Find best bets for the NFL’s Week 15 Saturday slate, featuring predictions for Vikings vs. Bengals and Broncos vs. Lions.
NFL Week 15 Saturday Best Bets
We’re onto Week 15 of the NFL season, and this week’s slate is loaded with exciting matchups. In this article, you can find best bet breakdowns for two of the three games happening on Saturday – sorry Colts and Steelers fans. Check out the Lineups YouTube page for coverage of all of the NFL games this week. Let’s get to work.
Jacob Wayne’s Record: 21-16-1 (+4.4 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 15-10 (+4.1 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 14-19-1 (-6.1 units)
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals
Jake Browning deserves a ton of credit for stepping in and keeping the Bengals’ season alive with Joe Burrow out for the year. He’s been great the past two weeks with PFF passing grades of 85+ in both. However, I have my doubts about his ability to sustain this level of production, especially heading into a matchup against one of the best pass defenses in the NFL.
Browning is still a very inexperienced quarterback with just three starts to his name, and the Bengals have been masking his deficiencies with an aDOT of 5.6 yards, by far the lowest in the NFL. He’s shown some clear issues when under pressure as his 42.5 PFF passing grade is well below average. That’s a big problem specifically against these Vikings.
After a dreadful defensive season last year, the Vikings hired Brian Flores as their new defensive coordinator, and their turnaround has been remarkable. Flores has the Vikings ranked fifth in defensive EPA this year. Minnesota blitzes at a stunning 47.4% rate, by far the highest rate in the NFL, and confuses opposing quarterbacks with exotic looks and varied coverages.
A blitz-heavy defense only works if your coverage can hold up on the back end, and Minnesota’s certainly does – they rank fourth in PFF’s team coverage grades. Flores will put Browning in a torture chamber in this game, especially behind a Bengals’ offensive line that ranks second-worst in pass block win rate.
On the other side of the ball, the Vikings are onto their fourth quarterback of the season in Nick Mullens. Josh Dobbs was benched last week as the Passtronaut’s magical run came crashing down. Mullens is an experienced quarterback, though, and he provides some stability. With Justin Jefferson back in the lineup and the likes of Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson ready to roll, this passing offense should bounce back here.
Cincinnati has struggled on defense all season as the combination of a below-average pass rush and young secondary. The Bengals rank just 26th in pass defense EPA. Covering Justin Jefferson will be an uphill battle with Cam Taylor-Britt on IR and D.J. Turner potentially also out while the Bengals allow the most yards per game to tight ends, leaving Hockenson in a great position to succeed.
Ultimately, this line is a major overreaction to last week’s events. While Browning has shown more than Mullens recently, there shouldn’t be a difference between them in terms of the spread. Meanwhile, the Vikings have the far better defense in this game and have more answers for Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals’ game-breaking wide receiver.
Minnesota also has a coaching edge with Kevin O’Connell having a Coach of the Year worthy campaign. Zac Taylor is still a brutal 6-20 straight up in his career without Joe Burrow in the lineup. Let’s sell high on the Bengals and buy low on the Vikings to start our Saturday.
Best Bet: Vikings +3.5
Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions
After screaming to the clouds that the Lions were doomed from the start in an eventual loss to the Chicago Bears last week, it’s time to flip the page and back the Lions in a bounce back spot. At least this time they are back in the comfort of their own home, inside a dome with no negative weather effects going against them.
That last sentence plays a major part towards Goff’s status as it is well documented that he turns into a pumpkin when having to throw into windy conditions. Goff already throws a relatively weak ball, turning his spirals into ducks when having to stretch the field. That lowers the quality of his deep and mid range throws, taking away a massive part of their offense.
Now that he’s back home, expect a massive Lions offensive bounce back performance as they get the opportunity to shred a reeling Broncos defense. While Denver’s defense has mightily improved from their historically poor start, they still have glaring weaknesses that will hamper their chances of getting the Lions offense off the field.
