NFL Week 15 preview - Texans to keep Jets grounded

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Yahoo Sport UK
Alfred Blue (right) and Lamar Miller (left) can keep Houston Texans surging towards the playoffs with a win at the New York Jets
Alfred Blue (right) and Lamar Miller (left) can keep Houston Texans surging towards the playoffs with a win at the New York Jets

With three games left of the regular season, there is plenty on the line. We look ahead to all the weekend’s action, offering insight, trends and odds, and ponder whether the Dallas Cowboys can extend their winning streak at Indianapolis and if Minnesota can prevent another ‘Miami Miracle’?

The odds kindly supplied by our friends at GentingBet.

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HOUSTON TEXANS @ NEW YORK JETS

The New York Jets snapped a six-game losing streak in Buffalo last Sunday and, conversely, the Houston Texans saw their nine-game winning streak ended by a home loss to Indianapolis.

So it is no shock that the odds favour the visiting Texans in a rare Saturday evening clash, with GentingBet making them 5.5-point favourites at odds of 17/20.

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Jets may have an issue at the running back position, as Isaiah Crowell was in a walking boot and in pain on Wednesday, while Trenton Cannon (toe) and Elijah McGuire (ankle) were also missing. Linebaker Jordan Jenkins and receiver Quincy Enunwa were also absent from practice, both nursing ankle injuries.

So the onus will again fall upon the shoulders of rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who has passed for 2,104 yards with 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this season. Darnold has completed 55.9 percent of his passes and has been sacked 21 times. Not great stats, whichever way it is diced and they have the 30th-ranked passing offense with a lowly 192.4 yards per contest.

Should the Jets finish the season 0-3 or 1-2 in games against the Texans, Packers and Patriots, then head coach Todd Bowles is looking for employment elsewhere, as it is hard to see how a 4-12 or 5-11 team is better than last the squads of the last two years, who both went 5-11.

Costly penalties and offensive play-calling that was, at best, inconsistent and at worst, highly questionable, even in victory at Buffalo, suggests that Bowles is a dead man walking.

The Texans are in the hunt for a first round playoff bye and are unlikely to take their foot off the gas, so there will be plenty of bettors  thinking they will cover at least a field-goal handicap, and it is 1/2 that they win by 2.5 points or more.

And if the Jets can’t run the ball, and are limited in the passing game, some will even chance the Texans to win by over 12 points at odds of 7/4.

Baker Mayfield has the Cleveland Browns trending upwards
Baker Mayfield has the Cleveland Browns trending upwards

CLEVELAND BROWNS @ DENVER BRONCOS

The Cleveland Browns are in the hunt for a playoff spot. No, this is not August. Neither is this a miss-print.

In the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time), the Browns travel to Colorado hoping to move to 6-7-1 and ahead of the Broncos, who are still alive for post-season play themselves, despite a loss in San Francisco that leaves them with a 6-7 mark.

Cleveland, who handed Carolina a beating last weekend, may be without starting cornerback Denzel Ward (concussion), yet Denver may be limited at the receiver position with Courtland Sutton nursing a quad injury, and they potentially start with rookie DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Partick,

Broncos have won 10 straight contests against Cleveland and while they opened in Vegas as a 4.5-point favourite, those odds have been trimmed, and they are now 21/20 to successfully concede 3.5 points on the handicap.

The Browns have won three of their last four, but have lost five of their last six games on the road. They are getting what they wanted from No1. Draft pick Baker Mayfield, who is completing 64.4 percent of his passes for 2,877 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has two or more touchdown passes in five of his last seven games. It has helped that former Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry continues to produce week-in, week-out.

Denver may have split their last six home games and are 1-4-1 ATS in their last six games as a favourite of at least three points, but they are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 Saturday games.

