NFL Week 15 preview: Aaron Rodgers can break Packers record, Saints to beat Buccaneers

Ahead of week 15, Paul Higham takes a look at the upcoming fixtures and is backing Tom Brady's Buccaneers to be on the losing side.

Play-off places can be booked this weekend as Week 15 of the NFL takes place with yet more huge games all around the league, including the Green Bay Packers looking to stay on a roll at the banged-up Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens have been hit harder than almost anyone else by injuries this season, so the last thing they need is Aaron Rodgers and his rolling Packers coming to town as Baltimore try to cling to their top spot in the AFC North.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can clinch their division if Tom Brady can get a rare win over the New Orleans Saints, who have caused him all kinds of problems, while the Bengals and Broncos play out an AFC wildcard squabble in Denver.

Let's take a look at the pick of Week 15 on Sunday.

Green Bay Packers @ Baltimore Ravens

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 passes the ball during NFL football game between the Washington Football Team and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The Packers can clinch a play-off spot with a win and results going their way, but they've got their eyes firmly fixed on that NFC top seed as they face a banged-up Baltimore as 5.5-point favourites.

While Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has an ankle injury that might see him miss the game, Aaron Rodgers' high-profile toe injury hasn't stopped him throwing 10 TDs and no picks over the last three games.

He needs four TD passes to overtake Brett Favre (442) as Green Bay's all-time leader and he may just get all of them in Baltimore against a Ravens secondary that's allowed seven passing TDs in their last four games.

Only three teams have allowed more and missing Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey from that brittle unit really makes life tough. Rodgers and Davante Adams, who has 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns in two of his last three outings, might have a field day here.

The Packers lead the NFL in covering the points spread (11-2) and arrive in top attacking form when averaging 37.3 points per game over their last three. The Ravens have only allowed an average of 17 points over their last four games, but none of those teams had anything like Green Bay's attack.

It all adds up to the Packers being able to cover and winning by a touchdown or so, but for slightly better odds take them to score at least 27 points.

Baltimore have only allowed that many four times this season, but all the teams that did it (Raiders, Chiefs, Vikings, Bengals) fit the Packers' passing attack profile.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Denver Broncos

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Wyatt Ray (93) waits on the field after a play during an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the Cincinnati Bengals in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Sunday, October 17, 2021.

These two are both 7-6 and in the AFC wildcard playoff mix but the Bengals are certainly the sexier team with QB Joe Burrow and his top receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins doing plenty of damage through the air - but this game will need to be won on the ground.

Rookie Chase has 10 TDs and Higgins has stepped up more recently with three straight 100-yard games - but the Bengals usually do better when running back Joe Mixon leads the way. They've won all three of his 100-yard games and he's had 90 yards in five of their seven victories.

Denver are 2.5-point favourites at home and they've certainly got a secondary that can limit Burrow's success in the air, so getting Mixon rolling will be key for Cincy - along with stopping Denver's brutal rookie rusher Javonte Williams.

Melvin Gordon will be a TD threat if he's fit after six scores in five, but if not, Williams should have a big game as the Broncos will look to keep the chains moving with their ground and pound game.

The Bengals have won four out of six on the road and as away underdogs we're happy to side with them in what effectively is a coin toss of a game, and back Burrow to make the right throws at the right time.

Atlanta Falcons @ San Francisco 49ers

NFL, San Francisco 49ers, QB, Jimmp Garoppolo

San Francisco are warm order favourites here with around a 9.5-point spread but this could be a lot closer with plenty of similarities between the two sides - and with the Falcons just a game behind in the NFC wildcard race.

Most notably, they both have dynamic and versatile offensive players that have been perplexing opposing defenses this season in Deebo Samuel and Cordarrelle Patterson.

Niners receiver Samuel is being excessively used as a runner out of the backfield in Kyle Shanahan's exotic running scheme, while Atlanta's Patterson is a genuine dual threat with similar numbers in the pass and run game.

Patterson has 547 yards and five TDs rushing and 519 yards and five TDs receiving as Atlanta's main weapon, with only rookie tight end Kyle Pitts being as effective as Matt Ryan's top target.

He'll be watching George Kittle for tips on how to play tight end in the NFL, as he's been incredible in the last two games with 332 receiving yards and two TDs. Atlanta will struggle to contain him while they're focusing on stopping that dynamic run game.

The Falcons also struggle in stopping the pass rush, and that's not great news for Ryan with Nick Bosa set to be hunting him down on Sunday with already 14 sacks to his name.

There'll be plenty of run plays in this and look for Patterson to find the end zone at least once and Kittle to join him - with the Niners fancied to take it.

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady, Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL

The 11-point spread being quoted is a bit of a worry given how much trouble the New Orleans Saints have given Tom Brady during his time in Tampa Bay.

He's won just one out of three, but that was of course in the playoffs last year, in New Orleans, so he'll fancy beating them again with the NFC South title on the line.

Brady's had eight turnovers in four games against the Saints, and New Orleans will again lean on their defense and hope running back Alvin Kamara and running quarterback Taysom Hill can move the ball against the Bucs' stout run defense.

Tampa Bay have the league's best scoring offense and on paper should have more than enough to win this handsomely, but they've had trouble covering big points spreads and the Saints have in fact covered the spread in the last six regular season meetings.

The points total has also gone under in six of the last nine games between the two, and there's no way Sean Payton wants to go anywhere near a shootout so he'll persist with the run to try to keep the ball and keep Brady off the field.

Brady and company could, of course, blow this game open early on with a couple of quick scores, but the points spread is such a big one for a decent Saints defense that we'll side with them in a low-scorer.

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