NGSC Sports

NFL Match-Up Mania: Week 15

The NFL Playoffs officially start in January. The tournament where teams climb, fight, and claw their way to the Super Bowl is my favorite time of the football season. However, regardless of what the calendar may say, the playoff has already begun as certain clubs jockey to make one of the 12 spots. During this wintery December, some cold hard truths may be dispensed to take away hopes for glory rather than the giving associated with the holidays in this time of year. This Week 15 volume of the Student of the Game’s Match-Up Mania serves as a warning to who will experience naughty or a sign of upcoming cheer for those who are nice.

Phins v. Pats

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is not one to lose twice in a row at anything whether it be back-to-back NFL weeks or consecutive losses to a particular team. The most famous examples being the 2 Super Bowls facing the Giants and 2 post season games vs the Baltimore Ravens. In Brady’s 15 year career, there may be other instances to be found via Google, but that won’t change my stance.

I envy no team forced to consistently contest Brady to achieve NFL success. Worse over, in order to keep playoff pacing, the Dolphins are asked to go to Foxboro to pull off this difficult feat in New England’s home venue.

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The key to victory for Miami is through defensive end Cameron Wake attacking Brady while containing Rob Gronkowski as the security blanket from the Pats’ tight end spot. Then on offense, the Phins will need field general Ryan Tannehill to have a flawless game passing since the Patriots Head Coach Bill Billicheck, in my estimation, will focus on stopping the ground game. If Tannehill shows success early, expect his offense to be balanced throughout the contest. However, facing

Brandon Browner and Darelle Revis in coverage will prevent this from occurring easily come game time.

Broncos v. Chargers

The Chargers gave a valiant effort this past Sunday night facing off with the New England Patriots. San Diego did plenty to slow them in the red zone and were one set of missed tackles on a 69 yard TD from holding New England to 20 points or fewer.

The problem was the Bolts’ offense. Sure Phillip Rivers struggled against the best secondary the Pats have had in a decade, but that is merely a symptom of the problem with their O-line. Historically unprecedented in the NFL, the Chargers are on their 5th starting center for the year. With the O-line as a unit relying on cohesion for success, that much change at its focus point is not an easy thing to overcome.

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But why do I muse on San Diego and the Patriots when the Week 15 opponent is Denver? Because it’s a case study as to what the Broncos will bring to that contest. A Hall of Fame caliber quarterback, a solid set of receiving tools, a prolific ground game in support, with a revamped defense spells doom for the Bolts in this game and likely their playoff hopes as well.

Cowboys v. Eagles

Round 1 on Thanksgiving in Dallas has made this rematch a must win for the Cowboys who are still short of free and clear from ending their franchise’s playoff drought. December doubt still looms for the lone star state signal caller, Tony Romo, while the Eagles’ Mark Sanchez seems to have left all doubters in the dust.

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Though these 2 starters’ storylines will command attention during the week, the key the ‘W’ in my view is Philly’s running defense against Dallas’s DeMarco Murray. If the Eagles stop him, so further do they stop their star-helmeted rival’s offense. If this happens, Philadelphia flies further towards an NFC East title while pressure is applied to the players and the postseason paralysis the Dallas organization faces.

Honorable Mention

Steelers v. Falcons

Well, we’ve already guaranteed that the NFC South division champ will not have a winning record, but this game could mean that it will have a losing record. Holding the current tiebreak over their division rival Saints, if Atlanta loses to the Steelers, but beats New Orleans in the coming weeks, 7-9 may do the job for the NFC’s 4th seed.

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Considering Le’Veon Bell and the Steeler offense are running with prowess they had in their recent Super Bowl campaigns, this to me is not a farfetched scenario.

Cards v. Rams

We’re this back at Week 1, the Cardinals would have been a hands down, clear cut, sure thing, lock to win. However, we’ve seen the Rams evolve before our eyes, despite near elimination from postseason possibility, into the team no one wants to play. Meanwhile, the Arizona roster has players falling from injury like feathers floating off of a flailing bird struggling to fly.

Some football pundits claim the Cards won’t win another game which will leave them to the whim of the Wild Card standings to play beyond December (despite being a handful of wins better than the future NFC South champion).

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An eleventh win would work wonders to prevent the 2013 fate of Arizona repeating in 2014. The key to this to wrangle the Rams into one dimensional offense. This means minimizing runner back Tre Mason. If they do this while running a balanced offense themselves, the road the the NFC West Championship is far clearer leading to Tempe, Arizona.

Niners v. Seahawks

Both teams need this game in the full house known as the NFC West. Arizona may hold the division lead for now, but that lead isn’t safe with Seattle creeping up on the Cardinals.

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San Francisco still has a small chance to make the playoff despite an embarrassing outing against the Oakland Raiders, but unless a football miracle can cause the anemic Niner offense to suddenly score touchdowns on the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks at their home in CenturyLink Field, this is likely the game where we bury 49er gold for this and at least and the next two seasons.

Bengals v. Browns

Is it Brian Hoyer or is it Johnny Manziel starting when Cleveland hosts the Bengals in the weekend approaching?  While the answer appears to be “Johnny Football” in one of the more popular story lines of Week 15, I believe it has an impact on the future for Hoyer’s career, Manziel’s expectations and by extension, the Browns franchise.

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However, with the disarray in the offense, it is a pointless question to the outcome of this game. Even against unpredictable Cincinnati, I see Cleveland fans turning their attention to NBA hero LeBron James and their Cavaliers with their football team likely out of post a season play.

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Kyle NashThe Student of the Game

Host of the Student of The Game Podcast Monday @ 7:30pm EST

Writer for NGSC Sports

Narrator of Sport Symposium on NGSC Sports YouTube Channel.

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