Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
Seattle @ Dallas (-9)
With Miles Austin emerging as Tony Romo's favorite target, and the Cowboys offense second in the league in total yards, life in Dallas is copacetic, with Terrell Owens the last thing on Romo's mind.
"Hey, I like throwing the ball and saying ???Miles, away!'" says Romo, "almost as much as the fact that T.O. is ???miles away.' I feel like I'm ???on the same page' with all my receivers. In fact, I'm on Jason Witten's Facebook page as we speak, sending him a ???more than friends' request."
With injuries their biggest concern, the Seahawks welcomed week 7's bye, and should be relatively healthy for Sunday's contest in Big D. Seattle will be the first NFC West team to visit the brand new, $1 billion Cowboy Stadium.
"I hear that place is as cavernous as Wade Phillips' huge noggin," says Matt Hasselbeck. "Somebody tell the Peanuts Linus that the Great Pumpkin has indeed arrived. I also hear there's a horribly disfigured creature that inhabits the upper regions of the structure, and often makes it way down to the field, where its voice has been known to influence the coach."
That's true, Matt. Suffice it to say that creature is not "The Manster," Randy White.
Dallas wins 26-13.
Houston @ Buffalo (+3 ??)
After a 24-21 win over the 49ers, the Texans are 4-3, second in the AFC South, with a week 9 meeting with the Colts looming. Before that, however, they'll have to get by the surprising 3-4 Bills, who, despite their 27th-ranked offense, are only two games out of first in the AFC East.
"We have no intentions of looking past the Bills," says Matt Schaub. "They're riding a two-game winning streak, and they're winning in typical Buffalo, blue-collar fashion. Sure, their offense is ranked 27th, and their defense isn't much better, ranked 24th, but that's the kind of balance most teams would welcome. Balance defines that team-they're winning with equal parts ???smoke' and equal parts ???mirrors.'"
Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his second consecutive start while Trent Edwards recovers from a concussion suffered two weeks ago. The Harvard-educated Fitzpatrick is a quick study, and reportedly mastered the playbook in one sitting, while head coach and Yale grad Dick Jauron learned it the old-fashioned way---he fired the offensive coordinator.
"One would think," says Jauron, "that our combined intellect would be able to successfully manufacture some offense. For whatever reason, we've been Ivy ???be-leaguered.'"
There's precipitation in the forecast for Sunday. Unfortunately for the Bills, it's not snow. Instead, it's the tears from Owens' imminent breakdown. With Andre Johnson less than 100%, the Texans ride Steve Slaton to victory. Slaton rushes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Houston wins 30-14.
Minnesota @ Green Bay (-3)
Brett Favre's long-awaited homecoming in Green Bay is upon us, and it couldn't have been scripted any better. The Vikes are 6-1 with the Packers close behind at 4-2, and a Packer win would forge a practical tie atop the division. The Packers have won two straight by a combined 57-3 score, while Minnesota lost for the first time last week, falling to the Steelers 27-17 in Pittsburgh.
"This may be the most anticipated event in Green Bay since my first tearful retirement press conference," says Favre. "This game has the potential to be a real barnburner. Throw in some snow and Matt Hasselbeck, and you've got the makings of a true classic."
"I'm not sure how the fans will react to my return. I'm not expecting casserole for my homecoming. With the game taking place a day after Halloween, it's appropriate to say my reception will be ???Trick Or Treat.' That's just fine. I don't mind Halloween-themed events, nor do my teammates, who just enjoyed a cruise on Lake Minnetonka on the SS Ghostly Tail."
"I guess I can expect somewhat of a cool reception in Green Bay. I was once considered a god there, but it seems my status as a deity is no longer. It looks as though my inability to ???decide' has resulted in a case of ???deicide.' That's a ???vowel movement' this 40-year-old would rather not experience."
Favre's counterpart, Aaron Rodgers, was sacked eight times in the Packers 30-23 loss in Minnesota in week 4. Jared Allen recorded 4.5 of those sacks, as well as a forced fumble.
