We've hit Week 15 of the NFL season and there are several factors to consider when wagering this late in the year. Weather becomes a factor as we start to see snow and bitter cold temperatures. This hinders offense just a bit although not as much as you'd think in precipitation because the offensive player knows where he is going while the defense doesn't. The other thing to consider is motivation as we've seen some teams check out on the season. There are some squads that will play spoiler, but a lot of losing teams are merely playing out the string.
Note: All games covered below are on Sunday, Dec. 18 and times are ET.
Indianapolis Colts (6-7) at Minnesota Vikings (7-6), 1 p.m.
This is an important game for both teams as they try to stay relevant in the playoff race. The Colts have won three of their last five including road trips to Green Bay and New York (Jets). They've ironically struggled at home having lost their last three at Lucas Oil Stadium. Despite the recent solid play, I'm still not buying Indy's defense and feel like Minnesota should be able to move the ball. The Vikings have lost six of their last eight games, but are still sporting a defense that has held three straight solid opponents to fewer than 20 points. Minnesota has covered in five of its six home games. I think we're getting a good price for a better team that is struggling right now. SELECTION: Minnesota -4
Tennessee Titans (7-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-3), 1 p.m.
The Titans head to Kansas City to face a rested Chiefs team. Kansas City has been off since last Thursday, when it beat Oakland at home to take control of the AFC West. That’s a bad recipe for a defense that is going to be fully charged to come after Marcus Mariota. Tennessee is playing its third road game in the last four so you could expect a little weariness on Sunday. I don't think this team has the weapons to go into Arrowhead Stadium and win this one. Despite Denver being on the schedule next week, I think we get a focused effort from the Chiefs. Tennessee is 12-31 ATS the last three years. SELECTION: Chiefs -5.5
San Francisco 49ers (1-12) at Atlanta Falcons (8-5), 4:05 p.m.
The 49ers are one of those teams that aren't even hiding how much they want this season to end. Going back to Oct. 23, they have allowed 208 points over a seven-game span and that includes some contests against some weak offenses. Even if Julio Jones doesn't play (again), Atlanta presents some problems. They steamrolled the Rams on the road 42-14 without Jones, although the defense did its part by forcing five turnovers. The one thing to consider here is that San Francisco may score a little bit against an Atlanta group that has allowed 113 points in its last four home games. I'll take the chance that the Falcons do most of the legwork though. SELECTION: Over 51.5
New England Patriots (11-2) at Denver Broncos (8-5), 4:25 p.m.
Two solid defenses will be on display in Denver. The Broncos have held opponents to just 310.7 yards per contest while New England is checking in at 338.2. Last year these two met in the AFC Championship Game and Denver won 20-8, holding the Patriots to just 336 yards. Denver's offense is not in a good spot now with mediocre RBs and an inconsistent QB that has weapons if he can get it to them. Denver's defense has shown some cracks against the run as of late with three of the last five opponents rushing for more than 150 yards. The Pats have gone under in five of their six road games. SELECTION: Under 43.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) at Dallas Cowboys (11-2), 8:30 p.m.
Tampa Bay is making an unexpected playoff push that takes the Buccaneers to Dallas on Sunday night. One could point to the Bucs’ defense as one of the reasons why considering the unit has allowed just 64 points in their last five games. They have struggled to score a bit with three of those games featuring Tampa winning without surpassing 20 points. Dallas is putting up fantastic numbers offensively, but the Cowboys could struggle some against Tampa Bay. Dallas’ defense also has surprisingly been better than some people expected. They've held the Vikings and Giants to just 25 points combined the last two weeks. Dallas has gone under in seven of its 11 games with a total between 42.5 and 49 points. SELECTION: Under 47
(One of your best plays may be a short teaser involving a combination of the Ravens, Giants, Vikings and Chiefs, who are all small home favorites. Depending on how much you like each team, you can do a 5- or 6-point teaser and can push each to a slight home underdog)
— I came really close to adding the Ravens to my list. I didn't because I'm an Eagles fan and can't think clearly about this team. To me, you saw a Philly squad go all out at home against the Redskins and fall short due to a lack of talent. They've got home games against the Giants and Cowboys still on tap, which I'd think they'd "care" a little bit more about. Jimmy Smith’s injury would concern me if Philly had someone to take advantage of it. I'm guessing Baltimore will be mighty angry although the Ravens may be looking ahead to next week’s Christmas Day showdown with the Steelers.
— What has happened to the Arizona defense, which has allowed 20 points or more in six straight games? It's like the Week 7 tie with Seattle broke the Cardinals on both sides of the ball because since then they've lost four of their last six. By all accounts, New Orleans should put up some points and the over should be in play, but the Saints have gone quiet the last two weeks, scoring just 24 points against the Lions and Buccaneers. I'd like to think this would be an over, but who knows with Arizona, who does have Seattle on deck.
— With a poor seasonal record, I can't play hunches in these games, but I think Carolina is a live dog on Monday night especially if it gets to seven. Washington is coming off three straight at home and has a quick turnaround against the Bears on Christmas Eve. This is a team that has struggled at times in primetime. The Redskins beat Green Bay on a Sunday night, but also lost at home to Pittsburgh on Monday night back in Week 1. Everything points to a Skins win, but maybe Carolina can build off last week’s win over San Diego.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.