Washington QB Mark Sanchez and running back Adrian Peterson will be up against it in Jacksonville
Washington QB Mark Sanchez and running back Adrian Peterson will be up against it in Jacksonville

WASHINGTON REDSKINS @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Things looked good for the Redskins a month ago, but when QB Alex Smith went down with a terrible leg injury that may end his career, Washington’s playoff hopes seemingly went on life support.

Since then, they have lost their last four and look completely lost with a combination of Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson at QB, who have combined for one touchdown pass and four interceptions.

The limited offense means the defense has been wearing down, and they have been beaten by an average of 12.12 points per game in their last four, including last week’s 40-16 home humbling by the New York Giants.

Jacksonville are similarly limited offensively, yet bettors can usually trust their defense, which pitched a shut-out of Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago, when gaining their sole win in their last nine games.

The lack of motivation may be against the Jaguars, who have covered the handicap in four of their last six games when a favourite of at least seven points. Yet all they realistically have to do is avoid costly penalties, and stop the Redskins’ running game. If successful, they will give their offense enough opportunities to kick a few field goals.

The Jaguars can be supported to successfully concede 6.5 points on the handicap at odds of 8/11, while the Redskins are available at 7/10 in receipt of 9.5 points.

Dak Prescott led the Dallas Cowboys to a vital win over the Philadelphia Eagles last week
Dak Prescott led the Dallas Cowboys to a vital win over the Philadelphia Eagles last week

DALLAS COWBOYS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

The Cowboys are trying to clinch the NFC East division title, while the Colts are simply trying to stay in the AFC wild card race.

Dallas recorded a fifth straight win when overcoming Philadelphia 29-23 in overtime on Sunday, with more than a few dubious officiating calls going their way.

Dak Prescott has thrown for 3,131 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while Ezekiel Elliott leads the Cowboys on the ground with 1,262 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Key for the Colts is to limit Elliott and shackle receiver Amari Cooper. It is a simple game-plan, but one that the Super Bowl champion Eagles could not execute.

Dallas is averaging 350.6 yards of total offense and 21.2 points per game this season, yet they have looked far from convincing at times against a soft schedule and the Colts will offer a stiff test.

Indy has won six of their last seven games following a crucial 27-24 success at Houston to narrow the Texans’ advantage to two games at the top of the AFC South with three to play.

The Cowboys won four of the last six meetings at the Colts and have won the last three meetings overall, but they are considered 2.5-point underdogs at odds of 10/11 on the GentingBet NFL handicap. They have covered the handicap on their last five outings, while the Colts are 5-12-2 ATS in their last 19 games following a win.

The hosts can be backed at 4/6 to win and 13/8 to win by a touchdown or more, while the Cowboys are on offer at 10/3 to win between one and six points inclusive.

Detroit have done a good job this term against mobile quarterbacks like Josh Allen
Detroit have done a good job this term against mobile quarterbacks like Josh Allen

DETROIT LIONS @ BUFFALO BILLS

Detroit has not done too many things well this season, but limiting scrambling quarterbacks has been their strength. They have handled the likes of Russell Wilson, Mitch Trubisky and Cam Newton, so they should be well prepared for Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen.

The Lions (5-8) have allowed just 62 yards on the ground to quarterbacks on 34 carries this season, which is a great effort considering the passers they have faced.

Allen has used his legs to good effect, and has three straight games of rushing yardage that each tallied more than the Lions have allowed all season to a quarterback, and he has run in five touchdowns this season.

Over the last three games, Allen as totalled 99, 135 and 101 yards on the ground, but the passing game is not what it should be, as the Bills (4-9) have the 31st-ranked passing attack in yards per game (166.7) and yards per attempt (6.0).

The Lion shave lost five of their last seven games, but ground out a win at Arizona last Sunday, while the Bills have lost their last two – to division rivals Dolphins and Jets – although they had every opportunity to win them.

December in Buffalo is never an easy place to win and the Bills are 4-1 in covering the handicap in their last five Week 15 games, and are considered 2.5-point favourites at odds of 5/6.

