Thursday, September 4, 2014
NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 1
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
Green Bay @ Seattle (-5½)
The Seahawks begin defense of their world championship against the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, who are anxious to make a statement by upsetting the defending Super Bowl champions.
"I have a lot in common with Richard Sherman," Rodgers said. "We both had a brief fling with Erin Andrews. However, when she asked me, 'Who's talking about you?' I didn't say 'Michael Crabtree.' I said, 'Me,' because I'm always talking about myself. At least that's what Greg Jennings says.
"But let's not forget about the '12th Man.' No, that's not Erin's new boyfriend. It's that rowdy Seattle crowd in Seattle. I hear they're so loud, they cause earthquakes. Usually, when you talk about the 'shakes' in Seattle, it's what happens when their secondary comes down off PEDs."
The Seahawks have their minds set on nothing less than repeating as world champions.
"Our practices are so intense," Pete Carroll said, "we get fined for it. The league docked us $300,000 for violating the NFL's no-contact rules for off-season practices. That stings. Believe me, if I'm going to give away that kind of scratch, I'd much rather it go to Reggie Bush's parents instead of the NFL."
If the Seattle defense is known as the "Legion Of Boom," then Green Bay's defensive unit, which ranked 25th last year, is known as the "Legion of Room," because there's always space. The Seahawks find themselves in an early hole, but their cornerstones, defense and a brutal rushing attack, wear down the Packers.
Marshawn Lynch bounces back from a lackadaisical first half, emerging from the locker room with a new attitude, as well as a new pair of overpriced headphones, and proceeds into "Beats" mode.
Lynch's two short TD runs powers Seattle to a 27-23 win.
New Orleans @ Atlanta (+3)
The Saints locked up Jimmy Graham with a new four-year, $40 million contract, $21 million of which is guaranteed. No one is happier than Drew Brees, who knows Graham is vital for the Saints NFC North and Super Bowl hopes.
"Is Jimmy a tight end or a wide receiver?" Drew Brees said. "Well, he's hard to categorize. He's a black man with red hair, for Christ's sake — I don't know what he is. Let's just call him a 'Taint,' because he 'taint' a tight end, and he 'taint' a wide receiver.
"But he's an out-of-this-world player. I don't know if that urban dictionary definition is accurate. They say gingers have no souls; this one's got no conscious."
The Falcons starred in HBO's "Hard Knocks" documentary, and, as one would expect, viewers were treated with more utterances of the "F" word than at any other time on the show. Mike Smith and the team are determined to bounce back from last season's 4-12 campaign.
"My coaching staff cursed up a storm that would put Hurricane Katrina to shame," Mike Smith said. "If you thing they have filthy mouths, you should have heard our fans last year.
"Look, we're just two years removed from playing in the NFC Championship. And I'm possibly one year removed from being removed. The key to our season is health. It remains to be seen who gets 'the boot' first, me or Julio Jones."
Saints win, 31-27.
Minnesota @ St. Louis (-4)
The Rams 2014 outlook was sent into disarray in late August, when Sam Bradford was lost for the season with a torn ACL suffered in the team's third preseason game. It was the same left knee that Bradford injured last year, ending his season after seven games. This all puts the pressure on the emerging Rams defense. Leading that defense is former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who took the Rams DC position in February.
"Our defense is poised to become the NFL's best," Jeff Fisher said. "Williams brings a certain attitude, one that, ironically, money can't buy. Nobody coordinates a defense, or an illegal pay-for-injury pool, like Williams. That huge monument outside The Edwards Jones Dome: it's been renamed the 'Bounty Gate-way Arch.
"And remember, it's 'Gregg' with two 'G's,' which is also the amount payable to the player who KO's Matt Cassel."
Changes abound in Minnesota, where Mike Zimmer is the new head coach and Norv Turner is the offensive coordinator. Zimmer's defensive mindset will no doubt improve a unit that ranked 31st in defense last year, while Turner's influence could make wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson a superstar.
"Cordarrelle could be the second coming of Randy Moss," Zimmer said. "We just need to get Cordarelle his touches. Let's just hope those 'touches' don't involve officials, squirt bottles, parking lot attendants, girlfriends, or his own pants."
Greg Zuerlein kicks a 49-yard field goal as time expires, giving St. Louis a 27-24 win, and the Rams wildly celebrate with joyous and merry jubilance, showing no regard to their surroundings, a celebration later referred to by ESPN reporter Josina Anderson as "openly gay."
Cleveland @ Pittsburgh (-6½)
Johnny Manziell has ushered in a level of excitement not seen for a Cleveland non-starter since Hot Rod Williams won the NBA's Sixth Man Award for the Cavaliers. But Johnny Football doesn't get paid to shoot hoops; he does, however, pay to shoot craps.
