AFC North Week 15 Predictions

AFC North Week 15 Predictions
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This time will it be a sack or a TD lunge? Either way, this big game will rest on Big Ben’s shoulders.
Welcome to the AFC North predictions page!
Each week, our AFC North feature writers will list their picks for that week and be forced to explain why they voted as they did. Keep in mind that these picks are for entertainment purposes only, and in no way should be used to influence gambling or illegal activity, unless you’re smart enough to recognize that we know more than you because we publish things.
Week 15 AFC North games:
Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) @ Baltimore Ravens (4-9), Sunday 1pm, CBS
Cleveland Browns (3-10) @ Seattle Seahawks (8-5), Sunday 4:05pm, FOX
Denver Broncos (10-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5), Sunday 4:25pm, CBS
Cincinnati Bengals (10-3) @ San Francisco 49ers (4-9), Sunday 4:25pm CBS
Steelers/Broncos gets the AFC North game of the week honors. The outcome of this game will have a significant effect on the wildcard standings, on a first round bye, and even perhaps the AFC North division race. The other three games should be lopsided, at least on paper. The Steelers and Broncos have faced each other 29 times in their history including seven times in the playoffs. They haven’t played since 2012, and Denver holds a surprising 18-10-1 advantage, 4-3 in the playoffs.
Last week the writers took a step back after three weeks of batting .667 or better. Only Jack Crawford predicted that the Browns would win their first post-week 12 game since 2012, and nobody gave the Steelers a chance despite a decade of Bengal big game warning signs.
On to the games:
Jack Crawford (record 25-18):
Chiefs 27, Ravens 7
The resurgent Chiefs have reason to fear little about the Ravens, who appear ready to hand the starting quarterback job to recent signee (and last week’s loser) Jimmy Clausen. Of course, it’s not as though the Ravens have much choice – most of their starting caliber talent is on injured reserve or in college. Expect the Chiefs to pass a lot more than usual against the woeful Baltimore secondary.
Browns 13, Seahawks 31
Quarterback Johnny Manziel’s education continues, this time against the best secondary he will face this season. This one may go south in a hurry for the Browns against a team eager to re-establish themselves an NFC contender, and a quarterback (Russell Wilson) who has handily led the league in almost every passing statistic for the last month – not bad for a “mobile” quarterback.
Cincinnati 24, 49ers 14
The West Coast location notwithstanding, the Bengals will reassert themselves defensively and allow current QB A.J. McCarron to play in a pressure-free scenarion. Even at half speed and without their starting quarterback, the Bengals have more than enough to dispatch the 49ers, with a bit of jetlag the only reason this will be remotely close.
Broncos 26, Steelers 21
The best defense in the league meets the best offense. In this scenario, defense usually holds serve. Expect a lot of counterpunching in a close one, with an emphasis on the passing game for Denver to exploit the Steelers’ suspect corners, and the running game for Pittsburgh in an effort to slow the Broncos’ excellent pass rush.
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Paul Johansson (record 26-17):
Chiefs 24, Ravens 12
The only good news for the Ravens is that the Chiefs passing offense isn’t very dynamic. The bad news is that Webb and company can make any passing offense look dynamic. KC is also efficient with a +12 turnover margin (24 takaways including 18 INTs), while the Ravens are -12 (23 givaways). Oh yes. The Ravens also have a starter named Jimmy Clausen and are missing offensive linemen against a very good Chiefs pass rush.
Browns 20, Seahawks 37
Seattle does have a few holes in their defense, but their offense is rolling right now. Manziel will be able to make some plays but not enough to offset Wilson and his ability throw to 7-8 different receivers.
Cincinnati 28, 49ers 10
The Bengals team is much more than just a QB, and now that McCarron has a full week with the starters under his belt, I expect the Bengals to show they are the better team on both offense and defense. Travel from Cincinnati to wine country shouldn’t be an issue. It should actually be encouraged to take the edge off after last week’s outcome.
Broncos 20, Steelers 24
The Broncos defense is certainly the best statistically in the NFL, but for the most part they haven’t been challenged by prolific offenses. They did hold the Patriots to 24, which was the Pats 2nd lowest output of the season. The Steelers are a different animal right now, and the question is – can the Broncos offense score enough points? They struggled at home vs the Raiders, and they will do the same in Pittsburgh.
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Michael Thompson (record 27-16):
Browns 13, Seahawks 35
Seahawks have hit their stride before the playoffs and are at home. This is a perfect storm that leads to the overmatched Browns team getting blown out after getting their moral victory against the 49ers for outgoing coach Mike Pettine. If Johnny Manziel can pull a rabbit out of his hat in this game, the chance that he remains a Brown in the future increases dramatically.
Chiefs 28, Ravens 10
The Chiefs are angling toward the 5th seed and a favorable wild card matchup against the eventual AFC South champion, whichever team that might be. The Ravens are playing out the string and have Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. They also have recent signee Ryan Mallett, but it is doubtful they would start him after less than a week of practice. Whichever way they go, they remain a team playing for nothing against a hot opponent with everything to play for.
Bengals 20, 49ers 10
Despite the shot their Super Bowl chances took with the loss of quarterback Andy Dalton, the real test the Bengals will face is not a beleaguered 49ers team that was blown out by the Brown last weekend. The Bengals are likely to squeak out clinching the division based on little more than having a favorable matchup this week.
Broncos 23, Steelers 24
This game will come down to whether or not the Broncos’ ferocious defense can limit the Steelers’ prolific offense to less than 24 points, which no team, including the Seahawks, (at home), has been close to doing since Roethlisberger’s first game back against the Bengals. If the Broncos can accomplish this, then Brock Osweiler and the limited Broncos’ offense might manage enough points to keep their waning hopes for home field advantage alive. It is far more likely that the Steelers stay alive in the AFC wild card race.
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Wernike Korsakoff (record 20-23):

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“League Sources” (3-4):

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