As Week 15 of the NFL season approaches, we'll look at all 15 of the weekend's match-ups and predict which teams will come out on top.
With the regular season nearing its end, the playoff race heats up as teams fight for position. The Atlanta Falcons helped their playoff chances earlier this week with a 41-14 beatdown of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Who else will come out on top this week?
The Dolphins have been playing pretty well lately after starting the year 0-7, but the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and the firing of head coach Tony Sparano have slowed their momentum.
They should be able to move the ball pretty well, especially on the ground, against a Bills defense that ranks 26th in points allowed this season.
Buffalo's offense, which has steadily gotten worse after the loss of running back Fred Jackson, will likely have a tougher go of it against Miami's solid defense.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to be on target to move the ball against the Dolphins' weakest link, which is the pass defense, and receiver Stevie Johnson and speedy back CJ Spiller will have to help Fitzpatrick out.
Miami's D has struggled to stop the pass, but their shutdown run defense should force the Bills to be one-dimensional. They are ranked fifth in points allowed, so the Bills will be hard-pressed to score.
I like the Dolphins' chances against the Bills, who have collapsed after starting strong.
Dolphins 27, Bills 17
The Seahawks have been playing well lately and hold a 6-7 record. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is playing decent football and has just one interception in his last three games after beginning the season as an interception machine.
Running back Marshawn Lynch is playing outstanding football and could go over 1,000 yards on the season against the Bears.
Chicago's defense, however, will keep them in this game. They are much better than their statistical numbers indicate, and their strength (run defense) matches up well with the Seahawks' strength.
The Bears' offense has been awful lately, and young quarterback Caleb Hanie has been very ineffective after getting thrown into a tough situation.
Running back Marion Barber has been playing well for the most part in Matt Forte's place, but two big mistakes in the Denver game made it possible for the Broncos to come back and seal yet another win.
Seattle's defense ranks ninth in points allowed and 11th in rush defense, which does not bode well for the run-oriented Bears.
Seattle has been on a tear lately, and I'd be surprised if the Jay Cutler-less Bears end that run.
Seahawks 17, Bears 10
TJ Yates has been surprising people in his first couple of games, throwing a game-winning touchdown pass against the Bengals last week to seal a playoff berth and playing very well overall.
The fifth-round rookie will be without star receiver Andre Johnson this week, though. Running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate will be leaned on throughout the rest of this season to win games.
Carolina's 23rd-ranked run defense will have a tough time stopping Foster and Tate.
Carolina's offense, led by rookie Cam Newton, has shown some explosiveness this year. Newton is a stat machine, but has had some trouble with turnovers this year.
Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are underutilized but form a tandem that rivals Foster and Tate. Receiver Steve Smith has resurrected his career with Newton throwing him the ball.
Houston's defense, however, will be very tough for the Panthers to gain yards on. The Texans allow the least yards per game in the NFL and rank fourth or better in all categories.
Despite the absence of Phillips, Houston should win this game without much of a problem.
Texans 28, Panthers 17
The Titans have finally gotten their running game going with star Chris Johnson, and that shouldn't change this week against the Colts' 30th-ranked rush defense. Matt Hasselbeck continues to play good football, and the Titans could be in for a big offensive game.
Indianapolis ranks dead last in points allowed. Nothing else to be said.
The Colts haven't been much better offensively, ranking 29th in points scored and 27th or worse in the other three offensive categories. Quarterback Dan Orlovsky has played pretty well in his first two starts, but outside of Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne, he doesn't have a lot to work with.
The Titans have allowed plenty of yards per game, but they are ranked sixth in the most important defensive category—scoring defense. The Colts will be hard pressed to score much on the Titans.
This game should be a blessing for the wild-card hopefuls.
Titans 31, Colts 13
The Packers have yet to play a defense that can stop their offense, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been the main reason for that.
Wide receivers Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones and tight end Jermichael Finley have certainly helped his cause. Jennings will be out this week, but Nelson and the rest of the receivers should be able to pick up the slack.
Kansas City has a pretty talented defense, mainly against the pass, but the Packers are a different kind of monster through the air.
Kansas City's offense has been awful lately, but they should get a boost with Kyle Orton at quarterback this week.
Orton had a pretty good day against the Packers earlier this year with the Broncos, and this time around he'll have a much better set of receivers that includes Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jon Baldwin, as well as a good running game.
The Packers could have some trouble stopping KC's offense for those reasons, but their ability to create turnovers should give them a boost.
