Thursday, December 7, 2017

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 14

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

New Orleans @ Atlanta (+1½)

The Saints beat the Panthers 31-20, powered by a rushing attack that accounted for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Saints improved to 9-3, ahead of the 8-4 Panthers, with New Orleans holding two wins over the Panthers under their belts.

"That's called a 'sweep,'" Sean Payton said. "We dusted the Panthers, then mopped the floor with them. Usually, when teams split two games, it's called a 'wash.'

"And speaking of a 'sweep,' the Mark Ingram/Alvin Kamara rushing duo is sweeping the nation. It's a 'tandem-ic,' if you will. As 'time shares' go, this is the best one I can remember. It definitely beats the time share I experienced in 2011, when half my time was spent coaching, and the other half was spent being interrogated by NFL officials."

The Falcons offense was held in check in a 14-9 loss to the Vikings at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Vikes defense limited Julio Jones to just two catches for 24 yards as Atlanta fell to 7-5, two games behind the 9-3 Saints in the NFC South.

"That snapped a three-game win streak," Dan Quinn said. "Before the Vikes came to town, we felt like a Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots was a real possibility. Now, Las Vegas bookies aren't that optimistic; they've set the odds at 28-3.

"The Saints are coming to town on Thursday night. And they will, in fact, be 'marching' in, judging by the success of their rushing attack. But we plan to put a stop to that and do something crazy. We're going to dare Drew Brees to beat us. Will he accept? Well, we're going to phrase it in the form of 'Truth or Dare.' If you give a Saint an option between the truth and anything else, they'll choose the dare every time."

Falcons win, 28-24.

Indianapolis @ Buffalo (-7)

The Colts were hammered 30-10 in Jacksonville, as the Jaguars' attacking defense stifled the Indy offense. Jacoby Brissett struggled, with only 178 yards passing and a touchdown to go along with 2 interceptions and 4 sacks.

"On a bright note," Chuck Pagano said, "Frank Gore passed LaDainian Tomlinson and Jerome Bettis to move to fifth on the NFL's all-time rushing yardage list. Frank played at the 'U'; now, he's the 'V.'

"As I'm prone to say after every loss, our effort was there, but our execution was not. Leave it to me, Chuck Pagano, to state the obvious. Most Colts fans would rather it be left to management to state the obvious, which is 'Chuck Pagano, you're fired.'"

The Bills lost 23-3 at home to the Patriots and are now 6-6. Tyrod Taylor injured his knee early and continued to play before leaving the game in the fourth quarter, when Nathan Peterman took over.

"I had no choice but to play Nathan," Sean McDermott said. "Against the Chargers in Week 11, I had no reason to play him.

"If he's able, Tyrod is our quarterback. If I've learned one thing this season, it's that Nathan Peterman sucks. If I've learned another thing, it's that Nathan Peterman sucks 'Manpeter.'"

Buffalo wins, 20-17.

Minnesota @ Carolina (+2½)

The Vikings defense controlled the Falcons offense, and Case Keenum tossed 2 touchdown passes as Minnesota beat the Falcons 14-9 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Vikes solidified their lead in the NFC North, and have a four-game cushion over both the Lions and Packers.

"We knew our three North counterparts had 1:00 games," Mike Zimmer said. "So, as I am known to do, I was keeping one eye on the scoreboard.

"I was pleased with our execution, especially on defense. To shut down a potent offense like Atlanta's for an entire game is quite a feat. It harkens back to the 1970's, when the 'Purple People Eaters' were terrorizing all of the NFL, except Pittsburgh.

"We're going to pressure Cam Newton, mostly with our rush, but also with questions about female reporters, Von Miller, laptops, his father, and what $120,000-$180,000 can buy."

The Panthers lost at New Orleans, 31-21, as Carolina made two crucial special teams errors that essentially cost them any chance of winning.

"If you asked me to say anything nice about our special teams," Ron Rivera said, "I choose to 'punt.'

"We'll be without Charles Johnson for the next four games after he was suspended for violating the league's performance enhancing drug policy. As a rule, I try to refrain from even caring what my players put in their bodies.

Vikings win, 23-17.

Chicago @ Cincinnati (-6½)

The Bears fell to the visiting 49ers 15-14, as former Bear Robbie Gould's 24-yard field goal with four seconds left won it for the 49ers. It was Gould's fifth field goal of the game.

"That's right," John Fox said. "Gould kicked the ball five times. So his right leg got just slightly less work than Mitch Tribisky's right arm."

