Thursday, November 29, 2012

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 13

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

New Orleans @ Atlanta (-3½)

The Falcons narrowly escaped Tampa Bay with a win last week, winning 24-23 to run their record to 10-1. Atlanta will look to avenge their only loss of the season, a 31-27 loss to the Saints in Week 10.

"I'm proud of this team," Mike Smith said. "They showed the heart of a champion. Now it remains to be seen if we can show the playoff record of a champion. From what I hear, it takes at least one win to do so.

"We're on our way to clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. And based on my playoff record as a head coach, that makes us not only the team to beat, but a team to beat."

The Saints' three-game winning streak came to an end last Sunday, as the 49ers turned two Drew Brees' interceptions into 14 points in a 31-21 win in the Superdome. The loss dropped New Orleans to 5-6.

"The 49ers sacked me 5 times," Brees said. "They came at me like there was a price on my head, because they 'tagged' me.

"Roger Goodell thinks he's cleaned up bounties in the NFL. He's wrong. I endorse Vick's NyQuil, so I'm still getting paid to knock people out. Here's an interesting fact: Brett Favre played much of his career with one 'G' on his helmet. Curiously enough, when he came to the Superdome as a Viking, he had 10 'Gs' on his head. And you didn't hear that from Jonathan Vilma."

Atlanta wins, 34-31.

Jacksonville @ Buffalo (-7)

The Jaguars snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 24-19 win over the Titans as Chad Henne passed for 261 yards and 2 touchdowns. Now 2-9, Jacksonville takes to the road to face the 4-7 Bills.

"Chad Henne may just be the Jaguars' quarterback of the future," Mike Mularkey said. "By that, I mean he's starting on Sunday. Chad gives us something Blaine Gabbert couldn't — talent."

After a 2-1 start to the season, the Bills have lost six of eight to fall to 4-7. They'll host the 2-9 Jaguars on Sunday at Rich Stadium.

"Although it appears there won't be an NHL hockey season," Ryan Fitzpatrick said, "there will still be 'checks' in Buffalo. It seems that most of them are going to Mario Williams."

Buffalo wins, 23-19.

Seattle @ Chicago (-3)

Jay Cutler returned from a concussion last week and helped the Bears to a decisive 28-10 win over the Vikings. However, the win was costly for the Bears, as Devin Hester, Matt Forte, and Charles Tillman left the game with injuries.

"We're hurting," Cutler said. "Not as much as we were when Jason Campbell was starting, because everybody felt his pain.

"We'll have to be ready for the Seahawks. They may be the underdog, but they've been known to steal wins."

Seattle's road woes continued last week with a 24-21 loss in Miami, the Seahawks' fifth loss on the road this season. Down the stretch, the Seahawks could be without defensive backs Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, who may face suspensions for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.

"I've never claimed to run a 'clean' program," Pete Carroll said. "But seriously, I have no control over what pro athletes put in their bodies, just as I have no control over what college athletes put in their wallets. And you can take that to the bank.

"Sherman and Boyd filed their appeals on time," Pete Carroll said, "so they'll be with us in Chicago. The league can mind their 'pees,' but Richard and Brandon wisely mind their 'cues.'"

If the Seahawks can't win on the road, they'll, ironically, be home for the playoffs. The Bears force three Russell Wilson turnovers, and Cutler leads Chicago to a 23-17 win.

San Francisco @ St. Louis (+6½)

The 49ers came away with a 31-21 win over the Saints last Sunday, returning two Drew Brees interceptions for touchdowns. San Francisco is 8-2-1 and chasing the Falcons for the NFC's top seed.

"Alex Smith could have played," Jim Harbaugh said, "but I chose to start Colin Kaepernick. That's what Alex, as well as my doctor, calls a 'half-hearted' commitment.

"If I told Alex he would be starting, I must have done so with my fingers crossed. As you know, that's not legally-binding, nor is 'pinkie-swearing' with Ronnie Lott. I have no doubt that both Smith and Kaepernick could be starting next year. Kaepernick for us, and Smith for someone else."

The Rams face the 49ers for the second time in three weeks. In their last meeting, the teams played to a 24-24 tie.

"We know what it's like to play to a standstill," Jeff Fisher said. "Or at least our offense does. We're 28th in scoring. It's not often we hear '28' and 'scoring' in the same sentence."

Kaepernick gets the start, and it's nip and tuck throughout, with both teams trying their best to win, mainly to avoid a tie, because they still don't understand overtime rules.

San Francisco wins, 26-17.

