Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
NY Jets @ Detroit (+3 1/2)
The Jets were humbled in last week's 9-0 loss to the Packers in New Meadowlands Stadium, New York's first shutout since a 10-0 loss to the Bears in 2006. New York fell to 5-2, and trail the Patriots by a game in the AFC East.
"Actually," said Mark Sanchez, "there was a shutout as recently as 2008, when Jenn Sterger graded Brett Favre's text message. According to her, that's one measurement they didn't bring out the chains for.
But make no mistake, we'll rebound, and rebound well against the Lions. The Packer loss taught us a lesson, and that lesson is that when you're placed on a pedestal, sometimes you can get too high. Santonio Holmes may disagree, but
Detroit's Matthew Stafford returned from a shoulder injury in a big way, throwing four touchdowns, three to Calvin Johnson, in a 37-25 win over the Redskins. That connection will need to be on target again Sunday if the Lions are to upset the Jets, who are undefeated on the road this year.
"Sure, the Jets have a tough secondary with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie," Stafford said. "Sure, not many receivers can get off Revis Island, or Cromartie Cove, for that matter, but Calvin's proven he can go coast to coast on anyone. I'm sure Calvin can expect double-teams, and even triple-teams. Believe it or not, Calvin's been triple-teamed before, in week 1 in Chicago, on ???The Anti-Catch,' when he was outdone by two Bears defenders and one NFL rule book."
Johnson is a ???bear' to defend, and that makes him the only dangerous bear in the NFC North. But between Revis, Cromartie, and a Jets defense that will keep Stafford guessing, mostly wrong, New York will keep Johnson in check, which still means 98 yards receiving and a score for Johnson.
New York wins 31-17.
Tampa Bay @ Atlanta (-9)
After yet another fourth quarter comeback, the Buccaneers are 5-2, and deadlocked with the Falcons for the NFC South lead. If Tampa succeeds in knocking off the Falcons at home, then Raheem Morris' proclamation that the Bucs are the NFC's best will gain considerable credence.
"Josh Freeman has shown himself to be a ???clutch' quarterback," Morris said. "That's in stark contrast to those Arizona quarterbacks, who can be classified as nothing less than ???brake' quarterbacks, for when they have the ball, their offense stops.
Josh, and the whole team, has shown a flair for the dramatic. None of our five wins has been routine. As someone who was named after one of Grandmaster Flash's sidekicks, I can tell you that our victories constitute a ???Furious Five.'
After Josh pulls out another fourth-quarter win this Sunday, they'll be calling him ???unflappable,' which is exactly what you would call a Falcon with its wings clipped."
The Falcons can very well claim to be the conference's best team in their own right, with their own 5-2 record and a win over the defending Super Bowl champion Saints.
"Sure, the Tampa secondary looks good when playing catch with Arizona quarterbacks," Matt Ryan said. "And Freeman has made a habit of engineering fourth quarter dramatics. He's obviously got ice water in his veins. That's opposed to Morris, who's got sugar water in his veins. How else, besides sugar-coating, could he claim that the Bucs are the NFC's best?
But he could have a point. This year, judging by a quick glance at the standings, being the NFC's best means you still suck."
Can Ryan outduel the upstart Bucs and Freeman? Is "Matty Ice" the dumbest nickname ever for an NFL player? Yes to both.
Falcons win 31-26.
New Orleans @ Carolina (+6 ??)
The Saints rebounded from a dismal performance in a week 7 loss to Cleveland with an emphatic 20-10 win over the Steelers, a win that improved New Orleans to 4-3, one game behind the Falcons and Bucs in the NFC South. Known more for their offense, the Saints slowed the Steeler offense with a variety of blitzes and disguised coverages that nullified the Steelers downfield passing game.
"We threw everything at Ben Roethlisberger," Payton said, "including the bathroom sink, which comes in handy when you're trying to wash away sin.