The Bengals blew a 17-0 lead and lost 23-20 to the Steelers and fell to 5-7, and were officially eliminated from winning the AFC North title.

"This team's been involved in quite a few 'official eliminations' this year," Marvin Lewis said. "A.J. Green was 'officially eliminated' from a game earlier this season after starting a fight. And George Iloka was briefly suspended for this game for his hit on Antonio Brown.

"And speaking of 'cheap shots,' Vontaze Burfict was the victim of one, courtesy of JuJu Smith-Schuster. It may have to wait until next year, but those two buttheads will butt heads again.

"Anyway, Vontaze played a whale of a game. He was everywhere. And he's been everywhere. Vontaze briefly inhabited the body of Rob Gronkowski last Sunday. Vontaze scoffs at one-game suspensions. In his mind, if you only get one game for a hit, then it wasn't dirty enough."

Bengals win, 26-14.

Green Bay @ Cleveland (+3½)

The Browns hung tough in a 19-10 loss to the Chargers in Los Angeles. In his return from suspension, Josh Gordon had 4 catches for 85 yards.

"There's no way Josh could play quarterback," Hue Jackson said, "because he would undoubtedly 'get blitzed.'

"Browns fans are eager for a hero. And Josh is that hero. Josh has his own fan club called the '12 Pack.' Josh said in a recent interview that he made $10,000 a month selling drugs while at Baylor. I think that shows a great work ethic, to be able to do that while also terrorizing college defensive backs. On his resume, he listed it as a job in 'shipping and receiving.'"

The Packers beat the visiting Buccaneers, 26-20, in overtime, winning on Aaron Jones' 20-yard touchdown run.

"If our second-most famous 'Brett' can't get the job done," Mike McCarthy said, "then our second-most favorite 'Aaron' can.

"Aaron Rodgers returned to practice and could play as early as Week 15. Aaron's found it hard these last several weeks sitting on the sideline. I can't speak for Aaron, but I'm guessing he feels as helpless as Jordy Nelson with Brett Hundley at quarterback."

Packers win, 23-17.

San Francisco @ Houston (-3)

In his first start as a 49er, Jimmy Garoppolo passed for 293 yards in San Francisco's 15-14 win at Chicago.

"We won by the slimmest of margins," Kyle Shanahan said. "In their history, the 49ers margin of victory has often been the quarterback's arm. In this case, the margin was the cornerback's pinky finger. Or at least a third of it.

"I thought Jimmy looked great. And I think great things await him as a 49er, as well as some mediocre things, like a Skechers shoe contract."

The Texans lost, 24-13, to the Titans and dropped to 4-8, next to last in the AFC South. Tom Savage passed for a career-high 365 yards, but Houston lost four offensive players during the game.

"We've been ravaged by injuries," Bill O'Brien said, "and 'Savaged' by quarterbacks. But seriously, Tom played well. 365 yards is nothing to sneeze at. It takes loads of talent to pass for 365 yards. And DeAndre Hopkins has loads of talent."

Houston wins, 24-17.

Seattle @ Jacksonville (-3)

The Seahawks upset the Eagles, 24-10, led by Russell Wilson, who passed for 3 touchdowns and rushed for 31 hard-earned yards.

"Our offensive line has struggled mightily all year," Pete Carroll said. "But I choose to view things through action green-colored glasses. So, because our offensive line has struggled mightily, Russell has been able to run circles around defenses. Actually, it's more like running circles in defenses.

"We know the Jaguars will be ready for us. Their young defense has assumed the mantle of arguably the league's best. And I'm guessing they want to prove that they can be as dominant as the 'Legion of Boom' once once. That name is copyrighted, so I suggest they call themselves the 'Legion of Baby Boomers.'"

The Jaguars whipped the Colts, 30-10, led by Blake Bortles, who passed for 309 yards and 2 touchdowns.

"Blake was motivated," Doug Marrone said. "He's heard the whispers, about Eli Manning possibly becoming a Jaguar next year. If that does, in fact, happen, I would expect Blake would take it like a true team player. It would take 'cap space' to get Eli here; Blake's head has the 'cap space' to make that happen.

"Seattle's fans are called the '12th Man.' Here in Jacksonville, we think that's a little sexist. So, here at EverBank Stadium, we're introducing our crowd as the 'Jax and Jills.'"

Jaguars win, 20-17.

Oakland @ Kansas City (-4)

The Chiefs lost their fourth-straight games, going down 38-31 to the Jets at MetLife Stadium. Kansas City is 6-6, now tied with the Chargers for the AFC West lead.

