Thursday, November 15, 2012

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 11

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Miami @ Buffalo (-1)

The Bills fell to last in the AFC East with a 37-31 at New England, as the Buffalo defense once again faltered. Buffalo is 3-6, thee games behind the 6-3 Pats, and faces the Dolphins in Buffalo for Thursday Night Football.

"As they say," Chan Gailey said, "it's time to circle the wagons. Luckily, in Buffalo, when we 'circle the wagons,' it forms a perfect circle, which is the only way to get a 'ring' in Buffalo.

"But we expect the fans Ralph Wilson Stadium to be much like the jock strap of one of the many NFL players busted for driving while impaired: supportive, and reeking of alcohol."

Ryan Tannehill threw 3 interceptions in Miami's 37-3 loss to the Titans last week, the Dolphins' second consecutive loss. Now 4-5, Miami trails the Patriots by two games in the AFC East.

"It seemed like only yesterday that we were talking playoffs," Joe Philbin said. "That doesn't mean we've stopped. In fact, we're talking playoffs non-stop now. Of course, it's 'all talk.'"

The 'Fins bounce back with a 27-21 win.

Arizona @ Atlanta (-10)

Despite 411 yards passing from Matt Ryan, the Falcons lost for the first time in nine tries, falling 31-27 in New Orleans. Atlanta still holds a comfortable three-game lead in the NFC South over the 5-4 Bucs, with the 4-5 Saints rising.

"The 1972 Miami Dolphins can rest easy," Roddy White said. "At least those can that aren't already resting easy.

"I said we 'gave' the win to the Saints. That was just a few days after I said we had the 'pedigree' to go 16-0. In other words, I made 'two points,' which pretty much describes our recent playoff performance."

The 4-5 Cardinals enjoyed a much-needed bye, and look to turn their season around after suffering their fifth straight defeat in Week 8.

"We know what it's like to have an undefeated season come crashing down," Larry Fitzgerald said. "We started the season 4-0. Since then, we've lost five in a row. So much for that '0' on the loss column. However, at our current pace, we're bound to reclaim a '0' in the loss column. It's too bad it will be accompanied by a '1.'"

The Cardinals need a win in the worst way. Make that the second-worst way. What they need in the worst way is a quarterback.

The Atlanta defense makes a statement, by staying silent, and make life miserable for John Skelton. The Arizona defense keeps the Cards in it, with 2 turnovers, but Ryan and the offense pull away late.

Falcons win, 28-21.

Cleveland @ Dallas (-7½)

The Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-23 in Philadelphia and now trail the Giants, who lost to the Bengals, by only 1½ games in the NFC East. The 2-7 Browns visit Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.

"We could very well be the NFC East's best team," Tony Romo said. "Of course, the best team doesn't always win. Except when they're playing the Cowboys.

"The Giants are fading, and the Eagles are transparent. We're gaining fast on the Giants. I'm sure Jerry Jones can appreciate that we're knocking on their door."

The 2-7 Browns will likely try to establish the running game in order to take pressure off of rookie Brandon Weeden, who's likely to see heat from DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas defensive line.

"I know we can run on the Cowboys," Weeden said. "Much like Trent Richardson and his injured ribs, they're soft in the middle.

"I had a mediocre career as a minor league professional pitcher. I had an ERA that was off the charts. In fact, Jerry Jones had one more 'shutout' than I."

There's a wild west atmosphere in Cowboys Stadium on Sunday. Not because there's a shootout brewing, but because of the "Not Wanted" posters nailed to the walls featuring Jones' likeness.

Dallas tunes up for a Thanksgiving date with the Redskins with a semi-convincing 24-20 win over the Browns.

Green Bay @ Detroit (+3)

With a 34-24 loss in Minnesota, the Lions may have seen any chance for the playoffs disappear in cavernous Mall of America Stadium. The Lions surrendered 177 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns to Adrian Peterson.

