By Steve Silverman
Patrick Mahomes has thrown 43 touchdowns so far this season, a big reason his Kansas City Chiefs have the best record in the AFC. But even at 11-2, they can’t afford to take the foot off the gas. That’s because Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers sit a game back at 10-3. And guess who’s coming to town on Thursday?
The matchup will likely be another high-scoring affair. The Chargers defense certainly outclasses the Chiefs defense, but they won’t be able to limit the points against their division rivals. So it’s no surprise that Mahomes and Rivers are predicted to be among the top-scoring QBs in Week 15.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City vs. Los Angeles Chargers, FD Proj. – 27.0 points
The high-scoring Chiefs face their biggest game of the season, as they host the Chargers Thursday night. If the Chiefs win, they will clinch the AFC West and likely have home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs for the duration. The strong-armed Mahomes should be able to take advantage of the Chargers defense with his accuracy and touch. Mahomes has 43 TD passes and 4,300 passing yards.
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans at Carolina – 26.0 points
The Saints lost two weeks ago to the Dallas Cowboys, and they were not sharp in beating Tampa Bay last Sunday. However, they got hot in the second half of that game. Look for Drew Brees, who is completing 75.7 percent of his passes and has a 31-4 TD-interception ratio, to lead his team to a relatively easy victory over the slumping Panthers.
3. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis vs. Dallas – 25.2 points.
The Colts have made a major statement this season, as Luck has been the driving force of their resurgence. Luck has passed for 3,759 yards and has 34 TDs, and he has an excellent chance of doing damage against the high-flying Cowboys.
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh vs. New England – 24.4 points
The Steelers continue to lose, and their status as AFC North leaders is in jeopardy. After losing three straight, they must wake up at home against the Patriots, and that means Roethlisberger must be at the top of his game. He needs to build on his 4,227 passing yards and 28 TD passes.
5. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City – 23.6 points.
Rivers has been getting the job done all season, and while his Chargers will have a difficult time beating the Chiefs, look for Rivers and the Chargers to put on a scoring show of their own. Rivers is completing 69.4 percent of his passes and has a 29-6 TD-interception ratio.
1. Saquon Barkley, N.Y. Giants vs. Tennessee – 21.2 points
There’s no telling how good Barkley will be when he reaches Year 2 or Year 3 of his career, but as a rookie, he is already a top-three running back. Barkley is still surging, and he is fast enough to break long runs and powerful enough to run over linebackers. Barkley has already gained 1,124 yards and scored nine rushing TDs.
2. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas at Indianapolis – 20.0 points
The Cowboys have been the hottest team in the NFL, and one of the biggest reasons has been the big-play running ability of Elliott. The Dallas running back has received a big assist from the solid offensive line, and he could be positioned to take advantage of the Indianapolis defense.
3. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams vs. Philadelphia – 19.4 points
The Rams are coming off a tough loss to the Bears, in which Chicago shut down the Los Angeles offense and held them to two field goals. Gurley was held in check for one of the few times this season, and he is going to make the Eagles pay. Gurley has rushed for 1,203 yards and 15 TDs, and he is a huge threat as a receiver.
4. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville vs. Washington – 18.6 points
It has been a tough year for the Jaguars, as they have failed to live up to expectations after reaching the AFC title game last season. Fournette will tear up the Washington defense, much as Barkley (170 yards) did last week. Fournette has struggled with injuries this year (this will be just his seventh game), and he should have his best game of the year.
5. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans at Carolina – 16.9 points
The Saints are working for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, and we don’t see them getting stopped in Week 15 by the Panthers. Kamara will show off his pinball style of running, as he torches the Carolina defense with at least 100 rushing yards.
1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh vs. New England – 17.8 points
It’s basically impossible to stay away from Brown as the No. 1 receiver in any week late in the season. Brown has all the tools to destroy defensive backs, including speed, quickness, amazing hands and the ability to set up defenders. Brown has already caught 12 TD passes and should catch two more against the Patriots.
2. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston at New York Jets – 16.6 points
Hopkins and the Texans saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end against the Indianapolis Colts, but they are still fighting for a top-two seed in the AFC. Look for the Texans to get back up against the Jets, and Hopkins should have a huge day.
3. Adam Thielen, Minnesota vs. Miami – 16.0 points
The Vikings have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL this season. Despite expectations as the NFC’s top team, they have been mediocre. Despite their disappointment, they are still within the NFC playoff structure, and look for a big bounce back after losing Monday night at Seattle. Look for Thielen to catch at least eight passes in this game and build off his 103-1,236-9 totals.
4. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City – 15.8 points
The combination of Rivers to Allen is one of the best in the league, and look for these two to be at their best Thursday night, as they try to tie the Chiefs in the AFC West. Allen is not going to drop the ball, and he should have no problems getting open against the yielding Kansas City secondary.
5. Julio Jones, Atlanta vs. Arizona – 14.4 points
The Falcons have had a disastrous season, even though their offense has functioned at a fairly high level. Jones leads the league with 1,429 receiving yards, and this could be the week he puts multiple touchdowns on the board and leads the Falcons to an easy victory.
1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City vs. Los Angeles Chargers – 11.2 points
Kelce should be prepared to make a key contribution in this huge game for the Chiefs. He is the most athletic tight end in the league, and his leaping ability and excellent hands will cause problems for the Chargers.
2. Eric Ebron, Indianapolis vs. Dallas – 10.7 points
Ebron continues to produce for the Colts, as he caught his 12th touchdown pass of the season in the Colts’ Week 14 win over the Texans. Ebron is building a sensational partnership with Andrew Luck, and they should put that relationship on display against the Cowboys
3. Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay at Baltimore – 10.0 points
Brate may be the Bucs’ most dependable receiving weapon, and that means he should get quite a bit of action against the Ravens. The Baltimore defense will shut down the other Tampa Bay receivers, and Brate will thrive.
4. Jared Cook, Oakland at Cincinnati – 9.4 points
A funny thing has happened to the Raiders in recent weeks. They battled hard for 60 minutes against the Chiefs in Week 13, registering a comeback before dropping a 40-33 decision. They followed that up with an upset win over the Steelers. Cook and his teammates should be able to throttle the Bengals, a team that has fallen apart in recent weeks. Cook has caught 61 passes for 825 yards and six TDs, and he has a huge day here.
5. George Kittle, San Francisco vs. Seattle – 8.8 points
The Seattle defense looked impenetrable Monday night at home vs. the Vikings, but they will not sustain that on the road against the Niners. Seattle will be looking ahead to its Week 16 game against the Chiefs, and Kittle will take advantage of a unit that lacks focus for this game.