Thursday, December 5, 2013

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 14

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

Houston @ Jacksonville (+2½)

The 3-9 Jaguars host the 2-10 Texans on Thursday Night Football in a game in which there will be one winner, which is exactly one more than the number of playoff implications involved. The Jaguars upset the Browns 32-28 last week on Cecil Shorts 20-yard TD grab from Chad Henne with 40 seconds left.

"Cecil came up big," Gus Bradley said. "Since Justin Blackmon's been out because of a drug suspension, Shorts has worn the pants for this receiving corps. As such, it's important we keep our Shorts 'clean.'

"I hear the NFL may be canceling the practice of blacking out games locally. That's just what our fans need — another reason to stay home. And if we ever lose sponsorship, EverBank Stadium could very well become 'NeverFull Stadium.'"

The Texans lost their tenth-straight game, a 34-31 loss to the Patriots, and are now 2-10, dead last in the AFC South. Houston's Antonio Smith all but accused New England of spying in post-game interviews, then later claimed he wasn't serious.

"The Pats sure seemed to know what we were doing," Smith said. "With a nine-game losing streak, I'm sure it didn't take them long to figure it out.

"Gary Kubiak will be back on the sidelines after two games of coaching from the upstairs booth. It's a good thing he didn't 'fall out' up there. Anyway, he's doing well. And, in a game between two teams with a combined five wins, he surely won't be seeing stars."

Jacksonville wins, 23-20.

Indianapolis @ Cincinnati (-5½)

The Colts and Bengals face off in a battle of division leaders fighting to strengthen their holds on their respective division leads. The 8-4 Bengals beat the Chargers 17-10 in San Diego last week, and are 5-0 at home this season.

"We've got 'Jungle Fever,'" Marvin Lewis said. "Andy Dalton has a particularly perplexing case of it. He's hot one game, he's cold the next.

"But we're prepared for the Colts. It's been a great week of practice. With a nod to Mike Tomlin, we had a 'run-through' that got everyone talking."

The Colts rebounded from their Week 12 blowout loss to the Cardinals with an important 22-14 win over Tennessee last week. Adam Vinatieri kicked five field goals, four of 40 yards or longer, and the Colts sealed it with Donald Brown's touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.

"With apologies to Andrew Luck," Chuck Pagano said, "Adam is the key to this organization's long-range plans. He's got more leg than Antonio Cromartie. Adam's the oldest player in the league, but I don't see him kicking the bucket anytime soon, unless a bucket is substituted for a football. Judging by the recent incompetence of NFL officials, it could happen.

"We benched Trent Richardson in favor of Brown, and as you would expect, Trent wasn't happy. You could say he did and he didn't take the news sitting down. Trent hasn't been a total disappointment. We traded for him because our running game needed a power back, and Trent's been a 'downhill' runner since he got here."

Cincinnati wins, 31-21.

Atlanta @ Green Bay (-7)

The Packers fell to 5-6-1 after their 40-10 Thanksgiving Day loss in Detroit as the fired-up Lions pounded quarterback Matt Flynn.

"All this talk of 'scum bags' and 'dirt bags,'" Mike McCarthy said, "and no mention by Josh Sitton of 'wind bags.' I'm not sure what upset the Lions more: Josh giving them some bulletin board material, or someone reading it for them.

"We may decide to sit Aaron Rodgers for the rest of the season. We can't risk him re-injuring his collarbone. Aaron is the face of this franchise, and in this situation, it's important to save face."

The Falcons topped the Bills 34-31 in overtime in Toronto last week, snapping a five-game losing streak. Now 3-9, they'll try to make it two in a row at chilly Lambeau Field.

"Temperatures are forecast in the teens," Mike Smith said. "And so is Lawrence Taylor's date, as well as our number of losses this season. With L.T. in mind, we've got to go out there like a bunch of crazed dogs. There are some who say our defense plays like a bunch of crazed dogs, because they'll 'bite' on anything."

Atlanta wins, 27-24.

Cleveland @ New England (-12)

The Patriots overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit in Houston and roared back to win 34-31, with the decisive points coming on Stephen Gostkowski's 53-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter. Afterwards, Houston's Antonio Smith implied that the Patriots cheated and knew what plays the Texans were running.

