Bengals, Pack, and Bills Stand Tall in Week 15

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We’re back in business in Week 15, hunting for the best plays on the NFL slate. After a tidal wave of favorites cashing both against the spread and straight up last week, is it time for the script to flip once again and let the dogs out? Here are the contests that should be locked in on. Let’s catch fire.

Best NFL Week 15 Bets and Tips:

Cincinnati Bengals (43) at Denver Broncos (-3) | Which 7-6 team keeps their playoff hopes alive?

Overall, it’s been a rocky road for the better-than-expected Cincinnati Bengals. After a roaring 5-2 start to the 2021 campaign, Cincy has gone 2-4 over the past six weeks, which includes being blown out twice and a mortal sin in the football world – losing to the Mike White-led New York Jets. For a hot second against the Raiders and Steelers, it looked like the Bengals found their formula; hand the rock to Joe Mixon, something that resulted in a combined 73 points scored in back-to-back wins. However, there seems to be a pattern with this team; they are built to play with a lead, and cannot win if they have to play catch-up. In five games this season when they have been down at least 10 points, Cincy is only 1-4, with the lone win coming against the brutal Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 4. In a ruthless AFC, the Bengals will need to get back to the ground game and cut down on the turnovers (6th most in NFL with 21) if they hope to finesse their way into the playoff picture.

A truly touching moment for the Broncos on Sunday; only 10 men taking the field and allowing a delay of game to honor one of the 2010’s most productive receivers and Broncos great, Demaryius Thomas. Like their opponent, the Broncos have been shaky this season having alternated wins and losses over the past five weeks. Still, they are firmly in the hunt to punch a ticket to the dance in a loaded conference. Their keys to success are simple; feed the two-headed monster of rookie sensation Javonte Williams (53 forced miss tackles this season; best among all running backs) and Melvin Gordon and play defense. The past three games are the Broncos in a nutshell; eclipsed at least 145 yards on the ground and defensively surrendered only 26 combined points. If Denver hopes to thwart the 4-2 ATS/SU road warrior Cincy team, they must capitalize on their turnover-prone offense and play with a lead as the Bengals could struggle against the Broncos’ 2nd best scoring defense (17.5 PPG). By the way, despite the admirable Theddy Bridgewater’s 43-20 ATS record as a starter, the Broncos are merely 2-5 when he eclipses 30 passing attempts in a game (both wins came against the Giants and Jaguars, not much of an accomplishment).

In this sneaky good game of the week, it’s noteworthy that despite Denver’s top-10 defensive unit in total yards (324.8 YPG), pass yards (218.6 YPG), rushing yards (106.2 YPG) and aforementioned scoring defense, it’s the Bengals unit that holds steady as the league’s 4th best run defense (93.1 YPG) and is tied for 2nd in the NFL with sacks (37). While both sides hold certain advantages over the other, the Bengals are still the better team. Not to mention, this is probably their easiest remaining game on the schedule, making it a virtual must-win.

Stat of the game: When Joe Mixon rushes for 90 yards, the Bengals are 5-0 this season and 2-6 when he doesn’t.

PREDICTION: Bengals win and cover the road 3

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Carolina Panthers (43.5) at Buffalo Bills (-10.5) | How will the Bills rebound after their recent skid?

What once was a bright shooting star has swiftly faded away into the vast plane of nothingness. If that brief metaphor was an indication of any player and team in the NFL, it would apply to 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Since reacquiring Newton and winning his first game back, the Panthers have lost three straight and appear to be in an absolute freefall. Carolina has lost four of their last five and eight of their last 10. It’s been a complete disaster for this offense since Week 4 with a revolving door at QB (Newton, Sam Darnold, PJ Walker). In addition, their all-world but made-of-glass best player Christian McCaffrey has missed more than half the season and has now been shut down for the remainder of the ’21 campaign. This 5-8 ATS/SU team has taken on the role of Santa Claus during an early season of having handed out 20 giveaways over their previous 10 games. For the season, Carolina is tied for 3rd in the league with 23 turnovers, and they rank 5th worst in turnover differential at -8. Despite a solid defense that possesses an 8th best scoring clip (21.7 PPG) and tied for 9th in sacks (32), this all-but-eliminated team is seemingly on the verge of giving up on HC Matt Rhule and their season.

As the legendary Chris Berman would say, “NOBODY circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.” While their fans jump on and through fold-up tables at a moment’s notice, the Bills have largely been getting crushed like said tables over the last six weeks. Dropping an absolute layup to the Jaguars, having their doors blown off by the Colts to only transition into complete meltdown mode in consecutive pivotal games against the Patriots and the Buccaneers down in Tampa, Buffalo has gone from a contender for the coveted No. 1 seed in the AFC to a couple of missteps from missing the playoffs altogether. Heading into the season, those with a pair of functioning eyeballs could see this Bills squad was a fraudulent team destined to regress from an overachieving 2020 season that saw them go 13-3 and notch two playoff wins to only fall in the AFC Championship game to the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite their overrated defense ranking 3rd in the NFL in takeaways (26) and scoring (17.6 PPG), Buffalo has mostly been cracked by the better offenses in the NFL. Though their astoundingly obvious lack of a running game is a glaring weakness (their only 100-yard rushing performance came from Josh Allen vs. Bucs in Week 14), Allen still has enough of an ability to make the plays where he needs to for this offense to put points on the scoreboard. The 7-6 Bills’ remaining schedule is manageable, but several AFC opponents are on their tails. Their hold on the 7th seed is tenuous. There is no longer any room to falter.

