Thursday, December 4, 2014

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 14

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

Dallas @ Chicago (+3½)

The Bears jumped to a 14-3 at Detroit on Thanksgiving before losing, 34-17. Jay Cutler followed 2 early TD passes with 2 interceptions, and the Lions defense held Matt Forte to 6 yards rushing.

"Whenever we take one step forward," Marc Trestman said, "we always seem to take two back. Those steps add up, so much to the point that someone will eventually have to take a walk. I'm guessing that will be me. Jay Cutler may take the heat, but I'll take the fall. But where on earth could a former CFL coach go after leaving the NFL? 'Oh, Canada,' of course.

"Fans of the Bears are hungry for change. On that note, have you seen the new Hunger Games movie? Apparently, everyone is Chicago has, because they're 'mocking Jay.'"

Like the Bears, the Cowboys were blown out on Thanksgiving, losing 33-10 to the visiting Eagles. The loss left Dallas a game behind the Eagles in the NFC East.

"We spent Black Friday not looking for deals," Jason Garrett said, "but for answers. And we didn't find any. There was a lot of bickering on our sideline. And guess what? Dez Bryant started most of it. That's really not what we had in mind when we asked him to be more of a leader.

"I see a lot of similarities between the Cowboys and the Bears. We both have a perpetually disgruntled wide receiver; we both have a supremely talented tailback; and we both have a quarterback who is associated with pain in the back side. Plus, we both have a defense considered shaky at best. At worst, it's the worst."

Dallas wins, 30-27.

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati (-4)

The Bengals won a tough 14-13 slugfest over the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium, winning despite 3 Andy Dalton interceptions.

"Andy was battling the effects of the flu," Marvin Lewis said. "We were battling the effects of Andy. Anyway, Andy with the flu is not different than Andy without the flu — he's hot, he's cold, he's hot, he's cold."

The Steelers lost a crucial home game to the Saints last week, giving up five Drew Brees touchdown passes in a 35-32 loss to fall to 7-5 in the AFC North.

"The game was not as close as the score indicated," Mike Tomlin said. "That's basically the story of our season: you can't trust our offense, you can't trust our defense, and you can't even trust our scoreboard.

"I fully expect Dick LaBeau to remedy the ills of our defense. Dick's been a player or coach in the NFL for a whopping 56 years. That makes two people that a lot of fans think have been here long enough."

The Steelers find themselves in the same position the Saints did last week: on the road, in a hostile environment, in desperate need of a win. Steelers respond.

Pittsburgh wins, 29-27.

St. Louis @ Washington (+3)

Colt McCoy passed for 392 yards and 3 touchdowns, but it wasn't nearly enough in a 49-27 loss at Indianapolis. The Redskins gave up 487 yards of total offense, including 370 through the air.

"We just couldn't stop the Indianapolis offense," Jay Gruden said. "It's easy to get behind when it's so easy to get behind our defense. Obviously, Robert Griffin III isn't the only player who needs to work on his craft.

"Clearly, McCoy is our starter going forward, and Griffin will remain his backup. Now, his commercials are much more applicable, because he's advocating the 'Sub-way.'"

The Rams punished the Raiders 45-0 last week, and St. Louis is now 5-7 in the NFC West. St. Louis piled up 172 yards on the ground, and forced 5 turnovers and collected 6 sacks.

"Tre Mason rushed for 117 of those yards," Jeff Fisher said. "Before the game, Tre asked 'What's the game plan, Coach?' I replied loudly, 'On the ground!' Thankfully, Tre complied and everything worked out.

"Some of my players raised their hands in a salute to Ferguson, Missouri. After that, it was off to the racist, I mean races. Ironically, it was the Raiders who were actually 'defenseless.'"

On their first offensive series, the Rams line up in a pistol formation, aimed directly at Redskins linebacker Everette Brown. Things go downhill for the Redskins from there.

St. Louis wins, 27-20.

