Saturday, January 2, 2016

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 17

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

NY Jets @ Buffalo (+3)

The Jets beat the Patriots 26-20 in overtime, cashing in the first possession of overtime on Ryan Fitzpatrick's 6-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker. New York can secure a playoff spot with a win over Buffalo.

"The Patriots won the overtime coin toss," Fitzpatrick said, "yet they chose to kick instead of receive. Afterwards, they again elected to kick ... themselves."

The Bills beat the visiting Cowboys 16-6 as Buffalo piled up 236 yards on the ground.

"If we beat the Jets," Ryan said, "we'll likely knock them out of the playoffs. What do you know? Another Rex Ryan season defined by a Jets loss."

Bills win, 23-21.

New England @ Miami (+9)

The Patriots lost 26-20 in overtime to the Jets at MetLife Stadium. After winning the overtime coin toss, the Patriots elected to kick instead of receive. The Jets took possession and scored less than three minutes into overtime.

"Sure," Bill Belichick said, "it was a mysterious call. Just chalk it up to something else from the Patriots that is shrouded in mystery.

"You could say I took the ball out of Tom Brady's hand, and put it into the hands of Fitzpatrick. I think I just got mixed up. Normally, I would take something from the Jets and put it into the hands of a Patriot. He, in turn, would put it into the video tape machine and we would watch it."

The Dolphins dropped their third consecutive game, losing 18-12 to the visiting Colts. Miami is 5-10 on the season.

"This could be Dan Campbell's last game as head coach," Lamar Miller said. "Campbell is obviously no Don Shula; he's more of a Nick Saban type, because, as this season would suggest, he's proven himself more than capable of coaching college-level talent.

"The wife of Brent Grimes criticized Ryan Tannehill on Twitter, saying he 'stunk.' Hopefully, Ryan will show his leadership and fire back on Twitter. That way, he can say he went 'tit for tat,' or better yet, 'Twit for twat,' with her."

Patriots win, 30-17.

Tampa Bay @ Carolina (-10)

The Falcons stunned the Panthers 20-13, ruining Carolina's perfect record and avenging an earlier 38-0 loss.

"Well," Ron Rivera said, "I guess the members of the 1972 Dolphins can rest in peace, assuming they weren't already.

"If we win the Super Bowl, we may look back on this defeat and wonder what we could have done differently. For that conversation, there will be a baseball bat present, because we'll be bringing the 'woulda-coulda-shoulda.'"

The Panthers snatch home-field advantage with a vengeance, blasting the Buccaneers, 31-16.

New Orleans @ Atlanta (-4)

Atlanta shocked Carolina last week, winning 20-13 to hand the Panthers their first defeat. Julio Jones had nine receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown.

"Julio went up against Josh Norman for much of the day and dominated," Matt Ryan said. "In the past, Norman has had the best of Julio. You could call Norman Julio's 'personal foil.

"Tevin Coleman slipped in the shower and suffered a concussion. There have been a number of players in the league's concussion protocol this season; Tevin is by far the cleanest. He is also a scrub.

"Our owner Arthur Blank will surely be roaming the sidelines, looking for players who are not giving their all. There's one thing you don't want to see, and that's the 'Blank stare.'"

The banged-up Saints whipped the Jaguars 38-27 in the Superdome last week. Drew Brees, playing with a torn plantar fascia, passed for 412 yards and 3 touchdowns.

"Blakes Bortles and I combined for 780 yards passing and 7 touchdowns," Brees said. "Blake reminds me a lot of myself, because the New Orleans defense put him in a position where he had no choice but to throw for at least 3 touchdowns.

Atlanta wins. 34-27.

Baltimore @ Cincinnati (-8)

The Ravens stunned the Steelers, winning 20-17, led by a strong day from Ryan Mallett, who passed for 274 yards and a touchdown.

"I coached circles around Mike Tomlin," John Harbaugh said. "This happens to Tomlin quite a bit. That's why he's well known in coaching circles.

"There's only one thing we hate more than the Steelers, and that's seeing them succeed. We feel the same way about the Bengals. Cincinnati's used to being knocked out of the playoffs with a loss; we're going to change it up a bit and knock them into the playoffs with a loss."

The Bengals lost 20-17 in overtime at Denver, falling short in their bid to lock up a first-round bye in the playoffs. Cincy jumped to a 14-0 second quarter lead, but faltered offensively down the stretch.

