Insiders predict: NFL week 15 winners

December 11, 2019
Tom Szczerbowski // Getty Images

Insiders predict: NFL week 15 winners

With just three games remaining in the NFL regular season, only three teams have clinched their playoff spots. With so much to be decided, several games on the Week 15 slate carry meaning for both teams involved. Let’s get right into it. Here are some of the best matchups this week:

Bears @ Packers: The Bears are still alive in the wild card chase and the Packers are looking to maintain their lead in the NFC North. The NFL’s oldest rivalry is renewed in a game that carries much significance for both teams.

Texans @ Titans: First place in the AFC South is on the line, as these two teams with identical records square off in a game that will have one team sitting pretty heading into Week 16 and another fighting for a wild card spot.

Rams @ Cowboys: Back-to-back wins have the Rams in contention for a wild card spot, while the Cowboys remain in first place in the NFC East by owning the tiebreaker over the Eagles. Dallas looks to break a three-game losing streak to get back to .500 and stay atop the divisional standings.

Bills @ Steelers: An intense battle between the two teams that currently occupy both wild card spots in the AFC playoff standings. With the Titans lurking closely behind at 8-5, both of these teams need a win to make the final two weeks of the regular season a bit more comfortable.

Methodology: Insiders predicts are based on the team that is favored to win, which is based on consensus betting odds and spread on MSN.com as of Dec. 11, 2019. Team stats were gathered from NFL.com. Check out the live odds at MSN.com.

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Al Bello // Getty Images

New York Jets (5-8) @ Baltimore Ravens (11-2)

- Gametime: Thursday, Dec. 12, 8:20 p.m. EST

Since early October, no team has slowed down the surging Baltimore Ravens. And if their nine-game winning streak isn’t impressive enough on its own, six of the teams they’ve defeated in that span would be playoff teams if the season ended today. With Sunday’s 24-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills, Baltimore has officially secured a playoff spot and looks poised to claim the stop spot in the AFC with a one-game lead over the Patriots.

Lamar Jackson in his sophomore season is the clear MVP favorite. He added three touchdown passes Sunday, taking his league-leading total number of touchdowns to 35, and surpassed 1,000 yards rushing on the season. With 23 more yards on the ground, he will take over Michael Vick’s record for most rushing yards in a single season.

In 2018, the New York Jets traded up in the draft to select who they hoped to be their franchise quarterback, Sam Darnold, notably passing on Josh Allen and Josh Rosen. And all the way at the bottom of the first round falling into the Ravens’ lap was Jackson.

It’ll be another year without postseason play for the Jets, who have already been eliminated. This is the last Thursday night game of the 2019 season schedule, but the finale likely won’t be one of the more entertaining contests. Oddsmakers have Baltimore by more than two touchdowns, and that still feels too small.

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Timothy T Ludwig // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Baltimore Ravens

- Favored to win: Baltimore Ravens
- Spread: -14.5
- Odds: -848

- New York Jets team stats:
- Offense: 271.4 yards per game (#31 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 195.8 ypg (#30)
--- Rushing offense: 75.6 ypg (#31)
- Defense: 320.8 yards per game (#7 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 242.0 ypg (#18)
--- Rushing defense: 78.8 ypg (#2)

- Baltimore Ravens team stats:
- Offense: 408.2 yards per game (#2 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 207.2 ypg (#26)
--- Rushing offense: 200.9 ypg (#1)
- Defense: 314.6 yards per game (#6 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 219.0 ypg (#9)
--- Rushing defense: 95.6 ypg (#6)

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Jim Rogash // Getty Images

New England Patriots (10-3) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-12)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 1 p.m. EST

The reigning champs look vulnerable. After cruising through the first half of the season undefeated, they’ve lost three of five and are limping into the playoffs. What is concerning for the Patriots come January is they will most certainly run into one of the three teams that have bested them—the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, and Kansas City Chiefs all lead their divisions, and the Ravens and Chiefs have already punched their tickets to the playoffs. Their 23-16 loss to the Chiefs was their second straight—a second failed attempt to clinch a playoff spot in as many weeks.

