Welcome to another edition of the Crystal Schnoz NFL Precaps, a weekly column where the Schnoz looks ahead to all the games played between two professional football teams in which they try to score more points than each other while wearing cool helmets.
If you’ve wandered here by accident, federal law requires you to read this entire post before exiting. Skimming – while not technically illegal – is greatly frowned upon.
Week 15 features 16 games, including one that was played last night! And this week we are completely shifting our focus to playoff implications.
NOTE: I am NOT the Elias Sports Bureau. I have researched these scenarios extensively, but I still might be wrong.
Cardinals 12, Rams 6
Despite losing their 2nd string QB they get to 11 wins, which is basically a microcosm for their season. The circumstances don’t matter to this team, they find a way to win. Bruce Arians is on the short list for Coach of the Year in my book.
The Cardinals are in if the Cowboys-Eagles game doesn’t end in a tie. So basically they’re in because Romo, by law, would have to throw a TD or Pick-Six in OT. This leaves 4 teams (DAL, SEA, PHI, DET) fighting for 3 spots. More on this later.
Raiders at Chiefs (-10.5)
If the Chiefs win out they’re in the playoffs at 10-6. They’re last 3? OAK, at PIT, and SD.
It’s a tall order, and it starts with an Oakland team that knocked off San Francisco last week…which to me is a good thing for KC. I see a letdown from Oakland, and despite their anemic passing game, I see a win for Andy Reid to keep hope alive.
Chiefs 23, Raiders 13
Dolphins at Patriots (-7.5)
This is a playoff game for the Dolphins, make no mistake about it. Winning out gets them to 10-6, and with upcoming home games against Minnesota and the Jets, they know this is the biggest hurdle left on their schedule. (and 10-6 in no way assures them of the playoffs; they need help.)
Unfortunately for Miami, winning out is crucial to New England as well. Tied with Denver at 10-3, home field is still very much up for grabs. The Broncos have two tough road games left, but the Patriots do not want to play the AFC Championship game on January 18th in Denver.
I like this Miami team, but losing to Baltimore at home last week takes too much wind out of their sails.
Patriots 33, Dolphins 17
Steelers at Falcons (+2.0)
The Steelers are looking pretty good right now. There is a scenario where they finish 1-2 and STILL make the playoffs as the #6 seed. The crucial game for them is next week against K.C., because the Chiefs are vying for that Wild Card spot as well. Of course, Pittsburgh would rather win the division, and they will at 11-5 if they win out (even if the Ravens win out as well). A loss this week isn’t fatal, but I’m sure Tomlin is telling his team otherwise.
If the Falcons win out they get the #4 Seed at 8-8 and no one whines about the playoff structure of the league. I’m almost rooting for this. Of course, a scenario does exist where the Falcons finish 1-2 and still get the #4 seed at 6-10 and the world implodes on itself. Next week’s game in New Orleans is the big one, but holding serve at home this week would go a long way. Unfortunately for Atlanta, they stink.
Steelers 38, Falcons 30
Texans at Colts (-6.5)
Houston is two games behind Indy, but if the Texans win out, they are in…even if it’s just a Wild Card spot.
The only way the Colts miss the playoffs is if they finish 0-3, and they play the Titans in Week 17, so that’s not happening unless Andrew Luck gets raptured.
This game means more to the Titans in that sense, but I see Andrew Luck bouncing back from a terrible performance in Cleveland to clinch the AFC South Title at home.
Colts 24, Texans 10
Redskins at Giants (-6.5)
Giants 30 Redskins 13
Bengals at Browns (-1.0)
With 3 weeks left all four of the AFC North teams can win the division, EVEN THE BROWNS! All they have to do is finish 3-0 and get a little help; namely having the Steelers lose at least once. BUT, even if the Steelers win out, the Browns earn the #6 seed by winning out. They would still need some help, but Johnny Football is set up perfectly to finish the season 3-0 and carry Cleveland into the promised land.
On a far less interesting note, the Bengals have the best odds of anyone in the North of winning the division (48%) and making the playoffs (73%). With Denver coming to town next week, this week’s game in Cleveland will definitely have a playoff feel to it…which means I am leaning away from Andy Dalton.
Browns 27, Bengals 24
Jaguars at Ravens (-14.0)
Here’s what I want for Christmas: If the Browns win their next two and the Ravens win their next two and the Chargers drop their next two, then the Week 17 matchup between the Browns and Ravens is for a playoff berth. Let’s make this happen.
