NFL Week 15, five bold predictions: Bill Belichick beats former assistant; Desmond Ridder wins his first start

The San Francisco 49ers got Week 15 off to a rollicking start by winning their seventh game in a row, defeating the division rival Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football.

The weekend slate is a bit different than usual, as the NFL will treat us to three Saturday games and just 10 Sunday contests this week. A different schedule isn’t going to stop us from making our usual group of bold predictions, though. We’re just going to make sure we spread them out through the weekend, so there’s a Saturday prediction to start things off for you fine folks that will be tuned into your TV sets.

Without further ado…

Dolphins continued offensive slump

Through the first 12 weeks of the season, the Dolphins had one of the NFL’s best and most explosive offenses. They checked in third in the NFL in yards per play and per game, sixth in points per game, second in Tru Media’s expected points added (EPA) per play, and second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. They also created big plays at the highest rate in the league, with 25.6% of their snaps resulting in a gain of 10 or more yards, according to Tru Media. In the two games they’ve played against the 49ers and Chargers over the last two weeks, the Dolphins have gained 527 total yards and scored 34 combined points. They recorded a season-low 14 first downs in each of those games, during which Tua Tagovailoa went a combined 28 of 61 for 440 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions, while taking five of the 17 sacks he’s yielded all season. As we wrote last week, the Dolphins will face a similar challenge this week to the one posed by the 49ers when they take on the division rival Buffalo Bills. Throw in the expected poor weather (there’s a significant chance of snow and the temperature will be south of 30 degrees) that should suppress passing game production and it’s not difficult to see Miami once again having a slow offensive game.

The Saints have lost four of their last five games, with the only victory coming against a Rams team that lost Matthew Stafford mid-game. New Orleans has been occasionally vulnerable to blow-up games from opposing rushing attacks, and we’ve seen throughout this season that despite not having high-level personnel, Arthur Smith can scheme the Falcons into rushing success against almost any opponent. That’s what happens here, as the Falcons minimize the work their rookie quarterback has to do and secure a win against a division rival, miraculously keeping their playoff hopes alive for another week in the process.

Jets slow down explosive Lions passing game

Do you know when the last time an opponent totaled more than 200 net passing yards against the Jets was? If you guessed Week 7, you’d be correct. That was when Brett Rypien went 24 of 46 for 225 yards and an interception against them in a 16-9 New York victory over the Broncos. All season, the most net passing yards (passing yards minus yards lost to sacks) the Jets have allowed is just 261, and that was against the Bengals. The Jets are fresh off slowing down Josh Allen and the Bills and Justin Jefferson and the Vikings over the past two weeks, while the Lions have seen a dramatic drop-off in passing game performance in road games compared with those played at the friendly confines of Ford Field — which has essentially become the football version of Coors Field this season. On the turf and in the elements at MetLife Stadium, the guess here is that they have another poor performance.

Location Comp Atty comp % Yds YPA TD Int Sack Rtg ANY/A
Home 139 227 61.2 1628 7.2 7 6 14 82.3 6.2
Away 140 253 55.3 1524 6.0 6 4 17 74.6 5.4

Bill Belichick beats a former assistant

I was very surprised to learn that Belichick’s win-loss record against his former assistants is not all that good. Via the Patriots’ official website: “The one thorn in Belichick’s side over the last 23 seasons with the Patriots is facing off against his former assistant coaches and players. In matchups against his former proteges, Belichick has a pedestrian 15-13 record, with a 5-9 mark against his pupils since 2018.” One of those losses came against the Josh McDaniels-led Denver Broncos back in 2009. This time around against a McDaniels-coached squad, Belichick is going to get the better of his former offensive coordinator. Get ready to hear a lot of the phrase, “1-Double 17,” which is the coverage we are highly likely to see the Pats utilize against Davante Adams. That means he’s getting double-teamed all afternoon. The Raiders don’t have many other ways to move the ball through the air, so when Adams gets taken away, they’re much easier to stop.

Two weeks ago, the Giants and Commanders played to a 20-20 draw in what was honestly one of the most depressing football games of the year. Things won’t get much better in the rematch, but the Commies will secure a win on Sunday Night Football, thanks largely to the fact that they are just the healthier team right now. It will allow them to vault their division rivals in playoff positioning and give them a pretty decent shot of securing a wild-card berth.

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