NFL Week 15 Preview: Playoff Bubble Looms

December 14, 2018

With three weeks remaining, the playoff bubble is here. In the AFC, the LA Chargers are sitting pretty with the top Wild Card spot, while the Baltimore Ravens are fending off the Colts, Dolphins, and Titans for the last spot. In the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks have a firm grip on a Wild Card and the Minnesota Vikings are trying to distance themselves from a field of struggling teams (Panthers, Eagles, Redskins).

The Thursday Night Football match up between the LA Chargers and KC Chiefs looked like the Game of the Week on paper, and it lived up to the hype when Philip Rivers rallied the Chargers back from down 14 to stun the Chiefs in KC. Both teams are now tied for first in the NFC West. In other Week 15 action, the Steelers are trying to stop a three-game skid at the worst time because the Patriots are coming to town. The Colts have their eye on the Wild Card but have the Cowboys in their way. Meanwhile, the Vikings are playing their first game after firing OC John DeFilippo for not running the ball enough.

 

THE RAIN SONG

New England Patriots (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1)… The Patriots are vulnerable on the road, but you must expect they will be ready for this game after a last-second loss to the Miami Dolphins. The Steelers dropped three in a row and they’re about to lose a fourth one and potentially cough up first place in the AFC North. The Steelers, without James Conner, are a baby home dog against Tom Brady.

 

DAKCOOP

Dallas Cowboys (8-5) at Indianapolis Colts (7-6)… It’s funny how just before Thanksgiving, the Cowboys were 3-5 and everyone was convinced Jason Garrett was a dead man walking. Once Amari Cooper joined the team, things turned around quickly for the Cowboys. The Cowboys are riding high off a five-game winning streak. Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper are the hottest couple since Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande. Okay, maybe that’s a bad analogy. Cooper and Prescott hooked up for three scores in an overtime win last week. The Cowboys struggle on the road with a 2-4 record this season. Their D will have a tough assignment this week stopping Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton.

 

 

IN MY TIME OF DYING

Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) at LA Rams (11-2)… The Rams lost for only the second time all season against a Bears team that had their number. The Rams are back home in LA, where they are undefeated (6-0). The Eagles are finally facing their mortality after their heartbreaking overtime loss to the Cowboys. Their attempt to defend the Super Bowl has been admirable, but the Rams are about to stick the proverbial fork in them.

 

FROZEN FISH

Miami Dolphins (7-6) at Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)… The Fish are riding high off the Miami Miracle. They’ll be hungover from partying all week after beating the Patriots on a sheer impossible double lateral. The Vikings are in playoff mode right now and ruthlessly fired their OC because he stopped running the ball (with RBs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray able and willing). The Vikes currently have the last Wild Card spot, but there’s three other teams that want it. Badly. Oh, as a diehard Jets fan, the Miami Miracle is the closest thing we have to a Super Bowl. So let’s watch it one more time.

 

 

LEAVE THE GUN, TAKE THE CANNOLI

Houston Texans (9-4) at New York Jets (4-9)… Saturday game. The Texans had their nine-game winning streak snapped by the Colts. They’ll get back on track against the LOLJets, who lost six out of their last seven games. The Texans are only a 7-point favorite on the road against a Jets squad that will not have their starting RB or top WR.

 

HOUSES OF THE HOLY

Green Bay Packers (5-7-1) at Chicago Bears (9-4)… Aaron Rodgers is 1-0 post McCarthy breakup, but now Mr. Rodgers heads south to Chicago to battle the Monsters of the Midway. Da Bears earned street cred when they prevented Sean McVay’s Rams from scoring a touchdown for the first time in two seasons. Da Bears lost to the Packers in Week 1 by a single point. Time for some Cheesehead revenge.

 

 

TRAMPLED UNDER FOOT

Tampa Bay Bucs (5-8) at Baltimore Ravens (7-6)… Rookie QB Lamar Jackson finally lost a game, but everyone expected the Ravens to lose to the Chiefs. The 2016 Heisman winner put up a good fight during an erratic performance. He gets the start once again, but this time, the Ravens are in a must-win situation if they want to keep their lock on a Wild Card berth. At least they’re facing a Bucs team that is bad on the road (1-5).

