Top 5 Betting Takeaways From NFL Week 15

We had NFL football on Saturday, we had football on Sunday, we had football on Monday, heck, we even had football on Tuesday in what was a wild week of NFL action! Up is down, left is right, and at this point, I don’t know what to think as the NFL regular season continues on as one of the craziest seasons of all time! Without further ado, we will jump into the week 15 edition of my top-5 NFL betting takeaways. Let’s get started!

COVID-19 Is Making A Mess Of The NFL

While I personally enjoyed having games basically every day this week, the reason behind the scheduling changes have certainly gotten me a bit concerned. The new Omicron variant of COVID-19 reared its ugly head this week, as more than 100 players were forced into the league-mandated virus protocols.

This led to games that were essentially unfair, as teams like the Browns were forced to play without several of their best players. But alas, this is what sports look like in a COVID-19 world, and the weakened rosters and messed up schedules are much better alternatives than pausing the season like the NHL chose to do earlier this week.

The real question here is how do you avoid letting all of this uncertainty ruin your bets? Cleveland was hit especially hard this week, so I will use the Browns as a cautionary example of why you need to pay extra attention. Had you just glanced at the betting board and saw that the Browns were home underdogs against the struggling Las Vegas Raiders, you might have done a double take and fired hard on Cleveland, assuming the line was a typo or some kind of mistake.

But imagine your horror when you turned on the game to see Nick Mullens throwing the ball to Rashard Higgins instead of Baker Mayfield throwing to Jarvis Landry! The Browns lost the game, and it was damming to their playoff chances, as it was a game that they needed to win. So, what can you do to avoid this from happening to you?

Well, first off, pay attention! A wise man once said that paying attention is always free, and before you bet any real money, make sure that you are fully aware of the roster of both teams. Headlining players like Baker Mayfield not playing are going to be hard to miss, but football is a team game, and you need to make sure that there aren’t lesser known, but equally important, players missing, before firing your action. A good example of that this week is the Baltimore Ravens, as their secondary is in shambles between COVID-19 cases and injuries, and while none of those guys are household names, the fact that the entire unit is banged up is going to be a major problem when they play the Bengals on Sunday.

The other piece of advice I am going to give you is to wait until the last minute to make your plays. A lot of sharps, myself included, like to prey on the opening lines, as you get to take advantage of square lines early in the week, and any line moves later in the week open you up for juicy middles. But right now, you would be crazy to bet early, as so much can change in just a couple of days.

A couple of weeks ago, the LA Rams found out they were going to be without stars Jalen Ramsey, Daryl Henderson, and Tyler Higbee, the day of the game, due to a COVID-19 outbreak! Just today, Dalvin Cook popped hot for the ‘Rona, and he is now out for the Viking’s must-win game against the Rams in week 16. When you are handicapping games, you want as must information as possible, and that means waiting until right before kickoff to place your bets. COVID-19 is part of the game right now, and you have to make sure that you factor it into all of your plays.

What Is Going On In The NFC?

All season long, the wild card spots in the NFC have been up for grabs. With the addition of an extra regular season game as well as an extra wild card spot in both conferences, this had to be expected. But what wasn’t expected is all of the turmoil at the top of the conference!

This week, we saw a couple of impossible to predict outcomes, as the Arizona Cardinals lost on the road, with a healthy Kyler Murray, mind you, to the hapless Detroit Lions! And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got shut out at home to the New Orleans Saints. Both of those games had huge playoff implications, as the Cardinals went from the 1-seed in the NFC to the 4-seed, and the Bucs are now looking like they are going to have to go through Green Bay again if they want to make it to back-to-back Super Bowls.

The Bucs loss was somewhat understandable as Tampa Bay didn’t have Leonard Fournette or Antonio Brown, and both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin got hurt during the game and didn’t play in the second half. But the Arizona loss was completely inexplicable, and as we start to look forward to the NFC playoffs, it is hard to have strong opinions on any team.

Both the Packers and Cowboys are riding modest winning streaks, but they both have glaring weaknesses, and it’s looking more and more like any team can win the conference. The Rams are starting to get healthy at the right time, and I guess they have to be considered a legitimate threat too, despite still being a wild card, but with COVID-19 looming, no team is safe.

