Being a road team in the NFL during the month of December is no easy task.
Combine travel with cold weather and a hostile environment and it is a recipe for disaster. The majority of the league surely knows this after Week 14 to open the month of play, where 14 road teams suffered defeats.
Perhaps change is on the horizon. Thursday Night Football opened Week 15 play, and the San Diego Chargers made the trip to Denver (one of the best home-field advantages of all) and defeated the Broncos 27-20.
A good omen, or an isolated case of luck? It is hard to say, but at least three more visiting teams are locks to win in Week 15 after the Chargers got the party started.
|Washington Redskins||Atlanta Falcons||Atlanta Falcons|
|Chicago Bears||Cleveland Browns||Chicago Bears|
|Houston Texans||Indianapolis Colts||Indianapolis Colts|
|New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins||Miami Dolphins|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Minnesota Vikings||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||Seattle Seahawks|
|San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||San Francisco 49ers|
|Buffalo Bills||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||Kansas City Chiefs|
|New York Jets||Carolina Panthers||Carolina Panthers|
|Green Bay Packers||Dallas Cowboys||Dallas Cowboys|
|Arizona Cardinals||Tennessee Titans||Tennessee Titans|
|New Orleans Saints||St. Louis Rams||New Orleans Saints|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Pittsburgh Steelers||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||Detroit Lions|
Chris Roling's predictions.
Seattle Seahawks Destroy New York Giants
Despite being a member of the home team, New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck understands what Seattle is capable of should his team not prepare properly:
"If you're not ready to play, they will embarrass you ... and then laugh at you about it" Giants Justin Tuck on the Seahawks— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 12, 2013
Seattle was surely not laughing after a trip to Candlestick Park in Week 14 resulted in a 19-17 loss at the hands of San Francisco. But a rebound game against 5-8 New York, a team coming off a laughably bad performance in a 37-14 loss to San Diego, is exactly what the doctor ordered.
The season is over for New York, and interception-happy quarterback Eli Manning (16 scores to 20 picks on the year) will find it seemingly impossible to move the ball on a Seattle defense that allows an average of 15.8 points per game and ranks best in the league at an average of 287.1 total yards per game.
An angry Seattle team that averages 27.5 points (tied for No. 3 overall) equates to a lopsided affair. Not only do the Seahawks simply want to rebound after a loss, they need the win to keep a firm grip on the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Prediction: Seahawks 41, Giants 10
Kansas City Chiefs Rout Oakland Raiders
No team is more thrilled about San Diego's road win over Denver Thursday than the Kansas City Chiefs.
At 10-3, the Chiefs needed some help to get back in the race for the AFC West crown, and the Chargers were more than happy to oblige in order to further their own cause in the wild-card race.
Now the Chiefs can get back in contention for the division with a win Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. But head coach Andy Reid is more than aware of the challenge in his team's way Sunday on the road as captured by Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle:
I know their head coach (Dennis Allen) is one of the great defensive minds in the league...and the things that they do, I think, they’re doing very well. The way they’re executing the defense has been better than the first time we played them and we punted the first five times we had the ball
Road team with best chance to win in Week 15?
Perhaps Reid is being too kind. These two met in Week 6, and while Reid's punting statistics are accurate, the Chiefs went on to win 24-7 behind two rushing touchdowns from running back Jamaal Charles.
This Oakland defense Reid seems fond of has allowed 31 or more points in its last two games (both losses), including 37 to a New York Jets team in Week 14 that had scored a combined six points in its two prior contests.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs dropped 45 on Washington a week ago as Charles ran for 150 yards and a score. Backed by a defense that allows an average of 17.2 points per game (three teams allow less), Reid's team will have no issues on the way to a win.
Prediction: Chiefs 38, Raiders 20
New Orleans Saints Overcome St. Louis Rams
The New Orleans Saints are in the driver's seat in the NFC South after a Week 14 victory over the Carolina Panthers. With three games left, the Saints have to beat St. Louis and Tampa Bay to win the division.
As NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal illustrates, that is not exactly a daunting task:
Saints have to beat the Rams and Bucs to win the division. Gotta like those chances.— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) December 9, 2013
The Saints have a top-five scoring defense that allows an average of 18.7 points per game. Coordinator Rob Ryan's unit will find it simple to shut down a Kellen Clemens-led offense that has scored a combined 23 points in its last two games.
The above goes without mention of what has been the strength in Louisiana for years—an offense directed by Drew Brees, who has 4,107 yards, 33 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.
St. Louis has surrendered 255 or more passing yards in consecutive weeks without No. 1 corner Cortland Finnegan, who was placed on injured reserve.
At 5-8, the Rams simply do not have enough in the tank talent-wise and mentally to pull through against one of the NFL's best. Brees and the Saints take care of business and step closer to the NFC South crown.
Prediction: Saints 30, Rams 14