Thursday, December 1, 2016

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 13

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Dallas @ Minnesota (+3½)

In a battle for first place in the NFC North, the Vikings fell short in a 16-13 loss to Detroit. Sam Bradford's late interception led to the Lions' game-winning field goal.

"Sam played very well except for that one error," Mike Zimmer said. "On a day with multiple servings of turkey, we got a single serving of goat.

"Now, we really can't afford to lose another game. That means I may have to open up the playbook. And this time, I might actually turn the page.

"I expect to give one of the finest motivational speeches of my career. There will be yelling. There will be screaming. Feelings will be hurt. I will probably be out of breath when I'm done. But I'm going to motivate this team until I'm blue in the face, or red in the face, whichever comes first."

The Cowboys outgunned the Redskins, 31-26, on Thanksgiving, led again by rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, who combined for all 4 Dallas touchdowns. The Cowboys improved to 10-1.

"We're 12 weeks into the season," Jason Garrett said, "and Dak and Ezekiel are still going strong. Dak and Ezekiel haven't yet, but the Vikings are getting ready to hit the 'rookie wall.'

"Now that our quarterback controversy is out of the way, I feel like we can move forward. Tony Romo has accepted the backup role, but I don't think he likes it. I'm sure he feels like he should be the starter. Tony has a huge head, because he takes up a lot of 'cap space.'

"Dez Bryant and Josh Norman really went at it. I think some punches were thrown. Norman must have said something that really ticked Dez off. Norman probably said the words 'Yo momma.' Dez has thrown punches at 'his momma,' so I'm not surprised he took a swing at 'yo momma.'"

Bradford is named captain for the game, while Fred Smoot is named captain of a boat set to sail from Lake Minnetonka. Both rise to the occasion, as Bradford throws for 2 scores and has no turnovers.

Vikings win, 24-21.

Kansas City @ Atlanta (-4)

The Falcons stomped the Cardinals 38-19 as Atlanta's top-ranked offense dominated. The win kept Atlanta atop the NFC South, where they hold a one-game lead over the Buccaneers.

"This offense has lots of weapons," Matt Ryan said. "Some are concealed, like Taylor Gabriel, who came out of nowhere to score two touchdowns. When I say he came out of 'nowhere,' I mean he came from the Cleveland Browns. He was actually released by the Browns. They cut him loose; we turned him loose.

"The Kansas City defense is one of the league's best. They are a yardstick for which to measure myself against. A yardstick is also what Alex Smith measures his passes against. Often, the yardstick wins."

The Chiefs beat the Broncos 30-27 in overtime on Sunday night. Cairo Santos kicked the game-winning field goal after Brandon McManus hooked a 62-yard attempt moments earlier.

"Gary Kubiak made a bold decision to try that kick," Andy Reid said. "Luckily, it worked in our favor, and also supports my assertion that we are one of the most 'gifted' teams in the league.

"Justin Houston dominated that game. He had 10 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 tackles for losses, 3 quarterback hits, and one declaration of love from Cris Collinsworth.

"This gives us the inside track to a wild card playoff berth. I'm not saying we can't win the division, I'm just saying we don't want to. Let's face it, having the No. 5 seed and playing the AFC South winner is practically like having a bye."

The Chiefs commit two men to monitor Julio Jones, while Atlanta police commit two to do the same to former Falcon Roddy White, who attends the game. Jones beats the doubleteams for 6 catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.

Cairo Santos comes up short on a potential game-tying 62-yard field goal attempt as time expires. Reid later explains why he chose to kick and not attempt a Hail Mary, saying he felt there was "no way Alex Smith could pull off a pass that gains 45 yards."

Atlanta wins, 27-24.

Miami @ Baltimore (-3½)

The Dolphins beat the 49ers 31-24 as Ryan Tannehill passed for 3 touchdowns. It was Miami's sixth consecutive win and they trail the Patriots by two games in the AFC East.

"Miami football is synonymous with winning streaks," Adam Gase said. "The 1972 Miami Dolphins won 17 games in a row and they had quite a lineup. The 1987 Miami Hurricanes won 12 games in a row, and they as well had quite a lineup, especially as the local police precinct.

"We're looking forward to the challenge presented by the Ravens. They're one of the most physical teams in the league. When you go up against a Raven, there's a good chance you'll get punched in the mouth. And that's just in pre-game warmups if you're stretching too close to Steve Smith. Or, if you happen to be in an elevator."

