Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
Chicago @ San Francisco (-4)
The NFL Network's first game this season feature two teams quickly becoming afterthoughts in the playoff conversation. The Bears are 4-4 after a 41-21 home loss to the Cardinals, while the 49ers are 3-5.
"The Bears can't stop the pass," says Mike Singletary, "and we can't stop the run. And the Village People Can't Stop the Music. There was no rapping linebacker in that group, which is unfortunate for me, because I've always fancied myself in a flowing neckerchief. Now, if you're aware of my coaching style, you know that I've got to be a macho man. Hopefully, that attitude will rub off on my players, because we really need to be physical to win."
In a losing effort, Jay Cutler had a big day against Arizona, throwing for 369 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Bears had to abandon the run early after falling behind 31-7, so it wasn't the type of big numbers Cutler desired.
"I think there's a name for a game like that," says Cutler. "It's called 'Cut' and Pasted.' When you dig yourself a whole early, there's not much else you can do except fight to get out of it. If that entails throwing exclusively on every down, or sucker-punching a defenseless Cardinal, then so be it. Interestingly enough, in that game, there was one defenseless Cardinal, and 11 defense-less Bears."
Chicago wins, 23-22.
Detroit @ Minnesota (-15??)
The Vikings enjoyed a much-needed bye, a week off made even more special when Minnesota's three NFC North counterparts all lost, further cushioning their lead in the division. At 7-1, Minnesota leads Green Bay and Chicago by three games.
"As you know," says Brett Favre, "I've got no problem 'distancing' myself from teams, particularly the Packers. And I mean that geographically and personally. But I've got no ill will towards Aaron Rodgers. In fact, he makes my toughness look downright girlish. Besides our ties to the Packer, we've got one thing in common - right now, that Packer offensive line is doing neither one of us any good."
"As for the Lions, they should know that I haven't lost a game in Minneapolis when the temperature was below a climate-controlled 75??
The Lions are 1-7 and frustration is building. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson were seen bickering on the sidelines in Seattle, a confrontation both later downplayed.
"It's no big deal," says Johnson. "Our publicists have advised us to say we were just arguing over who would get the free pair of tickets to the Red Wings game. Truthfully, I whipped out my Keyshawn Johnson impression and told Stafford to 'get me the damn ball.' Matthew didn't take too kindly to that, and laced me with a string of profanities, which is the first thing he's 'thrown' at me in a while. Of course, when he does throw to me, it's an 'overthrow.' And that's exactly what I'd like Coach Schwartz to do - 'overthrow' Stafford in favor of Daunte Culpepper."
With the Lions struggling and the Vikings rested from a bye week, this one could be over early. Adrian Peterson rushes for 140 yards and 2 scores, and Minnesota picks off Stafford 3 times.
Minnesota wins, 37-13.
Denver @ Washington (+4??)
How bad is the situation in Washington? Not only are the Redskins 2-6, but the Sherman Lewis play-calling experiment has made little or no difference. In addition, DeAngelo Hall has accused Falcons coach Mike Smith of cursing at him on the sidelines in Atlanta. Not to be outdone, former 'Skins John Riggins and Joe Theismann can't agree on proper etiquette in regards to criticizing owner Daniel Snyder.
"I should speak up and say 'stop the madness!'" says Jim Zorn, "but under my limited duties as head coach, that's no longer my job. But it sure is entertaining to watch. You have to take what Riggins says with a grain of salt, or two shots of whiskey. He's always been very opinionated, whether speaking from under a table at a black-tie, White House dinner, or from his platform on talk radio."
"As for Hall, his mouth is like an opposing receiver - he just can't cover it. And if Smith did curse at him, I'm sure it's nothing DeAngelo hasn't heard from a coach before. In Snyder's case, he's just an incompetent owner, a 'brass' monkey, if you will. He may be the 'Indian head,' but he's not worth a nickel."
After a 6-0 start, the Broncos have lost two straight, including a 28-10 loss to the Steelers on Monday night. After early success throwing, Kyle Orton was atrocious, throwing 3 interceptions after only tossing one pick in seven previous games.
"Hey, I never said I wasn't a 'down to earth' guy," says Orton. "Look, if you spend enough time with Rex Grossman, then some of his talent is bound to rub off on you. That's what happened on Monday. As for the Redskins, they're a victim of piss-poor ownership. That's why Snyder needs to 'relieve himself' of his duties."
