Thursday, October 3, 2013

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 5

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Buffalo @ Cleveland (-4½)

The Bills are 2-2 after knocking off the Ravens 23-20 last week, led by a defense that picked off Joe Flacco five times. Rookie E.J. Manuel has been solid, and appears to be the Bills' long-term answer at quarterback.

"There's excitement along Lake Erie," Doug Marrone said. "Fans are excited about our 2-2 start. Of course, four games do not make a franchise. At least that's what Marv Levy likes to tell himself."

The Browns are 2-2, tied atop the AFC North win the Ravens and Bengals. Brian Hoyer has led Cleveland to two consecutive wins since taking over for Brandon Weeden.

"I've become somewhat of a cult hero in Cleveland," Hoyer said. "That's opposed to Weeden, who was an occult hero, because his presence as starter was beyond human comprehension.

"Speaking of cult heroes, Bernie Kosar was arrested for DUI early Sunday morning. Arresting officers said he was slow and lethargic, much like in his playing days. But whatever you do, please don't ask Bernie about 'The Drive.'"

Hometown hero Hoyer leads the Browns to a 23-20 win, throwing 2 touchdowns, one to Jordan Cameron.

New Orleans @ Chicago (even)

The Saints remained undefeated with a 38-17 win over the Dolphins on Monday night in front of a loud Superdome crowd. Drew Brees threw 4 touchdown passes, including two to his favorite target, tight end Jimmy Graham.

"This game will be of great interest to Mike Ditka," said Graham. "He really wants to be on the field, and I wouldn't mind being an NFL talking head for a day. I told him I'd trade places with him, but it will cost him his entire draft."

The Bears were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten with a lopsided 40-32 loss to the Lions in Detroit. Jay Cutler threw 3 interceptions, lost a fumble, and was sacked 3 times.

"Much like our defense against the Lions," Mark Trestman said, "Jay went backwards. He's still a youngster at 30 years, but people will still call him 'old Cutler.'

"Defensively, we'll have our work cut out for us against the Saints. Success today comes through the air, and the rules are geared to make sure that happens. The NFL is a passing league, and by that, I men passing a kidney stone is easier than defending against the pass."

New Orleans wins, 30-27.

New England @ Cincinnati (-2)

The 4-0 Patriots head to "The Jungle" to face the 2-2 Bengals, who lost 17-6 in Cleveland last week. Rob Gronkowski is not expected to play, but is scheduled to be ready in week 6 when the Pats meet the Saints.

"Gronkowski is really anxious to play," Brady said. "He's chomping at the bit. Much like a former New England tight end, Gronk is a 'caged animal.'

"Sadly, we lost Vince Wilfork for the season with a torn Achilles' heel. Vince was our best defensive player. He was known for often occupying two players on the offensive line, as well as two servers in the buffet line."

The Bengals' offense was stagnant in a 17-6 loss last week in Cleveland, as they managed only two Mike Nugent field goals.

"We'd like to see a little more out of our offense," Marvin Lewis said, "and so would our defense. They're not ones to point fingers, but they won't hesitate to 'give' fingers."

Former Bengal and Patriot Chad Johnson serves as honorary coin-tosser before the game. A thrilled Johnson head butts the teams' captains, and the toss goes awry when he woozily bolts from the field with the silver dollar. Fittingly, in a game between the Patriots and Bengals, Johnson is asked to leave.

New England wins, 24-17.

Detroit @ Green Bay (-6½)

The Lions took sole possession of first in the NFC North with a convincing 40-32 win over the Bears last week. Detroit rushed for 159 yards and will likely try to attack the Packers on the ground as well.

"Reggie Bush piled up 139 yards on the ground with a touchdown," Jim Schwartz said. "That warranted a pat on the back, the game ball, and a discreet lump-sum payment to his parents.

"Some have accused former Bear Israel Idonije of giving us the Bears' defensive calls. Is that a surprise? My name is Schwartz; of course I've got Israel on my side."

The Packers used a bye week to pick up the pieces from a 1-2 start. It starts with a defense that is giving up nearly 30 points per game.

"We'll have to step up on defense," Mike McCarthy said. "Calvin Johnson will get his catches, but we'll have to limit big plays from Bush. Bush is a dangerous weapon, and, unlike the Heisman Trophy, you can't take that away from him. We know Bush is the key to the Detroit offense, therefore we're launching an investigation to determine how to stop him."

Aaron Rodgers throws for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns, outgunning Matthew Stafford and the Lions for a 40-27 win.

Kansas City @ Tennessee (+3)

Kansas City powered past the Giants last week to move to 4-0, tied with the Broncos atop the AFC West. They'll put their unbeaten mark on the line in Nashville against the 3-1 Titans.

"Take that, Jim Harbaugh," Alex Smith said. "I left my heart in San Francisco, and I also left an 'ass' there, too.

"I'm no Colin Kaepernick. And why would I want to be? He's a novelty quarterback. The read option is just a fad. Kaepernick is a 'flash in the Pan Francisco.'"

