Vilardo: 2023 Week 15 NFL West Power Rankings & Previews

The NFC took another step towards home-field advantage, the AFC West took a surprising turn

Posted on December 13, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

In the NFC, the 49ers took another step towards home-field advantage throughout with a win and some help and now have a chance to wrap up the division with a win this week.

The AFC West has taken a surprise turn with the Broncos, the only team winning in week 14 to close the Chiefs lead to a single game.

Week 14 saw plenty of upsets and surprises and I definitely did not see a lot of them coming. It was not a good week for me.

For my picks for the entire NFL, I went 4-11 with a 5-9-1 mark against the spread and a 6-8-1 over/under totals. Season-long, I am 129-83 overall, 108-94-5 ATS, 118-83- O/U.

Below are my Week 15 Power Rankings for the eight teams with a quick look at the upcoming week’s matchups and my game picks.

1. San Francisco 49ers (10-3) ◄►

Seahawks Review 

The 49ers helped themselves this week with a win over Seattle and got some help as well from Chicago and Dallas with their wins over Detroit and Philadelphia.

The result is that the 49ers now own the top seed in the NFC if the playoffs were to begin today.

A game clear of Detroit and owning tiebreakers over the Cowboys and Eagles, if the 49ers win out, they will not leave home in the playoffs.

With a healthy Deebo Samuel in the lineup, San Francisco is looking like the best team in the NFL. The receiver is perhaps playing the best football of his career right now.

Samuel collected two TDs and 150 scrimmage yards in the win over Seattle.

In the win last week, he became the second player in NFL history with at least 100 receiving yards, one touchdown reception, and one rushing touchdown in consecutive games. It was the first time it had been done since 1960.

Arizona Cardinals Preview 

Sunday, December 17
1:05 pm PT, CBS

The 49ers were 35-16 winners against the Cardinals the first times the teams met in San Francisco. Arizona did not have Kyler Murray in that one, but it was the defense that was the problem for the Cardinals.

Brock Purdy ended the game with just one incompletion in 21 pass attempts. Christian McCaffrey piled up 177 yards of total offense and the Niners ran for 124 and four TDs as a team.

Arizona was pretty good against the run entering that week four matchup. Entering week 15, Arizona is 31st in the league against the run, San Francisco is second in the NFL rushing the ball.

San Francisco was only able to get to Joshua Dobbs once in the first meeting. The 49ers have collected 12 sacks in their last five games as the pass rush has picked up during their five-game win streak.

Arizona did not do a very good job of pass protection at Pittsburgh in week 13. Look for San Francisco to have a field day on both sides of the ball as they push for the number one seed in the NFC.

My Pick: 49ers 38, Cardinals 13

[Advice: San Francisco opens as a 13.5-point favorite, a big number, but the Niners will win big and cover once again. The total goes over 48.5]

2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) ◄►

Bills Review 

The Chiefs have now lost two in a row and four of their last six. The division lead is down to just one game over the Broncos.

Do I think they will win the AFC West for the eighth consecutive season? Yes.

Do I think Patrick Mahomes will have to play a road game in the playoffs for the first time in his career? Probably, but that would require Kansas City to win their opener in the playoffs at home.

And that may not be a sure thing anymore. The KC offense has some significant questions this season.

We knew the receivers could be an issue entering the season but after running for 148 yards, KC could only generate 82 yards on the ground against Buffalo with Isaiah Pacheco sidelined with a shoulder injury.

For the third straight game, the Chiefs dug themselves a double-digit deficit and for the second straight week, they could not overcome it.

The slow starts are becoming a troubling pattern, and the offense is just not potent enough to overcome it against a good team.

Kansas City leads the NFL with 25 dropped passes this season. That coupled with the fact that the Chiefs are the fifth most penalized team in the league adds up to far too many self-inflicted issues that are causing problems.

New England Patriots Preview 

Sunday, December 17
10:00 am PT, FOX

The Chiefs pass rush was good against the Bills, putting pressure on Josh Allen on 12 of his 17 dropbacks when they blitzed. The problem against Buffalo was James Cook had a huge day out of the backfield catching the ball.

New England has struggled this season, but Ezekiel Elliott is coming off his best game of the season with 140 scrimmage yards against Pittsburgh last Thursday in their win.

The Chiefs will need to account for Elliott if and when they get pressure on Baily Zappe. The Patriots jumped on the Steelers early in building a 21-3 edge and hung on for the win.

Another slow start for Kansas City could yield similar results. This is a game the Chiefs should win comfortably. The question is will they be able to?

