NFL WEEK 15 CAPSULES


TODAY’S GAME

Dallas (8-5) at New Orleans (13-0)
Time: 5:20 p.m. Line: Saints -7 Total: 53½
TV: NFL (317) RADIO: KBAD-AM (920)
Facts: Three teams have put up their season yardage highs against New Orleans: Eagles (463), Rams (434) and Redskins (455). The Saints’ average yield of 371 yard since their Week 5 bye would rank them sixth worst over the course of a season. ... Dallas leads the series 14-8 but has lost five in a row, its longest current skid against any team. ... In two prime-time home games this year, New Orleans’ Drew Brees has thrown for seven TDs and 679 yards, with one interception.
Analysis: The Cowboys’ offensive line will have a solid size advantage against the Saints’ 4-3 and could dominate possession. That alignment is a key, because Dallas is 1-3 against 3-4s, averaging 11 points in those losses and beating only K.C.
Forecast: Cowboys 38, Saints 31

SUNDAY’S GAMES

San Francisco (6-7) at Philadelphia (9-4)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Eagles -8½ Total: 42½
TV: Fox (5)
Weather: Mid-30s, 70 percent chance of precipitation
Facts: The last time the teams met in Philadelphia in 2005, the Eagles set a franchise record with 583 yards of total offense, outgaining the 49ers by 441 in a 42-3 victory. ... 49ers QB Alex Smith has had nine TD passes and three interceptions in his past four games. ... Last week against the Giants, the Eagles became the second team this season to yield more than 500 yards and win.
Analysis: Both teams are feasting on turnovers, with Philly going plus-3 its past two games and the 49ers forcing seven to beat Arizona on Monday. But that victory was the cherry on their season. They won’t have the same giddy-up in this early jet-lag game.
Forecast: Eagles 31, 49ers 14

New England (8-5) at Buffalo (5-8)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Patriots -7 Total: 40½
TV: None
Weather: Mid-20s, 10 percent chance of snow
Facts: New England has beaten Buffalo 12 straight times. ... The Patriots’ rally from an 24-13 fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Bills 25-24 in Week 1 matches the third-best fourth-quarter rally in a victory in 2009. The biggest occurred nine weeks later when the Colts overcame a 31-14 deficit to stagger New England. ... Patriots WR Randy Moss had 12 catches in Week 1, but six in the past three.
Analysis: Buffalo leads the NFL in interceptions and is tied for the league lead in defensive passer rating, which carries clout. Plus, it has the ability to play keep-away with a running game that had 200 yards at Kansas City last week.
Forecast: Patriots 20, Bills 17

Arizona (8-5) at Detroit (2-11)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Cardinals -12½ Total: 47
TV: None
Facts: Detroit is a league-worst 3-9-1 against the line this year, marking its sixth straight season with a sub-.500 mark. ... How come no one’s talking about the Lions’ December swoon? Counting a 1997 playoff loss, they haven’t been over .500 in this month since 1995. ... The Cardinals bemoaned the fact they had seven turnovers Monday against the 49ers and couldn’t expect to win with that kind of performance. Tennessee did just that in 2000, beating Cleveland despite a minus-6 turnover differential.
Analysis: With the heart of Detroit’s team, Matthew Stafford, still suffering (questionable, shoulder) and RB Kevin Smith on IR, it’s up to backup QB Daunte Culpepper to carry the load. Look for him on the waiver wire soon.
Forecast: Cardinals 45, Lions 10

Cleveland (2-11) at Kansas City (3-10)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Chiefs -2 Total: 37
TV: None
Weather: Low 40s, 10 percent chance of rain
Facts: This is the first game of the season between two teams that are guaranteed to turn in their gear in two weeks. ... Kansas City’s Matt Cassel and Detroit’s Culpepper are the only QBs this season to have back-to-back starts with a passer rating below the 39.6 Mendoza line, the score you’d get for having an incompletion on every pass. ... Cleveland’s all-purpose threat, Joshua Cribbs, has been limited in practice (questionable, ankle).
Analysis: The Chiefs will do what they often do this time of year when no one’s paying attention — lay the wood to a visiting team in the last meaningless home game of the year.
Forecast: Chiefs 38, Browns 10

