You don't expect Game Riffs to go crazy just because Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are squaring off for the 14th time, so you? We're better than that. There's plenty more to talk about: Dez Bryant at Walmart, Marc Trestman giving lectures, rookie punters running fakes, and the latest Dolphins-Redskins-Texans dramas. Also, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. But Game Riffs promises not to overdo it. Pinky swear. Fingers crossed.

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

It's impossible to do justice to Brady/Manning XIV in a few hundred words. The sports rivalry of our generation has become the stuff of history, and also the stuff of overbearing hype: note the Roman numerals, which are never a good sign. Fans have spent more than a decade forming their opinions about each quarterback, so one more compare-and-contrast session won't change any minds. Breaking down the Broncos and Patriots means maximum effort for minimal gain: both teams are headed to the playoffs, so as much as the Broncos and Patriots each need a win to keep pace in their divisions, this matchup feels like a preliminary for a January main event.

So instead of drowning in purple prose or analytics, let's sit back and let Brady/Manning be. You know the people at Yellowstone who fumble with their cameras to get a perfect picture of the moose instead of watching the moose? We are becoming a whole society of those people. No hype, no frills, no meta-ironic commentary: let's just watch two of the greatest players ever, while they are still here.

Prediction: Broncos 27, Patriots 24.

***

Cowboys at Giants

Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Line: Giants by 2 ½

The following people want Dez Bryant to get the ball more. 1) Dez Bryant. 2) Cowboys fans. 3) Tony Romo. 4) Jason Garrett. 5) Michael Irvin. 6) Fans of sports excellence. 7) Believers in the concept of meritocracy. 8) Jerry Jones, though he is searching for a way to voice his displeasure that properly undermines his staff.

Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan is the lone dissenter among non-Giants players, and Callahan has been dropping hints that Bryant does not know the full playbook. If you can catch 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns without learning the full playbook, perhaps the full playbook is not worth learning. Particularly from Bill Callahan.

Bryant bought PlayStation 4's for everyone waiting in a Walmart line last week. See, Bryant is learning: he now generates positive news when he goes shopping! Callahan plans to sneak into the lucky shoppers' homes on Christmas Eve and lower Bryant's Madden ratings.

Prediction: Cowboys 30, Giants 21.

***

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

(Editor's Note: Tanier clearly dropped the ball on that Manning-Brady preview, so we brought in some guest columnists. The first is the guy who writes those exposition-laden Star Wars intros.)

***

Jets at Ravens

Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Line: Ravens by 4

Check out the new app for Android and iPhone: Jelp, the Jets Nightlife planner. Jelp recommends restaurants and hotspots the Jets should visit while on the road. Here's Rex Ryan using it now:

JELP: recommended Baltimore hotspot: team conference room.

REX RYAN: No, no. Give me driving directions to Fells Point. I don't want to take a stupid water taxi. Cromartie gets motion sick.

JELP: Recommended Baltimore hotspot: offensive and defensive meeting rooms.

REX RYAN: What's wrong with this thing? Can you at least make a reservation for 60 at the Cheesecake Factory down on the Inner Harbor?

JELP: Dude, get to work.

Geno Smith remains the starter for the Jets despite a vicious slump. Matt Simms is entrenched as the guy everyone thinks is much better than Smith because of those four passes he completed against a prevent defense. Josh Cribbs remains the Wildcat quarterback who enters the game immediately after Smith does something right, lest he generate some positive momentum. Want to sort this mess out? Unfortunately, there is no app for that.

Prediction: Jets 22, Ravens 20.

***

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

waitress_note
(Ed. Note: Our next guest columnist is one of those people who leave angry, politically-charged notes to waitresses. With the newspaper industry dying and the publishing industry rapidly turning into the cookbook industry, the only way to get published these days is to stiff a waitress in a way that causes national indignation. Our producers added some wraparound for maximum Facebook sharability.)