NY Giants @ Tennessee (-1)

The Giants blew a 21-0 lead at Jacksonville and lost 25-23 to the Jaguars. Three turnovers were the G-Men's downfall, as two were returned for touchdowns.

"Our guys can't hold the ball with five fingers," Tom Coughlin said, "much less three.

"Fans and players alike are still buzzing about Odell Beckham's amazing catch. Amazingly, he did it with three fingers. And that's way more impressive than anything Lawrence Taylor's done in the same fashion.

"I take responsibility for our seven-game losing streak. Ultimately, it may cost me my job. Look, there are a lot of reasons ownership could cite to fire me. And it would take at least two hands to count them on. But there are reasons to keep me around, and you can count those on two fingers."

The Titans are 2-10 after last week's 45-21 loss at Houston. Tennessee gave up 6 touchdown passes to Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"And I thought the only way to stop Fitzpatrick from killing the Titans was to release him," Ken Whisenhunt said.

Giants win, 24-20.

Carolina @ New Orleans (-10)

The Panthers' road trip to Minnesota was a disaster, as Carolina fell behind early on their way to a 31-13 loss. The Panthers had two punts blocked by the Vikings in the first half, both of which were returned for touchdowns.

"Our kicking game obviously needs some work," Ron Rivera said. "We haven't seen a punter mistreated like this in Minnesota since Chris Kluwe. If I spoke my mind like Kluwe was known for doing, I would say outright that Cam Newton is awful. Of course, he's been hampered by an ankle injury. Cam's gone from being a running quarterback to a barely walking quarterback.

"Our playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. And my job is hanging by a rope, because I saw my likeness with a noose around its neck in Charlotte the other day. That's called 'hanging in effigy.' Now, if you graded our performance this year, likewise, it would be an 'F,' maybe even a 'G.' The season is long, and the alphabet is longer, so things could get even worse."

The Saints reclaimed a tie for the division lead with a huge 35-32 win at Heinz Field over the Steelers last week. Drew Brees threw for 257 yards and 5 touchdowns as New Orleans improved to 5-7.

"I think the NFC South winner will prove several people wrong," Drew Brees said, "especially the person who first said, 'You can't win for losing.'

"You probably saw Sean Payton and Rob Ryan bickering on the sideline. Sure, they've had their differences, mainly in diet, but at the end of the day, Sean has Rob's back. Sean's not afraid to say what he feels to Rob, so whether he's chewing the fat or chewing out the fat, Sean gets his point across."

New Orleans wins, 30-23.

NY Jets @ Minnesota (-5)

The Vikings shut down the visiting Panthers on their way to a 31-13 win. Minnesota returned two blocked punts for touchdowns, and Teddy Bridgewater threw 2 touchdown passes.

"When you have a 'rushing attack' like that," Mike Zimmer said, "who needs Adrian Peterson? For that matter, who needs Adrian Peterson, period?"

The Jets leaned on their running game heavily in Monday night's 16-13 loss over the Dolphins. New York amassed 277 yards on the ground, but when they needed a passing game on their final drive, the Dolphins intercepted Geno Smith.

"We ran the ball down the Dolphins' throat," Rex Ryan said. "Ironically, it was Geno who coughed it up. It will be that lack of a passing attack that will ultimately get me fired. But not if I resign first. If I do that, it will be a very short press conference. In 2014 Jets fashion, I'll say 'gotta run.'

"I think you could see wholesale changes in this organization. I think you could see retail changes as well, because those employees in the pro shop can't sell anything with a Jets logo on it."

Vikings win, 17-16.

Baltimore @ Miami (-3)

Phillip Rivers torched the Ravens' defense for 383 yards and 3 touchdowns, and the Ravens suffered a costly loss, 34-33 at home. Baltimore is now 7-5, two games behind the Bengals in the AFC North.

"That stings," John Harbaugh said. "If you ask any member of our secondary, they'll tell you it burns.