Prior to the game, Zorn gives the greatest motivational speech of his life, closing his talk with the words "Gentlemen, start your Injuns!" The Skins come out blazing, and take a 10-0 lead. Then the Broncos reel off 42 unanswered points. Not really, but Denver fans always appreciate a little Super Bowl XXII humor.
Denver wins, 24-16.
Tampa Bay @ Miami (-9)
What's the biggest news in the state of Florida? The Jaguars are back to .500, like the capacity of their stadium? Nope. Joey Porter is a motivational "speaker" on par with Tony Robbins? Nope. Raheem Morris has accepted an invitation from Grand Master Flash to rejoin the "Furious Five?" Nope. It's the Bucs' 38-28 win last Sunday over the Packers, Tampa's first win of the year, a victory led by rookie Josh Freeman's 3 touchdowns in his first start.
"Hey, it wasn't too long ago that my parents handed me the 'keys to the car,'" says the 21-year old Freeman. "I scored three times that day, as well. Anyway, many people think my performance was just an aberration, and things just went my way. That may very well be. But it's not like I did it against an untalented defensive backfield. Charles Woodson and Al Harris are Pro Bowl cornerbacks. So, yes, that game may be a case of being overrated. I'm just not sure I'm the one who's overrated."
The Dolphins are arguably the best 3-5 team in the league, and desperately need a win, especially over a team of which they are clearly better.
"Despite our record," says Ricky Williams, "we think very highly of ourselves. But not as highly as Joey Porter thinks of ourselves. It seems that whenever Joey opens his big mouth, he motivates the other team into whipping us. Hopefully, he'll stop this habit of 'thrash' talk."
Miami wins, 27-13.
Buffalo @ Tennessee (-6??)
After their 34-27 win over the 49ers last week, the Titans have won two in a row after a dismal 0-6 start to the season. Running back Chris Johnson, who leads the NFL with 959 yards, earlier said that the Titans could win their last ten games and make the playoffs.
"I admire Chris' confidence," says Jeff Fisher. "But we have to be realistic. Consequently, as people told me to 'take that shirt off,' Chris needs to 'keep his pants on.' He's obviously as talented at 'jumping to conclusions' as he is at 'rushing to fruition.' Heck, and I though LenDale White was the one with 'stretch' marks."
For the Bills, Trent Edwards will return at quarterback after missing two games with a concussion. In his absence, Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Bills to a 1-1 record.
"I've heard the rumors that the Bills showed interest in signing Vick," says Edwards. "And some of my teammates have expressed their support for Vick. That's just shortsighted thinking. What if this franchise moves to Canada, like many have predicted? Then what? Vick's a convicted felon. Sure he can clear waivers, but can he clear customs?"
"But let's be serious. This game is about one thing, and that's revenge for 2000's 'Music City Miracle,' in which the Bills were robbed of a playoff win in Tennessee. That play has been analyzed incessantly in Buffalo by independent, biased parties, and the same conclusion has always been drawn - that the officials for that game were half-blind, which is equivalent to viewing that play through a 'Music City Monacle.'"
With the Bills geared to stop Chris Johnson, the Titans open up their passing game. Vince Young throws for a score and rushes for another, and Tennessee wins, 24-20.
New Orleans @ St. Louis (-14)
For the second time in three weeks, the Saints overcame a large early deficit to win and keep their record unblemished. Last week, the Panthers jumped to a 14-0 lead before New Orleans eventually prevailed 30-20. On Sunday, Drew Brees and his cohorts hope to get an early jump on the 1-7 Rams, who had a Week 9 bye.
"Obviously, we need to stop getting into early holes," says Sean Payton. "Or do we? As long as we pull out the win, everything's okay. I think Reggie Bush can attest that there's something to be said for good 'behind.' Dating Kim Kardashian will do that. What I wouldn't give to get past third base with her, because baby got 'back, back, back.' And I hear Reggie and Kim are together again. Honestly, I can't blame Reggie for 'running back' to her."
Despite their 1-7 record, the Rams have reason to be confident. They captured their first win in Week 8, enjoyed a bye in Week 9, and face a Saints defense that has lately been proven susceptible to the run. The Rams will lean heavily on running back Steven Jackson, who leads the NFC in rushing, to move the chains and keep Drew Brees and the Saints offense off the field.
"Clearly, we're not the 'Best of the West,'" says Jackson. "But I'm definitely the 'Beast From the Least."
Once again, the Saints fall behind early, as the league's lowest-scoring team takes what the Rams consider a huge lead, 6-0. But the Saints methodically rebound, scoring three second-quarter touchdowns in the span of 1:58.