"We can't have a repeat of the last game," says Rodgers. "Allen is an avid outdoorsman; there's nothing he likes more than a ???sitting duck,' or a ???deer in the headlights.' After last time, I think my offensive line owes me better protection. They're beholden to me. And, if they don't think they can stop the Vikings front four fairly, then they better ???be holdin.'"
What will there be more of when Favre comes to town? Gunslinging or mudslinging? Packer head coach Mike McCarthy has stressed all week a Viagra theme to his offensive linemen, because their job is to keep Rodgers upright. And, like the decision to retire, that's easier said than done.
Vikings win 27-23, as a stunned hush falls upon the stadium, not a Lambeau "peep" to be heard.
St. Louis @ Detroit (-3)
The Rams are one of three winless teams in the NFL, joining the Buccaneers and Titans in the ranks of teams looking to break into the win column in week 8. The Rams are 0-7, and have lost 17 straight regular season games, Running back Steven Jackson, third in the NFL with 635 rushing yards, has been one of the Rams few bright spots.
"Few bright spots?" says Jackson. "How about lone bright spot? When I'm asked to name one good thing about the Rams, I like to quote another Jackson, Michael Jackson, when I say ???This is it.'"
"As for our 17-game losing streak, well, it's nothing to be proud of. But this is: our playoff losing streak is holding firmly at one. Can anyone but the Steelers top that?"
The Lions are still debating the availability of rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is still feeling the effects of a knee injury suffered on October 4th. If Stafford can't play, Daunte Culpepper will get the start.
"Despite our records," says Stafford, "I think one thing is perfectly clear for the Lions and Rams: we're both better off with Matt Millen and Rush Limbaugh in their respective studios."
"I'm ready to go if my knee can hold up. His injury has given me ample time for film study of the Rams. I've spent so much time in the video vault that my teammates have started calling me one of ???The Men Who Stare At Sheep.'"
What's more difficult than watching this game? Picking a winner.
Detroit wins 27-16.
Miami @ NY Jets (-4)
The Jets are 4-3 after blasting the Raiders 38-0 in Oakland while forcing the benching of JaMarcus Russell. After Mark Sanchez threw five interceptions in the Jets loss to the Bills, New York kept the offense simple, calling a whopping 54 rushes while passing only 15 times.
"I think that's a gentle way of the offensive coordinator of saying ???We don't have faith in you,'" says Sanchez. "As opposed to the more abrupt manner of saying the same thing, which I experienced while walking along the New Jersey Turnpike, where I was nailed in the noggin with a can tossed by an obviously frustrated Jets fan, who yelled ???Hey, think fast, Sanchez.'"
"Obviously, I don't have to think fast when throwing only 15 times, nor when I'm gobbling a hot dog in the Black Hole. Already I regret doing that, but not nearly as much as I regret actually saying ???gobbling a hot dog in the Black Hole.'"
Miami nearly pulled off an upset of the undefeated Saints last week, blowing a 24-3 lead before falling 46-34. That loss left the ???Fins with a 2-4 record, good for last in the AFC East. So, Sunday's game in the Meadowlands has to be considered a must-win game.
"Before we get a nation of teeny-boppers all aflutter," says Tony Sparano, "let's just clarify this story about ???Mark Sanchez's weiner.' It's a hot dog, folks. If one New York player equates playing the Raiders to a ???scrimmage,' then it's perfectly fine for another New York player to enjoy a frank during another Oakland destruction. Heck, this isn't a first for a Jet quarterback. Joe Namath tried to enjoy a foot-long on the sidelines before, but Suze Kolber would have no part of it. She obviously didn't want to go ???all the way.'"
With a 31-27 loss to the Dolphins in week 5 still fresh in their minds, vengeance is in the heads of the Jets. Revenge won't come unless New York can find a solution to stopping Miami's "wildcat" offense, which baffled them earlier. Maybe the answer is giving the Dolphins a taste of their own medicine, though. Rex Ryan may be a defensive genius, but he's got some offensive ideas up his sleeve as well, like the "public option," a variation of the wishbone that gives Sanchez four options, none involving a pass.
New York wins 22-20.
