The Cowboys face their first must-win game of the year, challenging the Texans in Houston. The Saints host the Falcons, the Dolphins and Jets square off for the AFC East lead, and the Packers and Bears meet in a battle of NFC North leaders.
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
Tennessee @ NY Giants (-3)
When the Titans and Giants hook up early on Sunday, you can expect one thing — something "big" will go wrong. Tennessee committed seven turnovers in a 19-11 loss to Pittsburgh last week, while the G-Men surrendered 410 total yards in a 38-14 loss in Indianapolis.
"We're sticking with Vince Young at quarterback," said Jeff Fisher, already sporting a playoff beard. "That's just a polite way to say 'we're stuck' with Vince at quarterback."
"Vince has a wealth of talent, and when all is said and done, I hope I can say I helped him realize that talent. It's the least I can do. He's made me a better coach, as well as a better skeet shooter. I can say 'pull' with the best of them now."
To beat the Titans, the G-Men will have to contain Johnson and limit his effectiveness to short gains. And, they'll have to run the ball themselves, and successfully doing so should open things up against Tennessee's No. 1-rated pass defense.
"We certainly looked bad against the rush at Indianapolis," said Tom Coughlin. "I saw better resistance from Colts fans trying to hang on to Brandon Jacob's helmet. I haven't seen that much fuss over a hat since Dr. Seuss started rhyming. By the way, Dr. Dre is only the second-best rapping doctor."
"Anyway, we're at home, so if Jacobs tosses his helmet into the stands again, I will let the lucky fan keep it, and Jacobs not only will be looking for a helmet, he'll be looking for a job. Hey, how is Jacobs' helmet like his jock strap? They're both empty."
In the loss to Pittsburgh, the Titans defense wasn't the problem, and performed admirably in the face of seven turnovers. This time, the Titan defense plays the bully.
Tennessee wins, 24-16.
San Francisco @ Kansas City (+1)
What's most surprising in the NFL this year, save for the 0-2 Vikings and Cowboys, the 2-0 Buccaneers, and the 34-24-38 Ines Sainz? Well, it has to be the 2-0 Chiefs, who lead the AFC West as one of the conference's four undefeated teams.
"Exactly," said Todd Haley. "'2-0' sounds a lot like 'T 'n A.' I assure you, if Miss Sainz came to a Chiefs practice, she would be treated with the utmost respect. In fact, we'd like to import, I mean invite, her to a practice. Our in-house travel agent, Dwayne Bowe, will gladly fondle, I mean handle, arrangements."
Known as a great motivator, Mike Singletary may have his toughest motivational task on hand in handling the 49ers after Monday night's painful 25-22 loss to the Saints, which dropped the Niners to 0-2.
"Motivation wasn't a problem on Monday," Singletary said. "We played with heart, desire, immediacy, and several other adjectives used to describe a valiant losing team. It was inspiring to see Jerry Rice put one finger in the air at halftime; it was equally as inspiring to see Ronnie Lott put half-a-finger in the air before the game."
Alas, it wasn't enough. But it should be against the Chiefs. I don't smell a rat, but I do smell victory. It smells like napalm in the morning."
San Francisco wins, 19-13.
Dallas @ Houston (-4)
Say what you will about the Cowboys' troubles (and be sure to take a deep breath, for you'll be talking for awhile), but Dallas is only one game out of the division lead, shared by everybody but them. With a win in Houston, the 'Boys are back in business.
"This is a huge, huge game for us," said Jerry Jones. "As they say, everything's bigger in Texas, including crises, but not Wade Phillip's head. That noggin is big anywhere."
"As must-win games go, this is our first of what is sure to be many this year. And, I must say, our record in must-win games is pretty stellar, playoff games notwithstanding. We need this one badly, lest we force fans to endure endless stats about an 0-3 team's chances of making the Super Bowl."
The Texans are undefeated and eager for a win over their in-state counterparts. Houston's Arian Foster exploded for 231 yards rushing in Week 1 versus the Colts, while Matt Schaub torched the Redskins for 497 yards passing last week.