The Lions can be backed to win at 23/20 and 6/4 to successfully concede 2.5 points to the Bills.

Derrick Henry had a huge day against the Jaguars in Week 14
Derrick Henry had a huge day against the Jaguars in Week 14

TENNESSEE TITANS @ NEW YORK GIANTS

Tennessee’s win over Jacksonville means they are in a log-jam for the final AFC wild card with Indianapolis, Baltimore and Miami, who similarly boast 7-6 records.

The 5-8 Giants have won four of their last five games as they climb back to respectability after a 1-7 start. Something has to give in what appears to be a fascinating match-up.

Yet it is worth noting that the Giants’ four recent wins have all come against back-up quarterbacks and the Titans will have starter Marcus Mariota leading them.

Titans’ Derrick Henry did the damage against Jacksonville, with 238 yards on the ground and four touchdowns, while the Giants’ 40-16 victory over the Redskins saw QB Eli Manning throw for 197 yards and three TDs.

Saquon Barkley had another strong outing with 170 yards and one rush TD and he poses a problem for the Titans, who are a below-average 17th at stopping the run.
This will be the Titans’ final road game of the regular season (they host the Redskins and Colts in the last two) and they have had 10 days to prepare for it.

Manning has had mixed results against the Titans in three career outings against them, going 1-2, and Big Blue does not have a great record against the handicap at home this season, going 1-4-1 ATS.

Yet knowing exactly which Tennessee outfit will turn up is the punters’ biggest quandary. They have gone into Arlington and knocked off the Cowboys and they’ve thrashed the Patriots at home. But they’ve also lost to Buffalo and have been smoked in double-digit losses to the Texans and Colts.

The Giants are 4/5 to successfully concede 2.5 points on the handicap, while the Titans, who have won six of the last seven meetings, including the last two in New York, are 1/2 in receipt of 5.5 points.

Gus Edwards and the Baltimore Ravens are pushing hard for the AFC North title
Gus Edwards and the Baltimore Ravens are pushing hard for the AFC North title

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS

The Baltimore Ravens (7-6) almost knocked off the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime last week, but need a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7) to maintain their push for the playoffs and potentially steal the AFC North title from Pittsburgh.

While the Ravens allow the fewest yards per pass attempt in the NFL, thanks to plenty of depth in their secondary and a marauding front, they will be tested by Tampa’s receivers, who have five players with over 550 receiving yards this season.

Baltimore also has injury concerns over cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Tavon Young, who played through groin injuries last week, limiting their ability.

Since QB Joe Flacco’s hip injury, which has sidelined him for the last month, the Ravens have revamped their offense to suit the skills of rookie QB Lamar Jackson. The results have been surprising. The former Louisville passer, along with running backs Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon, has helped the Ravens gain more rushing yards in the last four weeks than the team managed in the first nine games. This could be significant, since the Bucs cannot stop anyone on the ground and have given up 16 rushing TDs.

The Ravens, who are asked to concede 8.5 points on the handicap at odds of 10/11, may have struggled to generate turnovers this season, but the Buccaneers are turning the ball over 20.4 per cent of the time. One in five offensive drives ending in a turnover is not a recipe for success in the NFL. They’ve thrown a league-high 24 interceptions and have lost seven fumbles.

Yet the Bucs have still been very competitive. Eight of the their 13 games this season have been decided by seven points or less, while the Ravens are 1-4 in one-possession games. The hosts need to find a way to close out games if they are to be successful in the post season, should they get there.

Austin Hooper has been a major weapon for Matt Ryan this season
Austin Hooper has been a major weapon for Matt Ryan this season

ARIZONA CARDINALS @ ATLANTA FALCONS

This won’t be a game that interests many punters, since there is little riding on it and both teams are effectively playing out the season.

The Cardinals (3-10) have a poor record against the Falcons (4-9), having lost eight of the last 11 meetings, and they have lost their last nine in Atlanta.

