Thursday, September 14, 2017

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 2

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Houston @ Cincinnati (-5)

The Houston offense sputtered in a surprising 29-7 home loss to the Jaguars last week. Tom Savage was benched after a miserable first half that saw him lose two fumbles while throwing for only 62 yards.

"Brock Osweiler is 6'7" tall," Bill O'Brien said. "Although he's no longer here, his shadow looms large over our quarterback situation. We're paying Savage way less than we were paying Osweiler. And I mean really a lot less. But based on his performance, Savage earned every penny.

"If it took me awhile to name a starter for Thursday night's game, that's not unusual. Where quarterbacking is concerned on this team, indecision seems to be policy."

The Bengals were embarrassed at home by AFC North rival Baltimore in a 20-0 loss. Andy Dalton had 5 turnovers, as the Bengals were shut out in a season-opener for the first time since 1979.

"Andy's quarterback rating was .7," Marvin Lewis said. "In case you're mathematically challenged, that's less than one, but it's actually more than the number of playoff wins I have.

"But I'm sure we'll bounce back against the Texans. We have to. It's only Week 2, but I would say this is a must-win game. People are talking about me. How do I know? Because my ears are burning. But not as bad as my butt is burning, 'cause I'm on the hot seat. Oddly enough, I'm on the hot seat so much, I'm keeping it warm."

The Texans lost five players to concussions last week, but their defense keeps them in the game, while Deshaun Watson's nifty running keeps the chains moving. Houston leads late, but a Watson interception gives Dalton a short field to work with, and he leads a three-play, 5-yard drive to set up a 47-yard field goal attempt, which former Texan Randy Bullock shanks.

Houston win, 19-17.

Cleveland @ Baltimore (-8)

The Ravens whipped the Bengals 20-0 in Cincinnati last week, forcing 5 Cincinnati turnovers, which made life easy for Joe Flacco, who threw only 17 passes.

"Our defense looked incredible," John Harbaugh said. "I would go so far as to say it looked like a defense anchored by the great Ray Lewis. Let's call the Cincinnati offense 'justice.' 'Justice' was obstructed by our defense all day.

"Our defense dominated in the trenches. They're certainly not afraid to do the dirty work. And that means that uniforms are going to get dirty. And in homage to Ray Lewis, we don't bother washing those uniforms; we just dispose of them.

"You may see former Raven Tony Siragusa on the sidelines at the game. If he's wearing orange, don't be alarmed. He's not wearing Cleveland colors. Oh no. On the contrary, it's most likely Cheeto dust staining his shirt."

The Browns hung tough with the Steelers before failing 21-18. Rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer showed promise, but his inexperience led to crucial errors.

"Could Kizer have done some things better?" Hue Jackson asked. "'Shone 'nuff.' But I think he proved that he can make it as a quarterback in Cleveland, just like the 26 others who 'made it' as quarterbacks since this franchise returned to Cleveland."

Baltimore wins, 24-9.

Buffalo @ Carolina (-7½)

The Bills manhandled the Jets 21-12, led by a ground game that accounted for 190 yards on the ground.

"I can't speak for the 2016 Presidential Election," Sean McDermott said, "but our offense definitely falls victim to the rushin' influence. We're leading the AFC East. Take that statement with the largest grain of salt you can find."

The Panthers eased past the 49ers in San Francisco 23-3, as Cam Newton passed for 171 yards and 2 scores in his first game since offseason shoulder surgery.

"I think Cam's shoulder looked fine," Ron Rivera said. "It will probably never be fully healed, but that's okay. We'll take Cam's shoulder at 60%. Heck, anything above his career completion percentage of 58% will suffice. Let's put that into perspective: if a doctor performed multiple shoulder surgeries and was successful only 58% of the time, would you be happy about it?"

Panthers win, 25-20.

Arizona @ Indianapolis (+7½)

With Andrew Luck still recuperating from shoulder surgery, the Scott Tolzien-led Colts were demolished 46-9 by the Rams. Tolzien was benched in the third quarter after throwing his second pick-six of the game.

