Thursday, December 19, 2013
NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 16
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
Miami @ Buffalo (+3)
The Dolphins beat the Patriots 24-20, stopping the Patriots on downs in the red zone to preserve the win. It was Miami's third-straight victory, and put them in position to claim the AFC's final wild card playoff berth.
"This was a huge win for us," Joe Philbin, "and we're excited. Among the several other things we weren't able to hide in our locker room, you can add 'excitement' to that list. There was pandemonium in there. Only this time, there was back patting instead of back stabbing.
"We're apparently a better team without Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. Incognito will remain on the suspended list with pay. He can't play, but that doesn't mean he can't pursue his dream of a rap career under the pseudonym 'Hay-Z.' I hear he's working on a track called 'I Got 99 Problems (But a Snitch Ain't One).' I have no idea what it's about."
The Bills ended a two-game slide with a 27-20 win at Jacksonville last week, led by a solid effort from rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel. Buffalo is 5-9, last in the AFC East.
"Between E.J. Manuel and our rookie linebacker, Keko Alonso," Doug Marrone said, "our future looks very bright. And, with the NFL's decision to have a cold-weather Super Bowl, I would go so far as to say there's a good chance we could finally bring a Super Bowl to Buffalo."
Buffalo wins, 27-26.
Minnesota @ Cincinnati (-7)
Without Adrian Peterson out with a foot injury, the Vikings whipped Philadelphia 48-30. Peterson's backup, Toby Gerhart, was also out with an injury, leaving Matt Asiata with running back duties. Asiata responded with three rushing scores, and the Vikes knocked the Eagles out of first in the NFC East.
"Like many," Leslie Frazier said, "I'm sure the Bengals are saying 'Who he?' Of course, Matt Asiata is no Adrian Peterson. Matt is far from being a household name. Adrian, on the other hand, is a household name, especially in those in which he's head of."
The Bengals put themselves in a 21-0 hole in Pittsburgh last week, eventually losing 30-20. Cincy can clinch the AFC South with a win over the Vikings and a Baltimore loss to New England.
"We were in position to pass the Patriots as the AFC's No. 2 seed," Marvin Lewis said. "Instead, it was the Steelers who said 'bye.'
"We just have to take care of business. This team has limitless potential. Of course, the problem with potential is you have to reach it. If our recent playoff history is any indication, then the second round of the playoffs is our potential, because we've yet to reach it."
Cincinnati wins, 27-13.
Indianapolis @ Kansas City (-7)
The Chiefs and Colts meet in a possible preview of an upcoming wild card playoff game. The Colts have already clinched the AFC South, while Kansas City has locked up a wild card berth. Indy knocked off the lowly Texans 25-3 last week.
"One thing is for sure," Andrew Luck said. "We'll have a home game in the playoffs. Many think that's a clear indication that we won't 'go far' in the playoffs."
The Chiefs locked up a playoff berth with a 56-31 thrashing of the Raiders in Oakland. Alex Smith threw for five touchdowns, four to Jamaal Charles, and K.C. moved to 10-4.
"If you're throwing to Charles," Andy Reid said, "you really don't have to be that accurate. All you have to do is 'Chuck' it, and Jamaal does the rest. Charles was just unstoppable. If Howard Cosell were alive, he would no doubt say 'He could go Jamaal the way!'"
They call Missouri the "Show Me State." It will be anything but on Sunday, with neither the Colts nor the Chiefs wanting to show their hands with a certain rematch approaching. So, what you see is not likely to be what you get in two weeks when the Chiefs and Colts meet in the playoffs. That makes this game in Kansas City one of "Mo. Faux's."
Kansas City wins, 26-21.
Tampa Bay @ St. Louis (-5)
The Bucs were held to 183 yards of total offense in a 30-14 loss to the 49ers last week, undone by turnovers and an inability to protect quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon tossed two TD's, but threw an interception and was sacked four times.
"Tampa jerseys aren't exactly a hot Christmas item," Mike Glennon said. "In fact, you can get a Mike Glennon No. 8 jersey pretty cheap at the Tampa discount pro shop, 'Everything's a Buc.'"
The inspired Rams forced three Drew Brees' turnovers on their way to a 27-16 win over the Saints at the Edward Jones Dome.
"We definitely played over our heads," Jeff Fisher said. "It's times like these that we call our home field the 'Edward Too Tall Jones Dome.'
"Right now, we're playing for pride. Fortunately, the Redskins aren't. We get their 2014 first-round pick for the Robert Griffin III trade. It looks like we'll come out ahead on that deal. Mike Shanahan surely won't do it, so let me be the one that says, 'Thank you, Robert Griffin.'"
