One week closer to the playoffs, and we still don’t have any spots clinched! Which means it’s unofficially the start of the playoffs, and is a testament to parody in the game today, with how even teams are. Of course there are standouts, with two teams in the NFC (Packers, Cardinals) and two teams in the AFC (Patriots, Broncos) who all have 10 wins apiece. Add to that 5 other squads with 9 and 3 others with 8, and we have the makings of a very entertaining final 3 weeks of the regular season.
One of my best weeks picking in week 14, going 13-3 to bring my season total up to 131-76. Take a look at my week 15 predictions, and tell me where I am wrong and why I am right!
But first, answer the polls on who you think finish with the top seed in each conference!
Thursday Night Football
- Cardinals @ Rams: St. Louis has a chance to play spoiler, and with the ins they have on their resume this season, they are very capable of doing so. Not only that, with the inconsistency of the 49ers, the Rams have a chance to not finish last in the powerhouse West, which would be huge for a young team. As for Arizona, this is a must win game. A loss and Seahawks win would mean a tie atop the division with a week 16 matchup in Seattle awaiting the. The Cardinals have already lost to the champs, so a loss here and a loss next week could mean no playoffs at all, despite an early season head start that had them looking like a shoo in for a top 2 seed. After a couple rocky games after losing Carson Palmer, the Cardinals got back on track last week, and I think they do secure the win to keep a hold of the West before heading into 12th man territory. ARIZONA WINS
Sunday 1PM Games
- Steelers @ Falcons: It’s a game of teams in very different divisions. Pittsburgh is in the most competitive division in the league, while Atlanta is in the only division where no team will finish above .500. The Falcon’s offense isn’t the problem, which we saw in the 2nd half on Monday night against the Packers, it’s defense is. The Steelers have shown flashes of dominance on offense, but are pretty balanced and can run you out of the stadium with Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. I think the consistency on both side of the football, and ability to control the time of possession will get the Steelers the crucial road win to keep the AFC North that much more up for grabs in the final 2 weeks of the season. PITTSBURGH WINS
- Redskins @ Giants: Washington is terrible, while New York is less so. The Giants snapped their 7-game slide with a dominating performance against Tennessee on the road. The Redskins losing skid grew to 5, despite benching RGIII. While both teams would benefit from losing out at this point, barring a tie, someone has to win, and I think the Giants at home can have another week 14 type performance to pick up their 5th win of the season. NEW YORK WINS
- Dolphins @ Patriots: Without a win in New England, the Dolphins are out of the playoff picture. Too many teams already have 8 wins to put the math in their favor. Miami saw a lot of good things from their QB Ryan Tannehill to make them think next year is the year to make a run, but I think they’ve run out of steam. The Patriots at home are always tough, but it’s December and it’s Tom Brady. So give me the home team to get win number 11 and stay in the conversation for a 1st round bye and home-field throughout. NEW ENGLAND WINS
- Raiders @ Chiefs: Oakland has two wins… I know I’m shocked too. They upset the 49ers a week ago for that 2nd win, but I don’t see them getting their 3rd win this week. Maybe the Chiefs will finally throw a TD to a wide-receiver this week. I won’t hold my breath. But I do think they will get the win, and I expect another nice day for Jamaal Charles. KANSAS CITY WINS
- Texans @ Colts: The AFC South was a two team race from week 1, and it comes down to this game in Indianapolis. A Colts win gives them their 2nd straight division crown. A Texans win keeps the crack in the door open for another week. Andrew Luck wasn’t great in their win over the Browns last week, and face another tough defensive test in the one and only JJ Watt. I love Luck and the Colts as a whole, so give me the home team to lock up their playoff spot this week. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
- Bengals @ Browns: It’s officially time for Johnny Football in Cleveland. Brian Hoyer has been benched for this pivotal game for the Browns, who must beat the Bengals to have a shot at the playoffs. It’s been a great season for Cleveland no matter what, but a loss would almost guarantee no postseason. As for the Bengals, they laid an egg a week ago, giving everyone else a shot at overtaking them in the AFC North. But they hold the edge, and seem to follow up bad losses with wins, so I think they overcome the QB controversy on the road. CINCINNATI WINS
