By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and Week 15 of the NFL opened with an exciting match-up between AFC West rivals as the Los Angeles Chargers outlasted the Las Vegas Raiders in overtime. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was forced from the game early, thrusting Marcus Mariota into action. Mariota fared well as a runner, and while his overall passing numbers were decent (17-of-28, 226 yards, and a score), there were significant accuracy issues. Vegas’s defeat drops the team to 7-7, likely ending any hopes of a playoff run for the franchise.
This weekend’s NFL action kicks off on Saturday with a pair of games. The Buffalo Bills, 10-3 and coming off a massive win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, will travel to face the Denver Broncos in the opening contest, while the Carolina Panthers will head to Green Bay for a date with the NFC’s top-seeded Packers. Both Buffalo and Green Bay are heavily favored to win, and it would take a massively disappointing showing for either game to be close. However, stranger things have happened, with last Sunday’s game between the Saints and Eagles serving as a perfect example.
On Sunday, the Saints will look to erase the memory of last weekend’s unfathomable defeat. It will not be easy. New Orleans will face off against the Kansas City Chiefs (12-1). Within the confines of a dome, the Chiefs’ high-octane offense is sure to put up points in bunches, putting immense pressure on the Taysom Hill-led Saints offense to keep pace. A few weeks ago, this looked like a potential Super Bowl preview. Now, it seems like a potential blowout in favor of the surging Chiefs.
Philadelphia will look to make it a winning streak in a road match-up against the Arizona Cardinals. Rookie Jalen Hurts will again be under center for the Eagles, and he will look to build on last week’s upset victory. Hurts has been poor as a passer, but he has game-changing ability with his legs. Arizona’s defense is prone to inconsistency, making this a fun game with heavy shootout potential. Hurts going head-to-head with Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray will be a treat for football fans.
Miami’s quest for a playoff spot rolls on into a Week 15 match-up against the New England Patriots. The Dolphins are coming off a loss to the Chiefs, though there were many positives takeaways from the game. The team’s secondary remains strong, and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa proved capable of leading a come-from-behind effort, though it ultimately came up short. Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the team in 2020, New England has had weeks of excellence, and the run-heavy, Cam Newton-led offense of the Patriots could present an advantage against the Dolphins defense.
In the quest to select Trevor Lawrence in next year’s draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-12) will face the Baltimore Ravens, while the win-less New York Jets will face the Los Angeles Rams. Neither the Jaguars nor the Jets are expected to fare well in their respective contests, but it is worth noting Jacksonville has played multiple close games against contenders in recent weeks. Jacksonville lost to the Packers, Browns, and Vikings by a total of nine points, hinting that the Ravens may face a stiffer-than-expected test on Sunday. Anything other than a decimation of the Jets by the Rams would be a shock.
Closing out Sunday’s action is a match-up between the Cleveland Browns (9-4) and New York Giants (5-8). Despite New York’s record, the Giants remain very much in play to win the NFC East, and the team’s defense has been formidable in recent weeks. Unfortunately, one of the unit’s stars, cornerback James Bradberry, may miss the game due to a COVID-19 exposure. His status will go a long way in determining New York’s ability to keep this game close. For the Browns, coming off an encouraging defeat against the Ravens, a win will solidify the team’s playoff chances.