Thursday, September 21, 2017

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 3

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco (+2½)

The Rams fell at home to the Redskins, 27-20, who gashed the Los Angeles defense for 229 yards on the ground.

"Aaron Donald returned to the lineup," Sean McVay said, "but he was certainly not his old self. Obviously, our defense in not whole without Aaron at full strength. It's actually 'hole' without him at full strength.

"We hope to put on a better show than last Thursday's game between the Texans and Bengals. That was terrible, and the fans in Cincinnati noticed. As the teams were walking off the field, the crowd was chanting 'Shame! Shame! Shame!'"

The 49ers hung tough against the Seahawks in Seattle before eventually falling 12-9. San Fran will look for their first win when the Rams come to town.

"We're looking for our first touchdown," said Kyle Shanahan. "It all comes down to motivation. I challenged the offense to perform better; unfortunately, that makes us 'offensively-challenged.'

"But I l like our chances. It's Thursday night, we're at home, playing in a part of California where the fans of the home team actually show up to games."

Rams win, 17-14.

Baltimore @ Jacksonville (+4)

The Jags were crushed 37-16 by the visiting Titans, as Blake Bortles had 3 turnovers and Jacksonville's running game never got on track.

"We're going to stick to our game plan," Doug Marrone said. "Like it or not, Blake Bortles is part of that plan. So, we're stuck with our game plan.

"That doesn't mean we won't throw the ball. We will. We'll just have to make sure we put Blake in position to make the throws he's capable of making. Ideally, that situation is Blake spiking the ball to kill the clock before we kick the game-winning field goal."

The Ravens are 2-0 after beating the Browns 24-10 last week. Baltimore forced 5 turnovers and Joe Flacco passed for 2 touchdowns.

"Our defense is playing like it did in the late 1990s and early 2000s," John Harbaugh said. "That's when Marvin Lewis was the defensive coordinator. Marvin didn't see many touchdowns then, either.

"Joe's proving that he's still got it as quarterback. By 'it' I mean a contract that takes up 15% of our salary cap. Unfortunately for Joe, that makes it practically impossible for him to prove his worth."

The Jags defense sets up an early score with a turnover, but the Ravens force Bortles into unfavorable 3rd-and-long situations, then blitz him relentlessly, forcing 4 turnovers.

Ravens win, 22-15.

Denver @ Buffalo Bills (+3)

The Bills lost a tight 9-3 decision at Carolina, as Buffalo managed only 176 total yards.

"Our offense was just not clicking," Sean McDermott said. "Our running game, which is normally our strength, produced only 69 yards. In 1973, it would have taken O.J. Simpson about a quarter and a half to reach 69 yards. In 2013, it would have taken O.J. 69 trips around the perimeter of the prison recreation area to reach 69 'yards.'

"And speaking of a low-speed chase involving a white Bronco, we're not at all worried about Trevor Siemian running the ball."

The Broncos overwhelmed the visiting Cowboys 42-17, led by a dominating defense and the passing of Trevor Siemian, who tossed 4 touchdown passes. Denver is 2-0, tied atop the AFC West with the Raiders.

"Our defense came to play," Vance Joseph said. "As well they should, because they are one of the highest-paid units. I'm sure the Cowboys can relate, because they spend loads of money on 'defense,' too.

"The Buffalo offense looks pretty harmless. Especially when you view their game video while the music of the Goo Goo Dolls plays in the background. Talk about easy listening."

The Bills capitalize early on a sluggish Denver defense, but the Broncos turn up the pressure after the first quarter and cruise.

Denver wins, 24-17.

New Orleans @ Carolina (-6)

The Panthers edged the Bills, 9-3, in a battle of field goals. Carolina held LeSean McCoy to 9 yards on 12 carries.

"We're totally comfortable playing solid defense, winning the field position battle, and waiting for our offense to eventually break through," Luke Kuechly said. "Now, when I say 'break through,' I'm of course speaking figuratively and not at all referring to the goal line.

"If the Saints want to give the ball to Adrian Peterson, we've got no problem with it. We've studied lots of tape of the New Orleans offense, and we're pretty sure A.P. will be lining up in the 'stink eye formation.'"