"'I Spy' a bitter loser," Tom Brady said. "We are not cheaters, because cheaters never win.

"Spying accusations are not taken lightly in New England. Heck, they're barely taken seriously. But let's be real. History has shown us that no matter what a Patriot is accused of, he should always plead innocent."

Despite a huge day from Josh Gordon, who had 10 catches for 261 yards and two touchdowns, the Browns lost 32-28 to the Jaguars. Cleveland is 4-8, last in the AFC North.

"Josh became the first player in history to record two consecutive 200-yard receiving games," Brandon Weeden said. "That's something no one's ever done, not Calvin Johnson, not Randy Moss, not even Jerry Rice. But it gets even better for Josh. According to the NFL's substance abuse policy, he's done way more than those guys."

The Patriots uncharacteristically race to a 14-0 lead, and subdue Gordon with a scheme designed specifically for the dynamic Gordon, in which physical cornerback Aqib Talib stays in his face along with safety help over the top. Gordon later lauds the scheme, dubbing it "sticky icky" coverage.

New England wins, 34-16.

Oakland @ NY Jets (-2½)

The Jets were held to 177 yards of total offense in a lopsided 23-3 loss to the Dolphins. An ineffective Geno Smith was benched in the second half in favor of Matt Simms, who was equally as ineffective.

"I felt a switch was necessary," Rex Ryan said. "I've insisted all along that Geno was a 'game-changer,' and I just proved it.

"Matt is the son of Phil Simms, who won two Super Bowls with the Giants. In this case, the apple fell miles from the tree. If we're going to use apples as metaphors for bad quarterbacks, then we really have some 'Big Apples.' And I even have bigger cojones for starting Geno."

The Raiders hung tough in Dallas on Thanksgiving before falling 31-24 to the Cowboys. Oakland is 4-8 and in last in the AFC West.

"Once upon a time," Dennis Allen said, "a game between the 8-2 Raiders and 7-3 Jets was preempted by a broadcast of Heidi. What's harder to believe — that anyone would want to watch Heidi, or a game between the Raiders and Jets in which both teams have winning records?"

New York wins, 24-13.

Detroit @ Philadelphia (-2½)

The Lions pummeled the Packers 40-10 on Thanksgiving and remained in a tie atop the NFC North with the 7-5 Bears. Detroit sacked Matt Flynn 7 times and held the Packers to 126 total yards.

"We just made Josh Sitton put a foot in his mouth," Jim Schwartz said. "Surprisingly, it wasn't Ndamukong Suh's."

The Eagles kept pace with the Cowboys in the NFC East with a 24-21 win over the Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field. Nick Foles passed for 3 touchdowns, all to tight ends. Philly and Dallas are 7-5 atop the division.

"We found a hole in the Cardinals' defense and exploited it," Chip Kelly said. "Apparently, that hole was as big as the one in Mike Tomlin's wallet."

Philadelphia wins, 28-24.

Miami @ Pittsburgh (-3)

The Steelers lost a nail-biter in Baltimore on Thanksgiving, failing to convert a two-point conversion to tie in a 22-20 loss. Pittsburgh is now 5-7 in the AFC North.

"We're going for our sixth win on the year," Mike Tomlin said. "It's apparently a big deal, because I can't seem to avoid all this talk about 'six-figures.'

"Did I interfere on Jacoby Jones' kickoff return in Baltimore? I've denied it, but most say I got caught. That's bull. This is the NFL; everybody knows if you don't have two feet inbounds, it's not a 'catch.'"

The Dolphins put a hurting on the Jets last week, whipping Rex Ryan's struggling team 23-3 at MetLife Stadium. Miami is now 6-6 and in much better standing the AFC wildcard race.

"Richie Incognito will likely never play for the Dolphins again," Joe Philbin said. "But that doesn't mean his career is over. You know who needs a little 'Incognito?' Mike Tomlin and his kickoff coverage, that's who.

"Mike Wallace will make his return to Pittsburgh. I'm sure the grateful Pittsburgh fans will sing his praises, because Mike's likely to be greeted by a 'chorus' of boos."

Philbin eschews his usual sideline attire of khakis and polo shirt for a double-breasted suit and alligator-skin loafers, introducing the Dolphins' new and improved "locker room couture."

