Wondering where the Secretary of Agriculture fits into the order of succession in New Orleans? Hoping to call "shotgun" on the Russell Wilson bandwagon? Worried that the fine for injuring Peyton Manning could cause the destabilization of the global economy? Can't decide whether to watch a Chargers game or a disaster movie on late-night television, or if there is even a difference? Let Sports on Earth give you The Lowdown, the only weekly game-by-game preview guaranteed to lead you down a rabbit hole.

(All times Eastern; games ranked by quality of matchup.)

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers

4:25 p.m., Sunday, Fox
Line: Packers by 4
½

A coach's scowl is like the Cheshire Cat's smile: Sometimes, the coach disappears, and the scowl is all that's left.

The 49ers are very familiar with this phenomenon. Mike Nolan arrived in San Francisco with a tailored suit and the standard tough-guy talk, and it took nearly four years for the team to realize that the suit was empty. Mike Singletary's hypnotic gaze could make a king cobra tremble, but staring and growling loses its impact pretty quickly, and Singletary's only response to adversity was to stare harder and growl louder.

Jim Harbaugh's scowl is so powerful that he once stopped an unruly fan who ran onto the field during training camp using what tackle Joe Staley called his "Chuck Norris eyes." Jedi mind tricks and a roundhouse kick in the pants spurred the 49ers to 13 wins in the NFC West kiddie pool last year, but Harbaugh will have to do much more to reaffirm his team's position among the conference contenders. Luckily, the open-minded, tactically creative Harbaugh is more than a man with an icy stare, because staring into the eyes and minds of newcomers like Randy Moss and Brandon Jacobs is like staring into the abyss.

The Packers will spread out the Niners' defense, neutralize their pass rush and bomb their way to victory. But better days will come for Harbaugh, whose team is too talented -- and too well coached -- to come up short in such a weak division. He may even smile once in a while. Niners fans will enjoy seeing a coach without a scowl. They spent too many years watching a scowl without a coach.

Prediction: Packers 27, Niners 20

* * *

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos

8:20 p.m. Sunday, NBC
Line: Broncos by 1

Five things to ponder while the broadcasters repeat "Peyton Manning" again and again until it becomes a consciousness-obliterating mantra:

1. What kind of organization sets out to "get the Hall of Fame quarterback some weapons" and comes back with Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen and Brandon Stokley? It's like shopping for brunch for Queen Elizabeth II and buying gas station chimichangas.

2. Did Mike Tomlin burn last year's defensive game plan against the BroncTebows in the playoffs? If so, the noxious fumes probably killed the grass on his neighbor's lawn.

3. If James Harrison (questionable, knee) injures Manning, how big will his fine be? The over-under is the Samsung-Apple settlement.

4. If Todd Haley's mind snaps after two or three Steelers sacks, will the sound be picked up by the parabolic microphones? It should sound like fresh celery getting compressed by a heavy-duty table vice.

5. Wouldn't it have been fun to see Manning, Keith Brooking, Champ Bailey, Willis McGahee and Stokley on the same team circa 2007? That team would have been a lock in this game.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Broncos 20

* * *

Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints

1 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Line: Saints by 8
½

With Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, head coach Sean Payton and interim coach Joe Vitt all suspended, the organizational structure of the Saints is currently higgledy-piggledy. This handy flowchart will help you sort things out:

In Command: Tom Benson, owner.

First Officer: Ethel from human resources, who wants to remind Benson that she is tracking every minute of her overtime.

Second Officer: Alexander Haig. The former Secretary of State went to his grave believing he was third in command of practically everything.

Third Officer: Interim-interim head coach Aaron Kromer.

Fourth Officer: The assistant quality control coach who was nursing an epic French Quarter hangover and stepped out to use the bathroom when Gregg Williams was ranting, sparing himself Bounty Gate culpability.

This may sound like a shaky structure, but a quick look at the Redskins' organizational flowchart reveals that the Saints' plan is comparably sound:

In Command: Dan Snyder, owner.

First Officer: Snyder's sommelier.

Second Officer: Al Haig. See above.

Third Officer: Former running back Clinton Portis, disguised as Snyder's sommelier.

Fourth Officer: Local broadcaster/legendary quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, whose criticism led Robert Griffin III to stop wearing headphones before warmups. Jurgensen's pregame ritual typically involved sobering up, but whatever, headphones are bad because old guys don't like them.

Both the Redskins and Saints hope their starting quarterbacks can provide the talent and leadership they need to overcome major deficiencies elsewhere, but there are two key differences. First, Drew Brees is a record-breaking, Super Bowl-winning veteran, while Griffin is an exciting-but-raw prospect. Second, the Saints' leadership void is temporary.

