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NFL 2012 Season — Week 15 Preview

NFL Week 15 2012
Jared Wickerham, Norm Hall / Getty Images

Three weeks remain in the 2012 NFL season. Four more teams can clinch a postseason berth this week. Here’s a preview of this week’s games:

Thursday, December 13

Cincinnati Bengals at Philadelphia Eagles — 8:20 P.M.

Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
Cincinnati (7-6) can’t afford many more losses and stay in the playoff picture. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will target receiver A.J. Green against the Eagles’ inconsistent secondary. Quarterback Nick Foles threw for nearly 400 yards for Philadelphia (4-9) last week. He could see pressure from a Bengals defense that has recorded a league-leading 42 sacks.

Sunday, Dec. 16

N.Y. Giants at Atlanta Falcons — 1 P.M.

Georgia Dome, Atlanta
New York (8-5) is scoring an NFC-leading 28.7 points per game. Rookie running back David Wilson’s three-touchdown game last week solidifies him as another weapon in the Giants offense. The Falcons defense has given up only 19.9 points per contest. Quarterback Matt Ryan is just 68 yards shy of 4,000 passing yards for Atlanta (11-2). The Giants defense ranks 27th in the NFL against the pass.

Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams — 1 P.M.

Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
Two teams with playoff hopes face each other in a must-win game. Adrian Peterson has 1,600 yards rushing for Minnesota (7-6). If the Rams defense can contain Peterson and force passing downs, their pass rush has recorded an NFC-best 39 sacks already this season. St. Louis (6-6-1) sometimes struggles to score, averaging just 18.2 points per game. The Vikings defense produced two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the win over the Bears on Sunday.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Miami Falcons — 1 P.M.

Sun Life Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.
Jacksonville (2-11) generates an AFC-low 282.9 yards of offense per game. The Jaguars’ output won’t get better if running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings and receiver Cecil Shorts remain out due to injury this week. The Dolphins defense has allowed more than 250 passing yards per game and will be facing former Miami starting quarterback Chad Henne. Miami (5-8) could use a big game from running back Reggie Bush. Jacksonville allows an AFC-high 145.7 rushing yards per game.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears — 1 P.M.

Soldier Field, Chicago
Green Bay (9-4) can clinch its second consecutive NFC North title with a win over Chicago (8-5). The Bears are reeling, losing four of their last five games. The Packers dominated the Bears, 23-10, in Week 2. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers faces a Chicago defense that allows 16.8 points per game, the third-lowest total in the league. After leaving last week’s game with a neck injury, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is expected to play this Sunday. The Packers hope to see the return of injured linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Charles Woodson.

Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns — 1 P.M.

Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland
Kirk Cousins could start at quarterback in place of injured Robert Griffin III for Washington (7-6). The Redskins rushing offense averages 167.5 yards, the highest total in the NFL. The Browns defense has forced 14 fumbles and picked off 15 passes this season. Running back Trent Richardson is developing into a touchdown machine for Cleveland (5-8). His nine rushing scores are a team record for rookies. The Redskins defense has struggled against the run in the past two weeks, and they have the league’s 31st ranked secondary, allowing 289.3 passing yards per game.

Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens — 1 P.M.

M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore
Denver (10-3) brings an eight-game winning streak to Baltimore (9-4) in this potential playoff preview. After dropping two straight games, the Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron this week. Baltimore’s Ray Rice is 10th in the league in rushing with 993 yards, while the Broncos defense ranks sixth against the run. Denver’s Peyton Manning ranks fourth with a 104.0 passer rating. The Ravens defense hopes to get linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis back from injuries. Baltimore can clinch the AFC North with a win; they’ll lock up a playoff spot with a loss by the Steelers or Bengals.

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans — 1 P.M.

Reliant Stadium, Houston
Indianapolis (9-4) can qualify for an AFC playoff spot with a win or losses by the Bengals and Jets. Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck is eighth in the NFL in passing yards with 3,792. The Texans pass defense has not fared well against other prolific passers this season, getting torched by both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Houston (11-2) must better utilize star running back Arian Foster, whose 1,148 yards rank second in the AFC. The Colts have yielded an average of 120.6 rushing yards per game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints — 1 P.M.