"Let's be honest. The play of our defensive backs was appalling. How appalling, you may ask? It was so appalling, we suggested Janay Rice apologize for it. And while we're on the subject of saying things you don't mean, how's this for a statement: we're going to make the playoffs."

The Dolphins remained in second place in the AFC East after last Monday's tight 16-13 win over the Jets. With the Patriots loss to the Packers, Miami now trails New England by two games in the AFC East.

"Things are getting tight," Joe Philbin said, "most notably my sphincter. The race for the AFC's two wildcard spots is going to come down to the wire. This game could very well determine who's in and who's out. Hopefully, when all is said and done, we'll be 'in like 'Fin.'"

"Ray Rice won his appeal with the league and has been reinstated into the NFL. I hear a few teams have expressed interest in Ray. Apparently, some teams have ten-foot poles."

Does the Ravens defense scare anyone anymore, except the Ravens? Does the Miami offense scare anyone other than the Dolphins? This could be a matchup pitting the movable force against the stoppable object.

Miami wins, 23-20.

Indianapolis @ Cleveland (+3½)

The Browns lost at Buffalo, 26-10, last week. Brian Hoyer was benched in the second half after throwing two interceptions, and Johnny Manziel took over and scored his first NFL touchdown.

"If you've got 'money,'" Mike Pettine said, "you also have to be able to make 'change.'

"I think Johnny played well. He's a playmaker. You saw that in his ten-yard touchdown run just minutes after entering the game. If Johnny's capable of one thing, it's putting his signature on a game. But am I ready to hand over the offense to him? No. Not just yet. This is still Hoyer's team. I'm not quite ready to sign off on Manziel."

The Colts turned back the Redskins, 49-27, last week, led by Andrew Luck, who passed for 370 yards and 5 touchdowns. Indy improved to 8-4, two games ahead of the Texans in the AFC South.

"That was my tenth game this year with 300 yards passing," Luck said. "That broke Peyton Manning's franchise record. Of course, I set it against the Redskins defense. They should call that defense the 'Library of Congress,' because it's responsible for so many 'records.'

"Trent Richardson is making his return to Cleveland. I think the city should welcome him back with a parade. A very short parade, I might add. Say, of a length of about 3.3 yards."

The Browns use their rushing attack to keep Luck and the Colts offense off the field, and Hoyer does just enough to lead the Browns to victory, but not enough to quell the quarterback controversy.

Cleveland wins, 27-24.

Tampa Bay @ Detroit (-9)

The Lions whipped the Bears 34-17 on Thanksgiving, led by Calvin Johnson's 146 yards receiving and two touchdowns. The win kept Detroit one game behind the Packers in the NFC North and in solid shape for a wild card berth.

"There's something to be said for a healthy Johnson," Matthew Stafford said, "as well as a reliable kicker, which we have now in Matt Prater. They call Calvin 'Megatron.' They call Prater 'Mini-Bar.'

"We won't take the Bucs lightly. Much like the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bucs are lethal with a man advantage. Of course, as the Cincy game showed, the Bucs could use some help on the penalty kill."

The Bucs' hopes to stay relevant in the NFC South race all but ended with a 14-13 loss to the visiting Bengals. A reception that would have put the Bucs in easy field goal range was overturned because of too many men on the field, and Tampa dropped to 2-10 in the NFC South.

"You probably saw that story in all the local newspapers," Lovie Smith said. "It was in the 'Extra' edition.

"Obviously, we could use a lesson from the rules committee, as well as one from the Seahawks on the proper usage of the '12th Man.'"

Detroit wins, 27-14.

Houston @ Jacksonville (+4)

The Texans smashed the Titans 45-21 last week to remain two games behind the Colts in the AFC South. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 6 touchdowns, one to J.J. Watt, who also had 6 quarterback hits, 3 tackles, 2 sacks, a fumble recovery, and what is sure to be a "12 Days of Christmas" spinoff song.

"J.J. is the true savior who will take us to the promised land," Bill O'Brien said, "but he's not Jesus. Otherwise, I'd have him heal Jadeveon Clowney for good.