San Francisco @ Indianapolis (-11)
The Indianapolis juggernaut continued to roll, as the Colts bested the winless Rams 42-6, improving to 6-0 with a critical stretch of games approaching. After hosting the 49ers, Indy welcomes AFC South rival Houston to Lucas Oil Stadium, followed by a visit from the Patriots. Then, Indy travels to Baltimore before facing the Texans, this time in Houston.
"I haven't run that kind of gauntlet since I filmed seven commercials in the span of 15 hours," says Manning. "Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the endorsement aspect of my job. But it can become grueling, like it did when I worked on the Direct TV ad featuring my brother Eli and I. I swear it took the director and I at least an hour to convince Eli that the word ???Omaha' was not in the script."
"As for the 49ers, this game will be about receivers. There are two of the best pass-catching tight ends in Dallas Clark and Vernon Davis. After one game, it's clear that Michael Crabtree is a talent, a true ???keeper.' Or, in bail bondsman speak, a ???retainer.' Reggie Wayne is possibly the most technically-gifted wideout in the NFL, and ???boy,' is Pierre Gar??on a talent. His favorite pattern? The ???allez' route. He deserves a lot of credit, as do his parents for naming him."
After starting quarterback Sean Hill struggled last week against the Texans, Alex Smith took over and promptly led the 49ers to three second half touchdowns, all scoring passes to tight end Vernon Davis. Mike Singletary has named Smith the starter for Sunday's contest.
"Alex has done something he's yet to do as a professional," says Singletary. "He's earned the starting position."
"Now, as for the Colts, I'll have to call on all of my defensive knowledge to devise a game plan to slow Manning. His football I.Q. is off the charts. And he could sell sunglasses to a blind man. Is there anything at which he doesn't excel? Yeah, there is. Take it from one of the 1985 Chicago Bears---Manning can't rap. I should know. I've got Samurai ???mic' skills. How does that help me stop Manning? It doesn't, but I'll be able to rhyme my congratulations after we go down."
Manning versus Smith? Edge to Manning. And also "edge" to Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who will both turn the corner on their blistering "edge" rushes and harass Smith.
Indianapolis wins 34-17.
Cleveland @ Chicago (-13 ??)
For the Bears, the shame of a 45-10 blowout loss in Cincinnati will be hard to forget, but a visit from the lowly Browns and their unstable quarterbacking situation should more than start the healing process. Chicago has lost two straight, and desperately needs a confidence-building win over the 1-6 Browns.
"It certainly wasn't pretty in Cincinnati," says Lovie Smith. "We basically let the Bengals have their way with us. Heck, I guess you could call Cedric Benson ???Goldilocks,' because he not only found our porridge, chairs, and beds to his liking, but also our defense."
"I object to Cedric's claims that we ???badmouthed' him after releasing him. He ???badmouthed' himself, with alcohol breath when he failed Breathalyzer tests after driving and boating mishaps years ago."
Turmoil is an appropriate word to describe the situation in Cleveland, where Derek Anderson continues to struggle at quarterback. It's rumored that head coach Eric Mangini is refusing to play Brady Quinn to deny Quinn millions of dollars in incentives for playing time, saving the team money that could be better spent, or in Browns lingo, wasted, on say, another quarterback.
"Look, I won't lie," says Mangini. "Sure, I'm trying to save the team some money, but I'm also trying to save Quinn the embarrassment. Besides, with the new season of I Want To Work For Diddy just days away, I'm giving Quinn a head start as the first contestant on the companion show, I Want To Work For Diddly."
What's the big deal about giving Quinn playing time? Start him, and he's apt to be pulled after a quarter or two. Doesn't Mangini see the simplicity in the quarterback situation? Choosing a starter? That's difficult. Deciding who to bench? That's easy.
Chicago wins 31-6.
Denver @ Baltimore (-4)
With three consecutive losses, the Ravens desperately need a win to keep pace with the division-leading Bengals and Steelers, who are 5-2. A win over the Broncos will keep Baltimore hot on the tails of the division leaders. However, a loss, and Baltimore will fall below .500 for the first time this year, a scenario Ray Lewis would like to avoid.
