Week 15 of the NFL season is upon us. Now that we are well into December, we have a much better idea of which teams are contenders and which are pretenders.
Now that we have a solid sample size of games to judge teams on, team-adjusted stats like DVOA have a ton of value. We also have to be aware of how injuries have affected teams to this point.
As always, context is key.
With that in mind, let’s dive into some NFL Week 15 upset predictions and best bets.
Please note that all NFL gameday odds and lines are current as of 5:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 16.
NFL Week 15 Upset Predictions
Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears
Monday Night Football this week features division rivals Chicago and Minnesota in their first matchup of the season. While neither team is exactly a powerhouse, the Vikings can attest to some semblance of competence despite a record with only 2 more wins than Chicago.
Thanks to superstars Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook, the Vikings’ offense is strong. Kirk Cousins has held his own this season, performing like a top-10 QB.
Cousins’ 27 touchdowns to 5 interceptions are as pristine a ratio you can ask for, and while you may retort that it is thanks to his talented weaponry, Cousins’ career-low sack rate is also a testament to how well he has performed individually.
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Oddly enough, the Vikings’ defense is what has held the team back this season. What is typically their bread and butter is now their kryptonite. The Vikings rank 20th in total defensive DVOA and, importantly, for this particular matchup, 26th versus the rush.
With Justin Fields at the helm, Chicago has executed a high-powered rushing attack, regardless of David Montgomery or Khalil Herbert playing out of the backfield.
- Read our full Vikings vs. Bears Predictions & Best Bets.
The Bears’ defense is quite suspect as well, but they do get the benefit of playing at home with Minnesota down WR2 Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook’s shoulder potentially ripping off once more.
Upset Prediction: Bears 27, Vikings 23
Vikings vs. Bears Upset Picks
Upset Pick: Bears Moneyline (+200) at Caesars
Wager: 2 Units
The Bears at home versus an understaffed Kirk Cousins in primetime is setting up decently for an upset. Minnesota is coming off of an extended rest due to playing last Thursday. However, given that this game is on Monday, the Bears should also be rested.
Upset Pick: Over 44 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
Again, the defenses are suspect on both ends, despite near-elite production in recent history.
The Bears are down multiple coordinators, including OC Bill Lazor, who was running some clever plays with mid-season additions Jakeem Grant and Damiere Byrd. But, if those plays are in the “new" playbook and are working, it’s tough to imagine even a mediocre coach like Matt Nagy going away from them.
Also, Minnesota plays at the 7th-fastest pace (Chicago is ranked 20th), which should keep this game moving quickly.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Denver Broncos
This wouldn’t exactly be a “big" upset, but the Bengals are 2.5-point underdogs in Denver. Of course, the altitude is always a concern for any team flying in, but it can be a mitigating factor depending on when they land and practice.
The only thing that may concern me is Joe Burrow’s ailing finger that seemed like an issue in the early portion of last Sunday’s game versus San Francisco. There have not been many reports of the issue since, as these kinds of things could be kept under wraps.
The good news is that Joe Mixon, who was limited last week, is likely not dealing with his illness and should be a full go.
- Read our full Bengals vs. Broncos Predictions & Best Bets.
Cincinnati is down starting CB Chidobe Awuzie, who has been a stellar offseason pickup, which could hurt against the talented WR trio of Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Tim Patrick, but it’s just a matter of whether Teddy Bridgewater is comfortable pushing the ball downfield consistently.
The Broncos just whooped the Detroit Lions, yet won’t get much belief on their end from me, especially with budding RB Javonte Williams ailing and that aforementioned WR corps hardly producing.
Upset Prediction: Bengals 24, Broncos 17
Bengals vs. Broncos Upset Picks
Upset Pick: Bengals Moneyline (+130) at Caesars
Wager: 2 Units
Cincinnati is better than Denver on both sides of the ball. Their offense is significantly more dynamic given how well star WRs Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are performing, along with rejuvenated RB Joe Mixon.
Quarterback Joe Burrow looks like he didn’t lose a step one year removed from tearing multiple knee ligaments and not to mention their defense, which ranks 12th relative to Denver’s 21st.
Upset Pick: Under 44 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
Despite both teams possessing neutral run-pass splits (smack-dab in the middle of the league in rush and pass attempts), they are bottom-5 in pace and possess strong enough run games to run out the clock if they build a strong enough lead.