NFL Game Picks: Week 15

Story posted December 17, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Jonathan Draeger

As the playoff race heats up, Week 15 in the NFL provides a few matchups that can impact the whole landscape of the conference playoffs.

Most teams can clinch playoff spots this upcoming week, but other teams look to secure their division crowns. With that in mind, these predictions will show who can make the postseason, and who will fall just short of the promised land.

Los Angeles Chargers (4-9) vs. Las Vegas Raiders (7-6)

The Los Angeles Chargers have been eliminated from playoff contention, leaving the team uninspired to go out and win games. Head coach Anthony Lynn has been said to bring the team uninspired speeches and speak his true feelings into press conferences, criticizing the team for its struggles, which doesn’t help boost team morale, even though they won their last game against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Las Vegas Raiders have struggled as of late, losing three of their last four games, which includes an alarming last-second win against the winless New York Jets. As the team still fights for a spot to make the playoffs, the defense has taken a step forward since firing their defensive coordinator.

The Raiders take a step forward against the Chargers, helping their postseason pursuit.

Prediction: Raiders 27, Chargers 17

Buffalo Bills (10-3) vs. Denver Broncos (5-8)

Buffalo is coming off an impressive win Sunday Night as they took down the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both sides of the ball seem to mesh cohesively, and they can be the biggest threat to the defending Super Bowl champions in the AFC.

Denver got back on the right track in Charlotte, with rookie wide receiver KJ Hamler reeling in two touchdowns for the Broncos. Their key to success relies on the offensive production of quarterback Drew Lock, who got back to his rookie form last week.

Buffalo’s defense shuts down the Denver offense, clinching the Bills a spot in the playoffs.

Prediction: Bills 31, Broncos 14

Carolina Panthers (4-9) vs. Green Bay Packers (10-3)

The Panthers are questionably one of the better coached teams in the league, with first year coach Matt Rhule taking the reins from Ron Rivera. The team’s statistics do not reflect their work ethic, and that causes most of their games to be won or lost by a close margin.

The Packers are a team that looks scary heading into the postseason. Led by Aaron Rodgers, who is having an MVP caliber year, Matt LaFleur’s team has multiple weapons surrounding the veteran with a defense ready to make some noise.

With or without Christian McCaffrey, Green Bay will take care of business at Lambeau Field.

Prediction: Packers 34, Panthers 24

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) vs. Atlanta Falcons (4-9)

Tampa Bay is coming of a strong win against the Minnesota Vikings. The Buccaneers do tend to perform better in the early slate of games this year, which can be detrimental to them come playoff time.

Atlanta is currently on a two-game skid, with one of their toughest opponents ahead. The offense can do well if the run game gets back on track for the team. It may help that Todd Gurley III is returning to the gridiron this week.

Tom Brady will repeat history and dismantle Atlanta like he did in Super Bowl LI.

Prediction: Buccaneers 35, Falcons 17

San Francisco 49ers (5-8) vs. Dallas Cowboys (4-9)

San Francisco’s tenure in Arizona leaves the team on a two-game losing streak. The injury list continues to pile up for the 49ers and it shows in their schemes on offense and defense.

Dallas’ offense is currently clicking with Andy Dalton back at the helm. However, the defense is still a main question of concern for Mike McCarthy, as they give up at least 30 points per game.

The 49ers will take advantage of the weak Dallas defense and get back into the win column.

Prediction: 49ers 24, Cowboys 17

Detroit Lions (5-8) vs. Tennessee Titans (9-4)

Detroit seems to have found balance on both sides of the football since they fired Matt Patricia. The Lions seem to find their rhythm on offense, but the defense still struggles to stop opponents in any way, shape or form.

The Titans have one of the more threatening offenses in the AFC, including a bulldozing running back in Derrick Henry. The run game has led to many opportunities for the offense to flourish, which can surely aid in their playoff resume.

Tennessee adds another victim to their regular season tear.

Prediction: Titans 38, Lions 21

Houston Texans (4-9) vs. Indianapolis Colts (9-4)

Houston currently has lost all weapons in their arsenal, excluding quarterback Deshaun Watson, and it shows on the field. Since Will Fuller IV has been suspended for six games, the team has completely fallen apart, with fumbles in clutch moments and no defensive help.

Indianapolis is currently fighting for the last wild card spot, and they have a young core to lead them on a deep run, led by veteran Phillip Rivers at quarterback. The Colts may have offensive struggles at times, but the defense keeps the team in tough games.

Indianapolis improves to 10-4.

