Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
Chicago @ Carolina (-3)
With two stunning upsets on the road in Indianapolis and San Diego, the Bears and Panthers are both 1-0 and, for the time being, look like teams that could really make some noise in the NFC. Jake Delhomme's right elbow looked fine as he pump-faked and then hit Dante Rosario for the game-winning score on the game's last play.
"We're back to playing the physical, gum-smacking style that John Fox likes," says Delhomme. "Dante's a second-year player whom most of you haven't heard of, but he's anonymous no longer. This was probably the most dramatic appearance by a Panther player since Rae Carruth popped out of a trunk. Dante landed both feet inbounds, while Rae landed both feet in the penitentiary."
The Chicago defense looked like the fearsome squad that lead the team to the 2006 Super Bowl, shutting down the Indy offense and dominating in such fashion that probably even Rex Grossman would have had a hard time blowing it. Indeed, the swagger is back in the Windy City.
"Do you mean 'swagger' as in 'walking in a pompous manner?'" asks Brian Urlacher. "Or, do you mean 'swagger' as in Old Spice 'Swagger,' the deodorant that, by simply applying to your armpits, can transform one from a 'nerdy person' into a 'colossal man mountain of awesomeness?'"
Oh, I was referring to Old Spice "Swagger." What else? Of course, you do realize that the Panthers wear their own version of a popular deodorant that makes them bad-ass, as well. Steve Smith is the paid endorser for Right Guard's "Right Cross," the deodorant that works so quickly, you won't know what hit you.
This is a huge game for both teams, and a win could put the victor in the driver's seat in their respective division. Should the Bears win, they would have two big road wins under their belt. Should the Panthers emerge with the win, they would be 2-0 without their best player, Steve Smith, who'll return next week, assuming his fist stays off of Ken Lucas' nose.
Carolina wins, 27-23.
Tennessee @ Cincinnati (-1)
Does the Bengals' public address system still blare Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" before home games? They do? Well, I suggest they continue to do so, but with a few changes to the lyrics.
"Welcome to the jungle. Our defense is very tame. The most popular question now, is 'What's Chad Johnson's name?'"
First things first. The Bengals defense? About as likely to show up for a game as GN'R's Chinese Democracy for its 11th scheduled release date of November 11th. Chad Johnson? Chad Ocho Cinco? Look, Chad. It was cool to have "Ocho Cinco' on the back of your jersey when it wasn't your real name. Now that it's your real last name? Not a big deal.
"Okay, then," says the Bengals enigmatic wide receiver. "Call me Ishmael."
You can best believe Tennessee's no-nonsense head coach Jeff Fisher wouldn't tolerate such name-changing shenanigans on his team. That is, of course, unless Johnson (Ocho Cinco) was a member of the Titans' star-deprived receiving corps.
"'Ocho Cinco' means nothing to me," says Fisher. "I'm like Kerry Collins. I like my tequila in Spanish, not my receivers. Now, if we did have a receiver with a Spanish name, like, say 'Dos Equis,' I guarantee that Kerry wouldn't be able to look that receiver off at all. Now somebody put out an APB for Vince Young."
Young is located by police in a construction site port-a-john, sobbing hysterically, with a tear-stained copy of Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook on his person. But Young shows up on the sidelines come Sunday. However, he's on crutches in his street clothes. After a 27-20 Titans victory, Young shows up on the Internet on crutches and shirtless.
Green Bay @ Detroit (+7½)
If it's a game involving the Lions, always take the under. Especially when the over/under is listed as "achievement." The Lions are under-achievers, and that was none more evident than last week when Detroit was overwhelmed 34-21 by the Falcons in the Georgia Dome.
"It's business as usual for me," says Detroit president and COB (chief operating buffoon) Matt Millen. "Honestly, I thought we were well-prepared for the Atlanta game. I know I was. Having eight home games indoors has prepared me very well for losing indoors on the road. Home games are the cures for all ills, particularly in Detroit. There, the luxury suites occupied by myself and those responsible for my hiring are equipped with rose-colored glass. That explains why the fans are only people who notice that something is terribly wrong with this team. And that's why the rose-colored glass is also bulletproof."
