NFL Week 15 brings plenty of playoff-clinching scenarios, and key division battles. All 32 teams will be in action for the final four weeks of the season as there are no longer any bye weeks. We also get three games on Saturday this week, with the Colts playing the Vikings, the Ravens playing the Browns and the Dolphins traveling to snowy Buffalo for a key AFC East matchup. Our expert picks are here with storylines for each game.
NFL Week 15 playoff clinching scenarios
There are a lot of playoff-clinching scenarios that involve teams winning and losing. For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to run down the teams that can clinch a division title or playoff berth with a win in Week 15. The Eagles are the only team that has clinched a playoff berth entering Week 15.
- Vikings clinch the NFC North with a win vs. Indianapolis
- 49ers clinch NFC West with a win at Seattle
- Cowboys clinch playoff berth with a win at Jacksonville
- Bills clinch playoff berth with a win vs. Miami
- Chiefs clinch AFC West with a win at Houston
NFL betting trends
- Favorites are 130-72-2 straight up
- Underdogs lead 108-90-6 (54.5%) against the spread
- Unders lead 11-92-2 (55.3%) and primetime unders are 24-18-1 (57.1%)
Expert Pick records
All odds are from BetMGM and update live.
No Trey Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo? No problem for the San Francisco 49ers. At least not yet. This is now Brock Purdy’s team, and after a dominant win on Sunday, the 49ers look to continue rolling on Thursday night when they visit the Seattle Seahawks for a massive NFC West game. The 49ers are nearly a field-goal favorite on the road.
Kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. ET Thursday night from Lumen Field in Seattle.
It is a testament to not only how well Purdy has played so far but also how good the rest of the 49ers roster is that they would be favorites, on the road, on a short week, and against a very good Seattle team that is seldom a home dog.
Especially for such a massive game with so much on the line.
A 49ers win would not only give them a season sweep over the Seahawks, but it would also give them a three-game lead (with the tiebreaker) with only three games to play. That means the division would be locked up.
A Seahawks win would not only improve their standing in the Wild Card race, it would also keep alive their slim NFC West chances.
If they do that, the Seahawks will have to solve a 49ers defense that has been one of the most dominant units in the league this season. The 49ers have not allowed more than 17 points in six consecutive games and have allowed just 34 total points over the past four games. In their Week 2 matchup, they limited Seattle to just seven points and what was one of quarterback Geno Smith’s worst performances of the season.
The 49ers are expected to be without star wide receiver Deebo Samuel after he injured his ankle against Tampa Bay. Samuel is expected back before the start of the playoffs but he will not be available on Thursday night.
The Seahawks have been one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season, but with losses in three of their past four games, they now find themselves in quite a fight for a playoff spot in the NFC. With their next three games coming against San Francisco, at Kansas City, and home for the New York Jets, they will have to earn a playoff spot with such a daunting schedule.
The over/under for Sunday’s game is set at 43.5. That is a number that both teams have been exceeding in their recent games.
Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings (Sat.)
As College Football Saturdays begin winding down, in comes the NFL. In the first Saturday game of the season, the Indianapolis Colts will travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings enter as just better than field-goal favorites at home.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. NFL Network will televise the game.
Minnesota’s likely looking forward to the comforts of home, where the Vikings are playing extremely well on the season. Even with the NFC North likely in the bag, Minnesota can’t afford many more losses if it wants to keep pace with the Philadelphia Eagles in securing the No. 1 overall seed in the conference and a first-round bye. With little doubt, Minnesota’s offense, highlighted by Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson, will keep the team’s top-seed dreams alive. But can the Vikings put it together on both sides of the ball?
It feels like it’s been a while since Jeff Saturday’s debut and lone win as the head coach of the Colts. With an extra week to recover and regroup from its worst loss of the season, Indianapolis has to have a good game plan as they head into a place where only the Dallas Cowboys have been able to steal a win from the home team. If the Colts’ offensive line can function well, Matt Ryan might be able to slice up this Vikings defense that allows an NFL-most 287.2 passing yards per game.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (Sat.)
