Week 15 Matchup Predictions
Bengals (7-6) @ Eagles (4-9): Sure, the Bengals are coming off of a tough loss while the Eagles recently executed a come from behind victory, but I wouldn't get too caught up in one week of football. The Eagles hadn't won a game in over two months before Sunday's win, while the Bengals had won four straight before their recent loss. The Eagles turn the ball over way too much, and don't force nearly enough turnovers, while the Bengals are slightly above average in both giveaways and takeaways - that will be the big difference on Thursday night.
Bengals win 24-17.
Giants (8-5) @ Falcons (11-2): Remember what happened when these two teams last played? The Falcons came into the Meadowlands ready to make a long-awaited deep playoff push, and the Giants spanked the snot out of them 24-2. This game will be on the Falcons' home turf, but they're coming off a game in which they looked the worst they have all season, while the Giants are in must-win mode - a mode that typically suits them well. The Falcons can't run the football (have topped 79 yards once in the past five weeks), so they'll be forced to move the ball against a Giants secondary that has 20 interceptions on the season. Eli and company have dropped 38+ points in two of the three games since their bye, and I expect to see more of that high-scoring output.
Giants win 35-31.
Packers (9-4) @ Bears (8-5): When these teams first played this year, it was early in the season when the Packers were struggling - and they still won. They've now won seven of their last eight games and are one of the hottest teams in the league. The Bears, on the other hand, have lost four of their past five, and are dealing with a plethora of injuries - they'll be short two starting offensive linemen, they've placed their kicker on injured reserve, and defensive starters Brian Urlacher and Tim Jennings are both very questionable. I expect the hot team to stay hot.
Packers win 28-20.
Redskins (7-6) @ Browns (5-8): I think we're probably all in agreement here: if Robert Griffin III is healthy enough to play at an RG3-type level, the Redskins shouldn't have much of a problem getting this win, but if he's sidelined, this will end up being a sloppy, gritty game. Even if backup Kirk Cousins does end up starting at quarterback, the Redskins' stout run defense will force the Browns to beat them through the air. Is Brandon Weeden up to that challenge? With a supplemental draft pick rookie as his leading receiver, I don't think so.
Redskins win 21-14.
Vikings (7-6) @ Rams (6-6-1): You know what's pretty strange? The two leading candidates for Comeback Player of the Year are also two of the leading candidates for MVP - that doesn't happen too often. Adrian Peterson hasn't just gotten back to 100% after knee surgery, he's gotten to about 120%. Peterson plays for an offense ranked dead last in passing, but is dominating the battle for the rushing title. The Rams can focus all of their attention on AP, but no one can stop this man - he ripped off over eight yards a carry against the Buccaneers' top ranked run defense. The Vikings will control the ball and put up points with Peterson, while the Rams' offense won't be quite good enough to keep up.
Vikings win 24-19.
Jaguars (2-11) @ Dolphins (5-8): Thanks to the absence of Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars can't even run the ball anymore, essentially making them bad at every facet of the game. The Dolphins don't do too much well either, but they can bottle up the run and pound the ball on offense decently. This isn't the type of game you buy the Sunday Ticket package for.
Dolphins win 20-13.
Buccaneers (6-7) @ Saints (5-8): The Saints almost did it - they almost got back on track and made a playoff push. Unfortunately, as soon as the reached a .500 record, they hit a brutal stretch of their schedule, having to play the 49ers, Falcons, and Giants in consecutive weeks. Now, however, they'll return home, where they're always at their best, to face a team that they already beat on the road this year. The Bucs bottle up the run better than anyone, but they get gashed through the air worse than anyone - that's not a good combination when you're facing Drew Brees and the Saints.
Saints win 38-34.
Broncos (10-3) @ Ravens (9-4): Over the past few weeks, the Ravens have shown us a little more of what they really are - not that great. They've won so many close games over teams that just aren't that good, and those first two losses (to the Eagles and Texans) aren't as forgivable as they once seemed. Peyton Manning and the Broncos, on the other hand, have officially clicked. They've ripped off eight straight wins and haven't tasted defeat in over two months. Peyton is playing like a legitimate MVP candidate and shouldn't be slowed down by the Ravens' 23rd ranked pass defense. In addition, the Broncos' defense is quietly dominating, ranking 4th in both yards and points. The Ravens once seemed invincible at home, but recently loss to the Roethlisberger-less Steelers.
Broncos win 31-24.
