For teams hoping to reach the NFL postseason, every game from this point forward is important. However, not every squad will be able to earn wins in some difficult Week 15 matchups.
Heading into this weekend, only the Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos have secured playoff spots. That leaves a lot of races still left to be decided as the rest of the league looks to jockey for position in the standings.
Fortunately for some teams, their upcoming games represents a great opportunity to secure necessary victories that will be vital in the playoff picture. Here is a look at teams that will earn key wins this weekend, followed by picks for every matchup in Week 15.
Detroit Lions vs. Baltimore Ravens
This might end up being the most important contest of the week, as both teams enter with a narrow hold on a playoff spot. Of course, only one can come out with a win.
Based on the last three weeks, you can assume the Ravens have the advantage with a three-game winning streak to get back over .500. However, each of those wins has been at home, where Baltimore has performed much better this season.
Considering that Baltimore is 1-5 away from M&T Bank Stadium, there is little reason to trust Joe Flacco or the rest of the Ravens' inconsistent offense. The Lions should be able to shut down the run—something they have been able to do all year expect in a Philadelphia blizzard—and keep Baltimore's scoring to a minimum.
On the other side of the ball, Matt Stafford should get back to lighting up the scoreboard in the comfort of his home stadium, and the Lions should be able to earn a relatively easy victory on Monday night.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers
This game will come down to one thing: the health of Aaron Rodgers. As bad as the Cowboys have been on defense this season, Matt Flynn has not performed well enough to assume he will take advantage of this favorable matchup.
Unfortunately for the Packers, their starting quarterback does not appear ready to make his grand return in Week 15, according to ESPN's Ed Werder:
Packers pessimistic about Aaron Rodgers being cleared for Dallas. Scheduled for practice today but source says playing inside 8 weeks risky— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) December 11, 2013
As a result, Dallas will at least be able to limit the Packers' scoring while the Cowboys offense takes care of business.
For all of the grief that Tony Romo has received this season (and his entire career), he is tied for third in the league with 27 passing touchdowns while the Dallas offense is also tied for third in the NFL in scoring, averaging 27.5 points per game.
Dallas should be able to outscore the Rodgers-less Packers to remain in contention in the NFC East.
Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns
There is certainly reason to be cautious about selecting the Bears this week, even after an impressive win on Monday night against the Cowboys.
First, there is a bit of a quarterback controversy after the strong play of Josh McCown in recent weeks, although head coach Marc Trestman has said that Jay Cutler should play on Sunday:
LM: Trestman says he's optimistic Cutler will start Sunday in Cleveland.— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 11, 2013
The other problem is that the Bears have lost their last two on the road against inferior opponents. A trip to Cleveland could be yet another recipe for a poor performance.
However, the Bears' biggest weakness this season has been their inability to stop the run. The Browns, however, don't have the ability to take advantage of that with the No. 28 rushing offense in the league.
Cleveland will have a decent day offensively, but it will not be enough to outscore the Bears' loaded offense.
|San Diego Chargers||Denver Broncos||Broncos|
|San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||49ers|
|Washington Redskins||Atlanta Falcons||Falcons|
|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|
|Buffalo Bills||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jaguars|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||Chiefs|
|New York Jets||Carolina Panthers||Panthers|
|Green Bay Packers||Dallas Cowboys||Cowboys|
|Arizona Cardinals||Tennessee Titans||Titans|
|New Orleans Saints||St. Louis Rams||Saints|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Pittsburgh Steelers||Bengals|
|Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||Lions|
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