It has not been pretty, but the Baltimore Ravens are still finding ways to scratch out wins, even without quarterback Lamar Jackson. They enter Saturday’s game at Cleveland with a chance to continue their push for an AFC North crown but are a field-goal underdog against the Browns.
Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday from FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
It is still unknown whether the Ravens will have Jackson back for Saturday’s game, but they did enough the past two weeks against Denver and Pittsburgh to win with Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown taking snaps under center.
Of course, those two wins also came against two of the worst offenses in the NFL. Had they been playing teams capable of generating any consistent offense, the results may have been very different. But you can only play who lines up across from you, and the Ravens were able to do enough to keep winning.
Will that competition get any tougher on Saturday against the Browns? Honestly, it is tough to say.
This will be quarterback Deshaun Watson’s third start since returning from his 11-game suspension (which came after sitting out all of the 2021 season), and he has struggled so far this season. In his two starts, he has led a single touchdown drive, averaged just 6.4 yards per pass attempted, been intercepted twice, and posted only a 70.2 passer rating. He has not been good yet and needed two defensive touchdowns and a special teams touchdown to get by a one-win Houston team. They were not at all competitive against Cincinnati a week ago.
The Ravens enter Saturday’s game tied with the Bengals for the top spot in the AFC North and have by far the easier remaining schedule, facing Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Atlanta before a Week 18 game against the Bengals that could determine the division.
The Browns are still technically mathematically alive in the playoff race in the AFC, but Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati was crushing for their slim chances that were still remaining.
Both offenses have been struggling in recent weeks, which leaves the over/under at an extremely low 37.5 for Saturday.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (Sat.)
Saturday’s tripleheader finishes with a massive game in the AFC East, as the Buffalo Bills have a chance to take complete control of the division in their matchup with the Miami Dolphins. The Bills, already with a two-game lead in the division and competing for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, are more than a touchdown favorite as they look to avenge their loss to Miami earlier this season.
Kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. ET Saturday night from Highmark Stadium in Buffalo. The forecast calls for snow during this game.
A Bills win would give them a three-game lead over the Dolphins with only three games to play and put them in the driver’s seat for a second-straight division title.
While Buffalo still has a lot to play for in terms of the division and home-field advantage, this is a far more important game for Miami. The Dolphins have lost two games in a row, regressed to the pack in the AFC Wild Card race, and play a difficult remaining schedule. After Saturday’s game against Buffalo, they also play New England and the New York Jets, two of the teams they compete with for a Wild Card spot. Those are all pivotal games in the Wild Card race.
What is especially concerning for Miami right now is that star wide receiver Tyreek Hill is dealing with an ankle injury, while quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is coming off his two worst performances of the season, failing to register a QBR higher than 25.0 in either game. That is bad. Buffalo’s defense has been ravaged by injuries all season and will be without edge rusher Von Miller for the remainder of the season.
Miami squeaked out a narrow win against Buffalo earlier this season, despite a 400-yard effort from quarterback Josh Allen.
Speaking of Allen, he is over the turnover problems that plagued him mid-season and helped produce back-to-back losses. Since that two-game skid, the Bills have won four games in a row, while Allen has thrown six touchdowns with only one interception. The Bills are extremely difficult to beat as long as Allen protects the ball.
Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans
Sunday’s Week 15 AFC matchup between the Chiefs and Texans features two teams moving in opposite directions. Kansas City, tied for first place in the AFC, will hit the road as big favorites in what is one of the biggest spreads of the week.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET at NRG Stadium in Houston. CBS will televise the game.
Houston’s options here seem pretty simple — do the Texans want to try to play the role of spoiler, trying to lower the Chiefs’ chances at securing a first-round bye? Or are they taking the field to continue playing for the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft? Perhaps it’s not that black and white, but the point should be understood. If you want to make a low-risk, high-reward wager on the Texans, feel free — they were a drive away from shocking the Cowboys last weekend. But in all likelihood, Lovie Smith’s group will face an uphill battle in this matchup between arguably the best and worst teams in the conference.
Unshockingly, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are in contention for a first-place AFC finish. But with them not owning the tiebreaker over the Bills, who share the same record but are atop the standings, Kansas City will need to finish with a better record than Buffalo to secure the bye. The Chiefs also potentially need to finish with better records than those who are on their heels in the standings, including the four-loss Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. In other words, the Chiefs need to keep winning games, and facing Houston on Sunday shouldn’t stop them from doing so.
