Thursday, November 21, 2013

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 12

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

New Orleans @ Atlanta (+9)

The Saints took a tough 23-20 win over the 49ers last week, pushing their record to 8-2, best in the NFC South. New Orleans, which beat the Falcons 23-17 in Week 1, faces Atlanta in the Georgia Dome on Thursday Night Football

"Thanks to Ahmad Brook's clothesline of Drew Brees," Sean Payton said, "the 49ers got hung out to dry. And I'm sure they're upset. But they should understand; this is New Orleans. Brees doesn't have a bounty on his head, he's got a halo.

"As for the Falcons, we can't take them lightly. This is what's known as a 'trap' game in the business. So, after we win on Thursday in Atlanta, you may very well hear Arthur blank say 'Pull!' and Mike Smith get released."

The Falcons' painful season continued in last week's 41-28 loss to the Buccaneers. At 2-8, Atlanta is in the NFC South basement.

"I'm disappointed," Smith said. "Many in Atlanta believe that I myself should be 'dis-appointed,' which I believe is another word for 'fired.'

"We're just downright rotten, which makes us just right for the role of spoilers. But we've got a chance to throw a kink into the Saints' plans. And the best way for us to do that is to beat them. The best way to do that is to sack Drew Brees. According to some NFL officials, there is no best way to do that."

New Orleans wins, 34-17.

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland (-1)

The Steelers outgunned the visiting Lions 37-27 last week behind 367 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air from Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh improved to 4-6, tied for second in the AFC West behind the 7-4 Bengals.

"All the talk is about my future as a Steeler," Ben Roethlisberger said. "I'd love to stay in Pittsburgh, especially if the Detroit defense hangs around, too. Now, if you hear the words, 'I want to stay,' those words were more likely uttered by me, rather than a chick imprisoned in a bathroom.

The Browns 41-20 loss to the Bengals last week seriously damaged Cleveland's hopes in the AFC North. Jason Campbell threw three interceptions as Cleveland fell to 4-6 in the division.

"I don't think the Steelers are dumb enough to let Roethlisberger leave," Rob Chudzinski said. "And I don't think Big Ben wants to leave. Behind that offensive line, he's too busy running to 'walk.'

"We're perpetually in the market for a franchise quarterback. We'd love to have Roethlisberger, but I'm not sure we can afford him. Despite our location on the banks of Lake Erie, it would take all the money in the Bank Of Lake Erie to lure Roethlisberger."

Pittsburgh wins, 27-24.

Tampa Bay @ Detroit (-9½)

Tampa won their second in a row, overwhelming the Falcons 41-28 last week. Now 2-8, Tampa is tied with the Falcons at the bottom of the NFC South.

"We've won two straight at home," Greg Schiano. "I'm really proud of our guys. Their enthusiasm is back. You wouldn't believe how fast they stormed out of the locker room on Sunday. That's what a MRSA outbreak will do.

"I'm still looking for the win that defines our season. In other words, I need to 'win over' the city of Tampa."

Detroit huge days from Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, Detroit lost 37-27 in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 2 touchdowns in the final five minutes as the Steelers erased a 27-23 Detroit lead.

"Just call us the 'Litany Lions,'" Jim Schwartz said, "because in heavy contrast to our offense, we have a litany of problems on defense.

"But who needs defense when you have Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford. Megatron is the only receiver in the NFL who vacations on Revis Island."

Detroit wins, 34-19.

Minnesota @ Green Bay (-3½)

The Packers host the Vikings in a game likely to be decided by quarterback play. Both teams have faced recent quarterback issues; the Packers are down to third-stringer Scott Tolzien, while the Vikes' situation is equally as dire.

"That's right," Leslie Frazier said. "The Packers have one third-stringer to manage; I've got three. You can best believe Brett Favre's phone is ringing off the hook. And believe you me, when Favre's cell phone makes noise, it goes 'ding-dong.'"

The Packers lost to the Giants 27-13 last week in their second game without Aaron Rodgers. Tolzien passed for 339 yards, but threw 3 picks and no touchdowns.

"Despite his mistakes," Mike McCarthy said, "Tolzien does have one thing Aaron does not, and that's a healthy collarbone. Aaron's broken clavicle is a big deal in Green Bay. It's the most-shared picture of a bone since Favre was in town."

Green Bay wins, 27-19.

San Diego @ Kansas City (-5)

While the Chiefs and Broncos battle for the AFC West division title, the Chargers are languishing towards another mediocre finish. With last week's 20-16 loss in Miami, the Chargers have lost three in a row to fall to 4-6.

"The Dolphins bullied us," Philip Rivers said, "and made us do things we didn't want to. And we left Miami. It's amazing how much we have in common with Jonathan Martin. And we may be too far behind to reach the playoffs. It seems, much like Martin, we're not coming back."

