Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
Jacksonville @ Carolina (-3)
Cam Newton topped 400 yards in passing for the second straight week, throwing for 432 yards in a 30-23 loss to the visiting Packers last week. Carolina is second in the NFL in passing offense, but its rushing attack, normally a strength, is ranked 29th, averaging only 72 yards per game.
“When developing a rookie quarterback,” head coach Ron Rivera said, “it’s imperative that you ‘don’t rush it.’ Or so it seems.”
The Jaguars were pounded 32-3 by the Jets last week, as quarterback Luke McCown threw four interceptions to go along with his six completions. That left him with a quarterback rating of 1.8 and left Jack Del Rio seriously considering a quarterback change.
“That’s just awful,” Del Rio said. “It’s pretty bad when you can count your quarterback rating on one hand, but when Ronnie Lott can count it on two fingers, you know you’ve nearly hit rock bottom. Do you know what I can do with only one finger? Dial David Garrard’s phone number. Anyway, in Garrard’s absence, and McCown's presence, Blaine Gabbert will get the start.”
What’s it called when four Panthers captains and four Jaguars captains meet a midfield for the opening coin toss? “Octopussy.” Maurice Jones-Drew calls the toss, then Panther captain Steve Smith inexplicably slugs special guest coin tosser Victor Ortiz with a surprising left-right combination.
The Jags introduce a specially-designed defense geared to stop Newton—it’s called “pass coverage.” Jones-Drew controls the clock with 29 rushes for 143 yards, but the Panthers rededicate to the ground game, and DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combine for 165 yards on the ground.
Panthers win a dogfight, 24-22.
San Francisco @ Cincinnati (-1)
While it may not match the implications of Super Bowl 22, Sunday’s 49ers-Bengals contest does have importance—both the 49ers and Bengals are tied for first in their respective divisions. The winner will stay there. The Bengals got a solid effort from Andy Dalton, the heir apparent to Carson Palmer, in a losing effort in Denver last week.
“Dalton showed promise,” said Marvin Lewis. “Let’s hope he can be like Carson Palmer and ‘keep’ his promise. Andy’s a newcomer, and not a household name to fans, nor to teammates. On occasion, we’ve even had to modify our ‘Who dey?’ chant to ‘Who he?’”
The 49ers are playing with inspiration under new head coach Jim Harbaugh and could easily be undefeated if not for an overtime loss last week to the Cowboys.
“We punctured Tony Romo’s lung,” Harbaugh said, “which took the air out of the Cowboys at the time. ‘The Catch’ was the name given to another famous play in the Dallas-San Fran series. We’re calling this one the ‘Dallas Cow-poke.’
“A punctured lung is a fate that could very well await Cedric Benson. Not by our hands, but if he gets shanked during his next visit to prison. We plan to stack the box against Benson. Unlike the Bengals, we have a ‘take no prisoners’ approach to player signings, as well as defense.”
It’s a special day in Cincinnati. The Bengals have dubbed Sunday “Carson Palmer Day” at Paul Brown Stadium, and fans are asked to fill the seats and emulate Palmer by “watching from home.”
The 49ers stuff Benson’s early rush attempts, and force Dalton into obvious passing downs. ‘Frisco wins the turnover battle, and Alex Smith tosses two touchdown passes.
San Francisco wins 22-17.
Detroit @ Minnesota (+4)
The Lions exploded for 48 points last week, dropping the Chiefs 48-3 to go 2-0, good for a share of the NFC North lead with Green Bay. They’ll take on their first division opponent when they travel to Mall Of America Field to challenge the 0-2 Vikings.
“It’s not often we get to run up the score,” Jim Schwartz said. “But we couldn’t help ourselves, the pathetic Chiefs couldn’t help themselves either, so it was all in fairness.
“48 is a big number. The last time a number so big played such a prominent role in Detroit, it was Chris Chelios’ age. Hopefully this year, a ‘red wing’ won’t interfere with our season. And by ‘red wing,’ I mean Matthew Stafford’s inflamed right arm.”
One week after blowing a 10-point lead in a 24-17 loss to the Chargers, the Vikes let a 17-0 halftime lead slip away in a 24-20 loss to Tampa. While Donovan McNabb is certainly not to blame for that, his play has been subpar and the Minnesota passing game has suffered.