Sunday’s battle between the Jets and Lions features two teams on the fringes of the playoffs that are looking to fight their way in. Robert Saleh’s Jets are favored by just a hair at BetMGM in this pivotal Week 15 contest.
Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. CBS will televise the game.
Detroit will head to New Jersey riding a ton of momentum. For the first time since the 2017 season, they’ll have a chance to get to seven wins in a season, but they’ll need to overcome a tough Jets defense to do so. Although, with the way Jared Goff is leading the passing attack, how versatile the backfield is and how the defense has turned it around after a rough first part of the season, there’s reason to be optimistic about the Lions going in and pulling off an upset under Dan Campbell. In doing so, they could potentially inch a little closer to one of the three Wild Card spots.
Things aren’t going quite as well on the other side. After holding an AFC Wild Card spot a week ago, the Jets enter Sunday’s Week 15 matchup currently out of the playoffs and only a game above .500. While a division title is becoming more unlikely down the stretch of the season, the postseason is still in sight. But a home loss to Detroit would make that task more complicated.
Jets quarterback Mike White is day-to-day after a hit by Bills linebacker Matt Milano required a visit to a Buffalo hospital. Zach Wilson is the No. 2 quarterback behind White.
Dallas Cowboys at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 15’s early slate of Sunday NFL games will feature six contests, including an important matchup between Dallas and Jacksonville. The Cowboys will put their four-game winning streak on the line as they travel to Florida for a cross-conference battle. They’ll enter as just better than field goal favorites.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. FOX will televise the game.
It’s been an uneven season for the Jaguars, but they’ve done enough to hang around in the race for first place in the AFC South. After impressively taking care of the division-leading Titans a week ago, Trevor Lawrence and company find themselves just two games in the loss column behind Tennessee, who they currently own the tiebreaker over. A win on their home field would keep them in contention down the stretch, so it goes without saying how important this game is for Jacksonville.
Thirteen games into the season, the Dallas Cowboys have 10 wins (four in a row) and the league’s third-highest point differential (+131). And yet, they don’t even own the best record in their division. But Dallas isn’t far away, and if it can keep its streak alive for another week, the final Cowboys-Eagles matchup in Week 16 could have even more significance than it already has.
Both the Saints and Falcons enter Week 15’s divisional matchup on Sunday fresh off byes. New Orleans is the small favorite.
The NFC South showdown will begin at 1 p.m. ET at Caesars Superdome on FOX.
Atlanta is turning to rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder to lead the charge offensively. Marcus Mariota suffered a season-ending injury. It helps that Ridder was transitioned in during the bye week with extra time to prepare. It’ll be interesting to see how Ridder performs against a pretty sound New Orleans pass defense.
The Saints have more losses than wins at home this season. A win would move them into third place in the division and leave them just two games in the loss column out of first. New Orleans’ defensive unit should be up for the challenge, as it has for the last few games. The offense, however, has got to provide more help. The Falcons head into Sunday’s contest just one game in the loss column behind the Buccaneers for first place in the standings.
The Pittsburgh Steelers saw their slim playoff hopes take a damaging blow on Sunday, while the Carolina Panthers still kept theirs alive thanks to the debacle in the NFC South race. The Panthers enter the week just a game out of first place in the division with a 5-8 record and are nearly a field-goal favorite over the Steelers.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET from Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte. The game will be televised on CBS.
The Panthers’ run is quite improbable when you look at the totality of the situation. Not only are they 5-8, but they have also changed coaches this season, going from Matt Rhule to Steve Wilks, traded two offensive starters in Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson, and have started three different quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield, P.J. Walker, and Sam Darnold. Given all that, there is no logical reason for this team even to have a hail-mary shot at the playoffs, but here they are.
They have a chance to improve that on Sunday against a Steelers team coming off an ugly 16-14 loss to Baltimore on Sunday that dropped them 5-8 on the season. The big question for Pittsburgh will be at quarterback, where rookie starter Kenny Pickett entered the week in concussion protocol after suffering his second concussion. Mitch Trubisky relieved him on Sunday and turned the ball over three times, including twice deep in the red zone and a third in the end zone on a deep pass. Those turnovers were game-changers.
