Dec. 22, 2018
NFL Week 15 Preview and Predictions
Week 15 Headlines
Wentz Injury News: According to ESPN and other media outlets, A recent CT scan on Carson Wentz's back revealed a fractured vertebra. The Eagles are considering shutting Wentz down for the remainder of the season.
Berry Set to Return: Chiefs Safety Eric Berry will make his regular season debut on Thursday Night against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Vikings Fire OC: The Minnesota Vikings have parted ways with Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo. The Vikings currently rank 17th in total offense in the NFL.
City of Oakland Sues Raiders and NFL: The city of Oakland is seeking monetary damages in a lawsuit filed against the Raiders for the upcoming move to Las Vegas. In the lawsuit, the city of Oakland claims that all 32 NFL teams colluded in an “illegal cartel” that demands cities publicly finance new stadiums. As a result, this could likely be the final season for the Raiders in Oakland. Their potential final home game will be on Christmas Eve against the Denver Broncos.
Fantasy Football Start Em/Sit Em
Starting Quarterbacks: Jared Goff, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, and Lamar Jackson
Sitting Quarterbacks: Jameis Winston, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, and Marcus Mariota.
Starting Running Backs: Phillip Lindsay, Dalvin Cook, Jaylen Samuels, Derrick Henry, and Nick Chubb.
Sitting Running Backs: Marlon Mack, Sony Michel, Kenyan Drake, Josh Adams, and LeGarrette Blount.
Starting Wide Receivers: Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Amari Cooper, Dante Pettis, and D.J. Moore.
Sitting Wide Receivers: Kenny Golladay, Calvin Ridley, Alshon Jeffery, Chris Godwin, and Larry Fitzgerald.
Starting Tight Ends: Jared Cook, Cameron Brate, David Njoku, Austin Hooper, and Vernon Davis.
Sitting Tight Ends: Jimmy Graham, Evan Engram, Trey Burton, Kyle Rudolph, and Gerald Everett.
Starting Defense/Special Teams: Ravens, Seahawks, Falcons, Texans, and Jaguars.
Sitting Defense/Special Teams: Steelers, Eagles, Cardinals, Panthers, and Jets
Game Picks (Season Record 130-81-2)
Chiefs vs. Chargers: The two best teams in the AFC reside in the AFC West. And the loser of this game will be at risk of taking the long road to a potential Super Bowl run. Coming into this game, the Chiefs have some good news and some bad news. The good news is Eric Berry will finally make his season debut in this game. Even if you don’t expect a huge boost to the KC defense, I’m sure they’ll love having their best defensive player back on the field. The bad news is, their offense is banged up. Tyreek Hill is dealing with a heel injury and Spencer Ware will likely miss the game with a bad hamstring. So I believe we’ll see a slightly lesser version of the Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Chargers may get Melvin Gordon back for this game. Plus, their defense will have the full complement of their weapons, unlike the Week 1 matchup. So in this game, I have to go with the healthier team. I know the Chargers haven’t won at Arrowhead in a while, but I believe the Chiefs are too compromised to win the game.
Prediction: Chargers win 30-27
*Playoff Clinching Scenarios: The Chiefs can clinch the AFC West and the First-Round Bye with a win. They can also clinch home field advantage with a win and a Patriots loss on Sunday. The Chargers can clinch a playoff berth with a win or with teams behind them losing games.
Jets vs. Texans: Houston had a great opportunity to seize their division and take a first-round bye spot with a win against the Colts. Unfortunately for them, they lost last week and will now look to rebound against the lowly Jets. The Jets victory over the Bills came by getting pressure on Josh Allen and making timely plays. The Texans had issues protecting their own quarterback a week ago. So that may be something to watch. But ultimately, talent will likely win out. The Jets are 30th in yards per play differential and Sam Darnold has more interceptions than touchdowns. Neither bodes well for the Jets in this game.
Prediction: Texans win 34-17
*Playoff Clinching Scenarios: The Texans can clinch the AFC South with a win, a Colts loss or tie, and a Titans loss or tie. There are also eight different ways they can secure a playoff berth.
Broncos vs. Browns: Just when it seemed like the Broncos would sneak into an interesting wild-card race, Emmanuel Sanders suffers an Achilles injury. And to pile on to that devastating loss, they suffer a loss to the 49ers on the field. At this point, their playoff ambitions are practically dead. The Browns have been playing for pride for a while now. So expect the same effort and attitude in this game. In a game with two mistake-prone quarterbacks and turnover-turnover-hungry defenses, the running game will decide the winner. And since Cleveland allows the fifth-most rushing yards per game (and the Broncos can run it well), I’ll have to go with the Broncos to pull out a nail-biter
Prediction: Broncos win 23-21
Falcons vs. Cardinals: The Falcons have been in constant free fall for weeks now. It’s gotten so bad that this game actually has draft implications. Yes, the Falcons have sunken down to the tank parade. Fortunately for them, the Cardinals offense is terrible. They haven’t cracked 30 points all season and rank towards the bottom in nearly every metric. So even the Atlanta defense should be able to get some stops. The Cardinals are simply that bad.