"Our offensive balance is impressive," Gary Kubiak. "Of course, it would be even more impressive if it happened in the same game. On Sunday, we'll just take what the Cowboys give us, and if penalties are any indication, that should give us at least a football field's length head start."
In the end, the Cowboys emerge on top in a wild affair, taking a 33-30 victory for their first win in Texas, and the headline "Blazing Saddles" adorns the sports page of Monday's Dallas Morning Herald.
Buffalo @ New England (-14)
After a 14-14 tie at halftime, the Patriots were shut down by the Jets defense without an injured Darrelle Revis, managing just 80 yards in the second half on their way to a 28-14 loss. Luckily, the Pats host the Bills this week, a team widely considered to be the NFL's worst.
"I'll not engage in any Bills-bashing," Tom Brady said. "Buffalo may be down on its luck, but I'll defend any fellow AFC East team, as long as it's not the Jets or Dolphins. The Bills have many things going for them, but I think this one particular superlative describes the team best: they were voted 'Team Most Likely To Move to Canada.'"
"Like I said after the Jets game, we sucked in the second half. It's not often the Pats go scoreless in a half, especially after such a productive first half. You can look at that at a glass half-full; I prefer to look at it as one half-empty."
"But I know a sight for sore eyes when I see one. Heck, I'm married to one. And the Bills are a sight for sore eyes. Therefore, we welcome the Bills team and their fans to Gillette Stadium. And, as proof of our hospitality, we're gladly allowing willing fans to shoot all the liquor they want from a bowling ball. We'll spare nothing in our efforts to please."
Harvard-educated Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the start against the Pats, taking over for Trent Edwards, as the Bills try to infuse some Ivy League pep into their stagnant offense.
"Speaking of 'ivy,'" Fitzpatrick said, "the joke around town is that it moves faster than the Bills offense. Even faster if it's playing our defense."
But enough with the nonsense. We can only hope the Pats are looking ahead to next week's showdown in Miami with the Dolphins. If that happens, we can only pray our early 6-0 lead holds up."
Brady throws for 4 touchdowns, 2 to Randy Moss, who snares one-handed grabs with each hand.
New England wins, 38-17.
Cleveland @ Baltimore (-11)
The 1-1 Ravens can take comfort in their first home game this year, as well as the fact that ten points will probably be enough to beat the Browns, likely by 10 points, this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. The sturdy Ravens defense, always a given, has held the Jets and Bengals to nine and 15 points, respectively, but the offense has sputtered, scoring 10 in each game.
"We'd be in business," said Ray Lewis, "if football, like boxing, was scored on the 10-point must system. But it's not. But we darn sure seem to get penalized for fouls. We were docked six points by the officials last Sunday on calls that led to Bengals field goals. I was called for tripping when I was blocked in to Carson Palmer, and Terrell Suggs was penalized for roughing Palmer."
We've been there before, Tom Brady, and it seems there's a bias by the referees against the Ravens. We call those 'BS' calls, because there's a decided 'Baltimore slant' to them."
The Ravens score 10 points, somehow on their first possession, and Joe Flacco tosses an interception-free game, with two passing scores, one each to Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin. Lewis caps the scoring with a fumble return to paydirt.
Baltimore wins, 26-3.
Detroit @ Minnesota (-10)
While the Packers and Bears face off on Monday night for the NFC North lead, the 0-2 Lions and the 0-2 Vikings do battle to climb from the division cellar. The Lions have shown signs of life in two losses, but the Vikings have struggled, with their offense managing only 20 points in two games.
"Right now," Favre said, "the only 'W' I'm sporting are this pair of Wranglers. What's it feel like to be 0-2. I'll tell you. It's 'Unreal. Uncomfortable. (Like an ill-fitting pair of) Jeans."
"Now, it doesn't look like a trade for Vincent Jackson will pan out. As far as having 'Jacksons' on this team, we're just going to have to settle for 'Tavaris,' which is something I'm sure Brad Childress will have trouble doing."
The Lions two losses have come by a total of 8 points, with a late comeback falling short against the Eagles in a 35-32 loss last week. Rookie Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best have paid immediate dividends; Suh has 2 sacks, and Best leads the NFL with 5 touchdowns.