The Saints gave up 555 total yards to the Patriots, including 443 to Tom Brady through the air, and their offense couldn't keep up in a 36-20 loss.

"No," Sean Payton said, "Rob Ryan is not our defensive coordinator. But we like to still use the 'Rob Ryan Index' to gauge the effectiveness of our defense. If we surrender more yards than Rob's weight, we've failed as a defense. It appears we failed in the first half against New England.

"There are a lot of people that want to see me fired. Those are called 'Saints fans.' But I don't plan on going anywhere. They'll have to pry my cold, dead fingers off my playbook before I leave. Interestingly enough, if we don't turn things around quickly, this city will become the 'Planet of the 'Aints.'"

The Panthers emphasize the run, and pound Jonathan Stewart into the heart of the Saints defense, then turn Christian McCaffrey loose on the outside. The Saints stay close using a variety of trick plays and the accurate marksmanship of Drew Brees.

Carolina wins, 27-24.

Pittsburgh @ Chicago (+7½)

The Steelers dominated the Vikings in a 26-9 win at Heinz Field. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 2 touchdowns, and Le'Veon Bell grinded out 87 yards rushing on 27 carries.

"We made a concerted effort to get Le'Veon the ball more," Mike Tomlin said. "And Le'Veon wants the ball more. Now, he doesn't have a gesture like Ezekiel Elliott's 'Feed Me,' but if he did, Le'Veon would prefer to be served from a bowl.

"It was good to see Martavis Bryant get involved in the offense. He may be the most athletically-gifted player on this team. And he's worked hard to prove his worth and value to the team. One thing his game doesn't lack is substance; let's just hope his bloodstream does."

The Bears were pounded, 29-7, in Tampa in a game mired by a bevy of Chicago errors, including 4 turnovers and several drops by receivers.

"In the second game of the season," John Fox said, "you'd expect your team to execute much better. Instead, I got 'sloppy seconds.' Now, it's not often you hear a 62-year-old man say the words 'sloppy seconds.' Somewhere, someone just won a prop bet.

Pittsburgh wins, 27-17.

Atlanta @ Detroit (+3½)

The Falcons raced to a 24-7 lead over the Packers on Sunday night and cruised to a 34-24 win to remain undefeated.

"We eventually built that lead to 31-7," Matt Ryan said. "And I know where the conversation will go when you're talking about the 'Falcons' and a 'big lead.' But I refuse to fall into this trap and answer your 'leading questions.'

"We set a list of goals before the season started. Number one on that list was 'build insurmountable leads.' Number two on that list was 'there is no insurmountable lead.' Number three was 'there is no insurmountable lead.'"

The Lions, led by 2 touchdowns from Matthew Stafford, turned back the Giants 24-10 at MetLife Stadium on Monday night.

"I think I've justified my new contract," Stafford said. "But I don't feel like I even need to. Life's not all about dotted lines and dollar signs."

Ryan has trouble early with the noisy Ford Field partisan crowd, but settles down and finds his groove, encourage by a pro-Atlanta sign held aloft by a lone Falcon fan that reads 'Go No. 2!'

Stafford passes for 2 touchdowns, but Ryan outguns him with 3, and the Falcons remain undefeated, 30-23.

Cleveland @ Indianapolis (+1)

The Colts are 0-2 after last week's 16-13 overtime loss to the visiting Cardinals. Jacoby Brissette started at quarterback, and passed for 216 yards and threw 1 interception.

"Jacoby is no Andrew Luck," Chuck Pagano, "because Jacoby has a Super Bowl ring."

The Browns lost to AFC North division rival Baltimore 24-10 last week.

"Deshone Kizer had to leave the game because of a migraine," Hue Jackson said. "That just goes to show the Browns quarterback situation has been one big headache for a while now.

"Luckily, Deshone has medication for his migraines. Johnny Manziel also had a foolproof remedy for his alcohol-induced headaches — it's called 'hair of the Dawg Pound.'"

Browns win, 23-19.

Tampa Bay @ Minnesota (-1)

With Sam Bradford our nursing a knee injury, the Case Keenum-led Vikings offense was largely ineffective in a 26-9 loss to the Steelers.

