A long season is winding down to a close for the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the sharps think all three of these road dogs are live on the Week 15 NFL odds board.
Jason’s record after Week 13: 34-46-1 ATS, 17-20-1 Totals
It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Week 15 of the NFL season. This is when the big road underdogs are supposed to fold up their tents at the end of a long and gruelling campaign; bodies are battered and bruised, and the added rigors of travel just make things worse when your playoff hopes range from slim to none.
But what’s this? According to our very early consensus reports, the sharps are 100 percent behind three of the biggest road dogs on the NFL odds board for Week 15. This is a very small sample size, and it might have been overwritten by the time you read this, but we can confirm there was unanimity at the open for the Minnesota Vikings (+7.5 at Detroit), the Oakland Raiders (+12, –130 at Kansas City), and even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+5 at Carolina).
Betting trends notwithstanding, all three of these picks have some merit. The Vikings (6-7 SU, 8-5 ATS), for example, have proven very difficult to kill off in the NFC North. They’re technically still in the hunt for a Wild Card berth after winning back-to-back home games over the Panthers (+2.5) and the New York Jets (+4), who fell 30-24 in overtime on Sunday. Minnesota has also beaten the football odds in six of the past seven games.
That doesn’t mean the Vikings are a particularly good football team. They ranked No. 24 on the DVOA charts (No. 28 offense, No. 20 defense, No. 9 special teams) at Football Outsiders going into Sunday’ game. The Lions were No. 11 overall (No. 20 offense, No. 1 defense, No. 31 special teams) before disposing of Tampa Bay 34-17 as 10.5-point home faves. That’s back-to-back wins SU and ATS for the Leos (9-4 SU, 7-6 ATS). Interesting that Minnesota would be getting that 100 percent consensus here – perhaps the extra half-point off the magic number seven was just too good to pass up.
Then you have those wacky Buccaneers (2-11 SU, 5-8 ATS). No playoff hopes at all here, just bad football for the most part. It’s not like the Panthers (4-8-1 SU, 7-6 ATS) are tearing up the league or anything, but they’ve got a real shot at winning the NFC South after creaming the New Orleans Saints (–8.5) 41-10, at the Superdome no less. That surprise win halted Carolina’s six-game losing streak dead in its tracks.
Then again, there wasn’t that much separating these two clubs in performance level going into Week 13. Pro Football Reference had them as the worst teams in the NFC, with Carolina at minus-8.1 SRS and Tampa Bay at minus-10.3. That would make the Panthers the rough equivalent of 5-point favorites at home, just like the actual odds for this Sunday from 5Dimes. Again, very interesting.
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The Raiders (2-11 SU, 7-6 ATS), on the other hand, have all the trappings of a very live dog indeed. They’re coming off a 24-13 win over their Bay Area rivals, the San Francisco 49ers (–8 away). They also beat the visiting Chiefs 24-20 in Week 12 as 7.5-point puppies. That might have been the beginning of the end for Kansas City (7-6 SU, 8-5 ATS) in the AFC West. The Chiefs have lost three in a row SU and ATS after falling 17-14 to the Arizona Cardinals (+2.5 at home) on Sunday.
Let’s not forget our old NFL betting trend about divisional dogs of seven or more, either. Oakland is already 3-1 ATS this year in this situation, all since giving head coach Dennis Allen the heave-ho in Week 5 and replacing him with Tony Sparano. Maybe the Raiders should take away the “interim” label and hire Sparano full-time. Give him the GM reins while you’re at it.