Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
NY Giants @ Washington (+3)
With their playoff lives at stake, the Giants flopped in Green Bay, losing 45-17 to the Packers, as New York had six turnovers, including four Eli Manning interceptions. A win would have clinched a playoff spot; now the G-Men need a win over the Redskins and help in the form of a Bears win or tie over the Packers.
"Manning calls a team meeting after Matt Dodge's bonehead kick to DeSean Jackson last week," Tom Coughlin said. "Does this mean Dodge presides over the team meeting this week? With more performances like that from Eli, he better get used to empty media rooms. And empty media rooms are a lot like Manning-organized team meetings, in that in each case, no one seems to be listening."
The Redskins damaged the Jaguars' playoff hopes with a 20-17 win in overtime, winning on Graham Gano's 31-yard field goal. Rex Grossman was erratic in the win, completing only 19-of-39 passes for 182 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
"Donovan McNabb can complain all he wants about his benching," Mike Shanahan said, "but Grossman held his own out there. Heck, his play reminded me of McNabb's—it was like a third-stringer's."
Now, this NFL season has been defined by an array of body parts. From Brett Favre's penis, to Matt Cassel's appendix, to the feet of Rex Ryan's wife, anatomy has played a big role this season. Add to that Chris Cooley's hands, which, like Favre's package, have been ridiculed, and, like Cassel's appendix, are useless, and, like Mrs. Ryan's feet, are a real turn-off.
Albert Haynesworth has quit on his team and Shanahan has quit on McNabb, but the Redskins won't lie down for the Giants. The G-Men were stranded in Green Bay; they'll be stranded at home for the playoffs.
Washington wins, 26-24.
Jacksonville @ Houston (+2.5)
David Garrard's overtime interception led to Graham Gano's 31-yard game-winning field goal, and the Jaguars fell 20-17 to the Redskins, dropping to 8-7. Still in the playoff hunt, Jacksonville needs a win at Houston and an Indianapolis loss to the Titans to clinch the AFC South crown.
"It took a miracle to beat the Texans the first time we played," Jack Del Rio said. "It may take more than that to punch our ticket to the playoffs. With that in mind, I can only tell my men to play like gladiators when I urge them to 'Unleash Hail Mary.'"
The Texans' 2-0 start has disintegrated into a 5-10 debacle, as Houston has failed to make the jump from a team with potential to actual playoff contender. Now last in the AFC South, the Texans will try to end a four-game losing streak and squelch the last remaining hope of a Jacksonville playoff berth.
"We're perpetually a team on the verge," Gary Kubiak said, "of being on the verge. Now I hear that Texans fans will converge, to rally in support of my firing. I think they're calling it a 'schlep rally.'"
Texans win, 31-24.
Tampa Bay @ New Orleans (-6)
The Bucs pummeled the Seahawks 38-15 last week, powered by a career-best five touchdown passes from Josh Freeman. Tampa improved to 9-6, ensuring a winning record, and can still clinch a wild-card playoff spot with a win and lots of help.
"Usually," said Raheem Morris, "I don't need any help at all to get 'Buc wild.' Now, we're thankful that Freeman was available in the 2009 draft. We could have had our choice of Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez, but we weren't convinced either could shoulder the load of our expectations, or NFL tacklers. In hindsight, it doesn't take a blind man to see that we got the right one, baby.
"Now, it's quite humbling to smash the Seahawks, only to find out that they can win the NFC West with a victory this week and a 7-9 record. Many say a team that wins a division with a losing record should not host a home playoff game. Well, rules are rules, and the rules say the division winner gets a home game. It all makes sense when you consider that their coach is Pete Carroll, who's been known to stretch the rules."
The Saints clinched a playoff berth with a 17-14 victory over the Falcons on Monday night, and could still capture the NFC South and the conference's No. 1 seed if they beat the Bucs and Atlanta loses to Carolina.
"I don't see the Panthers beating the Falcons," said Sean Payton, "So we may have to be content with the No. 5 seed. And who wouldn't be content with the No. 5 seed? Sure, the No. 1 seed is rewarded with a bye week, but the No. 5 seed is rewarded with a trip to St. Louis or Seattle, where, judging by the state of the NFC West, we'll be saying 'bye' to a weak team."
Freeman throws for two scores and runs for another, and the Bucs beat the uninspired Saints, 27-21.
Cincinnati @ Baltimore (-9.5)
The Ravens won 20-10 in Cleveland as Ed Reed intercepted Colt McCoy twice on a frigid day in Cleveland Stadium. Baltimore will at worst be the AFC's No. 5 seed, and can still win the AFC North with a win over the Bengals and a Pittsburgh loss at Cleveland.