New Orleans wins, 37-19.
Jacksonville @ NY Jets (-6)
Since their 3-0 start, the Jets are 1-4, and the early buzz has somewhat quieted, although New York is certainly well within the thick of the playoff hunt. A bye week has given the team a chance to regroup, study film, and formulate strategy for a strong finish to the season.
"It's hard to quantify success or failure when your record is 4-4," says Mark Sanchez, "and your season so far has been defined by your quarterback eating a hot dog on the sideline. I'm surprised that was such a big deal. No one raised an eyebrow last week, when I was caught applying eye black near a hot dog stand. But I can't complain. The hot dog incident has brought me more fame than my play. There's no shame in being nicknamed 'Bun Length.' However, I absolutely refuse to sign any hot dogs."
The Jaguars are 4-4, and the jury is still out on whether Jack Del Rio's team has the fortitude to make a strong playoff run. Maurice Jones-Drew sure does, with 759 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, tops among all running backs. He'll have to produce if the Jags are to upset the Jets in the Meadowlands.
"Frankly, I'm disgusted by all the double entendres related to Sanchez' hot dog-eating incident," says Jones-Drew. "It amounts to nothing more than Jet 'skeez.' Incidentally, I expect my work load to be heavy, because our quarterback David Garrard is in the 'dog' house."
The Jets clog the running lanes early, forcing Garrard into two interceptions. Sanchez throws for 187 yards and a touchdown, but later causes an uproar when he's spotted buttering toast on the sidelines.
Jets win, 31-16.
Atlanta @ Carolina (+1)
Despite their 3-5 record, a wild card playoff spot is not out of the question for the Panthers. Carolina has shown improvement in the last two weeks, taking down the NFC West-leading Cardinals two weeks ago, and giving the Saints early trouble before dropping a 30-20 decision.
"We've rushed for 452 yards in the last two games," says John Fox, "so we're getting back to what we do best. And we're not asking much of Jake Delhomme. This is a very simple offense. Even a rookie could explain it to Jake. Or a caveman. It's a variation of the offense that Warren Moon piloted with the Houston Oilers in the early '90s. We call it the 'run and run.'"
The Falcons beat the Panthers in Week 2, and duplicating that feat will be a bit tougher in Charlotte.
"I'll obviously be keeping a low profile on the sidelines," says Mike Smith, "while the NFL investigates DeAngelo Hall's claims that I cursed at him. Since when is it a crime to do the 'Dirty Bird' on my own sidelines?"
The Falcons will try to do something that Fox himself is reluctant to do - make Delhomme throw the ball. Steve Smith might even see some one-on-one coverage. In the en, though, a Delhomme turnover will cost them the game.
Falcons win, 23-19.
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (-6)
After a dominating 28-10 win in Denver, the Steelers are 6-2 and deadlocked with the visiting Bengals in the AFC North. Barring a tie, and the resulting confusion of Donovan McNabb, one team will emerge with sole possession of the division lead.
"Right now, I feel we're at full strength," says Hines Ward. "Everyone's healthy, including Troy Polamalu, who not only makes opposing offensive coordinators cringe, but bald men, as well. Troy's hair is nearly becoming as famous as Troy himself. Isn't it? Isn't it? But he's no Brian Bosworth. Troy may be the most lethal combination of speed and power the NFL has ever seen. He's what drives this defense. When Dick LeBeau turns him loose, which is known as giving Troy the 'Steel Sign,' he's most dangerous."
"In addition, I was voted the 'NFL's Dirtiest Player' by my peers. It's a real honor to join the likes of Conrad Dobler, Jack Tatum, Bill Romanowski, and Ric Flair and be recognized as one of the dirtiest players in the game. Ironically, the voters who 'recognized' me for this honor are the same players who don't 'recognize' me on the field, right before I level them with a blindside hit."
The Bengals head to Heinz Field with a 4-0 division record, including an earlier win over the Steelers. With a win Sunday, Cincy would need only a win over the Browns to complete the division sweep.
"Maybe a win will finally get us the respect we deserve," says Chad Ochocinco. "We are solid on both sides of the ball. The numbers don't lie. We are, in fact, a 'total' team, so all I have to say to the Steelers is 'come get sum.'"
Pittsburgh wins, 22-17.
