NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 1 (Pt. 2)
September 7, 2012 by Jeffrey Boswell • Print Story •
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
New England @ Tennessee (+6)
The Titans named Jake Locker their starter at quarterback early in the preseason and he, along with running back Chris Johnson, hope to lead the Titans challenge of the Texans in the AFC South. Mike Munchak knows he'll need big production from both Locker and Johnson.
"Chris Johnson has a lot to prove," Mike Munchak said, "so much so that he's hired a lawyer. Believe me, there are a lot of people who believe, with a reasonable doubt, that he can return to his 2010 form. I'm confident he can do it. Therefore, I'm christening our quarterback-running back duo 'Lock and Reload.' If that doesn't catch on, we'll try 'Jake and the Fast Man.'"
The Patriots are again favored to take the AFC East, and another trip to the Super Bowl appears well within reach. However, questions abound about the effectiveness of the Patriots defense, which ranked 31st in total defense last year.
"They say defense wins championships," Brady said. "Our defense put a stop to that adage, which, I believe, is the only thing they stopped all year.
"But we cannot take Tennessee lightly. Why? Well, if you look up the definition of 'Titan' in the dictionary, it says 'giant.' So, in essence, we're playing the 'Giants.' That, of course, doesn't bode well for our chances."
It's a tough opener for the Brady and the Pats, but with weaponry that would make Kenny Britt jealous, Brady and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez pass this early test.
New England wins, 30-27.
Jacksonville @ Minnesota (-4)
The Vikings aim to improve on last year's 3-13 record, but in the NFC North, arguably the NFL's toughest division, that will be a difficult task for head coach Leslie Frazier.
"Indeed," Frazier said. "We just want to make progress. Like Adrian Peterson's left knee, we hope to move in only one direction.
"In Adrian's reduced capacity, we're counting on Christian Ponder to carry us. He's the 'Christian Right' to Tim Tebow's 'Christian Left.' And speaking of 'reduced capacity,' I hear the Jags may be bringing a television blackout with them."
The Jaguars struggled mightily on offense last year, but running back Maurice Jones-Drew was the one constant, leading the league in rushing. Jones-Drew ended his holdout after 38 days, and will likely see limited playing time against the Vikes.
"Shahid Khan called my bluff," Jones-Drew said. "He obviously knows how to 'Pakistan-d' his ground. I guess you can say the terrorists won this one.
"But I think I know why negotiations went nowhere. It's hard to be serious when my agent and I are sitting across the table from Khan and his cartoonish mustache. It's like I Dream of Jeannie meets Ron Jeremy."
Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert could be in for a world of hurt on Sunday. Last year's NFL sack leader Jared Allen likes hunting, and he also likes blondes. And Gabbert, in addition to being "offenseless," is also "defenseless." It won't be a case of "He Went to Jared;" it will be a case of "Jared Went to Him."
Vikings win, 19-16.
Buffalo @ NY Jets (-3)
Rex Ryan and the Jets spent the balance of the offseason trying to determine a clear choice at quarterback. Finally, after much deliberation, Mark Sanchez was named the starter, although Tim Tebow will be used liberally.
"Quarterbacks aside," Rex Ryan said, "Antonio Cromartie may be the key to our offensive viability. In fact, we'd like to give him a look at quarterback. He's smart, athletic, and he wouldn't have to tackle anyone. It would be just like he was playing defense. Plus, he should have no problem supervising ten others. He's got 12 children, for Christ's sake. They call him 'Joe Paternal,' because he doesn't know when to say 'enough.'"
The Bills blasted out of the gate in 2011, winning four of their first five games before fading to a 6-10 record, including a seven-game losing streak.
"Ask anyone in Buffalo," Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "They'll tell you a seven-game losing streak is tolerable. It's those four-game losing streaks that pain a Buffalo native, particularly when it's to NFC teams.
"But I don't think it's crazy to aim for the Super Bowl. But let's not get carried away. We're plan to make it to the Super Bowl, not win it."
Many experts say this year's Jets defense could be the best in franchise history. The offense plans on giving them plenty of chances to prove it.
