It’s Week 15 in the NFL and we have the return of Aaron Rodgers for Green Bay as he is medically cleared from his broken collar bone! This weekend also features a rivalry battle for first place in the NFC West. Of course we will also breakdown the match up of the teams that hold the top two spots in the AFC.
Before we dive into this edition of the Pigskin Preview, we must mention quarterback Carson Wentz. It has been confirmed that in the 43-35 victory over the Rams, Wentz has torn his ACL, and is out for the season. Nick Foles has been named the starter.
Here are the best games of Week 15!
Green Bay Packers (7-6) @ Carolina Panthers (9-4)
After 7 long weeks, the Green Bay Packers will have former MVP Aaron Rodgers return as their starting quarterback. In the absence of Rodgers, the Packers relied on 3rd year QB out of UCLA, Brent Hundley. He went 3-4 as a starter, but kept the Packers season alive after leading Green Bay to a 27-21 come-from-behind overtime victory in Cleveland. The Packers find themselves just one game out of the #6 seed in the NFC. But it will not be an easy test for Rodgers in his return.
The Carolina Panthers currently hold the #5 spot in the NFC, and are rolling after a 31-24 over the Vikings. It’s vital Rodgers shakes off the dust early in this one, as the Panthers were able to sack Case Keenum 6 times last Sunday. Carolina also forced three turnovers in the contest as well, including two game-changing interceptions. The factor that the Panthers would need to plan for is the emergence of WR Jordy Nelson. The former-Pro Bowler has struggled with Hundley as the passer over the past seven games. Nelson has not had over five catches, 35 yards, or a single touchdown in a game during Rodgers absence. Prior to the injury, Rodgers was able to find Nelson in the end zone six times in as many games. Another thing for the Panthers to watch for, is the breakout performance of RB Jamal Williams the past few weeks. In the past three week as starter, Williams has 376 all-purpose yards, and a total of five touchdowns. Besides the playoff implications, and former MVP showdown, this is a must-watch simply for the return of Aaron Rodgers.
Los Angles Rams (9-4) @ Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
The battle for first place in the NFC West takes place in Seattle, as the Los Angles Rams come looking to revenge a 16-10 lose at home in Week 5. The Seahawks have been plagued with injuries all season, losing two All-Pro players in the secondary, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. In Week 14 linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J Wright went down with injuries, and are questionable for Week 15. It will be no easy task trying to slow down the high powered Rams offense. The flashes we saw in Gurley’s rookie season have translated into an entire seasons of work. Gurley has been leading the way with 1,035 yards on the ground, 51 catches for 602 yards and 13 total touchdowns.
The question is can the Seahawks find a way to slow down the #2 ranked offense in the league? On the other side of the ball, the goal is simple — try to contain Russell Wilson. Despite challenges he’s faced with a struggling offensive line, and lack of running game, Wilson has carried his team. Throwing for over 3,500 yards and 29 touchdowns, plus his ability on the ground has put him in MVP conversations. It’ll be pivotal to limit turnovers, unlike Week 14 when he threw 3 interceptions. With both of these teams coming off tough loses, it should be highly competitive, and I would expect much more offense than the first meeting. With first place on the line, it’s a game you cant miss.
New England Patriots (10-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2)
The highly anticipated showdown of the AFC’s two best teams is going down this Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Patriots come into this one after a shocking upset against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night, 27-20. The offense looked out of sorts, and partial blame has to be on the absence of TE Rob Gronkowski who was serving his one game suspension. But with Gronk returning, I expect him to be the focal point of New England’s offense. The toughest task will be trying to stop three of the very best at their position in Ben Rothlesberger, Antonio Brown, and Levon Bell.
The Steelers won their 4th consecutive game on a late Chris Boswell FG in the 39-38 thriller over the Ravens. In that game, we saw Big Ben have 506 yards on 44/66 passing, with 2 touchdowns. Antonio Brown was the recipient of 11 passes for 213 yards, giving him 39 catches, 627 yards, and six TDs over the past four appearances. On the season AB is over 1,500 yards, nin3 TDs, and is 1 catch shy of 100. But if Brown wasn’t enough, the Pats must find a way to contain the just-as-dominate Levon Bell. He has 1,105 rushing yards, and 75 catches for 577 yards and a total of nine scores on the year. This will be the ultimate test for a Patriots defense that has been much improved from its struggles earlier in the year. With the Pats coming of a loss, I expect to see them coming out of the gates blazing. Tom Brady at 40 years old has 3,865 passing yards in 2017, best in the NFL. With so much Hall of Fame talent on display, I think offensive stops will be a hard to come by. The winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This game has all the fixings for a classic, and this is without question my Game of the Week in the NFL.