NFL WEEK 15: IT’S CRUNCH TIME

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     I cannot believe that its already week 15 of the NFL Season.  It just seems like yesterday that I was watching that first Thursday Night Game with Peyton Manning throwing 7 Touchdowns on Opening Night.  This season has been a gut wrenching one for many successful teams and some unlikely teams have dominated the league.  For instance, the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets that were all playoff teams last year will miss this year’s Dance.  The Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles, and New Orleans Saints have been surprise teams.  If these teams make the playoffs they will be a force to reckon with.  As we get close to the close of the season and the start of the Post Season (Playoffs), we will quickly analyze this seasons winners, losers, MVP Favorites, key injuries, Super Bowl Contenders or Pretenders, and a look at the teams that are on the bubble fighting for a playoff spot.  But first, lets look at this weeks match ups and I will give you my picks.

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WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-10, Last Place NFC EAST)

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ATLANTA FALCONS (3-10, LAST PLACE NFC SOUTH)

Okay, so this is a meaningless game between two of the worst teams in the league.  Washington and Atlanta are both tied for the worst record in the league behind the Houston Texans (2-10).  So yes, as far as the playoffs there are no implications here.  However, whatever team loses will go a long way to deciding next year’s NFL Draft.  The Washington Redskins, have been a major disappointment this season.  Some people will say that the injury that RGIII suffered last season is an injury that really takes two years to come back from.  I am not buying that.  The Redskins are actually ranked Ninth in Total Team Offense (17th Passing/2nd Rushing).  They are 23rd in Total Team Defense, however they are dead last in points allowed with 407, which is 31.3 Points allowed per week, terrible.  The Falcons were many people’s pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  Ouch.  What a bust.  Atlanta is 4th in points allowed so I sense a similar theme here.  Atlanta also lost their best Wide Receiver, the dynamic Julio Jones to a Knee injury and their second wide out, Roddy White has missed a ton of time.  Also, Steven Jackson their offseason signing at Tailback missed the first seven weeks.  Also, Matt Ryan has been very inconsistent.  Nonetheless, this matchup is important for both franchises.  The Redskins are 6.5 Point Road Dogs at the Dome in Atlanta.  For some reason, I see this as a trap game if there is such thing between two bad teams.  I see the Redskins winning in an upset 27-24 on the road.

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SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (9-4, 2ND PLACE NFC WEST)

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TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-9, 3RD PLACE NFC SOUTH)

The San Francisco 49ers are behind Seattle in the standings, however they need this game more than Seattle needs a win.  The Bucs on the other hand are just finishing out another poor season full of disappointment and injuries.  As good as San Francisco has been this year, their Offense is ranked 28th Total in the League.  However, they are in the middle of the pack as far as team scoring at 12th (24.3 Points Per Game.)  San Fran has the 4th ranked Defense behind the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, and Houston Texans.  The 49ers bread and butter is their defense and they rely heavily on their running game and creating turnovers.  With the 49ers favored by 5.5 in this one, I would say this could be a trap game.  Nonetheless, Tampa is just too bad and has been plagued by injuries and controversy.  I am taking the Niners to win fairly easily by a score of 27-10.

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ARIZONA CARDINALS (8-5, 3RD PLACE NFC WEST)

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TENNESSEE TITANS (5-8, 2ND AFC SOUTH)

The Arizona Cardinals are holding on for dear life in the playoff race and basically need to win out to have any hope of making the playoffs.  They trail Seattle (11-2) and San Fran (9-4) in the Division.  So the only way they have a shot at the playoffs is to leapfrog the 49ers, which will take 3 wins and 49ers 2 Losses.  The Titans have been a weird team this season as they are lacking a true identity.  However, they have played spoiler to a few teams.  The Cardinals are favored by 2.5 in this one and I say they will win due to the playoff implications.  Arizona has the 5TH ranked Total Team Defense, which is amazing because Seattle, San Fran and Arizona are each in the Top 5.  The Cardinals have only been average on Offense but they bring it on the Defensive side.  Arizona wins 20-13.

