The 2019 NFL season moves into Week 15 with new injury situations affecting a number of teams. Mid-December is when a lot of teams are trying to push through the pain accumulated through a long season and then deal with the limitations of their rosters. Let’s see how this affects NFL rosters.
New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens
The short week, plus the fact that Lamar Jackson got slightly hurt on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills – though not enough to keep him from playing in this game against the Jets – points to a night in which Baltimore will smother New York’s defense and create a game in which Lamar Jackson doesn’t have to do too much. Baltimore will probably use a conservative game plan, thinking it can establish the run and use its defense to handle the Jets.
This has the look and feel of a 19-3 game or a 22-6 game, something which should end well below the number. The Jets were barely better than the Miami Dolphins this past Sunday, needing a field goal on the final play to win. A team barely better than the Dolphins should not be able to score much against the Ravens, who are the clear favorite to get the No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs and have a very realistic path to the Super Bowl right now.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions
This game is likely to go over. The Bucs’ recent games have been high-scoring, much more than other games around the NFL. They just beat the Colts, 38-35. Jameis Winston has committed a lot of turnovers this year, but he has also thrown for a large number of touchdowns in recent weeks. The Lions – who gave away safety Quandre Diggs in the middle of the season for peanuts – had a bad defense even when Diggs was in their lineup. Now their defense is even worse.
They gave up 35 points to the mediocre Dallas Cowboys and 24 to the similarly mediocre Chicago Bears. They gave up 20 points to the Vikings this past Sunday, which seems decent until you realize that Adam Thielen wasn’t playing and that the Vikings were playing on a short week after a long-distance road trip to Seattle. Minnesota ran the ball a lot and wanted to end that game quickly, given the limits on its roster. Tampa Bay will not be similarly constrained, and in a dome, the Bucs’ high-octane passing attack should be able to score in the 30s, which ought to be enough to push this game over the number.
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
This is a game in which the injury to Eagles offensive lineman Lane Johnson, suffered on Monday Night Football against the New York Giants, might be the decisive factor relative to the over-under number. The Eagles have a broken offense when Lane Johnson isn’t there to offer pass protection. The Eagles were absolutely helpless against the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. They wouldn’t be much better against the Redskins, whose defense played well in a 20-15 loss to the Green Bay Packers this past Sunday.
The Redskins have been awful on offense all year, scoring one of the lowest touchdown totals not just this season, but in NFL history. Washington went through a 16-quarter drought without a touchdown, one of the greatest displays of offensive futility in the history of professional football. The over-under for this game should be a few points lower. As it is, the under is a very solid play here.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
The Packers keep winning, but it’s not because of Aaron Rodgers. It’s because of their defense, which continues to rise up and steal the show in 2019. The Packers have a strong front four which is able to rush the passer without blitzing, the centerpiece of the defense’s success. The Packers can rush the passer and yet keep their linebackers and safeties in coverage.
They limited the Washington Redskins to just 15 points this past weekend, and in the first game of the 2019 NFL season, they limited the Chicago Bears to just three points. In the rematch, the two teams will very probably score more than the 13 total points they created in early September in Chicago, but they probably will struggle to score 41 points. Chicago’s defense, though not as great as it was in 2018, is still very good. This looks like a 20-13 kind of game, very much an under play.
New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals
The Patriots and Tom Brady are banged up. New England’s offense scored only 16 points against the Kansas City Chiefs at home, a really bad sign for the Patriots heading into the final weeks of their season. The Patriots might struggle on the road, but they are usually money in the bank at home, and they had historically scored big numbers against the Chiefs’ defense at home. That tells you Brady is feeling the affects of injuries which have caused him to be listed as questionable on recent injury reports.
He has played, but he has certainly not been effective. Against the Bengals – a team the Patriots’ defense should be able to dominate – Brady shouldn’t need to do too much. This is a game the Patriots can win with their defense, something like 17-3. This game should fall well under the number due to Cincinnati’s weak offense and the Patriots’ offensive limitations.
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans
The Ryan Tannehill revolution continues in Tennessee. The Titans are pursuing a playoff berth with Marcus Mariota’s replacement leading an explosive offense which smoked the Oakland Raiders on the road last weekend. Against Deshaun Watson, this could be the one big shootout of the week in the NFL. The cautionary note here is that after the Houston Texans were absolutely shredded by Drew Lock of the Denver Broncos in Week 14, Houston’s defense might come out fierce and focused in Week 15 against Tennessee.
The Texans know they need to win this game to feel good about their playoff chances, so their defensive performance should be better than it was last week. Yet, even if the Texans are better on defense, Tennessee should still score in the mid-20s. If Deshaun Watson scores in the 30s and the Titans score in the mid-20s, the game will still go over. That’s the better play here.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
The Panthers just fired coach Ron Rivera, and everyone was waiting to see how they would respond to that reality the following week against the Atlanta Falcons. Carolina’s defense responded by giving up 40 points to the Falcons. The Seahawks just scored only 12 points against the Los Angeles Rams, and the only touchdown was a defensive score, a pick-six. After a complete stink-bomb of a performance, Russell Wilson will be intent on playing a lot better.
