Week 15 is very important for many teams as they make the playoff push. Several quarterbacks, wide receivers, and defensive players had tremendous performances last year in Week 15.
Drew Brees and Lamar Jackson led their teams to Week 15 victories and the playoffs in 2019. They are looking for more playoff success this time around.
Several squads are renewing divisional rivalries. Divisional matchups are bookending the week in the NFL. Before the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs take on the New Orleans Saints, the Chargers and Raiders are the Thursday Night Football game.
Then, after an impressive batch of games on Sunday, the Steelers are in Cincinnati for Monday’s contest:
- Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday
- Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings on Sunday
- Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts on Sunday
- New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins on Sunday
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons on Sunday
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals on Monday
Last year’s top performers in Week 15 were as follows:
- Drew Brees (Saints QB, one of the Top Players to Watch): 307 passing yards and four touchdowns
- Lamar Jackson (Ravens QB): 212 passing yards and five touchdowns on just 15 completions
- Julio Jones (Falcons WR): 13 receptions, 134 yards, and two touchdowns
- Terry McLaurin (Washington WR): five receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown
- Stephon Gilmore (Patriots CB): two interceptions and a touchdown
- Sean Murphy-Bunting (Buccaneers CB): one interception, one touchdown, and eight tackles
- Ryan Anderson (Washington OLB): four tackles, two sacks, and three forced fumbles
Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints: Sunday, December 20, 4:25 pm eastern (Mercedes-Benz Superdome)
While Drew Brees is nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career, Patrick Mahomes is just beginning his. The last time these two teams faced off was in 2016, the first of four consecutive years in which the Chiefs finished in first place in the AFC West. The four-year span culminated in a Super Bowl victory for Kansas City.
Back in 2016, the Chiefs defeated the Saints, 27-21, behind two touchdowns by Alex Smith. On the other side of the football, Brees went for three touchdowns of his own. In 2020, Brees is looking for his first victory against Kansas City since 2008. At that time, Herm Edwards was the head coach for the Chiefs.
Chiefs fans have to be happy with what expects to be a decade of brilliance with 25-year-old Mahomes and veteran coach Andy Reid leading the team. Mahomes will be a candidate for the Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year Awards for many years to come.
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys: Sunday, December 20, 8:20 pm eastern (AT&T Stadium)
Both the 49ers and Cowboys underwhelmed early in the season, as both teams encountered terrible injuries. Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman, Kwon Alexander, Solomon Thomas, Raheem Mostert, and Jordan Reed all missed games for San Francisco. Dallas lost quarterback Dak Prescott and tight end Blake Jarwin for the season.
It is up to Andy Dalton to lead the Cowboys offense, as the backup quarterback has an incentive-laden deal with Dallas. If he brings the team to the playoffs, Dalton has a chance at cashing in on the first incentive of his deal.
For each postseason victory, the former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback will have the opportunity to increase the return on his contract and garner interest around the league. Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup will try to help Dalton.
Meanwhile, the 49ers will look to take advantage of a weak Cowboys defense at AT&T Stadium. Jimmy Garoppolo had to deal with an injury earlier in the season, but he seems to bring San Francisco back to the Super Bowl. The 49ers missed the postseason the previous five years. They have not won the Super Bowl in the past 25 years.
Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers: Sunday, December 20, 1:00 pm eastern (Lambeau Field)
The Packers have a potent offense, while the Panthers have a better defense than offense. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing attack continue to have a lack of receiving depth. Still, the running back group is impressive with Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and A.J. Dillon.
Unfortunately for Carolina, Christian McCaffrey went down with an injury earlier in the season. Mike Davis took over for McCaffrey, and the Panthers offense did not seem to miss a beat near the beginning of the 2020 season. Under new head coach Matt Rhule, the Panthers hope that Teddy Bridgewater can powerfully lead the team.
Last year, the Packers stopped the Panthers’ two-game winning streak in their meetings against each other. In 2015 and 2017, Carolina defeated Green Bay, but in Week 10 of 2019, the Packers moved to 8-2 with their 24-16 victory against the Panthers at Lambeau Field.
The Packers look to win again during the 2020 rematch in Wisconsin. Last year, Aaron Jones went for three rushing touchdowns, and he will look to have a similar performance this season.
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts: Sunday, December 20, 1:00 pm eastern (Lucas Oil Stadium)
Frank Reich’s Colts defeated Bill O’Brien’s Texans, 21-9, in the Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs just two years ago. However, Andrew Luck and the Colts saw their playoff run end the following week against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Houston and Indianapolis then split the regular-season series in 2019. The Week 7 contest last year was a 30-23 Colts victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.
However, the Texans have a different head coach in 2020. Former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel took over for Bill O’Brien, who was fired after a 0-4 start to the season. Houston went 11-5 and 10-6 during the previous two seasons, but the team traded DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals during the offseason.
The Colts made a significant change during the offseason and brought in Philip Rivers at the quarterback position. Rivers will be the third different passing leader for Indianapolis in the last three seasons. Before 2020, the Colts made the playoff just once in the previous five seasons. Frank Reich brought the Colts to the postseason in his first year as the head coach for the franchise, and he looks to help Indianapolis continue to succeed in the post-Andrew Luck era.
Top Players of Week 15 to Watch
Drew Brees – Quarterback, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees, Sean Payton, and the Saints won the Super Bowl 10 years ago against the Indianapolis Colts. In 2020, Brees is looking to bring New Orleans to the postseason for the fourth consecutive season. Unfortunately, Brees may need extra help in 2020.
Michael Thomas had difficulty staying on the field earlier in the season, and the Saints have not had much success bringing Taysom Hill into the mix. If Brees can keep up his synergy with three-time Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara, the Saints can be victorious. Brees hopes to have a repeat performance from last year’s Week 15.
Jimmy Garoppolo – Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
The No. 62 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft starts for the second full season of his career. He turned 29 years old on November 2, and he is shaping up to be a top quarterback in the league. The next real test for Jimmy Garoppolo in 2020 is to bring more playoff success to San Francisco.
The injuries have been aplenty during 2020 for the 49ers, but after a robust 27-passing touchdown season last year, Garoppolo is looking to continue his strong play. The two-time Super Bowl champion is looking for his first championship as a starter. He is also hoping to get his first Pro Bowl nod soon.
Deshaun Watson – Quarterback, Houston Texans
Deshaun Watson saw his top wide receiver traded away, and his only NFL head coach fired in 2020. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback is in his fourth season in the league, and he is on the rise. His career record of 24-13 entering 2020 was an impressive one.
Watson is looking like he will have career-highs across the board in terms of his passing numbers, but his rushing totals are down. On the bright side, the decrease in rushes can help Watson preserve his career. Down the road, Texans fans will be happy to have him on the field for a long time.
Final Thoughts on NFL Week 15
Many teams are vying for playoff position in Week 15 in the NFL, and the Buccaneers game against the Falcons should be an interesting one at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. After the Falcons fired head coach Dan Quinn earlier in the season, Raheem Morris took over.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady and company are putting together a bounce-back season for the Buccaneers. Although Jameis Winston was the passing leader last year, Tampa Bay missed the 12th consecutive year’s playoffs. Brady and head coach Bruce Arians are looking to stop the streak of 17 straight seasons without a playoff victory.
The NFL’s last few weeks of the season are always exciting, and fans should be ready for a thrilling week of action beginning in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium and ending at Paul Brown Stadium. It will be a tough test for the Cincinnati Bengals against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers, but first overall pick Joe Burrow has a chance to make a splash in his first career Monday Night Football game in the NFL.