Just as Millen is fond of doing, Packers officials are patting themselves on the back, confident, after only one game, that they made the right move by sticking with Aaron Rogers and saying bye to Brett Favre. Rodgers was solid in the Packers Monday night win over the Vikings, tossing a touchdown pass and rushing for another. The latter score led to Rodgers' first "Lambeau Leap," which he flawlessly executed.
"It's just like what general manager Ted Thompson has been telling me for the past sixth months," says Rodgers. "Quarterback success in Green Bay is all about the system and has nothing to do with the QB. Obviously, I've bought into his words and the system. Now, don't mention the name 'Brett Favre' to me again until I've won three MVP awards and a Super Bowl."
They've already named a street in Green Bay after Rodgers. It's called "Premature Infatuation Boulevard."
Ryan Grant rushes for 111 yards and a score, and Rodgers is not allowed to make any mistakes. Packers win, 30-20.
Buffalo @ Jacksonville (-5½)
Jack Del Rio and the Jags look to get back on track after a forgettable start to the season that earlier saw Fred Taylor arrested for disorderly conduct in Miami, then, last Sunday, saw Jacksonville physically dominated by the Titans in a 17-10 loss. David Garrard was sacked seven times, and the Jags' vaunted rushing attack was limited to 33 yards on the ground.
"I understand Sports Illustrated's Peter King has my team representing the AFC in the Super Bowl," says Jack Del Rio. "Now, by 'represent,' does he mean 'playing in' the Super Bowl, or is he talking about Madden '09 or something? 'Represent' is such an overused expression these days, and I blame the jive turkeys in the rap community for that. You know, Lil' Wayne can wear a Yankees jersey and say he 'represents' the Yankees. Bull. Just because you put on a jersey doesn't make you a player. I think my guys proved that last week against Tennessee. Players play, haters hate. Right now, I hate my players."
Buffalo's Dick Jauron loves his players. In fact, he loves all things Buffalo, including wings, nickels, "Butt" from The Jeffersons, Sabres, and the Goo Goo Dolls.
"It's difficult to concentrate on the Jaguars," says Jauron, "when the landscape of the AFC East has changed so much so fast with Tom Brady's injury. Before he went down, we were arguably the second-best team in the division. After Brady's injury, I think it's safe to say we're arguably the second-best team in this division. Just want to make a shout out to Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo's. I love you, man."
Well put, Dick. All sentimentality aside, the Jaguars are angry and desperate for a win. It's back to basics for Jacksonville, as Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew rush for a combined 187 yards. Jacksonville gets in the win column with a 26-17 win.
Oakland @ Kansas City (-4)
Was Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard's hit on Tom Brady legal? Most, including the NFL, agree that it was not a dirty, nor illegal hit. Replays show that Pollard was blocked into Brady as Pollard tried to rise from the ground to tackle him. But Randy Moss, suddenly an expert on blocking, tackling, and good sportsmanship, believes Pollard's intent was to hurt Brady.
"Man, it was plain as day," says Moss. "It's obvious that Pollard wants to earn a bad reputation, then have a falling out with the coaches, get disgruntled, then be traded away to a contender for a meaningless draft pick. I've seen it done. He maybe even has designs on owning his own NASCAR Craftsman truck team, just like my team, officially called Moss Motorsports, but unofficially known as 'A.F.R.O. Speedwagon.'"
The Raiders suffered a humiliating 41-14 loss to the Broncos in the Black Hole last Monday, averting the shutout with two meaningless fourth-quarter scores. The play of the Raiders so infuriated owner Al Davis that he had his flying monkeys throwing remotes at his several televisions located in various chambers of his granite mansion, Castle Grayskull. The Raiders committed 10 penalties, five of which were personal fouls. In the span of about two minutes of the second quarter, cornerback DeAngelo Hall was flagged for two personal fouls.
"Well then, I guess that there Hall kid was born to be a Raider," says Davis, as one of his minions applies black shoe polish to his hair. "Has he spit on anybody? No? Well, as soon as he does, he'll earn a plaque on my wall beside that of Bill Romanowski, the dirtiest player in the game. Now, my Raiders really need to offer some protection for JaMarcus Russell, my 260-pound quarterback who hasn't reached his potential, yet has reached critical mass. Hey, what does a Raiders offensive lineman and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt have in common? They're both fast out of their blocks."
