NFL Week 15 means there are just three weeks before the regular season concludes. And the schedule will see four teams crisscross the country in highly important matchups.

And this means the games will be in the NJ sports betting spotlight.

The NFC East versus NFC West kicks off this week’s  Football Five.

How strong are the NFC East and West?

The East-division leading Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles are decided underdogs against the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, respectively.

The West is 7-3 in the rivalry heading into the final two games.

The Eagles play the only team that has swept its matchups against the East. The host Cardinals, 3-0 on the moneyline and spread in this rivalry, put an exclamation point on that dominance with last Sunday’s 26-7 pasting of the New York Giants.

And it’s Arizona whom the Philadelphia Eagles must defeat to keep its modest playoff hopes alive.

Washington, sporting the NFC’s top current win streak of four games and a newfound perch atop the East, hosts a Seahawks team that looks good but not intimidating. Seattle barely covered in just one of its three contests versus the East and lays a medium-range spread on the road.

Can Washington continue its resurgence?

It came of age during a season that was looking dead in early November.  The Football Team was 2-7 and trailing the Cincinnati Bengals when rookie phenom Joe Burrow left the game because of a season-ending injury.

Washington came back to win that game, throttled the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day and just had a week for the ages. They defeated the  Pittsburgh Steelers, who were 11-0 at the time, and the San Francisco 49ers on the road.

The NFC East has been a hot potato, with the Eagles, Giants and Washington occupying the top spot. Washington looks like it has the goods. But how many times can the team count on the defense to outright win the game? In last week’s victory over San Francisco, Washington scored two defensive touchdowns, while its offense tallied none.

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Dallas Cowboys, really?

The price of being “America’s Team” is that of being overbet. That’s what happened to the Dallas Cowboys, who were played heavily throughout the season to win the NFC East.

DraftKings Sportsbook released the splits Monday regarding division betting. And the Cowboys, who can’t find enough algorithms on this planet to capture the division, lead the way with 64% of the revenue. The Giants command 16% of the money, the Eagles 13% and Washington, which would win if the season ended today, has just 7% of the handle (and only 1% of the bets).

The Cowboys were also the last team in the league to cover a spread, even behind the New York Jets.

Ravens win classic, Browns bettors burned

The Week 15 slate includes the Baltimore Ravens hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cleveland Browns visiting the New York Giants. And Baltimore and Cleveland will try to surpass the NFL’s game of the year, a terrific 47-42 Ravens victory on Monday night.

As grandiose as it was, with an unheard of 20 points in the final two minutes, it was another electroshock for Cleveland bettors.

The Browns, at +3 and leading by one point in the game, were scorched by yielding a 4th-down, go-ahead score from Lamar Jackson with Cleveland just one play away from gaining a victory. A two-point conversion followed.

But Cleveland marched down the field to score the tying touchdown with 1:04 to go. And then Justin Tucker put the Ravens up with a 55-yard field goal with two seconds left. Ravens 45, Browns 42: a push, at least. But wait … numerous laterals on the final play led to a safety. What an excruciating way to lose.

This is the same Cleveland team that failed to cover on a missed extra point, beating the Cincinnati Bengals by 3 rather than the required 3.5.

Regardless of betting implications, it was a game for the ages. And it tied an NFL record with nine rushing touchdowns.

Chiefs facing a tough Week 15 line

For bettors, it’s all about getting the right number. And that’s been hard to find with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, favored on the road when they visit the New Orleans Saints.

Kansas City is 12-1 on the moneyline, but not covering.

That happened for the fifth straight time Sunday when the Chiefs edged the Miami Dolphins 33-27 at -7.5 via DraftKings. A field goal in the final seconds decided the spread pick.

In previous weeks, the Chiefs defeated the Carolina Panthers by two points, the Las Vegas Raiders by four, the Tampa Bay Bucs by three and both the Denver Broncos and Dolphins by six.

They were favored by more than a touchdown in four of the games and three and a half versus Tampa Bay, biting the dreaded hook.

Any bettors wagering into the tough task given the Chiefs have been able to ride opportunity, but Chiefs backers are having a rough patch.

Week 15 around the league

NFL betting will save the Week 15 Thursday Night Football opener.  There’s no reason to watch the Raiders-Chargers game under ordinary circumstances. The Chargers are done, and the Raiders will barely reach the playoffs, if that.

The Raiders have the worst defense of any prospective playoff team. Wait for it …

That means gamblers can decide whether the 53 over-under line is worth playing. And whether the Raiders should be -3.5.

Don’t forget the props. This game is ripe for big Derek Carr passing yardage, Josh Jacobs rushing totals and quarterback-receiver props.

Without betting, this game appeals to West Coast viewers only.

With betting, it’s a national game.

After this game, which should be entertaining, the rare Saturday package returns. The Denver Broncos are hosting the 10-win Buffalo Bills and the Green Bay Packers, newly minted as the NFC top seed, will be significant favorites against the Carolina Panthers.

Extra points: The crazy world of props

James Washington of the Pittsburgh Steelers was the top moneymaker for first touchdown scored Sunday, returning +3000 to DraftKings bettors for his tally against the Bills.

This is a just reward. The Steelers have a talented group of receivers, any of whom can score the first TD in a game. Last week, it was Diantae Johnson. One week before that, it was the defense. And one week prior to that, it was Chase Claypool.

This is always a tough prop, but fun.

Live by the prop, die by the prop.

Ever try a field goal as the first score of the game?

It paid in the neighborhood of 4-1 for the Eagles and 3-1 for the Saints on Sunday.

Some bettors corral both sides of this prop, guaranteeing a profit if either comes in.

What happened? Eagles coach Doug Pederson passed up the field goal three times before a 4th-down pass by Jalen Hurts provided the game’s first tally.

On the other side, New Orleans actually attempted a field goal, but the kick did not split the uprights.

Four chances. No hits.

Even when a prop is teed up to come in, it often does not.

Photo by Associated Press

About

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.