Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
Buffalo @ Miami (-6)
Miami beat the Jets 10-6 in New Meadowlands Stadium last week, running the Dolphins road record to 6-1, tied with the Steelers as best in the league. The 'Fins held the Jets to only six first downs, buoyed by a big game from Cameron Wake, who recorded 2 sacks and a forced fumble.
"This team travels well," Tony Sparano said. "And when we don't travel, well, it's travails. That's why we'll take a charter flight and a two-hour bus ride from our hotel in Miami to Sun Life Stadium, the long way. Until last Sunday in the Meadowlands, we had no problems whatsoever with 'taking a trip.' That is until the Jets strength and conditioning coach tripped up one of our players. I give Sal Alosi an 'A' for effort, and a 'C' for 'nonchalance.' But we were not without fault. Before the play, cornerback Nolan Carroll failed to report as 'tackle eligible.' That's something he'll have to live with for the rest of his life."
The Bills have yet to win an AFC East game, but will close the season with three division games, hosting the Patriots next week and finishing with the Jets on January 2nd.
"I'm usually not one to make bold predictions," Chan Gailey said, "but I guarantee our strength and conditioning coach's name won't be appearing in Sunday's box score. But I hope a stiff fine and suspension has taught Alosi a lesson. I know Alosi's situation has taught Shawne Merriman a valuable lesson — that a Jets coach has more tackles than he does."
Miami wins, 24-17.
Cleveland @ Cincinnati (-1)
The Bengals losing streaked reached 10 games after last Sunday's 23-7 loss in Pittsburgh. Carson Palmer threw 3 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, as the Bengals tied the franchise record for consecutive losses in a season. They'll try to win for the first time since Week 3 at Carolina.
"I have no intentions of benching Palmer," Marvin Lewis said. "But Carson has to be wary of the Browns tricky pass defense, featuring rookie Joe Haden. They could easily bait Carson into throwing to a player from Ohio. In most cases as Cincinnati quarterback, it would be the right thing to do. But obviously, not against the Browns. Carson has completed passes to players from at least 14 states this year, and one Polynesian island."
The Browns fell to the Bills 13-6 in Buffalo last week, officially eliminating Cleveland from playoff contention. Jake Delhomme managed only 86 yards passing, completing 12-of-20 passes and stimulating the demand among Browns fans for a quarterback change.
"I realize that continuing to start Delhomme could eventually cost me my job," Eric Mangini said. "Much like most of Jake's passes, heads could roll, as well. But, as you know, Colt McCoy is still out with a high ankle sprain, so circumstances may dictate Jake remaining the starter. It's a Christmas song Cleveland fans dread hearing, but I may be singing 'It'll Be Delhomme For the Holidays' for the time being."
It appears as though Terrell Owens is showing the true unselfishness that means he's in the holiday spirit — he's handing out blame to everyone but himself. Well, the Bengals front office is making a list, and checking it twice, of the names of players who won't be in a Cincy uniform next year. Good news, T.O.! As your arrogant nature would suggest, you're at the top of the list.
The Browns send the Bengals to their 11th consecutive defeat, and Owens has a sideline meltdown. Mangini sits Delhomme and starts Colt McCoy, who tosses 1 touchdown pass.
Cleveland wins, 22-19.
Detroit @ Tampa Bay (-5½)
The Lions stunned the Packers 7-3 in Detroit last week, knocking Aaron Rodgers out of the game early and winning on Drew Stanton's fourth quarter touchdown pass to Will Heller. The loss was a blow to Green Bay's playoff hopes, and the Lions can likewise damage the Bucs post-season aspirations with a win in Tampa.
"Successive wins over Green Bay and Tampa Bay," said Jim Schwartz, "would truly be special for this team, and be considered a 'Bay City roll.' Last week brought two stunning developments in Detroit: Brett Favre on the sidelines, and a Detroit defense on the field. Our defense really stepped up. It's good to see that Ndamukong Suh won't let a fraudulent roughing penalty stifle his aggressiveness. I'm still unclear as to why he was penalized for more or less shoving Jay Cutler to the ground. To the NFL officiating supervisors, I have to ask — what exactly is a 'non-football act' against a quarterback, and is one accused of such required to register as a sex offender?"
After a 17-16 win in Washington, the Bucs are 8-5 and benefitted from the Lions win over the Packers last week. Tampa will likely battle the Packers, Giants, and Eagles for the final wild card spot.