Kansas City @ Oakland (-2)
The 1-7 Chiefs visit Oakland to face the 2-6 Raiders in a battle of AFC West rivals whose off-the-field issues have provided more drama than anything that's occurred on the field. The Chiefs released Larry Johnson, and allegations of a history of violence continue to dog Tom Cable.
"As you've heard," says Al Davis, "Cable's ex-wife and a former girlfriend have alleged that he abused them. This news, coupled with Randy Hanson's charges that Cable punched him, certainly leaves the Raider organization with a black eye. For the eye-patched Raiders, that's two eyes obstructed, which would have to explain why no one could corroborate Hanson's story, even though several apparently witnessed it. It seems to be a Cable 'cabal,' of which I'm a part of."
"Now, Cable and I have discussed the abuse allegations at great length. By 'great length', I mean it took us forever to address all of them. But I think we made progress. I'm from the NFL's 'old school.' Never did I realize that talking 'smack' could be so productive."
Johnson was released early this week and has already cleared waivers. In place of Johnson, former University of Texas speedster Jamaal Charles will start.
"Larry Johnson had to go," says Todd Haley. "Since I've been here, I've preached a 'take no prisoners' approach to the game. And since Larry was destined for prison, we couldn't take him any more. And we didn't 'slur' our speech when we told him so. Now, I'm sure Larry will find another home. But for Christ's sake, don't mention anything about him 'playing for the other team.' I don't think he'd take that too well."
"As for the Raiders, distractions like those they've faced have historically proven either to tear a team apart or bring them closer together. I think the latter applies here. If there's one thing Cable is capable of doing, it's making the Raiders a team of 'world-beaters.'"
Oakland wins, 27-16.
Dallas @ Green Bay (+1??)
After a big 20-16 win in Philadelphia, the Cowboys sit firmly atop the NFC East, proudly surveying their territory like Ben Cartwright gazing out over the Ponderosa, which pales in comparison to the size of Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. But this game is at Lambeau Field, site of the "Ice Bowl," the 1967 NFL Championship Game won by the Packers, 21-17.
"Well, life as the Dallas quarterback isn't an episode of Bonanza," says Tony Romo. "There's not always a happy ending. Sure, we're sitting on top of the world right now, but from up here, there's only one place to go, and that's down. It's the 'Leon Lett Effect.' In Dallas, there's always a Don Beebe ready to bring you down. Whether it's a Tweet from Terrell Owens, a whine from Roy Williams, or the publication of compromising photos of Jason Witten and I, something will go wrong. When it does, however, I'll have Jerry Jones, my personal 'Ben Cartwright,' to shield me from criticism, which is usually deserved."
Speaking of 'protection,' protection breakdowns plagued the Packers again last week in Tampa, where the Bucs' pass rush took down Aaron Rodgers 6 times. It won't get any easier when Dallas comes to town, as the Cowboys are tied for sixth in the league in sacks, with 21.
"The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez may be the latest 'Mr. October,'" says Rodgers, "but this A-Rod is 'Mr. Knocked-Over.' I'm like David Carr with talent. I've been sacked 37 times this year, which puts me on pace to sample more grass than Ricky Williams. I can taste-test the turf of 32 NFL field and identified at least 22 of them. As for the Cowboys, I fully expect a nail-biter. Thanks to my offensive line, practically all of our games are 'knock-down, drag-outs.'"
Is it time for a Cowboy letdown? It's always is. But like a Romo-led playoff victory, it's "past-due."
The Packers jump out to a 10-0 lead, but the Cowboys running game wears down the Packer defense, and Romo throws a strike to Patrick Crayton for the game-winning score.
Dallas wins, 24-20.
Philadelphia @ San Diego (-1)
Two of the best quarterbacks never to have won a Super Bowl face off in San Diego, as Donovan McNabb leads the Eagle against Philip Rivers and the Chargers. Both teams are 5-3 and in second in their respective divisions.
"I guess Donovan and I both have 'monkeys' on our backs," says Philip Rivers. "We're both looking to rid ourselves of animals. Obviously, McNabb's had more success leaving wildlife behind, because he's left 'yak' on the field on numerous occasions."
"Now, before information gets skewed, let's just clarify that Lawrence Taylor was the 'L.T.' arrested a few days ago for leaving the scene of an accident. It wasn't LaDainian Tomlinson. It couldn't have been. Heck, LaDainian almost always stops on contact."
Without the versatility of Brian Westbrook, the Eagles' offense was simply "pedestrian" in last week's 20-16 loss to the Cowboys. That would explain why David Akers "walked" on to the field for three field goals, as the offense stalled. Red zone efficiency will be tantamount to success in Sunday's contest in San Diego.
