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Capping Sunday's must-win NFL games

It’s Week 15 and the playoff pressure is mounting for a handful of NFL teams. This week’s schedule features a pair of games that have both combatants fighting for their playoff lives.

Let’s break down a betting strategy for these key matchups that feature teams on the outside looking in with the help of the Covers Experts.

Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams (-1, 39)

The Vikings proved they’ve still got some fight left in them after last week’s win over the Bears. Minnesota shot out of the gates with a 5-1 SU record, but is just 3-5 since. The Rams are headed in the opposite direction. St. Louis is 3-0 SU and ATS over its last three overall, including a huge victory over the Niners in Week 13.

“I often feel that desperation is a factor oddsmakers have a hard time properly quantifying into a line," says Covers Expert David Chan. "Did that team start the year red-hot, only to stumble through the middle of the season and then find itself in a must-win game near the end of the year (Vikings)? Or did it start slowly, and then come on like gangbusters to end the season, needing one or two more wins to keep its playoff hopes alive (Rams)?”

Adrian Peterson has carried the Vikings all season long, but he faces a tough Rams run defense this week.

“While they likely won't be able to shut him down entirely, I do feel that the Rams will be more successful in slowing Peterson down than other teams have been lately,” says Covers Expert Ben Burns.

The Rams haven't allowed any running back to gain more than 65 yards against them in the last four games.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Dallas Cowboys (+1, 44)


There’s no shortage of storylines coming into this game for the Cowboys. They’re still dealing with the death of Jerry Brown and now have concerns about the health of WR Dez Bryant.

“The biggest thing about this matchup is the emotional state of the Cowboys,” says Covers Expert Steve Merril. “We saw the Chiefs play well and then struggle the following week after their tragedy and you have to wonder if Dallas will have that problem this week.”

Bryant has vowed to play this week despite nursing a fractured left index finger. But can bettors expect the same offensive output from him this week?

“I feel the Bryant injury is a big deal," notes Covers Expert Bryan Power. “It severely limits what the Cowboys can do in the passing game, and keep in mind they’re facing the No. 1 pass defense in the league."

Another thing to keep in mind is how horrible Dallas is against the spread at home this season. They've failed to cover in all six games.

The Steelers hung on for dear life when Ben Roethlisberger fell to shoulder and rib injuries. Charlie Batch found some muster in his old legs to keep them in the playoff hunt, but Big Ben showed some rust in last week’s loss to the Chargers and put his team's back against the wall.

“Big Ben should bounce back this week as he is the ultimate competitor, although historically he's not as strong on the road with 38 career wins and a 90.1 QB rating, says Covers Expert Chris Elliott. "This game comes down to whoever runs the ball effectively. Expect a low- scoring game and a tight finish.”

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