NFL Picks Week 15: Predictions for Games with Crucial Playoff Implications

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IDecember 13, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 06:  Head coach John Fox of the Denver Broncos talks turnover Peyton Manning #18 on the sidelines during their game against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on December 6, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As Dennis from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia would say, it's all about the implication. 

With just a few weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff races are tightening and several teams enter Week 15 facing battles with critical playoff implications. With all due respect to your fantasy teams, these crucial matchups are the ones worth watching this weekend. 

Let's take a closer look at the games that pit teams with must-win aspirations against each other. 

New York Giants (8-5) at Atlanta Falcons (11-2)

The Giants still control the inconsistent NFC East, but the Washington Redskins, who have won four in a row, and the Dallas Cowboys, who, well, I'm not sure how they are in the hunt considering all their injuries and up-and-down play, are both just a game back. 

With Baltimore and Philly left on the schedule, a win here is as close to mandatory as it gets for the G-Men.

On the other side of the ball, the Falcons certainly aren't in a must-win situation, but if they want home-field advantage—where they are 6-0 this season—for the playoffs, they'll need to hold off the Green Bay Packers (9-4). A win here would do just that.

Atlanta may be undefeated at home, but they are winning games in the Georgia Dome by just 5.12 points per contest. Look for the explosive rookie David Wilson to have a huge day against a defense that is giving up 4.9 yards per carry.

Control the trenches, win the game.

Giants 24, Falcons 21

Green Bay Packers (9-4) at Chicago Bears (8-5)

The Minnesota Vikings (7-6) are still technically in it, but this is basically the NFC North Championship right here.

Especially if the Pack win, which it will. 

Green Bay and Chicago are moving in opposite directions right now, and while the Bears are much better at home than the Packers are on the road, it's just hard to trust a banged-up Jay Cutler playing behind an incapable offensive line.

The Bears' other offensive weapons and their stout defense will keep them in the game, but the Packers seem to be hitting a stride right now. 

Packers 27, Bears 17

Denver Broncos (10-3) at Baltimore Ravens (9-4)

I do worry that the Broncos haven't really been tested since going on the road to play Cincinnati in Week 9, but this Ravens squad just has too many holes. 

The defense, without Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis, isn't as dominant as it used to be. Joe Flacco has been painfully inconsistent (hey look, I wrote a sentence about Flacco without using the word, "elite!" Woops...). Ray Rice is banged up. 

Denver meanwhile, has looked like a well-oiled machine on offense with Peyton Manning running the show ,and has the playmakers on defense (hi, Von Miller) to slow teams down.

Look for the Broncos to keep threatening for home-field in the AFC and Baltimore's lead in the AFC North to dwindle. 

Broncos 34, Ravens 21

Indianapolis Colts (9-4) at Houston Texans (11-2)

Look at the Texans' last four weeks. Not only did they get destroyed by New England on Monday, but they only beat Tennessee by two touchdowns and needed overtime to knock off Detroit and Jacksonville.

Sometimes a record doesn't always tell the entire story.

I may regret this one, as I still believe Houston has the better team, but I'm going with Indy in an ugly, low-scoring game for my upset of the week.  There's just something magical about the Colts this season. 


Colts 17, Texans 14

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) at Dallas Cowboys (7-6)

It's pretty much impossible to figure either of these teams out, and it might be even tougher with each one desperately needing a win to keep its playoff hopes alive. 

That being said, I'm actually more comfortable going with Dallas, which is playing well as of late, than I am with Pittsburgh, which got embarrassed by San Diego last week. 

Don't be surprised if Dez Bryant comes through with a huge nine-fingered effort against a terrific pass defense. That's just how the NFL works sometimes—what is supposed to happen doesn't. 

Steelers 28, Cowboys 31

San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) at New England Patriots (10-3)

I don't think there is anyone out there picking against the Patriots right now, and honestly, it's pretty easy to see why.

The offense, as always, is explosive, but now it's even two-dimensional with Stevan Ridley at running back. 

The defense still has a few problems, but the front seven is terrific and Aqib Talib has really bolstered the secondary. 

But let's not be so quick to overlook the 49ers, who still have arguably the best all-around defense in the league and a much more dangerous offense with Colin Kaepernick at the helm.

Still, though, I would be crazy to take an inexperienced quarterback (although he's better than most who are as inexperienced as him) at Gillette Stadium in December.

49ers 24, Patriots 28


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