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- Week 15 Predictions: Are the Browns Ready for Postseason Play?

Chris Pokorny December 15, 2007
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

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Week 15 kicked off with one of many games involving a wildcard race this weekend as the Houston Texans knocked off the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football. The Broncos haven't been able to win on the road consistently, and with the exception of Brandon Marshall, they struggled to find a playmaker on offense to combat the likes of Mario Williams. The Texans will now look on to the rest of the games this week, particularly the Cleveland Browns vs. the Buffalo Bills, to see if they'll still be mathematically alive heading into Week 16.

Before I get to my Week 15 picks, let's take a look at the current playoff seedings, including the results from Thursday's game (parenthetical number represents ranking from last week):

1. New England Patriots (1)
2. Indianapolis Colts (2)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (3)
4. San Diego Chargers (4)
5. Jacksonville Jaguars (5)
6. Cleveland Browns (6)
7. Buffalo Bills (8)
8. Tennessee Titans (7)
9. Houston Texans (9)

With the Pittsburgh Steelers losing to the New England Patriots last week, they can forget about getting a first-round bye. At this point, they need to worry about whether or not they are still even going to win the division. With the Chargers having the same conference record too, the Steelers could find themselves slipping down to the fourth seed soon. The wildcard scene was narrowed down tremendously, as the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, and Denver Broncos were all eliminated. If the Cleveland Browns can take out the Buffalo Bills this weekend, they'll pretty much be a lock. Otherwise, the Bills will hold control if they win out. The Texans have an outside shot, but still have a shot nonetheless.

1. Dallas Cowboys (1)
2. Green Bay Packers (2)
3. Seattle Seahawks (3)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)
5. New York Giants (5)
6. Minnesota Vikings (8)
7. New Orleans Saints (11)
8. Washington Redskins (9)
9. Arizona Cardinals (6)
10. Detroit Lions (7)
11. Carolina Panthers (10)
12. Chicago Bears (13)
13. Philadelphia Eagles (12)

The Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams, and San Francisco 49ers have all right out of time, as their 3-10 records have eliminated them from postseason contention, even in the dreaded NFC. The Minnesota Vikings are in position to seize control of the final wildcard spot, as they take on the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins in the next two weeks. As much as the Saints have seemed out of it, don't count them out just yet. They are a win and a Vikings loss away from grabbing the sixth seed.

With the playoff scenarios in the books, let's take a look at the Saturday night game, followed by this week's games of the week...


Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Francisco 49ers. In one of the few games that isn't calling for bad weather in Week 15, two teams out of the postseason race will go head to head on the first Saturday night game of the season. Besides home team fans, the only people that may be interested in this game are the fans in Cleveland, considering they'll be facing these teams in Week 16 and Week 17, respectively. The Bengals have started to establish the ground game with Rudi Johnson the past couple of weeks. Although he hasn't broken the 100-yard mark during that stretch, with the same offensive mentality, he could reach that goal against the 49ers' defense. San Francisco will put up a moderate fight up until a little after halftime, when the Bengals will be able to run away with it. Bengals 24, 49ers 13.



Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. What is wrong with the offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers? Ben Roethlisberger and company are only averaging 14 points per game in their last. On top of that, Roethlisberger missed two practices this week with a right shoulder injury. He did practice on Friday though, and head coach Mike Tomlin is reporting that everything will be fine on gameday. That mean be fine and dandy for a typical game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but not against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a postseason berth on the line. The Steelers are pretty much a lock to make the postseason, but a loss this week could put them in a tie for the division lead for the first time this season with the Cleveland Browns. For the Steelers' sake, they do get to play this game at home, where they are considerably better (7-0) than they are on the road (2-4).

You get the feeling that the Jaguars just know how to win football games, as long as they aren't pitted up against the Indianapolis Colts. David Garrard continued his effectiveness last week against the Carolina Panthers, as he still only has one interception this season. Jacksonville's duo of Maurice-Jones Drew and Fred Taylor is built to survive on the road against the Steelers. While Pittsburgh bears down on the run very well, having to adjust to the styles of each running back throughout the game could eventually create the right opportunity for Drew or Taylor to burst through for a big run as they are so accustomed to doing. The Steelers have been able to put teams away early at home this season, but with the way their offense is struggling I can't see them getting off to a quick start against the Jaguars' smothering defense. After a hard-fought game, Jacksonville pulls one out on the road. Jaguars 13, Steelers 10


Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns. Let it snow, let it snow. This game not only has the most significant implications of the week (since both teams have something big to fight for), snow and high winds are in the forecast in what could be the season's first snow bowl. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather see teams play in the snow than I would in the rain. The Browns currently control the sixth seed in the AFC, and a lot of that has to do with their home record since quarterback Derek Anderson took over in Week 2. Last week against the New York Jets, the Browns overcame some of their road deficiencies with early solid play from their defense and the "young" legs of Jamal Lewis. That will be the key again this week for the Browns, especially in the snow -- the legs of Lewis.

