Here is a 5-Pack of NFL value plays for this Sunday to build your bankroll on Week 15, highlighted by the Sunday Night Football contest between the Cowboys and Eagles.
Although we had a hiccup to begin Week 15 Thursday, we did have another excellent week in the NFL in Week 14 going 4-1 and we continue to have a very good 2014 NFL season as we are currently 67-48-1, 58.3%, +18.40 YTD as documented in the Sportsbook Review Forum! We now hope to bounce back from Thursday and look to carry our good fortune from previous weeks into this Sunday as we return with our usual Friday 5-Pack of NFL picks for Week 15.
We thought we had a solid play to begin the week with the St. Louis Rams -4½ over the depleted Arizona Cardinals on Thursday Night Football, and we felt even better when the Rams closed as six-point favorites. Unfortunately the Cardinals won outright 12-6 despite all of their injuries in a game that had no touchdowns scored. Needless to say, the ‘under’ was the easiest of winners with the total closing at 40½.
Undaunted, we now move on to Sunday where we have nothing but sides this week with four underdogs and one tiny one-point favorite, meaning it is conceivable we could possibly have five underdogs by kick-off time Sunday afternoon. And as has become our custom, all of these NFL odds come from Pinnacle Sports.
Sunday, December 14th
Atlanta Falcons +1½ (-103) over Pittsburgh Steelers (1:00 ET): In the wonderful irony that is the NFL, the Falcons actually enter this contest in first place in the NFC South at 5-8, while the Steelers are three games better at 8-5 and yet are fighting for their playoff lives. At least Pittsburgh does now hold one of the wild card spots in the AFC after a huge 42-21 road win over the division leading Cincinnati Bengals, pulling Pittsburgh within one-half game of Cincinnati for the AFC North Division lead. With that said, we like the Falcons to win outright here regardless of the status of Julio Jones, who is currently questionable with a hip injury sustained while torching the Green Bay secondary for 259 receiving yards in a covering 43-37 Atlanta loss at Lambeau Field. Obviously we would love Atlanta a bit more if Jones were certainly playing, but Matt Ryan should have success regardless vs. a Pittsburgh team ranked 24th in passing defense while allowing a high 7.7 yards per pass attempt, especially since Ryan has shined the most playing here at home throughout his career. Besides, this is not a good scheduling spot for the Steelers, turning up as non-conference road favorites after such a big road divisional win last week and with a probably a more important battle with Kansas City up next in regards to its wild card ramifications. Interestingly, Pittsburgh is just 14-26 ATS the last 40 times it has been a road favorite including 6-19 ATS if coming off of a win.
Cleveland Browns -1 (-104) over Cincinnati Bengals (1:00 ET): It is a brand new era in Cleveland as Brian Hoyer has been benched after yet another bad outing where he probably cost the Browns the win in a last-minute 25-24 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts, meaning that this contest will mark the highly anticipated first NFL start for Johnny Manziel! So will Johnny Football represent a noticeable upgrade over Hoyer in his first few NFL starts? Well, he probably cannot be much worse given Hoyer’s 10 interceptions vs. just three touchdowns over the last six games while completing a measly 53.4 percent of his passes during that time, and that is not to mention all of the open receivers that he constantly missed including a few more of those occurrences in the heartbreaking loss to the Colts. And there is no doubt Manziel is the superior runner, already owning an NFL rushing touchdown in a relief role a couple of weeks ago where he completed 5-of-8 passes on the scoring drive that he capped off himself on the ground. He has a very good chance for immediate success in this first start as he should have time to throw considering that the Bengals are dead last in the NFL with their 15 sacks in 13 games, with only two of those sacks coming in the last five weeks. Finally you may recall that Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton had one of the worst stat lines you will ever see when the Browns upset the Bengals 24-3 in a Thursday nighter in Cincinnati earlier this year, and that was mainly because cornerback Joe Haden has A.J. Green’s number more so than any other corner in football. We do not see that changing here.