"You've probably seen the highlight," said Reed, "of my jacket catching fire when I got too close to a sideline heater in Cleveland. It's a little-known fact that I was a 'lit' major at the 'U.' Conventional wisdom says you normally don't need a heater to have a Raven defensive back burned. But that's why my position is called 'safety,' because I'm the one who puts out fires."
Cincinnati has won two in a row following a disastrous 10-game losing streak. Last week, Carson Palmer had a career day, throwing four touchdown passes and posting a quarterback rating of 157.2, just short of the highest possible rating of 158.3. The Bengals, who beat Baltimore in Week 2, will go for the season sweep against the playoff-bound Ravens.
"Usually," said Palmer, "when the word 'perfect' is used to describe me, it's preceded by 'far from.' We've proved we can win without Terrell Owens, and that we can win without Chad Ochocinco. Now, my favorite VH1 reality show is the T.Ocho No Show. Apparently, receivers without their own reality shows make much better teammates. Just ask any other quarterback in the league. Until my near-perfect day against the Chargers, I felt almost certain that we would have proved next year that we could win without me."
The Ravens take an early 3-0 lead against the Bengals, and keep a keen eye on the Steelers/Browns score, until the Steelers take a 14-0 lead seven minutes in. There will be no bye week for the Ravens, but they do earn a bye half, as many of the Ravens sit for much of the second half against Cincy.
Bengals win, 24-17.
Carolina @ Atlanta (-14.5)
After losing to the Saints last Monday 17-14, the Falcons will have to wait a week to secure the NFC South crown and the NFC's No. 1 seed, assuming they beat the 2-13 Panthers. Barring a shocking upset by the Panthers, the Falcons will enjoy a bye week before hosting the lowest remaining seed after the Wild Card Round.
"Actually," said Roddy White, "we'll likely have that bye week clinched by the end of the first quarter. Suffice it to say the Panthers won't be taking pictures at midfield at the Georgia Dome. Heck, they probably won't even be crossing midfield."
The Panthers were outmanned 27-3 at Pittsburgh last Thursday, and their 2-13 record has clinched the top pick in April's draft. Jimmy Clausen was 10-for-23 for 72 yards and one interception.
"So, it is true," John Fox said. "You can win for losing. Who says I haven't done anything good for this team lately? Obviously, the 'help wanted' signs posted around our complex apply to more than just the quarterback position."
Atlanta wins, 31-10.
Pittsburgh @ Cleveland (+6)
The Steelers blasted the Panthers 27-3 last Thursday and can clinch the AFC North and the No. 2 playoff seed with a win in Cleveland. Pittsburgh has enjoyed 10 days off since hammering Carolina, and would benefit from a long two-week layoff should they, as expected, defeat the Browns.
"There are those that claim a bye week robs a team of momentum," said Ben Roethlisberger, "and therefore is a hindrance to a playoff team. That's utter nonsense. That extra week is vital. If a teammate questions the virtues of the bye week, I respond with one of my favorite pickup lines: 'you know you want it.'"
"This team lives and dies by the presence of Troy Polamalu. When he plays, we win. When he doesn't, we lose. We're a more cohesive unit with him, which is why we like to call him 'Hair Gel.'"
Steelers jump on the Browns early, and seal the NFC North title with a 27-10 win.
The Vikings have had two straight games postponed because of snow, including last week's 24-14 win over the Eagles, which was played on Tuesday. Minnesota's second trip to Ford Field in three weeks, this time as an away game, will likely be Brett Favre's last game in the NFL.
"The NFL's had to alter its schedule quite a bit lately because of the weather," Favre said. "There hasn't been this much snow falling from the sky since Nate Newton welcomed a shipment from Colombia back in his heyday as the NFL's drug czar.
"Finally, the NFL has come to a decision on the Jenn Sterger situation, which I like to call the 'Fall Out From the Hang Out,' or the 'Testes Message.' It appears I'll only be fined and won't face a suspension. $50,000 seems fair; that's approximately 10 grand per inch."
The Lions can close the year with a four-game winning streak should they beat the Vikings. Detroit's 34-27 win over the Dolphins gave them their first three-game winning streak since 2007, and a win Sunday would take them out of the NFC North cellar.
"Four in a row!?" said Jim Schwartz. "I could be mistaken, but I believe that matches Matt Millen's record, for consecutive No. 1 picks. But climbing out from last place is a big deal for us. That's more than enough to get us fired up. That's why some call us 'bottom feeders.'"
