NFL Predictions Week 15: Breaking Down Games with Huge Draft Day Implications
Thankfully, we haven't gotten to the point where the NFL is emulating the NBA, where teams out of the playoff picture start tanking games in order to improve their chances of securing a higher draft pick.
However, for a number of games on tap in Week 15, draft position is the only thing on the line. While teams will undoubtedly put their best foot forward in an attempt to win the game, front office personnel wouldn't be crushed were their team to fail to add to its paltry win total on the season.
Let's take a look at the teams who will be jockeying for position...on draft day.
Detroit Lions (4-9) vs. Arizona Cardinals (4-9)
Remember when Arizona was 4-0 and looking like the surprise team in the NFL?
Neither do the Cardinals, losers of nine straight games and on a collision course with a Top-10 pick in the NFL draft.
Arizona has accomplished something that nobody has ever been able to accomplish before—the QB trio of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley has turned Larry Fitzgerald into a non-factor.
Over his past four games, Fitzgerald has a total of six receptions for 67 yards.
While Detroit's own elite wide receiver, Calvin Johnson, has 36 receptions for 572 yards and three touchdowns over his last four games, it hasn't been enough to get Detroit over the hump, as the Lions have lost five consecutive games.
Detroit's top-ranked passing offense vs. Arizona's fifth-ranked passing defense will make for an interesting game, but Arizona's inability to do anything on offense will lead to a Detroit victory.
In our last mock draft, we had Detroit taking Alabama corner Dee Milliner with the seventh overall selection and Arizona taking USC QB Matt Barkley one spot later with the eighth pick. With a win here, Detroit moves one step closer to falling out of the Top 10 in the 2013 NFL draft.
Kansas City Chiefs (2-11) vs. Oakland Raiders (3-10)
There isn't a team in the NFL that turns the ball over as much as the Kansas City Chiefs, who sit last in the NFL with both 33 turnovers and a minus-22 in turnover ratio.
Oakland QB Carson Palmer isn't a master of protecting the football either, throwing at least one interception in each of his past nine games, but the Raiders' minus-7 turnover ratio is a far more manageable number.
Kansas City has a tremendous running back in Jamaal Charles, and he will carry the bulk of the offensive workload for the Chiefs as they face a Raiders defense that ranks 26th against the run.
A win on the road would be terrible for Kansas City, which desperately needs a quarterback and, we see taking West Virginia's Geno Smith with the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Yet, a win isn't in the cards for the Chiefs, a team that was blown out by the five-win Cleveland Browns last week.
Oakland, by way of its victory, will say goodbye to the third overall pick in the draft where we had the Raiders taking Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o.
Carolina Panthers (4-9) vs. San Diego Chargers (5-8)
This game will be decided by the quarterbacks, nobody else.
Carolina's Cam Newton has a rare combination of size and speed that few possess, and when he's able to effectively use his legs to set up his arm, he is virtually unstoppable.
Over his past two games, Newton has done just that, completing 56 percent of his passes for 519 yards and five touchdowns while adding an additional 194 yards and a touchdown on the ground on only 16 carries.
San Diego's Philip Rivers has been incredibly erratic this season, but he has been making poor decisions with the football, tossing 15 interceptions on the season.
While he has only thrown one interception over his past two games, Rivers is completing fewer than 53 percent of his passes and thrown for only 480 yards.
San Diego needs Rivers to have a picture-perfect game if the Chargers have a chance of beating Carolina, and that's asking a lot from their nine-year starter at this point.
Newton and the Panthers will prove to be too much for San Diego, pushing the team out of the fifth overall selection where we projected Carolina to select Utah's stud DT, Star Lotulelei.
For San Diego, the loss pushes it closer to a Top-5 pick and perhaps a shot at Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel, who would certainly fill a need for San Diego. Currently, we see the Chargers taking Joeckel's teammate, OT Jake Matthews, with the ninth overall selection.
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