Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
Carolina @ Denver (+3)
In 2016, the Panthers were on the cusp of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, that is until Von Miller discovered that beating a Carolina offensive lineman was much like a New Orleans quarterback, a “Brees.” In the 2016 season opener, Cam Newton and the Panthers seek revenge in the altitude in Denver.
“I’m motivated,” Newton said. “I’m certainly the best quarterback ‘by land;’ I’m one of the best ‘by air.’ Now, I want to be the best ‘by sea.’ That’s why I’ve added aquatic training to my regimen. Here’s how it works: I simply toss some weighted spheres into my swimming pool. Then, I do something I’m not comfortable doing — I dive for loose balls.”
The post-Manning era begins in Denver with Trevor Siemian as the starter. Siemian outperformed Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch to earn the starting position.
“Trevor really impressed me,” Gary Kubiak said. “I mean he really impressed me. So much so that I’m wearing this t-shirt that says, ‘I’m Ape-Shit For Siemian.’
“We’re trying to trade Aqib Talib. He’s a player many teams would love to have, but for some reason, teams are a little gun-shy about pulling the trigger on a trade.”
Carolina wins 16-10.
Tampa Bay @ Atlanta (-3)
The Buccaneers finished 6-10 last season, but showed enough flashes of excellence last year that fans in Tampa are expecting great things.
“I like where we’re headed offensively,” Dirk Koetter said. “Jameis Winston passed for over 4,000 yards last year. That tells me he’s more than capable of being a passer in the vein of Drew Brees. We’ve urged Jameis to stay in the pocket, and out of grocery stores. On that note, what do you get when you pair Jameis with Flava Flav? ‘Publix Enemy,’ of course.”
The Falcons finished 2015 with an 8-8 record, but managed only one division win to go with five losses.
“We started the season 5-0,” Matt Ryan said. “All those wins were against non-divisional opponents. Then, we started playing division games, and things went ‘South.'”
Ryan and the Falcons prepare for the game with a pre-game meal of crab legs, and Ryan stands on the dinner table and makes an impassioned plea to his teammates: “O Captain! My Captain!”
Devonta Freeman then casually points out to Ryan that those words aren’t exactly the same as those said by Winston in his infamous 2014 incident. A red-faced Ryan apologizes, then urges his teammates to go out and win one for the Gipper.
Ryan passes for two scores, and Winston matches him, but commits a costly late fumble to seal defeat for the Bucs.
Atlanta wins 29-22.
Buffalo @ Baltimore (-3)
The Bills 8-8 2015 campaign was marked by inconsistency on both sides of the ball, but never fear, Bills fans, Rex Ryan is on it. The foot perv “won the offseason” by hiring his twin brother Rob as an assistant head coach, and signing Reggie Bush to add depth to Buffalo’s backfield. Now the Bills boast another USC running back who doesn’t have his Heisman Trophy.
“I don’t care that Reggie had to return his Heisman Trophy,” Ryan said. “He’ll still be an asset to the team, as well as the city of Buffalo. Heck, the NCAA has already ordered him to ‘give back’ to the community.
“As for my brother, I’ve had to face a lot of criticism for hiring him. Colleagues, associates, and friends have all voiced their doubts. Once, in the deviant throes of my sick foot fetish, I got into an argument with my wife’snylons about it. I simply told them ‘It’s bro’s before hose’ and left it at that.”
Joe Flacco‘s knee is healed, and the Ravens are determined to return to contention in the AFC North, where the Bengals and Steelers are favorites.
“Flacco is no spring chicken,” John Harbaugh said. “But close. He’s a ‘Fightin’ Blue Hen’ from the University of Delaware. But Joe is 31 years old. That’s a good six years younger than our top receiver, Steve Smith, who also answers to ‘Steve Smith, Sr.,’ ‘Steve Smith Senior Discount,’ and ‘The Guy Who Will Punch You Out If You Don’t Address Him Properly,’ so I’ll shut up.’
Tyrod Taylor passes for a score and rushes for another, and the Bills win, 23-20.
Chicago @ Houston (-5)
The Bears look to improve on last year’s disappointing 6-10 record, marked by a 1-7 campaign at home. Gone are Joe Forte and Martellus Bennett, two of Jay Cutler‘s favorite targets.
“Speaking of ‘favorite targets,'” Cutler said, “I’m often the favorite target, of insults hurled by Bears fans. But I have a great set of hands. I catch ‘hell,’ as well as a number of other four letter words.
“I know I have to play like an elite quarterback in order for this team to succeed. That means limiting mistakes and getting the ball to Alshon Jeffrey as much as possible. You know it’s the first week of the season, because Alshon’s dealing with a sore hamstring. On the bright side, he signed a deal to endorse Charmin toilet paper, because than man knows ‘soft tissue.'”
