Week 15 NFL schedule: How Patriots 'D' attacks Steelers, Rodgers' return and more
Here’s the schedule for Week 15, along with 10 things that intrigue me:
Bengals at Vikings, 1 p.m. ET on CBS (GameTracker)
Jets at Saints, 1 p.m. ET on CBS (GameTracker)
Dolphins at Bills, 1 p.m. ET on CBS (GameTracker)
Ravens at Browns, 1 p.m. ET on CBS (GameTracker)
Packers at Panthers, 1 p.m. ET on FOX (GameTracker)
Eagles at Giants, 1 p.m. ET on FOX (GameTracker)
Texans at Jaguars, 1 p.m. ET on FOX (GameTracker)
Cardinals at Redskins, 1 p.m. ET on FOX (GameTracker)
Rams at Seahawks, 4:05 p.m. ET on FOX (GameTracker)
Patriots at Steelers, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS (GameTracker)
Titans at 49ers, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS (GameTracker)
Cowboys at Raiders, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC (GameTracker)
Who will the Patriots focus on taking away in the Steelers’ offense?
The idea has always been that Bill Belichick focuses on taking away one player from the opposition’s offense. He supposedly did it to beat the Rams in the Super Bowl when he took away Marshall Faulk. But the reality is that Belichick’s plans are usually aimed at limiting the big play. Look at what he did to the K-Gun offense when the Giants beat the Bills in the Super Bowl XXV and he was the defensive coordinator. The whole defensive approach was to keep everything in front and make them drive the ball.
I would imagine that’s what he will try to do to Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. They’ve had some success against the Patriots in their careers, but Brown had seven catches for 77 yards and no scores in last January’s AFC title game when Bell went out in the second quarter with a groin injury. Bell had 149 yards of total offense in the regular-season game between the two last year, but his long run was 12 yards and his longest reception was 22 yards of his 10 catches. So don’t expect the focus to be on one or the other, but rather keeping them in front of the defense.
Will Patriots quarterback Tom Brady bounce back?
The narrative we hear after Brady has a bad game is amazing. The knee-jerk reactionaries immediately want to say it’s the beginning of the end. At 40, it’s easy to do that. But he’s far from done. In fact, he’s the league MVP right now. I expect him to have a big day against the Steelers’ secondary this week. He has Rob Gronkowski back, and that matters. He will be fine.
Done? Talk to me at 7:30 Sunday night.
What can the Packers expect from Aaron Rodgers?
I would expect to see the same Aaron Rodgers in his first game back after suffering a broken collarbone in Week 6, or they wouldn’t be putting him out in harm’s way. The word is Rodgers has been impressive in the team’s practices, and he should be ready to fire his rifle-shot passes against the Panthers. Carolina does have a fierce pass rush, so it will be interesting to see how Rodgers responds after taking a shot on his right side. It’s his right collarbone that was injured, his throwing-arm side. That’s always a concern.
Can the Chargers beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead and stay hot?
After starting 0-4, the Chargers have a chance to grab sole possession of first place in the AFC West if they can beat the Chiefs Saturday night. Kansas City opened 5-0, then dropped six of seven, but bounced back last week to beat the Raiders at home. The winner of this game will likely be the division winner since the Chiefs already beat the Chargers in Week 3. This should be fun.
What will the Kansas City defense do to slow Keenan Allen?
In the past four games, Allen has 39 catches for 547 yards and five touchdowns. He has been over 100 yards receiving in each of those games. The Chiefs will have Marcus Peters back in the lineup this week, and I expect he will spend a lot of time on him in man coverage. Allen and Peters had a Twitter spat last season, and when they met in the Week 3 game this season Allen had five catches for 61 yards and no touchdowns as the Chiefs blew out the Chargers.
Are the Rams ready to show they’re the new kings of the NFC West?
Even when the Seahawks have been dominating the division, the Rams have traditionally given them problems. Seattle won earlier this year in Los Angeles, but the Rams have won four of the past seven, including one in Seattle. They have hit Russell Wilson a lot over the years, registering 23 sacks in the last seven games. If the Seahawks are to win this game, they have to protect Wilson better.
Can Blake Bortles keep up his hot streak?
In the past two games, the Jaguars quarterback has thrown four touchdown passes and no picks and has had his most impressive two-game span in terms of the way he’s playing the position. His confidence appears to be at an all-time high. Bortles has 567 yards passing the past two weeks and has QB rating in both games way over 100. If he can do that again this week against the Texans, the Jaguars will look like a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins vs. Jaguars corner Jalen Ramsey
Hopkins and Ramsey have already developed a fierce rivalry in their three meetings, and this one will be no different. Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the league — it’s a shame he doesn’t get more help at quarterback — but Ramsey is the league’s best corner. They talk a lot during their battles, so this will be fun to watch.
What will the Eagles get from new starter Nick Foles?
We know they won’t be getting anything close to Carson Wentz, who was in the MVP talk. Foles, though, has done some good things in his career. Coach Doug Pederson said he won’t change things for Foles, but that’s to be seen. The Giants will be playing their rival like it’s a Super Bowl of sorts, so this road game will be a good first test for Foles.
Who stays alive: Cowboys or Raiders?
With the Cowboys at 7-6 and the Raiders at 6-7, their meeting Sunday night is essentially a playoff game. Loser is pretty much done. That will bring a lot of intrigue, but it’s always that way when these two storied franchises get together. Dak Prescott broke out of funk last week with a big day for the Cowboys, and it will be interesting to see if Derek Carr can do the same here.