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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

NFL Week 15 Predictions

Sports Staff |
December 15, 2012 | 9:51 p.m. PST


With Christmas approaching, we at Neon Tommy thought we'd surprise our readers with an early gift. Seven - count 'em seven - game picks this week. Who will be naughty and who will be nice in Week 15?

Eli and the Giants are getting hot at the right time...again. (Marianne O'Leary/Creative Commons)
Eli and the Giants are getting hot at the right time...again. (Marianne O'Leary/Creative Commons)
New York Giants @ Atlanta Falcons

Jeremy Bergman: Giants 38, Falcons 24

The march to Nawleans has begun for Big Blue. Their winter campaign began last week with a sound drumming of the Saints and will continue destroying the South like General Sherman. The Falcons were embarrassed by Cammy Cam last week and had all aspects of their defense exploited, giving up nearly 200 yards both in the air and on the ground. What may be most disturbing is that the Falcon offense managed only 35 rushing yards against a third-tier Carolina rush D (20th in NFL). Against the Giants' NASCAR D-line, Atlanta will remain grounded and unable to move the ball. 

Evan Budrovich: Giants 21, Falcons 20 

The New York Giants will build off an impressive performance against New Orleans to defeat the NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan has been ice cold in his last few games, resorting to key fourth quarter comebacks to secure victories. Against the tenacious Giants pass rush, Ryan will be harassed in the second half halting another Falcons miracle. Expect David Wilson to have another big game for New York.

Aaron Fischman: Falcons 30, Giants 28

The Giants will be the trendy pick here, but I like the Falcons in a close game if Roddy White plays…and I think he will. Although Atlanta’s defense hasn’t been very good, it won’t allow nearly as many big plays as New Orleans did last week. Matt Ryan has won 32 of 36 regular-season home games throughout his career.

Jacob Freedman: Giants 31, Falcons 24

Well what do you know: The Falcons are mortal. Ahmad Bradshaw is out, but David Wilson had over 300 all-purpose yards last week for the G-Men. Roddy White hasn't practiced all week, and his potential replacement, Kevin Cone, has never caught a pass in the NFL. The 11-2 Falcons haven't lost at home yet, but that's the kind of state the Giants love to mess with. The offense is clicking after a 52-27 demolition of the Saints last week, and Eli Manning will make the Giants finish 4-0 against the NFC South by the time next Monday rolls around.

Max Meyer: Falcons 27, Giants 21

The Falcons will be angry coming off a blowout loss and the fact that several NFL analysts are calling them a fluke team. They always play well at home, and will shut the critics up for at least one week. Expect Tony Gonzalez to have a big game against the Giants linebacking corps. 

Law Murray: Giants 34, Falcons 21

The last time the Falcons beat the Giants also happened to be the last time the Falcons won a playoff game - way back in 2004.  Falcons QB Matt Ryan will finally host Big Blue, and the Falcons are undefeated at home.  But I can't endorse the Falcons defense against the Giants right now, especially if QB Eli Manning and rookie RB David Wilson complement each other for a full game without struggling with giveaways.  We've already seen that the Falcons have little balance in their attack now - they've been kept under 80 yards rushing four of the past five games.

Will Randall Cobb's breakout season continue in Chicago? (Wikimedia Commons)
Will Randall Cobb's breakout season continue in Chicago? (Wikimedia Commons)
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

Bergman: Packers 28, Bears 19

Beware Chicago, winter is coming, and your football team is as cold as the wind chill off Lake Michigan. The Bears have lost four of their last five games to teams with a combined record of 35-16-1, a stretch that has clearly been one of the roughest in the NFL. But it didn't end last week; this week's division matchup with the Pack will be the decisive game in the NFC North race. But as recent history has dictated, the Bears will have trouble with Green Bay, simply because the Packers are above .500.

Budrovich: Packers 41, Bears 31 

In a must win game for the Bears, the archrival Packers will go into Soldier Field and knock the Bears out of the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers is playing at an elite level right now and the Bears' defense is not forcing turnovers at the same prolific rate they did to start the season. Furthermore, the Bears' offense has looked anemic in its last two games, resorting to Brandon Marshall Christmas Tree analogies as motivation. 

