Week 15 in the NFL features two Thanksgiving rematches that have serious NFC playoff implications. Over in the AFC, only four of the 16 teams are out of the playoff race, and many playoff hopefuls will be going head-to-head on Sunday.
Here is your NFL week 15 preview:
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams (-3.5), Thursday Night Football
The Rams have won only three of their last ten home games against the Cardinals, but they momentum coming into this one. The Rams have won three of four, shutting out the Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins in their last two and holding the Denver Broncos to just seven points in week 11. The Cards snapped a two-game losing streak last weekend, downing the Chiefs at home (17-14).
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5)
Oakland is 6-1 SU in its last seven games against Kansas City and the Raiders are coming off their second win in three weeks after surprising the San Francisco 49ers in week 14. The Chiefs are in need of a win after three consecutive losses. The losing streak has put K.C. one game back in the playoff race.
Kansas City is just 1-7 ATS in its last eight home games against Oakland.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens (-14)
The Ravens earned a huge road win last weekend, downing the Dolphins in Miami, 28-13, to move into a tie for a Wild Card spot in the AFC. They have arguably the easiest remaining schedule of all the AFC playoff contenders, facing Jacksonville, Houston, and Cleveland to close the season.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, have nothing to fight for except their head coach’s job.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-1.5) at Atlanta Falcons
Like the Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers made a statement last weekend by beating the Bengals in Cincy last weekend. But they have often followed up impressive wins with bad losses this season (losing to Tampa Bay at home, and the Jets in New York, to name a couple).
The Falcons still control their destiny in the weak NFC South. After being routed by the Packers in the first half on MNF, the Falcons battled back to make it a one score game at the end. They look like the best of a bad NFC South-lot at the moment.
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-6.5)
This game will decide the season for the Houston Texans. A win by the Colts will wrap up the division for Indianapolis, but a win by the visitors will keep their hopes alive (in both the division title and Wild Card race). Houston is 1-4 ATS and 0-5 SU in its last five on the road against Indianapolis.
Cincinnati Bengals (-1) at Cleveland Browns
The Bengals have lost two straight divisional games (at home to Cleveland and Pittsburgh) and now hold the slimmest of leads in the AFC North. Cleveland was in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt until dropping its last two games. They are still just one game back in the Wild Card race, but the offense is in turmoil. Quarterback Brian Hoyer has played four bad games in a row and now it looks like rookie Johnny Manziel may be handed the keys to the offense.
Cincinnati is 14-6 SU in its last 20 games against the Browns, but 1-4 ATS in its last five on the road in Cleveland.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-8)
If you think the New England Patriots have forgotten their embarrassing week 1 loss in Miami, think again. Both the Pats and Fins come into this game with urgency. New England needs to keep winning to earn home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, while Miami needs a win just to get back into the AFC playoff picture.
New England picked up a solid road win last weekend, downing the Chargers in San Diego. Miami let one slip away against Baltimore; after Miami jumped out to a 10-0 lead, the Ravens stormed back to win 28-13.
New England is 7-2 SU in its last nine games against Miami, and 5-0 SU in its last five at home against the Fins.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (-5)
I wish I didn’t have to say this, but with a 4-8-1 record, the Carolina Panthers still have a shot at the NFC South division title. The Panthers saved their season – for the time being – last weekend by routing the Saints, 41-10, in New Orleans. They are now just half a game back of Atlanta and New Orleans in the division race. Carolina is 5-2 SU in its last seven against Tampa Bay.
The Bucs, meanwhile, dropped to 2-11 on the year after a week 14 loss to the Lions in Detroit. There is little reason for optimism in Tampa these days, but they still have two divisional games left on the schedule and could set the tone for next year with wins over their rivals.
Washington Redskins at NY Giants (-6.5)
There is turmoil at the QB position in New York as people are starting to question Eli Manning’s ability to be an NFL starter. Yet, the situation in Washington is even worse as the Redskins seem to have given up on erstwhile franchise pivot RGIII (after trading away a king’s ransom to draft him). Colt McCoy has taken over for Washington, but an injury to McCoy may find Griffin back under center against the Giants.