The Texans won the AFC South with a 9-7 record, then got what they deserved in a 30-0 home loss to the Chiefs in the wildcard round. But change is amiss in South Texas, where Brock Osweiler takes over as the new Texans quarterback after spending the last four seasons backing up Peyton Manning.
“The Texans offered me a huge contract I couldn’t refuse,” Osweiler said. “At least the Texans view me as capable of being the quarterback of a team’s future. It turns out I can carry Peyton’s jock strap, because I did it for four years in Denver. And guess what’s in his jock strap? Genetics. I don’t have that going for me.”
The Houston defense forces 3 turnovers, and J.J. Watt sacks Cutler twice. Osweiler tosses a touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins, and the Texans win, 31-17.
Green Bay @ Jacksonville (+5)
Gus Bradley begins his fourth season as the Jaguars head coach, and expectations are high for Jacksonville to make a run at the AFC South title.
“EverBank Field should be rocking this season,” Bradley said. “Nothing beats the fans’ perspective of enjoying the game from the confines of the stadium’s swimming pool. But for fans longing for a player’s perspective, they can park their car in the one and only Denard Robinson lot, which is four feet underwater.
“I know the pressure is on me to make this team a winner. Luckily, I still have the support of team owner Shad Khan. If I can lead this franchise to a AFC South crown, Khan has said great riches await me, and possibly 72 virgins.”
With a healthy Jordy Nelson and a slimmed-down Eddie Lacy, Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers are favored to win the NFC North and make a strong Super Bowl run.
“Jordy is free from the clutches of the training table,” Rodgers said, “while Eddie is free from the clutches of the dinner table.
“I’m confident we’re a team talented enough to win the Super Bowl. As for my personal abilities, I’m supremely confident, and most people recognize this. Just ask anyone to describe Aaron Rodgers in one sentence, and nearly all will say, ‘He thinks he’s better than everyone else.'”
The Jaguars improved defense gives the Packers fits early, and Blake Bortles tosses an early score to Julius Thomas. But the Packers storm back, led by the scrambling ability of Rodgers, who is good on the run, and even better on the Munn.
Green Bay wins, 31-24.
San Diego @ Kansas City (-7)
The Chargers organization spent much of the offseason negotiating the signing of first-round pick Joey Bosa. Bosa finally agreed to a four-year deal on August 29th.
“I don’t know what took so long,” Philip Rivers said. “Maybe Bosa should have handled things more like a true Ohio State Buckeye and signed with an agentbefore he turned pro. In any case, I heard he celebrated with a tattoo and a new Monte Carlo, fully loaded, of course.
“Defensive improvements aside, this team’s playoff chances rest on the ability of the offense. And the burden falls squarely on my shoulders to get us there. I may be a Catholic, but this is one time when ‘berth control’ is my responsibility.”
The Chiefs aim to build on a successful 2015 season, which ended with a close 27-20 loss to the Patriots in the divisional round.
“I’m not worried about this team taking the next step,” Andy Reid said. “I’m worried about Jamaal Charles taking the next step. He’s recovering from knee surgery and won’t be ready for our opener. But Alex Smith is more than capable of picking up the slack, one four-yard completion at a time.”
Chiefs win, 23-19.
Oakland @ New Orleans (-1)
The Raiders are primed to contend for the AFC West, with 2016 being the fifth anniversary of legendary Raiders owner Al Davis’ death. Oakland boasts a core of young superstars, with Derek Carr leading the offense, and Khalil Mack the defense.
“If Al were alive today,” Jack Del Rio said, “he would look no different than he did when he died. And, he’d be proud of the team we’ve built.
“This team boasts a load of young superstars, including the aforementioned Carr and Mack, as well as Latavious Murray and Amari Cooper. Plus, we have just the right amount of veteran leadership, led by Sebastian Janikowski. To say Janikowski is a great judge of young talent with potential is an understatement. If anyone knows a ‘high ceiling,’ it’s Sebastian. Of course, he refers to a ‘high ceiling’ as a ‘roofie.'”
The Saints explosive 2015 offense was offset by a disastrous defense that was the major culprit in a 7-9 finish in the NFC South.
“Rob Ryan made our defense the worst in the NFL,” Sean Payton said. “So a change was in order, not only in our defensive coordinator, but also in our defense’s theme song, Usher’s ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.’
“That’s why I hired Dennis Allen to oversee the defense. Dennis has loads of NFL experience, both as a coordinator and as a head coach. So he didn’t come cheap. The first question I asked him in our initial interview was, ‘What’s the price on your head?'”
Saints win, 34-31.
Cincinnati @ New York Jets (+2½)
After lengthy negotiations, the Jets finally resigned Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year, $12 million contract in late July.
