First down: Cleveland at Dallas
11 a.m., TV • Ch. 2
The skinny • I'll concede from the outset I have no expertise in television market analysis. That said, I defy any network numbers-cruncher to show me an audience this game appeals to aside from the much-coveted "masochist" demographic. Perhaps I'm being myopic here, but I fail to see the draw of the 2-7 Browns facing a Cowboys team so maddeningly underwhelming that it's driving Jerry Jones to another facelift. Watch those worry lines, Jerry. Actually, the lone semblance of intrigue involves the other team's owner, Browns boss Jimmy Haslam, and only then because I've taken the liberty of manufacturing a conspiracy involving him. The man is an admitted lifelong Steelers fan, so clearly he bought a division rival to run it into the ground and help his beloved Pittsburgh, right? There you go, CBS bean-counters. I just got you the "conspiracy theorist" demographic, too.
The line • Cowboys by 8.
The pick • Cowboys. I inherently dislike the chances of any team whose rookie QB is old enough to have voted in the Kennedy/Nixon election.
Second down: Green Bay at Detroit
11 a.m., Ch. 13
The skinny • Do you remember way back in the day (um, like last season) when Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh and the Detroit Lions were the NFL's flavor o' the month? When they were unleashing the most prolific offense we'd seen since the 2011 Packers? And stomping you out on defense just 'cuz Suh felt like it? And do you remember way back in the day (um, like earlier this season) when Green Bay, which lost just one regular-season game a year ago, dropped three of its first five? When the defense was assailed for having failed to improve at all, and the offense was accused of having regressed to Jacksonville Jaguars-like levels? Don't those days seem so long ago now? Like when you could go to the store and know a box of Hostess Twinkies would be there?
The line • Packers by 3.
The pick • Packers. With four straight wins, and soon to be five, Green Bay has already risen again. I only pray we can one day say the same of the Twinkie.
Third down: San Diego at Denver
2:25 p.m., TV • Ch. 2
The skinny • Hey, Philip Rivers, do you read restaurant reviews? Or is your inability to read a defense anymore indicative of an inability to read anything at all? Can we assume you don't read restaurant reviews because you're far too busy focusing on football, even if the results don't show it? Shall we clue you in to what we're talking about, even though most Sundays anymore you appear to be totally clueless? Have you heard of celebrity chef Guy Fieri? How about some obscure newspaper called The New York Times? No? Does it surprise you that we're not surprised? So you're also in the dark about the Times' review of Fieri's new restaurant, in which they excoriate him with a series of loaded, over-the-top questions? Are we getting through?
The line • Broncos by 8.
The pick • Broncos. No question about it, Peyton warrants a far better review than Phil this year.
Fourth down: Baltimore at Pittsburgh
6:20 p.m., TV • Ch. 5
The skinny • "McFilthy and McNasty." It was originally a moniker renowned Boston Celtics announcer Johnny Most bestowed upon Washington Bullets teammates Rick Mahorn and Jeff Ruland back in the early '80s, but, I like it so much I'm repurposing it to apply to this matchup. No matter how vast your vocabulary, how leviathan your lexicon, I dare you to provide a more appropriate descriptor of a Ravens vs. Steelers game. The mutual loathing â¦ the violence â¦ these teams ought to skip the manicured fields of Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and M&T Stadium in Baltimore. They're far too civilized. No, these guys ought to settle things in a dark alley somewhere. I'm pretty sure Mr. Most meant "McFilthy and McNasty" as an insult, but I can't help but feel like these teams would treat it as a badge of honor. And what's not to love about that?
The line • Ravens by 31/2.
The pick • Ravens. Even without Ray Lewis, Baltimore's defense is still McNasty. Pittsburgh's offense, though, is decidedly less McFilthy with Big Ben on the shelf.
â¦ and eight to go
N.Y. Jets at St. Louis, 11 a.m. • The difference in expectations makes the Rams' 3-5-1 seem infinitely better than the Jets' 3-6. Just one more reason for Rex Ryan to shut the hell up.
Jacksonville at Houston, 11 a.m. • Is suggesting Arian Foster will rush for 300 yards just grandstanding hyperbole or daringly prescient prognostication?
Cincinnati at Kansas City, 11 a.m. • Hey, Matt Barkley, how do you feel about living in Kansas City?
Philadelphia at Washington, 11 a.m. • So Mike Brown is axed after five mediocre games, but Andy Reid gets two full seasons of underachieving suckitude?
Arizona at Atlanta, 11 a.m. • Unless the Cardinals trot Drew Brees out at QB, I'd suspect the Falcons will get back on the wagon.
Tampa Bay at Carolina, 11 a.m. • This matchup disproves the rumor the NFC South consists only of the Falcons and Saints.
New Orleans at Oakland, 2:05 p.m. • In metallurgy and football alike, black and gold is better than black and silver.
Indianapolis at New England, 2:25 p.m. • With all due respect to a certain rookie phenom, "Luck vs. Brady" just doesn't have the same ring to it.
Byes • Minnesota, Seattle, N.Y. Giants, Tennessee