New England @ Miami (+9)

The Patriots blasted the Jets 49-19 on Thanksgiving night at MetLife Stadium, sending the home team to its worse defeat this season. Now 8-3, New England has a commanding three-game lead over the 5-6 Dolphins, who are 3-2 at home this year.

"My favorite part of Thanksgiving is a trip to the dessert table," Tom Brady said. "What does that have to do with destroying the Jets? It was a 'cake walk' as well.

"We've scored 98 points in our last two games. Ninety-eight points is a good game for the Heat, and a good month for the Dolphins."

The Dolphins bounced back from a Week 11 loss in Buffalo with a 24-21 win over the Seahawks last Sunday. Ryan Tannehill threw for 253 yards and a touchdown to lead the 'Fins.

"I don't think any of Dan Marino's records are in jeopardy," Tannehill said, "especially that one about never winning a Super Bowl."

Attendance at Sun Life Stadium has been sparse this season for the Dolphins, but expect the fans to come out in droves to see Brady and the Patriots. Of course, may of those fans will be rooting for New England, which is what happens when the Dolphins get "patronized."

Brady further "patronizes" the home team when he takes a knee with the Patriots clinging to a 7-point lead early in the third quarter. The Pats tack on two more scores out of respect, then Brady takes a knee out of sympathy.

New England wins, 38-17.

Arizona @ NY Jets (-3)

The Jets fell apart in a 49-19 loss to the Patriots on Thanksgiving night, as a scoreless first quarter soon turned into a blowout. New England scored 35 unanswered points, with two touchdowns coming on fumble returns for scores.

"Jets superfan 'Fireman Ed' is hanging up his hat," Rex Ryan said. "Like me, he said he's had enough of the quarterback controversy here. And, interestingly enough, Fireman Ed's about as useless as me at 'putting out fires.'

"But at least I know Tim Tebow will be able to play on Sunday. Jets fans will be happy to hear that he's ready to go. Jets fans would be happier if I was ready to go. They'd be happier if I'd already went."

With last week's 31-17 loss to the Rams, the Cardinals have now lost seven games in a row, and their 4-0 start is now a faded memory. Quarterback Ryan Lindley threw 4 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

"A game in MetLife Stadium is a nightmare come true for me," Ken Whisenhunt said. "I've grown accustomed to seeing three useless quarterbacks on Sunday; now there'll be five."

New York wins, 20-16.

Indianapolis @ Detroit (-3½)

The Lions fell to 4-7 with their ninth consecutive Thanksgiving loss, dropping a 34-31 overtime loss to the visiting Texans. Jim Schwartz challenged a Texans' scoring play that was likely to be overturned, but the NFL rulebook dictated an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for Schwartz, as well as no review of the play.

"That's one kick in the nuts Ndamukong Suh was not responsible for," Schwartz said. "I guess the Texans owe me a pat on the back. In any case, it was a dickens of a Thanksgiving."

The Colts improved to 7-4 with a 20-13 win over the Bills, and Indianapolis is in solid position to earn a wild card playoff spot.

"If the regular season ended today," Andrew Luck said, "our season would likely end the following week in Denver in a made-for-television showdown with Peyton Manning. I think my talents compare quite favorably to Manning's, but most agree that he's got the better supporting cast. So our matchup would have to be called 'Luck Versus Manning: This Time, It's Personnel.'

"I'll be sure to be on the lookout for Suh. But I won't call him out like Schaub did. I'm not an outspoken guy. My philosophy is to 'speak softly and wear a big cup."

Matthew Stafford throws for 333 yards and 3 touchdowns, two to Calvin Johnson, and the Lions win, 34-27.

Minnesota @ Green Bay (-9)

The Packers were pounded on Sunday night in MetLife Stadium, losing 38-10 to the Giants, Green Bay' worst defeat since 2007. The loss dropped the Packers to 7-5, a game behind the 8-4 Bears in the NFC North,

"The Giants whipped us with the entire nation watching on NBC," Aaron Rodgers said. "As a Packer, I can say that we, indeed, were 'publicly owned.'"

The Vikings lost to the Bears 28-10 in Chicago, as the Bears put the game away early after taking a 25-3 halftime lead. Christian Ponder struggled, while Adrian Peterson rushed for 102 yards, but lost 2 fumbles.

"After much deliberation," Leslie Frazier said, "I've decided to stick with Ponder at quarterback. By definition, 'ponder' means 'to think or consider soberly and deeply.' In other words, I often have 'second thoughts' about starting Ponder."

