NFL Week 15 main slate betting preview

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Time flies when you’re having fun. The NFL regular season has just three weeks left, and there is still plenty left to be decided.

The most interesting race involves the three Wild Card spots in the AFC. There are currently five teams sitting at 8-5 or better, but only four of them can make the playoffs. One of those spots will go to either the Titans or the Colts depending on who wins the AFC South, and the other team will be left fighting with the Browns, Ravens, and Dolphins for the final playoff spots in the conference. Football Outsiders currently considers the Dolphins the team most likely to miss the playoffs, but their odds are still set at a very respectable 46.2%.

Things aren’t quite as intense in the NFC, but there are a couple of races worth monitoring. The first involves the NFC East. Washington has moved into first place in the division, but they own just a slim one-game lead over the Giants. The Giants also own the tiebreaker over Washington given their two head-to-head wins this season, so they are still very much in play. The Eagles are also lurking after their upset win over the Saints last week.

The final Wild Card spot is also still up for grabs. The Seahawks and Bucs are comfortably in, but the Cardinals own just a one-game lead over the Vikings and Bears. Those teams play each other in Week 15, so the winner will move to 7-7. If the Cardinals slip up over the final few weeks, they can definitely still be caught.

With that in mind, the Week 15 slate features plenty of important contests. The Sunday main slate is a bit lighter than usual thanks to two Saturday contests, but we still have 11 games to choose from. Let’s break down each contest to try and identify some potential betting value.

Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts (-7) — 51.0 total

Moneylines: Texans +270/Colts -345

These two teams met just two weeks ago, and the Colts were able to escape with a narrow six-point win in Houston. The Texans actually had a chance to win that game late, but a DeShaun Watson fumble at the goal line secured the win for the Colts.

Despite the loss, the Texans played valiantly in that contest. They were able to outgain the Colts in the yardage battle even though they were playing without Will Fuller. Fuller has been their top wide receiver this season, but he will miss the rest of the year after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Watson was able to move the ball through the air at will in that contest, racking 341 passing yards on 38 attempts. He leaned heavily on reserve wide receivers Keke Coutee and Chad Hansen, who combined for 13 catches and 242 yards.

That provided some optimism that the Texans would be able to survive without Fuller, but their offense came crashing back to reality last week vs. the Bears. They scored just seven points and racked up only 155 net passing yards vs. a strong Bears’ defense, so the first game without Fuller may have been a fluke.

Additionally, the Colts offense has quietly heated up after a slow start to the season. Philip Rivers has been playing well — he’s averaged 8.07 adjusted yards per attempt over his past eight games — and Jonathan Taylor has racked up at least 90 rushing yards in three straight games. That includes a dominant performance in his first matchup vs. the Texans, where he averaged 7.0 yards per carry.

The Colts should have no problems moving the ball via the ground or the air in this contest, with the Texans ranking just 30th in defensive DVOA.

The Colts clearly have the edge in this matchup, but the Texans have the edge from a numbers perspective. The public has been betting the Colts heavily to start the week — they’re receiving 68% of the spread bets — but there has been some sharp activity on the Texans. They’re receiving 42% of the spread dollars, which represents a 10% differential compared to their ticket count.

The Texans also coming off a massive loss last week, and it has historically been profitable to buy low on teams in that situation. Teams that lose their previous game by at least 28 points have posted a record of 94-70-5 the following week when receiving no more than 40% of the betting tickets.

Ultimately, I’m going to trust the numbers more than the matchup. The biggest mistake that most handicappers make — myself included — is believing that they can predict matchups on the field. The goal should always be to bet numbers, not teams, and the numbers are clearly pointing to the Texans.

The Pick: Texans +7

Detroit Lions @ Tennessee Titans — OFF

This game is still off the board at most locations, which is not surprising given the injury to Matthew Stafford. He left last week’s game vs. the Packers with a rib cartilage injury, and interim head coach Darrell Bevell said he will wait until the end of the week to decide on his status. That said, the team reportedly is not optimistic about his chances of suiting up, and they signed Jordan Ta’amu to the practice squad as an insurance policy.

With that in mind, expect to see Chase Daniel under center. Daniel has the reputation of being one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league, but that hasn’t been the case recently. He’s averaged just 5.2 adjusted yards per attempt in relief of Stafford this season, and he’s averaged just 6.4 adjusted yards per attempt in five career starts. Those numbers leave a lot to be desired.

