Thursday, December 20, 2012

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 16

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Atlanta @ Detroit (+3)

The Falcons demolished the Giants last week 34-0, avenging last year's demoralizing 24-2 playoff loss to the Giants. Matt Ryan threw for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Falcons moved a step closer to clinching home field throughout the playoffs.

"Atlanta owner Arthur wasn't the only 'Blank' in the Georgia Dome," Ryan said. "Some say we did the impossible. I agree. We made the Jets look like New York's best team.

"I look forward to the challenged posed by Ndamukong Suh and the Detroit defense. I play in the Deep South; Suh kicks in the deep south. Truthfully, I don't mind if Suh kicks me in the balls; I just want him to ask first. Of course, that wouldn't make him the first person to 'question my manhood."

The Lions disappointing season continued with an ugly 38-10 loss to the Cardinals, a team coming off a 58-0 loss to Seattle. After qualifying for the playoffs last year, Detroit is 4-10 this season, tied for the worst record in the NFC.

"Calvin Johnson may be this team's only bright spot," Jim Schwartz said. "Ironically, he's the only one who hasn't been 'lit up' this year.

"Ultimately, the blame for our sorry season lies squarely on my shoulders. I'll keep telling myself that until I correct it. And that, my friend, is the only 'discipline' you'll see in Detroit."

The Lions have a job to do, and that's get Johnson closer to Jerry Rice's NFL record of 1,848 yards receiving. It may be the only job they successfully complete this year."

Johnson has 11 catches for 138 yards and a score, and the Lions piece together a 30-27 win.

New Orleans @ Dallas (-3)

There's a three-way logjam atop the NFC East, and the 9-5 Cowboys are right in the middle after last Sunday's 27-24 overtime win over the Steelers. Dan Bailey's 21-yard field goal after a Ben Roethlisberger interception won it for the Cowboys.

"This was a first," Jerry Jones said. "We beat the Steelers in a meaningful game and Neil O'Donnell had nothing to do with it. Like this year's Cowboys, that 1996 Dallas team overcame a number of obstacles, most notably having Barry Switzer as a head coach.

"For once, Sunday's game was an occasion in which there was an unwanted guest on our sideline, and it wasn't me!"

The Saints shut out the Buccaneers 41-0, eliminating Tampa from playoff contention. A win in Dallas would likewise throw a wrench into the Cowboys' postseason hopes.

"How are Sean Payton and Jerry Jones alike?" Drew Brees said. "Neither will be welcome on the sidelines on Sunday.

"Hopefully, Payton will be back on our sidelines next year. Sadly, though, I doubt former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will be back in New Orleans. He's found work in the corporate world recruiting big shots in the business world. But don't call him a 'headhunter.'"

How do the Cowboys follow up an impressive win? As usual, with a loss.

New Orleans wins, 42-38.

Tennessee @ Green Bay (-13)

The Packers clinched the NFC North last week, subduing the Bears 21-13 behind 291 yards passing and 3 touchdowns from Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay currently holds the NFC's second seed, and if that holds, they'll earn a first-round playoff bye.

"We're close to being at full-strength," Rodgers said. "When we get there, it's 'over' for every other team. And for us, as well, because it will be April.

"We've probably been the NFL's most impressive team this month. Everyone fears the Packers in December. We, on the other hand, fear the Giants in January."

The Titans beat the Jets 14-10 on Monday night, buoyed by 122 yards rushing and 1 touchdown from Chris Johnson. Tennessee improved to 5-9.

"Johnson had 20 carries for 28 yards," Mike Munchak saod, "and one carry for 94 yards and a touchdown. After that one, I told Chris, 'That's more like it.' Then I told him we need 'more like it.'"

Rodgers out-rushes Johnson, and the Packers cruise, 38-17.

Indianapolis @ Kansas City (+6)

The Colts dropped to 9-5 with a 29-17 loss to the Texans, but are still in position to earn a playoff wild card berth. Indy could clinch that berth with a win at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

"I think we have a definitive advantage over the Chiefs in the passing game," Andrew Luck said. "When there's talk of an 'aerial attack' in Kansas City, it usually refers to an airplane flying a banner demanding the Chiefs fire their coach and general manager.

"I only need 74 yards to set the rookie record for passing yardage. That's a record held by Cam Newton. When things are going good for Newton, he's Superman. Even when things aren't going so good, he's still a super hero — the 'Incredible Sulk.'"

