Another week. Another brutal injury. Carson Wentz, a sure frontrunner for the MVP, tore his ACL on a touchdown run that was nullified by a penalty. The Eagles still pulled out a win in one of the best games of the week, but there is now considerably less wind behind their sails. It’s an extremely unfortunate development that is reminiscent of Derek Carr’s season-ending injury in week 16 of last year. There is no telling how Nick Foles will respond. The wild NFC playoff picture has become even murkier. The Seahawks, Lions, Cowboys, and Packers are all chomping at the heels of the six seed Atlanta Falcons. The NFC South has three teams currently in the postseason. Any of the three could win the division. Any (even two) of the three could miss the playoffs. There are a slew of head-to-head games still left to decide matters. Here’s hoping those games don’t net any more catastrophic injuries.

Bold Prediction: Teddy Bridgewater starts a Vikings game by week 17. It’s admittedly not that bold. Case Keenum will either fall off a cliff, or they’ll have little to play for the last week of the season. In either case, it would make sense to look at Teddy.

Kownack Record: 137-82

Madden Record: 129-90

Week 15 Picks


Big Game Spotlight

  • Kownack: Chargers 28, Chiefs 17 / Madden: Chargers 31, Chiefs 21

My Take – The Chiefs found a way to return to the win column in convincing fashion. That doesn’t necessarily mean their woes have come to an end. The Chargers put together an even more convincing win on Sunday and have enjoyed a blistering stretch of late. They have won four straight since dropping a heartbreaker in Jacksonville. It makes little sense to base this outcome on the Chargers and Chiefs’ week three matchup. That feels lifetimes ago now. Philip Rivers is on fire. With the help of Keenan Allen and the ascending Hunter Henry, he should scorch Kansas City’s poor excuse for a secondary. AFC West matchups are almost always competitive, but Los Angeles enters as the better team. They have the momentum to wrest the AFC West lead from the Chiefs for the first time all season.

Madden’s Take – Both quarterbacks played well in this rematch, completing 63% of their passes. Philip Rivers topped Alex Smith with 289 yards and three touchdowns versus 228 and two. Although Melvin Gordon was stymied for a 3.4 yards per carry average, he scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Keenan Allen kept up his electric play down the season’s home stretch with nine receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown. Neither defense forced a turnover. Joey Bosa recorded the game’s only sack.

  • Kownack: Packers 35, Panthers 30 / Madden: Packers 24, Panthers 31

Madden NFL 18_20171212225941

My Take – This is all about Aaron Rodgers (and sticking with my bold prediction from last week). The Packers were on a collision course for their most embarrassing loss in decades before the Browns Browns’d. Now, they get their future Hall of Famer back. It may not be enough. He’ll be rusty and is a historically slow starter. This has basically been a mini-offseason with a throwing shoulder injury to boot. The Green Bay secondary is in tatters and wasn’t strong to begin with. The Panthers have a ferocious defense and are coming off a big time win against Minnesota, a team that hadn’t lost for two months. Still, it’s too much fun to imagine the fury and terror around the rest of the league if Rodgers somehow Houdinis the Packers into the postseason.

Madden’s Take – Madden doesn’t like magic. Madden doesn’t care about impossible storylines. Aaron Rodgers threw the ball 43 times in his return and tossed two touchdowns to Richard Rodgers. Jordy Nelson was more involved than he has been since #12 went down – he caught six passes for 66 yards. It wasn’t enough to topple Carolina. Jonathan Stewart showed life for a second straight week with 106 yards and a score. Cam Newton threw for an unimpressive 197 yards but avoided committing turnovers. That ball security allowed Carolina to score 17 unanswered in the fourth to overcome a 24-14 deficit. The two fourth quarter scores were a Cam Newton run and ten-yard Greg Olsen catch. So much for Run The Table 2.0.

