By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports
Each week I bring you this week’s NFL schedule with my predictions followed by some great notes and stats directly from the National Football League Communications Department.
Our Sports Animal NFL programming for Week 15
(Sun) 10am – 12:30pm: The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts
(Sun) Noon – Detroit Lions at Tennessee Titans (News Talk 98.7)
WEEK 15 NFL SCHEDULE
THURSDAY, SATURDAY, SUNDAY & MONDAY, DECEMBER 17, 19-21
(All times Eastern)
Thursday, December 17
Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders 8:20 PM FOX/NFLN/Amazon
Saturday, December 19
Buffalo Bills at Denver Broncos 4:30 PM NFLN
Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers 8:15 PM NFLN
Sunday, December 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons 1:00 PM FOX
Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens 1:00 PM CBS
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys 1:00 PM CBS
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts 1:00 PM CBS
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins 1:00 PM CBS
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings 1:00 PM FOX
Detroit Lions at Tennessee Titans 1:00 PM CBS
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team 1:00 PM FOX
Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals 4:05 PM FOX
New York Jets at Los Angeles Rams 4:05 PM FOX
Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints 4:25 PM CBS
Cleveland Browns at New York Giants 8:20 PM NBC
Monday, December 21
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals 8:15 PM ESPN
Vince’s View: How about just one game this week with two teams with a winning record. One. Chiefs at Saints. There are still other interesting and important games with playoff and division champion positioning at stake, like Seattle at Washington (I was about to type Seahawks at Redskins but caught myself in time) and Browns at Giants. Love the Saturday NFL games late in the season.
Week 14 Prediction Record: 11-5 (69%)
Season Record: 137-71 (66%)
2020 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 15
Kansas City Chiefs – AFC West division title
Pittsburgh Steelers – playoff berth
BUFFALO BILLS (10-3) (at Denver (5-8), Saturday, 4:30 PM ET, NFLN)
Buffalo clinches AFC East division title with:
- BUF win OR
- MIA loss OR
- BUF tie + MIA tie
Buffalo clinches playoff berth with:
- BUF tie + BAL loss or tie OR
- BAL loss
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (12-1) (at New Orleans (10-3), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, CBS)
Kansas City clinches first-round bye with:
- KC win + PIT loss + BUF loss or tie
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (11-2) (at Cincinnati (2-10-1), Monday night, 8:15 PM ET, ESPN)
Pittsburgh clinches AFC North division title with:
- PIT win OR
- CLE loss OR
- PIT tie + CLE tie
TENNESSEE TITANS (9-4) (vs. Detroit (5-8), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)
Tennessee clinches playoff berth with:
- TEN win + BAL loss OR
- TEN win + LV loss or tie + MIA loss + CLE win or tie OR
- TEN win + LV loss or tie + MIA loss + TEN or CLE clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over MIA
Green Bay Packers – NFC North division title
New Orleans Saints – playoff berth
LOS ANGELES RAMS (9-4) (vs. New York Jets (0-13), Sunday, 4:05 PM ET, FOX)
Los Angeles clinches playoff berth with:
- LAR win or tie OR
- MIN-CHI tie
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-3) (vs. Kansas City (12-1), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, CBS)
New Orleans clinches NFC South division title with:
- NO win OR
- TB loss OR
- NO tie + TB tie
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-4) (at Washington (6-7), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)
Seattle clinches playoff berth with:
- SEA win or tie OR
- MIN-CHI tie
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (8-5) (at Atlanta (4-9), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)
Tampa Bay clinches playoff berth with:
- TB win + MIN-CHI tie
NFL GENERATES UNBRIDLED EXCITEMENT
AS PLAYOFFS APPROACH
The BALTIMORE RAVENS and CLEVELAND BROWNS stamped an exclamation point on a thrilling week of NFL action by carving their names next to a record that had stood undisturbed for 98 years.
Until Monday night, when Baltimore and Cleveland combined for nine rushing touchdowns, only a pair of 1922 games had ever included as many touchdowns on the ground.
Then, the Ravens and Browns decided the game in the air.
LAMAR JACKSON threw a 44-yard, fourth-down touchdown pass to MARQUISE BROWN to give Baltimore a 42-35 lead with 1:51 remaining. Then, after Cleveland’s KAREEM HUNT scored on a 22-yard pass from BAKER MAYFIELD with 1:04 left, the Ravens’ JUSTIN TUCKER converted a 55-yard, game-winning field goal in the final seconds.
