Note: the quotes in this article are fictional. Baltimore @ Denver (-9) Peyton Manning and the Broncos look to avenge last year's painful overtime divisional loss to the Ravens in Denver. Again, the burden falls on the shoulders of Manning, who seeks his elusive second Super Bowl win.
"What's with the giant banner of Joe Flacco outside of Sports Authority Field?" Manning said. "I know Denver wants Flacco to 'hang,' but this is ridiculous.
"We'll have to exact revenge without Von Miller. He was suspended four games for a failed drug test, and two games for trying to pass Mountain Dew as his urine. In fact, Von asked me to provide him with a sample. I politely declined and told him the only pees I make are MVP's."
There were no more disturbing words heard by Ravens fans recently than when Ray Lewis announced that 2012 would be his last year. That is, until these words were uttered on television soon after: "Hi, I'm Tony Siragusa for Depends."
"That is disturbing," John Harbaugh said. "Indeed, the 'Goose' must be 'loose.' You have to admit, Tony is an absorbing character. Of all people, he should know about extra padding. Of course, we'll miss Ray. But, like bloodstained clothing, he's replaceable."
The Ravens jump on the scoreboard first when Flacco finds Jacoby Jones for a 70-yard bomb midway through the first quarter that has the Broncs' Zoo thinking "déjà WTF?!"
Manning throws for 279 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Moore redeems himself, forcing a Flacco fumble on a safety blitz to clinch the win.
Denver wins, 30-24.
New England @ Buffalo (+9)
Quarterbacks are likely to decide Sunday's AFC East contest. That means the Patriots should win 98-0, as three-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady faces a Bills squad with a muddled QB situation. E.J. Manuel is recovering from knee surgery, Kevin Kolb's brain is encased in tissue paper, and undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, who's straight outta Pullman, was the likely starter until Manuel was cleared to play Sunday. Journeyman and notorious playboy Matt Leinart was acquired in late August to provide much-needed depth.
"This is a dream come true," Leinart said. "Finally, I'm a member of a team that's named after the one thing I've given most to strippers — bills. I'm just happy I'm not playing for the Buffalo Herpes.
"And speaking of mounting quarterback issues, that's something my lady friends at USC never had a problem with. But E.J. should be 100% soon. That means I'll likely be handed a pink slip. And that will be hard for me to deal with, mostly because I like my lingerie black."
Unlike the Bills, the Patriots only need one quarterback, and Brady is that quarterback.
"First of all," Brady said, "let me say that it was sad to see Tim Tebow cut. I wish Tim nothing but the best. I think he'll eventually find what he's looking for, most likely at ChristianMingle.com and not the NFL.
"This E.J. Manuel kid is the real deal. He is destined for goodness. You know, he has three older brothers — B.J., H.J., and R.J. Of course, you can't believe everything reported on CNN. Unless it's about Aaron Hernandez — then it's true."
Patriots win, 34-13.
Cincinnati @ Chicago (-3) Lovie Smith is out in Chicago, and Mark Trestman is in, becoming only the third Canadian Football League coach to land an NFL job. Trestman's first order of business was convincing Jay Cutler to set aside his ego for the sake of the team.
"I gave Jay my best Jake 'The Snake' Roberts impression and said 'Trust me,'" Trestman said. "Besides, I'm the 'Trest' man for the job. That's called Canada dry humor.
"Now, there are 60,000 or so fanatics in Illinois who demand satisfaction. But right now, I could care less about the feelings of the Juggalo's, a group that descends upon Cave-In-Rock, Illinois yearly to celebrate music and alcohol, and to pelt washed-up, former MTV reality stars with foreign objects. If only Cutler could be as accurate with his passes to receivers as the Juggalo's are with rock and bottles to Tila Tequila's face, then we're in business."
The Bengals start the season as the favorites of many to topple the Ravens and win the AFC North. Such lofty expectations have been known to bring down even the best of teams. Head coach Marvin Lewis has made it a priority not to let overconfidence hinder the season.
"I've got a problem with the 'big' head," Marvin Lewis said, "but not the 'red' head. That's Andy Dalton, aka 'The Ginger-bred Man.'"
Bears fans celebrate Brandon Marshall's successful return from his third hip surgery with a pre-game cheer of "Hip Hip Hip Hooray!" But the celebration turns sour when Marshall lands awkwardly on his hip and takes himself out of the game. No one is more upset than Derrick Rose, who sprains his thumb switching the television off in disgust.
