The NFL is taking over your Saturday with a tripleheader for Week 15. Fortunately, all the games have playoff implications as the Bengals, Vikings, Steelers, Colts, and Broncos are all deep in the wild card races. The Lions are still a division leader, but they have to be careful with Minnesota two games behind and a pair of meetings still to come soon.
We came up with our favorite bet for each game on Saturday in Week 15, and you can always find them at top-rated sportsbooks.
- Vikings-Bengals Both Score 15+ Points (+100)
- Colts Under 20.5 Points (+105)
- Broncos Over 20.5 Points (-105)
Backup QB Bowl in Cincinnati (Again)
The Vikings might be benching Joshua Dobbs for Nick Mullens after he led a game-winning drive for the only points in Minnesota’s last game. The Bengals are content with starting Jake Browning after he led the team to 34 points for the 2nd win in a row.
The Bengals are a 3.5-point home favorite with a total of 39 points. But we think both teams can get to 15 points in this one.
Saturday, December 16, 2023 – 01:00 PM ET at Paycor Stadium
Remember Nick Mullens?
If the Vikings turn to Nick Mullens, it will be his first start since 2021 when he was with the Browns. Before that, he started 16 games for Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco where he had some solid statistics and averaged 248.1 passing yards per game.
Mullens is only 5-12 as a starter, but he led his team to at least 15 points in 13-of-17 starts. He is familiar with the offense and played a few games for Minnesota last year as Kirk Cousins’ backup. Mullens completed 21-of-25 passes for 224 yards, a touchdown, and an interception in 2022.
Any Given Sunday
On Sunday, Mullens came off the bench in a scoreless 4th quarter to make his season debut. He completed 9-of-13 passes for 83 yards and led a game-winning drive for a field goal.
The Vikings could be getting Justin Jefferson back again after the star wide receiver left Sunday’s game with a chest injury after taking a shot. He has a solid shot to play in this one, and the team still has T.J. Hockenson and Jordan Addison.
The Cincinnati defense ranks 31st in yards allowed this year. It did hold the Colts to 7 points last week when you remove the pick-6, but before that game, the Bengals had allowed at least 15 points in 6 straight games.
Before these last 2 games, the Vikings scored at least 17 points in every game this year, a mark they usually hit for coach Kevin O’Connell, an offensive mind just in search of a stable quarterback situation without Kirk Cousins. If Joshua Dobbs is not the answer to that, then maybe Mullens will be.
Bengals Look Surprisingly Good
Jake Browning has completed at least 75% of his passes while throwing for at least 275 yards in his last 2 starts. The last quarterbacks to do that in the last few seasons were Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow, so this is impressive company to be included with.
The longer Browning can keep this up, the more believable it is that he is a legitimate starter. But he is surrounded by a talented offense with a great wide receiver trio and a solid backfield with Joe Mixon and rookie Chase Brown. Browning has been feasting on the completions to his backs in these games.
The Minnesota defense has improved and will blitz Browning frequently. But the Bengals have the talent to get open quickly, and Browning’s release has been fairly quick. He should get the ball out and lead some touchdown drives to help his team get to 15 points and maybe a lot more.
The Bengals have scored 34 points in back-to-back games. Even if we chop that in half for a rare Saturday afternoon game against a blitz-happy defense that’s enough to get over the hump. Minnesota is the more risky team for this pick, but O’Connell usually coaches his team to over 15 points.
The last 2 weeks could be an aberration and with another quarterback change, we’ll trust Mullens to put up numbers to move the offense.
NFL Pick: Both Teams to Score 15+ Points (+100) at Bet365
Will Gardner Minshew Overcome Mistakes?
The Colts are No. 8 in scoring this season at 24.2 points per game, but they were held to 14 points in Cincinnati last week in a disappointing loss. Now they must face a Pittsburgh team that has to be getting desperate after back-to-back losses to bad teams, and the defense knows the margin for error is slim with the offense.
The Colts are a 2.5-point home favorite with a total of 42 points. But we are looking at a team total for the Colts (over/under 20.5 points).
Saturday, December 16, 2023 – 04:30 PM ET at Lucas Oil Stadium
Is the Indy Offense Sputtering?
Rookie coach Shane Steichen deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done with the Colts on offense, getting consistent scoring production from a team starting backups at quarterback, running back, and tight end. In what has been a lower-scoring season in the NFL, the Colts have been one of the more consistent scoring teams, reaching 21 points in 10-of-13 games.
But lately, things have been more of a struggle. The Colts needed a pair of interception return touchdowns against Carolina to get to 27 points on a day where the offense had a season-low 198 yards.
A week later, the Colts only scored 10 points in Germany against the Patriots. The game against Tampa Bay was better, and while the offense made some big plays in Tennessee, it was back-to-back blocked punts that really helped turn that game around and make up for the Colts having a few turnovers.
