NFL Week 15 betting tips
Josh Allen didn’t throw a pick, but he was outproduced by Jared Goff, so I’ll take that as a win. Meanwhile, D’Andre Swift’s load was managed and Jeff Wilson exited with an injury. But Adam Thielen stayed busy, Isiah Pacheco remained extra and Tyler Boyd stayed quiet (before also leaving early).
Ultimately, four of my seven picks hit, making for a solid weekend. Let’s push for perfection this go-around. Utilizing ESPN’s metrics database and some assistance from stats ace Kyle Soppe, I’m here to help you secure the bag in fantasy and at the books.
Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings (-3.5, 47.5)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Pick: Michael Pittman OVER 69.5 receiving yards (-123)
The Pittman breakout has been put on pause for another year. That doesn’t mean, however, he can’t muster a top-15 finish in the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Just one game removed from an 11-target effort, Pittman figures to thrive as a ball hog again in Minneapolis.
The Vikings’ secondary has been a gift to opposing pass-catchers, allowing contending wideouts to clear 80 yards on 12 separate occasions so far this year. That list of receivers includes everyone from Gabe Davis and DeVonta Smith to Corey Davis and DeVante Parker.
Pittman’s aDOT is down 26.5% this season from last (thanks, Matt Ryan), but as evidenced by the diversity of skill set and situation represented in the aforementioned catalog of WRs, the Vikings can be had through a variety of ways and means. For Pittman’s purposes, Minnesota allowed the third-most yards per pass to wideouts on passes under 10 yards (6.6).
Pittman won’t clear the above line on three catches, but he could do it on six. With Indy expected to be chasing points and given that Pittman is averaging nine looks per contest (WR11), a 6-72-1 stat line is well within reason.
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Soldier Field, Chicago
Pick: Miles Sanders OVER 68.5 rushing yards (-113)
It’s hard not to hammer the over on a player who has amassed 311 rushing yards over his past three efforts. When that player is facing a defense that is bottom seven versus the position in carries, rushing yards and YPC — well, it’s a temptation this bettor clearly can’t resist.
Interestingly, Philly’s RBs rush left on nearly 36% of attempts (seventh highest). The Bears are allowing 5.8 YPC to RBs when running to the left (second most). I can hear Beyonce blessing this matchup. And while Sanders moves to the left, the box he is facing figures to be light. Thanks to two ace field stretchers, Philly’s RB1 is confronting six or fewer defenders on over 61% of his carries (RB7).
Volume additionally leans in Sanders’ favor. Not only is he top seven in carries per game (15.7), but as 9-point favorites, game script also figures to keep him feasting. In fact, Sanders is one of only 17 RBs to have managed over 160 carries all season. Of those 17 backs, he has gained 10-plus yards on 15.2% of those attempts (second only to Nick Chubb at 15.6%).
He has volume, efficiency and the matchup all working in his favor this Sunday. That’s pretty good for a guy who told fantasy managers not to draft him back in August.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers (-3, 37.5)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Pick: D’Onta Foreman OVER 66.5 rushing yards
Foreman has been a boon to virtual backfields, topping 100 rushing yards in four of his past seven games. While Chuba Hubbard’s presence has increased in recent weeks, Foreman endures as the Panthers’ preferred grinder, particularly on early downs and in the red area. His lack of work in the passing game lowers his ceiling, but he projects to post low-end RB2 numbers in Week 14.
It’s no secret why the Panthers want to run the ball, but it is interesting to know how much the team is leaning on the ground game. Carolina is currently ranked fifth in rush rate. When milking a lead, the Panthers rank second in rush rate. It just so happens that the Cardiac Cats are 3-point favorites at home on Sunday. Additionally, Carolina has won its past three home games, and in each of those contests Foreman had managed over 110 rushing yards. All of this suggests a positive game script and robust volume for Derrick Henry’s former backup.
In terms of matchup, the Steelers have been notably tougher to beat on the ground than through the air. Over the past two weeks, however, running backs facing Pittsburgh have managed 5.8 yards per carry. The loss of Chris Wormley (knee) doesn’t figure to improve the Steelers’ run-stopping efficiency, setting Foreman up for plenty of success.
Dallas Cowboys (-4, 48) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
Pick: Travis Etienne OVER 61.5 rushing yards (-119)
Etienne has struggled to produce as of late, failing to top double-digit fantasy points since the Jaguars’ Week 11 bye. Less than volume, efficiency has largely prevented the second-year RB from posting solid numbers. Facing the Cowboys, however, Etienne’s explosiveness — and yards per touch — figures to rebound.
Per LBM, the Jaguars’ run-blocking unit grades out significantly better than the team’s pass-blocking unit. While Jacksonville is projected to chase points at Dallas, the Jaguars figure to lean on the run out of the gate. Given the plus rushing matchup, Eitenne could find a rhythm early. And I think he’ll have success doing so.
The Cowboys’ run defense has crushed over the past two weeks, but the offenses they’ve faced (IND and HOU) have been decidedly one-note. That’s not the case with the Jaguars. Jacksonville’s receiving corps is top 12 in yards and top eight in receptions over 20 yards. The Cowboys will have to account for the Jaguars’ field-stretchers, which should lead to more light boxes for Etienne.
When given 2-plus yards per carry before first contact (get there O-line), the Clemson product has averaged 6.7 YPC. That stat becomes more illuminating when noting that the Cowboys allowed the seventh-most yards before contact to RBs (2.8) in Weeks 6-12 (the seven games ahead of the last two noted above).
Consider Etienne a top-20 play and expect him to touch the ball 18 times for just over 80 scrimmage yards.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-4, 43.5)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Caesars Superdome, New Orleans
Pick: Drake London OVER 44.5 receiving yards (-127)
Yup, it’s me. Going back to the London well … except with a rookie QB under center. What could possibly go wrong?
Here’s my thought process:
The Falcons averaged 25 pass attempts per game from Weeks 8 through 14. That’s a small sample size and a low number. However, it’s a 15% increase from the first half of the season, wherein Marcus Mariota averaged 21.4 pass attempts per contest. It makes sense then (though this is Arthur Smith we’re dealing with) that given the team’s record the front office might want to open up the passing game to see what it has in Desmond Ridder.
This isn’t a new or novel concept. Over the past decade, when a QB has made his first start in the second half of the season, he has also averaged 201.7 passing yards per effort. That’s well below league average, just 18 fewer yards per game than Mac Jones and only 30 more yards per contest than Mariota was managing. Assuming Ridder can muster that minimum then — by extension — London would need to account for 19.8% of the team’s receiving yards. He’s currently responsible for 24% of Atlanta’s receiving production.
Finally, the matchup isn’t as scary as it might seem. Even if Marcus Lattimore returns, he figures to be rusty, having not suited up since Week 5. Meanwhile, the rest of the Saints’ receiving corps has been gettable, allowing an opposing WR to clear 40 yards 23 times throughout 2022. London might not be more than a top-45 desperation flex play in redraft, but he’s got the over on this line.