The Falcons have dropped five games in a row, including to teams with losing records such as Cleveland and Green Bay. The narrative has now changed – it is about Draft position not playoff position. That sticks in the fans’ craw, since soccer team Atlanta United have packed out Mercedes-Benz Stadium, while the Falcons have laid an egg in a season which was supposed to see them in a home-town Super Bowl.

Two bright spots for the Falcons is the play of QB Matt Ryan, who has enjoyed another 4,000-plus yard season, and tight end Austin Hooper, who has become Ryan’s No.2 receiving threat behind Julio Jones.

Hooper’s 64 receptions rank fourth in the NFL for tight ends and his 557 receiving yards are a career high. The Cardinals have not done a great job of defending tight ends well, and Hopper could be a factor again this week.

The Falcons are asked to concede 8.5 points on the handicap at odds of 17/20, something they have managed to do in four of the last five meetings in Atlanta.

Derek Carr will hope for another strong outing as Oakland head to Cincinnati
Derek Carr will hope for another strong outing as Oakland head to Cincinnati

OAKLAND RAIDERS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS

Oakland (3-10) recovered a botched last-second field goal to seal a 24-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, giving the Raiders their third victory of the season, having dropped seven of the last eight and two straight.

They head to Cincinnati (5-8) on a high, and while they have lost their last two trips to the ‘Queen City’, they have never lost on three consecutive visits.

Defensively, the Raiders have been better than the Bengals in yards and points allowed. They are 28th in total defense (392.2 yards per game) and 31st in scoring defense (29.8 points per game), which is one spot behind Cincinnati.

The Bengals are on a five-game losing streak thanks to some significant injuries, with 14 players on Injured Reserve, including five starters.

However, they were unfortunate not to convert a two-point conversion at the surging Los Angeles Chargers last week, and after failing to recover an onside kick, slipped to a 25-21 defeat.

Raiders have lost five of their six road games but have a chance to win back-to-back games for the first time this year and Cincinnati will hope to end a slide of three consecutive home defeats. They have also failed to cover the handicap at home in their last five.

Bengals are asked to concede 3.5-points on the handicap at odds of 21/20, despite being outscored by an average of 14.8 points during this five-game losing streak.

Kenyon Drake sealed the final play ‘Miracle in Miami’ to down the New England Patriots
Kenyon Drake sealed the final play ‘Miracle in Miami’ to down the New England Patriots

MIAMI DOLPHINS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS

This is a pivotal game for both teams. Although the Vikings lost to Seattle on Monday to drop to 6-6-1 for the season, they are still in the hunt for a playoff spot and if the season ended today, they would hold the No.6 seed in the NFC. Carolina, Philadelphia and Washington are all 6-7 and trail Minnesota in the wild card race.

The Dolphins are 7-6 overall, one of four AFC teams with that record, but are currently seventh in the AFC after their miraculous 34-33 win over the New England Patriots last weekend, having scored on a 69-yard touchdown pass that featured multiple laterals on the final play of regulation.

Minnesota’s defense will be a test that Dolphins’ QB Ryan Tannehill may not be able to overcome.

The Vikings allowed 274 total yards of offense to Seahawks, which was Seattle’s lowest output of the season. Minnesota allowed 200-plus rushing yards but held Russell Wilson to just 72 passing yards, the lowest total of his career.

The Dolphins are 1-5 on the road this season and they come up against one of the best running backs in the league in Dalvin Cook. Miami ranks 30th in the league against the rush and have allowed 5.0 yards per carry, a mark that ranks 26th in the league.

While the Dolphins have won the last three meetings and are 8-4 overall against Minnesota, this is one of the toughest places to play, and the Vikings are asked to concede 7.5 points on the handicap at odds of 10/11. The Dolphins need a win and are 12/5 to cause the upset.

