NFL Week 15 game picks: Cowboys top Eagles; Broncos prevail

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It's that time of the week: Let's pick some games, people.

Week 15 is the last stanza in the relatively calm section of the regular season. In other words, head coaches, front offices and fan bases won't take off on a Triple Lindy dive into full-scale panic mode until next week, when teams start getting eliminated for realz. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh and its stud running back are alive and kicking ...

The thing that impresses me most is the 313 touches without a single fumble.

Yes, Wes, Staubach is an all-timer. Easily a top-10 QB -- as detailed here -- and I agree with you that he has gotten the short end of the stick in this discussion. Perhaps most impressive is that he posted the NFL's highest passer rating in each of his last two seasons, then hung 'em up while still considered the best in the bidness. Not bad.

As for the only team Staubach ever played for ... The Cowboys have themselves a huge game against the Eagles on Sunday night. That's one of several solid matchups this week, with Broncos at Chargers and Packers at Bills not far behind. All predictions are below. And, as always, feel free to share your take on any game, team, player or football-related matter: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 12-4 on his predictions for Week 14, giving him a record of 138-69-1 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 15? His picks are below. And listen to the latest edition of the "Dave Dameshek Football Program" for additional analysis on this week's picks.

Shaun Suisham decides this game in the end. As indicated by my predicted score above, this is one of the most even-steven bouts on the Week 15 slate. Pittsburgh is still the only AFC North team to lose to an NFC South club in 2014, and the Steelers have done so twice. That said, my forecast is about who I can hang my hat on, or, more critically, who I can't hang my hat on -- Atlanta defenders. The Falcons are allowing the most yards per play (6.22) in the NFL, as well as the most total (410.8) and passing (287.8) yards per game. Pittsburgh ranks second in each of those categories on offense. These are known as "matchup problems." #PITvsATL

Received a lot of good feedback via Twitter (@HarrisonNFL) from fans in D.C. regarding the Redskins' front office and its impact on the future. For now, it seems the once-rising tide of Robert Griffin III has receded, as Colt McCoy is still in line to start. That's saying something. If management were banging the drum for Griffin, like many assumed it would, then McCoy's injury would have been a built-in excuse to go back to RGIII. Looks like that is not the case. Small victory. Hopefully, McCoy isn't running for his life like he was against St. Louis.

OK, enough of Drama Central. Let's go over to New York. Yes, the Giants are in the midst of a painful season of their own. And, like in D.C., the quarterback and head coach have come under fire. But here's the difference: Whatever consternation/frustration there has been behind closed doors, we aren't seeing it play out in public. That was a unified Giants team walking all over the Titans last week. This week, with these two teams way out of contention, we'll place a vote for solidarity. Big Blue wins. #WASvsNYG

Sure, Ryan Tannehill could have himself a day. And yes, the Dolphins did take care of the Patriots on opening weekend. That said, do you really trust Joe Philbin's group? Do you trust Tannehill? And can you trust the receivers to make plays on this Patriots secondary, which has allowed opposing QBs to post a passer rating of just 83.9 this season? Miami's pass rush darn near won this season's Week 1 matchup by itself, harassing Tom Brady all day. Considering Brady is 25-2 in December home games, with one of those home losses coming back in 2002, I feel strangely comfortable with this pick. #MIAvsNE

One of my favorite uni matchups: Raiders road whites at Chiefs home reds. On that note, we're going with the home team here. The Chiefs are desperate at this point, needing to win out, and they'll have that home crowd behind them on Sunday. Not to mention (but we'll mention), the Raiders haven't won back-to-back games against teams with winning records since 2010. (When Derek Carr was old enough to go to teeny-bopper clubs.) The two teams Oakland defeated back in 2010, by the way, were Seattle and ... you guessed it: Kansas City.

