Game of the week
Green Bay at Baltimore
The Packers are in control of NFC home-field advantage after Arizona lost at home to the Rams last Monday. Green Bay is a 4 1/2-point road favorite and it will play like a No. 1 seed, handling Baltimore — which didn’t know about quarterback Lamar Jackson’s status all week — a second straight loss.
Packers 33, Ravens 27
Lock of the week
Houston at Jacksonville
The only Week 15 game with no playoff implications, the Jaguars moved from minus-2 1/2 on Wednesday to minus-5 … after their head coach was fired. Expect the Jaguars, led by interim coach Darrell Bevell, to storm out of their home locker room and run Houston out of town.
Jaguars 45, Texans 7
Upset of the week
Seattle at L.A. Rams
The Rams had COVID-19 issues throughout the week, but they remained a 4 1/2-point favorite even as other virus-impacted games were taken off the board. Playing a depleted Los Angeles team is really Seattle’s only shot as the Seahawks play out the string, possibly on the Russell Wilson Era.
Seahawks 19, Rams 14
Around the AFC: Josh McDaniels would be ideal choice to take over as coach in Jacksonville
Jaguars’ opening attractive. Since when is a team with one playoff appearance since 2008 and only three wins since the start of last year attractive to potential head coaches? When you’re the Jaguars and have quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Coach Urban Meyer’s disgraceful tenure — the worst hire in NFL history — ended Wednesday night after only 13 games. Lawrence, the top overall pick in this year’s draft, is the best thing the franchise has going for it and the ideal choice would be former Broncos coach/current New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Pair him with a general manager and maybe a president of football operations and the Jaguars could have a quick turnaround in the AFC South.
Dolphins’ turnaround. Miami isn’t above .500 (6-7) so it would need many teams, including the Broncos, to collapse down the stretch in order to make the playoffs. But, coach Brian Flores has rescued his team from a horrible season and possibly saved his job. The Dolphins are the second team in NFL history to win five consecutive games (1994 New York Giants) after a seven-game losing streak. The Dolphins had losses of 35, 28 and 15 points, plus a loss to the lowly Jaguars, during their skid. Rookie receiver Jaylon Waddle has been terrific, leading the team with 86 catches and 849 yards. During the win streak, he has 38 catches among 46 targets.
Steelers defensive issues. Pittsburgh (6-6-1) would be among the crowd of 7-6 AFC teams entering Week 15 had it beat Detroit minus quarterback Ben Roethlisberger; the Steelers and Lions tied. It’s eye-popping how bad the Steelers are defensively. They are 27th in yards allowed (371.3) and 30th against the run (139.5). The Steelers are allowing 4.97 yards per rushing attempt, their most since 1954 (4.71). They host Tennessee on Sunday.
Around the NFC: Micah Parsons’ pass-rush production makes him favorite for top rookie honors
Parsons standout rookie. Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II has three interceptions, but Dallas linebacker Micah Parsons is in control of the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year race. Parsons enters Sunday’s game at the New York Giants with at least one sack in six consecutive games, only the third rookie since 1982 to achieve that feat. Parsons is the first rookie with at least 12 sacks since Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs in 2003. The Cowboys, who nearly flubbed last week’s game at Washington, are in control of the NFC East at 9-4.
Kittle unstoppable. San Francisco tight end George Kittle is one of the most enjoyable players to watch when he blocks and runs routes. He had 13 catches for 151 yards in last week’s overtime win against Cincinnati, becoming the first tight end in NFL history to have at least 150 receiving yards and a touchdown in consecutive games. Kittle also became the fourth tight end ever to have at least three 13-catch games. The 49ers (7-6) entered Week 15 as the NFC’s sixth seed and host Atlanta on Sunday.
Better guest than host. Maybe Arizona should feel better about potentially hitting the road in the playoffs. Its hold on the top NFC seed was lost when it looked awful in last Monday’s home loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Cardinals are 3-3 at home and 7-0 on the road, winning each game by double-digits — 25, 12, 17, 23, 14, 10 and 11 points. The Cardinals, who play at Detroit on Sunday, were 9-15 on the road from 2018-20. They hold a one-game lead over the Rams in the NFC West and over Dallas for the conference’s third seed. Getting the No. 2 seed would ensure first- and second-round home games.
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