Thursday, September 19, 2013

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 3

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Kansas City @ Philadelphia (-3½)

Andy Reid returns to Philadelphia as head coach of the 2-0 Chiefs to face the 1-1 Eagles and Chip Kelly, the man who replaced him. And he's eager to pin a loss on his old team.

"This time," Reid said, "I'd like nothing more than to be chased out of town by an angry mob.

"How about that Philly offense? For the sake of their defense, maybe they need to slow things down a bit. Much like its breath, the Eagles' defense can't catch a defender, either.

"If I was coach, and I'm not, my solution would be to fire the defensive coordinator and replace him with the offensive line coach. It's making those types of decisions that have put me where I am today. That's in K.C."

The Eagles fell to the visiting Chargers 33-30 in Philadelphia last week, preventing a 2-0 Philly start, as well as preventing Kelly from being anointed a deity by overzealous Eagles' fan.

"Amen," said Kelly. "I'm no god. I'm no savior. I'm certainly no preacher. A preacher shows up every Sunday."

If anyone knows how to beat the Eagles, it's Reid. He did it 12 times last year. But the 13th time is the charm.

Alex Smith out-duels Michael Vick, and the Chiefs leave town with a 27-24 win. After the game, Reid is carried off the field in triumph by players from both teams.

Green Bay @ Cincinnati (-2½)

The Packers bounced back from their opening loss to the 49ers with a dominant 38-20 win over the Redskins. Aaron Rodgers lit up the Redskins defense for 480 yards and 4 touchdowns.

"There were some local Native American groups protesting the Redskins name," Rodgers said. "I think I did my part for their cause, because nobody would want to call themselves a 'Redskin' after that.

"I'm sure the Bengals' defense won't be as porous as the Redskins,' which has more holes than Shanahan's reasoning.

'And it's never easy playing in 'The Jungle.' You know, they play Guns 'N Roses 'Welcome to the Jungle' all the time there. Of course, that song has little meaning to me, because I was only 3 when it was released. I guess I'm 'dating myself,' which, according to Greg Jennings, is to be expected from someone who loves himself as much as me."

The Bengals beat the Steelers 20-10 on Monday, paced by two touchdowns from rookie Giovani Bernard.

"Giovani could be the secret to our season," Marvin Lewis said. "He is fast and elusive. If you looked up 'scat back' in the dictionary, you'd find a picture of Giovano. If you looked it up on the Internet, you'd find something completely different."

Green Bay wins, 26-24.

St. Louis @ Dallas (-4)

Despite a big game from Dez Bryant, the Cowboys lost 17-16 in Kansas City and old rival Andy Reid last week at Arrowhead Stadium. On Sunday, Sam Bradford and the Rams visit looking for the upset.

"Dez is an Oklahoma State alumni," Tony Romo said. "In light of the tales of sex, drugs, and money surfacing there, I can totally understand Dez's seamless transition to the pros. I honestly can't believe he left college early. His game obviously wasn't the only thing modeled after Michael Irvin."

The Rams are 1-1 after last week's 31-24 loss in Atlanta. Julio Jones had a field day against the Rams; Jeff Fisher knows Bryant presents similar matchup problems.

"Obviously," Fisher said, "we'll have to 'cheat' Bryant's way. I'd like to quote an Oklahoma State recruiter and say to Dez, 'I can promise that you'll see double-teams.' I think that should get his attention."

The Rams are a team on the rise, but their defense, much like Bryant's diploma, still needs work.

Bryant overpowers the Rams' defensive backfield, and posts 120 yards and a touchdown. Dallas wins, 31-23.

San Diego @ Tennessee (-3)

The Chargers stunned the Eagles 33-30 at Lincoln Financial Field last week, led by 419 yards passing and 3 touchdowns from Philip Rivers, all to Eddie Royal.

"No one gave us a chance at Philadelphia," Philip Rivers said. "Fans at Lincoln Financial Field were so shocked, they bolted for the exits as soon as Nick Novak's field goal cleared the crossbar."

The Titans blew a late lead against the Texans and eventually lost 30-24 in overtime to their AFC South rival.

"We had some mental mistakes," Mike Munchak said. "One was me thinking Kenny Britt could help this team."