"For an offense," Mike Zimmer, "that's called having a 'case of the Keenums.'

"Hopefully, we'll have Sam back for the Tampa game. I've been somewhat cryptic about Sam's availability. But that's not my fault. If you're looking for a clear picture on our QB situation, don't look at me. My eyes don't allow a clear picture on anything."

The Buccaneers crushed the Bears, 29-7, spoiling Mike Glennon's return to Tampa.

"We had such a big lead," Dirk Koetter said, "we were able to give Ryan Fitzpatrick some playing time. That's called 'mop-up duty,' or here in Tampa Bay, 'swabbing the deck.'"

Zimmer creates a minor controversy when he makes his way onto the field wearing a black eye patch. He removes it, but refuses to take the parrot off his shoulder.

Bucs win, 20-19.

Houston @ New England (-13)

The Texans held the Bengals to 3 field goals, and rookie DeShaun Watson scored on a 49-yard run as Houston beat Cincinnati, 13-9, last Thursday.

"I love a defensive struggle," Bill O'Brien said. "Which is what you get when two offenses struggle.

"I think much of the state of Texas was impressed by our win. I checked his Twitter feed, and it turns out Senator Ted Cruz 'likes' the Texans. He apparently likes a wide range of things. For example, his favorite bar is a place called the 'Horn Pub.'"

The Patriots beat the Saints, 36-20, putting the memory of their 42-27 season-opening loss to the Chiefs behind them. Tom Brady passed for 447 yards and 3 touchdowns, with all 3 TDs coming in the first quarter.

"That's exactly how we drew it up in the game plan," Brady said. "As a result, the Saints were 'drawn and quartered.'

"I hear DeShaun Watson has been linked to an adult film actress. I don't want to speculate on what exactly 'linked' them, but use your imagination. That's fantasy-relevant."

Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia devises a crafty game plan to contain the running ability of Watson, a game plan which, not surprisingly, involves a "spy."

New England wins, 27-12.

Miami @ New York Jets (+6)

The failing New York Jets were blown out by the Raiders, 45-20. Josh McCown passed for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns in a losing effort.

"We were a bit offended by Marshawn Lynch's dancing," Todd Bowles said. "It was disrespectful and classless, although in defense of Lynch, the Jets are easy to dance to.

"We'll be playing in MetLife Stadium. It's well-known for the wind gusts that blow through. It sounds like it will be more of an issue next year, because all I hear Jets fans talking about is the '2018 draft.'"

The Dolphins upset the Chargers 19-17, spoiling the former San Diego Chargers home opener in Los Angeles. Jay Cutler passed for 230 yards, and Jay Ajayi muscled his way for 122 on the ground.

"Only about half the crowd was cheering for the home team," Cutler said. "That means the other half was cheering for me. It was like I was back in Denver, or Chicago."

Miami wins, 24-13.

New York Giants @ Philadelphia (-3½)

With a not-fully healthy Odell Beckham, Jr. playing for the first time this season, the Giants offense again struggled. And the result was a 24-10 home loss to Matthew Stafford and the Lions.

"I said Eli Manning's play was 'sloppy' at times," Ben McAdoo said. "Can it get any worse? Well, Eli's QBR is 29th in the NFL. That's means there's three quarterbacks with a lower rating. So, yes, it can get worse.

"With our offense struggling mightily, it appears we're going to ride our defense. That's gonna be our rallying cry. I suggested to the fellas that we should uses the slogan 'Ride the D,' but they unanimously shot that down."

Philadelphia wins, 27-14.

Seattle @ Tennessee (-3)

The Seahawks offense struggled once again, managing only one touchdown in a 12-9 win over the visiting 49ers. Russell Wilson threw a 9-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to Paul Richardson, who earlier in the game suffered a compound fracture of the ring finger on his right hand.

"Paul's a cult hero in the locker room now," Pete Carroll said. "His toughness is legendary. And now, so is his taste in candy. Marshawn Lynch can have his Skittles, but please congratulate Paul on his new endorsement opportunity with Kit Kat.