Either way, I don't see the Packers being outscored—at least not this week.
Packers 34, Chiefs 20
New Orleans has been unstoppable offensively. Quarterback Drew Brees has been on a tear and tight end Jimmy Graham has been reaping the rewards.
Receiver Marques Colston has been a solid option as well. Running back Mark Ingram will be out for the game, so Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles will handle the load in the running game.
The Vikings have a pretty good run defense, ranking ninth in the NFL, but its scary to think about what Brees will be able to do to their 26th-ranked secondary. Jared Allen needs to get a ton of pressure on Brees.
The Vikings' offense will get a boost this week with the return of running back Adrian Peterson. Quarterback Christian Ponder could have a pretty good day against the Saints' 30th-ranked pass defense, but it won't be easy for this offense to outscore the Saints to say the least.
New Orleans has given up a ton of yards through the air, but they've been average against the run and in points allowed.
The Vikings aren't as bad as their record indicates, but the Saints shouldn't have much of a problem beating them anyway.
Saints 37, Vikings 19
New York's offense has been rolling along on the arm of Eli Manning, who has led the fourth-ranked passing offense in the NFL.
The running game is somehow dead last, even with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs at running back, but the passing offense has done enough to get them by thus far. Receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have both gone over 1,000 yards on the year.
Washington's defense started the year well but have struggled a little bit lately. The 'Skins 13th-ranked pass defense will have its hands full against the Giants.
Quarterback Rex Grossman surprised everyone at the beginning of the season, but he has since come back down to earth. In fairness, he doesn't have a lot of weapons in the passing game, either. Rookie running back Roy Helu has been a bright spot for this offense despite the running game being ranked ahead of only the Giants.
The Giants' defense has had its share of problems this year and are statistically one of the worst in the league, but they do have one of the league's best pass rushes, which should be a big detriment to the turnover-prone Grossman.
The Giants usually surge this time of year, and now every week is a must-win situation. They will get it done this week.
Giants 33, Redskins 23
The Cincinnati Bengals, whose playoff hopes are all but shot, travel to St. Louis to take on the Rams.
Cincy's offense shouldn't have too tough a time against St. Louis's 25th-ranked defense. Quarterback Andy Dalton could be challenged by the Rams' eighth-ranked pass defense, but running back Cedric Benson should have a field day against a run defense that gives up the most yards per game in the NFL.
The Rams will likely be without their top two quarterbacks, as starter Sam Bradford is listed as doubtful while back-up AJ Feeley is out for sure. That means running back Steven Jackson will have to carry this team on his shoulders, but that won't be easy against the Bengals' defense.
Cincinnati is ranked seventh in the NFL in run defense and are above average the other three categories as well.
The Bengals should win this game relatively easily.
Bengals 24, Rams 3
The Detroit Lions enter the game with one of the league's best passing offenses, ranking fourth in that category.
Quarterback Matt Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson have much to do with that, as well as tight end Brandon Pettigrew and receivers Titus Young and Nate Burleson. The running game is ranked just 24th, due in large part to a downright unfair number of injuries at the running back position.
Oakland's defense shouldn't be too frightened by Detroit's running game, though the Raiders do rank 29th defensively in that category, but their 18th-ranked pass defense might be scrambling to stop the Lions all night.
Oakland's offense has been decent with Carson Palmer at quarterback and the running game, led by running back Michael Bush, is still humming along despite the absence of Darren McFadden, but they will get a fairly stiff test against the Lions this week. Lucky for them, they could get receiver Denarius Moore back this week.
Detroit's defense will get a boost with the return of Ndamukong Suh this week, and the passing game is solid (thanks in part to a strong pass rush), but their 27th-ranked rush defense will have to stop Bush if they are to win this game.
This should be a hard-fought game, but I like the Lions' chances.
Lions 27, Raiders 24
The Cardinals have been on a tear lately, winning three in a row and five of their last six games. Quarterback Kevin Kolb has been okay this year, but after getting hurt in the San Francisco game, back-up John Skelton came in and led the Cards to an upset win.
Receiver Larry Fitzgerald makes life easier on whoever is under center, as does running back Beanie Wells, who has broken out this year and could have a big day against Cleveland's 31st-ranked run defense.
The Browns have a rock-solid pass defense (second in the NFL) that should really limit the passing game, so Wells will be counted on for much of the offensive production.