Prediction: Falcons win 35-12
Bengals vs. Raiders: Despite reports that Jon Gruden has lost the locker room, the Raiders have actually put up respectful performances over the past two weeks. They hung with the Chiefs and actually beat the Steelers. Derek Carr’s threat to ruin the Raiders shot at the top pick has begun to come into fruition. And good for them. Lord knows the fans in Oakland deserve more than what they’re getting. Anyway, their opponents are more injured and dysfunctional than they are. And that’s saying a lot. After losing their last five games. the Bengals find themselves waiting for a merciful end to the season. I think everyone has begun to make vacation plans for the offseason. At least the Raiders seem like they still want to play. And with the Bengals defense being so poor, Derek Carr should actually have no problem moving the Raiders up and down the field. So on a rare occasion, I’ll pick the Raiders to win.
Prediction: Raiders win 27-17
Vikings vs. Dolphins: Is there a more desperate team than the Vikings right now? They gave Kirk Cousins $84 million guaranteed to win big games. So far, he’s been playing horribly and the Vikings have lost games. One has to wonder when the madness will cease. The Dolphins managed to beat the Patriots on a miracle play, but that doesn’t hide their deficiencies. The Vikings should be able to run the ball against them. Hopefully, that frees up Cousins to make some plays. However, a bold Kirk Cousins may be a bad thing against this Dolphins defense. Miami is second in the league in interceptions. Also, Ryan Tannehill has been playing well despite being physically compromised. He is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, thrown eight touchdowns, and has only thrown 1 interception since his return. If this game were in Miami, I’d pick the Dolphins. But since they’ve lost five road games by an average of two touchdowns, I’ll pick one unreliable team over the other.
Prediction: Vikings win 27-24
Colts vs. Cowboys: The two hottest teams in each conference should make for a good matchup. One thing to watch for is how the Cowboys deal with the injury to Zach Martin. The Colts already have the fourth best rush defense in the league. Injuries along the Cowboys o-line may make life tougher for Zeke Elliot. Which means, Dak Prescott will have to cover any loss of production on the ground with his arm. The Dallas defense will also be in for a bit of a test. The Colts offense is the best in the league at converting on third down and are add an extra layer of danger when they keep Andrew Luck upright. I believe the Cowboys will attempt to get pressure up the middle as they did with the Saints. If they can get pressure on Luck, they can completely disrupt the Colts offense. In any event, I believe this game will come down to the final possession. And since I trust Luck a bit more than Prescott, I’ll pick the Colts to win the game.
Prediction: Colts win 27-26
*Playoff Clinching Scenarios: A victory in this game will clinch the NFC East for the Cowboys. If they happen to tie the Colts, they’ll need Philadelphia and Washington to lose or tie in their games. If the Cowboys lose to the Colts, they’ll need the Eagles and Redskins to both lose.
Ravens vs. Buccaneers: The Ravens blew a key opportunity last week against the Chiefs last week. With the Steelers dysfunction, they may still be able to steal the AFC North away, but they’ll need to win their winnable games. Take the Buccaneers for example. Tampa leads the league in giving the ball away. And while the Ravens defense isn’t known for taking the ball away, their ability to limit yards gained may force the Bucs to get desperate. Furthermore, the Buccaneers defense has allowed the fourth-most rushing touchdowns in the league. And seeing as the Ravens are more run focused with Lamar Jackson under center, they should find success on offense as well. The Ravens need this win, and they should be able to get it done.
Prediction: Ravens win 26-20
Bills vs. Lions: The banged-up Detroit Lions managed only 218 total yards of offense last week against the Cardinals. And since the Cardinals offense is so terrible, Detroit managed to outscore them in the long run. But I’m not sure if they’ll be so lucky against the Bills. Buffalo’s defense is quietly one of the better units in the league. Another big secret is Josh Allen has steadily improved his play during the season. And finally, the Bills are an up and down team. When they play down one week, they’ll usually follow it up with a good effort. Detroit’s offense has only scored over 20 points once in the last seven weeks. So it just feels like a game for the Bills to win.
