Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
Chicago @ Miami (-1 ??)
The Bears are far from undefeated, the Miami quarterback is definitely not Dan Marino, and the Chicago team's rap skills are lacking, although there are rumors of an ???NFC North Division Title Shuffle.' Other than that, Thursday night's Bears-Dolphins matchup still probably won't remind anyone of 1985's contest, when the undefeated Bears strolled into Miami on a Monday night and left as 38-24 losers.
"I remember the ???Super Bowl Shuffle' fondly," Julius Peppers said. "I was a young, impressionable 6'4," 230-pound kid growing up in rural North Carolina. That song, as well as the domination of the Bears defense, inspired me to become what I am today-a dominating defensive player who doesn't rap. That rap brought tears to my eyes, and blood to my ears.
Now, the 1985 Bears couldn't carry a tune, but they could carry an offense. The 2010 Bears can do the same. We've carried our offense so much this year, they should come with a handle. But we like our offense, and Jay Cutler deserves all the credit in the world, because win or lose, we can blame it on Cutler."
The Dolphins lost Chad Pennington for the season against the Titans, and Chad Henne re-injured his knee, paving the way for Tyler Thigpen's first start as a Dolphin. He'll face the stingy Bears defense, allowing only 16.2 points per game, second in the NFL.
"Facing Peppers, Brian Urlacher, and the rugged Bears defense scares me," Thigpen said. "So, that makes two weeks in a row in which a Miami quarterback cried when he found out he would be starting. In Chicago, quarterbacks don't cry. Instead, people cry because of them."
It's a nationally televised game, which means Peppers will be going all out. And the Bears will tee off against an offensive line that may be without left tackle Jake Long. Quarterbacking will keep the Dolphins in it. Not their own quarterbacking, but that of Cutler, who throws two interceptions.
Bears win 23-20.
Buffalo @ Cincinnati (-5)
The Bills won for the first time last week, holding off the Lions 14-12 in Buffalo, paced by two touchdowns from Fred Jackson. Now, the Bills will look to make it two in a row against a Bengals team that has lost six in a row.
"We just validated the Chargers' contention," said Chan Gailey, "that you can win without Shawne Merriman. Who would have thought? Washed-up reality **** Tila Tequila actually has more staying power than Merriman. It's too bad their romance didn't last. They were a perfect match, right down to their 15 minutes of fame."
Cincinnati's nightmare season continued in a 23-17 loss in Indianapolis, a game the Bengals possibly could have won if not for five turnovers. A loss to the Bills would give both teams identical 2-8 records, tied for worst in the league, and would likely cost Marvin Lewis his job.
"I'm not sure how many losses it will take for Coach to get fired," said Chad Ochocinco. "I imagine it's proportionate to nails in a coffin.
Unlike years past, there's been no ???sucking face' here in Cincy. Take way the ???face,' and you have just ???sucking.' Beating the Bills would likely ???save face,' though. As you know, I haven't been very happy with my role as of late. So it's hard for me to offer a positive testimonial for Coach Lewis. But, if the price is right, I'll happily sing the praises of pistachios. That makes me Terrell Owens' ???Nutty Buddy, which is another fantastic opportunity for me to market myself."
Cincinnati wins 28-16.
Cleveland @ Jacksonville (-3)
The Jaguars pulled out a huge 31-24 victory over the Texans, winning on David Garrard's 50-yard Hail Mary pass that miraculously landed in the hands of Mike Thomas after the Texans' Glover Quin batted the pass down. With the win, the Jags improved to 5-4, one game behind the Colts, with the always tough Browns coming to town.
"That play," Jack Del Rio said, "will inevitably lead to much debate on the virtues of batting the ball down as opposed to intercepting it. I for one, support the ???bat down' theory. I suspect Houston would now subscribe to the ???Texas Hold ???Em' theory."
A week after whipping the Patriots, the Browns took the Jets to the limit before falling 26-20 late in overtime. They'll try to deny the Jags their third straight win.
"And to accomplish that," Eric Mangini said, "we'll have to do it on the ground, behind the tough running of Peyton Hillis, whom I like to call the ???other white Peyton.' As you know, we traded Brady Quinn to the Broncos for Hillis back in May. That trade continues to pay off for us, while the Broncos continue to pay for it. It's called ???getting something for nothing,' as opposed to ???getting nothing for something,' which is what we now call paying Jake Delhomme $7 million this year."
