NFL Predictions Week 15: Teams That Will Keep Playoff Dreams Alive
With three weeks left in the NFL's regular season, it's do-or-die time.
Some teams have already bowed out of the postseason race. Some are just barely showing signs of life. Others have little to worry about aside from where they're going to play once Wild Card Weekend is over.
As for those teams still chugging along as the possibility of a playoff berth looms in the distance, they all have something in common: Must-wins are in order this week.
Here's a look at the teams that will get the job done in Week 15.
Washington Redskins (7-6) at Cleveland Browns
What a good opponent for the Washington Redskins to be facing with just three weeks left in the season. The 5-8 Browns are far from a formidable opponent, and there couldn't be better news for a 7-6 Redskins team that needs to win out, plus some luck, in order to find its way into the playoffs.
Washington is only one game behind the Giants in the NFC East, but much of its fate for the rest of the season will rest on the health of Robert Griffin III, who sprained his LCL in Sunday's win over Baltimore. The good news is, even if Griffin can't go on Sunday, Kirk Cousins rallied the team to victory over one of the AFC's top teams last week, so there's certainly reason to be hopeful.
The Browns aren't going to roll over and die; they've won three straight and even beat Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago. But the Redskins, too, have been playing some of their best football over the last four weeks, and with the division crown still within reach, they—unlike Cleveland—have something to play for.
Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) at Philadelphia Eagles
Like the Redskins, the Cincinnati Bengals got the luck of the draw this week: They get to play one of the worst teams in the NFL in a must-win situation.
The race is tight in the AFC North, and the odds aren't necessarily in the Bengals' favor. It doesn't seem likely that Baltimore is going to cede control at the top of the standings, and the Bengals are tied with Pittsburgh in second.
The good news is, after this week's game, Cincinnati has head-to-head matchups against each of those teams to finish out the regular season, so if it can somehow win out—and if Baltimore and Pittsburgh both flop over the next three weeks—it still has hope of taking the division.
A win over the Eagles is the first step, and truth be told, it shouldn't be incredibly difficult to come by. Prior to Sunday's win over lowly Tampa Bay, the Eagles hadn't won in eight consecutive weeks, no matter how high or how low the level of competition.
Minnesota Vikings (7-6) at St. Louis Rams
For the Minnesota Vikings, last week's big win over the Bears was huge. A loss there could have been the unofficial end of Minnesota's season, but it stayed alive—and because it is just two games behind Green Bay in the NFC North and faces the Packers in the season finale, hope is still very much alive.
The rest of the Vikings' schedule isn't easy. In Week 16, they travel to Houston (a game, granted, that looks far less intimidating after what happened on Monday night) before welcoming the Packers in Week 17. That's why Sunday's matchup at St. Louis is so significant. If Minnesota can stay afloat in that one and get on a roll to close out this season, it could pull off something big.
Consistency has been an issue for this Vikings team—it hasn't managed to win two consecutive games since Weeks 4 and 5—but perhaps they'll find the necessary motivation with their backs against the wall.
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