"'500' used to be our offensive yardage output," Travis Kelce said. "Now it's our winning percentage. We started the season on a record-setting pace. We're still setting records. This team has run the longest 'fade' route in NFL history.

"Andy Reid gave up play-calling duties and handed them over to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. It was a good decision. Now, I'm not sure who's calling defensive plays, but they should have those privileges revoked, and they should be gagged, and bound."

The Raiders beat the Giants 24-17, led by Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 101 yards and a 51-yard touchdown.

"Marshawn's still got it," Jack Del Rio said. "By 'it,' I mean the perfect mix of work ethic and happy-go-lucky silliness to succeed as an NFL player and media whore. Have you seen Marshawn's Madden NFL 18 commercial? In it, he argues with his right hand. I believe the disagreement was about his right hand wanting to pass instead of run.

"Sebastian Janikowski's career as a Raider may be over. He's sure to be a Hall of Famer one day. Sebastian will be known for having one of the strongest legs in the game, as well as one of the strongest drinks in the game."

The Chiefs public address team trolls Michael Crabtree during the game, playing Van Halen's "Unchained" any time he touches the ball. Emotions boil over in the third quarter when Oakland's Donald Penn angrily reacts to a holding penalty by tossing Marcus Peters into the stands.

Chiefs win, 30-27.

Detroit @ Tampa Bay (+1)

The Lions lost 44-20 to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, a defeat that seriously damaged their playoff aspirations. Detroit was down 20-0 in the second quarter, but mounted a comeback, led by 20-straight completions by Matthew Stafford, before Baltimore pulled away.

"My right hand was stepped on in that game," Stafford said. "When that happened, I knew it was serious, and one thought came to my mind. It was 'I thought Ndamukong Suh left Detroit for Miami.'"

The Buccaneers lost 26-20 in overtime at Lambeau Field, despite a strong game from Jameis Winston, who passed for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tampa is 4-8, last in the NFC South.

"Jameis was not at 100%," Dirk Koetter said, "but there was no way I could keep him out of the lineup. His work ethic and desire wouldn't allow it, and he expects so much out of himself. You could say he's 'uber-driven.'"

Tampa wins, 24-21.

Tennessee @ Arizona (+3)

The Titans beat the Texans 24-13 to remain one tied with the Jaguars atop the AFC South. Marcus Mariota passed for a score and rushed for another.

"We're a dangerous team when Marcus doesn't turn the ball over," Mike Mularkey said. "As Marcus goes, so goes this team. If the Titans were a car, Marcus would he the steering wheel. When he turns the ball over, the ride gets a little rocky. So ball security gives the ride good suspension.

"And speaking of 'good suspension,' Rob Gronkowski getting only one game was good for the Patriots. It's crazy that his heinous act got him the same suspension as JuJu Smith-Schuster's block, albeit outside the rules, on Vontaze Burfict. But deciding on the length of a suspension is so subjective. It's not a 'black and white' issue. Or is it?"

Arizona wins, 24-21.

New York Jets @ Denver (+1)

The Broncos lost their eighth consecutive game, losing in a 35-9 at Miami. Trevor Siemian threw 3 interceptions as Denver's season took a further slide.

"I'm sure John Elway will say we're 'soft,'" Vance Joseph said. "But out of respect for us, he'll say it in a much quieter voice. You know, 'softer.'

"We're struggling, but at least we're headed home. Sports Authority Field sits one mile above sea level, and that makes me feel like my pleas of 'God help us' have just a bit better chance of being heard."

The Jets outscored the Chiefs, 38-31, as Josh McCown passed for a TD and rushed for 2. New York improved to 5-7 and kept their slim playoff hopes alive.

"Josh can do it all," Todd Bowles said. "The front office has even considered letting him draft our next quarterback.

"We're quite entertained by what's going on with our MetLife Stadium counterparts, the Giants. I rate their handling of the Eli Manning situation an 'F,' preceded by a 'Cluster.' Who on earth would think it's a good idea to replace your starting quarterback with Geno Smith? The Broncos, that's who."

Jets win, 19-17.

Washington at Los Angeles Chargers (-6)

The Chargers turned back the Browns 19-10 and moved into a tie with the Chiefs in the AFC West. Philip Rivers passed for 344 yards, connecting with Keenan Allen ten times for 105 yards and a touchdown.

