Friday, September 27, 2013

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 4

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

San Francisco @ St. Louis (+3)

The 1-2 Rams host the 2-1 49ers on Thursday Night Football in an NFC West showdown. The St. Louis defense will be tasked with defending the arms and legs of Colin Kaepernick.

"I've done my homework on Kaepernick," said linebacker James Lauriniatis, "and then some. I understand he was adopted. You know, my father made a living on the professional wrestling circuit as Road Warrior Animal, so he's known lots of guys whose parents hail from 'Parts Unknown.'

"Our defense is still learning. We certainly have youth on our side. The average age of our defense is 25. Ironically, though, the one piece this Rams' defense may be missing is a 'Youngblood.'"

The 49ers suffered their second straight loss, falling 27-7 to the visiting Colts last week. In those two losses, San Fran has been outscored 56-10.

"Obviously," Jim Harbaugh said, "we failed our field test. It's enough to drive a man to drink. And speaking of 'drinking and driving,' Aldon Smith is taking a leave of absence. For the 49ers' top sack artist, that's called doing a 'BAC dance.'

"But we're all frustrated. Kaepernick is especially frustrated. The read option may be dead. It's lost its novelty. The problem is, everybody can read it."

It's time for the 49ers to bounce back and impose their will, which is hard-nosed defense and an offense that keeps the opponent guessing. And the Rams, not to mention everyone, are guessing — is Kaepernick a good quarterback or not? Ask Harbaugh in public and he'll say "yes." Ask him in private, and the answer is not so definitive: "I guess."

San Fran survives a quick start from the fired up Rams and storms back for a 20-16 win.

Baltimore @ Buffalo (+3)

The Ravens improved to 2-1 with a 30-9 win over the Texans last week and are now tied with the Bengals atop the AFC North. Big plays on defense made up for an otherwise ordinary day from Joe Flacco and the offense.

"Most importantly," John Harbaugh said, "we won. Of equal importance, Jacoby Jones was not seriously injured by a champagne bottle tossed by a stripper. Finally, a stripper who makes it rain. She turned the tables of Jacoby, because this time, he's the one getting toasted. Heck, Flacco said he admired the lady's accuracy.

"But the bottom line is, you should never insult a woman, stripper or not. Pimpin' ain't easy, and neither is primpin'."

The Bills are 1-2 after a 27-20 loss last week to the Jets, as E.J. Manuel was sacked 8 times.

"That's eight times too many," Doug Marrone said. "You know, if a stripper was protected by our offensive line, there's no way she would have had time to throw a bottle."

The Ravens sack Manuel five times, including two by Terrell Suggs, who later names himself provost of Ball So Hard University, then awards himself an honorary degree from Montana First Orthopedic State University, or Mo Fo State.

Baltimore wins, 27-13.

Cincinnati @ Cleveland (+5)

The Browns seemingly found a cure for their offensive woes, and apparently it was shipping Trent Richardson to the Colts for a 2014 first-round pick. Sans Richardson, the Browns piled up 409 yards of offense and beat the Vikings, 31-27.

"Trent just didn't fit into our plans for the future," Rob Chudzinski said. "Sure, he was a 233-pound beast; we called him 'The Burden'; tacklers called him 'The Load.' Now, we call him 'The Unload.'

"I'm not sure Brandon Weeden fits into our future, either. Unfortunately, his value is limited, so a trade may be out of the question. But to my knowledge, there's no rule against a raffle."

The Bengals pulled out a wild 34-30 win over Green Bay, winning on Terrence Newman's 58-yard fumble return. Now 2-1, Cincy heads to the Dawg Pound to face their AFC North rivals.

"We forced Aaron Rodgers into several errors," Marvin Lewis said, "so there's no reason to think we can't do the same to Brian Hoyer. See, I just used Rodger's name in the same sentence with Hoyer's. That's sure to rankle Rodgers.

"Don't get me wrong. Rodgers is great. There's nobody like him. Also, nobody likes him. Rumor has it that Rodgers ices down his arm after games, then tells his teammates what they did wrong. In the Packer locker room, they call that 'getting the cold shoulder.'"

Can Hoyer, who will start again on Sunday, duplicate his three-touchdown performance? If he does, there's a good chance the Browns will win, and a good chance Hoyer will be traded.

Cincinnati wins, 24-23.

Chicago @ Detroit (-3)

The Bears whipped the Steelers 40-23 last week, forcing five Steelers turnovers and sending Pittsburgh to its worst start in the Ben Roethlisberger era. At 3-0, the Bears are alone atop the NFC North, and they'll try to extend their lead with a win in Detroit.

"Jay Cutler has proved his leadership abilities," Mark Trestman said, "as well as his toughness. And what better place to prove that in Week 3 of the regular season. Okay, maybe the 2011 NFC Championship Game would have been a better place to do that.

