Friday, December 27, 2013

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 17

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Carolina @ Atlanta (+7)

The Panthers clinched a playoff spot with a thrilling 17-13 win over the Saints. Cam Newton hit Domenik Hixon for a 14-yard score with 23 seconds left. With a win in Atlanta, Carolina clinches the NFC South and a first-round bye.

"It's been nearly a year," Cam Newton said, "but Falcons' fans will finally get what they've been waiting for — a meaningful game in Atlanta.

Luke Kuechly wreaks havoc on the Falcons, with 17 tackles, and interception, a sack, 5 golden rings, 4 passes defended, 3 french hens, 2 turtle doves, and a Panther in the 2 seed.

Carolina wins, 27-23.

Green Bay @ Chicago (-4)

The 7-7-1 Packers head to Soldier Field to face the 8-7 Bears, who were blown out 54-11 in Philadelphia last week. The winner is the NFC North champion, while the loser is out of the playoffs.

"Indeed," Mark Trestman said. "It's winner take all. And by 'all,' I mean the division title and the subsequent beating the following week in the wild card round. At home, no less.

"I've already named Jay Cutler the starter for Sunday's game. The reason for the early decision was two-fold: it allows Jay to prepare, and it allows Josh McCown to prepare for the worst."

Chicago wins, 29-27.

Baltimore @Cincinnati (-5½)

The Patriots blasted the Ravens 41-7 in Baltimore, as Joe Flacco struggled with 2 interceptions.

"The Patriots took us to school," Flacco said. "And that school is known as 'Fall So Hard University.'

"My left knee is okay. In fact, it feels like a million dollars. That means the rest of me feels like $119 million."

The Bengals have clinched the AFC North and could grab a first-round bye with a win and a New England loss to Buffalo.

"As he has all year," Marvin Lewis said, "Andy Dalton followed a subpar game with a good game. I'm just praying his 'Jekyl and Hyde' act doesn't become a 'run and hide' act in the playoffs."

Cincinnati wins, 23-20.

Houston @ Tennessee (-6½)

With a loss to the Titans, or a Redskins win over the Giants, the Texans would clinch the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft. So don't expect much of an effort at LP Field from Houston.

"I think it's ludicrous to think we won't try our hardest," Wade Phillips said. "Despite this being a game between Houston and Tennessee, there's no 'Oilers.' And, if there's no 'Oilers,' there's no oil, and therefore, no 'tankers.'

"Besides, Gary Kubiak's gone, so we don't expect anyone to lay down."

Houston goes belly-up, paying homage to their former coach with a half-hearted effort.

Titans win, 27-13.

Jacksonville @ Indianapolis (-11½)

The Colts have already clinched the AFC South, and could earn a first-round bye with a win over the Jaguars and both a New England and Cincinnati loss.

"It would be great to have an extra week of rest," Andrew Luck said. "But if you really want to talk 'extra-weak,' look no further than our AFC South schedule.

"We'll probably rest many of our starters," Chuck Pagano said. "In other words, Trent Richardson will start. Trent's paltry rushing statistics don't do him justice. He makes things happen, like two yards, and a cloud of dust."

Indianapolis wins, 27-22.

NY Jets @ Miami (-4)

Despite laying a 19-0 egg in Buffalo last week, the Dolphins can still make the playoffs if they beat the Jets and the Ravens lose at Cincinnati or the Chargers beat the Chiefs.

"Hey," Joe Philbin said, "dolphins don't lay eggs, and they're not fish. So don't tell me something 'fishy' is going on in the Miami locker room.

"But I can't worry about what goes on in the Chargers and Bengals locker rooms. I'm barely aware of what goes on in my own. Whatever the case, we'll need help to make the playoffs. Oddly enough, the two Dolphins that need the most help aren't even on the roster."

The Dolphins get an inspirational phone call from Jonathan Martin, who urges the team to "Put up or shut up." For Miami, the irony is lost, and so is the game.

New York wins, 19-17.

Detroit @ Minnesota (-3)

Is Jim Schwartz on his way out in Detroit? After last week's 23-20 overtime loss to the Giants, the Lions have lost three in a row and five of six.

"Will I be fired," Schwartz said, "or will I return as head coach? I'm not sure even a coin toss could decide it, because I'm not worth a 'flip.'

"I don't mind fans booing me. That lets me know they care. But I wouldn't classify this season as a failure. Why? Because that's another thing I'm not qualified to do."