Was it the game of the year?
In a season stocked with game-of-the-year candidates, it may have won the Oscar. But there are 48 games remaining on the regular-season schedule, 48 more scripts left to unfold, 48 more opportunities for lead actors and supporting casts to contribute historic performances.
The Final 48 starts in 48 hours.
HISTORY FUELS PLAYOFF HOPES: In each of the past 42 seasons (1977-2019, excluding 1982, when divisional play did not occur), at least one team has won its division the season after missing the playoffs. This week, with either a Cleveland loss on Sunday or a win on Monday Night Football at Cincinnati (8:15 PM ET, ESPN), the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (11-2) can extend that streak.
- Since 1990, at least four teams every season have qualified for the playoffs after failing to make the postseason the year before.
- At least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 16 of the past 17 years.
- And in 15 of the past 17 seasons, at least one team finished in first place in its division the season after finishing in last or tied for last place. In fact, of the 48 teams in league history to go from “worst-to-first,” 25 of them have done so in the past 17 years (2003-19), including an NFL-record three such teams in 2005 and 2006. Two teams during that span, the 2009 New Orleans Saints and the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, won the Super Bowl after finishing in last place in their divisions the season before.
SATURDAYS ARE SPECIAL IN DECEMBER: The NFL kicks off its annual schedule of Saturday games this week when the BUFFALO BILLS (10-3) travel to play the DENVER BRONCOS (5-8) at Empower Field at Mile High (4:30 PM ET, NFLN). In Game 2 of the doubleheader, the CAROLINA PANTHERS (4-9) are at the GREEN BAY PACKERS (10-3), who clinched the NFC North title last week, on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET, NFLN).
- Bills quarterback JOSH ALLEN ranks sixth in the NFL with a career-high 3,641 passing yards and could become just the second player in Buffalo history to reach 4,000 in a single season, joining DREW BLEDSOE (4,359 passing yards in 2002).
- Denver rookie wide receiver KJ HAMLER caught two touchdowns in the team’s road win last week. Hamler is one of nine NFL rookies with at least three receiving touchdowns this season.
- Green Bay wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS had seven receptions for 115 yards and one touchdown in the Packers’ Week 14 win. He has recorded a touchdown reception in eight consecutive games, tied for the third-longest streak within a single season in the Super Bowl era. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (12 games in 1987) and A.J. GREEN (nine games in 2012) have longer streaks.
BATTLE OF PLAYOFF-BOUND TEAMS ON SUNDAY DOCKET: The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (12-1), who lead the league with 429.2 total yards per game and rank second with 31.0 points per game, square off against the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-3) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS). The Saints are allowing the NFL’s second-fewest yards per game (298.4) and the league’s fourth-fewest points per contest (20.4).
- Kansas City tight end TRAVIS KELCE, who leads the NFL with 1,250 receiving yards, is bidding to become the first tight end in league history to lead the league in that category. Previously, the highest an NFL tight end has ranked in receiving yards is second (PETE RETZLAFF with 1,190 in 1965, and Pro Football Hall of Famer KELLEN WINSLOW SR. with 1,290 in 1980).
- Last week, Kelce became the first tight end in NFL history to record at least 90 receptions in three consecutive seasons. Kelce, who leads NFL tight ends this season (90), had 103 catches in 2018 and 97 in 2019.
- Kelce now has 25 career games with at least 100 receiving yards, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer KELLEN WINSLOW SR. (24 games) for the third-most by a tight end in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer TONY GONZALEZ (31 games) and ROB GRONKOWSKI (29) have more. Kelce, who had 1,336 receiving yards in 2018 and 1,229 receiving yards in 2019, is the first tight end with at least 1,200 receiving yards in three seasons in NFL history. 0
- Chiefs quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES leads the NFL with 4,208 passing yards this season. Mahomes, who had 4,031 passing yards in 2019 and 5,097 passing yards in 2018, is the third player with at least 4,000 passing yards in three of his first four seasons in NFL history, joining PEYTON MANNING and Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO.
- Mahomes has 26 career games with at least 300 passing yards, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (26 games) for the most by a player in his first four seasons in NFL history. Mahomes’ 14 career games with at least 350 passing yards are the most by a player in his first four seasons in NFL history.
- Entering Week 15, Mahomes has six consecutive games with at least 315 passing yards, tied with DREW BREES (six consecutive games from 2012-13) and RICH GANNON (six consecutive games in 2002) for the most consecutive games with at least 315 passing yards in NFL history.
