NFL Week 15 Best Bets: Best Bets For Sunday Action

Week 15 of the NFL season has arrived, and there’s only a few weeks left before playoff time. This is the time of year where I really try to hone in my plays and focus on a few underdogs in good spots. I have three plays that I absolutely love on the Sunday slate, and I’ll dive into them here. For coverage on every NFL game this week, check out the Lineups YouTube channel. Let’s get to work.

Dallas Cowboys at Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence is playing excellent football right now. Since Week 9, he ranks second in PFF passing grade as well as adjusted completion rate. Watching him begin to realize the potential that made him one of the most hyped prospects in recent memory has been mesmerizing, and we’re just scratching the surface of his potential.

This week provides a fascinating litmus test for Lawrence as the Cowboys rank first in pass defense DVOA. However, if you dig deeper, there are weaknesses to be exploited. Injuries to Anthony Brown and Jordan Lewis have left the Cowboys weaker in the secondary, particularly on the perimeter.

Trevon Diggs had a very strong start to the season, but he’s regressed to the high variance play he exhibited last season. He ranks 52nd among 64 qualified cornerbacks with a 3.0% explosive pass play rate allowed.

Meanwhile, Kelvin Joseph has allowed a 7.1% explosive pass play rate on the other side, which ranks 90 among 97 qualified corners with 25+ coverage snaps over the last two weeks. When the Cowboys aren’t getting pressure on the opposing passer, they can get torched on the outside.

Of course, Dallas ranks first in the NFL in pressure rate. Micah Parsons leads the way with a 91.3 PFF pass-rush grade which ranks behind only Myles Garrett. Meanwhile, DeMarcus Lawrence and Sam Williams sport top-30 pass-rush grades among qualified edge defenders.

Lawrence has been under pressure all season, though, as the Jaguars rank third-worst in pass-block win rate on ESPN. However, Lawrence can counter this by getting rid of the ball quickly. He averages 2.48 seconds to throw, which is the second-fastest release time among quarterbacks with 200+ passing attempts.

The injury to Travis Etienne has been tough for the offense as it has sapped his efficiency – he’s averaging just 2.9 YPC over the last two weeks. The Cowboys rank below-average in yards per carry allowed, and they’ve been gashed by explosive runs lately, so Etienne’s limitations hurt in what would have been a strong matchup for him.

However, it will force the Jaguars into being a pass-first offense on early downs, which is where they thrive. They rank second in dropback EPA on early downs, which is behind only the Bills. By staying ahead of the chains and avoiding third-and-long situations, they can counteract the Cowboys’ pass rush.

Meanwhile, not everything is roses for the Cowboys right now. Despite facing the Texans last week, Dak Prescott finished with a PFF passing grade of 61.4, barely ahead of the likes of Sam Darnold and Tyler Huntley. That performance underscored his accuracy issues which have cropped up. He’s actually below-average in completion percentage over expectation.

The Cowboys’ offensive line hasn’t helped, as it ranks second-worst in ESPN’s pass-blocking win rate. Last week, Terrence Steele tore his ACL, and while Tyron Smith is expected to return this week, the shuffling upfront will be problematic against Jacksonville who ranks seventh in pressure rate, primarily thanks to the elite play of Josh Allen.

Dallas needs to be careful not to be caught looking ahead to their game against the Eagles next week, as Jacksonville is fully capable of pulling off the upset. As it is, the Jaguars have lost by more than one score just twice all season, and it’s difficult to imagine the Cowboys blowing them out given the issues they’re experiencing.

Best Bet: Jaguars +5 (play to +3.5)

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

When the Falcons and Saints played earlier this season, Atlanta led by 16 points in the fourth quarter before New Orleans made an improbable comeback to win the game. Atlanta had more total yards and first downs, and it was certainly a bad beat for anyone on the Falcons ML.

Fast forward several weeks, and these teams are meeting again. However, this matchup will feature an unfamiliar face as rookie Desmond Ridder is set to make his NFL debut. Much will be made about his trip to the Saints’ home stadium, but their home field advantage has been somewhat eroded – they’re just 6-9 at home over the last two seasons.

