It’s week 15 in the NFL and upon completion of this week on the schedule, there should be a much clearer picture painted of the playoffs.
Last week was a vicious one as far as injuries are concerned as one of the league’s top teams, the Philadelphia Eagles were dealt a devastating blow when they lost franchise quarterback Carson Wentz for the season with a torn ACL. The Eagles (11-2) did clinch the division title with its impressive victory over the Rams, however their chances of running the table in the NFC went down much like their start quarterback.
On a positive note, one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks has been cleared to resume football activities as the Green Bay Packers announced that all world quarterback Aaron Rodgers will suit up on Sunday against the Panthers, as the Pack are hanging by a thread in the playoff race.
It’s time to take a look at some of the key games on the schedule this weekend and no better place to start than the return of Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers (-2.5 points)
This game is paramount for the Green Bay Packers as they look to keep an unlikely playoff berth alive. On Sunday afternoon they travel to Carolina for a date with the Panthers, and with the aforementioned Rodgers being handed the reigns.
The Pack are 7-6 and will be looking to take advantage of a Carolina team that has struggled against Green Bay in recent memory. Clearly the Packers offense is not the same with the former MVP as it has been with backup Brett Hundley, so look for a spike in the Green Bay receiving corps this week. Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb should all be in line for increased work loads, which will also see more room for running back Aaron Jones.
Carolina (9-4) are coming off an impressive seven point victory over Minnesota last week and currently sit in second place in the South division with a chance to catch New Orleans for the lead. Quarterback Cam Newton has played fairly well this season although the veteran quarterback out of Auburn still continues to show inconsistencies from time to time.
This should be a fairly entertaining NFC Clash considering both teams have a lot to play for. However look for Aaron Rodgers to make a statement in a big way on Sunday as he will once again look the put this team on his back!
New England Patriots (-3 points) at Pittsburgh Steelers
The NFL game of the week has to be the AFC heavyweight tilt between the New England Patriots and the host Pittsburgh Steelers who will do battle on Sunday afternoon had a sold-out Heinz Field.
In what can only be construed as a massive slap in the face to the AFC number one seed, the Pittsburgh Steelers are home dogs at three points against the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. The Patriots are actually coming off quite an embarrassing loss on Monday night against the lowly Miami Dolphins and Jay Cutler.
Pittsburgh on the other hand put on an offense of clinic on Sunday night in their divisional battle against a very desperate Baltimore Ravens team. In what was initially expected to be a hard-hitting defensive battle, the Steelers actually outlasted their division foes in a breathtaking 39-38 victory. The killer bees, Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown continue to set the rest of the NFL on fire and are no doubt one of the most exciting trios of offense of weapons the league has seen in ages. With Julio Jones in Atlanta struggling this season, Antonio Brown has really pulled away as the most dominating receiver in the league while slot back Le’Veon Bell is in a class of his own with his ability to outweigh the defenses, and displays an explosive first-step like none other.
The Patriots need no introduction as there has been no more consistent or dominating team over the last 16 years then Bill Belichick and his Patriots. And despite uncharacteristic loss against the Dolphins Monday night, it’s really difficult to imagine this team losing two consecutive games… Regardless of the competition.
Dallas Cowboys (-3 points) at Oakland Raiders
This week’s Sunday night game will also feature an AFC vs NFC tilt between the Oakland Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams enter Sunday night’s game with identical playoff seedings. The cowboys are 7-6 while Oakland is 6 – 7 and desperately need the win to keep pace in a very crowded wild-card hunt. Both teams find themselves on the outside looking in, and with only 3 games left to play, a loss we’ll all but mean the end of a Super Bowl title Quest.
The Cowboys took care of business on the road in East Rutherford with a decisive 30-10 victory over the lowly New York Giants. Oakland on the other hand fell behind in there divisional game against the Kansas City Chiefs and ultimately lost by 2 converted touchdowns after failing to execute putting points on the board early in the first half.
Oakland have been almost as disappointing this season as the Cowboys. Especially when you consider the season that Dallas had last year, winning the top seed in the conference, and the Oakland Raiders who many had picked as the sexy Dark Horse to represent the AFC in this year’s Super bowl.
Quarterback Derek Carr has failed to take that next step after two consecutive seasons showing high-end skill at upside. The team brought in bruising running back Marshawn Lynch in what was supposed to be a homecoming of epic proportions for the Oakland California native and sadly it hasn’t worked out. The dynamic receiving Duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree has also underwhelmed this year. Between a rash of injuries, and foolish suspensions, what was supposed to be one of the League’s best offenses this year has turned out to be one of the least effective.
Then there is the debacle known as the Dallas Cowboys. America’s Team has been a mess from the onset of Week 1. When news broke this offseason that star running back Ezekiel Elliott was subject to a six-game suspension the football community was sent into a frenzy. Rather than having Elliot serve his six-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy of the league, owner Jerry Jones decided to play with fire and ultimately was unable to avoid the inevitable outcome of having his star tailback Miss 6 games when the team needed its running back most. Injury to key components of their all-world offense of line, and linebacker Sean Lee, have really derailed any momentum the team was able to do on either side of the ball. Quarterback Dak Prescott also showed a bit of a sophomore slump this season after taking the league by storm in his rookie year, and helping Cowboys faithful forget about the retiring face of franchise Tony Romo.
The three-point line favoring the Cowboys is an interesting one considering Dallas haven’t won a game in Oakland since way back in the 1995 season. The narrative in this game is simple, the team that wins will still maintain it’s Bleak playoff hopes alive… The team that loses is done for!