"But Jay is fearless. He's challenged Ndamukong Suh … to a game of 'Operation.' In that game, if you touch a body part that Suh's violated on an opponent, the buzzer goes off."

The Lions left the nation's capitol last week with a tough 27-20 win over the Redskins. Matthew Stafford threw for 385 yards and two scores as Detroit moved to 2-1.

"This is the first time the Lions have beaten the Redskins in Washington since 1939," Stafford said. "That's another feather in my cap. A few more of those, and I'll be able to offend Native Americans everywhere."

Detroit wins, 31-30.

Seattle @ Houston (+3)

The Seahawks blasted the overmatched Jaguars 45-17 last week to improve to 3-0 on the season. Seattle now owns a two-game cushion over the rest of the NFC West.

"Give the Jaguars credit," Pete Carroll said. "They could have quit, but they didn't. Then the game started.

"Of course, there's always room for improvement. And my team is quite willing to learn. Much like some of the players on that 49ers team to our south, they're not afraid to 'seek help.'"

The Texans will face the NFL's top-ranked defense, one that surrenders an average of only 9 points per game.

"Coach Kubiak says we need more from our stars," Arian Foster said. "I think he may be talking about me. Not only do I take cash from coaches, I take hints."

Houston wins, 19-16.

Indianapolis @ Jacksonville (+9½)

The Colts' face their first AFC South opponent when they travel to Everbank Stadium, where the 0-3 Jaguars await. Last week, Indy shocked the 49ers, 27-7, in San Francisco in their first game with new acquisition Trent Richardson.

"Trent's first carry as a Colt was a one-yard touchdown run," Andrew Luck said. "It was sweet. He lowered his shoulders, and raised his yards-per-rush average. Trent went practically untouched; if we can make sure that doesn't change, I'm sure we can get a full season out of him."

The Jaguars lost to the Seahawks in Seattle 45-17, overwhelmed on both sides of the ball by what many consider the NFL's best team.

"Hey, we held 'em under 50," Gus Bradley said. "Usually, that's what we say after a home game, when attendance figures are released."

Colts win, 27-21.

New York @ Kansas City (-5)

With last Thursday's 26-16 win in Philadelphia, the Chiefs are 3-0, and two of those wins have come against NFC East teams. On Sunday, they'll try to make it 3-0 as the Giants visit Arrowhead Stadium.

"Three wins over NFC East teams?" said Andy Reid. "That would have kept me in Philadelphia.

"Now, we know the Giants are hungry. They're winless, and their receivers are unhappy. Hakeem Nicks said he 'can't throw the ball to himself.' Of course, New York receivers aren't known for criticizing themselves. Heck, I think Plaxico Burress was the last to do so, back in 2008, when he 'blasted' himself."

The Giants were awful at Carolina last week, managing only 13 yards of offense in the first half in a 38-0 loss that dropped them to 0-3. Eli Manning was sacked seven times and threw his eighth interception of the season.

"I thought we were prepared," Tom Coughlin said. "For inspiration, we watched Lawrence Taylor's Showtime documentary before the game. Unfortunately, it was the Panthers with the 'runaway.'

"But drastic times call for drastic measures. That's why Eli is going in for elective neck fusion surgery. "

Kansas City wins, 27-24.

Pittsburgh @ Minnesota (+1)

The Steelers and Vikings meet in Wembley Stadium in the first of two NFL games in London this season in a battle of 0-3 teams. Pittsburgh turned the ball over five times, with two leading to touchdowns, in last week's 40-23 loss to the Bears.

"These two teams are in shambles," Ben Roethlisberger said. "Indeed, there is 'Anarchy in the U.K.'

"I'm excited, and not just because I just made a 'Sex Pistol' reference. I'm excited because there will be a new 'Big Ben' in London. Unfortunately, I'm a married man, so I won't be able to enjoy the city as a single man. To all of the birds in London who expected a hookup, there will be no union, Jack."

The Vikings are 0-3 and headed to London, where they hope to turn their fortunes around.

"We can't win at home," Leslie Frazier said. "We can't win on the road. Maybe a new continent is the change we need.

"Make no mistake. We're taking an airplane to London. I think it would be a very bad idea to put a team full of Vikings on a boat across the Atlantic."

Pittsburgh wins, 30-28.

Arizona @ Tampa Bay (-3)

Is Greg Schiano losing control in Tampa? The Bucs are 0-3, and tension is mounting for a team in dire need for a win.

"Do you see that vessel in the end zone of Raymond James Stadium?" Schiano said. "It's a 'dictator-ship.'

"I've decided to bench Josh Freeman. In his place, Mike Glennon will get the start. Darrelle Revis has his own island. Now, Josh has one of his own. It's called 'Maroon 5.'"

