Week 15 viewer's guide


Around The NFL's Kevin Patra fills you in on the key storylines for each matchup. Here's your guide as you settle into your couch for all the NFL action.

Joke from a friend: In hell, they are probably forced to watch Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew fall down for no gain on loop.

Such has been the life of Raiders fans this season. However, Latavius Murray has shown some spark when on the field. Last week the 225-pound back toted the rock 23 times for 76 yards (long of 16). If he averages more than that for the final three games he could beat out McFadden for the team lead in yards with significantly fewer carries (currently 103 fewer). There is no reason for the Raiders not to see what they have in Murray the rest of the way, especially against a Chiefs defense he walloped in their last meeting -- a defense that also just gave up 142 yards rushing to the previously punch-less Cardinals ground game.

Is anyone else rooting for the Chiefs to continue their streak of games without a receiving touchdown by a wideout? They've gone 16 straight games. Since 1940, the most consecutive games without a receiving TD by a WR is 20 (1958-59 Redskins). I say Alex Smith goes after that record. You've already come so far, Alex. Sunday against an improving Raiders defense with Sio Moore and dominant rookie Khalil Mack rushing the passer, Smith's dink-and-dunk attack needs to work better than it did in the Black Hole, especially if Jamaal Charles (ankle, knee) isn't able to go.

Pregame reading material
Tony Sparano addresses uncertain future
Raiders practices moved due to storm
Why you should start Travis Kelce in fantasy playoffs
How can KC reach the playoffs?

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Chiefs.

The Dolphins picked a bad time for the offense to dry up. Miami is averaging only 14.5 points per game in the last two contests. Miami will need to run Lamar Miller consistently against a Patriots defense that is shutting down quarterbacks. In their last five games, New England has faced Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers. New England went 4-1, holding those teams to 18.0 PPG and those QBs to seven touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 80.4.

Tom Brady's offense is averaging 35.7 points per game in their last nine. During that nine-game streak, Brady has thrown multiple touchdown passes in each -- his personal multi-TD streak is 13 from 2010-11. He faces a Miami defense that has struggled to slow quarterbacks the past two weeks, thanks in part to a surprising lack of pressure. If Brady gets time, he will be able to pick apart a banged-up Dolphins secondary with his lethal short game.

Pregame reading material
Start Ryan Tannehill this week
Wake: Dolphins' D not "a bunch of bums"
How can the Pats clinch the No. 1 seed?
See where Tom Brady ranked in Pro Bowl vote-getters

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Patriots.

The quarterback situation in Washington is becoming nauseating. It's also not helping Alfred Morris. The running back had just eight carries (eight!) for six yards last week (both career-lows). Given that he is just 101 rushing yards shy of becoming the first player since Chris Johnson (2008-10) to have 1,000-plus rushing yards in each of his first three NFL seasons, giving him eight carries is shameful, regardless of the game conditions. Facing a Giants defense ranked 30th against the run (giving up 134.5 yards per game), there is no excuse for Morris not to carry the load Sunday.

What a fantastic matchup for Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. this week. Manning's favorite target will face a unit that consistently loses the opponent's best players in the secondary (zero people know how such a truth is unfailingly proven each week). The Redskins have allowed one or more passing touchdowns in 19 straight games and have given up 28 passing touchdowns this season (third most in the NFL). Let's see what jaw-dropping fun ODB has in store in this lopsided matchup.

Pregame reading material
JPP wants to be a Giant for life
Tyree: Beckham "Most talented player" I've ever seen
McCoy on track to start
Breeland, Roberts scuffle at Redskins practice

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Giants.

The Bengals are 7-0-1 when they gain 100-plus yards rushing this season. Hue Jackson must get Jeremy Hill (fewer than 50 rush yards in each of last two games), who will start, and Giovani Bernard (fewer than 50 rush yards in each of last 5 games played) going early against a Browns defense ranked 26th in the NFL and giving up 129.5 yards per game on the ground. Joe Haden and Co. in the Cleveland secondary have given teams fits and if Andy Dalton is in third-and-long a lot Sunday it could be another nightmare for the quarterback against the Dawg Pound.

The world awaits Johnny Manziel's first start to see if the quarterback can make it rain magic in the form of points. The Bengals' lack of a pass rush should bode well for Johnny Football and give him time to survey the field. However, expect offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to utilize a heavy rushing attack -- including Manziel's mobility -- against a Bengals defense allowing 130.3 yards per game on the ground. If Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West can chew up yards and keep the Browns in short yardage on third down, it will greatly benefit the rookie quarterback.

