Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) leaps high while tackled...

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) leaps high while tackled by New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty (32) during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Credit: AP/Steven Senne

Here. We. Go. The byes in the rearview mirror, it’s full speed ahead to the playoffs with 64 games over the next four weeks to close out the regular season. There are still many teams in the playoff hunt, so try to pinpoint motivation levels, as difficult as that may be.

Get used to Saturday football. After three games this week, there are 11 on Christmas Eve in Week 16.

Underdogs went 8-5 against the spread (ATS) last week and are 110-93-5. My most confident picks ATS are Buffalo, New England, Cincinnati and Dallas. Stay away from Baltimore-Cleveland and Arizona-Denver.

Saturday's Games

INDIANAPOLIS (4-8-1) AT MINNESOTA (10-3)

TV: NFL Network, 1 p.m.

Minnesota by 4.5; O/U: 47.5

The Vikings should bounce back at home after a loss at Detroit, but it won’t be easy. The Colts, off a bye, have lost three in a row after Jeff Saturday won his NFL coaching debut, but they’ve been in every game, including the 54-19 defeat at Dallas on SNF (it was 21-19 entering the fourth quarter). Minnesota’s Cover 2 defense should allow Matt Ryan & Co. to dink and dunk their way to a ‘Cover 4.5.’ Also, I can’t pass up taking Saturday on a Saturday.

The pick: Indianapolis

BALTIMORE (9-4) AT CLEVELAND (5-8)

TV: NFL Network, 4:30 p.m.

Cleveland by 2.5; O/U: 38.5

Tyler Huntley looks as if he will play. John Harbaugh can lean on his run game, defense and Justin Tucker's leg against an underwhelming Cleveland team. 

The pick: Baltimore 

LOCK OF THE WEEK

MIAMI (8-5) AT BUFFALO (10-3)

TV: NFL Network, 8:15 p.m.

Buffalo by 7; O/U: 44

The hot-and-cold Dolphins follow up their 0-2 stay in California with a trip to snowy Buffalo. This isn’t a good matchup for Miami, its offense struggling and Tyreek Hill hurting. Defenses appear to have figured out how to defend Miami's quick-strike offense. Josh Allen and the Bills want to keep hold of the AFC’s 1 seed and will be more than happy to pile on after a frustrating 21-19 loss at Miami in Week 3 in which they outplayed the Dolphins but couldn't convert in the red zone. For what it's worth, the Bills are 4-0 in non-Sunday games this season. 

The pick: Buffalo

Sunday's 1 p.m. Games

DETROIT (6-7) AT JETS (7-6)

TV: CBS, 1 p.m.

Jets by 1.5; O/U: 44.5

Lions vs. Jets in Week 15 with huge playoff implications. Just like we all expected. The Lions have won five of six after a 1-6 start and are in the hunt for the NFC’s final wild-card spot. The Jets have lost three of four to fall out of the AFC’s seventh seed. This is going to be real close. The Lions average 32.1 points at home but just 18.4 in five road games. Yes, they already won at MetLife Stadium this year, but the cold and defense will be tougher in this matchup. Mike White takes fewer hits and makes more plays downfield as the Jets get back on track to set up another big game next Thursday night against the Jaguars.

The pick: Jets

DALLAS (10-3) AT JACKSONVILLE (5-8)

TV: Fox

Dallas by 4.5; O/U: 47.5

This matchup is the perfect example of not putting too much stock into the previous week’s results. Sure, Jacksonville looked great in a lopsided win at Tennessee, and Dallas needed a late TD to escape one-win Houston at home. So what. The last time the Cowboys played poorly they went into Minnesota the next week and won, 40-3.

The pick: Dallas

PHILADELPHIA (12-1) AT CHICAGO (3-10)

Philadelphia by 9; O/U: 48.5

The way the Eagles are churning out points (40, 35 and 48 the last three weeks), they feel like an automatic pick no matter the number. The Bears are off a bye and the possibility of a backdoor cover with a big spread does give me some concern, but not enough.

The pick: Philadelphia 

KANSAS CITY (10-3) AT HOUSTON (1-11-1)

Kansas City by 14; O/U: 49.5

Houston’s impressive four-point loss at Dallas last week when it was 16.5-point underdogs shouldn’t impact your decision here. The Texans went all-out in that in-state battle. Kansas City (5-8 ATS) doesn’t cover as much as it wins, but this feels as if it will be 38-17.

The pick: Kansas City

PITTSBURGH (5-8) AT CAROLINA (5-8)

Carolina by 2.5; O/U: 37.5

A loss would give Mike Tomlin his first NFL losing season. Carolina has played hard and can still win the NFC South. This is a toss-up, but I could see the Steelers grinding their way to a close win after last week's two-point loss to the Ravens.