Thankfully for New England, this week they travel to Cincinnati to battle the league’s worst team. What’s not so great for New England is the added controversy after the team was accused of filming the Bengals sideline last week during a 27-19 Cincinnati loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Scandal is not foreign to a Patriots team that has infamously been involved in Spygate and Deflategate, so it’s hard to take the team at their word when they say the film crew was there as part of of a Patriots web series and the failure to inform the Bengals and the league was an “ unintended oversight.”

Whether or not the Patriots were acting nefariously, there should be no need to look for an edge to topple to woeful Bengals. New England desperately needs a “get right” game and they couldn’t ask for a better opponent than Cincinnati.

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Maddie Meyer // Getty Images

Insiders predict: New England Patriots

- Favored to win: New England Patriots
- Spread: -9.5
- Odds: -439

- New England Patriots team stats:
- Offense: 354.4 yards per game (#15 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 258.2 ypg (#9)
--- Rushing offense: 96.2 ypg (#23)
- Defense: 264.8 yards per game (#1 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 171.8 ypg (#2)
--- Rushing defense: 93.0 ypg (#4)

- Cincinnati Bengals team stats:
- Offense: 312.5 yards per game (#25 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 226.8 ypg (#18)
--- Rushing offense: 85.8 ypg (#28)
- Defense: 399.5 yards per game (#31 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 242.8 ypg (#19)
--- Rushing defense: 156.7 ypg (#32)

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Mike Ehrmann // Getty Images

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) @ Detroit Lions (3-9-1)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 1 p.m. EST

The Detroit Lions, who started the season in promising fashion, have now lost six straight and are simply playing for pride over the remaining three games of the season. The Lions were already officially eliminated from the postseason when they battled the Minnesota Vikings Sunday—the Vikings led the entire way in a 20-7 victory. It was the only game all season the Lions never held a lead, which suggests they are likely a bit better than their record indicates. The injury to Matthew Stafford is what truly derailed the Lions’ season as they have not won since he’s been sidelined with a back injury.

Despite finding some late-season firepower over a three-game winning streak averaging nearly 34 points per game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were officially eliminated from contention after the conclusion of Week 14. The Bucs have been both incredibly fun and incredibly frustrating to watch this season if you are a fan, and quarterback Jameis Winston is a major contributing factor. The dynamic and wildly reckless QB is #2 in passing yards, #2 in passing touchdowns, but also #1 in interceptions and ranked toward the bottom of the league in completion percentage.

Nothing is on the line for either team this week, but Vegas is riding the Buccaneers as they are the road favorites.

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Julio Aguilar // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

- Favored to win: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Spread: -4
- Odds: -194

- Tampa Bay Buccaneers team stats:
- Offense: 392.8 yards per game (#3 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 298.2 ypg (#2)
--- Rushing offense: 94.6 ypg (#24)
- Defense: 354.3 yards per game (#17 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 278.8 ypg (#31)
--- Rushing defense: 75.5 ypg (#1)

- Detroit Lions team stats:
- Offense: 366.0 yards per game (#13 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 263.2 ypg (#7)
--- Rushing offense: 102.8 ypg (#19)
- Defense: 394.7 yards per game (#29 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 276.5 ypg (#30)
--- Rushing defense: 118.2 ypg (#23)

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Jonathan Daniel // Getty Images

Chicago Bears (7-6) @ Green Bay Packers (10-3)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 1 p.m. EST

An NFC North battle and a rematch of a Week 1 defensive struggle has major playoff implications for both the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. For the Packers, a victory Sunday or a loss or tie by the Los Angeles Rams means they are postseason bound. And for the Bears...well, they need a lot to happen, but a loss this week all but ends their playoff hopes.

The Packers’ 20-15 victory over the Washington Redskins keeps them in the NFC’s #2 seed, and if they can win each of their remaining three games, they will drop no further than that and will be guaranteed a first-round bye. While the Packers have the same record as the New Orleans Saints, they will hold a tiebreaker based on a better winning percentage in the conference.

The Bears have dug themselves into a hole and need a victory to guarantee their postseason chances stay alive (at least for another week). Chicago has found a little bit of rhythm with Mitchell Trubisky under center—the third-year man out of the University of North Carolina has amassed seven touchdowns and 860 yards over the team’s current three-game winning streak.