"Tantamount?" says Donovan McNabb. "I love that word, especially when used as a verb. Anyway, we need this game just as badly as the Chargers. And, in case anyone's forgotten, particularly a former felon who thinks he deserves more playing time, the quarterback of this team is named 'McNabb,' not 'VcNabb.'"
Eagles win, 26-23.
Seattle @ Arizona (-9)
The Cards have opened up a two-game lead in the NFC West, thanks in part to a 41-21 win in Chicago, Arizona's fourth road win of the year. Unfortunately on Sunday, Arizona hosts the 3-5 Seahawks at University Of Phoenix Stadium, where the Cardinals are 1-3.
"Hey, I think Anquan Boldin speaks for all of us," says Kurt Warner, "when he says he 'hates it here.' I think we'd all be happier going on the road, although Anquan would like to do so permanently. His unhappiness is well-documented, and somewhat tiresome. But I, of all people, won't be the one to condemn him for 'preaching to the choir.'"
Seattle could pull to within a game of the NFC West lead with an upset win over the Cardinals. The 'Hawks suffered a 27-3 loss in Week 6 when the teams last met.
"Hey, the Cardinals aren't the only team dealing with diva-like behavior from a receiver," says Matt Hasselbeck. "Heck, T.J. Houshmanzadeh comes to every meeting wearing a ponytail. My sister-in-law, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, has even tagged T.J. to co-host an upcoming episode of The View. Maybe that will satisfy his need for 'air' time."
The Cards have played like men on the road. However, at University Of Phoenix Stadium, they been nothing but 'home' boys. That changes this Sunday, after Whisenhunt forces his squad to circle Glendale for nine hours in a plane to simulate an East Coast trip.
"'Homey' doesn't play that," says the 'Whis.'
Arizona wins, 31-17.
New England @ Indianapolis (-3)
Whenever the Patriots and Colts meet, the potential for an epic contest is always a possibility. With the Patriots at 6-2 and the Colts perfect at 8-0, playoff-seeding implications are aplenty. Barring an indoor snowstorm and the appearance of Ty Law, the Patriots will play the role of underdog.
"It's always fun comparing Super Bowl rings with Peyton Manning," says Tom Brady. "I'm sure it gives him an 'IN-feriority complex.' You know, when this rivalry started, we were always the favorite, and the Colts were the upstarts. Now, the shoe's on the other foot, and the ring's on the other finger, or fingers."
"I think we know better than to trash talk Brady," says Manning. "Sure, Joey Porter says Brady gets his own 'set of rules,' and that's probably true. Brady's called for so many yellow flags, local speedway officials have already asked him to man the flag stand at the Indianapolis 500 next year."
"But I can't get into a war of words. I'm the consummate professional; Brady's the consummate procreator."
Can the Patriots defense confuse Manning without Ty Law and Rodney Harrison, the dirtiest announcer in the game? Probably not. Will Brady have a field day with a Colts secondary missing Bob Sanders and Marlin Jackson? Probably so. It looks like a shootout.
Indianapolis wins, 35-30.
Baltimore @ Cleveland (+11)
A bye week in Cleveland brought a shake-up in the front office, as general manager George Kokinis was fired on November 3rd. But Eric Mangini is still the head coach, and barring a dramatic turnaround in Cleveland, his time may be severely limited.
"The last time I checked," says Eric Mangini, "there was still a 'head' in front of 'coach' in my title. Until someone has my 'head,' which, judging by the fans' displeasure here, is a legitimate possibility, I'm still in charge. Until someone tells me different, excluding those outspoken Dawg Pounders, I shall remain."
"As for choosing a quarterback, I made a decision on Tuesday and named Brady Quinn the starter. I don't think most people realize how tough it is to choose between Quinn and Derek Anderson. Give me a 'starters' pistol and a blindfold, and I could name you a starter in no time."
The Ravens are 4-4 after getting outmuscled by Cincinnati last week. Losses never go over well with Ray Lewis, nor does questioning the ability of the Baltimore defense, which has so far failed to strike the usual fear in opponents.
"Only in Cleveland will you hear two distinct types of 'boos,'" says Ray Lewis. "One for the opponent, and one for the Browns. As for the coach, he's a 'dead Man-gini walking.' After we whip the Browns, I think you'll hear ESPN's Monday Night Countdown crew yelling 'C'mon Man-gini!'"
Ravens win, 27-3.