By Bill Speros | | 7 mins
NFL Week 15 Line Movements: COVID Hits Slate Hard
The adage of “next man up” will face perhaps its biggest ever test in the NFL this week.
Roughly 100 players have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 since Monday. The stratospheric number of players (and coaches) sidelined decimated rosters, spawned speculation about cancelations, and triggered seismic shifts in NFL betting lines.
The Cleveland Browns and Washington Football Team have half of their 22 starters on the list. In Cleveland, that includes QBs Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum, along with head coach Kevin Stefanski.
It’s not known how many of the players or coaches listed will be cleared to participate on Saturday. In Cleveland, game preparation has been hampered because the team was unable to host a full practice or have in-person meetings.
The looming absences of so many notable players initially spawned concern that the Browns-Raiders game Saturday or Washington-Philadelphia game Sunday would be postponed. The NFL, as of Thursday afternoon, had no such plans to do so.
RELATED: NFL Week 15 Odds & Betting Lines For All Games
Browns, Washington See Major Line Shifts
Thursday, the NFL announced new COVID-19 protocols that would make it easier for vaccinated, asymptomatic players to return to their teams. Currently, players need to produce two negative tests 24 hours apart in order to return. The league also re-imposed the likes of mandatory masking in team facilities, social distancing, all-virtual meetings, limits on the number of personnel allowed in weight rooms at the same time and restrictions on what players can do off-site.
The Browns are coming off a 24-22 upset of the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14. The Raiders were demolished by Kansas City. The opening line on Sunday at DraftKings saw the host Browns favored by 6.5 points on what is supposed to be a chilly, windy and rainy day.
When news of the first COVID-19 positives broke earlier this week, the line immediately shifted to Cleveland -3 on betting sites. When news of Mayfield and his head coach testing positive became public, the game was taken off the board. When it returned, the Raiders were 1-point favorites. The line drifted to Las Vegas -1.5 by Thursday afternoon.
The total withered from 42.5 points down to 38.5, as well.
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Third-string QB Nick Mullens is expected to get the start for the Browns. He started eight games for the San Francisco 49ers in 2020, throwing for 12 TDs and 12 INTs as well as 2,437 yards.
Washington has 21 players on the list as of Thursday. Of the notable players listed for Washington, defensive ends Casey Toohill, James Smith-Williams, along with defensive tackles Tim Settle and Jonathan Allen, could be off the list and able to play against the Eagles on Sunday.
The host Eagles opened as 2.5-point favorites at sportsbooks. Philly is now the pick to win by 9.5 points at FanDuel. QBs Jalen Hurts and Gardner Minshew have been splitting reps for the Eagles this week. Minshew was more than capable for Philly in Week 14, when he and the Eagles rolled past the Jets 33-18. The total has nearly held firm, moving from 44.5 to 44.
Opening NFL Week 15 Odds vs Current Spreads
Los Angeles Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs were also put on the COVID-19 list this week.
Several other games have seen significant line movement, much of it driven by either the COVID-19 list or late-season injuries.
Week 15 Line Movements Of Note
|Game matchup||Opening Spread||Current Spread|
|Raiders at Browns||Browns -6.5||Raiders -1.5|
|Washington at Eagles||Eagles -2.5||Eagles -9.5|
|Patriots at Colts||Patriots -1||Colts -2.5|
|Jets at Dolphins||Dolphins -7||Dolphins -9.5|
|Falcons at 49ers||49ers -7.5||49ers -9.5|
|Seahawks at Rams||Rams -7||Rams -4.5|
|Packers at Ravens||Packers -2||Packers -5.5|
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts
BUZZ: Both teams are coming off the bye and are healthy, considering the circumstances elsewhere. Mac Jones has a minor thumb injury but will start. This line moved following the Patriots' wild and nearly pass-less win over the Bills in Week 14. Money moved toward the hometown Colts with the assumption that the Patriots won’t be able to keep pace with Indy’s offense.
Check out: Patriots vs Colts odds, injury report, betting lines and more.
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
BUZZ: Two teams trending in the opposite direction. The Jets are as terrible as ever and rookie QB Zach Wilson probably should have stayed another year at BYU. The 6-7 Dolphins have won 5 straight and are still mathematically alive in the race to win the AFC East. The Dolphins have placed 5 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, including WR Jaylen Waddle. But oddsmakers believe that won’t stop them from routing the Jets at home.
Check out: Jets vs Dolphins odds, injury report, betting lines and more.
RELATED: NFL Week 15 Picks & Best Bets For Every Game
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers
BUZZ: The play of the 49ers and QB Jimmy Garoppolo is pushing this line. In Week 14, the Niners rallied for a 26-23 overtime win at Cincinnati. The Falcons are merely trying to survive the rest of the season. Since Week 8, Jimmy G. has thrown for 1,831 passing yards (3rd in the NFL) and 11 TDs (tied for 8th). More importantly, the 49ers are 5-2 during that span.
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Check out: Falcons vs 49ers odds, injury report, betting lines and more.
Seattle Seahawks at LA Rams
BUZZ: The Rams played their best game of the season this past Monday night in beating the Cardinals 30-23 to stay alive in the race for the NFC West crown. Since then, 16 players on their roster have landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Five of those players, including Beckham, are starters.
Check out: Seahawks vs Rams odds, injury report, betting lines and more.
Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens
BUZZ: This line is being pushed by the simple age-old, late-season issue of injuries. Lamar Jackson’s status to start at QB for the Ravens remains “day-to-day,” according to coach John Harbaugh. Jackson has never a missed a start due to injury in his career. He sprained his ankle on the first play of the second quarter in Baltimore’s Week 14 loss to the Browns and missed the rest of the game. Tyler Huntley replaced Jackson in a 24-22 loss.
Check out: Packers vs Ravens odds, injury report, betting lines and more.