.5 points. Let’s face it, while the New Orleans defense looks good on paper, they haven’t faced an offense anywhere near this good since early in the season.

Meanwhile, we haven’t jumped off the Taysom Hill bandwagon despite a couple of turnovers last week. After all, we’re not asking him to win the game, just help the Saints score points against the Kansas City defense. Hill’s running ability makes him a nightmare for opposing defenses while the presence of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara doesn’t hurt either.

Finally, the Chiefs are giving up close to 26 points per game over their last five games, failing to put teams away despite playing with a lead. That translates to a high-scoring game that goes way over 51.5 points.

Pittsburgh Steelers -11.5 at Cincinnati Bengals

You don’t actually think that the Steelers are a bad team just because they lost a couple of games? Let’s face it, they’re not 16-0 good, but Pittsburgh is a good team. In fact, they should be focused and at their best coming off back-to-back losses. They know they can wrap up the AFC North and have a shot at the top seed in the AFC if they can get back on track, so there should be no shortage of motivation Monday night, especially in a rivalry game.

On the other side, the Bengals are truly pitiful nowadays. They are averaging just 10 points over their last five games, and a couple of those games were played before Joe Burrow’s injury.

With Brandon Allen at quarterback, Cincinnati managed just seven points against the Cowboys, who are literally the worst defensive team in the league. How are things going to get better against a motivated Pittsburgh defense?

Frankly, only losing by two touchdowns would be a positive result for the Bengals. This game could get ugly and we like the Steelers to cover by a comfortable margin.

Photo: Getty Images