Harv currently writes for Abstract Sports, the Sports History Network, and the magazine Gridiron Greats. Harv wrote the published book "Pro Football's Most Passionate Fans" and as a professional writer has had articles published in an array of sports publications.
NFL Week 15 Quick Picks
As we near the end of a tumultuous 2020, the impact this year that COVID-19 has had on the world and sports is well known. In the NFL, COVID has not only taken away playing time from players and postponed games, it has also affected the fans in the way of watching games on television. Every team has limited attendance at games either by cutting capacity numbers down or not allowing fans inside the stadiums at all.
On television, compared to 2019, the viewership of games is down 6% in 2020. That may sound minuscule but in real numbers it’s big. Monday Night Football has taken the biggest hit, down 30% from a year ago. Sunday Night games have not fared much better as that broadcast has taken a hit of 23% fewer fans watching.
To their credit, however, the NFL has had every game played to date and now in week 15, teams are battling for a wild card spot and the #1 seed in each league is still yet to be determined. This season only one team gets a first-round bye and that will be that top seed. Let’s take a gander at the games on the slate and how I see them playing out.
Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas: The Raiders' best chance to make the post-season is to win out and hope some teams in front of them lose enough for Las Vegas to back into the playoffs. At 7-6, the Silver and Black have the Baltimore Ravens just ahead of them in the playoff picture with one more win but both teams are chasing the final wild card team, Miami who is 8-5 as well. The Chargers have been pretty decent on offense but the Raiders should be able to score on their defense. Prediction: Raiders 34 Chargers 24.
Buffalo at Denver: Fresh off knocking off Pittsburgh, the Bills will try to inch closer to unseating the New England Patriots as perennial winners of the AFC East. This could easily be a trap game because the Broncos have nothing to lose. I think Buffalo is good enough of a team not to fall to the “playing down to an opponent” curse. Prediction: Bills 30 Broncos 17.
Carolina at Green Bay: The Packers want that only first-round bye. Hosting the Panthers who are in last place in their division should aid in inching closer to that goal. Prediction: Packers 37 Panthers 13.
New England at Miami: Teams in the AFC East are certainly enjoying beating up on the New England Patriots this season. Whether it is the Dolphins or Bills who unseat New England for the division title, that fact will please all others except of course Pats fans. Miami lost their season opener to New England so this is a chance to get a bit of revenge. Prediction: Dolphins 27 Patriots 17.
Chicago at Minnesota: Both of these teams are 6-7 and find themselves just one game out of the final wild-card spot. Essentially, this is a playoff game and the loser most likely will miss the 2020 post-season. The Vikings were picked by many in the preseason to win their division. That won’t happen but a playoff spot still may. Prediction: Vikings 31 Bears 28.
Detroit at Tennessee: If the Titans want to win the division they will have to finish in a tie or a game ahead of the Indianapolis Colts. This should be an easy one to stay on track. Prediction: Titans 45 Lions 14.
Houston at Indianapolis: Same as the Titans game only the Colts will have to get ahead of Tennessee. This game is tougher for the Colts than the Titans will face against Detroit. But Indy should still prevail. Prediction: Colts 24 Texans 21.
Jacksonville at Baltimore: A return for Gardner Minshew will be met with a team in a must-win situation. Not a good equation for a team that has lost 12 in a row. This will be ugly. Prediction: Ravens 48 Jaguars 9.
San Francisco at Dallas: Two teams that are on the outside looking in for the postseason. A lot of chatter was heard this week about Mike McCarthy’s future as the head coach in Dallas. Jerry Jones says his job is safe. This season is not. The Cowboys are talked about as being one of if not the most disappointing team in 2020. Prediction: Cowboys 17 49ers 14.
Seattle at Washington: Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have cooled off big time. Once near the top of the heap in most power rankings, now Seattle finds themselves in second place in their division but in the 5th slot in the playoff rankings. They can still win the division title depending on what the Rams do the rest of the way. Those two teams meet next week so that will probably determine the division winner. Prediction: The Washington Football Team 27 Seahawks 24.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta: While it appears that Tom Brady will get his new team into the postseason in his first season with the Bucs, only a total collapse would prevent that. I believe they suffer a mild setback in this one. Prediction: Falcons 28 Bucs 24.
New York Jets at Los Angeles Rams: The clock is ticking on the New York Jets with just three more opportunities to avoid an 0-16 season, something that has only been done twice before (Lions and Browns). To get a victory in 2020 the Jets will either have to win this game, beat the Browns at home next weekend, or go to New England on the final day and hope for victory. The problem for New York is that when you have failed to win a game, no other team wants to be that team that lost to the winless squad. Prediction: Rams 41 Jets 6.
Philadelphia at Arizona: The Jalen Hurts show continues and everyone is raving about the rookie quarterback who perhaps should have been named starter long ago. Maybe if Eagles head coach Doug Pederson did that, Philadelphia would be in a better position in the race to the playoffs. There is probably little chance of catching Washington for the division title, but a wild card spot is not out of the realm of things. Of course, Philly would have to win out to accomplish that. Games ahead after this one is with Dallas and Washington. So they have their work cut out for them and also have to hope others in front of them lose. This one is being billed as “Murray vs. Hurts” two of the most spectacular young QBs facing off. Prediction: Eagles 34 Cardinals 31.
Kansas City at New Orleans: If Drew Brees returns for this one, he may be gun shy given the seriousness of his rib injuries he is recovering from. The Chiefs will get a defensive test here, but they just seem to have some kind of magic on offense. Prediction: Chiefs 23 Saints 17.
Cleveland at New York Giants: The Browns are pushing for their first playoff spot in 18 years. If they are going to blow that chance it would mean losing this game and perhaps one of the next two against the Jets and Steelers. Something is itching at me saying they play down to the Giants in this one. Prediction: Giants 27 Browns 24.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: The Steelers LOVE Monday Night Football. In fact, since games began being played and nationally televised on this weekday in 1970, the Steelers have won 49 times which equals San Francisco’s total and now they have the chance to become the winningest team on Monday night with a victory here. In 2007 when Mike Tomlin became coach Pittsburgh has won 16 of 18 games that were played on this day. The Steelers could not ask for a better opportunity to stop the bleeding they have been experiencing over the last three weeks. This is a gimme game and there should be no reason that Pittsburgh doesn’t score a knockout blow. If they lose this one, they will only have two more chances to prove they belong in the postseason. Prediction: Steelers 38 Bengals 16.