The Week 15 NFL schedule for the 2021 season is stacked with great matchups, and we got you covered with what you need to know heading into the weekend. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the biggest keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and, of course, final score picks.
Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a big stat to know, playoff picture and/or draft position implications and a betting nugget for each contest, and our Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN researcher Kyle Soppe hands out helpful fantasy football intel, as well. Everything you want to know is here in one spot to help you get ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.
Let’s get into the full Week 15 slate, including a huge Saturday night AFC game between the Patriots and Colts, another chapter in the Cowboys-Giants rivalry, Aaron Rodgers vs. Lamar Jackson, a battle for an NFC wild-card spot between Washington and Philadelphia, and Tom Brady trying to help the Bucs clinch the NFC South on Sunday night. It all culminates with a Monday Night Football matchup between the Vikings and the Bears on ESPN. (Game times are Sunday unless otherwise noted.)
Jump to a matchup:
LV-CLE | NE-IND | CAR-BUF
DAL-NYG | TEN-PIT | ARI-DET
WSH-PHI | NYJ-MIA | HOU-JAX
CIN-DEN | ATL-SF | GB-BAL
SEA-LAR | NO-TB | MIN-CHI
Thursday: KC 34, LAC 28
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET | NFL Network
Matchup rating: 39.2 | Spread: LV -1 (38.5)
What to watch for: What kind of team will the Browns be able to field Saturday, in the wake of the roster getting ravaged by COVID-19? With so many key players likely to be out — including potentially both Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum, leaving Nick Mullens in line to start at QB — will a Browns offense that was struggling anyway be able to move the ball? And will a defense that has been surging be able to keep the momentum going despite likely losing multiple starters? — Jake Trotter
Bold prediction: Browns defensive end Myles Garrett will have at least two sacks against the Raiders. Garrett, who has 15 sacks and at least one in 10 of Cleveland’s past 11 games, is taking aim at Michael Strahan’s 20-year-old single-season sack record of 22.5, and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been sacked nine times in his last three outings. It’s a recipe for Garrett to eat. — Paul Gutierrez
Stat to know: The Raiders are 6-0 when Carr throws for 300 yards this season and 0-7 when he doesn’t. He has accounted for 79% of the team’s yards this year, which is the highest in the NFL.
Playoff implications: According to ESPN’s FPI, the Browns have a 48% chance to make the playoffs with a win, but that drops to 17% with a loss. The Raiders, meanwhile, have a 12% chance to make them with a win — but their chances are just 2% if they lose on Saturday. See current playoff picture.
What to know for fantasy: Browns receiver Jarvis Landry has gone over 14 fantasy points in back-to-back-to-back games. He had just one such performance before that this season. See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: Cleveland is 0-4 against the spread (ATS) in its past four games, but Las Vegas isn’t much better at 1-5 over its past six games. Read more.
Gutierrez’s pick: Raiders 13, Browns 12
Trotter’s pick: Browns 17, Raiders 14
FPI prediction: CLE, 63.9% (by an average of 4.8 points)
Matchup must-reads: Is Mayock’s job in jeopardy? Evaluating the Raiders’ general manager … Mayfield, Stefanski latest Browns to test positive … Vegas awarded ’24 Super Bowl: ‘No better venue’ … Browns QB Keenum tests positive for COVID-19
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET | NFL Network
Matchup rating: 81.2 | Spread: IND -2 (45.5)
What to watch for: This one will be all about Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s defense vs. Colts coach Frank Reich’s offense. The Patriots lead the NFL in points allowed per game (15.4) and are third in yards allowed per game (310.0). They haven’t given up more than 13 points in a game over their past five contests (7.2 per game). But the Colts are third in the league in scoring (28.5), and they’ve been even better of late, as they scored at least 30 points in seven of their past eight games. — Mike Wells
Bold prediction: The Patriots will reference seemingly innocent remarks by Colts linebacker Bobby Okereke and quarterback Carson Wentz as motivational fuel if they come away with a win. Okereke said, “We’re really going to try to make the game one-dimensional and see what [Mac Jones] can do”, while Wentz said, “We’re going to try and run the ball, and I’m confident that we’re going to be able to.” The Colts had plenty of praise for the team over the course of the week — Reich called Belichick the “best ever” — but the Patriots have been masters of manufacturing bulletin-board material over the years. Turnovers will be the key: The Colts lead the NFL in turnover differential (plus-13), while the Patriots are tied for third (plus-10). — Mike Reiss
Stat to know: Colts running back Jonathan Taylor has a 10-game streak with a rushing touchdown, the longest streak by a player since LaDanian Tomlinson had 18 straight in 2004-05.