The Chiefs were blanked 15-0 last week in Oakland, as the Kansas City offense managed only five first downs, while Sebastian Janikowski kicked 5 field goals. The Chiefs are 2-12 on the year and tied with the Jaguars for the worst record in the NFL.

"I've won only two games this year," Romeo Crenel said, "and even fewer friends. I've been called a lot of names lately, all indicating my end is near. Names like 'Cren-L,' and 'Rome-Over,' and 'Bye and Large,' and 'The Human Beat Box,' and 'Chief Packing Bags.'"

Indianapolis wins, 24-16.

Buffalo @ Miami (-4)

The Dolphins whipped the visiting Jaguars 24-3 last week, powered by a 220-yard, 2-touchdown day from Ryan Tannehill. Miami is now 6-8 on the year.

"It was a great win," Tannehill said, "and a great way to honor the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Dolphins' 17-0 campaign. You have to give those guys their 'props,' because I believe that's the only way they can stand."

The Bills were hammered 50-17 by the Seahawks at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, as Russell Wilson accounted for four scores. The Bills are 5-9, last in the AFC East.

"We were the second best team in Toronto last Sunday," Chan Gailey said. "Third if you count the Argonauts.

"I'd be surprised if Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starting quarterback next year. 'Ryan's hope' is that he will. Everyone else 'hopes Ryan' won't be. Sure, Fitzpatrick went to Harvard, but his progress as a quarterback, much like ivy, is creeping."

Miami wins, 22-20.

San Diego @ NY Jets (-3)

The home-standing Chargers surrendered 21 first quarter points to the Panthers last week before eventually losing 31-7. It was another disappointing loss for the Chargers, especially after an impressive win the previous week in Pittsburgh.

"I realize my time in San Diego is limited," Norv Turner said, "but until someone tells me otherwise, I'm not going anywhere. My team may be quitters, but I'm not. I'd like to hang around; others would prefer me to just hang. It's almost a done deal, so start spreading the 'noose.' Just for the record, I don't want to be a part of the New York Jets."

The Jets were eliminated from the playoffs after an ugly 14-10 loss to the Titans in Tennessee. Mark Sanchez turned the ball over five times and the Jets fell to 6-8.

"I've decided to remove Mark from the starting lineup," Rex Ryan said. "On a related note, Jets' management has decided to remove the 'R' from my first name. From now on, I'll be known as 'Ex Ryan.'

"Greg McElroy will start. I know a lot of people wanted to see Tim Tebow get the chance, but Greg gives us the best chance to win. In an ironic twist, Tebow didn't have a prayer."

Neither the Jets nor the Chargers possess any redeeming qualities, save for one — they are both extremely compelling arguments against playoff expansion.

Chargers win, 24-15.

Washington @ Philadelphia (+3)

Despite the absence of Robert Griffin III, the Redskins smashed the Browns 38-21 in Cleveland. Kirk Cousins passed for 329 yards and 2 score as the 'Skins improved to 8-6, tied with the Giants for first in the NFC East.

"Cousins didn't play like a rookie," Mike Shanahan said. "Based on the success of rookies so far this year in the NFL, you want a rookie quarterback starting. Griffin may not be black enough, according to some people, but Cousins sure is 'green' enough. If Griffin is indeed not 'black enough,' then I think all Redskins' fans will be more than happy to be dreaming of a 'white' Christmas."

The Eagles fell to 4-10 after last Thursday's 34-13 loss at the hands of the visiting Bengals. After throwing for 381 yards two weeks ago, Nick Foles threw for only 182 against Cincinnati.

"Foles has a white girlfriend," Andy Reid said. "Does that make him 'black enough?' Oddly enough, her name is 'Lily White.'

"I'm not allowed to talk about my future with the team. But, if you'll come stand over by the large bell with a crack in it, I'll be at 'Liberty' to discuss it. I think Philly fans will be happy to hear that the bell is 'tolling."

Washington wins, 31-21.

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (-4)

The Bengals whipped the Eagles 34-13 last Thursday in Philadelphia, improving to 8-6 and solidifying their playoff position. Now 8-6, Cincinnati holds the sixth seed in the AFC with two games remaining.