"No offense to Jesus Christ," Rivers said, "but Keenan's my go-to guy. J.C. did some great things, but he never had 10 receptions for over 100 yards and a touchdown in one game, much less three.

"We're the AFC's hottest team, and the city of Los Angeles is taking notice. Oh, people are not actually attending games, but they are considering buying tickets. That's progress."

The Redskins were blasted 38-14 by the Cowboys last Thursday night and fell to 5-7, third in the NFC East.

"I guess the Cowboys just wanted it more than us," Cousins said. "I'm pretty sure there are six to eight teams that want me more than Washington.

"I thought I was the most mistreated-by-your-own-team quarterback in the NFC East. That is, until I saw what the Giants did to Eli Manning. That was cold. Frankly, if I was him, I wouldn't play another year for them. Unless they made me."

Chargers win, 27-22.

Philadelphia @ Los Angeles Rams (-2)

The Eagles ran into a motivated Seahawks team and lost 24-10, only their second loss of the season. Philly's high-scoring offense found the end zone only once, and tumbled from their perch as the NFC's top seed.

"This doesn't mean we'll change anything," Doug Pederson said. "I'm certainly not going to change my philosophy, or my Eagles visor. That's the hottest-selling piece of a Philly coach's merchandise since the pro shop was selling Chip Kelly belts. I'm not exactly sure why Chip Kelly belts even sold at all; the only thing special about them was they they had no notches."

The Rams beat the Cardinals 32-16 and improved to 9-3 and lead the NFC West by a game over the Seahawks.

"We cliched the Rams first winning season since 2003," Sean McVay said. "That's a long time without a winning season, or a long time with Jeff Fisher."

Eagles win, 31-28.

Dallas @ New York Giants (+4½)

The Cowboys rushed for 182 yards as a team and forced 4 turnovers in their 38-14 win over the Redskins last Thursday. The win kept Dallas' playoff hopes alive, but they'll need to win out and have lots of help.

"That was a desperately needed win for us," Jerry Jones. "It's good to see this team can rise to the occasion, and as you know, I live vicariously through them, and anytime I can rise to an occasion, I feel 20 years younger. In fact, I'd like to make '20 Years Younger' my life's motto. What's that? It's already been copyrighted as a slogan in the Alabama Senate race? My loss."

The Giants lost 24-17 at Oakland as Geno Smith started after the much-ballyhooed benching of Eli Manning earlier in the week. Then the hammer dropped on Monday, with general manager Jerry Reese and head coach Ben McAdoo were fired.

"New York tabloids were all over this story," Manning said. "My favorite was one that showed a picture of Reese and McAdoo with the caption, 'Yes, We Canned.'"

Cowboys win, 24-20.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-6½)

Chris Boswell's 38-yard field goal as time expired gave the Steelers a 23-20 comeback win over the Bengals in Cincinnati. The games was marked by brutal hits and unnecessary roughness penalties, which unfortunately has become the norm for Steelers/Bengals encounters.

"It should be a sexy week up in the NFL offices," Mike Tomlin said, "because they're gonna be 'talking dirty.' I'm not sure the Steelers and Bengals will ever tone done the play when they meet. I think it's up to the officials to make a difference. Forget yellow flags, the officials should be allowed to throw subpoenas when these two teams play. And a collection plate."

The Ravens pulled away late to beat the Lions 44-20. Joe Flacco passed for two scores, Alex Collins rushed for 2 TDs, and Baltimore scored 24 fourth quarter points to bury the Lions.

"Joe showed that Super Bowl XLVII form," John Harbaugh said, "for the first time since Super Bowl XLVII."

Steelers win, 27-18.

New England @ Miami (+11)

The Patriots beat the Bills, 23-3, in a dominating defensive day when the Bills kept Tom Brady in check.

"It was a frustrating day for me," Brady said. "That was evident by my sideline outburst aimed at Josh McDaniels. It may have looked like I got my panties in a wad; that's not true. My 'Tom Brady Anti-Wadding Panties' don't allow that to happen, as they are made from the fibers of the Peruvian pretension plant, and harvested by Brady-approved locker room attendants.

"Rob Gronkowski was suspended one game for his late hit on Buffalo's Tra'Davious White. He'll probably be fined as well. I think the fine will get Gronk's attention, especially if it's in the amount of $69,669.69."

The Dolphins blasted the Broncos 35-9, led by a defense that forced 3 turnovers and recorded 2 safeties.

"I'll take those two safeties," Adam Gase said, "over our two quarterbacks any day."

Patriots win 30-21.

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