Predictions for every Week 15 game, including the Green Bay Packers’ must-win game against the Chicago Bears.
It took a miracle comeback led by Aaron Rodgers to defeat the Chicago Bears in Week 1, but these two teams have been on very different paths since then.
Chicago’s defense is arguably the league’s best, and the Bears can secure the NFC North title with victory on Sunday.
For the Green Bay Packers, only a victory will do as they seek an improbable playoff berth after a 4-7-1 start that cost Mike McCarthy his job.
Will the Packers win two-in-a-row for the first time this season?
Green Bay (5-7-1) at Chicago (9-4)
The Packers have won their past eight games at Soldier Field, including playoffs, a run of dominance that could come to an end Sunday.
The Bears are guaranteed to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2012, and they are a victory away from their first NFC North title since 2010.
Green Bay faces a daunting task this week, despite its impressive run at Soldier Field in recent years. This Bears team is different. They are an impressive 6-1 at home this season, and last week proved why they should be considered Super Bowl contenders after shutting down one of the league’s best offenses in a 15-6 victory over the LA Rams.
Their dominance against the Rams is a concerning sign for an up-and-down Packers offense in just its second game led by interim head coach Joe Philbin.
There is some hope, however. Philbin’s Packers looked much improved from the team’s final few performances under Mike McCarthy, and some key adjustments were made on offense.
Aaron Rodgers got the ball out quicker and the offense was more successful on third down, converting 53.8 percent, their second best of the season and only the second time all year they had converted on over 50 percent of third downs.
If Rodgers can get into rhythm with the short-passing game, something that will be necessary against Chicago’s dominant pass rush, the Packers will have an opportunity to control the tempo of the game.
But that’s a big if.
The Packers’ focus will be to make this a shootout. The Bears will aim to make it a low-scoring battle of the defenses.
I think the Packers will have their moments on offense and keep the game close, but the Bears are the better team and will secure the NFC North crown with two games spare, ending Green Bay’s remaining playoff hopes in the process.
LA Chargers (10-3) at Kansas City (11-2) – Thursday
Even if Melvin Gordon plays it’s hard to imagine he’ll be at 100 percent. That’s the biggest concern for the Chargers. I’m picking the Chiefs. They’re at home on a short week. But it should be an exciting game between two of the NFL’s top teams.
Pick: Kansas City
Houston (9-4) at NY Jets (4-9) – Saturday
The Texans’ nine-game winning streak came to an end last week, but they start a new one on Saturday at New York.
Cleveland (5-7-1) at Denver (6-7) – Saturday
The Browns have won three out of their last four, but the Broncos defense will create a key turnover to give the home team the win.
Detroit (5-8) at Buffalo (4-9)
It’s easy to forget Buffalo’s defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL, and it’s particularly strong against the pass, the only team allowing fewer than 200 passing yards per game. That’s bad news for Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense.
Tampa Bay (5-8) at Baltimore (7-6)
Baltimore’s defense surprisingly only has 10 takeaways this year, second fewest in the NFL, but I have a feeling this is a week that number increases.
Arizona (3-10) at Atlanta (4-9)
Both these teams are ready for the offseason, but I’m taking the better offense at home. The Falcons haven’t played well this year, but they do enough to win this week.
Oakland (3-10) at Cincinnati (5-8)
Oakland pulled off the big upset against Pittsburgh last week, and it gets another victory against a Bengals team in free-fall.
Tennessee (7-6) at NY Giants (5-8)
Somehow, some way, the Giants are still in the playoff race. Just. Tennessee is No. 4 in scoring defense, but is only No. 17 against the run. Saquon Barkley leads New York to another win.
Pick: NY Giants
Miami (7-6) at Minnesota (6-6-1)
It’s been a disappointing season for the Vikings so far, but they are still in control of their path to the playoffs. They get a big win at home this week.
Washington (6-7) at Jacksonville (4-9)
Without Alex Smith Washington continues to struggle, and it probably won’t win another game this season.
Dallas (8-5) at Indianapolis (7-6)
This is a tough one to pick. Both of these teams deserve credit for coming on strong after slow starts. Dallas has won five straight, its defense is playing well and Amari Cooper has made a huge difference on offense. The Cowboys win a close one.
Seattle (8-5) at San Francisco (3-10)
The Seahawks have proved me wrong this year and they look set for another playoff run. That’s a great achievement after losing so much talent in the offseason.
New England (9-4) at Pittsburgh (7-5-1)
The Steelers were unstoppable last month but have cooled off and lost three in a row. This is a huge game for Pittsburgh, and at home it gets a much-needed win over New England.
Philadelphia (6-7) at LA Rams (11-2)
The Rams bounce back from last week’s loss to Chicago and move one step closer to a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Pick: LA Rams
New Orleans (11-2) at Carolina (6-7) – Monday
Carolina was 6-2 and looked set to push New Orleans for the NFC South title. Five weeks later and it hasn’t won another game. Unfortunately the Panthers now have to deal with the Saints, and even at home, it will be a sixth consecutive loss for Carolina.
Pick: New Orleans
Last week: 9-7