"Wow!" said Raheem Morris. "The Packers, Giants, and Eagles? We're in good company. They're in great company. And judging by our remaining schedule, we've got a great shot at capturing that final wild card spot. We've got the Lions and Seahawks at home, followed by a final week game at New Orleans, who will likely be resting starters. I like our chances in all three, and I like them even more if Graham Gano makes an appearance in each."
Tampa wins, 30-27.
Houston @ Tennessee (-1)
The Titans have lost six in a row after last Thursday's 30-28 loss to the Colts, and resemble in no way the team that began the year 5-2. They'll look to avenge a Week 12 20-0 loss to the Texans in Houston.
"It's not so much 'revenge,'" said Jeff Fisher, "as it is 'rematch.' I'm sure everyone is anxious to see 'round two' of the Cortland Finnegan/Andre Johnson battle. Me? I think Cortland's skills could be better utilized in getting a rise out of Randy Moss as opposed to Johnson. Randy's like a cheap wedding — there's no reception. Randy could leave the field early now and no one would notice. Heck, no one notices when he arrives at the stadium, especially our quarterback. In Randy's defense, he hasn't become a distraction. But he hasn't become an attraction, either.
"I've always been considered a 'players' coach.' And that notion is no more evident than now, because like the players, I'm playing for my job. When the going gets tough, Finnegan has an 'off with his helmet mentality,' whereas owner Bud Adams, under similar circumstances, has an 'off with his head' mentality."
The Texans ruined a dramatic fourth quarter comeback on Monday night, losing to the Ravens 34-28 in overtime when Matt Schaub was intercepted by Josh Wilson, who returned the pick 12 yards for the game-winning score. The loss dropped Houston to 5-8, and all but officially eliminated them from playoff contention.
"Can't a quarterback get a drop when he needs one?" said a disappointed Schaub. "Andre Johnson may be playing on one leg, but at least he's got two good hands. It seems some of his butter-fingered mates in the receiving corps are trying to emulate Andre with their own version of the 'hands of stone.' When it comes to passes, I'd rather see Andre on the receiving end. When it comes to punches, I'd rather see Finnegan on the receiving end."
The Texans strike early. Johnson goes "right cross" the middle, turning a short reception into a 45-yard touchdown. He then burns Finnegan with a double move, also known as a combination, for a big gain. Arian Foster provides the knockout blow with a short touchdown run to finish off the Titans.
Houston wins, 27-16.
Philadelphia @ NY Giants (-3)
The NFC East lead will be on the line when Michael Vick leads the Eagles against Eli Manning and the Giants. The Eagles handled the Cowboys last week, propelled by a big game from DeSean Jackson, who caught 4 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown.
"I think DeSean's 91-yard catch and run touchdown appropriately summed up the Cowboys season," said Andy Reid. "Dallas' defense has been so bad, opponents are even falling in backwards to the end zone. But DeSean is either 'great' or 'grating.' He's either busting an over-50-yard touchdown, or complaining about not getting enough touches. It's a dynamic that works out for both of us. He complains, and I give in. It's what we call a 'whine and appease' relationship."
The Giants beat the Brett Favre-less Vikings 21-3 last week to keep pace in the East. As of late, the G-Men have been riding the power and speed of the running back duo Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Against Minnesota, Jacobs and Bradshaw piled up a combined 219 yards rushing.
"They are the 'Earth' and 'Fire' of the 'Earth, Wind, and Fire' backfield," Tom Coughlin said. "But who needs Derrick Ward as 'Wind' when we've got Eli Manning, who blows? Eli leads the NFL with 18 interceptions. He can read a defense ... on a seventh-grade level. But I think our resurgent running game will allow me to ask less of Eli. That's good, because there's been some confusion in my orders now that when I ask him to play like Peyton, I have to specify which one."
The G-Men have to be tired from a Monday night game, preceded by lots of travel and long delays at airports. There's 'Jet lag,' and there's 'jet lag,' and both seem to rear their ugly heads at New Meadowlands Stadium. The Giants suffer from the latter.
Philadelphia jumps to a quick start, leading 14-0 before the Giants even get off the plane. Vick accounts for 3 touchdowns, and a Jacobs' fumble late seals New York's fate.
Eagles win, 27-24.
New Orleans @ Baltimore (-2½)
While the Falcons have reeled off seven straight wins, the Saints have won six in a row to keep pace in the NFC South. Should New Orleans overcome the Ravens in Baltimore, Week 16's game versus Atlanta in New Orleans could decide the division champion.
