Entering Week 15, a whopping 25 teams are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot, which ties for the fourth-most teams remaining in contention with three weeks to play since the NFL instituted the 16-game schedule in 1978. Do all 25 teams really have a shot? Of course not.
In the AFC, the Patriots already have clinched the AFC East and would lock down a first-round bye with a over Tennessee win and Denver loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday. I expect both to happen. Cincinnati clinches the AFC North with a win or Steelers loss. I'm starting to get skeptical of the Bengals winning at San Francisco now; they are -6 (opened at -4). Not only does A.J. McCarron make his first career start at quarterback for Cincy, but star tight end Tyler Eifert won't play due to injury. Denver clinches the AFC West with a win and Kansas City loss in Baltimore.
Carolina already has the NFC South title wrapped again and clinches the top seed in the conference with a win at the NY Giants and Arizona loss at Philly. The Cardinals clinch the NFC West with a win or Seattle loss vs. Cleveland (not happening). The Cards clinch a first-round bye with a win and Green Bay loss in Oakland. The Packers clinch a playoff spot with a win. The NFC North is still up for grabs and the NFC East is a mess. The Seahawks and Vikings can both clinch playoff spots with wins and a lot of help.
Here are some line moves or potential game-changing injury notes for Week 15.
Dolphins at Chargers (-1.5, 46): This total has risen two points. This game means nothing to either side, but I want to address it because of what happened Thursday night in St. Louis. It was possibly the Rams' final game in the city and the players seemed to be motivated by that fact in dominating the Buccaneers. It's more likely the last game in San Diego for the Bolts on Sunday than it was for the Rams as St. Louis is working hard to get a new stadium and San Diego isn't really. So it might be wise to back the sorry Chargers here, especially with the disinterested Fins traveling across country on a short week. Plus the Dolphins' starting right tackle (Ja'Waun James) and right guard (Billy Turner) both might sit out due to injury. Ditto linebacker Jelani Jenkins. San Diego claimed former Dolphins lineman Jeff Linkenbach off waivers this week so that means Miami might have to change all its line calls and audibles now. Yeah, I'm talking myself more and more into San Diego here.
Texans at Colts (pick'em, 41): I had planned to preview this game here at Doc's this week but there was no line posted until Thursday evening because of the status of Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. The 40-year-old is totally banged up and only practiced in a limited fashion on Thursday. While Coach Chuck Pagano says he expects Hasselbeck to play, the QB wouldn't even go that far. Because this game is for sole possession of the AFC South lead, I'm guessing Hasselbeck will even though the guy can barely breathe heavily due to a rib injury. How confident would you feel with a creaky QB back there against J.J. Watt? Plus, in the past two weeks the Colts have managed just one offensive touchdown and have been blown out by a combined 70 points. Charlie Whitehurst will play if Hasselbeck can't. Suddenly, Houston backup T.J. Yates looks like Joe Montana in comparison.
Chiefs at Ravens (+7, 41): The side got as high as 9 at some books. This would worry me as a possible trap game for Kansas City if the Ravens had anyone healthy; they don't. It's still not clear if backup QB Matt Schaub will start here for Baltimore or if Jimmy Clausen goes for the second straight week. The Ravens may want to go with Clausen if they can, which I can't believe I just typed. Schaub has thrown four interceptions in two starts for the Ravens, and the Chiefs rank second in the NFL with 18 interceptions. Schaub has thrown a pick-six in his last three games, and the Chiefs have returned three picks for TDs this season. During the Chiefs' seven-game winning streak, Kansas City has picked off an NFL-best 14 passes. The Chiefs can become the first team in NFL history to win eight straight immediately following a losing streak of at least five. The 1970 Bengals won seven straight after a six-game skid and finished 8-6 and won their division. Bovada has a Week 15 special asking if the Chiefs will end the season on a 10-game winning streak. "Yes" is even money and "no" -140. I'm taking yes there. K.C. should win Sunday and then the next two at home vs. Cleveland and Oakland.
Falcons at Jaguars (-3, 49): You can find this at 2.5 at some books and obviously I'd go there if you are backing the Jags. However, two of their top offensive players are in question. Rookie running back T.J. Yeldon is dealing with a sprained MCL and almost surely won't play. That means former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson will start at tailback. The team is more confident on receiver Allen Hurns, who is dealing with a calf injury. If Atlanta's Dan Quinn wasn't a first-year coach, he might be on the hot seat with his team going 1-7 since a 5-0 start. Atlanta hasn't topped 21 points during those eight games. How can an offense with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones do that? Atlanta must win at least two of its final three to avoid becoming the first team in NFL history to finish with a losing record after starting 5-0. Bovada offers a special on whether GM Thomas Dimitroff will be fired after this season. Yes is a -500 favorite and no +300. He had some of his power stripped this past offseason, so I see no way he's back.
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