Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
Baltimore @ Cincinnati (+3)
Week 8 was a bye week for the Bengals. For the Bengals of old, bye weeks were always good to tie up loose legal ends, or possibly meet with the commissioner and discuss terms of suspension. Not the 2009 Bengals. Their bye week was spent on more standard endeavors, like rest, relaxation, and publicizing a new social network.
"That's Chad Ochocinco for you," says Carson Palmer. "You know, in times past, we've had trouble with players who were ???trigger' happy; now we've got one who's ???Twitter' happy. The guy's a social butterfly. If he were as ambitious on the field as he is off, he'd be as great as he already thinks he is. Chad's taking Twitter to a new level of exposure. Call it a ???Twitter World Order.'"
"Yeah, it's just too ???Tweet,'" says Ochocinco. "I'm easily the most media-savvy player the NFL has ever seen. I'm the only one who can keep pace on the information superhighway. It's easy when you talk a mile a minute all the time."
The Ravens busted out of a three game losing streak in style, overwhelming the previously undefeated Broncos 30-7. Now they're chomping at the bit to avenge week 5's 17-14 loss to Cincinnati in Baltimore.
"Hey, I've got jungle fever," says Ray Lewis. "I guess that would explain these wild, erratic convulsions that seemingly always take place during player introductions. Me? I'm not one to connect with people on-line. I prefer to communicate face-to-face, and in the case of media moguls like Ochocinco, helmet-to-helmet. I'm great friends with Chad off the field, but on the field, I'd give anything for a chance to tear Ochocinco a new uno.'"
Do the Bengals get any respect? Obviously not. They're leading the NFC North and they're coming off a bye week, yet they're still three point underdogs. That can't sit in their craws well. I'm willing to bet that Pete Rose has money on the home team. But the Ravens won't let the North race become a two-team race between the Bengals and Steelers.
Joe Flacco throws for 234 yards and two scores, and the Ravens win 27-20. Afterwards, Flacco puts his gear up for sale, with proceeds going to charity, at a local Starbuck's, where one unwitting fan forks over $1,200 for a "cup a Joe."
Miami @ New England (-10 1/2)
The Patriots returned from London with a 5-2 record after a 33-14 win over the Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium. New England put on an offensive show, and the trip was a particularly fruitful one for Randy Moss, who seemed to be a fan favorite of the British.
"They love me over there," says Moss. "I think I've singlehandedly created a Patriot fan base over there. Even here in Foxboro, I can still hear their appreciative applause. That's one case of the ???claps' I don't mind bringing home."
"If only fans in Green Bay would treat me with such due respect. It still amazes me. You moon a crowd in Green Bay, and people avoid you like the plague. In England, when you moon a crowd, they ???bum' rush you."
In Miami, Ted Ginn responded to criticism of his pass-catching ability by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns in the Dolphins 30-25 win over the Jets. Ginn had 100-yard and 101-yard TD returns in the third quarter, becoming the first player with two returns of 100 yard or more in the same game.
"Ted may have trouble catching passes," says Chad Henne, "but if you give him a good four seconds to calculate and analyze the trajectory of a descending football, more times than not, he'll make the catch easily. That must be that engineering degree at work. And, with the Patriots scoring 94 points in their last two games, we can expect them to play right into our hands, with a lot of kickoffs to Ted."
With an extra week to prepare, Bill Belichick's had plenty of time to locate bootleg video of the Fins practicing the "wildcat" and kick returns. And if that requires him to drop quarters into the slot for five minute segments, then, by golly, he'll gladly watch a peep show down at the video shop on the shady side of town.
New England wins 31-17.
Washington @ Atlanta (-10)
After a 27-17 Monday night loss to Philadelphia two weeks ago, it appears that Sherman Lewis' play-calling is no better than Jim Zorn's, an issue that sent general manager Vinny Cerrato and owner Daniel Snyder scampering to interview additional bingo callers with NFL play-calling aspirations.
