NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 1 (Pt. 1)

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Miami @ Pittsburgh

The NFL loves feeding us season-openers involving a former Minnesota Viking challenging the defending Super Bowl champs. Last year, Randy Moss joined the Raiders for a Thursday night butt-whooping courtesy of the Patriots. This time, former Viking quarterback Daunte Culpepper is a Dolphin, and his intentions are to make the Dolphins a playoff team.

"And we start by beating the Steelers," boasts Culpepper. "Bon voyage, Vikings. Who wants to fish in Lake Minnetonka when I've got the entire Atlantic Ocean in which to cast my pole? Really, what are the Vikings without myself and Moss?"

Apparently, Daunte, they're contenders.

While it's safe to say Culpepper won't arrive at Heinz Field by boat, it's an even safer bet to say Steelers signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger won't arrive by motorcycle. But he will arrive with a Super Bowl ring, and some reconstructive surgery that would make even the Six Million Dollar man envious.

"I feel great," says Roethlisberger. "I'm better, stronger, faster, and I suddenly have incredible vision. I'm ready to take on the Dolphins, the NFL, the world, for that matter. And Sasquatch wouldn't have a chance against me and my new agent, Oscar Goldman."

Well, Big Ben felt great. An emergency appendectomy on Sunday rendered him incapable of playing on Thursday. Apparently, Ben can't keep himself out of the hospital.

The Dolphins finished strong last year, and are a trendy pick to win the Super Bowl. But, the Steelers are defending Super Bowl champs, and they're at home. But without Roethlisberger, the Steelers offense will be sluggish, which makes this game even more of a defensive battle.

Dolphins pull the upset, 17-16.

Atlanta @ Carolina

Who's logged more mileage on a bicycle this summer? Floyd Landis? Okay, who's logged more mileage on a bicycle this year and doesn't pass 140 proof urine? Well, it would have to be Steve Smith or Terrell Owens, who have nursed their injured hamstrings by pedaling through training camp on stationary bikes.

"Obviously, I'd like to be on the field practicing," says Smith. "I'm not, but the bike gives me the opportunity to do a lot of thinking. Like about the playbook, routes, patterns, defensive tendencies, and two Panthers cheerleaders in a bathroom stall. That always gets me pedaling too fast."

Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick has a new target in Ashley Lelie, who whined his way out of Denver just as Javon Walker whined his way out of Green Bay.

"Wait, is Lelie coming to Atlanta expecting to get the ball more than he did in Denver?" asks Vick. "Unless he's a tight end, I probably won't even throw the ball to him. Oh yeah, and he might get more catches if he were a starter."

So, who will fire the first salvo in what looks to be a very competitive NFC South race? The Panthers have one of the league's best defensive fronts and an improving secondary. Atlanta's passing game can't keep up with that of the Panthers. Smith catches a long touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme, and Smith gladly accepts the penalty for his "riding the bicycle" touchdown celebration.

Carolina wins, 26-17.

Baltimore @ Tampa Bay

It was a busy offseason for the Ravens. Linebacker Ray Lewis took a stab at free agency, running back Jamal Lewis enjoyed a summer in which "two-a-days" didn't refer to his exercise privileges in the federal penitentiary, and the Ravens signed former Tennessee Titan Steve McNair at quarterback.

"I realize the Ravens brought me here for one reason," McNair explains, "and that's to keep Kyle Boller off the field. I don't understand, because from what I've seen, Kyle Boller's done a pretty good job of keeping Kyle Boller off the field."

In Tampa Bay, daddy's boy Chris Simms is the quarterback, but the offense is by no means as vanilla as Simms. Mainly because of running back Cadillac Williams, who, if he remains healthy, will challenge for the NFC rushing title.

Defense is always a constant in Tampa Bay, and Baltimore, for that matter. But the Bucs are at home, and according to bookies in Vegas, home-field is worth about three points. And having a pirate ship in the end zone has to be worth one-and-a-half more; two-and-a-half if captained by Jack Sparrow; seven-and-a-half if Kierra Knightly is anywhere on the ship. Tampa's defense dominates. McNair is picked off twice, and Jamal Lewis moved the chains faster when they were shackled to his ankles.

Bucs win, 17-9.

Buffalo @ New England

Tom Brady is still upset over the Patriots' loss to the Broncos in last year's AFC divisional playoff game.

"I'm furious," says Brady, "but my charm and good looks won't allow it to show. But I'm steaming on the inside. Losing to Jake Plummer in a playoff game? That's like Coach [Bill] Belichick beating me out for an appearance on the cover of GQ. It shouldn't happen."