Larry Johnson rushes for 103 yards on 44, I'm sorry, 24, carries and the Chiefs win, 23-17.
Indianapolis @ Minnesota (+2)
After last week's 29-13 loss to the Bears, it's clear that Peyton Manning is uncomfortable. His mobility is limited as he overcomes a bursa sac infection in his knee, and he is still getting used to being without center Jeff Saturday, who's out with a knee injury.
"When you lose the center you've been fondling for nearly a decade," says Manning, "it takes some time to acclimate oneself to a new crotch. That's easy for dogs, but not for an NFL quarterback. Jeff Saturday's undercarriage fit my hands like a good pair of gloves. I don't get the same feeling with Jamey Richard at center. In fact, I think Jamey has an enlarged prostate."
"And speaking of 'big booties,' you've got to love my new Oreo commercial with brother Eli and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. Let me reiterate, when I say 'It's on like Donkey Kong,' I mean strictly in an Oreo-licking contest. In no way do mean to challenge the Williams' to any sort of contest that may result in me trapped a leg scissors head lock. Those girls are 'Booty-licious,' especially Serena. With her, I guess it's more appropriate to say 'It's on like Ba-Donk-A-Donk-ey Kong.'"
Barring a tie, one of these two teams that most people have penciled in for the playoffs will be 0-2. Heck, when was the last time a Peyton Manning-led team was 0-2? Oh, I know — after their first two playoff games against the Patriots. You know the Metrodome will be rocking like a cruise boat full of Purple People Eaters on Lake Minnetonka, but that won't bother the Colts. Heck, they might even pipe in some of their own crowd noise.
Manning does it through the air, throwing for 276 yards and three scores, while still finding time to read a few commercial scripts on the sidelines. Indianapolis wins, 30-26.
NY Giants @ St. Louis (+9)
With Tom Brady's season-ending injury the hottest topic in the NFL, it's certainly fitting that the Giants/Rams matchup pits the teams that started and ended the Patriots' dynasty. The heavily-favored Rams lost to the Pats in Super Bowl XXXVI, and New England went on to win two of the next three titles. Last year, in Super Bowl XLII, the Giants squelched New England's undefeated quest with a 17-14 win.
"As our Super Bowl win and Brady's injury have shown," says Eli Manning, who consummated his wedding vows with a spotlight dance to Katey Perry's 'I Kissed a Girl (And I Liked It),' "the balance of power shifts quickly in this business. Injuries are a part of the game, and you just have to deal with them. Plaxico Burress has the system down. Complain of an injury, never practice, and go out and dominate. We're both chomping at the bit to face the Rams defense that gave up 414 passing yards against the Eagles. The Rams have a defensive backfield soon to be 'torched,' and a coach soon to be 'fired.'"
If you've been under a rock for the last year, or even if you follow the NFL very closely, you probably don't know that coach is Scott Linehan. I think, but I can't be sure.
"We've got one huge advantage over the Giants," says a boastful Linehan. "We only have to play NFC East teams once. Take that Giants."
They're fingers are trembling, in their Super Bowl rings.
New York wins, 31-17.
New Orleans @ Washington (-1)
If you can't bring President George Bush to New Orleans in a time of disaster, then why not bring the Bush and New Orleans to Washington? So what if it's three years too late. Heck, who doesn't believe that our president is a day late and a dollar short, if not three years late and $1,000,000,000,000 short? Anyway, Reggie Bush will make his debut in Washington, and last week, he flashed some of his enormous potential with a spectacular 42-yard touchdown catch to help the Saints beat the Bucs.
"Bush is certainly a great player," says President Bush. "I wouldn't go so far as to say he's the 'nuculus' of that team, but he is an integral part. The kid I really like is that Jeremy Shockey. Jeremy Shockey is a Saint. Isn't that an oxymoron? What is an 'oxymoron' anyway? Is it a dumb water buffalo? Is it a pimply-faced idiot?"
That depends, Mr. President, on what your definition of is is.
Washington wins, 28-24.