Playoff implications: This is a big one for the Patriots when it comes to landing the AFC’s top seed. According to ESPN’s FPI, they would have a 66% chance to get it with a win, but that number falls to 26% with a loss. They can also clinch a playoff berth through numerous multi-team scenarios. For the Colts, it’s more about just getting into the playoffs. A win gives them a 79% chance, while a loss shrinks that to 39%. See current playoff picture.
What to know for fantasy: Patriots running back Damien Harris is averaging 6.4 fantasy points per game against the AFC South and 15.2 against the rest of the NFL. See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: New England is 5-1 ATS on the road this season. Read more.
Reiss’ pick: Patriots 20, Colts 17
Wells’ pick: Colts 27, Patriots 17
FPI prediction: NE, 53.6% (by an average of 1.3 points)
Matchup must-reads: Patriots’ stingy defense braces for NFL rushing leader Taylor … Colts aim to reboot Patriots rivalry with first win since 2009
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 58.9 | Spread: BUF -10.5 (44.5)
What to watch for: The Bills will be going up against a Panthers defense that leads the league in passing yards allowed per game (177.7) and has sacked opposing quarterbacks on 7.5% of dropbacks (fourth). Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen is dealing with a foot injury, and while he is trending toward playing, it will be worth keeping an eye on whether he is at all limited. The Bills’ offensive line has been inconsistent this season, allowing sacks on 13.9% of dropbacks (30th), and the Panthers’ best chance to upset might come from making Allen uncomfortable and forcing turnovers. — Alaina Getzenberg
Bold prediction: The Bills will force Carolina quarterbacks Cam Newton and P.J. Walker into a combined five turnovers, including one returned for a touchdown. Of course, this doesn’t seem so bold because Newton has four turnovers in the past two games and Walker has thrown an interception in each of his past three games. But five is a pretty tall order, even for a defense ranked third in the NFL in takeaways with 26. — David Newton
Stat to know: The Bills have a minus-five turnover margin — seventh worst in the NFL — in their past six games (2-4). They had a plus-13 margin in their first seven games (5-2), which led the NFL.
Playoff implications: The Bills’ 77% chance of reaching playoffs — per ESPN’s FPI — could jump to 85% with a win on Sunday or fall to 51% with a loss. They have a 24% chance of winning the AFC East. The Panthers’ playoff odds are less than 1%, meaning draft position is more critical at the moment. Carolina is currently projected to pick No. 6 overall and have a 23% chance to get into the top five. See current playoff picture.
What to know for fantasy: Buffalo receiver Gabriel Davis is coming off a season-high eight targets and has eclipsed 10 fantasy points in consecutive games for the first time this season. See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: Carolina is 8-2 ATS as a road underdog under coach Matt Rhule. Read more.
Newton’s pick: Bills 35, Panthers 17
Getzenberg’s pick: Bills 31, Panthers 17
FPI prediction: BUF, 78.4% (by an average of 10.5 points)
Matchup must-reads: Rhule’s rebuilding process for Panthers hampered by turnovers, QB play … Bills battling against history in attempting playoff run with winless record in one-score games … Allen says sprained left foot ‘quite a bit better’
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 45.8 | Spread: DAL -11 (44.5)
What to watch for: Cowboys linebacker/edge rusher Micah Parsons has nine sacks in his past six games, and now he is facing the Giants’ offensive line. Pick your poison. The Cowboys can move Parsons around — just about anywhere is a mismatch against this O-line, particularly against right tackle Nate Solder. It could spell trouble for Mike Glennon, who will start at quarterback for the Giants. — Jordan Raanan
Bold prediction: Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott will throw for 300-plus yards. He had 302 yards against the Giants in the first meeting of the season, but that Cowboys offense and this Cowboys offense are not the same. This will be the slump-buster for Prescott. Since losing both games to New York as a rookie, Prescott is 8-0 against the NFC East rival, and he has five 300-yard passing games during that span. He has thrown three or more TDs against the Giants five times and has 20 touchdown passes to just five picks. — Todd Archer
Stat to know: The Cowboys have at least 100 rushing yards in each of their past two games while averaging 134.0. But they failed to reach 90 in four of the prior five games (83.2 rushing yards per game over that span).