Colts (9-4) @ Texans (11-2): Watching Andrew Luck play sure is fun, isn't it? He may not be quite as electrifying as RG3, but Luck commands the offense as well as any rookie I've ever seen, and is never shy to cock it back and take a deep shot downfield. Unfortunately, that disregard for defensive backs when slinging the football is what will cause his team to fall this week. The Colts are 26th in giveaways and 31st in takeaways, while the Texans rank 5th in both categories. This game will come down to the turnover battle, and the Colts will lose that battle badly.
Texans win 31-23.
Seahawks (8-5) @ Bills (5-8): When you're talking about an 8-5 team that just trounced the Cardinals 58-0 facing a 5-8 team that just lost at home to the Rams, it's easy to just go with the obvious decision. However, I'll try to give you a couple more reasons that I like the Seahawks in this one. Marshawn Lynch has been in full-on beast mode all season, and tends to get even better late in the year. The Bills, on the other hand, couldn't stop a toddler learning to walk from hitting a hole and picking up four yards. The Bills turn over the ball too much, while the Seahawks force tons of turnovers. Despite the Seahawks' road struggles this year, all signs point to them winning this game.
Seahawks win 27-16.
Lions (4-9) @ Cardinals (4-9): While it's easy to pick the Seahawks because they just won 58-0, it's easy to pick against the Cardinals, because they just lost 58-0. What makes it even easier is that they've lost their last nine games. What makes it even easier is that I'm not even sure who their quarterback is. Okay, I admit I know it's Ryan Lindley, but you get the point. With the combination of no offensive line and a terrible quarterback, the Cardinals will be hard pressed to move the ball at all. Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh, and Nick Fairley will feast on whoever is behind center. With the top ranked passing offense, the Lions have far too much firepower for the Cardinals to keep up with.
Lions win 28-13.
Panthers (4-9) @ Chargers (5-8): Despite their unimpressive records, both these teams are coming off quite impressive wins - the Panthers over the Falcons, and the Chargers over the Steelers. These teams actually match up pretty interestingly, as both teams are at their best when they put the ball in their quarterbacks' hands, but the Panthers' strength on defense is against the pass, while the Chargers' strength is against the run. The Panthers rip off huge gains when they go to the air, and the Chargers' secondary has struggled this season. The Chargers, who have no run game, will be forced to attack the Panthers' above average pass defense with Philip Rivers, but he won't quite be able to keep up with Cam Newton.
Panthers win 27-21.
Steelers (7-6) @ Cowboys (7-6): Ben Roethlisberger returned to action for the Steelers last week after missing three games with a shoulder injury, but couldn't get going until it was too late. This week, however, I expect Big Ben to be at his pre-injury form (playing arguably the best football of his career) right off the bat. As a result, Tony Romo will have to be up to the task of gunning it out with his Super Bowl champion opponent. Unfortunately for Romo, my calendar reads December, and we all know what tends to happen to Romo when that month comes around. To make matters worse, he'll be facing the league's top ranked pass defense.
Steelers win 27-23.
49ers (9-3-1) @ Patriots (10-3): And here we have the age-old question: what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? It's nearly impossible to stop the Patriots' offense from moving the ball, as they rank first in both points and yards. Across the field on Sunday night, however, will be the impenetrable 49er defense, allowing the least points in the league and second least yards. I know the old philosophy that defense wins championships, but the Patriots are coming off a ridiculous 42-14 win over the 11-2 Texans, whose defense isn't too bad either (ranked 6th in points). It just doesn't seem to me that anyone can shut down Tom Brady and company right now, and the 49ers will have a hard time matching his scoring output.
Patriots win 31-24.
Jets (6-7) @ Titans (4-9): Why is this game on Monday Night Football? Who picked this? My guess is that they were hoping this would be one of Tim Tebow's first starts as a Jet and would be the best rated MNF ever, but they seemed to have underestimated Rex Ryan's undying love for Mark Sanchez. All Ryan/Sanchez bashing aside, the Jets shockingly find themselves in the playoff hunt thanks to a ridiculously easy late season schedule. Granted, they're essentially two games back of the 7-6 Steelers, who beat the Jets earlier this season - but anyway, the Jets do have a chance of making the playoffs, and that will have them a bit more amped up for this game than the playoff-eliminated Titans. I think that the Jets will struggle in containing Chris Johnson on the ground, but when it comes to the passing game, the Jets will lock it down, allowing them to keep the game close. Eventually, they'll come out on top thanks to winning the turnover battle.
Jets win 24-20.