For most diehard football fans, this week might appear to be a letdown in terms of great teams playing for NFL supremacy. But with the season winding down, there are still several games with two teams in the playoff race doing battle.
With three divisional matchups on slate between teams looking to find a way into the postseason, whether it's as a division winner or wild-card team, this week's great games aren't exclusive to just the weekend. Here are the predictions for the best matchups for Week 15 in the NFL.
|San Diego Chargers||Denver Broncos||Broncos|
|Buffalo Bills||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jaguars|
|Chicago Bears||Cleveland Browns||Bears|
|Houston Texans||Indianapolis Colts||Colts|
|New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins||Dolphins|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Minnesota Vikings||Eagles|
|Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||Seahawks|
|San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||49ers|
|Washington Redskins||Atlanta Falcons||Falcons|
|New York Jets||Carolina Panthers||Panthers|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||Chiefs|
|Green Bay Packers||Dallas Cowboys||Cowboys|
|New Orleans Saints||St. Louis Rams||Saints|
|Arizona Cardinals||Tennessee Titans||Cardinals|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Pittsburgh Steelers||Bengals|
|Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||Lions|
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
For all of their struggles this season, the Chargers have failed to drop out of the AFC playoff picture, thanks to wins over the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts. On the other end of the spectrum, San Diego has also lost must-have games against the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins.
Also in the category of must-have games, the Chargers will have to find a way to down their division rivals in the Denver Broncos. On the road in Mile High Stadium. With their season on the line. No big deal, right?
Any questions critics had for Peyton Manning playing in cold weather were answered on Sunday when he passed for 397 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-28 beatdown of the Tennessee Titans. Following the game, Manning told Dan Hanzus of NFL.com what he thought of said critic:
"Whoever wrote that narrative can shove that one where the sun don't shine. I felt pretty good out there today."
Don't expect Manning to struggle in this game either, as he threw for nearly identical numbers—330 yards and four touchdowns— the last time he faced the Chargers in San Diego.
Prediction: Broncos 35, Chargers 27
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Chargers, meet Dolphins. Dolphins, meet Chargers. If there is another good team more erratic than San Diego this season, it certainly seems to reside in Miami. Over the last four games, the Dolphins are exactly the same as the Chargers at 4-4, including embarrassing losses to the Buffalo Bills and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Thankfully, with a few distractions that surrounded the team out of the limelight, Miami appears to be playing good football again for a team that started 3-0 but is just one game above .500 now at 7-6.
With two straight wins and taking three of their last four, the Dolphins success is primarily due to the sudden emergence of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The second-year quarterback has thrown for an average of 265 yards per game in wins over the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers with a total of five touchdowns. Tannehill was also the second-leading rusher, thanks to this a huge first-half run:
Halftime note: Ryan Tannehill's 48-yard run in the 1st quarter was the longest run of his career. #MIAvsPIT— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 8, 2013
Unfortunately for Tannehill, he will be facing off with a quarterback legend in Tom Brady. Fortunately for the Dolphins, Brady could be without three receivers, including Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Dobson, for the final showdown between the two teams.
But the Patriots seem to be a team that has just barely survived in its last two games against the lowly Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns. If there is a time for the Dolphins to pull one out, it's now.
Prediction: Dolphins 28, Patriots 24
Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions
Both of these teams are hoping for sunshine and clear conditions after trudging through thick snow that left Calvin Johnson looking like this in Philadelphia:
Regardless of the conditions, these are two teams desperate for another win for different reasons. The Lions are still battling for the NFC North division with the Chicago Bears and even the 6-6-1 Green Bay Packers. The Ravens are barely clinging to the No. 6 seed in the playoffs, following a come-from-behind win over the Minnesota Vikings.
If the conditions are favorable, this should be a matchup of two teams that have equally balanced attacks on the offensive side of the ball. Offensive weapons like Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush or Joique Bell will face an equal test in Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith and Ray Rice.
The biggest facet to watch in this game will be the turnover battle, as the Lions are minus-10 in the turnover department with 28 giveaways, and the Ravens are minus-five in turnovers with 22 giveaways on the season. Whoever can hold on to the ball, literally, might be the victor in this close contest.
Prediction: Lions 27, Ravens 23