NFL Predictions Week 15: Teams Whose Playoff Hopes Will Be Crushed
It's Week 15 the NFL, which means we have three weeks of regular-season action left for teams to jockey for playoff position.
With eight spots in the NFL postseason still up for grabs, every game left on the schedule has officially become a must-win game for those teams who find themselves in contention.
Let's take a look at three teams who will find their postseason dreams come crashing down around them after failing to rise to the occasion in Week 15 action.
While the Vikings (7-6) are still in the running for both the NFC North and a wild-card spot, things have not gone well in Minnesota.
The team has lost four of its last six games, a number that likely would have been even uglier were it not for running back Adrian Peterson, who has carried the ball 127 times for 948 yards and seven touchdowns over that six-game span.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, they take on a St. Louis Rams defense in Week 15 that has allowed only two running backs to crack the 100-yard mark in 2012: Seattle's Marshawn Lynch in Week 4 and New England's Stevan Ridley in Week 8.
With Christian Ponder a mess under center and the Vikings having no passing game, the Rams will crowd the line of scrimmage, keep Peterson in front of them and grind their way to a victory over the Vikings.
A .500 record after Week 15 isn't what will doom the Vikings' playoff hopes—their remaining schedule will take care of that. A trip to Houston in Week 16 before returning home to face the Green Bay Packers to close out the season is what awaits them.
Even if Minnesota splits those last two games and finishes the season 8-8, the Cowboys, Redskins and Giants all hold the advantage over them via tiebreakers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay (6-7) sits in 11th place in the NFC, only two games out of the final wild-card berth.
With a winnable game in Week 16 against St. Louis and going up against an Atlanta team in Week 17 that will be resting most of its starters for their playoff run, the Buccaneers need to take care of business against the New Orleans Saints (5-8) on Sunday.
While the Saints' defense proved once again on Sunday that it cannot stop anyone, Drew Brees remains one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league—and a meeting with a Tampa Bay defense that ranks dead last in the NFL at defending the pass is a matchup he will exploit.
Brees has already torched the Bucs' secondary once this season, throwing for 377 yards and four touchdowns in New Orleans' 35-28 victory over Tampa Bay in their Week 6 matchup at Raymond James Stadium.
This one is in New Orleans at the Superdome, where the crowd is always rowdy and Brees has a tendancy to not only find the end zone more often—but makes far fewer mistakes than when he's on the road.
Take a look at his home and away splits this season (via Pro-FootballReference.com):
Stopping Drew Brees is a tough task to begin with. It's almost impossible when he's in familiar surroundings.
Even if Tampa Bay finishes the season with an 8-8 record, there are simply too many teams that they would have to jump over to get into the playoffs.
New York Jets
Believe it or not, the New York Jets (6-7) are still hanging around the periphery of the AFC playoff race, only one game out of the last wild-card spot.
They take on a Tennessee Titans (4-9) squad on Monday Night Football that is in a tailspin, having dropped three in a row and five of their last six games.
But the Jets' offense is an absolute mess. scoring a combined total of 24 points over their last two games against the Arizona Cardinals and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Starting quarterback Mark Sanchez has thrown for 208 yards and three interceptions, and he'll definitely be under center again for this one.
Defensively, the Jets continue to struggle against the run, allowing more than 135 rushing yards per game. Opposing offensive lines have dominated New York's front seven for the entire season, and that's going to cost them against the Titans, who have Chris Johnson back on track in 2012.
Tennessee will control the game with a steady dose of CJ2K, sending the Jets to their eighth loss of the season and one step closer to a major shakeup in the offseason, from the front office to the field.
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