Thursday, December 6, 2012
NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 14
Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
Denver @ Oakland (+10½)
Peyton Manning makes his first trip to Oakland as a Bronco, adding more heat to an already intense rivalry. At 9-3, Denver has clinched the AFC West.
"It's certainly appropriate that Cee Lo Green performs the intro to Thursday Night Football for a game in Oakland," Manning said. "In fact, he should do it live. Who wouldn't want to see a pre-game concert called 'The Black Hobbit From the Black Hole?'
"But it's never easy playing in Oakland, unless you're the visitor. Oakland's giving up 31 points per game. The team should be called the 'Oakland Raided.' But I'm not complaining about a game in Oakland. What's one day in the Black Hole, when you've spent a year in limbo?"
The Raiders lost their fifth game in a row in a 20-17 loss to the Browns in Oakland. Now 3-9, Dennis Allen and the Raiders look to avenge an earlier loss in Denver.
"We're looking forward to hosting Thursday Night Football," Dennis Allen said. "As three-lettered acronyms go, 'TNF' is the biggest story in Oakland since 'GHB.' Sebastian Janikowski is a lot like Raiders football — they'll both put you to sleep."
Manning takes a look at the Oakland defense, and sees the same thing that attracted him to Denver — it's a place he'd like to throw passes. Manning goes for the usual — 273 yards passing, 3 touchdowns, and audibles that make you go "hmmm."
Denver wins, 31-17.
St. Louis @ Buffalo (-3)
The Rams kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a huge 16-13 overtime win over the 49ers, just three weeks after the two teams played to a 24-24 tie in San Francisco. Greg Zuerlein kick a 53-yard field goal to force overtime, then booted a 54-yarder to win the game.
"There's was another 'big foot' sighting in an NFC dome," Jeff Fisher said, "and it wasn't Ndamukong Suh. Suh make kick where it counts, but Zuerlein kicks when it counts.
"I think this proves we can play with the NFC's best. Now, if someone could tell me who the NFC's best team is, we'd like to play them."
The Bills remained alive in the wild card race with a 34-18 win over the Jaguars. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed only 9-of-17 passes, but two were for touchdowns. Buffalo is 5-7 in the AFC East.
"Oddly enough," Fitzpatrick said, "some of my passes sailed 'wide right.' They call me 'The Tabloid,' because I'm not known for my accuracy."
Zuerlein again plays a huge part in the outcome of a game, with four field goals. His 48-yarder with under a minute left in the fourth quarter provides the margin of victory, as the Rams "foot the Bills," 23-20.
Dallas @ Cincinnati (-2)
The Bengals inched closer to the Ravens in the AFC North race, as Cincy downed San Diego 20-13 while the Ravens lost 23-20 to the Steelers. Now 7-5, the Bengals trail the 9-3 Ravens by two games.
"As you may have heard," Andy Dalton said, "Nick Lachey was kicked out of Qualcomm Stadium in our win last week in San Diego. They obviously didn't know who he was, which is a common problem for Nick. 'Who dey?' No, 'Who you?'The Bengals are proud to be the NFL's only team supported by one-fourth of 98 Degrees."
The Cowboys took the victory in a 38-33 shootout over the Eagles last Sunday night, improving their record to 6-6, one game behind the Giants in the NFC East. Dallas will attempt to get above .500 for the first time since they were 2-1.
"Even if we get over .500," Tony Romo said, "we'll still be under 'achievement.'
"We haven't exactly set the league on fire on the road. It's a jungle out there. In Cincinnati, it's a 'Jungle' in there. Hopefully, against the Bengals, we can earn our 'stripes.' It's a good thing Jerry Jones doesn't own the Bengals. If he did, he would be considered 'Overlord of the Jungle.'"
An inebriated Lachey is ejected from the stadium late in the third quarter and taken to jail. There, he is released under his own recognizance, because no one else recognizes him.
Dallas wins, 27-24.
Kansas City @ Cleveland (-4½)
The Chiefs won for only the second time this year, edging the Panthers 27-21 at home last Sunday. Brady Quinn threw for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"That was Quinn's best game as a Chief," Romeo Crenel said. "It was nice to see him step up. Most Chiefs' fans think it would be even nicer to see me step down.
"Brady's a former Brown, so he knows what it's like to play in Cleveland Stadium. He'll feel right at home, because just like in Arrowhead Stadium, he'll be booed."
The Browns vanquished the Raiders in Oakland, 20-17, behind 364 yards passing from rookie Brandon Weeden. They'll host the 2-10 Chiefs in the Dawg Pound on Sunday.
"This should be a very competitive game," Pat Shurmur said. "For what it lacks in playoff implications, it will make up for in drama. That would make it the most dramatic football game in history."
