Steve Believes: Week 15, 2018 NFL Season

  • Los Angeles Chargers Vs. Kansas City Chiefs. Week 15 kicks off in a big way, as the two best teams record-wise in the AFC face off in a game that could determine homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Both these teams are coming off close games, with the Chargers getting all they could handle from the lowly Cincinnati Bengals, while the Chiefs needed overtime to beat the Baltimore Ravens. A win for the Chiefs gets them the AFC West championship for the third consecutive season, along with getting them one step closer to having homefield advantage for the first time since the 1997-98 season. Arrowhead Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Chargers, as they are 0-4 in that venue over the past four seasons, along with an overall 5-7 record in the Philip Rivers era and an overall 6-10 record since the 2002 realignment. Plus, they have to deal with Rivers’ worst nightmare in Justin Houston. Look for Houston to have a big game in this one, look for Patrick Mahomes to light up the Chargers pass defense and look for the Chiefs to add to L.A.’s Arrowhead agony.
  • Houston Texans Vs. New York Jets. Streaks ended for both these teams last week, as the Texans had their nine-game winning streak snapped against the Indianapolis Colts, while the Jets snapped their six-game losing streak against the Buffalo Bills. This game is big for the Texans, as a win here and a New England Patriots loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers gives them the second seed in the AFC heading into Week 16. The Jets are more than capable of playing spoiler here, but I see the Texans taking their frustrations of last week’s loss out on Gang Green. I like the Texans in this one.
  • Cleveland Browns Vs. Denver Broncos. Three weeks ago, the Browns ended their 25-game road losing streak and have a chance to win the AFC North should they win out, along with total collapses by the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. As for the Broncos, they have a long road ahead of them for a Wild Card spot, due to last week’s loss against the San Francisco 49ers putting them at 6-7 and 10th in the AFC standings. The Browns turnaround is both a nice story and a tempting team to pick this week, but I’m just not ready to go that far yet. So with that being said, I’ll take the Broncos.
  • Arizona Cardinals Vs. Atlanta Falcons. The Cardinals became officially eliminated from the playoffs with last week’s loss against the Detroit Lions and only have pride to play for at this point. The Falcons are mathematically still alive for a playoff seed and will need to win out, along with needing help from other teams to get the sixth seed. The Cardinals have lost their past nine road games against the Falcons, as they haven’t beaten them in Atlanta since the 1993-94 season. Make it 10 in a row after this week.
  • Detroit Lions Vs. Buffalo Bills. The Lions finally snapped another long losing streak, as they defeated the Cardinals to end an eight-game losing streak in the state of Arizona. Plus, the win also has them mathematically alive in the NFC playoff hunt. As for the Bills, last year’s sixth seed in the AFC is one loss away from being officially eliminated from the playoffs for the 18th time in 19 seasons. This game will be close, with Matthew Stafford leading the Lions to a victory on the final possession of regulation.
  • Green Bay Packers Vs. Chicago Bears. The Packers are 1-0 in the Joe Philbin era, as they beat the Falcons 34-20 last week. As for the Bears, Khalil Mack & Company held the high-flying Los Angeles Rams to their season-low total of six points. Look for the Bears to avenge their Week 1 loss against the Packers in the last regular season game at Soldier Field for the 2018 NFL season.
  • Oakland Raiders Vs. Cincinnati Bengals. The next two games set up quite well for the Raiders, as they have a winnable game here and at home against the Broncos on Christmas Eve. As for the Bengals, they gave the Chargers all that they could handle in last week’s 26-21 loss. Jon Gruden hasn’t coached against the Bengals on the road since 2002, the year that he guided the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl 37. His team won that game, but they won’t win this one, as the Bengals look to build on last week’s close loss. Look for Joe Mixon to run for 100 yards or more against Oakland’s erratic run defense.
  • Dallas Cowboys Vs. Indianapolis Colts. The red-hot Cowboys and their defense face a stern late-season test, as they face a Colts team that ended the Texans’ nine-game winning streak and haven’t lost at home since Week 4 this season. Look for the Colts to end the Cowboys’ five-game winning streak, while extending their five-game home winning streak.
  • Miami Dolphins Vs. Minnesota Vikings. The two laterals on a walk-off touchdown have the Dolphins on a two-game winning streak and very alive in the AFC playoff hunt. As for the Vikings, they return to the fortress of U.S. Bank Stadium to a snap a two-game losing streak. The emotions of last week’s Patriots-Dolphins finish have me tempted to pick South Beach’s team in an upset, but the Vikings are a different beast at home. So with that being said, I like the Vikings to rebound this week.