When these two squads met at the beginning of the season Chicago was the favorite, but Green Bay toppled the defending NFC North champs 10-3 at Soldier Field. This time around, oddsmakers like the Pack over the desperate Bears.

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Quinn Harris // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Green Bay Packers

- Favored to win: Green Bay Packers
- Spread: -4.5
- Odds: -211

- Chicago Bears team stats:
- Offense: 289.5 yards per game (#29 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 204.6 ypg (#28)
--- Rushing offense: 84.8 ypg (#29)
- Defense: 326.5 yards per game (#10 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 230.2 ypg (#13)
--- Rushing defense: 96.3 ypg (#7)

- Green Bay Packers team stats:
- Offense: 340.1 yards per game (#23 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 233.1 ypg (#16)
--- Rushing offense: 107.0 ypg (#17)
- Defense: 367.9 yards per game (#22 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 245.1 ypg (#21)
--- Rushing defense: 122.8 ypg (#25)

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Tim Warner // Getty Images

Houston Texans (8-5) @ Tennessee Titans (8-5)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 1 p.m. EST

The AFC South title hangs in the balance, as this matchup will go a long way in determining if it will be the Houston Texans or the Tennessee Titans. While the 6-7 Indianapolis Colts are still technically alive for the division crown, it appears to be a two-horse race. And as a bonus, these teams rematch in Week 17. A victory this week means control of the division, and a season sweep for either team means an AFC South title.

In maybe the biggest surprise of Week 14, the Texans were blown out 38-24 at home by the Denver Broncos, and the game wasn’t even as close as the score suggests. Houston trailed by as many as 35 points in the massive upset. The Titans capitalized on the Texans’ slip and took care of business in a 42-21 victory in Oakland over the Raiders. The Ryan Tannehill magic continues—since the Titans made the switch at QB and sent Marcus Mariota to the bench, they have won six of seven contests and their 31.4 points per game during that stretch ranks second in the league.

There are several different ways the Texans and Titans can make the playoffs, but those scenarios are much simpler with a victory Sunday.

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Thearon W. Henderson // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Tennessee Titans

- Favored to win: Tennessee Titans
- Spread: -3
- Odds: -149

- Houston Texans team stats:
- Offense: 376.0 yards per game (#9 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 245.8 ypg (#10)
--- Rushing offense: 130.2 ypg (#7)
- Defense: 375.3 yards per game (#25 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 265.8 ypg (#27)
--- Rushing defense: 109.5 ypg (#18)

- Tennessee Titans team stats:
- Offense: 346.8 yards per game (#18 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 218.7 ypg (#21)
--- Rushing offense: 128.2 ypg (#8)
- Defense: 361.6 yards per game (#19 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 260.0 ypg (#25)
--- Rushing defense: 101.6 ypg (#10)

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Dustin Bradford // Getty Images

Denver Broncos (5-8) @ Kansas City Chiefs (9-4)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 1 p.m. EST

The Kansas City Chiefs have at least one guaranteed home game in January after taking down the AFC East-leading New England Patriots en route to clinching the AFC West for a fourth consecutive season. K.C. got its retribution in a rematch of last year’s AFC title game which sent New England to the Super Bowl. The Chiefs weathered a mid-season storm and have strung together three straight victories. With three very winnable games left on the schedule, including this week’s matchup against the Denver Broncos, the Chiefs still have their sights on a first-round bye. Don’t expect them to take their foot off the gas.

For the Broncos, it would take a series of very improbable events for them to earn a postseason berth, but it is still technically possible. Their upset victory over the Houston Texans kept them alive for another week, but just barely. Even with a win over Kansas City, if the Pittsburgh Steelers win, or the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans tie (you never know!), it’s over. The good news for the Broncos is the impressive play from rookie quarterback Drew Lock. He’s 2-0 in his two NFL starts, and in the 38-24 victory over the Texans, Locks tossed three touchdowns in the first half.

Will Lock jump to 3-0? Vegas doesn’t think so and doesn’t expect it to be close, either.