"I'm really not concerned with our passing," Chuck Pagano said. "It's our rushing I'm more concerned about, as in 'rushing' Luck back into the starting lineup.

"But we're not at all worried about Andrew. Take it from Robert Irsay, the road to recovery is long and arduous, and sometimes involves a traffic stop, prescription medication, and $26,000 in cash. And, I think Andrew has sense enough to steer clear of those things.

"Jacoby Brissette will get the start against the Cardinals. And I'm totally confident in his ability to handle the offense. He was acquired from New England in a trade, so he has that Patriot pedigree, which means he probably already knows our playbook."

The Cardinals jumped to a 10-0 lead in Detroit before turnovers and shaky defense resulted in a 35-23 loss to the Lions. Running back David Johnson dislocated his wrist in the third quarter and was placed on injured receiver later in the week.

"David is irreplaceable," Bruce Arians said. "Much like my red Kangol cap.

"But we're not reacting to David's injury in limp-wristed fashion. We're attacking in head on. In David's absence, we'll depend on a 'running back by committee' approach, which means several different running backs of various levels of obscurity will get touches. Let's just call them '1A,' '1B,' '1C,' and '1D.' And we'll call newly acquired Chris Johnson '2K.'"

Cardinals win, 27-13.

Tennessee @ Jacksonville (+1½)

The Jaguars hammered the Texans in Houston 29-7, led by a stifling defense and the hard running of rookie Leonard Fournette. Fournette rushed for 100 yards and a score.

"We were thrilled with Fournette's performance," Doug Marrone said. "Leonard may be a rookie, but he hit the ground running. That's opposed to Blake Bortles, who hits the ground passing. When our running game is clicking, we take the air out of the ball. That means Bortles isn't throwing, which is akin to taking the err out of the ball."

The Titans lost 26-16 to the visiting Raiders last week. Tennessee opened the game with an onside kick, which they failed to recover, and the Raiders scored a touchdown four plays later.

"That's called 'kicking yourself," Mike Mularkey said. "When you're playing the Raiders, that's also called handing them the ball on a silver and black platter."

Tennessee rushes for 145 yards as a team, and their defense forces 2 Bortles turnovers.

Titans win, 23-19.

Philadelphia @ Kansas City (-5)

The Chiefs stunned the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots 42-27 last Thursday, as Alex Smith passed for 4 touchdowns, two to rookie running back Kareem Hunt.

"You could say we 'Kareemed' the Pats," Andy Reid said. "But we won't let one win define our season. That's something the Browns or Jets might do.

"Alex sometimes gets upset that he doesn't measure up to the NFL's elite quarterbacks. I simply tell him, 'Alex, why worry about being mentioned in the same sentence with the league's best quarterbacks when you can be mentioned in the same paragraph with them?'"

The Eagles got 307 yards passing from Carson Wentz and forced three Kirk Cousins turnovers in a 30-17 win over the Redskins in Washington.

"I think we served notice that we'll be a factor in the NFC East," Doug Pederson said. "And I like the way Carson showed his talent on the field. Here in Philadelphia, there are a lot of ways to 'make noise' as a player. You can do it with your ability, like Carson. You can do it with your beliefs, like Malcolm Jenkins. But for Christ's sake, don't do it like Riley Cooper at a country concert."

Chiefs win, 26-24.

New England @ New Orleans (+4½)

Tom Brady and the Patriots look to regroup after last Thursday's painful 42-27 loss at home to the Chiefs. Brady was 16-of-36 for 267 yards and no touchdowns. "I don't think anyone's more motivated by losses than me," Brady said. "I hate losing. Unless it's a cell phone. I don't mind losing a cell phone at all.

"On the other side of the ball, our defense was terrible as well. But you can best believe defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will fill all the holes in our defense. If you don't believe me, please go to AllHolesFilled.com on the internet. But do so at your own risk."

The Saints were kept out of the end zone for three quarters in a 29-19 loss to the Vikings on Monday Night Football at U.S. Bank Stadium. In his Saints debut, Adrian Peterson managed only 18 yards on 6 carries.

"I think the Vikings defense was motivated to shut down Peterson," Drew Brees said. "Adrian is known as 'All Day.' But this being MNF, they decided to call him 'Not Tonight.'

