Thursday, December 25, 2014

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 17

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Cleveland at Baltimore (-8)

The Browns lost to the Panthers 17-13 last week. Johnny Manziel left the game late in the second quarter with a hamstring injury.

"That's just a microcosm of our season," Mike Pettine said. "You can't mention our quarterbacks without saying 'pull.'

"Johnny is out for the season. And Brian Hoyer has a shoulder injury. We called up Connor Shaw from the practice squad. He's an undrafted rookie, so he doesn't make a lot of money. His nickname is 'Change.'"

The Ravens offense was sluggish in a 25-13 loss at Houston that all but ended Baltimore's playoff hopes. Joe Flacco completed only 21-of-50 passes for 195 yards.

"I checked with a local ornithologist," John Harbaugh said, "and yes, Ravens do lay eggs.

"Steve Smith blamed our troubles on the offense. He's always going to speak his mind. Steve is certainly not known for pulling punches. But I encourage Steve to challenge his teammates, just not to a fistfight, or an ethics contest, or a debate on the subject 'How in the Hell Did Joe Flacco Win a Super Bowl?'"

The Ravens assault Shaw with seven sacks and Baltimore wins, 24-13.

Dallas at Washington (+6)

With their 42-7 blowout win over the Colts, the Cowboys clinched the NFC East. Tony Romo tossed 4 touchdown passes and became the Cowboys all-time leader in passing yardage.

"Tony Romo, Cowboys All-Time Passing Yardage Leader," Romo said. "Unlike my finger, that's got a nice ring to it.

"This is great. We don't have to win in Week 17 to make the playoffs. Everybody knows how that would turn out."

Washington wins, 26-24.

Indianapolis at Tennessee (+7)

The Colts were destroyed 42-7 by the Cowboys at Dallas last week. Having already clinched the AFC South, Indianapolis had little to play for.

"And it showed," Andrew Luck said. "I would give myself a grade of 'F' for that performance, and if I was on your fantasy team, you got 'F'ed,' too.

"And speaking of 'fantasy championships,' it's a fantasy to think we can win a championship. It's looking like we'll be the No. 4 seed in the AFC. That means if we win our first-round game, we'll have to make a trip to New England or Denver. I'm not sure which 'old man' we'll be facing, but I'm guessing 'Winter' will be the one that gives us the most trouble."

The Titans lost 21-13 at Jacksonville last Thursday, and in doing so, improved their position in April's 2015 NFL Draft.

"We'll look at quarterbacks," Ken Whisenhunt said, "but we have loads of other weaknesses that need addressing. If this team was a famous Nashville music hall, it would be called the 'Grand Hole Opry.'"

Titans win, 27-23.

Jacksonville at Houston (-10)

The Texans manhandled the visiting Ravens 25-13 last week, holding Baltimore to only 211 yards of total offense. Case Keenum won for the first time in nine starts, and Randy Bullock kicked a franchise record 6 field goals.

"Keenum got the job done," Bill O'Brien said. "He's not my ideal quarterback, but sometimes you have to make do with what you have. It's like Snoop Dogg said — 'Keenum was the Case that they gave me.'"

The Jags beat the Titans 21-13 last Thursday to improve to 3-12.

"Blake Bortles has been sacked 50 times this year," Gus Bradley said. "J.J. Watt must be drooling. To think Watt won't have at least three sacks of Bortles is pure 'sack-rilege.'"

Houston wins, 25-9.

San Diego at Kansas City (-2½)

The Chargers stayed alive in the playoffs, overcoming a 21-0 deficit to the 49ers to win 38-35 in overtime. Philip Rivers shook off 3 interceptions and passed for 3 second half touchdowns.

"And I did it all with a bulging disc in my back," Rivers said. "Of course, I've been saying 'my back is killing me' all year, but in most of those instances, I was referring to our pathetic running game."

The Chiefs lost, 20-12, at Pittsburgh and will need to beat the Chargers and get lots of help to reach the postseason.

"We also need lots of help to reach the end zone," Andy Reid said. "We are so predictable in red zone situations. It's like defenses know what we're going to do. What we need to do in those situations is do something unexpected and 'break the plain.'"

The Chiefs hold the playoff destinies of several teams in their hands — just not their own. A K.C. win eliminates the Chargers and opens the door for the Ravens and Texans. The Chiefs are in with a win and losses by the Ravens and Texans.