Cincinnati wins, 24-17.
Miami @ Cleveland (-1)
Tony Soprano's sudden death in June sent shockwaves through the Dolphins community, but only among the tiny percentage of that community who still don't realize that Tony Soprano is not Tony Sparano, and that Sparano is not even the coach of the Dolphins.
"That's right," said Joe Philbin. "I'm in my second year at Miami. Sure, everybody knows the Miami job is a temporary one. But for Christ's sake, don't call me 'Regent' Philbin. I'm just here to use this job as a springboard to greater things, like a sweet college job. Just like Nick Saban.
"And if I'm a miserable pro coach like Saban, then my wishes will be fulfilled. Southwest West Memphis State College of the Freebirds, here I come!"
Cleveland, 5-11 last year, are Browned and determined to improve and at least challenge for a playoff spot. Much of the burden lies on second-year running back Trent Richardson, who rushed for 11 touchdowns on the season.
"You can call me the 'Dawg Pounder,'" Richardson said. "But don't call me the 'Cleveland Steamer' or the 'Brown Load.' This team, and this city, are expecting a lot out of me. And if I play my cards right, I won't give it to them, then I may be able to take my talents to South Beach and a free agent contract."
Cleveland wins, 23-20.
Atlanta @ New Orleans (-3)
The Falcons were a half away from a Super Bowl berth, but, explicably, skipped the second half of the NFC title game and were outscored 14-0 by the 49ers. The 28-24 loss left Mike Smith with a 1-4 record in playoff games.
"I'd like to borrow a phrase from former Saints coach Jim Mora," Smith said, "and say, 'Playoffs?! Playoffs!? Playoffs?! Playoffs!?' See, that's four 'playoffs,' which is how many I've lost..
"I don't think the Saints defense has a chance of stopping our offense. That defense marches up and down the field just as well as our offense — they just do it backwards.".
Sean Payton is back from suspension, eager to put the Saints back in the playoffs and put the bounty scandal far behind him..
"It's great to be back," Payton said. "It's the best feeling in the world. It feels so great, but I can't put a price on it. If I did put a price on it, the price tag would no doubt be on an opposing player's head.".
New Orleans wins, 34-31..
Tampa Bay @ NY Jets (+3).
What's the top storyline when the Bucs visit MetLife Stadium to face the Jets, the team in perpetual disarray? Is it Darrelle Revis' return to the Meadowlands, or Rex Ryan's egregious mishandling of the Jets quarterback situation? .
"Look," said Rex Ryan, "I've been called an MF-er more than Antonio Cromartie on Father's Day. And, like Cromartie, I've got a big problem with 'protection.' That is, 'protecting' Mark Sanchez. Here's the thing, though. There's not an offensive line that can protect him from me.".
The Bucs' preseason was void of the drama so prevalent in the Jets' camp. There is no quarterback controversy — Josh Freeman is, and has been, the starter, and Greg Schiano is a no-nonsense head coach who is in no way sexually excited by feet.
"For a man so turned on by feet," Schiano said, "Ryan's legacy is measured in inches. "Hey, what do the U.S. Open Tennis Championships and the Jets' season have in common? They both share the sound of Flushing."
Rookie Geno Smith gets the start and is impressive, but only in that none of his two passes thrown from the end zone result in safeties. Unfortunately, they result in touchdowns.
Revis scores on an interception, and Josh Freeman throws for 236 yards and 2 scores.
Tampa wins, 27-13.
Tennessee @ Pittsburgh (-7)
It's the start of a brand new season in Pittsburgh, and that can mean only one thing: Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu are both healthy. As the offensive and defensive anchors for the Steelers, their ongoing health is paramount to the team's return to the playoffs.
"I'll tell you what will remain healthy," Mike Tomlin said. "Troy's hair. That's because he uses Head and Shoulders. It's got seven benefits, but not one that can heal a calf muscle. Head and Shoulders is a lot like Big Ben — it's happiest in a bathroom."
The Titans, 6-10 in the AFC South last season, made a significant offseason maneuver with the hiring of Gregg Williams as senior assistant coach for the defense. Williams' addition is expected to improve a squad that ranked 27th in the NFL last year in total defense.