As unlikely as it may seem, we could see teams like the Vikings, 49ers, Eagles, and even teams like the Saints, WFT, or Falcons make runs in the NFC playoffs. Heck, even the Panthers and Seahawks are still mathematically in the hunt. More than any other year in NFL history, things are turbulent and unpredictable, and nothing more personifies that than what is going on in the NFC right now.

The Ravens Don’t Deserve To Make The Playoffs

There have been times where the Baltimore Ravens look like a legit Super Bowl contender. But after watching their indefensibly bad decision making this week against the Green Bay Packers, I don’t think the Ravens deserve to even make the playoffs, let alone win a division title.

I might be a little extra salty here, as the bad play calling cost me a huge 5-team parlay, but I just don’t understand what Harbough was thinking when he decided to go for two, down a point, with less than a minute remaining to play. Let me set the scene for you if you didn’t watch the game.

The Packers dominated much of the game and had a 14-point lead, with the ball, on the road no less, late in the 4th quarter. The Packers were still up two full scores with less than 5 minutes to play, and it looked like not only would Green Bay win, they would likely blow it out. But then Baltimore started to get their act together, and backup QB Tyler Huntley turned into an MVP candidate and led the Ravens up and down the field with ease.

Huntley ran it in from 8 yards out with just :47 seconds left, to tie the game, or so we thought. Baltimore came out and lined up for 2, and it looked like they were just trying to get the Packers to jump offsides with a hard count. The announcers were questioning the decision, and rightfully so, as going for 2 just didn’t make any sense. The Ravens were at home and had all of the momentum in the world, the play was clearly to tie the game up and take things into overtime.

The Packers didn’t jump, and when Baltimore called a time out, the logical play was to kick the field goal and tie the game up. It was worth a shot to try and get them to jump, but it didn’t work, so you kick the field goal and tie the game and head to overtime. Instead, the Ravens again came out and lined up for 2, and when Tyler Huntley couldn’t connect with tight end Mark Andrews in the end zone, the Ravens lost the game, 31-30.

The loss couldn’t have been worse for the Ravens division title hopes, as they dropped to 2nd place in the AFC North Division, and instead of being alone in 1st place, they are now just 1-game out of last place and missing the playoffs altogether is a very real possibility. It is easy to point at all of the injuries the Ravens have had as to why they are struggling, and losing guys like Lamar Jackson, JK Dobbins, and Gus Edwards is certainly tough, but this loss, and several others, fall directly on the shoulders of head coach John Harbough.

Harbough has a Super Bowl ring on his finger, but after watching him give this game away, he could be on the hot seat, especially if the Ravens finish off this late-season collapse and miss the playoffs altogether. The Ravens will have the division title on the line next week in Cincinnati, and I just don’t trust Harbaugh not to give the game away late, and it wouldn’t at all shock me to see the Bengals blow them out like they did earlier this season, when they stomped the Ravens 41-17. If you have any Ravens stock, it is time to sell, sell, sell.

Johnathan Taylor Is Still (+750) To Win MVP

Several weeks ago, I mentioned that a play on Johnathan Taylor to win league MVP showed outrageous value at +1600. Since that article, all Taylor has done is make an even better case to take home the league’s top honors. All Taylor did this week was carry the ball 29 times for 170 yards and a score, leading the Colts to their biggest win of the season, over the New England Patriots.

Taylor scored on a 67-yard run with just over 2 minutes left to play in the game to give the Colts the win, and with the win, Indy is now just a game back of the Tennessee Titans, who are in free fall without Derrick Henry and Julio Jones. The MVP Award tends to go to the best player in football, but it’s not called the best player award, it is called the most valuable player award, and after watching Taylor carry this weak Colts team to the postseason, it is hard to argue that he isn’t the most important player to his team.

The Colts wouldn’t even be a .500 team without Taylor leading the charge, and he is turning it on when his team needs him most, as he has been completely unstoppable in the 2nd half of the season. Taylor has scored in 11 straight games, and in the last 6 weeks, he has racked up an absurd 869 yards and a whopping 11 TDs.