San Francisco @ Seattle (-9½)
One week into the season, and to the surprise of very few, three NFC West teams are 0-1 after being outscored by a cumulative 95-26 last week. Two of those team face off Sunday at Qwest Field, where Matt Hasselbeck and his bulging disc hope to rebound from a miserable 17-of-41, 190-yard, 1-interception day in a 34-10 loss to the Bills.
"Back injuries are the worst," says Hasselbeck. "My wife agrees. She's been telling me for years that she'd rather me have a bulge in the front than one in the back. And after treating my bulging disc with an epidural, a procedure usually reserved for women giving birth, I have a new appreciation for what women go through. I'm in touch with my feminine side."
San Francisco lost four fumbles in their 23-13 loss to the Cardinals last week. That's a lot of turnover. And speaking of turnover, isn't San Francisco on its fourth offensive coordinator in the last four years? Now, it's Mike Martz turn to confuse the 49er quarterbacks.
"Offenses are never easy to learn," says Martz. "It's like Denise Richards — it's complicated. And the 49ers go through offensive coordinators like Charlie Sheen goes through call girls."
Hasselbeck plays through his back pain, thanks to another epidural. Gamely, he shakes off the effects of a heavy flow day, and the irritation from that "itch you can't scratch." Finally, after taking a hit from 49er linebacker Patrick Willis, Hasselbeck pulls himself from the game after his water breaks and he dilates to three centimeters. Seneca Wallace cleans up, and the Seahawks win, 23-20.
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay (-4)
The excitement is back in Atlanta after the Falcons racked up 318 yards on the ground, 220 by Michael Turner, in a 34-21 beating of the Lions last week. Football's back in the "Dirty South," and the Falcons will get a real test when they travel to Tampa, where the Bucs are seething after a close loss to the Saints.
"Confidence is high," says Mike Smith, who likes to hang out in Buckhead at a corner bar called 'Cheers,' where everybody knows his name. "Hey, check this out? If I coached soccer in Mexico, would I be known as 'Jose Gomez.' If I coached cricket in India, would I be known as 'Mahatma Patel.' If you'd like to answer my questions, look me up in the Atlanta phone book. I'm the 376th Mike Smith on the list."
"Dirty South," meet "Dirty Mouth." Last week in New Orleans, Fox cameras caught John Gruden, between profanities, inserting a pinch of smokeless tobacco.
"That's right," says Gruden. "Between my cheek and gum. Is there a problem? If somebody tells me I can't use tobacco in a my own football stadium, I'm gonna go ballistic. This is Tampa. Anything goes. Or at least in the women's bathroom stalls at local Tampa restaurants, or should I say 'eateries.'"
Will Michael Turner rack up 220 yards on the ground? Will Matt Ryan throw for a touchdown on his first pass? No, on both accounts, at least if that crotchety old geezy of a defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has anything to do with it. Kiffin knows what it takes to stop the young Falcons. He's old school. He even wears sock suspenders.
The Bucs force two Ryan interceptions, and confuse him with varying coverages and looping blitzes. Brian Griese passes for one score and Ronde Barber returns a fumble for another. Tampa wins, 27-10.
Miami @ Arizona (-7)
You'd have to classify this as one of the great inter-conference rivalries in sports. Not only does it pit two up-and-coming coaches, Tony Sparano and Ken Whisenhunt, it also pits two of the most storied retirement communities in the United States. It's big, I tell you. At the Wrinkled Balls Retirement Hamlet in Miami's east side, they're calling it the "Prune Bowl," and many residents are planning to make the 14-hour trip down the hall, to the right, and to the TV room to watch the game.
"Bless those loyal fans," says Bill Parcells. "Believe me, I know all about loyalty. Anyway, we can't consider Tony Sparano a 'made' man until he gets his first win as a head coach, or he whacks a snitch, whichever comes first. Don't look at me. I don't make mafia rules. So blame it on La Cosa Nostra. Hey, that's kind of catchy. Kind of reminds me of the time I got busy with Eydie Gorme back in '57."
The Cards will be looking to go 2-0, and with a turnover-free game like last week's would surely guarantee a victory. A big reason for Arizona's success is Kurt Warner, one of the NFL's oldest starting quarterbacks.