Pregame reading material
Manziel to start for Browns
The rookie on him and Hoyer: "We're not enemies"
Gio says Hill will start
Burfict placed on injured reserve

Who will win? Four of the five Around The NFL writers pick the Browns.

It's the J.J. Watt versus Andrew Luck show!

Watt has sacked Luck six times, the highest total by any NFL player. The Colts, under Luck, have defeated Watt's Texans in four of five head-to-head matchups since 2012. In those games, Luck has earned 239.6 yards per game, 12 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 93.2 passer rating. Meanwhile, Watt has compiled 30 tackles, 6.0 sacks, 15 QB hits, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one TD (fumble return).

Since Ryan Fitzpatrick re-entered the lineup the Texans are averaging 36.0 points per game -- we should note they were against the Titans and Jaguars. If cornerback Vontae Davis (concussion) is back for the Colts, that's bad news for Fitzmagic. The quarterback will lean on Arian Foster and the NFL's fourth-best rushing offense (137.1 YPG -- Behind SEA, NYJ and DAL). The Texans must stick in short-yardage on third down against the Colts who boast the NFL's best third down defense, allowing only 33.3 percent of third-down conversions.

Pregame reading material
Luck, Colts look to continue AFC South dominance
Can Indy steal home-field advantage?
Watt on MVP talk: "It doesn't matter to me"
Jadeveon Clowney underwent microfracture surgery

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Colts.

The struggling Jags have averaged just 15.3 points per game this season (fewest in NFL) while giving up 54 sacks. Facing Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, who have combined for 24.5 sacks this season, which is the most among any defensive duo in the NFL will put the onus on Blake Bortles to get the ball out quickly. With Denard Robinson out for the season, it will be interesting to see the Jags' backfield rotation of Storm Johnson, Jordan Todman and Toby Gerhart, all of whom have struggled to find holes behind a dilapidated line.

The Baltimore offense has set 13-game franchise marks with 4,894 total yards and 356 points. Joe Flacco sits outside the top 10 in most major passing categories, but he has made the throws necessary to win games while relying on a potent rushing attack. Flacco will face a Jaguars defense that has allowed fewer than 275 passing yards in nine straight games, but nine rushing touchdowns in the past five. It looks like another big day is on tap for Justin Forsett.

Pregame reading material
Denard Robinson out for year with foot sprain
Why Marqise Lee is a fantasy sleeper
Is Justin Forsett a one-year flash-in-the-pan?
Flacco admits to NFL Media's Adam Schein that he scoreboard watches

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Ravens.

The unflappable Aaron Rodgers averages 2.90 seconds in pocket before throwing, which is the fifth-longest time to throw in the NFL. The Bills lead the NFL in sacks with 48, which could force the Packers' quarterback to get rid of the ball, or escape the pocket, quicker than he'd like. The Packers have averaged 40.2 points per game during a five-game win streak and Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception since Week 8. Sunday he'll face a Jim Schwartz defense he knows well, but that also has 28 takeaways (second in NFL).

Can Sammy Watkins replicate the destruction Julio Jones laid on the Packers' secondary last week? I wouldn't bet on it, but the rookie will need to be a huge part of the offense for the Bills to keep pace with the Packers' potent machine. The wideout burst through the rookie wall for 127 yards on seven catches last week. Kyle Orton will need to protect the ball better to give the Bills a chance to keep pace. The quarterback has thrown two interceptions in back-to-back games. The Packers' defense has 23 takeaways this season, fourth most in the NFL. And Rodgers makes teams pay, scoring 103 points off turnovers this season, tied for most in the NFL with Houston.

Pregame reading material
Doug Marrone sticking with Orton at QB
The embattled Mike Williams was waived
How can the Pack clinch a playoff spot on Sunday?
Elliot Harrison listed Green Bay No. 1 in his power rankings

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Packers.

Ben Roethlisberger has another phenomenal matchup in which to add to his 4,055 passing yards this season (second-most in NFL). Big Ben has 340-plus passing yards in five of his last six games and the Steelers rank second in the NFL, averaging 427.0 yards per game on offense. They face a Falcons defense allowing a league-high 410.8 yards per game that has given up 300-plus pass yards eight times this season. Expect Roethlisberger to light up the scoreboard.

If Julio Jones (hip) plays this week, it will pit the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers in the NFL. Jones overtook Antonio Brown in receiving yards, 1,428 to 1,375 with his recent dominant stretch. Over the last three games, Jones has 26 receptions for an average of 172 yards per game, six receptions of 25-plus yards and three touchdowns. He would face a struggling Steelers defense that has allowed two-plus passing touchdowns in seven straight games -- 18 in the last seven games (tied for second-most in NFL). Pittsburgh has allowed a 65-plus yard TD pass in each of their last four games. That's right in Jones' wheelhouse.