Matthew Berry believes that Dak Prescott’s lack of rushing yards is the cause of his lower fantasy points.
Playoff implications: The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win and a Washington-Eagles tie, or a win, a Washington loss and a strength-of-victory tiebreaker over the Eagles. And their playoff clinching depends on three possibilities: 1) They win and Tampa Bay wins, 2) they win and San Francisco loses, or 3) they clinch the strength-of-victory tiebreaker over the Eagles and Minnesota, Atlanta and New Orleans all lose. The Giants are all but eliminated from the playoffs, as they jockey for draft position. They have the Bears’ pick, too, and currently are projected to have two top-seven selections. See current playoff picture.
What to know for fantasy: Giants running back Saquon Barkley is a boom-bust option any week, and the matchup with Dallas has proven to be even more so. He has four healthy games against the Cowboys. In two good games, his 28 carries went for 229 yards (8.2 yards per carry). In two bad games, his 25 carries gained 56 yards (2.2 yards per carry). See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: New York home games are 5-0-1 to the under this season. Read more.
Archer’s pick: Cowboys 30, Giants 17
Raanan’s pick: Cowboys 27, Giants 16
FPI prediction: DAL, 70.0% (by an average of 7.0 points)
Matchup must-reads: Prescott-Lamb connection compares to best in Cowboys history … Source: Giants QB Jones to sit out again with neck injury … ‘Probably fair’ to say Dak in a slump, says Jones … Judge ‘encouraged’ by his program’s direction
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 47.0 | Spread: TEN -1 (43)
What to watch for: The Titans might not have running back Derrick Henry, but Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said the Titans’ run game is still the Titans’ run game. The committee of D’Onta Foreman, Dontrell Hilliard and Jeremy McNichols is different, but the way the Steelers’ run defense — allowing a league-high 5.0 yards per carry — has been playing, any running back has the potential to break out for a big game. “If I was looking at us, I’d run the ball, too,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said this week. But the Steelers’ run defense should get a boost this week with the return of inside linebacker Robert Spillane. — Brooke Pryor
Bold prediction: The Titans will have a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver. That’s bold considering the Titans haven’t had that happen in the same game since Week 2, when Julio Jones and Derrick Henry topped the 100-yard plateau against the Seahawks. On a per-game basis, Pittsburgh is giving up a healthy 139.5 rushing yards and 231.8 passing yards. — Turron Davenport
Stat to know: Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt has a career-best — and NFL-best — 16.0 sacks this season. He joins Reggie White (1985-88 and 1990-93) as the only players with 13 sacks in four straight seasons since sacks were officially tracked in 1982.
Playoff implications: According to ESPN’s FPI, the Titans have a 25.2% chance of earning the AFC’s top seed, but that number could be anywhere from 10% to 39% depending on the outcome. They can also clinch the AFC South with a win and a Colts loss this week. The Steelers are currently last in the AFC North, and they have not finished last in their division since 1988, the longest streak without a last-place finish. Their 10.5% chance to make the playoffs could leap to 19% with a win or plummet to 3% with a loss. See current playoff picture.
What to know for fantasy: Pittsburgh tight end Pat Freiermuth has six touchdown catches in seven weeks since the team’s bye but hasn’t hit 50 receiving yards in any of those games. See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: Since 2018, Pittsburgh is 17-6-1 ATS as an underdog and 5-0-1 ATS as a home underdog. It has won four straight games outright as a home underdog, including two this season. Read more.
Davenport’s pick: Titans 27, Steelers 24
Pryor’s pick: Steelers 24, Titans 20
FPI prediction: TEN, 51.6% (by an average of 0.6 points)
Matchup must-reads: Jones changes how teams have to defend the Titans … Big Ben focused on ‘right now,’ not end of career … Titans feeling energized after shutout, four interceptions against Jaguars
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 44.9 | Spread: ARI -13 (47)
What to watch for: Arizona is one of two teams without a road loss this season (Patriots). However, it’ll be without wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who is expected to miss the rest of the regular season because of a sprained knee. The Lions are heavy underdogs, facing a Cardinals team that could clinch a playoff berth this Sunday. Lions quarterback Jared Goff says the team is playing for “pride.” Goff also said “being spoiler sometimes is fun.” — Eric Woodyard
Bold prediction: Arizona will run for 225 yards, with quarterback Kyler Murray accounting for 100 of them. With this being the first game since the news of Hopkins’ injury, expect the Cardinals to start showing signs of a different offensive team. They’ll be subtle, but the run game will get rolling. — Josh Weinfuss
Stat to know: Cardinals running back James Conner has seven straight games with a touchdown, tied for the longest streak in franchise history.