Kansas City wins,. 23-20.

NY Jets at Miami (-6)

The Jets battled the Patriots until the end in a 17-16 loss last week. New York held the Pats to a paltry 231 yards of total offense.

"I'm sure I won't be back as head coach next year," Rex Ryan said. "But trust me, my resume will be out there. In fact, it might be on a banner pulled by a plane flying over a stadium near you. For me, I think things are looking up."

The Dolphins pulled out a 37-35 win over the Vikings last week, winning on a safety after a blocked punt. Ryan Tannehill threw for 4 scores and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross gave head coach Joe Philbin a vote of confidence in comments after the game.

"Apparently," Philbin said, "there's a very fine line between 'hanging' and 'hanging around.'

"And speaking of 'fine lines,' there's some cheap new cocaine on the market that's said to be hot in South Beach. It's called 'Incognito.' What makes it so cheap? It's been 'cut' hundreds of times."

Jets win, 25-20.

Chicago at Minnesota (-6½)

With Jay Cutler's benching, Jimmy Clausen started for the Bears last week and outplayed Matthew Stafford in Chicago's 20-14 loss. Clausen threw 2 touchdown passes in a losing effort.

"I'm mentally and physically drained," Calusen said. "If my name was 'Johnny Manziel,' you could say I was 'Money well spent.'

"Cutler's been very supportive. Before the game, he told me to 'be myself.' I took that to mean 'don't be him.'"

Minnesota wins, 27-23.

Buffalo at New England (-10½)

The Patriots beat the Jets, 17-16, last week and clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with Denver's Monday night loss to the Bengals.

"The Jets always play us tough," Tom Brady said. "Anytime you line up against the Jets defense, you better be at your best. On the other hand, when you line up against the Jets offense, you're always at your best.

"We've got a 'monopoly' on the AFC East. And speaking of 'bored games,' there's nothing riding on the outcome of this game."

Patriots wins, 24-23.

Philadelphia at NY Giants (+3)

The Eagles playoff hopes were crushed at FedEx Field last week, as Philly lost 27-24 to Robert Griffin III and the Redskins.

"Since whipping the Cowboys on Thanksgiving," Chip Kelly said, "we've lost three in a row. Most people over-ate on Thanksgiving; we, on the other hand, we're 'over-rated. "

The Giants whipped the Rams, 37-27, as Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. hooked up for 2 touchdowns. Beckham was unstoppable with 10 catches for 148 yards and has quickly become the most feared receiver in the NFL.

"Odell continues to amaze me," Manning said. "I think he needs a new nickname. There's 'Junior Say Wow!' Or 'ODB-Gone.'

"Odell had some communication with Michael Jordan recently. I think M.J. said that if there's a superstar athlete icon in the making, his money's on Beckham."

Giants win, 27-21.

New Orleans at Tampa Bay (+4)

With a loss to the Saints, the Buccaneers clinch the No. 1 pick in April's NFL Draft, where they'll likely choose a quarterback.

"We don't want to do anything to jeopardize that pick," Lovie Smith. "That's why we're replacing that pirate ship in the end zone at Raymond James Stadium with a 'tanker.'"

New Orleans wins, 32-17.

Detroit at Green Bay (-7½)

The stakes are high at Lambeau Field, as the winner of the Lions/Packers clash takes the NFC North crown. The Lions came back to nip the Bears, 20-14, despite a below-average day from Matthew Stafford.

"Once again," Stafford said, "our defense stepped up big time. And our offense 'stepped on' big time. Dominic Raiola stomped on the ankle of Chicago's Ego Ferguson. Dominic claimed it was unintentional. Apparently, the NFL disagrees. They put their foot down and suspended Dominic for one game."

The Packers beat the Bucs, 20-3, and will have to avenge their Week 3 19-7 loss at Detroit if they want to be crowned NFC North champs.

"It's going to be cold in Green Bay," Aaron Rodgers said. "A high of 16 degrees is forecast. And that brings me to the movie 'A Lion in Winter.' It won several Oscars at the 1968 Academy Awards, but it didn't win jack squat at Lambeau.

