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NFL Week 15: Previews, predictions

This season we've asked Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones and readers to forecast the NFL results. To make your picks, go to tampabay.com/bucs:

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Panthers at Giants, 1

Line/OU: Panthers by 4; 48 Panthers clinch NFC postseason homefield advantage with win and Arizona loss or tie; or tie and Arizona loss. Panthers eighth team in Super Bowl era to start 13-0. Five advanced to Super Bowl and three won it. Cam Newton has thrown 17 TDs and two INTs in past six games. Jonathan Stewart is third in NFL with 989 yards rushing but is out (foot). Ted Ginn has seven catches for 200 yards and four TDs over past two games. Carolina leads NFL with 21 INTs and 33 takeaways. Giants have matched win total from last season. Odell Beckham shoots for seventh straight 100-yard game receiving. He has 43 catches for 796 yards and eight TDs in past six. His 12 TDs match total from last season.

JONES: Panthers 28, Giants 27 READERS: Panthers 62.1 percent

Bears at Vikings, 1

Line/OU: Vikings by 5½; 43 Vikings have won three in row at home against Bears. Home team has won 22 of past 27 meetings between NFC North rivals. In six career games vs. Vikings, Bears' Alshon Jeffery has 39 catches for 602 yards and five TDs. Jay Cutler has only four INTs in past nine games and is carrying career-best 1.8 INT per attempt percentage. With three games to go, Vikings' Adrian Peterson (1,251) trails Bucs' Doug Martin by 54 yards for NFL rushing lead, though Martin has played one more game. Teddy Bridgewater coming off career-high 335 yards passing. Injuries forced Vikings to start six rookies at Arizona last week, most in franchise history. TE Kyle Rudolph has been targeted 28 times for 22 receptions and 239 yards over past four games.

JONES: Vikings 19, Bears 16 READERS: Vikings 89.7 percent

Bills at Redskins, 1

Line/OU: Bills by 2; 44 Redskins attempting to win consecutive games for first time this season. Bills' Tyrod Taylor has 100.9 passer rating; Hall of Famer Jim Kelly is only Buffalo player to finish any season above 100 (101.2 in 1990). LeSean McCoy averaging 90 yards rushing per game over past seven. Sammy Watkins has at least 80 yards receiving and TD in each of past three games. In past six home games, Redskins' Kirk Cousins has thrown for 11 TDs and zero INTs, 118.1 passer rating, and run for three scores. He's first Redskins QB with TD pass in 13 consecutive games since Sonny Jurgensen in 1967; only other NFL players to do it this season: Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Blake Bortles. DeSean Jackson has TD catch in each of past two home games. TE Jordan Reed has established himself as Cousins' favorite target, especially in red zone, with six TDs in past seven games.

JONES: Redskins 17, Bills 14 READERS: Bills 51.7 percent

Falcons at Jaguars, 1

Line/OU: Jaguars by 3; 49½ Matchup of two of league's worst first-quarter teams, with Falcons scoring 37 in opening 15 minutes and Jaguars managing 35. Only San Francisco has scored fewer points (18) this season. Falcons have lost six in row and seven of eight. Must win at least two of final three to avoid becoming first team in history to finish with losing record after starting 5-0. Falcons haven't scored more than 21 in eight straight games. Jaguars scored most regular-season points (51) in franchise history last week. They're one game back in muddled AFC South. Jags will be without leading rusher T.J. Yeldon because of sprained left knee. Blake Bortles one of three second-year QBs to throw for at least 3,500 yards and 30 TDs through 13 games, joining Dan Marino (1984) and Kurt Warner (1999). Allen Hurns needs 137 yards receiving to give Jacksonville its first pair of 1,000-yard receivers since Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell in 2001.