Waitress Denied Tip for Wearing Peyton Manning Jersey

You are not going to believe this, but a patron in a New Jersey bar stiffed his waitress out of a tip on a $98 tab because she was wearing a Peyton Manning jersey. The waitress, a mother of six, ex-Navy Seal, Hurricane Sandy survivor, kidney donor, and kitten shelter volunteer, said she was stunned by the patron's angry letter. "We wear jerseys of the players the Sunday night game," the waitress said. "What the hell am I supposed to do to please this guy, wear an Alex Smith jersey?"

Here's the angry note, at right. As you can see, some people just don't get it.

***

Chargers at Chiefs

Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Line: Chiefs by 5

The Chargers are like a Broncos Starter Kit. Philip Rivers is a mini-Manning who barks orders and sprays passes to open spots on the field. The Chargers offense is Broncos-like until the 20-yard line, then reverts to 1976 Buccaneers mode in the red zone so opponents don't get too discouraged. The Chargers defense is also weak tea Broncos, but because opponents don't have to play catch-up as often with the Chargers settling for 27-yard field goals, it does not force as many turnovers. If the schedule makers wanted to do the Chiefs a favor, this game would have come before the first Peyton Manning meeting, allowing the Chiefs to ramp up a bit from Jeff Tuel times.

Wait a minute. Did we just suggest that the Chiefs needed another favor from their schedule? Bad Game Riffs. Naughty Game Riffs!

Prediction: Chargers 23, Chiefs 20.

***

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

(Our next guest columnist is whoever or whatever writes the game capsules for the TV Guide Channel that pop up when you are changing channels. We are not sure if they are written by a malfunctioning android or some outsourced copywriter from Kyrgyzstan, but here is this week's actual capsule. The bot successfully determines that Brady and Manning are the key story of the game -- sort of -- though the Stevan Ridley algorithm gets triggered at the end.)

In this matchup of top quarterbacks, the Pats Tom Brady has won nine of 13 meetings with Peyton Manning. In last year's 31-21 victory, New England had four 80-yard-plus drives, 35 first downs and Stevan Ridley ran for 152 yards (Football, 180 Mins)

(Great job, Rick Deckard, take the rest of the day off)

***

Steelers at Browns

Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Line: Browns by 1

Here's another selection from the Game Riffs App Store. Need to know when the Steelers are throwing a wide receiver screen on 3rd-and-long? Download the Steelers Screen App for Apple and Android products today! You get a text message alert when Ben Roethlisberger is about to throw a screen on third down and more than 10, with the intended receiver listed (it actually just flashes Antonio Brown every time), and Big Ben's frustration level with throwing receiver screens in critical situations (moderate, high, boiling, time to deny trade rumors again).

The Steelers Screen App includes the Jonathan Dwyer Carry Counter, which sends an alert every time the veteran running back who averages 4.6 yards per rush carries the football for a team that averages 3.4 yards per rush. The Dwyer Carry Counter only works once per week, and that's a feature, not a bug. "I love my Steelers Screen App and plan to use it a lot this Sunday!" says Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Be like Ray. Order yours today!

Prediction: Browns 19, Steelers 14.

***

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

(Our next guest columnists are Batman and Superman, from Superhero Café)

BATMAN: Tom Brady is a lot like me, when you think about it. A self-made man who worked to turn himself into a hero. He even hides behind a metrosexual playboy façade, just like I do.

SUPERMAN: Yeah, well Peyton Manning is a lot like me: a mild-mannered, dopey Midwesterner who is really a strange visitor from another planet.

BATMAN: You really think Peyton Manning is an alien?

SUPERMAN: Forehead. Hello?

BATMAN: I guess you are right. And just like you and I, Manning has all the superpowers, but everyone likes Brady far better. They know that behind the glamor, Brady is just like me: grim and gritty.

SUPERMAN: I am grim and gritty too now. Did you see Man of Steel? I stone-cold killed General Zod, even though neither of us has killed anyone in a comic book since World War II.

BATMAN: Good job making sure both Metropolis and Smallville got destroyed, by the way. The collateral damage was amazing. Most heroes would have led the villain out of Smallville, which is probably surrounded by 100 miles of farmland on all sides. But you took the fight straight to IHOP!

