Week 15 got started in impressive fashion as the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos played a highly entertaining bout under the national microscope of Thursday Night Football.
Even better, the .500 Chargers pulled off the upset on the road over their divisional foe, not only dropping the Broncos to 11-3 but opening up a can of AFC playoff worms as it pertains to not only the wild card, but the No. 1 seed.
The best part? We are just getting started.
Week 15 still has plenty of action sure to be worth the price of admission. This means the playoff implications are only going to get crazier by the time the week concludes.
|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.
Miami Dolphins Shock New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are ripe for an upset.
First of all, tight end Rob Gronkowski is lost for the season, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
Tests confirmed this morning that #Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski has torn his ACL and MCL, per source. His season is over, long road ahead— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 9, 2013
Second, the Patriots have looked wobbly as of late and needed a late comeback in Week 14 to beat 4-9 Cleveland by one point.
The Dolphins were forced to travel to Foxborough in Week 8 and lost, 27-17. But quarterback Ryan Tannehill is excited for a rematch, per Sean Grimm of the team's official website:
Well obviously it’s the same team for the most part. (Aqib) Talib will probably be back and maybe someone else is gone, but you’re playing a team for the second time, obviously they are going to have a little bit different of a game plan. We are going to have a little bit different of a game plan. That’s the beauty of playing division games, you get to play each other twice a year and it’s about fixing the things that you didn’t do well last time and evolving your game plan so that its not the same exact game.
Tannehill should be excited. His line is protecting him better (four sacks in last two games), and the team has won two straight. At home against a depleted and drained New England team, Miami comes up big to stay in the playoff hunt.
Prediction: Dolphins 17, Patriots 14
Cincinnati Bengals Finish Off Pittsburgh Steelers
The Cincinnati Bengals have an outside shot at the No. 1 seed in the AFC now if a few teams drop a game while they win out.
That journey begins on Sunday Night Football. These two are familiar with each other under the national microscope—they met in Week 2 on Monday Night Football, where Cincinnati defended its home turf with a 20-10 win.
The Bengals have won three straight on the heels of a defense that ranks in the top 10 against the pass (No. 7) and rush (No. 5). Pittsburgh has dropped two in a row by less than a touchdown each and continues to lack for answers.
Tony Dungy, by way of Joe Reedy from the Cincinnati Enquirer, put it best:
Tony Dungy on NBC tonight: “I have bought into the Bengals. They’ve got sights on the two spot.”— Joe Reedy (@joereedy) December 9, 2013
The Steelers are especially weak against the rush and rank in the bottom 10 with an average of 120.2 yards allowed per game. This is great news for Cincinnati's rookie running back Giovani Bernard, who had the best rushing game of his career last week against Indianapolis as he gained 99 yards on 12 carries.
Bernard tallied 65 total yards and two touchdowns as the main reason the Bengals upended the Steelers last time. Expect a similar line and result here as the rolling Bengals keep it moving with a season sweep of their heated rival on the way to the postseason.
Prediction: Bengals 24, Steelers 23
Detroit Lions Overcome Baltimore Ravens
The Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens share an identical 7-6 record before their clash on Monday Night Football.
Things are strange for Baltimore. Last week, the Ravens needed a 22-point fourth-quarter performance to beat 3-9-1 Minnesota, 29-26.
Best remaining Week 15 game?
Running back Ray Rice is still ineffective at just three yards per carry. Quarterback Joe Flacco is not doing anything to help and has thrown 18 touchdowns to 17 interceptions this year.
While the Ravens have won three straight and the Lions have lost three of four, there is reason to believe Detroit can pull through at home.
For one, the Ravens are putrid away from home and have a 1-5 record in that regard. Secondly, the Ravens will have no answer for Calvin Johnson (75 receptions, 1,348 yards and 12 touchdowns), who will surely be motivated after Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam took shots in Megaton's direction earlier in the week, per the Associated Press' David Ginsburg via the Detroit Free Press:
He’s pretty old, so I don’t know how physical he’ll be. He’s a big guy, but he’s older. I guess when they get older they’re not going to be as physical, you know what I’m saying? We’re going to have to be physical, make him uncomfortable.
Yeah, not the best idea. It will take Baltimore's best game of the year to notch its second road win of the season and stay alive in the playoff race. That simply will not happen.
Prediction: Lions 28, Ravens 23