Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (-10½)
The Bengals head to Pittsburgh with the hopes of adding an upset of the division-leading Steelers to their "record" collection, which heretofore includes only a win over the Jaguars and a tie with the Eagles. Cincy's 13-13 stalemate with the Eagles was the NFL's first tie since 2002.
"Wow! That's amazing," says Marvin Lewis. "I didn't realize it had been that long since the NFL's last tie. If I could get Chad Johnson to wait six years between kisses, then he might actually be tolerable."
"Anyway, I've heard of an 'ugly' win before, but not an 'ugly' tie. Here in Cincinnati, an 'ugly tie' is often used in reference to what a fashion-starved Chris Henry wears when appearing before the magistrate. Or what happens when Pete Rose doesn't get an outcome on a huge bet. But as far as the tie goes, we'll take it. It was truly a pathetic game, one that reminded me of Whodini's classic rap '75 Minutes of Funk.' Never did I think I'd see a clock operator booed. But really, the most startling aspect of the whole affair is that Donovan McNabb is still on the field."
The Steelers made history of their own, as their 11-10 win over the Chargers was the first NFL game in history to end with such a final score. Despite racking up 410 yards of total offense, the Steelers managed only three field goals on offense.
"What's the real story here?" says Mike Tomlin. "Our red zone futility, or the mistake by the officials that snatched a touchdown from the hands of Troy Polamalu? We're used to our offense robbing our defense of glory, but not the officials. Apparently, 'Ed Hochuli' is not only a referee, but a disease, and it's catching."
A date with the Bengals should cure the Steelers of their red zone issues, and Cincy will be left wishing the game ended in a tie. Pittsburgh wins, 27-13.
Carolina @ Atlanta (-1)
Not only are "bailouts" big talk nationwide, but the word seems to be a subject of interest in Charlotte, where Jake Delhomme has been "bailed out" of the Panthers' last two games. Two weeks ago, the Panthers defense stepped up to overcome four Delhomme interceptions to beat Oakland. Last week, big games by running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart disguised another subpar performance by Delhomme as the Panthers beat the winless Lions, 31-22.
"Here's some words of advice," says John Fox. "If you need change for a C-note, don't ask Jake for help, because he can't 'break a hundred.' Yards per game, that is. Everyone knows I sat down Steve Smith for two games for punching Ken Lucas. Jake needs to step it up, or he'll find out that I also sit players down for 'less offensive' infractions."
Atlanta lost their first home game last week, dropping a 24-20 decision to the Broncos. Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan had somewhat of an off-game, with no touchdowns and 1 interception.
"Matt's shown the ability to learn from his mistakes," says Mike Smith. "He'll bounce back. I have no doubt that he's still the 'real deal,' even more of a 'real deal' than 46-year-old Atlanta native Evander 'Real Deal' Holyfield, who's got a heavyweight title fight lined up. Jeez, I didn't know Sonny Liston still had a belt."
"Anyway, it seems that other famous Atlanta athletes are trying to steal our thunder. Michael Vick has said he wants to rejoin the NFL after he serves his prison sentence. I think that's great, but we'll have to see what Roger Goodell, and more importantly, what 'Rover' Goodell, says about all that."
Panthers win, 24-17.
Philadelphia @ Baltimore (-1)
A week after boxer and Philadelphia native Bernard Hopkins questioned his heart, Donovan McNabb tossed 3 interceptions and lost a fumble in Cincinnati, and the Eagles left with a 13-13 overtime tie, instead of a much-needed win.
"You mean to tell me," says McNabb, "that NFL games don't go to a shootout after a scoreless overtime period? Well, color me ignorant."
"As for Hopkins, I can't let the words of a washed-up pugilist affect me. I don't like boxers telling me how to play football. How would Hopkins feel if skilled palookas like Ed "Too Tall" Jones or Mark Gastineau criticized his fortitude? Besides, boxers like Hopkins have it made. They keep a spit bucket with them at all times. I'd never puke on the field with that kind of equipment."
Here's something else you should know, Donovan. The Phillie Phanatic did not get his start on Sesame Street as a sidekick to Big Bird.
