Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
Houston @ Tennessee (-7)
The Titans have had 10 days to contemplate their tough 13-10 loss in Pittsburgh last Thursday, and while there's no shame losing in overtime to the defending world champs, the disappointment still resonates. Particularly for LenDale White, whose personal vendetta against Terrible Towels has overshadowed his hatred of the Steelers themselves.
"That's right," says White. "Losing is a lot like Tila Tequila after some time with Shawne Merriman - tough to swallow. And I regret acting as I did. But I've laid the Terrible Towel incidents to rest - after washing, drying, pressing, and neatly folding one, of course."
"We here in Tennessee often create quite a fuss over inanimate objects. Like Terrible Towels, or Vince Young, for example. Vince rarely moves on the sidelines. Sometimes, he's so motionless that pigeons land on him. Now, maybe they're just there to perch, but I think some are there to brag that their Wonderlic scores are higher."
The Titans are angry, rested, and ready to take out their frustrations on division rival Houston. Even without Albert Haynesworth, the Tennessee front four is formidable, and can stop the run as well as generate pressure on passing downs. Jeff Fisher won't let the Titans fall to 0-2.
White and Chris Johnson combine for 156 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Tennessee wins, 26-14.
Carolina @ Atlanta (-7)
How do you erase memories of a six-turnover performance in the playoffs last year? Well, if you're Jake "The Mistake" Delhomme, you do so with a five-turnover travesty in the season-opener. Delhomme did just that, throwing 4 interceptions and losing a fumble in the Panthers' 38-10 home loss to the Eagles.
"To say it was a case of d??j?? vu is an understatement," says Steve Smith. "It was more like a case of 'deja WTF!'"
"I can stand here all day and tell you that I have faith in Jake, as long as I'm not within arm's length of the Holy Bible. Maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board. I'm sure Coach Fox and his assistants can congregate in his office and come up with a suitable plan of action. Heck, our cheerleaders have proven that they can come up with some pretty good ideas after brainstorming in a 3'x5' bathroom stall. I have equal faith in our coaching staff."
Well Steve, John Fox is sticking with Delhomme, which means you're "stuck" with him. But the team did pick up A.J. Feeley as insurance, in case Delhomme falters, takes refuge in a car trunk, jets to Argentina to see his mistress, or misses 4-6 weeks after Smith clocks him.
Sure, it's too early in the season to declare this a "must-win" game for the Panthers ... but only by a week. An 0-2 hole surely leaves you in a must-win situation. How will Carolina upset the Falcons at home? By establishing the run, at all costs, taking an early lead, and thus allowing Delhomme some easy play-action completions later in the game.
Smith catches a long score on a flea-flicker from Delhomme, and John Kasay kicks the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Carolina wins, 30-27.
Minnesota @ Detroit (+9??)
Brett Favre's debut as Viking quarterback was a resounding success as Minnesota prevailed on the road in Cleveland, 34-20. Adrian Peterson rushed for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns, but just as importantly, Favre had no turnovers and not once displayed the urge to toss some crazy underhanded pass. Favre also showed the boyish, unbridled enthusiasm he is known for, celebrating widely after a touchdown pass to Percy Harvin.
"I think you can put the talk of a 'divided' locker room to rest," says Jared Allen. "It's hard not to root for Brett, especially since he's on my team. He's got such a 'disarming' quality about him, and that has nothing to do with his history of injuries. Brett and I are both country boys, so we bonded immediately over talk of high-powered rifles, camouflage coveralls, and smokeless tobacco. Heck, we're already swapping jeans like giddy schoolgirls."
Only for the Vikes can such a monstrous day from a running back be overshadowed by such a mediocre day from a quarterback. Of course, the Lions' Matthew Stafford would kill to have a day like Favre's. Then, by extension, Stafford would probably commit genocide for a running back with Peterson's talent. Stafford had 3 interceptions and a passer rating of 27.4 in a loss to the Saints.
"I don't expect Matthew to run and hide from this," says Jim Schwartz. "He may be a rookie, but he can own up to his mistakes. In fact, he micro-blogged about it on his personal social networking site, Jitter."
It won't be easy for Stafford against the Vikes, either. Running is difficult, and nearly impossible, against Minnesota. Defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams are free from suspensions for now, and defiantly wear Dallas Cowboy hats in protest of the furor over their use of the Star Caps supplement. They'll force Stafford to throw it, which he should be able to do against the Vikings secondary.
But the Lions have to make Favre beat them. What's the best way to do that? Well, they could load the box with eleven, or they could call a press conference and order Favre to make a decision immediately.
