Friday, December 28, 2012

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 17

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Chicago @ Detroit (+4)

In Detroit's 31-18 loss to Atlanta last week, Calvin Johnson amassed 225 yards receiving to shatter Jerry Rice's single-season record of 1,848 yards. With 1,892 yards, Johnson needs 108 yards to eclipse the 2,000 mark.

"I'm very humbled by the record," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, we're 4-11, and again assured of double-digit losses. That sounds like a 'broken record."

The 9-6 Bears could capture the NFC's last playoff berth with a win over the Lions and a Vikings' loss to the Packers.

"Some say the Bears' could make a championship run if we qualify for the playoffs," Lovie Smith said. "Some say that's 'Chicago Bull.'

"As it is, we'll need help from the Packers. We're not likely to get it. The Packers could knock two division rivals out of the playoffs with one win. Green Bay may be playing in the climate-controlled confines of Mall of America Stadium and not in Lambeau Field, but that's cold."

Detroit wins, 27-23.

Jacksonville @ Tennessee (-4)

The 5-10 Titans host the 2-13 Jaguars in the season finale for both teams.

"There's not a person on either teams' bandwagon," Mike Munchak said. "In other words, 'nothing's riding' on this game."

Last week, the Jags took a 13-3 lead on the Patriots before falling 23-16.

"We had the Patriots right where we wanted them," Mike Mularkey said. "And that's the only thing Jaguars' management has had 'right where they wanted it' all year."

Jacksonville wins, 22-17.

Houston @ Indianapolis (+7)

While the Texans have clinched the AFC South and the Colts have secured a wild card spot, Houston still needs a win to assure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. So Sunday's game at Lucas Oil Stadium has meaning.

"It's not for all the marbles," Matt Schaub said, "but just a few 'marbles.' That's why I'm thrilled that Ndamukong Suh won't be in Indianapolis."

The Texans should win and secure home-field advantage. Luckily for the Texans, they're an AFC team, because they can't beat NFC teams at home.

Houston wins, 30-20.

Green Bay @ Minnesota (+3)

The Packers have clinched the NFC North and can lock up a first-round bye with a win in Minnesota. To do so, they'll need to stop Adrian Peterson, who needs 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record.

"Dickerson can rest easy," Dom Capers said, "and so can his jheri curls. That's why we're calling Dickerson the 'relaxer.'

"Peterson will find the going 'rocky' on Sunday. So 'rocky,' in fact, that Packers' defenders will be saying, 'No! Adrian!'"

Peterson falls short of the record, and the Packers win, 31-19.

Miami @ New England (-11)

The 11-4 Patriots could be seed anywhere from No. 1 to No. 4 depending on the outcome of Sunday's games involving the Texans, Broncos, and Ravens. With a win, they are assured of no worse than the No. 3 seed.

"No worse than the No. 3 seed?" Bill Belichick said. "For us, we can do no better than the No. 4 seed. Why? It's simple. As the No. 4 seed, we'd host the Colts in wintry New England, which, as Peyton Manning could tell you, is practically a sure win for the Pats. Then we'd go to Houston to face the Texans, whom we pummeled 42-14 in Week 14.

"Therein lies our predicament: do we 'stand Pat,' or do we lay down? If we 'lay down,' we get the No. 4 seed. We'll, if you take the 'down' from 'lay down,' and the '4' from 'No. 4,' you have your answer. It's 'fourth down.' This time, I'm not going for it."

Indeed, the Patriots and Belichick have a decision to make. Are they underrated, or overrated?

The Pats take an early lead and rest in the second half. Miami wins, 27-20.

Carolina@ New Orleans (-4)

Will Sean Payton be back on the sidelines next year for the Saints? And, for that matter, will Ron Rivera return in 2013 for the surging Panthers?

"I plan to be back," Rivera said. "As for Payton's return, I'll answer with the most-used piece of advice in New Orleans this year: 'Don't put money on it.'"

Carolina pulls the upset, 30-27.

Philadelphia @ NY Giants (-7)

What do you call the Ravens after destroying the Giants last week, 33-14? "Giant killers." What do you call the Giants after collapsing in the same crucial game? "Giant keelers."

"I've asked my team to find a little pride," Tom Coughlin said. "If I have to act like the Falcons and Ravens and 'beat it out of them,' I will."

Michael Vick is back! Vick will start Sunday in place of Nick Foles, who broke his hand last week against the Redskins.

"Nick broke it when he was 'handed' the job by Andy Reid," Vick said. "Or maybe he injured it waving 'goodbye' to Reid for the last 10 weeks."

The G-Men need a win and losses by the Vikings, Cowboys, Bears, Lakers, Heat, Magic, and the Jamaican bobsled team in order to make the playoffs. As is their custom, the Giants play their best game in their last game, smashing the Eagles, 34-14, but missing the playoffs.

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh (-3½)

The Steelers were eliminated from playoff contention with a 13-10 loss to the Bengals in Pittsburgh last week. Ben Roethlisberger threw two costly interceptions as Pittsburgh fell to 7-8.

