Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
Oakland @ San Diego (-7)
The Chargers have lost three straight, and now find themselves lodged in a three-way tie for first in the AFC West with the Raiders and Chiefs, all at 4-4. The Raiders, losers of two in a row, pay a visit to Qualcomm Stadium as the NFL Network kicks off its Thursday night coverage.
“Despite his fumble and interception issues,” Norv Turner said, “I have no intentions of benching Philip Rivers. On the contrary, I’d like for the real Philip Rivers to please stand up, not sit down. However, I do expect Rivers to rededicate himself and start anew. Preferably, the only thing I’d like him to turn over is a new leaf.”
Like Rivers, Oakland’s Carson Palmer has had difficulty with turnovers. In two games, he has thrown six interceptions. He’ll have to limit errant throws if the Raiders are to win in San Diego.
“I made it clear I didn’t want to play with Terrell Owens,” Palmer said. “Despite that, TO’s become a major part of my game, anyway. That’s ‘TO’ for ‘turnover,’ and they are equally as grating as Owens.”
Encouraged by a fan’s sign that reads “No Funking Way,” Rivers breaks out of his turnover slump, with no giveaways. He throws for 287 yards and two touchdowns, and the Chargers head for a 10-day break with a well-earned, and much-needed win.
San Diego wins 28-24.
Arizona @ Philadelphia (-8)
“It’s back to the drawing board,” Andy Reid said, “where our goals for this season are, fortunately, written in pencil.
“What we need to do now is pull together as a team. That’s in contrast to what we did this off-season, which was pull together a team.”
The Cardinals are 2-6 and out of the NFC West cellar after last week’s 19-13 overtime victory over the Rams. Kevin Kolb, who was out last week with a turf toe injury, makes his return to Philadelphia.
“At least the Cardinals think I’m capable of starting in Philly,” Kolb said. “Unfortunately, this toe injury will keep me out of the game. So it seems the only ‘triumphant return’ to be made by a Cardinal happened last week, when Patrick Peterson returned a punt for a touchdown to give us the win.”
Kolb sits, but Ken Whisenhunt has a trick up his sleeve, and suits up Kolb look-a-like Josh Duhamel, actor and husband of Fergie. The experiment is short-lived, as Duhamel takes his lumps, his lumps, and is knocked out of the game in the first quarter. John Skelton takes over, and is terrorized by the Philly defense.
Vicks throws for 210 yards and rushes for 74, complementing LeSean McCoy’s 125.
Philadelphia wins 30-17.
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis (+3)
With the Dolphins 31-3 win in Kansas City, the Colts are now the NFL’s only winless team, and at 0-9, are unequivocally the front-runners for the No. 1 pick in April’s draft. Indy was whipped 31-7 by the Falcons last week; on Sunday, the 2-6 Jaguars, fresh off a bye week, pay a visit to Lucas Oil Stadium.
“If Tony Dungy were to grade our performance on Sunday,” Jim Caldwell said, “he would no doubt ‘F’ that, then excuse himself for cursing. Heck, he has a hard time just saying ‘Suck For Luck.’ Thankfully, Tony doesn’t realize that other teams would gladly do more than just suck for a chance at Luck.
“Anyway, we’re that last winless team left. Peyton Manning is one of a kind. Now, so are we.”
Like the Colts, the Jaguars have handed the reins to a rookie quarterback. Blaine Gabbert was handed the starting job and has performed decently under difficult circumstances.
“There’s nothing spectacular about Gabbert,” Jack Del Rio said. “That makes him a perfect fit for the Jaguars. We’ve had two solid weeks to prepare for the Colts, so we’ve watched a lot of film of Indy games. We can’t help but be overconfident.”
Jacksonville wins 24-16.
Denver @ Kansas City (-3 1/2)
The Broncos jumped right back into the AFC West picture, whipping the Raiders 38-24 in Oakland. Denver is 3-5, one game behind the Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders, all at 4-4.
“Speaking of ‘jumping,’” Tim Tebow said, “people are back on the Tebow bandwagon, and I’m right there with them. My vertical leap’s never been this good. Tebow may be able to resist temptation, but his fans can’t. It’s the ultimate in ‘on-again, off-again’ relationships.
“If John Elway says Tebow starts, then Tebow starts. Tebow may not stay in the pocket, but I stay in Elway’s.”
Kansas City’s three-game winning streak came to a screeching halt last week, as the previously winless Dolphins pounded the Chiefs 31-3. Matt Cassell and the Chiefs will try to rebound against the Broncos.