Prediction: Bills win 21-20
Bears vs. Packers: Green Bay looked like the team we all thought they would be when they beat up on the lowly Falcons last week. This week will be a different challenge. If memory serves, the Bears should’ve beaten the Packers back in Week 1. This week, the Packers offensive line is banged up. That’s terrible news when going up against this Bears defensive front. Also, the Packers have struggled on the road all season long. And given how the Bears defense absolutely shut down the Rams offense, I don’t see how the Packers will fare any better on the road. Look for the Bears to make a statement in this game. That statement is very simple: “This is our division now”.
Prediction: Bears win 30-17
*Playoff Clinching Scenarios: The Bears will clinch the NFC North with a win or a Vikings loss. I the event of a tie with the Packers, they’ll need a tie from the Vikings as well.
Jaguars vs. Redskins: Washington is so compromised by injury, it’s not even worth talking about anymore. Expect the Jaguars defense to look like the Sacksonville once again in a not so impressive victory.
Prediction: Jaguars win 20-12
Giants vs. Titans: Tennessee has to be very careful in this game. Yes, the Titans are the better team, but you have to factor in their inconsistent nature. One week, they’ll look great on both sides of the ball. Another week, they won’t have an offense to rely upon. And then the week after that, neither side of the ball will show up. Add in the explosive potential of the Giants offense, and you have all the makings of a trap game. In order to ground the Giants offense, Look for a lot of running plays from the Titans. I think eventually, the Giants defense will fold from the relentless attack. Unfortunately, the same can be said about the Titans defense. Saquon Barkley is averaging around seven yards per touch. And if he gets going, that alleviates the pressure on Eli Manning (who’s been playing well lately). Ultimately, it just feels like we’re going to get a letdown performance from the Titans.
Prediction: Giants win 24-16.
49ers vs. Seahawks: This is yet another trap game this week. Yes, the lowly 49ers are currently in a position to get the number one overall pick in the NFL draft. But did you know the Niners have positive yards per play differential ahead of teams like the Cowboy, Texans, Patriots, and Seahawks? The only problem the team has is their league-worst turnover differential. So this comes down to a tale of two teams. If they turn the ball over, we’ll get Niners team that will be picking first in the draft. If not, we’ll see the Niners team that can steal a win. The Seahawks have been on a roll though and should be able to keep up trends. One of those trends is the fact they’ve won nine straight against the Niners. Plus, I also expect a bounce-back performance from Russell Wilson after an average outing last week.
Prediction: Seahawks win 27-17
*Playoff Clinching Scenarios: The Seahawks clinch a playoff berth with a win. In the event of a tie, they’ll need a Vikings loss and a Carolina loss or tie.
Steelers vs. Patriots: The Steelers have put themselves in a very dangerous situation. They’re a half-game ahead of the Ravens and have a rough couple of weeks coming up. Up first is a very angry Patriots team coming off the wrong side of a miracle play. And it doesn’t help that the Patriots have practically owned the Steelers since Tom Brady entered the league. Also, the dysfunction, brain farts, and finger pointing have got to be having a negative effect in that locker room. Meanwhile, the Patriots will come into the game focused and free of organizational chaos. And did I mention that they own the Steelers? I don’t really know how it will happen, but the Patriots will find a way to beat the Steelers like they always do.
Prediction: Patriots win 28-20
*Playoff Clinching Scenarios: The Patriots can clinch the AFC East with a win and a Miami Loss or tie. If New England ties, they’ll need a Miami loss to clinch the AFC East. The Patriots can also secure a playoff berth wit ha win and a Titans loss or tie. In the event of a tie with Pittsburgh, the Patriots will need a Ravens loss, Titans loss, and a Colts tie or loss to clinch.
Rams vs. Eagles: With Carson Wentz injured, Nick Foles will enter. The chances of saving the season are slim to none with the Eagles playoff hopes on life support. The Eagles gave up 576 total yards to the Cowboys last week. With the Rams embarrassing showing last week, they’ll likely want to prove a point. Those drives the Cowboys couldn’t finish will likely be finished the Rams offense.
Prediction: Rams win 35-21
*Playoff Clinching Scenarios: With a win and a loss or tie by the Bears, the Rams will clinch a first-round bye in the NFC. They can also clinch with a tie as long as the Bears lose.
Panthers vs. Saints: Carolina has begun to consistently prove that they cannot be trusted. With his health being compromised, Cam Newton hasn’t been running as often as he used to. That means he’s mostly confined to the pocket and has been turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Even with the Saints somewhat shaky play since losing to Dallas, their offense will eventually get going and begin to unload on the Panthers defense.
Prediction: Saints win 28-23
*Playoff Clinching Scenarios: New Orleans can clinch a first-round bye with a win and a Bears loss or tie. They can also clinch in the event of a tie, but they’ll need the Bears to lose.