The NFC North race is coming to a head with all the division nonetheless mathematically alive for the postseason with 4 weeks remaining. Listed here are our Week 15 predictions:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) at Inexperienced Bay Packers (6-7): The Packers have 14 gamers in complete on their damage report forward of their matchup with the Buccaneers. Nevertheless, accidents have hit one place group particularly arduous: huge receiver. With Dontayvion Wicks (ankle), Jayden Reed (ankle) and Christian Watson (hamstring) nursing accidents, the standing of the Packers’ prime three choices at wideout is up within the air. The Packers and head coach Matt LaFleur aren’t utilizing being short-handed as an excuse, although.
“That is the character of our enterprise and also you gotta get different guys able to play,” LaFleur stated through the Packers. “We’re not the one workforce that goes by that.”
Whereas LaFleur’s feedback are admirable, they do not win soccer video games. Being with out their prime three choices at wideout places the Packers at a definite drawback in opposition to the Buccaneers’ Thirtieth-ranked move protection (264 YPG). If quarterback Jordan Love and the offense fail to discover a rhythm or flip the ball over thrice like they did per week in the past in a loss to the lowly New York Giants, that will put extra stress on an inconsistent Packers protection. Of their 24-22 loss to the Giants in Week 14, the unit could not decelerate QB Tommy DeVito when it mattered most. A matchup in opposition to scrappy veteran Baker Mayfield doubtless will not present a lot reduction.
PREDICTION: Buccaneers, 26-23
Chicago Bears (5-8) at Cleveland Browns (8-5): Do not look now, however the Bears are solely recreation behind the Packers for the ultimate playoff spot within the NFC. Moreover, whereas the Bears are on the rise, they is likely to be catching the Browns on the proper time.
The Browns salvaged a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 14, however the magic can final solely so lengthy behind a fresh-off-his-couch 38-year-old Joe Flacco and a beat-up roster. The Browns have 14 gamers listed on their damage report and shall be with out a number of starters, together with offensive tackles Jedrick Wills (knee) and Dawand Jones (knee), who’re each completed for the season.
Defensively, the matchup is an effective one for the Bears protection, which has allowed solely 17 factors on common whereas forcing 11 turnovers of their final 4 video games. On the opposite aspect of the ball, QB Justin Fields is doing sufficient to assist the Bears tie collectively two straight wins for the primary time this season coming into their Week 15 matchup with the Browns. Since getting back from a thumb damage in Week 11, Fields has accomplished 66.6 % of his passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions whereas including 221 dashing yards (5.26 YPA) and a rating on the bottom.
The Browns protection is hard, ranked first in yards in opposition to. If the Bears can play mistake-free soccer, although, they’ve greater than an honest probability of pulling off the upset.
PREDICTION: Bears, 24-23
Minnesota Vikings (7-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-6): The Vikings quarterback carousel continued in Week 14 after they benched Joshua Dobbs in favor of Nick Mullens, which paid off with a game-winning drive in opposition to the Las Vegas Raiders. He’ll get the beginning in opposition to the Bengals in a recreation with severe playoff implications.
Whereas Mullens is not prone to elicit concern into opposing defenses, he has a chance to do injury in Week 15. Not solely will he have star wideout Justin Jefferson within the lineup, however he is going up in opposition to a Bengals protection that is allowed extra explosive performs (96) than some other workforce within the league, per Arjun Menon of Professional Soccer Focus. Conversely, the Vikings have given up the least quantity, with 17.
On the defensive aspect, the Vikings tackle one other backup in Jake Browning, who has led the workforce to 2 straight wins. The Vikings protection has thrived underneath DC Brian Flores, holding six of their final eight opponents to underneath 20 factors whereas giving up solely 12 mixed within the earlier two video games.
PREDICTION: Vikings, 19-16
Denver Broncos (7-6) at Detroit Lions (9-4): The Broncos and Lions enter Week 15 headed in reverse instructions. As soon as the league’s laughingstock, the Broncos have received six-of-seven after starting the yr 1-5, whereas the Lions have dropped two of their final three following an 8-2 begin. The Broncos want a win and the Lions may very well be ripe for the choosing.
Earlier within the week, Lions head coach Dan Campbell warned that Sean Payton and the Broncos will look to embarrass his workforce. They’re going to want the offense to seek out itself once more and their protection to step issues as much as keep away from that destiny.
QB Jared Goff has gone chilly main the Lions offense, averaging 187 passing yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions over the past two weeks. The 29-year-old signal-caller averaged 279 yards with 18 TDs and eight interceptions over the primary 11 video games of the yr. Goff and firm have struggled as of late however can benefit from an bettering however nonetheless exploitable move protection. In the meantime, even accounting for his or her blowout in opposition to the Miami Dolphins in Week 3, the Broncos are nonetheless giving up the tenth most dashing yards this season, additionally an space the Lions may assault.
The Lions’ protection has allowed 26 factors or extra in six straight video games whereas forcing solely 4 turnovers over that stretch. Nevertheless, they’re going to be up in opposition to QB Russell Wilson, who’s taken the fourth-most sacks (38) within the NFL.
PREDICTION: Lions, 37-30