Peterson goes for 150 yards and 1 touchdown, and Favre hits tight end Visanthe Shiancoe for a score. With the game in hand late in the fourth quarter, Favre retires to the bench.
Minnesota wins, 34-21.
Arizona @ Jacksonville (-5??)
Kurt Warner is the prototypical white quarterback, a pocket passer with limited mobility and an aversion to absorbing punishment. So, when the defending NFC champion Cardinals travel to Jacksonville, comparisons are inevitable between Warner and the Jaguars David Garrard, a black quarterback with size, mobility, and the ability to take, as well as dish out, punishing hits.
"It's unfortunate that matchups like these always seem to become a racial or ethnic issue," says Garrard. "It shouldn't. Actually, Kurt and myself are more alike than one would expect. Heck, we both dig white chicks."
Barring a tie, one of these teams will fall to 0-2 and further into the cellar of their respective division. That's an undesirable scenario, but hardly a fatal one, particularly for the Cardinals, members of the NFC West, where the parity is so extreme that two game deficits can be made up in one week. Sure, it sounds mathematically impossible, but I've seen it done.
Larry Fitzgerald, who digs white quarterbacks, catches 8 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown.
Arizona gets in the win column with a 24-22 win.
Oakland @ Kansas City (-3??)
Was the Raiders' trade of a No. 1 pick for aging New England defensive end Richard Seymour a wise move? Oakland has a history of serving up No. 1 picks on a Silver and Black platter, but Seymour paid immediate dividends on Monday against the Chargers, with 2 sacks.
"I guess he was worth the wait," says Tom Cable, whose status as head coach and coach-puncher has earned him the nickname 'Brass Knuckles.' "I wasn't sure if Richard was going to report. Speaking of nicknames, Richard gave so many excuses for not being here that we started calling him 'Seymour Buts.' We'll need his pass rush and knowledge of Matt Cassel's tendencies, as well as any secret video he might possess, to help us against the Chiefs."
The Chiefs take the field along with head coach Todd Haley as the new fight song, "Haley to the Chief," blares from the public address system, as somewhere, Dick Vermeil's eyes well up. Even in defeat last week, Haley was pleased with the team's effort, as the Chiefs battled the Ravens until the end. He'll expect the same effort against the hated Raiders.
"Come Haley or high water," says Haley. "I didn't come here to rack up 'quality losses.' That's a 'BCS' concept, and also a 'BS' concept. To quote former coach Herman Edwards, 'We ... win ... the game.' Of course, that's heavily edited, but Herm is a lot like Shannon Sharpe - he makes no sense unless translated."
The AFC West houses four of the most unpredictable teams in the NFL. The Raiders proved they can hang with the Chargers, but can they close the deal in KC? Sure they can, as long as their rushing game is clicking and JaMarcus Russell's completion percentage is higher than that of his body fat.
Oakland wins, 24-21.
New Orleans @ Philadelphia (-1)
Did Michael Vick, in suit and tie, look completely at home watching the Eagles' blowout of the Panthers from high above the field at Bank of America Stadium? He sure did. That's because the Panthers kindly accessorized the luxury box with a defendant's table and a bailiff to accommodate Vick, who is eligible to play in Week 3. And with Donovan McNabb suffering a broken rib last Sunday, the possibility of Vick getting lots of playing time soon seems very likely.
"I know Michael's anxious to play," says Andy Reid. "I'm sure he's pretty sick and tired of sitting around in a suit and tie while others do all the work."
"But until he's eligible, we're taking no chances. That's why we've signed Jeff Garcia. Like Donovan, he understands the West Coast offense, and like Donovan, he hates Terrell Owens. I'm not sure that matters, but it will give them something to talk about."
"I'm not counting Donovan out just yet. He a warrior, but rib injuries can be very aggravating, especially when throwing, or vomiting."
The Eagles defense will face the daunting challenge of containing Drew Brees and the Saints' explosive passing attack, which dropped 6 touchdowns through the air on the Lions last week. Brees knows it won't come so easily against the attacking Philly defense. He also knows stopping him won't come so easily for the Eagle defense.
"Look, I'm no Jake Delhomme," says Brees. "Jake's tossed more 'picks' than Eddie Van Halen. Me? I'll be prepared for everything the Eagles bring. I may be the most studious quarterback in the league. I've watched more video than Bob Crane."
