Thursday, 12 December 2013

NFL Week 15 preview

Week 14 reminded us of many things. Yes Peyton can still play in the cold, the Seahawks are a very different team on the road and the Saints are a much better team in a dome.

The NFL also reminded us of the joy of participation, when you couple that with a snow blizzard that the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles played in and through.  It did not stop LeSean McCoy running up 200 plus yards of rushing with two touchdowns to enhance the Eagles playoff potential and again put questions on the Lions' who are now tied with Chicago Bears atop the NFC North with three games to go.

Week 15 predictions

Chargers (6-7) at Broncos (11-2)
The Chargers are still maintaining hopes of making the playoffs but they need to win this tough Thursday night battle on the road at Mile High.  The Broncos are rolling, as they scored 51 last week versus a tenacious Tennessee.  Wes Welker will likely miss the game due to a second concussion in a month, yet Peyton Manning has more than enough weapons at his disposal. Watch out for Julius Thomas back to full health at tight end to have a big day.
Prediction: Broncos by 10

Redskins (3-10) at Falcons (3-10)
This could have been a battle between two playoff bound sides instead bad on-field decision making and injury crises have led to this basement battle fodder. Atlanta are not playing awfully, yet could end up with the overall No.1 pick and get Jadaveon Clowney to shore up a battled defence.  They have played hard without sucking, and they should have more than enough to oppose a Washington side who have flattered to deceive pre-season expectation, built around the hopeful return of RG3 that has never materialised.
Prediction: Falcons by 7

Bears (7-6) at Browns (4-8)
Da Bears are rolling with Josh McCown at the helm making few mistakes and scoring more touchdowns.  The Browns are not as bad as their record suggests and in Josh Gordon have one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL currently.
Prediction: Bears by 6

Texans (2-11) at Colts (8-5)
If the Colts win they wrap up the division and a home playoff game, that will likely be versus the Kansas City Chiefs though.  The Colts will not fancy that match-up as their offensive line is woeful and is failing to protect the franchise Andrew Luck. In that same breathe, the Texans have enough defensive lineman to maybe trouble Luck on Sunday. However, the Texans cannot seem to win games presently and it cost Gary Kubiak his job after the most recent loss on Sunday.
Prediction: Colts by 7

Patriots (10-3) at Dolphins (7-6)
The Dolphins were one footstep from being 6-7 and out of the playoff picture, yet Antonio Brown's errant metatarsal (sideline karma is a bitch Tomlin) means the Dolphins got a big road win in the cold of Pittsburgh.  The Patriots will secure the AFC East with victory in the warmer climate of Miami; however, they will have to proceed without Rob Gronkowski who ruptured both his ACL and MCL due to a low but legal tackle.  Tom Brady will still find targets and head to Shane Vereen to benefit the most as the Pats will find a way to win.
Prediction: Pats by 3

Eagles (8-5) at Vikings (3-8-1)
The Vikings lost out to the Baltimore Ravens in a frankly bizarre game on Sunday when five touchdowns were scored in the last 2:03 of regulation. Adrian Peterson may be out this week so Toby Gerhart will get more of the workload.  The Eagles however, will want to win and keep up their momentum thanks to the work of McCoy and Nick Foles who has looked more and more secure of late.
Prediction: Eagles by 8

Seahawks (11-2) at Giants (5-8)
The Seahawks travel East for another road trip, however, unlike last week on the road in San Fran with a team close to their equal this is against the woeful New York Giants who since getting back to 5-6 cannot wait for this season to end and rebuild appropriately.
Prediction: Seahawks by 10

49ers (9-4) at Buccaneers (4-9)
The 49ers will want to maintain their momentum following the vital home win over Seattle, whilst the Bucs  suffered their first lose in five games last week.  The 49ers have Michael Crabtree back and offers a different dimension to their wideout threat, the Bucs will be competitive but cannot see them pulling off the upset.
Prediction: 49ers by 6

