Darnell's NFL Week 15 Breakdown
Jacksonville Jaguars (+13.5) @ Baltimore Ravens (46.5)
As the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars continue to race to the bottom, the Jaguars seem to have some help coming up Sunday. The Baltimore Ravens are in must-win mode. After that wild game against the Cleveland Browns, they need to parlay that victory into more. Having a home matchup against Jacksonville could be just want the doctor ordered. The Jaguars are very bad defensively. We saw Derrick Henry go through running drills on their defense last week for over 200 yards. They are sixth worse in overall defense, bottom ten in pass rush, and bottom five in coverage. I imagine the Ravens will be able to have their way with them. Lamar Jackson seems to be more willing to run the ball like he did in 2019. He is a dynamic weapon with his legs and causes problems for defenses.
Seattle Seahawks (-5.5) @ Washington Football Team (44.5)
The Washington Football Team appeared on their way to fight for the division. Their defense was playing great football and their offense was doing enough to keep them alive. Unfortunately, Alex Smith will miss this very important game. Dwayne Haskins will replace him. Haskins is the absolute worst quarterback in the league according to Pro Football Focus. The Seattle Seahawks have the third best rushing defense in the NFL. With Antonio Gibson doubtful to play, this is a bad combination of events for Washington to face on Sunday. The Seahawks want to secure the division so they will need to continue to win. Russell Wilson will look for his offensive line to keep Chase Young from invading his personal space.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-5.5) @ Atlanta Falcons (50.5)
This game might be the Atlanta Falcons’ Super Bowl. Their season is effectively over, and they may have the toughest three game stretch of any team in the league coming up. Julio Jones have been ruled out. In games that he misses, Matt Ryan has not been good. That is what happens when you lose the seventh rated receiver in the league. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been inconsistent this year, but their potential is great. They should be one of the best teams in the NFL, but instead, they are competing for a wildcard spot and are a long shot to win their division. They have two matchups with the Falcons in their last three games, so they will look to capitalize on that.
Houston Texans (7.5) @ Indianapolis Colts (50.5)
The Houston Texans will attempt to lick their wounds and travel to Indianapolis to take on a Colts team that is fighting for a division title and a playoff berth. The Colts seem to have rounded into better form as of late. I think a lot of this is due to the reappearance of T.Y. Hilton. Hilton has looked like the Hilton of old, and when you combine that with the coach actually consistently feeding Johnathon Taylor the ball, it makes for an efficient offense. The Colts also have a top eight defense. Although these teams are offensively even, Houston’s 30th ranked defense is the root of their problems. I eluded to them being lucky last season and as I predicted, the regression has come big time. Trading Deandre Hopkins added to their lack of success. Houston will have to play for the name on their Jerseys in order to take down this Colts team that have a lot to play for.
Detroit Lions (+10.5) @ Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee look like they are in December form. Derrick Henry is in the mood to run over people and when needed, Ryan Tanehill is ready to find his talented receiving duo for chunk plays. As good as Henry’s matchup was last week, amazingly he gets an even better one today. The Detroit Lions have been beaten up and injury riddled all season. I am sure they are not looking forward to tackling Henry for 60 minutes. This is the time of the season that players make a decision to either play for pride or get through their last games before the lengthy off-season. The Titans have the same record as their division foes, the Indianapolis Colts so they will try to pull away in the win column.
New England Patriots (+2) @ Miami Dolphins (41.5)
This game should be very competitive. These teams are both fighting for playoff spots. The Miami Dolphins are trying to catch the Buffalo Bills for the division title. They are also competing to secure a wildcard spot in case they can’t secure the division. The New England Patriots, with help and winning out can be in line to secure a wildcard spot themselves. This would be incredible considering how bad they have looked in most of their outings. They play a grind it out style and they seem to be getting better at it. Devante Parker is the 27th rated receiver in the league. He is questionable, so if he were to miss, it would likely put a slight damper on the effectiveness or Miami’s offense. One of these teams will take a necessary step to make it to the playoffs. They will have to go through each other to do it.