Tennessee flattened the visiting Jets 38-13 last week, forcing four Geno Smith turnovers as the Titans improved to 3-1. The win was a costly one, as Jake Locker suffered a hip injury and will miss 4-8 weeks.

"Jake got sandwiched between two Jets," Mike Munchak said. "I think that last happened when Mexican reporter Ines Sainz visited Jets camp back in 2010. Much like Jake's x-ray, her hips don't lie either.

"In Jake's stead, we'll start Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ryan is a Harvard graduate, and reportedly aced the Wonderlic test. Former Titan Vince Young didn't go to Harvard, and he reportedly 'deuced' the Wonderlic test."

Fitzpatrick throws a costly late interception, and the Chiefs remain undefeated with a 19-10 win.

Seattle @ Indianapolis (+2½)

The Seahawks overcame a 20-3 deficit to shock the Texans 23-20 in overtime last week. Now 4-0, they'll challenge the 3-1 Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"What a big interception by Richard Sherman," Pete Carroll said. "You know, he predicted before the game that he'd return a pick for a touchdown. Usually, when Richard is called a 'man of his word,' it's because he's always talking."

The Colts are 3-1 after pummeling the Jaguars 37-3 in Jacksonville last week. Indy is tied with the Titans for the AFC South lead.

"Seattle may have the '12th Man' at home," Andrew Luck said, "but fans at Lucas Oil Stadium are known as 'The Greasers.' They're often terrorized by the Socs, but that's not important.

"Anyway, the 'Greasers' love me. I'm adored in Indianapolis, and in Denver."

There's an interesting matchup at running back: Marshawn Lynch, who averages nearly four yards per carry, versus Trent Richardson, who averages barely three. It's "The Beast" versus "The Least."

Lynch gets the best of Richardson, and the Seahawks overcome a slow start to take a 27-23 win.

Jacksonville @ St. Louis (-11½)

The hapless Jaguars are 0-4 following last week's 37-3 loss to the Colts, and are clearly the NFL's worst team. Blaine Gabbert tossed 3 interceptions and completed only 17-of-32 passes.

"There was a 'Tebow, Why Not?' banner flying over the stadium last Sunday," Gus Bradley said. "More than likely, that will be the only Tebow 'signing' this year.

"But I think a visit to St. Louis is just what Gabbert needs. It's the home of the Gateway Arch. I plan to have Blaine throw a ball through the Arch. Some say it's good luck. I don't know about that, but it will be nice for Blaine to hit a target."

The Rams lost 35-11 last Thursday to the visiting 49ers and fell to 1-3, last in the NFC West.

"Let me just state for the record that I'm not interested in the Southern California head coaching job. First of all, it doesn't pay enough. But what do I care about players' salaries?

"I expect us to be well-prepared. We've had 10 days to prepare for the Jaguars. That's 11 too many."

Gabbert gets the start, but not the finish after being yanked for Chad Henne early in the second quarter. Once again, Gabbert is benched, but this time he's nailed to it to keep him there.

St. Louis records 6 sacks and forces 4 turnovers, while Sam Bradford throws for 3 touchdowns as the Rams win, 31-13.

Baltimore @ Miami (-3)

Joe Flacco's 5 interceptions doomed the Ravens in a 23-20 loss in Buffalo last week. Baltimore fell to 2-2, still good enough for a three-way tied for the AFC North lead.

"We lost a lot of players from last year's Super Bowl-winning team," John Harbaugh said, "so Joe may be trying to do too much. Expectations weigh heavily on him, as do his Super Bowl ring and his wallet.

"You may have heard that Terrell Suggs contends that Roger Goodell played a role in the Super Bowl blackout. Ray Lewis made the same accusation. And we all know Ray doesn't lie. If what he says is true, then Goodell should get exactly what's coming to him. That is, unless there's some type of obstruction of justice."

The Dolphins had their perfect record tarnished with a 38-17 loss on Monday night in New Orleans.

"As bottle-tossing strippers go," Mike Wallace said, "Baltimore may have the best in the NFL. But Miami's strippers are talented in their own right. They might not throw bottles at heads, but they sure know how to puts cans in your face."

As a gesture of good will, the Dolphins' front office offers injured Raven Jacoby Jones accommodations in their finest luxury box, "Suite P," fully stocked with champagne and a construction helmet, for his protection.

Miami wins, 22-20.

Philadelphia @ NY Giants (-2½)

The Giants are 0-4 after last week's 31-7 loss in Kansas City. In their four losses, the G-Men have given up an average of 36 points per game.

"Yes, we are 0-4," Tom Coughlin said. "But on the bright side, we're only two games behind the Cowboys in the NFC East standings. That's practically a tie.

"I've got the support of my players. Justin Tuck will punch anyone that doubts me, and Antrel Rolle says he believes we can go 12-0 the rest of the way. In addition, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood have offered their support with a Blind Faith concert in my honor."