"Now, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Fitzpatrick throws six more touchdowns. And I wouldn't be surprised if it takes him our remaining four games to do so."

The Jaguars erased a 21-0 deficit to shock the Giants 25-23, winning for the second time this season. Jacksonville turned two New York fumbles into 14 points, and Josh Scobee nailed the game-winning 43-yard field goal with 28 seconds left.

"I was a big day in Jacksonville," Gus Bradley said. "We recognized some of the best players in Jaguars history. In the first half, the Giants recognized some of our worst."

Houston wins, 24-23.

Buffalo @ Denver (-9)

The Broncos moved one step closer to the AFC West title with a 29-16 win at Arrowhead Stadium. The Broncos rushed for 214 yards as a team, including 168 from C.J. Anderson.

"Offensive balance is important as the weather gets colder," Peyton Manning said. "We intend to stick to that belief. We don't want to be like John Fox and lose our balance.

"But Coach Fox's dizzy spells happen a lot less often. Now, he only gets that way when I try to explain the offense to him, or football in general."

The Bills overcame a slow start before pulling away from the Browns and winning, 26-10. Buffalo's solid defense stifled the Browns attack, and Dan Carpenter kicked four field goals.

"We forced Brian Hoyer out of the game," Mario Williams said, "and Johnny Manziel into it. Fittingly, it took the 'Bills' to get the 'Money' in the game.

"Our goal in Denver is to force another quarterback change. If we can knock Manning out of the game, his backup Brock Osweiler will be forced to play. He's a 6'8" giant. If we can get Osweiler in the game, the he, as well as our defense, will be ready to 'throw down.'"

Alas, the Bills only sack Manning once, while the Denver defense gets to Kyle Orton five times. Manning throws 4 TD passes and the Broncos pull away in the second half.

Denver wins, 34-17.

Kansas City @ Arizona (-1)

The Cardinals lost their second consecutive game, falling 29-18 to the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. Their lead in the NFC West is now down to one game over the Seahawks.

"We're not going to panic," Bruce Arians said, "because everything about me says 'be cool.' Besides, we're returning to University of Phoenix Stadium after a two-game road trip. We call it 'coming back to the field,' and so do our NFC West rivals.

"The Chiefs have at least one thing going for them, and that's youth on offense. Don't get me wrong. They're not young age-wise, they just run a high school offense."

The Chiefs offense was stagnant in a disappointing 29-16 loss to the Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium. K.C. produced only 151 total yards and fell two games behind the Broncos in the AFC West.

"Offensive production is a state of mind," Andy Reid said. "All I can do is tell my guys to 'check their heads.' By that, I mean for them to simply look at the arrowhead on the helmet of a teammate — it will tell them which direction to go.

"Jamaal Charles didn't get nearly enough touches in Denver. That will change. We're going to keep feeding Jamaal the ball, and Alex Smith is happy about that. If there's one thing Smith is perfectly suited to do, it's run the Jets' offense."

Charles rushes for 125 yards on 27 carries, but a late Smith interception leads to a Chandler Catanzaro field goal.

Cardinals win, 23-20.

Seattle @ Philadelphia (-1)

The Seahawks hammered the 49ers 19-3 in San Francisco on Thanksgiving night, displaying the defensive dominance that carried them to last season's Super Bowl title. Richard Sherman had 2 interceptions, and Seattle limited the 49ers to 164 yards of total offense. Seattle trails Arizona by a game in the NFC West.

"Much like Jed York," Pete Carroll said, "Richard Sherman owns the 49ers, and hates Jim Harbaugh. I think Harbaugh is as good as gone after the season. I'm not sure what team he'll be with, but I think his mind is already made up. That's why I asked him after the game, 'What's your deal?'

"We're peaking at the right time. And so are the Eagles. But they're doing it with Mark Sanchez. Sanchez hasn't seen a defense quite like this. The difference between the Dallas defense and the Seahawks defense is like night and day. Against the Dallas D, there's nothing but daylight. Against the Legion of Boom, it's lights out."