- Chiefs wide receiver TYREEK HILL, currently in his fifth season, has 14 career games with at least two touchdowns, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer LANCE ALWORTH (14) for the second-most such games by a wide receiver in his first five seasons in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (18 games) has more.
- New Orleans running back ALVIN KAMARA ranks third in the NFL with 1,422 scrimmage yards and tied for third with 14 scrimmage touchdowns. He also leads all NFL running backs with 77 receptions and needs three catches against the Chiefs to become the third running back in NFL history with four seasons of at least 80 receptions.
- Since entering the league in 2016, Saints wide receiver MICHAEL THOMAS leads all players with 510 receptions, the most by a player in his first five seasons in NFL history.
- On defense, Saints defensive end CAMERON JORDAN (6.5 sacks in 2020) is the NFL’s only player with at least six sacks in each of the past nine seasons (2012-20). DEMARIO DAVIS is one of two players (LAVONTE DAVID) with at least 400 tackles (447) and 40-or-more tackles for loss (45) since 2017. Defensive end TREY HENDRICKSON ranks tied for third in the NFL with a career-high 10.5 sacks this season.
10,000 AND COUNTING: In Seattle last week, RUSSELL WILSON’s 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end WILL DISSLY pushed the NFL over the 10,000-point threshold this season. The league enters Week 15 with 10,262 points through 208 games, the most points scored through 14 weeks in NFL history. The single-season league record is 11,985 points in 2013.
- The SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-4), who rank third in the NFL with 30.2 points per game, travel to meet the WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (6-7) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).
- Dating back to the start of the 2018 season, the Seahawks have won 11 of their past 12 games in the Eastern Time Zone, including postseason.
- Washington is 4-0 since Week 11 – the longest active winning streak in the NFC – and has excelled on defense over that span, ranking first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (64.8), second in points allowed per game (14.3), tied for third in takeaways (eight), tied for fifth in sacks (12) and seventh in total yards per game (297.3) during the winning streak.
- In their Week 14 win, two Washington rookies scored defensive touchdowns: Safety KAMREN CURL (76-yard interception return) and defensive end CHASE YOUNG (47-yard fumble return). It marked the fifth time since 1970 that a team has had two rookies record a defensive touchdown in the same game and the first since the BALTIMORE RAVENS in Week 8, 2006.
- Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON, who passed for four touchdowns with one interception for a 122.6 rating last week, has 15 career games with at least four touchdown passes, tied with PEYTON MANNING (15) for the second-most by a quarterback in his first nine seasons in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (16 games) has more.
- Last week, Wilson registered his 35th career game with at least three touchdown passes and a passer rating of 100-or-higher, surpassing Manning (34 games) for the most such games by a quarterback in his first nine seasons in NFL history.
- Also in Week 14, Seahawks safety JAMAL ADAMS, who has a career-high 8.5 sacks this season, surpassed ADRIAN WILSON (eight sacks in 2005) for the most sacks by a defensive back in a single season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic.
ROYAL RESUMÉ: Running back DERRICK HENRY can check off another accomplishment when the TENNESSEE TITANS (9-4) host the DETROIT LIONS (5-8) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS). Henry, who leads the NFL in rushing yards (1,532) and is tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns (14), needs one rushing touchdown to become the fourth player in NFL history with at least 1,500 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns in consecutive seasons.
- Last week, Henry rushed for 215 yards and two touchdowns to become the first player in NFL history with four career games with at least 200 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. What’s more, Henry has seven career games with at least 170 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (seven games) for the third-most such games in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers LADAINIAN TOMLINSON (11 games) and JIM BROWN (nine) have more.
- Henry, who rushed for 212 yards and two touchdowns in Week 6 and rushed for 178 yards and three touchdowns in Week 12, is the fifth player with three games of 175-or-more rushing yards and two-or-more rushing touchdowns within a single season in NFL history, joining JAMAL LEWIS (2003), JOE MORRIS (1986), Pro Football Hall of Famer LADAINIAN TOMLINSON (2006) and RICKY WILLIAMS (2002).
BOOMER SOONER: Two former Oklahoma quarterbacks will meet at State Farm Stadium when rookie JALEN HURTS and the PHILADELHIA EAGLES (4-8-1) face off against KYLER MURRAY and the ARIZONA CARDINALS (7-6) on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, FOX). Making his first career start last week, Hurts passed for 167 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions and added 106 rush yards in the Eagles’ 24-21 win over New Orleans. He joined LAMAR JACKSON (119 rushing yards in Week 11, 2018) as the only quarterbacks with at least 100 rushing yards in their first career start in NFL history.