"I take pride it my longevity," says Warner. "I also take pride in being the only player to win both a Super Bowl MVP award and the Iowa State Grocery Bagging championship. I'm also confident that should I falter, there's Matt Leinart to back me up. Matt's shown a great deal of maturity in the face of being a second-stringer. He doesn't seem to have any problem at all riding the pine."
"No, I don't have any problem with 'riding the pine,'" says Leinart. "Shucks, I've got women lining up to do it. Afterwards, I can either hose 'em down or they can hop in the jacuzzi. Well, I'm hot tubbin', check it and see. Water temp's about 103. Come on, baby, please remove those underpants. I'm hot tubbin', hot tubbin' ."
It's good to see Leinart's ready to start at a moment's notice.
Warner passes for two scores, then donates something to charity. Arizona wins, 23-17.
San Diego @ Denver (+1)
With Jay Cutler's diabetes under control, he's now throwing bullets instead of sweating them. And that makes Mike Shanahan a very happy man, although it's hard to tell because the man rarely smiles. And, sadly, Shanahan hasn't hugged his wife in eight months, and, the last time he did, he left orange smudges all over her clothes, residue from that oddly-colored organ that covers Shanny's body called "skin."
"Hey, don't knock me because I look like a cross between George Hamilton and the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz," says Shanahan. "This tan's the real deal. Sure, I may look a little gaunt, but that's only from 10 years of worrying if I'll ever find another John Elway. Cutler may be the answer. He's got the arm, the smarts, and absolutely no charisma. He's such a bad interview, journalists call him 'Jay-Zzzzz.' The only question is whether he's man enough to carry me to a Super Bowl win."
The Chargers lost their home opener to the Panthers 26-24, and their disappointment was further exacerbated by the news of Shawne Merriman's decision to have season-ending knee surgery.
"It's a minimally invasive surgery," says Norv Turner. "Doctors say Shawne will be on his feet in no time, and he'll probably be able to perform a sack dance right after the procedure, which I'm sure he will. Hopefully, we'll have other guys pick up the slack as far as our pass rush goes. We may even blitz a little more against Denver. We know we absolutely cannot give Jay Cutler the time he had to throw against the Raiders. I think I saw him drop back a few times, check his blood sugar level, and still complete the pass."
The Chargers don't want the hassle of climbing out of an 0-2 hole. There's one way to ensure that they don't: give LaDainian Tomlinson the ball. A lot. L.T. scores on the Chargers' first possession, and San Diego holds on for a 26-21 win.
Baltimore @ Houston (-4½)
You've got to hand it to Brian Billick. He called one heck of a game on Sunday, one that left Baltimore fans cheering wildly.
"Wait a minute," says Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. "Brian Billick is not the coach of the Ravens. I am. And I called one heck of a game."
Hey, chill out, Jim, I mean John. I know Brian Billick isn't the coach of the Ravens. But he did call one heck of a game Sunday. He was great as color guy in the Tampa/New Orleans game on FOX. And that had to make Ravens fan happy, knowing that Billick was making calls that had absolutely no bearing on the Baltimore game.
"Okay, I understand," replies Harbaugh. "I'm not sure Billick would have had the cojones to call a play that resulted in a touchdown run by a 6'6" rookie quarterback. Nor would he have called a wide receiver reverse that ended with a 42-yard touchdown run. You're right. Billick's a much better play caller when his play-calling has no affect on the game whatsoever."
Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco is set for his second start. Will the Texans be ready for the Ravens' trickery? You bet. The Houston defense forces three turnovers, and Matt Schaub rebounds from a miserable game in Pittsburgh, hitting Andre Johnson for two scores. Texans win, 23-14.
New England @ NY Jets (-1)
The magic is back in New York, while the thrill is gone in New England. Brett Favre led the Jets to a 20-14 win over the Dolphins in Miami, raising the hopes for Jets fans almost as much as Tom Brady's season-ending knee injury did. Favre tossed two touchdowns, and showed the enthusiasm, toughness, and improvisational skills that made him a hero in Green Bay.