Chris Johnson rushes for 124 yards and a score, and the Titans sack Rivers three times.

Tennessee wins, 26-20.

Cleveland @ Minnesota (-5½)

The Browns face the unenviable task of defending Adrian Peterson, who's on a quest to rush for 2,500 yards.

"Peterson's on a quest to rush for 2,500 yards," Browns' head coach Rob Chudzinski said. "He's on a pace to rush for 1,544. That's still a pretty good year for A.P., or two for Trent Richardson. That's why we've shipped him to Indianapolis.

"Brandon Weeden has a sprained right thumb. For the sake of healthy blood flow, doctors have instructed Brandon to keep his thumb elevated. It's the only 'thumb's up' he's got this season."

The Vikings are 0-2 after a heartbreaking 31-30 loss in Chicago. The Cleveland defense will certainly gear their scheme to stop Peterson; Christian Ponder knows the pressure is on him to make things happen.

"I just have to play within myself," Ponder said. "There are others who wish I'd play outside Mall of America Stadium.

"Look, I'm no Peyton Manning. I'm no Aaron Rodgers. I'm no Joe Namath, although I have kissed, and then some, a sexy ESPN sideline reporter."

With Brandon Weeden out with a sore thumb, the Browns will look to a backup quarterback for guidance, and if that backup is worth his salt, he'll direct the team to the 2014 NFL draft for a solution. In the meantime, Brian Hoyer gets mop up duty early.

It's was to be a battle of ground attacks featuring Peterson against Richardson. "All Day" versus the "Cleveland Steamer." As one would expect, Richardson would get No. 2 in that battle. But he is a Brown no more.

Peterson rushes for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns, and the Vikes win, 28-17.

Tampa Bay @ New England (-9)

Tim Tebow may no longer be a Patriot, but there's still a New England quarterback evoking the Lord's name. Tom Brady is flustered after several drops and bad patterns left Brady with only 185 yards passing and 1 touchdown in the Pats' 13-10 win over the Jets last week.

"I haven't seen that many drops since Superstorm Sandy," Brady said. "Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson may be big weapons some day, but right now, they're killing my stats. That's why I call them 'Weapons of Mass. Destruction.'

"What I really need is the return of Rob Gronkowski. His forearm and back are healing nicely. As was the case with one of my former tight ends, a 'motion for continuance' needs to be filed."

After last week's 16-14 loss to the Saints, Tampa has now lost their first two games by a total of three points. Josh Freeman was a sloppy 9-for-22 for 125 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.

"I'm good mind to reinstate Freeman," Greg Schiano said, "as captain of this sinking ship.

"And speaking of ships, take a look into the end zone at Raymond James Stadium. There, you'll see a pirate schooner that is clearly 'rigged.' Does this have anything to do with the team's vote on a captain? You do the crooked math."

Brady starts the game by calling 11 consecutive plays from the Chapter 1 of the Pats' playbook, "Slant Patterns to Julian Edelman." Four plays later, New England has its first touchdown.

The Patriots wins, 35-14.

Arizona @ New Orleans (-9)

The Saints escaped Tampa Bay with a 16-14 win over the Bucs on Garrett Hartley's 27-yard field goal as time expired. New Orleans is 2-0, in first place in the NFC South, with two division wins under their belt.

"We held Josh Freeman to 125 yards passing," Sean Payton said. "That's 'chump change,' which I believe is what Tampa calls their quest to rid themselves of Freeman.

"Our defense is ranked 11th in the league so far. That's a huge improvement. I'd like to be able to take some credit for that, but as you know, I have no idea what goes on with our defense."

The Cardinals evened their record with a 25-21 win over Detroit, giving Bruce Arians his first win as head coach.

"Coach got his first Gatorade bath," Larry Fitzgerald said. "The last thing to 'take a bath' in Glendale was our salary cap number, when we signed Kevin Kolb."

New Orleans wins, 27-23.

Detroit @ Washington (-1)

The Redskins have been outscored a combined 50-7 in the first half on their way to a 0-2 record. Mike Shanahan knows a good start is imperative for the Redskins' fortunes.