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) @ Dallas Cowboys (45.5)
The San Francisco 49ers have to be disappointed in themselves after losing a must-win game against Washington. Chase Young and that defense wreaked havoc on their offense and Nick Mullens would not stop turning the ball over. As sad as it is to say, the Dallas Cowboys are still alive for the division title. The Washington Football Team will be starting Dwayne Haskins against a great Seattle team, and the Eagles and Giants only have one more victory than Dallas. Dallas have not looked good at any point in the season. I think that the 49ers are a prideful team, so I don’t think they will let Dallas off the hook easily.
New York Jets (+16.5) @ Los Angeles Rams (44.5)
The Jets continue to lead the race for first…. pick. The Rams continue to be one of the best teams in the NFL. Sean McVay seems to have figured out the Cam Akers is his best running back and have been feeding him this month. The Rams are top ten offensively and top two defensively. As long as they come to play like they should, they should be in good shape to secure the division title. There is not much to say about this game. The Jets have the worst coverage unit in the NFL and the worst offense. I would like to think that the Jets’ players will continue to play hard to get their first victory, but I am not sure if their hard will be enough to make it happen.
Philadelphia Eagles (+6.5) @ Arizona Cardinals (48.5)
My pick to win the NFC East division will take their new starting quarterback and travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals. Jalen Hurts appears to have given this Eagles team new life. They took down one of the best teams in the NFL last week, and will not look to make a hot run into the playoffs by beating Arizona. Kyler Murray has not been as effective this past month since he hasn’t been running. The Cardinals were able to go on the road and win an ugly game against the New York Giants. This is an interesting matchup. Both teams are in the bottom half of the league defensively and offensively. This game will likely be won by the team that wants it more. Both teams fighting for playoff berths will make this one of the more interesting matchups on the day.
Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5) @ New Orleans Saints (50.5)
As I would suspect, this is going to be one of the most interesting games for me on Sunday. The New Orleans Saints has a top five defense and they will look to stop the Chiefs' top five offense. The Chiefs are middle of the pack defensively and the Saints are middle of the pack offensively. This truly is an even matchup. The Kansas City Chiefs have been a juggernaut all season. Patrick Mahomes, although a top MVP candidate has had some struggles early in games. As of late, they have not looked their sharpest and have seemingly struggled to pull out victories. The fact remains that they pulled out these victories. I think the ability that they have shown to dig themselves out of performance lapses makes them even scarier than they were last year. This Chiefs team looks nearly unbeatable and they are my favorite to win the Super Bowl again. The New Orleans Saints suffered their first loss since Taysom Hill took over the starting quarterback role. They lost to a scrappy and desperate Eagles team that was starting a new quarterback themselves. I would have to see the Eagles play again to see if that game was a case of the Eagles coming to play or the Saints taking them lightly. I highly doubt the Saints will take the Chiefs likely in what is a possible Superbowl preview. Outside of the Drew Brees injury, both teams are relatively healthy. Quarterback is the most important position on the field, so we will not be seeing this matchup at full strength. UPDATE: Drew Brees is named the starter. However, Michael Thomas has been ruled out. It appears we will be getting the Saints in similar form as early October when Thomas was out several games.
Cleveland Browns (-4.5) @ New York Giants (45)
The Cleveland Browns played in a highly entertaining game against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. Baker Mayfield really looked like he has arrived. This season has been a good one for the Browns. A lot of people criticize them because some of their wins were against awful teams. They fail to highlight the huge wins against the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts, two teams that they are fighting for a playoff spot for. The New York Giants looked flat against the Arizona Cardinals. Although they are still alive to win the division, they do not control their destiny to do such. Both teams have lost star players this season and have had to adjust their strategy around these losses. Daniel Jones and Baker Mayfield are neck and neck in PFF ranking of quarterbacks. Jones is tied for 15th and Mayfield is right next to him at 17th. The Browns have the best run blocking offensive line in football. They will be going against the Giant's top five rushing defense. I think whoever establishes their line of scrimmage will win this game. December usually breeds a different brand of football than we see in September and October. This is especially true for the outdoor teams up north. The weather gets cold, wet and nasty. More games are won and lost in the trenches and toughness sometimes trumps talent. I am looking forward to the game because both teams need to win.