Prediction: Colts 26, Texans 21

New England Patriots (6-7) vs. Miami Dolphins (8-5)

In a year where all seems odd, the New England Patriots are struggling to stay alive in the playoff race, and the answer falls at the quarterback position. Head Coach Bill Belichick still wants Cam Newton at the helm, but his offensive production steeply declined after his MVP season in 2016. You can see it in his decision making and his 1:2 touchdown to interception ratio, although he has had a significant impact on the ground.

Miami kept their game close with the Kansas City Chiefs last week, making the team stronger than ever. However, the loss of tight end Mike Gesicki and multiple running backs being on the COVID-19 list may ground Brian Flores’ team.

Miami beats New England, but they don’t need a miracle this time around.

Prediction: Dolphins 24, Patriots 14

Chicago Bears (6-7) vs. Vikings (6-7)

Chicago is riding a wave after the dismantling of the Houston Texans, and Mitchell Trubisky led the team to a great win. That win ended a long skid of games for the Bears, and they desperately needed that to keep their postseason hopes alive.

The Vikings couldn’t get on the right track when facing Tampa Bay. The offense collapsed, and the defense had trouble stopping Tom Brady and his arsenal.

Chicago rises above Minnesota for second place in the NFC North.

Prediction: Bears 24, Vikings 17

Seattle Seahawks (9-4) vs. Washington Football Team (6-7)

Seattle has struggled on defense all season, but the offense got back on the right track after their game against the New York Jets. The Seahawks can either be the best team in the league or a team who can barely sustain .500, and it all depends on how Russell Wilson performs, because the defense cannot keep up.

Washington has been one of the hottest teams in the NFL, winning their last four games. The defense has been one of the toughest to play this year, and quarterback Alex Smith has certainly boosted this offense, alongside rookie running back Antonio Gibson.

Washington continues their streak against the struggling Seahawks defense.

Prediction: Washington 24, Seahawks 17

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-12) vs. Baltimore Ravens (8-5)

The Jaguars replaced Mike Glennon for the return of Minshew Mania. Doug Marrone’s team seems to be fighting for the first overall draft pick if the Jets don’t lose out.

The Ravens are coming off of an emotional win Monday night against the Cleveland Browns in the proclaimed “Game of the Year.” Baltimore seems to be clicking after their COVID-19 situation, and it comes at the perfect time for the team.

Baltimore continues their success to help their playoff chances.

Prediction: Ravens 31, Jaguars 10

New York Jets (0-13) vs. Los Angeles Rams (9-4)

The Jets release of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams made the team worse, and it showed on the scoreboard last week. Until Adam Gase is gone, New York is going to experience more pain in the future.

Los Angeles has made noise in the NFC West race for first place. The offense is currently churning on all cylinders while the defense is anchoring the team, which makes them a threat come playoff time.

The Rams keep the Jets winless.

Prediction: Rams 42, Jets 10

Philadelphia Eagles (4-8-1) vs. Arizona Cardinals (7-6)

The Jalen Hurts experiment seemed to succeed last week as the Eagles defeated the New Orleans Saints. The offense seemed to flow better with him at the helm, but the defense still seems to break down at crucial times.

Arizona was one of the hottest teams at the beginning of the season, but now they have cooled down ever since the “Hail Murray.” They seem to be picking up where they were at to start the season.

Arizona’s offense will take advantage of a struggling and injury decimated Eagles defense.

Prediction: Cardinals 24, Eagles 21

Kansas City Chiefs (12-1) vs. New Orleans Saints (10-3)

Kansas City is now flying high with the most potent offense in the league. Even though they had their struggles against an emerging Dolphins team, they still got a run to go back-to-back this year.

New Orleans is still struggling at the quarterback position with Drew Brees still injured. As long as that continues, their first seed may be in jeopardy.

The Chiefs continue their winning ways.

Prediction: Chiefs 35, Saints 17

Cleveland Browns (9-4) vs. New York Giants (5-8)

Cleveland is currently looking for a deep run in the playoffs, which shows in their attitude on and off the field. Their production is at an all-time high, and the city is finally shown great football not from an opponent.

The Giants have their ups and downs, but Daniel Jones did not look to form last week, although it could be a result from his injury. Overall, New York seems to be trending in the right direction.

Cleveland will continue their dominance.

Prediction: Browns 28, Giants 14

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (2-10-1)

Pittsburgh’s offensive production has severely declined ever since Thanksgiving, with the dropped passes and a lack of a rushing attack. The injuries have piled up throughout the course of the season, and big core pieces need to be ready for them to clinch the division.

The Bengals have been on a serious skid ever since the loss of Joe Burrow. Cincinnati looks to find more core pieces to the rebuild.
Pittsburgh gets back on track.

Prediction: Steelers 28, Bengals 7

 

Jonathan Draeger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jrd6052@psu.edu.

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