The Browns continue to ride their big offensive line and Hillis, proving that once you go Hillis, you never go back. Hillis rushes for 136 yards and a touchdown, and the Browns defense forces three turnovers.
Cleveland wins 22-20.
Houston @ NY Jets (-7)
The Jets became the first team in NFL history to win two consecutive overtime games on the road, shocking the Browns on Santonio Holmes 37-yard touchdown catch with 16 seconds left in overtime. At 7-2, the Jets are off to their best start since 1986.
"Holmes has come up big for us time and time again," Rex Ryan said, "especially in the three overtime games we've won this year. Often, with the game hanging in the balance, I'll look into Santonio's eyes, and that glazed look tells me he's ready to make a play, and I trust him to do so. If sure he's heard this often, but ???I'm buying what he's selling.'
We've definitely shown the ability to win the close games, particularly close games against teams that shouldn't be in close games with us. I'd like to see more of a killer instinct from my players, but I think it's hard for a team to show that when their coach only tells them how great they are, even after narrowly defeating a clearly inferior team. They've had their ???Hard Knocks;' maybe what they need now is some ???tough love.'"
The Texans will try to snap their three-game losing streak in New Meadowlands Stadium, where the Jets are 2-2. Houston lost its last game in heartbreaking fashion when David Garrard's 50-yard desperation heave fell into the hands of Mike Thomas after being batted down by Texans' cornerback Glover Quin.
"The Jags were lucky," said Andre Johnson, "and Mike Thomas was in the right place at the right time to pick that ball out of the air. He's a lucky ???plucker.' But let's not feel too bad for Quin. He did what you're taught in that situation. No, not to lose the game, but to bat the ball away instead of trying to intercept it. Plus, he became the first player named Quin to complete a pass in the NFL this year."
New York wins 26-21.
Washington @ Tennessee (-7)
Randy Moss' debut as a Titan was anything but impressive, with only one catch for 26 yards in Tennessee's 29-17 loss to Miami. It was a performance that Moss surely wouldn't feed his dog, but served up to the millions of Moss fantasy owners nonetheless, who were forced to "eat it."
"Hey, Randy had one catch in his final game with New England," Jeff Fisher said. "So, at least he's consistent. And, he's quiet on the field, which matches his demeanor in post-game interviews.
There's no need to overreact, however. I have no intentions of releasing Moss. It would pain me to let Randy go, only to see him crucified in the media, and made the subject of an off-Broadway musical called ???Little Orphan Randy.'"
Washington's Donovan McNabb played the entire game in Monday night's painful 59-28 loss to the Eagles, and it seems maybe his benching against the Lions was justified. His performance against the Eagles doesn't offer much evidence otherwise. Of course, now it's hard to complain about a benching when it's followed by a five year, $78 million extension, including $40 million guaranteed.
"Apology accepted!" McNabb said. "Coach Shanahan and I are on the same page now. More importantly, Daniel Snyder and I are on the same page, or at least our signatures are. Just ask Albert Haynesworth. The Redskins are notorious for giving out ???fat' contracts.
Frankly, there's only one thing worse than the timing of my new contract, and that's the timing between me and my receivers."
Had you told Shanahan before the season that someone would "drop 59" on the Redskins this year, he likely would have told you it would have been Haynesworth. Big Albert's return to Tennessee is a forgettable one, as Chris Johnson rushes for 110 yards and a score, and Moss scores his first TD as a Titan.
Tennessee wins 21-17.
Green Bay @ Minnesota (+1)
After last week's 27-13 loss in Chicago, the Vikings are 3-6 and three games out of the NFC North division lead, and the futures of Brad Childress and Brett Favre become more unclear by the day. Owner Zigi Wilf has said Childress won't be fired this year, and Favre has been characteristically cryptic when queried about 2011.
"The chances of getting a straight answer from me," Favre said, "are about as good as those of a teammate dedicating Jackson Brown's ???Stay' to Childress.
Now, I soon may be feeling more heat from the NFL over the Jenn Sterger situation. She just recently convened with NFL investigators, and a talk with Roger Goodell may be imminent. Goodell was ???briefed,' which is exactly what got me into this mess. So, the headlines may soon read ???Sterger, Goodell Meet,' whereas earlier this year they read ???Sterger, Favre Meat.'
