Here are key matchups we’ve got our eyes on in Week 15 of the NFL season:
Chiefs (12-1) at Saints (10-3)
In a potential Super Bowl preview, the best matchup to watch will be a very athletic Saints secondary against the firepower of the Chiefs’ offense. New Orleans has good, young defensive backs like C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Williams, though the real key will be for Marshon Lattimore to have a strong performance against Tyreek Hill.
The quarterback matchup between Taysom Hill and Patrick Mahomes may sound like a mismatch, but just imagine how big this game is for Hill. With Drew Brees almost ready to come back, Hill stands to make millions on this one game if he comes out on top.
While the Saints’ passing game has missed Brees, the rushing offense has improved by .11 EPA per rush. The Saints boast the No. 6 rushing offense and the Chiefs are 28th in EPA allowed per rush, and that could be the formula for stopping Kansas City. When the Ravens played them in Week 3, both Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards averaged over 9 yards per carry. So if Hill is the starter, look for a big game from the Saints on the ground.
Bears (6-7) at Vikings (6-7)
Can Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky put together two consecutive strong games? If he is to do that, he must overcome an improving Vikings defense. Minnesota is so young on that side of the ball, but the unit is starting to come together. In their first six games this season, the Vikings allowed an average of 32 points per game. In the last seven, they’ve allowed 23.2 per game.
In Trubisky’s six starts this season, the offense has been significantly more productive than it was under Nick Foles, with a .2 EPA per play improvement. Under Foles, the offense had a negative EPA per play, so the QB change may be enough to turn the game in the Bears’ favor.
On the other side, this matchup pits Dalvin Cook and the No. 7 offense in EPA per rush against the third-ranked Bears rush defense. When these teams met in Week 10, Cook had 96 rushing yards — but needed 30 carries. His 3.2 yards per attempt in that game is his lowest of the season.
Browns (9-4) at Giants (5-8)
This matchup features a couple of interesting “return” matchups: With Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett sidelined with COVID, tight ends coach Freddie Kitchen will be calling the plays Sunday night against the team that fired him after last season. And with Daniel Jones injured, the Giants QB will be former Browns draft pick Colt McCoy.
In Monday’s loss to Baltimore, the Browns gave up 231 rushing yards to the Ravens and they now have the 30th-ranked defense in EPA per rush allowed, while the Giants have the 17th-ranked rushing offense, with RB Wayne Gallman having 90-plus yards in two of his last three games.
Baker Mayfield put up over 350 passing yards on the Ravens’ seventh-ranked pass defense, so look for him to have another big game facing a Giants defense that ranks 13th in EPA allowed per pass.
Seahawks (9-4) at Washington (6-7)
Seattle’s offensive line has allowed the third-most sacks in the NFL and ranks 30th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Sack Rate, a measure of pass-blocking performance. Washington’s defensive line, meanwhile, has the fourth-most sacks in the league. Could be a rough day for Russell Wilson.
However, the wild card could be the return of Seattle running back Rashaad Penny. The 5-11, 220-pounder will help both in pass protection and running the ball. Can Penny’s presence help slow down Washington’s dominant front seven?
Through Week 13, before his injury, Washington RB Antonio Gibson was third among rookies in rushing yards. He is questionable for this game, but the Seahawks allowed 135 rushing yards to Wayne Gallman in Week 13, so Gibson is poised for a big game if healthy.
Patriots (6-7) at Dolphins (8-5)
Injuries will be a key focus for both teams in this matchup. The Dolphins may be without TE Mike Gesicki. Linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts both missed last week’s game but have at least returned to practice this week.
On the other side, the biggest news for New England is the possible return of Julian Edelman. Can the former Super Bowl MVP be the spark Cam Newton needs to get the Patriots’ offense going?