The Eagles defense will throw something at Brees he didn't see against Detroit - resistance. But Brees has a multitude of weapons, including tight end Jeremy Shockey and Reggie Bush, who he'll be able to find underneath if Philly tries to take away the deep ball. Of course, the Eagles will score plenty as well, but the Saints get the ball last, and Brees engineers a drive that ends with a John Carney field goal.
New Orleans wins, 34-32.
Cincinnati @ Green Bay (-10)
The Packers beat division foe Chicago just as dramatically as the Bengals lost last week, as Aaron Rodgers' 50-yard strike to Greg Jennings late in the fourth quarter gave the Pack a 21-15 win over the Bears. It was a magical moment in the short career of Rodgers, and maybe 500 more like that will justify comparison to the great Favre. For now, though, Rodgers is content with the win and his short but growing legacy.
"Look, I don't claim to be a legend," says Rodgers. "Heck, I won't even listen to John Legend. I've got no ill-will towards Favre. If not for his first premature retirement, I probably wouldn't be starting here. So, I owe a lot to him, so therefore, I can't condone the 'Go 4-nicate Yourself' signs aimed at Brett. I will sign them, however."
The Bengals' Carson Palmer looked rusty last week, and will have to be much sharper if Cincy is to spring the upset at Lambeau. The Bengals' improved defense played well last week, but was let down by their sputtering offense, which accounted for only 1 touchdown.
"Yeah, I know that's unacceptable," says Palmer. "Usually for the Bengals, 'unacceptable' is more likely to get you three-to-five, not seven."
"It won't be easy against the Packers' secondary. Al Harris and Charles Woodson are physical corners, and Dom Capers has implemented a scheme very complimentary to the athleticism of the defense.
Chad Ochocinco sets a milestone in Sunday's game. No, he doesn't become the first person to Twitter that he's Twittering. Instead, he records his first big game in two years, with 127 yards receiving yards and a touchdown. But that all comes in the fourth quarter as the Bengals play catch-up before falling, 26-20.
St. Louis @ Washington (-9??)
Upon reviewing the NFL standings on Monday morning, Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo noticed an alarming statistic - the Rams were one of five teams that didn't score a single point. It became even more disturbing when Spagnuolo realized that there were two Monday night games.
"Look, Rome wasn't built in a day," says Spagnuolo. "I'm guessing it took at least six years, and three head coaches, and several mediocre drafts."
"I'll get this offense in gear. You all know what I did in New York. But it took me time to build that defense. And I'm doing the same thing with the offense here, and that's putting together a unit proficient in shutouts."
Talk around water coolers in Washington centered mostly around health care reform, with occasional references to the Redskins' 23-17 loss to the Giants last week.
"Hey, just like my election win over John McCain," says President Barrack Obama says, "the game wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated. And offensively, the 'Skins need more work than health care reform. However, I like what I see on defense. Albert Haynesworth was impressive at the point of attack. He's clogged more middles than cheese. If you don't believe what I'm saying, then I dare you to stand up and say it's a lie."
Are the Rams staring a second-straight shutout in the face? Stephen Jackson won't find room to run betwixt the tackles, and oft-injured quarterback Marc Bulger may be facing a death panel after a battering from the Washington defense. After finding little room to run versus the Giants, Washington will establish the run, then look for Santana Moss to show up downfield.
Redskins win, 27-7. The Rams get on the board late with a Josh Brown field goal and an Albert Pujols' grand slam.
New England @ NY Jets (+5)
You can't talk the Patriots/Jets rivalry without speaking of "Spygate," the 2007 controversy in which the Patriots secretly videotaped a Jets practice. And no true, red-blooded American can talk of 'secret video' without mentioning Erin Andrews revealing peephole video.
"It's incredibly sad," says Bill Belichick. "Not that I show no shame for 'Spygate,' but because I get more excited viewing a Jets practice than footage of Andrews primping in the nude. However, unlike the Jets, I see no weaknesses in Andrews' game."
The Jets may have found their answer at quarterback, but what team hasn't after a Brett Favre retirement? Mark Sanchez was anything but a rookie in the Jets' 24-7 win over the Texans. Just as importantly, they have a coach in Rex Ryan who is not afraid to ruffle the feathers of a division rival.
"I know just how to get under the skin of the Patriots, and Tom Brady in particular," says Ryan. "And that's by posting these bootlegged ultrasound pictures of Brady and Giselle's baby."
"Brady may be a stud on the field, but it looks as though he's a hen-pecked, beaten man as Giselle's husband. Did you see him try to escape Suzy Kolber's interview request? Giselle has obviously laid down the law and forbidden Tom from contact with any women."