The Cardinals are reeling as well, now 1-2 after a 31-7 loss to the Saints last week. Carson Palmer threw two interceptions, and only has three touchdowns on the year.

"It's much too early to judge Carson," said Bruce Arians. "But just as a warning, I'd like to ask him, 'Where does a judge sit?' If he answers 'On the bench,' then I'll have made my point.

"Safety Rashad Johnson lost the top part of his left middle finger during the New Orleans game. It's an unfortunate injury, but on the bright side, anything that can make him more like Ronnie Lott is a good thing."

The Bucs and Cardinals have combined for one win this year. That's just slightly more than Johnson's damaged finger.

Glennon struggles against a solid Cardinals' defense, while Freeman roams the sidelines dreaming of a new job, maybe in Jacksonville.

Arizona wins, 17-16.

New York Jets @ Tennessee (-4)

New York is 2-1 after last week's 27-20 win over the Bills, and the Jets are all in with Geno Smith at quarterback. Although prone to occasional errors, Smith has made the right plays in crucial situations.

"Geno's already thrown six interceptions," Rex Ryan said, "and has one crucial fumble. That fumble is crucial because it wasn't a butt fumble.

"But with every mistake, he's learning. He should be a genius by now."

The Titans sit in a three-way tie atop the AFC South with the Colts and Texans.

"We plan to pressure Smith," said Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. "Film study has revealed that Smith is quick to leave the pocket. He's got 'happy feet.' Surprisingly, though, that's not a turn-on to Ryan."

Tennessee wins, 19-17.

Philadelphia @ Denver (-10)

After a ten day rest, the 1-2 Eagles and head coach Chip Kelly now face the NFL's hottest team, Denver, led by the league's hottest quarterback, Peyton Manning.

"Manning is like a bottle of wine," Kelly said. "He gets better with age. And he also has a fragile neck."

Denver beat the Raiders 37-21 on Monday night to go to 3-0, tops in the AFC West. The Broncos are averaging 42 points per game, and Manning has thrown 12 touchdown passes.

"The Eagles have one of the worst pass defenses in the league," Manning said. "It's so bad, even Von Miller could 'pass' on them.

"Hopefully, Von will learn that there's a right way and a wrong way to do things. There's a difference between 'doctor's orders' and 'doctoring the order.'"

The Broncos keep the Eagles off balance with their running game, which, without a clear starter, is called 'running back by sub-committee.' The fast-paced Philly offense stays in it until the end.

Denver wins, 42-35.

Washington @ Oakland (-3)

Robert Griffin III and the Redskins take on Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders in the Black Hole. Pryor has played well and taken charge of a team desperate for leadership.

"It remains to be seen whether Terrelle is the long-term solution at quarterback," Dennis Allen said. "Terrelle played college ball at Ohio State, so, as one would expect, his time as the starter is strictly on a probationary basis."

The Redskins are winless after last week's 27-20 loss to the Lions, with two of the losses coming at home. An 0-4 start will almost certainly end any chance of Washington repeating as NFC East champions.

"Repeat?" Griffin said. "You can say that again. If I say it three times and tap my heels, will it take me back to last year?"

Sorry, RG 0-3, it doesn't. You're stuck in 2013, and you're stuck with Mike Shanahan, who lacks a brain.

Washington wins 27-24 over the Matt Flynn-led Raiders.

Dallas @ San Diego (+2)

At 2-1, the Cowboys hold the early lead in the NFC East over the struggling Giants, Redskin, and Eagles.

"Norv Turner will certainly have his eyes on this game," Tony Romo said. "He's made stops in both Dallas and San Diego, and so have the defenses he's faced."

"You probably heard that Dez Bryant was fined for making the 'throat slash' gesture against the Rams last week. I counseled Dez on the matter, and advised him that a simple wave to his mother would have sufficed."

San Diego wins, 28-24.

New England @ Atlanta (-1½)

It's crunch time already for the Falcons, who will fall to 1-3 if they don't beat the undefeated Patriots, led by Tom Brady and his squad of receivers he likes to call "The Childish Mistakes."

"I'm hoping Rob Gronkowski will return to the lineup," Brady said. "Despite not having played a snap this year, he leads the NFL in stiff arms.

"I've got my young receivers on short leashes, and even shorter patterns. Sunday night may be the right time to turn them loose. Don't believe me? You'll see. The Falcons will go 'ga ga' in the Georgia Dome."

New England wins, 31-28.

Miami @ New Orleans (-6½)

What's more surprising? The 3-0 Dolphins, or the presence of a defense in New Orleans?

"I'd say the bigger surprise," Sean Payton said, "is the defense is playing this well with their salary as their only monetary incentive."

The Saints' defenders get inside the head of Ryan Tannehill, leading him to mistakenly believe there's a bounty on his head. An overconfident Tannehill then throws two interceptions.

New Orleans wins, 31-20.

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