SUPERMAN: I had to one-up you and Bane blowing up three-quarters of Gotham and nearly killing Hines Ward. (Sigh). Remember when superheroes actually saved cities?

BATMAN: Remember when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning won Super Bowls? Now it's all Peyton's little brother and that lumbering paisan from Baltimore. It's like taking a Superman television show off the air and replacing it with a series based around Oliver Queen and Helena Bertinelli.

SUPERMAN: I see what you did there. Anyway, Brady and Manning are meeting for the 14th time, and we have been appearing in comics together for over 60 years. And we are finally getting a movie together! Think Brady and Manning will ever be in a movie together?

BATMAN: I do. After a critically-acclaimed Tom Brady trilogy, Brady will appear in a made-for-television Manning family movie on the CW.

SUPERMAN: You never quit, do you?

***

Colts at Cardinals

Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
Line: Cardinals by 1

The Colts have the fifth easiest upcoming schedule in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. Colts fans don't know how to feel about that. Will the Colts spend the rest of the season spotting the Texans and Titans huge leads, then playing catch-up? Would they be better off facing the Seahawks and Broncos again? Are the Colts the "spies" from Stratego, who can take down the field marshal but then get hammered by the scouts or drown in those circular lakes in the middle of the battlefield? The Colts don't play in prime time again this year, which is bad news, because they do their best work during Letterman. Maybe they will get flexed, though it is hard to tell which Colts games will be exciting and competitive.

The Cardinals are also perplexing, but at least there is an easy storyline to focus on. No, not Bruce Arians meeting protégé Andrew Luck: Andre Ellington's hair, which was ripped out by Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin last week. Teammate Frostee Rucker retrieved Ellington's braids. "He came back off the field and said 'I got something for you,' and handed me my hair back," Ellington explained in this video of the hair saga.

Now that's team unity. The Dolphins could learn a thing or two from these Cardinals; can you imagine Incognito saying "hey buddy, you dropped your dready, but I dusted it off for you." Meanwhile, Jaguars defenders can go back to ripping their own hair out.

Prediction: Colts 24, Cardinals 14.

***

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

(Our next guest columnist is Seamus McGillicuddy, publisher of the PatriotChamps4Life blog and author of the book The Tuck Rule and Other Affirmations from Heaven, now available for 99 cent download.)

Let me start by saying that I don't have a dog in this fight. In 11 years as a Patriots season ticket holder, I have never met Tom Brady or Peyton Manning (though my sister-in-law once shook Joe Andruzzi's hand at a fundraiser!!!!) As I wrote in my four-part series The Lamentations of a Red Sox Fan last week, I don't care if the Boston area has to go six months without a championship parade, or as long as ten.

I simply need to speak up against the overblown pseudo-rivalry between Tom Brady, one of the greatest humans of his generation, and Peyton Manning, a slightly above-average game manager who routinely lucks into excellent organizations and systems. The media continues to feed the public pabulum about some epic "rivalry" between an eternal champion and a guy who managed to squeak out one measly Super Bowl by beating Rex Grossman in a downpour.

Now, I am not one of those people who calls Peyton Manning a "choke artist." I will admit that he has had some solid games. He looked darn good in the 1996 Citrus Bowl. Since then, the media has insisted on propping up Manning as some "standard of excellence." It is part of the same conspiracy that orders us to be silent when the NFL blows two calls on purpose in one month to keep the Patriots from running away with the NFL. BUT WE WILL NOT BE SILENT AGAINST THE PERSECUTION KUECHLY MUGGED GRONK THE JETS GOT AWAY WITH PUSHING JUSTIN TUCKER'S FIELD GOAL WAS WIDE LEFT THE PATRIOTS CANNOT BE BEATEN THEY CAN ONLY BE CHEATED OUT OF VICTORIES...

Oops, lost myself for a moment. Anyway, I get it: the NFL needs to sell tickets and television rights, so it cannot allow Brady and the Patriots to win all the Super Bowls they deserve to win. And making up a cute little "rivalry" with some guy who throws six-yard passes helps. I just refuse to buy in to the narrative and swallow the tripe offered by a sports media complex that lacks a significant New England presence. Sunday night's game is just another game, and Brady's only true rival remains the high expectations he sets for himself and for all of us.