Making matters worse, it seems unlikely that stud wide receiver Kenny Golladay will be back in the lineup. He didn’t practice on Wednesday, and it’s starting to sound like he won’t suit up again this season.

The good news for Daniel is that the Titans are a great matchup. They have struggled defensively all season, and things only figure to get worse with Jadaveon Clowney out of the lineup. The Titans rank dead last in adjusted sack rate, so Daniel should have time in the pocket.

On the other side, the Titans offense has been rolling recently. It starts with Derrick Henry, who continues to dominate during the month of December. He ripped off 215 rushing yards and two touchdowns last week vs. the Jaguars, and things could’ve gotten even uglier if they didn’t rest him in the fourth quarter. Henry has now averaged more than 94 rushing yards in 19 career December games, and he’s added 20 rushing touchdowns over that time frame.

The Lions have zero chance of stopping Henry in this contest. They have been abysmal against the run this season, ranking just 26th in rush defense DVOA.

The Titans should also find success when they throw the ball. The Lions rank 30th in pass defense DVOA, and Ryan Tannehill ranks fourth in the league in adjusted yards per attempt.

The Titans have opened up as 11-point favorites at a few locations across the industry, and that number seems fair. They could score 40 points in this contest, so the big question is whether or not the Lions can keep up. That doesn’t seem likely with Daniel under center.

I’m ultimately going to pass since I don’t like betting on big favorites, but I wouldn’t blame you for backing the Titans.

The Pick: Pass

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6) @ Atlanta Falcons — 50.5 total

Moneylines: Buccaneers -260/Falcons +215

The sharps have absolutely teed off on this game to start the week. The Buccaneers have received just 49% of the early spread bets, but those bets have accounted for 98% of the spread dollars. That’s a massive discrepancy. The books have adjusted by moving the spread all the way up to six, so it will be interesting to see if that discourages the pros from continuing to hammer the Bucs. Most of the action came earlier in the week while this line was still listed at 3.5 or 4.0 points.

The injury report is one reason why the sharps are so interested in Tampa Bay. The Bucs are about as healthy as possible for Week 15 during a pandemic, but the Falcons are dealing with a laundry list of injuries. Julio Jones is considered “week-to-week”, so it seems like there’s a real chance that he misses his second straight game. The Falcons also have two defenders and two offensive linemen currently listed as questionable.

The injury to Jones is a big deal. The Falcons’ offense has been pretty dismal when he’s been out or limited this season, averaging just 21.2 points in six games. That number is also inflated after a 43-point performance without Jones vs. the Raiders, so they’ve limped to just 16.8 points per game in their other five contests.

They will definitely struggle to move the ball without Jones vs. the Bucs. Tom Brady and his cavalcade of weapons may get the majority of the attention in Tampa Bay, but this team is built around their defense. They rank fifth in defensive DVOA this season, and they rank third in adjusted sack rate.

It’s also possible that Tampa Bay is simply being undervalued by the general public. This team ranks second in overall DVOA — they trail only the New Orleans Saints — yet they have just the seventh-shortest odds to win the Super Bowl. They’re only tied for fourth in terms of odds to win the NFC, so this team is more talented than they’re being given credit for.

If Jones is out, I have no problem laying the six points with the Buccaneers on the road. The Falcons have nothing left to play for this season, while the Bucs are still looking to secure a playoff spot.

The Pick: Pending (Will possibly play Bucs depending on the injury report)

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins (-2) — 41.5 total

Moneylines: Patriots +110/Dolphins -127

This game features a couple of conflicting narratives.

On one hand, it’s well known that the Patriots tend to struggle in Miami. They’re just 2-5-1 against the spread in their last eight regular-season games vs. the Dolphins on the road, and that was back when the Patriots were the best team in the league. The Patriots went 31-23-0 ATS as a road team against the rest of the league over that time frame, so there’s just something about them making a trip to Miami.

On the other hand, Bill Belichick is known for his dominance against rookie quarterbacks. His defensive scheme is very complicated and tough for first-year signal-callers to prepare for. He put that dominance on display with a 45-0 win over Justin Herbert just two weeks ago, and Belichick is 21-5 straight up against rookie passers as head coach of the Patriots.

So which narrative will reign supreme this week? I believe it’s the latter.

Not only is Tua Tagovalioa going to face his toughest test as a pro, but he’s likely going to have to do it without his usual complement of weapons. Mike Gesicki is expected to miss at least the next week with a shoulder injury, and Preston Williams remains out of the lineup after landing on the IR. DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant are both expected to play after leaving last week’s contest early, but there’s no guarantee that either player will be at full strength.

