15 weeks down, 2 to go.
And those last two weeks are looking to be good ones. Five of the eight divisions may very well come down to the last game of the season, making many of the games these last two week must see.
So let’s get right to it:
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants are rolling and the Eagles are not. The Eagles have lost 5 in a row and the Giants are coming off of big wins against the Lions and Cowboys. Furthermore, the Giants defense has gelled and is amongst the elite units in the NFL, so much so that Giants safety Landon Collins is the front-runner for defensive player of the year.
The Eagles have nothing to play for here and the Giants still have not technically clinched a playoff birth, giving them ample motivation to perform.
Giants win big en route to the playoffs.
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills
The Dolphins are another team fighting for their playoff lives. They have won 4 of their last 5, including an impressive performance by backup quarterback Matt Moore. Rookie head coach Adam Gase has the offense working efficiently and effectively and the defense has stepped up its game as well, getting far more production out of Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso than previously hoped.
The Bills look to be on the brink of yet another losing season and according to most reports Rex Ryan is a dead man walking. Ryan is a firey leader who will not go down without a fight, but the Bills have been hampered by injuries all year long and going against this resurgent Dolphins’ squad should not end well.
Dolphins get the win and get one step closer to the playoffs.
New York Jets @ New England Patriots
Last week the New York Jets gave up 4 passing touchdowns to Matt Moore. Imagine what the Patriots with Tom Brady will to them. The Jets are a bad team that quit on the season five weeks ago. There is no reason to believe that they will beat the Patriots, even if the Patriots rest a bunch of their starters.
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have been a horrendous disappointment this year, to the point that head coach Gus Bradley was given his walking papers last week. The Titans are looking at a potential playoff run behind an elite run game, a stout defense, and a quarterback that is playing mistake-free football.
The Jaguars have nothing to play for and are giving up 25+ points per game and they are going against a determined foe that is hungry for success.
I like the Titans to run all over the Jaguars in this game.
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
Four weeks ago Aaron Rodgers said the Packers were going to run the table and make the playoffs. Since then Green Bay has won 4 in a row setting up a potential showdown with the Lions in week 17 for the right to represent the NFC North in the playoffs.
The Vikings started out a promising 5-0, but injuries took too big of a toll on the franchise. While Sam Bradford has played better than expected and filled in admirably for Teddy Bridgewater, the losses of Adrian Peterson and their two starting offensive tackles has proven to be to big of a hurdle to overcome.
I like the Packers to take this game and set up a dramatic week 17.
San Diego Chargers @ Cleveland Browns
Two teams playing for draft picks. At this point the Browns have to go 0-16 right? I mean, what would the point be otherwise?
I have never been a Philip Rivers fan, but he is a competitor and always puts forth the effort, which is more than I can say for a lot of the Browns personnel.
The Chargers will win because they are not nearly as bad as Cleveland is.
Washington Redskins @ Chicago Bears
The Bears have moments of brilliance and have been showing that they have some talent to build around. But none of that has translated to wins. They will be entering this week with a third string quarterback against a Washington team that is still in the thick of the playoff race.
The Bears also have been highly deficient in their defensive secondary. They have starting players that were signed off of other teams’ practice squads. Many of the people on this team will not be back simply because they are not good enough. And that is a poor matchup against Kirk Cousins and his dangerous arsenal.
Redskins win what should be a fairly entertaining game.
Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers
I do not know what got into the Panthers last week. They put a beat down on a tough Redskins team last week even though they had nothing to play for. This week they get a far greater challenge in the Atlanta Falcons who have been the best scoring offense all year long in the NFL.
With the Buccaneers hot on their heels and an outside shot at a first round bye, the Falcons have plenty to play for. Plus, they are going against a team that has allowed the opposition to score 25 points per game and amass 360 yards per contest.
I like the Falcons.
Indianapolis Colts @ Oakland Raiders
So for whatever reason the Colts had a fire lit under their asses last week and put a monumental beat down on the hapless Vikings. The Colts have an outside shot at the playoffs, but not a likely one. The Raiders have clinched playoffs and seek to clinch both the division and a first-round bye.