Well, Tom Terrific, how do you think Kelly Holcomb feels about losing the Bills starting quarterback job to J.P. Losman?

The Bills kicked it old school in the offseason, hiring octogenarian Marv Levy as general manager.

"That naturally gives us an advantage over every other team in the NFL," says Losman.

Why? Because Levy lead the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances in the '90s?

"No," Losman replies. "He's an octogenarian. The dude's got eight arms. You know he can get the job done."

With Deion Branch holding out and David Givens off to Tennessee, Brady will have to adjust to new receivers. But he's still got linebacker Mike Vrabel to catch his passes, so no worries. Brady throws two TD passes, and Losman is sacked three times.

Patriots win, 30-13.

Cincinnati @ Kansas City

The sequel to John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent will soon be hitting bookshelves in Cincinnati.

"Yeah, it's called The Summer of Our Malcontents," says Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "It's about all the knuckleheads who had run-ins with the law during the offseason. You name it, they did it. Let's see, DUI, brandishing a firearm, marijuana possession, providing alcohol to a minor. And that's just Chris Henry."

Indeed. The situation is so bad that the city of Cincinnati has hired its own superhero to fight crime committed by Bengals. And many of the city's most well-behaved elementary students have been sent to Paul Brown Stadium to counsel the players on their behavior. And, instead of asking for autographs, many fans are instead requesting fingerprints from their favorite players. On a good note, the sequel to Snakes on a Plane is already under production — it's called Bengals on a Plane.

"The behavior of those players brings a tear to my eye," says Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil. "Wait a minute. I don't coach the Chiefs anymore. Still, I can't help but shed a tear for those poor, misguided Bengals."

Vermeil retired, again, and the Chiefs pried Herman Edwards away from the Jets.

"Pried?" asks Edwards. "Oh no, I left willingly. And, by the way, I picked Larry Johnson in my fantasy draft and I plan to give him at least 40 touches a game."

Of course, Johnson is the key to the Chiefs' season, but Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, as well as Paris Hilton, will tell you that two Johnson's are better than one. One hundred yards from running back Rudi and 100 from wide receiver Chad are more than Kansas City's defense can handle.

Benglas win, 31-27.

Denver @ St. Louis

The Broncos made it all the way to the AFC championship Game last year, then the real Jake Plummer stood up, turning the ball over four times as Denver fell 34-17 to Pittsburgh. That sent Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan home, where he holed up in his "John Elway" room and mapped a plan to find the next Elway, who carried Shanahan to two Super Bowls. That man is quarterback Jay Cutler, the Broncos' first-round pick and the third quarterback taken in the draft.

"I was feeling no pressure up until now," says Cutler. "It's a great situation to be in here in Denver. You can join the 'Mile High Club' and you don't even have to be in a plane. And Jake Plummer has taken me under his wing and given me some great pointers. Like proper road rage procedure, how to flip off a heckling fan, and growing a raggedy playoff beard."

The Mike Martz era ended in St. Louis without much fanfare, and Scott Linehan takes over a squad that went 6-10.

"There's one main difference in Mike Martz and I," comments Linehan. "I actually realize I have a running back named Steven Jackson."

The Broncos and Rams both have balanced offenses, with strong rushing attacks and deep threats in the passing game. The difference is on defense, where the Rams ranked 30th last year. They won't be able to stop the Broncos when it counts. Plummer throws a touchdown pass and a running back with the last name of Bell scores a TD.

Denver wins, 26-20.

New Orleans @ Cleveland

"Hey, NFL, does this count as one of our home games?" asks Saints wide receiver Joe "Me So" Horn into a cell phone that he had stashed in a bottle of shampoo he sneaked over on the flight from New Orleans.

No, Joe. The Saints get a full compliment of home games in New Orleans, and none in New York. But you have to wait until Week 3 before the Saints return to the Superdome, where fans will get a look at rookie sensation Reggie Bush. Also, the team has added a new feature inside the dome: a huge television replay monitor called the "Gumbo Tron."

The Browns had a decent defense last year, ranking 16th overall, but their offense was ineffective, ranking 25th. Part of the problem was injuries; tight end Kellen Winslow and wide receiver Braylon Edwards missed all or most of the season due to injuries.

"It was like there was an invisible fence on the goal line," says quarterback Charlie Frye, "and we were all wearing shock collars. But our offense will be better as long as we're healthy and Kellen doesn't try to go X-Games in the parking lot on a motorcycle. And defensively, we've got help coming in the form of Willie McGinest and Ted Washington, who are old enough to be Reggie Bush's daddy."

Frye hits Winslow with a TD pass, and a raucous Dawg Pound watches a dominating defensive effort.

Browns win, 23-10.

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