The 2016 NFL season seems to have just flown by. We’re already in the final month of the regular season, and another week came to an end on Monday night. In just a few days, the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks will kick off Week 15 on Thursday night.
Week 14 was full of intriguing outcomes and playoff-altering results. The Tennessee Titans showed just how far they have come in a year by knocking off the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs both took control of their respective divisions with key victories.
The New York Giants, you might have heard, handed the Dallas Cowboys their second loss of the year.
Will Week 15 contain as many impactful outcomes and unexpected surprises? We’re going to play the old prognostication game and try predicting the outcomes of all 16 contests for Week 15. We’ll be examining the full schedule, the latest odds—courtesy of OddsShark—and making our game-by-game predictions. We’ll also take a closer look at some of the top games of the week.
All predictions are based on factors such as prior performances, team health, individual and team matchups and game location.
Week 15 Schedule
|Thur. 8:30 p.m.||Los Angeles at Seattle||SEA -15||31-22 SEA|
|Sat. 8:30 p.m.||Miami at NY Jets||MIA -2.5||23-17 MIA|
|Sun. 1 p.m.||Detroit at NY Giants||NYG -5||24-23 NYG|
|Sun. 1 p.m.||Jacksonville at Houston||HOU -6||21-17 HOU|
|Sun. 1 p.m.||Cleveland at Buffalo||BUF -10||30-17 BUF|
|Sun. 1 p.m.||Tennessee at Kansas City||KC -5.5||28-22 KC|
|Sun. 1 p.m.||Philadelphia at Baltimore||BAL -6||23-13 BAL|
|Sun. 1 p.m.||Green Bay at Chicago||GB -6.5||30-17 GB|
|Sun. 1 p.m.||Indianapolis at Minnesota||MIN -4.5||28-23 IND|
|Sun. 1 p.m.||Pittsburgh at Cincinnati||PIT -3||34-23 PIT|
|Sun. 4:05 p.m.||New Orleans at Arizona||ARI -2.5||27-23 NO|
|Sun. 4:05 p.m.||San Francisco at Atlanta||ATL -13.5||38-23 ATL|
|Sun. 4:25 p.m.||Oakland at San Diego||OAK -2.5||30-28 OAK|
|Sun. 4:25 p.m.||New England at Denver||NE -3||28-19 NE|
|Sun. 8:30 p.m.||Tampa Bay at Dallas||DAL -7||31-30 DAL|
|Mon. 8:30 p.m.||Carolina at Washington||WAS -4.5||27-23 WAS|
Matchups to Watch
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks can lock up the NFC West with a win over the Rams on Thursday night. A win would also put the team in position to regain the No. 2 seed in the conference. However, winning isn’t going to be easy, even with the wounded and drama-plagued Rams coming to town.
Los Angeles announced on Monday that the team would be parting ways with head coach Jeff Fisher. This means the team has to deal with transition plus a short week before facing the Seahawks.
“This is the right time to make a change, as our performance has not lived up to my or our fans’ expectations,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke explained, per Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com. “We all are focused on improving as an organization and building a team that makes Los Angeles proud.”
Special teams coordinator John Fassel will take over as interim head coach.
I’m told special teams coordinator John Fassel will be named interim head coach for the #Rams in the wake of Jeff Fisher’s firing.
— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) December 12, 2016
This (relatively) unexpected bit of turmoil will give the Seahawks an edge, and they certainly need it. The team lost perhaps its top defender, Earl Thomas, for the season to a broken leg and has been inconsistent on offense.
As a team, the Seahawks are rated just 28th in overall offense by Pro Football Focus and average 21.1 points per game. The team is coming off a 38-10 thrashing at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.
The good news for the Seahawks is that they are playing an equally inconsistent offense—rated 30th by Pro Football Focus—and are playing at home. We do expect Seattle to win, but this game could be closer than expected if the Rams get any sort of spark from the coaching change.
Detroit Lions at New York Giants
If the Detroit Lions want to remain in control of the NFC’s No. 2 seed, they’re going to have to steal a road victory on Sunday from the Giants. This is obviously a task that is easier said than done, as the Giants are one of the better potential wild-card teams in the NFL.
There are some reasons to believe in the Lions here, though. The first is that the team has made a habit of winning tightly contested games late this season. In fact, the Lions have already engineered an NFL-record eight fourth-quarter comebacks this season.
Lions’ 8 fourth-quarter comebacks are the most in NFL history, per @EliasSports
— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) December 11, 2016
If the Lions can keep things close until the final period in New York, they’re going to believe that victory is achievable.
There’s also the possibility of the Giants experiencing an emotional letdown after Sunday’s thrilling win over the rival Cowboys. That win came courtesy of a stellar defensive performance and a long catch-and-run from receiver Odell Beckham Jr. It certainly wasn’t a domination, but it didn’t make the win any less special for the Giants or their fans.
New York will have to stay focused in order to avoid a letdown here.
“We have to keep stacking successes by handling success,” Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said, per Steve Serby of the New York Post.
We do expect the Giants to keep themselves on track and pick up a win here. However, we also expect a close and exciting contest that comes down to the final few plays.
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
Rob Carr/Getty Images
The New England Patriots made a statement during their Monday night win over the Baltimore Ravens. The team showed that Tom Brady and the Patriots offense can still be lethal without star tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Brady torched the Ravens defense—which is rated fifth in overall defense by Pro Football Focus—for more than 400 yards and three touchdowns. While we don’t expect Brady to equal those numbers this week against the Broncos in Denver, we do think the Patriots have enough firepower to knock off Denver.
While the Broncos possess the league’s third-ranked defense (310.7 yards per game allowed), they have been repeatedly gashed by the run. Denver ranks 29th in run defense with an average of 127.2 yards per game allowed.
Enter LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis and the rest of New England’s backfield. While the Patriots offense still revolves around Brady, New England has proven it can lean on the power-running game when needed. Blount has already topped the 1,000-yard mark this season.
Another reason to believe in the Patriots in this game is the general ineptitude of the Denver offense. The Broncos average just 328.1 yards per game (25th in the NFL) and have struggled to score points on offense. Trevor Siemian and Co. produced just 10 points last week against a Titans defense that is rated 23rd in overall defense by Pro Football Focus.
New England’s defense is rated second overall by Pro Football Focus and allows a mere 17.7 points per game, second-fewest in the league.