"It's always a big deal when the five-time world champion Patriots come to town. So we're pulling out all the stops. For example, we're presenting Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft with a key to the city. It's up to them to find the 'gate,' though."

Brady takes out his frustration on a shaky Saints defense, passing for 313 yards and 4 touchdowns.

New England wins, 41-27.

Minnesota @ Pittsburgh (-7)

The Steelers nipped the Browns 21-18, powered by a huge game from Antonio Brown, who had 11 catches for 182 yards.

"Antonio is unstoppable," Ben Roethlisberger said. "If you locked Antonio in a bathroom with a defensive back, that DB still wouldn't have a chance.

"Le'Veon Bell was a little rusty, but we're not alarmed. He missed pretty much all of camp, so it may take a few games for him to get into game shape. So, for all you people worried, for whatever reasons, about Le'Veon, take a deep breath, or an inhale, hold it, and let it out slowly."

The Vikings beat the Saints 29-19 behind a huge game from Sam Bradford, who passed for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns, two to Stephon Diggs.

"Stephon had his cleats signed by Randy Moss," Mike Zimmer said. "It was a big night for Moss as well. He had his jersey retired. It's too bad we weren't playing the Packers, then Randy could have had his pants retired, and he would have lowered them from the rafters himself.

"Our offense looked fantastic, but I realize that was against a Saints defense that can't stop anything, except getting worse. I'm not kidding myself into thinking it will be that easy against the Steelers. We passed the eye test against the Saints, but we'll really see what we're made of against Pittsburgh."

Pittsburgh wins, 28-24.

Chicago @ Tampa Bay (-6½)

Mike Glennon faces his old team as the Buccaneers visit Soldier Field. Last week versus the Falcons, Glennon nearly led the Bears to the upset in a 23-17 loss.

"I have fond memories of my time in Tampa Bay," Glennon said. "One of my favorite things to do was visit the pirate ship in Buccaneer Cove at Raymond James Stadium. I would just sit in the boat and take in the scenery. I called it 'riding the pine.'"

Bucs win, 24-20.

Miami @ Los Angeles Chargers (-4)

It's the season opener for the Dolphins after Hurricane Irma forced the postponement of their Week 1 game against the Buccaneers.

"We're anxious to get on the field," Adam Gase said. "Especially Jay Cutler. And Jay would like to let the people of Florida know that 'he cares.' Now, you probably can't tell by the look on his face, but he does care. In fact, he cares so much, he couldn't care less."

The Chargers comeback bid in Denver fell short when kicker Younghoe Koo's 44-yard attempt as time expired was blocked, handing Los Angeles a 24-21 loss.

"Fact," Philip Rivers said. "Younghoe is a 23-year-old from South Korea. Fiction: he didn't arrive here in the mail."

Chargers win, 26-16.

New York Jets @ Oakland (-13½)

The failing New York Jets lost to AFC East rival Buffalo 21-12 as the Jets offense could manage only 214 yards of total offense. Josh McCown threw 2 interceptions.

"We're paying Josh a $125,000 bonus every time he starts a game," Todd Bowles said. "We're literally throwing money away.

"But we really don't have any good options at quarterback. But we're taking suggestions, and what better way to do that than to open up the call-in lines at WFAN. Jets fans who call in to radio shows to get belittled by Mike Francesa are clearly good decision makers."

Derek Carr passed for 262 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Raiders beat the Titans 26-16 on the road.

"We're out to prove that last year was no fluke," Carr said. "I broke my leg in Week 16 last year, which pretty much derailed any chance we had of advancing in the playoffs. I plan to stay healthy, I plan to be in the Super Bowl, and I plan to go through the Patriots to get there. Of course, it will take a little luck, whereas with the Patriots in 2002, it took a little 'tuck.'

"Times have changed for New York fans. There was a time in history when fans would have been upset if a Jets game was preempted for a showing of 'Heidi.'"

Raiders win, 33-14.

Dallas @ Denver (+2)

After a judge blocked his six-game suspension, Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 104 yards in the Cowboys 19-3 win over the Giants.