Despite his rookie status, Baltimore's Joe Flacco is fully aware that NFL regular-season games can end in a tie.
"I learned that as a rookie," says Flacco. "That is, the 'rookie' day of my life. McNabb's first mistake was not knowing the rules. His second mistake was admitting to it. Luckily, his ignorance of tie game procedures will now overshadow his penchant for puking on the field. He's a legend for all the wrong reasons."
"His knowledge of the game is poor," quoth the Raven. "His knowledge is poor."
Baltimore wins, 23-20.
Houston @ Cleveland (-4)
The Browns held on for a 29-27 win on Monday night in Buffalo, improving their record to 4-6, which technically kept their slim playoff hopes alive, while realistically moving their official elimination from the playoffs a bit closer to Christmas. Brady Quinn has played solidly since taking over the quarterback job from Derek Anderson three weeks ago.
"I think we've proven that this isn't a team of quitters," says Quinn, who has seen membership in his fan club, Quinnsryche, explode since his promotion to starter. "Despite Jamal Lewis' insistence that 'Cleveland Quits!,' I still believe that 'Cleveland Rocks!' Playing the theme of The Drew Carey Show on a 24-hour continuous loop has been known to cause delusional behavior."
The Texans fell to 3-7 after last week's 33-27 shootout loss to the Colts in Indianapolis, the Texans' fifth road loss and fourth division loss.
"We're obviously playing only for pride now," says Gary Kubiak, "but not in lieu of our massive salaries. Regardless of the stakes, there is no quit in these Texans. It takes a lot to make a Texan say 'I quit.' For example, a presidential term limit, or a Ric Flair figure-four leg lock."
Houston wins, 30-27.
San Francisco @ Dallas (-11)
After a big win in Washington, the Cowboys are seemingly back on track, and luckily, it didn't take Wade Phillips dropping his pants to get them there. All it took was the return of Dallas royalty Tony Romo, the Cowboys' "Five-Finger Viscount," who missed the previous four games with a broken pinkie.
"I'm tickled 'pinkie,'" says Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. "I promised we'd make the playoffs, and after our lackluster 14-10 win over the 'Skins, I'm going out on a limb and sticking to my original statement. Who knows? If we beat the 49ers, I might promise a Super Bowl trip."
The 49ers won their first game under head coach Mike Singletary, dropping the Rams 35-16. Quarterback Shaun Hill looks to be the 49ers' quarterback on the future, and has shown the smarts and toughness necessary at the position after being named starter over J.T. O'Sullivan three weeks ago.
"I really hated to bench O'Sullivan," says Singletary. "He's a hard worker and a decent quarterback, but the urge to have the chance to call him the 'Irish Sitter' outweighed those aspects."
"I feel like I've really instilled my work ethic into these players. I've made the 'panty-waists' among them see things my way, and I don't feel it's necessary to go to extremes such as dropping my pants to accomplish that goal."
"Hey, everybody knows that a real 49er can't pull anything substantial out of his pants," says Terrell Owens. "Even I was smart enough to whip the Sharpie pen out of my sock, and not my pants. That may have been the greatest touchdown celebration is history, and it opened the door to the era of overdone TD celebrations. None have been able to match the Sharpie celebration. All those wanna-be's have been left with a case of 'Sharpie-nis Envy.'"
Marion Barber rushes for a score, and catches a short TD pass from Romo. Dallas wins, 27-23.
Tampa Bay @ Detroit (+9)
The Lions are still winless, but are playing hard at the urging of Rod Marinelli and are benefitting from the gutsy leadership of Daunte Culpepper. Culpepper led the Lions into Carolina last week and kept them in the game well into the fourth quarter.
"We'd much rather break this losing streak sooner than later," says Marinelli. "We've seen that '0' in the win column for much too long. These guys are desperate to be on ESPN for something other than a loss, and I'm dying to get a win before I appear on MTV to be informed by Ashton Kutcher that I've just been Skunk'd."
No worries, Marinelli. There is no 'Skunk Rule' in the NFL. But if there were, I'm sure Donovan McNabb would be unaware of it.