"Ndamukong Suh may have been voted the NFL's dirtiest player," Matthew Stafford said, "but Peterson gets my vote as the 'nastiest.' They call him 'All Day' because he never tires. Despite what the legal system say, 'A.P.' is, in fact, guilty of 'resisting a rest.'"

The 6-3 Packers had a Week 10 bye, and used it to rest, get healthy, and watch a Bears' loss on Sunday night.

"We also tried to find a solution for our anemic running game," Aaron Rodgers said. "Unfortunately, our rushing attack is a lot like a Clay Matthews' Fathead — it's stuck in one place, and lacks depth."

Green Bay wins, 31-27.

Cincinnati @ Kansas City (+3)

The Bengals whipped the Giants 31-13 in a must-win game at Cincinnati last week, as Andy Dalton tossed four scoring passes. At 4-5, the Bengals can't afford a letdown against the lowly Chiefs.

"Despite being the home team," Dalton said, "we sure 'took it to' the Giants. For all those not satisfied with the public education system, chalk one up for the 'home-schoolers.'

"It's never easy playing in Arrowhead Stadium, especially for Chiefs' starting quarterbacks. Luckily for them, they don't remember it."

The Chiefs fell to the Steelers in Pittsburgh 16-13 in overtime last Monday night, and are now 1-8, tied for the worst record in the NFL.

"It took us nine games," Romeo Crenel said, "but we finally led a game for the first time. Trust me, it's not the first time I've been accused of having 'ample behind.'"

Cincinnati wins, 20-19.

Philadelphia @ Washington (-3½)

Michael Vick was knocked out early in the Eagles' 38-23 loss to the Cowboys last week, and was later diagnosed with a concussion. With Vick out, Nick Foles will get the start for Philly.

"The Cowboys did something Andy Reid didn't have the guts to," said LeSean McCoy, "and that's 'take out' Vick. But make no mistake — this team, and this city, are still behind Reid. And if we all push hard enough, we just might be able to get him out the door."

"Now, don't be surprised if you see signs around Philadelphia that say 'Can Andy Reid.' Keep in mind, they in no way question Reid's literacy."

Sunday's game at FedEx Field begins a run of three straight games against NFC East competition for the Eagles. The loser of Sunday's contest in Washington falls into last place in the division.

"This is our chance to make a dent in the division," Robert Griffin III said. "Thus far, the only 'dents' made in the division have been in Vick's and my heads.

"I only wish the best for Vick. He was my idol when I was a kid. I truly think he's a changed man. He's paid his debt to society; unfortunately, his other creditors haven't seen any payment from him."

All the talk in D.C. is about the "Petraeus Probe," which clueless NFL players believe is some type of sex toy. New Eagles starting quarterback Nick Foles, much like a marital aid, "gets the job done."

LeSean McCoy rushes for 125 yards and a score, and catches 6 passes for 75 yards.

Philadelphia wins, 30-21.

Tampa Bay @ Carolina (+1½)

The surging Buccaneers are 5-4, winners of three in a row after last week's 34-24 win over the Chargers. Up next for Bucs is NFC South nemesis Carolina and quarterback Cam Newton.

"Ryan Khalil of the Panthers placed a full-page ad in the Charlotte newspaper earlier this season claiming the Panthers would win the Super Bowl," Greg Schiano said. "Oh how times have changed. The Panthers have fired their GM and their special teams coach in the span of a few weeks. Now, the only time Carolina makes the news is in the 'help wanted' section.

"But we'll have to gear our defense to stop Newton. He compares himself to Superman, and I can understand why. Superman changes in a phone booth and becomes a hero. Newton 'changes' in the post-game press conference and becomes a villain."

The struggling Panthers are 2-7 after last week's 36-14 loss to the Broncos in Charlotte. Newton was sacked seven times and threw 2 interceptions, continuing the struggles that have frustrated him this season.

"Is Newton sulking again?" Ron Rivera said. "If you see him wearing a vintage XFL jersey with the nameplate reading 'They Hate Me,' then the answer is 'yes.'