“The Dolphins embarrassed us,” Matt Cassell said. “I was personally offended by my play, and violated by Miami’s.
“If we want to call ourselves contenders, then we absolutely cannot lose to the Broncos. And I can’t let Tebow outplay me. I haven’t been outplayed by a college quarterback since college. That’s not saying much, since that QB who outplayed me was Matt Leinart.”
Todd Haley has the Chiefs well-prepared for what they’ll see from Tebow, and Haley does so by giving them an earful of what they won’t hear from Tebow—obscenities.
After emerging from the tunnel to the sound of Mötley Crüe’s “Shout At The Devil,” the pumped-up Chiefs attack early, on offense and defense, and make Tebow look like an amateur. It’s “Pro’s Vs. Tebow’s” in Arrowhead Stadium.
Chiefs win 27-13.
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati (+3)
If the Bengals are to be considered serious threats to win the AFC North, they must have wins over the Steelers and Ravens. They’ll get their shot starting on Sunday, with the first of three games in four weeks against Pittsburgh or Baltimore.
“We have something to prove,” Marvin Lewis said. “Usually, in Cincinnati, ‘something to prove’ involves ‘reasonable doubt.’ Not in this ‘case. We want to prove we’re among the North’s elite. If we’re to be proven guilty of anything, we’d prefer it to be ‘belonging.’”
The Steelers are still seething from last week’s 23-20 loss to Baltimore at Heinz Field. The Ravens won it on Joe Flacco’s 26-yard TD pass to Torrey Smith with eight seconds left.
With their pride wounded and their wallets lightened, the Steelers come to Cincinnati with the intention of making the Bengals pay. And they do.
Pittsburgh wins 19-17.
Buffalo @ Dallas (-5)
The Cowboys removed some of the distaste of week eight’s 34-7 loss in Philadelphia with a 23-13 win over the Seahawks last week. Dallas will face a much tougher opponent in the 5-3 Bills, who are tied for second the AFC East.
“The Cowboys are historically known as the ‘Team Of The '90s,’” Tony Romo said. “However, against the Bills in two Super Bowls, Dallas was known as the ‘Team Of The 40s,’ because that’s how many points they averaged in two wins over the Bills.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will look to rebound from an awful outing last week against the Jets in which he threw for only 191 yards, with two interceptions and only one touchdown.
“I like our chances against the Cowboys in Dallas,” Fitzpatrick said, “as opposed to a neutral site, where the Bills odds of winning drop significantly, to zero. Cowboys Stadium is a beautiful facility. It’s spacious; the Cowboys themselves? Specious.”
As a prelude to Sunday’s big game, Jerry Jones organizes a 40-yard dash between Leon Lett and Don Beebe to benefit Jones’ charity, himself. Beebe wins at the tape, while a dejected Lett pounces on a blocked field goal.
The Bills celebrate another victory on Sunday as Fred Jackson accounts for two touchdowns.
Buffalo triumphs 31-30.
New Orleans @ Atlanta (+1)
First place in the NFC South is on the line in the Georgia Dome, as the 5-3 Falcons host the 6-3 Saints. New Orleans turned back the Buccaneers 27-16 last week to keep Tampa from a share of the division lead.
“We’re marching into unprecedented territory,” Drew Brees said. “This will be our second consecutive game against a South opponent with the division lead on the line. That’s something you don’t see everyday, or in the NFC West.”
The Falcons are clicking on all cylinders, with a balanced offense and solid defense that has led them to three consecutive wins. With a win, Atlanta would take sole possession of the NFC South lead and erase the memory of their 2-3 start.
“The Saints and Falcons want the same thing,” Mike Smith said. “Unfortunately, it may take a trip to Green Bay in January to get it. And that would be the only instance in which anyone would wish for Brett Favre to be back in a Packer uniform.”
Falcons win 34-31.
St. Louis @ Cleveland (-1)
The 1-7 Rams travel to the Dawg Pound, where the 3-5 Browns await with baited breath and a run defense that was dogged and pounded by the Texans last week to the tune of 261 yards. Steven Jackson has piled up 289 yards on the ground in the last two weeks.
“I made sure I walked under the ‘Gateway Arch’ before heading to Cleveland,” Jackson said, “so I’d know what it’s like to run through a hole in Cleveland’s defense.”
Jackson rushes for 123 yards and a score.
St. Louis wins 24-21.