- Murray, who has thrown for 3,231 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, needs 269 passing yards to become the fifth player in NFL history with at least 3,500 passing yards and 20-or-more touchdown passes in each of his first two seasons, joining ANDREW LUCK (2012-13), PEYTON MANNING (1998-99), BAKER MAYFIELD (2018-19) and JAMEIS WINSTON (2015-16).
- Last week, Arizona linebacker HAASON REDDICK had a career-high five sacks with three forced fumbles in the Cardinals’ win. Reddick is the first player with at least five sacks and three forced fumbles in a single game since VONNIE HOLLIDAY (five sacks and three forced fumbles) in Week 16 of the 2002 season.
PLAYOFF PUSH: Entering Week 15, two teams have clinched division titles – the GREEN BAY PACKERS (NFC North) and KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (AFC West) – and two teams have clinched playoff berths – the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS and PITTSBURGH STEELERS.
New Orleans (NFC South), Pittsburgh (AFC North) and the BUFFALO BILLS (AFC East) can clinch their respective division titles this week. Buffalo is aiming for its first division title since 1995, while the Steelers are looking to win the AFC North after missing the postseason in 2019. In each of the past 42 seasons (1977-2019, excluding 1982, when divisional play did not occur), at least one team has won its division the season after missing the playoffs.
For the full Week 15 playoff scenarios, click here.
— NFL –
MAHOMES MANIA: Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES leads the NFL with 4,208 passing yards and ranks third with 33 touchdown passes. This marks his third-consecutive season with at least 4,000 passing yards and he became the third player in NFL history to reach the mark in three of his first four seasons, joining PEYTON MANNING and Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO.
Last week, Mahomes passed for 393 yards, his sixth-consecutive game with at least 315 passing yards. With 315 passing yards on Sunday at New Orleans (4:25 PM ET, CBS), Mahomes will surpass DREW BREES (six games from 2012-13) and RICH GANNON (six games in 2002) for the most consecutive games with at least 315 passing yards in NFL history.
Through his first 44 career starts, Mahomes has 26 games with at least 300 passing yards. With at least 300 passing yards on Sunday, he will surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (26 games) for the most such games by a player in his first four seasons in NFL history.
The players with the most games with at least 300 passing yards in their first four seasons in NFL history:
|Patrick Mahomes||Kansas City||26*|
|Kurt WarnerHOF||St. Louis Rams||26|
|*In fourth season|||
Mahomes has also recorded a passer rating of 100-or-higher in 29 games throughout his four-year career. With a passer rating of 100-or-higher on Sunday, Mahomes would join DAK PRESCOTT (32 games) and RUSSELL WILSON (32) as the only quarterbacks with at least 30 games with a passer rating of 100-or-higher in their first four seasons in NFL history.
— NFL —
KELCE’S KINGDOM: Kansas City tight end TRAVIS KELCE leads the league with 1,250 receiving yards and is the first tight end with at least 1,200 receiving yards in three seasons in NFL history.
Kelce, who has recorded at least 125 receiving yards in four of his past five games, needs 128 receiving yards on Sunday at New Orleans (4:25 PM ET, CBS) to surpass GEORGE KITTLE (1,377 receiving yards in 2018) for the most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season in NFL history.
The tight ends with the most receiving yards in a single season in NFL history:
|George Kittle||San Francisco||2018||1,377|
|Travis Kelce||Kansas City||2018||1,336|
|Rob Gronkowski||New England||2011||1,327|
|Jimmy Graham||New Orleans||2011||1,310|
|Travis Kelce||Kansas City||2020||1,250*|
|*Entering Week 15|
— NFL –
RODGERS’ RECKONING: Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS leads the league with 39 touchdown passes and ranks tied for third with 3,685 passing yards.
With a touchdown pass on Saturday night against Carolina (8:15 PM ET, NFLN), Rodgers will become the first player in NFL history with three seasons of at least 40 touchdown passes. He also reached the mark in 2016 (40 touchdown passes) and his MVP-winning 2011 season (45).
Last week, Rodgers passed for 290 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions for a 133.6 rating, his third-consecutive game with at least three touchdown passes and zero interceptions. If he records at least three touchdown passes and zero interceptions on Saturday, he will tie for the second-longest such streak within a single season in NFL history. Rodgers also had a four-game streak during his MVP-winning 2014 season.
