DELRAY BEACH, SOUTH FLORIDA: A home-field advantage matters more in football than in any other sport. It is one thing to scream at a guy trying to make a free throw. It is quite another to yell so loud that the offensive line cannot hear the quarterback calling the snap count.
In December, home field matters even more.
In recent weeks, we have seen the NFL’s best teams go on the road and lose games they would probably win at home. When a great team goes on the road, in most cases they will lose to a good enough team fighting for its life. Weather matters. Crowd noise matters. Unless both teams are cold weather teams, home field and crowd noise will be a decisive edge in December football games.
Rooting for the home team is fun. Betting on the home team in December is just good common football sense.
With that, here is the NFL 2018 Week 15 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by OddsShark and all times Eastern.
Thursday, December 13, 2018, 8:20 p.m.
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5) —
This could decide the AFC West crown and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The 11-2 Chiefs and the 10-3 Chargers have the top two records in the AFC. The theory is that even good warm weather teams do not go on the road into December cold weather in prime time and get a win. That theory remains true. Chiefs cover.
Saturday, December 15, 4:30 p.m.
Houston Texans (-6.5) at New York Jets —
Houston had their 9 game winning streak snapped but they have enough talent to take care of the Jets. Gang Green has been fighting hard, but the Texans have more offensive firepower. Houston wins too ugly to trust a high road spread. Texans win but fail to cover.
Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos (-3) —
Saturday night football returns. The Broncos won 3 straight and then laid an egg last week when it mattered most. This week will tell if they are still fighting or resigned to offseason changes. The Browns have won three of their last four, but a desperate Denver team at home should get it done. Broncos cover.
Sunday, December 16, 1:00 p.m.
Dallas Cowboys at Indianapolis Colts (-3) —
Dallas has won five straight while the Colts have won five of six. Andrew Luck has returned to form, but Dak Prescott has Ezekiel Elliott. Running the football will keep Luck on the sideline. Upset special, Cowboys win outright.
Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings (-8) —
Yes, the Dolphins won a miracle last week. Yes, Minnesota’s offense looked awful and they fired their offensive coordinator. In Minnesota, trust the Vikings to handle business. Miami is begging for a humbling after last week’s heroics. Vikings cover.
Oakland Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (-3) —
The Raiders have come alive and the Bengals have fallen apart and are playing a backup quarterback. The Raiders just fired General Manager Reggie McKenzie, and now may face a lawsuit from the city of Oakland. More importantly, the big emotional win last week has them likely to come out flat on the road. Bengals cover.
Tennessee Titans at New York Giants (-3) —
The Titans are not impressive, while the Giants have come alive down the stretch. At home in cold weather, expect Saquon Barkley to run wild and Eli Manning to keep defying his critics. Giants cover.
Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars (-7) —
Both teams are terrible and have lost most of the last few games. The Redskins are down to their fourth-string quarterback. Go with Jacksonville at home, but do not trust a spread by a team whose only win in the last few weeks was 6-0. Jaguars win but fail to cover.
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons (-9) —
Both teams are awful. Atlanta’s offense never came alive, making the spread too high even against a horrendous Arizona squad. Falcons win but fail to cover.
Detroit Lions at Buffalo Bills (-3) —
When a pair of bad teams meet, trust the home team in cold weather over the dome team. Josh Allen will scramble. Matthew Stafford will throw interceptions. Bills cover.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (-6) —
These Packers are not as good as years past. These Bears are much better than years past. It seems like Aaron Rodgers always goes into Chicago and wins. This time the Bears have Khalil Mack and friends. Green Bay does not get blown put. Last week the Bears won an emotional home win, but their earlier loss to Green Bay when they blew a 20-0 halftime lead will have them motivated. Bears win but fail to cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Baltimore Ravens (-8) —
Tampa Bay has nothing to play for and Baltimore has everything to play for. Baltimore lost a heartbreaker last week at Kansas City. The Buccaneers normally put up a bunch of points, but they have not faced a defense like Baltimore, currently the league’s best. Desperate for a playoff spot, expect Baltimore’s defense to blitz and batter Jameis Winston. Ravens cover.
Seattle Seahawks (-4.5) at San Francisco 49ers —
Forget the Richard Sherman revenge factor. The 49ers shocked Denver last week, but they won’t catch Seattle napping. Their defense may not be the Legion of Boom, but they are quite good. This game is usually a Seattle blowout in Seattle and a close game in San Francisco. Trust Russell Wilson when the game is on the line. Seahawks win but fail to cover.
New England Patriots (-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers —
The Steelers have lost three straight, including to lowly Oakland. New England lost a shocker at Miami. The Patriots always rebound in these situations, and Tom Brady always seems to outplay Ben Roethlisberger when they meet. Patriots cover.
Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams (-9.5) —
The Eagles are on life support. Now they face an angry Rams team coming off a road loss. Carson Wentz is out. The spread is high, but this is not the same Eagles team. If they are truly desperate, a garbage touchdown could beat the spread. Rams win but fail to cover.
Monday, December 17, 8:20 p.m.
New Orleans Saints (-6.5) at Carolina Panthers —
The Panthers have lost five straight while the Saints won last week on the road despite a very slow start. Cam Newton is not getting help while Drew Brees has more weapons than ever. The spread is too high for even a great road team against a desperate division rival. Carolina could win this game outright, but give Brees the nod if the Saints get the ball last. Saints win but fail to cover.