NFL's Crunch Time: Predictions for the Crucial Week 13 Showdowns

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NFL's Crunch Time: Predictions for the Crucial Week 13 Showdowns
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Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

New Orleans @ Cincinnati (+7)

The Saints have won four straight after Thanksgiving's 30-27 win in Dallas, a win made possible when Malcolm Jenkins stripped Roy Williams of the ball as Williams approached the end zone after a long catch and run. The turnover led to Drew Brees' touchdown pass to Lance Moore, and the Saints held on for the win.

"We pride ourselves on taking the ball by force," said defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. "We've got a history of it, therefore 'the wrest is history.' And it doesn't happen by accident. Everyone is familiar with the blocking sled as a common piece of practice equipment. Here in the Big Easy, we've made the 'Stripper Pole' famous as a teaching tool."

The Bengals have now lost eight in a row, by far the league's longest losing streak, and have been plagued by inconsistency on both sides of the ball. It's been a precipitous fall by the team that dominated the AFC North last year, sweeping all six division games.

"There'll be no 'sweep' this year," said Chad Ochocinco, "although there are rumors of other forms of 'house cleaning.' Now, as a Twitter-fiend, even I'm stunned at Steve Johnson's communication with God via a Tweet. I guess that's what you call 'heaven sent.' Johnson has obviously taken prayer to a new, modern-day, application. What's he reading? The 'Nu' Testament? Heck, what's Steve gonna do when he meets his maker? Chest bump Him?"

This game should go like most Bengals games. They'll start off okay, with maybe a three-and-out stop on the Saints first possession, and they'll probably post a field goal to take a quick lead. That's when the Bengals coaching, leadership, and playmaking skills usually kick in. It's all Saints day after that.

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Brees throws for 256 yards and 3 scores, and Chris Ivory rushes for a score to salt away the victory, then celebrates to his new theme song, Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk."

New Orleans wins, 27-17.

Cleveland @ Miami (-4½)

The Dolphins won their fifth road game of the year, beating the Raiders 33-17 in Oakland last week to improve their record to 6-5, three games behind the Jets and Patriots in the AFC East. Unfortunately, the 'Fins now have to head home to Sun Life Stadium, where they are 1-4 this year, to face the 4-7 Browns.

"We're like the trusty vacuum cleaner you grew up with," Tony Sparano said. "We suck at home. But we don't have 'problems at home' like the Miami Heat, in that my players don't whine about me, and I can yell at my players and not expect any guff. And incidental contact between a coach and player is not news here. Heck, my quarterbacks are so fragile, if I grazed shoulders with one of my team leaders, then I'd have another QB with a dislocated shoulder."

Jake Delhomme threw for 245 yards, but tossed 2 interceptions, in the Browns' narrow 24-23 win over Delhomme's former team, the Panthers, last week. Delhomme's final interception was returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Captain Munnerlyn, and John Kasay's field goal gave the Panthers the lead before Phil Dawson's 41-yard field goal won it for the Browns.

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"It's too bad Jake didn't throw the game-winning touchdown pass," Eric Mangini said. "Then, he could have said, with no irony in his voice, 'I just cost the Panthers the game.'

But it was a costly win. No, we didn't lose an important player to injury. We're paying Delhomme $7 million a year, and that's the first win in which he's started. Thus, that win cost us $7 million. If we could have gone 16-0, I'd be able to say, in good conscious, 'we got our money's worth.'"

Colt McCoy is still nursing a high ankle sprain, so Delhomme will start again, which should greatly hasten McCoy's recovery time. Heck, he's already gone from 'doubtful' to 'probable ... to enter the game in the third quarter after Delhomme's third interception.'

Miami defensive coordinator Mike Nolan orders the 'Fins to stack the line of scrimmage and stop Peyton Hillis, the other white Peyton, who's on pace to make Josh McDaniels look even more stupid for trading him. With Hillis controlled, Delhomme is forced to beat Miami, but has more success beating Cleveland.

Miami wins, 30-19.

Washington @ NY Giants (-7½)

The Giants were the only NFC East team to win last week, beating the Jaguars 24-20 to move back into a tie with the Eagles, losers to Chicago, at 7-4. New York played a turnover-free game, which surely thrilled Tom Coughlin, and now host the Redskins, who, at 5-6, are still in the division race.

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"Just one month ago," Tom Coughlin said, "we were being hailed as the NFC's best team. Just the other day, I was giving my team hell at halftime. There's 'super', and then there's 'stupor.' You know you've given your team a good chewing out when they respond, and you need a toothpick afterwards."

