Week 15 NFL Picks: Last-Minute Predictions for Every Game

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IDecember 16, 2012

Week 15 NFL Picks: Last-Minute Predictions for Every Game

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    The NFL playoff picture could get much clearer by the end of Week 15. 

    Three division titles (NFC North, NFC West, AFC North) can be clinched with wins, while one AFC wild-card slot could also be filled Sunday. By the end of the week, eight of the 12 postseason bids may already be handed out.

    In the following slides, we'll break down and pick each of the 15 remaining games on the Week 15 schedule.

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

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    If there's any team to trust in a big December game on the road, it might be the Giants. Few are as streaky, but few have looked as good against top competition this season (wins over Packers and 49ers by a combined 64-13).

    Points will come in bunches, but Eli Manning and the Giants will find a way to beat the flawed Falcons. 

    Pick: Giants 31, Falcons 27

    Final: Falcons 34, Giants 0

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

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    Both teams enter Week 15 with banged-up rosters. The Bears will be missing key members of a fading defense (Brian Urlacher, Tim Jennings, Shea McClellin), while the Packers won't have Charles Woodson, Jordy Nelson or a healthy offensive line.

    Chicago has more to lose and is playing at home, but Green Bay seems to have this team's number. The Packers make it six straight wins in the series (including playoffs) with another ugly victory.

    Pick: Packers 20, Bears 16

    Final: Packers 21, Bears 13

Washington Redskins (7-6) at Cleveland Browns (5-8)

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    The chances of Robert Griffin III (sprained LCL) playing Sunday appeared to be shrinking as the week passed, and we now know he won't play, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins will start in his place. Without RGIII, Washington could be dealt a fatal postseason blow. The Browns are no longer a pushover.

    Pick: Browns 20, Redskins 17

    Final: Redskins 38, Browns 21

Minnesota Vikings (7-6) at St. Louis Rams (6-6-1)

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    Both teams need a win to stay in the postseason hunt. It's no secret—at least on offense—how the Vikings want to accomplish that each week: Run Adrian Peterson over and over to help protect a young, struggling quarterback.

    The Rams allowed less than 70 yards rushing to the Buffalo Bills in Week 14, so Peterson might be dealing with more confined spaces Sunday. In this matchup, you just wonder which quarterback will make the game-breaking mistake.

    Pick: Vikings 17, Rams 14

    Final: Vikings 36, Rams 22

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) at Miami Dolphins (5-8)

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    Neither team is going to the postseason in 2012, and the two teams have combined for just two wins over the last six weeks.

    This won't be a pretty game to watch, but the Dolphins are more talented on both sides of the football. At home, there's no reason to think Miami can't cruise to a comfortable win over its in-state rival.

    Pick: Dolphins 27, Jaguars 17

    Final: Dolphins 24, Jaguars 3

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) at New Orleans Saints (5-8)

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    Drew Brees has transformed into a turnover machine over the last three games. In consecutive losses against the NFC's elites, Brees threw nine interceptions and struggled for long stretches.

    He lucks out in Week 15, as the Bucs' generous pass defense (NFL-worst 312 passing yards allowed a game) travels to New Orleans.

    In this high-scoring divisional clash, Brees makes amends for his recent misgivings.

    Pick: Saints 34, Buccaneers 31

    Final: Saints 41, Buccaneers 0

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

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    The Ravens are bruised and battered and facing the potential of a three-game losing streak. The Broncos have won eight straight games behind an MVP-caliber quarterback and an attacking defense.

    It's simply not a good matchup for the Ravens, who really need to get things turned around. With three extra days of preparation, Peyton Manning gets his first big road win with Denver.

    Pick: Broncos 30, Ravens 24

    Final: Broncos 34, Ravens 17

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

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    The Texans may still be staggered from the blow they took on the chin in New England. But with everything still on the table—first-round bye, home-field advantage—the Texans can get healthy in a hurry at home.

    The Colts are 2012's feel-good story, but this young roster isn't ready to go into Houston and leave with a win.

    Pick: Texans 27, Colts 16

    Final: Texans 29, Colts 17

Seattle Seahawks (8-5) vs. Buffalo Bills (5-8) in Toronto

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    It's worth wondering if playing this game in Toronto will have any effect on Seattle's road woes this season. But considering the Seahawks left Chicago with a confidence-building win two weeks ago, maybe the struggles away from Seattle are a thing of the past.

    The difference here is Russell Wilson, who is already a better quarterback than Ryan Fitzpatrick.

    Pick: Seahawks 24, Bills 23

    Final: Seahawks 50, Bills 17

Detroit Lions (4-9) at Arizona Cardinals (4-9)

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    The Cardinals went from 4-0 over the first month to arguably the worst team in football, all because of the collapse at the game's most important position. It's a case study in how much a quarterback can affect an entire roster.

    With rookie Ryan Lindley starting another game for Arizona, don't expect the losing streak to end, even against a struggling Lions team.

    Pick: Lions 23, Cardinals 10

    FInal: Cardinals 38, Lions 10

Carolina Panthers (4-9) at San Diego Chargers (5-8)

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    Cam Newton (11 total touchdowns, zero interceptions over the last four games) is finally starting to look like the game-changing quarterback he was during his rookie season. Now, he faces a trip across the country to face a Chargers team that is still fighting and clawing for its seemingly lame-duck head coach.

    Despite the brilliance of Newton, Norv Turner's December power lives on.

    Pick: Chargers 27, Panthers 24

    Final: Panthers 31, Chargers 7

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

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    The Steelers are hurting in the secondary, and it showed against the San Diego Chargers in Week 14. Considering the Cowboys are a more talented passing team than San Diego, Pittsburgh could be trouble defensively.

    Overall, Dallas is playing better right now (winners of four of five games) than the Steelers, who have just one win in their last four games.

    Pick: Cowboys 27, Steelers 24

    Final: Cowboys 27, Steelers 24

Kansas City Chiefs (2-11) at Oakland Raiders (3-10)

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    Both these teams have deep issues, but the difference here for Oakland could be turnovers. Kansas City has an NFL-high 33 giveaways this season, resulting in an NFL-worst minus-22 turnover differential. The Raiders should be able to turn a couple of giveaways into the game-deciding points, especially at home.

    Pick: Raiders 17, Chiefs 16

    Final: Raiders 15, Chiefs 0

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

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    This is a game that could be decided early on. If the Patriots throw a few quick punches and get up in the first half, the 49ers could fade quickly. San Francisco needs to keep things close and then play its game offensively.

    But even if the 49ers stick to that formula, predicting that Colin Kaepernick can go into New England and beat Tom Brady might be wishful thinking.

    Pick: Patriots 27, 49ers 20

    Final: 49ers 41, Patriots 34

New York Jets (6-7) at Tennessee Titans (4-9)

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    The Jets are holding on to slim playoff hopes, but a win on Monday night could make the final two weeks very interesting. While New York has beat up on bad quarterbacks the last two weeks, Titans starter Jake Locker is a tougher matchup who can make some plays outside the pocket.

    He also has the potential of a strong running game in Chris Johnson.

    It won't be pretty, but Tennessee can all but end the Jets' season Monday night.

    Pick: Titans 20, Jets 17