A look ahead to Week 15 in the NFL:
1. This is a week to test if the NFL has a problem with over exposure. Starting with Denver’s win at Indianapolis Thursday night, the NFL has four prime time games in five nights. The Chargers at the Chiefs Saturday night, the Cowboys at the Raiders Sunday night, and the Falcons at the Bucs Monday night. The problem is that only one of these four games featured two teams with winning records. That’s the Chargers at the Chiefs. The best game is Sunday at 4:25 p.m. when New England goes to Pittsburgh, but CBS protected the game so it couldn’t be switched to Sunday night. It will be interesting to see how the ratings go.
2. First place in the AFC West will be at stake when the 7-6 Chargers face the 7-6 Chiefs. The Chiefs won the first game 24-10 back in September when they were off to a 5-0 start and the Chargers were off to a 0-4 start. Their fortunes have changed since then when the Chargers going 7-2 and the Chiefs struggling at 2-6 although they beat the Raiders last week. Despite his recent struggles, Alex Smith is second in the NFL with a 104.4 passer rating although he will face pressure from Charger pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Philip Rivers has slightly more passing yards than Smith–3611 to 3507. Since the Chiefs play Miami and Denver in their last two games and the Chargers play the Jets and Oakland, the winner of this game will likely win the division and get the fourth seed in the AFC.
3. Steeler coach Mike Tomlin started talking about the game against the Patriots three weeks ago and called it the elephant in the room, suggesting the two teams will play again in the playoffs. The Steelers have a one game edge at 11-2 to the Patriots 10-3 after New England’s surprising loss to Miami last week. If the Patriots win their last three, they will get the top seed. Tom Brady has pretty much owned the Steelers, throwing 22 touchdown passes and zero picks in the last seven meetings while losing only one of them. Brady leads the league in passing yards but struggled against Miami, throwing two picks and going 0 for 11 on third down. But the Patriots are noted for bouncing back after a loss. If they don’t and Brady struggles again, there will be questions about whether he is wearing down late in the year. Last year, he only had to play 12 regular season games because of his Deflategate suspension and that may have helped him.
4. First place in the NFC West will be at stake when the 9-4 Rams play at 8-5 Seattle,but the game on Fox will be going head to head against the Steelers-Patriots on CBS so it’s likely to get little exposure. Seattle won the first game, 19-10, but it has lost Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the secondary so Jared Golf could have a big day. The Seattle offense is mostly Russell Wilson scrambling and throwing on the run. But the Seahawks are usually tough at home so this one should be close.
5, Aaron Rodgers returns from his injury with the 7-6 Packers trying to stay alive in the playoff race against 9-4 Carolina. The Panthers are tied with the Saints and one game ahead of the Falcons as all three teams fight for the NFC South title. Since New Orleans figures to win at home against the Jets and Atlanta is expected to win at Tampa Bay, Carolina can’t afford to let Rodgers beat them with a storybook return. But he figures to be rusty after a long layoff.