"I'm a magic man, mama," says Favre. "And I know this city is starved for some magic. I mean, come on, who wants to David Blaine locked in some glass case above Times Square? You want to show me some magic, Blaine? Then make your name appear in the obituaries. That would impress me."
"As for Brady, I can't say I can relate, because I've never had a career-ending injury. Come to think of it, I've never had a career-ending anything. Was it just me, or did it seem like ESPN's Trent Dilfer was reporting that Brady was done for the season before Brady even was injured? It just seemed like he got his information pretty quickly. Either he's one heck of a journalist, or he's the luckiest man on earth. I think the Super Bowl ring on his finger points to the latter."
For the Patriots, the pressure falls on backup quarterback Matt Cassell, who has the unenviable task of attempting to fill the shoes of the record-setting, multiple Super Bowl-winning Brady. Cassell, a seventh-round pick who didn't start a single game in college at USC, knows now is the time to make a name for himself.
"First, let me introduce myself," says Cassell. "My name is, my name is, my name is, not Tom Brady. Nor is it Slim Shady. I'm just Matt Cassell, no relation to Sam. I've got no Super Bowl rings, and the only experience I have with supermodels takes place window-shopping at Victoria's Secret. Honestly, I'm just here to keep Tom's seat warm for his triumphant return next year. He'll recover just fine, thanks to the care of the world's hottest candy-striper, Giselle Bundchen."
Before the game, the Jets direct everyone's attention to the Meadowlands giant video screen, on which Jets head coach Eric Mangini offers his video condolences to Tom Brady. An enraged Bill Belichick confronts Mangini, who states, with a slight grin, that he "didn't even know I was being videotaped."
"Touché," replies Belichick, who then implements the game plan that proves that the Pats are still the class of the AFC East.
New England wins, 27-16.
Pittsburgh @ Cleveland (+6)
If the Browns are to avoid an 0-2 start and a quick two-game deficit in the AFC North, then beating the Steelers in the Dawg Pound is imperative. Last year, Pittsburgh beat the Browns 34-7 in Cleveland, a loss that still stings, and the Browns hope to exact their revenge in front of an NBC Sunday Night Football national audience.
"I wasn't pleased with our effort against Dallas," says an understated Romeo Crenel, who lambasted his team after last Sunday's 28-10 loss to Dallas, a tirade that led players to jokingly call him the 'Cleveland Steamer.' "We know the Steelers will come with their physical game. We'll have to match that physicality. Hopefully, the brutality will take place after kickoff, and not before, in the pre-game brawl."
In the city of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, shifty Steeler running back Willie Parker makes a case for the rock genre of speed metal, as he rushes for 134 yards and a score. Midway through the third quarter, Browns quarterback Derek Anderson is knocked out of the game on a hit by LaMarr Woodley. In for Anderson, a rusty Brady Quinn throws an interception on his first pass, is leveled with a block and doesn't see wild Samoan Troy Polamalu return it for a touchdown.
"Touchdown? Jesus!" exclaims Quinn when he checks the scoreboard.
Pittsburgh wins, 34-24.
To add insult to injury, Cleveland native Lebron James is seen at the game in a Steelers cap, with a North Korean flag draped over his shoulders.
Philadelphia @ Dallas (-7)
You've got to hand it to Terrell Owens. His "Usain Bolt limbering up, getting in the starting blocks" touchdown celebration was the pinnacle of creativity. Where's the harm in that celebration? I ask you, NFL officials. No taunting; just good, clean fun. But T.O. got tagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty? Come on, officials. Show some leniency.
"Seriously," says Owens. "Maybe I deserved a 'false start' penalty, but not unsportsmanlike conduct. It's not like I changed my name or something. If I would have changed my last name, you can best believe it would have been something cool, like 'Hall of Famer.' I think it would be a better idea for Tony Romo to change his last name to 'Needs to Tell Jessica Simpson to Shut Up.'"
You know McNabb wants nothing more than to moonwalk in the Texas Stadium end zone, or puke on Pacman Jones, calling it the "Adam and Heave," and send the 'Boys to defeat. Easier said than done, but the Eagles have the weapons. Unfortunately, the Cowboys have more, including Owens.
Owens catches 7 passes for 119 yards and a score, and the Cowboys win, 27-24.