Cleveland wins, 26-17.
Tennessee @ Indianapolis (-3½)
Andrew Luck continued his rookie heroics last week, throwing for 391 yards and 4 touchdowns in a comeback 35-33 win over the Lions in Detroit. Indy is now 8-4 and is solid position to earn a wild card playoff spot.
"With 3 interceptions," Reggie Wayne said, "Luck had his share of mistakes to go long with his 4 TDs. That's okay, because we'll take the good with the bad. We call it our 'hero tolerance' policy.
"But let's not be so liberal with the use of Luck and 'MVP' in the same sentence. His touchdown to interception ratio is about 1:1. By that rationale, even New York Jets quarterbacks would be MVP candidates."
The Titans lost 24-10 to the visiting Texans, who clinched the AFC South title. Jake Locker struggled again, completing only 21-of-45 passes as the Titans fell to 0-4 in the division.
"Jake completed less than 50% of his passes," Mike Munchak said. "He's not 'half bad'; he's worse.
"Like Luck is now, Locker was a rookie once. If improvement is any indication, he still is. Jake can't read a progression, much less make any."
Indy wins, 25-23.
Chicago @ Minnesota (+2)
The Bears fell out of the NFC North lead in a 23-17 overtime loss to the Seahawks. Chicago shares an 8-4 record with Green Bay, who leads the division by virtue of their Week 2 win over the Bears.
"It doesn't look like a 'Super Bowl Shuffle' circa 2012 is in order," Jay Cutler said. "Reaching the Super Bowl is an ambitious target, but I still think we can get there. Bears' fans have been waiting 25 years for another quarterback to 'shoot the moon.'"
The Bears will face Adrian Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher, who exploded for 210 yards last week in Green Bay. Despite Peterson's day, the Vikes lost 23-14, handicapped by two crucial Christian Ponder interceptions in the red zone.
"Not only did Adrian run wild on Sunday," Leslie Frazier said, "he didn't fumble once. He didn't even fumble twice. And that makes our decisions to throw in the red zone all the more perplexing. What's worse than an opponent taking the ball out of Peterson's hands? His coaches doing it.
"After a promising rookie season, Ponder has regressed. But his devotion to the Lord makes that of Tim Tebow pale in comparison. Why, because Ponder's been on a season-long 'Christian retreat.'"
The Bears will be without Brian Urlacher, who injured his hamstring, for 2-4 weeks. In other words, he should be back just in time to see the Bears miss the playoffs.
Vikings win, 19-17.
Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay (-8)
The Eagles lost their seventh consecutive game, going down 38-33 in Dallas on Sunday night. On Monday, the Eagles fired defensive line coach Jim Washburn, while Andy Reid named Nick Foles the starting quarterback for the remainder of the year.
"If I was as adept at identifying talent as I was at identifying fall guys," Reid said, "I wouldn't be in this position.
"And speaking of 'in this position,' can you believe I'm still coaching the Eagles? Wonders never cease, and neither do wanders.'"
The Bucs lost 31-23 in Denver to fall to 6-5, as Josh Freeman and crew were outgunned by Peyton Manning. While the 11-1 Falcons have clinched the NFC North, Tampa is still in the running for a wild card spot.
"It's a long shot," Greg Schiano said, "but we'll keep trying. I'm of course referring to our habit of bum-rushing the opposing quarterback on kneel-downs. Does it ever work? Nope. I liken it to the Philly front office's philosophy on head coaches; it never works, but they keep doing it.
"Reid is insistent on going out on his own terms. I think Philly fans would like to see him go out on our terms. There's a boat in our end zone, with a plank, that's made for walking."
Freeman throws for 2 scores, and Doug Martin rushes for 124 yards and a score. The Bucs win, 30-20.
Baltimore @ Washington (+1)
With a chance to all but wrap up the AFC North, the Ravens lost 23-20 to the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers in Baltimore. At 9-3, Baltimore now leads the Steelers and Bengals by two games, with Robert Griffin III and the red-hot Redskins awaiting.
"Enough about RG3," Joe Flacco said. "I'm the elite quarterback in this game. There's three Robert Griffins; there's only one Joe Flacco. What else is there only one of? My eyebrow.
"Ed Reed said the NFL is becoming a 'powder puff' league, a comment that's sure to draw the ire of the league office. Ed may not always think before he speaks off the field, but you can rest assured he always 'leads with his head' on it."
The Redskins downed the Giants 17-16 on Monday night, and now trail New York by a single game in the NFC East. Washington has won three straight to tighten up the East race, while the Giants have lost three of their last four.
"RG3 gives us a chance to win any game," Mike Shanahan said. "Griffin's got 'mojo,' while Daniel Snyder hates 'mo fo's.'
