Friday, November 23, 2012

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 12 (Pt. 2)

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Minnesota @ Chicago (no line)

Minnesota was off in Week 11, and has had plenty of time to prepare for a crucial NFC North showdown in Chicago. At 6-4, the Vikes trail the Bears and Packers by one game.

"We'll have to get Adrian Peterson 23-27 touches," Leslie Frazier. "That's easier said than done, except on a Lake Minnetonka sex cruise.

"They call Peterson 'All Day.' They call Cutler 'May Day,' because the Bears can start thinking offseason when he gets hurt."

The Bears were pounded last Monday night 32-7 in San Francisco as Cutler was out with a concussion. Backup quarterback Jason Campbell was sacked 6 times and passed for only 107 yards in the loss.

"Cutler has a concussion," Lovie Smith said, "and we've lost our identity. Dennis Green once famously stated that 'the Bears were who we thought they were.' Well, right now, we can't remember who we thought we were. Other teams, however, do remember what they thought we were — Super Bowl contenders."

Cutler returns, and it's clear his head is on straight when he admonishes his offensive line for endangering Campbell's life.

Chicago wins, 19-16.

Oakland @ Cincinnati (-6)

The Bengals whipped the struggling Chiefs 28-6 last week, as A.J. Green had 6 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Former Bengal Carson Palmer will make his return to Cincinnati.

"Carson was a welcome addition to the Raiders," Marvin Lewis said. "He was a welcome subtraction from the Bengals. I think even as a Raider he'll find he doesn't want to be in Cincinnati. Are we better off with or without him? You do the math."

The Raiders are 3-7 after last week's 38-17 loss to the Chiefs in the Black Hole. Oakland has lost their last two games by a combined margin of 56 points.

"If you're taking baseball," Dennis Allen said, "the Oakland team gets an 'A.' If you're talking football, the Oakland team gets an 'F.' And every single person in this organization gets the same grade. That's called a 'cluster F.'

Cincinnati wins, 35-27.

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland (Even)

The Steelers may have seen their hopes for the NFC North crown go down the drain in a 13-10 loss on Sunday night to the Ravens. At 6-4, Pittsburgh trails Baltimore by two games.

"We'll be starting Charlie Batch in Cleveland," Mike Tomlin said. "We're down to our third-string QB. But that's why you have three quarterbacks. Quarterbacks are a lot like time outs — sometimes you have to use all three.

"I'm been criticized for not being a very wise game manager. I've been outsmarted by several coaches. I decided to get in on the act last Sunday against Baltimore, when I tried to outsmart myself."

The Browns lost 23-20 to the Cowboys in overtime in Dallas, falling to 2-8 in the AFC North. Five of Cleveland's losses this year have come by seven points or less.

"I understand that Pittsburgh has signed Plaxico Burress," Pat Shurmur said. "Given his history, I think the Steelers, or anyone, for that matter, should tread carefully when giving Burress a "shot.'"

Despite his injury, Ben Roethlisberger contributes mightily to the effort when he corners Batch in the bathroom and whips out his pen, and scribbles some detailed notes on the tendencies of the Cleveland defense.

Pittsburgh wins, 16-13.

Buffalo @ Indianapolis (-3½)

The Bills beat the Dolphins 19-14 in Buffalo last Thursday and now find themselves with a 4-6 record, matching that of Miami and New York in the AFC East, well behind the division-leading 7-3 Patriots.

"You can say were in a tie for last place," Chan Gailey said. "I prefer to say we're tied for second place. And believe you me, the Buffalo franchise has loads of experience when it comes to being second.

"But I'm extremely optimistic about where this franchise is headed. I firmly believe there's a Super Bowl trophy with our name on it. In fact, there's four of them — two in Dallas, one in New York, and one in Washington."

Indianapolis wins, 27-21.

Denver @ Kansas City (+7)

The Broncos took complete control of the AFC West, subduing San Diego last week to establish a commanding three-game lead in the division. After an early interception, Peyton Manning threw for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns.

"I'm just glad to place my name in the long line of memorable Denver quarterbacks," Manning said, "most notably John Elway. Elway was known for his 'quick release,' particularly when he unloaded Tim Tebow to the Jets."

