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2-Minute Drill: NFL Week 15 Picks

Pigskin, point spreads, and the pursuit of a profit: weekly football wagers from a wannabe wiseguy

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Value can come in a variety of forms. From recency bias to the widespread preference for offense over defense to the incomplete picture a win-loss record can paint of a team's true abilities, the Week 15 board offers a range of reasons to get in play.

Lions +4 at Giants

Last Sunday night, the Giants opened the eyes of a primetime national audience by shutting down the Cowboys' high-powered attack to sweep the season series over a Dallas team that's 11-0 against the rest of the league. New York's most recent performance, coupled with its 9-4 record, would suggest the Giants belong among the NFL's elite. But it's not that simple.

Overall this season, New York has scored 255 points and allowed 244. The Giants' +11 point differential ranks a below-average 18th out of 32 teams, and that includes cupcake matchups with the Rams, Bears and Browns. They haven't beaten a non-last-place team all season by more than the four points that make up this week's spread against the first-place Lions.

Speaking of Detroit, the Lions have epitomized a low-variance team, rarely winning or losing by a wide margin. Only one Detroit game this season has been decided by more than a touchdown, that being a Week 13 win over the Saints in the Superdome. Simply keeping it close once again likely cashes a Lions ticket this Sunday.

Matthew Stafford's injured middle finger on his throwing hand is the big X factor, of course. But in a showdown against a New York team that's more or less Detroit's equal and that has a subpar home-field advantage, he doesn't have to be at his best for the Lions to get under the skin of Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants.


Broncos +3 vs. Patriots

A valuable way to look at point spreads is to consider the implied line if the home-field advantage were flipped. In this case, laying a field goal in Denver suggests the Patriots would be favored by almost double digits over the Broncos in New England. That notion that doesn't add up after the Patriots closed at -6.5 on Monday night vs. a Ravens team that's inferior to the Denver. Factor in New England's long road trip to mile-high altitude on a short week, and this line begs for answers.

Yes, the Patriots are the best team in the league and at -3 are being asked to do little more than win outright. And yes, the Broncos are in danger of going from Super Bowl champions to home for the playoffs. But perhaps the best explanation for this point spread lies in the widespread preference for offense over defense.

Even with Tom Brady missing the first four games, New England is one of only four teams averaging more than 6 yards per play on offense this season. On the flip side, the Denver defense ranks first in the league in yards per play allowed.

Something's gotta give, and despite what public perception suggests by making the Patriots a clear favorite, we saw how this can go just last season when the Broncos defeated New England as a home underdog both in the regular season and the AFC Championship Game. Especially without Rob Gronkowski in the fold this time, it could be another feeding frenzy for Von Miller & Co.


Pick of the Week: Teaser - Jets +8.5 vs. Dolphins, Cowboys -1 vs. Buccaneers

The setting in New York on Saturday night brings the ultimate teaser model fit into play: taking the short home underdog up through the key numbers of 3 and 7 in what projects to be the lowest-scoring game of the week, where the relative value of each point is magnified. For good measure, the Jets will oppose a backup QB in Matt Moore. This is their golden opportunity to mend fences with a fan base they hung out to dry by laying an egg against the Colts in their last home game.

The second leg of the teaser takes us to primetime in Dallas, where just as the recency effect can lead one to overestimate the Giants in the aftermath of last Sunday night's showdown, it can leave the Cowboys underestimated heading into this Sunday night. Dak Prescott left a lot to be desired in last week's defeat, and on the heels of back-to-back poor showings there's controversy brewing with Tony Romo's presence looming. But Prescott has still helped put Dallas in the driver's seat for the NFC's No. 1 seed largely by avoiding costly mistakes and facilitating the elite talent surrounding him. The Buccaneers' improvement on defense may be one of the more under-appreciated storylines of the season's second half, but needing to do little more than win outright to cover their leg of the teaser, the Cowboys are primed to deliver thanks to an impenetrable offensive line, a versatile receiving corps, and a rookie revelation out of the backfield who begs to be fed.



Last Week: 1-2

Season: 20-22

Picks of the Week: 8-6

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