"I said it before and I'll say it again," says Cerrato. "This team is ???playoff material.' And our coach, Jim Zorn, is ???payoff' material-we'll be buying out his contract soon."
"And speaking of Bingo, when you spend $100 million to sign Albert Haynesworth, it doesn't leave a lot of ???free space' to address other glaring, and numerous issues. Like, for example, a quarterback. Jason Campbell is ???mmm mmm bad.' Of course, with proper coaching, he could be the next Gus Frerotte."
The Falcons dropped a 35-27 decision in New Orleans to fall to 4-3, three games back of the Saints.
"I'm not sure I could tolerate what Zorn is going through," says Mike Smith. "Snyder has single-handedly sucked the life out of the Redskins. What he needs to do is suck the ???suck' out of that team, and that would be by relieving himself of his duties."
Former Falcon and current Redskin DeAngelo Hall has said he'll cry if Washington beats Atlanta. Heck, I thought only Steve Smith could do that. I guess if the ???Skins win, it will be a real "tearjerk-er."
Atlanta wins 23-17.
Green Bay @ Tampa Bay (-11)
With thoughts of exacting revenge on Brett Favre now retired, the Packers can set their sights on more attainable goals, like beating the Buccaneers, or snatching a wild card playoff berth. Green Bay fell 38-26 to the Vikings as Favre outdueled his replacement, Aaron Rodgers, at Lambeau Field.
"I wanted that win badly," says Aaron Rodgers, "for my own selfish reasons. I think Favre, of all people, can respect that. But revenge will have to wait. The Vikes completed the sweep, so that ship has sailed. Luckily, there's another boat in Tampa, and like the Bucs, it's not going anywhere."
"As you know, I've been sacked 31 times this year, with almost half of those courtesy of the Vikings. I think I need to have a ???birds and the bees' talk with my offensive line and tell ???em the same thing my daddy told me: ???Where protection?'"
The Bucs and head coach Raheem Morris made a quarterback switch in their bye week, and rookie Josh Freeman will start against the Packers over Josh Johnson.
"I hear Rodgers had a street named after him in Green Bay," says Morris. "Was it a cul de sack? Anyway, Rodgers is a good role model for my young quarterbacks to follow. Despite being sacked that often, he maintains a good attitude. If you're going down that much, you've got to know how to ???pick yourself up' to remain successful."
Usually, it's quarterbacks gifting their offensive linemen with fancy watches. Not in Green Bay. Each of Rodger's offensive linemen presented their quarterback with a pocket watch, with a note wishing Rodgers luck "finding time" to throw.
Rodgers throws fofr225 yards and two scores, and Ryan Grant rushes for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Green Bay wins 29-13.
Arizona @ Chicago (-3)
Despite a sloppy 34-21 loss to the Panthers in Arizona last week, the Cardinals maintained the lead in the NFC West, as the 49ers lost in Indianapolis. Arizona's No. 1-ranked rushing defense gave up a whopping 270 yards on the ground to Carolina as the Cards three-game win streak was snapped.
"One game, we're flying to the ball," says Ken Whisenhunt. "In true bird fashion, the next game, we're laying eggs. I've seen better rush defense from a wet paper sack."
"Obviously, the win over the Giants went to out heads. Then our heads went up our asses. So, if you're talking division title, and you want to crown them, then crown their asses, not their heads, because they don't deserve it right now. We had the rest of the NFC West worried that we'd run away with the division, but we let ???em off the hook."
The Bears are 4-3 and trail the NFC North-leading Vikings by two games. Notwithstanding a 17-14 win over the Steelers in week, the Bears other three wins have come against opponents with a combined 4-18 record.
"Hey, why not steal candy from babies?" says Lovie Smith. "You've heard of the movie I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, right? Well, when playing the likes of the Lions, Seahawks, and Browns, it's wise to take an ???I'm Gonna Git You Suck-ers' attitude."