“Fitzpatrick called our bluff,” Todd Bowles said. “He had an ‘ace in the hole,’ and that was Geno Smith as second-string quarterback.”
The Bengals season ended in a stunning 16-15 home playoff to the Steelers, as consecutive personal foul penalties on Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict completed the collapse that led to Chris Boswell‘s game-winning field goal.
“For so many years,” Marvin Lewis said, “we’ve been asking, ‘Who dey, who dey, who dey think gonna beat them Bengals?’ Well, I guess we found out the answer was ‘them Bengals.’
“Vontaze will miss the first three games because he’s suspended for repeated violations of player safety rules. That means he’s going without pay for three weeks. But he’ll be fine financially. He has a budding photography business that will soon rival that of ‘Glamour Shits.’ It’s called ‘Head Shots’ and Vontaze has a goal of making it Cincinnati’s No. 1 photography studio. That’s called ‘targeting.'”
Mike Nugent kicks a 33-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to break a tie, and George Iloka picks off Fitzpatrick to seal Cincy’s 23-20 win.
Cleveland @ Philadelphia (-4)
The Robert Griffin III era begins in Cleveland, and new head coach Hue Jackson is confident Griffin can find success as a Brown.
“Most importantly,” Jackson said, “Robert is free of the toxic relationship he had with coaches and owners in Washington. They treated him like Johnny Manziel deserved to be treated. And speaking of Johnny, he’s re-enrolled in classes at Texas A&M. I think a classroom setting is exactly what Johnny needs, because that’s where Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are usually held.”
The Eagles made Carson Wentz the No. 2 pick in April’s draft, and with Sam Bradford‘s trade to the Vikings in early September, head coach Doug Pederson handed the offense to Wentz.
“I hated to see Bradford go,” Pederson said. “He was our ‘X’ factor. In other words, he was ‘X-pendable.’
“Hopefully, these finicky Eagles fans will accept Wentz with open arms. In other words, I want them to throw support his way and not batteries, snowballs, rotting vegetables, or artificial limbs.”
The Eagles win, 26-17.
Minnesota @ Tennessee (+2½)
With Teddy Bridgewater lost for the season with a knee injury, the Vikings acquired Sam Bradford in a trade with the Eagles.
“Losing Teddy was hard for the entire Vikings organization,” Mike Zimmer said. “It’s akin to getting kicked in the nuts with a foot, which, as Adrian Peterson would tell you, is painful, but not nearly as troublesome as getting whacked in the scrotum with a switch.
“Under normal circumstances, I’d say we’d be up Shit Creek without a paddle. But we’ve got Adrian Peterson, and even though we might be up Shit Creek, he can provide the paddling, as well as many other forms of corporal punishment.”
The Titans spent the offseason building a strong running attack, signing DeMarco Murray via free agency and drafting Alabama running back Derrick Henry in the second round of the NFL draft.
“We like the combination of Henry’s youth and Murray’s experience,” Mike Mularkey said. “Derrick is a battering ram, and DeMarco is looking to prove himself again after being tossed away by two teams in two years. They’re not ‘Smash And Dash;’ they’re ‘Smash And Rehash.'”
The Vikes start Hill at quarterback, and the Titans load the box, intent on forcing Hill to beat them, which he does, by handing off to Peterson 28 times. Peterson busts in for two short scores, and the Vikings prevail, 22-14.
Miami @ Seattle (-9)
The Dolphins snatched up former Chicago offensive coordinator Adam Gase as head coach in January, and added veteran running back Arian Foster via free agency in July.
“I love the offensive philosophy that Adam brings,” Ryan Tannehill said. “The objective for our receivers is to get vertical and for me to throw directly downfield. We call that the ‘Gase and Straights’ offense.
“Foster will anchor our running attack. Arian is 30-years-old ,but stays in shape by doing yoga and living a vegan lifestyle. He lies directly at the intersection of ‘New Age’ and old age.”
Pete Carroll and the Seahawks will embark on an NFL season without Marshawn Lynch for the first time in six seasons. Thomas Rawls will carry the load at running back, but quarterback Russell Wilson is Seattle’s unquestioned leader on offense.
“I’ve given Russell full control of the offense,” Pete Carroll said. “And I can always count on him to make the right call. Whether he’s behind center or in front of a camera, Russell always says the right thing.
“As for me, I signed a three-year contract extension. That gives me piece of mind and security for years to come. So, unlike Russell, I’ve got no issues with ‘Future.'”
Thomas Rawls picks up the slack left by Lynch’s departure, powering for a short score and adding 95 yards on the ground. The Seattle defense forces 3 turnovers, cashing in one for a touchdown,
Seattle wins, 30-14.