"See," said Jim Schwartz. "The Lions get rid of Matt Millen, and our drafts improve substantially. I guess that's why they called Millen the 'Lion Tamer.'"
Adrian Peterson explodes for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the Lions, behind two scores from Calvin Johnson, stay in it.
Minnesota wins, 30-23.
Atlanta @ New Orleans (-5)
The 2-0 Saints will try to maintain the NFC South lead, hosting the 1-1 Falcons, 41-7 winners over the Cardinals last week. Atlanta has turned the ball over only twice this year, and will need to maintain that type of security against the ball-hawking Saints defense, which forced 4 turnovers in Monday's 25-22 win over San Francisco.
"We've finished second in the NFC South for two straight years now," Mike Smith said. "That has to change, and it will start with a win in the Big Easy. We're the 'Dirty Birds,' not the 'Dirty Bridesmaids.'"
Now, the Saints will be without the services of Reggie Bush, who fractured his tibia in Monday night's game. Bush is difficult to game-plan for, and his absence makes our job that much easier. For Saints' opponents, there's nothing much better than Bush on one knee, except for Kim Kardashian on two."
With a win over the Falcons, the Saints would be undefeated, with games against Carolina, Arizona, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland to follow before a Halloween night showdown against the Steelers. It's conceivable to think that the Saints could be 7-0 when they face the Steelers.
"There's really no reason to get all worked up about an undefeated record," Sean Payton said. "We'll leave that to those old-timey, support hose-wearing, past-living 1972 Dolphins. God rest their souls."
Anyway, we're coming right after the Falcons. There will be no trickery, like an onside kick to start the second half. It will all be out there for everyone to see. We'll leave nothing to the imagination. Call us the New Orleans 'Sainz.'"
Falcons win, 29-27.
Pittsburgh @ Tampa Bay (+3)
After wins over Cleveland and Carolina, the Bucs are riding high atop the NFC South, confident after their first 2-0 start since 2005. The task to remain undefeated gets considerably tougher when the 2-0 Steelers visit Raymond James Stadium.
"I like our chances," Raheem Morris said. "But I'd like our chances even more if Jake Delhomme had some connection to the Steelers. We're 2-0 against teams currently or formerly quarterbacked by Delhomme."
Not so fast, Raheem. There is a connection between Delhomme and the Steelers. Word out of Cleveland is that Delhomme is currently locked in a bathroom, not by his own doing, but by that of his teammates.
The Steelers rode their rock-solid defense to a 19-11 win in Tennessee, improving to 2-0. In their two wins, Pittsburgh has leaned heavily on its defense while awaiting the return of Ben Roethlisberger, who will bring big-play capability to the passing game, something that has been lacking with Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch filling in.
"Dixon was put in a difficult situation," said Ben Roethlisberger, "and despite everything, he's performed admirably. Although I'm partial to Beavers, I've still got a soft spot for Oregon Ducks."
Now, with a 2-0 record, there's a good chance we'll be 4-0 when I return from my suspension. It's just another instance of special treatment for a superstar."
Charlie Batch gets the start, but suffers an ankle injury when his foot gets tangled in Troy Polamalu's hair at half-time. Byron Leftwich gets the save, tossing only 8 pitches, and the Pittsburgh defense dominates again.
Steelers win, 22-13.
Cincinnati @ Carolina (+3)
Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, the NFL's "Batman and Robin," bring their act to North Carolina to face the reeling Panthers, who, incidentally, have been playing like cat-women in two double-digit losses. The Bengals, after a Week 1 drubbing in New England, played truer to form last week, earning a hard-fought 15-10 win over the Ravens.
"Wow! Ochocinco and Owens in the same stadium?" said John Fox. "And I thought those two on the same network was something. This is even better! It will be like a homecoming, because the charlatans are coming to Charlotte."
Now, somebody tell those jokers that there's a Bat Cave in North Carolina. It's true. Check your atlas, or your GPS."
The Panthers will start rookie Jimmy Clausen at quarterback after two subpar performances cause Matt Moore to fall from favor. Clausen was the Panthers second-round pick in the draft, and his first start will come against one of the league's more rugged defenses.
"If Ochocinco and Owens are Batman and Robin," Clausen said, "then I must be Mr. Freeze, because I go cold in big games."
But I'm not worried about Ochocinco and Owens, the NFL's 'Hyped Crusaders.' I'm concerned mostly with the Cincinnati defense. Hopefully, I'll make the right decisions. Bank of America Stadium isn't Notre Dame Field, so I won't have Jesus watching over me. And I'm not Tim Tebow, so, as before, I won't have Jesus watching over me."
Clausen has a rough day, throwing 4 interceptions, and 2 completions to Owens and Ochocinco, who make nonchalant grabs while sucking oxygen and Tweeting on the Cincy bench.
Cincinnati wins, 23-13.
Washington @ St. Louis (+3½)
The Redskins gave up 497 yards through the air in a 30-27 loss to Houston, prompting Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall to say that, "this is my team; this is my defense," which in turn should have prompted defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to say, "Fine. It's yours."
"I'm just trying to light a fire under this team," said Hall. "I'll reiterate my statement that I should be covering our opposition's No. 1 receiver. If I would have been marking Andre Johnson last week, he never would have made that 34-yard touchdown catch to tie the game. It more likely it would have been 80 yards."
Now, isn't it brash of me to demand to cover the opposition's No. 1 receiver just days before we play a team that doesn't even have one?"
The Rams lost a tough 16-14 decision in Oakland due in part to five personal fouls. Discipline will play a key role if the Rams are to upset the Redskins.
"When you play dirty against the Raiders," said Steve Spagnuolo, "you know you've earned those penalties. You know, the Raiders of yore were known for their personal fouls; today, they're known more for their personnel fouls."
Clinton Portis rushes for 2 scores, then does his post-game interview dressed as a FedEx mailer, and invites reporters to "check out his package."
Washington wins, 24-17.
Philadelphia @ Jacksonville (+3)
Despite two-straight stellar efforts from Michael Vick (one in relief of Kevin Kolb, the other as the starter), Andy Reid said Monday that Kolb would start when the 1-1 Eagles visit Jacksonville's sparsely populated Municipal Stadium. Then, on Tuesday, Reid changed his mind, naming Vick the starter.
"Hey, Jacksonville may have a history of attendance problems," Reid said, "but the Eagles would have no trouble filling a stadium ... full of people who disagreed with my original decision of Kolb starting."
"The city of Jacksonville should thank me, though. The last thing they need is another black out in Jacksonville."
"But Kevin and Michael supported my decision either way. Kevin because he's obviously still concussed, and Michael because he's a team player. Not only do I like 'scripted' plays, I also like 'scripted' Vick comments supporting my decision."
Jack Del Rio is well aware of Reid's quandary. Del Rio benched starter David Garrard after 4 interceptions in favor Luke McCown, who was hurt after a solid relief effort. McCown has a torn ACL and is out for the year.
"So much for a quarterback controversy here," Del Rio said. "Here in Jacksonville, there's always a battle between the 'Bench David Garrard' and the 'Start Luke McCown' factions. This should at least quiet McCown's supporters, who are a crazy, outspoken bunch known as the 'Insane McCown Posse.'
Vick throws for 3 touchdowns against the Jaguars suspect pass defense, and the Eagles roll to a 27-17 win.
Indianapolis @ Denver (+5½)
After giving up 257 yards on the ground in a loss to Houston, the Colts' defense responded, somewhat, holding the Giants to 120 yards rushing in a 38-14 win last Sunday night. The Colts themselves rushed for 160 on the ground, resulting in a more balanced attack after Week 1's pass-heavy effort at Houston.
"You know what that means," Peyton Manning said. "Play-action is back in Indianapolis. And safeties are biting in Denver. The Colts bring something to Denver that Broncos fans aren't used to seeing: a quarterback worthy of worship. Tim Tebow may have a spot reserved in heaven, but I've got one reserved in the Hall of Fame."
"Slowing the Colts' fast-paced attack is the first order of business," McDaniels said. "If Champ can go, we'll be in good shape. If not, we'll have to rely on the natural grass and the mile-high altitude of Invesco Field to contain the Colts. Believe me, I want to beat the Colts, almost as much as I want the Jay Cutler-led Bears and Brandon Marshall-led Dolphins to lose."