The Bucs remained hot on the tail of the Panthers for the lead in the NFC South. Last week, Tampa rode the scrambling ability of Jeff Garcia and two huge takeaways by the defense in a 19-13 win over the Vikings.
"Garcia's a lot like Warren Sapp on Dancing With the Stars," says Jon Gruden. "No, not surprisingly effeminate, but light on his feet. Who would have thought that Sapp's post-football regimen would be anything other than hours on the couch with a spit cup? Not only is he a talented dancer, but he's also an insightful and entertainingly candid analyst on the NFL Network. Plus, he's done something that I've wanted to do for years - publicly call Keyshawn Johnson a '****.'"
Tampa wins, 27-16.
Minnesota @ Jacksonville (-1½)
After a 24-14 loss to Tennessee that dropped them to 4-6, Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio knows any realistic shot at a playoff spot will likely require the Jags to win out and finish at 10-6, then pray for help from about eight teams, as well as whichever divine entity they feel is best equipped to produce a miracle. To win Sunday, first and foremost on Del Rio's agenda is stopping the Viking running game and Adrian Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher.
"I'll handle Adrian Peterson like I handled Mike Peterson," says Del Rio. "By baiting him into back-talking me, suspending him, and then demoting him to second string. Then I might take away his dominos. What's that? No one outside of the Vikings organization is allowed to dole out discipline to a Viking? Ha! Tell that to Roger Goodell."
In Minnesota, three-quarters of the Vikings' defensive line have meetings with commissioner Roger Goodell that could possibly result in their suspensions. Defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams are set to discuss their use of diuretic "water pills," while defensive end Jared Allen is in line to discuss his hit on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"We're all a little worried about the outcome of those meetings," says Brad Childress. "Obviously, this is new territory for the Vikings. Usually, when this many players are facing discipline, it's because of something they did on a boat and not on the field. Hopefully, Pat and Kevin will have something better than a 'piss-poor' excuse to give Goodell as to why signs of water pills showed up in their urine. I'm worried about Jared's meeting even more. He's a loose cannon, so there's no telling what he'll say. Hopefully, he'll take off his headband before the meeting, and won't mention anything about NFL rules not being consistent with those of 'smear the queer.'"
Has Del Rio totally lost control of his team? He's not the Jack of "Hearts" that so many of his players have grown to love. It looks like he's turning into a version of former Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin. Here's some advice, Jack. Chill out. You may think banning certain privileges in the locker room will make a difference. You can take away their Foo Fighters, but it's only going to result in more "F.U." fighting.
Peterson rushes for 123 yards and a touchdown, and the Vikings win, 21-17.
Buffalo @ Kansas City (+3)
When Rian Lindell's 47-yard field goal attempt with 33 second remaining sailed wide right last Monday, you could hear the city of Buffalo collectively moaning, with memories of Scott Norwood's missed Super Bowl kick creeping back into the minds. It was the Bills' fourth consecutive loss, and they're now dead last in the AFC East.
"The kicking game is the least of our worries," says Dick Jauron. "At least Lindell kicks the ball in a timely manner, which is more than I can say about Trent Edwards' performance. If your offensive line gives you an eternity to throw, you should be able to do more than dump it off to a running back. Trent needs to be more like O.J. Simpson and his cronies storming a casino memorabilia show - quick on the draw. If Trent can't defeat this case of 'Trigger Mortis,' then I'll have no recourse but to bench him."
In Kansas City, the defense is terrible, but the offense is showing signs of life lately with the improved play of Tyler Thigpen.
"Thigpen's solidified his status as this team's future quarterback," says Herman Edwards. "It will be exciting to see him develop into a good NFL quarterback. I just hope I'm around to see it."
Hey, no one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills, but what kind of idiotic team circles their wagons right smack dab in Indian country? Thigpen will see a lot of blitzes from Jauron in what is unofficially known as the 'Dick Smothers' defense. But Thigpen has Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez, and unlike Edwards, Thigpen's not afraid to throw it downfield. Kansas City wins, 24-21.
New England @ Miami (-3)
New England is intent on proving that Miami's 38-13 win over the Pats in Week 2 was merely a fluke, and the Patriots won't again be fooled by the Dolphins' tricky "Wildcat" sets. In that game, Miami employed several direct snaps to Ronnie Brown, with four resulting in touchdowns.