New York Giants @ Dallas (even)
After a 6-10 2015 campaign, Tom Coughlin resigned as head coach and the Giants promoted offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to the position. McAdoo again expects big year from wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.
“Odell has 13 receiving touchdowns last year,” McAdoo said. “That’s .81 touchdowns per game, or, in terms that an NFL player can really understand, that’s .65 touchdowns per Josh Brown domestic violence incident.
“Odell is arguably the NFL’s most explosive receiver, and makes the one-handed catch look simple, and that’s according to Jason Pierre-Paul, who is an expert on explosiveness and one-handedness.”
Cowboy hopes took a huge hit in late August Tony Romo broke a bone in his back that will likely sideline him for 6-10 weeks. Rookie Dak Prescott, who flourished in the preseason, will assume the role of quarterback and all the pressure that comes with the territory.
“And we signed Mark Sanchez as an insurance policy,” Jason Garrett said. “We’re very happy with that addition. Upon his signing, Mark and Jerry Jones celebrated by sharing a 17-year-old. Just to be clear, it was a 17-year-old bottle of scotch.”
Giants win a shootout, led by three touchdown passes from Eli Manning. New York wins, 30-26.
Detroit @ Indianapolis (-4)
The Lions begin the 2016 season without Calvin Johnson, who retired last season after nine seasons in Detroit.
“Megatron rode off into the sunset,” Stafford said, “mostly because he couldn’t walk there. But good luck to Calvin on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ He may not last long, because I think his legs are only good for two steps.
“But I think our offense will be just fine. I love the schemes of our offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. As I’m sure you’ve heard me say before, I like what Cooter does for me. His play-calling is very aggressive and he’s not afraid to take chances. I call that ‘wide-open Cooter.”
Andrew Luck is back at full strength after missing the final nine games due to a lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle.
“Despite my troubles last year,” Luck said, “I’m very optimistic. I can’t explain it, though. Call it a ‘gut feeling,’ or maybe my appendix just burst.”
Lions win, 28-24.
New England @ Arizona (-6)
With Tom Brady serving a four game suspension for his role in Deflategate, the Patriot offense is in the hands of Jimmy Garoppolo. The second-year Patriot has attempted only 31 regular-season passes in his career.
“Of course, Jimmy is no Tom Brady. Jimmy could never pull a Brazilian supermodel. He can, however, speak very highly of the virtues of that South American country. That, my friend, is how you ‘wax Brazilian.'”
The Cardinal advanced to the NFC title game before crash-landing in a 49-15 loss to the Panthers. That loss motivates Carson Palmer and his teammates to return to the title game and advance to Arizona’s second Super Bowl.
“We did not play very well in that game,” Palmer said. “On the bright side, we were NFC runners-up. I guess that’s what you’d call ‘sloppy seconds.’
Cardinals win, 26-23.
Pittsburgh @ Washington (-1)
Washington rode the emerging talents of Kirk Cousins to the NFC East title last season, and Jay Gruden is looking for even more out of Cousins in 2016.
“Kirk is this team’s unquestioned leader,” Gruden said. “And in the words of KC and the Sunshine Band, ‘That’s The Way, Uh Huh, Uh Huh, I Like It, Uh Huh, Uh Huh.’ So, we’ve established that KC and his band like that. The question is, do you like that? You like that!? You like that!?”
The Steelers lost in the divisional round to eventual Super Bowl champion Denver, and begin their 2016 quest without Le’Veon Bell, who is suspended for the first three games for missing a drug test.
“I can sympathize with Le’Veon’s plight,” Ben Roethlisberger said. “Obviously, he has a fear of urinating in a bathroom while an NFL drug testing official looks on. I know from experience that no good comes from being locked in a bathroom with someone who doesn’t want to be there.”
Washington wins, 30-27.
Los Angeles @ San Francisco (-2½)
Chip Kelly is the new head coach in San Francisco and he inherits a team that finished 5-11 last year, second-worst in the NFC.
“I named Blaine Gabbert the starter in early September,” Kelly said. “Of course, when you name a starter, you’re also telling someone they won’t be starting. That’s never easy. So, to lighten the mood with Colin Kaepernick, I played the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and told him he’d be sitting.”
After calling St. Louis home for 21 years, the Rams moved to Los Angeles after the 2015 season. Running back Todd Gurley remains the face of the franchise, while Jeff Fisher begins his fifth season as head coach.
“I’m proud to say that my teams have finished fourth or better in the NFC West in all four of those seasons,” Fisher said.
“Case Keenum will start at quarterback for us. When I made that announcement, I had to sit down myself, because I ‘can’t stand’ the thought of Keenum as my starting quarterback.”
Todd Gurley trots in for a 17-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, and the Rams hold on for a 20-14 win.