St. Louis wins, 27-24.
Cleveland @ NY Jets (-2)
The Jets fell to 6-8 with a 30-20 loss to the Panthers in Charlotte last week. New York rushed for 157 yards, but struggled in the passing game.
"Geno Smith said he feels like a robot at times," Santonio Holmes said. "That can't be right. You only have to tell a robot how to do something once.
"I'll be interested to see Josh Gordon play in person. I see a lot of me in Gordon. Like me, he can be 'taken out of the game,' either by a good defense, or by a bad defense, particularly a lawyer that can't get us out of a drug suspension. Anyway, you tell Josh that if he wants some, come get some, because I've got some."
The Browns lost a 38-31 shootout to the Bears last week in their final home game in the Dawg Pound this season. Cleveland dropped to 4-10 on the season, last in the AFC North.
"This game lacks playoff implications," Rob Chudzinski said. "But it certainly doesn't lack 'layoff' implications. Rex Ryan could be on his last leg as Jets head coach. And we all know Jets' owner is not a 'leg' man, unlike Rex, who is. Rex says he's the right man for the job. You've got to hand it to Rex — he doesn't back down from anyone. He'll go toe-to-toe with any man, but only one woman."
How wide open is the race for the AFC's final wild card spot? Even the Jets aren't dead yet. Don't believe me? Ask any Jets fan, and they'll tell you they need "help."
The Jets batter Jason Campbell, and New York rushes for 141 yards and 2 scores.
Jets win, 23-17.
Dallas @ Washington (+3)
With a chance to move back into a tie in the NFC East, the Cowboys blew a 12-point, fourth quarter lead and lost 37-36 to the Packers. Tony Romo threw 2 late interceptions, and again faced questions about his decision-making.
"We let another one slip away," Romo said. "But please, spare me the tired old cliché about how we're like cheap lawn furniture. We're not like cheap lawn furniture. We're actually like fairly decent lawn furniture — we fold, and we're collapsible.
"But for all our dysfunction, it pales in comparison to that of the Redskins. That makes us the 'palefaces' on the way to meet the 'Redskins.' Neither of those terms is politically correct. Of course, in a game pitting the league's worst defense against the league's worst scoring defense, you can logically expect a lot of offense."
With Robert Griffin III shut down for the season, Kirk Cousins leads the Redskins with their arch-rivals coming to the nation's capital. In last week's 27-26 loss in Atlanta, Cousins threw for 383 yards and 3 touchdowns.
"So," Mike Shanahan said, "the Cowboys are making a stop in Washington. That seems to be the only way their defense can make a stop.
"I plan to be back in 2014. But I don't think my son and offensive coordinator Kyle will return. Finally, I can agree with everyone else in Washington when I say, 'One Shanahan is enough.'"
Garrett reprimands Dez Bryant with the heavy-handed discipline for which he's known, ordering Dallas' mercurial receiver to arrive one minute and 21 seconds early to the game. Bryant responds, and "tears up" the Washington secondary for 165 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns.
Dallas wins, 29-27.
New Orleans @ Carolina (-3)
New Orleans and Carolina meet for the second time in three weeks, and the Panthers are bent on avenging the Saints' 31-13 win in Week 14. Carolina tuned up for Drew Brees and the Saints with a 30-20 win over the Jets.
"The Saints played their game in New Orleans," Ron Rivera said. "This time, we're going to play our game. That's with defense and a ball-control offense. In the business, that's called 'punching a team in the face.' My job is to convince my team to believe it, and to convince Steve Smith not to take it literally."
The Saints lost in St. Louis 27-16 last week and fell back into a tie with the Panthers in the NFC South.
"We're obviously a much better team at home," Sean Payton said. "And with the NFC South lead on the line, it's time we did something about it. In other words, we need to find 'away' to win."
Carolina wins, 26-24.
Tennessee @ Jacksonville (+5½)
The Jaguars lost to the Bills 27-10 last week in Jacksonville, as the Jags fell to 1-6 at home this season. Back in week 10, the Jaguars ended an eight-game losing streak to start the season with a 29-27 win in Tennessee. They'll try for the season sweep over the Titans on Sunday at EverBank Field.
"We've got a legitimate chance to finish second in the AFC South," Gus Bradley said. "Finally, the citizens of Jacksonville have a reason to come to the games. We just ask that when they do, they bring a ticket."
Tennessee wins, 30-19.
