Thursday, January 14, 2016
NFL Weekly Predictions: Divisional
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
Kansas City @ New England (-5)
The Chiefs blasted the Texans 30-0 last week in Houston, forcing five Brian Hoyer turnovers to set up a divisional matchup at New England.
"Hoyer wasn't in the zone," Andy Reid said. "He was in a fog. And speaking of moisture in the air, Hoyer 'mist' nearly all of his throws. There's only one way to put it: 'Hoyer sucks.' If you locked Hoyer in a closet with a garden hose and a golf ball, magic would happen.
"Our offensive line play was magnificent, and it will be equally as important against the Patriots. And I don't mean just on the field. That goes for off the field as well, because this is the Patriots. We'll need to 'guard' our locker room, and 'tackle' anyone that shouldn't be there.
"Alex Smith is the healthiest of the remaining quarterbacks in the AFC playoffs. There's Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger. They're all banged up. Collectively, I call those three the 'Tri-age.'"
The Patriots spent a much-needed bye week resting and healing numerous ailments. Julian Edelman is expected to play after missing the last seven games with a broken foot.
"Edelman is an integral part of this offense," Tom Brady said. "If you, like me, are a quarterback who needs offensive weapons, 'Jew-wish' you have somebody like Julian. One of his many strengths is his route-running ability. Have you seen him making hard cuts out there? It's like he's on a 'Shalom course.'
"Hopefully, my offensive line can protect me from the Chiefs' tough pass rush. I took a beating in our regular season finale loss to Miami. I mean, it was a serious beating. It was okay at the time, but now I feel bad calling it a 'medical emergency.' I'd be lying if I said I felt safe behind my O-line. 'I feel safe behind my O-line.' See how easy it is for me to lie?
"I trust Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels will give me an offensive game plan that will neutralize Kansas City's aggressive defense. I bet those two scoured hours and hours of film looking for weaknesses in that defense, then discussed for hours and hours where they should say that film came from."
Can the Chiefs generate enough offense with Smith, an ailing Jeremy Maclin, and a makeshift running game? Not against the Patriots, with two weeks rest and a head coach whose forte in scheming. The New England game plan calls for a lot of passes, mostly quick slants to wide receivers and generous usage of our running backs as receivers. The goal is to get the ball out of my Brady's hands quickly, and open up the middle of the field later in the game, when Rob Gronkowski can punish a tired defense.
The Patriots win the opening coin toss, and captain Matthew Slater looks to the sidelines for a directive from Belichick. After getting mixed signals from his coach, Slater says "I can't make heads or tails of it" and defers to fellow captain Rob Ninkovich, who defers to the second half.
Brady connects on 31-of-41 pass attempts and throws 2 touchdown passes, and the Pats defense forces 2 turnovers.
New England wins, 23-14.
Green Bay @ Arizona (-7)
The Packers spotted the Redskins an eleven-point lead before cruising to a 35-18 win. Green Bay travels to Arizona to face the Cardinals, who hammered the Packers 38-8 in Week 16.
"I'd like to dedicate this win to our fans of Indian descent," Aaron Rodgers said. "They're known as the Native American Cheeseheads. They always sit in groups of 16 or 24.
"Revenge will certainly be a motivating factor against the Cardinals. I can promise we'll play much better. Here's why? Our offensive line is healthy, our receivers are feeling more comfortable, and Eddie Lacy is eating up yards instead of food.
"And Mike McCarthy is doing some of the best play-calling of his career. There's a play for every situation on his huge, laminated play sheet. Mike likes to laminate everything, in fact. He's a little obsessive-compulsive about to tell you the truth. I can totally understand, though, because I have protection issues of my own."
The Cardinals feature the league's second-highest scoring offense, and a home crowd anxious for Arizona to reach the NFC title game.
"Our offense goes as Palmer goes," Bruce Arians said. "His biggest strength is his decision-making. Can anyone doubt that? Carson's best decision came in 2010, when he refused to play in Cincinnati. That place is not only a jungle, it's a zoo. If you're a defenseless receiver, you don't want to be in anywhere near that place. Vontaze Burfict is a headhunter; if the Bengals were smart, they'd put him to use recruiting Marvin Lewis' replacement.
"I just heard that Rodgers announced his engagement to Olivia Munn. Congratulations to them both. I'm sure it was very romantic. I had a similar feeling of euphoria back in week 16, when I got down on one knee to end our 38-8 win over the Packers."
