Only three weeks remain in the 2019 NFL season, and it will come down to the wire for some of the teams in the playoff race. There are still 5 divisions up for grabs as we head into the home stretch of the season. Last week we saw the Chiefs beat the Patriots at home, and we also saw arguably the best game of the year in the 49ers and Saints. That game saw both teams go over the game total which hasn’t happened since 2008. We are also are on the brink of some records being set this year. Michael Thomas has a legitimate chance for most catches in a season, Lamar Jackson broke Michael Vick’s rushing record, and Jameis Winston has a chance to lead the league in yards, touchdowns, and interceptions and join the illustrious 30 touchdowns 30 interception club. Let’s get into Week 15, not a ton of juicy matchups this week, however, we should get a better picture of the playoffs after this week.
Houston Texans vs Tennessee Titans
Ryan Tannehill has been sensational since taking over the reins from Marcus Mariota. The offense has been revitalized, and the Titans have played with confidence and a lot of resolve on their march back to the top of the AFC South. The Titans hold all the chips as they play Houston twice before the end of the year and could take out the division if they sweep the Texans. This matchup isn’t a great one for Houston who was a no show last week against Denver. The Texans will try and take advantage of a banged-up secondary for the Titans. Tennessee’s defense ranks 23rd in pass defense DVOA and 5th against the run. The Titans will continue to take shots and control the clock with Derrick Henry who has been an absolute machine this season with 1243 yards rushing. Tannehill has been shredding defenses with his deep ball and using play-action to freeze defenses. Houston showed last week that they are very susceptible defensively. This game will come down to the Houston defense getting stops and stuffing Henry consistently. If the Texans can get an early lead it will help them tremendously in this game, as the Titans will be a tough out if they obtain an early lead. That being said, it will be an absolute dog fight and could go either way. It is going to be a wet one according to the forecast, but regardless, give me the over 51.5 in an AFC South shootout.
Los Angeles Rams vs Dallas Cowboys
The Rams are coming off their most comprehensive win of the year after crushing the Seahawks last week, and they have another must-win situation in front of them. The Rams have caught the Cowboys at a good time. The Cowboys have been struggling, and do not have any wins against teams above .500 this season. What was once a promising season for the Cowboys and Dak Prescott has turned into a bit of a nightmare as they find themselves in a quarrel with the Eagles for the NFC East crown. The Rams have improved offensively over the last couple of weeks and have started leaning on Todd Gurley more. They have also got Robert Woods more involved. Robert Woods scored his first touchdown of the season last week, which has been a long time coming. The Rams defense is a tough matchup and they have ranked in the top 5 in scoring defense since the arrival of Jalen Ramsey. That doesn’t bode well for Amari Cooper, but the secondary targets for the Cowboys have played very well this season and Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb have been more than adequate in stepping up when needed. The Cowboys offensive line will be challenged in this one with Aaron Donald and company coming to town but I expect the line to hold up and give Prescott time to find his weapons. This game started with the Cowboys favored by three and has been bet down to Cowboys +1. It will have a playoff-type feel to it and if the Cowboys want to make the playoffs, this is a type of game they need to win at home. My pick is the Cowboys +1.
Buffalo Bills vs Pittsburgh Steelers
This game also has a very narrow line at Steelers +1.5 at home. Who would have thought that this game would be flex worthy earlier this season? Both teams have overachieved and surprised this season, and for two entirely different reasons. The Steelers are playing with their fourth-string quarterback and all the credit has to go to Tomlin and his staff for making the move to bench Rudolph, who the team invested a good draft pick in. The Steelers defense is #3 in weighted DVOA, and they’re behind only the Patriots and 49ers in that category, only sitting .2% behind the 49ers for the #2 spot. The Bills come into this one after losing to the Ravens last week, although it is not all doom and gloom losing to the best team in football. At the moment some warning signs are coming from Josh Allen and this Bills offense. They were very inept most of the game last week and struggled against a Ravens defense that is very good, however this Pittsburgh defense is much better, and significantly better against the run. Josh Allen is playing like people thought Lamar Jackson would be after looking inaccurate last year in the playoffs. He has a powerful arm and he can easily get passes out for short routes outside the numbers, but his touch and accuracy just haven’t been there this season against good defenses. His athleticism bails him out of tough situations and he is more successful running at this point in his career than moving the chains with intermediate and deep passes that require a bit more finesse. That being said, this is another perfect opportunity to show the league what he is capable of. If the Bills want to be a perennial contender, this is a game they need to win at Heinz Field against a top 5 defense with a fourth-string quarterback. Whether they can do or not is yet to be seen. The Steelers offensively will struggle to move the ball against this Buffalo defense which flies around the field. The total in this game is a dismal 35.5 and expect a lot of kicker involvement. I think the Buffalo defense gets it done in this one despite their offense. My pick is Buff +1.5.
That wraps up this week’s matchup column. Make sure to check out unwrappedsports.com and all the content our wonderful team of contributors produce. Also, please check out myself @semiproUSN on www.sportcastr.com. Everyone with USN at the end of their name is an unwrapped contributor and we hit all the sports. Lastly, follow @betsunwrapped on Twitter for all your gambling needs throughout the week. We will see you guys soon!
Corey Easley is a Contributor for the Unwrapped Sports Network website. Follow him @Cmoney52 on Twitter.