Denver @ Houston (+11)
Denver lost 27-20 to the visiting Chargers last Thursday, as the San Diego defense held the Broncos to their lowest point output of the season. At 10-4, Denver is tied with the Chiefs atop the AFC West, but hold the tiebreaker edge due to their two wins over K.C. this season.
"I think it's important not to overreact," Peyton Manning said. "Sure, the Chargers may have exposed some of our weaknesses on offense and defense, but let's not forget the positives. We're 11-3, likely to have home-field throughout the playoffs, and I've thrown for 47 touchdowns. In addition to being a good cold-weather quarterback, I'm a great fair-weather quarterback."
In their first game after the firing of Gary Kubiak, the Texans lost 25-3 in Indianapolis. It was Houston's 12th-straight defeat, further compounding what has been a nightmarish season.
"It's amazing to think we won the AFC South last year," Wade Phillips said. "What's even more amazing is that we're ranked as the fourth-best defense this year. A lot of the credit for that goes to J.J. Watt. The man is a tank. And his effort has rubbed off on the whole organization. Now, everyone's 'tanking.'"
Denver wins, 41-24.
NY Giants @ Detroit (-9½)
The Ravens outlasted the Lions 18-16 last Monday at Ford Field, sending Detroit to its second-straight loss and fourth in five games. The Lions are 7-7, in third place in the NFC North.
"Matthew Stafford has just been awful in the fourth quarter as of late," Jim Schwartz said. "It seems he can't hit the broad side of a Megatron. Of all the side arms in this crime-ridden city, Matthew's is the most inaccurate.
"Of course, this may mean my days are numbered in Detroit. There could be a 'C.O.Y.' award coming my way. It's certainly not a 'Coach of the Year' award; it must be a 'Coach Of The Yore' award."
The Giants were blanked 23-0 by the Seahawks last week at MetLife Stadium, handing New York its ninth loss of the season. Eli Manning threw 5 interceptions and was sacked 3 times.
"Despite having 'football on my phone,'" Manning said, "I still tend to 'telegraph' my passes. I've thrown 25 interceptions this year. That leads the NFL. What's even worse, it leads quarterbacks who play in MetLife Stadium.
"But for those who think my skills have diminished, they've got another thing coming, and it's probably an interception."
Tom Coughlin won't let his team mail it in for the final two games of the season. He'll challenge them, not only to play hard but to play to win. And nothing hurts more than having your coach ask if the "G" in "G-Men" should be replace with "R U."
Detroit wins, 30-19.
Arizona @ Seattle (-10½)
The Seahawks bounced back from their Week 14 loss in San Francisco with a dominant 23-0 trouncing of the Giants at MetLife Stadium. With a win over the Cardinals, Seattle would clinch the NFC West and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"We picked off Eli Manning 5 times," Richard Sherman said. "I'm not surprised he threw so many to us. Why? Because he knew we'd catch them.
"You've probably heard that Russell Wilson was drafted by the Texas Rangers as a second baseman. But there's no chance he'll play for the Rangers. In other words, neither Russell nor Carson Palmer has a chance to get to second base."
The Cardinals blew a late lead before turning back the Titans 37-34 in overtime.
"We're playing for our playoff lives," Bruce Arians said. "Even if we win our remaining two games and finish 11-5, that still might not be enough. Rashad Johnson knows better than anyone that it's going to be a 'digit' short."
Seattle harasses Carson Palmer in to 3 turnovers, and Wilson runs for a score and passes for two more.
Seattle wins, 27-13.
Pittsburgh @ Green Bay (+1½)
Facing a 26-3 halftime deficit in Dallas, the Packers stormed back behind Matt Flynn and Eddie Lacy to shock the Cowboys 37-36. Green Bay matched its biggest comeback in franchise history and improved to 7-6-1, keeping their playoff hopes alive.
"Is anyone that surprised?" Mike McCarty said. "It's December in AT&T Stadium. Not even Santa delivers in Dallas.
"Indeed, we matched the biggest comeback in franchise history. That could be surpassed, if Aaron Rodgers comes back and leads us to the playoffs. Aaron's collarbone has been examined and re-examined several times over the last few weeks. Not to discount the double-check, but I want those doctors to come to a conclusion, before our season does."
The Steelers maintained their slim playoff hopes with a 30-20 win over the AFC North-leading Bengals on Sunday night. At 6-8, Pittsburgh needs to win out and hope for loads of help in order to make the playoffs.
"If only a few breaks had gone our way," Mike Tomlin said, "we would certainly be in the playoffs. But that's the nature of the game. Often, it's a game of inches. In our case, it's a game of 'feet.' And those feet have unfortunately been in the wrong place. And our playoff situation seems to follow that of our feet — 'in or out?'"