  • Kownack: Rams 31, Seahawks 20 / Madden: Rams 27, Seahawks 24

My Take – The Jaguars put up 30 on the Seahawks. The Rams have the weapons to match that total at the very least. The difference in the game will be Goff limiting turnovers and building a big enough lead to avoid Russell Wilson’s weekly late game heroics. Despite the fact that Seattle usually crushes opponents both at home and in December, this outcome is far from improbable. A much weaker Rams team came into CenturyLink Field and snapped Seattle’s five game win streak in December 2015. Plus, karma has to be going against the Seahawks. They proved themselves to be classless once again in the waning moments of the Jacksonville loss. Michael Bennett essentially attempted to tear Brandon Linder’s ACL during a kneel down. Quinton Jefferson tried to ignite the NFL’s version of “The Malice at the Palace.” Seattle was similarly dirty after losing the Super Bowl to the Patriots. It’s a recurring theme. No suspensions have been handed down. That is likely because Rams-Seahawks is a marquee matchup and the NFL has absolutely no protocol for what warrants a suspension. Los Angeles will just have to punish them on the field.

Madden’s Take – Madden consistently simulates Seattle games as the most heart stopping of the week. This time, the Rams held a 10-0 lead after the first quarter. Seattle clamped down on Goff and Gurley in order to claw back into it at 10-10 heading into the fourth. That’s when the mad dash to the finish began. Jared Goff threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins. The Seahawks countered with a 75-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Mike Davis. A goal line Tyler Higbee touchdown catch put Los Angeles back up before Russell Wilson drove his team down and scampered in from the one. The Rams had the ball last. They made it count with a Greg Zuerlein field goal in the game’s closing seconds.

  • Kownack: Patriots 30, Steelers 27 / Madden: Patriots 24, Steelers 27

Madden NFL 18_20171212234524

My Take – The Pittsburgh Steelers have become the popular pick aside from the upstart Jaguars to take New England out. We will find out if the team can live up to that hype this Sunday. The Steelers have a penchant for playing down to their opponents. In four of the last five, Pittsburgh has required a last second field goal to defeat the Colts, Packers, Bengals, and Ravens. Pittsburgh will certainly get pumped up to play New England. There’s just concern over whether it’ll be enough to shake the recent rut of falling behind. Chasing points against Tom Brady’s Patriots is a totally different beast. Some might point to the fact that New England had a similar issue against Miami and actually lost. That could make it even worse for Pittsburgh. The Patriots will play pissed. They should take control of the first seed.

Madden’s Take – This game was exactly what you would want and expect from a New England-Pittsburgh December showdown. The teams traded blows back and forth. The Steelers had a little too much firepower for New England’s defense to handle. Tom Brady threw for one touchdown and one pick compared to Big Ben’s two-touchdown, no turnover day. Le’Veon Bell also outpaced New England’s running backs. He carried the ball 26 times for 144 yards and a score. Mike Mitchell was responsible for the Brady interception. If this result occurs in real life, the Patriots will be in danger of missing out on a first round bye for the first time since 2009.

  • Kownack: Cowboys 24, Raiders 13 / Madden: Cowboys 21, Raiders 35

My Take – The Dallas Cowboys are one week away from getting Ezekiel Elliott back. They’ve finally located their mojo after looking abysmal for the first three weeks without him. Both teams are in must-win mode. The Cowboys are locked into fighting for the wildcard. Four teams sit in their way. The Raiders would fall two games behind in the AFC West with a loss and guarantee they finish the season no better than .500. That’s exactly what I’m predicting. Oakland is not the team they were a year ago. They failed to even fake motivation in a game for the division last week. Their defense has far more in common with Washington and New York than with the units that shut the Zeke-less Cowboys down. Everything points to a Dallas victory.

Madden’s Take – The Raiders jumped out to a 21-0 lead before letting the Cowboys score two touchdowns, a two point conversion, and two field goals over the course of the second and third quarter. With momentum overwhelmingly on their side, Dallas suddenly failed to sniff the endzone the rest of the game. Oakland remembered how to play football again and put Dallas away with a Jared Cook touchdown catch and a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run. They were able to get the win without Amari Cooper included in the lineup. Khalil Mack had 1.5 sacks and an interception. Chidobe Awuzie is apparently dealing with an injury, but he played in this simulation and notched his first career interception.

Pick a Lock

Kownack: Saints (vs. NYJ) – My apologies to Madden. Miami beat the crap out of Tom Brady. You were right. I was wrong. This week, the Saints have all the advantages over the Jets. Josh McCown’s broken hand eliminated New York’s last hope.

Madden: Vikings (vs. CIN) – If the Bengals didn’t officially give up last week, this Sunday will be their white flag moment. Minnesota won 40-13. Marcus Sherels returned two punt returns for touchdowns in the span of three minutes. It was that kind of game.


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