By Eric Schmidt

Every game matters in the 17 week NFL schedule, but with just three weeks remaining in the regular season, teams fighting for a possible playoff berth become desperate for victories. There are several great matchups this week and over half of the contests on Sunday have playoff ramifications. Several contests this week are worthy of being primetime games this week. Denver vs Baltimore, New York Giants vs Atlanta, Pittsburgh vs. Dallas Green Bay vs Chicago, but the NFL decided not to flex out the game between the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots, giving New England it’s second consecutive primetime game.

NFL Week 15 Picks and Predictions Against the Spread-

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears +2.5 43.5

The oldest rivalry in the NFL is renewed with NFC North supremacy at stake. The Packers are surging while the Bears are in a tailspin late in the season for the second consecutive year. Rumors have surfaced in the last week about the security of head coach Lovie Smith’s job for next season. Bears QB Jay Cutler is banged up while the Packers have won the last four and six of the last seven meetings between these two. Look for that trend to continue. Green Bay 27-19

New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons -1 51

Falcons WR Roddy White did not practice this week while he is nursing an injured knee. The Giants have lost three of thier last five games and need a win in order to hold off the surging Washington Redskins. Look for the road dog Giants to pull off a win. New York 34-27

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints -3.5 54

The Buccaneers secondary was shredded last week by rookie Eagles QB Nick Foles. Saints QB Drew Brees should have a big game against the Buccaneers secondary, but Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman should be able to put up some points against the Saints defense as well. Look for Buccaneers rookie RB Doug Martin to have 120 yards and two scores. Tampa Bay 34-31

Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams -3 39

The Minnesota Vikings are one of those teams which is just outside of the current playoff seeding while the Rams are riding a three-game win streak. Look for the Rams to stack the box in order to slow down Vikings RB Adrian Peterson while trying to make QB Christian Ponder and the 32nd ranked Vikings passing offense beat them. St. Louis 19-16

Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns -2 37.5

Rookie QB Robert Griffin III will not get the start for the Redskins, instead another rookie, Kirk Cousins will get the nod. The Redskins are on the verge of a possible playoff berth and need a win in Cleveland. Cousins came off the bench and rallied the Redskins last week after Griffin left win an injury, but can he get the job done when he starts a game? Cleveland 20-13

Jacksonville Jaguars at Miami Dolphins -7.5 37.5

Chad Henne returns to South Florida, guiding a team which has been hit hard with injuries this season and losers of nine of their last 10 games. Miami has not fared much better, dropping five of their last six contests and scoring over 210 points just once in those games. Miami 16-12

Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens +3 48

Baltimore needs to stop their slide while the Broncos enter this game as the winners of eight straight. Weather will play a role in this game with a 60% chance of rain possible. The Broncos have faced the Ravens just eight times but has never won a game in Baltimore. The Ravens are more desperate this week. Look for newly promoted offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to run more of the Ravens no-huddle offense which was abandoned earlier in the season. RB Ray Rice should see 25 carries. Baltimore 27-24

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans -10 47.5

The Houston Texans return home after being trounced on Monday night by the New England Patriots. The Texans still hold the top seed in the AFC but face the Indianapolis Colts twice in the last three weeks. If the Colts win their last three games, the Texans would drop from the number one seed to a wildcard team by virtue of losing twice to the Colts. Don’t look for that to happen. Look for a monster day from RB Arian Foster. Houston 31-16

Carolina Panthers at San Diego Chargers -3 45

QB Cam Newton is starting to put up some solid numbers in recent weeks after struggling earlier this season. The Chargers shocked the NFL last week by destroying the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road. The Panthers are fighting for head coach Ron Rivera’s job while it appears to be a foregone conclusion that Norv Turner will be dismissed after the season. Carolina 26-24

Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills +4.5 43.5

C.J. Spiller assumes the starting role for the Buffalo Bills for the remainder of the regular season but will face a tough start on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle enters this game after scoring 91 points in their last two games. Look for the strong play of the Seahawks to continue as Seattle records just it’s third road win of the season with a huge game looming next week against the San Francisco 49ers. Seattle 23-13

Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals +6.5 43.5

Can the Cardinals stop the free fall? Arizona is not a very good team and has the quarterback play of any team in the league. Lions WR Calvin Johnson’s quest for the single season receiving yardage mark continues and he might just post 200 yards and three scores against the Cardinals.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Dallas Cowboys +2.5 45.5

A pairing of one of the best rivalries in the 1970′s, the Steelers must rebound in order to keep pace with the Cincinnati Bengals while the Cowboys need a win in order to remain in the NFC playoff hunt. Dallas must have a big game from QB Tony Romo. Dallas has been wildly inconsistent this season but has managed four wins in their last five games. Dallas 27-24 OT.

Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders -3 44

This contest features two teams winding up very disappointing seasons. Once one of the fiercest rivalries in the league, Sunday’s matchup should be a lopsided affair. Oakland 30-13

San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots -4 46.5

The Patriots dismantled the Houston defense last week, can they do the same this week to the Niners? If they do, the Patriots might emerge as being the team to beat in the playoffs. Critics were ready to write the Patriots off early in the season after starting the year 1-2. Since then, New England has won nine of their last ten and has scored 255 points in their last six games. There is a 90% chance of a wintery mix of rain and snow at kickoff so might might help to slow down the field a bit for the Patriots offense. Is second-year QB Colin Kaepernick up to the pressure of the national spotlight? New England 27-20

 

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