The Colts have been shockingly competitive this year, but they are not on the Raiders’ level. Oakland is an elite team that has a real shot at advancing to and even winning the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
Despite Jameis Winston progressing nicely and the team competing for a playoff spot, I was surprised to discover that the Bucs have -9 net points on the season. Neither the defense, nor the offense has been terrible, but neither of them has stood out either.
Luckily for them they are playing a Saints team that despite its prodigious offense has struggled to pick up wins against quality opponents. And with a 3-4 home record, the Superdome has not been the vaunted home field advantage that it once was.
Despite Drew Brees once again putting up rediculous numbers, the Saints have nothing to play for at this point and are just looking to wrap up the season.
With the division at stake I like the Bucs to get a big win and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks
I have said it the past few weeks, that the Cardinals have been one of the biggest disappointments this year. The Seahawks have already clinched playoffs, but they desperately want that first round bye in order to give Russell Wilson some time to heal.
This feels like a trap game for the Seahawks. They are facing a division foe who has nothing to lose and their hopes rest on the hobbled ankle of their star quarterback. A trap game it may be, but the Cardinals have lost 4 of their last 5 games and will be playing in Seattle where the Seahawks are undefeated this season.
Seahawks maintain their perfect record at home and win this game.
San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams
Who cares? Two bad California teams that appear a long way away from competitiveness are going head to head with nothing but draft positioning at stake. These are two of the worst offenses in the NFL, but the deciding factor in this game will be defense. The Rams can play it, the 49ers can’t.
Aaron Donald will single-handedly keep pressure on Kaepernick, whereas the 49ers defense can’t stop anybody. This may be a big break out game for Gurley.
I like the Rams to win for their first game post-Fisher.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans
The Texans only score 18 points per game. Despite being tied for the division lead in the AFC South, they are -44 in net points on the season. They have won games solely on the strength of their defense, which is amazing in itself since they have been sans J.J. Watt for most of the year.
The Bengals are another one of those teams that have been tremendously disappointing and will see their consecutive playoff streak snapped. Another team that has suffered injuries and has had a lot of trouble scoring points, with Andy Dalton not making enough plays to continually make up for his team’s mediocre play.
What makes this game really interesting is the quarterback situation in Houston. Embattled starter Brock Osweiller has been benched for his backup Tom Savage who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 draft. He is a blank slate and no one really knows what to expect for him, which makes is very difficult for the Bengals to prepare for.
I like the Texans in this game. They have more motivation and the x-factor at quarterback should give them a boost.
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
This Christmas day showdown will likely determine the division winner of the AFC North. It’s strength versus strength as the Ravens’ defense will be tasked with slowing up the Steelers’ offense.
The Steelers have two major things going in their favor: 1) home field and 2) momentum. Coming into this week the Steelers have won 5 in a row and finally seem to have the team running on all cylinders.
While the Ravens have been tough all year long and boast one of the NFL’s best defense, but the offensive presence has just not been there. I do not think they will be able to keep pace with a scorching hot Pittsburgh team.
Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs
That Bronco’s offense does not intimidate anyone. Despite getting consistently good field position from a dominant defense, that offense rarely capitalizes on their opportunities. They have struggled to run the ball consistently which in turn makes it difficult to open up lanes for the receivers to get open.
Now the Broncos have to go against the Cheifs who are one of the best all-around teams in the NFL. The Chiefs play all three phases of the game at an exceedingly high level, and with Tyreek Hill they have the ability to score at any point in time. The Chiefs are also 5-2 at home and 4-0 against division opponents.
I expect the Cheifs to extend their record to 5-0 against division opponents.
Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys
This is a huge game for both teams. The Lions have the Packers breathing down their neck and will be facing them next week for what will likely be the deciding game for the division. The Cowboys can clinch a first round bye and home field throughout the playoffs with a win here.
The Lions have lived and died on the late-game heroics of Matthew Stafford, who has been nothing short of phenomenal this season. Personally, I think he should win MVP, but seeing as he got snubbed from the Pro Bowl, that likely won’t happen.
It comes down to this: the Cowboys are at home and have beaten everyone not named the Giants. While I like the Lions and love Stafford’s play, I do not think they matchup well against the Cowboys.
I like the Cowboys to win this one at home.