"We're still sorting out our offensive line issues. Russell Wilson fears for his life back there. Not only is Russell worried about Future, he's worried about the future."

The Titans bounced back from a Week 1 loss to Oakland with a resounding 37-16 win over the Jaguars. The Titans, Texans, and Jaguars are tied atop the AFC South at 1-1.

"No team has set itself apart from the others in the South," Mike Mularkey said. "In fact, all four teams have been wildly inconsistent, and downright terrible at times. I guess the one thing you can say for sure about the divisions is 'Don't count out the Colts.'

Seattle wins, 17-16.

Cincinnati @ Green Bay (-9)

The Bengals lost at home to the Texans 13-9 last Thursday, failing to score a touchdown for the second straight game. The following day, offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was fired.

"That's unacceptable," Marvin Lewis said. "That's why I called Ken into my office on Friday and said, 'We need to discuss why this offense only punts or kicks field goals.' Then I brought our kicking unit in to give him the boot. It was the worst 'boot-y call' Ken's ever had.

"But we're not throwing in the towel just yet. Mostly because said towel would never reach its intended target. We're just 0-2. It's not the end of the world. If you want to talk 'end of the world,' talk to Kyrie Irving."

The Packers lost to the Falcons, 34-24, in the first regular-season game in Atlanta's brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, failing to avenge last season's loss in the NFC Championship Game.

"We're dealing with a number of injuries," Mike McCarthy said. "At the top of the injury list is our pride. And speaking of 'pride,' a group of lions is called a pride. What do you call a group of tigers? An 'embarrassment.'"

The Bengals show some heart, and actually lead at one point. But Aaron Rodgers does his thing, avoiding rushers, extending plays, throwing strikes to open receivers, and peddling auto insurance.

Packers win, 30-24.

Kansas City @ Los Angeles Chargers (+3)

For the second week in a row, a missed field goal resulted in a Chargers loss. Against the Dolphins, Younghoe Koo's 44-yard kick sailed wide right, preserving the Dolphins' 19-17 win.

"To lose two games in a row on the last play of the game is not the kind of streak you want," Philip Rivers said. "And speaking of 'streaks,' they were talking about Rex Ryan's underwear on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown.

"We're playing in the Stub Hub Center while our new stadium is being built. It seats approximately 27,000 people, and we can't even fill it. You can say the stands are half-empty, or you can say the stands are half-full, but no matter how you look at fans in the seats, you can say attendance is 'half-assed.'"

Chargers win, 27-24.

Oakland @ Washington (+3)

The Raiders hammered the visiting Jets, 42-20, as Derek Carr threw 3 touchdown passes, all three to Michael Crabtree, while Marshawn Lynch scored his first TD as a Raider.

"Marshawn caused a stir with his dance routine on the sidelines in the third quarter," Carr said. "I hear the Jets were quite irritated. It appears Marshawn caused a 'Dance Dance Revolution.'

"Raiders fans love Marshawn's passion and happy-go-lucky attitude. He has not one, but two fingers on the pulse of this city. And he's more than happy to show you which two."

Kirk Cousins' 11-yard scoring pass to Ryan Grant late in the fourth quarter gave the Redskins a 27-20 road victory over the Rams.

"I'm not worried about where I'll be playing next year," Cousins said. "God instructed me to sign a one-year contract, and He told me to 'mind my responsibilities and carry out the game plan as your coaches want you to.' If I'm not mistaken, that's from the 'Book of Job.'"

Washington wins, 31-27.

Dallas @ Arizona (+3)

The Cowboys were blasted 42-17 at Denver as the vaunted Broncos defense shut down Dallas' running attack. Ezekiel Elliott was held to only 8 yards on 9 carries.

"Ezekiel is fond of saying, 'feed me,'" Dak Prescott said. "We tried, but because of that Denver defense, Zeke kept saying, 'I'm stuffed.'

"People are making a big deal about Zeke's lack of effort on that Denver interception he failed to chase. Trust me, it will be handled. Coach Garrett is not one to get in a player's face and yell at him. He chooses more subtle methods. Like, in this case, he sent Zeke a subscription to Hustler magazine."

Dallas wins, 27-21.

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