"We need a win," Shanahan said. "Victory is a cure-all. In fact, it's just what the doctor ordered. But since when do I listen to the doctor?

"I've been criticized for not allowing RG3 to play in the preseason. Now, I'm being criticized for not resting him. I think I've got a happy compromise: I'll sit him for three quarters and let him play the fourth. That seems to be the only time he produces."

The Lions offense will certainly look to air it out, especially with Reggie Bush ailing.

"Shanahan is a big fan of Calvin Johnson," Jim Schwartz said. "He especially loves Megatron's ESPN SportsCenter commercial. Washington fans eager for a Super Bowl wish Shanahan could transform into a vending machine. Then they might be able to get something out of him.

"Ndamukong Suh is appealing his $100,000 fine. I expect him to lose and eventually pay the fine like an honest man. There's nothing cheap about Suh, except his shots."

Washington wins, 35-31.

NY Giants @ Carolina (-1)

It's desperation time in Charlotte for the 0-2 Panthers. After a tough 12-7 loss to Seattle in Week 1, a late pass interference call negated an interception, and the Bills capitalized to win 24-23 last week in Buffalo.

"Hey," Newton said, "I'm just glad to finally be facing a white quarterback. And no one's whiter than Eli Manning. He's so white, he's got two Super Bowl rings.

"But this is a must-win game for us, and especially head coach Ron Rivera. If we lose to the Giants, one of two things will happen: we'll hit the panic button, or the eject button."

Likewise, the Giants also find themselves in a 0-2 hole to start the season. In their two losses, the G-Men have committed 10 turnovers.

"I can't be worried," Eli Manning said. "Quarterbacking is in my genes. Sounds like a new Wrangler campaign for Peyton and I. Or maybe just Peyton, because we all know who wears the pants in this family."

New York wins, 23-20.

Houston @ Baltimore (+2½)

Will Ed Reed finally suit up for the Texans on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium? Reed, who signed with Houston this offseason for three years and $15 million, has yet to play a down.

"As soon as he signed with us," Gary Kubiak said, "Ed marked this date on his calendar, and marked it 'pay day.'"

The Ravens shut out the Browns in the second half, overcoming a 6-0 deficit to win 14-6. Joe Flacco missed the birth of his son, who was born one hour before kickoff.

"My wife said it was no big deal," Flacco said. "After all, I wasn't even there for the conception.

"And speaking of 'women in stirrups,' we don't fear the Texans at all, despite their 2-0 record. Houston's had a 2-0 record before, just not in the playoffs. Now, the Texans are a good team. Their defense is nothing to sneeze at, or spit at, if you're Ray Rice."

Houston wins, 30-24.

Atlanta @ Miami (-1)

After a sluggish start to the season, the Falcons' offense took flight in a 31-24 win over the visiting Rams last week. Julio Jones caught 10 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown, validating his status as one of the league's most dangerous downfield threats.

"There are a lot of 'Julio's' in Miami," Matt Ryan said, "and practically all of them had to 'validate their status' when they get there."

The Dolphins are 2-0, tied with the Patriots for first in the AFC East, and are thriving with a solid defense and improved play from quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

"We are the most surprising team in the AFC," Joe Philbin said. "We're undefeated, and that's sent shock waves through the football community. In other words, the surviving members of the 1972 Dolphins had to be revived with a defibrillator."

The fired up Dolphins defense comes out blazing (after a pre-game motivational speech from former Dolphin Ricky Williams). Offensively, the 'Fins run right at the Falcons' injury-depleted defense.

Miami wins, 27-17.

Buffalo @ NY Jets (-2)

Rookie quarterbacks E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith face off at MetLife Stadium as the 1-1 Bills and 1-1 Jets meet. Manuel's 2-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left gave the Bills their first win of the year, a 24-23 decision over the Panthers.

"The Bills may have finally found their quarterback of the future," Doug Marrone said. "He's got this town thinking Super Bowl. If he continues to progress as we'd like, fans might be thinking of winning a Super Bowl."

The Jets nearly upset the Patriots before falling 13-10 in Foxboro. Smith threw for 214 yards, 29 more than Tom Brady, but also tossed 3 costly interceptions.