"Arizona won't be easy pickings, although five of Kurt Warner's passes against the Panthers would say otherwise."
Cardinals win 23-17.
Houston @ Indianapolis (-9 1/2)
If the Texans are to make a race of the AFC South, they'll face the daunting task of beating the Colts at home. With a win, Houston would trail Indy by only two games; a loss, and they would face a four-game deficit with only seven games to play.
"If we want to run with the big dogs," says Matt Schaub, "we'll have to do so on their porch. But are the Colts the ???big dogs,' or are they merely a ???dog and pony' show? I think the 49ers exposed some weaknesses in the Colts. So, it's up to us to go in to Lucas Oil Stadium and find out for ourselves if there truly is some substance to the Colts, or if in fact they're nothing more than ???bologna ponies.'"
The Colts escaped a well-prepared San Francisco team last week, beating the 49ers 18-14 without the aid of a Peyton Manning touchdown pass. It was the first time Manning had failed to throw a TD pass in nearly a year.
"As you know, Joseph Addai tossed our only touchdown pass against the 49ers," says Manning. "I've got no problem letting a running back win a game for me if I can't. Heck, it worked in Super Bowl 41. As for the Texans, Owen Daniels is out and Andre Johnson is hurting, so the potent Houston passing game may not be as potent as usual. If that's the case, our job is to keep the ball out of Steve Slaton's hands. If his recent benching is any indication, he may do it for us."
Indianapolis wins 30-24.
Kansas City @ Jacksonville (-6 1/2)
In Kansas City, the story is all about Larry Johnson. Johnson was to be suspended for two games for making gay slurs and criticizing coach Todd Haley on Johnson's Twitter account. However, the Chiefs backed off of the two game suspension, and Johnson now will only be banned for one game.
"Making gay slurs on your Twitter account?" says Haley. "That's akin to rushing for 2.7 yards per carry, because they'll both get you time off the field. Ironically, Larry's the one making gay slurs, but he's also the one putting a foot in his mouth. But I didn't come here to ???L.J.-bash.' It's not all about Larry Johnson. There's no ???I' in team. There's also no ???L' and ???J' in team, at least for the game in Jacksonville."
The Jaguars have their own disgruntled running back in Maurice Jones-Drew, the "Short Bus," who refuses to air dirty laundry on social websites. In fact, when ???MJ-D' gets ???PO-D,' he instead practices civil disobedience, and voices his displeasure non-violently, like, for instance, rushing for 177 yards on eight carries.
"That's over 20 yards a carry," says Jones-Drew. "Who's calling plays for this team? I think even some old-timer calling party games in an old folks home can see that whenever I touch the ball, it's ???BINGO!' Besides, the few people who actually pay to see a Jaguar game come to see me get the ball. Yeah, I know, that's not a lot of people. Trust me, I know it's easier to fully evacuate Jacksonville Municipal Stadium than it is to sell it out. But you get what you pay for. That's why Jack Del Rio is our coach."
Jones-Drew rushes for 144 yards and two scores, and Jacksonville wins 27-24.
Carolina @ New Orleans (-14 1/2)
The Saints are 7-0, one of only two remaining undefeated teams in the league. After giving up an average of 29 points in their last three victories, New Orleans needs a strong defensive showing to take some pressure off of their offense.
"We're certainly aware of the Panthers running attack," says Sean Payton, "but I think they'll try to surprise us and come out throwing. Despite his troubles, Delhomme's no slouch. Our defense respects him. In fact, they're a lot like him---they both lead the league in interceptions."
After manhandling the defending NFC champion Cardinals 34-21 last week, the 3-4 Panthers have a measurable amount of momentum for probably the first time this year. Carolina rushed for 270 yards on their way to avenging last season's playoff loss to the Cards.
"You know," says John Fox, "there was a time when our opponents wondered how to keep Jake Delhomme from beating them. How times have changed. Now we're the ones wondering how to keep Delhomme from beating us. Lately, Jake's been so erratic that I think he'd blow a kiss."