Fischman: Packers 24, Bears 20

The Bears have lost four of their last five games, and Clay Matthews is returning for Green Bay’s defense. Although Jordy Nelson will miss another game, Aaron Rodgers has enough offensive weapons to beat a Chicago defense that’s clearly not as good without Brian Urlacher. Da Bears’ offense is really one-dimensional right now. Even if Brandon Marshall gets 120 yards (and he probably will), Chicago won’t be able to outscore Green Bay.

Freedman: Packers 24, Bears 16

Ryan Grant is back in the Packers uniform. No, that's not a good thing. Even worse for the Bears is that Matt Forte still isn't 100 percent, Michael Bush is still hurt, and Jay Cutler looked miserable last week against the Vikings. The Bears have lost four of their last five, going from top seed contenders to fighting for their playoff lives. The downward slide continues this week, as Aaron Rodgers and his new best friend Randall Cobb take the final step in locking up the division.

Meyer: Packers 31, Bears 20

Jay Cutler is expected to play, and the Bears will need him because this game could decide their playoff fortunes. However, the Packers offense is simply too good right now, and I don't think an injured Bears defense will be able to stop them.

Murray: Bears 20, Packers 16

When Lovie Smith was introduced as the head coach of the Chicago Bears in 2004, he said his number one goal was to beat the Packers.  With the Bears losing four of their last five, beating the Packers might be what it takes to save Lovie's job.  Whoever plays QB is going to have to protect the football.  The Bears have only won once when they lose the turnover battle, so it will be imperative for them to feature a lot of RBs Matt Forte and Michael Bush and keep the defense off the field.

AD has his eyes set on Eric Dickerson's almsot unbreakable record. (Wikimedia Commons)
AD has his eyes set on Eric Dickerson's almsot unbreakable record. (Wikimedia Commons)
Minnesota Vikings @ St. Louis Rams

Bergman: Vikings 20, Rams 18

Fear the Purple People Eaters. More accurately, fear Adrian Peterson. AD is approaching legend status in Minnesota, boasting that he may go after Eric Dickerson's single season rushing record. It'll be tough for the MVP candidate against a Rams defense that has been stingy all year, holding down a Kaepernick-led offense just two weeks ago. But I have no faith in Brian Schottenheimer and the St. Louis offense to do any better than their opponents.

Budrovich: Rams 16, Vikings 12 

The two biggest surprises in the NFC square off with playoff implications on the line. Sam Bradford has played very efficiently in his last three starts, leading the Rams to wins over Buffalo, Arizona and San Francisco. Minnesota will depend heavily on Adrian Peterson, who has accounted for more rushing yards per carry than Christian Ponders yards per attempt. In a physical matchup, the home crowd plus a strong pass rush will lead St. Louis to victory. 

Fischman: Rams 19, Vikings 17

I have no idea about this game. Despite the Rams dropping just one of their last five games, frankly I don’t think they’re very good. The Vikings are very predictable on offense, but then again, opponents still can’t stop AP. The Rams won’t stop him either, but they will be able to contain the mighty one just enough (around 125-140 total yards) to get the win. The Vikings struggle away from home, and Danny Amendola is back for the Rams.

Freedman: Rams 21, Vikings 14

In the "Fighting to Stay Alive" Bowl, the Rams enter on a three-game winning streak, eking out two wins by three points each the last two weeks. In the second half of the season, Adrian Peterson has more rushing yards than Christian Ponder has through the air, allowing the Rams' balanced defense to home in on the line. The Vikings are halfway through their brutal six-game gauntlet to close the season (Chicago and Green Bay twice, as well as at Houston), and will prove not quite up to the challenge as Sam Bradford protects the Dome and leads the Rams back above .500

Meyer: Vikings 20, Rams 17

No one on Earth can possibly contain Adrian Peterson, except for Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder. However, with Vikings management aware that AP can break the all-time record for rushing yards in a season, expect him to be fed early and often. More AP gives the Vikings a much better chance of winning. 