Playoff implications: The Cardinals can clinch a playoff berth with A) a win, B) losses from Minnesota and New Orleans, C) losses from Minnesota and San Francisco, or D) a Packers win and losses from Atlanta and New Orleans. Per ESPN’s FPI, they have an 89.4% chance to eventually win the NFC West, as well. Detroit, meanwhile, is the favorite to land the No. 1 draft pick, currently sitting at 57%. See current playoff picture.
Mike Clay explains what DeAndre Hopkins’ injury means for the fantasy outlook of the Cardinals’ other pass-catchers.
What to know for fantasy: Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has seen 24 targets over the past two weeks and has turned them into the two best fantasy performances of his rookie season (40.1 total fantasy points). See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: Detroit is 8-5 ATS this season and 7-2 ATS when getting at least four points. Read more.
Weinfuss’ pick: Cardinals 38, Lions 10
Woodyard’s pick: Cardinals 31, Lions 17
FPI prediction: ARI, 80.8% (by an average of 11.5 points)
Matchup must-reads: Cardinals WR Hopkins expected to miss rest of regular season … Sources: Star Lions TE Hockenson out for season … Meet Veldheer: Former Cardinals offensive lineman turned lunch man … Goff: Lions still ‘playing for pride,’ want to finish season strong
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 42.2 | Spread: PHI -9.5 (44)
What to watch for: This is a pivotal game in the fight for the final NFC playoff spot. Washington is in rough shape heading into this one, with more than a dozen players placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week and key contributors like quarterback Taylor Heinicke (elbow) and receiver Terry McLaurin (concussion) coming off injuries. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, meanwhile, split reps between Jalen Hurts and Gardner Minshew at quarterback this week, unsure if Hurts is ready to return from a left ankle sprain. There’s uncertainty on both sides, though Philadelphia is clearly in a more favorable position. — Tim McManus
Bold prediction: With Washington, a bold prediction this week might be that it will field a team Sunday. Considering the heavy amount of COVID-19 cases, that will be a big challenge. We don’t know who the Eagles will start at quarterback, but given the possible defensive losses for Washington, we’ll say this: If it’s Hurts, he’ll run for 80 yards and a touchdown. If it’s Minshew, he’ll throw for 250 and two scores. — John Keim
Stat to know: The Eagles lead the NFL with 160 rush yards per game and are one of two teams this season to average over 5 yards per rush (Colts). Washington is fifth in the NFL in run defense, allowing 93.6 rushing yards per game and has held opponents under 100 rushing yards eight times — tied with the Bills and Ravens for the third most such games this season.
Playoff implications: Washington enters Week 15 with a 24% chance of reaching playoffs, per ESPN’s FPI. Chances would improve to 45% with a win and fall to 12% with a loss. Though the Eagles have better odds at the moment (33%), their range of likelihoods based on the outcome is roughly the same. With a win, Philly has a 46% chance. With a loss, it’s also 12%. See current playoff picture.
Injuries: Washington | Eagles
What to know for fantasy: Washington running back Antonio Gibson averaged under 4.0 yards per carry against the Eagles last season, totaling just 125 yards with zero scores in those two games. See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: Philadelphia is 5-12 ATS as a home favorite since 2018 (1-0 this season). Read more.
Keim’s pick: Eagles 28, Washington 10
McManus’ pick: Eagles 31, Washington 10
FPI prediction: PHI, 62.7% (by an average of 4.3 points)
Matchup must-reads: Rivera: Injuries ‘not an excuse’ during playoff push … Hurts (ankle), Minshew splitting reps for Eagles … Washington’s COVID-19 list grows to 18 players with 8 more additions Wednesday … Why the Eagles are favorites to claim the last NFC playoff spot
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 33.7 | Spread: MIA -9.5 (41)
What to watch for: The Dolphins have won five straight games without much of a run game. Their 2.8 yards per carry since Week 9 ranks dead last in the NFL, and they might be forced to play Sunday’s game without any of their top three running backs. However, in that same span, the Jets have allowed 166.3 rushing yards per game, second worst in the league. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Bold prediction: Struggling Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, who has cut down his interceptions in recent weeks, will have his first multi-interception game since Week 3. The Dolphins, allowing only 11 points per game since Week 9, will confuse Wilson with their post-snap disguises. This is a tough spot for the rookie, who doesn’t have starting wide receivers Corey Davis and Elijah Moore. — Rich Cimini
Stat to know: Only three teams in NFL history have gotten back to .500 after being six-plus games below .500 at any point (1974 Jets, 1984 Packers and 2009 Titans).