"A.J. McCarron sprained his left wrist on the game's final play," Marvin Lewis said. "Coupled with Andy Dalton's broken thumb, we have quite a quarterback conundrum. I can count my playoff wins on one hand; now I can count my playoff hopes on two hands."

Cincinnati wins, 24-20.

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland (+4)

The Steelers suffered a devastating 20-17 loss at Baltimore, and now need a win at Cleveland and a Jets loss to Buffalo to claim a wild card playoff spot.

"For Christ's sake," Mike Tomlin said, "we lost to a team quarterbacked by Ryan Mallett. Ironically, I'm not going to be able to sleep. We got behind early and never got into a rhythm. Next thing we knew, it was too late. Mallett calls that 'not waking up on time.'

"This defeat really stings. It irritates. It's painful. It's as bad as having shingles, or watching Terry Bradshaw talk about shingles."

The Browns were edged 17-13 by the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium last week. Johnny Manziel struggled through the air, completing only 13-of-32 passes, but rushed for 108 yards.

"First the bad news," Mike Pettine said. "We had two players arrested on Christmas. Now the good news: neither was Johnny Manziel.

"However, another social media video clip of Manziel has surfaced. Here's the funny thing: for all his appearances on film, Johnny has no clue how to act."

Pittsburgh wins, 34-22.

Jacksonville @ Houston (-6)

The Texans bashed the Titans with a commanding 34-6 win last week. Houston's defense forced three fumbles and returned two for touchdowns.

"That was one of the biggest spanks in Texans' history," J.J. Watt said, "but not the biggest. The biggest 'Spanx' belongs to Vince Wilfork. That's how he's able to fit in his uniform."

The Jaguars lost 38-27 at New Orleans as Drew Brees lit up the Jacksonville defense for 402 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Jags are 5-10, but despite their issues, owner Shad Khan said Gus Bradley will remain head coach in 2016, the final year of his contract.

"That sounds like a vote of confidence," Bradley said. "What it really means is the closest thing I'll get to an 'extension' is a phone line."

Texans win. 32-16.

Tennessee @ Indianapolis (even)

The Colts kept their slim playoff hopes alive with an 18-12 win over the Dolphins in Miami.

"We're miraculously still alive in the playoff hunt," Chuck Pagano said. "The scenarios to put us in are very unlikely, but possible. You know what they say: 'S&%t happens.' For us to get in, we need a lot of s&%t to happen.'

"Matt Hasselbeck was knocked out of the game again. That's four straight games Matt has started but was unable to finish. And Charlie Whitehurst is out with a hamstring injury. No one knows what to do? Confusion reigns at Colts headquarters. Heck, Jim Irsay showed up drunk and disoriented in a vehicle loaded with prescription drugs and cash. Luckily, the vehicle was an ambulance.

"We scoured the free agent wires to find a suitable quarterback to replace our injured squad of QB's. We've come to the conclusion that former Colt Jim Harbaugh is the most logical option, because he always has a pained expression on his face."

Colts win, 23-20.

Oakland @ Kansas City (-6)

The Raiders beat the Chargers 23-20 in overtime in Charles Woodson's final game in Oakland. Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime, and the Raiders defense held to preserve the win.

"Everyone slept well that night in Oakland," Woodson said, "I'm guessing a few woke up at Janikowski's place. Sebastian is really interested in the details of a potential stadium in Los Angeles. He really wants to know if it will be an indoor stadium. If it is, Sebastian can offer visitors a 'roofie.'

"But I'll tell you who's really asleep — whomever cuts Mark Davis' hair."

The Chiefs clinched a playoff spot with a tough 17-13 win over the Browns.

"We've won nine in a row," Andy Reid said, "so I'm walking with a certain swagger these days. It looks a great deal like my usual waddle."

Chiefs win, 30-14.

Washington @ Dallas (even)

The Redskins pummeled the Eagles 38-24 on Saturday and clinched the NFC East division title. Kirk Cousins passed for 365 yards and 4 touchdowns.

"I can't speak for DeMarco Murray," Cousins said, "but I love playing in Philadelphia. Murray has to be asking himself 'Why am I here?' He's certainly not standing in the end zone when he asks that."

The Cowboys lost 16-6 to the Bills last week and are now 4-11. Kellen Moore was 13-of-31 for 186 yards and 1 interception.

"It's been a disastrous season," Jason Garrett said. "If there's been a bright spot, Jerry Jones had his personal makeup artist powder that spot on his forehead."