Murray: Rams 22, Vikings 17

How'd the Rams sneak into the playoff picture?  They tightened up their defense against QBs.  The Rams allowed four TD passes in London, took a week off, and have allowed only three TD passes in the last five games, resulting in a 3-1-1 stretch.  They still don't score enough points, but they're playing against ineffective QB Christian Ponder.  In 23 career starts, Ponder has passed for less than 200 yards 13 times.  A good day from Rams rookie K Greg Zuerlein should earn them a win.  The Rams have a talent mismatch against the useless Vikings receivers, so stacking the box against RB Adrian Peterson should be the game plan here.

Ray Rice and the Ravens need to get going quick if they want to keep the lead in the AFC North. (Wikimedia Commons)
Ray Rice and the Ravens need to get going quick if they want to keep the lead in the AFC North. (Wikimedia Commons)
Denver Broncos @ Baltimore Ravens

Bergman: Broncos 31, Ravens 20

This Raven D ain't your older brother's Raven D. Without Ray Lewis and with more tread on their tires than ever, the feared members of the Baltimore defense have become more hunted  than hunters in recent weeks, surrounding 31 points to two rookie QBs in Washington and 23 points to Charlie Batch and the banged up Steelers. Now, Peyton Manning is rolling into town on one of the hottest streaks in the league right now; regardless of how Flacco and Rice play, the other side of the ball doesn't stand a chance. 

Budrovich: Broncos 28, Ravens 17 

The general, Peyton Manning, will have no problems attacking the Ravens' weak defense. With injuries across the board, the Ravens have struggled to stop the elite teams this season. Peyton Manning is no stranger to winning big regular season games and will use Eric Decker and Jacob Tamme to attack the middle of the field. The Ravens will return to running the football with Ray Rice, but Joe Flacco will not make the big plays to spark the comeback. 

Freedman: Broncos 28, Ravens 17

The Broncos haven't lost since the first week of October, while the Ravens have cooled off considerably the last months and have one of the weaker passing defenses in the league. Not a recipe to stop Peyton Manning from moving the ball with ease. The Broncos are 2-0 playing in 10 a.m. match ups on the east coast this season, and a suddenly competent Knoshown Moreno will continue their push for home field advantage in the AFC.

Fischman: Broncos 28, Ravens 17

Even considering the possibility that Ray Lewis will play and the fact that Baltimore is playing at home, I would be a damn fool to bet against the Broncos, who have won eight straight games. After the Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron earlier this week, it’ll be interesting to see how they perform with Jim Caldwell calling plays. Although he served as the Colts’ head coach for three seasons, he’s never called plays at the NFL level.   

Meyer: Broncos 30, Ravens 16

The Ravens fired their offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and their offense will suffer because of it in the short-term. Also, the Broncos are one of the last teams the Ravens want to face during their two-game losing streak, because of Peyton Manning's success against them and the fact that they haven't lost since Week 5.

Murray: Ravens 30, Broncos 28

The Broncos are 0-3 against the Ravens in Baltimore (they did beat the Baltimore Colts in Baltimore in 1983), but Broncos QB Peyton Manning has beaten the Ravens eight straight times (including twice in the postseason).  Surely, the Broncos take this one on the road, right?  Probably.  But the Ravens have their backs against the wall here.  Former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell is taking over the offense in Baltimore, and maybe he gets a big game from contract-year QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice.  Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has never lost consecutive home games and hasn't lost three in a row since 2009.  The entire team is on notice, which should make for a great game.

Andrew Luck has the Colts primed for an improbable playoff appearance. (Voxxi/Creative Commons)
Andrew Luck has the Colts primed for an improbable playoff appearance. (Voxxi/Creative Commons)
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans

Bergman: Texans 34, Colts 21

For both clubs, two of the last three games of the season will be against one another; and neither of them will be easy. Indy has been the surprise darling of 2012, standing behind "ChuckStrong", on route to an amazing eventual playoff appearance. Andrew Luck, while very error prone, has developed into one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the game and is almost solely responsible for the Colts' resurgence. However, the Texans have more to lose in these last three weeks than the Colts, who have all but secured a wild-card spot. If Houston loses too many more games, they'll lose home-field advantage; and with the way the Patriots are playing - as Houston is well aware - that's a privilege the Texans can't afford to relinquish. 

