Week 1: Minnesota at New Orleans: Whatever your opinion of Brett Favre, don’t discount his generosity. The last time he was in New Orleans, he gave away a trip to the Super Bowl to the entire Saints organization. Now, it’s time for revenge, or redemption, or possibly retirement.
With their receiving corps depleted by hips and headaches, the Vikes will have to rely heavily on Adrian Peterson, living proof that a knuckle-cracking handshake doesn’t necessarily translate into ball security. If Peterson can limit his fumbles to one (1), then the Vikes can play ball control. However, it’s more likely that Drew Brees and the Saints offense will strike quickly, thereby limiting Peterson’s effectiveness.
Week 2: Baltimore at Cincinnati: Forget Sunday night’s Giants at Colts game—everyone knows Eli Manning’s quarterbacking compares to Peyton’s about as well as his acting. The real game is at Paul Brown Stadium, where the Ravens and Bengals vie for early control of the AFC North while the Steelers wait for Ben Roethlisberger slay his demons (does this mean he’ll be “exorcising” on a stationary bike?).
The Bengals surely can’t sweep all six North games this year? Or can they? They can if negative publicity wins games. If Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens can create more problems for opposing defenses than they can for their own offense, then the Bengals could be in business. And with the Ravens secondary in a state of disrepair, this could very well be a chance for Ochocinco and Owens to wreak havoc on the field, as opposed to the airwaves and internet.
Week 3: New York Jets at Miami: Hopefully, the Jets can satisfy Darrelle Revis’s greedy demands, thus setting up a showdown between Revis and new Dolphin Brandon Marshall. It will be a sight to see, as Marshall pays a visit to Revis Island. As was the case with Gilligan’s Island, there’s only room for one star on Revis Island.
And speaking of “landlocked,” will the Fins be able to run on the Jets, with Revis one-on-one with Marshall, allowing safety help at the point of attack? Say that five times fast, Shannon Sharpe.
Week 4: Baltimore at Pittsburgh: Should the Ravens beat the Bengals in Cincy in week 2, and the Browns at home in week 3, then a win over the Steelers at Heinz Field would give them the inside track to the AFC North crown (assuming an “inside track” can be secured with twelve games remaining in the season). The Steelers will still be without Ben Roethlisberger, who will likely be serving the last game of his disciplinary suspension, and later announcing an engagement to a young lady he met in a bathroom.
Ravens-Steelers games are always testy affairs, so a pregame fight is not out of the question. It will be a hard-hitting affair, with plenty of offense between the 20’s, and solid defense in the red zone.
Terrell Suggs makes a crucial sack on the slow-footed Byron Leftwich, and the Ravens squeak out a victory, leaving the Steelers 2-2 in games without Ben Roethlisberger.
Week 5: Green Bay at Washington: By now, the Albert Haynesworth situation will be so bad that there will be no guarantee that he’ll make the trip to home games. Haynesworth is to the Redskins like he is to his knees---a burden. Of course, anyone’s knees would be shot were they making so many trips to the bank over the last two years. But to quote Mike Shanahan, “Enough about Haynesworth!”
If the ‘Skins are to keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers high-scoring offense, Donovan McNabb will have to have a huge game. And even that may not be enough.
Week 6: (tie) Baltimore at New England; Dallas at Minnesota: The Patriots and Cowboys will both be looking to avenge humiliating 2009 playoff losses. Can Bill Belichick will his troops to victory, or is the notion of his supreme motivational skills as outdated as his wardrobe?
Can Dallas’s shaky offensive line protect Tony Romo from Minnesota’s dangerous defensive line?
By week 6, Tom Brady’s hair should be nearing Fabio-length, and that look may prove sympathetic to officials eager to flag the Ravens for roughing the passer penalties. But the Pat’s running game will likely be equally as girlish, and Baltimore’s defensive line will harass Brady with the running game rendered ineffective.
Romo won’t panic at the sight of the Viking front in his face, and with loads of offensive weapons, the Cowboys will outscore the Vikings.
Week 7: Minnesota at Green Bay: In what may very well be his last visit to Lambeau Field, Brett Favre soaks up the well-wishes of the Packer faithful, most of whom wish eternal damnation upon the former Packer great.
Aaron Rodgers at the Packer offense open up an early lead, which they maintain until the fourth quarter. Not surprisingly, Favre engineers a “comeback,” and the Vikes tie the score, only to see a Rodgers-to-Greg Jennings bomb win it in overtime.
As Favre leaves the field, the Cheeseheads serenade him with the familiar chant, “Na na na na, hey hey hey, see you next year.”
Week 8: Houston at Indianapolis: I’m guessing the Texans will have the 6-0 Colts on the ropes early in this one, thanks to a couple of Matt Schaub touchdown passes to Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster. But the Colts will roar back, led by Peyton Manning, with a miraculous interception by Bob Sanders proving to be the defining moment (miraculous in that Sanders is uninjured up to this point).
Peyton Manning throws for 350 yards and four touchdowns, and Indy takes a three-game lead in the AFC South, and the Texans again set their sights on a wild card playoff spot.
Week 9: (tie) Dallas at Green Bay; Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: The Cowboys-Packers tilt could have playoff seeding implications. At least, that’s what NBC will tell you in their promos for the game. Two of the NFL’s young guns, Romo and Rodgers, battle as a mid-autumn chill descends upon Lambeau Field. The Packers, still feeling the effects of week 8’s loss to the Jets in the New Meadowlands, come out flat, and Romo finds rookie Dez Bryant for a 65-yard touchdown pass and an early Dallas lead. Ironically, Bryant is carried off the field in a celebratory frenzy by Roy Williams.
But Rodgers leads the Pack back, capping the comeback with a one yard sneak that gives the Packers a four point victory.
The Steelers and Bengals face each other for the first time, with both chasing Baltimore in the AFC North. Ben Roethlisberger is behind center, and with a Monday Night Football audience watching, he torches the Bengals for 312 yards and three touchdowns.