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Dirty Cleats: Predictions for NFL's 2011 Week Fifteen

You know the holiday season is here when there are NFL games on Saturday!

This week is full of football with games on Thursday and Saturday along with Sunday and Monday.

The playoff picture has few certainties thus far, and there are still many spots open for those in the hunt.

My Predictions for Week 15

Jaguars (4-9) at Falcons (8-5) -- In the playoff picture, this Thursday night match-up matters for Atlanta, but doesn’t mean the Jags will go down without a fight. There are two key points to this game. This first is the Falcons front seven vs. Maurice Jones-Drew, who is carrying this Jaguar offense right now. He will allow the Jags scoring opportunities, but he is their only chance as the Falcons secondary is more talented that Jacksonville’s receivers and quarterback. The second key to this game is the Jags injured defensive secondary vs. Matt Ryan and his trio of very talented passing targets who include Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. The Jags are overmatched and will not be able to keep up with the Falcons offense. Winner - Falcons

Cowboys (7-6) at Buccaneers (4-9) -- The first Saturday game of this season, and this one matters most to the Dallas Cowboys, who have suffered two straight losses in the final seconds of both games. This week, their defense faces a Tampa Bay offense that has struggled all season at the hands of sophomore QB Josh Freeman. He’s inconsistent and when he’s on the side of being good, he’s only just good and far from being great this season. The Cowboys defense is going to control this game, giving Tony Romo and Co. plenty of opportunities to score, and they will. Winner - Cowboys

Saints (10-3) at Vikings (2-11) -- There is something about the Saints that I love to watch them play. Perhaps it’s that they feel like they are giving it all and playing with their full hearts each and every game. Or perhaps, and here lies the truth, it’s that my fantasy players are Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham. Either way, this week will be just as exciting as they march into Minnesota and play a Vikings team that is overmatched. Brees and Co. are going to dominate the Vikings defensive secondary, running up the scoreboard early and often. The Saints defensive front seven is going to force a lot of punts from the Vikings offense. Winner - Saints

Redskins (4-9) at Giants (7-6) -- Eli Manning is definitely proving that he is, in fact, a Manning. Last week’s performance against the Cowboys was pretty awesome. This week, the Giants face another tough defensive line, but with their running game and Eli’s aerial attack, the Redskins won’t be able to stop the Giants from outscoring them. Winner - Giants

Dolphins (4-9) at Bills (5-8) -- Miami’s defense is going to be the dominate force in this game as Buffalo won’t have much time to pass, and their run game will be successful but it won’t be enough to put up more points. The Dolphins could be without QB Matt Moore and their offense will struggle initially, but get into a game winning rhythm after halftime. Winner - Dolphins

Packers (13-0) at Chiefs (2-4) -- No explanation needed. Winner - Packers

Titans (7-6) at Colts (0-13) -- Tennessee will have second-string QB Jake Locker at the helm; he looked good last week, in relief of Hasselbeck, against a very talented New Orleans defense. This week he will be able to settle in to his role with ease as he faces a very tired Indy defense whose level of play continues to decline. How can you blame them, when their offense does nothing to maintain possession of the ball? You cannot. Defensively, the Titans will dominate, and force many three and outs. Winner - Titans

Panthers (4-9) at Texans (10-3) -- Houston has won its division for the first time, and has proven to be the most resilient team this season. Their third-string quarterback, T.J. Yates, is playing better than most right now. Houston’s defense is, in my opinion, the best defense in football right now, and the Panthers are going to struggle this week. 49ers fans may argue with me, but I don’t see the Texans allowing the Cardinals to upset them in a game they should have won. Houston’s offense will control the clock with their dominant run game against a Carolina defense that has injuries, and wasn’t that great to begin with, especially against the run. Winner - Texans

Bengals (7-6) at Rams (2-10) -- What a disappointing season for Rams fans, especially after the hope they were given from QB Sam Bradford’s rookie season last year. This year has been a flop for Bradford as he doesn’t have much talent around him to pass to, and he has been injury prone. The Bengals are going to control time of possession in this game, in addition to scoring a lot of points. Bengals QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green are going to play catch all day against a Rams defensive secondary that is banged up. Winner - Bengals