The above could lead one to question the direction of this handicap. A clear lack of enthusiasm as it relates to both teams leaves a cliff-hanging play dripping in suspense. The bottom line is the Panthers have hardly been competitive over the past two months, their offense is in shambles and the effort is shrinking by the day. Had Run CMC been available, it is totally reasonable to think the Panthers could at least keep this one close, but he’s not. At the end of the day, Buffalo needs this one more. Against a Carolina team that’s only covered the spread once over their last five games, the Bills should take out their frustrations on the Panthers and go for the jugular.

Stat(s) of the game: The Bills are 2-6 when facing a running back that eclipses 16 carries; both wins came against the Jets and Saints when the games were well-decided.

PREDICTION: Bills win and cover the home 10.5.

Green Bay Packers (-4.5) at Baltimore Ravens (43.5) | Can the Ravens continue to overcome key injuries this season?

Here they come. In HC Matt LaFleur’s 3rd season, the Green Bay Packers have been nothing short of sensational. Having secured their 3rd straight double-digit winning season under LaFleur, could the Packers get over the hump and put the dreaded field goal decision from a season ago to bed? While it’s certainly possible, the cheese heads will need to close out the final four games with a Herculean effort to clinch the much sought-after top seed in the NFC. First on the list is an injury-plagued Ravens team that has found ways to win games in Academy Award-winning dramatic fashion. With the white-hot Aaron Rodgers (hampered by a broken toe) suiting up, this seems like a good number to take advantage of given the market uncertainty. Aside from the out-of-this-world play from one of the best QB’s of all-time in Rodgers (10 TD’s/0 INT’s over last 3 games), don’t hit the snooze button on this much-improved defense that ranks top-10 in total defense (6th with 323.6YPG), scoring (7th at 20.9PPG) and takeaways (8th with 22) all without their two best players in CB Jaire Alexander (out since Week 4) and OLB Za’Darius Smith (out since Week 1). Having scored at least 30 points in their last three contests, it appears this is as good a time as any to press an injury-riddled Baltimore defense.

Talk about unsustainable. The 8-5 Ravens have won a number of games they had no business winning. Now, they face one of the best teams in the NFL with a realistic possibility that star QB Lamar Jackson will be on the shelf after he picked up an ankle sprain in last Sunday’s loss to the Browns. The team signed Jets practice squad QB Josh Johnson to the roster, which points to the real possibility Jackson will not be available or could be limited in Week 15. Although Lamar has struggled mightily the last five weeks (eight interceptions), he obviously gives his squad the best chance to win. If by some miracle Jackson pulls a Paul Pierce and jumps out of a wheelchair to make a dramatic and triumphant return, it’s difficult envisioning him being anything close to 100%. Given his mammoth passing struggles recently, combined with the significant improvement of the Packers’ defense, it could pose major issues for the Ravens offense. While the Ravens are 4-0 when Jackson eclipses at least 14 carries in a game (3-5 when he does not), it’s highly unlikely he would be able to execute Baltimore’s signature style of play.

The cream always rises to the top; it’s an expression as old as time. Though it’s admirable how Baltimore has found the internal fortitude to propel themselves despite the brutal injury misfortunes they’ve had to endure, the clock is about to strike midnight on these pumpkins. Their 15-15 ATS home record since 2018 should take a hit when the team who has covered 11 of their last 12 games sweeps through Charm City. The way Green Bay is humming, locking in the number at -4.5 is too good to pass up. With Lamar, this line plays up to 6; without him, push it to 8.5 (PointsBet estimates Jackson and Rodgers as the two most important players to their teams in the NFL, and thus they draw significant line changes when injured). Remember, good teams win, but great teams cover.

Stat(s) of the game: The Packers are 9-1 when they score 24 points. Home dogs of 3.5 points or more are 22-27 ATS, 14-35 SU this season in the NFL.

PREDICTION: Packers win and cover the road 4.5.

Week 15 NFL Teaser Play (+6):
The two-team teaser looks are in a good spot to get right for this week.

Cincinnati Bengals +9 (originally +3): The analysis above hints at the Bengals being in a strong upset spot at the Broncos this week. Pushing Cincy to the key number of 9 points is a great look vs. an opponent that has alternated blowing teams out and being blown out. This match-up sets up well for the Bengals to at least keep this close.

Green Bay Packers +1.5 (originally -4.5): Yes, please hold your opinions. Typically, the right move is to try and grab a key number. Getting 1.5 points means virtually nothing. However, the aforementioned synopsis of this game indicates if Lamar Jackson indeed misses this game, it’s merely taking the Packers on the money line to secure the second leg of the teaser now as opposed to waiting until the line balloons another few points once Jackson sitting out is made official.