We'll try our best to unsettle the Panther quarterback, as well. No, we won't be tossing any kitchen or bathroom fixtures at him, although that would be bewildering in its own right. We'll be chucking a spiral notebook at him, because nothing confuses a Panther quarterback more than his own playbook."
The Panthers will need a mistake-free game from their quarterback, and hope that their running game produces, thus taking pressure off the quarterback.
"It's not easy finding a quarterback of the future," John Fox said. "Of course, when I say I'm looking for a quarterback of the future, I don't mean for years to come. I mean for Sunday.
And it's never an easy decision choosing a quarterback. It's very time consuming, so much so that I've formed a corporation to handle those duties. It's called ???Choices Ltd.'"
The Saints are due for a letdown after an emotional and important home win. But, not only are the Panthers sympathetic, they're also pathetic, and New Orleans capitalizes on four turnovers. Drew Brees passes for two touchdowns, and the Saints win 27-13.
Arizona @ Minnesota (-9)
The Vikings are 2-5 after a 28-18 loss in New England, a game in which Brett Favre was knocked out of late with a cut to his chin that required eight stitches. Among the fallout from the loss was the abrupt release of Randy Moss, who had just one reception, and afterwards criticized the Vikings coaching staff.
"We call that ???Catch And Release,'" Brad Childress said. "We could no longer tolerate Randy's attitude. It was a distraction, and when something becomes a distraction amidst the Favre saga, you know you've got a distraction on hand. Favre can't walk, but the B.S. sure can. Chalk it up to a lesson learned, and a third-round pick wasted.
Maybe Randy did have relevant information on the Patriots' tendencies and signals. That's debatable. The truth is, Randy had even more knowledge on how to beat the Vikings, and, as we've seen, he wasn't afraid to use it.
We could no longer tolerate Randy's effort, or lack thereof. It would be incredibly ironic if Randy ended up with the Patriots. It would be even more ironic if Randy agreed to talk about the situation in an interview with Hustler magazine."
The Cardinals are 3-4 and are giving up over 28 points per game. That could spell trouble against a Minnesota team itching to explode and build momentum for two division games in weeks 10 and 11.
"Not only will Randy Moss' name not appear on the scouting report," said Arizona safety Adrian Wilson, "it won't be showing up in the box score either. Then again, what's new about that?"
The Vikings are far from out of the race in the NFC North. Of course, a loss to the Cardinals would undoubtedly end those hopes. But a win over Arizona, and successive wins over the Bears and Packers, and the Vikes are back in business.
Adrian Peterson rushes for 168 yards and two touchdowns, and Minnesota takes a 30-14 win.
New England @ Cleveland (+5)
The Patriots are 6-1 and on top in the AFC East after a 28-18 win over the Vikings in Foxboro, which was Tom Brady's 25th consecutive home win as a starter, one short of Brett Favre's NFL record. Favre's record will be safe for this week, as the Pats head to the Dawg Pound to face former Bill Belichick disciple Eric Mangini and the Browns.
"Oh, I never lose at home," Brady said, "unless you get my wife involved. Then the losses start piling up.
I think you can easily make a case that we are the NFL's best, at unloading players we no longer deem useful to teams we teams we no longer deem as capable of driving a hard bargain. Indeed, there's a sucker born every minute, and every 30 seconds in Minnesota. We got Randy Moss for a fifth-round pick, and traded him for a third-round selection. It's the basics of Economics 101---buy low, sell high. The Vikings thought they had a steal by getting Moss. And after his one reception performance last Sunday, I would tend to agree. He was ???quite a catch.'"
The Browns and Mangini will try to out-scheme the master of the scheme, Bill Belichick, who will most certainly design a game plan to confuse Colt McCoy or whomever the Browns start at quarterback.
"Colt will be tested," Mangini said. "He'll have to make snap decisions in the face of extreme pressure while trying not to look foolish. Heck, it will be just like a pre-draft sit-down film study session with John Gruden. Most likely, we'll see the same result---Colt's shattered confidence."
Patriots win 21-14.