Playoff implications: The Dolphins have a 5% chance with ESPN’s FPI to make the playoffs. A win makes it 6%. A loss? They would be all but eliminated and joining the Jets in looking forward to the offseason. The Jets are currently projected to pick at Nos. 4 and 9, while the Dolphins — who dealt their own draft pick — are scheduled to pick at No. 21 with the 49ers’ pick. See current playoff picture.
What to know for fantasy: Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has had at least a 70% completion percentage in three straight games. Only Ryan Tannehill (five straight in 2014) has a longer streak in Dolphins history (min. 30 attempts). See Week 15 rankings.
Stephania Bell and Field Yates react to the Dolphins placing Jaylen Waddle on the reserve-COVID-19 list and how fantasy managers can fill his absence.
Betting nugget: Miami is 6-1 ATS as a home favorite under coach Brian Flores. Read more.
Cimini’s pick: Dolphins 31, Jets 11
Louis-Jacques’ pick: Dolphins 27, Jets 14
FPI prediction: MIA, 81.3% (by an average of 11.8 points)
Matchup must-reads: Jets’ Berrios goes from valedictorian to validation … Streaking Dolphins, once 1-7, focused on next game — not playoffs … Jets’ Wilson continues trend: No such thing as a gimme
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 3.6 | Spread: JAX -5 (39.5)
What to watch for: It’s an interesting quarterback matchup, but not in the way you’d think. One has completed 65.8% of his passes with eight touchdowns, eight interceptions and an 81.1 passer rating. The other has a 58.2% completion percentage, nine touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 68.9 rating. Houston’s Davis Mills is the first, and Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence is the second, which would have been unthinkable before the season began. But the Jaguars’ offense has been so bad that Lawrence has thrown just one TD since November began. Mills, meanwhile, threw for 300-plus yards against the Rams and Seahawks, teams against which Lawrence struggled. — Mike DiRocco
Bold prediction: The under (39.5) hits in the game. Sunday will be a matchup of the two lowest-scoring teams in the NFL, with the Jaguars averaging 13.9 points per game and the Texans averaging 13.6. These teams are the only ones scoring fewer than 16 points per game this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 11 of the Jaguars’ 13 games have gone under the total, which is the highest percentage in the NFL. One of those two games to go over was Week 1 against the Texans, but these two offenses have been on a downward spiral since that game. — Sarah Barshop
Stat to know: Lawrence has been held to no more than one touchdown in 12 straight starts, the second-longest streak by a starting QB in the past four seasons (Cam Newton, 18 straight).
Playoff implications: No playoff concerns here, as both teams have been eliminated. Instead, it’s a battle for a higher draft pick. ESPN’s FPI says the Texans currently have a 28% chance to land it (second highest), and the Jaguars have a 13% chance (third highest). If Jacksonville wins, its chance is 2.5%, while Houston would move to 42%. If Houston wins, its chance is 3%, and the Jags would climb to 30%. See current playoff picture.
What to know for fantasy: Jaguars receiver Laquon Treadwell has seen his yardage improve in three straight games and has seen 19 targets in those games. See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: Houston is 0-7 outright and 2-5 ATS with Mills starting at quarterback. Read more.
Barshop’s pick: Texans 14, Jaguars 13
DiRocco’s pick: Texans 13, Jaguars 8
FPI prediction: JAX, 62.4% (by an average of 4.2 points)
Matchup must-reads: Is the league’s worst rushing attack running out of options? … Jaguars owner Khan fixes his biggest mistake firing Meyer; he cannot afford another one … Are the Jaguars and Texans worse than their inaugural expansion years?