Fitzpatrick steers clear of Revis Island, and instead looks for short passes to Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The Jets offense sputters, and Rian Lindell wins it with a late 43-yard field goal.
Buffalo wins, 19-17.
Miami @ Houston (-12)
The Dolphins, with new head coach Joe Philbin and new quarterback Ryan Tannehill, head to Houston to face the tough Texans, last year's AFC South champs.
"We are definitely a team that has experienced personnel changes," Philbin said. "We unloaded Brandon Marshall, which we called an 'attitude adjustment' to the roster.
"And in mid-August we released Chad Johnson. And in that same week, Reggie Bush returned his 2005 Heisman Trophy. That means two dark-skinned icons left town in the span of a week, something that hasn't happened since Crockett and Tubbs left Miami for Columbia to hunt Calderon."
The Texans advanced to the divisional round last year before falling to the Ravens. As they say, things are bigger in Texas, like the Texans' thinking, and they clearly have their sights set on the Super Bowl.
"Expectations are high," Gary Kubiak said. "Let's hope those expectations don't 'hamstring' our performance.
"We plan to throw a lot of looks at Tannehill with the intent of confusing him. Of course, the best way to do that may be asking him to explain the NFL's divisions."
The Texans have too much offense, and too much defense. By the fourth quarter, the Dolphins have had enough.
Houston wins, 35-9.
Seattle @ Arizona (+3)
Arizona was one of the last teams to name a starting quarterback, finally settling on John Skelton, in his third year out of Fordham.
"Let me make a correction," Ken Whisenhunt said. "I was, in fact, the first coach to name a starter. I did that in July, when I reeled off the names of 20 starters I'd rather call my own that what I have here.
"But we'll make do with what we have. John has started games before, but he's still learning. If he were a comedian, he'd be called 'Green Skelton.' But John's not a comedian, because there's nothing funny about him as my starting quarterback."
Pete Carroll named rookie Russell Wilson the starting quarterback in late August, while Matt Flynn, Seattle's prized free agent acquisition, will serve as backup.
"We paid handsomely for a backup quarterback this offseason, and that's exactly what we got in Matt Flynn," Carroll said. "I think everyone, myself included, expected Matt to be the starter. As it is, you can say Russell is 'in like Flynn.'
"Russell is a dynamic quarterback, with all the tools. Why don't we call him 'Russell Athletic?' Let's not, because Russell's not one to call attention to himself. If he did, we'd have to call him 'Russell Crow.'"
Wilson throws for a score, and rushes for one. Marshawn Lynch adds 106 yards on the ground to secure the win.
Seattle wins, 20-17.
San Francisco @ Green Bay (-5)
The 49ers and Packers begin their 2012 campaigns in a game that could very well preview the NFC Championship game come January. The 49ers won the West with a 13-3 record after a 6-10 record in 2010, before falling to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
"I think we've proven ourselves to be among the NFC's elite," Jim Harbaugh said. "You could say we're out of the closet.
"But we didn't rest on our laurels. We upgraded during the offseason, signing Randy Moss. That's got a lot of people thinking that Randy still has a little magic left. Maybe he does have a little 'tease in the afro' yet. I'm counting on it. It remains to be seen what's faster: Randy hitting a seam, or hitting waivers."
The Packers' league-best 15-1 record eventually fell victim to failure on defense, particularly in the defensive backfield. Last year's playoff loss to the Giants was a stinging reminder of the importance of balance.
"We can't blame all our troubles on our defense," Aaron Rodgers said. "In fact, I'd say our offense needs tweaking. That's why I advocated signing Tim Tebow. With Tebow on the roster, we'd be able to say 'Hail Mary's!' instead of giving up 'Hail Mary's!'"
Rodgers and the Packers' offense come out firing, and jump on the 49ers 14-0 in a hurry. San Fran battles back, but the Packers pull away for a 27-23 win.
Moss goes scoreless, but draws high praise for squirting a replacement official with a water bottle.
Carolina @ Tampa Bay (+2½)
The Panthers open the season with their annual trip to Tampa, with their hot and bothered cheerleaders in tow. Second-year quarterback Cam Newton will carry the offense, and head coach Ron Rivera expects more out of a defense that was depleted by injuries last year.
