A challenging weekend of games in the NFL follows a thriller between the Chargers and Chiefs on Thursday night.
Here is my Week 15 NFL 4-Pack
Indianapolis Colts (-3) vs Dallas Cowboys
The first-place Cowboys head north to Lucas Oil Stadium after winning their fifth game in a row last Sunday. Dallas has to be feeling pretty good about themselves after outgaining the Eagles 576 to 256 yards and controlling the ball for more than 45 minutes in a 29-23 overtime win in Dallas. However, I have my concerns with the Cowboys in this spot.
Not only am I bothered that Dak Prescott failed to protect the football like he had done a much better job of in past weeks, but also that the Cowboys will struggle to be at their best after winning three huge games at home dating back to Thanksgiving. They all but clinched the NFC East with their win against the defending champions and have little chance of earning a bye with the Saints and Rams way ahead of them in the standings with three games to play. They had much more to get up for the last several weeks.
I do not have similar concerns with the Colts who bounced back from a poor performance in Jacksonville in Week 13 to keep their playoff hopes alive with a huge road win in Houston last Sunday. Quarterback Andrew Luck played great against a solid Texans defense and Indy was able to hold Houston’s running game under 90 yards after they had moved the ball willingly on the ground over their three previous contests. This gives reason to believe that the Colts can do the same to Ezekiel Elliott and put the pressure on Prescott who I lost faith in after doing all he could to try to lose that game at home last Sunday.
The Cowboys are just 2-4 straight up on the road in 2018 while the Colts are 4-0 straight up as a home favorite this year. I like Indianapolis’s chances to earn win number eight in head coach Frank Reich’s first season at the helm.
Week 15 NFL Pick- Indianapolis Colts (1 unit)
Minnesota Vikings (-7) vs Miami Dolphins
It is difficult to get excited about laying a touchdown with a Vikings offense that has struggled so badly over the last several weeks that they fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo less than a year after he replaced Pat Shurmur, but I love this spot for Minnesota on Sunday afternoon.
The Vikings offense embarrassed themselves on national television two weeks in a row in losses in New England and Seattle and have been a major disappointment in 2018. They were largely considered a Super Bowl contender in the preseason due to the addition of quarterback Kirk Cousins and one of the league’s best defenses, but they have actually played worse not better on offense this year despite what most perceived as a clear upgrade at QB.
Fortunately for Mike Zimmer’s team, the lack of depth in the NFC has allowed the Vikings to remain in the sixth and final playoff spot with just 3 games left to play. I expect them to perform much better on offense than they have the last couple of weeks as they head back to U.S. Bank Stadium for their first home game this month.
The Dolphins pulled off a miracle win when Kenyan Drake completed a 69-yard touchdown with no time left to beat division rival New England. Now they must gather themselves and find a way to play well in a hostile environment against a defense that is all but certain to make life difficult on quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Miami has found ways to win games in South Florida this year, but they have been terrible away from home. On the other hand, the Vikings are 4-1 ATS as home favorites in 2018, 13-5 ATS as home favorites over the last three years and have covered 7 of their last 10 when returning home off a road loss.
Lay the touchdown.
Week 15 NFL Pick- Minnesota Vikings (1 unit)
Green Bay Packers (+6) at Chicago Bears
Unlike the Vikings, the Bears have surpassed expectations for first year head coach Matt Nagy after outscoring their opponent just five times in 2017. They enter Week 15 with a record of 9-4 and can clinch the NFC North with a victory against arch rival Green Bay.
The Bears come off of a huge win at home on primetime where they dominated one of the league’s best teams in the Rams. They continued to show they are one of the league’s elite defenses by holding Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and the Rams to just 214 yards and 6 points. Now they can end the season of their longtime nemesis Aaron Rodgers with a victory in Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon.
Green Bay has been one of the NFL’s most disappointing squads in 2018, but they have a tiny bit of life after firing long time head coach Mike McCarthy and beating Atlanta 34-20 last week. I am not in love with the roster construction and overall talent of this Packers team, but I am expecting them to play well in a must win situation in the “Windy City” against a team they have owned dating back to 2010. In fact, they have won 15 of the last 18, including five in a row.
The Pack may not get out of Chicago with a win, but I expect them to keep it close at the very least.
Week 15 NFL Pick- Green Bay Packers (1 unit)
Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5) vs New England Patriots
A month ago it appeared the Steelers were well on their way to another AFC North championship, but after a come-from-behind 20-16 win in Jacksonville, Pittsburgh has lost 3 in a row.
Two of the three recent defeats came as road favorites, including a 24-21 loss as 10-point favorites in Oakland last Sunday. For Steelers fans losing to inferior opponents on the road is something they have seen happen all too much in the Mike Tomlin era. The good news is Pittsburgh is much better at home and in the role as an underdog. They are 3-0 ATS as a dog in 2018, 5-3 over the last three years and an extremely strong 78-54 dating back to 1992.
The Steelers host the AFC champion Patriots who come off an equally painful loss last Sunday. They made some surprising mental errors and then allowed the Dolphins to win the game in miraculous fashion on the final play.
Neither team is quite what they have been in years’ past, but I like Pittsburgh in the role as a desperate home underdog and will take the points.
Week 15 NFL Pick- Pittsburgh Steelers (1 unit)
Scott Shapiro’s 2018 NFL Record 37-31-5 (+4 units)