The Eagles pounded the Cowboys 33-10, led by 159 yards and a TD on the ground from LeSean McCoy. The win gave Philly the outright lead in the NFC East.

"The game was in AT&T Stadium," McCoy said, "and we certainly left our 'number.'

"Marshawn Lynch and I may have differing styles, but we both believe we're the best running back in the league. Lynch hates being in the public eye, but I hear he's trying to change. Mr. 'Beast Mode' is working on building a website, and I hear his new official website, '.com Mode,' is almost up and running."

Seahawks win, 26-21.

San Francisco @ Oakland (+8)

The Raiders were demolished 52-0 last week at St. Louis as the Oakland offense turned the ball over five times. Derek Carr was benched for Matt Schaub, who threw a pick-six.

"I'm sure Al Davis would have been sickened by what took place on the field," Tony Sparano said. "It's one thing to roll over in your grave, but to do so on the field is inexcusable.

"Rumor has it that Jim Harbaugh could be in Oakland next season. Fact has it that I won't be in Oakland next year."

The 49ers were whipped at home by the Seahawks on Thanksgiving night in a 19-3 loss. Seattle held the 49ers to a paltry 164 yards of total offense. San Fran is now 7-5.

"There's a rumor that Levi's is yanking their stadium sponsorship," Colin Kaepernick said, "because the Seahawks beat the pants off of us.

"But I suspect the Raiders will probably have some tricks in their playbook. But we'll be ready. Coach Harbaugh always prepares us for the unexpected, like, for example, his return to San Francisco. Anyway, unless the Raiders pull something out of a black hat in the 'Black Hole,' we should win easily."

San Francisco wins, 25-10.

New England @ San Diego (+4)

The Patriots lost in Green Bay in Week 13's game of the week. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers played to a virtual standstill, but the Packers rushing attack, led by Eddy Lacy, was the difference.

"Lacy is a talented guy," Brady said. "It's like he's a combination of LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, Brandon Bolden, and Shane Vereen. By that, I mean he gets 20 carries a game.

"Aaron Rodgers has all the physical gifts," Tom Brady, "as well as the mental tools required of an elite quarterback. If you were creating the perfect quarterback, you would base it on Rodgers. You could say he's the 'Giselle Bundchen' of quarterbacks, because he's a 'super model.'"

Phillip Rivers led a fourth-quarter comeback at Baltimore, as the Chargers overcame a ten-point deficit to pull out a 34-33 win. Rivers' one-yard TD pass to Eddie Royal was the game-winner.

"We showed a lot of heart," Rivers said, "especially me, because I wear mine on my sleeve.

"This is a tough, three-game stretch for us. Last week, it was Joe Flacco. This week, it's Brady. Next week, it's Peyton Manning. They're all Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. If we can win all three, that would be an impressive feat. As a Catholic, I'd consider it my new 'Holy Trinity.'"

New England wins, 30-20.

Atlanta @ Green Bay (-13)

The Falcons kept the lead in the NFC South with a dominating 29-18 win over the Cardinals last week. Julio Jones posted 10 receptions for 189 yards and a score, and Matt Bryant kicked 5 field goals.

"I look forward to playing in Lambeau Field," Matt Bryan said. "There's a lot of history there. We plan to be a part of it. By the time we leave, people will be saying, 'They're history.'"

The Packers held off the visiting Patriots 26-21 last week as Green Bay remained unbeaten at home. Aaron Rodgers threw 2 touchdown passes and now has 20 TDs without an interception this year at Lambeau Field.

"I like to call myself the 'Old Milwaukee of Quarterbacks,'" Aaron Rodgers said, "because it doesn't get any better than this.

"And speaking of 'three-dollar six-packs,' check out Eddy Lacy's new ab workout video tape. It's called 'One Hundred Crunches to Better Abs, or an Empty Bag of Potato Chips.'"

Green Bay wins, 35-24.

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