NFL Week 15 Preview: What to Expect from Aaron Rodgers’ Return?6 min read
The NFL giveth and the NFL taketh away. After losing second-year quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz to an ACL injury last week, the football Gods offer up the return of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers as a peace offering to highlight a huge weekend of NFL action.
As multiple teams begin to fight for their lives, we’ve broken down the weekend’s biggest games and dive into the best action as the playoffs draw ever closer.
Green Bay Packers @ Carolina Panthers
Sun 17th Dec: 6pm Sky Sports Action
No-one quite knows what to expect from Aaron Rodgers’ return. How quickly can an NFL quarterback really recover from a broken collarbone? But the one thing we do know is that following last week’s comeback win in overtime, and now Rodgers’ return – the Packers have belief in themselves again. They also have their backs against the wall and must win their remaining three games to have a chance at the playoffs.
The Panthers, on the other hand, are in the driver’s seat of the NFC South, but need to keep winning to stay ahead of the Saints and Falcons. Their defence, behind Luke Kuechly, remains one of the best units in the league; and Cam Newton seems to be back to his old self again.
However, when these two teams meet it they tend to put plenty of points on the board. In their last six meetings the Over is 6-0.
My guess is Rodgers once again comes to the rescue for the Packers, and makes a statement in a high scoring upset of the home favourites.
Green Bay Packers +2.5 handicap
Total Points Over 47
New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sun 17th Dec: 9.25pm Sky Sports Action
If you were to pick a week to play the Patriots, you wouldn’t want it to be right after they suffered an embarrassing loss on Monday Night Football to a middling divisional opponent.
Tom Brady has the most December wins of any quarterback in history and has always played well against the Steelers, not losing to them since October 2011.
Pittsburgh are on an eight-game win streak, but their defence has struggled without Ryan Shazier and the high-powered offense may not be able to bail them out of this one. They open as rare home underdogs in the Steel City; but the line doesn’t lie here, and the Patriots should bounce back. Dion Lewis should feast on Sunday.
Pittsburgh Steelers Total Points Under 25
New England Patriots -3 handicap
Dallas Cowboys @ Oakland Raiders
Mon 18th Dec: 1.30am Sky Sports Action
Both teams in this Sunday Night Football match-up are still alive in the playoff race – but they are trending in different directions.
The Cowboys seemed to finally settle in to a rhythm in Ezekiel Elliot’s absence, and are coming off back-to-back impressive wins. The Raiders on the other hand have mostly stayed alive by beating bad teams, and come off a disastrous loss to the Chiefs.
The NFC has been much stronger this year, and I’ll go with the team that has stayed relevant in the mix with the NFL’s best teams. The Cowboys should win, I expect by some margin, and keep their hopes alive.
It’s also worth noting that the total has gone under in five of Dallas’ last six games.
Total Points Under 46
Dallas Cowboys Winning Margin 7-12 points
Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tue 19th Dec: 1.30am Sky Sports Action
The Buccaneers hopes for a successful 2017 season died long ago, but they would love nothing more than to play the villain and upset their division rivals – who are in must-win territory – on Monday Night Football.
That being said, the Falcons are the better team in all three phases of the game and open as 6-point road favourites. They are coming off a long week after beating the Saints on Thursday Night Football, and are becoming a real team to watch this December.
It would take a monumental slip up for the Falcons to lose this one, and I think they will cap off a big weekend for road teams in the NFL.
Total Points Under 49
Atlanta Falcons to win both halves
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Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys all to win