Sunday, December 17, 2017

NFL Week 15

Lions (4-9) at Cardinals (4-9)

4 p.m.

Lions by 6½, 43½

Not sure who plays quarterback for Arizona because … well … who cares? The Cardinals are what they are. The Lions are tougher to crack. Despite Matt Stafford throwing for 4,006 yards, even with a league-leading receiver in Calvin Johnson, above, and though their defense is capable, they have sputtered. Conventional wisdom says coach Jim Schwartz is safe, but falling to Arizona, a 58-0 loser last week, might change things.

Lions 27, Cardinals 17

Seahawks (8-5) vs. Bills (5-8)

4 p.m., Toronto

Seahawks by 5, 43

Too bad the Seahawks can't roll over a few of those 58 points they scored last week, sort of like how the Bucs roll over unspent salary cap space. Alas, they might not need them. If Seattle unleashes Marshawn Lynch, above, he could have a big day against the NFL's 28th-ranked rushing defense. Keep an eye on Seattle. With the 49ers at the Patriots today and at the Seahawks next week, the outcome in the NFC West is not nearly a done deal.

S'hawks 21, Bills 17

Panthers (4-9) at Chargers (5-8)

4 p.m.

Chargers by 3, 45

That was vintage Cam Newton in last week's upset of the Falcons. Newton became the first player to throw for 250 yards and a touchdown and run for 100 yards and a touchdown. Newton has been better of late, throwing seven touchdowns with no interceptions over his past three games. But the Chargers showed pride last week, going on the road and beating the Steelers in spite of their apparently lame duck coach and lost season.

Chargers 26, Panthers 24

Steelers (7-6) at Cowboys (7-6)

4:25 p.m., Ch. 10

Steelers by 1½, 44½

A key will be the Steelers' ability to get after Cowboys QB Tony Romo, above, and his sometimes unreliable line. Dallas has allowed 31 sacks, but the Steelers have recorded surprisingly few with 26 — just two more than the Bucs. Still, they have the league's top defense, and their ability to disrupt the passing game will, at a minimum, make it tough on hot Cowboys WR Dez Bryant. That's if his broken finger doesn't do it first.

Steelers 24, Cowboys 22

Chiefs (2-11) at Raiders (3-10)

4:25 p.m.

Raiders by 3, 43½

Someone out there actually wants to know more about this game (we think), so here it goes. Carson Palmer, obviously, isn't the long-term answer for the Raiders. But the quarterback is on the verge of reaching 4,000 yards for the third time in his career. And that's nothing to sneeze at. He faces an underrated defense today as well as this bit of history: The Chiefs are 8-1 over their past nine games at Oakland. For whatever that's worth.

Raiders 29, Chiefs 21

Jets (6-7) at Titans (4-9)

8:30 Monday, ESPN

Titans by 1½, 41½

What a disappointing season for the Titans. QB Jake Locker, above, has dealt with a shoulder injury in his first full season as a starter. And there has been little progress overall for the Titans. But they can win this one. Locker is strong at home — averaging 305.5 passing yards this season — and he has playmakers, such as RB Chris Johnson and WR Kenny Britt, the Jets would love. The big question is if the Jets will be motivated to finish the season strong.

Titans 23, Jets 21

49ers (9-3-1) at Patriots (10-3)

8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

Patriots by 6½, 46½

Not to give CB Aqib Talib, above, too much credit. But since the ex-Buc joined the Patriots, they're undefeated and playing exceptional defense. There's a relationship, to be sure. New England QB Tom Brady will have his hands full with a good defense, too, ranked No. 2 in the NFL and probably the most physical. DE Aldon Smith (191/2 sacks) will have a face-to-face with Brady at some point, but the three-time champ will outlast the Niners.

Patriots 26, 49ers 23

Packers (9-4) at Bears (8-5)

1 p.m.

Packers by 2½, 43

As much as the Packers have experienced a few hiccups this season, they've won a staggering 11 straight NFC North games. If that doesn't clarify who top dog of the division is, nothing does. You have to appreciate the job Aaron Rodgers, above, has done so far, throwing 29 touchdowns despite a revolving door of receivers — none near 1,000 yards. And now that veteran Greg Jennings is back, Rodgers can only be better.

Packers 24, Bears 20

Redskins (7-6) at Browns (5-8)

1 p.m.

Redskins by 1, 45

QB Robert Griffin III, above, will not start, the Redskins announced late Saturday. Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins, who led last week's comeback win, replaces him. Even if Griffin plays, he won't be his usual self due to his sprained right knee. The Browns have more going on than most realize, having won three straight. They have allowed 12.7 points per game in doing so in no small part because of linebacker and Seminole High grad D'Qwell Jackson.

Browns 17, Redskins 14

Vikings (7-6) at Rams (6-6-1)

1 p.m.

Rams by 2½, 38½

Adrian Peterson is not only leaving the NFL in a state of amazement, he's single-handedly keeping the Vikings' faint playoff hopes alive. He has ripped off seven consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Only four others have more than five 100-yard games this season. But none are coming off surgery for a torn left ACL and MCL, and none have done it in consecutive weeks. In those seven games, Peterson has 1,101 yards (157.3 per game).