"RG3's No. 10 jersey overtook Peyton Manning's No. 18 as the NFL's top-selling jersey. He's putting a lot of shirts on people's backs. Turnabout is fair play, though, because he gave the shirt off our back to get him."
The Ravens are ailing on defense, and Flacco is struggling. That means it's Ray Rice time. Rice, as well as Ravens' fans, just wish that was as obvious to John Harbaugh.
Baltimore wins, 31-24.
Atlanta @ Carolina (+3½)
The Falcons intercepted Drew Brees five times in Atlanta's 23-13 Thursday night win, a surprisingly defensive battle. Atlanta has clinched the NFC South and is now gunning for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"That was a 'statement' game for us," Mike Smith said. "That's called making a 'statement' in a figurative sense; statements made in a literal sense usually occur in press conferences after playoff defeats.
"Home-field in the playoffs is a big deal to us. Of course, there's a big difference in 'playoff bye' and 'playoff bye-bye.'"
Despite 3 touchdowns from Cam Newton, the Panthers lost 27-21 in Kansas City. Carolina is now 3-9, tied for the worst record in the NFC with the Eagles.
"We've lost seven games by a combined 30 points," Newton said. "We've lost two games by a combined 51 points. What's it all mean? Its means we've lost nine games by a combined 81 points. It also means we'll be playing close attention at the 'NFL Combine' to access a high draft pick."
Back in Week 4, the Panthers went to the Georgia Dome and nearly beat the Falcons, falling 30-28. "Boy, that was a close one!" That's plenty to doom the Panthers.
Atlanta wins, 26-23.
NY Jets @ Jacksonville (+2½)
The Jets pulled out a 7-6 win over the Cardinals last week, as Greg McElroy replaced the struggling Mark Sanchez and then tossed a fourth-quarter touchdown to Jeff Cumberland.
"I felt I had no choice but to yank Sanchez," Rex Ryan said. "The 'writing was on the wall,' and it still is, because there's graffiti all over town that reads ''Elroy was here.'
"Sanchez had the lowest rating in the NFL among full-time starters. So please understand when I say 'We've seen the last of Mark Sanchez,' it doesn't necessarily mean he won't be my starter again."
The Jaguars gave up 34 points and 232 yards rushing to the Bills in Sunday's loss in Buffalo. Jacksonville is 31st in the league against the run.
"We're trying to shore up our defense," Mike Mularkey said. "We added former Eagle Jason Babin to our roster two weeks ago. He traded his Philly green for Jacksonville green. Now he's a member of the 'Teal Curtain,' which, unfortunately, ain't worth an 'S.'"
Could the Jags be beaten by an SEC team? Probably not, but an SEC quarterback sure can. Ryan flips a coin to decide a starter; McElroy wins the toss, but elects to defer to the second half. Sanchez starts the first half, McElroy finishes.
Jets win, 16-14.
San Diego @ Pittsburgh (-7)
The Chargers lost 20-13 to the visiting Bengals, San Diego's fourth-straight loss and seventh in their last eight. The Chargers are 4-8, yet still mathematically alive in the AFC playoff race.
"Our fans could care less about math," Philip Rivers said. "That is, unless it involves the 'subtraction' of an old coach and the 'addition' of a new one.
"Just a few years ago, we were playing the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the AFC championship. If I had it to do over, I would change some things. But, as they say, 'Heinz' sight is 20-20. Now, I'm only newsworthy when the discussion of Chargers' failures arise. Boy, what I wouldn't give to be kicked in the balls by Ndamukong Sum. It would make a great headline: 'Nuts and Bolts.'"
The Steelers may have saved their season with a 23-20 upset of the Ravens in Baltimore, led by Charlie Batch's 276 yards passing and 1 touchdown. Batch led a 61-yard drive that culminated in Shaun Suisham's 42-yard field goal as time expired.
"Batch can be my wingman any time," Ben Roethlisberger said. "It's a job that requires great responsibility, or great irresponsibility, if you ask certain females.
"But I'm ready to reclaim my spot in the lineup. Thankfully, it's not a police lineup."
Roethlisberger plays, and plays well. In fact, his only mistake comes when he mistakenly calls Rivers "Stan Humphries" when the two meet during pre-game warm-ups. Big Ben quickly corrects his mistake, and says "That's right. You can't be Stan Humphries. He's been to a Super Bowl."
Pittsburgh wins, 23-17.
Miami @ San Francisco (-10)
The 49ers lost for only the third time this year, dropping an overtime 16-13 game to the Rams. Colin Kaepernick, in his second start, was effective at times, but committed two crucial errors that led to 10 Rams points.
"Is there a quarterback controversy in San Francisco?" Alex Smith asked. "If you're looking for a straight answer, San Francisco's not the place to get it. John Harbaugh tells me one thing, then does another. The quarterback isn't the only thing that's two-faced around here."