Coach Mike Tomlin refused to commit to Trubisky if Pickett cannot go while admitting that Mason Rudolph will also get some reps in practice with the first team this week.
The Steelers need to run the table over their remaining four games to avoid their first losing season since 2003. Tomlin has never had a losing season as head coach of the Steelers since taking over before the 2007 season.
There is no bigger mismatch on paper this week than the Philadelphia Eagles (12-1) visiting the Chicago Bears (3-10). The Eagles are nearly a double-digit road favorite as they look to continue their push for the top spot in the NFC.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET Sunday from Soldier Field in Chicago. The game will be televised on FOX.
The Eagles have won four in a row and have been increasingly more dominant each week offensively. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is making an impressive MVP case and has accounted for 11 touchdowns (eight passing, three rushing) with zero interceptions during the current winning streak.
Hurts has already thrown for more than 3,000 yards this season and accounted for 32 total touchdowns while throwing just three interceptions.
The Bears, meanwhile, have very little going for them. They have lost six games in a row and nine of their past 10 after starting the season with a 2-1 record. Second-year quarterback Justin Fields has shown a ton of improvement and can be a one-man highlight reel when he takes off and runs. But that is the bright spot for the Bears as they compete for one of the top-three picks in the 2023 NFL draft.
At times, Chicago has managed to keep games competitive, and many of their recent losses have been by a single possession. But this will be a stiff challenge against an Eagles team that is not only one of the best teams in football but is also playing some of its best football of the season.
Both teams will be fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive when the Raiders and Patriots take the field on Sunday. The Raiders opened as slight favorites, and the line continue to flip flop between the Raiders and Patriots being favored.
Kickoff is at 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and can be seen on FOX.
The Raiders embarrassing loss last Thursday to the depleted Rams didn’t officially eliminate them from the playoffs, but it may as well have. A loss to New England on Sunday would surely close the door on their playoff chances, and given how up-and-down this team has been under Josh McDaniels in Year 1, it’s hard to know what to expect. Derek Carr and the offense rank No. 11 in scoring in the league, but they struggled against a banged up Rams defense last week.
Despite being just a game over .500, the Patriots’ playoff chances are still real. They’re occupying the seventh and final AFC playoff spot entering Week 15. The Patriots offense is in the bottom 10 in the league in touchdowns scored with only 26, but their defense ranks No. 5 in scoring defense, giving up only 18.4 points per game.
New England elected to stay out west this week after beating the Cardinals on Monday night in Arizona so there will be no travel issues with the Patriots crossing the country.
Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos
The Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos probably did not expect to be playing a meaningless game against each other this week when the 2022 schedule was announced. But that is the situation both teams face going into Sunday’s game, where the Broncos are a field goal favorite.
Kickoff is set for 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday from Empower Field At Mile High. The game will be televised on FOX.
This looked like an intriguing quarterback matchup at the start of the season between Kyler Murry and Russell Wilson, but we will not get that this week. Wilson has not only had the worst season of his career but is also in concussion protocol and could miss some time. Brett Rypien will start for the Broncos on Sunday.
Arizona, meanwhile, learned on Tuesday that it had lost Murray for the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL.
The quarterback situation for each team and the strong Denver defense should make this a very low-scoring game. The over/under is set at 36.5 going into the game.
Denver’s defense has been a legitimate strength this season and one of the NFL’s best. But the offense has been so consistently bad they have wasted that performance. Even an average offense would have seen the Broncos easily coast to a playoff spot. But Denver is only 3-5 this season when limiting teams to 17 points or less. The rest of the NFL is 120-15 in similar games.
The Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers both need a win on Sunday, but for very different reasons. The Chargers find themselves as a field goal favorite going into Sunday’s game as they look to win consecutive games and keep pace in the AFC Wild Card race.
Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday from SoFi Stadium. The game will be televised on CBS.