The Seahawks know they have to win this game to have any chance of catching the San Francisco 49ers for first place in the NFC West. This should translate into a good offensive performance for the Seahawks, something around 30 points or so. Meanwhile, Seattle pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who has been playing through pain the past several weeks, was further hurt in the loss to the Rams. Seattle’s pass rush is unlikely to be at its best, which means Carolina quarterback Kyle Allen, despite recent struggles, should be able to score at least 20 points on the Seahawks. The game is poised to go over the number.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
The Broncos under Drew Lock are a new story. Everyone was caught off guard by Lock’s dazzling performance in Houston this past Sunday, leading the Broncos to 38 points and a comfortable victory over a playoff contender. Do we know that Lock will continue to play well? It’s hard to say. Young quarterbacks are very mysterious and unpredictable.
Yet, if Denver merely scores 20 points, the Chiefs – under Patrick Mahomes – are very capable of scoring in the high 20s or low 30s, which would put this game over the number. There you go.
Miami Dolphins at New York Giants
The Dolphins just played in MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and lost to the Jets in a game which produced 43 points. The Giants are coming off a short week in which their most recent game produced 40 points, and in which they got completely shut out in the second half plus overtime. It is true that Eli Manning might want to give his career one more shining performance in front of home fans. Maybe the Giants will play extra hard and try to score a very big number against the Dolphins, but that seems like wishful thinking more than an actual reflection of where these teams – and offenses – stand. These are mediocre offenses trying to find a spark, but they don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. Go with the under.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders
These teams have both run out of gas in the latter stretch of the season. Their defenses both fell apart last week, allowing 42 or more points. The Raiders have allowed 34 or more points in their last three games. The Jaguars have allowed an average of 38 points in their last three games. It is true that the Jaguars’ offense has scored more than 13 points only once in its last four games, and that the Raiders have scored more than 17 points only once in their last four outings, but the collapse of these teams’ defenses points to a game which should involve a reasonable amount of scoring. If one team scores 31, the other team should be able to score at least 17 and push the game over the number.
Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals
The meeting of former Oklahoma quarterbacks and Heisman Trophy winners has arrived: Baker Mayfield versus Kyler Murray. You know both men will want to be at their best, and with neither team being alive in the hunt for the playoffs, one gets the sense this game will be a showcase for their talents. They will be aggressive at a level they haven’t been earlier in the season.
This might lead to mistakes, but those mistakes could be pick-sixes which add to the scoring total in this game. Take the over.
Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers
The Vikings’ offense has been dogged by recent injuries to Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen. The Chargers have had assorted injuries to receivers and tight ends this year, not including the holdout of Melvin Gordon which interrupted the Chargers’ season. The Chargers just did beat the Jaguars 45-10, but that game seems a lot more reflective of the Jaguars being bad than the Chargers discovering answers on offense. Minnesota’s defense easily handled the beaten-up Detroit Lions’ offense, giving bettors enough assurance that the Vikings can control this game with their defense and keep the number under the total.
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers
The Falcons scored 40 last week on the Panthers. The Niners scored 48 against the Saints in the NFL game of the year. The Falcons should score fewer points this week against San Francisco’s defense, but they probably won’t get completely crushed. The Niners have Richard Sherman and Dee Ford out, which should greatly limit their defense.
The 49ers coming off that emotional Saints game should mean a B-minus or C-plus performance. San Francisco should still win, but we shouldn’t expect the Niners’ defense to be close to its best. San Francisco might win this game 34-21, which would be more than enough to push the game over the total.
Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys made the Chicago Bears’ offense look great in a 31-24 loss this past Thursday, so the Los Angeles Rams – for all their struggles earlier in the season – should be able to score well against Dallas in this game. If the Rams score 31 points, the Cowboys’ offense, much as it did against the Bears, should be able to score enough points in catch-up mode and garbage time to push the game over the number. This could be a 31-23 final, with the Cowboys scoring a touchdown in the last two minutes in a hurry-up offense.
Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Bills and Steelers both have very good, very consistent defenses, and neither offense is particularly good. The Bills’ offense was contained by the Baltimore Ravens’ defense this past weekend, and Pittsburgh – playing at home at night – should be able to deliver a very similar result.
It is very possible that the winning team won’t even score 20 points in this game, which suggests the under is a good play, even with the low number.
Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints
This feels like a shootout. The Colts just lost a 38-35 game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while the Saints just lost a 48-46 game to the San Francisco 49ers. The Saints won’t face the 49ers a second straight week – the Colts’ offense isn’t nearly as good – but New Orleans defensive players were constantly caught out of position against the Niners, and they couldn’t stop San Francisco even after the Niners lost their starting center, Weston Richburg, to injury midway through that game. This game should be able to produce at least 50 combined points, if not many more.