"3-4?" quoth the Raven. "3-4? We don't want to go there. I think even the great Edgar Allan Poe would agree that that would probably result in a ???Premature Burial' to our playoff plans."
"If nothing else, though, we're playing for pride. Defensively, we're not playing up to our capabilities. We're lacking passion and fire. In keeping with the Poe theme, who was known to have a drinking problem, we're suffering from an ???absinthe' of malice."
Josh McDaniels has brought youthful exuberance to the head-coaching position in Denver, and the players have quickly bought into his system. The Broncos are 6-0 and boast a three game lead in the AFC West.
"I wear my emotions on my sleeve," says McDaniels, "whereas Mike Shanahan wore his on his face. It's no wonder Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall were ???seeing red' when I got here---they had been conditioned to do so."
"I'll put my defense up against the Ravens any day. ???The Raven' may be big in Baltimore, but ???The Hawk,' Brian Dawkins is hot in Denver. I'd like to say this is a contest between two great defenses, but I can't. Because the Ravens are playing."
Broncos win 19-17.
Jacksonville @ Tennessee (-3)
If the sight of Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher in a Peyton Manning jersey has proved anything, it's that Titan attempts at humor should be best left to the field of play. Fisher is still feeling the backlash after he removed his coat and tie to reveal a No. 18 Manning jersey at a fundraiser just days after a humiliating 59-0 loss to the Patriots.
"Hey, what's the big deal?" says Fisher. "Usually, when there's a Titan around and someone starts removing clothing, people get shot. This was just harmless fun."
"What's wrong with being able to laugh at ourselves? Heck, everybody else is. In hindsight, however, I guess it wasn't a wise thing to do. I think most people are surprised that an intelligent, reserved man such as myself would pull that type of stunt. I guess even the best of us drop a ???smart bomb' on occasion."
Unlike the Titans, the Jaguars have something to play for, and that's a futile chase to catch the Colts in the AFC South race. The Jags are 3-3 and realize that losing games to winless teams will quickly undermine playoff aspirations.
"I, like many, was stunned to see Fisher in a Manning jersey," says Jack Del Rio. "But at least the sight of Fisher in a Manning jersey makes waves. That's more than you can say about the sight of Vince Young in a Titans jersey. Heck, there's no way Fisher should be fired, despite Tennessee's awful start. As a fellow coach, I don't want to see him lose his job. Especially since I might be the guy he replaces."
Titans owner Bud Adams has insisted that Young start over Kerry Collins against the Jaguars. Hey Vince, rejoice. This Bud's ???for' you.
Jacksonville wins 30-24.
Oakland @ San Diego (-16 ??)
Is Richard Seymour standing by his guarantee that the Raiders would make the playoffs? It was an unexpectedly bold prediction, one that confounded most level-headed observers, as well as one that left even Jim Mora speechless.
"I believe Seymour is still under the delusion that he's still a Patriot," says Philip Rivers. "I haven't heard anyone toss out guarantees like this since George Foreman. It's just another sign that the Raider franchise is in disarray. If you're a Raider fan, there's really nothing to be proud of, except the fact that Tom Cable leads all NFL coaches in TKO's. Despite the decision of the district attorney, I find it hard to believe that Cable did not slug the assistant coach. Cable's an intimidating figure, and his presence apparently had an intimidating effect of some witnesses. But I tend to believe Randy Hanson's version, as well as that of ???The Fight Doctor' Ferdie Pacheco, who scored that meeting 10-8 in Cable's favor."
Hey, Pacheco scored that on the "ten point must" system, which the Raiders obviously don't adhere to, since they're averaging only 8.8 points per game.
Rivers throws for 231 yards and two scores, one to Antonio Gates and one to Darren Sproles. With the outcome in hand, Rivers, in an eye patch, enjoys a hot dog on the bench.
Chargers win 27-13.
NY Giants @ Philadelphia (-3)
With a veritable three-way tie atop the NFC East standings, the importance of Sunday afternoon's Giants-Eagles matchup can't be understated. The winner gets, at worst, the lead in the division, while the loser faces an early setback in what is sure to be a tight race for the East crown.