4:05 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 52.8 | Spread: DEN -2.5 (44)
What to watch for: Quarterback Joe Burrow and an eye-catching cast of targets — including rookie Ja’Marr Chase (10 TDs) and Tee Higgins (100-yard games in each of past three weeks) — take up plenty of room on the Broncos’ concerns list, but the real key in this one might be how the Broncos’ No. 2 scoring defense handles Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon. In five of the Bengals’ seven wins this season, Mixon has rushed for at least 90 yards — and all three of his 100-yard games have been in Bengals wins. The teams that have committed to pounding away at the Broncos’ nickel defense over the past seven weeks — namely, Cleveland and Philadelphia — consistently put the Denver defense on its heels. — Jeff Legwold
Bold prediction: The Bengals will have fewer than 250 passing yards. The Broncos’ secondary is one of the reasons they have one of the best defenses in the league. Cincinnati’s best chance of winning likely revolves around picking its spots through the air and relying on Mixon to carry the offense. — Ben Baby
Stat to know: Denver quarterback Teddy Bridgewater needs 46 passing yards for 3,000 on the season, which would be first time in his career he has thrown for 3,000 in consecutive seasons.
Playoff implications: The Bengals enter Week 15 with a 30% chance of reaching playoffs, per ESPN’s FPI. Their chances would improve to 49% with a win and fall to 17% with a loss. The Broncos (27% right now) would improve to 39% with a win and fall to 9% with a loss. See current playoff picture.
Field Yates and Matthew Berry discuss the success that both Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon have had this season.
What to know for fantasy: Denver running back Javonte Williams deserves all of the attention he’s getting, but Melvin Gordon has scored six times in his past five games and ran for a season-best 111 yards last week against the Lions. See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: Cincinnati is 4-1 ATS in its past five road games. Read more.
Baby’s pick: Broncos 17, Bengals 13
Legwold’s pick: Broncos 23, Bengals 17
FPI prediction: DEN, 60.5% (by an average of 3.6 points)
Matchup must-reads: How Bengals’ OC connects Manning to Burrow … Broncos’ path to the playoffs impeded by strong QB quartet … One-on-one sessions with Broncos coach Fangio boost rookie Browning
4:05 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 46.5 | Spread: SF -9.5 (46.5)
What to watch for: In a game that features two of the most dynamic multipurpose offensive threats in the league in San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel and Atlanta’s Cordarrelle Patterson, the winner of this pivotal NFC battle could come down to which quarterback gets better protection. Atlanta is just 26th in the league in pass block win rate, while the Niners are ninth in pass rush win rate. That means it could be another big day for 49ers pass-rusher Nick Bosa, who enters with 14 sacks, including at least one in each of his past five games. — Nick Wagoner
Bold prediction: Patterson will help the Falcons to their fourth-straight 100-yard rushing day in a low-possession, ground-control game. He leads Atlanta in rushing yards (547), scrimmage yards (1,066) and touches (168). — Michael Rothstein
Stat to know: Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan averages 306.4 passing yards per game against the 49ers in his career. San Francisco is one of three teams he has averaged 300 passing yards per game against for his career (321.3 vs. Titans, 316.3 vs. Bengals).
Playoff implications: According to ESPN’s FPI, the 49ers would jump to an 88% chance of reaching the postseason with a win or fall to 43% with a loss, the largest potential swing of any team this week. The Falcons, meanwhile, would jump to a 25% chance with a win and dip to 1.5% with a loss. Atlanta is also currently projected to draft at No. 8 in April. See current playoff picture.
Mike Clay sees strong fantasy production for 49ers wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk against the Falcons in Week 15.
What to know for fantasy: The Niners’ George Kittle is TE1 since returning in Week 9. He has 28.5 more fantasy points over that stretch than any other tight end. See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: Atlanta is 0-4 outright and ATS against teams with winning records this season. Read more.