Atlanta (6-7) at N.Y. Jets (7-6)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Off Total: Off
RADIO: KWWN-AM (1100)
Weather: Mid-30s, 90 percent chance of precipitation
Facts: Atlanta coach Mike Smith will be looking for a new headset after mangling his old one in a tirade last week against the Saints. ... QB Mark Sanchez returns to start for the Jets after spraining a knee ligament. And it looks like Chris Redman again for Atlanta in place of Matt Ryan (questionable, turf toe). Redman skewered the Saints for 303 yards last week.
Analysis: It’s tough to trust Sanchez even when he’s healthy, but in wet weather it’s harder to go against a Jets defense that has held its past three foes to a stunning 2.7 yards per pass.
Forecast: Jets 21, Falcons 10

Houston (6-7) at St. Louis (1-12)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Texans -11 Total: 43
TV: None
Facts: Rams rookie QB Keith Null pitched five interceptions in his emergency start last week at Tennessee in place of Kyle Boller (questionable, illness/thigh). Null’s position coach in college was Ryan Leaf. ... Houston WR Andre Johnson had 193 yards in last week’s 34-7 cakewalk over Seattle and its 28th-rated pass defense (based on passer rating). St. Louis’ unit is 29th. ... In 2005, Houston blew a 24-3 second-half lead to St. Louis and lost 33-27 in OT.
Analysis: The Rams kicked one of their starting guards off the team, and their other one is injured. That’s miserable news for the QB of choice. On the other side, there’s little reason to think QB Matt Schaub and Johnson won’t enjoy their day.
Forecast: Texans 34, Rams 13

Miami (7-6) at Tennessee (6-7)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Titans -3 Total: 41½
TV: None
Weather: Low 40s, 20 percent chance of rain
Facts: Miami is in a three-way tie for the final AFC wild-card berth and would take over first in the East with a victory and a Patriots loss to Buffalo. Tennessee is in a four-team pack with seven losses, but has the worst conference mark of the bunch. ... Titans QB Vince Young (questionable, hamstring) practiced Thursday. ... Tennessee RB Chris Johnson, on pace for 2,001 rushing yards, is averaging 125 a game. Miami hasn’t allowed anyone more than 122 this season.
Analysis: That bull’s-eye on Johnson’s jersey might be getting heavier; discounting a 39-yard run, he averaged only 2.9 yards on 27 carries last week against St. Louis. Miami’s tricky and punishing ground game warrants an edge.
Forecast: Dolphins 24, Titans 21

Oakland (4-9) at Denver (8-5)
Time: 1:05 p.m. Line: Broncos -14 Total: 37
TV: None
Weather: Low 50s, 10 percent chance of rain
Facts: Denver hasn’t been this big a favorite since winning 13-3 as a 14-point home favorite over Oakland in 2006. ... In Week 3, Denver overcame a minus-2 turnover differential to beat Oakland 23-3. ... J.P. Losman, who guided Las Vegas to the UFL title, is the Raiders’ new third-team QB. The last time he faced NFL competition, with Buffalo last season, he committed three turnovers in the final two minutes of a gruesome 31-27 loss to the Jets.
Analysis: Oakland’s Charlie Frye takes over at QB for injured Bruce Gradkowski. Two years ago there was a 48-hour period in which Frye went from Cleveland’s Week 1 starter to Seattle’s scout team. He doesn’t stand a chance against a unit that intercepted Peyton Manning three times last week.
Forecast: Broncos 30, Raiders 6

Cincinnati (9-4) at San Diego (10-3)
Time: 1:05 p.m. Line: Chargers -6½ Total: 43½
TV: CBS (8) RADIO: KWWN-AM (1100)
Weather: Low 70s, 10 percent chance of rain
Facts: The Chargers, who have won an NFL-record 16 straight December games, have had the fewest penalty yards in the league and are fourth in the league with a plus-8 turnover differential. ... Cincinnati closed out a 4-11-1 season last year with upset victories in Weeks 15-17. ... Before making a name for himself, Cincinnati’s Chad Ochocinco had a league-best 27 catches for 20-plus yards in 2007. He’s had only 17 the past two seasons combined.
Analysis: Both teams have two-game division leads and are on the verge of clinching, but at stake here is a playoff bye. The long trip, though, and the grief caused by the shocking death of WR Chris Henry can’t help but drain Cincinnati.
Forecast: Chargers 31, Bengals 20

