The Cleveland Browns have won four out of their last five, the New England Patriots have lost three out of their last five including two in a row, and the San Francisco 49ers dealt a devastating blow to their arch-rival Seattle Seahawks at the worst possible time. Week fifteen was action packed, and I can’t remember a time that the playoff races were so close in each division. And with that we will jump right into this week’s against the spread power rankings, where we don’t care who wins the games, we care who covers the spread! Let’s get started!
1. Chicago Bears
2018 Straight Up (10-4) 2018 ATS (10-4) 2017 ATS (8-6-2) Last Week’s Rank: 3
For the first time all season, the Chicago Bears take the top spot in the countdown. The Bears ferocious defense came through big time again as they held Aaron Rodgers to no touchdown passes and sacked him five times. The Pack kicked a late field goal to spoil the cover for some people as this line moved around from six points to seven during the week. But officially the Bears sneak in with a half of a point cover in the 24-17 win.
With the win, the Bears clinched the NFC North Division title. This is where things get tough as the Bears aren’t really playing for much next week in San Francisco, yet they are still -4-point road favorites. With the division locked up, and the top seed out of reach, you have to wonder what type of effort the Bears are going to give this weekend. We saw last week that the 49ers loved to play spoiler when they knocked off the Seahawks, and all the sudden, the Niners have won two straight games. That might be a number I just stay away from as all the uncertainty makes it tough to handicap.
2. New Orleans Saints
2018 Straight Up (12-2) 2018 ATS (10-4) 2017 ATS (8-8) Last Week’s Rank: 2
They failed to cover this week, but I decided to keep the Saints here at number two as they are still tied for the best ATS record on the year with the Chicago Bears. And this was always going to be a very tough spot. They were full touchdown favorites, on the road, against a division rival. This was never going to be an easy number to cover so I won’t shame them too much for coming up short. And in reality, they could have snuck the cover in late had they converted a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. Instead, the Panthers picked off Brees on the attempt and returned it for the score.
Drew Brees continued his slump as he just hasn’t looked like himself the last several weeks. Brees threw for just 203 yards and no scores, and this once mighty Saints offense is looking rather anemic. I mentioned last week that this Saints team appears to be running out of gas, and after seeing their twelve-point performance this week, I can only double down on those sentiments. The Saints are laying -5.5-points at home next week against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that is fighting for their playoff lives and just knocked off the New England Patriots. I smell upset.
3. Seattle Seahawks
2018 straight Up (8-6) 2018 ATS (8-4-2) 2017 ATS (6-9-1) Last Weeks Rank: 1
OUCH. The Seattle Seahawks were one win away from all but locking up a playoff spot this week. They were playing against a 49er team they had just blown out two weeks ago. And they completely blew it. The Seahawks let the 3-10 49ers beat them 26-23 in overtime. Now, instead of coasting into the playoffs, they are in a dogfight with the Eagles, Vikings, Redskins, and Panthers for the NFC wild-card. The loss couldn’t have been more painful for Seattle as the loss snapped a four-game winning streak.
The Seahawks host the Kansas City Chiefs next week as +2.5-point home underdogs in a must-win game. This week’s loss will hurt even more if the Hawks can’t pull the upset next week. I generally love backing home dogs, but something tells me that the Chiefs are going to be too much for the Seahawks to handle.
4. Cleveland Browns
2018 Straight Up (6-7-1) 2018 ATS (9-5) 2017 ATS (4-12) Last Week’s Rank: 8
Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns continue their surge up the rankings this week, coming in at number four. The Browns kept their slim playoff hopes alive this week by going on the road and beating the Denver Broncos as underdogs. The Broncos are all kinds of banged up at the moment, but winning in Denver is never easy, and this was a huge win for the Browns. Mayfield threw for two scores, and Nick Chubb rushed for 100 yards. This was the Browns fourth win in five weeks as they continue to play well since the firing of head coach Hue Jackson.
Speaking of Hue Jackson, the Browns play his new team this week, the Cincinnati Bengals and are -10-point home favorites. I love the Browns, and everyone loves to root for an underdog, but ten points? Are you kidding me? The Bengals suck, but they did just beat the Oakland Raiders by two touchdowns and to see then getting double-digit points in Cleveland is shocking. I’m rooting for the Browns this week, but my money will be on the Bengals with the points.
5. Los Angeles Chargers
2018 Straight Up (11-3) 2018 ATS (8-6) 2017 ATS (8-6-2) Last Week’s Rank: 9
Nobody picked up a bigger win this week than the Los Angeles Chargers. The “other” team in LA went on the road and knocked off their division rival Kansas City Chiefs and are now tied with KC for the best record in the AFC. Philip Rivers officially threw his name into the MVP race, as the Chargers continue to surprise people. To make this win even more impressive, Los Angeles was without what might be their best player, running back Melvin Gordon, who sat with an injury. Melvin apologized to those that owned him in fantasy, but he won’t have to apologize to his team, as they got the job done without him.