The players with the most consecutive games with at least three touchdown passes and zero interceptions within a single season in NFL history:
|Drew Brees||New Orleans||2019||4|
|Tom Brady#||New England||2007||4|
|Aaron Rodgers#||Green Bay||2014||4|
|Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay||2020||3*|
|#Named Associated Press Most Valuable Player|
Overall, Rodgers has recorded at least three touchdown passes in 10 games this season. With three touchdown passes on Saturday, he will tie DREW BREES (11 games in 2012) and PEYTON MANNING (11 games in 2013) for the second-most games with at least three touchdown passes in a single season in NFL history. Only TOM BRADY (12 games in 2007) had more such games. Both Brady and Manning were named Associated Press Most Valuable Player those seasons.
The players with the most games with at least three touchdown passes in a single season in NFL history:
|Tom Brady#||New England||2007||12|
|Drew Brees||New Orleans||2012||11|
|Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay||2020||10*|
|*Entering Week 15|
|#Named Associated Press Most Valuable Player|
— NFL —
DOMINANT DAVANTE: Last week, Green Bay wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS recorded seven receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown, his eighth-consecutive game with a touchdown reception.
With a touchdown reception on Saturday night against Carolina (8:15 PM ET, NFLN), Adams will tie A.J. GREEN (nine games in 2012) for the second-longest streak of games with a touchdown reception within a single season in the Super Bowl era. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (12 games in 1987) has a longer streak.
The players with the most consecutive games with a touchdown reception within a single season in the Super Bowl era:
|Jerry RiceHOF||San Francisco||1987||12|
|Davante Adams||Green Bay||2020||8*|
Adams enters Week 15 with 91 receptions for 1,144 yards and ties for the league lead with 14 touchdown receptions. On Saturday, he can become the sixth player with at least 100 receptions, 1,200 receiving yards and 15 touchdown receptions in a single season in NFL history.
The players with at least 100 receptions, 1,200 receiving yards and 15 touchdown receptions in a single season in NFL history:
|PLAYER||TEAM||SEASON||RECEPTIONS||REC. YARDS||REC. TDs|
|Jerry RiceHOF||San Francisco||1995||122||1,848||15|
|Davante Adams||Green Bay||2020||91*||1,144*||14*|
|*Entering Week 15|
— NFL –
ANOTHER 50 FOR LARRY: Arizona wide receiver LARRY FITZGERALD ranks second in NFL history with 1,423 receptions and 17,429 receiving yards, behind only Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE in both categories.
This season, Fitzgerald has 45 receptions for 346 yards. With five receptions on Sunday against Philadelphia (4:05 PM ET, FOX), Fitzgerald will have recorded his 17th season with at least 50 receptions, tied with Rice (17 seasons) for the most seasons with at least 50 receptions in league history.
The players with the most seasons with at least 50 receptions in NFL history:
|Jerry RiceHOF||San Francisco, Oakland Raiders||17|
|Tony GonzalezHOF||Kansas City, Atlanta||16|
|*Has 45 receptions in 2020|
— NFL —
ALL HAIL KING HENRY: Last week, Tennessee running back DERRICK HENRY rushed for 215 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first player in NFL history with four career games with at least 200 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
This season, Henry leads the league with 1,532 rushing yards and ties for the lead with 14 rushing touchdowns. With a rushing touchdown on Sunday against Detroit (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Henry – who led the NFL with 1,550 rushing yards and had 16 rushing touchdowns in 2019 – can become the fourth player in league history with at least 1,500 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns in consecutive seasons, joining SHAUN ALEXANDER (2004-05), Pro Football Hall of Famer TERRELL DAVIS (1997-98) and LARRY JOHNSON (2005-06).
The players with at least 1,500 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns in consecutive seasons in NFL history:
|Larry Johnson||Kansas City||2005-06|
|*Has 1,532 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns in 2020|
— NFL —
X MARKS THE SPOT: Miami cornerback XAVIEN HOWARD leads the league with a career-high nine interceptions and has recorded an interception in five consecutive games.
With an interception on Sunday against New England (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Howard will tie for the longest streak with an interception within a single season since 1970.
The players with the most consecutive games with an interception within a single season since 1970:
|Eric Harris||Kansas City||1980||6|
|Lester Hayes||Oakland Raiders||1980||6|
— NFL —