2012-13 NFL Fox Sports Previews: Week 15
Well, Week 14 is in the books and is was punctuated by some fourth quarter heroics (Cowboys, Redskins, Eagles, Colts and Rams – I’m looking in your direction) and some teams copping huge thumpings (see: Kansas City, Oakland, New Orleans, Arizona and Houston!). The end of the season looms ever closer, so let’s enjoy every last game. Onwards and upwards! Week 15 is here:
Green Bay Packers (9-4) @ Chicago Bears (8-5)
Time & Date: Monday December 17 , 5:00am
Coverage: LIVE on Fox Sports 3 and Fox Sports 3 HD w/Replay at 10:00pm Monday and 3.30pm on Tuesday on Fox Sports 3 and Fox Sports 3 HD (See TV Guide for info)
Two teams going in opposite directions meet in this important game. The Packers are moving up in the world, while the Bears have started looking more fragile in the past weeks since the loss to Houston on Monday Night Football. A win here will guarantee that the Packers would win the NFC North, while the Bears need the win to fight off the angry mob (Washington, Dallas & Minnesota) gunning for a NFC wildcard spot.
The Packers: The Packers have won seven of their last eight games and look very good. They took care of business last week by beating the Lions despite Aaron Rodgers not throwing a TD pass (although he did have a 27 yard rushing TD). Their success has been based on having a good defense as well as their usual good offence. Also the Packers are healthy at the moment, with no injuries of note to report – so they look like they’re preparing a playoff run.
The Bears: Chicago have started to struggle in the past four weeks and it’s because their defense – which was setting all sorts of records and allowing them to win games despite the offence being just average – has cooled off and is now just a very good defense. They really need Jay Cutler to pass to someone other than Brandon Marshall, as the offence is looking predictable. Cutler keeps forcing the ball to him and it’s the main reason he has 16 TDs and 13 INTs this season – not a good ratio. Opposition teams know that if they cover Marshall and stop Matt Forte running the ball, then they’ll probably win the game.
Watch out for: Two things on the Bears special teams. Kicker Robbie Gould is out for the season and this is big for Chicago as he’s gone 21 of 25 on FGs and not missed an extra point. With the Bears offence struggling, this is an injury that they really didn’t need. Secondly, this is the sort of game that Devon Hester could blow wide open. He’s had a quiet last few weeks, so I think he will be primed to make an impact.
Final word and prediction: I think the Bears can sort something out here and win this one at home. Chicago 21-14.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
Time & Date: Monday December 10 , 8:00am
Coverage: LIVE on Fox Sports 3 and Fox Sports 3 HD w/Replay at 12:00pm on Fox Sports 3 and Fox Sports 3 HD (See TV Guide for info)
Another critical playoff matchup, but this time it’s NFC vs AFC in a cross-conference game between two teams who’ve always got big expectations on them. Both the Steelers and Cowboys are 7-6 and have hopes of making it into the playoffs. The Cowboys are in a much more congested fight and will be desperate to get the win at home.
The Steelers: Big Ben was back last week, but looked like he was playing about 50% of his usual self. The problem for the Steelers this year is that even with Ben at full strength their offence isn’t very good. They’ve got seven wins, but only two of them (Giants and Ravens) have been against playoff-bound teams and they’ve racked up some bad losses (Oakland, Cleveland and San Diego). Combine this with their woeful rushing in the past five weeks and it doesn’t bode well for them this year.
The Cowboys: Constantly up and down, Dallas keep tormenting their fans by staying at the edge of the playoff picture. However, Dez Bryant’s broken finger may just put their season to bed. The star wide receiver has been a constant threat to take over games and win them on his own. Bryant was quoted yesterday as saying “…they’d have to break my leg to keep me out”, but he needs those fingers to catch things and his performance will be an unknown quantity until Romo slings that first pass his way.
Watch out: Whichever team can get their horrible running game going. Dallas average only 79.8 rushing yards per game (31st in the league) and Pittsburgh are little better at 98.6 (25th). If either DeMarco Murray or Jonathan Dwyer can get going, it may allow one team to control the clock and dominate the game.
Final word and prediction: I don’t hold out much hope in the playoffs for either of these teams, but if Bryant is playing I like the Cowboys at home – 17-13.
I’d love to hear what your thoughts are – just leave a comment in the big white box!