Prediction: Patriots 51, Broncos 3. Unless there is slight contact on the final play of the game, in which case: Broncos 24, Patriots 20.

***

Bears at Rams

Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Line: Even

Marc Trestman called a masterful game in the Bears' 23-20 win over the Ravens last week. It would have been easy to sacrifice Josh McCown to the vengeful weather gods, but Trestman devised an all-terrain attack that emphasized ball security without descending into "three plays and punt into a hurricane."

Trestman did make a strange decision late in regulation: the Bears had all three timeouts with the Ravens driving for either a tying or winning score, but Trestman chose to use none of them, taking a risk that the Ravens might score a winning touchdown with little or no time left on the clock.

The Ravens settled for a field goal, so Trestman's gambit worked, but Trestman was asked about the decision at his press conference. He responded with a 581-word dissertation on clock management that went on for one minute and 54 seconds. Here is the full transcript. For brevity, we provide some of the key quotes below, with rebuttals from the guy who sits next to you at the bar on Sundays.

TRESTMAN: "When you start a drive from the 16-yard line, you have a 13 percent chance, probably, over the last five years to score a touchdown. And you have to take that into consideration when you go into the game."

GUY AT BAR: This is football, not nerdy geeky math class. I don't want to hear about probability. You call timeouts and get the ball back. Period.

TRESTMAN: "If you use your timeouts, and there's no way you can call them in succession, you give them more time on each and every play to get the people out there they want to get that play done. So you have to consider that."

GUY AT BAR: It doesn't matter who is on the field. You go out there and execute. Smash 'em in the mouth. Put yourself in a position to win!

TRESTMAN: "They didn't call a timeout on the first one, which means they had to call a play out of their two-minute package instead of using their red-zone package… And then by using their two timeouts, we knew what they had to do on third down. They had to throw it because there wasn't enough time left to do anything else. So we cut the percentages in half from run to pass."

GUY AT BAR: Stop talking about percentages, personnel groupings, and tendencies! Football is about being tough and intense! YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME.

TRESTMAN: Herm, is that you?

GUY AT BAR WHO IS REALLY HERM EDWARDS: Yeah, Marc. Sorry about that. I am really learning a lot about clock management from listening to you. But you also said during your press conference that it all came down to "a leap of faith," which is the one part I really understood. After all the science, you just took an informed guess. So really, why didn't you call those timeouts?

TRESTMAN: Dude, I was soaked, and the game had gone on for about six hours at that point. I wanted to get a shower and watch Patriots-Chiefs.

HERM EDWARDS: Amen, buddy. That's clock management strategy I can get behind!

Prediction: Bears 24, Rams 17.

***

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

(Our next guest columnist is the King James Bible)

(1) And Belichick did sayeth before the Belichickites: "Send forth Ty Law that he may throw a blanket upon Marvin Harrison, thus covering him up." And Law did as Belichick told, and thrice did he intercept Peyton Manning, whilst Adam Vinatieri kicked field goal upon field goal, five field goals in all. (2) And thus the Belichickites entered again the Promised Land, where they laid waste upon the Delhommites.

(3) But in time disfavor fell upon the Belichickites. They did battle against the Manningites in which two offensive linemen did crosseth the plane of the goal line for fumble recovery touchdowns, which is an abomination. (4) Belichick's heart grew stubborn, and he turned his back upon righteousness. "See how I merely stretch my arms on fourth-and-2, and Kevin Faulk dost converteth?" Belichick told his people. (5) But Faulk did not converteth, and the Belichickites were defeated by the Manningites.

(6) It was then that the king of the Manningites, Irsaychadnezzer, grew jealous of his people's greatest champion, and Peyton was thus banished to live amongst the mountain people. (7) When Belichick heard this, he waged battle with Peyton and the mountain people, and did so humbly, and did rout them with 35 first downs, and Stevan Ridley did rush forth for 151 yards. (8) And lo, the Belichickians did continue to battle back and forth with these new Manningites. The battles still go on today.

(9) Now it happened that whenever the Belichickians became too stubborn and vainglorious, they did meet the kin of Peyton, a young man named Elisha...

***

Panthers at Dolphins

Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Line: Panthers by 4 ½

The Panthers have arrived! Oh wait, we have been saying that for two weeks. The Panthers are still here!

The Richie Incognito story is also still here. Jason Cole reported for National Football Post that Incognito and his Cobra Kai buddies "mocked the ethnic background of a team staff member and made crude jokes about the staff member's wife." They would even "dress in garb from the staff member's culture and then make profane jokes about that culture."

So, like all the players keep telling us, this is a typical NFL locker room. There are frequent multi-culti costume parties in NFL locker rooms. Will we ever understand this macho tough guys? It is probably a good thing that we don't know for certain what ethnic background Incognito took offense to, though it isn't hard to guess based upon what props would be handy for "garb," and which ethnicities are most likely to be mocked by idiots. Still, we can hold out hope that Incognito was making fun of an Icelandic person by dressing up as Bjork.

The Dolphins are still in the thick of the Wild Card hunt. If you are still rooting for them for extend this magical season, you have a high tolerance for both stupidity and pain.

Prediction: Panthers 23, Dolphins 13.

***

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

(Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) spent her entire life in Amherst, Massachusetts as a near-recluse who never left her parents' house, making her uniquely suited to write about the Patriots.)

I saw Wes Welker clutch his skull -

Yet secretly rejoice --

He'd rather stay at home instead

Of hearing all this noise.

The sermons we are weekly told -

The folly of our quarrels

Unnoticed as a Kuechly hold -

Unused as Jamaal Charles.

Such foolishness! The toiling hands

That turn the conference winch -

Shall be buried in the meadow's lands -

By a plow called Marshawn Lynch

***

Vikings at Packers

Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Line: Packers by 4 ½

Mike McCarthy and Jim Harbaugh must have switched playbooks while they were scouring the temp agencies for receivers. McCarthy thinks he has the multi-talented super-prospect who can fire fastballs down field and take risks with the football. Harbaugh (who used to coach Scott Tolzien) thinks he has a plucky third-stringer who must be protected with an all-rushes-and-screens gameplan.

Tolzien handles himself very well when not asked to do too much, so naturally the Packers want him to do too much. Coordinator Tom Clemens was peppered with questions this week about why Tolzien has not executed the no-huddle offense. Yes, he was seriously asked why the third stringer with 73 career pass attempts who was acquired on September 1st is not running the most sophisticated component of one of the NFL's most complicated systems. "Part of what makes no-huddle go is having a quarterback who's in tune with both the offense and the defense and what they're doing and can see things and make quick decisions," Clements patiently explained. "And with experience, he should be able to do that."

McCarthy's staff may have switched gameplans with Harbaugh, but not personalities. Harbaugh would not have balked at that question. He would have belched.

Prediction: Packers 20, Vikings 17.

***

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

facebook_status_manning
(Our next guest columnist is your sister-in-law's Facebook page, seen at right.)

COUSIN BEA: You named your kitty-cat Peyton, sweetie.

COUSIN SEAMUS: Manning is a choke artist and you know it.

SISTER-IN-LAW: That's right Bea! No he's not Seamus!

YOU: Seriously? How old are you, 13? I'm supposed to drop everything and change my Facebook status because you left an arch little note saying you would not be my friend anymore?

COUSIN SEAMUS: Chokety-choke. Chokarita. Chokatini. The Patriots are the only true champions.

UNCLE CARMINE: Won the first Super Bowl on a stupid call. Won the next two by spying. Cuss out referees when a call doesn't go their way. Your defense of the Patriots is as stupid as your defense of Obamacare.

AUNT PENELOPE: Now I am the last person to argue politics on the Internet, Carmine, but you have to admit this country isn't going in the right direction.

- see more -

(74 political posts later)

COUSIN SEAMUS: If this administration really wanted to do something, they would investigate all of these calls against the Patriots. And award them victories in the Panthers and Jets games.