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Maddie Meyer // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Kansas City Chiefs

- Favored to win: Kansas City Chiefs
- Spread: -10
- Odds: -464

- Denver Broncos team stats:
- Offense: 303.1 yards per game (#27 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 196.2 ypg (#29)
--- Rushing offense: 106.9 ypg (#18)
- Defense: 331.2 yards per game (#12 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 215.9 ypg (#6)
--- Rushing defense: 115.2 ypg (#21)

- Kansas City Chiefs team stats:
- Offense: 381.7 yards per game (#6 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 288.7 ypg (#4)
--- Rushing offense: 93.0 ypg (#27)
- Defense: 364.8 yards per game (#20 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 227.2 ypg (#12)
--- Rushing defense: 137.7 ypg (#28)

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Rich Schultz // Getty Images

Miami Dolphins (3-10) @ New York Giants (2-11)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 1 p.m. EST

There’s too much good football in Week 15 to spend any time here, but if you’ve reached the playoffs in your fantasy league and need a big week out of Saquon Barkley or DeVante Parker, maybe you take a peek. This matchup will have an impact on the 2020 NFL Draft order: As things currently sit, the New York Giants would select second and the Miami Dolphins fourth. Both fan bases are quietly rooting to lose out, even if they won’t admit it.

The return of two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning was almost a storybook ending, but the 38-year-old QB, who was benched earlier in the season in favor of rookie Daniel Jones, couldn’t help the Giants hold onto a double-digit lead. New York lost 23-17 in overtime, in what was quite possibly his last start in a Giants uniform. Manning replaced Jones as the starter Sunday because of a high ankle sprain the rookie endured Week 13—it’s unclear if he’ll be ready Week 15.

Miami will play its second game at MetLife Stadium in as many weeks. After losing 22-21 to the New York Jets, resulting in a season series split, the Dolphins will stay in New York to battle the Giants. Journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely remain the starter through the end of the season, and then it’s anyone’s guess who the Dolphins signal-caller will be in 2020.

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Brett Carlsen // Getty Images

Insiders predict: New York Giants

- Favored to win: New York Giants
- Spread: -3.5
- Odds: -188

- Miami Dolphins team stats:
- Offense: 283.5 yards per game (#30 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 216.2 ypg (#23)
--- Rushing offense: 67.3 ypg (#32)
- Defense: 397.7 yards per game (#30 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 256.6 ypg (#23)
--- Rushing defense: 141.1 ypg (#30)

- New York Giants team stats:
- Offense: 311.9 yards per game (#26 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 218.2 ypg (#22)
--- Rushing offense: 93.8 ypg (#26)
- Defense: 376.3 yards per game (#27 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 261.8 ypg (#26)
--- Rushing defense: 114.5 ypg (#20)

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Patrick Smith // Getty Images

Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) @ Washington Redskins (3-10)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 1 p.m. EST

A clash in a division that seemingly no team wants to win: the NFC East. The 23-17 overtime victory over the New York Giants on Monday night brings the Philadelphia Eagles into a first-place tie with the Dallas Cowboys, but the Cowboys hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Eagles desperately needed to capitalize on a Cowboys loss to the Bears and needed to emerge from a 14-point deficit to do so.

The Eagles have been decimated by injury this season, and things went from bad to worse after it was announced top receiver Alshon Jeffery will miss the remainder of the season with a foot injury. While the Eagles should be able to squeak by the woeful Redskins with a lesser lineup, the division will be on the line Week 16 against the Dallas Cowboys. Philly is down to two healthy wide receivers: JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward. It’s still uncertain if Nelson Agholor will be available Sunday—he was inactive Sunday against the Giants.

Not much the Redskins can do other than play spoiler. They fought the Green Bay Packers in a close 20-15 contest last week, but it never really felt like they had a chance. A two-game winning streak, which has been the highlight of a rather bleak season, was snapped in the loss.