Budrovich: Texans 24, Colts 19 

The Colts have all the momentum and are playing inspired football, while the Texans are looking to recover from a shellacking against the Patriots. In a statement game for both teams, the Texans will return to ground and pound football to set the tone all afternoon. Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne will have big days for the Colts in a losing effort, with some drama late in the fourth.

Fischman: Texans 30, Colts 27

The Texans lead the AFC South by two games, but the Colts haven’t given up quite yet. They still have a chance of winning the division, especially if the Colts can beat the Texans in Week 15 and 17. But first, they must win in Houston. This game will be a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair, but expect Houston to edge its divisional foe. In the loss, Luck will throw for at least 300 yards.   

Freedman: Texans 38, Colts 27

I'm a believer in Andrew Luck, but a skeptic in regards to the Colts' defense. Arian Foster has just 84 yards the last weeks, but neither matchup (one easy win, one blowout loss) required him to notch a high carry count. The Texans' strong defensive line will stick it to Vick Ballard and the Colts' rushing attack, and Matt Schaub will continue his reliable play to push the Texans' franchise record for wins to 12.

Meyer: Texans 38, Colts 27

The Texans will have a lot to prove coming off their embarrassing Monday Night Football loss to the Patriots. Facing against their AFC South rival at home should help them get back on track. Expect Arian Foster to have a great game facing against the Colts 28th ranked run defense.

Murray: Texans 33, Colts 24

What have you done for me lately?  The Texans were banged on in New England, dropping their record against MVP QBs to 1-2 this season.  Meanwhile, the Colts won another game in the 4th quarter, bringing their record to 8-1 in games decided by less than a touchdown.  Now, the Texans are 5-0 in close games, and I don't think they'll let a team as inconsistent (through three quarters) as the Colts stick around long enough for it to be close.  I'm expecting a bounce-back game from the Texans offense, not unlike what they did to Baltimore coming off a loss.  The Texans front-seven has a mismatch with the Colts' offensive line, and if the Texans capitalize on that with some takeaways, they'll win the division.  Rookie QB Andrew Luck is currently leading the league in INTs and is completing an inefficient 54.9 % of his passes.

Tony Romo has kept the Cowboys afloat this season once again. (Wikimedia Commons)
Tony Romo has kept the Cowboys afloat this season once again. (Wikimedia Commons)
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Dallas Cowboys

Bergman: Cowboys 23, Steelers 17

What is this, the Seventies? This retro rivalry renews on Sunday, but with much less at stake. Both clubs have been struggling as of late. Clearly in Pittsburgh, Big Ben's absence wasn't the problem, as his return to the offense couldn't even spur a win against San Diego. DeMarco Murray's return, on the other hand, has led to better offensive production form the Cowboys which will be key at home against a staggering Steeler front seven.

Budrovich: Cowboys 21, Steelers 10 

Unlike previous Decembers, the Dallas Cowboys will win football games and fight for a berth in the playoffs with a resounding win over Pittsburgh. Big Ben returned last week from injury, and looked slightly under his typical self. Expect Tony Romo to sling the football around to Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, who wants to play. This matchup will actually be less competitive than the records speak because the Cowboys are playing strong football. 

Fischman: Steelers 27, Cowboys 23

This battle of 7-6 teams will be critical for each team’s playoff aspirations. How will Dez Bryant perform with a broken finger? If he plays well, Dallas will have a much better chance of winning. But even if Bryant is able to perform at a high level, expect Pittsburgh’s defense to step it up after a subpar showing against the Chargers last week. 