Pregame reading material
Julio's status up in the air for Sunday
Which Falcons player should you stash on your fantasy team?
Taylor: Steelers in position for 'VIP' playoff invite
How can Pittsburgh play in January?

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Steelers.

Mike Evans leads rookies in receiving yards (935) and touchdowns (10). Sunday, he'll look across at the man ranked second in both categories, Kelvin Benjamin (848 and nine). Evans has the size to take advantage of the Panthers' corners, break the 1,000-yard barrier and add to his rookie lead. That is, if Josh McCown gets any time to throw the ball this week.

Quarterbacks are completing 68.8 percent of passes against the Tampa Bay defense, which is the highest in the NFL. Derek Anderson, who will start in place of Cam Newton on Sunday, helped that inflated percentage in a Week 1 victory (20-14) over the Bucs. Anderson completed 70.6 percent of his passes that game, for 230 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 108.7 passer rating.

Pregame reading material
Cam talks for first time after accident
Derek Anderson will go in Newton's stead
Could we see Mike Glennon?
The Bucs are on track for the No. 1 draft pick

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Panthers.

This matchup appears to be setting up for another run-heavy show for the Broncos. Denver is averaging 182.7 rushing yards per game over the last three contests. The Chargers, meanwhile, have allowed 100-plus rushing yards in six of their last eight games. Peyton Manning has gone consecutive games under 200 yards passing. In his career, he has never had three straight games under 200 yards. Manning also has thrown for fewer than 300 yards in three straight games, while San Diego's defense has allowed 300-plus passing yards in just three of 13 games.

The Chargers' offensive attack will likely be air-based, especially if Ryan Mathews (ankle) -- who remained sidelined Thursday -- is unable to play. Denver has the NFL's second-best rush defense in the NFL (72.8 YPG), allowing 100-plus yards rushing once in their last 10 games. That doesn't mean the Chargers won't utilize at least the threat of the run. According to Pro Football Focus, Philip Rivers has completed 80.0 percent of his play-action passes, which is the highest in the NFL. It's all on Rivers' shoulders in this big AFC West showdown.

Pregame reading material
John Fox believes the Broncos' passing game is fine
Does Brandon Flowers have any plan for besting Peyton Manning? Sort of, but it involves Manning slipping up
Chargers punter Mike Scifres suffered a broken clavicle on a blocked punt in Week 14
Can Demaryius Thomas rebound after his scoring streak came to a halt in Week 14?

Who will win? Four of five Around The NFL writers pick the Broncos.

The Jets have an NFL-worst 169.4 passing yards per game, but luckily this matchup is right in their wheelhouse, as it sets up well for Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson to dominate. Tennessee's terrible defense is allowing an NFL-worst 141.5 yards per game on the ground and has allowed 99-plus rush yards in 11 of 13 games this season. Geno Smith should take a backseat once again to the ground-and-pound attack.

Jake Locker hasn't won a home game since defeating the Jets in Week 4 of last season. This season, the quarterback has compiled a 59.3 completion percent, 936 passing yards, five TDs, seven INTs and a 71.1 passer rating. Assuming he stays healthy he'll get three final games to attempt to convince someone to give him a shot next season. Locker has a good matchup against a feeble Jets secondary to try and boost his numbers. Gang Green has allowed opponents a 100-plus passer rating in nine of 13 games this season (allowing a 107.3 rating, second-worst in NFL).

Pregame reading material
Woody Johnson knows Jets fans want to see changes
Geno Smith said that he has "shown flashes of being a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback"
Zach Mettenberger believes he has proven he can be a starter
Even if this does end up being Rex Ryan's last season in New York, the head coach isn't making any enemies on his way out

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Jets.

It will be the Teddy Bridgewater-show for the Vikings in Detroit. Without a dynamic runner, Matt Asiata and Co. should be shut down by a Lions' defense that has allowed fewer than 50 rushing yards in nine games this season. Bridgewater has improved steadily since he faced the Lions in Week 6 -- his worst game as a pro. The rookie will need to get rid of the ball quickly, utilizing Charles Johnson and Greg Jennings in the short-passing attack, as the Vikes' offensive line will likely struggle again to slow the Lions pass rush.

Matthew Stafford has taken advantage of two poor defenses the last two weeks, putting up back-to-back 300-yard games for the first time this season. He's also thrown two touchdowns in each of the last four home games. Mike Zimmer's secondary has improved along with the play of Xavier Rhodes, so we'll see if Stafford's play continues to rise or if it was a product of terrible opponents. The up-and-down quarterback will need protection, especially against Everson Griffen, who leads the Vikings with 12 sacks.