The Broncos blitzed the Eagles 52-20 in Denver last week, spurred by an unstoppable Peyton Manning. After a promising start to the season, Philly has lost three in a row by a combined score of 111-66.

"I guess it's only fitting that the former Oregon coach had 50 dropped on him," Chip Kelly said. "But I think my good buddy, Nike's Phil Knight, can help me out. We're 1-3, and that's pathetic, so much so that we don't even want to be seen in public. Phil can surely provide us with a new uniform that makes us virtually unrecognizable."

If you like defense, then you must hate professional football. If you're looking for "defense," try a Tom Coughlin press conference after a loss. But don't expect the Eagles and G-Men to pull out all the stops on defense, because there won't be any.

New York wins, 35-31.

Carolina @ Arizona (+2)

The Panthers, fresh off a bye week after a 38-0 win over the Giants, invade Glendale to face the 2-2 Cardinals.

"My sympathies go out to Rashad Johnson for the loss of part of his finger," Cam Newton said. "There are lessons to be learned by this tragedy: football is a dangerous sport, and, always 'tip' your waiter.

"Now, we may be 1-2, but in the NFC South, that's not too bad. Sure, the Saints maybe 4-0, but I'd be willing to put money in a secret fund for a forbidden incentive plan that they won't run away with the division."

The Cardinals picked up a crucial road win with a 13-10 come-from-behind effort in Tampa last week, scoring 13 fourth-quarter points.

"We did this for Rashad Johnson," Bruce Arians said. "All week, we talked about winning one for the 'Tipper.' You may have noticed the uniform patch we wore in his honor — it read '3/4.'"

The rested Carolina defense stifles Carson Palmer and the Cardinals, although a late TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald makes it close. Newton scores on a short run late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Carolina wins, 20-11.

San Diego @ Oakland (+4½)

AFC West rivals do battle as the 1-3 Raiders host the 2-2 Chargers in the Black Hole, where the Raiders are 1-1. Because of the Oakland A's playoff game, kickoff has been pushed back to 8:35 local time.

"That just supports our team motto," Dennis Allen said, "which is, 'We're gonna lose, sooner or later. This just goes to prove that baseball is the only place in Oakland where you'll find 'A's.'"

Philip Rivers passed for 401 yards and 3 scores in the Chargers' 30-21 win over the Cowboys in San Diego last week. It was Rivers' second 400-yard passing game of the season.

"I think Norv Turner's vision for the Chargers has finally been realized," Rivers said. "All we needed was his absence."

San Diego wins, 31-23.

Denver @ Dallas (+7)

The Broncos blew out the Eagles 52-20 last week, led by 4 touchdowns from Peyton Manning, who now has 16 on the year. He'll face a Dallas defense that surrendered 401 yards through the air to Philip Rivers in Week 4.

"I'm on pace to throw for 6,000 yards and 64 touchdowns," Manning said. "Possibly against Dallas on Sunday. The air may be thin in Denver, but air is the only thing stopping the ball from flying through the air against the Cowboys."

Tony Romo and the Cowboys will have to score to keep up with the Broncos; offense, which averages 45 points per game.

"I don't know what can stop Manning," Romo said, "short of a pile driver. That would be called a 'Denver Pyle-driver.' That would truly be an amazing thing, mostly because The Dukes of Hazzard's Denver Pyle has been dead for 15 years."

Denver wins, 38-34.

Houston @ San Francisco (-7)

A second-half collapse last week left the Texans with a 23-20 overtime home loss to the Seahawks. Matt Schaub's ill-advised pass late in the fourth quarter was intercepted and returned for the game-tying score by Richard Sherman.

"There was a fan burning Schaub's No. 8 jersey after the game," Gary Kubiak said. "I kept trying to extinguish it, but, much like Schaub himself, it kept 'starting.'

The 49ers seem to be back on track after manhandling the Rams 35-11 in St. Louis last Thursday.

"Schaub's confidence is shaken," Patrick Willis said. "Maybe instead of lighting fire to him, Texans' fans should light a fire under him."

San Francisco wins, 23-19.

NY Jets @ Atlanta (-9)

The Falcons are 1-3 after last week's 30-23 loss to the Patriots. A win on Monday night is imperative, as the alternative is a 1-4 hole that last year's NFC South champs may find inescapable.

"I don't see us falling into a 1-4 hole," Mike Smith said. "You dig?

"We know what to expect from Geno Smith. The last time there was a black, mobile quarterback in Atlanta, dogs were nervous, and the Falcons had a running game."

The Jets were hammered 38-13 last week in Tennessee, done in by 4 Geno Smith turnovers. The Jets are 2-2, tied for last in the AFC East.

"I'm stunned," Rex Ryan said, "that we were actually 2-1."

The Jets lean on their running game, because it serves two important purposes: it keeps the ball out of Matt Ryan's hands, and it keeps the ball out of Smith's hands. The Jets stay in it until the end, but the Falcons use their passing game to pull out a 24-19 win.

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