"There's no way the Dolphins are 25 points better than we are," says Patriot running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who, whenever he goes out, the people always shout, 'Hey, there goes BenJarvus Green Ellis.' "I wasn't even around for that game. Come to think of it, none of us were. Obviously, we can't give up 38 points again. If we can't stop Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, Miami's 'Tropic Thunder' rushing duo, then we're in trouble."
"'Tropic Thunder?'" says Williams. "I like that. Heck, I've smoked that."
Miami coach Tony Sparano knows the Patriots are a very different team that they one the Dolphins saw in week three. And, coming off a Thursday night loss to the Jets, New England and Bill Belichick have had a few extra days to prepare for the Dolphins.
"Hey, there's no doubt that Belichick will be watching his share of video," says Sparano. "Those damn, dirty tapes. Does Belichick think he's going to find some useful information on those films? No way. I've been surveilled by the feds for some time now, and haven't given up a thing. Honestly, we don't have anything to hide from the Patriots. We're going to run the ball, and make Randy Moss feel like his transcript from Marshall - useless."
It wouldn't be a Miami game without Joey Porter calling out someone from the opposing team. This time, Porter's called out the entire Patriots team, claiming the Pats have disrespected the Dolphins as a team. Is it just me, or does Porter's constant trash talk make it look like Triump the Insult Comic Dog could find a compliment for Lindsey Lohan?
Porter backs up the talk and sacks Matt Casell twice. Brown and Williams rush for a combined 168 yards. Miami wins, 29-17.
Chicago @ St. Louis (+6)
The tightest division race in the NFC is in the North, where the Packers, Bears, and Vikings are tied at 5-5. That really says something about the competitiveness of the division, but what does it say about the division when the 0-10 Lions are mathematically still alive to win the division? It's conceivable that the Lions could win the division with a 6-10 record.
"Yeah, and it's conceivable that Paul Bunyan could show up in St. Louis," says Lovie Smith, "and rip the Gateway Arch out of the ground and jump rope with it. The Rams have gone downhill since I gave up my defensive coordinator job to coach the Bears. They've lost seven games by 17 or more points. I guess you could call them the 'Battering' Rams. Which is fitting, because after getting our own tails whipped by 34 last week, we're ready to get medieval on their ****."
Of course, St. Louis will counter with catapult, locked and loaded with Jim Haslett and other coaches who are sure to be sent flying at some point before season's end. Chicago wins, 30-17.
NY Jets @ Tennessee (-5)
At 10-0, the Titans have taken everything their opponents have thrown at them and still emerged with a spotless record. Last week, Tennessee turned a 14-3 halftime deficit in Jacksonville into a 24-14 win, dominating both sides of the ball in the second half. On Sunday, the streaking Jets, leaders of the AFC East, and Brett Favre will try to take down the Titans.
"If you saw the Country Music Awards a few weeks ago," says Jeff Fisher, "you probably saw Kid Rock and Lil' Wayne performing in Titans' jerseys. I think that's a clear indication that the Titans' bandwagon is full, and from this point on, no one with 'Kid' or 'L'il' in their name is allowed to wear Titans gear. I haven't been so unimpressed by a performance in a Titans jersey since Vince Young took the field in Week 1."
Favre is doing exactly what the Jets intended when they signed him in the offseason: win ball games and render Jets' fans nervous whenever he **** his arm to throw. After a heroic effort that helped the Jets beat the Patriots, Favre will take on the Titans' physical defensive unit, ranked first in the league in points against.
"Hey, don't forget all the souvenir sales," says Favre. "The 'Brett Favre Double-Reverse Tour' merchandise options are huge sellers in New York. Not so much in Green Bay, though."
"We're going to Nashville with the intent of not just giving the Titans a tough game, but beating them. They are certainly worthy competitors. The 'Dine and Dash' rushing combo of LenDale White and Chris Johnson is formidable, and Kerry Collins has proven that he'll stay in the pocket to make the big pass. Unlike Vince Young, Collins won't, and can't, run away from anyone. But let's be serious. Collins for MVP? There's no way."