"But I think it's time for our defense to step up. Otherwise, another member of this coaching staff may have to 'step down.'"

Carolina wins, 31-27.

Jacksonville @ Houston (-16)

The struggling Jaguars lost 27-10 to the Colts and rookie phenom Andrew Luck last Thursday night. Jacksonville is 1-8, tied for the Chiefs for the NFL's worst record.

"Luckily," Mike Mularkey said, "we've had 10 days to prepare for the Texans. It's not exactly a bye week, which, in Jacksonville, is called a 'Jag' Off,' but it will have to do.

"We'd like to see some improvement from Blaine Gabbert. Or do we? I'm not sure what I'm more anxious to see: more from Blaine, or less of him."

The Texans dominated defensively in Chicago last Sunday night, holding the Bears to only eight first downs and two Robbie Gould field goals. Houston's 13-6 win improved their record to 8-1, and struck a blow for the AFC superiority.

"If the Bears are the NFC's best," J.J. Watt said, "then the AFC championship game should be moved from January 19th to February 3rd.

"Gabbert should strap his helmet on tight. He's teetering on the precipice of losing his job. He's wavering; soon, he may be on waivers."

Houston wins, 31-12.

NY Jets @ St. Louis (-1)

The Jets' offense was totally shut down by the Seahawks last week, managing only 185 total yards in a 28-7 loss. New York's only points came on a fumble return for a score in the first quarter.

"Marshawn Lynch ran over and around us for 124 yards," Rex Ryan said. "I can't till you how many times we lost contain. Me? I've only lost contain once; that's what made me go on a diet.

"Antonio Cromartie says we'll make the playoffs, and I think he's right. I tend to believe a man with 12 children when he says you'll 'get in.'"

The Rams took the 49ers to the limit in a 24-24 tie at Candlestick Park last Sunday. In fact, the Rams would have won on Greg Zuerlein's 53-yard field goal, but a delay of game penalty nullified the kick, and Zuerlein missed the ensuing 58-yarder.

"That was the first tie in the NFL since 2008," James Laurinaitis said. "My father, Road Warrior Animal, called Sunday's game a 'time limit draw.'

"People can say what they will about professional wrestlers. Many think they lack intelligence. They don't. As a matter of fact, 100% of pro wrestlers know the rules of NFL overtimes."

The Rams intercept Mark Sanchez twice, and Ryan yanks him in favor of Tim Tebow late in the third quarter. Sadly, the entire Jets' offensive line turn their backs to Tebow.

St. Louis wins, 19-17.

New Orleans @ Oakland (+3)

The fired-up Saints took down the undefeated Falcons 31-27 last week, led by 298 yards passing and three touchdowns from Drew Brees. The 4-5 Saints now trail the Falcons by four games in the NFC South.

"The Falcons talked a lot of trash," Jonathan Vilma said, "and we made them regret it. I know the bounty scandal may make it seem otherwise, but sometimes, we make the other team 'pay.'

"We're in a position where we may have to win our remaining seven games to make the playoffs. That may be asking too much. Now, if we 'ran tables' like I run bounty programs, we'd be in business."

After taking a 55-20 pounding last week, the Raiders must regroup in a hurry as the Saints and their high-powered offense come to town.

"I was appalled that the Ravens ran up the score. Then the second half started.

"The Saints get all the press about their bounty scandal, but the Raiders made playing dirty infamous long before that. Back then, there were bounties placed on opposing players every home game, and that was by the fans."

Oakland defends their home turf, and takes down the Saints, 31-28.

San Diego @ Denver (-6)

With the Chargers driving for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter, Phillip River's errant pass was intercepted and returned 83 yards for a score by Tampa's Leonard Johnson. After San Diego's eventual 34-24 loss, the normally reserved Norv Turner snapped in a post-game interview.

"Hey," Turner said, "isn't it about time someone said, 'I've had enough' in San Diego?"

The Broncos strengthened their grip on the AFC West with a dominant 36-14 win over the Panthers, while their three West counterparts lost. Denver leads the Chargers by two games.