I think the answer to that one will be a resounding “Yes” as Kansas City gets things going in the right direction and the Patriots hunker down for a top-two draft choice.

My Pick: Chiefs 23, Patriots 10

[Advice: Kansas City is favored by 10 at home, they will cover that spread. The total stays below 37.5.]

3. Denver Broncos (7-6) ▲1

Chargers Review 

The Broncos find themselves just one game out of first place in the division following their 24-7 win over the Chargers.

Denver is getting it done with defense: Over the last eight games, they have allowed just 16.0 points per game after allowing 36.2 in the first five games of the season.

Denver is 6-2, with 18 takeaways, and has allowed 12 touchdowns in those eight games combined. Against the Chargers, it was more of the same as they limited LA to 283 yards of total offense.

Detroit Lions Preview 

Saturday, December 16
5:15 pm PT, NFL Net

The Denver defense will be tested this week with a trip to Detroit.

The Lions have started slowly in each of their last four games they have trailed after the opening quarter, going 2-2 in those games.

Mobile quarterbacks have caused issues for the Lions all season. Justin Fields certainly continued that theme last week throwing for 233 while running for 58.

Russell Wilson is certainly not as mobile as Fields but if he can find some space, he could make the Lions defense pay, especially when he gets out of the pocket and can continue to connect with Cortland Sutton.

Sutton is the first Denver receiver with double-digit TD receptions since 2014, and he should continue to roll in Detroit. The Broncos should keep it close, but outscoring Detroit could be a bigger challenge.

If Denver is to have a shot, the defense will have to contain the Lions and keep the game low-scoring.

My Pick: Lions 24, Broncos 20

[Advice: Detroit is a 5-point favorite, I think Denver will cover but the Lions get the win. The total will stay below 46.5.]

4. Los Angeles Rams (6-7) ▼1

Ravens Review 

The Rams’ three-game winning streak came to an end, but Los Angeles nearly left Baltimore with a huge road win.

Almost getting the win will not help them, but the Rams are proving they can go toe-to-toe with anyone in this league.

Cooper Kupp found his form on offense once again as he caught eight passes for 115 yards. That broke a career-long span of six games in a row with under 50 yards receiving.

While Kupp has been finding his game again, Puca Nacua continues his impressive rookie campaign with 82 receptions on the season, becoming the third player in NFL history with at least 80 catches in his first 13 games.

The overtime loss in Baltimore denied the Rams a chance to gain ground in the wildcard race. Seattle and Green Bay also lost but the Vikings’ 3-0 win gives Minnesota a leg up.

The good news for the Rams down the stretch is that only one of their final four opponents this season owns a winning record.

Washington Commanders Preview 

Sunday, December 17
1:05 pm PT, CBS

The Rams offense will get a favorable matchup this week against the Commanders. Washington has allowed 45 points in each of their last two games played.

In their last three games, Washington has allowed 40.3 points per game. Los Angeles has averaged 34.7 points per outing in their last three games played.

The Rams gave up too many big plays against Baltimore in the passing game and the walk-off punt return.

The Commanders have some playmakers on the outside that are capable of creating big plays so the Rams will need to tighten up more than they did last week.

The other side of the ball is where Washington has struggled. The Rams should be able to exploit the Washington defense and put up points in bunches as they return home.

My Pick: Rams 34, Commanders 26

[Advice: The Rams are favored by 6.5, look for them to cover and the total to go over 48.5]

5. Seattle Seahawks (6-7) ◄►

49ers Review 

The offense may have gotten back on track against Dallas, but without Geno Smith against the Niners, they had derailed again.

Drew Lock threw for 269 yards in the loss and was not terrible, but also turned it over twice and the offense was clearly missing Smith.

It was not just the offense that let the Seahawks down. The defense was non-existent against San Francisco.

The 527 yards allowed in the loss were the most for a Seattle defense since Week 2 of the 2019 season when the Bengals went for 571.

One bright spot on that side of the ball was Leonard Williams who ended up with a sack and four hits of Brock Purdy.

Philadelphia Eagles Preview 

Monday, December 18
5:15 pm PT, ABC/ESPN

Geno Smith should be able to be back from his groin injury in time for the Eagles game on Monday Night. The question is what kind of mobility will he have?

The offense clearly runs better under Smith, but any lingering effects from the injury could be big against the Eagles pass rush. The mobility of Lock could be the better option if Smith is unable to evade the pressure.