JONES: Jaguars 21, Falcons 19 READERS: Jaguars 69 percent

Titans at Patriots, 1

Line/OU: Patriots by 14; 46½ Patriots have beaten Titans five straight. Titans interim head coach Mike Mularkey is 0-5 vs. Patriots and Bill Belichick. Titans QB Marcus Mariota became first NFL player this season to pass for TD, run for TD and catch TD pass. He's first to score TDs of at least 40 yards passing, rushing and receiving in same season since Walter Payton in 1983. He needs TD pass to become 10th rookie in NFL history with at least 20 TD passes. Pats going for sixth straight 12-win season and 10th overall. That would tie Broncos for third most in NFL history. QB Tom Brady is only offensive Patriot to start every game this season at same position. New England has four defensive starters who have done so: DLs Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones, DBs Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty. Pats have at least one sack in every game. They have not done so over an entire season since 1979.

JONES: Patriots 38, Titans 10 READERS: Patriots 100 percent

Texans at Colts, 1

Line/OU: Colts by 2; 41½ Game will break tie for AFC South lead and give winner inside track to division title. Both teams have lost two in row and both could be without starting QB. Texans' Brian Hoyer is going through concussion protocol and might be replaced by T.J. Yates. Colts QB Andrew Luck has missed four straight games (lacerated kidney, partially torn abdominal muscle) and has not yet been cleared to play. Backup Matt Hasselbeck will try to play with neck and rib injuries. Houston DE J.J. Watt needs 1½ sacks for third 15-sack season but will play second straight game with broken left hand. Texans have lost six straight in series and are 0-13 in Indianapolis. Colts RB Frank Gore needs 40 yards from scrimmage for 15,000 in career. In seven games against Texans, Colts' T.Y. Hilton has 40 catches, 749 yards and six TDs.

JONES: Colts 23, Texans 20 READERS: Colts 51.7 percent

Chiefs at Ravens, 1

Line/OU: Chiefs by 6½; 41 Chiefs own plus-12 turnover differential, second in NFL, compared to second-worst minus-12 for Ravens. KC is second team in NFL history to win seven straight after five-game losing streak (Cincinnati, 1970). In past six games, Chiefs RB Charcandrick West is averaging 95.7 yards from scrimmage. Jeremy Maclin has 24 catches for 323 yards and three TDs in past three games. Baltimore is already assured first losing season since John Harbaugh took over in 2008. Ravens have won each of their four games on final play. Baltimore starting QB will either be Matt Schaub, who was inactive last week with chest injury, or Jimmy Clausen, who threw for career-high 274 yards vs Seattle in first start with Baltimore.

JONES: Chiefs 20, Ravens 10 READERS: Chiefs 100 percent

Browns at Seahawks, 4

Line/OU: Seahawks by 15; 43 Browns playing first road game since Nov. 15 at Pittsburgh. QB Johnny Manziel makes second straight start coming off one of his best games. He threw for 270 yards, one TD and completed nearly 68 percent of passes vs. 49ers. Browns defense had season-high nine sacks last week, most by any team in league this season. Seahawks have won six of seven and outscored past two opponents 73-13. Russell Wilson has at least three TD passes and zero interceptions in four straight games, tied for longest streak in NFL history. He has posted 138.5 or higher passer rating in four straight games, only QB to do that since at least 1960. Running back is unsettled after Thomas Rawls was lost for season to broken ankle. Bryce Brown, Christine Michael or Derrick Coleman top candidates. Seahawks only team in NFL not to allow a 100-yard rusher this season.

JONES: Seahawks 35, Browns 17 READERS: Seahawks 96.6 percent

Packers at Raiders, 4

Line/OU: Packers by 3½; 48 Packers won past six meetings, including three straight by at least 30 points. Green Bay can clinch franchise-record seventh straight playoff berth with win. Packers have held four of past five opponents under 20 points. Raiders scored more than 20 in just one of past five. Green Bay had 44 rushes for 230 yards last week, its most attempts and yards in game since 2004. Eddie Lacy has rushed for at least 100 yards three times in past four games. LB Julius Peppers has seven sacks in three career games vs. Raiders. Oakland LB Khalil Mack had five sacks last week and nine in past three games. Derek Carr needs two TD passes to join Daryle Lamonica as only Raiders with 30 in season. Lamonica had 30 in 1967 and 34 in '69. Packers TE Richard Rodgers has five TDs in past six games; Raiders have allowed 11 TD passes to tight ends this season.