COUSIN BEA: You Patriots fans are crazy, did you see this:

Woman Denied Tip for Wearing Peyton Manning Jersey

***

Buccaneers at Lions

Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Line: Lions by 9 ½

Jim Schwartz defended his decision to call a fake field goal that forced rookie punter/holder Sam Martin to plunge into the Steelers line in the rain leading by just four points in the fourth quarter. "If we think there's something there special-teams-wise next week, I'm not going to be afraid to call it," Schwartz said. "If you've got quarterbacks that are afraid to throw interceptions, you're never going to complete any passes. If you have defensive backs that are afraid to give up passes, you'll probably never make an interception."

Yeah. And if you have a rookie punter from a small college program who converted from soccer during his senior year of high school and can count the number of times he carried a football in his entire life on one hand, and if he is afraid to run a gadget play in a clutch situation against a legendary defense in the driving rain because he might fumble/get stopped short/die, you have to make him face that fear or else... what?

Jim Schwartz statements sometimes sound like Greg Schiano statements without the tooth grinding.

Prediction: Lions 24, Buccaneers 21.

***

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

(The folks at Helicopter Parents Viewing Guide were kind enough to provide this preview of Patriots-Broncos for younger viewers.)

Sex & Nudity: ** No nudity, but Tom Brady's elegant grooming may confuse some younger viewers. If you joined us for our Bert and Ernie protest in 2011, you may want to fast-forward whenever he has his helmet off.

Violence & Gore: ***** Football is not as violent as something terrible like Paper Mario, but it is still a rough game. The violence has consequences, however, as defenders will learn if they come within five feet of either quarterback.

Profanity: * Roy Ellison is not officiating.

Final Verdict: ** This game falls in that large gray area between Baby Geniuses Explore the Rainbow (which had a few too many male characters in pastels for our comfort) and Django Unchained. Proceed with caution.

***

Jaguars at Texans

Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Line: Texans by 10

Time for another look at the NFL Dysfunctional Power Rankings! Sponsored by Career Counseling Services of Southern New Jersey, because if this becomes a weekly feature I am going back to toll collecting.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Remember that last week before you moved out of the house, and you finally started to get along with dad? It's like that.
  2. New York Jets. How can you expect us to focus on football when we have seen the bright lights of cosmopolitan downtown Buffalo?
  3. Washington Redskins. The quarterback considers the gameplans "disheartening." Santana Moss sided with the coach on the issue. Only one of these three people is likely to be with the team next year.
  4. Houston Texans. Remember Regarding Henry, the movie where Harrison Ford suffers a brain injury, re-evaluates his life, and learns not to be a jerk? Regarding Gary is the story of an NFL coach who suffers a stroke, re-evaluates his life, and learnsto be even more like Mike Shanahan.
  5. Miami Dolphins. Forty years from now, people will mix up "Incognito" and "Buttafuoco." I am already doing it.

Case Keenum is the starter again. Matt Schaub is available for relief, or more appropriately, exacerbation.

Prediction: Texans 28, Jaguars 16.

***

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

(We asked famous computer programmer John George Kennedy to weigh in on Brady Manning XIV. The fact that he has been dead for 20 years did not keep him from offering an opinion.)

10 REM *****AWESOME BRADY MANNING PROGRAM *****

20 FOR G = 1 TO 13

30 READ TOMSCORE, PEYTONSCORE

40 IF TOMSCORE > PEYTONSCORE THEN ? "Patriots win! Peyton choked!"

50 IF TOMSCORE < PEYTONSCORE THEN ? "Colts win! Belichick is arrogant!"

60 IF TOMSCORE < PEYTONSCORE AND G >= 13 THEN ? "Broncos Win! Belichick is still arrogant!"

70 NEXT G

80 DATA 44, 13, 38, 17, 38, 34, 24, 13, 27,24,20, 3, 21, 40, 20, 27, 34, 38, 24, 20, 34, 35, 31, 28, 59, 24.

90 ? "In last year's 31-21 victory, New England had four 80-yard-plus drives, 35 first downs and Stevan Ridley ran for 152 yards (Football, 180 Mins)"

100 END

***

Titans at Raiders

Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
Line: Even

Tommy Smith1 has a huge decision to make in the weeks to come about Mike Munchak2. Dennis Allen3 may have to stick with Matt McGloin4 for another week. Dowell Loggains5 must prepare John Skelton6 at quarterback in case Ryan Fitzpatrick7 gets injured. The Titans are still in the playoff hunt8 and can knock the Raiders out with a big game from Chris Johnson9.