"Brett Favre is hawking yet another product. It's called 'Copper Fit.' It's a sleeve you put on your elbow or knee. I hear it's selling so well, Favre's thinking about retiring."

Green Bay wins, 30-16.

Carolina at Atlanta (-3½)

The Panthers edged the Browns 17-13 to set up a winner-take-all showdown in Atlanta, with the winner taking the NFC South crown. Cam Newton rushed for a score and passed for another as Carolina improved to 6-8-1.

"Normally," Newton said, "I'm not nervous, but I was a wreck before the Cleveland game.

"My back feels great. We have a great team of doctors here, and they all agree that the keys to healing are lots of rest, and a chauffeur."

The Falcons dominated the Saints at New Orleans 30-14 last week. Matt Ryan passed for 322 yards and a touchdown, and the Atlanta defense forced 4 Saints turnovers.

"That was huge win for us," Matt Ryan said. "Now, we're riding a wave of momentum. And, if Newton can 'keep on trucking,' so can we. It's gonna be a barnburner in Atlanta. All I can say is 'fasten your seat belts."

There can be only one winner. Actually, there will be two — the winner of the game in Atlanta, and the NFC's No. 5 seed.

Atlanta wins, 24-21.

Oakland at Denver (-14)

Peyton Manning's 4 interceptions offset his 2 touchdown passes in the Broncos' 37-28 loss at Cincinnati last Monday night. Denver now needs a win over the Raiders to secure a first-round bye.

"Judging by the way I played in the Jungle," Manning said, "we could be looking at a second-round 'bye.'

"I don't see the Raiders keeping us from a first-round bye. I'll have my way with the Raiders defense. The only thing that can stop Peyton Manning is birthdays."

The Raiders beat the Bills 26-24 for their third win of the year.

"Is Jim Harbaugh coming to Oakland or going to Michigan?" Tony Sparano said. "Is it 'Silver and Black' or 'Maize and Blue?' I'm not sure what color Harbaugh will choose, but I'm guessing it will be 'green.' I guess I'll get 'pink.'"

Denver wins, 35-19.

Arizona at San Francisco (-6)

The Cardinals were blown out 35-6 by the Seahawks at University Of Phoenix Stadium last week, and dropped out of the lead in the NFC West. Arizona could still win the West with a win over the 49ers and a Seattle loss to the Rams.

"We asked our defense to do too much," Bruce Arians said. "We asked our offense to do anything.

"We're starting rookie Logan Thomas at quarterback. Ryan Lindley just didn't get the job done. And he's upset about it. We call that getting a 'Bruce-d ego.'"

The 49ers blew a 21-0 lead and eventually lost, 38-35, to the Chargers in overtime. San Francisco fell to 7-8, third in the NFC West.

"I won't reveal my future plans until after the game," Jim Harbaugh said. "Some say I'm headed to the University of Michigan. While it is true I plan to make a visit to the 'big house,' that's only to visit some of my players."

49ers win, 17-16.

St. Louis at Seattle (-13)

Seattle pummeled the Cardinals 35-6 last week and took over the top spot in the NFC West. The Seahawks will clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the visiting Rams.

"There's a lot riding on the outcome of Sunday's game," Marshawn Lynch said. "Do I think the Rams have any chance of beating us? I don't know, but thanks for asking."

Seattle wins, 19-13.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-3)

The Steelers clinched a playoff spot with their 20-12 win over the Chiefs last week. Thirty-six-year-old linebacker James Harrison sparked the Steelers defense with 1.5 sacks and 2 tackles for loss.

"James defies age just as well as he defies authority," Mike Tomlin said. "Andy Dalton better watch out. James hates redheads, but not as much as he hates 'figureheads.'"

The Bengals intercepted Peyton Manning four times in Monday night's 37-28 win and clinched a playoff berth. To win the AFC North title, they'll need to defeat the Steelers at Heinz Field.

"Johnny Manziel may be a 'midget,'" Marvin Lewis said, "but Ben Roethlisberger is certainly not one. If Roethlisberger is 'Big Ben,' Johnny must be 'Little Man.''

"Our main goal is to stop Le'Veon Bell. He rushed for 186 yards and scored 3 touchdowns on us in our Week 14 42-21 loss. Bell is one of the league's top backs. It's no surprise he 'smoked' us."

Cincinnati wins, 30-27.

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