The Broncos mightily struggle at limiting early down success, ranking near dead last in Success Rate and EPA on first downs. That puts the Lions in a favorable position to routinely move the sticks on later downs, while also potentially avoiding failed fourth down attempts from Dan Campbell’s poor situational play calling.
Denver’s front seven have also sputtered in their efforts in improving at run stopping. That’s a massive issue against the Lions offense who will look to deploy their rushing duo of David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. Factor in the Broncos inability to limit early down success and the Lions rush attack should face minimal pressure at gaining chunks of yards at a time.
As for the Lions defense, they should find themselves in a better position to succeed in comparison to week’s past. With Alim McNiell on the IR, the Lions may opt into bringing more pressure with the blitz in order to rattle Russell Wilson. Wilson has graded poorly when under pressure, potentially easing the pressure off of their own weak secondary as Wilson is forced to get the ball out of his hands faster than anticipated.
Factor in the Lions offense being in a position to consistently move the ball into scoring position, while also stalling out the Broncos with their pressure, and the Lions are in a prime bounce back spot. Expect the rushing duo of Montgomery and Gibbs to lead the charge, giving Goff wider passing lanes for him to exploit once the Broncos stack the box.
Best Bet: Lions -4
Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions
The Lions started the year as a trendy offseason sleeper who seemingly turned into a surprisingly-legitimate threat. There were always cracks in their defense, especially after some injuries, but an 8-2 start to the year did plenty to suggest that they were manageable, small-scale issues like every contender has. Now, the floodgates are opening, and it’s becoming clear that the Lions’ defensive shortcomings are their fatal flaw.
Their past five games have been positively eye-opening; even though there are three wins mixed in, there isn’t a single positive defensive performance. The Chargers hung 38 points in a shootout, the Bears came into Detroit for Justin Fields’s first game in several weeks and scored 26, and the Packers also visited Ford Field and racked up 29 points in a big Thanksgiving win. Even after extra time to prepare, it took everything the Lions had to squeak by a bad Saints team by a score of 33-28, and last week, the Bears got their revenge in a game where not only did Detroit’s defense come up short once more, the offense only mustered 13 points.
The Broncos are coming in hot as winners of six of their past seven games, but there have been some lucky aspects to their success. During their winning run, they’ve been almost impossibly good in the red zone, on third down, and in terms of net fumble recoveries. Those categories are often seen as “fluky” ones, and that’s surely accurate in regards to the fumbles, but there’s a case to be made that the other two could be very real positives for Denver- especially in this matchup.
Teams who find themselves in close games need to win on the margins, and that’s exactly what third down and red zone situations represent. The play calling and decision making in these areas can be a real difference maker, and the gap between Denver’s Sean Payton and Detroit’s Dan Campbell as head coaches just might allow the Broncos to consistently win in these scenarios.
But to get into these tight games where niche scenarios matter, you of course have to match up well enough to compete for 60 minutes. Denver will be able to do exactly that by keeping pace on offense, even if their defense is not well-equipped to slow down the Lions’ ground game.
The Achilles heel of this Lions defense is, of course, their secondary, especially with CJ Gardner-Johnson likely a week away from a return. With the solid depth of receiving options Denver can trot out, headlined by the recent outright dominance of Courtland Sutton, the passing game through Russell Wilson can absolutely victimize the Lions defense, even without much of a threat of the run.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos probably aren’t as good defensively as their recent results suggest- that fumble luck has been really helpful- but they’ve definitely come a long way. They’re nowhere near the group that was historically bad through the first month of the season, and as they’ve gained health, are likely an above-average unit. Guys like Justin Simmons at safety and star corner Patrick Surtain II make Denver’s secondary tough to crack, which will really limit Detroit’s options.
The Broncos may not pull off the outright road upset, but they have the talent on both sides of the football to stay competitive, and at least cover this spread, which of course includes some very significant margins.
Best Bet: Broncos +4.5