"Look," Mike Petine said. "Brian Hoyer is the starter. Right now, the shifty Manziel is nothing more than the backup, or a much cooler and hipper version of Fran Tankenton.
"Anyway, we'll have to move on without Josh Gordon, who was suspended for the entire season. With or without Gordon, our wide receiver corps needs help. Whether that help comes in the form of a free agent or a drug counselor, it will be 'professional.'"
The Steelers are looking for a good start to the season, especially in the wake of last season's 0-4 start, which essentially wrecked their playoff chances. Ben Roethlisberger was superb through the air last year; Mike Tomlin knows the season's key is a more effective rushing attack.
"Our season went up in smoke early last year," Mike Tomlin said. "And speaking of 'up in smoke,' Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrett Blount were busted for marijuana possession in a traffic stop in August. I guess carries aren't the only thing they're sharing.
"But it's not all bad news for those two. They've negotiated a cut of the 'Pittsburgh Stoners' clothing line started by an enterprising young Carnegie Mellon University freshman. Trust me, his 'Le'Cheech and LeChong' t-shirts are going to explode. That could possibly lead to more merchandising deals, such as an offshoot of 'Fathead' wall stickers, called 'Fat Ones.'"
Bell and Blount show up late for the game, oddly enough, in Josh Gordon's car, expecting a 4:20 kickoff instead of the scheduled 1:20 start. Tomlin benches the duo for the first possession, and Bell and Blount high five on the bench, anxious to get their hands on the next "possession."
The Steelers beat the offensively-challenged Browns, 26-16.
Jacksonville @ Philadelphia (-10½)
The Eagles jettisoned their troubled wide receiver; the Jaguars still have theirs. DeSean Jackson is a Redskin; Justin Blackmon is still a Jaguar.
"Hey," Chip Kelly said, "what did DeSean Jackson say as he was leaving Philly? 'Gangway!'
"But seriously, I don't really know if DeSean had any gang affiliations. I do know he was a frequent visitor to the website 'World Star Hip-Hop.' From what I hear, that pretty much means you're in a gang, right?"
Gus Bradley begins his second year as head coach in Jacksonville, intent on improvement after last year's 4-12 mark.
"I don't know if Blackmon has any gang affiliation," Bradley said. "But if he does, so what. What's the difference in a gang and an NFL team? For one thing, the NFL team has more guns.
"Instead, our offense will revolve around Toby Gerhardt. Of course, he's no Blackmon; he's a white man."
Nick Foles throws for 269 yards and 2 scores, and the Philly defense forces 3 turnovers.
Eagles win, 29-13.
Oakland @ NY Jets (-5)
The Raiders were counting on Matt Schaub to steady the quarterback position, which has been a weakness in Oakland longer than fans care to remember. Schaub was acquired in a trade with the Texans in March. The trade was first announced by Mission Control when they said, "Oakland, you have Houston's problem."
"We got Schaub for virtually nothing," Dennis Allen said. "And he's worth it. But alas, he's not even good enough to start. Derek Carr will start instead. We're hoping Derek can stabilize, if not 'Stabler-ize,' the position. Of course, he's no Ken Stabler, but we'll settle for a breath of fresh air at the position, as opposed to the breath of whiskey."
For the Jets, success rides on the broad shoulders of second-year quarterback Geno Smith, who showed flashes of brilliance last year as the Jets finished 8-8.
"Smith is our quarterback," Ryan said. "Sure, he doesn't have the most accurate arm, but that's the least of his problems — Michael Vick is his mentor. But I think we all trust Michael's judgment where Geno is concerned. Wisely, he'll keep him on a short leash.
"We acquired a new target for Geno in Eric Decker. Peyton Manning made Decker famous; we made him rich. Geno will make him homesick."
With the Jets holding a 31-13 lead with 1:43 remaining in the fourth quarter, Oakland television affiliates opt to preempt the conclusion of the game, instead airing Heidi, an animated documentary on the life of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. Viewers in and around Oakland applaud the decision, as does Charlie Sheen.
Jets win, 24-13.
Cincinnati @ Baltimore (even)
The Ravens host the Bengals in a contest that will give the winner an important step towards AFC North superiority. The Ravens, Super Bowl champs in 2012, failed to make the playoffs last season, sliding to an 8-8 record.
"We're looking to get off on the right foot," John Harbaugh said. "We'd also like to get off the right hand. Ray Rice's right hand, that is. That's the one he used to knock out his fiancée. Ray got into a fight with his girlfriend in an elevator, then he married her. That's called getting 'engaged.' Suffice it to say she was 'floored' by the proposal.
