The Pittsburgh Steelers had won 11 in a row. One upset loss against Washington led to a tough matchup against the Buffalo Bills, and another loss. Suddenly the Steelers had a two-game losing streak, lost control of the No. 1 seed in the AFC and have spent all week hearing about their problems.
It’s a cautionary tale for the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints had won nine in a row before being upset last week by the Philadelphia Eagles. They lost control of the No. 1 seed in the NFC to the Green Bay Packers. And the 12-1 Kansas City Chiefs are up next.
The NFL season turns on a dime. A two-game losing streak feels like the end of the world for some teams. For a team like the Saints, it could entirely change their championship hopes.
The Saints and Packers are tied at 10-3. But the Packers won a head-to-head matchup early in the season, so they own the tiebreaker. There’s only one bye for each conference in the expanded playoffs. If it’s the Packers in the NFC, that means the conference title would go through frigid Lambeau Field in January.
If the Saints lose on Sunday, their chances of getting the bye will be slim. Even if the Saints won out after a loss to the Chiefs, they would still need Green Bay to lose two of three against the Panthers, Titans and Bears the rest of the way to pass them. It’s possible but unlikely.
The Chiefs have been an odd team this season, in terms of the point spread. They’re winning but not covering. They are 12-1 straight up but just 6-7 against the spread. They have failed to cover the spread in five straight games. Given how the public loves to back the high-scoring Chiefs, that streak has been a boon for sportsbooks.
I think the Chiefs break that streak this week. They are 3-point favorites and considering home-field advantage is dead in 2020 (road teams are now 104-103-1 straight up this season), I can’t even give the Saints their typical Superdome bump. It’s going to be hard for the Saints to keep up with the Chiefs offense. And if the Saints lose, they can expect a week of everyone dissecting what is wrong with them.
Here are the picks for Week 15 of the NFL season, with point spreads from BetMGM:
Chargers (+3.5) over Raiders
I don’t know what has happened to the Raiders lately, but they look broken. Firing their defensive coordinator a few hours after last week’s loss was a desperation move. But, it’s time for desperate moves.
Broncos (+7) over Bills
The Bills are the hot team after some high-profile wins, including one against the Steelers. They are impressive. But a full touchdown against a Broncos team that should feel good about itself after a win at Carolina seems a bit steep.
Packers (-9) over Panthers
The Panthers started well and it seemed like at least they would be a feisty underdog most weeks. Last week’s loss was a bit troubling. The defense, aside from a shutout against the Lions, has been giving up a ton of points. That’s not good heading into a matchup against the Packers.
Texans (+7.5) over Colts
When the Texans played the Colts a couple weeks ago, Houston was just a 3.5-point underdog and would have covered if not for a mishandled snap in the last two minutes near the goal line. There is no home-field advantage in 2020. Road teams are one game over .500 straight up this season. So what justifies this shift in the spread?
Buccaneers (-5.5) over Falcons
The Falcons have failed to cover in three of their last four, and they seem like a fading team. I’m not sure the Buccaneers are back, but it’s going to be tough to back the Falcons the rest of the way.
Dolphins (-2.5) over Patriots
I know Miami has offensive injuries. And New England has extra rest. Still, the Patriots are coming off a terrible game, the Dolphins are not that bad, and I have no problem taking the Dolphins at less than a field goal.
Washington (+5.5) over Seahawks
I like Washington. Ron Rivera’s team has been good lately. WFT has covered the spread four straight games. The Seahawks are fun but I’ll keep backing Washington’s hot streak.
Bears (+3.5) over Vikings
The Bears had been terrible, but looked good in a win over the Texans last week. The Vikings had been good, but had a terrible loss at the Buccaneers with a ton of missed kicks. It’s never great to overreact to one week, but at more than a field goal I’ll take the underdog.
Jaguars (+13.5) over Ravens
Gardner Minshew is back as Jacksonville’s quarterback, and that gives the Jaguars their best chance to win. Not that the Jaguars want to win. The Ravens are coming off a crazy, emotional win. I don’t feel great taking the Jaguars but it’s a decent spot for them to cover.
49ers (-3) over Cowboys
Let’s not forget how bad Dallas is. Beating the Bengals changes very little. The 49ers might need something positive at the end of a rough season, and beating up a horrendous Cowboys defense could be it.
Jets (+17) over Rams
When the spread gets this high, I will typically blindly take the underdog. Since it feels terrible to back the Jets, let’s just move on.
Cardinals (-6.5) over Eagles
Maybe the Eagles have found their spark with Jalen Hurts. But teams often have a one-game bump with a new quarterback. Let’s not forget the Eagles are a bad football team. The Cardinals had been struggling but did look better in a win over the Giants last week. I need to see the Eagles play well in consecutive games before I believe in them.
Browns (-4.5) over Giants
The Giants have been quite good against the spread, but I worry about their quarterback situation. Daniel Jones clearly wasn’t ready to go, but coach Joe Judge stubbornly refuses to admit starting him was a mistake, and they plan to go with Jones again. Maybe Jones is healthy this week, but all of a sudden it’s a worry. And we saw on Monday night the Browns can score.
Steelers (-12) over Bengals
The Steelers have to be sick of hearing how bad they are after two straight losses. They are still one of two teams in the NFL with two or fewer losses. They’re going to look a lot different this week, playing the Bengals instead of the 10-3 Bills. A lot of frustration is going to be taken out on a bad Cincinnati team.
Off the board: Lions-Titans
The game is off the board because of uncertainty surrounding Matthew Stafford’s injury. I’m not sure it matters much if a banged-up Stafford or Chase Daniel plays, I’ll be taking the Titans.
Last week: 5-11
Season to date: 99-105-3
More from Yahoo Sports: