NFL Week 15 game picks: Cowboys nip Bucs; Pats beat Broncos

Tough week for some top quarterbacks ...

Look at those matchups. Tommy Touchdown goes to his house of horrors in Denver, where he was run over like Ricardo Montalbán in "Naked Gun"last January. If Andrew Luck thought the Texans D was tough, what's he going to make of the Vikings' unit? (Not a huge difference, but sizable enough.) Russell Wilson faces what you think would be an easy matchup in the new-look (sort of) Rams, but his history versus those guys is not good. Then there's Dak Prescott, mired in a slump, taking on the hottest defense in the NFL.

OK, enough of my introductory banter. On to your thoughts ...

I smell what you're steppin' in, Evan. They keep winning, but are trailing in the fourth quarter just about every time out. Felt the Steelers have been more impressive, which is why Pittsburgh leapfrogged Detroit in this week's rankings.

I think Don is slightly biased. Maybe.

So which of the quarterbacks mentioned above overcome the beasts on the other side of the ball and pull out the W? See below. Don't worry: We sort out the Matt Moores and Bryce Pettys of the world, too. (Actually, they play each other!) Sort out your football thoughts: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 11-5 on his predictions for Week 14, giving him a record of 137-69-2 thus far this season. How will he fare in Week 15? His picks are below:

I like Bryce Petty. A lot. But at this point, the Jets' second-year man is not as experienced as veteran Miami backup Matt Moore, and the Dolphins have much to play for this week. They're currently the seventh seed in the AFC -- or, in other words, the best team on the outside of the playoff picture. And even that position is tenuous, to say the least. No less than the Broncos (who currently project as the final wild-card team), Ravens and Titans are eyeing that last spot. Thus, a win in New York is very much needed.

Hard to believe, but Miami has won seven of eight games. Obviously, Moore stepping in for the injured Ryan Tannehill presents an interesting twist to the back end of the season, but given that the Jets are allowing more yards per game (355.5) than they have in any season since 1989, I think the QB2 will find a few openings to exploit. #MIAvsNYJ

The only thing this matchup needs is icy conditions -- and for the Bears' 3-10 record to be inverted. OK, so the last thing won't happen, but Packers- Bears is always fun, especially when at least one of the teams has something to play for. In this case, Green Bay is hoping the Lions falter in a tough matchup against the Giants, so they can gain a game in their pursuit of the NFC North leaders. The Packers are also hoping Aaron Rodgers isn't limping around out there. Obviously, Bears quarterback Matt Barkley won't be able to keep up with Rodgers in a track meet. So it's up to an improving Chicago defense to hold the fort. You know which D really has been holding it down lately? Green Bay's. Dom Capers' unit has allowed 36 points over the last three games. Total. #GBvsCHI

This could be a close game, or this could be one of those deals where a group of guys play for their embattled head coach. The media in Buffalo continually peppered Rex Ryan about his defense getting run over the last several weeks. Methinks that group will ball out against an easy target. Of course, will pummeling the winless Browns solve anything for the Bills? Probably not, as it looks like the wild-card ship has sailed for them. Still, Buffalo could run the table and finish 9-7 -- which would mean handing another loss to the Dolphins, who are starting a backup quarterback at the moment and are among the frontrunners for that final AFC wild-card spot. Meanwhile, if Cleveland is to get win No. 1, Isaiah Crowell must go off, à la Le'Veon Bell -- or at least post 110 rushing yards, so that the outcome doesn't rest on the Browns' passing game. #CLEvsBUF

Don't like the Eagles this week, mainly because their offensive skill players aren't going to do jack against the Ravens. Carson Wentz has watched his rookie season head south, but what's he supposed to do, throw the football to himself? Philadelphia lacked the firepower to beat the defenses of the Redskins, Bengals and Packers -- and none of those units rank top 10. So have fun with the league's fourth-best D in Baltimore. Now, in fairness, the Ravens were riddled for nearly 500 yards by the Patriots on Monday. But in fairness, Carson Wentz is not Tom Brady, and you would take New England's wideouts and LeGarrette Blount over whomever the Eagles are trotting out there. We haven't even talked about the Eagles on the road, where they're 1-6 and the defense has been ransacked to the tune of 25.7 points allowed per game. Ransacked. Not sure that word works there, but we're going with it. You're along for the ride. #PHIvsBAL

The Titans will have a bit more trouble with the Chiefs than they did with the Broncos last week. Alex Smith will be able to deal with the Tennessee pass rush better than the hobbled Trevor Siemian did. Moreover, unlike Denver, Kansas City can run the football, and Spencer Ware will provide some semblance of balance for the Chiefs. Marcus Mariota probably has never heard noise in an NFL stadium as loud as what he'll hear in Arrowhead. (And has never played in an environment so friggin' frigid.) The good news for the Titans is that they're a pretty straightforward team -- we don't see Peyton Manning-esque histrionics from Mariota, as the quarterback is not changing plays at the line much. Will DeMarco Murray and that third-ranked Tennessee ground game be enough? Don't think so. Kansas City has won 20 of its last 23 regular-season games. #TENvsKC

The Steelers travel to Cincinnati for the first time since that wild playoff game last January. Emotions always run high with these two teams, so even if the Bengals' playoff hopes are scant -- minuscule -- they should give Pittsburgh all it can handle. Worth noting is how much Cincinnati struggled with the Browns' Isaiah Crowell last week. Good thing that front seven doesn't face an explosive RB this week ... Can Le'Veon Bell approach 236 rushing yards again? Won't need to. Even prior to the Bills game, Bell racked up big days versus the Cowboys, Browns and Giants. He's been the best running back in the league over the last month. The Steelers do need Ben Roethlisberger to play better away from Heinz. His passer rating on the road is more than 40 points lower than it is at home. And these Bengals are playing much better on defense. Ahh, the Eagles and Browns are always good for skewing data. #PITvsCIN

Wow. Talk about a tough game to pick. I'm going with the Giants, with no disrespect to a Lions team that repeatedly has found ways to win in the fourth quarter this season. In fact, Detroit has trailed in the fourth quarter in all but one game thus far. That is truly an incredible stat, given the Lions' record. Each team has won eight games decided by seven points or less, tied for the most in the NFL. Detroit has turned the ball over just 10 times, tied for third-lowest in the NFL. New York has 16 takeaways since Week 7, tied for second-most in the NFL in that span. Each team is 9-4. Holy cow -- you can stress yourself out picking these things. Going with the home team here. #DETvsNYG

Yet another difficult game to call here, but after much consternation, I'm going with the Vikings at home. As for the quarterback matchup, Andrew Luck > Sam Bradford. The Vikings' offense has struggled all season, while Luck, despite struggling last week, always seems to find at least one big play (SEE: T.Y. Hilton's vertical touchdown last week.) But though I think Luck is capable, the overall matchup and the way Minnesota's defense plays at home looks like too steep a hill to climb. Unfortunately for Indy, it's not just about quarterbacks in this game. Case in point: Luck's protection (or lack thereof). He's been pelted 96 times this season, most in the league. The Vikings are second in NFL with 97 QB hits. Yeeesh. Sure would be nice to see Sam Bradford put together back-to-back quality starts. #INDvsMIN

The Texans get a defensive touchdown to go along with two Lamar Miller scores, besting the Jaguars in Houston and remaining atop the AFC South. The Texans are yet to lose in the division, and I don't see that happening this week, either. Although I don't anticipate Brock Osweiler improving on his middling campaign against what has become a top-notch pass defense this season. Osweiler completes only 18 percent -- 18 PERCENT -- of his passes that travel more than 20 yards in the air. So the Jags are fine on the back end. If they are to have a chance, though, Blake Bortles must stay turnover-free again. He was able to manage no giveaways against that stout Vikings defense, but the Jacksonville offense as a whole couldn't muster enough points to win. Houston has won five straight against this team. Make it six. #JAXvsHOU

Not the best matchup for a Saints offense that has struggled mightily the last two weeks. Drew Brees has failed to throw a touchdown in consecutive starts, but has managed to toss six interceptions in that span. New Orleans is generally worse away from the Superdome, which makes it harder to pick against Arizona this week -- no matter the Cards' middling record. While the Saints' offense is still ranked No. 1 (even though the unit isn't playing like it), the Cardinals' defense is No. 1 in its own right. Neither unit here is playing as well as its stats, but Arizona has lost only two games at home all season. We'll see if Dennis Allen's D can keep the Saints in the game like last week. #NOvsAZ