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Brett Carlsen // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Philadelphia Eagles

- Favored to win: Philadelphia Eagles
- Spread: -4.5
- Odds: -209

- Philadelphia Eagles team stats:
- Offense: 348.2 yards per game (#17 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 229.5 ypg (#17)
--- Rushing offense: 118.7 ypg (#13)
- Defense: 326.7 yards per game (#11 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 237.1 ypg (#17)
--- Rushing defense: 89.6 ypg (#3)

- Washington Redskins team stats:
- Offense: 262.4 yards per game (#32 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 161.3 ypg (#32)
--- Rushing offense: 101.1 ypg (#20)
- Defense: 359.8 yards per game (#18 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 225.0 ypg (#11)
--- Rushing defense: 134.8 ypg (#27)

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Grant Halverson // Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks (10-3) @ Carolina Panthers (5-8)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 1 p.m. EST

After winning five straight games, the Seahawks suffered a 28-12 loss to the Rams on Sunday night, which knocked them out of the top spot in the NFC West. It was one of the few times this season that Russell Wilson was effectively shut down, as he struggled to get going and was held without a touchdown while also being intercepted once and sacked five times.

Seattle is still in good standing, though, possessing the top wild card spot in the NFC with a game against the 49ers left on the schedule in Week 17 that may decide the division. But first, the Seahawks focus on their battle with the Panthers who are on their second head coach, naming Perry Fewell to the job on an interim basis after firing Ron Rivera.

Fewell’s first outing in charge did not go so well. The Falcons handed them a 40-20 loss, pushing the Carolina losing streak to five games. The Panthers are eliminated from the playoffs.

Following the Seahawks’ last two losses, they were able to rebound with victories against subpar teams. Expect a similar result this Sunday.

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Kevork Djansezian // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Seattle Seahawks

- Favored to win: Seattle Seahawks
- Spread: -6
- Odds: -248

- Seattle Seahawks team stats:
- Offense: 383.9 yards per game (#5 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 243.2 ypg (#11)
--- Rushing offense: 140.8 ypg (#3)
- Defense: 375.5 yards per game (#26 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 271.2 ypg (#29)
--- Rushing defense: 104.4 ypg (#13)

- Carolina Panthers team stats:
- Offense: 341.5 yards per game (#21 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 222.6 ypg (#19)
--- Rushing offense: 118.9 ypg (#12)
- Defense: 373.9 yards per game (#24 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 234.8 ypg (#15)
--- Rushing defense: 139.2 ypg (#29)

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Rob Foldy // Getty Images

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) @ Oakland Raiders (6-7)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 4:05 p.m. EST

In a meeting between two wild card contenders last Sunday afternoon, the Raiders failed to show up in the second half and were outclassed at home by the Titans 42-21. Derek Carr threw a pair of first-half touchdowns and had the Raiders heading to the locker room tied with Tennessee 21-21.

In the final 30 minutes, Oakland’s offense produced drives that resulted in four punts, a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and a turnover on downs at the end of the game. That sank the Raiders’ record to 6-7, making it a long shot that they could compete for a playoff spot unless they win out and get some help elsewhere.

The Jaguars fared no better last weekend, as they were lit up by Philip Rivers and the Chargers in a 45-10 loss on their home turf. That marked five straight losses for Jacksonville and the closest of those lopsided affairs was a 17-point loss to Tampa Bay the week prior.

Simply put, the Jaguars have been getting blown out for weeks, and traveling across the country to face a team that is still fighting to keep its slim playoff hopes alive seems like a recipe for another loss.

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Lachlan Cunningham // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Oakland Raiders

- Favored to win: Oakland Raiders
- Spread: -6.5
- Odds: -290

- Jacksonville Jaguars team stats:
- Offense: 351.2 yards per game (#16 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 239.7 ypg (#12)
--- Rushing offense: 111.5 ypg (#14)
- Defense: 373.1 yards per game (#23 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 232.0 ypg (#14)
--- Rushing defense: 141.1 ypg (#30)

- Oakland Raiders team stats:
- Offense: 354.8 yards per game (#14 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 234.2 ypg (#15)
--- Rushing offense: 120.7 ypg (#11)
- Defense: 376.4 yards per game (#28 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 268.4 ypg (#28)
--- Rushing defense: 108.0 ypg (#15)

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Gregory Shamus // Getty Images

Cleveland Browns (6-7) @ Arizona Cardinals (3-9-1)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 4:05 p.m. EST

Traveling west has not resulted in good things for the Browns thus far this season. In their road game at the 49ers, they were beaten 31-3, and when they traveled to Denver to face Brandon Allen and the Broncos, the result was a 24-19 defeat. They hope to break that trend and come out of the desert with a win against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals on Sunday.