Bills (4-9) at Jaguars (4-9)
The Jaguars are on a roll, four wins in five and been impressive with how they have conducting themselves following an 0-8 start. Chad Henne and a returning MJD has helped along with the reliable Cecil Shorts.  The Bills were my tip for a .500 record but the injury to EJ Manuel was something they never recovered from.
Prediction: Jaguars by 7

Chiefs (10-3) at Raiders (4-8)
The Chiefs properly beat up the Washington NFL team last week, if the ref from the Froch-Groves fight was in charge he might have stopped it after six minutes of the second quarter.  The Chiefs still maintain hope of winning the AFC West however they need to continue winning and hope the Broncos come unstuck. The latter is unlikely, but a win over the Raiders is possible. The Raiders have played better than their record suggests but will they have any answer to Jamaal Charles this week.
Prediction: Chiefs by 12

Jets (6-7) at Panthers (9-4)
The Panthers bandwagon came unstuck in the New Orleans dome last week as Rob Ryan's defence had an answer to the play action, run plays of the Panthers. The Jets are suffering behind the so-so play of Geno Smith who is finding out how tough and intense an NFL season is in comparison to the College set-up.  The Panthers will need to bounce back, with Greg Olsen and Steve Smith going to have good days against the Jets secondary.
Prediction: Panthers by 7

Packers (6-6-1) at Cowboys (7-6)
The Cowboys blew up in windy and cold Chicago, luckily they are back at home and facing a Packers team who will still be without Aaron Rodgers whose collarbone and neck injury has not been cleared. Cowboys are one game behind the Eagles atop the NFC East, they need to win desperately.
Prediction: Cowboys by 7

Cardinals (8-5) at Titans (5-8)
The Cardinals have been the biggest surprise of the NFL season, and the most pleasant as man for man they are lesser than some other more vaunted teams. Considering the division they are in, it is a surprise they have 8 wins already and usually that would be good enough for a playoff spot.  However, they are sitting in 7th position behind the 49ers (9-4) and Panthers (9-4), they need to hope one of those teams slips up in due course especially Carolina who they beat earlier in the season 22-6 at home.
After the Titans they go to Seattle, then host San Fran on the last weekend of regular season. The Panthers host the Saints next week, so the Cardinals are not done yet, but most definitely hopeful.  Carson Palmer has two great receiving targets; Larry Fitzgerald and Malcolm Floyd, and two established running backs in Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington.
Prediction: Cardinals by 7

Saints (10-3) at Rams (5-8)
The Saints are close to wrapping up the #2 seed in the NFC, but they have to avoid this potential banana skin on the road at St. Louis although being indoors in December will surely be a home away from home for Drew Brees and his high scoring offence.
Prediction: Saints by 8

Bengals (9-4) at Steelers (5-8)
Good old fashioned AFC North slugfest in most likely freezing conditions, this will be a big test of the Bengals intentions as they need to win this game to stave off the Ravens revival.  The Steelers will be gutted having been so close to an unlikely last minute victory at home to the Dolphins, nevertheless they will still play hard in spite of not being able to finish better than .500 this year.
Prediction: Bengals by 2

Ravens (7-6) at Lions (7-6)
Two evenly matched teams on paper and record, but indoors the Lions will want to put on a show.  Oddly, rookie Safety Matt Elam has just called Calvin Johnson 'pretty old', which for a 27 year old physical specimen is an odd thing to say.  Whilst no respect was surely meant, where else is Matthew Stafford going to throw on Monday night. Reggie Bush will hopefully be back from an ankle injury to lend his rushing and receiving skills to the Lions party.  The Ravens are doing well to stay in the playoff picture, partly due to the woeful nature of the AFC competition - apart from the top 3 of Denver, New England and KC - however, Ray Rice is getting better numbers and Denis Pitta is back from injury and provides Joe Flacco with a safety blanket of a receiver like Jason Witten for Tony Romo in Dallas.
Prediction: Lions by 4

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