I think you misunderstood, Brett. Collins isn't campaigning for MVP; but he would like someone to hand him an MGD.
In a battle of veteran quarterbacks, it will come down to who makes the fewest mistakes. The crystal ball says Favre will have two turnovers, and they're not apple. Collins plays mistake-free, and Rob Bironas kicks four field goals. Tennessee wins, 26-17.
Oakland @ Denver (-10)
With two straight road wins, the Broncos have opened up a two-game lead in the AFC West, thanks mainly to the golden arm of Jay Cutler. Cutler is third in the league in touchdown passes and passing yardage.
"I think we've got a firm grip on the division," says Mike Shanahan, Denver's high-strung head coach whose odd skin tone is known around town as the "Orange Flush." I'd go so far as to say our grip on the West is a firm as John Elway's hold on his two Super Bowl trophies. Then I take a gander at our defense and see that we've given up 23 more points than we've scored. That makes me think that our hold on the division is like Cutler's grip on the football that slipped out of his hand, but was incorrectly called an incomplete pass by Ed Hochuli - not very firm."
"I've given Cutler the green light to throw any pass he wants. Donovan McNabb may not know the rules, but there is a lot Cutler can learn from watching McNabb. Specifically, if you keep heaving and chucking, you'll eventually make the big play. McNabb might leave a big mess on the field in the process. For us, that mess is left on the field by our defense."
The Raiders haven't scored an offensive touchdown in 19 quarters, which also happens to be the number of quarters you can put in a vending machine to get a Raider quarterback. Former Giants head coach Jim Fassell expressed his interest in the Oakland head coaching job in a letter sent to Al Davis last week.
"It would have been there sooner," says Fassell, "but Al insists his mail be delivered via Pony Express. He's nostalgic that way. I realize Oakland is not the ideal coaching destination, but I really want a head coaching job. I realize I'd be stepping right into Davis' 'Cult of Dysfunctionality,' but I can handle it. I think Al's got a bum rap. Most of the rumors you hear about him aren't even true. No, he can't turn himself into a bat just like that. It takes about two hours. No, he didn't sign the Declaration of Independence. He did try, though. And, no, Bowzer from Sha Na Na is not Al's son."
Broncos win, 26-21.
NY Giants @ Arizona (+3½)
Styles will clash when the Giants and their power running game take on the Cardinals and their explosive passing attack. Last week, the Giants rumbled for 207 yards on the ground against the Ravens' No. 1-ranked run defense, while Kurt Warner threw for 395 yards as the Cards beat the Seahawks.
"We're certainly concerned about the Giants 'Earth, Wind, and Fire' running back combination," says Ken Whisenhunt. "But don't underestimate Warner and his receiving trio of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston. They're just as formidable. All they need is a clever nickname. How about '(Old as) Dirt and yhe Soil Brothers?' No? How about 'The Old Man and the 'Cs?' The 'C' for 'Cardinal,' of course. Or how about we just keep it simple and call the 'The White Quarterback and Three Fast Black Dudes.'"
Good one, Ken. There's no way that will be confused with any other team in the league.
New York's Brandon Jacobs has a minor knee injury that will cause him to miss Sunday's game. Jacobs is the 'Earth' of 'Earth, Wind, and Fire,' with apologies to Philip Bailey, and is the Giants' leading rusher.
"Do you remember," says Tom Coughlin, "the 19th day of November? That's when Brandon decided he wasn't going to play. Jacobs is certainly the shining star of the trio, and without him, we lack the most powerful runner of the trio. Now, when 'Earth, Wind, and Fire' is running on all cylinders, then they're an unstoppable force, on the field and on the dance floor. I fondly remember many a night back in the mid-1970s, under the disco ball on the dance floor, grooving to 'Boogie Wonderland.' I looked up and realized I was there alone. That's when I decided to become a football coach."
Arizona wins, 26-24.
Washington @ Seattle (+3½)
It's a homecoming for Jim Zorn, former Seahawks quarterback as well as former Seattle quarterbacks coach, as the Redskins make the long trip to Qwest Field. The Redskins have lost two in a row, and desperately need a win to reclaim the momentum they established with a 6-2 record halfway through the season.