It is hard to overstate just how big of a win this was for LA. They have two very winnable games left on the schedule and are rooting for the Seattle Seahawks next week to knock off the Chiefs and hand them the division title. The Chargers will have to hold up their end of the bargain though as they are -4.5-point home favorites against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are in a three-way tie for the final AFC wild-card spot, so they will certainly be giving it their all, but I feel that with the way the Chargers are playing right now, they are going to take care of business at home and cover that number.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
2018 Straight Up (11-3) 2018 ATS (8-5-1) 2017 ATS (10-6) Last Week’s Rank: 4
And that brings us to the Chiefs here at number six. KC continues their slide after spending ten straight weeks atop our rankings. We just talked about how painful a loss this one was, but the Chiefs are going to need to get over it quickly if they want to win the division title and take home the home field advantage that is likely to come with it. The Chiefs did a great job of running up the score on mediocre competition early in the year, but in the last four weeks, when it has really mattered, they are just 2-2.
The losses came against two very good teams, the Chargers, and the Rams, but as the playoffs approach, these are the types of teams they are going to need to be able to beat to win a title. And even the two wins in that stretch are looking weak when you look back at them as they beat the Raiders and Ravens, each by just one possession. It has been a fun ride this year watching Mahomes and this offense, but now that Kareem Hunt is out of the picture, this team has lost its ability to win every game in a shootout. The Chiefs are solidly in the playoffs at this point, but if they can’t get things turned around quickly, they are going to end the season in disappointment.
7. New England Patriots
2018 Straight Up (9-5) 2018 ATS (8-6) 2017 ATS (11-5) Last Week’s Rank: 5
So, it turns out that the New England Patriots are just a bad road team this year. The Pats have five losses on the season, all on the road. They lost again on the road this week to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Had they beaten Pittsburgh they could have put the Steelers in a really bad spot to make the playoffs, while locking up the AFC East Division title. Instead, New England lost, and now Miami could catch them for the division title, and the Steelers remain in first place.
The good news? New England’s last two games of the season are at home. So, they should be able to lock up the division title. The bad news? The Patriots are essentially out of the running to get the top seed in the AFC and will have to play on the road in the playoffs, and that is bad for New England. Throw in the fact that Josh Gordon just got suspended indefinitely, and things are looking pretty grim in Foxboro. The Pats host the Bills next week and are laying -14.5-points. As a general rule I just won’t ever lay more than two touchdowns, so if the number stands as it is, I will likely just stay away.
8. Miami Dolphins
2018 Straight Up (7-7) 2018 ATS (8-6) 2017 ATS (5-9-2) Last Week’s Rank:6
With the Patriots recent struggles, it has opened the door for Miami to get back in the division race. The Dolphins had a shot to make up some huge ground this week but came up short in a big way as they got blown out by the Minnesota Vikings. Ryan Tannehill really struggled as he completed just 45% of his passes and threw for just 108 yards. If you don’t count a fluky 75-yard touchdown run by Kalen Ballage, the Dolphins gained barely over 100 yards.
It was an ugly performance at the worst possible time for Miami. The Dolphins still have slim playoff hopes as they are one game back of three teams for the final AFC wild-card spot but must win out and get help to backdoor into the playoffs. The ‘Phins are -4-point home favorites against a Jaguars team that has lost nine out of their last ten games next week. We throw around the term must win a lot, but this is a true must win this week for Miami.
9. Dallas Cowboys
2018 Straight Up (8-6) 2018 ATS (8-6) 2017 ATS (8-7-1) Last Week’s Rank: 8
Who ‘Dem Boys? The Dallas Cowboys snapped their five-game winning streak this week by laying an egg in Indy against the Colts. It was a crushing defeat for the Cowboys as they had been riding high and had beaten a who’s who of the NFC the last five weeks and were in a great position to win the NFC East Division title. Despite gaining nearly three hundred yards on offense, Dallas couldn’t put a single point on the board in Indianapolis and are left scratching their heads with two weeks left to play.
The Cowboys are -7.5-point home favorites this week against a very up and down Tampa Bay Bucs team. Tampa has only won one game this year on the road, and that came all the way back in week one at the height of Fitzmagic, so the Cowboys should win the game. But will they cover? I am going to try and not overreact to how bad the Cowboys looked last week and say that they should redeem themselves with the home cover this week.
10. Washington Redskins
2018 Straight Up (7-7) 2018 ATS (8-6) 2017 ATS (7-9) Last Week’s Rank: Not Ranked
Just about everybody, myself included, left the Washington Redskins for dead when Alex Smith’s leg exploded. And they have completely fallen apart for the most part. But with a big win this week on the road in Jacksonville, the Redskins are still very much in the playoff hunt. Josh Johnson led the Redskins to two late scores to seal the win, and with two weeks left, Washington is just one game behind Dallas for the division lead. Washington is getting a whopping +10-points next week in Tennessee against the Titans. That sure seems like an awful lot of points for a team fighting for the playoffs.
The countdown certainly looks different this week as we saw quite a few ranked teams struggle against the number this week. With the season winding to a close these numbers are getting sharper and sharper as teams start to fall out of contention. That makes it even more imperative you do your homework before making a bet!
Thanks for reading and good luck betting in week sixteen!