I had a rough Week 15, missing on seven total games. The Vikings’ loss to the Panthers, the Broncos’ defeat to the Raiders, and Dallas’ upset over New Orleans were the biggest surprises to me. Then I missed on the Falcons over the Jets, the Browns over the Chiefs, the Buccaneers over the Seahawks, and the Giants over the Redskins.
Here’s a look at this week’s matchups and how I think they’ll play out.
Full predictions will come Saturday.
Last Week: 9-7
This Week: 11-5
San Diego Chargers (11-3) at Tennessee Titans (7-7)
The Chargers have won nine straight entering this game, and as much as I’d like to see the Titans complete the improbable and make the playoffs after starting the season 0-6, I just don’t see that happening now. This is where their magical run ends as San Diego brings one of the NFL’s best passing attacks into Tennessee against a Titans team that has the second-worst pass defense. It should be a fun game to watch and the Titans’ Chris Johnson should have his moments, but I expect the Chargers to win.
Prediction: San Diego 27, Tennessee 21
Actual Score: San Diego 42, Tennessee 17
Buffalo Bills (5-9) at Atlanta Falcons (7-7)
Michael Turner did not practice and is said to likely miss this week’s game, which should make things a little more interesting. Matt Ryan is listed as questionable, but he will likely start this week. I think that’s enough to put the Falcons over the top, even though they haven’t looked particuarly good lately.
Prediction: Atlanta 21, Buffalo 17
Actual Score: Atlanta 31, Buffalo 3
Kansas City Chiefs (3-11) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)
It would have been a feel-good story if the Bengals could have “won for Chris” after their teammate Chris Henry died this past week, but the schedule was unkind to them last week and they ran into the red hot San Diego Chargers. With this being their first home game after the accident and it being against the inferior Chiefs, I expect the Bengals to win this one big.
Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Kansas City 14
Actual Score: Cincinnati 17, Kansas City 10
Oakland Raiders (5-9) at Cleveland Browns (3-11)
There’s nothing but a whole lot of bad here. I think the Browns will win this one because they’ll be able to run the ball better, but there’s nothing easy about picking between two inconsistent teams.
Prediction: Cleveland 20, Oakland 17
Actual Score: Cleveland 23, Oakland 9
Seattle Seahawks (5-9) at Green Bay Packers (9-5)
The Seahawks have been erratic all season and the Packers will be looking to rebound after last week’s fourth quarter letdown to the Steelers. They’ll finish a complete game and move a step closer to a playoff spot with a victory.
Prediction: Green Bay 27, Seattle 20
Actual Score: Green Bay 48, Seattle 10
Houston Texans (7-7) at Miami Dolphins (7-7)
I think Miami will use its defense and run game to control the tempo in this game and pull off the win over the perennial .500 Texans.
Prediction: Miami 24, Houston 21
Actual Score: Houston 27, Miami 20
Baltimore Ravens (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
This one is always a fun rivalry to watch. The last time these teams played, Baltimore pulled off a three-point overtime victory in a game in which Ben Roethlisberger did not play. I think last week’s home victory against the Packers with no time left on the clock was just the pick-me-up the Steelers needed to finish the season strong.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 20
Actual Score: Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 20
Carolina Panthers (6-8) at New York Giants (8-6)
Carolina has played better as of late but are just trying to play spoiler and finish the season strong. The Giants have a shot at the playoffs but won’t have it easy. I think the Giants’ defense can neutralize the Panthers run game, which is No. 3 in the NFL. They should be able to move the ball well enough to put points on the board and win this one.
Prediction: New York Giants 24, Carolina 17
Actual Score: Carolina 41, New York Giants 9
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-7) at New England Patriots (9-5)
The Jaguars nearly pulled off the upset over the unbeaten Colts last week, which wouldn’t have surprised me because I picked the Jaguars to lose. I’ve had a lot of trouble picking Jaguars games this year because they’re so inconsistent, which explains their .500 record. I don’t think the Patriots are going to lose this one at home, especially to a warm-weather team that will be out of its element — I think.
Prediction: New England 24, Jacksonville 14
Actual Score: New England 35, Jacksonville 7
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12) at New Orleans Saints (13-1)
After having their 13-game win streak snapped at home in prime time, the Saints need to rebuild their confidence for the playoffs so I don’t expect a letdown against a bad Buccaneers team. The Saints should win this one big.
Prediction: New Orleans 30, Tampa Bay 16
Actual Score: Tampa Bay 20, New Orleans 17
St. Louis Rams (1-13) at Arizona Cardinals (9-5)
The Cardinals have wrapped up the division crown, but don’t expect them to take their foot off the accelerator. The Cardinals and their potent passing game should exploit the Rams’ secondary all day.
Prediction: Arizona 27, St. Louis 13
Actual Score: Arizona 31, St. Louis 10
Detroit Lions (2-12) at San Francisco 49ers (6-8)
Even though San Fransciso is out of the playoff chase, I expect them to have a lot of pride and finish the season strong. They should be able to handle the Lions at home.
Prediction: San Francisco 24, Detroit 17
Actual Score: San Francisco 20, Detroit 6
Denver Broncos (8-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-4)
The Broncos began the season 6-0 and have since gone 2-6, which included an embarrassing home loss to the Raiders last week. The Eagles are flying high — no pun intended — and are looking to secure the division crown. I think the Eagles will win this one.
Prediction: Philadelphia 23, Denver 20
Actual Score: Philadelphia 30, Denver 27
New York Jets (7-7) at Indianapolis Colts (14-0)
Peyton Manning figures to play in this one, even though not he nor his coach or anybody else knows for how long. But I sure hope they keep him in there until the job is done. First-year coach Jim Caldwell is considering giving his players extended periods of rest over the last two weeks of the season, which would put their 16-0 aspirations in jeopardy. There is such a thing as cohesion and continuity, though, and I will laugh — and laugh hard — at Caldwell if he rests his starters and they end up losing in the playoffs. But I digress. The Colts should win this one at home and inch closer to perfection.
Prediction: Indianapolis 21, New York Jets 17
Actual Score: New York Jets 29, Indianapolis 15
Dallas Cowboys (9-5) at Washington Redskins (4-10)
I thought the Redskins were playing well enough to win a divisional home game last week, but I was wrong as they got pounded by the Giants. They get another divisional opponent at home this week, but I don’t think they’ll take down the Cowboys.
Prediction: Dallas 23, Washington 17
Actual Score: Dallas 17, Washington 0
Minnesota Vikings (11-3) at Chicago Bears (5-9)
I think the mere fact that this game will be outdoors, on grass, and on the road in frigid weather will only make the final score a little closer than last month’s 36-10 debacle. But the Vikings are still the better team, and even though they’ve lost two of their last three games, they should send a message to the league in prime time this week.
Prediction: Minnesota 24, Chicago 17
Actual Score: Chicago 36, Minnesota 30