Rodgers calls a players only meeting, and tells his teammates he's sick and tire, not only of losses to the Giants, but silly mustaches as well. Rodgers loses the peach fuzz, and the Packers bounce back with a vengeance.

Green Bay wins, 30-20.

Houston @ Tennessee (+5½)

The Texans became the first team to win consecutive overtime games after nipping the Lions 34-31 in Detroit on Thanksgiving. Now 10-1, Houston can clinch a playoff berth win a win over the 4-7 Titans.

"The NFL has decided not to suspend Ndamukong Suh for kicking me in the groin on Thanksgiving," Matt Schaub said. "That's ludicrous. Suh should have been suspended two games, or, at the very least, been banished to spend a night at the 'Nutcracker Suite.' Ironically, Suh's was the only 'big kick' a Lion connected on that day.

"What concerns me more is our defense. We've given up 68 points in the last two games. There's a 'Big D' in the state of Texas, but apparently, there's not even a little 'D' in Houston."

The Titans lost to the Jaguars 24-19 and are now 4-7 and 0-3 in the AFC South. On Tuesday, head coach Mike Munchak fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer.

"One of the most necessary tasks of coaching," Munchak said, "is delegation. I'm one of the best at delegating blame. Palmer had some great qualities as a coach, his best being his expendability."

The Texans' defense shows up for the first time in three games, and J.J. Watt sacks Jake Locker twice. Andre Johnson tweaks his hamstring early in the game, giving the Texans another sore "Johnson," but guts it out and records a late touchdown reception.

Houston wins, 27-14.

Carolina @ Kansas City (+3)

With a 17-9 loss to the Broncos, the Chiefs now sit all alone at 1-10 with the NFL's worst record. The Chiefs managed only three Ryan Succup field goals in the loss, while Brady Quinn struggled.

"As you've probably heard," Romeo Crenel said, "Jamaal Charles got Peyton Manning's autograph after the game. If that's not a 'sign' we've given up on the season, I don't know what is. If I could get my quarterbacks to sign something, it would be a 'release,' or a 'waiver.'

"Luckily, only one Chief asked for Manning's autograph. So, one autograph was 'all he wrote.' My concern is hearing my boss say that's 'all she wrote.'"

Cam Newton burned the Eagles with 4 touchdowns, 2 passing and 2 rushing, in the Panthers' 30-22 Monday night win over the Eagles. Carolina is now 3-8 in the NFC South.

"While I'm recognized by fans all over the country," Newton said, "I doubt the fans in Kansas City would have any idea who I am. That's because that city hasn't 'identified' a good quarterback in years."

Newton is held in check through the air by the Chiefs' defense, but he does damage on the ground. Quinn, or Matt Cassel, or Len Dawson, or whomever starts for the Chiefs, does damage as well, but to their own team.

Carolina wins, 20-19.

Tampa Bay @ Denver (-7)

The Broncos have all but locked up the AFC West division after a 17-9 win in Kansas City, led by 285 yards passing and 2 touchdowns from Peyton Manning, as well as a stifling defense that held the Chiefs to 13 first downs. Denver leads the West by four games with five to play.

"You know what they call a Brady Quinn pass?" Manning said. "The same thing the Chargers call the Broncos — 'uncatchable.'

"I've got to give our defense a lot of credit. Much of that should go to defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. He's a lot like me — the best thing that's happened to us was leaving the AFC South. And, in honor of our defense, my Papa John's franchises will be offering pizzas with 'orange crust.'"

The Buccaneers nearly upset the Falcons, but fell short 24-23. The Bucs are 6-5 in the NFC South, well behind the 10-1 Falcons, but are still in the hunt for a wild card spot.

"Our defense will have to be at its best against Manning," Greg Schiano said. "He reads defenses like Tim Tebow reads the Bible — with joy, and with the belief that what it tells him is the gospel truth."

Manning should have a field day against the porous Tampa pass defense, and in the end, enamored Bucs' defender won't need Manning's autograph, because his signature will be all over a Broncos win.

Manning passes for 284 yards and 3 touchdowns, and the Broncos win, 31-17.

Cleveland @ Oakland (-1½)

The Browns forced a whopping eight turnovers last week in a 20-14 win over the Steelers in the Dawg Pound. Cleveland is now 3-8 in the AFC North with a date in the Black Hole awaiting.

"The Steelers are obviously not the same without Ben Roethlisberger," Pat Shurmur said. "On the other hand, the Raiders are the same with Carson Palmer."

