With college football over with except the football games, the NFL takes over on Saturdays with a few marquee match-ups fans are excited for. This week, there are two games many will be keeping an eye on with playoff implications. All four teams have a chance to play in the playoffs this year, but a loss Saturday could ruin hopes. Here are the picks against the spread for the two-game slate.
Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns
Las Vegas Raiders -1.5
Saturday’s afternoon game pits the Las Vegas Raiders against the Cleveland Browns. However, the teams might not look exactly as they have all season, especially for those who’ve watched a lot of Browns games. COVID-19 is starting to knock out one player after another for Week 15. It’s hit Cleveland particularly hard, as quarterback Baker Mayfield and head coach Kevin Stefanski tested positive are the two biggest names likely unavailable.
In total, at least 14 players for Cleveland will be on the reserve list for Saturday’s game. That’s changed the line quite a bit, as Cleveland went from 5.5-point favorites to slight underdogs. Can Cleveland possibly pull off this win despite so many problems?
Sign up for a FREE Trial Consultation to start working with Legendary Sports Bettor Jon Price
Part of the reason people still believe in Cleveland comes down to their gutsy win last week against the Baltimore Ravens. They are now just within one game of the AFC North lead, fighting for a playoff spot despite all the ups and downs. To help them out even more, they’re going up against a Las Vegas Raiders team that’s been in a freefall over the last month and a half.
Las Vegas has lost five of the last six games, and the offense is mostly the blame. Derek Carr started off the year hot, but he’s been below-average during this stretch. Las Vegas has talent, but nothing’s given at this point.
Cleveland’s fate relies on whether or not Casey Keenum can hold things down for Baker Mayfield. He didn’t do much in his other start this year against the Denver Broncos, but to his credit, he didn’t mess anything up either. He’ll be a game manager more than anything, and the veteran should be able to take care of things.
One target he’ll be looking at fairly often is Donovan Peoples-Jones. With so many receiving threats out, he’ll need to be great like last week. He caught five passes for 90 yards against Baltimore, and they’ll need something similar out of him in this one.
Other than that, Nick Chubb and D’Ernest Johnson will get a lot of touches running the football for Cleveland. No one should expect a lot of points in this one, but that’s a recipe that could give Cleveland an ugly win. It’s a tough break that this game comes down to playing practice team players in December during a playoff push, but the good news is that the Raiders aren’t who they were at the beginning of the year.
Las Vegas still has something to play for, but a loss here would pretty much eliminate any chances of a postseason berth. It’s just extremely difficult to have any trust in Las Vegas given how they looked. Carr would need to target Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller early and often for the team to put up points early. Even with a depleted Cleveland team, they still have more trustworthy weapons.
Pick: Cleveland Browns +1
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts -2.5
Two teams with playoff aspirations face-off in the nightcap on Saturday. It’s an intriguing matchup, as the unpredictable run defense for the New England Patriots goes up against a powerful rushing attack from the Indianapolis Colts. Can Jonathan Taylor work his magic and dominate on his home field?
It’s no secret that Indianapolis will rely heavily on Taylor from the very beginning. He leads the NFL with 1348 rushing yards and 5.6 yards per carry. He’s found the end zone 16 times already this year, and he’s a receiving threat as well.
Of course, New England is too good of a team for the Colts to rely only on Taylor to carry them. Carson Wentz will need to have an above-average game for Indianapolis to pull out the victory. He’s done a great job of controlling the football this year, but New England will come out with an aggressive play style to try to force some bad throws. This game could very well come down to which team picks off more passes.
Mac Jones has shown the poise of a seasoned veteran in the NFL, but Indianapolis’ defense will pose a pretty tough threat for him. Not only will they aggressively go after picking passes off, but they’ll also try to force fumbles from the youngster.
So who wins this match-up? There seem to be quite a few experts counting on the Patriots, but the Colts have won four out of their last five. In fact, they’ve been one of the best teams in the NFL after starting the season 0-3. All of their losses have come down to the end, and they stay competitive against anyone in the NFL.
Indianapolis gets a slight edge since they are on their home turf. Expect it to be a close one, just as the line shows. The Colts still win by at least a field goal, covering the spread and making a statement that they are for real.