The Ravens stifled the Bengals, 19-14, as the Baltimore defense sacked Andy Dalton 3 times and forced 2 Dalton fumbles. The Ravens are 6-5, tied with the Steelers in the AFC North, but hold the tiebreaker based on a head-to-head win.

"We pretty much disarmed Andy Dalton," Terrell Suggs said. "You could say we 'unloaded' on the 'Red Rifle.'

"Now, the Dolphins will get an education from 'Ball So Hard University.' I'm bestowing Justin Tucker with a honorary degree from our field goal school, called 'Kick Ball So Hard University.' Justin jokingly said teams should be awarded points when the kickoff goes through the uprights. He may be kidding, but If the league is looking for a way to cut down on touchdown celebrations, Justin's idea is the solution."

Ravens win, 23-13.

San Francisco @ Chicago (-3)

Colin Kaepernick's 409 yards of combined offense wasn't enough as the 49ers lost 31-24 to the Dolphins. San Francisco is 1-10, last in the NFC West.

"What a game for Colin," Chip Kelly said. "He actually has been known to rise to the occasion, on occasion.

"Colin has really made himself appealing to teams looking for a quarterback. If he opts out of his contract, he could very well be a prized free agent acquisition and sign a huge contract. That's simply a product of a free market system and capitalism at work, you know, like they have in Cuba. Heck, if Colin likes Cuba so much, he should go there. I hear they don't stand for the 'Star Spangled Banner' either.

"Former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was not happy with the officiating in the Michigan/Ohio State game. He may be right, because if anyone knows what it's like to 'swallow whistles,' it's a man who eats boogers."

The Bears late comeback charge fell short in a 27-21 loss to the Titans at Soldier Field. Matt Barkley tossed 3 touchdown passes, 2 in the fourth quarter, playing for the injured Jay Cutler.

"Matt could have had more TD passes," John Fox said, "but there were too many drops. Matt played at USC, where receivers don't 'drop' until the NFL draft."

Bears win, 26-23.

Philadelphia @ Cincinnati (+1½)

The Bengals lost their third consecutive game, falling 19-14 to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Cincinnati fell to 3-7-1 and is 2½ games out of the division lead.

"We're in very serious danger of not making the playoff for the first time in five years," Marvin Lewis said. "But we've faced adversity before, usually when we make the playoffs."

The Eagles lost to the Packers 27-13 and dropped to 5-6, last in the NFC East.

"We ran into a Packers team that was even more desperate for a win than we were," Carson Wentz said. "Aaron Rodgers was at his best, even after a hamstring injury that sent him into a little rectangular tent for treatment. On a side note, the 'Inflatable Massage Parlor' is the perfect gift for the hard-to-please Eagles fan."

Bengals win, 27-23.

Houston @ Green Bay (-4½)

Brock Osweiler threw three interceptions in the Texans 21-13 loss to the Chargers. It was the Texans first loss at home, and their lead in the AFC South is down to a ½-game over the Titans.

"I don't want to rush naming a starter," Bill O'Brien said. "I certainly don't want to make a decision I'll regret, because we know how that turned out.

"I'm not sure who Brock is throwing to half the time. Obviously, he's not on the same page with the offense. Heck, his aim says he's not even on the same team with his offense. That's certainly not the situation in Green bay. Aaron Rodgers is so good, he can mask the deficiencies of a head coach, as well as a defensive coordinator and a running game.

"Don't think I'm not still seething from those officials' errors that cost us the Raiders game in Mexico. Here's a zoology lesson for everyone: zebras don't know anything about spots."

Aaron Rodgers passed for 313 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Packers 27-13 win over the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

"You probably saw Aaron enter a mysterious tent-like structure on the sideline," Mike McCarthy said. "That's nothing unusual for a Green Bay quarterback. Back when Jenn Sterger was hanging out on NFL sidelines, Brett Favre pitched a tent every day.

"And speaking of Favre, Aaron knows what it's like to follow a legend. It's not easy. Luckily, Osweiler's successor won't have to worry at all about that.

"Aaron said we needed to 'run the table.' I think that table was surrounded by stolen chairs, because there's been a lot of talk about 'hot seats' around here lately. If there's a table for Brock Osweiler, it's seating situation would be a 'benching.'"