The Packers offense heated up last week in Washington, but can it get any hotter on Saturday in Arizona? Maybe a bit, but only to room temperature, which is where the temperature sits in the cozy expanse that is University Of Phoenix Stadium.
Cardinals win, 31-28.
Seattle @ Carolina (-2½)
The Seahawks survived the frigid confines of TCF Bank Stadium, where temperatures at kickoff were below zero, to beat the Vikings. Seattle's 10-9 victory was secured when Blair Walsh shanked an easy 27-yard field goal with 26 seconds left.
"Luckily," Richard Sherman said, "there was no need to 'ice' Walsh. On a scale 0f 0-10, I'm sure Walsh feels below zero.
"The kick was wide left. That miss brought the entirety of Vikings supporters to their knees. In other words, no one was 'left upright.' Kudos to our kicker Steven Hauschka. Our 10-9 win just goes to show the importance of the 'extra point.'"
The No. 1-seeded Panthers are seeking their first NFC Championship game berth since 2003. Cam Newton, the likely NFL MVP, leads a Panthers unit looking to avenge last year's divisional loss to the Seahawks.
"As you know," Newton said, "I'm a new father. If my abilities as a father are anything like those of my father, then I'll be concerned about my son's acceptance into an institute of higher learning, as long as it's to the highest bidder.
"We've developed quite a rivalry with the Seahawks over the last few years. Is it a rivalry comparable to that of the Steelers and Bengals? Of course not. That kind of unmitigated violence only happens in Charlotte when Steve Smith is around, or in Seattle when Hope Solo is involved."
History is made prior to kickoff, as the first pre-game penalty in NFL playoff history is issued when Seattle's Michael Bennett jumps offsides at midfield during the opening coin toss. In a season rife with officiating errors, referee Tony Corrente takes it a step further when he marks off the five yards from the spot of the foul, and the Panthers take over from their own 45-yard line. A livid and bewildered Pete Carroll tosses his red challenge flag, but it goes unnoticed until Carroll instructs Marshawn Lynch to run it out there personally.
Order is restored, and the Seahawks knock off the Panthers with a 28-26 win.
Pittsburgh @ Denver (-6½)
The Steelers stunned the Bengals 18-16, buoyed by two Cincinnati personal foul penalties on Pittsburgh's final drive that led to Chris Boswell's game-winning 35-yard field goal.
"There's no 'I' in 'TEAM,'" Mike Tomlin said. "There's one 'I' in 'Burfict.' If there were two 'U's' in 'Burfict,' that would tell you what condition the Bengals are in.
"Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones are two loose cannons. They are both crazy and brave, because when they're feeling froggy, neither is afraid to jump, or go off the deep end.
"How about Martavis Bryant's spectacular catch earlier in the game? He really pulled that one out of his ass, so to speak. I'm pretty sure he had to do that with a baggy of weed before.
"As for the Broncos, it's imperative that we protect Big Ben. Quarterbacks have nightmares about the Denver pass rush, particularly Von Miller. Of course, there are worse nightmares you could have about scary pass rushers. Ben told me about one he had. In it, he was restrained by Greg Hardy on a bed of Ed Hochuli's guns. That's frightening."
With a win over the Steelers, the Broncos would advance to their second AFC title game in the last three years.
"The last quarterback to beat the Steelers at Denver in the playoffs was Tim Tebow," Gary Kubiak said. "Tebow's 80-yard touchdown pass to DeMaryius Thomas was the game-winner in overtime. In Broncos lore, that's not known as a Hail Mary,' it's known as the 'Virgin Mary.'
"To heck with God, I'm putting my faith in Peyton Manning. It's up to Peyton to lead us to victory over the Steelers this time. I'm pretty sure he won't look to the heavens for assistance. Religious conviction has nothing to do with; Peyton just can't bend his neck that way."
Roethlisberger suffered a sprain and torn ligaments in his shoulder against the Bengals last week, but will play. Motion is his right arm is limited — insiders report that he can only raise his arm high enough to close a door and lock it. In addition, Antonio Brown, if he plays, will do so with the effects of a concussion suffered against the Bengals.
Turnovers will be a huge factor in the outcome, and there will be plenty. Sunday's game sets an NFL record as five different quarterbacks throw interceptions. Chris Harris seals the win with the final pick, and the Broncos win, 24-20.