The lowly Chiefs lost 28-6 to Cincinnati last week, and are now 1-9, with the AFC West-leading Broncos coming to town. Kansas City is 0-5 at Arrowhead Stadium, joining the Jaguars as the only teams winless at home.

"Several Chiefs fans wore all black to the game," Romeo Crenel said. "Apparently, they did this to express their frustration with the way the season's gone. It's the first time anyone's shown up in Arrowhead with a purpose."

Denver wins, 26-9.

Seattle @ Miami (+3)

The 6-4 Seahawks are firmly in the playoff hunt, and know they can't afford a let down in Miami, where the 4-6 Dolphins await.

"We're looking forward to our trip to Miami" Pete Carroll said. "When you couple the sun of Miami with the rain of Seattle, you get a rainbow. And we plan to let the Dolphins 'taste the rainbow' with a healthy serving of Marshawn Lynch. 'Beast-iality' may be frowned upon in Miami, but I'm afraid Marshawn still plans to have his way with the Dolphins.

"In other news, I'll be reunited with Reggie Bush for the first time since our days at USC. Those were the good old days, back when I put the 'pay' in 'paying a visit.'"

The Dolphins have lost three in a row after a 4-3 start to fall to 4-6. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill will face a stern test in front of a Seattle defense that ranks fourth in the NFL against the pass and second in sacks.

"This game should tell us a lot about ourselves," Tannehill said. "Unfortunately, it may be the truth."

Seattle wins, 27-10.

Atlanta @ Tampa Bay (-1½)

Matt Ryan threw 5 interceptions last week against the Cardinals, but the Falcons somehow prevailed in a 23-19 win, avoiding their second consecutive loss after a 9-0 start.

"I've always dreamed of being compared to Kurt Warner," Matt Ryan said. "That dream came to fruition, because not since Warner has a quarterback thrown to Cardinals with such conviction. Check the box score. 'Arizona' was my second-leading receiver.

"Of course, if I play like that in the post-season, we can expect our playoff run to be quite 'curt.'"

The Buccaneers stunned the home-standing Panthers as Tampa erased an 11-point, fourth quarter deficit to force overtime, then won on Josh Freeman's touchdown pass to Dallas Clark. Greg Schiano and his squad now face the biggest game of their season against the 9-1 Falcons.

"We plan to play our game," Schiano said. "Many people take issue with some of my tactics. That's hurtful. Those people need to take sensitivity training at the institution of my choosing, 'Buc U.' If a classroom's not their thing, they can choose to take online training. In other words, go 'Buc Themselves.'"

It's gut-check time for the Falcons. Are they a true Super Bowl contender, or is their fast start simply a prelude to an early playoff exit? Mike Smith goes against character and rolls the dice, opening up the Atlanta offense early, while the defense does its job late, stifling a late Tampa drive.

Atlanta wins, 35-23.

Tennessee @ Jacksonville (+3)

The Jaguars nearly stunned the Texans last week, going into overtime before falling 43-37. Chad Henne, in for an injured Blaine Gabbert, passed for 354 yards and 4 touchdowns, but was topped by Matt Schaub's 527 yards and 5 TDs.

"Finally," Mike Munchak said, "an opponent had a legitimate reason for running up the score on us."

With the Texans running away with the AFC South, the 4-6 Titans can pin their playoff hopes on a wildcard spot. That would mean they would likely need to win no less than five of their remaining six games.

"I'm finally healthy," Jake Locker said, "just in time for a playoff push. I've got a reputation a player who's often injured. That's why I'm called the 'Hurt Locker.'"

The Jags may have used a season's worth of offense last week against Houston. That doesn't leave much left for the Titans.

Tennessee wins, 23-17.

Baltimore @ San Diego (-1½)

The Ravens edged the Steelers 13-10 in Pittsburgh to take a two-game lead in the AFC North race. In a fierce defensive struggle, Baltimore forced three Steeler turnovers and held on as poor clock management ultimately doomed Pittsburgh.

"Guess what?" John Harbaugh said. "Using the letters of 'Mike Tomlin,' you can almost spell 'time out.' I'll give you 40 seconds to figure out why you can't."

The struggling Chargers dropped to 4-6 in the AFC West, losing 30-23 in Denver, as their hopes for the playoffs were all but dashed. Peyton Manning outgunned Philip Rivers, and the Denver defense stifled the Chargers, holding them to 13 first downs and forcing 3 turnovers.