"We've got the second-best record in the NFC," said Drew Brees, "yet we may be the most overlooked team in the NFL. And that's just fine with us. We're happy to tell the rest of the league, 'Look away, Dixie land, look away.'
And we'll have a lot to prove come playoff time. It would be foolish to underestimate us. You've seen me snoring in a number of Nyquil advertisements, but once the playoffs commence, it would behoove you to listen when I say 'don't sleep on us.'"
The Ravens blew a 28-13 lead in Houston on Monday night before winning 34-28 in overtime. Baltimore has lost fourth-quarter leads in each of its four losses, and nearly did so again before Josh Wilson intercepted Matt Schaub and scooted 12 yards for the game-winning score.
"We'd be undefeated," Ray Lewis said, "if games were three quarters long. So check out my new Old Spice scent, Old Spice 'Hour,' which lasts longer than the Ravens. With so many fourth-quarter collapses, you have to question our conditioning. And, in light of Sal Alosi's play on a Miami Dolphin player, I think it's safe to say our strength and conditioning coach, Bob Rogucki, isn't 'doing enough.'"
Can the Ravens defense outsmart Drew Brees? No. Can Sean Payton out-coach John Harbaugh? In his sleep. The good news for the Ravens? They won't have a fourth-quarter lead to blow.
Brees throws for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns, and the Saints win, 31-28.
Arizona @ Carolina (-2½)
The Panthers fell to the Falcons 31-10 last week, dropping their record to 1-12, the worst record in the NFL. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen felt compelled to apologize for a subpar performance to linebacker Jon Beason, while wide receiver Steve Smith felt the offense was due the apology.
"Obviously," said John Fox, "Jimmy can say 'I'm sorry' with his words as well as his actions. But enough with the apologies. First, our owner Jerry Richardson apologized to our fans, something I was totally unaware of. Then Clausen apologizes to Beason. It sets a bad precedent. No, there's nothing wrong with apologies, except when you have more apologies than wins. But all is not lost for this team. We may be 1-12, but there's comfort in knowing we're the worst team in the NFL's best division."
After smashing the Broncos 43-13, the Cardinals are 4-9 and remarkably still alive for the NFC West crown. They'll have to win their remaining three games and get lots of help from the teams facing their West counterparts.
"Only in the NFC West," Ken Whisenhunt said, "could a team be alive in the division hunt, yet out of the wild card race. It truly is the 'Wild, Wild, West,' and once the wild card round of the playoffs end, it will be 'Wild and Out.'"
Panthers win, 23-16.
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis (-5)
Under normal circumstances, Week 15 for the Colts would entail debate on whether or not to rest starters in advance of a sure first-round playoff bye. Not so this year. Indianapolis is 7-6 and a game behind the visiting Jaguars in the AFC South. Should Indy win its remaining three games, they would win the division title.
"Oh, we're still resting starters," said Peyton Manning. "They just happen to be resting on injured reserve. I've been praying for a running game to arrive in Indy for some time now; I guess a home game against the Jags is how God answers prayers, when they're transmitted via Twitter. But I live for games like this. This is why you play football, to win the games that matter most, and to atone for throwing 11 interceptions in three games. I'm sure the Jaguars' strategy will be to 'keep the ball out of my hands.' So be it. But for three recent opponents, the best strategy was to 'put the ball in my hands.'"
With a win in Indianapolis, the Jags could all but clinch the AFC South, and would complete the season sweep of the Colts. Jacksonville has rushed for 200 yards as a team in their last three games, and Maurice Jones-Drew has posted six-straight 100-yard rushing games. So the Colts can expect a healthy dose of the Jacksonville rushing game.
"More than a healthy dose," said Jack Del Rio. "They'll get an overdose. Our offense will be like pantyhose on Joe Namath — we'll run. I honestly don't think the Colts have an answer for our running game. I'm sure they have a question, though, like 'How do we stop this?' Well, you can't. Maurice Jones-Drew is the NFL's best player with a hyphenated last name. And after 23-29 rushes from Jones-Drew, I think the Colts will see their hopes 'dashed.'"
Jones-Drew powers for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns, and the Jags survive a late Colts rally.
Jacksonville wins, 34-31.
Kansas City @ St. Louis (-1)
Sunday's contest in the Edward Jones Dome pits the division leaders from the AFC West and NFC West, with both the Chiefs and Rams coming off blowout losses to the Chargers and Saints, respectively.
"It's a must-win situation for both teams," Todd Haley said. "I can't speak for the Rams, but we will let it all hang out. It's the 'Show Me State Showdown,' and although it seems odd, Brett Favre is not a part of it.