"The Chargers are struggling," Manning said. "The last time we played, we scored 24 unanswered points. San Diego has at least that many unanswered questions.

"I tied Dan Marino for second on the all-time scoring passes list with my 420th TD. Brett Favre leads that list with 504 TDs. That means I trail Favre by 84 TDs, 159 interceptions, several pairs of free Wranglers, and one obscene text message."

San Diego comes out on fire right from the get go. After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, the Chargers set the self-destruct timer to 37:43, then promptly blow a third-quarter lead.

Matt Prater boots the game-winning field goal, and Denver wins, 31-28.

Indianapolis @ New England (-8)

While an Andrew Luck-Tom Brady matchup doesn't quite pack the magnitude of a Peyton Manning-Brady contest, Sunday afternoon's Colts/Patriots tilt will certainly be intriguing. The teams have identical 6-3 records; New England leads the AFC East, while the Colts are in the playoff hunt.

"Luck is not the second coming of Peyton Manning," Brady said. "He is, in fact, the second-coming of Bob Sanders, because he's become a legend by playing in only nine games."

Luck and the upstart Colts trail the 8-1 Texans by two games in the AFC South, and face Houston twice in the remaining seven weeks.

"This may be our biggest game of the year," Reggie Wayne said. "And I think Luck is the key to this game, and our season. But we can't rely solely on Andrew. With a little Luck, we can make this whole damn thing work out."

Brady tosses three touchdown passes, and the Patriots confuse Luck with the sheer ineptitude of their defense. Newly-acquired Patriot Aqib Talib picks off Luck late, clinching the New England win.

Patriots win, 34-27.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-4½)

There was a time when a Ravens-Steelers showdown was nearly always characterized by low-scoring, physical affairs. But in Sunday night's game at Heinz Field, offensive firepower may overshadow defensive strength.

"I don't buy that," John Harbaugh said. "This will be a defensive struggle, because the defenses will struggle. Why? Because some of the game's most dynamic playmakers won't be playing, like Troy Polamalu, Ray Lewis, and Lardarius Webb. This is what happens when 'standouts' become 'sitouts.'"

The Steelers will be without Ben Roethlisberger, who sprained his shoulder and dislocated a rib in Monday night's 16-13 win over the Chiefs. Byron Leftwich will start for Pittsburgh.

"I like our chances in Pittsburgh," Joe Flacco said. "We just blew out the Raiders 55-20. We plan to drop '55' on the Steelers, too, by unleashing Terrell Suggs to go after Leftwich. I don't think Leftwich can get the job done. He's a has-been. In fact, he's a 'not-Ben.'

"And speaking of Ben, serious injuries to Roethlisberger have the same effect as arranged marriages — it prevents him from being a 'player.'"

Baltimore forces three Leftwich turnovers, and the Ravens win, 27-17.

Chicago @ San Francisco (-5)

Chicago's 13-6 loss to the Texans on Sunday night was costly for the Bears, as Jay Cutler suffered a concussion late in the first half. With Cutler on the shelf, Jason Campbell will lead the Bears against the 49ers.

"This is exactly why we signed Campbell," Lovie Smith said. "He's an insurance policy, so to speak. And, if his performance in relief against the Texans is any indication, we'll be the ones 'paying a premium.'"

Like Cutler, San Fran's Alex Smith suffered a concussion last week. However, Smith's was not as serious, and he will likely play on Monday night.

"For a quarterback who's followed in the footsteps of NFL greats Joe Montana and Steve Young," Smith said, "I know the importance of being 'thick-skinned.' For the first six years of my NFL career, many of my coaches complained of my 'hard head.' One would think I'd be invincible.

"But blurred vision and headaches is not going to derail my season. This is San Francisco; there was a time when those symptoms simply indicated a good acid trip. Besides, Colin Kaepernick is a capable backup. There will be no 'freaking out' here."

The 49ers give Campbell a hostile welcome, sacking him five times, and San Fran takes a 20-9 win.

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