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3 (+112) over Carolina Panthers (1:00 ET): Obviously the biggest headline surrounding this game was the automobile accident Cam Newton was involved in this week, and he was rather fortunate to suffer just a minor back injury similar to the one that Tony Romo suffered earlier this season. Romo missed just one game but he also looked limited in his first two games back before looking more like his usual self last week. Newton will certainly miss this game and he it remains to be seen if he can return for Week 16. So back on the football field, there is a case of déjà vu here as backup Derek Anderson has made one start this season, which came on opening week after Newton suffered cracked ribs in his final preseason appearance. And that one start came vs. these Buccaneers in Tampa! Furthermore, Anderson was effective competing 24-of-34 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns while guiding Carolina to the 20-14 road win. Still, as mundane as it may be in the entire scheme of things, Newton comes off of perhaps his best game of the season last week in a surprisingly easy 41-10 romp over the Saints in New Orleans when he passed for 226 yards and three touchdowns and showed his old burst rushing for 83 yards on 12 carries with another touchdown on the ground, so despite Anderson’s Week 1 performance, Tampa Bay would much rather face him than Newton right now. And also remember that the Panthers snapped a seven-game winless streak last week and we just do not trust them to piece two good games together.
Minnesota Vikings +7½ (-117) over Detroit Lions (4:25 ET): This is the third straight home game for the Lions, who won and covered in the last two home affairs while beating the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers by identical 34-17 scores. However, we expect Detroit to have a few more difficulties vs. the Vikings in this spot. For starters, Matthew Stafford should face a much stronger pass rush after the Bears and Bucs were unable to apply any pressure on him, as the defensive line may be the strongest aspect of the entire Minnesota team with the Vikings fourth in the NFL in sacks, led by Everson Griffen and his 12 sacks. The last two opponents made the Detroit offensive line seem better than it actually is, but the Lions had been struggling with pass protection all year until then and Griffen is quite capable of making Stafford’s day a living hell. On the other side, Teddy Bridgewater had his second 300-yard passing game of the season last week and his first since his first NFL start against the Falcons, as he completed 19-of-27 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns including the game winning bomb to Jarius Wright in overtime in the 30-24 triumph over the Jets. There were thoughts that Bridgewater would suffer without the support of the running game with Jerick McKinnon now lost for the season, but the Vikings still managed 114 rushing yards on 28 carries (4.1 YPC) vs. the fifth ranked Jets’ rushing defense. Finally the Lions are not in a great spot as teams playing their third straight home game after winning the first two outright are on a dismal 6-24 ATS run!
Dallas Cowboys +3½ (-116) over Philadelphia Eagles (8:30 ET): This is a rematch from two weeks ago on Thanksgiving Day when the Eagles went into Dallas and dominated the Cowboys 33-10. However, this time the Cowboys have the Eagles where they want them, which is on the road in Philadelphia! Why would we say that, you ask? Well, that would be because Dallas is a perfect 6-0 on the road this season compared to having a losing 3-4 record home in Jerry World. But that is just a fun fact and there is more to us liking Dallas here than that. Perhaps the most important reason is because that first meeting this season took place on a short week with both teams having played the previous Sunday, and that did not give Tony Romo’s back enough time to recover after he had suffered two fractures in the back several weeks earlier. Romo was obviously limited on Thanksgiving Day and the difference was easily noticeable when he then had a full week of rest before playing on Thursday again last week in the cold air of Chicago, where he responded by completing 21-of-26 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns, and he could have had even better passing numbers if the Cowboys had not constantly fed the leading rusher in the NFL in Demarco Murray with a substantial lead in the fourth quarter. And now Romo actually has three extra days or rest follow that most recent Thursday game. Expect to see the real Romo this week, whereas you never know which version of the inconsistent Eagles’ quarterback Mark Sanchez you will see. Plus the three extra days of preparation time is an added advantage for Dallas and the road teams are 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings between these teams.