As you know, Matt Cassel missed last week's game after having his appendix removed. In a related surgical matter, the Chargers tore us a new asshole last week. But let's be careful not to confuse Matt's procedure with a certain Favre cell phone maneuver. In Matt's case, 'appendix' is what was removed; in Favre's case, 'append dicks' is what he does before sending a text message."
The Rams lost 31-13 in New Orleans, but still remained tied for the NFC West lead thanks to Seattle's loss in San Francisco. Sam Bradford was shaky in the loss, but was impressive in running down Saints safety Roman Harper after Harper snatched a Rams fumble.
"Let that be a lesson to others," Bradford said. "Don't underestimate the speed of the kid. I can outrun safeties as well as I can the 'Heisman Curse.' The Saints found out that I've got Harper's number, or 'Roman's Numeral,' if you will."
St. Louis wins, 26-17.
Washington @ Dallas (-6)
While the Eagles and Giants settle NFC East bragging rights, the Redskins and Cowboys renew the division's most famous rivalry in Cowboys Stadium. Washington lost 17-16 to the Bucs last week as a botched extra point attempt, among other kicking game breakdowns, cost the Redskins.
"I thought long and hard about releasing Graham Gano," Mike Shanahan said. "I've decided to keep him, not only because he's a hard worker, but also because he's willing to play a 3-4 defense. Now, had a released him, I would have called him into my office, told him to stand under the 'miss-tle toe,' and told him to kiss his ass goodbye. 'Sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-han.'
"If I could, I would blame this on Albert Haynesworth. But I can't. Why? Because Albert's good for nothing. As I've said before, Albert didn't 'work out,' nor did he 'workout.'"
Dallas is 4-9 and the prospects of a .500 season ended with Sunday night's 30-27 loss to the Eagles. The Cowboys bravely fought until the end, and were gracious in defeat, with Tashard Choice even asking Michael Vick to sign his glove after the game.
"I really don't see what the big deal is," said Choice, "but this seems to be the most-talked about autograph since Vick signed his plea deal. Heck, it's not t he first time Vick's 'left his signature' in an opponent's stadium."
Dallas wins, 23-20.
Atlanta @ Seattle (+6)
Despite a 40-21 hammering courtesy of the 49ers, the Seahawks remained tied for first in the NFC West, locked up with the Rams for the division lead, thanks to a 31-13 St. Louis loss in New Orleans. They'll face a tough test in the Falcons, who are in the driver's seat for the NFC South crown and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
"This game will be marked by contrasting styles," Mike Smith said. "Particularly those of the quarterbacks. Although they are both named 'Matt,' Matt Ryan and Matt Hasselbeck couldn't differ more. Ryan has made a name for himself with his composure under pressure, earning the nickname 'Matty Ice.' Hasselbeck is known as much for his history of injuries as he is for his passing, earning the nickname 'Matty Iced.'"
"Don't forget," Pete Carroll said, "Hasselbeck's also known for his famous overtime coin flip call in Green Bay in 2004. The next thing you know, Al Harris is returning Hasselbeck's pass for a 52-yard, game-winning score. That earned Hasselbeck the nickname 'Matty Heist.'"
Atlanta wins, 31-14.
Denver @ Oakland (-6½)
The Eric Studesville era in Denver began with a thud, as the Broncos were pummeled 43-13 by the Cardinals last week in a blowout that surely validated the "interim" in Studesville's title as interim coach. Now the Broncos head to Oakland, hoping to avenge a Week 7 59-14 loss to the Raiders in Denver.
"Last week saw a change of coaches," said Broncos president Pat Bowlen. "This week could see a change of mind. But we'll stick with Studesville for the time being, but I hear Urban Meyer is available. That would be a coaching hire on par with the drafting of Tim Tebow in the first round. It would be interesting to see a Meyer/Tebow reunion. It would also be interesting to see how well two quarterback sneaks and a jump pass would work on the Broncos first drive in the Meyer/Tebow regime."
Oakland blew a chance to pull within a game of the Chiefs in the AFC West, falling 38-31 in Jacksonville, surrendering 234 yards on the ground. Still, the Raiders are only two games back of the Chiefs, and one behind the Chargers, and with two wins over San Diego this year, anything is possible.