Rodgers returns, and the Packers play it safe with a run-heavy game plan. Eddie Lacy rushes for 120 yards, opening the door to play-action, which Rodgers executes for 2 touchdown passes.
Green Bay wins, 29-27.
Oakland @ San Diego (-10)
The Chargers shocked the Broncos 27-20 last Thursday, improving to 7-7 and boosting their playoff aspirations. Philip Rivers passed for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"I didn't expect it," Philip Rivers said, "but I may be having the finest season of my career. Occasionally, I'll ask a teammate to pinch me so I'll know it's real. One day, I asked Manti T'eo to do it. That resulted in a very awkward moment."
The Raiders were blown out by the Chiefs 56-31 last week in the Black Hole, Oakland's second-worst defeat this year. Jamaal Charles exploded for five touchdowns as the Raiders dropped to 4-10.
"What this team needs is inspiration," Dennis Allen said. "That's why I asked Raider legends Ken Stabler and Dave Casper to visit. They led us in a moving and spirited prayer, because, let's face it, the only way we can beat the Chargers is with the help of some 'Holy Rollers.'"
San Diego wins, 31-27.
New England @ Baltimore (-2)
The Patriots lost 24-20 in Miami as red zone inadequacy cost them a division-clinching win. Still, the 10-4 Pats can clinch the AFC East with a win in Baltimore, and would clinch a first-round bye with a win and a Cincinnati loss.
"Obviously," Tom Brady said, "we missed Rob Gronkowski's presence in the red zone. But rest assured, Rob was likely partying in a football-themed club called the 'Red Zone.'
"I'm sure Terrell Suggs wants a piece of me. I'm that pretty. Unfortunately for him, I, with help from my offensive line, am saving myself."
The Ravens beat the Lions in Detroit 18-16 behind 6 field goals from Justin Tucker, including a 61-yarder with 38 seconds left. Baltimore is 8-6, and would win the AFC North if they win their final two games.
"Tucker could be this team's MVP," John Harbaugh said. "61 yards is quite a boot. With one single kick, he covered more yards than Ray Rice on a good day.
"Baltimore fans hate the Patriots with a passion. And Terrell Suggs hates Tom Brady with a passion. And Terrell's fan club, the 'Suggalo's,' hate Brady, as well. And as we all know, it's that time of year. That's when NFL officials stand under the 'Patriot whistle-toe' and kiss Brady's ass."
Suggs sacks Brady once, and the victorious Ravens set up a Week 17 showdown in Cincinnati for the AFC North title.
Baltimore wins, 22-20.
Chicago @ Philadelphia (-3)
With a chance to solidify their hold on the NFC East, the uninspired Eagles lost 48-30 in Minnesota to a Vikings' team without Adrian Peterson and his backup, Toby Gerhart. Philly's defense couldn't stop the makeshift Minnesota offense led by Matt Cassel and running back Matt Asiata.
"Luckily," Chip Kelly said, "we play in the NFC East, also known as the 'NFC Easy. We're fortunate enough to play in Dallas in the regular season's final week. If the Cowboys' defense was as suffocating as their owner, we'd be in deep trouble.
"There are rumors that I'm a candidate to replace Mack Brown at the University Of Texas. But let me tell you, that's just speculation. My focus is not on 'burnt orange,' it's on 'burnt green,' which is the color of the NFL's second-worst pass defense."
Jay Cutler shook off a rocky start in Cleveland last week before recovering to throw 3 touchdown passes in Chicago's 38-31 win in Cleveland.
"It took a while," Cutler said, "but I shook off the rust. And being called 'rusty' is probably as close as I'll ever come to being called an 'iron man.'"
Philadelphia wins, 31-30.
Atlanta @ San Francisco (-13)
Monday Night Football's Falcons-49ers matchup is a rematch of last year's NFC championship game, but the magnitude of this game has been diminished by a disastrous season for the Falcons, who are 4-10. The 10-4 49ers clinch a playoff spot with a win.
"This is the final game in Candlestick Park," Jim Harbaugh said. "So we want to make it memorable for not only the home fans, but Baltimore Ravens fans, as well. We're asking all attending the game to wear black, and we'll call it a 'black out,' then listen to see what kind of idiotic conspiracy theories Ray Lewis can think of."
The Falcons won for only the fourth time this season, beating the Redskins after stifling a Washington two-point conversion for the win.
"The Redskins eschewed the extra point for the two-point conversion," Mike Smith said. "In the end, they failed to capitalize on the '1,' the '2,' and the 'III.'"
San Francisco wins, 31-13.