“We should be 2-0,” said Leslie Frazier. “Heck, we should be the 2009 NFC champions, but we’re not. And that’s something we just have to stomach. And we have to stomach McNabb as our quarterback until Christian Ponder is ready. It’s too bad the NFL is cracking down on fake injuries—we could sure use one now.”
McNabb starts, but is knocked out of the game after a hard hit from Ndamukong Suh, who then draws an unsportsmanlike penalty for “being Ndamukong Suh.” Ponder enters, but is ineffective. Stafford throws for 287 yards and three touchdowns.
Detroit wins 27-20.
NY Giants @ Philadelphia (-7)
After a 35-31 loss in Atlanta last Sunday, a concussed Michael Vick left town with his tail between his legs and his head not far behind. As an injured Vick left the field in the third quarter, he boastfully pointed to the scoreboard, which showed a 31-21 Eagles lead.
“I’ve always contended,” Vick said, “that if I were a dog, I’d be a ‘pointer.’
I wish I were a ‘retriever,’ because I left my dignity in Atlanta, and I’d like it back.
“But a concussion in the Georgia Dome was the last thing I expected. I’m still shaking the Cobb (County) webs out as we speak.”
The Giants got their first win of the year, whipping the Rams 28-16 in St. Louis on Monday night. On Sunday, they’d like to even their NFC East division record with a win over the Eagles.
“Vick got KO’d by his own player,” Eli Manning said. “What is this? Carolina Panthers training camp? Anyway, Vick got his comeuppance in Atlanta. I guess that was his ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ moment, and fittingly, it was ‘curtains’ for Vick. To that, I can only say ‘Omaha-ha-ha.”
Philadelphia wins 33-24.
Denver @ Tennessee (-4)
Kyle Orton solidified his starting job with a solid performance in a 24-22 win over the Bengals last week. Denver won despite missing five starters with injuries, including Brandon Lloyd, Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil. The injury situation was such that third-string quarterback Tim Tebow lined up at receiver on several plays.
“I know Tebow would rather throw than catch,” Kyle Orton said. “After all, it is better to give than receive.
“If Tebow is our savior, why am I the one being crucified? I haven’t seen a sign from God, unless He communicates vicariously via Denver area billboards paid for by fanatic Tebow fans. Guess what. I don’t believe in Tebow.”
The Titans manhandled the Ravens 26-13 last week, despite little contribution from Chris Johnson who managed only 53 yards rushing. Matt Hasselbeck picked up the slack, throwing for 358 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s good to see someone can ‘carry’ this team,” Hasselbeck said. “Until my back gives way, I’m their man. One would think a player fresh off signing a huge new contract could produce better numbers. Not so far. I’m not the most gifted athletically, but I’ve done more with less. Chris is doing less with more.”
Johnson breaks out, and rushes for 164 yards with two touchdowns. The Titans harass Orton into two turnovers.
Tennessee wins 26-17.
Miami @ Cleveland (-3)
The Dolphins are 0-2 after a 23-13 loss to Houston last week, and a loss in Cleveland puts them in an 0-3 hole. In the AFC East, that’s a deep one to climb out of. Tony Sparano knows the ‘Fins need to make a swift turnaround, particularly on defense. The Fins surrendered 345 total yards, including 138 on the ground, after giving up a whopping 622 total yards to the Patriots in Week 1.
“’Surrendered’ is the operative word,” Sparano said. “We’ve given up almost the length of 10 football fields on defense. That’s just terrible, and indefensible.”
“I’m immune to the injury suffered by Peyton Manning,” Hillis said. “It’s nearly impossible to hurt your neck when you don’t have one.”
Miami wins 23-20.
Houston @ New Orleans (-3)
“We’ve easily vanquished one team formerly quarterback by a Manning,” said Mario Williams. “What’s another?
“This team is winning with defense. Believe it or not, we have the NFL’s top-ranked defense, and that, ironically, is a Texas-sized truth. A lot of the credit for that goes to new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who followed a bum, our last coordinator. Phillips has well over 30 years of defensive knowledge in that head—that’s why it’s so big."
