In Week 15 of the NFL every team has injury issues.
“It is December football; everyone is where they are at physically – nobody is going to be 100-percent – nobody,” said Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
For instance, the entire Cincinnati Bengals starting linebacking corps is sidelined this week.
Miami anthem-kneeler, safety Michael Thomas, will miss the Dolphins-Bills game with a knee injury, so won’t be able to kneel or play.
There are a lot of games with playoff implications this week.
Here is a look at all of Sunday’s NFL action:
New England Patriots (10-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2)
Great match-up in the AFC between the two best teams in the conference.
The Patriots are coming off a loss to Miami where Tom Brady was 0-11 on third down. You see a stat like that from the legendary Patriots QB as often as a unicorn. So expect this all-time great player to make up for it this week. Also helping him bounce back from that underwhelming performance is the return of star tight end Rob Gronkowski from a suspension.
The Patriots will be without one of their best run defenders – DT Alan Branch – so this could help Steelers tailback Le’Veon Bell have a big day.
This game is too close to call.
Miami Dolphins (6-7) at Buffalo Bills (7-6)
The Dolphins have won two in a row to get back into the wild card race.
Their offense has really picked up behind the running of Kenyan Drake and receiving of Jarvis Landry, who is lethal on third down.
Miami is coming off an impressive win over New England, snapping the Patriots’ eight-game winning streak.
The pick here is the Dolphins.
Houston Texans (4-9) at Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4)
The Jaguars lead the league in sacks (47), and the Texans have protection issues, allowing 41 sacks on the season.
The Texans have four players out with concussions this week, including quarterback Tom Savage, so journeyman T.J. Yates will start.
There’s a great match-up in this game between one on the NFL’s best wide receivers (DeAndre Hopkins) and perhaps the NFL’s best cornerback (Jalen Ramsey).
The Jaguars should prevail.
Los Angeles Rams (9-4) at Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
This is a huge game in the NFC West. If the Seahawks win, they’ll be in a first-place tie with the Rams, and would have the tie-breaker edge.
The Rams are much healthier than Seattle. In fact, the only player listed on their injury report is third-string QB Brandon Allen.
Seattle has the best home-field advantage in the league.
“We’re not expecting to hear anything,” Rams QB Todd Gurley said about the crowd noise.
This game is a toss-up.
Philadelphia Eagles (11-2) at New York Giants (2-11)
The Eagles can clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs with a win, but they will have to accomplish this without starting QB Carson Wentz, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week. His replacement, Nick Foles, does have 36 career starts, so that experience will serve him well taking over the reigns of one of the league’s best teams.
Also helping Foles will be facing a Giants’defense without star safety Landon Collins. Also Foles won’t need to put up a lot of points because the Giants are scoring-challenged.
The Eagles should win this game.
Arizona Cardinals (6-7) at Washington Redskins (5-8)
The Cardinals’ offensive line is a mess with just one starter remaining from the beginning of the season – center A.Q. Shipley.
And they are starting their third-string QB, Blaine Gabbert, who better wear a flak jacket this week.
The Redskins were blown out 68-27 the last two games, and if this trend continues down-the-stretch of the season, coach Jay Gruden could be in trouble.
Expect the Redskins to get their act together this week and win this very winnable game at home.
Tennessee Titans (8-5) at San Francisco 49ers (3-10)
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has been bad on the road this season, throwing just 11 interceptions and just three touchdowns. The 49ers are banged up at cornerback, so perhaps this will help Mariota break out of his road slump.
The 49ers’ pass protection isn’t great and the Titans have a good pass rush.
Tennessee should figure out a way to win this game.
Dallas Cowboys (7-6) at Oakland Raiders (6-7)
The Cowboys have won two straight putting themselves back in wild card contention. The Raiders are one of the big disappointments of this season. Most people thought they’d be a lot better than they are. A big problem is their $25 million-a-year QB, Derek Carr, is playing like a journeyman. The Raiders deep passing game has disappeared this year.
Dallas is very banged-up on defense, so maybe Carr and the Raiders offense have a breakout game.
This contest is a toss-up.
Baltimore Ravens (7-6) at Cleveland Browns (0-13)
The Browns new GM John Dorsey said this week that Cleveland lacks “real players.”
So with that being said, it will be tough to beat a Baltimore team, with a lot of “real players” and in the playoff hunt.
The Browns have a lot of injuries at cornerback, so expect a big game from QB Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ passing attack.
Baltimore should win this game.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-8) at Minnesota Vikings (10-3)
The Vikings’ offensive line was terrible last week in a loss to Carolina, allowing six sacks and 20 QB pressures. And while the Bengals don’t have a great team, they do have a good pass rush.
The Vikings finally return home after a three-game road trip, and can clinch the NFC North crown and a playoff spot with a win.
And they should do just that.
New York Jets (5-8) at New Orleans Saints (9-4)
The deck is stacked against the Jets in this game.
First of all, their starting quarterback Josh McCown is out with a broken left hand. He was having a very good season, and there is a big drop-off to his backup, Bryce Petty.
Secondly, the Jets’ pass defense isn’t very good, and they are traveling to New Orleans to face superstar QB Drew Brees.
The Saints should win this game.