NFL Week 15 predictions

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St Louis Rams

A place in the post-season seems unlikely for these two teams, but the battle for mediocrity could still be interesting. The Buccaneers were disappointing at home to the New Orleans Saints last weekend and the Rams ended a five-game losing streak against the Detroit Lions. Impressive rookie running back Todd Gurley bounced back to form and shredded the Lions for 140 yards and a touchdown, but Tampa rank eighth against the run and if they can stop him, a road victory could be on the cards. Pick: Buccaneers

New York Jets at Dallas Cowboys 

A rare Saturday night game in the NFL, and probably the end of any lingering hopes the Cowboys have of making the play-offs. Defeat will end their season and, based on recent form, they are bang up against it with the Jets desperate for victory and simply more talented. Dallas struggles to pass and the Jets excel against the run, just to exacerbate their problems. They have won their last three, and really should make it four if Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell continue their excellent form. Pick: Jets

Carolina Panthers at New York Giants 

A must-win game for the Giants, who sit third in the NFC East on the same 6-7 record as the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. Defeat here will significantly harm their post-season hopes and they could not have found a tougher opponent in the 13-0 Panthers. This looks likely to be another high-scoring game but the Carolina offence is more potent and Cam Newton is just about unstoppable at the moment. He could have a field day, but Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr are hardly struggling… should be a great game to watch. Pick: Panthers

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots

The Titans will have to play at a level they have not managed against the league's better sides this season to match the Patriots. New England will clinch the AFC East title with a victory and they looked more fluent in beating Houston in week 14, especially on defence. With Rob Gronkowski back, and even healthier than he was against the Texans, you would expect this one to turn into a one-sided romp. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has enjoyed a decent rookie season for the Titans, but this will most likely not be a pleasant afternoon for him. Pick: Patriots

Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens

Barring the Panthers and Seahawks, there is no better team in the NFL than the Chiefs at the moment, and they head to Baltimore looking for an eighth straight victory. They face a Ravens side lacking just about all of their offensive stars, and with Jimmy Clausen at quarterback, it could be a long day for Baltimore's defence. Alex Smith is not the flashiest of players, but the Chiefs quarterback should enjoy this matchup against a beaten-up Ravens secondary, and he has more than enough weapons to secure another 'W'. Pick: Chiefs

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

Two teams with a losing record, but two teams still with every chance of making the post-season, such is the lack of quality in the AFC South. The Texans could be without quarterback Brian Hoyer, which would be a massive blow, while the Colts have doubts over their signal-caller Matt Hasselbeck, so this could turn into a TJ Yates-Charlie Whitehurst showdown – not exactly one for the ages! Both sides are coming off heavy defeats, but one of them has to win… probably. Pick (if we must): Colts

Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars

Troubled times for the Falcons, who won six of their first seven games and have now lost six on the bounce, capping that run by being shut out 38-0 by the Panthers. They now face a Jaguars side on a high after putting up 51 points on Indianapolis and still in the play-off race despite a 5-8 record. Blake Bortles has been on fire in recent weeks, and his connection with the Allens – wide receivers Robinson and Hurns – could be too much for a porous Falcons secondary to deal with. Pick: Jaguars

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are suddenly fighting for their play-off lives after two successive defeats, but those came against two of the league's best teams in Seattle and Arizona. They now face a much easier task in the Bears, and their NFC North foes could be seeing a lot of Adrian Peterson on Sunday. The running back should find plenty of holes in the less-than-solid Bears line and potentially enjoy one of his best days of the season as Chicago continue their quest to disappoint long-suffering fans. Pick: Vikings

Buffalo Bills at Washington Redskins

A massive game for the Redskins, who retain top spot in the NFC East and know defeat could see them drop to third behind the Giants and Eagles. Washington have not strung together back-to-back wins all season, which doesn't bode well after they beat Chicago last week, but the Bills are equally inconsistent and this could come down to the quarterback battle. Kirk Cousins has done really well for the Redskins, but Tyrod Taylor has arguably been better because of his dual threat as a runner – this one could be very tight. Pick (just): Bills

Green Bay Packers at Oakland Raiders

Another potential cracker on the cards with one of the league's best quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers, facing one of the league's most improved players in Derek Carr. Carr was reasonable in his rookie season, but his play has elevated in 2015 and both players come into the game having thrown 28 touchdown passes. This game could come down to which team manages to get its running game going, and on that you would just give the edge to the Packers, who got fine rewards from Eddie Lacy and James Starks in a 28-7 win over Dallas last Sunday. Watch out as well for Oakland linebacker Khalil Mack, who has seven sacks in his last two games! Pick (just): Packers

Cleveland Browns at Seattle Seahawks

There aren't many blowouts likely this week, but this has to be one of the top two candidates. The Seahawks were on the ropes after a week 10 defeat, but they have won their last four games and averaged not far short of 35 points per game. Russell Wilson has been part of 14 touchdowns (13 passing, one rushing) in the last three games and Cleveland's defence is among the worst in the league for points against and yardage. Johnny Manziel, we wish you good luck. Pick: Seahawks

Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers 

This could be a huge game for the Broncos, depending on Kansas City's result earlier on Sunday. A Chiefs defeat will mean the AFC West title for Denver if they can beat the Steelers, but their task will not be an easy one. Pittsburgh are bang there in the play-off race as well, more likely in terms of a wildcard, and they have more offensive weapons with Ben Roethlisberger healthy and finding Antonio Brown with regularity. Denver failed to score a touchdown at home to the Raiders last Sunday and need to improve rapidly to avoid falling into the Chiefs' grasp. Pick: Steelers

Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers

A battle between two of the league's most disappointing teams. The Chargers have lost eight of their last nine games and a defeat here could even leave them looking at claiming the No 1 pick in next year's draft. Philip Rivers remains a threat on his day but he doesn't have many healthy weapons and rookie running back Melvin Gordon has been a complete bust. Miami will need a big day from Lamar Miller, who had two touchdowns against the Giants on Monday night, but at least they appear to have an offensive pulse – the Chargers have scored six points in two games combined. Pick: Dolphins

Cincinnati Bengals at San Francisco 49ers

The Bengals appeared to be cruising on their way to the post-season until last week when they lost quarterback Andy Dalton to a hand injury in a loss to the Steelers. Now they need a big performance from backup AJ McCarron to try and keep Pittsburgh at bay in the race for the AFC North title. McCarron was OK in relief (two touchdowns and a pick six) but if the 49ers have a strength, it is on defence, and they are sure to blitz plenty to test him early on. This one could be a dour defensive struggle, perhaps settled by the kicking game. Pick: Bengals

Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles

A game with huge play-off ramifications for both teams, with the Cardinals knowing victory will see them crowned as NFC West champions. They have won their last seven games and really should make it eight, but the Eagles are in with a chance of winning the NFC East despite their 6-7 record and have won their last two games. Arizona need to be strong against the triple run threat of Darren Sproles, DeMarco Murray and (probably) Ryan Mathews, but their defence should be up to the task in one of the week's most intriguing games. Pick: Cardinals

Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints

Not the most inspiring Monday Night Football matchup of the season, with the Lions already out of play-off contention and the Saints needing a miracle set of results – indeed, their hopes could well be over by the time kick-off comes around. Expect plenty of points in this game, with neither defence having excelled this season, and it could be a good day to deploy Drew Brees or Matthew Stafford as your fantasy quarterback if your season is still alive – there could be plenty of touchdowns to celebrate. Pick: Saints

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