The Chiefs lost their first game, dropping a 27-17 decision in Denver on Sunday night. The Broncos and Chiefs face off again at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 13.

"The road to the AFC championship still has to go through Kansas City," Andy Reid said. "According to the Broncos, there are three routes: around, through, and over."

Kansas City wins, 28-24.

Chicago @ St. Louis (even)

The Rams are energized after a bye week following their 38-8 demolition of the Colts in Indianapolis in Week 9. St. Louis in 4-6, in last place in the NFC West, and they'll host the 6-4 Bears, who are tied atop the NFC North with the Lions.

"We finally got a breakout performance from Tavon Austin," Jeff Fisher said. "If you read scripture, then you've probably never heard of 'Austin 3:16,' which, loosely translated, means 'It's about time.'

"But our success is predicated on our defense. And I expect our defense to get after Josh McCown. We've got two defensive ends, Robert Quinn and Chris Long, who can make that happen. When they plant quarterbacks on the ground, we call it the 'Greatest Show of Earth.'"

Chicago fought back from a 10-0 deficit, and a lengthy weather delay, to nip the Ravens 23-20 in overtime. The Bears pulled even with the Lions atop the NFC North.

"It was a great comeback victory," Mark Trestman said. "I think the threat of a tornado gave my players a sense of urgency. After I told them, 'Just wind, baby,' they went out and played with no fear."

St. Louis wins, 26-24.

Carolina @ Miami (+3½)

The Dolphins edged the Chargers 20-16, posting a much-needed win in the wake of the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin scandal. Miami is now 5-5, three games behind the 8-2 Patriots in the AFC East.

"I think we answered a lot of questions with this win," Joe Philbin said. "Unfortunately, none of the questions were asked by the NFL. But that's changed. NFL investigators are on us like white on rice, or Asian stereotyping on Rob Gronkowski. I believe pundits are calling our scandal 'Interro-Gate.'"

The Panthers nipped the Patriots 24-20 last Monday night and remained one game behind the Saints in the NFC South.

"I know the Dolphins are dealing with a lot of issues," Ron Rivera said. "I've read Incognito's infamous text to Martin, and it's clear how that could leave a bad taste in the mouth of Martin, not to mention the entire franchise.

"But that's their problem, not ours. This team wouldn't think of having a person like Incognito on a leadership committee. In fact, we don't need a leadership committee. We've got Steve Smith. He's a great leader. Often, he leads with his fists. Because of his temper, we call him 'Evil Nelly,' because in regards to his head, it's always getting hot in there."

Carolina avoids the letdown, and forces three Ryan Tannehill turnovers. Graham Gono kicks three long field goals, and the Panthers win, 23-9.

NY Jets @ Baltimore (-4)

The Jets fell to 5-5 after a pitiful effort in a 37-14 loss in Buffalo last week. Geno Smith had 4 turnovers, and New York has yet to post consecutive wins on the season.

"Fourteen points didn't cut it in Buffalo," Rex Ryan said. "And 14 points won't cut it in Baltimore, unless it's the deer antler spray harvested from a 14-point buck. People say my coaching is a lot like deer antler spray, in that there's very little evidence that it works.

"This is a big game for Ed Reed. He's making his return to Baltimore as a Jet. Some say Ed's lost a step. Houston says he's lost two, thus a 'Texan two-step' out the door."

The Ravens fell to 4-6 after their 23-20 overtime loss to the Bears in Chicago. Joe Flacco struggled, with only 162 yards passing with 2 interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.

"I really don't know what to expect from Joe," John Harbaugh said. "However, I do know what to expect from Nike. And that's a 'Joe Blows' advertising campaign.

"I heard the Jets went to Dave and Buster's on the Saturday before their game at Buffalo. That means Santonio Holmes was at Dave and Buster's. From that, I can only assume there was a lot of tokin' going on."

How many turnovers will Smith and Flacco combine for? I'm not sure, but there are seven letters in "several."

Baltimore wins, 16-13.

Jacksonville @ Houston (-10)

After a 2-0 start, the Texans have now lost eight in a row after last week's 28-23 home loss to the Raiders in Gary Kubiak's return after a mini-stroke. Matt Schaub took over for an ineffective Case Keenum and nearly led the Texans to a come-from-behind win.

"It was a frustrating loss," Schaub said. "I even argued with Andre Johnson afterwards. Of course, nothing was resolved. That just goes to show that even in a shouting match, the Texans can't win.

"There's a picture of DeAndre Hopkin's junk floating around the internet. What does that have to do with our season? I don't know. I do know we need to take a long, hard look at it and determine what we could have done differently."

One week after upsetting the Titans, the Jaguars lost to the Cardinals 27-13. Jacksonville is now 1-9, last in the AFC South.

"The Texans are ripe for the picking," Gus Bradley said. "Unlike Kubiak, their season collapsed long ago. Unlike Kubiak, they were unable to pick themselves up.