Donovan McNabb and the Redskins realize a loss would, in all likelihood, end their playoff chances. A loss would leave them with a 5-7 record and on the outside looking in for a playoff season in which a 10-6 record might not be good enough.

"There's definitely a sense of urgency here," McNabb said. "It's like our entire season has come down to a two-minute drill, and I have to navigate this team through five remaining games and engineer a victory in each. That's asking a lot, but so is a $78 million contract. I bet a portion of that could buy a pretty decent running game."

Coughlin wastes no time, and gives his players a good reaming before the game. The Giants come out blazing, sacking McNabb 3 times in the Redskins' first three possessions. Eli Manning throws 2 touchdown passes, and Coughlin works up to a smile, which he quickly pushes away, as the Giants win, 27-13.

Jacksonville @ Tennessee (-3)

The Titans' season continues to spiral downward, as a 20-0 loss in Houston left Tennessee at 5-6 and in danger of a colossal team-wide meltdown. The signing of Randy Moss has paid few if any dividends, Jeff Fisher and owner Bud Adams can't agree on the fate of Vince Young, and Cortland Finnegan was fined $25,000 for fighting Andre Johnson last week.

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"On the plus side," Jeff Fisher said, "I can honestly say that Moss is the least of my worries. Besides, he's great to have around in a time of crisis. He has a great deal of experience in that area. I realize communication hasn't been one of our strong points. Now, if Bud Adams wants to sit down and talk things over, I'll gladly attend a meeting he's not invited to.

As for Finnegan, after taking the long arm of Johnson, he got the short end of the stick. I have no problem with Finnegan's fine, but to penalize Johnson the same amount is ludicrous. Finnegan didn't even throw a punch. He did, however, score points in the next vote for the NFL's dirtiest player. Cortland's the guy you 'love to hate' if he's on the other team. If he's on your side, you 'hate to love' him."

The Jags lost a winnable game in the New Meadowlands, falling 24-20 to the Giants, despite racking up 207 yards on the ground. A win would have given Jacksonville the lead in the AFC South, due to Indy's loss to the Chargers last Sunday night.

"I hear it's either Rusty Smith or Kerry Collins at quarterback for the Titans," said Jack Del Rio. "So we don't know what we'll get. Jeff Fisher says the same thing every week, and he knows who's starting. I know the Titans have dealt with a lot of controversy, but I know Fisher, and he'll have his team prepared. Hopefully, they will be prepared for the worst."

Collins gets the start, and Moss makes his first touchdown catch as a Titan. Chris Johnson, after rushing for "V" yards against the Titans, re-examines his goals for the season, and vows to rush for "K" yards instead of 2.5 "K." Needing only 27 yards to reach that milestone, he does so easily, and adds 88 more, plus a touchdown.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Tennessee wins, 27-21.

Chicago @ Detroit (+3)

Jay Cutler, in maybe his best game as a Bear, passed for 4 touchdowns, with no interceptions, to lead Chicago to a 31-26 win over the Eagles, delighting a raucous Soldier Field crowd, and Cutler likely replaced Rex Grossman in the hearts of many Bears' fans. It was the Bears' eighth win of the season, but only their third over a team with a winning record.

"Beating teams with winning records is overrated," Cutler said. "That's why God created the NFC West, where a losing record is winning the division. And if He, in fact, didn't create the NFC West, I'm sure He'll Tweet me and let me know.

But I think Mike Martz and I are finally on the same wavelength. Together, we make a perfect pair. A self-proclaimed genius needs a thick-skulled protégé, and we both fit the bill. Now, this Chicago team has faced its share of adversity and overcome it. I assume that's why many people are saying 'it's all downhill from here.'"

The Lions had their own "toast of the town" in their 45-24 Thanksgiving loss to the Patriots, defensive back Alphonso Smith, who was repeatedly burned by Patriots receivers.

"I'd like to apologize," Smith said, "to all Thanksgiving turkeys for outshining them on their special day and becoming the biggest turkey of them all. Those turkeys shouldn't complain, though, because they only got burned once."

They call this a "trap game." I'm not sure who "they" is, but "they" should know that the Lions have their traps set, and they're loaded for "Bear."

Calvin Johnson catches 8 passes for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns, and the Lions defense steps up, forcing 2 Cutler turnovers.

Detroit wins, 22-20.

Buffalo @ Minnesota (-6½)

The Leslie Frazier era in Minnesota got off to a mildly impressive start, as the Vikings held on for a gutsy 17-13 win over the Redskins in Washington. After the game, Brett Favre presented Frazier with the game ball, and his address in Mississippi, just in case Frazier needs to make a house call come July.