Aaron Rodgers has yet to lead the Packers to a road win this season
Aaron Rodgers has yet to lead the Packers to a road win this season

GREEN BAY PACKERS @ CHICAGO BEARS

Chicago can clinch the NFC North title with a win against bitter division rivals Green Bay, who beat them 24-23 in Week 1.

Nothing could be sweeter than victory over the Packers on their home turf, as they have lost their last eight meetings at Soldier Field and 21 of the last 25 there. The Bears have have also lost 15 of the last 17 meetings overall, including the last five. The Packers have also won their last four December trips to Chicago.

It is perhaps worth noting that Green Bay has scored 30-plus points at Chicago in four of the last five match-ups (33, 38, 31, 30, 23) and the points total line is set at 44.5 points, so there will be some who will play the overs at odds of 17/20.

The Bears have had a soft schedule, yet their defense has been consistently good, as they underlined when improving to 9-4 with a 15-6 win over the Los Angeles Rams in their last outing.

And while you can never count out QB Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have lost all six of their road games so far and are only 1-5 ATS on the road this season.

They are in receipt of 5.5 points on the handicap at odds of 10/11, but there will be some who will think that the Bears can cover a 9.5-point handicap at odds of 13/10.

San FRancisco 49ers tight end George Kittle had a monster day against Denver
San FRancisco 49ers tight end George Kittle had a monster day against Denver

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

The Seattle Seahawks (8-5) have won 12 of the last 13 meetings with the 49ers, including the last four in San Francisco, and beat them 43-16 at Century Link Field less than two weeks ago when a 10-point favourite.

Playing on the road off a short week is never easy and that what faces the Seahawks, who recorded a 21-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, despite QB Russell Wilson having his least productive outing of the season.

The Niners beat Denver at home last weekend, with back-up QB Nick Mullins impressive again. The undrafted rookie from Southern Mississippi has passed for 746 yards in his last two games, with four TDs and two INTs, and has developed some nice chemistry with tight end George Kittle and receiver Dante Pettis, who has four TDs in his last three games.

The Niners may be able to capitalise on Seattle’s weak run defense, which is allowing 5.1 yards per carry, but the status of top running back Matt Breida is up in the air. He missed the Broncos clash with an ankle injury and, in his place, Jeff Wilson Jr. rushed for 90 yards on 23 carries.

The 49ers are 3-10 on the year, largely in part because they can’t generate enough turnovers and give up too many of their own. They rank last in the NFL in fumbles (11) and interceptions gained (two) and 28th in interceptions lost (16).

Seahawks are on a four-game winning streak and have outscored opponents by an average of 11.75 points during that run. They face a Niners team that has scored 20 or less points in five of their last seven games, with five of their last nine losses decided by 10 points or more.

The Seahawks are asked to concede 5.5 points on the GentingBet NFL handicap and it is perhaps worth noting that the 49ers failed to cover the spread in seven of their last 10 games when an underdog of at least four points.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots can wrap up a 10th straight division title with a win at Pittsburgh
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots can wrap up a 10th straight division title with a win at Pittsburgh

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Despite a heart-breaking, improbable, laughable last-play defeat to the Miami Dolphins last week, New England will earn its 10th win of the season with a victory, tying San Francisco (1983-98) for the most consecutive seasons (16) with at least 10 wins.

New England is still in the driver’s seat for one of the top two seeds in the AFC conference because Pittsburgh and the Houston Texans also both lost last week.

The Patriots have won the last five meetings with the Steelers, and can clinch a 10th straight division title with a win and a loss by Miami, or with a tie and a Miami loss.

And the trends for the Patriots look favourable, as QB Tom Brady has played against Pittsburgh 10 times in the regular season and three times in the postseason. He owns an 8-2 regular-season record and a 3-0 postseason record against the Steelers.

The Steelers’ defense leads the league with 45 sacks, although Brady has been protected well, with the Patriots defense conceding just 18 on the year.

Yet the Steelers are reeling from three straight defeats – the last of them as a double-digit road favourite at Oakland – and, at 7-5-1, are in danger of losing the AFC North lead to Baltimore (7-6).