- Jaguars @ Ravens: Jacksonville has quite the defense to grow with next season. But they are still a young and growing team. Baltimore has been in this position before, in a playoff push. They’ve had some good stretches, that have been halted by bad losses. I think they continue to keep their postseason hopes alive at home. Look for a big game from Joe Flacco. BALTIMORE WINS
- Packers @ Bills: Let’s be honest, the Packers are the best team in the NFL right now. Sure they aren’t as dominant on the road as they are at home, but they’re still pretty darn good away from Lambeau. And playing in cold weather of Buffalo will be almost like being home, so I expect good things for Green Bay this week. As I’ve said all season, the Bills have been very impressive, and have kept themselves in the playoff conversation all season. But I think that comes to an end here. Aaron Rodgers is just too good. GREEN BAY WINS
- Buccaneers @ Panthers: Cam Newton is OUT after suffering back fractures (similar to Tony Romo) in his car accident earlier in the week. So Derek Anderson gets the start. So that means an easier time for the Bucs, but the Panthers are still better than Tampa, even in a down year for them. They broke out a week ago thanks to a big performance from the usually quiet Jonathan Stewart. So look for the running game to be big and the defense to be brought to life at home. CAROLINA WINS
Sunday 4/4:25PM Games
- Jets @ Titans: Neither of these teams want to win this week, let’s be honest. They’re two of the teams in the running for the number 1 draft pick. But someone is going to win, and I think it’s going to be the Jets. The run game has a chance to do damage, and the Titans have no real threats on offense to contest with time of possession battle New York should win. NEW YORK WINS
- Broncos @ Chargers: This is a better game than I thought it would be while the Chargers were losing 3 straight including 2 in the division. One of those losses came the Broncos, who were unable to runaway with the AFC West, though it’s just a formality at this point. CJ Anderson is taking the Broncos to another level and it’s made Denver that much more dangerous. A win locks up the division, and you know Peyton Manning and company want that as soon as possible. DENVER WINS
- Vikings @ Lions: Calvin Johnson is heating up at the right time, and boy did the Lions need it. They’d been struggling offensively, letting the Packers take control of the division. Minnesota has been up and down all year, but must be commended for playing .500 football without their starting QB and starting running back all season. That being said, I think Detroit keeps their wild card hopes alive with a home victory over their NFC North foes. DETROIT WINS
- 49ers @ Seahawks: The loser of this match-up is out of the running for the NFC West crown. If the Niners lose, they’d also be in jeopardy of missing out on the playoffs all together. The Legion of Boom is back in full force and after San Francisco was shutdown by the lowly Raiders a week ago, there’s little faith that they can go into Seattle and outscore the defending Superbowl champions. SEATTLE WINS
Sunday Night Football
- Cowboys @ Eagles: How big is this game? Well, both teams enter action with identical 9-4 records, with Philly just ahead of Dallas in the NFC East by virtue of their Thanksgiving day beat down of the Cowboys. Philly all but ensures a second straight division crown with a victory, while big D would be in a tough battle for a wild card spot. We know a good team is going to be left out of the NFC playoffs because of the NFC South winner getting a spot with a .500 or lower record. The loser of this game could be that team that is left out if push comes to shove. If Philly can limit the turnovers, I think they take this game at home. PHILADELPHIA WINS
Monday Night Football
- Saints @ Bears: I liked both of these teams heading into the season, but both have been huge disappointments. Drew Brees just doesn’t look like the guy of the past few, Jimmy Graham has been shut down, and with no run game, they’ve been very one dimensional. Jay Cutler’s big off-season deal looks like a bigger mistake than I thought it was when it happened. He’s got two of the best receivers in the game, but hasn’t used them efficiently all season. And neither team’s defense is anything to write home about. So who wins? New Orleans still has a shot at the playoffs, which is is just disgusting. The bears haven’t been great at home. So despite the strange showing by the Saints this season, I think they see a chance with Carolina losing Cam Newton, and knowing that the Falcons tend to shoot themselves in the foot, that this division is still very much up for grabs. Expect Brees to play like that this week. NEW ORLEANS WINS