"If you watched the game," Favre said, "you probably saw my 10-yard scramble on 3rd-and-8 that helped preserve our win. Gosh, if Frazier would have been our coach last year, maybe I would have made the same play against the Saints in the NFC Championship Game.

"Now, with Leslie, the lines of communication are wide-open, and I love playing for a coach with a female's name. That's bitchin'. I got rid of one of my problems, Brad Childress, but the Jenn Sterger situation lingers. I sent one packing, and I sent the other a 'package.' I expect a ruling any day now from the NFL for my 'text-ile dysfunction.'"

The Bills lost their third overtime game of the season, falling 16-13 to the Steelers. Wide receiver Steve Johnson dropped what would have been the game-winning 40-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the Steelers won on their following possession.

"I've heard of '40 acres and a mule,'" Chan Gailey said, "but this must be a case of '40 yards and a goat.' Now, you've probably heard that Johnson blamed God for his mistake on his Twitter account. I guess he wasn't kidding when he said he had 'no one to blame but Himself.' Suddenly, Vince Young's apology to Jeff Fisher via Twitter doesn't seem so impersonal, or stupid."

Minnesota wins, 26-23.

Denver @ Kansas City (-7)

Since smashing the Chiefs in Denver on November 14th, the Broncos have lost two straight and surrendered 71 points in those two defeats. Now Denver faces a hot Chiefs team, which has won two in a row after the loss to the Broncos, and Kansas City is averaging 36 points in those two games.

"Not only do the Broncos have the NFL to pay," Todd Haley said, "they also have 'hell' to pay. We haven't forgotten what they did to us three weeks ago. Unlike the NFL, we plan to 'come down hard' on the Broncos. We're more than prepared. We've had a great week of practice, and just in case the Broncos are filming, I've yelled 'Action!' at the beginning of each practice."

Josh McDaniels' tenure in Denver may be waning, as an underperforming team and some questionable trades have him on the hot seat. In addition, McDaniels and the Broncos were fined a combined $100,000 for secretly taping part of a 49ers practice in London, an infraction McDaniels didn't immediately report.

"Alfred E. Neumann may have said 'What, me worry?'" McDaniels said. "My mantra is 'What, me hurry?'"

What would a coaching move in Denver be called? 'Chump change,' of course. And my personal $50,000 fine is no 'chump change.' What's the sequel to our videotape of the 49ers? It's called Things to Do in Denver When You're (in the) Red.

Of course, my fate as coach may be the only excitement left in Denver for the year. The NBA's Nuggets may have a ''Melo-drama' on their hands; we've got simply a melodrama."

This is a game Haley will not let the Chiefs lose. Not if pride has anything to do with it. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones combine for 209 yards rushing, and Dwayne Bowe catches a touchdown pass for the eighth consecutive game, then treats his teammates to some exotic imports from the Far East.

Kansas City wins, 41-19. Haley graciously extends his hand to McDaniels afterwards and shouts "That's a wrap!" On Monday, Denver's Pat Bowlen says "Cut!"

San Francisco @ Green Bay (-8)

The Packers suffered a heartbreaking 20-17 loss in Atlanta, knocking Green Bay out of a tie for first in the NFC North. Now the Packers turn their attention to the 49ers.

"Are we still in position to win the North?" Aaron Rodgers said. "Of course we are. The Bears still have to come to Green Bay, plus they have remaining home games against the Jets and Patriots. Do we want to win the division? Maybe. Sure, it would guarantee a playoff spot, but there's something to be said for taking the NFC's sixth seed. What sounds better? A home game against, say, the Eagles or Giants? Or a road game against the Seahawks or Rams? I think the answer is clear. Our manifest destiny tells me to 'Go West, young man.'"

The 49ers whipped the Cardinals 27-6 last Monday night, improving to 4-7, one game behind the Rams and Seahawks in the NFC West.

"Boy, did we really need a win," Mike Singletary said. "We came ready to play, and so did the Cardinals, or at least Derek Anderson did. That kid really knows how to 'yuck' it up.

Our win came at an opportune time. Seattle lost and St. Louis won, thus allowing us to be a game out of the division lead. So, I guess timing is everything. I should know. As a coach, I've had three job-saving wins already this year."

Aaron Rodgers throws for 3 touchdowns, and Clay Matthews sacks Troy Smith twice, and forces 1 fumble, then ends a drunken celebration in a downtown Green Bay hair salon, where he gets a perm.

Green Bay wins, 30-20.

Oakland @ San Diego (-13)

The Chargers stayed hot on the tails of the Chiefs in the AFC West race, knocking out the Colts and Peyton Manning 36-14 to remain one game behind Kansas City. San Diego used a bruising running game, rushing for 129 yards, and defense, with 2 interceptions returned for touchdowns, to go home with their fourth straight win.

"'Martyball' is back," said Philip Rivers. "You're welcome, Dan Marino."

"Now, we may have to make our stretch run without Vincent Jackson. Vincent strained his calf just three plays in to the Indy game, and we may be without him for two more weeks. Apparently, 'without him' is a lot like being 'with him.' Of course, we still have to pay him, and general manager A.J. Smith will make those checks payable to 'Vincent Price.'"

The Raiders have dropped two straight after pulling to within one game of the AFC West lead after beating the Chiefs three weeks ago. Now Oakland is two games behind the Chiefs, with a date against the red hot Chargers in San Diego.

"Bruce Gradkowski has a separated shoulder," said Tom Cable, "so Jason Campbell will be our starter, likely for the rest of the year. As Auburn quarterbacks go, he's no Cam Newton, although he has accepted lots of money to play football. Who knows? Newton could be a Raider one day, should Al Davis fall in love with another Southeastern Conference quarterback. What is it about SEC quarterbacks and the Raiders? Are SEC QB's overrated, or is our scout department overrated?"

Chargers win, 30-21.

Dallas @ Indianapolis (-5)

What's wrong with the Colts? Indy has dropped two straight, and Peyton Manning has thrown 7 interceptions in the two losses. What's more, he's been outplayed in consecutive games by Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, the two quarterbacks often mentioned in the same breath with Manning as the NFL's best.

"In that case," Manning said, "I'll take several breaths before I mention the name 'Jon Kitna.' 'Jon' Kitna? I'll not only ask 'Who the 'H' is John Kitna?' But also, 'Where's the 'H' in 'Jon,' Kitna?

"As for my recent play, I don't make excuses, just adjustments, and commercials. I could take the easy way out and blame God for my problems, but I choose not to.Trust me, I know the mistakes I've made without viewing the film. But I will view the film, all videotaped legally, of course.

Now, did you hear 'boos' Sunday night inside Lucas Oil Stadium? You sure did. Those were obviously piped in by the Chargers."

The Cowboys lost 30-27 on Thanksgiving to the Saints, and at 3-8 can only have an impact on the playoffs as a spoiler.

"Upon taking over as head coach," Jason Garrett said, "the first thing I told my guys was to strive to 'be somebody.' Well, if that 'somebody' is 'spoiler,' then we'll be the best spoilers we can be. We're obviously more comfortable in a supporting role, as opposed to a leading role. So, call us an Oscar favorite, because we're surely not a Super Bowl favorite."

Can the Colts turn things around? Of course they can, and what better team to do it against than the Cowboys. There's a AFC South division crown waiting for the Colts at the end of their rainbow, and a second-round playoff trip to somewhere cold.

Manning scorches the Cowboys secondary, when he has time to throw, for 290 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Adam Vinatieri kicks the game-winning field goal.

Colts win, 37-34.

St. Louis @ Arizona (+3)

The Rams are back in first in the NFC West after a 36-33 win in Denver, led by Sam Bradford's 308 yards and 3 touchdowns. St. Louis is tied with Seattle for the division lead at 5-6, with the 4-7 Cardinals waiting in the wings.

"I've always been intrigued," Bradford said, "by the Tim Tebow phenomenon. The stands at Invesco Field are full of Tebow's No. 15 shirts. It's really cool when the fans wearing Tebow gear do the wave; it's even cooler that they call it the 'Jersey Shore.'

"That's two games in a row in which the Broncos scored on the game's opening possession, then lost. That's the 'score first, ask questions later' philosophy, to which, answers are hard to come by."

The Cardinals are 3-8, and while by no means out of the division race in the West, a late-season run to glory seems highly unlikely. Inconsistent quarterback play has been the catalyst for Arizona's troubles, and rumors are swirling that Larry Fitzgerald may want out of Arizona.

"I'd be long gone and smelling like a rose," Fitzgerald said, "if it were as simple as Calgon taking me away. But it's not. I'm stuck with Derek, or should I say 'Dreck,' Anderson. As you know, Anderson was seen laughing on the bench with us down 24-6. Well, I've been asking him all year to 'humor me,' but this is not what I had in mind."

Rams win, 27-17.

Carolina @ Seattle (-6)

While the Seahawks are in a battle for the NFC West lead, tied with the Rams at 5-6 atop the division, the Panthers are a lowly 1-10 and in last place in the NFC South. The two squads will do battle at Qwest Field in a rematch of the 2005 NFC championship game, won 34-14 by the Seahawks.

"When I vowed at the beginning of the year to 'build a foundation,'" said John Fox, "being 'solidly at the bottom' of the division is not exactly what I had in mind."

