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Week 15 Games to Watch


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This week's games to watch...

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) @ Minnesota Vikings (8-5)

Call this one the "Kiss Your A$$ Goodbye Bowl" because the team that loses this game may well miss the postseason all together. Pitt would risk falling back into a scrum with KC and SD for the last AFC spot, while Minny would drop into the NFC wild card pot with Dallas, DC, and two of the following: Atlanta, Carolina or Tampa, depending on who wins the NFC South.

Because of that, I expect both teams to play hard. Pitt comes in with a 4-2 road record and a 2-0 mark against the NFC. Minny boasts a 5-1 record in the Dome, and is .500 vs. the AFC. The Vikings are riding a 6-game winning streak, mostly attributable to an easy second half schedule and an opportunistic D (22 picks in the last 6 games), while Pitt has been been through a brutal series of games against tough opponents, coming through with mixed results.

Minnesota doesn't match up badly with Pitt on defense, having a decent run D and an INT-happy secondary (second only to Cincy's now), but their offense will have a hard time scoring on Pitt's D. One wild card could be special teams. The Vikings ST's ripped it up against the Giants a couple weeks ago, and rank about average according to footballoutsiders.com (18) while Pitt comes in at 28.

I'd like to call this one for Minnesota -- and if Pitt lets them hang around a big ST play could turn the tide -- but in the end I think it will be Pittsburgh by 6

Denver Broncos (10-3) @ Buffalo Bills (4-9)

Well, looks like Kelly Holcomb is getting the call this week for the Bills, and the weather report is for "wintry mix." So at least TV viewers will get to watch a bunch of white stuff blowing around, which might make the game more interesting. Buffalo is a wreck, Mularkey is under fire, Eric Moulds has one foot out the door, and rumors are flying about bringing the animated corpse of Marv Levy back in the front office and maybe hiring Jim Haslett if he leaves N.O.

Meanwhile, Denver is coming off a bad game against Baltimore and a reminder of just how tenuous its hold on the second seed in the AFC is, so I expect they will be on their game. The Bills have already packed it in. Denver by 17.

San Francisco 49ers (2-11) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4)

Well, y'know, last week Miami stunned a West Coast team, SD, with a big victory. So I suppose there's always hope for a miracle. Of course, there's always hope that I'll hit the Powerball lotto, too. My chances are probably better than the 9ers in this one. Jaguars by 21.

Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) @ New York Giants (9-4)

After choking against Dallas, the Chiefs travel on to the Big Apple to face the NFC East-leading Giants. The Giants need this game to stay ahead of Dallas, while the Chiefs need it to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Giants are 6-1 at the Meadowlands (the only loss being a bizarre one to the Vikes, who scored 21 points on D and STs) while the Chiefs are just 3-4 on the road.

But while the Giants look tough on paper, they have issues. Eli Manning is inconsistent, partly due to a habit of regressing to poor mechanics under pressure. The Giants are 10th in passing attempts but 19th in completions; the running game under Tiki Barber is the team's salvation on offense. Unfortunately for them, KC comes in with the No. 6 rushing D, which will force Eli to throw. Eli does get a break in that the KC pass D is sub-par (30th in yardage terms, but 21st in picks).

Right now, KC ranks as the No. 1 offense in the league (4th rushing, 6th passing), a huge challenge for the Giants' 20th ranked D. Moreover, the Giants will be missing some key players, including defensive captain LB Antonio Pierce. Both starting OTs, Luke Petitgout and Kareem McKenzie, are likely scratches as well. Look for KC to blow up the Giants by at least 14.

San Diego Chargers (8-5) @ Indianapolis Colts (like you don't know)

A tale of two teams: The Chargers playoff hopes took a body blow last week when they got whacked by Miami; the Colts, meanwhile, sewed up the division and home field throughout the playoffs with a win over division rival Jacksonville. SD is desperate and playing well on the road (4-2) while Indy is wondering whether to play their first or second team.

Per Tony Dungy, the Colts will play* their first string. I mark play with an asterisk because any starters with even minor injuries, like LB Cato June and DT Corey Simon, will likely be held out. And you can bet that if any other starters suffer so much as a paper cut, Dungy will sit them down. If anything resembling a real injury happens to anyone important (Manning, Harrison, James, etc.) expect to see a wholesale exodus.

Frankly, I think San Diego deals Indy their first loss. They need it, Indy doesn't. Chargers by 9

Predicted Post Week 15 ACF Picture

Colts 13-1

Broncos 11-3

Bengals 11-3

Patriots 8-6 (yes, they lose to the Bucs)

Jaguars 10-4

Steelers 9-5

Looking in:

Chargers 9-5

Chiefs 9-5

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I agree with these picks, except I think that the Colts will make it to 14-0. Tomlinson is banged up and I believe is listed at questionable. If he struggles at all, I think the Colts roll, assuming the starters play.

I also think the Bills will give the Broncos a game. Maybe I am being a homer, but in any event, the Broncos should pull it out.

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