Like the Texans, the Saints got defensive last week, sacking Jay Cutler six times on their way to a 30-13 win. They’ll have to pressure Houston’s Matt Schaub, who is much more effective when given time in the pocket.
“If you hit Cutler hard enough,” Sean Payton said, “he’ll leave of his own accord, or in an Accord, or some other Honda, or maybe a stretcher. He proved his toughness last week. We had him running for his life, but, unlike last year’s NFC title game, he was ‘riding his bicycle’ on the field. We plan to test Schaub the same way. By game’s end, we hope to be calling him ‘Floor Matt.”
New Orleans wins 34-31.
New England @ Buffalo (+9)
The undefeated Patriots and Bills square off in Buffalo, where the Bills boast the NFL’s highest-scoring offense, averaging almost 40 points per game. The Pats are not far behind, scoring nearly 37 points per game. Tom Brady has been nearly unstoppable, throwing for 940 yards, seven touchdowns and only one interception.
“What’s Tedy Bruschi’s problem?” Brady said. “Who says a current Patriot can’t be in awe of me? I certainly am.
“As for you people who think an innocent comment, jokingly made, can encourage fans to get liquored up, I’m not sure my words carry such weight. If I say ‘jump,’ Patriot fans don’t say ‘how high?’ If I say ‘Get rid of that loafing, backwoods, nappy-bearded wide receiver who thinks I need a haircut,’ does the New England front office listen? No….well, yes.
“Anyway, real Patriots fans don’t need someone to tell them to drink, but out of the kindness of my heart, I do it anyway. Someone, whether it's Bruschi or the media, always has to take the offhand words of a Patriot and make a big deal of it. You want to give the ‘drinking’ controversy a clever name, like ‘Spygate?’ Then call it ‘NE-briate Gate.’”
With an upset of the Patriots, and a Jets loss in Oakland, the Bills would be in first place in the AFC East, and the city of Buffalo could party like it was 1990, 1991, 1992 or 1993.
“For once,” Ryan Fitzpatrick said, “the Bills are the hottest ticket in town, as opposed to the Goo Goo Dolls concert at the Lafayette Tap Room. Bills of past were known for their defense. But to hell with O.J. Simpson. The 2011 Bills are known for offense, an offense led by a Harvard graduate. As you may have heard, I aced the Wonderlic test. Few other NFL players can match that claim. One who can is Vince Young. He ‘aced’ it, by scoring a one.”
Should the Bills win, the AFC East would be shaken to its very foundation, so even the Dolphins will be able to feel it. But the Patriots offense is too much to overcome, especially for a defense that gave up seven points to the Chiefs.
Brady raises a “toast” to the Bills defensive backfield, and throws for 349 yards and three touchdowns.
New England wins 34-24.
NY Jets @ Oakland (+3 1/2)
The Jets pummeled the Jaguars 32-3 last week, limiting the Jags to 203 total yards and only 11 first downs. The Jets intercepted Luke McCown four times, including two by Antonio Cromartie. Head coach Rex Ryan knows the Jets must be on their game again to overcome the Raiders.
“You can’t talk about the Jets and Raiders,” Ryan said, “without mentioning the ‘Heidi Game.’ But let’s not mention ‘Heidi.’ Talk of an underage female can only be a distraction to Mark Sanchez, mainly because likes to wear the same clothes she does. And Sebastian Janikowski is equally as notorious. He’s not likely to appear in GQ magazine, but he’s been the cover boy on GHBQ magazine a lot.”
The Raiders collapsed defensively in the fourth quarter last week in Buffalo, giving up 21 points in the final period as a 21-3 halftime lead slipped away. Hue Jackson knows the Raiders will need to show a killer instinct in order to take down the Jets.
“We choked,” Jackson said. “And we will choke, any 49ers fans who dare set foot in O.Co Coliseum. Why would a 49er fan set foot in O.Co Coliseum, you ask? I’ll tell you why? To see a real team. Anyway, it’s too bad we don’t have a player who wears jersey No. 5. If we did, for home games, we could call him ‘O.Co Cinco.’”
Oakland springs the upset with a 23-20 win.