While the Seahawks were making their Super Bowl run, Pete Carroll was at USC, handing out scholarships like they were going out of style, and sidestepping NCAA rules.

"You'll have to pardon me if I don't remember Seattle's magical Super Bowl run," Carroll said. "Most likely, I was 'looking the other way.' But we're working on our own magic here in Seattle right now. Turning a 5-6 team into a playoff qualifier? Now that's magic."

Seattle wins, 21-16.

Atlanta @ Tampa Bay (+3)

The Falcons took another step towards the NFC South crown, and possibly one or more home playoff games, with a 20-17 win over the Packers last week. Atlanta now heads to Tampa to face the Bucs, who are seeking revenge for a 27-21 loss to the Falcons in Week 9.

"Raheem Morris may overestimate the Bucs," Matt Ryan said, "but we have to guard against underestimating them, especially after our big win over the Packers. You just never know what will go down in Tampa. Quite often, 'ship' happens."

The Bucs lost a hotly contested 17-10 game in Baltimore, and need a win to stay firmly in the wild card playoff picture.

"As they say in Tampa," said Morris, "revenge is a dish best served in seasonal, 70-degree weather, with a warm breeze coming off the ocean from the southwest."

It's touch and go, and the game is tied at 20 with 1:35 left in the fourth quarter when the Falcons begin a drive at their on 14. 1:33 later, Matt Bryant kicks a 46-yard field goal to win the game.

Atlanta wins, 23-20.

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (-3)

The Steelers, 16-13 overtime winners in Buffalo last week, seek revenge for Week 4's 17-14 loss at home to the Ravens. Sunday night's matchup is for the outright AFC North lead, and could have critical seeding implications down the road.

"The win in Buffalo wasn't pretty," said Ben Roethlisberger, "but we'll take it. And if Steve Johnson can blame God for his drop, then we can legitimately thank God for the win. If that's so, then the Bills got 'divinity schooled.'

Now, I've been in a walking cast all week, treating a sprained foot I suffered last week. But I plan to play on Sunday. And that's something I'm sure Brett Favre can appreciate. Not only a fellow quarterback playing injured, but also the picture of a 'little booty' that I texted him."

The Ravens tuned up for the Steelers with a tough 17-10 win over Tampa in Baltimore, buoyed by a defense that held the Bucs to 263 yards of total offense.

"As rivalries go," said Ray Lewis, "this may be the NFL's best. We hate the Steelers; they hate us. Many rivalries are built on mutual respect. Not this one. A question often asked in regards to this rivalry is the same question often asked by Roethlisberger, usually in a locked bathroom — 'where's the love?'

But the hits will be plentiful, as will trips into the red zone. When all is said and done, we'll have answers to questions such as 'who is the AFC North's best team?' And 'can Roethlisberger's foot hold up?' And 'can James Harrison afford to tackle anyone?'"

With a gimpy Roethlisberger playing behind a shaky offensive line, the Ravens should be able to pressure Big Ben. Tackling him is the hard part. The sooner they do it, the less their defensive backs have to cover.

Baltimore wins, 24-19.

NY Jets @ New England (-3½)

Monday night's winner of the Jets-Patriots clash takes sole possession of the AFC East lead, as well as the inside track to home-field advantage in the playoffs. Both teams were impressive in Thanksgiving Day victories, as the Patriots overpowered the Lions 45-24, while the Jets subdued the Bengals, 26-10.

"This may be the most-watched Monday Night Football game of all -ime," Tom Brady said. "As opposed to last week's 49ers/Cardinals game, which was the most-tolerated Monday Night Football game of all-time.

As you may know, my son with Bridget Moynahan has the initials 'J.E.T.' Not surprisingly, we call him 'Jet' for short. Now, his mother is against corporal punishment, but I have no problem spanking Jet's ass. That doesn't make me a bad father; it makes me a Patriot. Now, Rex Ryan would rather 'kick' than 'spank' ass. And he's not afraid to say it. We'll see if he can back that ass-talk up."

While the Patriots are guided by the subdued leadership of Bill Belichick, the Jets are led by the boisterous direction of Rex Ryan, who isn't against proclaiming his Jets as the NFL's best team.

"The foundations of this team are built on physical play," Ryan said. "If there was a horse that could hold me, I'd mount that steed and ride through New England myself, declaring 'The brutish are coming! The brutish are coming!

"But what really excites me is the touch of Mark Sanchez. Was that out loud? I'm comfortable enough with my manhood to say that. Was that out loud? This may be the only time I have to tell myself to shut up."

Jets win, 27-24

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