Do or die Sunday: Week 15 NFL preview (for real this time).

A quick note before I get into this post. My last post was titled in part “Week 15 NFL preview”. Well, last week was only week 14. This will be my week 15 NFL preview. However, I’ll start with brief thoughts on the college football playoff. In short, the much maligned committee got the 4 teams right. Oregon vs. FSU and Ohio State vs. Alabama are very attractive semifinal games. I will preview them as they get closer. They are still almost a month away. Moving to the pros, there are only 3 weeks left in the regular season. It’s do or die this week for many teams when it comes to the playoffs.

Bengals (8-4-1) at Browns (7-6)- This is a huge game for both teams in the wicked tight AFC north, though the Browns’ chances at a wildcard are much more realistic than winning the division. The Bengals’ early season tie with Carolina is holding off the surging Steelers (who drubbed Cincy last week) and Ravens for now. However, we all know what the big story is here. The long awaited debut of Johnny Manziel as an NFL starting QB. He replaces the struggling Brian Hoyer as Cleveland tries to save their season and get back to the playoffs for the first time in 10+ years. I expect Johnny football to make a few big plays, both good and bad. I feel that reports of the Bengals’ demise have been overblown. They were just overmatched last week. Cleveland doesn’t have anywhere near the offensive weapons that Pittsburgh does. So, they should be fine here. Cin 24 Cle 13

Steelers (8-5) at Falcons (5-8)-This is the toughest pick of the year for me. You all know I been high on the Steelers all year. They have what I consider to be the 2nd best offense in the league, behind Green Bay. Le’veon Bell is making the running back position cool again. However, the secondary is a major issue. They gave up 200+ yards to A.J. Green alone last week. This is not ideal when playing Atlanta, who despite their 5-8 record is leading the subpar NFC South. They aren’t playing like a 5-8 team either. They were a few bounces of the ball away from winning a pass filled shootout in Green Bay last week. They can and will score on anyone. They may be without top receiver Julio Jones, which may save the Steelers secondary. Expect their remaining game with the Saints to be the decider in the NFC South. Steelers in a shootout here. Pit 41 Atl 38

Cowboys (9-4) at Eagles (9-4)-The NFC East crown is likely on the line here. Philly holds the tiebreaker by virtue of their Thanksgiving Day win in Dallas. Dallas is undefeated on the road this year. RB Demarco Murray has an outside shot at 2,000 yards this year and has spearheaded a very solid Cowboys attack all season. Philly’s fast paced offense gave Dallas fits on Turkey Day and there were wide open running lanes for Lesean McCoy. I expect Dallas to correct these issues. Also, I just can’t get how bad the Eagles looked last week vs. Seattle out of my head. Dallas finally wins a big game in December and takes control of the NFC East. Dal 24 Phi 21

49ers (7-6) at Seahawks (9-4)-After a disaster last week in Oakland, the 49ers need a miracle to reach the playoffs. They aren’t doing anything well and the future of head coach Jim Harbaugh is getting murkier by the minute. They shouldn’t expect any sympathy from division rival Seattle who needs this game to keep pace with division leading 11-3 Arizona who keep making me look stupid by winning with backups and third stringers. Seattle needs it more and is just better. I expect the 49ers to fight like hell and die on their sword though. Sea 16 SFO 10.

Also of note this week, the Broncos can wrap up their 4th straight AFC West crown with a win in San Diego, who is also fighting for their playoff lives. Have a great football Sunday everyone. Hoping to get back to a normal posting schedule next week.

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