"But running the ball effectively seems to be our modus operandi, which I believe is Latin for ???having no choice.' Contrary to Coach Payton's thoughts, our game plan against the Saints will be a steady diet of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Hopefully, that will leave a bad taste in the Saints mouths."
New Orleans wins 33-27.
Detroit @ Seattle (-10)
Matthew Stafford and his bum left knee head to Seattle to face the 2-5 Seahawks, another squad struggling with injury issues. Stafford was erratic last week in his first game back since injuring his knee against the Bears. He'll face a Seahawks team desperate for a win to keep pace in the NFC West, where the Cards lead the division with a 4-3 record.
"Stafford should best beware of what he may encounter here," says Jim Mora, Jr. "If you'll recall, the last time a knee, Detroit, and the Pacific Northwest intersected, Tonya Harding's goons whacked Nancy Kerrigan's knee in Motown."
"Why, why, why on earth would Mora bring up something like that?" says Stafford. "I know Harding's a big deal up in that area, but so is Bigfoot, and he's better looking, and nowhere near the type of publicity hound as Harding. Plus, he's undefeated in his boxing career."
"Anyway, why are we even talking about Tonya Harding? Is that just an easy way of segueing into proclaiming the Seahawks as ???lead pipe' locks against us?"
The Seattle offense has put up only 20 points in their last two games, and if you ask receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, he'll tell you the most reasonable solution is to get him the ball more often.
"I can look in the seats at Qwest Field and see that fans are losing interest," says Houshmandzadeh. "The Seahawks used to personify excitement in the Pacific Northwest. Now, people are more hyped about the upcoming release of the new Twilight movie than they are about a Seahawks game. Can I blame them? No. Heck, I'd rather see New Moon than watch an ???old ass' quarterback not throw me the ball."
Matt Hasselbeck and Houshmandzadeh reconnect with two scores, and the Seahawks prevail 27-9.
Tennessee @ San Francisco (-5 ??)
The Titans finally excused themselves from the ranks of the winless, throttling the Jaguars 30-14 behind 224 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Chris Johnson, as well as a flawless day from Vince Young, who got the start in the wake of the Titans 0-6 start.
"Johnson rushing certainly made my day much easier," says Young, "but I made my own contributions, going 15-18 for 125 yards. I guess you can now call our offense ???Dash And ???Dump.'"
"Now, I fully expect to get the start against San Fran this Sunday. I assume this isn't a ???one and done' deal, a phrase which would certainly describe my experience taking the Wonderlic test. But I'm thankful I got the start against the Jags. It gave me some much-needed confidence, and it's good to have a start under my belt. Besides, I didn't want to have my ???coming out' party in San Francisco, of all places."
Despite a tough loss in Indy that left the 49ers 3-4, head coach Mike Singletary insisted the team would win enough games to go to the playoffs.
"I've got to stand up for a fellow member of the coaching fraternity," says Mike Singletary, "and show my support for Jeff Fisher. If he wants to wear a Peyton Manning jersey, that's fine by me. I really don't understand why people are talking ???shirt' about Fisher. There's no reason he should feel ???shirt-faced' about such an innocent act."
Can the 49ers stop Chris Johnson? Can the Titans stop Vernon Davis? The answer's probably no on both accounts, but San Fran will stack the line to stop Johnson and force Young to beat them. Young may be ready to start, but he can't "finish."
San Francisco wins 28-20.
San Diego @ NY Giants (-3 ??)
Philip Rivers and Eli Manning will forever be linked by the 2004 NFL draft, in which Manning was selected first by the Chargers, then traded to the Giants for Rivers, whom the Giants selected fourth. The two young quarterbacks will meet in Giants Stadium on Sunday, with their respective teams heading in opposite directions---the Chargers have won two straight, while the G-Men have dropped their last three.
