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Week 15 saw the playoffs hopes of numerous teams across the NFL eradicated due to costly defeats.
No team felt the gut punch of losing more than the reigning Super Bowl champions the Denver Broncos, who have to win their final two matches of the campaign to have any chance of defending their crown in January.
Meanwhile, in the NFC, the Washington Redskins all but blew their opportunity to compete in the post-season, while the Detroit Lions are also looking over their shoulder after being bested by the New York Giants.
After losing late in the fourth quarter to the Tennessee Titans last week, the Broncos entered their clash against the New England Patriots in must-win territory. Gary Kubiak’s men beat the Patriots twice, including in the AFC Championship game, to reach the Super Bowl last season and would have felt confident of facing Tom Brady and company without the presence of Rob Gronkowski.
However, it was Denver’s offense who were held in check all day, mustering just three points as they were stifled by Bill Belichick’s men. Trevor Siemian made decent throws in the first quarter, but produced a costly interception at the start of the second and failed to get back into rhythm for the remainder of the contest.
Although the Broncos’ defense stifled Brady, New England were able to capitalise on the home side’s mistakes to see out a comfortable win. As a result of their defeat, Kubiak’s men now have to win their final two matches against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders to have a hope of reaching the post-season, both of whom are playoff bound with outstanding records.
The club will have to rekindle their magic of last season and hope the Miami Dolphins slip-up against the Buffalo Bills and the Patriots in the final week of the campaign. Their defense remains outstanding, but unless Denver get contributions from their offense they’ll be watching the playoffs from the couch in January, with sportsbook BetOnline backing them at a huge +4000 to win the AFC.
Despite losing quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the rest of the season with a knee injury, the Dolphins still put in an impressive performance against the New York Jets to move within touching distance of a playoff spot for the first time since 2008.
Backup Matt Moore came into the team and threw four touchdown passes to guide Adam Gase’s men to victory, while the defense notched three sacks in the contest, including a bone-crunching hit on Jets quarterback Bryce Petty from Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh that knocked him out of the game.
Gase deserves a lot of credit for turning the club around this term, having started the campaign 1-4. Since then the Dolphins have won eight out of their last nine matches, with the only blemish a hammering at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.
Tannehill’s injury is a major blow, but Moore is competent enough to give his team a chance against the Bills and the Patriots in the final game – which could see Belichick rest his starters pending the outcome of the race for the number one seed.
Miami has enough playmakers on offense to spring a surprise or two if they can reach the post-season with Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Jay Ajayi at full steam, while between Wake, Suh, Earl Mitchell, Jordan Phillips and Mario Williams they can get pressure on the quarterback. Whether it will be enough to mount a charge of the AFC title – if they get into the playoffs – only time will tell, with BetOnline sportsbook backing them at +5000 to win the crown and reach the Super Bowl.
The Lions could have all but secured their place in the post-season by defeating the New York Giants in their week 15 showdown at MetLife Stadium. However, their 17-6 loss has left them hearing the thunderous footsteps of the Green Bay Packers closing in behind them at the top of the NFC North.
Jim Caldwell’s men face off against the Dallas Cowboys and the Packers in the final two weeks of the season, and due to the tight nature of the seedings in the NFC they could drop to sixth or even out of the playoffs altogether should they lose both of those matches.
Matthew Stafford’s hand injury has come at the wrong time, and although he made some clutch throws against the Giants, his offense was stifled in the cold in New York.
The Packers are arguably the hottest team in the NFL at the moment, winning their last four matches, including their late victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Aaron Rodgers is at the peak of his powers at the moment as displayed in his 60-yard bomb to Jordy Nelson to set up the game-winning field goal at Soldier Field.
Green Bay will fancy their chances of stealing the NFC North crown from under the noses of their rivals as they playing complementary football on offense and defense. Not many teams will want to face Rodgers and company at full pelt in the post-season. Backing Mike McCarthy’s men to win their division at -115 makes a lot of sense with BetOnline sportsbook.
The Redskins missed out on the chance to put the pressure on the Lions, Packers and Buccaneers in the battle for the wildcard seeds in the NFC. Due to the form of the Giants there is only one spot up for grabs unless Ben McAdoo’s men collapse in the final two matches of the season, leaving the remaining sides in desperation mode.
Washington were facing a Carolina Panthers side whose season is over and without All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly, but Jay Gruden’s men slipped to a 26-15 defeat on home soil – a loss which surely ends their aspirations of extending their season into January. Their defense made costly mistakes, while Kirk Cousins and company failed to fire leading to their disappointing evening.
Tampa Bay had the opportunity to really shake up the NFC playoff picture against the Cowboys. Dirk Koetter’s me battled well to recover from a 16-3 deficit in the second quarter and had the chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter, only for an interception of Jameis Winston by Orlando Scandrick to end their run of five-straight victories at AT&T Stadium.
They are only a game behind the Atlanta Falcons in the battle for the NFC South, but will have to win their last two matches of the campaign to secure their place in the playoffs. They could be good value at +320 with BetOnline sportsbook given the quality of their recent displays to unseat their rivals.
Denver Broncos to win the AFC Championship
Miami Dolphins to win the AFC Championship
Green Bay Packers to win the NFC North
Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win NFC South
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