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Tampa Bay (6-7) running back Doug Martin set a record for Buccaneers rookies with 1,234 rushing yards. He needs 311 more yards to break James Wilder’s single-season franchise record. The Saints defense allows an average of 152.4 rushing yards per game, the most in the NFL. New Orleans (5-8) beat Tampa Bay, 35-28, in Week 7. Saints quarterback Drew Brees has thrown nine interceptions in his last three games. The Buccaneers have the league’s stingiest run defense, allowing just 78.2 yards per game, but they are vulnerable to the pass, coughing up an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead to rookie Nick Foles and the Eagles last week.

Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals — 4:05 P.M.

U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Detroit (4-9) averages 413.8 yards per game, the NFC’s top-ranked total offense. Thanks to quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and others, the Lions have the NFL’s top-ranked passing offense, averaging 307.8 yards per game. The Cardinals are ranked 12th in total defense, but the team has lost nine straight games. Arizona (4-9) has the league’s worst offense, ranking last in points, total yards and rushing yards. The Lions defense allows 26.3 points per game, second-most in the NFC.

Carolina Panthers at San Diego Chargers — 4:05 P.M.

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Quarterback Cam Newton has eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last four games for Carolina (4-9). The Chargers defense ranks fourth in the NFL against the run, but it has been suspect against the pass, allowing 242.9 yards per game. Quarterback Philip Rivers has 20 turnovers for San Diego (5-8). The Panthers defense ranks 12th in the league against the pass, but 21st versus the run.

Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills — 4:05 P.M.

Rogers Centre, Toronto
Seattle (8-5) could expand the offensive role of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who ranks seventh in the NFL with a 94.9 passer rating. Wilson has seven touchdown passes against one interception over the past four games. The Bills pass defense is stronger than its 28th-ranked run defense, which allows 134.5 rushing yards per game. The Seahawks could use Marshawn Lynch, the NFL’s second-leading rusher, to exploit that weakness. Running back C.J. Spiller leads the NFL with 6.6 yards per carry for Buffalo (5-8), but teammate Fred Jackson is out with an ankle injury. The Seahawks defense ranks third overall in the NFL and 10th against the run.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Dallas Cowboys — 4:25 P.M.

Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Even the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t enough to keep Pittsburgh (7-6) from falling to the Chargers last week. Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall will not play because he was suspended for a week for conduct detrimental to the team. The Cowboys pass defense ranks eighth in the NFL, allowing just 217.8 yards per game. Very much alive in the playoff chase, Dallas (7-6) could be without receiver Dez Bryant, who broke an index finger last week and may need surgery. The Steelers have the league’s top-ranked pass defense, allowing just 169.2 yards per game.

Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders — 4:25 P.M.

O.co Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
Two teams without playoff hopes renew their AFC West rivalry. The Raiders beat the Chiefs, 26-16, in Week 8 for their most recent victory. Kansas City (2-11) has averaged an AFC-worst 15 points per game. The Raiders defense has allowed 402 points, the most in the NFL. Carson Palmer directs the attack for Oakland (3-10). The Raiders need running back Darren McFadden to contribute more to the offense. The Chiefs allow 27.1 points per game, the fifth-highest average in the NFL.

San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots — 8:20 P.M.

Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been steady since taking over for Alex Smith for San Francisco (9-3-1). The 49ers may use running back Frank Gore in an effort to control time of possession and keep the potent Patriots offense off the field. The Patriots defense has forced a league-high 27 fumbles and intercepted 15 passes. Quarterback Tom Brady has been playing like an MVP again for New England (10-3). He has 11 touchdowns and one interception over the past four games. The 49ers have the NFC’s top-ranked pass defense and linebacker Aldon Smith leads the league with 19.5 sacks. San Francisco will clinch a playoff spot with a win; the 49ers will clinch the NFC West title with a victory and a Seahawks’ loss.

Monday, Dec. 17

N.Y. Jets at Tennessee Titans — 8:30 P.M.

LP Field, Nashville
New York (6-7) is just one game behind the Steelers and Bengals in the chase for the final AFC Wild Card spot. The Jets used Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell to move the ball effectively last Sunday. They could opt to do so again versus a Titans defense that gives up 127 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Jake Locker’s mistakes have cost Tennessee (4-9), especially his two interceptions last week. The Jets pass defense ranks third in the NFL, giving up 196 yards per game.

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