The Packers beat the Vikings 28-24 in week 7, and will look to validate that win with another, this time in Mall Of America Stadium, where the Vikes are 3-1 this year.
"It's unfortunate," Aaron Rodgers said, "that whenever we play the Vikings, Favre is the big story, no matter how well the Packers are doing. It's quite frustrating. Sometimes, I get the urge to take a snapshot of my junk and text it to an attractive stadium worker, just for the attention. Luckily, there's an app for that, and thanks to my phone, I've been able to resist that urge."
In what is likely his final game against the Packers, Favre goes out with a bang, tossing two touchdown passes, and Adrian Peterson rushes for 135 yards.
Vikings win 27-24.
Baltimore @ Carolina (+9)
After falling to the Falcons last Thursday, the Ravens maintained their AFC North lead thanks to Pittsburgh's 39-26 loss to New England. Baltimore has had ten days to prepare for the 1-8 Panthers, and for a team in a tight division race, wins over such teams are imperative. Ray Lewis understands the importance of Sunday's game.
"If we lose, we fall to 6-4," quoth the Raven. "6-4. I'm no Edgar Allan Poe aficionado, but I understand that Poe, much like a Carolina Panther cheerleader intertwined in a lustful embrace with another, ???liked his liquor.'"
The Panthers showed a little life in last week's 31-16 loss in Tampa, but their defense surrendered some huge third-down conversions that likely cost them any chance of winning.
"For once," John Fox said, "it's comforting to hear the yell of ???Get off the field!' and know it's not specifically directed at me. But it's not such a bad thing that our defense has to stay on the field. Our ground game has suffered in the absences of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. There's no rush on the field, so really there's no rush to get off the field."
Baltimore wins 30-17.
Arizona @ Kansas City (-7)
A mere two weeks ago, the Chiefs were riding high on top of the AFC West, with a solid lead in the division and a trio of struggling division rivals. Now, after last weeks' 49-29 loss in Denver, the Chiefs lead is gone, and they're tied with the Raiders, with the surging Chargers just a game behind.
"Luckily," said Todd Haley, "after two tough road losses, we're returning to the comfort of Arrowhead Stadium, where we are undefeated this year. Many people have stated that after such a fast start, the Chiefs would be ???coming back to the field,' and they were right.
Now, I realize I erred by not shaking Josh McDaniels' hand after the Denver loss. I've since apologized. When I said ???I didn't mean it,' I was referring to the apology, of course."
Haley takes out his frustrations on the Cardinals, who are coached by his former boss, Ken Whisenhunt. Kansas City runs the Cards into the ground, rushing for 198 yards, as the Chiefs bounce back and destroy the Cards 34-14.
Afterwards, Whisenhunt, gracious in defeat, offers Haley not only his hand, but his old job back.
Detroit @ Dallas (-9)
The Cowboys stunned the Giants 33-20 last week in the Meadowlands, punishing the home-standing Giants, who had recently been anointed by many as the NFC's best team. On Sunday, the Cowboys face the Lions in a tune-up for a Thanksgiving visit from the defending Super Bowl champion Saints.
"Some may call this a case of ???too little, too late,'" said Jason Garrett. "Quite the opposite, it's a case of ???too much, too late.' The Giants didn't know what hit them. I imagine it's a similar feeling to accidentally firing a bullet into your thigh.
I realize I'm just the interim coach now, but I've got the full backing of Jerry Jones. But so did Wade Phillips. I know I have my doubters, and many people, most notably Ron Jaworski, would love to see John Gruden as the new Cowboys coach."
The struggling Lions lost their 25th straight road game, a 14-12 decision to Buffalo, breaking their own NFL record set from 2001 to 2003. They'll try to snap that streak against the revitalized Cowboys.
"I hear Cowboys Stadium has a spacious visitors' locker room," Jim Schwartz said. "That's good, because the Lions need their space on the road, especially when they're traveling with the monkeys and albatrosses that accompany such a road winless streak.
But I hear the home locker room is the most luxurious around. It's also adjacent to the Cowboys Hall Of Fame, and after Dallas' failures this year, it's said that both rooms are full of busts."
The Lions hang tough, but the Cowboys come away with a 30-27 win.
