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Billsfans Bets: NFL Week 15 Picks

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© Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

 

The Buffalo Bills moved two games clear in the AFC East this weekend with a win over the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins' second consecutive loss on the west coast. The Bills host Miami on Saturday night, in primetime this weekend. A division clash that could separate Buffalo from the rest of the pack with a three-game margin should they win and all but tie up the division title.

 

Around the league, the AFC North is heating up as the Cincinnati Bengals are still tied with the Baltimore Ravens at 9-4, but it's the Bengals with all the momentum as we head toward the last four games of the regular season.

 

Over in the NFC, three division leaders, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and San Francisco, all look relatively secure. Some question still remains in the NFC South as Tampa Bay holds a precarious one-game lead over Carolina. The wildcard spots currently belong to the Cowboys, Commanders, and Giants, but the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions are within shooting distance of those teams, and nobody can afford to slip up for the risk of losing their spot.

 

The Giants and Commanders face each other, which means whoever loses that game runs the risk of losing their current playoff seeding.

 

A win for the Minnesota Vikings officially wraps up the NFC North title, regardless of all other results. They face the Indianapolis Colts at home with the intention of sealing their fate as a top-three playoff team with a little under a month remaining in the regular season.

 

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© Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Betting Lines:

  • Spread: Dallas Cowboys -4, Jacksonville Jaguars +4
  • Total: Over/Under 47.5
  • Money line: Dallas Cowboys -210, Jacksonville Jaguars +175

 

Trevor Lawrence has started to play some very efficient football in recent weeks. After avoiding serious injury on a scary-looking sack against the Detroit Lions a week ago, he returned to the lineup with a fiery performance against the Tennessee Titans. In doing so, Jacksonville finds itself one game behind the Titans for the AFC South Division title, which is a genuine possibility considering how they are playing of late. Not to mention, they have the Titans at home in the last game of the season, which could very well be for all the division marbles.

 

Lawrence has completed over 70% of his passes in four of his last five games, the only anomaly being the Lions game. The Jags have won three of those four games, and the sheer willpower of the defense to rally in the second half of the Titans game will be enough to give them team-changing confidence for the rest of the season.

 

The Jaguars were gashed by Derrick Henry in the first half as the franchise running back rumbled through the defense for 119 yards before halftime. Whatever happened in the locker room at the half deserves recognition because Jacksonville came out a totally different defensive unit for the second half, stifling Henry for just two more rushing yards in the entire second half.

 

Trevor Lawrence set a career-high 368 passing yards and three touchdowns, finding tight end Evan Engram 11 times for 168 receiving yards and two touchdowns as the Titans had no answer for his talents on the day.

 

While their form has been improving of late, this weekend presents a new test in the form of the Dallas Cowboys' defense. Trevor Lawrence might be finding a refined form, but this is one of the best defensive units in the league and will present quite the match-up for a budding Jaguars offense.

 

The Cowboys are the second-best team in passing yards allowed per game behind only the Eagles, which will be a testing match-up for a Jaguars team that is relying quite heavily on their passing game right now.

 

The most important question, however, is the offensive line's performance. In recent weeks, the Jaguars allowed nine sacks in two games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens. Against good football teams, they were placing their young quarterback under duress. They then showed up and refused even a single sack against the Titans and the Las Vegas Raiders. The question is, which offensive line shows up against a very talented Cowboys defensive front?

 

In my eyes, the Jaguars might be trending in the right direction, but the firepower of the Dallas Cowboys on both sides of the football is too much for Jacksonville right now. Dan Quinn's defense will make Trevor Lawrence uncomfortable throughout the game, and Dak and the Cowboys could pull away. I like the Cowboys -4 despite the upward trend of a building Jaguars football team.

 

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© Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Detroit Lions @ New York Jets

Betting Lines:

  • Spread: Detroit Lions +1, New York Jets -1
  • Total: Over/Under 44.5
  • Money line: Detroit Lions -105, New York Jets -115

 

The New York Jets' offensive struggles reared their ugly head against the Buffalo Bills again this past weekend. The defense played a great game in slowing down Josh Allen, just like they did in the first encounter this season. And with that, the Jets have now failed to throw a single touchdown pass in their last two games.

 

Due mainly to Joe Flacco's poor relief performance last week, Zack Wilson returns to the roster as a backup quarterback. Mike White, beaten up badly by the Buffalo Bills' defense on Sunday, is scheduled to remain the starter. He suffered multiple nasty shots from the Bills' pressuring defense and had to go to the hospital after the game to be checked out to ensure there were no internal issues.

 

The Jets, having suffered their third loss in four games and second consecutive loss in the division, now face an uphill battle to earn a playoff spot. With Mike White throwing 101 footballs in their last two outings, the offense is throwing the football at a high rate. The efficiency is lacking in those games though, completing just 57% of those passes on a two-game average.

 

While the offense has struggled in their last two outings, they will host a Lions defense this weekend that does not play well against heavy passing teams. The Lions rank 30th in passing yards allowed per game, lacking tight coverage defenders like the Jets' very own Sauce Gardner.