The pick: Pittsburgh 

ATLANTA (5-8) AT NEW ORLEANS (4-9)

New Orleans by 4.5; O/U: 43.5

In what figures to be a field-goal game either way between rivals who are both off a bye, take the points with a Falcons team that could get a boost from rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder’s first start.

The pick: Atlanta

4 p.m. Games

CINCINNATI (9-4) AT TAMPA BAY (6-7)

TV: CBS

Cincinnati by 3.5; O/U: 43.5

Joe Burrow’s Bengals have won five in a row (all covers) and look like a team gearing up for another Super Bowl run. Tom Brady’s Bucs, off a 35-7 loss at San Francisco, haven’t looked super all season and save for a couple last-minute comeback wins would be in last place instead of first place. At this point in the season, pick games based on what you see (Bengals good, Bucs bad) and not what you think a team could be.

The pick: Cincinnati

NEW ENGLAND (7-6) AT LAS VEGAS (5-8)

Las Vegas by 1; O/U: 44.5

Can I get odds on Mac Jones walking over to Josh McDaniels and asking him to be the Patriots’ offensive coordinator again? The Raiders coach probably wouldn’t mind it either, not after last week’s brutal loss in a season full of them all but ended the Raiders’ slim chances at a wild-card spot. Bill Belichick’s team is currently the seventh seed in the AFC race, and has a knack for winning close games. McDaniels’ team has a knack for losing them.

The pick: New England

TENNESSEE (7-6) AT L.A. CHARGERS (7-6)

Los Angeles by 3; O/U: 46.5

The Titans have lost three in a row but still have a two-game lead in the AFC South. The Chargers are off a nice win over Miami on SNF and are on the outside looking in for the last wild-card spot. The Titans can’t stop the pass and the Chargers can’t stop the run. Everyone will be on the Chargers this week but I’m bolting to the Titans. I trust Mike Vrabel (22-10 ATS as an underdog of at least 3 points) in an us-against-the-world spot.

The pick: Tennessee

ARIZONA (4-9) AT DENVER (3-10)

Denver by 3; O/U: 36.5

No interest in this game, even if the starting quarterbacks were healthy. Arizona plays better on the road (3-2) and the Broncos haven’t won in Denver since Week 3.

The pick: Arizona

SUNDAY NIGHT

GIANTS (7-5-1) AT WASHINGTON (7-5-1)

TV: NBC, 8:20 p.m.

Washington by 4.5; O/U: 40.5

Tie. Bye. Hi. That’s the scenario for the Commanders, who after a 20-20 draw with Giants in Week 13, had Week 14 off to prepare for the Week 15 rematch. It’s a weird scheduling wrinkle to face the same team in back-to-back games, and I believe that favors the hosts. While the Giants watched the Eagles fly up and down the field in last week’s blowout loss, Washington (6-1-1 after a 1-4 start) sat back and had extra time to prepare. Brian Daboll’s Giants have been a great story, but they're 0-3-1 after a 7-2 start. The Giants settled for a tie in the first meeting because their secondary couldn’t make enough stops. Taylor Heinicke and Terry McLaurin will do enough to break this 7-5-1 tie in the standings.

The pick: Washington

MONDAY NIGHT

L.A. RAMS (4-9) AT GREEN BAY (5-8)

TV: ESPN, 8:15 p.m.

Green Bay by 6.5; O/U: 39.5

The Packers are off a bye and should win, but they don’t deserve to be TD-plus favorites. Baker Mayfield helped the Rams remember what it feels like to win with a dramatic comeback on TNF.

The pick: L.A. Rams

STAFF STANDINGS AND PICKS

(best bets in bold; all picks against the spread)

JOE MANNIELLO

108-95-5 overall, 4-10 best bets

Last week: 7-6

San Francisco Indianapolis Baltimore Buffalo

Jets Dallas Philadelphia Kansas City 

Pittsburgh Atlanta Cincinnati New England

Tennessee Arizona Washington L.A. Rams 

TOM ROCK

96-107-5 overall, 5-8-1 best bets

Last week: 8-5

Seattle Minnesota Baltimore Buffalo

Jets Dallas Philadelphia Kansas City

Carolina Atlanta Cincinnati Las Vegas

L.A. Chargers Arizona Giants Green Bay

AL IANNAZZONE

96-107-5 overall, 4-10 best bets

Last week: 5-8

San Francisco Minnesota Cleveland Buffalo

Jets Dallas Philadelphia Kansas City

Pittsburgh New Orleans Cincinnati New England

L.A. Chargers  Denver Washington Green Bay

KIMBERLY JONES

(Season debut this week)

San Francisco Minnesota Baltimore Buffalo

Detroit Dallas Philadelphia Kansas City

Pittsburgh Atlanta Cincinnati New England

L.A. Chargers Arizona Giants Green Bay 

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