Giants next stop on Panthers’ run

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Unlike the past few Thursdays, Week 15 offers up a dud to start us off, but does make up for it with a Saturday night matchup carrying playoff implications. That’s where this week’s top 10 matchups begin. Once again, the Monday night game, Detroit at New Orleans, fails to make the cut:

Pro Football – Saturday

N.Y. Jets at Dallas Cowboys: Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown nine touchdowns without an interception during New York’s three-game winning streak and has made plays with his feet as well, but this Cowboys defense will be the best he’s seen since the Jets lost at Houston on Nov. 22. Dallas brings up the rear in the NFC East and can’t afford another loss. Matt Cassel has thrown one TD pass in his last four starts. The “under” is 7-3 in the last 10 Cowboys games.

Pro Football – Sunday

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: The Vikes are 4-2 at home but have dropped consecutive games there. The Bears are actually 4-2 on the road and have won their last three in opposing stadiums, counting conquests at Arrowhead and Lambeau Field among their victories. Minnesota won the first meeting, 23-20, on Nov. 1 on a last-second field goal from Blair Walsh. Defensive standouts Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr and Linval Joseph all missed the Arizona loss, so monitor their availability here.

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts: The AFC South could be decided here. The Texans and Colts enter 6-7, one game ahead of the Jaguars, so the winner takes control of the race. Andrew Luck (kidney) may wind up being available, but it will be up to doctors to clear him and the Colts weren’t optimistic he’d be available as of Monday. Matt Hasselbeck left Sunday’s 51-16 loss at Jacksonville with a rib injury. Charlie Whitehurst would start if both are unavailable. Houston hasn’t defeated Indianapolis since 2012, a span of six games.

Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens: Kansas City is working on a seven-game winning streak and hasn’t lost since Oct. 18. Despite the absence of top pass-rusher Justin Houston, who may return from a knee injury, the Chiefs held the Chargers to just three points on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Baltimore was destroyed, 35-6, by the Seahawks at home as Matt Schaub missed the game due to a chest injury, forcing Jimmy Clausen into action. Baltimore hasn’t dropped five home games since 1997.

Buffalo Bills at Washington Redskins: Kirk Cousins played well in Chicago as the ’Skins finally won a road game on their sixth try, but they’re now back home for a date with the disappointed Bills, who fell just short in Philadelphia to put their playoff hopes on life support. Buffalo missed top corner Stephon Gilmore, whose availability here is also in question. Washington lost to Dallas at FedEx field in its last home game but is still 5-2 as it plays for the final time in the regular season.

Carolina Panthers at N.Y. Giants: Coming off Monday night’s trip to Miami, New York must quickly turn the page and prepare to stop a Panthers offense that ranks second in the league in rushing but has found ways to make big plays through the air of late. With Josh Norman emerging as one of the top corners in the league this season, it’s going to be a blast to watch his one-on-one matchup with Odell Beckham Jr. The Panthers beat the Giants in Charlotte, 38-0, in 2013 but haven’t beaten them in East Rutherford since a 23-0 playoff win in 2005.

Green Bay Packers at Oakland Raiders: Aaron Rodgers returns to the Bay area for the second time this season, having defeated the 49ers 24-10 in Week 4. After a rocky spot that saw them lose four of five games outright, the Packers have won consecutive games and come off their most lopsided win of the season, a 28-7 victory over Dallas. Oakland is basically playing spoiler despite not being mathematically eliminated from a playoff spot and handled the role well in a 15-12 upset in Denver on Sunday.

Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers: There’s no way Denver is going to be able to hang with Pittsburgh’s offense on the road unless they get it together, so it will be interesting to see if they turn to Peyton Manning again since it’s likely he’ll return to practice this season. The Steelers have won four of five and have averaged 35.2 points in that span, which is scary since Ben Roethlisberger didn’t even throw a TD pass in the 33-20 win over Cincinnati. This will be a matchup between two of the best corners in the NFL against an elite receiving corps.

Cincinnati Bengals at San Francisco 49ers: A.J. McCarron will attempt to become the first Alabama quarterback to win an NFL game since Jeff Rutledge in 1987 as he takes over for Andy Dalton, who broke his thumb making a tackle after an interception and won’t return this regular season. The Bengals may have to go without tight end Tyler Eifert (concussion) and saw linebacker Vontaze Burfict and safety George Iloka each get banged up and leave Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, joining CB Adam Jones among injured defenders. The Bengals are just 3-9 lifetime against San Francisco and were defeated by the 49ers in Super Bowl XVI and XXIII. They’ve only beaten the 49ers once on the road, way back in 1974.

Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles: The Sunday night game is arguably the best matchup of the entire week. This battle of birds features two playoff hopefuls as the Eagles look to win three straight for the first time all season. After winning an emotional encounter over Buffalo following an upset at New England, Philadelphia is making a late push at avoiding being the season’s biggest underachiever. They’ll run into MVP candidate Carson Palmer, who has thrown 32 touchdown passes and hasn’t been intercepted since Nov. 22. He’s getting plenty of help from rookie RB David Johnson, who has run for 191 yards over the last two games since being pressed into duty as the starter.

Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Email: [email protected].

About the Author
Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national writer for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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