Kansas City @ San Diego (-15)
The Chargers nearly matched the Patriots yard-for-yard in an offensive shootout in Foxboro, but four turnovers spelled doom in a 35-21 loss. Philip Rivers and company look to rebound against the struggling Chiefs, who are 0-2
“We turned the ball over four times,” Rivers said. “The Patriots had no turnovers. That was the difference in the game. Norv Turner will tell you that in a preseason meeting, he emphasized the importance of turnovers as the key to our season. Apparently, we didn’t ‘take away’anything from that meeting. Or from the Patriots, for that matter.”
The Chiefs are 0-2 after a devastating 48-3 loss in Detroit, where Jamaal Charles was lost for the season with an ACL tear. After so much has gone wrong this season, Todd Haley knows an upset win in San Diego can reverse the fortunes of the struggling Chiefs.
“A 48-3 loss is not the end of the world,” Haley said. “You have to find positives among the negatives. Here’s one: Our kickoff team may be the most well-rested special teams group in the league.
“But to look forward, we have to look back, to the words of Herman Edwards, who said, ‘You play to win the game.’ Remove the ‘to win’ part, and you’ve got a motivational slogan we can work with.”
San Diego wins 34-13.
Baltimore @ St. Louis (+3 1/2)
After week 1’s dominating 35-7 win over the Steelers, the Ravens felt the wrath of the letdown, falling 26-13 to the Titans in Tennessee. But nothing cures a letdown like a visit to an NFC West city, and the 0-2 Rams are struggling.
“The Rams and the Seahawks were the West’s best team last year,” Joe Flacco said. “This year, they are both 0-2. It seems the balance of power is shifting in the West. It appears the division is all balance, and no power.
“I know I’ve been criticized for playing so well against the Steelers and so poorly against the Titans. The Titans dominated statistically, outgaining us in yardage, as well as reality checks and wake-up calls.”
Baltimore wins 24-13.
Green Bay @ Chicago (+3)
After beating the Panthers 30-23 in Carolina last week, the Packers are 2-0, and, more importantly, 2-0 against teams whose quarterbacks throw for over 400 yards. Cam Newton scorched the Green Bay defense for 432 yards, 10 days after Drew Brees threw for 422.
“It certainly is a ‘troubling pattern,’” Mike McCarthy said, “much like any pattern an opponent runs against us.
“But don’t discount our rush defense. They’re ranked sixth in the league against the run, and only give up 76 yards a game. Obviously, teams can’t run against us. That is, until they make a catch. It’s only ‘bump and run’ coverage if we bump them before they run.”
The Bears look to avenge last year’s NFC championship game loss to the Packers, a 21-14 defeat at Soldier Field. Jay Cutler took a pounding last week in New Orleans, and will likely face pressure from a Green Bay defense anxious to reassert itself.
“I’ve totally forgotten about last year’s NFC title game,” Cutler said. “That’s why I can honestly say ‘I can’t wait to get back on’ Soldier Field.’”
Packers win 29-21.
Arizona @ Seattle (+3)
The 1-1 Cardinals visit Qwest Field to battle the 0-2 Seahawks, who have struggled offensively so far this year, averaging less than nine points per game. Arizona lost a heartbreaker in Washington last week, but is tied for the NFC West lead.
“This game is obviously huge for us,” Ken Whisenhunt said. “It’s a division game, and should we win, we will at worst be tied for the division lead. That second win is critical, especially in the West, because two wins could very well mean you’re halfway to the division title.
“Kevin Kolb is the right quarterback for this team. We don’t have any regrets about making the trade to get Kolb, but I know a team that does.”
Tarvaris Jackson was sacked five times for the Steelers, and so far, he doesn’t appear to be the long-term answer at quarterback for the Seahawks.
“I’ve made mistakes in my career,” Pete Carroll said. “Too many to count. That’s why I let the NCAA do it for me. But mistakes have followed me to the NFL. It was a mistake letting Matt Hasselbeck walk, just as it was a mistake letting Tarvaris throw. But he’s a young, impressionable kid enamored with the lifestyle of an NFL player, much like most of the players I recruited at Southern California.”