Additionally, the Patriots have a few extra days to prepare after playing on Thursday Night Football. Bill Belichick unsurprisingly has a great track record with extra time, posting a record of 19-11-2 against the spread with at least 10 days to prepare. That number is obviously a bit inflated by playing so many years with Brady, but it makes sense for the guy the greatest coach in NFL history to do well with additional time.

On the offensive side of the ball, expect the Patriots to control this game with their rushing attack. Miami’s defense has improved drastically since the start of the season, but most of that improvement has come against the pass. They still rank just 23rd in rush defense DVOA, and the Patriots have the second-highest run rate in the league this season.

Finally, the betting activity is also a positive for the Patriots. This spread opened up as Miami -3 but has dropped as low as Miami -1 in certain locations. The Patriots are only receiving 43% of the public bets, so that’s a good indicator that some of the larger wagers have landed on New England.

Add it all up, and I think the Patriots are the clear correct side in this contest.

The Pick: Patriots +2

Seattle Seahawks (-5.5) @ Washington Football Team — 44.5 total

Moneylines: Seahawks -240/ Washington +200

This is another game that features a large discrepancy between tickets and dollars to start the week. The public betting has been split down the middle — the Seahawks have received 52% of the spread bets — but Seattle has received a whopping 86% of the spread dollars. That has caused this line to move from 3.0 to 5.5, which is a significant line move. Three and four are arguably the two most important numbers when it comes to NFL betting, and this line has blown right through both of them.

Seattle is coming off a beat down of the Jets last week, but their results have been mixed recently. They’ve gone just 3-3 over their past six games, and their wins have come against the Jets, the Eagles, and a banged-up Kyler Murray. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row of competition.

Still, it does appear as though the Seahawks have fixed some of their defensive woes. This team was off to a historically bad pace in terms of pass defense to start the season, but they’ve improved drastically over their past five games. They’ve allowed an average of just 16.2 points per game over that time frame, and they’ve allowed opposing passing attacks to average just 187.2 net passing yards per game.

Part of that is due to their soft competition over that stretch, but they’ve also gotten some reinforcements on the defensive side of the ball. Jamal Adams has made a major impact since returning from injury — particularly as a pass rusher — and Carlos Dunlap has given them another option along their defensive line. The Seahawks have also slowed down their offense a bit, which has allowed their defense to catch their breath a bit on the sidelines before being forced back into action.

I would expect another strong performance from their defense this week vs. Washington. Antonio Gibson is not expected to play, which puts the burden on Alex Smith to move the ball offensively. They were able to secure a win last week vs. the 49ers without Gibson, but they were outgained by 151 yards. Their defense ended up limiting the 49ers to 15 points and scored a touchdown of their own, so the offense didn’t have to do anything but kick a few field goals to pick up the victory.

Don’t expect that to be the case vs. Seattle. Russell Wilson has cooled off after a torrid start to the year, but the Seahawks remain dangerous on that side of the ball. They currently rank fourth in offensive DVOA, so the defense will not be able to bail out Washington in this matchup.

I would have no problem backing Seattle if they were still available at -3.0, but most of the value seems gone now that this line has moved to -5.5. I think Seattle is the correct side — especially given the early betting activity — but targeting teams after a large line move is usually a -EV strategy.

The Pick: Pass

Dalvin Cook running with ball
Sep 8, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs the ball against the Atlanta Falcons during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings (-3) — 47.0 total

Moneylines: Bears +150/Vikings -180

This matchup is shaping up as a “sharps vs. squares” showdown.

The public is predictably all over the Vikings. They hate Mitch Trubisky, love the Vikings’ skill position players, and remember when the Vikings beat the Bears by six points on the road back in Week 10. The Vikings have received 58% of the early betting tickets in this contest, and that number would be way higher if we were only looking at “public” tickets.

That means that the sharps are all over the Bears. They’re currently receiving 80% of the betting dollars, which means that virtually all of the high-dollar bets are landing on Chicago. All that money has caused this line to dip from Vikings -3.5 to Vikings -3 on the consensus line, although there are some 3.5s still floating around the industry.