  • Tennessee Titans Vs. New York Giants. After two games in Nissan Stadium, the Titans are back on the road again to face a Giants team that’s 4-1 since their bye week. Derrick Henry basically beat the Jacksonville Jaguars all by himself, as he rushed 238 yards (99 of them on one carry) and four touchdowns in the 30-9 win. As for the Giants, they routed the Washington Redskins, 40-10, and did so without Odell Beckham Jr. They face a tougher test this week with the Titans. And while picking the Giants in a late-season mini upset is tempting, the uncertainty of Odell Beckham Jr. playing this week has me pumping the breaks on that. So with that being said, I like the Titans to make it three in a row.
  • Washington Redskins Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars. The Redskins start their fourth different quarterback this season, as Josh Johnson takes over for the ineffective Mark Sanchez. As for the Jaguars, they start Cody Kessler for the third week in a row, despite the team’s 30-9 loss against the Titans last week. Johnson will give the Redskins a spark this week, but their lack of skill position players will be exploited by the Jaguars. So with that being said, I like the Jaguars in an “upset”.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers Vs. Baltimore Ravens. Both these teams lost against the current one seeds in each conference, with the Buccaneers seeing a 14-0 lead turn into a 28-14 loss against the New Orleans Saints, while Justin Houston victimized the Ravens on their two final drives in last week’s 27-24 loss at Arrowhead Stadium. But despite their first ever loss at the aforementioned Arrowhead Stadium, the Ravens currently have the sixth seed in the AFC. Plus, they also have a chance to win the AFC North division title should they win out and get help from either the Patriots, Saints or Bengals. Look for the Ravens to uphold their end of things, by rebounding with a win this week. 
  • Seattle Seahawks Vs. San Francisco 49ers. For the second time in three weeks, the Seahawks take on the 49ers, with the former of these two teams finishing up on the road before going home for two against the Chiefs and Cardinals. The Seahawks control their own destiny, as they clearly have the best record among non-division leaders in the NFC, along with having head-to-head tiebreakers over four of the teams that are jockeying with for the other Wild Card spot. As for the 49ers, their aspirations of finishing this season strong end with a brutal stretch against these Seahawks, the Bears and the Rams. However, they did author an upset of the Broncos last week. Plus, they’ve been in a lot of close games this season. And with both those of things being said, I predict that they author a second upset in a row.
  • New England Patriots Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. Of all the Sunday games, this is the best one of the bunch, as it features two teams that meet in Week 15 for the second season in a row, along with having serious playoff implications. Plus, it’s also in the same late-game window as last season, and has the same CBS tandem of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo doing the commentary. As for this game, both these teams are coming off heartbreaking losses on the last play of the game, with the Dolphins double lateral from 69 yards out beat the Patriots, while Chris Boswell slipped and missed on his potential game-tying field goal from 40 yards out. The latter of these two teams is in a worse late-season funk, as they are mired in an overall three-game losing streak, with the middle of that streak coming at home against the Chargers. Plus, they have lost three games overall at Heinz Field this season. A fourth loss at home ensures the Steelers of at least a .500 record at home for the first ever time in the Big Ben era, and a fourth loss in a row could jeopardize the Steelers’ chances of a fourth division title in five years. Given the precarious situation that they’re in, I expect the Steelers to rise to the challenge and hand the Patriots a second loss in a row.
  • Philadelphia Eagles Vs. Los Angeles Rams. Last week’s game for the Eagles against the Cowboys almost went exactly as I predicted, as they lost a heartbreaker in overtime against their NFC East foe. As for the Rams, the karma of almost losing against the Chiefs caught up to them in The Windy City, as Vic Fangio’s defensive unit punched Jared Goff & Company in the mouth. The Eagles remain mathematically alive for a Wild Card spot, and need the combination of winning out and a total Dallas collapse to win the NFC East for the second consecutive year. The Rams are 6-0 at home this season, but easily could have lost any of the past three at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That will also catch up with them, because I see the Eagles rising to the challenge to keep their season alive.
  • New Orleans Saints Vs. Carolina Panthers. After an embarrassing offensive display against the Cowboys in Week 13, the Saints rallied last week with 28 unanswered points to beat the Buccaneers. They ultimately won 28-14 and captured their second consecutive NFC South title in doing so. As for the Panthers, the free fall continues, as they lost their fifth consecutive game against the Browns last week. However, three (possibly two) more wins and quite a bit of help could change their fortunes at regular season’s end. I’m not ready to write off the Panthers quite yet. So with that being said, I like them to pull the upset.