Time is running out on these NFL teams as they push for a ticket to the playoffs. Week 15 is littered with teams in must-win mode, and to some football bettors that extra motivation is gold against the spread. Our top handicappers take a look at which teams are fighting for their lives and if that can help them at least cash in at the sportsbook.
Dallas Cowboys (7-6 SU, 7-6 ATS)
One more week until Zeke. That is the Cowboys’ battle cry this weekend when they visit the Oakland Raiders on Sunday Night Football – one week ahead of the return of suspended RB Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas is clinging to hope for a NFC Wild Card spot, currently fighting a number of teams for a place in the postseason. It’s won back-to-back games heading into Week 15 and will likely need to win out in its final three contests to really have a chance of going forward.
The sticky situation with this game in Oakland is that the Raiders are pretty much in the same spot. Oakland is chasing down the Chargers and Chiefs in the AFC West at 6-7 SU and a loss Sunday night would all but kill the Raiders’ postseason plans, especially since Kansas City and Los Angeles play each other and the winner will have the inside track to the division crown. Dallas has been a solid bet against the AFC for a while now, going 19-11-1 ATS in non-conference games since 2010.
Green Bay Packers (7-6 SU, 7-6 ATS)
One of those NFC teams jockeying with the Cowboys for a Wild Card spot is Green Bay, which gets a major boost in Week 15 with the return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Packers had been playing without the former MVP since he suffered a broken collarbone in Week 6 and have done just enough to keep their postseason plans alive heading to Carolina as 3-point underdogs this Sunday. Sharp money jumped on the Panthers, pushing this line from its opener of -1.5 but expect public play on the Cheeseheads when Sunday rolls around.
There’s no doubt Rodgers is an improvement over backup Brett Hundley – even at less than 100 percent. However, Hundley was getting into a rhythm and had Green Bay on a three-game ATS winning streak after edging Cleveland in overtime last week. Carolina has one of the best defenses in the NFL, allowing only 302 yards per game and has recorded 40 sacks on the season – tied for third in the league. This total ticked up almost a field goal when Rodgers was cleared to play, moving from 44.5 to 47, but that may be an overreaction if A-Rod is rusty in his return to action.
Buffalo Bills (7-6 SU, 7-5-1 ATS)
The Bills are sitting in the sixth position in the AFC, currently on pace for a Wild Card slot. However, hot on the heels of Buffalo are the Ravens, Chargers, Raiders and Dolphins, who the Bills host in Week 15. The spread for that game is currently off the board with the status of Bills QB Tyrod Taylor up in the air. He sat out last week’s snow storm with a knee bruise but was back at practice this week. His absence didn’t make much of a difference versus the Colts last Sunday, with a blizzard hitting Orchard Park and pretty much handicapping the offense.
The Bills follow this home stand against Miami with a trip to New England, which makes this game even more important. Buffalo then closes out the campaign in Florida to play the Fins for the second time in three weeks. The Bills have been a solid bet at home, going 4-2-1 ATS as hosts this season, but are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven AFC East rivalry games. The Dolphins are playing on a short week and coming off that huge upset over the Patriots, which could line Miami up for a classic letdown spot in Buffalo.