"We were eaten alive by injuries last year," Rivera said. "But I'm not making excuses for them. I'm gonna come right out and say it. We need a lot more out of our defense. If that hurts feelings, then so be it. That being said, hurt feelings put a lot of our guys on injured reserve last year."
The fired-up Bucs come out ready, intercepting Newton on the Panthers first possession. Josh Freeman hooks up with new target Vincent Jackson 6 times for 98 yards and a score, and Tampa repels a late Carolina rally.
Tampa wins, 23-20.
Pittsburgh @ Denver (-1)
John Elway snatched up Peyton Manning in a hurry after trading away Tim Tebow. The Broncos won the AFC West with an 8-8 record last year, and the addition of the former Colt makes Denver an automatic Super Bowl contender.
"We made some hard decisions," Elway said. "And we determined that, with Tebow at quarterback, our season would likely go to hell.
"This is Peyton's team now. And this is Peyton's city. Everybody loves Peyton. That's more than you can say about Ben Roethlisberger. He's not loved. Heck, he's barely liked on Facebook. 'Tebow versus Roethlisberger' was a battle of 'good versus evil.' The same goes for 'Manning versus Roethlisberger.' Except the 'good' is actually good.'"
The Steelers were stunned by the Broncos in the first round of the playoffs last year, falling 29-23 in overtime. Sunday night's game is their first chance to avenge that painful loss.
"We've put that loss behind us," Mike Tomlin said. "On Sunday night, we're going to play our game. We don't need to worry about stopping Manning. The Broncos need to worry about stopping James Harrison. James has been looking forward to this game since the schedules came out. This may be his best chance ever to cripple an opponent."
Fired up and rowdy Denver fans, nicknamed the "Broncs' Zoo," go berserk when the public address system plays Charlie Rich's "Behind Closed Doors" when Roethlisberger hits the field during pre-game introductions. Manning's blind side is well-protected, as the Broncos' running backs assist the line in keeping Harrison at bay, thus allowing Manning to work downfield.
Manning throws for 259 yards and 2 scores, and the Broncos win, 24-22.
Cincinnati @ Baltimore (-6)
The Ravens saw their AFC championship hopes drift away as Billy Cundiff's 32-yard field goal sailed wide left, giving the Patriots a 23-20 win. They'll face AFC North rivals Cincinnati as Baltimore looks to make another championship run.
"As you know," said John Harbaigh, "we released Cundiff on August 26th, which was about seven months too late. Billy's been kicking himself for that miss all offseason, but I hear he's missed every time."
Last year, the Bengals joined the Ravens and Steelers in the playoffs, giving the North three of the AFC's six representatives.
"Luckily," Andy Dalton said, "Terrell Suggs is out for this game and others with a torn Achilles' heel. He went from a 'terror' to a 'tear-or.' I hear they're flying the flags at Ball So Hard University at well below half-mast, which I interpret as 'one-foot off the ground.'"
Ravens win, 20-16.
San Diego @ Oakland (+1)
With a 10:15 EST Time kickoff scheduled, there are many fans who will likely be asleep by halftime of Monday night AFC West showdown. And those are the people that choose to watch the game. But that takes nothing away from the game's intensity, as the Chargers-Raiders rivalry is one of the league's most heated.
"An opening week win is vital," said new Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, "especially over a division opponent. In the AFC West, every win counts, often on one hand.
"When December comes, you can be sure to find us in the hunt for the West crown, just as surely as you can find Sebastian Janikowski on the hunt at 'Slipped Mickey's Bar And Grill.'"
Often tabbed in year's past as a Super Bowl contender, Phillip Rivers and the Chargers have yet to reach that potential. This may be their last chance to fulfill that ambition.
"Peyton Manning's not the only neck injury in the AFC West," Rivers said. "At least he got his fixed. This team's been choking for years and we still haven't done anything about it.
"But you may see a different mindset in San Diego this year. We're playing with a newfound killer instinct. Norv Turner has instilled the need to play every game like it is your last. He's spent a long career coaching with that same philosophy. This year, it just might come to fruition."
Raiders win, 27-24.