NFL Underdogs: NFL Odds, Picks and Predictions Week 15

The Seahawks take on the Rams, who were ravaged by COVID-19 this week prompting the league to move this NFC West war to Tuesday. We've got that and more in our Week 15 ATS picks.

Last Updated: Dec 16, 2021 11:00 AM ET Read Time: 5 min

Last week was Armageddon for NFL underdogs, with just three point spread pups managing to cover. 

That’s bad news for a guy who writes a weekly picks column titled “NFL Underdogs” (I escaped with a 1-2 ATS record). But while my fortunes were skewed, others basked in the chalky glow of those favorite-friendly results. 

One such person plays in a pick’em pool I’ve taken part in for years now. Username “JKay” topped the leaderboard with a perfect 14 for 14 in their NFL ATS picks last week, including singling out the three lonely underdogs who cashed in. That’s what impressed me most.

I celebrated this miracle on Twitter and while most folks gave it a like and went on their way, a few turds shot down this accomplishment stating that it wasn’t that impressive due to the success of favorites. 


I’m not going to waste my breath countering those asinine comments, as those remarks come from the same curmudgeons who deny “Die Hard” as a Christmas movie. IT TAKES PLACE AT A XMAS PARTY ON CHRISTMAS EVE, DAMN IT! 

But I digress. 

Underdog bettors pull themselves out of the rubble, size up the NFL Week 15 odds, and get ready for what looks like another wild week of NFL betting, with health and safety protocols throwing a massive wrench into everyone’s best-laid plans.

(Editor's Note: This week's NFL Underdogs was published prior to the Seahawks-Rams postponement when the line was Seattle +4.5. Back on the board at Seattle +6, the pick remains the underdog Seahawks ATS in Los Angeles.)

NFL picks against the spread for Week 15

Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.

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Staying healthy during the NFL season is tough enough with the schedule extended to 18 weeks and the wear and tear of December football. But throw in the explosion of COVID-19 outbreaks across North America – like the one sidelining 16 members of the L.A. Rams – and the final four weeks of the regular season are going to be an uncomfortable uphill climb.

The Rams have notables missing on both sides of the ball and their status for Week 15’s homestand with Seattle is very murky. Playing on a short week is tough enough (L.A. played Monday) but having to shutter the practice facility and move all prep online with unknown personnel was not something Sean McVay and his staff were prepared for.

Before the outbreak, Los Angeles was giving a touchdown to the visiting Seahawks. Seattle has won two in a row, and it appears as though Russell Wilson has shaken his case of a “yips”. The Seahawks offense ranks seventh in EPA per play the past two weeks after being marred in a nasty slump in November, with a nice balance through the air and on the ground.

The Seattle defense continues to be an under-the-radar unit, limiting its last eight opponents to 23 points or less. The Seahawks’ stop unit may not be up there in DVOA but they bring their best against top-tier competition and do the little things right: No. 7 in third down defense and No. 4 in red zone defense.

As mentioned above, COVID or not, injuries stack up at this time of the year. And the Seahawks are no exception, with a long midweek list of ins and outs. However, it doesn’t look like many of those are too serious and more importantly, Seattle has stayed diligent in protecting its players from the COVID surge. 

At this point in the week, we’ll take the certainty with Seattle as well as those points.

PICK: Seahawks +6 (-110)

A road game isn’t always a bad thing, especially when you’re in a bit of a slump and tired of dealing with all the questions and criticisms from the hometown crowds. The Bengals have that escape game in Denver this Sunday, bringing a two-game skid up the mountain.

Cincinnati’s fortunes the past two weeks are a bit funky. A disaster of a start to Week 13’s homestand with the L.A. Chargers left the Bengals playing catch-up in a 41-22 loss (came back from 24-0 to make it 24-22 before everything went to shit in the 4Q). That was followed by a 26-23 overtime defeat to San Francisco last weekend (once again digging themselves out, falling behind 20-6 in the 3Q). 

A better start is needed from Cincy on both sides of the ball, as well as special teams, which has been sloppy on returns the past two weeks. 

Quarterback Joe Burrow continues to play through a finger injury but didn’t appear fazed while throwing for 348 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers last Sunday. His talented group of targets tests a solid Denver secondary, and he’ll get better support from the ground game with Joe Mixon healthier than last week. 

Mixon is in line for a massive day, facing a Broncos run defense ranked 25th in DVOA and allowing a success rate of 44.7% per rush (30th) to opponents. He played through a shoulder injury and illness versus San Francisco’s third-ranked DVOA run defense last week and has seen limited touches due to the Bengals falling behind early the past two outings.

A healthy dose of one Joe will help out the other, opening up space for Burrow to find his guys in one-on-one coverage while also keeping the Denver pass rush honest after Cincy’s allowed 11 total sacks in the last two losses.

The Bengals enter Mile High as one of the better road bets in the NFL at 4-2 ATS as a visitor, which is nothing new for this franchise. Going back to 2010, Cincinnati is 54-36-3 ATS on the road (60%), including a 38-24-2 ATS record as a road underdog. 

PICK: Bengals +3 (-110)

Who are these Buffalo Bills? 

This team went from EPA darlings in the first eight weeks of action (No. 5 offense/No. 1 defense) to No. 12 offense/No. 18 defense since that Week 9 upset loss to Jacksonville. That downtick has turned into a nosedive in the last two games, losing to New England and Tampa Bay.

This return home is a major change in motivation after playing two of the top Super Bowl contenders in the league, not only setting the Bills up for a massive letdown spot versus Carolina but also an even uglier lookahead spot since Week 16 sends Buffalo to New England in a revenge game with the Patriots.

The Panthers may not look like much at 5-8 SU, but this is still one of the stronger stop units in the land (10th in defensive DVOA, sixth vs. the pass). Carolina is also the top pressure team in football, making opposing QBs sweat on 29.6% of dropbacks which has manifested itself into 32 sacks. The Panthers will test Josh Allen’s ailing foot - if the Bills QB suits up. 

Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott hinted at the possibility of Allen sitting out Week 15 with the critical game in New England next weekend and heaped the praise on backup Mitchell Trubisky, who is getting extra reps with the first-team offense this week. 

As for the Panthers’ offense, the Bills' defense should brace for a lot of ground and pound. Carolina is two weeks removed from firing OC Joe Brady and interim play-caller Jeff Nixon is a former running backs coach. Carolina is getting healthier on the offensive line in Week 15 and will want to eat up as much time with the football as possible, as to park the Bills' offense on the sidelines. Buffalo’s run stop has been pushed around the last two weeks, allowing 359 yards on 75 carries – 4.8 yards per run.

Oh, one more thing: it’s going to be cold and windy in Orchard Park, with “feels like” temperatures in the low 20s and wind gusts of more than 20 mph. 

PICK: Panthers +11.5 (-110)

Last week: 1-2 ATS -2.09 units (Risking 1 unit per play)
Season: 22-20 ATS -1.37 units (Risking 1 unit per play)

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