The Titans need for a win is more about just stopping the bleeding that has come from a three-game losing streak where they have not looked good, especially over the past two weeks. They were blown out by Philadelphia and lost by two scores to a previously four-win Jacksonville team. They still have a two-game lead in the AFC South with four games to play, so it would take a massive collapse for them to lose that spot. The most likely outcome for them is to be the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs, win a bad division, and host a playoff game. But they still need a win to build some confidence.
Los Angeles’ 7-6 record has it in a four-team race for the final two Wild Card spots in the AFC. It enters the week outside of that race, putting extra importance on their remaining games.
The Chargers have consistently underperformed preseason expectations for the past decade. It would be a bad look for head coach Brandon Staley and the rest of the organization to miss the playoffs again with Justin Herbert at quarterback. They have wasted a pretty impressive run of franchise quarterbacks going back to the Drew Brees era, and they are not off to a great start with Herbert.
A loss on Sunday would seriously damage their chance for this season. Even if their remaining schedule after Sunday is relatively weak. They do not have much margin for error.
Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Arguably, the NFL’s all-time greatest quarterback (Tom Brady) is set to face one of the league’s up-and-coming star quarterbacks (Joe Burrow) in Week 15 when the Buccaneers host the Bengals. Tampa Bay is a slight underdog against Cincinnati.
Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. FOX will televise the game.
The Bengals have shown they can beat just about any team, even with a banged-up roster. And as Sunday approaches, how many injuries will they have to endure again in Week 15? Regardless, they’ll have a shot to win so long as Joe Burrow is on the field and performing like an MVP candidate while the defense continues its stellar play. There’s a chance they could finish the regular season with the best record in the AFC.
Are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers going to make the playoffs? If so, is it going to be with a below .500 record? Their 6-7 record is currently the best in the NFC South — so the answer is maybe. But I’m sure Tom Brady would love for his team to finish the season with some momentum. A win over Joe Burrow’s Bengals, who have won five games in a row, would be a good starting point.
Week 15’s Sunday Night Football spotlight will shine down on two NFC East playoff contenders, the Washington Commanders and New York Giants. Two weeks after playing each other to a tie, the two will meet again. Washington is favored to win by more than a field goal.
Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m. ET Sunday at FedEx Field. It will be televised by NBC. It’s a weird dynamic for the Commanders. They will face the Giants for the second consecutive game after they had their bye week during Week 14.
The Commanders haven’t lost a game in more than a month, and the Giants haven’t won a game over that same period. Yet, with identical records and each holding onto a Wild Card spot, this primetime game holds some significance.
It would be an ideal time for Brian Daboll’s Giants to pick up their first NFC East win of the season, which would also give them the tiebreaker over the Commanders. Likewise, for Ron Rivera’s suddenly hot group.
The Commanders rank No. 9 in rushing defense this season. The Giants want to get Saquon Barkley going early and often in this game, but he’s also nursing a neck injury that saw him play less than 25 snaps last week. Washington held him to 63 yards on 18 carries in the first meeting.
This might have been a solid preseason NFC Championship pick at the start of the season. The Los Angeles Rams were the defending Super Bowl champions. The Green Bay Packers were bringing back Aaron Rodgers for another run and coming off three consecutive 13-win seasons. Now, they are both going nowhere this season, entering their Week 15 matchup that has the Packers as a touchdown favorite.
Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m. ET Monday night from Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
The Rams snapped a six-game losing streak this past week with a 17-16 come-from-behind win against the Las Vegas Raiders last week. It was an unlikely hero leading that rally, as veteran quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was just claimed on waivers two days prior, led the comeback. With Matthew Stafford done for the year and John Wolford injured, Mayfield can showcase what he can do down the stretch with the Rams.
The Packers have been a mess since starting the season with a 3-1 record, going just 2-7 over the following nine games. Both sides of the ball can share in the blame as they rank 23rd and 21st, respectively, in points per game and points against.
The one bright spot for the Packers in recent weeks has been the emergence of rookie wide receiver Christian Watson. After catching just 10 passes for only 88 yards in his first six games, he has caught 15 passes for 314 yards and seven touchdowns over the past four games. That stretch of games also includes at least one touchdown catch in every game.
(Photo of Daniel Jones: Al Bello/Getty Images)