On the other hand, Tomlin shows up with a gold chain/shock collar around his neck, complemented with an invisible fence installed along the Pittsburgh sideline.

Miami wins, 22-20.

Buffalo @ Tampa Bay (-3)

The Bills suffered a 34-31 overtime loss to the Falcons in Buffalo's annual game at Toronto's Rogers Centre last week. The Bills are now 4-8 in the AFC East.

"Toronto mayor Rob Ford was in the crowd," Doug Marrone said, "and seemed to be having a good time. After what he's been through, it was good to see him crack a smile. Mayor Ford is all about 'public service,' but personally, I think he should be a little more discreet with his prostitutes."

Tampa wins, 27-13.

Kansas City @ Washington (+4)

The Redskins lost to the Giants 24-17 in a game marred by confusion on down and distance with Washington driving late in the game. On Monday, the NFL said officials should have stopped play and cleared the confusion.

"That's something that has to be corrected," Mike Shanahan said. "Especially in the nation’s capital. Heck, for about six years now, they've been trying to get it 'right' in Washington.

"Last Sunday's loss eliminated us from playoff contention. However, there's still plenty of 'contention,' between RG3 and myself. That doesn't bode well for me. We've eliminated ourselves from the postseason; Daniel Snyder will probably eliminate me from the next season."

The Chiefs lost a 21-7 lead in a 35-28 loss to the Broncos in Kansas City. Denver completed the season sweep, and dropped the Chiefs to 9-3.

"I wouldn't say the Broncos 'mopped the floor' with us," Andy Reid said, "but who needs a mop when a broom will do?"

Alex Smith passes for 2 touchdowns, and the Chiefs' defense stifles Griffin.

Kansas City wins, 27-20.

Minnesota @ Baltimore (-7)

The Ravens overcame the Steelers, and Mike Tomlin, in an exciting and controversial 22-20 win over Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving. Baltimore is now 6-6, only one game behind the division-leading Bengals in the AFC North.

"I guess that's the closest Tomlin's ever come to stepping on the field as a player," John Harbaugh said. "The sad part is, his attempt at a tackle was the best by a Steeler this year.

"I think Tomlin could be forgiven for making contact with Jacoby Jones, but only if it's discovered that a stripper picked him up and threw him at Jacoby."

The Vikings handed the Bears a costly 23-20 overtime loss last week, powered by 211 yards on the ground from Adrian Peterson. Peterson eclipsed 10,000 yards for his career in his 101st game; only Jim Brown and Eric Dickerson did it faster.

"We just broke ground on the Vikings' new stadium," Leslie Frazier said. "They're calling it 'The House That Adrian Built.' They should call it 'A House That Adrian Built,' because he supplies a roof over the heads of a lot of 'family.'"

Peterson's got child support. The Ravens also have something that costs A.P., and that's run support. The Ravens load up the box and challenge the Minnesota quarterback to make a name for himself.

Baltimore wins, 23-12.

Tennessee @ Denver (-13)

The Broncos all but wrapped up the AFC West title, knocking off division rival Kansas City 35-28 in chilly Arrowhead Stadium. Peyton Manning threw for 403 yards and five touchdowns, including four to Eric Decker.

"After stinking it up in the second half in New England two weeks ago," Manning said, "I felt it important to 'air it out.'

"I had an invitation from a couple to attend their wedding, but I politely declined. My heart just wasn't in it. I don't do weddings, but I will make 'receptions.'"

The Titans tumbled to 5-7 after last week's 22-14 loss to the Colts in Indianapolis. The NFL said officials erred three times in the game, with all going against Tennessee.

"That's what's called getting 'officially screwed,'" Mike Munchak said.

Denver wins, 34-16.

St. Louis @ Arizona (-6)

The Cardinals had their four-game winning streak snapped in Philadelphia in a 24-21 loss to the Eagles. Now 7-5, Arizona is third in the NFC West and still very much alive for a playoff spot.

"That was a very physical game," Bruce Arians said. "That makes us 'sore losers.' That may be why we sent a tape to the NFL of what we considered obvious officiating errors from the Philly game. The league sent it back with a note saying the game is 'still one loss,' or 'S.O.L.' for short."

The Rams fell to 5-7 after last week's 23-13 loss in San Francisco.