Lions win, 28-22.
Dallas @ Philadelphia (-7)
The Eagles clinched the NFC East last Sunday, when the Giants lost to the Packers. After Tuesday's 24-14 loss to the Vikings, Philly lost any chance to earn a playoff bye, and is locked into the No. 3 slot for the postseason.
"As the last 10 days have proven," said Michael Vick, "Eagles can fly, and they can also lay eggs. But New York has certainly been in a giving mood lately. They are called the 'Giants,' so it makes perfect sense to laud them for their 'large-ese.'
"The same goes for the Cowboys. Like the Giants, they bore witness to the great DeSean Jackson making a huge, game-changing play. And likewise, they also saw DeSean perform his signature move, the 'DeTour' to the end zone before scoring."
The Cowboys' disappointing season continued with a 27-26 loss at Arizona on Christmas night, a defeat made possible by a missed extra point by kicker David Buehler after Stephen McGee found Miles Austin for a 37-yard score to put the Cowboys up by two.
"That was a tough loss to swallow," said Jerry Jones. "Obviously, this team still needs work, and so do I, on my gag reflex. When the names 'David Buehler' and 'Stephen McGee' are mentioned as instrumental in the outcome of a game, you know this franchise is struggling.
"Now, I hear Vick says he would like to own a dog again. I'm sure if dogs could talk, they would object. And if they had opposable thumbs, I'm sure they'd toss a number of red challenge flags."
Vick sits, as do a number of other Eagle starters. Dallas wins, 30-17.
Oakland @ Kansas City (-4)
Kansas City celebrated its first AFC West title in seven years after a win over the Titans and a Chargers loss at Cincinnati clinched the division for the Chiefs. Matt Cassel tossed three touchdowns, and the Chiefs held the Titans to 13 first downs. Kansas City can clinch the No. 3 seed with a win over the Raiders, which would avenge a Week 9 loss.
"I can't say enough about Cassel's performance," Todd Haley said. "Just a few weeks ago, he was lying semi-conscious on a table, with a stranger probing his insides. It's an uncomfortable feeling for anyone, such as female acquaintances of Sebastian Janikowski, or a quarterback in the middle of a division race. But he's come out of it a better, stronger quarterback, albeit with a feeling of being violated."
Chiefs win, 26-20.
Tennessee @ Indianapolis (-8.5)
The Colts won their third straight game, taking a hard-fought 31-26 win in Oakland behind Peyton Manning's three touchdown passes and a solid ground game that piled up 198 yards. Manning collected 27 of those yards on a game-clinching bootleg run, the second-longest rush of his career. Indy can clinch the AFC South title with a win over the Titans or a Jaguars loss in Houston.
"If you saw my run," Manning said, "you saw me find a new gear, one that took me from 'running in cement' to 'walking on sunshine.' That kind of speed can't be taught; it can only be inherited."
Tennessee has lost seven of its last eight games, including a Week 14 loss to the Colts. The acquisition of Randy Moss has been a disaster, as the enigmatic Moss has only five catches in seven games as a Titan.
"Well, it seems that both Randy and this team came out of the deal 'empty-handed," said Chris Johnson. "Randy's the 'Music City Mirage,' the 'Music City Mistake' and the 'Music City Miscue' all rolled into one. But it is a miracle that he's still on this team.
"The Titans without Jeff Fisher is a lot like Randy Moss without a catch. It's hard to imagine, but apparently possible."
Manning throws for 267 yards and three touchdowns, and the Colts roll, 31-17.
The Jets lost 38-34 in Chicago, but clinched a playoff berth when the Jaguars fell to the Redskins. New York currently holds the No. 6 playoff position, but could take the No. 5 spot with a Ravens win over the Bengals and a Steelers loss to the Browns.
"The No. 6 seed it is, then," said Rex Ryan. "We may be the AFC's lowest-seeded team, but I refuse to concede that there are five teams better than us. I'm no one's bootlicker; well, almost no one's. But we refuse to be a mere footnote to the NFL season. And we won't curl up and die for anyone. You won't find us in the fetal position. However, you may find me in the 'feet-al' position."
The Bills are 4-11 after last week's 34-3 loss to the Patriots, last in the AFC East. The Patriot defense forced five Ryan Fitzpatrick turnovers, and with a top five pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Bills front office will be evaluating available quarterbacks.
"After all," said Chan Gailey, "we need someone to get the ball to Steve Johnson. If God can't keep him happy, maybe a quarterback will. But Johnson and Ryan will be the key players in the 'Tweets and Feets' game.' I think the last time religion and feet crossed paths, it was in John 13: 1-17."