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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-3, 1st PLACE NFC SOUTH)

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SAINT LOUIS RAMS (5-8, LAST PLACE NFC WEST)

The New Orleans Saints have played above expectation this season.  Their Defense has turned it around and their offense is…well their offense is LETHAL.  They have the League’s 6th Ranked Total Offense and are averaging 26.4 Points per Game, which is good enough for 7th.  Drew Brees has only been overshadowed by Peyton Manning.  Brees has a 106.5 Rating with 33 Touchdowns (2nd NFL) and 4,107 Yards (2nd NFL).  Star Tight End Jimmy Graham has 14 Touchdown Receptions, which leads the NFL.  On Defense, End Cameron Jordan is 4th in the league with 11.5 Sacks.  The Rams lost Franchise Quarterback Sam Bradford for the season after Eight Games, so they actually have played above expectations as well due to the circumstances.  The Saints win 35-21.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-2, 1ST PLACE NFC WEST)

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NEW YORK GIANTS (5-8, 3rd PLACE NFC EAST)

Well, this looks like a huge mismatch on paper.  The Seahawks are the First Seed in the NFC and the Giants are hanging onto playoff hopes by a thread.  The Seahawks as mentioned every week are one of the most balanced teams in the NFL as far as offense and defense.  They are 12th in Total Offense and 1st in Total Defense.  However, they can pound the ball and are 3rd in Rushing behind the Eagles and Redskins.  The Seahawks live and die with their Defense and also the 11th Man (FANS).  The Giants are 7 Point Underdogs at home.  I cannot bet against the Giants in December and near the Playoffs.  The Giants upset 20-17 as Eli Manning keeps the Giants slim playoff hopes alive.

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CHICAGO BEARS (7-6, 2nd NFC NORTH)

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CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-9, LAST PLACE AFC NORTH)

The Bears are only favored by 1 on the road in this one which tells me something.  The experts do not have much faith in the Bears at this point in the season.  They are tied with the Lions but talk about a team with no true identity.  ANd there is the Browns.  They have a terrible record, however, they have been in every game.  Their star receiver Josh Gordon leads the league in Receiving after serving a 4 Game Suspension.  Thats absolutely ridiculous.  And he is doing this with below average Quarterbacks, the latest being Josh Campbell.  The Bears really need this one but I say the Browns upset the Bears at Home, 27-24.

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HOUSTON TEXANS (2-11, LAST PLACE AFC SOUTH)

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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (8-5, 1st PLACE AFC SOUTH)

The Houston Texans are the league’s biggest disappointment along with the Atlanta Falcons.  They are trying to become the first NFL team to lead the league in Defense and have the worst record.  Starting Quarterbacks have thrown 8 PICK SIXES.  The turnover has been Houston’s own worst enemy.  Indy on the other hand is playing consistent ball behind second year quarterback Andrew Luck.  The Colts have also shined on Defense.  They are favored by 5.5 in this one and i see them winning as well as covering as they play for a top seed in the AFC Playoffs.  The Colts beat the Texans 32-21.

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BUFALO BILLS (4-9, LAST PLACE AFC EAST)

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JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-9, 3RD PLACE AFC SOUTH)

The Jaguars were the laughing stock of the AFC, and the NFL for that matter for most the season, however they are on a  role lately lead by a resurgence in their running game with Maurice Jones-Drew and they are also playing much better defense.  The Bills have been absolutely brutal against the spread.  I am picking the Jaguars to win this one outright 20-13.

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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-3, 1st PLACE AFC 

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MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-6, 2nd PLACE AFC EAST)

New England Patriots/Miami Dolphins games always seem to be very entertaining.  This game pits the Division leading Pats against the 2nd place Fish.  Miami has been hot as of late and will be playing in front of the home crowd.  Miami needs this win much more than the Pats.  Also, losing Rob Gronkowski for the season was a terrible blow to the Patriots Offense.  Tom Brady has not had a Brady Like Season.  Its been more like the Brady Bunch in New England.  The Pats are favored by 2 in this one.  Miami upsets the Pats by a score of 20-17.