 

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME

Seattle Seahawks (8-5) at San Francisco Niners (3-10)… The Seahawks play the Niners for a second time in three weeks. The Niners got stomped 43-16. Russell Wilson torched his ex-teammate Richard Sherman’s team for four touchdowns. The former Legion of Boomer gets Wilson on his home turf. Not that it means anything. The Seahawks won four in a row and pretty much have a fifth win lined up.

 

BAKER GOES TO COLORADO

Cleveland Browns (5-7-1) at Denver Broncos (6-7)… Saturday game. The Browns struggle away from the Dawg Pound with a 1-5 road record. The Broncos have been a weird team this year. They win games they’re expected to lose (e.g. Steelers) and lose games they should win (e.g. Niners). The Browns are 3-2 since inept head coach Hue Brown got the axe. The Broncos need to get their running game back on track after a rare bad outing last week from rookie RB Philip Lindsay.

 

NO QUARTER

Oakland Raiders (3-10) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-9)… Chucky and the Raiders should be able to beat a wounded Bungles squad. But that doesn’t mean they should do it! It will be interesting to see if the Raiders shut it down the rest of the season and play to lose in order to win the #1 pick. Ah, the way the Raiders are, they’ll end up winning this game to derail their plans to load up on draft picks for the move to Las Vegas.

 

OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY

Tennessee Titans (7-6) at New York Giants (5-8)… The G-Men destroyed the jinxed Skins and gave Mark Sanchez a pick six memento. The Titans are on a mission to make the postseason and the pesky Giants stand in their way. The Titans had little extra rest after playing on TNF last week. 2015 Heisman winner Derrick Henry is fresh off his 4-TD game against the Jags. Saquon Barkley is fun to watch. Too bad he wasn’t on a better team.

 

 

LIGHT MY (TABLE ON) FIRE

Detroit Lions (5-8) at Buffalo Bills (4-9)… The Bills Mafia are pissed the boys lost to the LOLJets. Time to take out their frustrations on the Lions. The total is 39 in this snoozer. It’s mid-December in Buffalo and everyone is in full-blown party mode. The parking lot is going to be lit in both the literal and revelry sense.

 

BEASTMODE’S COUSIN

Washington Redskins (6-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9)… The Skins are under a hex with two QBs out with broken legs and Mark Sanchez. The Skins went out and signed Josh Johnson (Marshawn Lynch’s cousin) who was playing semi-pro ball. Their skid will continue with a visit to Jacksonville. As bad as the Jags played this season, they’re a favorite by a touchdown against a QB who has not played regularly in the NFL since 2011.

 

DEGEN GAME OF THE WEEK

Arizona Cardinals (3-10) at Atlanta Falcons (4-9)… This game is so bad, the bookies didn’t even bother to give it a line. The Cards are vying for the #1 pick. They’re a coinflip, so long as they keep losing. The Falcons season went from Cheetah to the Clermont Lounge really quick.

 

GOTTA GET UNSTUCK GAME OF THE WEEK

New Orleans Saints (11-2) at Carolina Panthers (6-7)… The Panthers are tough to beat at home (5-1), but they’re in the middle of a five-game skid with Drew Brees and the Saints visiting the CLT. The Panthers are only averaging 18.8 points per game during their losing streak, with CMAC doing most of the damage. This is the first of two games these teams will play in the final three weeks of the season. The Saints must keep winning to maintain home field advantage in the NFC. The Panthers lost to the Browns last week if that’s any indication of their mindset.

 


Pauly McGuire is a writer specializing in sports betting. He’s covered the NFL, NBA, college basketball, MLB, and the Olympics for numerous outlets. He’s the former co-host of the Everything Is Bettable podcast with Jesse May. You also might remember Pauly as the creator of the Tao of Poker blog. He was a partner in one of the first daily fantasy sports sites, Fantasy Sports Live.

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