Packers win, 27-26.

Denver @ Jacksonville (+5)

The Broncos lost to the Chiefs 30-27 in overtime and dropped to 7-4. The outcome was basically decided when Gary Kubiak elected to attempt a 62-yard field goal late in overtime. Brandon McManus hooked the kick and the Chiefs took over in Broncos territory.

"Brandon had the length," Kubiak said, "and he definitely had the width. That kick was so far left, the replay was shown on CNN.

"But now we've got to scramble to qualify for the playoffs. That's not a problem. I like our defense against the Jaguars. We're going to give Blake Bortles lots of looks. I hear Blake also gets a lot of looks from his own defense. They're mostly evil looks."

The Jaguars lost 28-21 at Buffalo as the Jacksonville defense gave up three rushing scores. The Jags have lost their last six and are in last place in the AFC South.

"My job is obviously in jeopardy," Gus Bradley said. "My critics say that whatever I'm doing is not working. They also say that if anything should be 'not working,' it's me.

"We know the Broncos are motivated to win. They're battling for a wildcard spot, if not a division title. And that motivates us as well, because it's not often you can say a Jags game has playoff implications."

The Broncos force 4 turnovers, including a strip sack fumble by Von Miller, who returns it for a touchdown.

Denver wins, 25-14.

Los Angeles @ New England (-13½)

Tom Brady lead an 83-yard, fourth quarter touchdown drive to give the Patriots a hard-fought 22-17 win over the Jets at MetLife Stadium. It was Brady's 200th win, tying him with Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history.

"I've got to give credit to my training staff for their hard work," Brady said. "I had a sore knee, and they treated it so well that no one knew it was bothering me. That's because they 'secretly taped' it.

"We studied hours and hours of Jets game film. We watched until we just couldn't take it anymore. Now I know what it feels like to be Todd Bowles."

Rookie Jared Goff passed for 3 touchdowns in a losing effort, as the Saints pummeled the Rams, 49-21.

"Jared is making progress," Jeff Fisher said. "I think he's going to have a good upcoming week of practice, mostly because he'll be going up against our defense.

"You may have heard that I asked Eric Dickerson not to visit the Rams facility. He's been critical of this organization, specifically by calling our 29th-ranked rushing attack the 'Puny Express.'"

Brady passes for 3 touchdowns, and the New England defense forces 4 turnovers.

Patriots win, 31-10.

Detroit @ New Orleans (-5)

The Saints offense exploded for 555 yards of total offense in a 49-21 destruction of the visiting Rams. Drew Brees passed for 4 touchdowns and also scored on a 1-yard rush.

"Even at the age of 37, Drew is having one of his best years," Sean Payton said. "Here in New Orleans, we have a saying: 'unlike a levee, he gets better with age.'

"You probably saw that I was very demonstrative on the sidelines. I really wanted to pile up the points on Gregg Williams' defense. Gregg was the mastermind of the bounty scandal that rocked New Orleans. Of course, I knew nothing about it. So, while a lot of players had their heads on a platter, I had mine up my ass. That's probably why I couldn't see what was going on."

The Lions stunned the Vikings 16-13 on Thanksgiving, winning on Matt Prater's 40-yard field goal as time expired. The kick was setup by Darius Slay's interception of a Sam Bradford pass late in the fourth quarter.

"They call Darius 'Big Play Slay," Matthew Stafford said. "And he made a 'Big Slay Play.'

"But Prater is our real hero. He is a leg-end in this town. He's kicked us into the lead in the NFC North division. Matt kicks the ball so far, we call him 'Mega Yon.'"

Saints win, 30-27.

Buffalo @ Oakland (-3)

David Carr passed for 315 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Raiders 35-32 win over the visiting Panthers. Carr completed passes to nine different receivers as the Raiders improved to 9-2.

"David dislocated his right pinky finger late in the game," Jack Del Rio said. "That's a very painful injury. You know what you do when you dislocate your pinky? You pinky swear.

"A lot of experts think our defense isn't good enough to carry us in the playoffs. We realize our D needs work, and we're going to put in all the necessary work to improve that unit, even if we go to neurotic extremes to do so. You can even call us the 'OC-D.'"

Raiders win, 24-23.

Washington @ Arizona (-2½)

Despite 449 yards passing and 3 touchdowns from Kirk Cousins, the Redskins lost 31-26 in Dallas.