"The Steelers have their backs against the wall," Marvin Lewis said. "It looks like the shows on the other foot, now. Not long ago, the Bengals had their backs against the wall. That usually indicated one of my players was in a police lineup.

"Nothing is ever easy in Pittsburgh, except injuring Troy Polamalu's calf. I hear they call him 'Veal,' because that's one tender calf."

Pittsburgh's 27-24 overtime loss in Dallas was a serious blow to their playoff hopes. Now 7-7, the Steelers must defeat the Bengals to keep their hopes alive.

"I'm not happy with our offensive play-calling," Ben Roethlisberger said. "If I were Joe Flacco, Todd Haley would be out of here. Then again, if I were Joe Flacco, I wouldn't have two Super Bowl rings.

"The Steelers celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 'Immaculate Reception. I celebrated my own, when my sexual assault-free post-nuptials celebration became my own 'Immaculate Reception.'"

Pittsburgh wins, 23-20.

St. Louis @ Tampa Bay (-3)

The Buccaneers suffered a crushing 41-0 defeat in New Orleans last week, ending Tampa's already slim playoff hopes. Drew Brees torched Tampa's NFL-worst pass defense for 307 yards and 4 touchdowns.

"Brees calls our pass defense the 'Big Easiest,' Greg Schiano said.

The Rams were the latest defense to fall victim to the Adrian Peterson's rushing attack. Peterson blitzed the St. Louis defense for 212 yards, including an 82-yard score, in Minnesota's 36-22 win.

"Peterson runs like the wind," Jeff Fisher said. "Our defense was a lot like the wind, because you couldn't see it.

"We'll have to do a better job against Tampa's Doug Martin. He's the second-leading rookie rusher in the NFL, which has earned him the nickname 'Doug-ie Fresh-man.'"

Tampa wins, 27-22.

Oakland @ Carolina (-9½)

The surging Panthers jumped on the Chargers early, racing to a 21-0 first quarter lead in an eventual 31-7 win. The Panthers are 5-9 and still last in the NFC South.

"The Panthers are a dangerous team," Ron Rivera said. "Especially dangerous to me, because I'm the coach."

The Raiders beat the Chiefs 15-0 last week behind 5 field goals from Sebastian Janikowski. The Raiders are 4-10 in the AFC West.

"Chris Kluwe is campaigning for Ray Guy to make the Hall of Fame," Dennis Allen said. "But Janikowski will be a legitimate candidate himself one day. I urge prospective voters to consider him when the time comes. Or, as I would urge pretty, 20-something females, 'Don't fall asleep on Janikowski."

Carolina wins, 34-16.

New England @ Jacksonville (+13)

The visiting 49ers upset the Patriots 41-34 last Sunday night, shedding doubt on New England's claim as the AFC's best team. San Fran rushed for 180 yards and forced 4 turnovers.

"The 49ers came to Foxboro with a no-holds-barred game plan," Tom Brady said. "You've got to give them credit for 'going for it.'

"Will Bill Belichick go for it on fourth down against the Jaguars? I think the more intriguing question is will the Jaguars force a fourth down."

The Jaguars are 2-12 after last week's 24-3 loss in Miami. Jacksonville is 31st in the NFL in scoring offense.

"We'll be facing a motivated Patriot team," Mike Mularkey said. "They were spanked by the 49ers, so I expect Belichick will put them through a rigorous week of practice. With his attention to detail, they'll work on every single aspect. I imagine he'll call it the '50-Point Plan.'"

New England wins, 51-13.

Minnesota @ Houston (-9½)

Adrian Peterson continued his domination of the league's rushing defenses with 212 yards and a touchdown in Minnesota's 36-22 win over the Rams last week. At 8-6, the Vikes are very much alive in the hunt for a wildcard playoff spot.

"Eric Dickerson's 2,105 yards are in sight," Peterson said, "and you don't need a funky pair of goggles to see that.

"I am the embodiment of a record-setting running back. I've got speed, power, and a quarterback you absolutely don't want throwing the ball. Christian Ponder just married ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Steele. Not surprisingly, no one caught the bouquet."

The Texans bounced back from last week's 42-14 loss in New England with a 29-17 win Indianapolis, which clinched the AFC South title. With a win on Sunday, Houston will lock up the top seed for the AFC playoffs.