JONES: Packers 30, Raiders 27 READERS: Packers 79.3 percent

Broncos at Steelers, 4:25

Line/OU: Steelers by 6½; 45 Broncos have won four of past vs. Pittsburgh and haven't lost in Steel City since 1997. QB Brock Osweiler makes fifth start for Denver. Broncos 6-1 on road, tying franchise record for most road victories in one season. Denver's 44 sacks lead league; Steelers fifth with 38. Broncos allowing league-low 4.3 yards per play; Steelers averaging an NFL-best 6.4 yards per play. Broncos have scored in 370 consecutive games, second-longest streak in NFL history. Steelers have won nine straight games in December. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin is 90-51 during career. Steelers only NFL franchise with three coaches (Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, Tomlin) with at least 90 victories. Steelers have scored NFL-best 82 points in final two minutes of halves.

JONES: Broncos 26, Steelers 23 READERS: Steelers 79.3 percent

Dolphins at Chargers, 4:25

Line/OU: Chargers by 1; 46 This could be final NFL game at Qualcomm Stadium. Chargers chairman Dean Spanos wants to move to Los Angeles suburb Carson. Chargers have had only 12 winning seasons in 32 years of Spanos family ownership. Chargers began play in Los Angeles in 1960 before moving to San Diego in 1961. Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell is 4-5 since taking over for fired Joe Philbin. Chargers coach Mike McCoy is 22-25 in three seasons, including playoffs. Chargers have failed to score touchdown in each of their past two home games. Final home game for Chargers WR Malcom Floyd, who's retiring after season.

JONES: Chargers 31, Dolphins 16 READERS: Chargers 62.1 percent

Bengals at 49ers, 4:25

Line/OU: Bengals by 6; 40½ Cincinnati win clinches AFC North and fifth straight playoff berth. Bengals outscoring opponents 354-229 for 9.6 average per game and average score of 27.2 to 17.6. QB AJ McCarron makes first career start as Bengals lost Andy Dalton to broken right thumb in loss at Pittsburgh. McCarron came in and threw two TD passes but also had two interceptions, including a pick-six. TE Tyler Eifert likely out due to concussion sustained last week. Niners QB Blaine Gabbert took franchise record-matching nine sacks last week. LB NaVorro Bowman had 13 tackles for San Francisco in last meeting (Week 3, 2011). WR Anquan Boldin has 22 catches for 264 yards and four TDs in six career games vs. Bengals.

JONES: 49ers 20, Bengals 19 READERS: Bengals 86.2 percent

Cards at Eagles, 8:30

Line/OU: Cardinals by 3½; 51 Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has won 24 of past 28 starts. He has team-record 31 TD passes. RB David Johnson leads rookies with nine TDs. Larry Fitzgerald has catch in 183 consecutive games, including playoffs. He has 47 catches for 802 yards and 11 TDs in seven games vs. Philadelphia. Michael Floyd has 100 yards receiving in four of past five games. Cardinals 6-1 on road. Eagles QB Sam Bradford won last three starts vs. Cardinals while with Rams. Eagles are 6-2 in past eight games he has started and finished. RB Darren Sproles has TD in two straight games. TE Zach Ertz had two TDs vs. Arizona in 2013 when Eagles won 24-21. DE Fletcher Cox has 5 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in past five home games.

JONES: Cardinals 33, Eagles 23 READERS: Cardinals 82.8 percent

Lions at Saints, 8:30 Monday

Line/OU: Saints by 3; 51½ Matchup between two losing teams features coaches — Detroit's Jim Caldwell, New Orleans' Sean Payton — who faced each other in Super Bowl six seasons ago in Miami, when Caldwell coached Indianapolis and Payton won with Saints. Lions on two-game skid after having won three straight. Drew Brees has 93 career games with 300 yards passing, tied for most in NFL history. WR Marques Colston had two TDs last week vs. Bucs. DE Cameron Jordan has 16 sacks in past 21 games at home.

JONES: Saints 37, Lions 24 READERS: Saints 55.2 percent

Game text from Times wires

NFL Week 15: Previews, predictions 12/19/15 [Last modified: Saturday, December 19, 2015 9:36pm]
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