Philly is coming off their two worst games of the season and has struggled defensively in the red zone and on third down in those losses. If the Seahawks can pick up third downs this one could be a game.

A Monday night in Seattle with the 12th man rocking in a game the Seahawks need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, you just never know.

The Eagles also need this one in a bad way to keep pace in the NFC East and rebound.

My Pick: Eagles 26, Seahawks 20

[Advice: The Eagles are 3.5-point favorites on the road. This stays close, but Philly gets a late cover. The over/under is set at 47.5, that’s also a close one but goes under.]

6. Las Vegas Raiders (5-8) ◄►

Vikings Review 

The Raiders came out of their bye week and apparently forgot to let the offense know.

Vegas could get nothing going on that side of the ball as they were shut out 3-0, just the seventh time an NFL game has finished 3-0 in the Super Bowl era.

The offense was only able to muster eight first downs and 173 yards on the day. The Vikings loaded up the box with defenders to take away the run game and Aidan O’Connell and the passing game were unable to make them pay.

The defense played well, allowing just three points.

The difference? With Josh Dobbs struggling Kevin O’Connell turned to Nick Mullens at QB, while Antonio Pierce stuck with Aidan O’Connell rather than getting Jimmy Garoppolo in to provide a veteran presence.

Maxx Crosby continues to make a case for defensive player of the year with two more sacks to give him 13.5 on the season giving him 51 career sacks in his fifth season.

Los Angeles Chargers Preview 

Thursday, December 14
5:15 pm PT, Prime Video

The Chargers enter this Thursday’s game with all sorts of issues. The offensive line did not look good against Denver and the Raiders and Crosby could feast on Easton Stick in his first career start.

Las Vegas should be able to move the ball enough against the Chargers to put some points on the board. Then again all they needed was two FGs against the Vikings and they could not get that.

The Chargers offense has not been lighting things up with Justin Herbert at QB, and this week it will be Stick as Herbert is out with a broken index finger. The Raiders defense should control things.

My Pick: Raiders 13, Chargers 7

[Advice: The Raiders are three-point favorites and in the short week I like them to cover that. The point total is set at 33 and this one stays under.]

7. Los Angeles Chargers (5-8) ◄►

Broncos Review 

The season started with so much promise. The talent on the roaster is there, but the results simply have not been. Sky-high expectations have hit rock bottom at this point.

Justin Herbert has taken a beating all season and is now on the shelf for the remainder of the year after surgery to repair a broken index finger on his throwing hand.

In a crowded AFC, the Chargers are all but cooked for the playoffs. The offensive line was dominated by the Broncos.

Los Angeles has averaged 7.6 points per game in the last three games.

Las Vegas Raiders Preview 

Thursday, December 14
5:15 pm PT, Prime Video

Amazon cannot seem to catch a break with their Thursday Night games. Last week the QB matchup was Baily Zappe vs Mitch Trubisky, this week we are in store for Aidan O’Connell vs Easton Stick.

At least we can see marquee defensive playmakers in Maxx Crosby and Khalil Mack. The Chargers are banged up and have not played good football recently. The Raiders are coming off of a terrible offensive performance.

The defenses should own the day in this one. And right now, that edge lies with the Raiders.

A new QB entering in a short week could pay off for the Chargers as the Raiders will have less time to work on it. It could also easily go the other way.

My Pick: Raiders 13, Chargers 7

[Advice: The Raiders are three-point favorites and in the short week I like them to cover that. The point total is set at 33 and this one stays under.]

8. Arizona Cardinals (3-10) ◄►

BYE Week Review

Arizona entered the bye week with one of its best performances of the season with a convincing road win over Pittsburgh.

James Conner was able to put together his second 100-yard rushing day of the season.

The fact that the Patriots also beat the Steelers last week was another bonus as the Cardinals stayed even with New England in the draft race.

San Francisco 49ers Preview 

Sunday, December 17
1:05 pm PT, CBS

The line was able to open up holes for Conner to run through the last game but had a lot of issues in pass protection. That does not bode well heading into this week’s game with San Francisco.

The 49ers have been getting to the QB almost 2.5 times per game in their last five. Arizona just does not have enough to compete with San Francisco at this point in the season.

The Niners can run the ball and the Cardinals have struggled to stop the run. Everything in this one points to the conference leaders winning big.

My Pick: 49ers 38, Cardinals 13

[Advice: San Francisco opens as a 13.5-point favorite, a big number but the Niners will win big and cover once again. The total goes over 48.5]

—More from Stephen Vilardo—