The Raiders were smashed 38-10 in Cincinnati and fell to 3-8, third in the AFC West. They'll try to end a four-game slide against the improving Browns.

"If Al Davis were here today," Dennis Allen said, "he'd be the embodiment of the current Raiders — no signs of life."

Oakland wins, 27-20.

Cincinnati @ San Diego (+2)

In Carson Palmer's return to Cincinnati last week, the Bengals whipped the Raiders 34-10 as Palmer was sacked 4 times and held to 146 yards passing. The win moved the Bengals into a tie for second with the Steelers in the AFC North at 6-5.

"We reminded Palmer why we don't need him," Marvin Lewis said. "He reminded us why we don't want him. We put him in his place, on a plane back to Oakland."

The Chargers lost a tough 16-13 overtime battle to the Ravens last week. Now 4-7, San Diego trails Denver by four games in the AFC West.

"Look at this," Philip Rivers said. "We're underdogs at Qualcomm Stadium. Along with the boos from our fans, that's just further proof that we're not 'favored' at home.

"We had the Baltimore game won, then Ray Rice converted a fourth-and-29. And they say Ndamukong Suh is a real ball-breaker. When people ask 'What's new?' is San Diego, oh how I wish I could answer 'a coach.' Instead, the only thing 'new' here are 'ways to lose.'"

At 4-7, the Chargers have reason to get angry. And, they have reason to get "even," as an 8-8 record is their only achievable goal.

San Diego win, 26-23.

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (-1½)

The Ravens pulled out an improbable 16-13 overtime win in San Diego last week, a win that likely would not have been possible without an amazing 4th-and-29 conversion from Ray Rice that led to the game-tying field goal.

"Ray saw lots of daylight," Joe Flacco said. "The weather's been strange in San Diego this year — the sun's out all the time.

"Congratulations to Ben Roethlisberger on the birth of his son. One day, that kid's gonna say, 'I've got a some Roethlisberger in me,' and become the first person to say that and not press charges."

The Steelers looked awful in Cleveland last week, turning the ball over eight times in a costly 20-14 loss. Pittsburgh fell to 6-5 and see their playoff hopes slipping.

"What do you expect," Mike Tomlin said. "We sign Plaxico Burress, and everybody starts shooting themselves.

"There's a 50-50 chance Roethlisberger will be able to play on Sunday. That means there's a 50% chance of us being 100% sure to lose."

Baltimore wins, 24-13.

Philadelphia @ Dallas (-3)

The Eagles lost on Monday Night Football 30-22 to the Panthers, Philly's seventh consecutive defeat. Afterwards, in a surprise move, the Eagles cut defensive end Jason Babin, just 18 months after signing a five-year, $28 million contract.

"I'm just as mystified as anyone," Andy Reid said, "as to how this team can 'trim the fat' and still keep me around. Ask Juan Castillo — it's probably not the only time we've 'cleaned house' this year.

"This squad was once called the 'Dream Team. That nickname has been put to sleep. On the plus side, we've helped settle the argument about which 'Dream Team' is better: clearly, the 1992 Dream Team would beat us, in football."

The Cowboys took a Thanksgiving beating at the hands of the Redskins, losing 38-31 despite 441 yards passing from Tony Romo. Dallas is 5-6 in the NFC East, two games behind the Giants.

"One enterprising Dallas fan started a petition to remove Jerry Jones from power," Romo said. "Jerry's not going anywhere. Appropriately, we're playing the Eagles, who have had their fair share of meaningless 'signings.'"

Dallas wins, 27-20.

NY Giants @ Washington (+2½)

The Giants broke a two-game losing streak with a flourish, smacking the visiting Panthers 38-10 last Sunday night. Eli Manning broke out of his slump with 249 yards passing and three touchdowns.

"I'm finally back in a groove," Manning said. "For the season, I'm completing 60% of my passes, which is only average in this league. That means that about 60% of the time, I'm an elite quarterback. The rest of the time, I'm just Eli Manning."

Robert Griffin III and the high-flying Redskins will look to trim their deficit in the NFC East to one game with a win over the Giants. RG3 torched the Cowboys on Thanksgiving with 311 yards through the air and 4 TDs.

"Some people say I'm the second coming of Randall Cunningham, or Michael Vick, or any other black quarterback," Griffin said. "That's all very flattering, but the truth is, I'm merely the second coming of Robert Griffin, Jr. My motto is 'Stay humble, my friend.' That's also my pitch to Dos Equis to expand their brand into the urban market. I'm the perfect choice to shill for 'III Equis.'"

Washington wins, 27-24.

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