"We were forbidden by the NFL to offer Williams an incentive-based salary," Mike Munchak said. "I'm sure Roger Goodell will be watching Williams closely. Of course, the last thing we intended to do with his hiring was stir the 'pot.'"
Pittsburgh wins, 27-13.
Minnesota @ Detroit (-4½)
"And 17 of those went to the other team," Stafford said. "Luckily, defenses don't have hands like Megatron. Despite those gaudy yardage totals, I was only the 22nd-ranked quarterback in the league in terms of quarterback rating. Of course, that's exactly the kind of efficiency you'd expect from a player from a bankrupt city."
The Vikings finished 10-6 last year and qualified for the playoffs as a wild card team. Minnesota will need more from Christian Ponder in order to prevent defenses from stacking the line to stop Peterson.
The Lions gear their defense towards stopping AP, dropping an extra defender into the box, also known as "safety help," which happens to be the same thing Titus Young seeks when his sidearm won't fire. The Vikings are forced to rely on Ponder, who again proves unreliable, forcing Leslie Frazier to ponder other opportunities.
Detroit wins, 31-22.
Oakland @ Indianapolis (-10)
Who will quarterback the Raiders this season? It looks like the starter will be Terrelle Pryor, who was given the half-hearted starting nod by head coach Dennis Allen. One thing is true: the week 1 starter will be a lot like a shot of whiskey sitting atop a bar in front of Kenny Stabler — it won't be there long.
"With a nickname like the 'Snake,'" Pryor said, "Stabler could have played at Ohio State. But he's a hero of mine. I believe he's had more wives than I've had cars. We both like them fast, and we both don't like paying for them when we're done."
"Just don't call me 'Beginner's' Luck," Luck said. "This year, I plan to give Colts' fans exactly what they want, much like the Lucas Oil Stadium luxury suite attendants, the 'Personal Lubricants.' For the right price, they'll go the extra mile. But don't quote me on that; I don't want to put anything, words or otherwise, in their mouths."
Colts win, 34-17.
Seattle @ Carolina (+3½)
"Hey, what's your deal?" Pete Carroll said. "I've had enough of the Adderall jokes. Look, Attention Deficit Disorder is a serious problem, particularly among Seahawks, especially when it results in a suspension. We call that a case of 'ADD and Substract.'"
The Panthers finished strong last year, winning five of their last six, including wins over Atlanta and New Orleans. In 2013, Cam Newton and his cohorts seek to put it all together for a full season, and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
"These Panthers are chomping at the bit to get at the Seahawks," Newton said. "You could say we're 'teething,' not to be confused with 'tithing,' which is how you build a church and/or get a kid into college.
"The Seahawks may very well have the NFL's best defense. And Richard Sherman may be the league's most notorious trash talker. But I've been known to silence people, particularly those questioned by the NCAA."
Newton is known for his "Superman" touchdown celebration, but the physical Seattle defense doesn't let it happen, because they beat the "S" out of Newton.
Seattle wins a hard-fought 22-18 win.
Kansas City @ Jacksonville (+4)
The Jaguars have newly-designed uniforms, featuring a radically redesigned helmet with two-tone, faded colors, and a more-toothy Jaguar logo. It's the organization's first step in lifting the Jags from the ranks of perennial bottom-dwellers in the AFC.
"These uniforms only lack one thing," Blaine Gabbert said. "No, not sequins, but an Arena Football League team.
"As you may know, I suffered a hairline fracture of his right thumb a few weeks ago, and it's certainly altered the way I throw the ball. It's an injury which, if left untreated, could make me a better quarterback."
The Chiefs went big in the offseason, hiring Andy Reid after canning Todd Haley, then trading for Alex Smith, formerly of the 49ers. Hopes are high that the two can help engineer a quick turnaround for a team that went 2-14 last year.
"I was no longer wanted in San Francisco," Smith said. "All the signs were there. You could say the 'writing was on the wall.' And I made a conscious choice to read it. That's one 'read option' I executed successfully."
Kansas City wins, 20-17.
Arizona @ St. Louis (-1)
"Anderson, Skelton, and Kolb are just a few of the many bad quarterbacks I had to put up with," Fitzgerald said. "There were way more. You could say that list is 'incomplete.'"
For the Rams, Jeff Fisher is in his second-year as head coach, and has instilled his brand of hard-nosed, defensive football in St. Louis. The Rams' defense looks to be one of the NFC's best, while Sam Bradford and the offense aim to hold up their end of the bargain.