Here's your tacos-and-bananas stat from this game: K.C. has allowed two rushing touchdowns all year, the fewest in the NFL. Both of them came against Raiders, who have scored four rushing TDs this season, the fewest in the NFL. #OAKvsKC

While doing some research for this matchup, I noticed that Colts receivers have dropped the highest percentage of catchable balls in the league: 9.2 percent (per STATS LLC). While Andrew Luck clearly has been effective enough to mitigate those errors, he can ill afford more three-turnover games like the one he just had in Cleveland. Luck had two TOs in Houston earlier this year, with the Texans flat-out dropping at least one more pick. So, yes, it'd certainly help if Indy's receivers could just catch the damn ball. Luck is asked to do more than almost any other quarterback in the league -- give the man some help. Houston provides that for Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Texans sport the second-best run game in the AFC, and that's only because the Jets won't let their quarterback throw the ball. #HOUvsIND

Calling a safety. It's been a while.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, it should be noted that analysts and broadcasters are constantly -- and, often, annoyingly -- asked to bring it with hard takes. Get passionate! Bang the table!! While that has never been my style, I will further say that this Hoyer-Manziel debate just doesn't move the needle for me. This is one situation where I can truly see the benefit of going in either direction. Sure, Johnny Manziel could provide a spark. Problem is, how long does that spark last? Does he know the offense well enough to change protections, plays, anything at the line? After all, Cleveland is in the playoff race. On the other hand, Brian Hoyer hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in a month (though he has logged seven picks). If it were up to me, I guess I'd go with Manziel, for the escapability factor. The Bengals haven't faced a quarterback like this since Cam Newton in Week 6 -- and he ate them alive. That said, the Bengals must win to maintain their AFC North edge. #CINvsCLE

I don't see Jacksonville winning this game. OK, on to the next blurb.

Kidding. Guess I'm paid to "show my work."

Alright, well, considering how abysmal the run defense has been in Jacksonville this season (allowing 132.5 rushing yards per game, 28th in the NFL), I like Justin Forsett to pull a Le'Veon this week. That said, the Jags could do themselves a huge favor by actually corralling some throws from Blake Bortles. It's bad enough the guy is running for his life back there -- he's been sacked an AFC-high 38 times -- CATCH THE BALL! How many drops were there last week, Jags fans? (@HarrisonNFL) #JAXvsBAL

Call me crazy, but I think the Bills will give the Packers all they can handle in Buffalo this weekend. Dan Carpenter will close the gap to three, the Bills will get a stop, and then it will be up to Kyle Orton to win the game. While Orton has been an improvement over EJ Manuel, Buffalo is still having difficulty getting the ball vertical, which is often critical in late-game situations. In fact, Orton has completed just nine passes traveling over 20 yards in the air. And it's not like this is because the running game has been tearing it up. #GBvsBUF

You realize the Panthers have never thrown for more than 280 yards vs. the Bucs in Carolina? Crazy. Regardless, I'm not ready to just hand this game to Tampa Bay because Derek Anderson has been forced into duty following Cam Newton's car accident. Yes, Anderson's career has produced mixed results. But Josh McCown's hasn't? And after seeing the way the Panthers' defense performed last week in New Orleans, I trust Carolina more than Lovie Smith's group. Of course, part of that reasoning comes from the faint-yet-still-there recollection of a Panther D that finished second in points allowed last season. #TBvsCAR

The team that wants to run the ball at least 60 percent of the time vs. the team that can't stop the run ... like, ever. New York has certainly struggled this season, but one thing Rex Ryan can do is wear sleeveless sweater vests and get his guys to pound the rock. OK, so that's actually two things ... which is approximately how many miscues we see from Tennessee after each snap. The Titans are getting beaten up front and missing tackles. Maybe they're taking bad angles, too, which all adds up to an unfriendly matchup on Sunday. Jake Locker must make plays in this contest, because Tennessee simply isn't getting production from rookie back Bishop Sankey.