Chicago (5-8) at Baltimore (7-6)
Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Ravens -11 Total: 40½
TV: None
Weather: Mid-30s, 70 percent chance of snow
Facts: The weather is going to play havoc here. The starting time has been pushed back three hours, presumably to allow more time for snow removal. ... Chicago and QB Jay Cutler have lost six in a row against the line. Counting Cutler’s days in Denver, he’s 14-35-1 (.286) against the spread when he starts. The man he swapped huddles with, Kyle Orton, is 26-17-3 (.605). ... If Baltimore wins out, it isn’t guaranteed a playoff spot.
Analysis: Too many Ravens play-makers are questionable (WR Derrick Mason, S Ed Reed, LB/DE Terrell Suggs) to warrant such a big line. Speedy Johnny Knox could cause problems for Baltimore’s gambling secondary.
Forecast: Ravens 24, Bears 23

Green Bay (9-4) at Pittsburgh (6-7)
Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Steelers -2 Total: 40½
TV: Fox (5)
Weather: Low 30s, 30 percent chance of rain/snow
Facts: Don’t see this too often: A team on a five-game losing streak is a favorite over one on a five-game winning streak. ... Pittsburgh is second in sacks with 38, while Green Bay has allowed a league-high 48. The Packers have had only one game in which they didn’t allow any, against Cleveland in Week 7. Those Browns matched an NFL-best with eight last Thursday against Pittsburgh.
Analysis: Green Bay is an incredible 3-0 against the line when committing 100-plus yards in penalties, compared with a 5-8 mark for the rest of the league. But the well-rested and bitter Steelers will make them pay this time.
Forecast: Steelers 20, Packers 14

Tampa Bay (1-12) at Seattle (5-8)
Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Seahawks -6½ Total: 39½
TV: None
Weather: Low 50s, 80 percent chance of rain
Facts: It can’t get much worse for Bucs QB Josh Freeman. He has thrown eight interceptions in the past two games without leading his team on a TD drive. ... On the other hand, Seattle’s butterfingered Matt Hasselbeck has fumbled three times in each of his past two games. ... The Bucs had only six first downs in their dreary 26-3 home loss to the Jets last week. The only time a team had fewer this year was when Tampa Bay had five in a 24-0 loss to the Giants.
Analysis: After Seattle’s 34-7 road loss to Houston last week, coach Jim Mora suggested his offensive linemen open up a can of Whup Keister. They’ll probably come out growling against a team that’s next to last on the run charts, allowing 4.7 yards a carry.
Forecast: Seahawks 26, Buccaneers 7

Minnesota (11-2) at Carolina (5-8)
Time: 5:20 p.m. Line: Vikings -9 Total: 42½
TV: NBC (3) RADIO: KWWN-AM (1100)
Weather: Low 40s, 20 percent chance of rain
Facts: The Panthers lost last week at New England 20-10 despite a plus-3 turnover margin. Over the past two years, clubs are 43-8-1 with such a differential. ... Vikings WR Percy Harvin (questionable) has been suffering from headaches and missed last week’s game after having 17 catches for 269 yards and three TDs the previous three games. ... Carolina scored two TDs in Matt Moore’s two starts in place of QB Jake Delhomme (questionable, finger). Moore starts again Sunday.
Analysis: Minnesota’s run defense isn’t quite the brick wall it used to be, but still ranks fourth in yards allowed. And with CB Antoine Winfield back, Moore might not have much success.
Forecast: Vikings 27, Panthers 14

MONDAY’S GAME

N.Y. Giants (7-6) at Washington (4-9)
Time: 5:30 p.m. Line: Giants -3 Total: 43
TV: ESPN (30) RADIO: KWWN-AM (1100)
Weather: High 30s, 20 percent chance of precipitation
Facts: The last time the Redskins hosted a Monday night game, Steelers fans drowned out the signals of QB Jason Campbell in a 23-6 Pittsburgh victory last season. ... If Dallas loses to New Orleans today, the Giants will take the field knowing they will earn at least a wild card by winning out. ... Washington has beaten the line in five straight, one off the league’s season best.
Analysis: Redskins RB Quinton Ganther is a nice story coming off the streets to become a starter, but he’s not enough to carry the load against a playoff contender.
Forecast: Giants 24, Redskins 13

Last week: 11-5 vs. spread; 11-5 straight up
Season total: 102-101-4 vs. spread; 124-84 straight up

 

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