The Seahawks play with a newfound purpose, inspired by Qwest Field’s “12th Man,” and upset the Cardinals.
Seattle wins 24-21.
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay (+1)
The Falcons won a dramatic 35-31 showdown over the visiting Eagles, sending Michael Vick and his teammates back where they came from. The glory from such an emotional win will be fleeting should the Falcons fall to NFC South division rival Tampa Bay.
“I have no plans to point at the scoreboard in Raymond James Stadium,” Matt Ryan said. “First of all, it’s not polite to point. Second of all, scoreboards have this habit of, how should I put it, changing.”
The Bucs overcame a 17-0 deficit to the Vikings to salvage a 24-20 win in Minnesota. Bruising running back LeGarrette Blount scored the game-winner on a four-yard run with 31 seconds left, his second score of the day. The Buccaneers could get a leg up in the NFC South with a win over a division rival.
“We relish the chance to even up our home record,” Josh Freeman said. “Road games are such a hassle. Everybody hates packing, except for Aqib Talib. Of course, ‘packing’ won’t get you in trouble. ‘Unpacking’ will.”
Freeman finds Mike Williams for a touchdown with under a minute to go, and the Bucs take an exciting 30-28 win.
Pittsburgh @ Indianapolis (+11)
After an 0-2 start, it is clear that Kerry Collins is a lot like Peyton Manning’s first neck surgery—neither is a good short-term solution. Collins was erratic in the Colts 27-19 loss to Cleveland last week, completing only half of his 38 pass attempt, and will likely face a stern test when the Steelers visit on Sunday night.
“I’d like to apologize,” Collins said, “to NBC, for what surely can’t be the game they expected when the NFL schedule was released. Peyton Manning’s dilemma is eerily similar to one the NFL experienced last year, that being an overabundance of attention devoted to an aging quarterback’s anatomy. I echo the sentiments of the entire Colts organization when I say I’m tired of hearing about ‘Peyton’s neck.’ What we all want to hear about is ‘Peyton’s back.’”
The Steelers rebounded from their opening day 35-7 loss in Baltimore with a dominating 24-0 win over the overmatched Seahawks, limiting the Seahawks to eight first downs, 31 yards rushing and nary a sniff of the end zone. Defensive coordinator Dick Labeau has his work cut out against the Colts.
“Indeed,” said Labeau. “My work is “cut out,” meaning I don’t have to do any. Not with Collins behind center. I’m just as disappointed that Peyton Manning won’t be playing as Manning himself is. If you’ve been under a rock for awhile, let me update you on Manning’s status for this game by quoting Manning from our 21-18 divisional win in 2007—‘He missed it!’
“I know Manning is anxious to get back on the field. He’s tired of standing. He’s even more tired of drinking Gatorade ‘Before.’”
Pittsburgh wins 30-12.
Washington @ Dallas (-5 1/2)
The Cowboys beat the 49ers 27-24 in overtime last week after Tony Romo returned from a broken rib and collapsed lung to bravely lead Dallas into field goal position. Dan Bailey booted the game-winning 19-yard field goal, setting up a big game in Dallas as the undefeated Redskins approach.
“That was a gutsy victory,” Jerry Jones said. “That was an ‘Escape From San Francisco’ Kurt Russell could be proud of. We all thought Romo was done after getting hurt. To say his return was a surprise would be an understatement, so I won’t say it, since understatements are not in my vernacular. I’m not sure how Tony found the fortitude to gut it out. Maybe, just maybe, Deion Sanders stopped doubting him long enough to sprinkle him with some fairy dust, thereby empowering him with a resistance to pain and the NFL Sunday ticket."
The Redskins head to Dallas as the NFC East division leaders, overflowing with confidence and carrying a Texas-sized chip on their shoulders.
“If the season ended today,” Rex Grossman said, “I’d be right about my prediction of a division title. Heck, I think Romo is lucky to have a hole in his lung. I’d give my right arm for a hole in my lung. Sure, with a hole in your lung, you can’t breathe. But you can’t suck, either.”
Romo throws for 298 yards and two touchdowns, and DeMarcus Ware posts two sacks and an interception.
Dallas wins 28-20.