NFL Week 15 Picks
By Zach Zaffos (Twitter: @zachzaffos)

Season To Date Against the Spread (ATS):
Best Bets: 10-4 (71%)
Units: 33-19.5 (63%)
All Bets: 22-16 (58%)

Week 14 Recap:

2 units (Best Bet): CHICAGO (+3) OVER Los Angeles Rams

We touted the spot as a situational goldmine for Chicago, and boy did the Bears deliver. While Mitchell Trubisky looked rustier than we expected, the Bears defense was as focused as it has been all season long. Couple the lights out performance by the Chicago D with Jared Goff’s abysmal outing in the Chicago weather, and that’s an easy ‘best bet’ win for us.

1.5 units: GREEN BAY (-5) OVER Atlanta

Our cross-sport analogy to last season’s post-trade-deadline Cavaliers squad was right on. Aaron Rodgers (starring as LeBron James) and the Packers offense removed the toxicity from its locker room, and for at least one week, the firing of McCarthy has proven to be a prudent decision. Clearly, Atlanta has quit on its coach as well – so don’t be surprised if we have another firing in the coming weeks.

1 unit: OAKLAND (+11.5) OVER Pittsburgh

And the trifecta of easy covers is now complete! Oakland not only obliterated the 11.5 points, but it even won the game outright. Yes – Big Ben Roethlisberger missed one-and-a-half quarters in the middle of the game, but the Raiders controlled this one from the get-go. We were clearly on the right side here.

Coming off a strong 3-0 week, it’s now time to transition into our Week 15 picks. As the regular season clock ticks down towards midnight, assessing team motivation becomes even more important. But with motivational edges come betting opportunities, and we’ve identified three rock-solid picks for this week. Let’s do it! (HOME teams in all caps).

BEST BET

CAROLINA (+7) OVER New Orleans – 2 units

Our pick is essentially a combination of four of our favorite betting concepts:

– Recognizing When the Statistics Lie
– Fade the Public
– The Hidden Motivational Edge
– The Inflated Spread

Let’s start with the statistics, because we’ve all seen Carolina drop five consecutive games after starting the season 6-2.

But – Did you know that Carolina has outgained its opponents in four straight games?

How about that four of those five games were on the road?

And what about that Carolina is third in the NFL in yards per play in its last three games?

OK – you get it. Carolina’s perceived free-fall may be more of a small slide. The Panthers have been unlucky late in games, and maybe we shouldn’t overreact to the results, but rather consider the substance.

But let’s talk Saints as well.

Did you know New Orleans and its juggernaut offense is 26th in the league in yards per play in its last 3?

How about that the team only beat Atlanta by 14 despite an almost unfathomable 3 red-zone fumbles by the Falcons.

And that the 13-10 game in Dallas followed by the no-show in the first half in Tampa last week weren’t exactly inspiring performances.

So while the public perception may be that the Saints are going to march into Carolina and hang up a 40 spot, I’d be careful assuming that as a foregone conclusion. In fact, I’d argue that the eye test shows ex-MVP favorite Drew Brees slowing down a bit. We’ve seen this with Brees and Brady a few times in recent years – older QBs oftentimes hit a figurative wall midseason.

In addition to the under-the-radar statistical advantages we have, there is a nice hidden motivational edge we have here. Despite sitting at 6-7, the NFC’s ineptitude means that the Panthers are only half a game out of the 2nd Wildcard spot. There is clearly a lot to play for! The team has been quoted all week saying that they plan to run the table, and I like the confidence; we can definitely expect a focused unit.

Based on all of the factors we mentioned above, the spread here is clearly inflated. And remember: A 7-point margin in Carolina essentially equates to a 13-point margin in New Orleans. Just two weeks ago, the Falcons were 13-point underdogs in New Orleans. Are the Falcons and Panthers really equal teams?

Give me the Panthers, a 5-1 home team in 2018 with some extra line value, and I’ll gladly fade a very public Saints team.

OTHER BETS I’LL DABBLE WITH

BUFFALO (-1.5) OVER Detroit – 1.5 units

There are a ton of reasons to love this one, but let’s start with Buffalo’s improvement of late.

There is no disputing it: Through its first 8-10 games, Buffalo ranked as one of the worst offenses in NFL history.

However, since Josh Allen came back three games ago, the Bills are actually 11th in the NFL in yards per play. Despite the increase, the team only advanced one spot from 32nd to 31st on the season.

If that doesn’t show you how anemic Buffalo’s offense was to open the year, I don’t know what will.

But this is exactly why we have some value now.

By placing the spread in this game at 1.5, Vegas is inherently saying that Detroit is 1.5 points better than Buffalo, as teams receive 3 points for home field.

Yes – Detroit won 17-3 last week in Arizona, but did you watch the game? Detroit couldn’t move the ball offensively, and only blew the game open due to a lucky pick-six. The team’s run game is zilch without rookie stud Kerryon Johnson, and it looks like he’s under a 50% chance to play.

And as far as motivational edges – this is an easy one. After playing behind the likes of Nathan Peterman, Derek Anderson, Matt Barkley, etc. throughout the majority of the season, Bills players finally have a reason to believe, and the presence of its young and promising quarterback ensures that the team will be motivated. Conversely, on the Lions side, there are signs the team doesn’t love its coach.

Don’t allow the season-long stats to crowd your judgment: The Bills offense is much better than you think. I love playing on a team who just lost two coin-flip games (hello: extra line value), so give me the Bills and I’ll swallow the measly 1.5 points.

SAN FRANCISCO (+4) OVER Seattle – 1 unit

Just two weeks ago, Seattle destroyed San Francisco by a score of 43-16.

Or – did they?

Did you know the 49ers actually outgained Seattle 452-331 in yards? These are the hidden nuggets that don’t always get accounted for in the spread, and we must use them to our advantage.

It’s fair to say, though: Why did San Francisco lose so badly then? As has been the story for the Niners most of the year, the answer fits neatly into one word: Turnovers.

In fact, San Francisco has a league-worst -21 turnover differential in 2018. On the other side, the Seahawks are 2nd in the league with a plus-11 differential.

But if you’ve been reading all year, you’ll know one thing: The turnover difference makes us love the Niners. I mean seriously, there has to be some element of luck that San Francisco has given away 10 fumbles but only recovered 3 on defense this year. They’ve also only created two interceptions on defense – in 13 games!

In addition to the turnover disparity, there is also the motivation factor. Ask yourself: What does Seattle have to play for? The team is firmly locked into the 5-seed, with no chance to win the division (thanks to the Rams), and little chance to fall out of the postseason. It would only be natural to let up against a 3-10 team you just handily beat 2 weeks ago, wouldn’t it?

Throw in the fact that Seattle is at a rest disadvantage (coming off a Monday Night Football game), and we have any easy bet on the Niners.

And there we have it – another week is in the books. Best of luck to us all, and let’s keep our strong run going!

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