"But while Ray serves his meager two-game suspension, we're expecting Joe Flacco to carry the team. Don't worry; Joe has a strong back capable of doing just that. If that fails, there's always his wallet — you could easily fit a team in there."
The Bengals handed Andy Dalton a six year contract extension worth $115 million in July. In return, they expect their franchise player to produce in the post season. Dalton is 0-3 in the playoffs.
"We threw a lot of money at Andy," Marvin Lewis said. "And we're expecting him to prove that he's worth it. Otherwise, the only thing he may earn is the nickname 'Red Cent.'
"There's no reason we shouldn't win in the playoffs. If we don't, Dalton won't be the scapegoat; it will be me. And it won't be a red head I'll be concerned about, it will be a green bottom, because my ass will be grass."
Baltimore wins, 23-19.
Buffalo @ Chicago (-5)
The Bills traded up in April's draft to acquire Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who's expected to be the Bills big play receiver for years to come. Watkins, however, had an uneventful pre-season, slowed by a rib injury that limited his effectiveness.
"This city of Buffalo needs a hero," Doug Marrone said. "Hopefully, Sammy can be that hero. He's got a lot of hurdles to clear to achieve that status. Let's just hope a chair in the Hertz rental car agency isn't one of them."
Chicago had the second-highest offense in the league last year, led by Jay Cutler and wideouts Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Offense is again expected to carry the Bears, who are optimistic that their defense can carry its weight.
"Buddy Ryan made the '46 D' famous in Chicago," Marc Trestman said. "Last year, our defense was known as the '4 and 6 D,' because they often played like they were a man short.
"Instead, you can still call our offense the 'Monsters of the Midway.' I think everyone in the league knows our offense is formidable. But let me emphasize it just for effect: the Bears are who you thought they were."
Marshall shows up for the game in bright red cleats and a straightjacket to raise attention for "Metal Health Awareness," which celebrates the 31st anniversary of the release of the influential Quiet Riot album.
Marshall has 8 catches for 114 yards, and the Bears roll, 30-20.
Washington @ Houston (-2½)
With the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Texans signed Jadeveon Clowney, who will join J.J. Watt on the defensive line, giving Houston arguably the most formidable defensive rushing duo in the league.
"With Jadeveon joining me," Watt said, "there's three 'J's' on our defensive line. That's sure to attract the attention of the NFL's drug enforcers, as well as all the knuckleheads in this league who like their smokes but are too cheap to pay the extra dime on top of the line drug masking agents."
Washington's 4-12 record last year led to the firing of Mike Shanahan. Jay Gruden was hired in January, tasked with turning around the team. Gruden aims to get Robert Griffin III back to the form he showed as a dynamic rookie.
"Who do I think will win the NFC East this year?" Gruden said. "Can you say 'Redskins?' I mean, can you?"
Clowney and Watts combine for three sacks of Robert Griffin, and Watt introduces his brand new sack dance, in which he goes into a convulsive laughing fit, and thus unveals the "Watt's Riot."
Houston wins 24-17.
Tennessee @ Kansas City (-3½)
The Titans will be a vastly different team in 2014. Gone is Mike Munchak; in is Ken Whisenhunt as head coach. Chris Johnson was released and later signed with the Jets. In his stead, the Titans will go with Shonn Greene and rookie Bishop Sankey.
"Johnson was the face of the Titans for many years," Whisenhunt said. "But not any more. They weren't able to say this enough about CJ2K when he was here, but now, 'he's gone.'"
The Chiefs season ended with a devastating 45-44 loss in Indianapolis in the wildcard playoffs, a game in which Kansas City blew a 28-point, fourth-quarter lead.
"We had more breakdowns than Dick Vermeil," Andy Reid said. "But it will be different this year. If you ask me to give you reasons why we'll be better, I'll refuse to give them to you. Those are called 'unanswered points.'"
Kansas City wins, 27-21.
New England @ Miami (+4½)
Doctors have cleared Rob Gronkowski for the Patriots opener in Miami. A full year from Gronkowski is key if Tom Brady and the Patriots are to make a Super Bowl run.
"It was a dramatic announcement by Gronk's doctor," Brady said. "He said, 'It's alive!!'"
Miami finished 8-8 last year in a season defined by the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin controversy. Ryan Tannehill enters his third season as the starting quarterback, and Joe Philbin expects a breakout season.
"Ryan has become this team's unquestioned leader," Philbin said. "He's made it clear in the locker room that there is to be no hazing. He insists that the humiliation take place only on the field."
