NFL Week 15 Late Games Feature New England at Pittsburgh

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Jay Ginsbach

December 16th, 2018

With only a pair of NFL Week 15 late games, all of the attention will be on the marquee matchup of the week. Pittsburgh can evaporate any concerns about their playoff potential by matching New England, who are coming off a stunning loss to Miami. In the other game, San Francisco gets another crack at Seattle just two weeks after being embarrassed by them in a blowout. Check out my free picks for both games below!

New England Patriots (-2.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers - A potential playoff preview is set for Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field when the Steelers host the Patriots. Pittsburgh (7-5-1) has lost their grip on the AFC North division lead with three straight losses, all as a favorite, including last week’s debacle at Oakland as 10-point chalk. The Steelers had just 40 rushing yards against the Raiders 31-ranked run defense, as RB Jaylen Samuels was unable to replace James Connor effectively. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is nursing a nagging rib injury suffered in the first half at Oakland, but he’s ready to go against New England, and Big Ben will be back to his gunslinging ways as the NFL’s leader in pass attempts (546) this season and No. 2 in passing yards (4,227). An all-out aerial assault is expected with his talented wide receivers Antonio Brown, Ju Ju Smith-Schuster and TE Vance McDonald against a below average Patriots pass defense allowing 259.5 passing yards per game. A moderate chance of rain showers could dampen the pass proceedings.

The Patriots are healthier and playing better at this stage of the season from a year ago, but travel back-to-back weeks following the Miami Miracle  loss against the Dolphins last week in which some rare, questionable, coaching decisions were costly. New England and QB Tom Brady will also go to the air. The Steelers pass defense (233.9 per game) is a little stronger but was torched by both Derek Carr and Phillip Rivers in back-to-back weeks. Tom Brady has passed for 358, 311 and 283 yards his last three games with strong yards per pass gains of 8.3, 9.7 and 9.1; three of his highest of the season.

The Steelers have lost as a home underdog to New England each of the last two years, and  Pittsburgh coach Tomlin hasn’t figured out how to beat Brady and Belichick while losing the last five meetings. The Patriots off a SU loss are 20-0 ATS since 2002 when laying less than a field goal or an underdog. Still, this is Pittsburgh’s swing fencing moment with the season slipping away and the Saints on deck in New Orleans.

My preferred play is to chase the OVER as both defenses present as leaky, and neither side is truly reliable with a tight line.

NFL Week 15 Late Games - OVER 51.5

Seattle Seahawks (-4.0) at San Francisco 49ers – Here’s a home underdog worthy of support with the situations and motivation in San Francisco’s favor. Seattle (8-5) is off an officials-aided Monday night win against Minnesota 21-7 in a close contest that was 6-0 in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks ran their way to victory with 214 rushing yards on 42 attempts, but they now take a breath having essentially secured a wild card spot with one more win and Arizona at home to close the season. The No. 1 wild card slot is Seattle’s with a couple more victories, even though they can't wrestle the division from the Rams.

San Francisco (3-10) built a 20-0 halftime lead at home against Denver last week in an eventual 20-14 win. Quarterback Nick Mullens passed for 332 yards including 210 yards to TE George Kittle in the first half alone. Rookie backup RB Josh Wilson had 90 rushing yards in his starting debut, but leading rusher Matt Breida could return to the lineup this week after missing the Broncos game with an ankle issue. The Seahawks kicked the 49ers butt 43-16 two weeks ago in Seattle, but Mullens passed for 414 yards in defeat and San Francisco’s negative three turnover differential made the score more one-sided. Despite some statistical edges in Seattle’s favor including the league’s No. 1 rushing attack (153.8.game), the situation and scheduling spot points San Francisco’s way. The 49ers' league-worst -21 turnover margin has been the real trouble spot this season, but the motivational and situational spot suggests a solid shot at redemption back home.

NFL Week 15 Late Games Free Pick – San Francisco 49ers +4.0

Fairway Jay is a professional handicapper based out of Las Vegas. He focuses primarily on the four majors along with college football and college basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.