Manning throws for 324 yards and 3 scores, and the Colts win 29-20.
Oakland @ Arizona (-4)
Quarterback issues abound in the Raiders/Cardinals matchup, which pits two 1-1 teams struggling to find their identity in the wake of inconsistent quarterback play,
"There are no plans to bench Derek Anderson," said Ken Whisenhunt, "but I won't rule out plans to tap three of my best players and take a mission trip to lure Kurt Warner back to Arizona. Nor will I rule our scouring local grocery stores for a bagger with a rocket arm and a perpetual five-o'clock shadow."
That's what they call a vote of confidence in Arizona these days.
The Raiders are 1-1, not terribly impressive by any means, but better than the eight teams with 0-2 records. Offensively, the team has struggled, and already, Jason Campbell, who was supposed to stabilize the Oakland quarterback situation, has been replaced by Bruce Gradkowski.
"It's alarming when your kicker is scoring most of your points," said Tom Cable. "On a positive note, Sebastian Janikowski is hearing chants of 'MVP! MVP!' as opposed to charges of 'GHP! GHP!'"
Cardinals win, 27-12.
San Diego @ Seattle (+6)
It seems that Philip Rivers and the Chargers can manage just fine without Vincent Jackson. In a 38-13 pasting of the Jaguars, Rivers threw for 334 yards and 3 touchdowns, completing passes to eight different receivers. On Sunday, Rivers faces a Seahawks defense that gave up 303 yards passing to Denver's Kyle Orton.
"I wish for the best for Vincent," Rivers said, "wherever he goes. But I won't shed a tear when he leaves. Heck, I'll even help him pack. Hence, 'Vincent. Van. Go.'"
I'm confident in the state of our receiving corps as it is. Antonio Gates is my go-to guy, and Malcolm Floyd and Patrick Crayton are solid targets. And, contrary to popular belief, Legedu Naanee is not a Kenyan steeplechaser, and is, in fact, a great receiver."
I'm excited about playing in Seattle. There's quite a buzz brewing there, and I'm not alone when I say the reunion of Soundgarden is a hot topic of conversation in our locker room. Oh yeah, and Pete Carroll's arrival in Seattle was a big deal, at least for a week."
Chargers win, 26-17.
NY Jets @ Miami (Even)
The Jets, fresh off a commanding 28-14 win over New England, take to the road to face the 2-0 Dolphins in a battle to decide the outright lead in the AFC East. The 'Fins recorded an equally impressive road win last week, knocking off the Vikings, 14-10.
"Just when they've put the Ines Sainz incident behind them," said Tony Sparano, "the Jets have to come to Miami, where there's nothing but Hispanic reporters."
But speaking of 'asses that just won't quit,' Rex Ryan is the mouthpiece of the boastful Jets. In most cases, their actions back up their words. Us? We'll remain quiet, if for no other reason than Joey Porter is no longer a Dolphin."
Of course, the Jets have pressing issues. Darrelle Revis is out, and Braylon Edwards was arrested for driving while impaired. Frankly, I'm surprised he got busted, because, where Edwards is concerned, things usually don't 'get caught.' To add insult to injury, I believe cops also found an open container in his beard."
Edwards won't start, but will play. His impact on the game will be minute, however, because the Jets are just as well off driving without him. Against the Dolphins, New York will lean on their power rushing attack.
New York wins, 19-12.
Green Bay @ Chicago (+3½)
The undefeated Bears are back in the NFC North picture, and Monday night's showdown with Green Bay will determine the early division leader in what is likely to be a competitive division. The Bears are led by Jay Cutler, the NFL's top-rated passer, who has improved greatly from a 2009 campaign marred by numerous interceptions. This year, Cutler has only thrown only 1 pick, and has 5 touchdown passes.
"I can only take so much of the credit for Cutler's radical transformation," said offensive guru Mike Martz. "That 'so much' just happens to be 'all of it.' I was never one lacking in confidence, and the 'Smug Life' tattoo across my abdomen supports that."
Chicago wins, 31-28.