"It was important that we made a 'statement' in the Indy game," Arian Foster said. "Just as it was important that we made an 'apology' for the New England game. Our defense was much better. They were terrible in Foxboro. It was definitely not a case of 'Texas Hold 'Em.' Is was more like 'Texas Hold Me,' because those guys definitely needed comfort afterwards."

The Texans start the game in a defense created by Wade Phillips, called the "Box and One," in which ten players crowd the line of scrimmage, while one safety plays a deep zone and taunts Christian Ponder, daring him to throw the ball. Before Ponder figures out the defense, the Texans have a 17-0 lead and Peterson is rendered moot.

Houston wins, 31-13.

Cleveland @ Denver (-13)

Peyton Manning and the Broncos put away the Ravens early in last week's 34-17 win in Baltimore. Now 11-3, Denver is currently the AFC's No. 3 seed, but could move up to the two spot with two wins.

"Manning had his way with the Baltimore defense," John Elway said. "He has a way of making good defenses look average, and average defenses look bad. The Ravens' defense falls in to neither of those categories.

"Denver/Cleveland games always remind me of 'The Drive. With Manning at the helm, now, I'm just along for 'The Ride.'"

The Browns were whipped 38-21 last Sunday in front of a disappointed home crown in Cleveland. After leading 14-10 at the half, the Browns were outscored 28-7 in the second half.

"In the 'Dawg Pound,'" Pat Shurmur said, 'that's called getting ''Skin and Boned.'"

Brandon Weeden finds the going tough at Invesco Field, where the rowdy "Broncs' Zoo" home crowd makes hearing difficult. Three interceptions later, and three Manning touchdowns later, the Broncos have a 34-13 win.

After the game, Manning sends some unsliced Papa John's pizza to the visitor's locker room, where the Browns find that, any way you slice it, the Broncos are a much better team.

Chicago @ Arizona (+5½)

The Cardinals snapped a nine-game losing streak with a dominating 38-10 win over the Lions last week in Glendale. It was Arizona's first win since starting the season 4-0.

"We're 5-9 now," Ken Whisenhunt said. "I'm surprised we weren't penalized for our 4-0 start, because it was definitely 'false.'

"Getting hammered 58-0 definitely opened the eyes of many. Not me, though. I had mine closed for the entire second half. Hopefully, we won't let Chicago destroy us in a similar manner, because I can't 'Bear' to watch."

The Bears lost to the Packers 21-13 last week in Chicago and are now 8-6. After a 7-1 start, Chicago has lost five or six and are fading fast in the playoff picture.

"Can you believe it?" Brian Urlacher said. "We were booed at home. I'm shocked at the nerve of our family members.

"But, as was the case last year, we've followed a fast start to the season with a late collapse. And no one seems that surprised. Indeed, the Bears are who you thought they were."

Chicago wins, 31-10.

NY Giants @ Baltimore (even)

The Giants left Atlanta 34-0 losers amid questions about their ability to make another Super Bowl run. Eli Manning was 13-25 for 161 yards and 2 interceptions as the Giants fell into a three-way tie for first in the NFC East.

"There's only one thing to say," Tom Coughlin said, "and that's 'G-sus Christ!'

"It was a miserable two days for New York football teams. The Jets were eliminated from the playoffs, and David Carr almost got some playing time."

The erratic Ravens lost 34-17 to the Broncos, as Peyton Manning once again bested Baltimore. Ray Lewis will return to the line after missing nine weeks with a torn triceps.

"I'm tired of watching helplessly from the sideline," Lewis said. "Now, I'll do it from the field."

New York wins, 27-18.

San Francisco @ Seattle (even)

The 49ers clinched a playoff spot with an impressive 41-34 win in New England. San Francisco held a 31-3 third quarter lead and withstood a manic Patriots rally. The 49ers can clinch the NFC West with a win over the Seahawks.

"Colin Kaepernick wrote a letter to himself when he was nine years old," Jim Harbaugh said, "and predicted he's be the 49ers quarterback one day. Alex Smith wrote a similar letter at the age of 28. Not only is Colin a better quarterback, he's a better writer."

The Seahawks followed Week 14's 58-0 blowout of the Cardinals with a 50-17 beat down of the Bills. Seattle became only the third team in NFL history with back-to-back 50-point games.

"That's two weeks in a row I've been accused of running up the score," Pete Carroll said. "I'd rather not incriminate myself, so I plead the 50th."

Seattle wins, 20-13.

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