Detroit wins, 35-31.

Buffalo @ New England (-8½)

The Pats hammered the Ravens 41-7 in Baltimore last week, and would clinch the AFC's second seed with a win over the Bills.

"Are the Ravens acquainted with Aaron Hernandez?" Tom Brady said. "Because they showed up dead.

"We certainly won't take the Bills for granted. How can you? They've been to four Super Bowls, so they've been there. They just haven't done that."

New England wins, 31-17.

Tampa Bay @ New Orleans (-12½)

After last week's 17-13 loss in Carolina, the Saints must beat Tampa to secure the NFC's final wild card spot. The Saints could also capture the NFC South title with a win and a Panthers loss in Atlanta.

"We're playing for the playoffs," Sean Payton said, "while the Bucs are playing for draft position. They might have a shot at South Carolina's Jadaveon Clowney. He's quite a player, I hear. I sometimes fantasize that Jadaveon becomes a Saint. It would be really cool for someone in New Orleans to say 'Heck of a job, Clowney.'"

New Orleans wins, 27-20.

Washington @ NY Giants (-3½)

While the Cowboys and Eagles square off for the NFC East title, the Giants host the Redskins in a game in which the stakes are nil.

"Mike Shanahan shut down Robert Griffin for health reasons," Eli Manning said. "Obviously, he has reservations about starting Griffin. But I'd like to know if he consulted with a doctor. And if so, what doctor? Better yet, which doctor? In any case, it may take some frontier medicine for Shanahan to keep his job."

New York wins, 30-23.

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh (-7)

The Steelers kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 38-31 win in Green Bay last week. But they'll need help. In order to be the AFC's No. 6 seed, the Steelers need a win and losses by Miami, Baltimore, and San Diego.

"I'll gladly trade one win for three losses," Mike Tomlin said. "The Browns would, too. That's why they'll end up with a 4-12 record."

Pittsburgh wins, 30-24.

Denver @ Oakland (+12)

Peyton Manning threw 4 touchdowns in Denver's 37-13 win in Houston, breaking the NFL record with his 51st touchdown pass of the year. The Broncos can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win in Oakland.

"Records don't mean much to me," Manning said, "especially 'broken records.' So, let's keep the talk of my playoff record to a minimum, because it sounds like a broken record.

"There's one thing standing between us and home-field advantage. And it's the Raiders. But when you're standing in the Black Hole, it's hard to keep your head above water, especially with a 4-11 record."

Denver wins, 37-21.

San Francisco @ Arizona (+3)

Despite four Carson Palmer interceptions, the Cardinals stunned the Seahawks 17-10 in Seattle. The win kept Arizona's playoff chances alive; they need a win and a New Orleans loss to Tampa Bay.

"University of Phoenix Stadium has a fully-retractable natural grass playing surface," Palmer said. "So, even if we win, we could still have the rug pulled out from under us."

Arizona wins, 27-20.

Kansas City @ San Diego (-10)

The Chargers are alive for a playoff spot after a win over the Raiders last week, while the Dolphins and Ravens both lost. If the Chargers beat the Chiefs, and the Dolphins and Ravens lose again, San Diego earns the AFC's final wild card spot.

"Sadly," Philip Rivers said, "we don't control our own destiny. And that really upsets me, because, as a practicing Catholic and father of seven children, I do believe in 'berth' control."

San Diego wins, 31-16.

St. Louis @ Seattle (-10)

The Seahawks lost 17-10 at CenturyLink Field, suffering their first home loss since December of 2011. Seattle clinches the NFC West with a win over the Rams.

"It was a tough week for us," Pete Carroll said, "and a tough week for Brandon Browner. Brandon was suspended indefinitely after losing his appeal for violating the league's substance abuse policy. I told Brandon to keep his chin up. Here in Seattle, we have a saying. It goes: 'Things could always be worse; you could be dating Hope Solo.'"

Seattle wins, 22-15.

Philadelphia @ Dallas (+6½)

Tony Romo's 10-yard touchdown pass to DeMarco Murray with 1:08 left gave the Cowboys a 24-23 win over Washington. The winner of Sunday's Philadelphia/Dallas showdown takes the NFC East title.

"Unfortunately, Romo said, "I'm out with an injured back that will require surgery. It's not a new injury; it's been bothering me for a while. Not only is it painful, it also limits my ability to grasp objects, because, as everyone knows, I'm not 'clutch' anything."

Philadelphia wins, 30-27.

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