The Giants ended their seven-game losing streak last weekend by thumping the Titans. The misery in Washington continued, as the Redskins failed to score a point against the suddenly untouchable Rams. Washington is 1-4 SU in its last five against the Giants, and 3-6-1 ATS in its last ten on the road in New York.
Green Bay Packers (-5) at Buffalo Bills
The Green Bay Packers are the best team in the NFL right now, but this is a game that could cause some problems. Buffalo is 4-3 at home and has the best pass rush in the league, amassing a league-leading 48 sacks on the year. The front seven will make life in the pocket difficult for Aaron Rodgers, just as it did for Peyton Manning last weekend. The Bills didn’t manage to sack Manning in week 14, but the threat of pressure forced him into two interceptions.
The Packers took care of business at home last week, as usual. It wasn’t the runaway that it looked like it would be though. Green Bay dominated the first half, leading Atlanta by 24 at the break. But the Falcons battled back to make it 43-37 at the end of the day. Green Bay is 2-5-1 ATS in its last eight against Buffalo.
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-7)
The Lions have won two straight and continue to pressure the Packers for top spot in the NFC North. Detroit has won all but one game at home this season and has looked awfully comfortable on offense over the last two games now that WR Calvin Johnson is healthy.
Minnesota remains mathematically alive in the NFC playoff race. In reality, though, the 6-7 Vikings are building for next season with rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater. A win over division rival Detroit would certainly set the tone for 2015. Minnesota is 8-4 SU in its last 12 on the road against Detroit.
NY Jets at Tennessee Titans (pk)
This is one of the worst games you could make at this point in the season. The Titans and Jets have been two of the most disappointing teams this year. Both have just two wins and neither has showed any improvement over the course of the year. At this point, upper management would probably be happier with a better draft position than a meaningless third win.
The Jets are 3-7 SU in their last ten road games against Tennessee.
Denver Broncos (-4) at San Diego Chargers
Since Peyton Manning arrived in the AFC West, the Broncos have won all but one divisional game. It so happens, though, that the one loss was against the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos have a comfortable two-game lead on the Chargers for top spot in the division, but need a win to keep pace with the Patriots for top seed in the AFC.
Sitting at 805, San Diego currently occupies the last Wild Card spot in the AFC. With Pittsburgh and Baltimore also at 8-5 – and a host of teams at 7-6 – the Chargers need to win at least two of their last three to make the playoffs, and even that may not be good enough. San Diego is 1-4 ATS in its last five home games against Denver.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-10)
The 49ers already lost to the Seahawks on Thanksgiving, but San Francisco hit a new low this season during its double-digit loss to the Raiders last weekend. Now 7-6 on the year, the 49ers need to win out and get a lot of help to make the post-season.
The Seahawks are playing at a high level right now, winning three straight and six of seven. Last weekend, they went into Philly and stifled the playoff-bound Eagles for the better part of the game, ultimately earning a 24-14 win. The Seahawks are 5-0 ATS in their last five against San Fran. They are also 5-0 ATS against the Niners at CenturyLink Field.
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5), Sunday Night Football
This is arguably the biggest game of the week. Both teams are 9-4 and tied for top spot in the NFC East. The winner will have the inside track on the division title. Dallas just took a 33-10 beating at home against Philadelphia two weeks ago, but they are 6-0 away from home this season.
The Eagles lost at home last weekend to Seattle, but were perfect at the Linc before that, winning their first six on the year. Dallas is 4-1 SU in its last five on the road against Philadelphia.
New Orleans Saints (-3) at Chicago Bears, Monday Night Football
The Bears won’t have WR Brandon Marshall for the rest of the year, and their season officially came to an end last week, as their eighth loss eliminated them from playoff contention.
The Saints still have a shot at the playoffs, but need to start winning now. They had a chance to solidify their place at the top of the NFC South last weekend, but were crushed at home by Carolina (41-10), letting the Panthers back into the playoff race in the process. Now it is a three-team duel between the Saints, Panthers, and Falcons. (The Saints will face the Falcons in week 16, while the Falcons and Panthers will square off in week 17.)
Chicago is 2-5-2 ATS in its last nine against New Orleans, but 4-2 SU in the last six.
(Photo credit: Billy Bob Bain (flickr) “DSC_9553” [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/]. Photo has been cropped.)