"The Jacksonville city council approved $43 million in upgrades to EverBank Field. I think most of that money will go towards making the seats smaller, so it takes less people to fill them."

Houston wins, 27-21.

Tennessee @ Oakland (-1)

With Terrelle Pryor out with a knee injury, rookie quarterback Matt Mcgloin took over and led the Raiders to a 28-23 win over the Texans in Houston. An undrafted free agent out of Penn State, Mcgloin threw for three touchdowns as the Raiders improved to 4-6.

"I think Penn State prepared me well for the NFL," Mcgloin said. "I look back fondle, excuse me, fondly, at my time there."

The Titans lost to the Colts 30-27 last Thursday, a loss which likely ended any hopes for the AFC South title. Tennessee is 4-6, three games behind Indy with six games to left.

"The bad news is we're 4-6," Mike Munchak said. "The good news is, the race for the AFC wild card berths is wide open. Why can't we be one of those wild cards? I see nothing stopping us, except qualifying."

Tennessee wins, 17-16.

Indianapolis @ Arizona (-1)

The Colts improved to 7-3 with a hard-fought 30-27 win in Tennessee last Thursday and solidified their grip on the AFC South lead.

"We've got a solid three-game lead in the South now," Andrew Luck. "That makes our division leadership a lot like a pass to Darius Heyward-Bey — it won't be caught."

The Cardinals whipped the Jaguars 27-14 in Jacksonville last week, posting their third consecutive win. Carson Palmer passed for 419 yards and two touchdowns in his best outing as a Cardinal.

"We've quietly amassed a surprising 6-4 record," Palmer said. "That ties us with the 49ers for second in the NFC West. So, like the 49ers, we're also asking, 'What happened?'"

Indianapolis wins, 24-21.

Dallas @ NY Giants (-3)

The Cowboys return from a bye week and face the Giants at MetLife Stadium. In their last outing, Dallas gave up over 600 yards of offense to the Saints in a 49-17 loss.

"That's two weeks in a row we didn't show up," Jason Garrett said.

"Former Cowboy Will Allen said the Cowboys are micromanaged. Still others say the team is micro-coached. I think that means there's 'too little' coaching."

The surging Giants won for the fourth-straight time, knocking off the Packers 27-13 to improve to 4-6 in the NFC East, just a game-and-a-half behind the Eagles.

"There will be blood," Jason Pierre-Paul said. "And we will also drink the Cowboys' milkshake.

"We feel like we can score on the Cowboys. In saying that, I'm referring to their defense and offense."

New York wins, 30-27.

Denver @ New England (+2½)

Even on a gimpy ankle, Peyton Manning did more than enough in leading the Broncos to a 27-17 win over the Chiefs, forging a tie in the AFC West in doing so. Manning passed for 323 yards and a touchdown and was not sacked at all.

"The ankle was bothersome," Manning said, "but I still performed up to my standards. Not only was I as busy as one, I was the one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

"I look forward to the challenge at New England. I'm sure the Patriots are ready to put the Carolina loss behind them. That non-call was quite controversial. It seems that, once again, the league has rewritten the rule book for the Patriots. What's it called when an official picks up a flag and stuffs it back in his pocket? The 'Tuck Rule.'

The Pats lost in Carolina 24-20 in a game that ended with a controversial interference no-call in the end zone. Despite the loss, New England still holds a two-game lead in the AFC East.

"Not only is might tight end's name Rob Gronkowski," Brady said, "it's also what the officials did. We were robbed, at least of a chance to win. In the end, the Panthers just edged us. Or nipped us, if you ask Gronkowski."

Boston Red Sox superstar David Ortiz surprises the Patriots with a pre-game motivational speech, then surprises them even more with a pre-game meal from his brand new pizza chain, "Big Papi John's."

Patriots win, 31-28.

San Francisco @ Washington (+5)

The 49ers suffered a heartbreaking loss in New Orleans last week, done in by a questionable roughing call on Ahmad Brooks on a sack of Drew Brees that forced a fumble. The penalty kept the Saints eventual game-winning drive alive, and Garret Hartley's field goal gave the Saints a 23-20 win.

"That was not a hit to the head," Jim Harbaugh said. "But I'll tell you what is: the slap in the face we just took. It's certainly ironic that in New Orleans, of all places, you have to pay for supposedly hitting a quarterback in the head. I thought it should be the other way around."

The Redskins fell to the bottom of the NFC East after a 24-16 loss in Philadelphia. The 'Skins are 3-7, 2½ games behind the division-leading Eagles.

"An official cursed out Trent Williams in the Eagles game," Mike Shanahan said. "But did you hear Tom Brady on Monday night. Let's call it even.

"There's a lot of leadership being questioned in Washington. In light of the controversy surrounding the 'Redskins' nickname, I may regret saying this, but it appears we have 'too many Indians and not enough chiefs."

San Francisco wins, 34-16.

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