San Diego @ Houston (-3)
With Monday night's loss to the Colts, the Texans fell out of a tie for the AFC South lead. Indy, behind Peyton Manning and a fire-up defense, avenged a week 1 loss to Houston, as the Texans played with little urgency, possibly as a result of having their locker room searched for performance-enhancing drugs at the behest of team owner Bob McNair.
"That's funny," said Philip River, "because the Colts said there was no ???sweep.' I hear they found no banned substances, although they turned up evidence of ???overtraining' in Brian Cushing's locker.
I see no need for a search of our locker room now that Shawne Merriman's packed his vials and left. However, I would recommend a comprehensive sweep of our front office, to see if there's a competent general manager there.
Anyway, it's with sadness that I say farewell to Merriman. But I won't fret, because I'm sure he'll find another home. As a matter of fact, I hear the Redskins are working him out at quarterback."
The Chargers will go to Houston with the hopes of not extending a winning streak, but establishing one. They haven't won more than one game in a row this year.
"That's right," said Arian Foster. "When you talk about the Chargers and ???streaks,' you can't help but reference their streak of falling short of the Super Bowl. What we wouldn't give for such a streak. I don't think Houston's seen playoffs since the Astros."
What do the Chargers need to do to win? It's what they don't need to do that matters, and that's turn the ball over. Maintain possession, and their unstoppable offense will take care of the rest. So, they really don't need to jump through hoops to win. But they do need to go through "Gates" to win. Antonio Gates, that is.
San Diego wins 31-24.
Chicago @ Buffalo (+1)
The Bills have lost two straight overtime games, the latest a 13-10 loss in Kansas City in which Rian Lindell missed the potential game-winning kick, moments after having a successful kick negated by a Kansas City time out just before the kick. Lindell's second attempt hit the right upright, and Ryan Succup won it later with a 35-yard kick.
"That's when ???icing' becomes ???icing on the cake,'" said Chan Gailey. "At least for the other team.
Does it bother me that we're in last place? Not at all, and now that you ???bring up' the rear, we're playing our tails off. There's no ???quit' in this team, but there sure could be soon if we sign Randy Moss."
The Bears are 4-3 and coming off a bye week, and Jay Cutler spent a restful week successfully avoiding DeAngelo Hall, who snatched four Cutler passes in the Bears week 7 loss to Washington. Cutler will likely be forced to attack the Bills secondary, the NFL's sixth best, unless the Bears can kick start their anemic rushing attack.
"Mike Martz offenses aren't known for their rushing," Lovie Smith said. "But I'd like to put more emphasis on rushing, to judgment, that is, that Martz's offense isn't working. Maybe I acted hastily by trading for Cutler. Unlike what Cutler says about throwing at Hall, I wouldn't ???do it again.'
In light of what's going on in Washington, I'd like to set in motion a scenario that would please all parties: Cutler to Washington and a reunion with Mike Shanahan, Donovan McNabb to the Bears, and Randy Moss to Chicago. I say it's a great time for another doomed ???Lovie' affair."
Bills take their first win of the year with a 22-19 win.
Miami @ Baltimore (-5 1/2)
The Dolphins grabbed another road victory last week, beating the Bengals 22-14 in Cincinnati behind five Dan Carpenter field goals. 4-3 on the year, the ???Fins are undefeated on the road, yet winless at home. So, Sunday's showdown at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium should play right into Miami's hands.
"Yes, it should," said Tony Sparano, "That's exactly what we thought about that fumble in the Pittsburgh game, known now as the ???Miami (C)Heat, and it literally did play into our hands. But that just goes to show you that nothing can be taken for granted in the league, except Randy Moss' lack of effort.
But we expect the Ravens to be fired up, and show a better defensive effort than they did against the Bills. It's an away game for us, so we'll be ready. So, when Ray Lewis shouts ???Not in my house!' before the game, it will be a familiar refrain for us, because with an 0-4 record in Miami, there's been a lot of ???not' in ???our house.'"