So what are the sharps seeing in this matchup? One thing that’s worth noting is the Vikings’ injury report. It isn’t particularly long, but it does contain an important name in linebacker Eric Kendricks. Kendricks has been a monster for the Vikings this season, earning a Pro Football Focus grade of 82.6. That gives him the second-highest grade among linebackers this season, trailing on the Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner.

Kendricks was out of the lineup last week for the Vikings, and their defense was slightly exposed by the Bucs. Ronald Jones and LeSean McCoy combined to average 5.09 yards per carry, and Tom Brady finished with 10.25 adjusted yards per attempt. Overall, the Vikings allowed the Bucs to rack up 303 yards despite possessing the ball for just over 20 minutes. That’s not very good.

If Kendricks is unable to suit up again this week — he’s currently questionable after missing practice on Wednesday — expect the Vikings’ defense to struggle vs. the Bears.

If that happens, the Vikings’ offense will struggle to pick up the slack. Chicago has their flaws, but they remain one of the better defensive football teams in the league. They rank seventh in defensive DVOA this season, and they are in the top nine in DVOA against the run and the pass. They did a great job vs. Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen in their first meeting this season, but their offense failed to live up to their end of the bargain.

It should be noted that the Bears played their previous game against the Vikings with Nick Foles under center, and Mitch Trubisky has been superior to Foles in virtually every category this season. He led the Bears’ offense to 36 points and 410 total yards last week vs. the Texans, so they should improve vs. the Vikings with Trubisky under center.

This play is dependent on if Kendricks can suit up, but I like the Bears quite a bit if he’s out of the lineup. That said, I don’t want to risk losing the Bears at +3.5. I’m going to lock this wager in now to ensure I get the best number, but I might consider hedging out if Kendricks is active.

The Pick: Bears +3.5

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Baltimore Ravens (-13) — 47.5 total

Moneylines: Jaguars +560/Ravens -800

I will never forget the night when the legend of Poopin’ Lamar was born. He was incredible last week vs. the Browns, and he was able to return from the restroom in time to lead his team to a last-second victory. That game also resulted in one of the most miraculous covers for anyone who bet the Ravens at -3.0 or -3.5:

Things weren’t nearly as nice for Jaguars bettors. They had a couple of chances at a backdoor cover last week vs. the Titans, but they were thoroughly outplayed for the duration of that contest. They let Derrick Henry torch them for more than 200 yards, and they gave up more than 450 yards of total offense in general. That is not a good formula for winning (or covering) football games.

Can they turn things around this week? It’s possible. One positive is that Gardner Minshew will be back in the lineup at quarterback this week. He has been easily the Jaguars’ top quarterback option this season, leading their passers in adjusted yards per attempt, touchdown rate, and interception rate. He also provides more as a runner than Mike Glennon and Jake Luton, so the fact that he served as a backup last week is inexcusable.

This is also a potential let-down spot for the Ravens. They’re coming off a season-saving win last week, and it’s only natural to come out a little flat the following week. They shouldn’t be looking past the Jaguars since they likely need to win out to make the playoffs, but their matchup vs. the Giants next week is also a bit more daunting.

Finally, the injury report is another positive for the Jaguars. Jimmy Smith was unable to practice on Wednesday and is currently listed as questionable, and the Ravens were also forced to place three wide receivers on the reserve/COVID-19 list. All three players could still suit up — including top wide receiver Marquise Brown — but all three players will need to quarantine and test negative for five straight days before they can rejoin the roster.

Ultimately, I think this line is just a smidge too high. I’m not looking to actually back the Jaguars since the Ravens can easily duplicate the Titans’ success on the ground, but they seem like the correct side given all the factors at play.

The Pick: Pass

San Francisco 49ers (-3) @ Dallas Cowboys — 45.0 total

Moneylines: 49ers -154/Cowboys +134

This game was originally scheduled for Sunday Night Football, but the NFL has done all of us a favor by taking it off national television. That said, I do think this game provides some betting value.

Both of these teams are coming off deceptive performances last week. The 49ers lost, but they played significantly better than the final score indicates. They outgained Washington by a significant margin but were plagued by sacks and turnovers. Turnovers are part of the equation with Nick Mullens under center, but you’re supposed to win games when you outgain the opposition by more than 150 yards.

On the other hand, the Cowboys clearly got lucky against the Bengals. Cincinnati has been anemic with Brandon Allen at quarterback, but they moved the ball well to start the game last week. However, they fumbled on each of their first three possessions, which put them in a huge hole that they were unable to dig themselves out of. With some better fumble luck, the Bengals could have easily won that contest.