A 6-7 record does not mean all is lost for Cleveland. While a long shot, they are alive in the AFC wild card chase. They trail the Steelers, who occupy the sixth seed, by two full games, but they do hold the tiebreaker over the Raiders and Colts—also still kicking—by having a better divisional record.

After stringing together three straight wins earlier this season, the Cardinals have lost six straight and sit buried at the bottom of the NFC West, arguably the NFL’s best division this season. In Week 14, Arizona was competitive with the Steelers but fell short 23-17 as Murray was limited to just 194 yards in the air and was intercepted three times while throwing a pair of touchdown passes.

This is a meeting of the past two Heisman Trophy winners and first overall picks in the NFL Draft, but both of them have taken their lumps this season. Though there is plenty of drama surrounding the Browns, including rumors about star wideout Odell Beckham Jr., they should have enough to handle the Cardinals and perhaps put off postseason elimination for another week.

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Kirk Irwin // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Cleveland Browns

- Favored to win: Cleveland Browns
- Spread: -2.5
- Odds: -145

- Cleveland Browns team stats:
- Offense: 346.8 yards per game (#19 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 222.3 ypg (#20)
--- Rushing offense: 124.5 ypg (#9)
- Defense: 346.0 yards per game (#16 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 217.8 ypg (#8)
--- Rushing defense: 128.2 ypg (#26)

- Arizona Cardinals team stats:
- Offense: 324.4 yards per game (#24 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 213.6 ypg (#24)
--- Rushing offense: 110.8 ypg (#15)
- Defense: 414.7 yards per game (#32 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 294.2 ypg (#32)
--- Rushing defense: 120.5 ypg (#24)

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Adam Bettcher // Getty Images

Minnesota Vikings (9-4) @ Los Angeles Chargers (5-8)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 4:05 p.m. EST

The Vikings maintained their perfect record at home in Week 14 by beating David Blough and the Lions 20-7. By rebounding from their narrow loss to the Seahawks to earn a victory against a division rival, the Vikings maintained their grip on the final wild card spot in the NFC and stayed within a game of the Packers for the NFC North lead, with a game against Green Bay coming in Week 16.

They can’t look ahead to that all-important, and potentially division-deciding game too quickly though. The Packers themselves learned the hard way how traveling out to California and taking the Chargers lightly could come back to bite you.

Los Angeles, who is eliminated, broke its three-game losing streak last week by thrashing the Jaguars 45-10 in Jacksonville in a game where Philip Rivers threw three touchdowns without an interception and Austin Ekeler rushed for 101 yards on just eight carries while racking up an additional 112 receiving yards.

This game means everything for the Vikings, as a loss would hurt their wild card chances and all but end their shot at an NFC North title. For the Chargers, it’s about making their record look better at season’s end and possibly strengthening the case to keep coach Anthony Lynn on board next season.

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Stephen Maturen // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Minnesota Vikings

- Favored to win: Minnesota Vikings
- Spread: -2.5
- Odds: -146

- Minnesota Vikings team stats:
- Offense: 374.8 yards per game (#11 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 239.1 ypg (#14)
--- Rushing offense: 135.8 ypg (#4)
- Defense: 338.5 yards per game (#14 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 236.6 ypg (#16)
--- Rushing defense: 101.8 ypg (#11)

- Los Angeles Chargers team stats:
- Offense: 375.7 yards per game (#10 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 278.5 ypg (#5)
--- Rushing offense: 97.2 ypg (#22)
- Defense: 304.8 yards per game (#4 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 196.6 ypg (#4)
--- Rushing defense: 108.2 ypg (#17)

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Alika Jenner // Getty Images

Los Angeles Rams (8-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (6-7)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 4:25 p.m. EST

Somehow, the Cowboys are currently riding a three-game losing skid and sporting a losing record yet are leading their division and are favored at home against a resurgent Rams team that has strung together back-to-back wins to pull within shouting distance of a wild card berth in the NFC playoff picture.