"As for the importance of this game," says Donovan McNabb, "I understand it. As for NFL tie-breaking procedures, I'm clueless. And speaking of ???Clue,' did I hear correctly that Mark Sanchez did it on the sidelines with (Colonel) Mustard?"
The Giants have lost two straight after starting the season 5-0, and their two losses have come to NFC opponents, which could have tiebreaker repercussions down the road.
"We're not looking too far down the road," says Eli Manning. "We'll leave that kind of daydreaming to our ???G-Menace II Society' Plaxico Burress. I miss that cat. He saved us in Super Bowl 42. Consequently, his Super Bowl ring has saved his ass more than once in prison."
"Anyway, Coach Coughlin always keeps us focused on the task at hand. Win or lose, you get the same expression with him, one that's a mix of both consternation and constipation."
With Bryan Westbrook dazed and confused, the Giants will make it a priority to stop DeSean Jackson, who John Gruden believes has been more explosive over the early part of the season than anyone in NFL history. Overstatement? Not in Gruden's mind, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, his statement's not preposterous. It's not like he's guaranteeing a Raider playoff berth.
New York wins 23-20.
Carolina @ Arizona (-9)
After a dismal three interception, no touchdown performance in a 20-9 loss to the Bills, it appears Jake Delhomme's days as Carolina's starter are numbered. Delhomme has struggled all year, and his downfall seemed to begin with last year's 33-13 playoff loss to the Cardinals, a game in which Delhomme threw five picks. The Panthers travel to Arizona probably seeking mercy more so than vengeance.
"It's safe to say Jake is not the most popular player on the team right now," says John Fox. "Heck, I fear for his safety as much as I do for my job. Only in Carolina is a ???roughing the passer' penalty called on the offense."
"Statistically, Jake's having the worst season of his career. His passer rating is a lowly 56.5. I'm not sure, but that's got to be near the bottom, if not the worst, in the league. It's not 66.6, which is the ???number of the beast.' It's much worse. It's the ???number of the least.'"
The Cards have won two-straight, and are beginning to resemble the team that nearly won the Super Bowl last year. Arizona is even 2-0 on the East Coast after failing to win there at all in last year's regular season.
"People may be surprised to hear this," says Kurt Warner, "but our rush defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL. So, Bibles aren't the only thing getting ???thumped' around here. It's that kind of commitment to success that keeps me around. That, and the words of the ???good book.' And by ???good book,' I don't mean an offensive playbook featuring three talented wide receivers and very little running. Anyway, you can poke fun at my religious conviction all you want, but I'm not phased. Don't hate the ???prayer,' hate the game."
Anquan Boldin is nursing an ankle injury, so look for No. 3 wide receiver to play a larger role in the offense, a situation Matt Leinart refers to as "Breast'" enhancement.
Arizona wins 34-13.
Atlanta @ New Orleans (-9)
After escaping Miami with a 46-34 win after trailing 24-3, the Saints are 6-0 and breathing a sigh of relief. But, like the Dolphins, the Falcons won't go down easily, as Atlanta needs a win to prevent a New Orleans runaway with the NFC South division crown.
"Even in the darkest of times," says Atlanta head coach Mike Smith, "there's light at the end of the tunnel, or at least in one end of Cowboy Stadium. But I think we match up well against New Orleans, and a win in the Big Easy should ease the pain of a loss in Big D. To quote former Falcon Michael Vick, ???this will be a dogfight.'"
After Sunday's game, the Saints face the Panthers, Rams, and Buccaneers before a week 12 showdown with the Patriots. New Orleans could be 10-0 at that point, and 16-0 is not out of the question, considering the lower half of the NFC South.
"We're not fitting ourselves for Super Bowl rings just yet," says Sean Payton. "That's a distinction that must be earned. Much like my reputation on Halloween. It took years of distributing only the best candy for trick-or-treaters before they bestowed the nickname ???Sweetness' on me. An undefeated regular season is great, assuming you win the Super Bowl. Coach Smith may see light at the end of the tunnel for the Falcons, but here in New Orleans, we've got ???tunnel vision.'"
New Orleans wins 34-27.