 

The rookie cornerback has been as impactful as a cornerback can be in the NFL, taking on the league's best wide receivers and holding his own all season. Gardner is a Pro Bowl candidate in his very first year in the league, and his prowess proves its worth every weekend.

 

This Sunday, he will be needed against a Detroit Lions offense that ranks top five in points per game. Their defense has plenty of work to do and is still missing a couple of key pieces, but Detroit can score and hit you in many ways while doing so.

 

The Lions have scored 30+ points in four of their last five games, and their effectiveness in the red zone to convert short yardage into touchdowns is remarkable. They appear to have regained their early-season form. Running back Jamaal Williams leads the league in touchdowns with 14, and the Lions have won five of their last six games, now a genuine contender for a playoff berth. Jared Goff hasn't thrown a single interception in five games during that winning streak. 

 

If their first-round pick, Jameson Williams, who played for the first time all season last week, is finally healthy, the rest of the NFL might be wise to be wary of what Dan Campbell is putting together in Detroit. Williams' first catch as a Lion went for a 41-yard touchdown. He adds speed to the offense and another genuine weapon that should only open up the game further for their other young star, Amon Ra St Brown.

 

The Lions are threatening, coming into the Jets game off a convincing win against the Minnesota Vikings. I believe they will win this game on the road. They're improving week after week, and their offense is difficult to deal with.

 

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© Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills

Betting Lines:

  • Spread: Miami Dolphins +7.5, Buffalo Bills -7.5
  • Total: Over/Under 42
  • Money line: Miami Dolphins +275, Buffalo Bills -350

 

The Miami Dolphins headed out West for a two-game road trip and an opportunity to hold their own as the division leaders in the AFC East. Their win over Buffalo earlier in the season gave them a head-to-head advantage. In order to retain that stance, they faced two must-win games against the San Francisco 49ers and the LA Chargers.

 

As it worked out, the Dolphins lost both of those games as the offense hit a brick wall for the first time since Tua Tagovailoa's return to the starting lineup several weeks ago. He's been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL so far this season, helping Tyreek Hill to break the Miami Dolphins' single-season receiving record. While Tua currently leads the NFL in Pro Bowl voting, despite missing three games with a head injury, something was off during Miami's west coast trip.

 

Tua was under pressure against the 49ers, and the absence of Terron Armstead on the offensive line was clear as Nick Bosa ran the makeshift tackle options ragged for four quarters. In the Chargers game, Tua was just missing his mark. The timing was off, Jaylen Waddle didn't have a catch until the fourth quarter, and the Dolphins ultimately crumbled. They now find themselves a game and a half behind the Bills.

 

One positive note from the Chargers game was the dominant performance of second-year pass rusher Jaelen Phillips. The young talent had a breakout game on primetime football, showing the world just the sort of player he is turning into. Miami's defensive line played well all night long, with Christian Wilkins also looking like a Pro Bowl player this season. Miami had a bad night offensively, and Tua will need to play better in the cold conditions of Buffalo's Highmark Stadium if Miami wants to keep their AFC East title hopes alive.

 

The road game in Buffalo marks the third and final test of a tough stretch of road games, and if Miami loses this one, they'll find themselves two and one-half games behind the Bills with just three left to play in the regular season. The rest of their schedule is no slouch either, with the Packers up next and the Patriots and Jets to close out the season.

 

Buffalo will be very aware of the opportunity to clinch a spot in the playoffs, put a stranglehold on the division, and potentially a postseason home game should they beat the Dolphins. That said, the offense has not looked its best for several weeks now, and the Jets' defense gave Josh Allen and the Bills plenty of trouble last weekend.

 

Allen threw for a season-low 147 yards on just 27 passing attempts, and the Bills were outgunned by the New York Jets in both the pass and the run game. Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey has come under scrutiny for his play calling and a lack of opportunity for talented players who can make a difference, such as Nyheim Hines, who the Bills traded for from the Colts before the deadline, and rookie Khalil Shakir.

 

The Bills are too heavily dependent on Stefon Diggs, and when he was largely taken out of the game against the Jets, there didn't seem to be much of a plan B, which at this point in the season is somewhat concerning. With Cole Beasley coming out of retirement, it may be that he will help what ails the Bills and their 3rd down woes of late. One thing is sure, if he is in game-ready condition, he should help the other receivers just by being on the field.

 

While Buffalo did a stout job of keeping the New York Jets out of the end zone on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins' weapons are far more dangerous. They will need to contain Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Watching the tape of an inexperienced Chargers secondary doing just that on Sunday Night Football will be encouraging. Buffalo will need to pressure Tagovailoa again this week, as they did in week 3. The key for the Dolphins may be to keep Tua out of ankle and back protocols.

 

Do the Bills have the speed to contain Miami's offense? Do the Dolphins recover from their west coast slump?

 

I think the Bills will edge this one, but it will be closer than the 7.5-point spread suggests. The weather could also play a major role in the game, as the Dolphins trade the tropics of South Florida for the frozen tundra that is Orchard Park.

 

 

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