"Someone once said 'Go west, young man,'" says Zorn. "I think it was a NFL schedule-maker. It won't be easy traveling to Seattle and trying to break a two-game losing streak. We were playing so well before the Steelers came to town. I guess coaches can hit the 'rookie wall' as well. The '12th Man' cheering section is a clever bunch, and will probably pickup on that. So, with it being Seattle, birthplace of Jimi Hendrix, I fully expect to see plenty of 'Are You Experienced?' signs. Well, guess what, I've been to Electric Ladyland, which means that, yes, I am experienced."
With two straight road losses, the 'Skins can't afford another loss, especially with the Giants coming to town the following week. Washington may be playing for its season. Redskins win, 20-13.
Indianapolis @ San Diego (-3)
The Colts, one of five 6-4 teams in the AFC, head to San Diego, where Peyton Manning fully intends to follow the advice of Charger fans and "take a hike," of course after defeating the Chargers and enjoying his morning cup of coffee. Manning and the Colts hope to avenge two defeats last year to San Diego, including a divisional playoff game in Indy.
"I'm going to put this team on my shoulders," says Manning. "Not because I want to, but because I have to. Our rush defense comes and goes like Bob Sanders availability. I didn't know 'Colts safety' was a part-time position."
"Anyway, I'd like to forget my last trip to San Diego, in which I threw 6 interceptions. In general, I don't have a problem with the West, although I do have a problem with Kanye West. He claims to be the voice of our generation? You fool, don't you know that I am the voice of this generation? I on TV way more than Kanye, and when I am, you don't see me whining about the government or advocating the plight of the poor. I'm doing more important things, like selling HD televisions, or protecting nerds who don't watch sports from an outraged Chicken. Now I ain't saying Kanye drinks Goldshlager, but Gilbert Arenas is a great blogger. Hey, I never claimed to be a rapper. Anyway, rap lyrics don't have to make sense; they just have to rhyme."
Have the Colts conceded the AFC South division crown to the Titans? You bet. But what rhymes with "concede?" "Fifth seed," as in the AFC playoffs No. 5 seed. That would likely be a matchup at the home field of the AFC West division winner. And that's either going to be Denver or San Diego. And the Colts have had much better success against Denver than San Diego. So it's in Indy's best interest to beat the Chargers, thus moving the Broncos closer to the division crown, and an early playoff exit.
Manning throws for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns, out-dueling Philip River's 285 and 2 scores. Indianapolis wins, 34-30.
Green Bay @ New Orleans (-3)
The Saints finally registered a win on the road, topping the Chiefs in Kansas City 30-20 to keep their marginal playoff hopes alive. New Orleans is 5-5, last in the NFC South, and will need a substantial winning streak to mount a playoff push.
"Look, I could stand here and do my best Jim Mora impression," says Sean Payton. "Which I must say is pretty good. 'Playoffs?! Playoffs?!' How's that? I can clown it up with the best of 'em, but the last thing I want is to see myself in a Coors Light commercial hamming it up with those four Coors drinkers who always have questions that can be answered by sound bytes from flustered coaches. You think Brian Billick and Dennis Green looked like idiots when they were coaching? Look at 'em now; total buffoons."
Like the Saints, the Packers are 5-5, which is good enough for a tie for first in the NFC North.
"Obviously, Drew Brees will be our main focus," says Mike McCarthy. "Especially since Brett Favre will have already played at Tennessee the previous day. We always try to keep one eye on Favre, because, as you know, the better he plays, the worse we look for trading him. Sure, Favre's a legend, and he's proving that once again in New York. But Aaron Rodgers is no slouch. He's a confident fellow. Why, just the other day, he was strutting around the locker room saying 'I am legend.' I was impressed, until I realized he was just naming his favorite Will Smith movie."
It will be an emotional night in the Superdome. Why? Because Charles Grant, Deuce McAllister, and Will Smith (the other one) aren't going down for steroid use. And what does New Orleans need more than a reason to party.
The Saints race to a 13-3 first quarter lead, and Brees throws for 310 yards and 3 scores. New Orleans holds on for a 27-24 win.