"I've about heard enough of Seattle's 'Legion of Boom,'" James Laurinaitis said. "Don't forget, my dad was one-half of the Road Warriors, also known as the 'Legion Of Doom.' That's with a 'D,' as opposed to by the 'D,' which I hear is the best way to tackle Vernon Davis."

Arizona wins, 24-20.

NY Giants @ San Diego (-3)

The Giants sacked Robert Griffin III five times and overcame a 14-0 deficit to defeat the home-standing Redskins 24-17 at FedEx Field. Andre Brown led the offense, rushing for two touchdowns. Up next for the G-Men are the Chargers, who, like the Giants, are battling for a playoff spot.

"Back in 2004," Eli Manning said, "I refused to play for the Chargers. That was because my father and I didn't think highly of the franchise. So, whether it's interceptions, or preconceptions, I'm often the league leader."

The Chargers lost to the Bengals 17-10, a loss that was a severe blow to their playoff hopes. Now 5-7, Sunday's contest against the Giants is a must-win for San Diego.

"San Diego should be thanking Eli," Philip Rivers said. "If not for him, I wouldn't be here. Of course, there is some resentment. It's also a Manning's fault that Ryan Leaf became a Charger."

Rivers and the fired up Chargers vanquish the G-Men 31-17.

Seattle @ San Francisco (-2½)

The Seahawks smashed the Saints 34-7 last Monday night, holding Drew Brees to 147 yards passing. Now 11-1, Seattle clinched a playoff spot and moved a step closer to clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

"Hey," Pete Carroll said, "we're playing in the city that was home to Barry Bonds. So, if we 'cream' the 49ers, we're in the 'clear' to win the division."

The 49ers knocked off division-rival St. Louis 23-13 last week for their second-straight win. Vernon Davis had 82 yards receiving and a touchdown reception, and accused Rams safety T.J. McDonald of talking him by his groin.

"The playoffs are still weeks away," Davis said, "but that was the first 'clinching' scenario of the season. If McDonald tries to deny it, he's nuts.

"But I think we sent a message to the rest of the league that we're Super Bowl contenders. What did that message say? 'We're a handful.'"

Seattle wins, 20-13.

Carolina @ New Orleans (-4)

Sole possession of the NFC South is on the line when the Saints host the Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Carolina has won eight in a row, including last week's 27-6 win over the Buccaneers.

"We trust our defense to contain the Saints' offense," Cam Newton said. "We just have to execute offensively. The Saints' defense doesn't intimidate me at all. I was one of the most sought-after college players in history, and my father is Cecil Newton. I know what it's like to have a bounty on my head."

The Saints were physically dominated by the Seahawks 34-7 on Monday Night Football.

"The Seahawks lived up to the 'Legion Of Boom' nickname," Brees said. "On the other hand, our defense gave up 34 points and 429 yards. Seattle's offense went anywhere they wanted to. I guess could call our defense the 'Legion Of Room.'"

"But expect us to play more like ourselves against Carolina. We're motivated. If we lose, we'll likely have to play in Seattle again sooner than if we win."

New Orleans wins, 26-23.

Dallas @ Chicago (-1)

Dallas' 31-24 Thanksgiving Day win over the Raiders kept the Cowboys tied atop the NFC East with the Eagles. DeMarco Murray rushed for three touchdowns, and the 'Boys powered through a 21-7 deficit to drop Oakland to 4-8.

"You can't give a team like the Raiders points," Tony Romo said, "because they're never the favorites. But I'm not a betting man, but if I was, I'd take the 'under,' because the under/over is 'perform.'

"We have a history of faltering in December, so it's important we pretend it's another month in which we're playing. January and February are obviously out of the question. I suggest we choose a month from March to July, because we never lose then."

The Bears lost 23-20 in overtime in Minnesota and fell one game behind the Lions in the NFC North. Mark Trestman elected to attempt a field goal on second down, but Robbie Gould's potential game-winning kick sailed wide.

"On second thought," Mark Trestman said, "maybe I should have reconsidered. That's a decision that may come back to haunt me, because I'm 'afraid' it may keep us out of the playoffs."

At the opening coin toss, Romo surprises everyone when he calls "Ditka." It's even more of a surprise that he wins the toss.

Chicago wins, 27-24.

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