With Pittsburgh's Sunday night loss, the Ravens are back in first in the AFC North, and hoping to remain there with a win over the Dolphins.
"The pieces are in place for this team to make a championship run," John Harbaugh said, in a statement to the press cleared by Ray Lewis. "Ed Reed is back from hip surgery, and his impact was immediately felt two interceptions and a forced fumble. That's amazing! Three turnovers in Ed's first game back. To that, I say ???Hip Hip Hip Hooray!'"
The Dolphins have the NFL's top-rated offense, at scoring in multiples of three. Kicker Dan Carpenter has kicked 18 field goals and only 11 extra points. That means the Miami offense stagnates. It also means that Carpenter has casually trotted on the field more than Randy Moss.
Baltimore wins 27-23.
NY Giants @ Seattle (+5 ??)
It's a battle of division leaders as the Giants travel to Qwest Field to face the 4-3 Seahawks, who lead the topsy-turvy NFC West, the only division is football in which a 2-6 record is good enough for last place and good enough to stay in the division hunt. Or so say the 49ers.
"The 49ers are the team to beat," said Matt Hasselbeck. "I'm not afraid to admit it, and neither are the other five teams that have defeated them.
But the 49ers have something that no other team in the NFL has, and that's a win on two continents. They beat the Raiders in America, and the Broncos on European soil. And check this-both of their wins were by eight-point margins. Apparently, ???eight is enough' for the 49ers, and I'm guessing the same applies to the winner of the NFC West."
"Did Hasselbeck say something about European soil?" said a befuddled Eli Manning. "Europena soil? That's got to hurt worse than passing a kidney stone. And speaking of throwing bricks, I've tossed my share of ugly interceptions. Eleven to be exact, which ties me for the NFL lead with Drew Brees. That puts me in good company, which is something my brother Peyton is sick of hearing from me.
And speaking of ???brothers,' the Hasselbeck's are one of the lesser-known brother quarterback tandems in the league. There's Matt and Tim, although Tim's no longer in the league. Of course, they can't hold a candle to the Manning's, on the field or off. Peyton and I are a marketing machine. The Hasselbeck's? Let's just say there have been more Bigfoot sightings than Hasselbeck's in commercials."
Hasselbeck suffered a concussion in last week's brutal loss to the Raiders. That's the bad news. The good news? He'll forget about that concussion upon suffering his next one against he Giants.
Manning tosses an interception and loses one fumble, but throws for three touchdowns. And the Giants, much like Archie and Olivia Manning surely have done, walk away saying "We'll take the good with the bad."
New York wins 30-16.
Indianapolis @ Philadelphia (-2)
Lincoln Financial Field will be abuzz when the Colts and Peyton Manning face Michael Vick and the 4-3 Eagles, who look to stay one game behind the Giants in the NFC East.
"Yes, you heard right," said Andy Reid. "Vick is the starter, and he will remain so well into the game. And, by golly, if need be, he'll stay in there to run our two-minute offense.
Frankly, I'm appalled at Mike Shanahan's treatment of Donovan McNabb. Not only is it an affront to McNabb, it offends me that Shanahan thinks McNabb incapable of running the two-minute offense, and believes his conditioning is lacking as well. Then, to bench him for Rex Grossman, then have JaMarcus Russell work out for the team? It makes me want to vomit."
The Colts are back in a familiar position, first place in the AFC South, after a 30-17 win over the Texans, a win which avenged week 1's 34-24 Houston win.
"Hey, it was nice of the Texans to keep it warm," Manning said. "But they should be proud. They took one of two from us. That's a .500 winning percentage, which for the Texans is exceptional.
But we've suffered a rash of injuries this year. Apparently, Bob Sanders is contagious. For the Colts, it's as hard keeping players off the injured list as it is keeping a drunken punter out of a canal. Luckily, we've got Pat McAfee back after a one-game suspension. Hopefully, he's learned his lesson that you should never ???drink and dive.'"
Colts win 35-31.