Dallas, still one of the league’s best offenses talent-wise, continues to get respect from the oddsmakers in Las Vegas, even though they have lost four of their last five with their lone win in that span coming against the Lions. Most recently, the Cowboys fell to the Bears 31-24 in Chicago in a game where Mitchell Trubisky found success against the Dallas defense to the tune of 244 yards and three touchdowns.

As for the Rams, their case for being a postseason contender was bolstered by their 28-12 victory over the Seahawks on Sunday night. Russell Wilson, who has had an outstanding season, was held without a touchdown pass and threw just his fifth interception of the season.

This is an important game for both teams, as the Cowboys are leading the NFC East by owning the tiebreaker over the Eagles and the Rams are still on the outside looking in, trailing the 9-4 Vikings by a game for the final playoff seed in the conference. While the Cowboys may seem to be getting a lot of love for being favored, the line originally opened with Dallas as a four-point favorite and shrunk rather quickly, suggesting that many are catching on to the Rams’ resurgence and to the fact that as good as the Cowboys’ offense has been, they may just be a bad team with a good offense in a terrible division.

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Meg Oliphant // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Los Angeles Rams

- Favored to win: Los Angeles Rams
- Spread: -1
- Odds: -115

- Los Angeles Rams team stats:
- Offense: 376.2 yards per game (#8 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 276.8 ypg (#6)
--- Rushing offense: 99.4 ypg (#21)
- Defense: 325.5 yards per game (#8 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 221.2 ypg (#10)
--- Rushing defense: 104.3 ypg (#12)

- Dallas Cowboys team stats:
- Offense: 430.8 yards per game (#1 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 306.8 ypg (#1)
--- Rushing offense: 124.1 ypg (#10)
- Defense: 326.2 yards per game (#9 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 216.4 ypg (#7)
--- Rushing defense: 109.8 ypg (#19)

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Scott Cunningham // Getty Images

Atlanta Falcons (4-9) @ San Francisco 49ers (11-2)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 4:25 p.m. EST

The 49ers have just finished a brutal stretch of games, facing teams that rank in the top three in their respective conferences three weeks in a row. They came out of it with a 2-1 record and sit alone atop the NFC, controlling their destiny for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It is hard to argue against their being the best team in the conference, as they have beaten the current second and third seeds head-to-head in the past three weeks.

Their 48-46 road win against the Saints in Week 14 proved that even when their defense is not dominant, they are capable of putting up large point totals to stay in games against potent offenses. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was impressive and provided some late-game heroics when San Francisco got the ball back with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter and trailing by a point. On a 4th-and-2 on his 33-yard line, Garoppolo connected with tight end George Kittle on a short pass which turned into a 53-yard gain when factoring in the 15-yard facemask penalty on the Saints after the play. It set up Robbie Gould for a 30-yard, game-winning field goal and capped off Garoppolo’s 349-yards, four-touchdown outing. With the win, the 49ers have convinced many that they are a Super Bowl-caliber team; opening as 11-point favorites against the Falcons would reinforce that.

Atlanta has been better in the second half of their season, going 3-2 in their last five games including a 40-20 win over the Panthers in Week 14. Still, a road win in San Francisco seems like an impossibly tall task and something that only the Seahawks have been able to pull off this season. Believe it or not, the 49ers are yet to clinch a playoff spot but can do so with a win this weekend.

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Chris Graythen // Getty Images

Insiders predict: San Francisco 49ers

- Favored to win: San Francisco 49ers
- Spread: -11
- Odds: -536

- Atlanta Falcons team stats:
- Offense: 376.5 yards per game (#7 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 295.7 ypg (#3)
--- Rushing offense: 80.8 ypg (#30)
- Defense: 366.4 yards per game (#21 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 258.4 ypg (#24)
--- Rushing defense: 108.0 ypg (#15)

- San Francisco 49ers team stats:
- Offense: 388.6 yards per game (#4 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 239.5 ypg (#13)
--- Rushing offense: 149.1 ypg (#2)
- Defense: 267.4 yards per game (#2 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 150.8 ypg (#1)
--- Rushing defense: 116.6 ypg (#22)

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Tom Szczerbowski // Getty Images

Buffalo Bills (9-4) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 15, 8:20 p.m. EST

Sunday night provides another matchup of two teams that are desperately trying to keep pace in the playoff hunt and with both the Bills and Steelers currently occupying the two wild card spots in the AFC, a loss for either one would be damaging with the surging Titans lurking behind with an 8-5 record and four straight wins.