"Some people say we've given up on the season," Rivers said. "That's ludicrous. If I've thrown in the towel, it was probably the only pass I threw with any conviction."

"The NFL revoked Ed Reed's one-game suspension. Now, he'll be playing on Sunday, albeit $50,000 poorer. Hopefully, Reed's learned his lesson. If he has, then he's been 'Ed-ified.'"

Rivers and the Chargers show up, and play their best game of the year. San Diego wins 27-23, moving one step closer to an 8-8 record.

St. Louis @ Arizona (-4)

The Cardinals jumped out to a 13-0 lead in Atlanta last week, only to see their hopes for the upset fall in a 23-19 loss. The Cards have now lost six in a row after a 4-0 start o the season, and trail the 7-2-1 49ers in the NFC West.

"We picked off Matt Ryan five times," Ken Whisenhunt said. "I can't imagine one of my quarterbacks throwing 5 interceptions. But I can imagine all of them throwing five."

The Rams dropped to 3-6-1 with a 27-13 loss to the Jets last week and now sit in last in the NFC West.

"It's embarrassing to lose to the Jets," Chris Long said. "Almost as embarrassing as it would be to play for them."

Ken Whisenhunt has three quarterbacks from which to choose a starter. Whatever his choice, he'll be left which two sitting Cardinals, and one sitting duck.

St. Louis wins, 17-13.

San Francisco @ New Orleans (-1)

The Saints host the 49ers in a rematch of last year's divisional round playoff game, won 36-32 by San Francisco in a wild shootout at Candlestick Park.

"That was a historic day for both teams," Jim Harbaugh said. "It was our first playoff win since 2002. For the Saints, it was the last time their coaching staff was on the sideline in its entirety.

"We plan to attack the Saints' defense where it's weak. Ironically, that's in its heart. The New Orleans' defense is a lot like a healthy heart — it's 'beatin' on a regular basis."

After an 0-4 start, the Saints have won five of six, including three in a row, and now stand 5-5 in the NFC South. They'll be out for revenge against the 49ers.

"Now would be the time for a Gregg Williams' motivational speech," Drew Brees said. "I don't think we'll get one, because they 'cost' too much."

Harbaugh says he may play both Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, a decision that would be strictly "platoon-ic."

San Francisco racks up 478 yards on offense, and the 49ers subdue the Saints, 34-27.

Green Bay @ NY Giants (-1½)

The Packers and Giants tangle in the second of two rematches from last year's divisional round playoffs. The Packers beat the Lions in Detroit 24-20 last week despite two missed field goals by Mason Crosby, who has struggled as of late. Crosby is 11-of-18 for the season.

"Eli Manning has had his troubles as of late," Aaron Rodgers said, "and so has Mason Crosby. There's a simple solution to their woes — a trip to the roof of their local large, discount retailer not named Walmart. Then, they could say they were 'on Target.'

"We're just happy to be heading East, far away from Seattle. That's the only place where the officials run the West Coast 'offense.'"

Two straight losses have left the Giants at 6-4, and brought into question their viability as a favorite in the NFC. In those two losses, Manning has thrown three interceptions and no touchdown passes.

"Not only is this a rematch from last year's playoffs," Manning said, "it could be a preview of this year's playoffs. That's assuming we qualify."

The G-Men work over the Packers' offensive line, and Manning gets back in the groove.

New York wins, 30-27.

Carolina @ Philadelphia (-2½)

With Michael Vick out with a concussion, the Nick Foles era began for the Eagles with a devastating 31-6 loss to the Redskins in Washington. Andy Reid has been defiant as the calls for his ouster mount.

"I refuse to resign," Reid said. "Quitting is not an option. I only wish my players felt the same way.

"Quarterback was supposed to be our strength this year. It's been far from that. Cam Newton claims to be Superman, but my quarterbacks have been playing like 'S' this year."

The Panthers blew a late lead last week in an overtime loss to the Buccaneers. Carolina is now 2-8, and owners of the NFC's worst record.

"Philadelphia once was the nation's capitol," Ron Rivera said. "On Monday night, with Reid and myself leading our struggling teams, the city will again be the 'hot seat.'"

Eagles win, 26-21.

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