When I highlighted Taylor several weeks ago, I said he would need a huge finish to eclipse the 2K yard mark and etch his name into the history books, and he is doing just that, with a big push to end the regular season. Taylor now has 1,518 rushing yards on the season with 3 weeks left to play and needs to average just over 160 yards per game to pass the 2K mark. His averages yards per game in the last 2 weeks? 156 yards.

What makes Taylor’s season so special is when you compare his production to the rest of the league. He leads the NFL in rushing yards and rushing TDs and has rushed for nearly 500 yards more than the next closest back, Bengals running back Joe Mixon. The NFL evolves into more and more of a passing league each season, and Taylor is a throwback to hard-nosed runners of the past like Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Lewis, guys that Taylor is hoping to join in the exclusive 2K club.

What Taylor has been able to do is plenty to be considered the league MVP in a vacuum, but when you look at the rest of the contenders, I like his chances even more. The current betting favorites are Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, and while both of those guys are multi-time MVP winners and are having seasons well deserving of recognition, they both have issues that I think are going to hold them back.

Rodgers lied to his team about his vaccination status, and it cost him a game when he came down with COVID-19. That alone is going to take his name off of a number of ballots, mine included, as it is hard to say you are a team player when you lied to your team, and it cost them a win. As far as Brady goes, many will say that it is his army of weapons that are actually doing the work in Tampa Bay, and it is hard to argue with that logic after watching Brady and the Bucs get shut out as soon as Brady didn’t have his normal arsenal of weapons to throw the ball to last week.

This bet doesn’t have as much value to it as it did when I brought it to your attention last month, but with how Taylor is finishing his season and with the Colts closing in on an unlikely division title, he still shows all kinds of value at +750. Put your action in now, or regret it when Taylor becomes the first running back since Adrian Peterson in 2012 to win the league MVP.

The Dolphins Are One Of The Hottest Team In The NFL

Since I am on an, I told you so kick right now, how about them Dolphins? A month ago, I told you that I liked what Miami was doing and felt that with how their schedule laid out, that I saw them getting hot and playing their way into the playoff conversation in the AFC. And just like that, here they are, riding a 6-game winning streak and on the brink of the postseason.

Some might say that the winning streak was hard to see coming, as the Dolphins had lost 7 straight prior to catching fire, but with young teams like this one, all they needed was to get healthy and get gelled on the field, to start winning games. And that is exactly what has happened.

Now, before the hype train gets too crazy for Miami, you have to look at who they have beaten in this winning streak. Miami has wins over the Giants, Jets (twice), Texans, and Panthers, all teams that aren’t going to be in the postseason. Wins are wins in the NFL, but wins over the bottom of the barrel of the league doesn’t give me too much confidence that this is a team that is going to have a shot at a deep playoff run.

Momentum is very important in the NFL, and the Dolphins certainly have lots of it, but looking ahead on their schedule, it feels like this winning streak is about to come to an abrupt halt. Miami plays at New Orleans this week, looking to knock off a Saints team that just went into Tampa Bay and beat the defending champs, to keep their playoff hopes alive. After that game, the Dolphins play at Tennessee, in a game where the Titans will likely have AJ Brown and Julio Jones back on the field and will have a lot to play for with the Colts breathing down their necks for the division title.

In the regular season’s final week, Miami hosts the New England Patriots, who could very well be playing for their division title. All of those games are winnable, and I am sure that Miami is going to be competitive at the very least, but beating the Patriots and Titans, a couple of teams sitting in 1st place and closing in on division titles, is much tougher than beating up on the Jets and Giants. It has been a fun run for Dolphins fans, and it gives them reasons to be optimistic about the future, but if I had to call it now, I would say that Miami comes up just short of the playoffs this year.

Wrap Up

There you have it, folks, my top-5 betting takeaways from week 15 of NFL action. Things move quickly in the NFL, and you have to make sure that you are staying on top of all of the latest news each week. Thanks for reading, and make sure that you swing by TheSportsGeek’s NFL picks page, where our team of expert handicappers bring you free NFL picks for each and every game this season!

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Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL

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