By the way, do you realize both of these teams have lost 11 of 12? Oy. #NYJvsTEN

The Broncos' offense had its way with coordinator John Pagano's defense earlier this season, but overall, the Chargers have corralled Denver's offense in the Peyton Manning era. In their six meetings -- including last season's divisional playoff bout -- the Broncos failed to compile 400 yards of offense five times. The key question for San Diego is the same one I was asking prior to this past Sunday's game against the Pats: Can Mike McCoy get Ryan Mathews and that running game going? When the Chargers won in Denver last December, the ground attack was the star (44 rushes for 177 yards). #DENvsSD

Think Detroit's defense will just be too much for a rookie quarterback who is leaning on Matt Asiata, Ben Tate and maybe Leroy Hoard to provide balance. The Lions have been solid all year on that side of the ball, currently ranking first in rushing yards allowed, yards per play in the red zone and total points allowed, to name a few categories of note. That said, thought this tweet from @LegendaryChef was solid:

" @HarrisonNFL Yeah, @teddyb_h2o GW TD pass might not be "clutch". The fact he audibled it seeing the coverage, THAT makes it clutch. #GUMP"

Teddy Bridgewater does deserve some credit for that game-winning TD pass versus the Jets. Should have gone with #dranktoomuchDr.Pepper, though. #MINvsDET

The questions circling around the 49ers have to do with Jim Harbaugh's future and Colin Kaepernick's play. As for the former, the idea of Harbaugh leaving seemed asinine a few weeks ago, considering what he's accomplished for the organization. Yet, considering the obvious distraction his relationship with management has become and the recent product on the field ... Meanwhile, Kaepernick's apparent regression has caused many to question if he's lost his football mojo. To quote Sammy Baugh in his elder years, "When you're on the field, you've got to feel like you're the best son-of-a-(beep) out there." Baugh had a way of phrasing things, and, like Kap, was a really good athlete with an unusual throwing motion. He also had a way of handling the media, with the most straightforward answers you ever heard -- another area where the 49ers QB has struggled. All that said, my feeling is that the 49ers will show up in Seattle and fight their butts off. Ultimately, though, I like the way the Seahawks' secondary is competing, and with that overall defense performing with such continuity -- the Philly "game" felt more like a decimation -- I'm taking the defending champs at home. #SFvsSEA



Dallas wins the day, but not necessarily the NFC East. The Cowboys still host Indianapolis and finish the season at Washington (which is never an easy game). Meanwhile, the Eagles play at Washington and then finish in the New Meadowlands against the Giants. While I would give Philadelphia the schedule advantage ( Colts > Giants), you just never know with these NFC East games. Philly and Big Blue have split the past two seasons, while the Redskins shocked the Cowboys at Jerry World earlier this year. I like the Cowboys on Sunday because they'll have had nine days to rest, and when these teams faced off last time, the 'Boys had played a Sunday night game on the East Coast a few days prior. Also, teams typically don't do so hot the week after they face the Seahawks. Call it being beasted. #DALvsPHI

This contest kind of sucks. Saints fans are depressed. Bears fans are thinking, "Welcome to our world since Week 4." But due to the fact that random absurdity seems to reign in this crazy league, maybe Sean Payton and Marc Trestman's clubs will actually deliver the enticing bout we thought we'd get when the schedule originally came out ...

... Wait, Jimmy Graham has totaled three catches for 25 yards over the past two weeks? And the Bears, with Matt Forte, have rushed for a grand total of 48 yards in that same time span? OK, "enticing" seems like a long shot. At least the Saints are in a division race! #NOvsCHI

ALREADY COMPLETED

While this pick is certainly low-hanging-ish fruit, we are not going to disappoint. Forget that the Rams won their last two games by a combined score of 76-0. Consider instead that the pass rush has generated 34 sacks in the past eight games -- a ginormous figure. With Chris Long back, I don't see that trend changing. Can Arizona mitigate that pressure with the run game? Ask Kerwynn Williams. The kid hit the century mark last week, working at an impressive clip of 5.3 yards a pop. #AZvsSTL

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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