NFL Game Picks: Week 15
Host Danny Murray and analyst Zac Kaye break down each game this week in the NFL.
The NFL season is rushing by. It seems like just yesterday, Antonio Brown was complaining about his helmet and Andrew Luck was still an NFL quarterback. But those days are gone, and the playoff chase is on. Baltimore is guaranteed an appearance in the postseason, and Kansas City and New Orleans have their respective divisions wrapped up, but everything is still up for grabs. Will we see any more teams clinch playoff spots in Week 15? Let’s answer that question with this week’s edition of the NFL game picks.
New York Jets (5-8) at Baltimore Ravens (11-2)
The week kicks off with a mismatch of epic proportions. The Ravens, led by MVP candidate Lamar Jackson, are typically regarded as the best team in the NFL. The same can’t be said for the 5-8 Jets, which are well on their way to a top-10 in the upcoming NFL draft. The issue hasn’t been the defense, which actually ranks seventh, one spot behind Baltimore. But the offense has struggled to score against bottom-feeders like Miami and Cincinnati. How will it keep up with the surging Ravens? Baltimore makes it 10 straight wins with a Thursday night blowout.
Prediction: Baltimore 30, NY Jets 7
Chicago Bears (7-6) at Green Bay Packers (10-3)
Chicago is getting hot at exactly the right time, but it might be too little, too late. At 7-6, the Bears need practically a million things to go their way in order to reach the postseason. Of course, the first order of business is knocking off Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Green Bay: a tall task. Mitchell Trubisky has actually looked decent over this three-game winning streak, but you can expect that to stop here. The last time Trubisky faced Green Bay, he and the Chicago offense put three points on the board. He won’t keep pace with Rodgers. Packers win this one.
Prediction: Green Bay 29, Chicago 13
New England Patriots (10-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-12)
Are the Patriots in trouble? They snapped their 21-game home winning streak against Kansas City last week and have now lost two in a row. Now there’s allegations that the Patriots used camera equipment to spy on the Bengals’ sideline. Is it time to panic? The answer is no. It seems like every year we get to this point where we turn on the Patriots, and they make us look like fools for doing so by going on an epic streak and eventually winning the Super Bowl. New England will be just fine, and it will take care of business in Cincinnati like it’s supposed to.
Prediction: New England 27, Cincinnati 11
Denver Broncos (5-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-4)
The Broncos sure do like causing havoc, don’t they? Their postseason hopes may be shot, but they’ve won three of the last five, and it would have been four of the last five if they keep their foot on the gas against Minnesota. Part of that is thanks to rookie Drew Lock’s excellence these past two weeks. Can he and the Broncos play spoiler in Kansas City this week? Don’t bet on it. The AFC West may already be wrapped up, but the Chiefs still have their sights on a first-round bye after taking out New England in Foxborough last week. Kansas City gets it done at home.
Prediction: Kansas City 31, Denver 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) at Detroit Lions (3-9-1)
The Buccaneers may be officially out of the playoff race, but don’t tell them that. They’ve insisted on raising a little hell lately, as their three-game win streak includes last week’s playoff hope-dashing defeat of Indianapolis. Then there’s Detroit, which is completely hopeless. The Lions have just one game since Week 3: a five-point home win over the Giants. With Matthew Stafford and now Marvin Jones Jr. sitting on the bench with injury, don’t expect it to get any better for the Lions. The gunslinging Bucs win their fourth straight in Detroit on Sunday.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 35, Detroit 18
Houston Texans (8-5) at Tennessee Titans (8-5)
The AFC South has itself a new competitor. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Titans have entered the heart of the playoff race. A large reason for that is the play of Ryan Tannehill, who has 15 touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 118.5 in nine games after taking over for Marcus Mariota. The Texans, meanwhile, are a bit of a mystery. They lead the AFC South thanks to big wins over Indianapolis and New England, but they also just lost by 14 at home to Denver. This game is really a tossup, as all Titans games are. Let’s pick Tennessee this time.
Prediction: Tennessee 27, Houston 24
Miami Dolphins (3-10) at New York Giants (2-11)
This is an important matchup for the race to the bottom. Both teams’ playoff hopes were dashed long ago, but a top-three draft pick is still on the table. But the more entertaining matchup to watch is the quarterback battle: Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Eli Manning (assuming the Giants let rookie QB Daniel Jones heal up). Fitzpatrick has had his “Fitz-magic” moments this year, and Manning actually looked like his past self in last Monday’s loss to Philadelphia. Fitz and Miami have the edge due to more experience this year, but Manning could have something to say about that.
Prediction: Miami 24, NY Giants 20
Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) at Washington Redskins (3-10)
Despite being down to 2-10 New York at halftime last week, the Eagles rebounded to win the game in overtime and stay even with the Dallas in the chase for the NFC East. Another important NFC East battle is on the table for Philadelphia this week, as the Eagles have a good chance to jump ahead of the Cowboys for the first time since early this year. That first requires going to Washington and knocking of the Redskins, which have looked surprisingly decent the past few weeks. They’ve give Philly a scare, but the Birds take care of business to reach .500 once again.