"I like to believe," said Tom Cable, "that our 59-14 blowout of the Broncos hastened Josh McDaniels' demise, and answered the question posed in the 1969 movie They Shoot Horses, Don't They? But we know the Broncos will be fired up, as will former Bronco and Raider Bill Romanowski. Heck, I hear Romo's salivating, drooling even, at the thought of the upcoming game. He's anticipating an epic battle. In fact, he's got great expectorations. All I know is that when the Broncos and Raiders battle, you better buckle your chin strap. And if Romanowski's nearby, you better tighten your face shield."
Oakland wins, 30-22.
NY Jets @ Pittsburgh (-6)
While the AFC East crown was in their reach just a few weeks ago, the Jets are by no means a lock for a playoff spot now, particularly with an imposing date at Heinz Field looming. The Jets followed their 45-3 beating in New England with a lackluster 10-6 loss to Miami in the New Meadowlands.
"As you know," said Rex Ryan, "we buried a game ball from the Patriots game. And, like our offense, it hasn't moved. And you've probably seen the video of our strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripping Miami's Nolan Carroll on a punt in last week's game. It was uncalled for, and the only thing I can say to Sal is 'Where were you against the Patriots?' But seriously, his actions were regrettable. Heck, even Joe Namath would say it was an egregious case of bad judgment on the sideline."
The Steelers used three Sean Suisham field goals and two defensive touchdowns to defeat the Bengals 23-7 last week. Troy Polamalu and Lamar Woodley returned interceptions for touchdown to spark the win.
"Carson Palmer and I roomed together at USC," said Polamalu. "We did share a room, but obviously not the Head and Shoulders. And, just like last Sunday, we shared our ups and downs. This Sunday, I'll face another teammate in Santonio Holmes, with whom I've shared a Bowl. Holmes made a name for himself on the street corners of Belle Glade, Florida. And, he's now made a name for himself as a Jet. That name is the 'New York Sack Exchange.'"
Holmes has 7 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown against his old team, and the Jets find their way out of their offensive doldrums through the air.
New York wins, 20-17.
Green Bay @ New England (-9½)
The Patriots clinched a playoff spot, and widened the scope of their dominance, with a 36-7 win in snowy Chicago that fell just short of the 46-10 score needed to fully exorcise the memory of 1985's Super Bowl XX loss to the Bears. Still, New England proved that weather won't affect them, particularly the type of weather sure to greet a visiting playoff team.
"I didn't go there to feathers ruffle," said Tom Brady. "I just went to do the 'Super Bowl Muffle.' If the Bears are the NFC's best, then I might just have to start heeding the words of Raheem Morris.
Now the Packers will likely face the same fate as the Bears. Green Bay without Aaron Rodgers is a lot like Chicago with Jay Cutler."
Green Bay will face the daunting task of winning in New England without Aaron Rodgers, who suffered a concussion in last week's 7-3 loss to the Lions. In Rodgers' place, the Packers will start Matt Flynn, in his third year out of Louisiana State.
"We know we have a tough task ahead," Charles Woodson, "to face the Patriots, the team that just blew out the team we're chasing for the NFC North lead. It's all about confronting your fears. I have an inexplicable fear of playing in the snow in New England against a team quarterbacked by Tom Brady. To get past it, I know I have to overcome my fears, but for some reason, I have trouble tucking those feelings way. I want to be like Brady's arm, and move forward, but I can't. Thoughts of that moment are a red flag to my psyche."
Patriots win, 26-10.
Chicago @ Minnesota (-3)
What did the Bears and Vikings have in common last week? Neither team "played" on Sunday. Heavy snowfall in Minneapolis forced the Giants/Vikings game to be moved to Detroit on Monday, while the Bears didn't show up in a 36-7 loss to the Patriots. Now the Bears look to refocus their playoff drive in Minnesota against the 5-8 Vikings, who lost 21-3 to the Giants last week.
"Sadly," said Brett Favre, "my streak of consecutive games started ended last week, at 297. I guess it's time for the bells to toll in honor of my career; and it's no coincidence the sound we're hearing is 'ding-dong.' I knew it was time to sit one out when I couldn't even lift my right, or text-messaging, arm. Had I tried to play, I'm sure I would have been flagged for unnecessary toughness."
The Bears had their five-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Patriots, who whipped them 36-7. They must quickly regroup to remain a step ahead of the Packers in the NFC North race.
"We've got to get back to what we do best," said Jay Cutler, "and that's not playing the Patriots. The Vikes are just the team to put us back on track. The Vikings are telling us that this game will take place 'somewhere in Minnesota.' That type of vague directions coming from the Vikings leads me to one conclusion: that they've invited us to a sex boat cruise, starring featured performers 'Leslie and Lovie.'"
Chicago wins, 22-17.