Three more critical NFL weeks are all that stand between the vast amount of teams still in playoff contention and the actual postseason.
Wild Cards and division titles hang in the balance, and the best way to clinch a spot at the table is by taking care of business as a favorite. While there will likely be some upsets during Week 15, there will also be some favorites that dominate and take another step toward the playoffs.
Let’s dig into a few of them. Lines are courtesy of Vegas Insider.
Chicago Bears (-1 at Cleveland Browns)
It’s not every day that getting one’s starting signal-caller back from injury creates a rift in the fanbase, but that may be what is happening for the Chicago Bears.
Who would you start?
After Josh McCown destroyed the Dallas Cowboys secondary with his arm in Week 14 and won three of five starts, Jay Cutler returns to the Chicago lineup. He will be going up against a stingy Cleveland defense that ranks eighth in the NFL in opposing passing yards allowed and fourth in opposing rushing yards allowed.
Fortunately for the Bears, the offense won’t have to score every possession like it did against Dallas (not counting the final kneel) because the Browns are simply not built to exploit Chicago’s putrid rush defense. Cleveland is a mere 28th in the NFL in rushing yards, which will help the Bears’ league-worst rush defense look rather ordinary in Week 15.
Ordinary will be enough to win comfortably in this one.
Cincinnati Bengals (-2 at Pittsburgh Steelers)
Pittsburgh’s loss to Baltimore on Thanksgiving night felt like something of a last stand for the Steelers and their playoff hopes. The ensuing loss to Miami in Week 14 all but killed Pittsburgh’s slim chances.
To make matters worse, the Bengals are seventh in the league against the pass, which is the one thing the Steelers do well. Ben Roethlisberger will have trouble finding open receivers under the lights even without Leon Hall on the field.
Cincinnati is on the opposite side of the spectrum having won three straight. In fact, the Bengals have only lost twice in the past nine games, and both defeats came in heartbreaking fashion in overtime. Cincinnati will stake an early lead and then ride its solid rushing attack against Pittsburgh’s 24th-ranked rushing defense.
Seattle Seahawks (-6.5 at New York Giants)
If there’s one thing Seattle doesn’t do a lot of it is lose.
The Seahawks are 11-2 and looking for home field throughout the playoffs, but they took a rare L at San Francisco in Week 14 and once again have to go on the road to face the middling Giants.
The good news for Seattle fans is that this one could get out of hand early. The Seahawks are third in the league in rushing yards and first in the league in opposing passing yards allowed. That is a perfect combination to grab an early lead behind Marshawn Lynch and prevent Eli Manning from coming back through the air.
Look for Manning to throw two more interceptions and the Seahawks to roll.
|Road Team||Home Team||Spread||Pick|
|Buffalo Bills||Jacksonville Jaguars||BUF -2||BUF|
|Washington Redskins||Atlanta Falcons||ATL -7||WAS|
|Houston Texans||Indianapolis Colts||IND -5.5||IND|
|New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins||PICK||NE|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Minnesota Vikings||PHI -5.5||PHI|
|San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||SF -5||SF|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||KC -5||KC|
|New York Jets||Carolina Panthers||CAR -11||CAR|
|Green Bay Packers||Dallas Cowboys||DAL -7||DAL|
|Arizona Cardinals||Tennessee Titans||AZ -3||AZ|
|New Orleans Saints||St. Louis Rams||NO -6.5||NO|
|Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||DET -6||BAL|
Follow and interact with Bleacher Report writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.