Seahawks (5-7) at Bears (7-6) -- The Bears are fading slowly, and this week will be the nail in the coffin as they are upset by a mediocre Seattle team. Without QB Jay Cutler and RB Matt Forte, the Bears offense is unable to put enough points on the board to beat anyone. The Seahawks offense will maintain time of possession and therefore wear down a very talented Bears defense. This game will come down to the final minutes, and in the end Seattle will prevail. Winner - Seahawks

Lions (8-5) at Raiders (7-6) -- Believe it or not, there is a team with more penalties than the Raiders this season, and it’s the Lions. This should be an interesting match-up for that reason alone. Detroit’s young team is going to become frustrated as they meet their match of dirty play, and they won’t be able to help themselves to giving the Raiders many first downs. Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is back this week, and will be ready to grab some face masks, and step on some arms – the refs will have their work cut out for them this week. As for game play, the Raiders have had two very tough weeks on the East Coast, and will have no problem settling in and getting back to the basics of winning in front of the home crowd. Their defense will put a lot of pressure on Lions QB Matthew Stafford and this is going to create turnovers, so even if Raiders QB Carson Palmer throws a pick or two, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to redeem himself, thanks to his defense. Winner - Raiders

Browns (4-9) at Cardinals (6-7) -- Arizona is coming off a huge win against the 49ers last week, and will maintain this momentum against the Browns. Offensively, the Cardinals have too much talent in Larry Fitzgerald, Beanie Wells and Early Doucet for the Browns to keep up. With QB Colt McCoy still questionable to play this week, the Browns will be outscored when it’s all said and done. Winner - Cardinals

Jets (8-5) at Eagles (5-8) -- Michael Vick is back, but that is not the key to this game. Philly’s defense is going to pressure Jets QB Mark Sanchez into several turnovers. This will give the Eagles offense ample opportunity to run up the score. Don’t count out the Jets talented defensive secondary, because they will be able to keep up with the receivers. They won’t however, be able to maintain Vick and the Eagles running game. Winner - Eagles

Patriots (10-3) at Broncos (8-5) -- Denver’s defense is good, but not good enough to stop Tom Brady and Co., especially a Brady in search of a first-round bye. With that being said, the Pats defense allows a lot of yards, but rarely allows teams to score. Tim Tebow is going to struggle against a defense like this. More importantly, Tebow isn’t going to be on the field much as the Pats offense will control time of possession, and wear down the Broncos defense. Monday morning the Tebow-hype dwindles a bit. Winner - Patriots

Ravens (10-3) at Chargers (6-7) -- Simmer down Charger fans. Blowing out the Bills isn’t much to be proud of. This week, the San Diego two game winning streak is snapped by Baltimore. The Ravens defense is going to pressure Philip Rivers and the turnovers will be plenty, in the form of interceptions. Defensively, the Chargers are terrible against the run, and this will pave the way for Ravens RB Ray Rice and counterpart Ricky Williams to own this game. Their ball handling will control time of possession. Winner - Ravens

Steelers (10-3) at 49ers (10-3) -- I like this Monday night matchup in the City by the Bay. Oh, how I love that city! Big Ben in or out? That is the question of the week, and still no answer. In addition to Pittsburgh’s bad news, linebacker James Harrison has been suspended for one game. One huge game this week. Too many questions in the Steelers locker room, and making the trip across the country may do them in this week. Not only that, but they face a 49ers team coming off a horrific upset last week in Arizona. The 49ers defense will be the key in this game as they won’t allow much, if any, of a running game, so the Steelers will have to go to the air, and this will prove to be costly. Offensively, San Francisco will keep the ball in the hands of RB Frank Gore, and this game plan will be successful. Winner – 49ers

For Jana's thoughts on last week, further analysis on this week's match-ups, the complete Week 15 schedule, or to read anything else she feels like tossing out regarding the NFL, go to the dirty cleats blog.

Jana Newman lives in San Diego and has been an NFL fan for over 25 years (her not-so-secret obsession is still No. 13 Dan Marino). She has her bachelor of arts degree in English, and loves to write. To combine these passions, Jana created dirtycleats.com. It’s an NFL blog with a fresh look and a fun attitude. You can also follow dirtycleats on Facebook. To reach Jana, email her at contact@dirtycleats.com.