After a rough night in Miami, Tom Brady and the Patriots look to bounce back in Pittsburgh with a lot on the line.
By: Elias McMillan
Last Week: 5-11
Big Five Games of the Week
Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City – This game will probably determine the AFC West Champion. Its crazy to think that the Chiefs are underdogs at home in this matchup considering how they started the season. The Chiefs were able to get back on track last week with a win at home over Oakland. They’ll face a much more determined team at home on Sunday. The Chargers have a past known for getting hot in December and that is the case for 2017. Phillip Rivers is leading this offense and the young guys on defense are getting it done as well. Kansas City still has a lot of offer, especially at home, but they are not as strong as the Chargers are right now. KC is still banged up defensively and I think they’ll be counting on big performance in this one from Alex Smith. Can he deliver at home? I doubt. I see Rivers and the Chargers taking a huge step towards the playoffs with a big road victory. Prediction: Chargers 24 – Chiefs 20
Green Bay @ Carolina – Carolina really impressive me last week by playing big at home against a quality opponent. I feel like I’m waiting for the Panthers to under perform like they were earlier this season but they are really hitting their stride right now on both sides of the ball. They’ll be at home again this week against another NFC North team hoping for the post season. The Packers took overtime to beat Cleveland last week. But everything could be different now with the news that Aaron Rodgers is ready to return. Green Bay went through a similar scenario a few years back when Rodgers returned from injury to lead them to the playoffs. I know that Rodgers is really good but I doubt that we will see a sequel to that. Green Bay stinks but Rodgers can provide some very strong cologne for that. But Carolina has a capable defense and they are playing well at home. Green Bay may be able to do more things offensively with Rodgers back but I don’t feel great about their defense’s chances against Cam Newton. Newton is starting to string together some solid performances. I think he can do so again this week. Prediction: Panthers 36 – Packers 31
Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle – The inconsistency of Seattle on road struck again last week. The Seahawks do not look like a team ready to make a playoff push. They are too banged up on defense and they lack composure. The Rams took their lumps last week against the Eagles but they still hung tough in that game. I think the Rams defense will have the chance to look strong this week against Seattle’s offensive line. The Seahawk defense will be looking to bounce back against Jared Goff after allowing Blake Bortles to look like a NFL Quarterback. I just feel like Seattle is in a bad spot right now and it couldn’t of have come a worst time for them. With the playoffs on the line, I feel like you could usually count on Seattle bouncing back strong at home. But right now, they look like they have no direction. I might be going out on a limb here but I’m taking the Rams to end Seattle’s playoff hopes. Prediction: Rams 23 – Seahawks 21
New England @ Pittsburgh – Well, Pittsburgh has definitely had this date circled on the schedule. This season’s Patriots and Steelers tilt will most likely determine who will have home field advantage in the AFC. It is the biggest regular season game for both teams. New England suffered a letdown last Monday night in Miami; a place where they have had problems before. New England’s issues shouldn’t come as a shock. When things are good with the Patriots, they are great. When things are bad, it is obvious why. Beating New England is tough but is doable. Pressure Tom Brady. Take advantage of their over achieving defense. And done. It doesn’t happen much but its possible. After what the Dolphins did to them, the Patriots should be extra motivated to bounce back against a familiar opponent with a lot on the line. The Steelers are on a winning streak but they could easier be on a losing streak. Pittsburgh has been able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the last four weeks. As a team, they really are not playing their best football but they have enough individual talent that provides big plays that allows them to squeak out victories. I think in this matchup we’ll see a lot of scoring. New England’s defense is vulnerable right now but at the same time, Pittsburgh’s defense gave up almost 40 points last week to Joe Flacco. Brady will attack the Pittsburgh defense after a weak showing last week. New England’s track record coming off a loss is pretty good. Ben Roethlisberger is throwing the ball too much right now but he’ll need to have that same approach this week. New England, or the league, doesn’t have a guy that can keep up with Antonio Brown so Ben will need to feed him as much as possible. I think both running games will find success in this one as well. New England’s run defense is shaky and Pittsburgh is greatly missing Ryan Shazier. Pittsburgh has been able to come out of tough spots smelling like roses recently. That home crowd will be rocking and looking for blood. I think the lead up to this game just screams a typical dominant performance from Brady and company. Especially with Rob Gronkowski returning from a suspension. But I think the Steelers will flip the script. I’ll take the home team now because chances are these two will meet again in January. And there is no way I’ll take Pittsburgh then. Even if they are at home. Prediction: Steelers 40 – Patriots 37
Dallas @ Oakland – Loser of this one can just forget about the post season. The Raiders have been among one of the most disappointing teams this season. The passing game has been inconsistent and they haven’t been able to control the clock with the run game. Oakland also has a defense that likes to give up big plays. The Cowboys were finally able to create some big plays last week in New York. Dallas just needs to find a way to start faster. If given chances, David Carr and the Raiders offense can create some scoring. Dallas just has to limit those chances by controlling the clock and cashing in on long drives. The idea of Dallas winning out always seems far-fetched to me but they are one game away from having Ezekiel Elliott back. The Cowboys need to dispatch this bad team then start thinking about the possibilities with Zeke back in the fold. Prediction: Cowboys 34 – Raiders 27
The Rest of Week 15
Broncos over Colts – The ratings will be awful, that’s for sure. Thursday night football should end.
Lions over Bears – Detroit needs this one but Chicago is playing well right now. This game might be interesting.
Bills over Dolphins – Will Miami’s inconsistency continue on the road? Buffalo is very much in the playoff discussion. They are usually tough at home and Tyrod Taylor will be back from injury.
Ravens over Browns – Cleveland blew their chance last week. They might go winless now. How sad.
Vikings over Bengals – Marvin Lewis has to go.
Saints over Jets – New York was a scrappy team this season but their offense will be putrid now with Josh McCown out. I can’t believe I just typed that.
Eagles over Giants – The Carson Wentz injury won’t matter this week.
Cardinals over Washington – Arizona hasn’t been a good road team this season but Washington quit after the last loss to Dallas.
Jaguars over Texans – A win here would clinch a playoff berth for Jacksonville. What a time.
Titans over 49ers – Marcus Mariota is under a lot of heat right now. He has to respond strongly this week, as Tennessee needs to keep pace with Jacksonville in the AFC South.
Falcons over Buccaneers – Atlanta cannot afford a letdown on the road. Divisional games on the road could be tricky though.
Fantasy Football Picks of the Week
QB: Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) – Pittsburgh is using the pass a lot right now.
RB: Jay Ajayi (Eagles) – With Wentz, Philly might be riding the J Train now and into the post season.
WR: Julio Jones (Falcons) – Atlanta will need big plays from their WR against a poor Tampa secondary.
TE: Delanie Walker (Titans) – Walker has been one of Mariota’s most reliable receivers this season.
DEF: Denver – After ending their 8 game losing streak, the Broncos will be looking for more success on defense at Indianapolis.