Ravens 43, Jaguars 27
Buccaneers at Panthers (-3.0)
If Carolina wins out and the Saints don’t, the Panthers are your division Champs at 7-8-1. It’s a tall order with an injured Cam Newton, a below average defense, and one of the worst special teams units in the league…but it’s possible.
Sadly, the dream ends on Sunday.
Buccaneers 27, Panthers 9
Packers at Bills (+4.0)
Green Bay wins out and they are your #1 NFC Seed at 13-3. They own the tiebreaker with Philly, so their only concern if they lose this one (or Week 17 vs. Detroit) is if the Seahawks win out, which is looking more and more likely. All that to say, there won’t be any let up with this Packers team.
The Bills need to beat the Packers, Raiders, and Patriots, and then they’d still need some help to sneak into the 6th Wild Card spot. Having the league’s second best defense will help. Having Kyle Orton will not.
Packers 24, Bills 13
Jets at Titans (+2.5)
Jets 26, Titans 21
Broncos at Chargers (+4.0)
Nothing is set in stone for Denver. They lose out and they could miss the playoffs. Road games this week and next (at Cincinnati) won’t be easy, but a home game in Week 17 against Oakland should dispel all worries of an epic collapse. Home field throughout, though less of a long shot, would still be tough to earn at this point. They’d have to be perfect and they’d need New England to falter.
The Chargers win out and they’re in, that’s the good news. Also good news, they can lose once and still get in with a 10-6 record if Miami, Cincy, and Cleveland fail to get to 10 wins. The bad news: they have to beat Denver at home, San Francisco on the road, and KC on the road. All are possible, but their defense is going to have to step up like it hasn’t all year to make it happen
Broncos 45, Chargers 27
Niners at Seahawks (-10.5)
Almost not worth talking about San Francisco’s playoff chances the way they’ve looked of late, but there is a glimmer of hope that they can get in. They need to win this one, win their last two, and hope Seattle loses again. 10-6 would get them in over a 10-6 Seattle and 10-6 Dallas team. (Philly too, but they’re getting to 11 wins).
The Seahawks, conversely, are peaking at just the right time…and so is their schedule. They’ve got a reeling Niner team this week, they’re going to Arizona in a week where they will likely see their 3rd string QB, and then they finish at home against a Rams team with craptastic offense. It’s lining up perfectly, but don’t sleep on that game at Arizona next week. The Cardinals still have a shot at the #1 seed, and a win against the Seahawks and a 13-3 record would give it to them over Green Bay.
Seahawks 36, Niners 23
Vikings at Lions (-7.5)
Detroit could lose their last 3 and still make the playoffs, so they have that going for them. It’s unlikely though, so taking care of the Vikings at home and finishing the season strong SHOULD happen. (But again, this is the Lions.) They have the tiebreaker over Dallas and Philly, but not San Francisco…so a win this week coupled with a Niner loss and they are in.
Lions 23, Vikings 20
Cowboys at Eagles (-3.5)
The Cowboys can only make it into the Playoffs at 10-6 is if the Lions lose their last 3, including the Bears and Vikings. Not going to happen. The Boys need to get to 11, and if you pencil in Week 17 against Washington, that means they need this game in Philly or next week at home against Indy. Neither game will be easy, which is just how the Cowboys draw it up every year.
The Eagles finish at Washington and the Giants, so it’s hard to see them not getting to 11 wins. And even if they lose to Dallas this week, if the Cowboys were to fall to Andrew Luck next week Philly would own the tiebreaker over Dallas at 11-5 for the division crown. If Philly wins out to get to 12-4 they would need a lot of help to earn a first round bye, namely: the Seahawks losing to the Niners this week, and the Cardinals losing in Weeks 16 and 17.
Eagles 34, Cowboys 28
Saints at Bears (+3.0)
If the Saints win out they get to 8-8 and in the division. But the truth is, they can win it at 7-9 if they beat the Falcons next week at home (where they have been ABYSMAL). Can they win the division with a 6-10 record? Of course they can, this is the NFC South we’re talking about. But like we said in the Falcons write up, let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
Bears 28, Saints 27
Enjoy the games, everyone!
PS…If you’re an NFL fan and you’ve never played with ESPN’S NFL Playoff Machine. Remedy that immediately.