Prediction: Saints 34, Redskins 17

* * *

New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans

1 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Line: Patriots by 5
½

Patriots fans are part helicopter parents, part healthy hypochondriacs. Instead of accepting the fact that their team will cruise on warp-speed autopilot until about halftime of the Super Bowl, they dote and fret over invented crises. The first-team offense looked awful in the preseason! Tom Brady took too many hits! The Buccaneers outplayed them! Forget the last six "end-of-an-era" sirens, this time the sky is really falling!

The Patriots are not going to fade this year, but so what if they did? A 6-10 season would reset the dopamine levels for folks who no longer feel the rush of going 14-2. The Patriots coaching staff will not let that happen, however, though they are more than happy to let 6-3 losses in the preseason happen while they wrap Brady in memory foam and churn through the bottom half of the roster. "There's no cliff I'm throwing myself off right now," line coach Dante Scarnecchia said after the second preseason game, in which a bunch of backups outplayed the Eagles' starters but ultimately lost. Cliffs? There are cliffs near the practice facility? Someone put up safety railings before Brady slips and tumbles to his death!

Prediction: Patriots 34, Titans 14

* * *

Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears

1 p.m., Sunday, CBS
Line: Bears by 11½ 

Life is good for Jay Cutler these days. He has a new go-to receiver in BFF Brandon Marshall and a newborn son named Camden Jack (Cutler ordered "Popular Baby Names" from Amazon but got "Pirates of the Barbary Coast" instead). His offensive line is in its usual state of disrepair, with the same eight guys trading five jobs back and forth for the third straight year, but at least he has someone to clean up after and communicate with using little goo-goo sounds, and also Camden Jack. The Bears were a solid team before Cutler got hurt last year and should be a solid team at least until he gets hurt this year.

Meanwhile on the King Biscuit Flower Hour, Jim Irsay's Tweets reveal that Andrew Luck will either revive the Colts offense or help Irsay construct a personal hovercraft with plush carpeting and black-light posters, whichever is more fulfilling.

Prediction: Bears 24, Colts 19

* * *

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

4:25 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Line: Seahawks by 

The Seahawks have contracted Russell Mania; the Cardinals were suffering from MelonKolbia before finally settling on John Skelton, their only quarterback who doesn't respond to the pass rush like a dog to a vacuum cleaner. We could create one great quarterback from stitched-together parts of the four not-so-greats who battled for these teams' starting jobs -- combine Skelton's body and arm with Russell Wilson's legs and gumption, add Matt Flynn's accuracy, plus Kevin Kolb's jersey -- but Bill Belichick would snatch that Frankenstein and stash him on the Patriots bench while these two teams fought it out over Max Hall.

Prediction: Seahawks 19, Cardinals 10

* * *

Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs

1 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Line: Falcons by 

Exhibition season was a week too long for the Falcons, who started beating each other up in preseason practices last week. A big hit by safety William Moore on a reserve running back prompted what the Atlanta Journal Constitution called "a Wild Melee," which ended when Mike Smith called a kindergarten-style circle time. "I just needed to politely remind them of the No. 1 goal of our training camp is to make sure that we get everybody to the first game healthy," he said. What he really meant: "C'mon guys, we're the Falcons, and we don't become our own worst enemies until January."

This game marks Tony Gonzalez's first trip to Kansas City since he left the Chiefs after the 2008 season. Gonzalez, of course, has the worst postseason juju in human history, having played for three teams that went 13-3 yet never having won a playoff game. He should sprinkle the ashes of an old Chiefs jersey -- or the burnt remains of one of the high-protein, low-calorie meals from his cookbook -- into the Missouri River for good luck. Or just give Marty Schottenheimer the damn monkey's paw back. 

Prediction: Falcons 24, Chiefs 14

* * *

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets

1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Line: Jets by 

The New York team with the fierce pass rush, Wildcat-heavy offense, and legitimate chance to emerge from the AFC East with a wild-card berth is somehow an underdog to the Jets. Trying to beat Chan Gailey with offensive gimmicks is like trying to drink Bogey under the table, and the Bills are familiar with the trick up Rex Ryan's sleeve: They stared Tebow Time in the face and chortled through a 40-14 win over the Broncos last December. You may have forgotten that game, because society has been conditioned to ignore examples of Tebow playing terribly and/or the Bills playing well.

Prediction: Bills 22, Jets 13

* * *

St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions

1 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Line: Lions by 9

The Lions have absolutely no running backs (Kevin Smith will start on a bad ankle on Sunday), but they are deep with defensive tackles in need of image rehabilitation. There is only one solution: a Ndamukong Suh-Nick Fairley "heavy jumbo" backfield. Suh was versatile enough to attempt an extra point as a rookie, so taking three or four handoffs per game, which is what the Lions' running game is down to anyway, should be a breeze. Making Fairley learn to play fullback will limit the amount of time he can spend in normal society, which is better for all of us. The chance that he will forget himself and launch helmet-first into Matthew Stafford's kneecap in the huddle, however, may be too great for Jim Schwartz to risk it. Suh and Fairley could also help Calvin Johnson avoid the Madden Curse, as evil spirits will see them and assume that someone overbooked. 