Do the Jets have what it takes to take out the Patriots? Can a rookie quarterback outplay a three-time Super Bowl champion? Do Ryan and Belichick already hate each other's guts? The answers: no, no, yes.
Brady schools Sanchez, throwing for 3 touchdowns, and the Pats' defense confuses Sanchez with a variety of blitzes, coverages, and foul language.
New England wins, 30-20.
Tampa Bay @ Buffalo (-4)
Despite a crushing 25-24 loss to the Patriots on Monday, excitement is at a fever pitch in Buffalo. The Bills showed promise against a team many consider the Super Bowl favorite, and Terrell Owens makes his regular season debut in Buffalo. Owens No. 81 jerseys are flying off the racks. Tickets sales are off the charts. And false hopes are at an all-time high.
"We should have won that game," says a dejected Dick Jauron. "That defeat was as heartbreaking as a Goo Goo Dolls ballad. But we've got a history of letting wins slip away at the last minute, or in the second quarter, as in the case of our Super Bowls."
"But we've got a lot to build upon. We played well, albeit for only 55 minutes, and to my knowledge, Owens is not yet disgruntled. T.O. had only two catches; we were hoping for a little more production from him. I guess that's what we get for trying to 'pass' a '$6 Million Dollar Bill.'"
Against the Bucs, the Bills need stick to fundamentals, avoid mental mistakes, and most of all, get Owens the ball at least ten times before he gets overly frustrated. I think they call that an intervention.
Owens has 8 catches for 135 yards and a 45-yard touchdown.
Buffalo wins, 24-17.
Seattle @ San Francisco (+1)
It's an early-season showdown for the NFC West lead as the Seahawks travel to San Francisco to face the 49ers, who shocked the Cardinals in Glendale last week, 20-16. Head coach Mike Singletary has infused pride and effort back into 49er football, and his no-nonsense approach to coaching is reminiscent of Dirty Harry Callahan's no-nonsense approach to policing in the Bay Area, just without the brutality, harassment, and clever catch-phrases.
"And my coaching in no way skirts the boundaries of the law," says Singletary. "When I was given the reigns of this team, Callahan himself said to me, with a glare in his eyes, 'Go ahead. Make my Bay.'"
"And that's what I'm doing. I'm giving this region a reason to love the 49ers again. Sure, we may not be the most dynamic or exciting team in the league. You're not going to see a lot of 80-yard touchdown passes. The 49ers of the 1980s had 'The Catch.' Personally, I'd settle for a catch."
With a win on Sunday, the Seahawks would own a 2-0 division record, which is by no means an insurmountable lead, especially in the NFC West, and would give Seattle a very early inside track to....
"I'm gonna have to stop you right there," says head coach Jim Mora, Jr. "Were you going to say an inside track to the 'playoffs?' Playoffs? Playoffs? You're talking about playoffs? Come on. Let's not jump the gun here. You obviously tricked me into repeating the lines my father made famous. Next time, just ask me, and I'll happily oblige your request. Shoot, I'll do anything to get my own Coors Light commercial."
Seattle wins, 20-17.
Baltimore @ San Diego (-4??)
It looks as though Shawne Merriman was telling the truth in the Tila Tequila mess that threatened to hang a dark cloud over the Charger linebacker's season. After further review, the district attorney handling the case determined that Tequila was not, in fact, "in the grasp," and therefore, her criminal accusations would hold up about as well as her resume.
"That's NFL players 2, lying **** 0," says Merriman. "Ben Roethlisberger is innocent, and so am I."
"I didn't, nor have I ever, choked Ms. Tequila. However, I will cop to the nude Heimlich maneuver. Anyway, let's not let this incident get in the way of this titanic matchup against the Ravens. We're not playing the Bills, so why are we talking about an overrated reality star anyway?"
We weren't. You were. In any case, Ray Lewis and the Ravens are coming to San Diego, and they're packing attitude and several cans of whoop ass.
"Those are two things you need to overcome the jet lag," says Lewis. "We realize the Chargers are a tough team and have been picked by many to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. However, I came here to bury the Chargers, not to praise them. And I came here to drink Tequila, not to choke her. But I can't wait to get my hands on somebody."
In what will surely be the week's most physical game, the Ravens' three-man rushing attack will dictate the outcome. Joe Flacco hits Todd Heap for the game-winning score, and the Ravens defense stops the Chargers on downs to hold on.
Baltimore wins, 19-13.