"The Cowboys defense dared Kirk to prove himself," Jay Gruden said. "That's kind of what we did when we franchise tagged him.

"Josh Norman's war of words with Dez Bryant has really escalated. Those guys really don't like each other. They can both agree on one thing, which is that the other is overrated."

Arizona wins, 26-19.

New York Giants @ Pittsburgh (-6)

Ben Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown three times for touchdowns in the Steelers 28-17 Thanksgiving night win in Indianapolis over the Colts. The Colts were without Andrew Luck, who missed the game with a concussion.

"I'm now 1-0 all-time versus Scott Tolzien," Ben Roethlisberger said. "Who else can say that?

"Our rookie cornerback Artie Burns says he's looking forward to covering Odell Beckham, Jr. I applaud Artie's confidence and desire. In fact, I'd like to raise a drink to Artie, because it seems he's asking to be 'toasted.'"

The Giants overcame the Browns 27-13 in the Dawg Pound. Eli Manning passed for 3 touchdowns and the Giants defense recorded 7 sacks, 3 turnovers, and a touchdown.

"Two of those TD passes went to Odell Beckham, Jr.," Manning said. "Odell celebrated by mimicking Lebron James. So this year, OBJ has acted like a 'King' and a 'queen.'"

Steelers win, 27-24.

Tampa Bay @ San Diego (-4½)

The Bucs upset the visiting Seahawks 14-5, led by Mike Evans' 2 touchdowns and a defense that sacked Russell Wilson 6 times. Tampa is 6-5, only one game behind the Falcons in the NFC South.

"Our defense was awesome," Dirk Koetter said. "We even made members of the 2003 Bucs Super Bowl-winning team proud. Heck, Warren Sapp took time away from making sound business decisions to offer his congratulations. As everyone knows, Warren's more likely to pay a compliment that he is to pay a hooker."

Philip Rivers threw for 3 touchdowns in the Chargers 21-13 road win over the Texans.

"Fans in San Diego have spoken," Rivers said, "and they do not want a new stadium. I never thought I'd say this about the great city of San Diego, but the 'homeless' problem here is out of hand."

Chargers win, 26-24.

Carolina @ Seattle (-7)

The Seahawks were manhandled 14-5 by the Buccaneers, who sacked Russell Wilson 6 times and intercepted him twice. Despite the loss, Seattle still maintained their three-game cushion in the NFC West over the Cardinals, who lost to the Falcons.

"Tampa is a team on the rise," Pete Carroll said. "Jameis Winston has established himself as a superstar in this league. He's become one of the most recognizable faces in the league. Heck, I heard he was in the grocery store the other day and somebody stopped him and it wasn't a security guard. It was just a kid wanting an autograph."

The Panthers fought back from a 24-7 halftime deficit before eventually succumbing 35-32 to the Raiders in Oakland.

"I finally got a roughing the passer call," Cam Newton said, "and we finally have a winning record, because we're now 1-0 after our first moral victory.

"I appreciate the officials finally calling that penalty. Of course, it took a lot of complaining by me and video sent to the league by Ron Rivera. So, I guess the question everyone now wants asked is, 'Who's the real whistleblower here?'"

Seattle wins, 27-22.

Indianapolis @ New York Jets (+1)

With Andrew Luck sidelined with a concussion, the Colts lost 28-7 to the visiting Steelers, who rode the Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown connection for 3 touchdowns. Indianapolis fell to 5-6 and trails the Texans by two games in the AFC South.

"You know what Luck with a concussion gives me?" Chuck Pagano said. "A bigger headache. We threw Scott Tolzien into a situation for which he was not ready. But it was a great chance to learn. I'm a firm believer in positive reinforcement. Scott asked me, 'What did I do wrong?' I told him the question he should be asking is, 'What can I do better?' The answer to both questions is 'Everything.'"

The Jets nearly upset the Patriots but faltered late and lost 22-17. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 2 touchdown passes, but lost a fumble late that sealed the win for the Patriots.

"A lot of people think I should be playing one of our young quarterbacks," Todd Bowles said. "But I'm sticking with Fitzpatrick. A lot of people think I'm going to regret that decision. All I can say is whether Ryan plays or not, we're still gonna 'pay for it.'"

Luck returns with a vengeance, and slightly less brain function, to throw for 2 touchdown passes.

Indianapolis wins, 27-21.

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