The 5-7 Dolphins head to Candlestick Park looking for the upset over the heavily-favored 49ers.
"49er fans should be grateful," Joe Philbin said. "They have two, count 'em, two, viable starters at quarterback. They've got two signal-callers, plus one mixed signal caller."
San Francisco wins, 30-10.
Arizona @ Seattle (-10)
The Seahawks stunned the Bears 23-17 in overtime, winning on Russell Wilson's 13-yard TD pass to Sidney Rice. The Seahawks are now 7-5 and currently in position for the NFC's final wild card spot.
"That was a gutsy win," Pete Carroll said, "and a gutsy play by Rice. He was knocked cold by Major Wright. It was like 'Wright on Rice.'"
The Cards could muster only 6 points in a 7-6 loss to the Jets, despite forcing four New York turnovers. Ryan Lindley was a miserable 10-for-31 through the air, for only 72 yards.
"10-for-31 is not bad," Ken Whisenhunt said. "Especially when compared to 0-for-3, which is my record in choosing quarterbacks. But I hear there may be a Philadelphia quarterback available. Can you see Michael Vick as a Cardinal? In Arizona maybe, but not in Vatican City."
"I've named John Skelton starter for Sunday's game. 'Starter' is the only non-expletive 'name' I call my quarterbacks."
Seattle wins, 27-7.
New Orleans @ NY Giants (-5)
Drew Brees was intercepted five times in New Orleans' 23-13 loss to the Falcons last Thursday, dropping the Saints to 5-7. Brees' NFL record of 54 consecutive games with a touchdown pass came to an end.
"Our team bus was egged at the Atlanta airport," Brees said. "I personally took care of revenge, because I 'goose-egged' the Georgia Dome. Some were glad to see my record come to an end. They apparently thought it wasn't all it was cracked up to be."
The Giants are 7-6 after Monday night's 17-16 loss to the Redskins in Washington, and lead the Cowboys and Redskins by a game in the NFC East.
"Tom Coughlin's not happy with us," Eli Manning said. "Of course, when he is happy, we can't tell. The good lord gave Coach teeth for one thing, and one thing only — chewing … us out."
The G-Men respond to Coughlin's machinations, and play with machine-like precision. New York's defensive line harasses Brees, and Eli Manning throws for 4 touchdowns.
New York wins, 34-24.
Detroit @ Green Bay (-7)
Despite surrendering 210 yards rushing to Adrian Peterson, the Packers won the turnover battle, intercepting Christian Ponder twice, and won, 23-14. At 8-4, Green Bay leads the NFC North over Chicago by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker.
"Our rush defense is much akin to Peterson's knee injury," Mike McCarthy said. "It showed no signs of stopping him."
The Lions blew a 33-21 fourth quarter lead and lost 35-33 to the Colts in Detroit, and are now 4-8. Barring several pre-Christmas miracles, the Lions won't be returning to the playoffs.
"All is not lost," Matthew Stafford said. "Calvin Johnson is on pace to break Jerry Rice's record of 1,848 receiving yards in a season. So much for the 'Madden Curse.' Calvin is a lot like the Green Bay defense — he makes things look so easy. They should call Calvin the 'Madden Cruiser.' I hope the Packers like S&M, because Calvin likes to dominate."
Who will Ndamukong Suh irritate on Sunday night at Lambeau Field? It may be difficult to top Thanksgiving Day's "Malice in the Phallus," but Suh will get to someone. That's for sure, because when two defenses this bad get together, someone's bound to be "offended."
Green Bay wins, 33-31.
Houston @ New England (-4)
The Texans visit New England in a matchup of division winners. Both teams clinched last week, and now will be jockeying for playoff position.
"I'm sure the Patriots will try to disrupt our passing game," Matt Schaub said. "But I'll be ready. Thanks to Ndamukong Suh, my pocket awareness has never been better.
"Suh is still in the news. And the Lions still think our Thanksgiving Day win in Detroit was a fluke. They claim it was a 'tainted' victory, and they're right. I, of all people, know that was certainly the case."
The Patriots were less than impressive in a 23-16 win over the Dolphins in Miami, but managed their ninth win of the year and clinched the AFC East crown.
"It wasn't pretty," Tom Brady said, "but it got the job done. That's the first time I've said that since marrying a supermodel.
"This game should tell us a lot about ourselves. And it should tell us a lot about the Texans, even more that illegally-filmed footage of their practice would.
"We know the Texans want to come here and stake their claim as the AFC's best. I respect the Texans, and I have the utmost respect for Schaub. He's seen it all, and has the cleat marks on his scrotum to prove it."
Houston wins, 27-24.