Pittsburgh @ Chicago (+3)
Can you quantify the importance of Troy Polamalu and Brian Urlacher to their respective teams? Probably not. But it would be much easier to quantify amount of hair when discussing the two defensive superstars - Urlacher has none, Polamalu has lots. Hair or no hair, injuries have sidelined both, Polamalu for 3-6 weeks, Urlacher for the entire season.
As for the Bears offense, maybe Josh McDaniels is a genius, and expediting Jay Cutler to Chicago was a shrewd move for Denver. If last Sunday night's game in Green Bay is any indication, maybe Cutler isn't cut out for life in the NFC North, or life without the beneficial calls of Ed Hochuli. Cutler's 4 interceptions contributed to the Bears' 21-15 demise in Green Bay, while Urlacher's dislocated wrist further clouded a dark night.
"That's two limp-wristed performances we could have done without," says Lovie Smith. "Urlacher's wrist can be surgically repaired; Cutler's is a handicap he, and we, may have to just live with. But I'm dealing with it the only way I know how - by seeking to trade Cutler. You know it's bad for a quarterback in Chicago when people in helicopters are mooning him."
Cutler will face a Pittsburgh defense that thrives on quarterback pressure, a feature that was equally as, if not more, important to last year's success than a phantom roughing the passer call on the Cardinals Karlos Dansby. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will attempt to confuse an already confused quarterback.
Ben Roethlisberger throws for 284 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Pittsburgh wins, 23-14.
Cleveland @ Denver (-3??)
By no means a religious man, Bronco wide receiver Brandon Stokely can nonetheless consider himself a purveyor of miracles. Stokley's stunning 84-yard touchdown off a deflected pass gave the Broncos a 12-7 win in Cincinnati.
"Hey, wasn't it cool how I ran along the goal line to kill more time?" says Stokley. "It's a good thing Don Bebe wasn't chasing me. But a play like that can't go without a clever nickname, like the 'Immaculate Reception.' Since that's taken, and is blatant blasphemy, I vote we call my catch the 'Bungle in the Jungle.'"
"But miracles do happen, obviously. Heck, Brandon Marshall is still a Bronco."
What's more satisfying for Josh McDaniels? Winning in Denver, or seeing Jay Cutler lose in Chicago? They're equally satisfying. How would his first home win as head coach stack up?
"That'd be great," says McDaniels. "Go Steelers!"
Denver wins, 20-13.
NY Giants @ Dallas (-3)
The post-Terrell Owens era began in earnest in Dallas, with Tony Romo throwing for a career-high 353 yards, including 3 touchdowns. Could Romo's success be attributed to a less stressful environment without T.O., or is the bliss of a romantic life free of Jessica Simpson the major contributing factor?
"T.O.'s absence is a weight off my shoulders," says Romo. "Jessica's absence was because of weight on her thighs. But I'm my own man now, and free to pursue other unhealthy relationships. Luckily, I have lots of support around me. If ever I need a shoulder pad to cry on, Jason Witten is always there."
Since Owens is not around to do it, the Giants will have to rely solely upon themselves to take Romo out of his game. They have the pass rush to do that, led by Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. Defense will keep them in the game. The question is, will Eli Manning take them out of it?
"If I do," says Manning, "and you don't have DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket, then you might miss it. But it's hard to be spectacular in this offense when my wide receivers keep going down due to leg injuries. Rookie Hakeem Nicks is out, and here's the amazing part - it wasn't self-inflicted, it didn't happen in a night club, and he's not a total moron. I do believe Antonio Pierce helped him off the field, though."
New York wins 22-20.
Indianapolis @ Miami (+3??)
South Florida will be hopping when Peyton Manning and the Colts visit Land Shark Stadium for a Monday night showdown. The 'Fins will be looking for their first win, and want to avoid having to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole.
"Is it correct that the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, are part owners of the Dolphins?" says Peyton Manning. "Remind me never to anger Serena. Her tirade at the U.S. Open was downright scary. I haven't seen anyone go off like that on an Asian since Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury."
"But really, can you call a foot fault in that situation? Especially on a round-rumped sister with a wicked forehand? I think the flat-assed line judge was just jealous. It was a 'booty' call, and an unfair one. Baby got back judged."
"Now, does a big Monday night game at home give Miami an 'advantage?' Maybe, but this team's never seen an advantage we couldn't drop a deuce on. We'll have to weather the storm, but we'll be there at the end."
The fired-up Dolphins jump out to a quick 14-love lead, but the Colts, led by Manning and Dallas Clark, methodically trim the lead. Adam Vinatieri kicks a 45-yarder with under two minutes to go to give Indy a 29-27 win.