Originally opening as home underdogs, the spread has already swung in favor of the Steelers, making them two-point favorites despite an unseasoned quarterback having to go up against a stingy Buffalo defense. Pittsburgh has been rejuvenated by the change to Devlin Hodges at quarterback, winning three straight since he took over during Week 12, including a 23-17 victory over the Cardinals last Sunday. They have also become a darling team for bettors in Las Vegas.

In their last 11 games, the Steelers are 7-2-2 against the spread. The youth at quarterback may have something to do with the fact that they are often still overlooked, but they have proven enough to not be underdogs on their turf against a Bills team that can suffer minor spells of offensive ineptitude.

Buffalo was unable to keep the momentum from a Thanksgiving Day win over the Cowboys, falling to the red-hot Ravens 24-17 in Week 14. Perhaps the most disappointing part of not being able to upset the Ravens last week was the fact that the Bills could not gain any ground on the Patriots in the AFC East. New England was beaten by Kansas City but maintains its lead on Buffalo in the division, meaning a wild card is still the most likely path to the postseason for the Bills—although they do match up in Week 16.

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Christian Petersen // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Pittsburgh Steelers

- Favored to win: Pittsburgh Steelers
- Spread: -2
- Odds: -131

- Buffalo Bills team stats:
- Offense: 341.9 yards per game (#20 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 206.6 ypg (#27)
--- Rushing offense: 135.3 ypg (#5)
- Defense: 296.8 yards per game (#3 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 191.5 ypg (#3)
--- Rushing defense: 105.3 ypg (#14)

- Pittsburgh Steelers team stats:
- Offense: 290.1 yards per game (#28 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 195.5 ypg (#31)
--- Rushing offense: 94.6 ypg (#24)
- Defense: 310.9 yards per game (#5 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 209.8 ypg (#5)
--- Rushing defense: 101.2 ypg (#9)

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Joe Robbins // Getty Images

Indianapolis Colts (6-7) @ New Orleans Saints (10-3)

- Gametime: Monday, Dec. 16, 8:15 p.m. EST

Drew Brees is coming off a five-touchdown performance in which he and the Saints hung 46 points on the league’s best defense...and lost. Falling to the 49ers in Week 14 means that New Orleans, for so long seeming like a virtual lock for a first-round bye in the playoffs, no longer controls its destiny as far as earning one of the top two seeds in the NFC. Now, at 10-3, they are seed behind the NFC-leading 49ers and should second seed Green Bay win out in their final three division games, the Saints will be hosting a wild card game come the first week of the postseason.

Though the Saints have already clinched their division, last Sunday’s loss to San Francisco leaves them in need of a win to try to keep their chances of a first-round bye alive. The fact that they remain at home to host a sputtering Colts team is a welcome sight for New Orleans faithful.

The Colts have lost three in a row, including two straight in which they squandered double-digit leads. In Week 14, they allowed 17 straight points to the Buccaneers to lose 38-35, severely damaging their postseason chances. They are still alive in the AFC Wild Card race but are currently two full games behind the Titans and Texans in the AFC South standings.

While the Saints seem likely to win this game, covering a nine-point spread may not be a guarantee. Despite their prolific offense, they have only covered a spread greater than a touchdown one time all season.

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Sean Gardner // Getty Images

Insiders predict: New Orleans Saints

- Favored to win: New Orleans Saints
- Spread: -9.5
- Odds: -403

- Indianapolis Colts team stats:
- Offense: 341.1 yards per game (#22 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 207.7 ypg (#25)
--- Rushing offense: 133.4 ypg (#6)
- Defense: 345.1 yards per game (#15 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 245.4 ypg (#22)
--- Rushing defense: 99.7 ypg (#8)

- New Orleans Saints team stats:
- Offense: 369.4 yards per game (#12 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 261.4 ypg (#8)
--- Rushing offense: 108.0 ypg (#16)
- Defense: 338.3 yards per game (#13 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 244.1 ypg (#20)
--- Rushing defense: 94.2 ypg (#5)

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