Oakland @ Pittsburgh (-9)
Not only were the Steelers knocked back in to last week in Sunday night's 39-26 whipping at the hands of the Patriots, they may have been walloped all the way back in to 1972. Wasn't that the last meaningful Oakland at Pittsburgh game? This Sunday's game won't match that 1972 playoff epic for importance or historical significance, but it does pit two division leaders that both need wins to stay atop their divisions.
"Hopefully," Ben Roethlisberger said, "we'll use this loss as a ???wake-up call,' which would make it my second, and first from someone other than Roger Goodell.
I think Mike Tomlin provided a wake-up call of his own when he cut kicker Jeff Reed. Reed's always been called ???erratic.' Up until recently, that word was used to describe his behavior, not his kicking."
His players may not, but Al Davis remembers the "Immaculate Reception" like it was yesterday.
"At my age," Davis said, "28 years seems like a day. That also happens to be the last time I got screwed.
But the Raiders-Steelers rivalry has been dormant for too long. These teams really don't like each other, so I expect to see a lot of trash talk, cheap shots, and yellow flags. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised to see a red flag, because Roethlisberger and Sebastian Janikowski are in the same place. You want to see the opposite of an ???immaculate reception?' Take those two to a bar full of women."
Roethlisberger regains his form, throwing for a touchdown and rushing for another. James Harrison sacks Jason Campbell twice, and Troy Polamalu returns a pick for a score.
Pittsburgh wins 27-12.
Atlanta @ St. Louis (+3)
The Falcons made their case as the NFC's best team last Thursday with a 26-20 win over the Ravens, as Matt Ryan exploited Baltimore's shaky pass defense with 316 yards and three touchdowns, with two of those TD passes to Roddy White. Of course, that win would lose much of its significance should the Falcons fall to the 4-5 Rams, who are 4-1 at home.
"The once vaunted Baltimore defense is showing signs of weakness," Mike Smith said. "Ironically, the Ravens' defense came here to Atlanta, but we ???took it to them.' And we proved one of two things: that we can do that to anybody, or anybody can do that to them.
The Rams are certainly formidable at home. But their home record can be deceiving. They've only beaten one team with a winning record, so they haven't seen anything quite like us. So, on Sunday, they can relieve the glory days of Kurt Warner and company, because we'll be showing them the ???Greatest Show On Their Turf.'"
Falcons win 30-19.
Tampa Bay @ San Francisco (-3 1/2)
The 49ers have already vanquished the marauders from across San Francisco Bay this year, beating the Raiders 17-9 in week 6. Now, the Niners will face an invasion from the 6-3 Buccaneers, who won 31-16 last week over the Panthers.
"I'm impressed by what Raheem Morris has done with the Bucs," Mike Singletary said. "But he's kidding himself calling the Bucs the NFC's best team. He's obviously suffering from ???delusions of grander.'
I didn't hesitate to name Troy Smith the starter. He's earned it with his play, and he's earned the respect of his teammates. Now, when I call our team the ???Men Of Troy,' it has no connection to Homeric literature, nor does it have any connection to San Francisco nightclub of the same name."
Morris and the Bucs certainly don't lack for confidence. They'll need it for a tough stretch of upcoming games, when they travel to Baltimore before hosting the Falcons.
"I can't back down from my statement now," said Morris. "I've got my team believing they're the NFC's best. What's at the other end of the spectrum? The NFC's West."
Frank Gore rushes for 121 yards and a touchdown, and Smith throws two scores to Vernon Davis.
San Francisco wins 24-21.
Seattle @ New Orleans (-12)
The Seahawks are 5-4 after last week's 36-18 win in Arizona, and now hold sole possession of first place in the NFC West. They'll face the Saints, 6-3 and fresh off a bye week, with Reggie Bush set to return for the defending Super Bowl champs.
"The Seahawks lead their division," said Sean Payton. "That's ???big.' That division is the NFC West. That's ???easy.' Hence, the ???Big Easy,' the site of Sunday's game."
Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck returned to action after missing a game with a 333-yard, one touchdown day in a 36-18 win over the Cardinals. However, he injured his left wrist in the game, and is in a cast. Pete Carroll expects Hasselbeck to be ready in time for Sunday's game.
