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Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (18:00 GMT)
Twelve months ago the in-form Chicago Bears were considered serious contenders to win the Super Bowl and were going into a meeting with long-time rivals Green Bay looking to wrap up the NFC North title for the first time in several years. Fast forward to Week 15 of the 2019 NFL season and the Bears are trying to keep their playoff big alive in a must-win matchup at Lambeau Field. Chicago have resurrected their season in recent weeks, with much-maligned quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the rest of the offense sparking into life during a run of four wins in five games. The Week 14 win over Dallas was easily their most impressive to date as Trubisky torched the Cowboys through the air and on the ground, but have Chicago really upped their game over the past few weeks or have they merely benefited from a relatively soft schedule? And have they left their postseason charge too late? Those questions will be answered here. While Chicago are trying to stay alive in the playoff race, the Packers have pretty much earned a postseason berth even if it has not been confirmed. They are one game clear in the NFC North and their 10-3 record has them in pole position for a wildcard spot as long as they do not go 0-3 over the final three weeks of the season. Looking at their schedule they appear to be good value for at least two wins – including this meeting with the Bears which serves as their final home game of the regular season. Chicago’s defense will receive a major boost with the return to Akiem Hicks, and despite the absence of key linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith this unit should do what it has done all season and that is keep their team in the game. Now they seemingly have the offense to complement that and it would not be a massive shock to see the Bears pull this one out, but this Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field and as we have seen so often in this rivalry, Number 12 will make a couple of huge plays to lead his team to victory. It will be less than two touchdowns though – the Bears have very rarely suffered heavy defeats, at least on the scoreboard, since Matt Nagy took the reins.
Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys (21:25 GMT)
These two playoff-chasing teams experienced very contrasting fortunes in Week 14. The Los Angeles Rams were able to keep themselves in the hunt for a wildcard spot and maintain a one-game lead over Chicago with a much-needed win over in-form Seattle. The Rams had gone 2-1 in their previous three games, but their two victories had come against poor opposition so they were not massively fancied to get the better of a Seahawks team who had moved top of the NFC West recently. They burst into life on both sides of the football though to come away with a 28-12 victory, and they will now aim to win three games on the bounce for the first time since the first three weeks of the season when they head to Dallas. While LA shone at the Coliseum, the Cowboys were performing an autopsy on a miserable defeat in Chicago – their third straight loss and fourth defeat in five games. Dallas’ once again started with a strong opening drive only to falter badly after that, and had it not been for ‘garbage time’ yards and points that score at Soldier Field would have been much more embarrassing for them. Despite the loss and a woeful 6-7 record, Dallas still top the NFC East, or as some are now calling it, the NFC Least, but Philadelphia have joined them on that mark and that means these two underperforming teams are now locked in a three-week race to reach the postseason. For Dallas it is vital that they come away with wins in their two remaining home games, but I just cannot find any confidence to back them here. Los Angeles have hardly been fantastic this season, but last week’s win may be just what the doctor ordered as they look to make a last-ditch surge for a wildcard berth. Against a Cowboys team who have completely fallen apart over the past several weeks, I fancy the Rams to continue their renaissance with a big road win on Sunday night.
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers (21:25 GMT)
The San Francisco 49ers regained top spot in the NFC West and put themselves back at the front of the race for the number one seeing with a thrilling win in New Orleans last weekend. The showdown at the Superdome descended into a straight up shootout as the two teams combined for 94 points, with 12 of them coming in an epic final 148 seconds. Robbie Gould gave the Niners a five-point lead with 2:28 on the clock, but that was more than enough time for Drew Brees to lead the Saints down the field and he capped off a seven-play, 7-yard drive which was capped off by an 18-yard touchdown pass to Tre’Quan Smith with 60 seconds remaining. However, those 60 seconds proved to be ample time for San Francisco to issue a response and they did just that as Jimmy Garoppolo hit George Kittle for a huge pass play and Robbie Gould booted in a game-winning field goal from 30 yards. That win, coupled with the loss for Seattle, means the 49ers are once again the cream of the crop in the NFC, but can they maintain that position with a Week 15 win at home to Atlanta? The Falcons’ season was pretty much ended by a six-game losing streak between late September and early October, but to their credit the players have been performing for under-fire head coach Dan Quinn and they have now gone 3-2 in their last five games, a decent run of form that has seen them beat Carolina twice and get the better of New Orleans. Those two wins over the Panthers were convincing ones too, but they are not enough to inspire confidence that they can become only the third team to beat the Niners this season. The San Francisco defense may have been hit for 46 points last week, but that has to be considered a one-off because this remains one of the premier defensive units in all of football. And on the opposite side of the football, how can they not have been buoyed by that superb performance in the Superdome that saw them rack up a season-high 516 yards while also amassing 48 points, their second highest total of the season so far. The 49ers should come away with the ‘W’ here and they should do it in comfortable fashion.