Some teams get a second chance at trying to seal their post-season fate, while others are looking to take advantage of a fortuitous reprieve…and some are just going through the motions until the holidays start.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (6-7-0) @ DENVER BRONCOS (11-2-0) (q) (THURSDAY)
With a high seeding relatively safe for the Broncos after a double-header win against the Chiefs, this game holds little incentive for the home team. On the other hand, San Diego have everything at stake and will play until the playoffs are out of reach. On this basis, the Chargers will win in Colorado. Within this evaluation there are a few nuances to mention.
Firstly, Philip Rivers has exhibited some of the best form of his career, and has done so against a testing schedule.
Secondly, ‘pocket-rocket’ Danny Woodhead has shown that his pinball style has complemented the finesse of Ryan Matthews in an intimidating one-two punch of running-backs for the ‘Bolts. Both these factors, combined with the relatively weak Denver defence mean it should be more of a shock if San Diego don’t clock up plenty of points.
Yet Denver are no slouches and Peyton Manning will not wish to rest on his laurels even as the Broncos prepare for their post-season tilt…there are records to be made of course. Knoshown Moreno is a fine example of first-class play in the run-game in his own right, and the dual threat of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in the wideouts and Julius Thomas at tight-end mean the offence is always an imposing opponent. Nevertheless, Denver will not be playing this game at their most tenacious for risk of costly injury, while the Chargers will be at full throttle.
PREDICTION: Chargers 34-27 Broncos
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-3-0) @ MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-6-0)
That the New England Patriots sit in the second seed slot of the AFC conference is quite remarkable given the odds which have been stacked against them. In contrast, the Dolphins will be pleased to still be in the AFC East race, if only temporarily, given the collapse they sustained after a bright start to the season.
The Patriots played above estimations thanks to the determination and wits of Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck, though they are stuttering at the key moment with a very fortunate officiating decision sealing a last-gasp win over Cleveland in week 14. Whatsmore they have once again lost the services of Rob Gronkowski who is their most stellar offensive weapon, this time for the season.
For Miami, it is truly an all-or-nothing scenario but they’re well capable of winning games thanks to receivers Brian Hartline and latterly Mike Wallace. Charles Clay has also provided an outlet for the heavily-targeted quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, but against a far from familiar Patriots line the biggest threat to a victory for the Dolphins could be the ball-hawking of Aqib Talib. The divisional race will be kept alive for another week at least.
PREDICTION: Patriots 17-21 Dolphins
GREEN BAY PACKERS (6-6-1) @ DALLAS COWBOYS (7-6-0)
Despite their quarterback woes, the Packers remain alive and well in the NFC North race, but a Cowboys win could severely de-rail the dream for Green Bay. The Cowboys let slip a costly defeat, and valuable ground in the NFC East race, in Chicago in week 14. A second consecutive defeat would likely settle the playoff argument for another year with Dallas missing out.
The inconsistency of stand-in Matt Flynn leaves the chances of a Green Bay victory somewhat intriguing, though the presence of Eddie Lacy and the uber-consistent Jordy Nelson may offset any jeopardy. However, the Packers could be just as capable of allowing Tony Romo free-reign over their defence as they are to frustrate him. Given they are on the road, this may prove a dimension too far for them.
The Cowboys have the anomaly of playing at home, but perhaps being less of a contender as a consequence. Tony Romo has had a fine season at the ‘Jerry Dome’ but remains the subject of flak when his team’s defence come unstuck. With his usual, reliable assets such as Witten and Bryant in tow, Romo could put paid to the Packers, but the curse of December will strike again as they fall just short of the priceless win.
PREDICTION: Packers 31-27 Cowboys
BALTIMORE RAVENS (7-6-0) @ DETROIT LIONS (7-6-0) (MONDAY)
Lions win. Ravens lose. Bengals also win as a result.
PREDICTION: Ravens 17-34 Lions
- Washington (3-10-0) @ Falcons (3-10-0) Falcons win 21-10
- Texans (2-11-0) @ Colts (8-5-0) (q) Colts win 20-17 (overtime)
- Bears (7-6-0) @ Browns (4-9-0) Bears win 27-24 (overtime)
- Bills (4-9-0) @ Jaguars (4-9-0) Jaguars win 19-16
- Eagles (8-5-0) @ Vikings (3-9-1) Eagles win 37-14
- Seahawks (11-2-0) (q) @ Giants (6-7-0) Giants win 24-21 (overtime)
- 49ers (9-4-0) @ Buccaneers (4-9-0) 49ers win 27-10
- Jets (6-7-0) @ Panthers (9-4-0) Panthers win 44-10
- Chiefs (10-3-0) @ Raiders (4-9-0) Chiefs win 27-13
- Saints (10-3-0) @ Rams (5-8-0) Saints win 24-16
- Cardinals (8-5-0) @ Titans (5-8-0) Titans win 24-21
- Bengals (9-4-0) @ Steelers (5-8-0) Bengals win 27-24 (overtime)