"Speaking of bargains," Bradford said, "I'm a steal in the 28th round of your fantasy draft. As you may know, I'm one-sixteenth Cherokee Indian. That means my great-great-grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee. Some of my detractors say that my great-great-grandfather must have been a full-blooded quarterback."
Rams win, 20-19.
Green Bay @ San Francisco (-4½)
"We're looking for revenge," Rodgers said, "and a defense. And I'm looking for players who will bend to my will. Right now, I call those 'teammates.' On Sunday, I'd like to call them '49ers.'"
The 49ers begin a quest to return to the Super Bowl after a bitter loss to the Ravens in the finale last year. Again, Kaepernick is the key to the 49ers fortunes.
"Not only is Colin the most dynamic quarterback in football," Jim Harbaugh said, "he's the walking embodiment of why cursive writing should still be taught in schools. His ink tells a story, and that story is: I spend a lot of time in tattoo parlors."
Late in the game, with the Packers trailing 23-20, Rodgers turns a busted play into a 17-yard scramble for the winning touchdown, then celebrates by kissing his bicep. A perturbed Kaepernick confronts Rodgers and says, "Hey, that's my move."
Green Bay achieves a measure of revenge with a 27-24 win.
NY Giants @ Dallas (-3)
The Cowboys look for a repeat of last season's opener when they beat the Giants 24-17 in MetLife Stadium. This time, the showdown takes place in Cowboys Stadium, and Jerry Jones believes America's Team has what it takes.
"Believe me when I say it," said Jerry Jones, "but the best quarterback in Texas hasn't even reached his full potential yet. That's because Johnny Manziel is only a sophomore."
With two Super Bowls under his belt, Eli Manning doesn't face the pressure to win the big one that Romo does. But he still feels the pressure of a demanding and fanatical Giants fan base.
"I've already got the monkey off my back," Manning said, "but that doesn't mean I don't have other primates expecting more.
"But I often find myself looking for the same thing most quarterbacks are — three wide receivers with a total of four healthy feet. There sure are a lot of foot injuries here. If anyone in this area should have a foot fetish, it's me."
It's a slugfest, but let's leave Dez Bryant's volatile relationship with his mother out of this. It is indeed a slugfest, but the Romo-to-Bryant connection accounts for two scores, and the Cowboys win, 31-30.
Philadelphia @ Washington (-3½)
Philadelphia has a new coach, Chip Kelly, and a new high-speed offense intent on wearing down opposing defenses. Eagles faithful are hopeful that Kelly's offense will be as prolific as his high-powered Oregon Ducks offense.
"I think this offense could be the league's best," said Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper. "But then again, I'm prejudiced."
In Washington, Robert Griffin III is ready to play after a pre-season of acquiescing to Mike Shanahan. Let's face it folks. He might have unworldly athletic ability, good lucks, a beautiful wife, and financial security, but Griffin is just like everyone else.
"You mean," Griffin said, "that, like everyone else, I hate Shanahan? Then, yes, I am like everyone else.
"I hesitate to say this before a game against Vick and the Eagles, but Shanahan has kept me on a short leash."
RG3 takes the field to the sound of Van Halen's "Unchained," while Cooper takes the field to the sound of "Jump." Griffin and Vick put up nearly identical statistics, but kicker Kai "Alai" Forbath wins it for the 'Skins (or Generics, depending on your level of political correctness) with a 45-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Washington wins, 30-27.
Houston @ San Diego (+4)
Former Broncos' offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was hired as the Chargers' new head coach in January after Norv Turner was fired at the end of San Diego's 7-9 campaign.
"This is still Philip Rivers' team," McCoy said. "Fans in San Diego still love Philip. More importantly, so does Jesus.
"Philip has his work cut out for him. No Charger quarterback has ever led a team to a Super Bowl win, unless you count Drew Brees. Drew made a great decision to let himself be run out of town for Rivers' sake."
Monday's late game may very well be decided by the performance of the two feature backs, Houston's Arian Foster and San Diego's Ryan Mathews. Foster and Mathews have a lot to prove, mostly to decide which will star in Peter Jackson's take on JRR Tolkien's The Hobble. Foster gets the best of the matchup, with 2 short touchdowns to go along with his 26 yards rushing and 19 yards receiving.
Houston wins, 26-23.