Pregame reading material
Who will decide where Ndamukong Suh plays next year? His agent
James Ihedigbo said that he and Glover Quin are the best safety tandem in the NFL
What grade does Teddy Bridgewater get compared to other first-round draft picks?
Take a look back at Joique Bell's tipped-pass touchdown -- one of the plays that defined Week 14

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Lions.

The NFC West rivalry has been noticeably one-sided of late. The Seahawks have won four of five games against the 49ers since Colin Kaepernick became the starter, including playoffs. The 49ers have not topped 20 points in any of the five meetings. In Week 13, the Seattle' defense held the Niners to 164 yards of offense and Kaepernick to 121 yards passing, zero touchdowns, two interceptions and sacked him four times. And guess what? The Seahawks' defense has gotten better since then. Knowing they could completely knock out any small chance the 49ers have for the playoffs and end the Jim Harbaugh-era in terrible fashion, expect the Legion of Boom to play like there is blood in the water.

The Niners' best shot to pull a stunning upset (at this stage, yes, it would be stunning) is to completely wreck the Seahawks No. 1 rushing attack. Marshawn Lynch leads the way as Seattle averages 170.1 yards per game (5.2 yards per rushing play, first in NFL). Wilson's ability to extend the play killed the 49ers in Week 13 as they gave up a season-high 157 yards rushing. If Wilson, who leads the NFL with 7.2 yards per carry, is able to escape and use his legs, it'll be another long night for San Francisco's defense.

Pregame reading material
Are Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh friendly? The Seahawks coach talked up his counterpart in San Francisco
A superstorm swept through the Bay Area on Thursday, forcing the 49ers to move practice indoors
Are the Seahawks looking like an NFC force again? NFL Media's Judy Battista weighs in
Vernon Davis wants to be more involved in the Niners' offense

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Seahawks.

DeMarco Murray has eleven 100-yard games this season (most in NFL). The Eagles' defense has allowed one 100-yard rusher this season (Frank Gore, 119 yards). In their Week 13 matchup Philly held Murray to 73 yards on 20 carries. Murray will have 10 days to rest up before the pivotal matchup Sunday night and he'll need it against Fletcher Cox, who has been beastly against the run. The Eagles secondary can be picked apart, however. Philadelphia's defense has kept a QB's passer rating below 55.0 once since 2013 -- that was Tony Romo's 53.7 rating on Thanksgiving Day.

LeSean McCoy went for 159 yards and a score on 25 attempts in the Week 13 matchup. It was the type of performance that underscored a Cowboys defense that struggles in space. Shady has 100-plus rush yards in four of the last eight games after stumbling to open the season. With the Cowboys allowing 113.1 yards per game on the ground (17th), mostly to teams with a less dynamic offense, McCoy could be in for another big night.

Pregame reading material
Jason Garrett said that DeMarco Murray has proven he can handle the workload
Orlando Scandrick played Madden with children from a local hospital, and he showed no mercy
The Eagles have Riley Cooper's back despite his down year
LeSean McCoy wanted no part of contact in Sunday's game against the Seahawks, per Bobby Wagner

Who will win? Four of five Around The NFL writers pick the Eagles.

When this game was announced it looked like it could pit two teams battling for playoff positioning. Now it looks like a battle of who can look less terrible.

Drew Brees leads the NFL in completion percentage (69.3), but has 300-plus pass yards in just six of 13 games this season and only once in the last six games. The Saints' lack of rhythm on offense is astounding given their recent history -- undoubtedly Jimmy Graham dealing with injuries is part of the problem. It could be a get-well game for Brees and the offense against a Bears defense that has allowed opponents to score on 46.5 percent of drives -- highest percentage in NFL. Chicago can't cover in space, so Brees should find plenty of receivers darting open downfield.

How will Jay Cutler perform sans Brandon Marshall? He'll likely force-feed Alshon Jeffery, who has one or more touchdowns catches in four straight games (longest streak of career). If Marc Trestman is going to force-feed someone, however, it should be Matt Forte, who has a great matchup against a Saints run defense that has been bowled over, allowing 133.5 yards per game (29th). However, we've felt he should have given his underutilized running back the ball more a lot this season to no avail.

Pregame reading material
Will Sean Payton leave the Saints this year?
The Saints waived Joe Morgan as tensions mounted
Brandon Marshall admitted that, as a businessman, he would have buyer's remorse over the Jay Cutler deal
The Bears plan to part ways with Mel Tucker after the season

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Saints.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast reacts to the fallout of Cam Newton's car accident and debates how the Browns will look with Johnny Manziel at QB. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.