"Roger Goodell may drop the hammer," Elliott said, "but the judge drops the gavel. The NFL, in turn, drops the suspension."

The Broncos block a Chargers potential game-tying field goal to preserve a 24-21 win on Monday night. Trevor Siemian passed for 2 scores, and new head coach Vance Joseph got his first win.

"Our goal as a defense against Dallas is to stop Elliott by any means possible," Joseph said. "I assume we'll load up the box, maybe bring a safety down, and possibly introduce some highly circumstantial evidence. Toss in some unreliable witness testimony, and a league intent on wielding unrestricted disciplinary jurisdiction, and I think we can shut Elliott down altogether."

Broncos win, 24-20.

Washington @ Los Angeles Rams (-2½)

The Rams pummeled the undermanned Colts 46-9 last week in their Los Angeles debut. Jared Goff passed for 306 yards and a score, and the Rams defense forced 3 turnovers and scored 2 return touchdowns.

"What a great job by Wade Phillips and the defense as well," Sean McVay said. "Wade knew the Colts would struggle on offense, and he designed the defensive scheme to attack them. You could say Wade 'led the Rams to slaughter.'"

Kirk Cousins had 3 turnovers as the Redskins lost 30-17 at FedEx Field.

"Let me correct you," Cousins said. "I had two turnovers, and there was one blatant replay failure that was clearly a forward pass, but called a fumble on the field and confirmed by replay. You know what we say when replay officials can't get the call right? Ironically, it's 'here we go again.'

"You may have heard me say that God told me to sign a one-year contract. And I speak with God more than I do to Redskins management. And when God told me to sign that contract, he was pretty adamant. In other words, he didn't want to negotiate. And He also promised my next contract would be one of biblical proportions."

Cousins rebounds, and the 'Skins pull the upset, 27-24.

San Francisco @ Seattle (-13)

The Seahawks were out-defensed by the Packers in a 17-9 loss at Lambeau Field.

"You may have heard about some bad blood between our offense and defense," Pete Carroll said. "I just call that healthy competitiveness. And you saw that in Green Bay. Between our offense and our defense, it was a race to see who could get off the field the fastest.

"Our offensive line is shaky at best. Our running backs couldn't really do anything. In fact, Russell Wilson led the team in rushing. And our big offseason acquisition Eddie Lacy was largely ineffective, with only three yards on five carries. More often than not, Eddie found himself 'sandwiched' between two defenders, which, unfortunately, does nothing but make him hungry."

In Kyle Shanahan's debut as head coach, the 49ers lost 23-3 to the visiting Panthers.

"The turnaround of the 49ers' fortunes won't happen overnight," Shanahan said, "unless I wake up tomorrow and Jim Harbaugh has my job.
"But we all know that won't happen; Harbaugh's too busy stamping the letter 'M' on anything that moves."

Seattle's defense scores, and Richard Sherman draws a flag for taunting his own offense.

Seahawks win, 31-8.

Green Bay @ Atlanta (-2½)

The Falcons overcame a tough test from the Bears and left Chicago with a 23-17 win. They'll welcome the Packers to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a rematch of last season's NFC Championship game, won 44-21 by Atlanta.

"Indeed," Matt Ryan said. "Don't forget to make a trip to our pro shop, where prices have been slashed dramatically for this game. It's a blowout. Use promo code 'PACKERS.'"

The Packers out slugged the visiting Seahawks 17-9 last week, led by a defense that held the Seahawks to 225 yards of total offense.
"That game had a playoff feel to it," Mike McCarthy said, "which explains why the officials made so many bad calls. Luckily, they all went our way. That's called the 'Lambeau Missed-tyque.'"

Atlanta wins, 30-26.

Detroit @ New York Giants (-5)

With Odell Beckham, Jr. out with an ankle injury, the Giants offense stagnated in a 19-3 loss to the Cowboys.

"I'm confident Odell will be given the 'okay' sign," Eli Manning said. "From who, you may ask? Well, not from Jason Pierre-Paul, because he doesn't have the right fingers. It's doctors giving Odell the 'okay' sign."

Giants win, 27-20.

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