"Losing to the Bengals in Pittsburgh was indeed costly," Mike Tomlin said. "There are a number of things we could have done better to change the outcome. But 'Heinz-sight' is 20/20."

It will be chilly in Pittsburgh, with temperatures forecast in the 20s. If you're a Brown, how do you stay warm on the visiting sideline? With a "Cleveland Steamer," of course.

Pittsburgh wins 27-13.

Tampa Bay @ Atlanta (-7)

The Falcons locked up the top seed in the NFC playoffs with last Saturday's 31-18 win in Detroit.

"Some say our 28th-ranked rushing attack will be our downfall in the playoffs," Mike Smith said. "That begs the question: What's the 'running joke?' Our rushing game, or my 0-3 playoff record?"

Atlanta wins, 34-17.

NY Jets @ Buffalo (-3)

The 5-10 Bills host the 6-9 Jets in a battle of the bottom two teams in the AFC East.

"Despite what may have been reported," Tim Tebow said, "I did not tell Rex Ryan that I would not to be a part of any wildcat offense last Sunday against the Chargers. On the contrary, I only say 'No' to sex and drugs."

With Greg McElroy out with a concussion, Mark Sanchez is back as the Jets' starter. Sanchez wears No. 6, which, if you ask Ryan, is the "number of the best."

Buffalo wins, 23-17.

Baltimore @ Cincinnati (-3)

The Ravens embarrassed the Giants 33-14 last week, as Baltimore ended a three-game skid. With a win and a Patriots loss to the Dolphins, John Harbaugh's crew would be the AFC's No. 3 seed.

"For the first time in a while," Harbaugh said, "we played good Ravens' football. Thus, I could proudly say, 'That's So Raven.' Before, we were average at best, so all I could say was, 'That's So-So Raven.'"

The Bengals earned their spot in the playoffs with a gritty 13-10 win at Pittsburgh last Sunday. Regardless of Sunday's outcome, Cincinnati will be the AFC's No. 6 seed.

"We could very well face the Ravens next week in the wild card round," Marvin Lewis said. "I think that means both teams will be careful on Sunday not to 'show their hands.'"

And speaking of a "show of hands," if you think the Ravens or Bengals have any chance in hell to make it to the Super Bowl, raise your hand.

Cincinnati wins, 24-23.

Kansas City @ Denver (-16)

With a win Sunday, the Broncos clinch a first-round bye and would finish the regular-season 13-3, with a 6-0 division record.

"I'm a lot like the Colts' front office," Manning said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have this kind of success after leaving Indianapolis.

"Not only that, I'm atop the Pro Bowl balloting and I've opened 21 Papa John's franchises. Pizza Hut almost sold me with their 'Pizza Hut 1! Hut 2! Hut 3!' advertising campaign, but I decided Papa John's was my best option."

Unlike the Broncos, the Chiefs don't have a franchise quarterback, with pizza or football. Manning throws for 308 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Denver wins, 34-13.

Oakland @ San Diego (-9)

With Carson Palmer sidelined with cracked ribs and a bruised lung, Raiders' head coach Dennis Allen expects either Matt Leinart or Terrelle Pryor, or both, to play on Sunday.

"Pryor has never started an NFL game," Allen said. "So he's yet to get his feet wet. Leinart, on the other hand, is more experienced, and gets his feet wet all the time, especially since most of his time is spent in the hot tub. It's no coincidence that 'hot tub' rhymes with 'scrub.'"

San Diego wins 31-12.

Arizona @ San Francisco (-16½)

So, the Cardinal's Beanie Wells thinks his time in Arizona is nearing an end, and said Sunday's game in San Francisco will be his "audition" for 31 other teams. That makes sense, because for his so-called "audition," only one other team is showing up.

It all makes for an interesting situation in Arizona — it's the first time Larry Fitzgerald wished he was Beanie Wells. And that happens to be the only "first" in Glendale this year.

San Francisco wins, 31-11.

St. Louis @ Seattle (-1 ½)

Pete Carroll considered running up the score in the Seahawks' 42-14 win over the 49ers last week, but chose not to and was lauded for his show of class.

"Much like many of my USC scholar-athletes during my time in Los Angeles," Carroll said, "I was tempted to 'skip class.' And unlike many of those scholar-athletes, I chose not to."

Seattle wins, 27-20.

Dallas @ Washington (-3½)

The winner of Sunday's contest at FedEx Field captures the NFC East title. Even with a loss, Dallas still has a slim chance to qualify for the postseason, but for Washington, it's win or stay home. When the 'Skins and Cowboys met in Cowboys Stadium, Washington left with a convincing 38-31 win. The 'Skins haven't lost since.

"That's called being 'in the black,'" Robert Griffin III said. "Now, where my relationship with the opposite sex is concerned, I'm 'in the white.'"

Dallas wins, 34-31.

Contents copyright © Sports Central 1998-2009