Pittsburgh will fancy their chances against a Patriots team that has gone 3-4 on the road this season, but without much of a running game – ranking 29th overall – and with James Connor struggling to return from an ankle injury, bettors may struggle to see how a one-dimensional team can stay within the 1.5-point handicap.

Allied to this, QB Ben Roethlisburger injured his ribs against the Raiders, although he is expected to play.

History tells us that Brady-led teams invariably bounce straight back after a loss – and they really do need to win. It would take a major collapse for New England (9-4) to overtake Kansas City (11-2) for the AFC’s No. 1 seed, which the trends suggest they probably need.

For in Brady’s entire career, the Patriots are 19-3 at home in the playoffs. However, New England is just 3-4 when playing away in January.

It is worth noting that is also the worst Patriots’ offensive unit this decade. Entering their match-up against Miami, the Patriots ranked seventh in offense and 17th in passing touchdowns, so bettors thinking of backing them at 6/1 for the Super Bowl might wish to think twice, AFC East title or otherwise.

Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams could not get anything going against Chicago
Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams could not get anything going against Chicago

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ LOS ANGELES RAMS

While Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams could not get anything going in their loss to Chicago, they will aim to bounce back against an Eagles team that lost in dramatic fashion to the Dallas Cowboys, leaving the Super Bowl champion on the verge of missing the playoffs.

It is not impossible these teams play again in the post-season, as the Rams already are NFC West champions and battling the Saints for the NFC’s top seed. But Philadelphia will likely have to run the table to make the post-season now.

Philadelphia’s injury-ravaged secondary has been a problem all season and the patched-up unit did well to stay with the Cowboys, who have little in the way of a passing game outside of receiver Amari Cooper.

The Rams looked nothing like Super Bowl favourites in a 15-6 defeat by the Bears on Sunday night, with running back Todd Gurley limited to 28 yards on 11 carries.

Rams have now ceded homefield advantage in the playoffs to the New Orleans Saints (along with Super Bowl favouritism), as despite having the same 11-2 record, they lose the tie-breaker.

Philadelphia must do without running back Corey Clemet who was put on Injured Reserve on Tuesday. Fellow cornerback Sidney Jones has a hamstring injury that limited him in Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys. Defensive end Josh Sweat is also struggling with an ankle injury, while left guard Isaac Seumalo is day-to-day with a pectoral injury.

Given the Eagles’ injury concerns, the GentingBet NFL odds have the Eagles at 10/3 to win, while the Rams are on offer at 17/20 to successfully concede 8.5 points on the handicap.

It is worth noting that Philly is 1-5 ATS in its past six vs. teams with a winning record.

Cam Newton will hope to keep Carolina’s fading playoff hopes alive with an upset win
Cam Newton will hope to keep Carolina’s fading playoff hopes alive with an upset win

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS

The Saints often struggle in Tampa and it was no great surprise to see them have to come from behind to win 24-14 last week, which took their record to 11-2 and usurp the Los Angeles Rams as Super Bowl favourites.

Carolina’s playoff chances were dealt another blow when they lost to Cleveland and, with a 6-7 record following five straight defeats, now find themselves in a must-win situation against one of the most prolific attacks in the NFL.

The wheels fell off when the Panthers were embarrassed in a 52-21 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, which set the tone for a losing streak that has seen them score more than 21 points only once in that five-game span.

The Panthers will be out to avenge last season’s 31-26 wild card playoff defeat but losing veteran tight end Greg Olsen for the season was a major blow and the Saints are considered 5.5-point favourites on the handicap at odds of 17/20.

New Orleans has covered the handicap 20 times in their last 26 road games and they are 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings with Carolina, as well as 4-0 ATS in their last four meeting in Charlotte.

Those seeking educated picks against the handicap spread may wish to take a look at Lindyssports.com, America’s leading football authority.

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