Jets win, 24-21.
Chicago @ Green Bay (-10)
The Bears have clinched the NFC North title, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are the North's most dangerous team. That distinction may belong to the Packers, who looked unstoppable in last week's 45-17 win over the Giants. Aaron Rodgers returned from a concussion suffered against the Lions two weeks ago to throw for 404 yards and four touchdowns.
"I've got a lingering headache," said Rodgers. "So do the Giants; it's called 'Eli Manning.' As for the Bears, we've got revenge on our minds. Their defense seems to have disappeared at the most inopportune time—just in time for the playoffs. Unlike Brett Favre, though, there will be no 'find.'"
Packers win, 30-23.
Miami @ New England (-1.5)
The Patriots squared away home field throughout the playoffs, manhandling the Bills 34-3 in Buffalo last Sunday. Tom Brady tossed three touchdown passes and broke Bernie Kosar's NFL record of 308 consecutive passes without an interception. Brady's streak is now at 319, a mark he'll look to extend when the Pats host the Dolphins.
"Hey, I never miss a chance to compare myself to Patriot legend Zeke Mowatt," Brady said. "Like Mowatt, I've been blessed with an impressive appendage. Mine happens to be my right arm. They call me the 'Patriot 'Ile,' because I never 'miss.'"
The Dolphins could finish with an 8-8 record with a win in New England. The good news? Miami is 6-1 on the road, and the Pats have nothing for which to play. The bad news? New England is 7-0 at home, Tom Brady is the quarterback, Bill Belichick is the coach, Randy Moss is not a Patriot, and the Patriots always have a reason to play.
New England wins, 24-20.
St. Louis @ Seattle (+1.5)
The 6-9 Seahawks host the 8-7 Rams at Qwest Field, with the winner awarded the NFC West crown and a home playoff game against the NFC's No. 5 seed next week. Last week, Seattle lost 38-15 to the Buccaneers, but with a win Sunday, would become the first team to win a division title with a losing record.
"I hear there's been much debate this year," said Pete Carroll, "over the worthiness of the NFC West champ getting a home playoff game. That's news to me. On the contrary, it seems that everywhere I go, people are adamant that the West winner should 'stay home.' People can criticize all they want, and that's fine, but our motto for the game is win, and you're in(ferior)."
The Rams have gone from a 1-15 record last year to the cusp of the playoffs, all under the guidance of Steve Spagnuolo. St. Louis moved one step closer to the West crown with a 25-17 last week over the 49ers.
"I understand the Seahawks are starting Charlie Whitehurst," said Spagnuolo, "because Matt Hasselbeck hurt himself running for a touchdown without getting touched. If Seattle beats us Sunday and wins the West with a 7-9 record, I guess there will be more than one reason to call them 'paper champions.'"
Rams win, 23-19.
Arizona @ San Francisco (-6.5)
A 25-17 loss to the Rams knocked the 5-10 49ers from playoff contention, mercifully, and cost Mike Singletary his job, finally. Singletary was replaced by defensive coordinator Jim Tomsula, temporarily.
"I knew Mike was in trouble," said Tomsula, "when they started referring to us as the 'San Francisco Four and Niners.' But let's hear it for Singletary. He left honorably, with a sincere farewell press conference, delivered not by 'Samurai' Mike, but by 'Sayonara' Mike."
49ers win, 27-17.
San Diego @ Denver (+3.5)
The NFL's regular season comes to an end in Denver, where the Chargers face the Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium, where the air is thin, and the playoff implications thinner. Last week, Tim Tebow passed for 308 yards and a touchdown, and added the game-winning score on a six-yard run with 3:02 remaining to beat the Texans 24-23.
"Tebow had supporters before this breakout game," said Champ Bailey, "and he'll have more now. The former are called 'old testaments;' the latter are called 'new testaments.' But it's no surprise that Tim's second start is now being called the 'second coming.' He wears scripture under his eyes, making him the 'Eye-Black Sabbath.'"
San Diego fell flat in chilly Cincinnati last week, losing 34-20 to the Bengals and crashing out of playoff contention. Before the season, the Chargers were odds-on favorites to win the West, but a slow start, coupled with inconsistencies in all phases of the game did them in. It's an incomprehensible collapse for a team that leads the NFL in total defense and is second in total offense.
"There's no question of this team's ability to dominate," said Philip Rivers, "which has led us all to wonder what 'might' have been."
Denver wins, 24-21.