"Of course, everyone knows that Manning had publicly refused to play for the Chargers if they drafted him," says Rivers. "Well, you can stop the John Elway comparisons right there. Sure, they're both ???draft dodgers,' but until Eli can give an overrated coach two Super Bowl wins, he won't be mentioned in the same breath with Elway."
"Less than a month ago, the Giants were undefeated and topping the list of many power rankings. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. And we thought Plaxico Burress' fall from grace was quick. It seems the G-Men, like Burress, have nearly lost their manhood."
If the Chargers are to win on the road, they'll have to get some pressure on Manning. Shawne Merriman, once one of the most feared sack artists in the league, has managed only two sacks so far this year.
"One has to wonder," says Manning, "whether Merriman's past success can be attributed to performance-enhancing drugs. It seems odd that as soon as he got ???clean,' he'd be ???washed up.'"
It's time for the Giants to get back to what they do best-running the ball first and allowing Manning to throw wobbly passes into single coverage later. River will keep the Chargers close by taking advantage of the Giants defensive backfield, which lately has shown less coverage than a fishnet bikini.
New York wins 24-19.
Dallas @ Philadelphia (-3)
When these two teams last met, it was the final week of the 2008 season, with playoff implications on the line for both teams. That game ended with a 44-6 Philly win, which the Eagles rode all the way to the NFC championship game. This time, the stakes aren't as high, but first place in the NFC East awaits the winner.
"I've got some good news and some bad news," says Tony Romo. "I'm treating this like a playoff game. That's good news for the Eagles and bad news for the Cowboys."
"As for rumors of a brewing controversy over me getting each of my receivers enough touches, well, that's nothing new to me. Heck, I can't tell you how many times last year I was accused of inappropriate ???touching.' Anyway, I'm not at all like Jessica Simpson-there's not enough of me to spread around."
With a win, the Eagles would not only take sole possession of first in the division, but they'd also proudly sport three consecutive wins over division opponents.
"I fully expect the Cowboys to come here with their game faces on," says Donovan McNabb. "Last year, they came in the same way, but left unable to even face themselves, with their heads hung so low they could see their tails between their legs."
"On Sunday, they'll have to deal with the hottest player in the league, DeSean Jackson, who's a threat to cross the goal line any time he steps on the field. We just hope he has the ball when he does it."
Philadelphia wins 30-26.
Pittsburgh @ Denver (+3)
Excitement is building for Monday night's game in the mile high environs of Invesco Field, so much so that Monday Night Football analyst John Gruden has already started excitedly over-exaggerating various aspects of the matchup.
"Hey, they don't call in ???Mile Hy-perbole Stadium' for nothing," says a giddy Gruden. "Troy Polamalu's hair is so luxurious, it's been proven impenetrable by the Cleveland Browns offense. James Harrison is so strong, he can lift three Samoan nose tackles with one arm! Kyke Orton's rebirth as the Broncos quarterback is the greatest resurrection since Jesus Christ's. Wow! That's exhilarating! I haven't embellished something this much since naming Keyshawn Johnson a No. 1 receiver."
Gruden's unbridled excitement is such that his partners in the Monday Night Football booth, Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski, are often assigned "contain" by the show directors.
Anyway, the Broncos 30-7 loss to the Ravens raised question about their legitimacy as an AFC power. Denver can address those questions, and silence them, with a win against the Steelers, who have won four in a row after a 1-2 start.
"Obviously, the Ravens gave Denver some looks they hadn't seen before," says Polamalu. "I think that look was called a ???defense.' Are the Broncos for real? I think you'll see that the Broncos are a lot like questionable hot-air balloon stories-they always come back down to earth."
"How many people have we proved wrong this year?" says Josh McDaniels. "More than Alex Trebek, my friend. Despite a loss, our philosophy will not change. Six wins is a fine accomplishment, but we've got so much more potential. Heck, if Travis Henry would have stopped at six, he would have only achieved half of his potential."
Steelers win 26-16.