Washington @ Miami (-4)
The 3-5 Redskins, losers of four straight, have struggled mightily on offense as of late. After going scoreless in week eight’s 23-0 loss in Buffalo, Washington managed only one touchdown, a meaningless fourth-quarter John Beck TD pass, in last week’s 19-11 loss to the 49ers.
“Our offense reminds me of Washington’s Super Bowl 7 offense,” Mike Shanahan said. “How so, you may ask. Well, our offense is so bad, it may take Garo Yepremian to give this team a touchdown. And what do you know? We’re playing the Dolphins.”
The Dolphins whipped the Chiefs 31-3 last week to win for the first time this year.
“We finally played like Dolphins,” Tony Sparano. “Before, our play resembled another ocean-dwelling organism—the flounder.
“Along with the Rams, we find ourselves the envy of 30 other teams in the league. We’re the only two teams that can double our wins in a single game. That’s how you motivate a 1-7 team.”
The Dolphins knocked off the Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl 7 to punctuate a 17-0 season. And, 27 years later, fans are forced to endure Yepremian, Larry Csonka and the other grumpy old men basking in that glory, while openly rooting for teams to fall from the ranks of undefeated’s. Well, screw the ’74 Dolphins, and screw the ’11 Dolphins. Go ‘Skins, and go Packers.
Washington wins 23-14.
Houston @ Tampa Bay (+3 1/2)
After last week’s decisive 30-12 win over Cleveland, the Texans have won three in a row, and sit atop the AFC South with a 6-3 record. Houston boasts the NFL’s second-best rushing offense, averaging 155 yards per game on the ground.
“We plan to stay ‘grounded,’” Gary Kubiak said. “Or, as would be appropriate in Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium, home of a pirate ship parked in the end zone, we plan to remain ‘landlocked.’
“In any case, all roads lead to a first-round bye and a divisional-round playoff game at home. And, inevitably, another season without a playoff win.”
The Buccaneers are 4-4 and desperately need a win to break a two-game skid and keep pace with the Saints and Falcons in the NFC South.
“Like Kubiak said,” Raheem Morris said, “there’s a ship in the end zone at our stadium. That doesn’t make us ‘C’-worthy; our mediocrity does.”
It’s a must-win game for the Bucs. Tampa gets an inspiring defensive performance, and Josh Freeman throws for two scores.
Tampa wins 27-24.
Tennessee @ Carolina (-3 1/2)
The 2-6 Panthers and rookie superstar Can Newton host the Titans, led by 36-year-old Matt Hasselbeck, who has found rejuvenation in Tennessee. The outcome of Sunday’s game at Bank Of America Stadium will likely hinge on quarterback play.
“I am a one-man wrecking crew,” Newton said. “I can, of course, break you with my arm, and also with my legs. Likewise, Chris Johnson is a one-man wrecking crew. His talent is breaking banks.”
Johnson rushed for 64 yards last week in the Titans 24-17 loss to the Bengals. He’s averaging three yards a carry and has only one rushing touchdown.
“64 yards is nearly the length of a football field,” Johnson said, “or the length of approximately 384 hundred-dollar bills placed end to end. As my paltry statistics would suggest, it appears as though I’m ‘picking up’ more $100’s than yards.”
Hasselbeck and Newton first meet at midfield, where they exchange pleasantries, a handshake, and anecdotes about playing for pay. Before Hasselbeck can call the pre-game coin toss, Cecil Newton snatches the coin from mid-air and adds it to Sunday’s collection plate.
Tennessee wins 25-23.
Baltimore @ Seattle (+7)
The Seahawks are 2-6 after last week’s 23-13 loss in Dallas, and Pete Carroll’s crew will need an inspired effort to knock off the Ravens.
“I’m confident Seattle’s ‘12th Man’ will do their part,” Carroll said. “What concerns me is the 11 others doing their part. That would include our quarterback. Neither Tarvaris Jackson nor Charlie Whitehurst has played well. Tarvaris, in fact, threw an interception while trying to throw the ball way. That’s Tarvaris for you—even his errant throws become more errant.”
The Ravens took over the AFC North lead with a dramatic 23-20 win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh last Sunday night. Joe Flacco was the hero, throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Torrey Smith.
“It’s hard to believe the Seahawks were a playoff team last year,” Ray Lewis said. “Don’t forget, though, Seattle won a playoff game last year. However, you know you won’t be returning to the playoffs when your regular season wins are twice that of your playoff victories from a year ago. And it’s week 10.”