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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8-5, 1st PLACE NFC EAST)

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MINNESOTA VIKINGS (3-9-1)

The Eagles are coming of their epic instant classic win against the Detroit Lions, last sunday in the snow.  What an awesome game to watch both live and on television.  Nick Foles continues to show improvement each week.  In my opinion, it was an absolute feat for him to throw some of the balls he did last week in that weather.  He is definitely becoming a fan favorite in Philly.  With his play he has also garnered some much deserved MVP credit.  The Eagles have already performed above expectation.  At this point, the Eagles control their own destiny.  If the Eagles can win out, they win the Division and host a home playoff game.  Nick Foles has 20 Touchdown Passes and only 1 Pick and continues to lead the league in passer rating.  LeSean McCoy, who comes off an Eagles season game rushing record is the leader in yards from scrimmage in the NFL.  McCoy has been compared to Barry Sanders.  The Vikings have been a huge disappointment and now start Chris Ponder at Quarterback.  The Eagles are favored by 5.5 in a game that Adrian Peterson will likely miss.  I am taking the Eagles in an onslaught 45-17.

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NEW YORK JETS (6-7, 3rd PLACE AFC EAST)

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CAROLINA PANTHERS (9-4, 2nd NFC SOUTH)

Up until last weeks loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Panthers were the NFL’s hottest team.  The Panthers had won 8 straight games.  They play a ferocious relentless type of defense and Cam Newton is another MVP candidate.  The Jets however, have been extremely disappointing.  I see this as a trap game.  The Panthers are favored by 11.5 Points.  I say the Panthers win 24-20 but do  not cover.

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KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-3, 2nd PLACE AFC WEST)

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OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-9, LAST PLACE AFC WEST)

The Chiefs have come down to earth, losing three straight after winning nine straight.  It makes perfect sense, tho.  For the first ten weeks, the Chiefs were Number One in Turnover Differential.  In their three straight losses, they have lost the Turnover Battle.  However, after the Broncos lost on Thursday, this is a perfect game for the Chiefs to rise back up and keep on the trail of the Broncos.  The Raiders are having another poor season.  Chiefs 27-Raiders 21.

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GREEN BAY PACKERS (6-6-1, 3rd NFC NORTH)

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DALLAS COWBOYS (7-6, 2nd NFC EAST)

The Packers are like Jekyll and Hyde without Aaron Rodgers.  The two time MVP has missed the past four games.  The Packers are barely hanging in there.  Dallas on the other hand is trying to keep pace with the Eagles in the NFC EAST.  However, the Cowboys have been dead last in total Team Defense all season n and have not been much better in points allowed.  The Cowboys do have a potent offense that can keep up with any team.  The Packers are 6.5 Point Dogs on the Road.  I say the Cowboys win big 45-27.

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CINCINNATI BENGALS (9-4, 1st PLACE AFC NORTH)

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PITTSBURGH STEELERS (5-8)

The Bengals are trying to play for seeding at this point as they almost have the Division wrapped up.  Don’t get me wrong yet, this is not over yet.  The Bengals are facing a fierce rival in the Steelers.  However, the Steelers are not the same Steelers in 2013.  There is no swagger.  The Bengals are favored by 2.  I say the Steelers upset the apple cart at home and win 17-14.

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BALTIMORE RAVENS (7-6, 2nd AFC NORTH)

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DETROIT LIONS (7-6, 1st NFC NORTH)

The champs are back as the Ravens are hot behind the resurgent Joe Flacco.  However, the Lions after their loss to the Eagles are in a must win so that they can win the Division.  The Lions win this game as Megatron goes off once again.  Lions 34-Ravens 24.

Winners- Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks.

Losers- Houston Texans, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay, Minnesota.

MVP FAVORITES- Nick Foles, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, LeSean McCoy, Jamal Charles, Calvin Johnson.

Key Injuries- Julio Jones, Sam Bradford, Mike Vick, Doug Martin, Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler.

Contenders- Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Carlina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers.

Pretenders- New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals.

Bubble Teams- Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys.

Until Next Time…This has been your host DA BIRD.  Enjoy your Sunday of Football and Good Luck to all of the Fantasy Football Playoff Teams.

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