This won't be a fun game for the 49ers. Was listening to Sirius XM NFL Radio talk about Colin Kaepernick's recent record as a starter. They spoke of his 3-18 mark over his last 21 starts -- as in, What else do the 49ers need to evaluate? It's a shame for a player who was once so scary to opponents that not only did this franchise almost win a Super Bowl, but felt confident enough in Kaepernick to deal Alex Smith. Kap won't get any help from a defense that is horrific against the run. Make sure Tevin Coleman AND Devonta Freeman are in your fantasy lineups. On the whole, the 49ers are giving up a whopping 415.3 yards per game, which is on pace to be among the five worst defensive performances since the merger. #SFvsATL

Last time these two teams met, we saw a barnburner straight out of the AFL. The Chargers wouldn't say die in Oakland ... until they couldn't handle the hold on a game-tying field-goal attempt. Both teams' defenses have improved since that Week 5 clash, but expect a fair share of points to be scored Sunday. Despite improvement, the Raiders' defense is still not in the top half of the league, while San Diego might be trying to get after Derek Carr sans Joey Bosa (or with a compromised Joey Bosa). Speaking of which, Carr should be plenty motivated to perform after another poor outing versus the Chiefs. Interesting sidebar: Carr has taken 100 percent of his snaps from the shotgun or pistol since injuring his pinkie. Bruised feelings for Philip Rivers, who has appeared weary from the struggle the last couple of outings. And he won't have a healthy Melvin Gordon this week. #OAKvsSD

Yet another rivalry game for the Patriots, in so much as they lost the AFC championship in Denver last season in a bitterly fought battle. The difference this time around will be none other than LeGarrette Blount, who was unavailable for last year's title defense in the postseason, but who has played his butt off this year. If you recall, New England trotted Steven Jackson out there at tailback last January. When the offense became one-dimensional, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware started teeing off. Blount crossed the 1,000-yard barrier Monday night versus the Ravens, and will be facing the league's 29th-ranked run defense. Can you believe that? Thought Trevor Siemian played well in Tennessee, especially considering all the duress he was under. But my concern is that the Broncos could get down two scores in the first half, forcing the young QB to press. Going with the Pats on Sunday. #NEvsDEN

Believing in Ezekiel Elliott here. If Zeke truly is league MVP, then he'll get his against the hottest defense in the league. The Cowboys' passing game has been downright cold for weeks now. Dak Prescott has been provided time to throw, but either isn't seeing the field well or is in a slump. Last week, he was just 7 for 21 from a clean pocket, according to stats maven Pro Football Focus. Dallas can ill-afford a repeat of that performance against a defense that is allowing 12.8 points per game over its last five (lowest in the NFL since Week 10). As for Jameis Winston, he'll be asked to put up points Sunday night. Can he do it? The huge uptick in the play of the Cowboys' defense has been as shocking a development in Dallas as the 11-2 record. The 'Boys have allowed 25 points combined over the last two weeks. If they cover Mike Evans, Cowboys win. #TBvsDAL

Unusual contest this Monday night between the Panthers and Redskins -- or at least it appears that way. Washington was the one NFC team most analysts thought would fail to return to the postseason in 2016. If the Redskins win out, I think they're in. The team wasn't sure about Kirk Cousins, yet he has repeated his sterling performance from 2015. As for Carolina, the sure bet to return to the playoffs has been no deal, with a big reason for this being the mediocre play of quarterback Cam Newton. Everyone thought he'd turned the corner to unstoppable force in his MVP run last season. Of course, the Panthers' corners haven't exactly been playmakers -- although the secondary as a whole played quite well last week. Cousins picks on them this week, to the tune of 340 yards and three touchdowns. DeSean Jackson tracks another moon shot, and the Redskins move to 8-5-1. They're making the playoffs. #CARvsWAS


Well, we'll see if John Fassel can pull a rabbit out of a hat ... or a 3-yard run out from behind this DeVry, er, Rams offensive line. Jared Goff is still an inexperienced quarterback taking on what should be an extremely ticked-off Seahawks defense coming off a blowout loss to the Packers. Not good. You would expect Russell Wilson to rebound following his five-interception performance last week, but his recent history versus these Rams says otherwise: Over his last four games against Los Angeles, Wilson has thrown only three touchdown passes to go with three interceptions, and the Seahawks lost all but one of those games. The Seattle win here will come on the strength of the defense at home putting the offense in favorable positions.

 **Side note:** You have my pick for Thursday night, but be sure to make yours, as well. Go to to vote for "Which Can will Win" or use #RamsCan or #SeahawksCan on Twitter. 

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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