After a physical battle in Pittsburgh, and a cross-country trek to Seattle, the Ravens must certainly be tired. So they make quick work of the Seahawks.
Baltimore jumps out to a 14-0 lead and wins 27-13.
Detroit @ Chicago (-1)
The Lions enjoyed a bye week, and start the second half of the season in Chicago to face the 5-3 Bears. At 6-2, the Lions trail the undefeated Packers by two games in the NFC North, with a Thanksgiving showdown against Green Bay looming.
“We’re ready for the home stretch,” Ndamukong Suh said. “Personally, I’m loaded for Bear. I recently met with Roger Goodell to discuss the penalties and flags I’ve incurred over my career. For example, I was flagged just for shoving Jay Cutler last year. Roger and I cleared that one up. We both agreed that Cutler only needs ‘pushing’ in the second half of NFC championship games.”
The Bears beat the Eagles 30-24 on Monday night to improve to 5-3. A win over the Lions would significantly improve Chicago’s chances for a potential playoff berth.
“I was voted the NFL’s fifth-most disliked player,” Jay Cutler said. “I believe I should have been ranked higher, which is probably why people dislike me in the first place, because I believe I’m better than everyone else. I guess I should have campaigned harder.”
The well-rested Lions defense comes after Cutler, and sack him four times. Suh records one of those, and, remarkably, is flagged for a personal foul after a shoestring tackle of a scrambling Cutler in the third quarter.
Matthew Stafford throws for 268 yards and two touchdowns, including a 45-yard strike to Calvin Johnson.
Detroit wins 27-21.
N.Y. Giants @ San Francisco (-3 1/2)
Division leaders square off in San Francisco as the NFC West-leading 49ers host the NFC East-leading Giants. The G-Men knocked off the Patriots in New England last week, led by two Eli Manning touchdown passes, including the game-winner to Jake Ballard with 15 seconds left.
“Okay, I’ll admit it,” Manning said. “I’m not in the same class with Tom Brady, because I totally outclassed him last Sunday. I seem to play my best against the Patriots. Finally, I can claim to do something better than Peyton.”
With a win over New York, the 7-1 49ers could extend their lead in the NFC West to six games and could take a major step in securing a first-round playoff bye.
“Manning outplayed Brady?” Jim Harbaugh asked. “Good for him. Out-this. Out-that. This is San Francisco. There's enough outings. What concerns us is wiping the smile off Tom Coughlin’s face. And no one does that better than Eli, so we’ll make him do it.”
The 49ers force two Manning turnovers, and Frank Gore grinds out 106 yards on the ground.
San Francisco wins 26-24.
New England @ N.Y. Jets (-1)
Are the Jets the team to beat in the AFC East? With a win over the Patriots, following a week eight win in Buffalo, New York would take over first in the division.
“I stand by everything I’ve said this year,” Rex Ryan said. “I couldn’t feel better about my guarantee of a Super Bowl win, Check that. I could feel better about it, if I were coaching the Packers.
“I relish games against New England. The Patriots are like my wife’s toes—I like to lick ‘em.”
The Patriots have lost two in a row, and there once unstoppable offense has scored only 37 points in those two losses.
“We’ve got problems,” Tom Brady said. “One of them being Wes Welker. Not that Wes has done anything wrong. He hasn’t. But if he’s on pace for 132 receptions this year, then it’s obvious we have no downfield threat. I hate to admit it, but I ‘long’ for Randy Moss.”
The Jets rush for 189 yards, and Mark Sanchez plays a nearly error-free game, with his only mistake coming when he asks to pose with Rob Gronkowski in his next candid photo shoot.
Jets win 28-23.
Minnesota @ Green Bay (-14)
The Packers remained undefeated with a thrilling win in San Diego last week, outgunning the Chargers 45-38, behind four touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers.
“We are undoubtedly the NFL’s best team,” Aaron Rodgers said. “Then, our defense hits the field and things even up considerably. But I have to commend our defense for recognizing their limitations. Last week at San Diego, our defense knew they would give up too many points, so they went out and scored us two touchdowns themselves.”
The Vikings have found rejuvenation in rookie quarterback Christian Ponder.
“If Tim Tebow is the ‘Christian Left,’” Ponder said, “then I’m the ‘Christian Right.’ Tebow may ‘Te-bow’ before and after games. Not me. Before and after games, I ‘Ponder,’ in which I sit, knees bent, hand on chin, in the nude.”
Green Bay wins 31-20.