"Matt's upset about his wrist injury," said Pete Carroll. "But he'll surely cheer up when we get his teammates to sign his cast. When I coached at USC, it took more than just a cast to get a signature from a football player. It took money. And he often needed it on or before signing day. As you know, the NCAA eventually caught up with my shenanigans. Of course, the university itself was clueless. Obviously, at USC, there are a lot more ???checks' than ???balances.'
Hasselbeck should be ready to play on Sunday. If the cast isn't off by Sunday, it will be soon thereafter. I figure it's New Orleans---if we throw enough beads at it, the cast will come off."
The Saints, coming off a bye week, should be well-rested and eager to display their attacking brand of defense. They force four Seahawk turnovers, and Drew Brees throws for three scores.
New Orleans wins 34-17.
Indianapolis @ New England (-3)
Sunday afternoon's Colts-Patriots showdown will be all about the quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, who have waged epic battles over their careers. At 7-2, the Pats are tied for the AFC East lead, while the Colts lead the AFC South outright with a 6-3 record.
"You probably saw me berating my teammates on the sideline early in the Pittsburgh game," Brady said. "That's not unusual. Earlier this year, I told Randy Moss to cut his hair. This time, I told my teammates to grow some.
Manning and I want more than anything to beat each other. And we'll both give all we have to do so. But our extreme competitiveness is matched only by our respect for each other. Win or lose, I'll give Peyton a call on the phone. And, without fail, I can expect him to answer after ???one ring.'"
Manning will have to be at his sharpest, and will lead a Colts team missing several starters to injury.
"I guess Brady's comments warrant a rebuttal," Manning said. "Rebuttal? I think that's what Brett Favre expected in return when he texted her. But let's be serious for a moment. I would never send a picture of my privates to anyone, much less a nubile stadium employee. If that picture were to fall into the wrong hands, there's a good chance I'd soon be nicknamed ???Colt 4.5.'
People who know me know I wouldn't show myself like that. Heck, I have a hard time showing my hand at the line of scrimmage."
Patriots win 34-31.
NY Giants @ Philadelphia (-3)
Much like the boos cascading down upon a fallen opponent from high above in the cheap seats of Lincoln Financial Field, the Giants came back down to earth, losing convincingly 33-20 to the Cowboys. They'll look to rebound against the Eagles, with the winner awarded sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
"We got put in our place by a band of Cowboys bent on vengeance," said Eli Manning. "You could say we were ???posse-whipped.'"
The Eagles were flawless in Monday night's 59-28 destruction of the Redskins, a win that avenged an earlier loss to the Redskins and further established Michael Vick as the most dynamic and versatile offensive weapon in the NFL. Vick passed for four touchdowns and ran for two others in the win.
"I can finally agree to what PETA's been saying all along," Reid said. "Michael ???had no conscious.' Hopefully, Michael's got more where that came from. To my ???Philly Idol,' I cried ???more, more, more' with a rebel yell."
The Eagles enter with all the confidence in the world, while the Giants come with theirs shaken. Tom Coughlin no doubt had a few choice words for the Giants this week, and they'll respond. Besides, the Eagles are in the same position the Giants were last week----as everybody's pick as the NFC's best. That's a temporary position.
New York wins 26-24.
Denver @ San Diego (-9)
Denver's 49-29 win over the Chiefs had to come as music to the ears of the Chargers, who enjoyed the spectacle of bitter rivals squaring off with a result that left one team bitter and the other overconfident. Kansas City's loss dropped the Chiefs into a tie with the Raiders for the division lead, with San Diego only a game behind, with three of their next four games against division foes.
"So, the Broncos scored 49 on the Chiefs," Philip Rivers said, "and the Raiders scored 59 on the Broncos. There not much, if anything, you can say ???in defense' of those two efforts.
Sure, we may not be in first, but it would be hard to say we're not the favorites in the West. The Chiefs are fading, the Raiders are owned by Al Davis, and the Broncos can't beat us without Ed Hochuli. Are the Broncos contenders? Did they call Travis Henry, father to eleven children, the ???Trojan Horse?'"
The Broncos had been an afterthought in the AFC West race until last week's win over the Chiefs. Now, with a win over the Chargers, they could possibly pull to within a game of the division lead.
"I can understand Todd Haley's refusal to shake my hand," Josh McDaniels said. "They didn't touch us all game; why start then?"
Chargers win 38-21.