Kansas City @ Oakland (-2 1/2)
After the freak show that is Halloween in the Black Hole, it's hard to believe Oakland Coliseum could bear a more frenzied atmosphere. But that will likely be the case when the AFC West-leading Chiefs invade Oakland to face the Raiders, who have blown out their last two opponents by an average score of 46-8.
"Many people," said Tom Cable, "the San Diego Chargers included, would consider Sunday's game a ???masquerade ball,' featuring two teams no one expected to be on top in the West. But here we are, and there's a ???face off' for bragging rights in the AFC West.
"We're used to having results that took years off of Al Davis' life. In the last two week's, we've surely added years to his life. But either way, Al's still getting older."
Win or lose, the Chiefs will leave Oakland with the division lead. Kansas City has won in Oakland in each of the last seven years.
"We love going to Oakland as much as we hate to leave," Todd Haley said. "Ask any Raiders fan who's suffered through seven straight losing seasons, or ask any Chief who's been around for those seven seasons. They'll both tell you that the Raiders are a hard habit to break."
Raiders win 24-16.
Dallas @ Green Bay (-9)
After a humiliating 35-17 loss to the Jaguars in Dallas, the Cowboys are 1-6, last in the NFC East, and the loss was such that owner Jerry Jones felt compelled to issue an apology to fans.
"Who knew the Cowboys would be 1-6 and basically out of the playoffs this soon?" said Jerry Jones. "Talk about being ???won and done.' Of course, we're used to the ???out of the playoffs' part; it's the 1-6 part that's really surprising.
Now, if I wasn't so intent on showing my face around here, I'd be ashamed to show my face around here. And speaking of ???masks,' there's no disguising the team's flaws. Our running game is weak, and our defense is suspect. In year's past, when you mentioned the word ???suspect' in relation to the team, you were often speaking of some of our best players. Not this year."
The Packers surprised many, themselves included, with a 9-0 win on the road against the Jets, as the Packers defense was bent, but did not break, despite giving up 123 more yards than the Jets defense.
"We did something that hasn't been done all year," said Clay Matthews. "No, I'm not talking about shutting out the Jets. I'm talking about playing up to expectations."
Jones was right to apologize to fans. But should Jerry also apologize to NBC, for ruining what looked to be a matchup of NFC superpowers when the NFL schedule was released? No, not at all. Millions of people will still tune in, because it's hard not to look at a train wreck.
Packers win 30-23.
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati (+3 ??)
The reeling Bengals host the Steelers, as Pittsburgh and Ben Roethlisberger look to avenge two losses to the Bengals last year. Cincy, a full three games behind the Steelers and Ravens in the AFC North, has lost four straight, and need a win to maintain any hopes of a playoff berth.
"Terrell Owens and I live for games like this. ???Batman and Robin' love prime time games, especially when the villainous Ben Roethlisberger will be present with a nefarious scheme to defeat us. As you may know, Roethlisberger's alter-ego is ???The Diddler,' and, unlike most, he doesn't assume his role in a phone both by disrobing, he does so by disrobing others in another confined space, a bathroom."
The Steelers will bring their hard-hitting brand of defense, legal or not, to Paul Brown Stadium with the intent of inflicting pain, real or figurative, on the Bengals. Last week, linebacker James Harrison drilled Drew Brees with a questionable hit that the NFL reviewed as an incident of hitting a defenseless quarterback with the crown of a helmet.
"I think Dennis Green once famously said ???If you want to crown them, then crown their asses,'" Harrison said. "I want to, so I did. And Drew Brees is the reigning Super Bowl MVP, so I consider it a ???Crown Royal.'
Now, I promise I won't hit a defenseless quarterback on Sunday in Cincinnati. Of course, with Carson Plamer on the field, I can'' guarantee I won'' hit an 'offense-less' quarterback."
The Pittsburgh defense contains the Bengals offense, and Roethlisberger undresses the Cincinnati secondary.
Steelers win 24-13.