"The New York Yankees once had a lineup that included the 'Murderers' Row,'" Rex Ryan said. "I've got one of my own. It's my collection of quarterbacks - Smith, Mark Sanchez, Matt Simms, and Brady Quinn. They're killing me."

New York wins 19-13.

Indianapolis @ San Francisco (-10½)

Andrew Luck faces his former college coach Jim Harbaugh as the Colts visit Candlestick Park to challenge the 49ers. San Fran is coming off a 29-3 pounding at the hands of the Seahawks, while the Colts lost 24-20 at home to the Dolphins.

"With 3 sacks and 6 quarterback hits," Luck said, "the Dolphins really put a hurting on me in our defeat. Much like Coach Harbaugh, that makes me a sore loser.

"We just acquired Trent Richardson from the Browns for a 2014 first-round pick. There are no winners in this deal, only losers. We lost a first-round pick; the Browns lost patience."

Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers found the going tough at Seattle last week, losing 29-3 in the raucous confines of Century Link Stadium. Kaepernick threw 3 interceptions, lost a fumble, and was sacked 3 times.

"I couldn't hear anything in that stadium," Kaepernick said, "especially anyone telling me how great I am."

San Francisco wins, 34-20.

Jacksonville @ Seattle (-19½)

The Seahawks blasted NFC West rivals the 49ers 29-3 last week, led by a suffocating defense and three touchdowns from Marshawn Lynch.

"Fans at Century Link Stadium set a record by reaching 136 decibels," Pete Carroll said, "making them the loudest sports stadium in history. Funny thing was, you could still hear Richard Sherman."

Former Seahawks' defensive coordinator Gus Bradley makes his return to Seattle, this time as head coach of the 0-2 Jaguars.

"To have any chance in Seattle," Bradley said, "we'll need divine intervention. Many think that could be in the form of Tim Tebow. Fans were outside our stadium rallying for us to sign Tebow. What they should be doing is rallying for the Seahawks to sign him. Then we might have a chance."

The Jaguars have scored only 11 points this season in losing their first two games by a combined 47-11 margin. By heavy contrast, the Seahawks have outscored opponents 41-10.So, in addition to yellow flags and red flags, you're likely to see a white flag as well.

Seattle rolls to a 31-0 win, adding the Jags to the list of teams they've blown out this year, also known as their spank bank.

Chicago @ Pittsburgh (+2½)

Jay Cutler's 16-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett gave the Bears a 31-30 win over the visiting Vikings. It was the second consecutive fourth-quarter comeback led by Cutler this season.

"Jay has ice water in his veins," Brandon Marshall said. "Yet some people still wonder what's in his 'cup.'"

After Monday's 20-10 loss in Cincinnati, the Steelers are 0-2, tied for last in the AFC North. The Pittsburgh offense is sluggish, and the defense no longer strikes fear into the opposition.

"We've just been awful across the board," Mike Tomlin said. "If you were to evaluate us, there would be lots of failing grades. Terry Bradshaw isn't the only one dropping the 'F' word."

Pittsburgh gets an inspired defensive effort, and Troy Polamalu makes the most spectacular play of his career when he somersaults over the Bears' line and snatches the shotgun snap before it gets to Cutler, then races 65 yards for the score.

Pittsburgh wins, 24-22.

Oakland @ Denver (-15)

Peyton Manning and the Broncos whipped little brother Eli and the Giants 41-23 last week, leaving no doubt of the identity of the better quarterback.

"Sure," Peyton said, "Eli's got two rings. But he also has two hands, and he needs both to count the number of interceptions he's thrown this season. His aim has been so bad this year, he can't even get 'Football on His Phone.' Eli's got stats only a brother could love. "

The Raiders took their first win of the year, beating the hapless Jaguars 19-9 in Oakland last week.

"We're only one game behind the Broncos in the AFC West," Terrelle Pryor said. "With a win, we take over sole possession of first place. For that to happen, the devil said he'll need soul possession."

The Broncos' defense totally shuts down Pryor, forcing 5 turnovers, earning Pryor a brand new nickname, "Terre(b)le."

Manning tosses 4 touchdown passes and the Broncos steamroll the overmatched Raiders, 42-17.

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