Back to Normal
But last week in Cincinnati, the Colts only scored 14 points and half of those were on defense with a fortunate pick-6. Gardner Minshew looked like he may have suffered a concussion, but he finished the game. The Colts have struggled to run the ball in recent weeks without Jonathan Taylor available. Zack Moss was held to 28 yards on 13 carries in Cincinnati.
The Colts are only 24th on 3rd down (35.8%), and they are 18th in the red zone at scoring touchdowns (53.5%), so their situational play has been mediocre at best. The Colts are also only 18th in first downs, so they have relied on hitting some big plays to help their scoring instead of excelling on a per-play basis.
In other words, this offense’s scoring success is not very sustainable, so we are going to continue seeing volatile results the rest of the year like the games against the:
Pittsburgh’s Defense Can Make Minshew Mess Up
The Steelers certainly have their flaws on defense, and they haven’t created multiple takeaways since playing the Packers in Week 10. But they are No. 7 in points allowed, and they have kept 8-of-13 opponents under 21 points this year, including every road game except for the trip to Houston.
Last we checked, Garnder Minshew is no C.J. Stroud, especially when it comes to protecting the football. Over his last 8 games, Minshew has 13 turnovers (8 interceptions and 5 lost fumbles).
T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith were placed in the concussion protocol after Pittsburgh’s game last Thursday against the Patriots. If they are cleared to return for this one, they can cause havoc on Minshew in the pocket, and we have seen him struggle with strip-sacks this year.
He also has thrown some crucial picks in this offense under Steichen, which was true last year in Philadelphia when the duo worked together there too.
The Steelers are lousy as a favorite like they were against the Cardinals and Patriots. But start throwing dirt on their grave and counting them out on the road, and this is the kind of spot where they step up, especially against a suspect opponent like the Colts, a franchise they almost always defeat.
It was a 24-17 Pittsburgh win in Indy when these teams met last year. The Colts are better off at coaching than they were in that game, but they are still going through their own rough patch right now. We’ll trust the Steelers to hold them under 20.5 points and give the offense a chance for another late win.
NFL Pick: Colts Under 20.5 Points (+105) at Bet365
Sean Payton Cranking Up the Offense?
The Broncos were arguably the worst offense in the NFL in 2022. Under Sean Payton, they have improved in many categories, but things are still far from vintage Payton or Russell Wilson. But the Lions have allowed their last 5 opponents to score at least 26 points, so can Denver add to that streak with a good showing?
The Broncos are a 5-point road underdog with a total of 46.5 points. We are looking at Denver’s team total (over/under 20.5 points).
Saturday, December 16, 2023 – 08:15 PM ET at Ford Field
Denver Fueled by Turnovers
The Denver offense is 13th in scoring but only 24th in yards and 25th in 1st downs. How is that possible? It’s the field position from turnovers forced by the defense and special teams. Denver has multiple takeaways in 5-of-6 games, which has fueled this winning run to get back into playoff contention.
It helps with the field position to make life easier on Russell Wilson, who is only averaging 200.7 passing yards per game. Wilson’s 6.9 yards per pass attempt is the lowest average of his career.
But the Broncos have scored over 20.5 points in 5-of-6 games coming in thanks to the turnovers setting up short fields. Wilson is also protecting the ball well outside of the loss in Houston with 3 interceptions.
The Denver running game has also improved to No. 10 in yards and No. 13 in yards per carry. Javonte Williams finally scored his first rushing touchdown since December 2021 last week against the Chargers. Courtland Sutton has also come on for Wilson as his top receiver, catching a touchdown in 7 of the last 8 games.
Detroit Is Struggling
The Lions spent much of 2022 ranked near the very bottom on defense, which is why the team had such a bad start. Things were expected to get better this year, and while they initially did, the defense has been poor in 6-of-7 games coming into this one. The only recent performance that was strong was the win over the Raiders that led to Josh McDaniels being fired.
Since the bye week, the Lions have allowed all 5 opponents to score at least 26 points, including a pair of games against Chicago. The run defense was strong early in the year, but the Lions have allowed over 100 rushing yards in 4 straight games. Some of that was facing a running quarterback like Justin Fields, but Wilson has shown some willingness to still run at his age this year too. Denver has reached 100 rushing yards in 9-of-13 games.
Detroit’s defense has only forced multiple takeaways in 3-of-13 games this year. The defense also ranks 29th at allowing touchdowns in the red zone (68.2%), so teams have had little problem finishing drives against this defense.
With or without the help of turnovers, the Broncos have often hit over 20.5 points this year. Given Detroit’s recent struggles on defense, this looks like a good matchup for Wilson and the offense to deliver and give the team a real shot at a road win to get to 8-6 and put more pressure on the AFC playoff contenders.
NFL Pick: Broncos Over 20.5 Points (-105) at Bet365
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