The game-management skills of Trent Edwards remain impressive, but this is a game where he can't rely solely on preventing turnovers -- he needs to score early and often. The Bills have only scored more than 19 points three times this season. In all three instances in which that occurred -- against Dallas, Cincinnati, and Miami -- the games were at home for Buffalo. The Browns' defense has gotten a little better, but when Buffalo scores 3, 7, 13, 13, 14, and 17 points on the road, there is no way they'll be able to match the 26 points per game the Browns are averaging. Buffalo's defense may be "good", but the Browns are scoring that many points against the Steelers, Ravens, Seahawks, and any defense that is thrown their way. Browns 28, Bills 17


Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants. After Todd Collins' breakout performance last week against the Chicago Bears, there seems to be a renewed faith in Washington that the Redskins can still make the postseason. In reality, they potentially control their own destiny. If they win this week against the Giants, then the following week they'll probably be playing for the NFC's sixth seed against the Minnesota Vikings. With the thoughts of Sean Taylor still in the back of their minds, the team should be more mentally adjusted now to where they can focus on football again. The problem I see though is the faith in Collins against the New York Giants' defense this week.

The number of sacks and interceptions might not be as flashy for the Giants in the past couple of weeks, but their ability to keep their struggling offense in the game has paid dividends. It worked two weeks ago against the Chicago Bears, and it worked last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. After an early touchdown in the first quarter, the Giants' defense held the Eagles to just six points the rest of the way. The Giants need to find a way to get back to a point where they are in control of a game early on. While that could start with better play from Eli Manning, I'd prefer to see someone in the running game, like Brandon Jacobs, break through the same way that Tiki Barber could carry this team last season. I can't decide whether or not that'll happen this Sunday, but either way, the Giants will squeak out a victory because Collins is inevitably a backup quarterback still. Giants 21, Redskins 16


Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints. I thought the Saints were buried after their 0-4 start. I thought they were buried after they lost Deuce McAllister. I thought they were buried because cornerback Jason David was getting beat every other play. I thought they were buried after they lost Reggie Bush for [possibly] the season. And yet, Drew Brees continues to have this team fighting week in and week out. Despite their crushing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two weeks ago, the Saints have another chance at establishing themselves firmly in the wildcard race. As long as the Saints keep winning, one loss by the Vikings is all they would need to leap ahead of them in the standings.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals need to get back on track, which is a difficult thing to do at this point. After the injuries to their secondary the past couple of weeks, they've had trouble stopping opposing teams from scoring. On top of that, Kurt Warner has had to go without either Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin the past couple of weeks. When he needs to battle in a shootout, he can't afford to be missing either of those guys, as seen with his five interceptions last week against the Seattle Seahawks. Boldin looks like he may return this week, but without him in the best of shape, the Saints will have the edge scoring wise in a shootout. Saints 34, Cardinals 27


Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers. The Carolina Panthers lack a burst on offense. They have Steve Smith, but surely by now everyone has seen that he's been a non-factor since Jake Delhomme went on the injured reserve. There are spurts in first halves in which they can establish the running game, but more times than not the drives just end up resulting in punts. Eventually, when the Panthers' defense has given it all they've got, the opposing team is able to mow them over. That'll probably be the way the game goes again this week as the red-hot Matt Hasselbeck comes in to Carolina. If the Seahawks build up a sizable lead early, this would be the perfect week to try and get Shaun Alexander back into the flow of a game. Look for Alexander to get some late touches and possibly end up plunging for a touchdown or two. Seahawks 24, Panthers 10

Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs. Last week, the Titans lost with Albert Haynesworth in the lineup. He's still not in tip-top shape, but the Titans' defense isn't the reason they lost the game. Vince Young's failure to take over a game continues to present itself as a weekly problem, and unless the Titans can find a way to fix that, there chances of making the postseason are slim. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are only averaging 11 points over their past five weeks. For at least one week, that will get the Titans' offense a mulligan, and perhaps an opportunity to take more risks knowing that they should be able to stop the Chiefs. On the same note, the Titans can't let this become a trap game. With a Browns win and a Titans loss, they won't have to worry about the rest of the season -- they'll already be out of it. Titans 20, Chiefs 10

Baltimore Ravens vs. Miami Dolphins. When I saw how pathetic the Dolphins played against the Jets and the Bills the past two weeks, I officially decided that I would refuse to pick them to win again this season. The Ravens are finally past their three-game stretch of the Chargers, Patriots, and Colts. They may be worn down or fired up about that, but either way, there's nothing stopping them from pulling out a win against a team that'd be an embarrassment in college football. Ravens 24, Dolphins 10