Prediction: Philadelphia 26, Washington 21
Seattle Seahawks (10-3) at Carolina Panthers (5-8)
Last week’s ugly loss to Los Angeles was a wakeup call for the Seahawks. At 10-2 on a five-game winning streak, they rested on their laurels and let the Rams walk all over them. In doing so, they gave up the NFC West lead to San Francisco, which got a tough win in New Orleans last week. The division is still up for grabs, but Seattle will most likely need to win out in order to do so. First things first, the Seahawks need to win in Carolina. With last week’s result in mind, they don’t take their opponent lightly, and they win in dominating fashion.
Prediction: Seattle 36, Carolina 13
Cleveland Browns (6-7) at Arizona Cardinals (3-9-1)
Last week’s loss proves that Kyler Murray and the Cardinals still have some learning to do. They had the chance to pull off the home upset over the Steelers, but the rookie quarterback threw three picks, including the game-sealer with 47 seconds remaining. Arizona hasn’t won a game since mid-October, and with trips to Seattle and Los Angeles remaining on the schedule, this might be the Cardinals’ last chance to do so. The Browns’ are clinging to their postseason lives, but the Cardinals deliver the final dagger. Kyler beats Baker in the battle of No. 1 overall picks.
Prediction: Arizona 20, Cleveland 18
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) at Oakland Raiders (6-7)
The Raiders were in such good shape at 6-4 after beating the Bengals three weeks ago. But now they’ve suffered three straight blowouts and are just barely hanging on to their playoff aspirations. It certainly doesn’t help matters that rookie stud Josh Jacobs has been dealing with a shoulder injury and could be out for the second week in a row. The plus side is that Oakland is facing the drooping Jaguars, which are on a five-game spiral of their own, all of which have been lost by 17 points or more. Let’s make it six. Oakland wins big and their playoff hopes stay alive.
Prediction: Oakland 31, Jacksonville 14
Minnesota Vikings (9-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-8)
The Vikings have quietly been one of the NFL's best teams this season. Of their losses, none have been by more than 10 points, and both the offense and defense rank inside the top 10 in points per game. Despite these figures, they still trail 10-3 Green Bay because the Week 2 head-to-head loss. Week 16’s rematch may end up being for all the marbles. But there’s no time to look ahead. First, Minnesota must defeat the 5-8 Chargers in what is very much a trap game. After all, Green Bay lost to these same Chargers. Minnesota escapes, but only just barely.
Prediction: Minnesota 24, LA Chargers 21
Atlanta Falcons (4-9) at San Francisco 49ers (11-2)
If there were any remaining doubters of whether or not San Francisco is for real, they’re gone now following the 49ers’ big win in New Orleans. The Niners now possess the No. 1 overall seed and are in the driver’s seat in the NFC. They just need to keep their foot on the gas. They will against Atlanta, but the Falcons are not an opponent to underestimate. They just finished manhandling the Panthers for the second time in a month, and they made a game against New Orleans the week before. San Francisco gets it done, but the Falcons show up too.
Prediction: San Francisco 32, Atlanta 22
Los Angeles Rams (8-5) at Dallas Cowboys (6-7)
All the Rams can do at this point is help themselves and hope that other teams ahead of them falter. While the latter hasn’t really happened, the former certainly has, as the Rams are now just a game outside of the playoff picture with last week’s huge win over Seattle. Then there’s the Cowboys, which, despite losing the last three in a row, still lead the NFC East. But the Eagles are nipping at their heels. Dallas can’t afford another loss. But neither can Los Angeles. So who comes out on top? We’ll pick the team with the hot hand. Sorry, Cowboys fans.
Prediction: LA Rams 30, Dallas 24
Buffalo Bills (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)
Who would have thought that the Bills and Steelers would get flexed into primetime? Sean McDermott and Mike Tomlin deserve much of the credit, and both deserve to be in the Coach of the Year conversation. McDermott has turned around last year’s 6-10 team into a serious competitor, and Tomlin has worked with scraps to transform an 0-3 roster into an 8-5 wild-card team. We should be in for a good one Sunday night. As for the winner, the advantage goes to the host, but don’t be one bit shocked if Josh Allen and company leave the Steel City with a victory.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Buffalo 17
Indianapolis Colts (6-7) at New Orleans Saints (10-3)
A season filled with hope has quickly come crashing down for Indy. It looked as if Jacoby Brissett was going to lead the Andrew Luck-less Colts back to the postseason, but three straight heartbreaking losses to the Texans, Titans and Buccaneers have them just about out of it. You can bet that the Saints will enter this one angry after putting up 46 at home against San Francisco and still losing. With the Colts hopeless and the Saints furious, there’s a blowout a-brewing on Monday night. Also look for Drew Brees to break the all-time passing touchdown record.
Prediction: New Orleans 43, Indianapolis 16
DJ Bauer is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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