Brady throws for 245 yards and 2 scores, one to Gronkowski, and the Pats win, 24-20.
Carolina @ Tampa Bay (-1½)
The Bucs canned Greg Schiano in December and soon thereafter hired Lovie Smith, who returns to the site of his first NFL coaching job.
"I think the players, fans, and management were glad to see Schiano go," Smith said. "Heck, who wasn't? Did you know that The Knack are Buccaneers fans? They even reunited just to record a remix of 'My Sharona' called 'No Schiano.'"
The Panthers won the NFC South last year, and a repeat of that feat will depend a great deal on Cam Newton's ability to cohese with his receiving corps. Newton is also nursing a fractured rib suffered in Carolina's third preseason game.
"Cam has to learn that he can't take hits," Ron Rivera said. "I have a solution, but it's a radical one: we've hired a third base coach to make sure Cam slides.
"And speaking of 'slides,' we may be due for one after winning the NFC South with a 12-4 record. But don't count on it. Our offense may be hurting, but our defense should dominate, as long as Luke Kuechly can tackle everything in sight, including over-expectations.”
Tampa wins 20-16.
San Francisco @ Dallas (+4½)
The Cowboys have posted three straight 8-8 seasons, missing the playoff with week 17 losses each time. In the final year of his contract, Jason Garrett knows it's now or never, and even a playoff victory may not be enough to save his job.
"My job is safe," Garrett said. "Or at least that's what Jerry Jones said. Are they empty words? Maybe. People tell me that Jerry says the same things to me that he does to much younger women—sweet nothings."
The 49ers are again expected to battle the Seahawks for the NFC West title, with the Cardinals and Rams also expected to interject themselves into the conversation, as well.
"Our minds are solely on the Cowboys," Jim Harbaugh said. "When the schedules were released back in April, our players circled this matchup on their calendars. I circled Jason Garrett's name on mine. Not only can I draw them, I can also coach circles around 'Jason Garrett.'"
Tony Romo and Colin Kaepernick both take advantage of depleted defenses, and the home-standing Cowboys win 34-31.
Indianapolis @ Denver (-7½)
Peyton Manning spent the offseason dissecting, in great detail, every mistake in the Broncos disastrous 43-8 Super Bowl 48 loss to the Seahawks in February.
"I'm just now getting around to the second quarter," Manning said. "The Seattle defense really came to play. I was hoping to find out what it was like to be a two-time Super Bowl champion. Unfortunately, the Seahawks defense didn't oblige that request, but they did make me feel like Eli Manning nonetheless.
"But it's important for us to put that behind us. And we will. It may be hard to believe, but I think our offense has improved. Sure, we lost Eric Decker, but we've added some weapons, like Emmanuel Sanders, and Montee Ball could be a breakout star at running back. Plus, I've added a new pass to my repertoire: it's called the 'F-Bomb.'"
The Colts season was defined by a 28-point, second half comeback over the Chiefs in the wildcard round of the playoffs.
"Speaking of 'comebacks,'" Andrew Luck said, "Robert Irsay can 'come back' after six games. Plus, he has to pay $500,000, which, if he looked in the ashtrays, I'm sure he could find in his car."
Manning throws for 324 yards and three scores, and the Broncos win 41-27.
NY Giants @ Detroit (-5 ½)
Jim Caldwell is the new head coach in Detroit, and the former head man in Indianapolis plans to lead with a style vastly unlike that of Jim Schwartz, who was canned after last season.
"Schwartz should be happy," Caldwell said, "because he won't get a pat on the back for anything he did in Detroit."
Eli Manning has targeted a 70% completion rate this season, a lofty number for sure, but one that Manning feels he can reach. Doing so will certainly make the Giants a contender in the competitive NFC East, as a tough opener awaits at Ford Field.
"I tossed 27 picks last year," Manning said. "It didn't get me fired, but it almost got me my own ESPN show, 'Pardon the Interception.'"
Giants win, 28-24.
San Diego @ Arizona (-3)
After a 10-win season, the Cardinals believe they have the team to make a run at the NFC West title. They certainly have the cornerback to do it. Patrick Peterson signed a five-year, $70 million contract extension, with $48 million guaranteed.
"I'm the best cornerback in the league," Peterson said. "So, if you're a receiver, or a person looking for a loan, I've got you covered."
The Chargers were one of three AFC West teams to make the playoffs last year. Philip Rivers and company are aiming for more this year.
"That's right," Rivers said. "We don't think we've reached the apex of our ability just yet. And take it from a man who's fathered seven children, we're not done."
San Diego wins, 27-24.