Vikings 23, Rams 20

Broncos (10-3) at Ravens (9-4)

1 p.m., Ch. 10

Broncos by 3, 48

What a reversal of fortunes for these clubs. The Ravens started 5-1 but have sputtered to a 4-3 mark since. The Broncos opened 2-3 but have reeled off eight straight victories. There's something to be said for momentum. And in this game, it's, inarguably, on the Broncos' side. If this becomes a battle of Peyton Manning, above, against Joe Flacco, Manning wins in a landslide. He also has the superior defense, led by 16-sack LB Von Miller.

Broncos 30, Ravens 23

Colts (9-4) at Texans (11-2)

1 p.m.

Texans by 9½, 47½

Well, that 42-14 beat-down couldn't have been good for the Texans' confidence. Houston laid an egg at New England on Monday, and it better bounce back against the surging Colts. The difference could be turnovers. The Texans (plus-14 margin) thrive on them and don't commit many. For the Colts (minus-16), it's the opposite. Andrew Luck, above, has thrown nine interceptions over his past four games. DE J.J. Watt could force a few more.

Texans 31, Colts 24

Jaguars (2-11) at Dolphins (5-8)

1 p.m.

Dolphins by 7½, 37½

For what it's worth, QB Chad Henne returns to Miami, where he had an undistinguished run as the starter. But he can't play defense. And that's where the Jags — whose 394.5 yards per game allowed are fewer than only the Bucs — need help most. Miami's Ryan Tannehill, above, has been less consistent than the other rookie quarterbacks. But he has more talent at his disposal. WR Brian Hartline, is 75 shy of his first 1,000-yard season.

Dolphins 23, Jaguars 21

Giants (8-5) at Falcons (11-2)

1 p.m.

Falcons by 1½, 50½

That loss last week at Carolina did little to abate the argument that the Falcons will be imminently beatable in January. As for the rest of December, Atlanta better finish strong if it intends to earn the NFC's top playoff seed. But if history repeats itself, the Giants' will to win at this time of year will be stronger. That's a bold prediction given the 32-4 home record of Atlanta QB Matt Ryan, but the Giants are in dogfight in the NFC East.

Giants 27, Falcons 24

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Warren Sapp pointed to the sky. And then he dropped Kurt Warner to the ground.The Bucs had just intercepted Warner for the fourth time. Sapp’s block cleared the way for Derrick Brooks to cross the goal line and clinch the win.Before Tampa Bay p...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Published: 12/16/17
Updated: 12/17/17

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Lightning-Avalanche

Could tell just how much Ryan Callahan meant in the Lightning dressing room by hearing teammates talk about his latest injury. Steven Stamkos said he was "sick to my stomach." Brayden Point called him a "heart and soul player." Teammates all saw how ...
Published: 12/16/17
Lightning journal: No easy answers on replacing injured Ryan Callahan

Lightning journal: No easy answers on replacing injured Ryan Callahan

The good news for the Lightning is that GM Steve Yzerman is hopeful RW Ryan Callahan will be ready to go in 3-4 weeks when his upper body injury is re-evaluated. The hard part, however, is finding someone to replace the veteran wing. "I don’t know if...
Published: 12/16/17
Melo cheered, then booed as Knicks spoil his return

Melo cheered, then booed as Knicks spoil his return

NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony got the cheers but the Knicks got the win, shutting out their former All-Star in the second half and beating the Thunder 111-96 Saturday night for their fourth straight victory. Michael Beasley tied his season high with 30 ...
Published: 12/16/17
Rangers stay hot against a favorite opponent, the Bruins

Rangers stay hot against a favorite opponent, the Bruins

BOSTON — Mats Zuccarello scored a power-play goal 1:56 into overtime to lift the Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Saturday. Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller also scored for the Rangers, who won for the ninth time in 13 games (9-3-1) overall...
Published: 12/16/17

Sports in brief

MLBTRADE SENDS KEMP BACK TO L.A.OF Matt Kemp was reacquired by the Dodgers on Saturday as part of a five-player trade with the Braves. The Dodgers sent 1B Adrian Gonzalez, LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Brandon McCarthy, INF Charlie Culberson and cash to Atla...
Published: 12/16/17
Mistakes doom Ducks in new coach’s debut

Mistakes doom Ducks in new coach’s debut

LAS VEGAS — Cedrick Wilson caught 10 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown, safety Kekaula Kaniho returned an interception 53 yards for a score and No. 25 Boise State beat Oregon 38-28 in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday. Brett Rypien threw for 362 yard...
Published: 12/16/17

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Published: 12/16/17

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballWomen: Florida State at Texas12:30 p.m.FS1Women: Georgia Tech at Georgia1 p.m.SECStony Brook at Providence2:30 p.m.FS1North Carolina at Tennessee3 p.m.ESPNSavannah State at Baylor3 p.m.Fox SunWomen: USF at Florida International...
Published: 12/16/17