By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
Week 15 of the NFL season is here, and with the expanded playoff format, there are still plenty of key matchups up and down the schedule.
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On to this week’s picks:
♦ TAMPA BAY @ ATLANTA: Tom Brady and the Bucs have a lot to play for this week. They can pull to within a game of NFC South leader New Orleans if they get by the Falcons and the Saints fall to Kansas City. More importantly, Tampa would be one step closer to earning their first postseason appearance since the 2007 season. At this point, the Falcons are simply playing the role of spoiler. Pick: BUCCANEERS
♦ SAN FRANCISCO @ DALLAS: Remember when Cowboys-49ers games were huge deals? Unbelievably, the 2020 Cowboys and 49ers – with 4-9 and 5-8 records, respectively – are still mathematically in the playoff hunt. That should change on Sunday, with the loser likely having their playoff hopes squelched. The Cowboys easily blew past the Bengals last week. Just a hunch, but I think they’ll make it two in a row. Pick: COWBOYS
♦ NEW ENGLAND @ MIAMI: I was wrong. At the start of the 2020 season, I predicted that Bill Belichick would still find a way to keep the Patriots at the top of the AFC East. Instead, in the AFC Playoff race, New England is on the outside looking in and have no shot the division title. Miami, meanwhile, is on the fringe of securing a possible postseason berth. Expect the Dolphins to use the formula that has worked for them all season – an opportunistic defense plus mistake-free offense – to take care of business here. Pick: DOLPHINS
♦ CHICAGO @ MINNESOTA: As of this writing, the Vikings and Bears are each 6-7 and remain in the hunt for a playoff spot. That means that this game will be huge for both teams. Minnesota has the league’s No. 2-leading rusher in Dalvin Cook, but Chicago’s rushing defense is stout. This may come down to how Bears QB Mitch Trubisky plays. He’s been playing well since returning to the starting lineup. Pick: BEARS
♦ PHILADELPHIA @ ARIZONA: If the season ended today, Arizona would be in the playoffs. The Cardinals control their own destiny. Win out, and they’re in. To do that, however, they really need to let Kyler Murray play like, well, Kyler Murray. Lately, the Cards have been relatively conservative with their play calling. It’s time to fully unleash their top weapon. Meanwhile, Philadelphia continues to audition Jalen Hurts as the team’s next franchise QB. Pick: CARDINALS
♦ KANSAS CITY @ NEW ORLEANS: Could this be a preview of Super Bowl LV? It’s definitely a possibility. Drew Brees has returned to the Saints’ practices but is unlikely to play on Sunday. The Saints have the NFL’s No. 2-ranked defense in terms of yards allowed, but no one is playing as well as the Chiefs are. As a Raiders fan, I really hate to say this, but KC looks almost unstoppable right now. They’re peaking at the perfect time. Pick: CHIEFS
Last Week: 5-1
Season to Date: 54-30 (.643)
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