New York Jets vs. New England Patriots. Why didn't I list this as a game of the week? Although there is a lot of hype surrounding the game, this shouldn't be a good game. Who wants to see the Patriots, besides Patriots fans, slaughter the Jets through four quarters? It might be fun after a couple of series, but not after three hours. Weather could play a factor in the game, but I doubt it'll make a difference. In terms of the Jets being fired up to play, that can only get you so far. The Patriots are clearly one of the best teams in history, and no matter what the Jets do here, they'll only be an asterisk in the Patriots' historic season. Patriots 45, Jets 6

Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams. At least the Rams will be given a fighting chance again this Sunday with quarterback Marc Bulger returning from injury to the starting lineup. While the Packers have been tearing through the opposition most of the season, this is the type of game where you sense that a trap might be set. Bulger, since the Rams ended their losing streak, hasn't had many issues getting the ball to Torry Holy and Isaac Bruce. Meanwhile, Steven Jackson has been solid in the running game when the passing game is potent. The Packers' offense never stops going though, and although I think they may find themselves behind in this game, Brett Favre will recapture the lead in the fourth quarter as the Packers are forced to go through the air rather than the ground. Packers 31, Rams 27

Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As much as Bobby Petrino may have seemed like a fine hiring at the start of the season, nobody should be sorry to see him go. The Falcons were a disaster all around this season, and it started with Petrino's inability to settle on a starting quarterback. Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, and Chris Redman? How fun has that trio been to watch this season? Jeff Garcia is set to return for the Buccaneers this week, and the gameplan should be to limit the amount of poundings he has to take. I expect the Buccaneers' defense to rebound after last week's disappointing effort against the Texans, while the offense puts up enough points to allow Garcia to rest in the second half. Buccaneers 28, Falcons 13

Indianapolis Colts vs. Oakland Raiders. Although this game shouldn't be a competitive matchup, there are some interesting things to watch here. Peyton Manning is always a pleasure to see, and after throwing eight touchdowns in his past two games, he'll be looking to stay on fire. Defensively, the Colts will be missing several of their starters though, and quarterback JaMarcus Russell is expected to see some playing time. Will Russell provide a nice little spark at some point? Manning is already a great quarterback, and Russell could be one in the makings -- seeing both of them go head to head at some point in the game could be a sight to see, regardless of the outcome. Colts 33, Raiders 14

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys. Much like I stated earlier that I've given up on the Miami Dolphins, I've pretty much given up on Donovan McNabb. The Eagles need a new starting quarterback next season, and that could be rookie Kevin Kolb. Terrell Owens is probably already over the fact that he used to play for the Eagles, because without Philadelphia in contention, all Owens is worried about is the postseason. When it comes to trap games, the Cowboys have shown that they are well prepared to battle through the difficult times. They did it once against the Bills earlier this season, and then they did it again last week against the Lions. Without a trap here, Tony Romo and company will roll. Cowboys 30, Eagles 21

Detroit Lions vs. San Diego Chargers. After all of the backlash Norv Turner was about to face earlier this season, the pressure has been subdued considering the team's current 8-5 record and soon-to-be playoff berth. The Chargers will be without Shawne Merriman against Jon Kitna and the Lions, and while that shouldn't stop the pressure from getting to Kitna, it'll create less opportunities to make a defensive stop. The Lions know they have nothing to lose again, and are ready to play offensive football the same way they did last week. This week will probably involve a little more passing and a little less running, but there is no reason they shouldn't be in it until the end. The Chargers, behind LaDainian Tomlinson, will be too tough to stay pace with though on the road. Chargers 28, Lions 23


Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings. Is that Kyle Orton ready to suit up this Monday against the Vikings? Indeed it is. While I complained about the Falcons' situation earlier, I'm fine with the Bears going to Orton at this point (though I was against them not getting a new quarterback prior to the season starting). Reports indicate that the playbook will be wide open for Orton. That could create for some excitement, or it could turn into disaster. The Vikings' defense will stop Chicago's running game all day long, and Orton never proved to be a "light 'em up" quarterback. With Chicago's defense still too depleted to dominate the opposition, Minnesota will use the same formula they have the past several weeks en route to victory. Vikings 27, Bears 17


Last week, I took the Green Bay Packers to roll over the Oakland Raiders, and they did so quite easily. With the Dallas Cowboys still available to use, I'm actually passing on them this week to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While I'm taking a leap of faith in the fact that Jeff Garcia is ok, I don't see the Falcons being able to rally against the Buccaneers' defense regardless of what happens.

Predictions Record to Date: 138-71 (My loss column only increased by one last week.)
This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 15-1 (Fifteen weeks? Outstanding.)
Survivor Streak: Won 5 (Min over Atl, Den over Oak, Car over Atl, [NYJ over Buf], Ari over StL, Cle over Mia, Cin over NYJ, NYG over Mia, [SD over Min], Sea over SF, Ind over KC, Pit over Mia, NE over Bal, and GB over OAK.)
Survivor Record: 12-2

Who will prevail in the snow bowl in Cleveland? Will the Steelers find their offense? Will the Vikings maintain their sixth seed? All of these questions will be answered in another exciting week of football.

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