With that in mind, this is an obvious buy-low spot for the 49ers. The Cowboys defense is a joke, and San Francisco should be able to pummel them with their run game. Raheem Mostert is currently listed as questionable, but Jeff Wilson and Jerick McKinnon should be more than adequate against Dallas. The Cowboys rank just 27th in rush defense DVOA this season, so this is a potential smash spot.

Additionally, Dallas should struggle when they have the ball. The 49ers are not the same elite defensive team that they were last year — that will happen when you lose half your defense to injuries — but they’re still capable of shutting down weak offensive units. It happened last week against Washington, and Dallas isn’t much better.

Overall, the gap between these two teams is much wider than the current spread indicates. The 49ers rank 14th in overall DVOA while the Cowboys are merely 27th. I would personally set this line closer to 4.0 or even 4.5, so getting them at 3.0 is a nice value. The sharps seem to agree, with the 49ers currently receiving 97% of the spread dollars. Let’s lock this one in before this line rises.

The Pick: 49ers -3

New York Jets @ Los Angeles Rams (-17.5) — 43.5 total

Moneylines: Jets +900/Rams -1667

Well, I guess Gregg Williams wasn’t the problem.

The Jets made Williams the scapegoat following their disastrous loss vs. the Raiders — and he certainly deserved to be fired — but it had no impact on the Jets’ performance last week vs. the Seahawks. They allowed Russell Wilson and company to put up 40 points and only managed to score three points of their own. The Jets were also outgained by a whopping 225, so this was one of the worst performances of the year.

Unsurprisingly, the Jets are massive 17.5-point underdogs this week vs. the Rams. What is surprising is that the sharps seem to think that line isn’t high enough. In matchups like this, the public is typically all over the favorite while the sharps back the underdog. In this case, the Rams are receiving 59% of the bets, but those bets have accounted for 86% of the spread dollars. That means that the high-dollar action has landed on the Rams to start the week, while the public betting activity has been more split down the middle.

It’s hard to disagree with the sharp’s assessment. The Jets aren’t just a bad team, they’re historically bad. They’re on pace to become just the third 0-16 team in NFL history, and they’ve also gone just 4-9 against the spread. They didn’t cover their first game until Week 8, which seems almost impossible given how heavily the public was fading them.

Their biggest problems have been on the offensive end, particularly with Sam Darnold under center. Darnold still has his supporters, but he has been markedly worse in every statistical category this season than Joe Flacco. He also ranks 38th out of 39 qualified quarterbacks in terms of Pro Football Focus grade, beating out only Dwayne Haskins.

If the Jets limped to just three points last week vs. the Seahawks, how in the world are they going to move the ball against the Rams. Seattle ranks just 19th in defensive DVOA this season, while the Rams rank third.

When the Rams have the ball, they should have no problems moving down the field however they please. They leaned on their dominant run game last week vs. the Patriots, but Jared Goff could pick this secondary apart if they choose to go in that direction.

The Rams are also coming off the “mini-bye” after playing on Thursday Night Football, so they have the rest advantage in this contest as well.

In short, I can’t imagine placing actual dollars on the Jets in this matchup. Even if you take away the fact that they have nothing to play for — and that certainly matters — they are outmanned in every facet of the game. There’s always risk with big favorites, but the Rams look like the clear right side.

The Pick: Rams -17.5

Dallas Goedert
Oct 27, 2019; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) looks on against the Buffalo Bills during the fourth quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles @ Arizona Cardinals (-6.5) — 49.0 total

Moneylines: Eagles +220/Cardinals -275

Both of these teams are in desperate need of a win this week. Luckily, both teams are coming off strong performances last week.

The Eagles finally made the decision to pull the plug on Carson Wentz, and Jalen Hurts responded with an excellent first start. He ran for over 100 yards and added 167 yards and a touchdown through the air. His ability as a runner also created opportunities for Miles Sanders, who put together one of his best games of the year. He finished with 115 yards and two touchdowns, and he added four catches for 21 yards as a receiver.

The big development for the Cardinals was that Kyler Murray finally looked capable of being a rushing threat. He had been dealing with a shoulder injury that limited his production as a passer and a runner, but he racked up 291 yards of total offense vs. the Giants. The fact that he carried the ball 14 times also suggests that he didn’t feel as much of a need to practice his injured shoulder than he had in previous weeks.