Rothstein’s pick: 49ers 27, Falcons 24
Wagoner’s pick: 49ers 30, Falcons 17
FPI prediction: SF, 76.6% (by an average of 9.6 points)
Matchup must-reads: Why the Falcons’ defense is finally starting to settle in … How Garoppolo’s best has the 49ers in the playoff mix … 49ers’ Kittle playing superhero again: ‘That’s a special dude’ … Ford won’t return to 49ers this season
4:25 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 71.8 | Spread: GB -6 (44)
What to watch for: Can the Ravens stop Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers from making Packers history? Rodgers can record a significant achievement if he continues his recent hot streak (10 touchdowns and no interceptions over past three games). He needs four touchdown passes to surpass Brett Favre (442) for first place on the Packers’ all-time list. The Ravens are without three starters in the secondary and have given up seven touchdown passes in their past four games. Only three teams have allowed more over that span. — Jamison Hensley
Bold prediction: The Packers won’t have any disastrous special teams plays. That’s saying something, considering they had nine — 9! — botched plays on special teams last Sunday against the Bears, including a 97-yard punt return allowed for a touchdown. And now they must face the Ravens’ special teams, which rank No. 2 in ESPN’s FPI. — Rob Demovsky
Stat to know: Packers receiver Davante Adams has 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns in two of his past three games, and he has six games with 100 receiving yards and two TDs over the past two seasons — three more than any other player.
Playoff implications: The Packers can clinch the NFC North with a win, a tie or a loss/tie from the Vikings. They can also clinch the playoffs with losses from the Saints and 49ers. Green Bay is also chasing the No. 1 seed, and its odds to earn the bye would be 54% in a win and 15% in a loss, per ESPN’s FPI. Baltimore can’t clinch anything this week, but it could move from 51% to 68% in odds to win the AFC North with a win (38% in a loss). See current playoff picture.
What to know for fantasy: Week 8 was the last time Packers running back Aaron Jones got more than 12 touches in a game, while AJ Dillon has at least 15 in each of his past four games. See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: Baltimore is 3-0 ATS as an underdog this season. Read more.
Demovsky’s pick: Packers 31, Ravens 23
Hensley’s pick: Packers 28, Ravens 21
FPI prediction: GB, 58.1% (by an average of 2.8 points)
Matchup must-reads: Douglas, other vets might be Packers’ only hope to fix special teams … Lamar day-to-day; Ravens add QB as insurance … Despite Jackson injury, Ravens confident in making a playoff run
4:25 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 71.3 | Spread: LAR -4.5 (45.5)
What to watch for: Coming off a thrilling victory over the division-leading Cardinals on Monday Night Football, uncertainty looms around the Rams as they continue to deal with a significant COVID-19 situation that has sent more than a dozen players, including starters Odell Beckham Jr. and Jalen Ramsey, to the reserve/COVID-19 list and forced them to close their practice facility earlier this week. The uncertainty and break from routine could open the door for the Seahawks to take advantage of the situation and extend a current two-game win streak to three. — Lindsey Thiry
Bold prediction: Seattle receiver DK Metcalf will score two touchdowns. He has had some entertaining and physical matchups with Ramsey, but with Ramsey still on the reserve/COVID-19 list as of Thursday morning, he either won’t be cleared in time to play Sunday or he’ll have little to no time to shake off the rust in practice. The Seahawks placed Tyler Lockett on the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, which puts his status for Sunday in jeopardy — and that could mean more targets for Metcalf. — Brady Henderson
Stat to know: Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has 33 touchdown passes this season and is tied with Vinny Testaverde (1996 Ravens) and Brett Favre (2009 Vikings) for the third most by a player in his first season with a new team.
Field Yates and Mathew Berry detail how Matthew Stafford has the Rams offense looking great.
Playoff implications: The Rams clinch a playoff spot with a win and losses from the Falcons, Saints and Vikings. They currently have a 98.7% chance to make the playoffs, per ESPN’s FPI. But their division odds are just 10.5%. Seattle, meanwhile, has a 2.5% chance to make the playoffs, and it doesn’t have a first-round pick. See current playoff picture.
What to know for fantasy: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has had a tough go against the Rams recently. In his past three meetings with the divisional rival, he’s averaging under 210 pass yards with more interceptions (three) than touchdown passes (two). He’s averaging 14.9 fantasy points per game over that stretch, a total that would unlikely be worth your while in this critical week. See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: Underdogs in NFC West games are 7-2 ATS and outright this season. Read more.