Cleveland's offense has been sorrowful this year, and to make things worse, starting quarterback Colt McCoy will be out for the game. Rookie receiver Greg Little has shown a lot of potential this year, but running back Peyton Hillis has been a major disappointment this year (though much of that had to do with injury).
Arizona's defense, which started the year resembling Swiss cheese but has since gotten much better, should not have much of a problem holding the Browns at bay.
The Cardinals have basically no shot at the playoffs, but that didn't stop them from upsetting the 49ers last week, and Cleveland is definitely no San Francisco.
Cardinals 31, Browns 9
Ladies and gentlemen, here is your game of the week.
Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos host the New England Patriots as they continue their remarkable quest to win their division. The Broncos have won six in a row thanks to stout defense, a great running game and the late-game heroics of Tebow and Matt Prater, but the Patriots have been hot as well.
The Broncos have one of the most unique offenses in the league to suit its quarterback's strengths, but as Tebow improves the offense gets more and more pass-oriented.
Receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas both have a ton of potential, but both have been prone to costly drops (particularly Thomas).
New England has one of the worst pass defenses in the league, but at the same time they are good at getting takeaways, so if they can shut down the run game and force Tebow to throw, they'll have opportunities to do that.
The Patriots have the best passing offense Denver has seen since getting smoked by the Lions 45-10, but the defense has improved since then.
Denver's secondary has been fairly average this year, so pass rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil will have to have big days and disrupt Brady. That seems to be their only shot defensively.
I rarely pick upsets, but New England has been far from invincible this year, glimpses of which were seen in one touchdown wins over the Colts and the Redskins in successive weeks. With Tebow seemingly improving at quarterback and this team gaining momentum, I'm picking a big upset at Mile High.
Broncos 29, Patriots 28
The New York Jets travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in a game with huge playoff implications, at least for the Jets.
New York has been putting up a lot of points lately, scoring 28, 34 and 37 points in their last three games.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez has struggled at points this year, but he's played better lately in part because Shonn Greene and the running game seems to have hit its stride.
Philadelphia's defense has gotten better as of late, but they are still very inconsistent.
The Eagles may have found their stride on offense with Michael Vick back at quarterback. Running back LeSean McCoy has been a steady and dominant weapon for the Eagles, and receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are always dangerous.
The Jets have uncharacteristically struggled on defense at times this year, but they are still ranked 12th in points allowed and sixth in total and passing defense.
The Eagles are a dangerous team now that they have nothing other than pride to play for and the pressure is off, but I like the Jets' chances of taking another big step towards the playoffs.
Jets 23, Eagles 20
The Ravens have an above-average offense that is led by quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice. Receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith provide Flacco with a couple of solid weapons, as does Rice, who is the most important player on this offense.
The Chargers will have trouble stopping the Ravens' running game, but they are good overall despite ranking just 21st in points allowed.
San Diego has been plagued by costly mistakes throughout this season, and that has been especially true on offense. However, they are one of the most talented offenses in the NFL.
Quarterback Philip Rivers has been lighting up the scoreboard the last two games, and running backs Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert have sparked the running game. Receiver Vincent Jackson and tight end Antonio Gates have been Rivers' prime weapons.
Baltimore's defense will be challenged by San Diego, but the Ravens are a different animal than what the Chargers have seen in its past two wins. Ranked fourth or better in all four categories, they play with an attitude and have dominated all year.
This could be a close game, but I like the Ravens.
Ravens 20, Chargers 14
Finally, an exciting Monday night match-up. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers will clash in a game of heavyweights.
The 49ers have been a remarkable story this season, going 10-3 with a first-year coach and largely the same personnel from last year's 6-10 squad.
Quarterback Alex Smith has been a great game manager for the run-oriented 'Niners, and running backs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter have carried the offense. Receivers Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards and tight end Vernon Davis provide talented targets for Smith.
Pittsburgh's defense is one of the most dominant in the NFL, but they will be without star linebacker James Harrison, who was suspended for a game for his hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.
If the Steelers have a defensive "weakness," it would be the run defense (ranked sixth in the league compared to second, second and first for the other three categories), which is good news for the 'Niners.
The Steelers have a dangerous offense led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Rashard Mendenhall and receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. Pittsburgh is not statistically dominant offensively, but they do have the ninth-ranked passing game in the NFL.
The 'Niners allow the fewest points per game of any team in the NFL, but their 19th-ranked pass defense does not match up well with the Steelers' offense.
This should be a great game, but I like the Steelers to hand the 49ers its fourth loss.
Steelers 22, 49ers 19