If Murray is truly 100%, he should have no problems picking apart the Eagles’ defense. They’ve struggled against the pass all season and currently rank 22nd in pass defense DVOA. They do have a formidable pass rush, but the Cardinals have been decent in terms of pass blocking.

On the other side, it will be interesting to see if Hurts can duplicate his success from last week. The Saints are one of the best defensive teams in the league, but there is now more tape available for the Cardinals to game plan with. The Saints did not have that luxury.

Still, I’m bullish on Hurts in the long term. He entered the league with a very appealing prospect profile, particularly from a fantasy perspective. He isn’t a particularly polished passer, but he was able to find success in college at a very young age at Alabama. If he can do enough with his arm to keep defenses honest, he’s going to be successful given his rushing ability. He’s not quite Lamar Jackson, but he’s still an elite athlete at the quarterback position.

As far as the early betting numbers go, the squares and sharps both seem to believe in Hurts. The Eagles have garnered 66% of the spread tickets, and those tickets have accounted for 86% of the spread dollars. There has been one steam move tracked on the Cardinals, but that was at -5.5. Now that the spread is up to 6.5, it’s been all Eagles.

Still, I’m worried that this is buying high on Philly. They’ve been a disaster all season, but now they’re not even getting a full touchdown on the road against a playoff team? If Kyler is back at full strength — and that’s a big if — I think this spread is too low.

Ultimately, I’m going to pass on this game. I would take the Cardinals if forced to make a pick, but the beauty of sports betting is that you’re not required to pick every game.

The Pick: Pass

Kansas City Chiefs (-3) @ New Orleans Saints — 51.5 total

Moneylines: Chiefs -175/Saints +150

This is the game that’s on everyone’s mind heading into Week 15. In one corner stands the Chiefs, who boast the frontrunner for MVP and the best offense in the league. In the other corner stands the Saints, who rank first in DVOA and boast arguably the best defense in the league. This could be a Super Bowl preview, and the NFL is giving it the full red carpet treatment. There are only two other games in the afternoon time slot and one of them involves the Jets. Who do you think people will be watching?

The big question is what are the Saints going to do at quarterback. Drew Brees reportedly is still dealing with a limited range of motion, and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting that it’s unlikely that he suits up vs. the Chiefs. Still, the Saints designated Brees to return from the IR, so they are at least leaving the door open for Brees to play in Week 15.

If Brees is out, Taysom Hill would make his fifth consecutive start at quarterback. Expectations were low for Hill — particularly from my friend Dieter Kurtenback — but Hill has silenced all his critics with his recent play. We knew he would bring athleticism to the position, but we had no idea he would be so proficient as a passer. He’s averaged 7.6 adjusted yards per attempt this season, which would be good enough to rank 14th in the league if he had enough attempts to qualify.

He has made a conscientious decision to get the ball to Michael Thomas, and that’s never a bad idea. Thomas has had a bit of a lost season, but he remains one of the best wide receivers in football. He’s averaged 9.3 targets, 7.5 receptions, and 85.8 yards in Hill’s four starts, which dwarf his numbers with Brees from earlier this season.

That said, Thomas’ resurgence has come at the expense of Alvin Kamara. He has been hardly targeted with Hill under center, who prefers to use his legs instead of check the ball down. He’s still getting work as a runner, but that is a suboptimal use of Kamara’s skill set. He’s like a Ferrari that needs to be driven on the open road, not the Civic you commute to work with.

As far as the Chiefs go, they are the overwhelming favorites to win the Super Bowl at this point. They’re currently listed at +180 on DraftKings Sportsbook, and no other team is listed at better than +650.

That said, they have not been nearly as dominant as that number suggests. They’ve failed to cover in five straight games, and the last time they blew someone out was the Jets back in Week 8. That includes a failed cover against the Bucs in a similar spot after jumping out to a 17-point lead.

The Chiefs should be able to move the ball in this contest — and possibly jump out to another early lead — but there’s no guarantee that their defense doesn’t just give it all away. Remember, the Saints are considered the better team by DVOA, and that stems from the fact that they are strong on both sides of the ball.

It’s always scary to go against the Chiefs, but I think the Saints are the correct side. This line is suggesting that the Chiefs are 5.5 points better than the Saints on a neutral field, and I just can’t agree with that assessment. The Saints have multiple ways to win this game, but the Chiefs have just one: put a ridiculous amount of points on the scoreboard. That method has won them a lot of games this season, but maybe the Saints are the team that can finally slow them down.

The Pick: Saints +3

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