Henderson’s pick: Seahawks 24, Rams 23
Thiry’s pick: Rams 28, Seahawks 21
FPI prediction: LAR, 68.3% (by an average of 6.3 points)
Matchup must-reads: Seahawks’ Penny looks to shed ‘first-round bust’ label with late-season surge … OBJ among nine placed on COVID-19 list by Rams … Seahawks place WR Lockett, RB Collins on reserve/COVID-19 list
8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating: 70.5 | Spread: TB -11 (46.5)
What to watch for: The Saints have been the biggest thorn in Tom Brady’s side since the quarterback joined the Buccaneers. Brady has won only once in four times facing them with the Bucs. With an NFC South title on the line, the Bucs must channel the same juju that won them the NFC divisional playoffs last year and that has made them unbeatable at home so far this year. — Jenna Laine
Bold prediction: Brady and Saints quarterback Taysom Hill will each turn the ball over twice. Hill already had some ball control issues even before he suffered a mallet finger injury two weeks ago. Brady, meanwhile, seems to have some Kryptonite issues with the Saints’ defense, with a total of eight turnovers in their four meetings since he joined the Buccaneers last year. — Mike Triplett
Stat to know: Saints running back Alvin Kamara is 10 rushing yards shy of joining Roger Craig as the only players in NFL history with 4,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards within their first five seasons.
Playoff implications: The Buccaneers can clinch the NFC South with a win. They can also clinch a playoff berth with losses from Minnesota and San Francisco. And per ESPN’s FPI, their 41.8% chance to earn the NFC’s top seed could jump to 51.2% if they win. New Orleans has a 26.6% chance to make the playoffs, but that improves to 52.6% with a win — and drops to 18.4% in a loss. See current playoff picture.
Mike Clay expects Mike Evans to have a tough matchup against Marshon Lattimore this week.
Injuries: Saints | Buccaneers
What to know for fantasy: After being held under 14 fantasy points in three straight games against the Saints, Tampa Bay receiver Chris Godwin dropped 28 on them in the Week 8 loss. See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: New Orleans has covered the past six regular-season meetings, including winning outright as a home underdog in Week 8. Read more.
Triplett’s pick: Buccaneers 26, Saints 19
Laine’s pick: Bucs 28, Saints 21
FPI prediction: TB, 75.6% (by an average of 9.2 points)
Matchup must-reads: Kamara scores TD, looks sharp in return to lineup for Saints … NFL MVP watch 2021: Is Brady running away with the race? We ranked the top candidates … Buccaneers’ Brady overtakes Brees for NFL completions record, throws 700th touchdown
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET | ESPN/ABC
Matchup rating: 33.2 | Spread: MIN -4.5 (44)
What to watch for: Chicago is on the cusp of being eliminated from playoff contention, while the Vikings will see their playoff chances swing by 29 percentage points with a win (40%) or loss (11%), per ESPN’s FPI. The Bears put the dagger in Minnesota’s postseason hopes in 2018 and 2020 and have provided the backdrop for the Vikings’ very own house of horrors inside Soldier Field, where the purple and gold have won only five out of 21 games dating back to 2000. Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins is 1-9 through 10 games on Monday Night Football. — Courtney Cronin
Bold prediction: Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook will follow up on his dominating performance against Pittsburgh with 165 rushing yards (which would be his second most this season) and two touchdowns against the Bears’ middling run defense, which ranks just above Minnesota’s at No. 24. The interior of Chicago’s defensive line isn’t what it used to be, and if defensive tackle Akiem Hicks still isn’t able to play, it’s asking a lot of Bilal Nichols and Eddie Goldman to stop Cook, who showed no signs of slowing down while playing through a shoulder injury. — Cronin
Stat to know: Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson is second in the NFL in receiving yards (1,288). And with 12 receiving yards against the Bears, he can become the first Vikings player with 1,300 receiving yards in consecutive seasons since Randy Moss in 2002-03.
Playoff implications: Per ESPN’s FPI, the Vikings have a 29% percent chance to make the playoffs. That moves to 40% with a win or drops to 11% with a loss. The Bears, meanwhile, have a 0.1% chance to make the playoffs. See current playoff picture.
What to know for fantasy: Cousins’ next 20-point fantasy game against the Bears will be his first since joining the Vikings. He’s averaging an underwhelming 14.2 fantasy points in those five games, including a pair of single-digit performances. See Week 15 rankings.
Betting nugget: Chicago is 0-4 ATS as a home underdog this season and 2-8 ATS overall as an underdog. Read more.
Cronin’s pick: Vikings 28, Bears 24
FPI prediction: MIN, 63.4% (by an average of 4.6 points)
Matchup must-reads: Vikings find a way to avoid another heartbreaking loss by stopping Steelers’ last drive … Bears see all three coordinators enter protocols