Freedman: Cowboys 24, Steelers 16

Wait a second, the Cowboys are 2-0 in December. The Boys' have played their way back into playoff contention, and it was announced today that Dez Bryant will be suiting up despite fracturing his finger last week. The Steelers looked lost against the Chargers in Big Ben's return last week, and Tony Romo will help the Steel Curtain find another unfamiliar situation after Sunday: a .500 record and uphill battle to make the playoffs.

Meyer: Steelers 23, Cowboys 19

The Cowboys are not a great home team, and will be facing an angry Steelers team coming off a head-scratching loss to the Chargers. The Steelers have turned the ball over 16 times in the past four games, but the Cowboys defense isn't great at forcing turnovers. Also, Mike Wallace and the rest of the Steelers weapons should burn the Dallas secondary a couple times.

Murray: Steelers 17, Cowboys 13

If WR Dez Bryant didn't have a broken finger, I'd say he'd torch the Steelers.  Alas, this is shaping up to be a slugfest, despite the QBs participating.  These are two of the worst offensive lines in the NFL this side of Arizona.  I like Ben Roethlisberger's matchup a little better than Tony Romo's, being that none of his primary targets have broken digits.

Kaepernick and Harbaugh will have to coem up with a perfect game plan to take down the Pats. (Lukor/Creative Commons)
Kaepernick and Harbaugh will have to coem up with a perfect game plan to take down the Pats. (Lukor/Creative Commons)
San Francisco 49ers @ New England Patriots

Bergman: Patriots 37, 49ers 27

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots put up 42 points last week against the seventh-best defense in the league. This week they play the second-best. Save for an off-game at Miami, the Pats have put up at least 37 points in every game since the start of November. There is no stopping this machine, no matter how many Pro-Bowlesque Smiths the Niners have on their D-line. Keep up, Kaepernick. 

Budrovich: 49ers 31, Patriots 21

In the biggest matchup of the weekend, the San Francisco 49ers will go into New England and pull off the upset. Tom Brady looked impressive against Houston, but will face a completely different beast in the Niners' elite pass rush. Aldon Smith will have a field day, giving San Francisco some key defensive stops to slow down the Pats. Colin Kaepernick will use his legs to make big plays to extend drives, which will be the difference in the game. 

Fischman: Patriots 27, 49ers 21

The Patriots have won 20 straight home games in December, dating back nearly a decade (Dec. 22, 2002 was their last such loss). The 49ers are a quality team, but not good enough to snap this streak. Brady and Belichick are just too good down the stretch. 

Freedman: Patriots 30, 49ers 20

The Patriots have scored 37 or more points in six of the last seven weeks. The 49ers' defense is among the NFL's best, but struggled against the only offense they've played that can compete with the Patriots through and air and on the ground, losing 27-3 to the Giants in Week 6. The Patriots blew out Houston last week, and I'd be ludicrous to pick against them this week, especially at Foxborough in the Sunday night spotlight.

Meyer: Patriots 31, 49ers 24

Can't bet against the Patriots right now, their offense has been incredible. 49ers physicality will give the Patriots a challenge, but ultimately Tom Brady and company will prevail.

Murray: 49ers 28, Patriots 24

I know I've waxed poetic about 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, but he needs to score some points here.  Kaepernick has five rushing TDs, but only three TD passes this season.  Patriots QB Tom Brady had more TD passes on Monday Night Football alone.  I like the 49ers in this one because the 49ers are going to challenge the Patriots up front.  This is the best defense the Patriots have seen since they last lost a game (at Seattle).  Running the ball will be a chore for New England, and then you have a mismatch on Brady's blind side involving Patriots LT Nate Solder and 49ers OLB Aldon Smith.  I'll be surprised if Brady still has zero lost fumbles after Sunday Night.  But really, the 49ers are as close to the Patriots as far as offensive philosophy as the Patriots are.  They run and protect the rock, and that's where Kaepernick has an advantage as a dual-threat.

Season Standings

Matthew Tufts 51-23

Max Meyer 50-24

Evan Budrovich 47-26

Jacob Freedman 46-28

Jeremy Bergman 45-29

Aaron Fischman 44-30

Law Murray 35-28




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