The Washington starters play three series, then, at the behest of owner Daniel Snyder, Jay Gruden orders them to sit, Indian-style, for the remainder of the game.

Cowboys win, 24-20.

Philadelphia @ NY Giants (-3)

The Eagles were pounded 38-24 by the Redskins on Saturday night as Washington wrapped up the NFC East crown. On Tuesday, Chip Kelly was fired as head coach.

"Despite the team's troubles this season," Sam Bradford said, "I think Coach Kelly showed great resiliency, because he lasted two days longer than most people expected."

The Vikings hammered the Giants 49-17 as Odell Beckham, Jr. missed the game due to his suspension.

"It was just a terrible effort," Tom Coughlin said. "For most of this season, we've sucked in the fourth quarter. On Sunday night, we sucked in four quarters.

"We realized we were eliminated from the playoff race on the day after Christmas. Otherwise, our Yuletide season was very gay."

Giants win, 31-23.

Detroit @ Chicago (even)

Matt Stafford passed for 301 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Lions cruised past the 49ers, 32-17. The Lions are 6-9, tied with the Bears in the NFC North.

"I think this organization is ready for the season to end," Stafford said, "mostly so they can finish with the firings. If I know one thing, it's that Jim Caldwell will go quietly. I'm sure the front office will give him a nice severance package, a pat on the back, and say to themselves, 'Jim Schwartz wasn't so bad after all.'"

Chicago wins, 27-24.

San Diego @ Denver (-9)

The Broncos clinched a playoff spot with a 20-17 overtime win over the Bengals on Monday night. Brock Osweiler passed for 299 yards and a touchdown.

"We can clinch the AFC West with a win over the Chargers," Osweiler said. "That's easier done than said.

"Peyton Manning has been accused of taking human growth hormone. Frankly, I'm sickened by this talk of 'Man' juice.' This is an unfounded accusation. Besides, who needs HGH to tarnish Manning's reputation when the playoffs are about to start.

"On that note, Papa John's is promoting a special offer. You can get a large HGH-infused crust pizza for $9.99, on the condition that you have it delivered to your wife."

Denver wins, 26-12.

Seattle @ Arizona (-4)

The Seahawks were lethargic in a 23-17 home loss to the Rams, who bested Seattle for the second time this year.

"We struggled to run the ball," Russell Wilson said. "But Marshawn Lynch may be back in time for the playoffs. We're at our best when Marshawn is running right at the defense. We're at our worst when I'm running away from the defense."

The Cardinals annihilated the Packers, 38-8, sacking Aaron Rodgers 9 times and posting 2 defensive touchdowns.

"There were Cardinals flying at Rodgers from all directions," Calais Campbell said. "His offensive linemen are not good at pass protection, or bird identification, because they kept yelling 'duck!'"

Arizona wins, 30-17.

St. Louis @ San Francisco (+3½)

The Rams beat the Seahawks for the second time this season, winning 23-17 at Seattle last week.

"That's called a 'sweep,'" Jeff Fisher said. "Just call us the 'Legion of Broom.'

"And speaking of 'housekeeping,' if this franchise really wants to make the jump to legitimate Super Bowl contender next year, they should have ne clean out my office.

"Michael Bennett called Todd Gurley 'average.' I know average. In fact, I'm an expert on average. I'm so average, I average 8 wins a year."

The 49ers fell to 4-11 after losing 32-17 at Detroit.

"We're in line for a top-five pick in the 2016 NFL Draft," Mike Tomsula said. "I imagine we'll have our eyes on a quarterback. We're looking for someone comparable Joe Montana; who we've had previously has been more comparable to Johnny Utah."

Rams win, 29-13.

Minnesota @ Green Bay (-3)

Aaron Rodgers was sacked 9 times and had 3 hree turnovers as the Cardinals rolled over the Packers 38-8. Rodgers completed only 15-of-28 passes, and tossed only 1 touchdown pass.

"I had absolutely no time to throw," Rodgers said. "I didn't even have time to throw in the towel.

"Despite all that, the Arizona experience was a good one. There are a lot of Packers fans there. I signed several autographs for fans. And I signed several waivers for my offensive linemen."

The Vikings clinched a playoff spot with a 49-17 win over the Giants on Sunday night. With a win at Green Bay, Minnesota would claim the NFC North crown.

"Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are leading the division," Adrian Peterson said. "And we want that championship. In other words, I want that belt."

Green Bay wins, 22-20.

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