While there aren't as many high-profile matchups as we saw a week ago—and surely, there can't be as many crazy finishes or snowy backdrops, either—there are still plenty of intriguing clashes and playoff implications to keep Week 15 interesting.
Below, I've selected the three games I felt were this week's top matchups, mainly because the teams in question are all gunning for a playoff berth. I've also provided all of my picks for this week. Be sure to leave your own selections in the comments.
|Minnesota Vikings||Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles|
|Cleveland Browns||Chicago Bears||Bears|
|Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans||Colts|
|Miami Dolphins||New England Patriots||Dolphins|
|New York Giants||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||San Francisco 49ers||49ers|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Buffalo Bills||Bills|
|Oakland Raiders||Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs|
|Carolina Panthers||New York Jets||Panthers|
|Dallas Cowboys||Green Bay Packers||Cowboys|
|Tennessee Titans||Arizona Cardinals||Titans|
|St. Louis Rams||New Orleans Saints||Saints|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals|
|Detroit Lions||Baltimore Ravens||Lions|
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Yes, I think the Dolphins will win this game. Here's why.
First of all, the loss of Rob Gronkowski can't be understated. Quite simply, this Patriots offense just isn't as good without him in the lineup. With Gronk out for the first six weeks, the Patriots scored 27 points or more twice. With him in the lineup, they did so six times in seven weeks.
Now, Gronk didn't play in the first meeting between these teams, which the Patriots won 27-17. But that was in Foxboro, and the Dolphins will have the home crowd behind them. The Dolphins come into this game confident with two wins in a row and probably will need to win out to secure a playoff berth, since the Baltimore Ravens hold the head-to-head tiebreaker in the wild-card chase.
The Dolphins have really turned their season around, winning four of six. Much like the San Diego Chargers did Thursday night, the Dolphins will keep their playoff hopes alive and well by beating a divisional foe as the underdogs.
Prediction: Miami wins, 24-21
Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions
Both of these teams are coming off memorable games last week, but with very different results. The Ravens survived a thrilling finish against the Minnesota Vikings with some late-game heroics from Joe Flacco, while the Lions fumbled and stumbled in the snow, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Lions are a lot better on their home turf however, going 4-2 at Ford Field this season, while the Ravens haven't traveled well at all, going 1-5 away from home this season. And as hot as the Ravens have been, winning three in a row, they don't have an answer for Calvin Johnson.
Expect a shootout in this game, and given the way Detroit has played at home and Baltimore on the road, expect the Lions to come out of the high-scoring game on top.
Prediction: Detroit wins, 35-31
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
Let me break this prediction down in its simplest terms—if Aaron Rodgers plays, rust and all, the Packers will win. If he can't go, the Cowboys should hold serve at home.
The Packers with Matt Flynn under center just can't be trusted. The Packers are 1-4-1 since Rodgers was lost to injury, and though the Cowboys traditionally struggle in December, they would obviously be favored in this game with Flynn under center, especially with the NFC East still up for grabs.
Dallas has been miserable on defense all year—32nd in pass defense, 28th in run defense—but the Packers won't provide enough of a danger without Rodgers. And Green Bay's defense hasn't been much better—21st in pass defense, 25th in run defense—so Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray should lead Dallas to a victory.
If Rodgers doesn't play, that is.
Prediction if Rodgers Plays: Green Bay wins, 30-27
Prediction if Rodgers Doesn't Play: Dallas wins, 27-17
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