Heading into Week 15 of the NFL there are some things I will be looking for extra closely at this point in the season:
1. Can the Green Bay Packers clinch the NFC North AND put the Bears in a “panic-mode?”
It wasn’t too long ago where people had the Chicago Bears in the “driver seat” of the NFC North division and rightfully so. The Bears were firing on all cylinders, offensively and defensively, going on to look like one of the best teams in the NFC. Ever since Jay Cutler got injured against Houston in Week 10 the Bears have gone 1-4 in their last 5 games and ultimately setting up the Green Bay Packers to take the NFC North Division crown this Sunday.
A win for Green Bay gives them retribution to many critics who had picked Chicago to win the division over them this season and a loss puts the Bears in “panic-mode” with just two weeks to go. On the “other side of the coin” a win puts Chicago back in the “driver seat” as they will play Arizona and Detroit, two weak NFC teams this season, with just two games left. This is a very important matchup for both teams this Sunday as the victor will look pretty strong going into Playoff Football in just a couple of weeks.
2. How will the Atlanta Falcons matchup against the New York Giants?
Amazing that there are more questions for an 11-2 team then there is for an 8-5 team in Week 15 of the 2012 NFL regular season. Reason being is because we know what the New York Giants can do in very important games at the “crunch-time” of the season. When it comes to the Atlanta Falcons we do not know what they can do in important matchups because when this current crop of Falcons players have been faced with this type of adversity they have struggled greatly.
There is a lot more riding on the Atlanta Falcons heading into this Week 15 game because they know a victory puts them as the favorites in the NFC to finish off the rest of the regular season. A loss for Atlanta makes us all question their abilities come playoff time once again and that is something this Falcons team cannot allow. We have seen how this movie has finished in the past where Atlanta was the best team in the league (2010) and it didn’t end with them holding up the Lombardi trophy. The Falcons need to go into this game with the mindset that they are playing in a playoff game and not a regular Week 15 matchup.
3. Will RGIII play against Cleveland this Sunday?
The health of Robert Griffin III will be a major story leading up to game-time against the Cleveland Browns in Week 15. Many people believe that this team isn’t up to the caliber they are playing at right now without RGIII and for them to make a serious run at a postseason position it appears they will need their “rookie leader” (isn’t that a catch-22?) to lead them against a Cleveland Browns team who has quietly won their last 3 games. You just hope that RGIII isn’t pushing himself too far where further damage could take place to his current knee injury because Washington just can’t afford that to happen.
4. How will Houston bounce-back versus Indianapolis?
The Houston Texans were embarrassed by the New England Patriots in primetime on Monday Night Football in Week 14. Everything was set up for the Houston Texans to prove that they should be taken seriously in the AFC and then they went on the field of Gillette Stadium just to get “schooled” by the “old dogs” of the AFC. Things could get drastically concerning for the Houston Texans in Week 15 should they not be able to bounce-back and get a win over Indianapolis on Sunday.
As it stands right now there is an outside chance that the Indianapolis Colts could win the AFC South division. A win on Sunday for Houston ends those hopes as they will clinch the division but a loss opens the door for Indianapolis to make a strong run at it with just two games to go. This is the 1st of two matchups between these teams with just three games left and it could get very interesting if Houston can’t “shake off” the rough loss against New England from 6 days prior.
5. Will any of the “borderline” playoff teams (Washington, Dallas, Minnesota & Cincinnati) move into playoff contention?
The playoff scene is looking pretty interesting heading into Week 15 and has the chances of becoming very interesting come the end of this week’s games. The four “borderline” playoff teams are the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals all sitting at 7-6 right now. A victory for each of these teams could put them in a tie for their division (in the case of Washington & Dallas) or put them in the 6th seed of the playoff standings.
To me, each of the teams listed are very dangerous right now as nobody saw these types of performances coming from them this late in the year. None of these teams can obviously afford a loss in Week 15 as they are getting closer to making their playoffs hopes into reality. It should be a very fun weekend of games to watch in regards to playoff consequences.
6. Who is the best team in the NFL this season: New England Patriots or San Francisco 49ers?
Last week we essentially got a potential AFC Championship Game preview between the New England Patriots and Houston Texans, the two best teams in the AFC. Now in Week 15 we get a potential Super Bowl 47 preview as the New England Patriots now set their sights on the San Francisco 49ers. Out of all the matchups that have happened this season, by far this is the most intriguing matchup of them all.
Another victory over a top NFL team for New England will put them in the “driver seat” of the playoffs and have a world of confidence knowing they were able to beat some of the best teams in the league during the final stretch. A victory for San Francisco will prove what many people, including yours truly, have said all along…San Francisco is the best “all-around” team in the NFL. This is going to be a very fun matchup and I cannot wait to watch it in Week 15.
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