Prediction: Lions 27, Rams 13

* * *

Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns

1 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Line: Eagles by 10
½

If you thought the Eagles roster was a disorganized jumble of mismatching parts, wait until you get a look at their minor-league affiliate. The Browns, assembled by ex-Eagles GM Tom Heckert and coached by Andy Reid protégés Pat Shurmur and Brad Childress, have a roster full of cast-offs and has-beens from the big-league team, including Sheldon Brown, Juqua Parker and Dimitri Patterson. Of course, what Triple-A team would be complete without a 28-year-old rookie hurler who washed out of the Yankees organization? The Browns have one of those, too. The real Eagles won a preseason split-squad scrimmage two weeks ago, with their backups playing extra hard after seeing where they could wind up.

Prediction: Eagles 30, Browns 10

* * *

Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans

1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Line: Texans by 13

The Dolphins drafted a quarterback who threw 29 touchdown passes in his senior season and a receiver who caught 101 passes for Texas A&M in 2008-09. Unfortunately, they are the same guy, and barring some Star Trek transporter accident, Ryan Tannehill will not be able to throw passes to himself. That leaves the converted receiver with 19 collegiate starts at quarterback trying to throw quick slants to Davone Bess and fades to Legedu Naanee, while facing one of the league's most complex defenses, on the road. In Miami, they call this "employee development." 

Prediction: Texans 24, Dolphins 13

* * *

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

4:25 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Line: Panthers by 1

New Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano is a stickler for details. When asked about penalties in mid-August, he distinguished between selfish penalties (slugging an opponent in anger), silly penalties (lining up offsides), and execution penalties, like a roughness penalty that results from playing hard and fast. "I don't ever want to be the least-penalized team in the league, because I don't think you're trying hard enough then," he told WDAE in Tampa. "But I certainly do want to be in the top 10. That's where you should be. … Five through 10 is a great place to be as a penalized team." Schiano sounds like the kind of guy who strove to finish in the top 9 to 16 percent of his graduating class. The message for the Bucs is clear: If you haven't committed many penalties by the fourth quarter, hold a few times so Coach knows you're trying. 

Prediction: Panthers 31, Buccaneers 21

* * *

Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings

1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Line: Vikings by 3
½

From the personals of the Bloomington Savvy Saver: "Team with no fan base, disgruntled featured running back and beleaguered sophomore quarterback seeks team with crumbling home stadium, injured-and-overworked featured running back, and beleaguered sophomore quarterback for purposes of commiseration in front of a mercifully tiny national audience. No freaks or smokers."

Prediction: Jaguars 19, Vikings 13

* * *

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

7 p.m. Monday, ESPN
Line: Ravens by 7

The Ravens' new no-huddle offense brings to mind the sign that hangs in many coffee shops: "Drink Coffee! Do stupid things faster and with more energy!"

At first glance, pasting no-huddle concepts atop the Ravens' Neanderthal run-run-bomb offense is like putting an iPod dock on a grandfather clock. No matter how much you speed up an Edgar Winter song, it won't sound like LMFAO, and why would you want it to? A faster Ravens offense may even have unintended consequences for their defense. You can picture Ray Lewis and Ed Reed enjoying a cup of tea and a "Matlock" rerun on the sideline, only to be interrupted as soon as they settle into their rocking chairs. "What? We scored already?" they say, throwing off their shawls. Skepticism aside, the Ravens looked pretty comfortable in their no-huddle offense during the preseason, and they know they cannot count on their aging defense to do most of the work anymore. The Bengals went 0-4 against the Ravens and Steelers last year and are eager to prove that they have made up ground on the contenders, but they will have to hurry up and wait. 

Prediction: Ravens 23, Bengals 20

* * *

San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders

10:15 p.m. Monday, ESPN
Line: Pick 'em

This is the third meeting of the Chargers and Raiders in a late-night season-opener since 2006, and both teams have backstories worthy of the "Million Dollar Movie." The Raiders are like an old political thriller: Al Davis grew increasingly eccentric and dictatorial until he passed away, then Hue Jackson barricaded himself inside the control room and entered the launch codes for some really bad ideas. Luckily, heroes Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen foiled Jackson in the nick of time, and dawn now breaks on an era of relative hope.

The Chargers, meanwhile, are reminiscent of a "Jaws" rip-off, like "The Deep" or "Sharktopus Meets Poodle Mothra." With predators circling and their predicament growing more and more desperate, they have gone limp in the hope that the tides will take them to safety.  

Prediction: Raiders 24, Chargers 17