It’s incredibly improbable, but the Falcons had the 12th-ranked offense by DVOA this year. That’s despite the play of Marcus Mariota, not because of him. Mariota ranked dead last of 39 qualified quarterbacks in adjusted completion percentage. Arthur Smith was able to mask many of his deficiencies in this offense.

Mariota had ranked fifth in the NFL with 157 play-action dropbacks, and that was made possible by this elite rushing offense. Smith orchestrated an offense that ranks top five in adjusted line yards, rushing success rate, and yards per carry despite leading rusher Cordarelle Patterson missing extended time.

The same play-action, run-heavy approach should work against the Saints. New Orleans ranks just 21st in run defense DVOA, 20th in yards per carry allowed, and 26th in tackling. An ongoing injury to Pete Werner hasn’t helped them on that end, and it’s tough to imagine their run defense issues being fixed overnight.

The Saints’ offense has been efficient with Andy Dalton under center, and like it or not, he’s played solid football this season. Dalton ranks third in PFF passing grade, ninth in adjusted completion percentage, and ninth in yards per attempt. The Falcons will afford him opportunities to throw as they generate the least amount of pressure in the NFL.

Chris Olave will be able to exploit the Atlanta secondary that allows the fourth-most yards per pass while Alvin Kamara will be productive against Atlanta’s 31st-ranked run defense by success rate. I wouldn’t expect the Saints to have too many issues moving the ball in this game.

However, the spread here is simply overinflated due to the change under center for Atlanta. Mariota wasn’t a positive for the offense – in fact, it was quite the opposite – and from the way he handled his benching, it might end up being addition by subtraction.

Regardless, the Falcons are ranked significantly higher by total DVOA and expected wins this season, and they shouldn’t be catching this many points in a divisional affair. Atlanta has gone 1-6 ATS over their last seven games after starting 6-0 ATS, and this is the low point in the market for them.

Best Bet: Falcons +4.5 (play to +3.5)

Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s often true in the NFL that the best team to bet on ATS is the one that looked the worst in the week prior. The Buccaneers certainly fit the bill after their embarrassing 35-7 loss at the hands of the 49ers. The public has rushed to back the Bengals after that showing with around 70% of the total number of bets on Cincinnati, but I wouldn’t be so fast.

Meanwhile, the Bengals are dealing with some horrific injury luck. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are both dealing with injuries while Hayden Hurst is out, leaving the passing offense much more limited. Ja’Marr Chase saw 15 targets of 31 pass attempts last week, and it’s difficult to survive as an offense like that.

In addition, the defense, which had already been down star cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, will be without Trey Hendrickson after he broke his wrist. Stud slot corner Mike Hilton will also miss this game, which is big as he would have been matched up with Chris Godwin quite often in this matchup.

The absence of Hendrickson is particularly important against Tampa Bay as he was the Bengals’ best and often only consistent pass-rush presence. Tom Brady leads all passers in average time to throw due to the injuries on the offensive line resulting in awful pass-blocking, but he might have more time this week.

The Buccaneers have injuries of their own, but Antoine Winfield Jr. and Sean Murphy-Bunting have practiced in full after missing last week’s game. Those defensive backs will be crucial in limiting Joe Burrow in the midst of his elite season. Burrow is first in PFF passing grade since Week 9.

Tampa Bay hasn’t been quite as elite against the run as they have been in previous seasons, and the expected absence of Vita Vea doesn’t help. Still, the Bucs rank 12th in run defense DVOA and 10th in rushing success rate allowed, and they’ve been at their best against the run with Akiem Hicks in the lineup, as he currently is.

With the injuries to Cincinnati’s wide receiver corps, they could opt to run the ball more this week, but that would play into the hands of the Bucs as it would allow them to force shorter possessions and control more time of possession, which they have struggled to do all season. They rank just 28th in time of possession, which is part of their issues.

The margins on this one aren’t nearly as wide as on the first two games I broke down. I really need the 3 and the hook to make this an official play. However, we’ve reached the bottom of the market on the Bucs, and I’m happy to take the points with Tom Brady at home against a banged up Bengals team.

Best Bet: Buccaneers +3.5 (play to +3.5)

I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

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