We’re all set to get going with the Week 15 odds for NFL this week at Bang the Book, as there are a plethora of games that we are going to be focusing in on that are going to have some huge impacts on the entire season.
We’ve had our first head coach firing of the year, and not surprisingly, the team that is destined to get the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft is the one which now has a new coach. Wade Phillips is taking over for the departed Head Coach Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans. Interim coaches have had a good history in recent years, though Phillips is the first man to be an in-season interim coach since 2011. The Texans, who are a game up on a pair of teams in the chase for the top pick in the draft, have a date with the Indianapolis Colts this week. Houston is going to try hard to win these last three games, but it is going to be a decisive underdog in these first two, the first of which comes at +6 against the Colts. The Texans have never won a game in Indianapolis, and though these Colts seem to be worse off than most of the previous seasons’ Colts, they are the AFC South champs, and that can’t be denied.
The next two teams in line are actually playing against each other this week. The Atlanta Falcons and the Washington Redskins each only have three wins to their credit, and they are playing against each other at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons have at least shown a pulse these last few weeks, challenging both the Packers and the Saints and beating the Bills in come from behind fashion. Washington meanwhile, has been totally dysfunctional. The team was crushed by five TDs last week against the Chiefs, and the Redskins looked utterly unprepared. Head Coach Mike Shanahan – who is surely to be known as former Head Coach Mike Shanahan sooner rather than later – just seems totally disinterested, and he is ready to bench QB Robert Griffin III for the rest of the season. Atlanta is giving six in a game that means squat to some, but everything to those teams at the top of the NFL Draft. This game, as interesting as it is, also has the highest ‘total’ on the Sunday slate at 51.
We’ll start with the last Thursday Night Football game of the season. The Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers are set to go to battle in what should be a much better game than the average Denver game. This is going to be another one of these cold weather games which QB Peyton Manning struggles in so badly for the most part. He has a much tougher draw this week against the Bolts than he did last week against the Titans. San Diego knows that it is playing for its season, and it did, to its credit, manage to win at Arrowhead Stadium against KC just three weeks ago. QB Philip Rivers is having his best year in quite some time, and if there is a man that could figure out how to shut down this Denver offense on a short week, it’s Head Coach Mike McCoy, who was the offensive coordinator for the Broncos last season. Denver is -10.5, tying it for the biggest favorite of the week, but that doesn’t mean this one is surely going to be a romp. San Diego is just a game back of the last Wild Card spot in the AFC with three games to play. The ‘total’ of 55 is the highest of the weekend.
Elsewhere in the 1:00 ET hour, we have a total of teams which are going on the road which are favorites, and dangerous favorites at that. The Seattle Seahawks are continuing their quest to become the top seed in the NFC playoffs when they take on the New York Giants as seven-point favorites at MetLife Stadium. This is the last road game of the year for the Seahawks, and they hope that the only time the rest of this season they have to leave Seattle is coming back here to the Meadowlands. The Buffalo Bills are -1.5 against the surging Jacksonville Jaguars. The Chicago Bears are off the board against the Cleveland Browns, pending the status of QB Jay Cutler, but we know that the boys from the Windy City are going to be favored over QB Jason Campbell and the Browns, even at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Philadelphia Eagles, who are now a game up in the NFC East, are -4.5 against the Minnesota Vikings, who are unlikely to be with RB Adrian Peterson this week after he suffered a nasty looking groin injury in last week’s loss.
Where things get interesting is in the Sunshine State. The Miami Dolphins are hosting the New England Patriots in what might be the best game of the day that you aren’t even thinking about. The Pats have lost TE Rob Gronkowski for the rest of the season to a torn ACL and MCL, and that leaves this team in some serious peril. New England is in the playoffs, but the Bengals are right on its backside for the last bye week in the AFC. Miami is level, but behind in a tiebreaker to Baltimore for the last Wild Card spot in the conference, making this a huge game for both teams. The Patriots are giving a slender point, but that isn’t an awfully encouraging stat.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the hottest teams in the league, and they are definitely going to be capable of causing real pain for the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners are looking good for the playoffs, but they are in a bad spot in this game. They have to come across the country to take on the Bucs, and though they have fared well on the East Coast, they haven’t played a game on the East Coast coming off of a win like the one they had against Seattle last week in quite some time. Tampa Bay hasn’t really played much in the way of competition, but if it can figure out how to make QB Colin Kaepernick throw the football, it will have a shot in this game. The Buccaneers are +4.5, but they are definitely amongst the sharpest teams in Week 15.
The late afternoon games on Sunday are keeping this trend going of road favorites. The Arizona Cardinals are giving a field goal against the Tennessee Titans, who also appear to be another team which has given up on the campaign, while the New Orleans Saints, in a sandwich game between the two games against Carolina, are laying 5.5 at the Edward Jones Dome against the St. Louis Rams. The Kansas City Chiefs are set to renew their rivalry with the Oakland Raiders. The first meeting of the year was an ugly 24-7 win for KC, so it’s no wonder this game has the lowest ‘total’ of the week at 40. KC is giving 3.5, proving that Oakland, even with QB Matt McGloin and QB Terrelle Pryor flipping places in-game, is a potentially dangerous team. Remember that the Raiders have played four of their last five games on the road, and they haven’t seen a lot of the Black Hole.
The biggest favorites on Sunday are the Carolina Panthers, who are -10.5 against the New York Jets at home. QB Geno Smith just threw his first touchdown pass in eight games last week against Oakland, but this is a significantly, significantly greater challenge against a very good Carolina outfit. The Panthers are still amongst the best in the league, and they know that they can’t afford a letdown. This year at home, the Panthers are 8-0 SU and 7-1 ATS when playing on natural grass, and that could cause some real problems for the Jets at Bank of America Stadium.
Assuming that Philly holds serve in the 1:00 ET hour, there is a real chance that the loser of the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers will be essentially eliminated from the playoffs. Green Bay saved its season last week by hanging on to beat Atlanta by a single point, and it badly needs QB Aaron Rodgers back. This one is going to stay off the board until a determination on Rodgers’ status is made. Regardless, Dallas is coming off of a Monday Night Football game, and we all know just how badly teams play on the Sunday after playing on a Monday.
Sunday Night Football pits the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field. The Steelers probably saw their last shot at the playoffs go down in flames last week when they were beaten by the Dolphins. They’re two back of the Wild Cards with just three to play, and losing this game would be the end of the season for sure. Cincinnati can actually come very close to winning the AFC North title with a win on Sunday, and if the Pats lose to Miami, it can take over control of the AFC’s second first round bye. The Bengals are laying a field goal on the road in the Steel City.
Finally on Monday comes a huge game in Motown, one of the biggest we have seen at Ford Field in quite some time. The Detroit Lions are coming off of a bad loss to the Eagles last week in the snow, and they’ll be happy to be back at home in this one against Baltimore. Depending upon what happens in Pittsburgh, the Ravens could pull either level with the Bengals with a win, or fall two back with two to play of the Bengals with a loss. Detroit is scoreboard watching and thinking the same thing. The Bears are now back on terms with Detroit, while Green Bay is just a half game back. This is game that the men from Motown absolutely have to win. They’re favored by six in what amounts to be one of the best games of the entire weekend.
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.