Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
Seattle @ San Francisco (-9)
The 49ers were manhandled by the Giants 26-3 last week at Candlestick Park, and San Francisco failed to avenge last year's NFC championship defeat. The winner of Thursday night's Seahawks-49ers contest will hold at least a share of the NFC West lead.
"That was a humbling experience," Jim Harbaugh said. "You could say we had a taste of humble pie. And going from 614 yards of total offense to 314---that would be a taste of ???humble pi.'
"As you would expect in San Francisco, the shift in the balance of power in the NFC sent Richter scale readings off the chart. Some went as high as Alex Smith's passer rating for the game."
The Seahawks took down the Patriots 24-23 last week, despite giving up 395 passing yards to Tom Brady. Seattle was led by Russell Wilson, who tossed three scores in a nearly flawless game.
"Russell stood tall," Pete Carroll said. "He came up big. He's grown as a quarterback. Of course, I'm speaking figuratively. On a related note, Richard Sherman was ???short' with Brady. Richard can talk smack with the best of them. I think it's more indicative of his brashness if we call him ???The Mouth That Roared' as opposed to ???The Mouth That Tweeted.'
"But our offense is predicated on running the ball, and we've strayed from Marshawn Lynch lately. That will change. That's why I'm declaring this week ???Beast Awareness Week.' And I plan to feed the ???Beast.' The last time I vowed to feed a comparable beast, it was Reggie Bush's family. They were hungry for cash."
In a game featuring two of the NFL's top 4 defenses, expect points to come at a premium. And expect California novelty rockers Tenacious D to perform the national anthem.
Both defenses put a touchdown on the board, and Smith outplays Wilson down the stretch. 49ers win 20-16.
Tennessee @ Buffalo (-3)
The Titans stunned the Steelers 26-23 last Thursday, winning on Rob Bironas' field goal on the game's final play. At 2-4, the Titans are still well behind the Texans in the AFC South, but the win was a step in the right direction for Mike Munchak's squad.
"Speaking of ???steps in the right direction,'" Munchak said, "Chris Johnson rushed for 91 yards on 19 carries. That puts him well on pace to be overpaid."
The Bills are 3-3 after their overtime 16-13 win at Arizona last week, joining the Patriots, Jets, and Dolphins in a tie atop the AFC East.
"This was a monumental win for the Bills' organization," Chan Gailey said. "A Buffalo kicker nailed a field goal on the last play of the game to beat an NFC team. Too bad it was 21 years too late.
"The parity in the AFC East is amazing. ???Parity' is another way of saying ???the Patriots are playing like crap."
Bills win 30-24.
Dallas @ Carolina (+3)
The Cowboys fell to 2-4 after a heartbreaking 31-29 loss in Baltimore last Sunday, despite piling up 227 yards on the ground. Tony Romo's four-yard scoring pass to Dez Bryant pulled the ???Boys to within two, but Bryant dropped a perfect pass from Romo in the ensuing two-point conversion.
"Normally," Romo said, "Dez is my go-to receiver. Sometimes, that means I ???go to' him and ask him how he dropped such a pass.
"We've got to be better with quicker play calls and better use of time. Time in and time out, time outs mostly, we've squandered opportunities. As time outs go, Jason Garrett is the ???anti-Chris Webber'---he has a time out and won't use it. Rumor has it that Jerry Jones is bringing in Flava Flav to revamp our clock management skills."
The 1-4 Panthers are looking to turn their season around against the Cowboys. Cam Newton has struggled, and has faced the majority of criticism for Carolina's shortcomings. However, Carolina general manager Marty Hurney has accepted some of the blame for the team's problems.
"Let's face it," Hurney said. "Newton has a lot on his plate. That's much harder to deal with than having a lot on your collection plate, which is what his father Cecil faced.
"This team has given me a ???sports Hurney-a.' Our season has been turned inside-out. I think Ryan Khalil spoke for all of us when he predicted a Carolina Super Bowl run. We were supposed to ascend; instead, we're ass-end. Incidentally, Khalil is out with a season-ending injury. Team doctors are saying it's a left foot injury; word on the street is it's a neck issue, an injury sustained from sticking his neck out too far while picking the Panthers to go all the way."
After the ???Boys win the coin toss, Garrett calls a time out---just to see how many time outs he has left. After that, in typical Dallas fashion after falling apart last week, the Cowboys put it all together, and down the Panthers with a convincing 31-20 win.
Baltimore @ Houston (-4)
After their 31-29 win over the Cowboys last week, and losses by the Steelers and Bengals, the Ravens lead the AFC North by two games. They'll face their sternest test against the Texans, who boast the NFL's best defense. The Ravens lost Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb to season-ending injuries last week.
"Many people said our defense couldn't get worse," John Harbaugh said. "It just did. It was a double dose of bad news to find out that Webb and Lewis were done for the year. ???Nevermore,' quoth the Raven doctor. ???Nevermore.'"
The Texans lost for the first time last week after running into a desperate Green Bay team. Aaron Rodgers threw for 338 yards and six touchdowns, and the Texans fell to 5-1, still good enough for a sizeable lead in the AFC South.
"That's called a ???discount double reality check," Arian Foster said. "Call us the Felix Baumgartner of the NFL, because we broke the sound barrier falling back to Earth."
"The Ravens' defense is vulnerable. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes the holes in the Baltimore defense. I fully expect to surpass the 100-yard rushing mark on Sunday, probably by 1:30 Eastern time."
The Texans rely on their running game, keeping the Baltimore offense off the field. Houston enjoys a 2:1 advantage in time of possession, and Houston, much like Baltimore, sees their best defenders watching from the sidelines.
Houston wins 34-23.
Washington @ NY Giants (-7)
The Giants moved atop the NFC East standings with a convincing 26-3 win over the 49ers in San Francisco, only to find their cars had been burglarized, thus becoming the second team to be "robbed" while at an NFC West stadium. At 4-2, New York has a one game lead over the Eagles and Redskins.
"The 49ers talked the talk. We walked the walk. They put a foot in their mouth; we put one is their ass. The New York Post headlined their story on the game ???The San Francisco Mis-Treat.'
"Not many people are aware of this, but backup middle linebacker Mark Herzlich missed his flight back to New York. No offense to the 49ers, but it seems we left our ???Mark' in San Francisco."
The Redskins whipped the Vikings 38-26 behind a huge day from Robert Griffin III, who threw for one score and rushed for 138 yards and two scores. Washington is 3-3 and one game behind the Giants in the NFC East.
"RG3 amazingly recovered from last week's concussion," Mike Shanahan said. "Washington's had long line of quarterbacks with half a brain, but none have ever performed quite like RG3.
"It won't be easy for the Giants game-planning for RG3. He's a double threat---he can beat you with his arm or his feet. It all depends on whether RG3 is feeling ???froggy' or ???foggy.'"
There are two big-time quarterbacks on the field at MetLife Stadium, so no one will be mistaking this for a Jets' game. Griffin keeps the ???Skins in it, but Eli Manning leads a late drive that culminates in Lawrence Tynes' game-winning field goal.
New York wins 31-28.
New Orleans @ Tampa Bay (+3)
The Saints are 1-4, and barring an Atlanta collapse, won't win the NFC South, but can contend for a wildcard berth assuming they finish no worse than 9-7, and pray for help.
"The Falcons are running away with the division," Drew Brees said. "We're running away from it.
"But we're excited to possibly have Jonathan Vilma back for Sunday's game. The NFL is allowing him to play, provided the only thing he pays to anyone are "respects." It's interesting that Roger Goodell is allowing Vilma to play in Tampa, home of the Buccaneers, a mascot that spends its time searching for ???bounty.'"
The Buccaneers overpowered the Chiefs 38-10 last week, breaking a three-game losing streak. Sunday's game against the Saints is ???Throwback Day" at Raymond James Stadium.
"That's right," Greg Schiano said. "It's ???Throwback Day,' which, in Tampa, means Warren Sapp will undoubtedly badmouth his former team. Sapp's never at a loss for words. He's never pled the 5th, but he has pled the 7th and 13th."
The Bucs roughhoused Brady Quinn last week. Brees is no Quinn. I'm not sure what Quinn's record as a starter is, but Brees has more NFL records as a starter. Plus, Tampa will be without its best defender and No. 1 stimulant, Aqib Talib, who has been suspended for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
New Orleans wins 30-21.
Green Bay @ St. Louis (+6)
Is the Pack back? Aaron Rodgers certainly is, after torching the vaunted Texans' defense for 338 yards and six touchdowns in Green Bay's 42-28 win over Houston.
"That was a big road win for us," Rodgers said. "More importantly, it's one that we got credit for. Just call us the ???Houston Spoilers.'
"CBS' Shannon Sharpe had some very critical comments about me on The NFL Today. That was hard for me to understand, but after my translator filled me in, I knew what I had to do."
The Rams are 3-3 after dropping a close 17-14 game in Miami last week. St. Louis is one game behind the 49ers, Cardinals, and Seahawks in the NFC West.
"I like our position," Jeff Fisher said. "I you would have told me at the start of the season that we'd be one game out of the division after six games, I would have said, ???The division leader is 1-5?'
"But we'll have to pressure Rodgers. Green Bay has a great linebacker in Clay Matthews. We have one in James Lauriniatis. Most people know that James in the son of former professional wrestler Road Warrior Animal. Most people don't know that James was also a top baseball player for one of the most feared youth teams in history, the ???American Legion Of Doom.'"
Rodgers finds resistance through the air and compensates with two rushing scores. The Packers' defense gives us an early touchdown, but responds and shuts down the Ram attack in the second half.
Green Bay wins 26-13.
Arizona @ Minnesota (-3)
The Cardinals lost their first overtime game of the year, dropping a 16-13 decision to the visiting Bills. Instead of being 5-1 with sole possession of the NFC West lead, the Cardinals are 4-2 and tied with Seattle and San Francisco for the lead.
"It was in a losing effort," Ken Whisenhunt said, "but Larry Fitzgerald became only the second player in history to record 10,000 receiving yards before the age of 30, joining Randy Moss. Larry's caught everything Moss has, except ???hell,' and probably ****."
The Vikings dropped a 38-26 decision to the Redskins, as the Minnesota defense gave up more than 23 points for the first time this year.
"Our defense was exposed against the Redskins," Leslie Frazier said. "Robert Griffin III is nearly impossible to stop. I can't say the same for John Skelton. We're not sure what to expect from Skelton. Usually, when there's talk of people defending ???John's' in Minnesota, it's lawyers representing passengers on a sex boat cruise on Lake Minnetonka."
Minnesota wins 23-13.
Cleveland @ Indianapolis (-3 ??)
The Browns won for the first time last week, racing past the Bengals 34-24 behind two Brandon Weeden touchdown passes and a defense that forced four turnovers. The win snapped a 13-game losing streak that spanned two seasons.
"If we beat Indianapolis," Weeden said, "I'll be 2-0 against ???Colts' this year.
"NFL owners unanimously voted to approve the sale of the team to Jimmy Haslam. And team president Mike Holmgren has decided to retire at the end of the season. Finally, fans are getting what they wanted out of Holmgren---a good decision."
Andrew Luck turned the ball over three times in the Colts' 35-9 loss to the Jets last week, leaving Indy at 2-3 in the AFC South.
"I look forward to this battle of rookie quarterbacks with Weeden," Luck said. "Weeden is the oldest rookie in the league at 29, and also a former professional baseball player. I think it's great that he Browns are recycling old athletes. Cleveland's going 'Green;' Weeden's going 'gray.'"
Indianapolis wins 30-20.
Jacksonville @ Oakland (-5)
The Raiders had the undefeated Falcons on the ropes last week in Atlanta, but eventually fell 23-20. Atlanta remained undefeated, while the Raiders fell to 1-4.
"The AFC West is still wide open," Dennis Allen said, "and we're still very much in the race. Denver and San Diego are 3-3 at the top of the division. Thanks to Peyton Manning, the Broncos lead by a neck.
"We should have beaten the Falcons. This team is still learning how to finish. I think they already know where to finish."
The 1-4 Jaguars have scored only 65 points in five games for an average of 13 per game. One bright spot is Maurice Jones-Drew, who is sixth in the AFC in rushing with 408 yards.
"MJD is carrying this team," Mike Mularkey said. "It's an awfully light load. Some say he's a ???one-man wrecking crew.' That's only partially true---Jones-Drew is ???one man,' the rest of the Jags are the wrecking crew."
How is playing in Oakland similar to playing in Jacksonville for the Jaguars? There'll be very few Jaguars' fans in the stadium. It's the "Black Out in the Black Hole."
Oakland wins 27-16.
NY Jets @ New England (-4)
There's a four-way tie atop the NFC East, as all four team stand at 3-3. The Patriots could have been alone at the top, but blew a late lead to the Seahawks last week in a 24-23 loss.
"That's a game we probably should have won," Tom Brady said. "That's got nothing to do with Sunday's game; I just happen to like quoting statements made by the 2002 Oakland Raiders after the ???Tuck Rule' game.
"I've got to hand it to Seattle's Richard Sherman. He can trash-talk with the best of them, and backs it up. He really let me have it in a harsh and blunt manner. I guess that was his ???brusque with greatness.'"
The Jets exploded for five touchdowns in a 35-9 win over the Colts. Shonn Greene rushed for 161 yards and three TD's, and Mark Sanchez played mistake-free.
"Shonn did something Jets' fans have been begging me to do for weeks," Rex Ryan said. "And that's taking the ball out of our quarterback's hands.
"There is no quarterback controversy here. Sanchez is the starter, and Tim Tebow is the backup. Sanchez does take quarterbacking advice from Tebow. Does that sound crazy? Indeed it does. But so does Tebow taking dating advice from Lawrence Taylor."
The Jets won last week. The Patriots didn't. According to Bill Belichick, spying on an opponent, as well as turnabout, is fair play.
New England wins 27-24.
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati (+1)
Ben Roethlisberger became the Steelers all-time leader in passing yardage last week in a losing effort in Tennessee. Pittsburgh lost 26-23, but Big Ben's 363 yards put him ahead of Terry Bradshaw.
"I may have had some personal issues in my career," Roethlisberger said, "but this should definitely put me in the Hall Of Fame. I just hope they make my bust out of bronze and not porcelain.
"James Harrison claims he's had ???double-digit' concussions. That explains a lot. Apparently, when James says he's going ???headhunting,' he's looking for his own. Fittingly, the game is in the ???Jungle,' so don't be surprised to see some players in a ???vegetative' state."
The Bengals crumbled in the second half at Cleveland, giving up 27 second-half points in a 34-24 loss. The loss dropped the Bengals to 3-3, and they trail the 5-1 Ravens by two games in the AFC North.
"We collapsed," Marvin Lewis said. "This is not what Cincinnati football is about. If Paul Brown were here today, I wouldn't be.
"The Steelers' defense isn't what it used to be. The ???Steel Curtain' is now the ???Steel Uncertain.'"
The fired-up Bengals race to an early 13-3 lead, but Roethlisberger's uncanny scrambling ability enables a late, game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Steelers win 26-24.
Detroit @ Chicago (-6)
The Lions snapped a three-game losing streak with a big 26-23 overtime win in Philadelphia last week. At 2-4, Detroit trails the Bears and Vikings by three games in the NFC North.
"What another great comeback," Jim Schwartz said. "As long as you don't ???yardage' at the end of the phrase, you can easily say this team ???doesn't give up.' Don't call us the ???Cardiac Kids;' that would insinuate that we have heart.
"This is a must-win game for us, the first in a series of ten. If we win, we're within one game of the division lead. With a loss, we'll be wishing we were in the AFC."
The Bears are 4-1 and have the outright lead in the NFC North. After a bye week, they are also well-rested and looking for their first division win.
"We've implemented a no-huddle offense," Jay Cutler said. "I love it, mostly because I can say ???I'm not close to my teammates' and not be criticized."
Chicago wins 33-24.