Prediction: Titans 23, Raiders 20.

Footnotes to the preceding paragraph:

1Smith, Bud Adams' son-in-law, is now CEO of the Titans.
2Munchak is head coach of the Titans. Try to form a clear image of him in your mind. Can't do it, can you?
3Allen is the Raiders head coach; no relation to Marcus.
4Terrelle Pryor's backup, who played well last week and is one of thousands of Americans who have taken a job from Matt Flynn.
5No clue. Deputy Mayor of Toronto, perhaps?
6The main character in Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas.
7One of those annoying Ivy League hipsters with an ironic beard.
8The Raiders are also in the AFC playoff hunt. There are JV field hockey teams who are still in the AFC playoff hunt.
9The Titans have been saying this for four years.

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

(Mrs. Edna Teekwillow of Warren Harding High School in Glen Burnie, Md., asked the 10th graders in her Common Core Prep Class (formerly called "Useful Life Skills") to write five-paragraph essays on the Manning-Brady showdown. Here is the winning entry by Conner Jordan Mandelbrot, who completed his essay while waiting for his smartphone to download Angry Birds: Blue is the Warmest Color.)

The Tom Brady/Peyton Manning rivalry is the greatest football rivalry of all time. It is the greatest football rivalry of all time because the players are great, the teams are great, and the games are a lot of fun to watch. That is why it is the greatest rivalry of all time.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are both great quarterbacks. Tom Brady has won three Super Bowls and played in two others. Peyton Manning has won one Super Bowl and played in another one. Both have set a bunch of records. Peyton Manning makes a lot of commercials. They are funny. I like to watch them. Tom Brady makes commercials, too. My mom watches those. That is why Brady and Manning are both great quarterbacks.

The Patriots and Broncos are both great teams. They are always in the playoffs. They are both going to be in the playoffs this year. My dad says he has won a lot of money because of the Patriots in the playoffs. He says he lost money because of the Broncos. Last January, he lost so much money because of the Broncos that we did not have heat for a while. February was cold. That is why the Patriots and Broncos are both great teams.

The games are a lot of fun to watch! There is nothing more fun than watching a great football game on a Sunday. My father has so much fun watching Manning/Brady games that he sometimes has to sleep all day on Monday. My mother likes it when dad watches games all day, too. She spends the whole day chatting on the computer with her bedroom door closed. That is why the games are a lot of fun to watch.

In summary, the Tom Brady/Peyton Manning rivalry is the greatest football rivalry of all time because the players are great, the teams are great, and the games are a lot of fun to watch. I do not know who will win on Sunday, but I may have to walk myself to school on Monday, because our family gets so caught up in all of the football excitement.

***

49ers at Redskins

Monday, 8:40 p.m.
Line: 49ers by 5

Robert Griffin called the Redskins' too-predictable gameplan against the Eagles "disheartening." He then handed his thesaurus off to Colin Kaepernick to describe a 49ers offense that produced one 20-yard pass play in two weeks and deploys practice squad tight ends as slot receivers. Dejecting, demoralizing, dispiriting, appalling, consternating. On the plus side, at least Jim Harbaugh thinks enough of Colin Kaepernick's long-range health that he does not call quarterback keepers between the tackles on 3rd-and-2 when trailing 24-0, so there's that.

The 49ers were angry at the referees for a roughing the passer call when Ahmad Brooks clotheslined Drew Brees, though Harbaugh did not grandstand about the call during his postgame press conference, for once. The Redskins are angry at the referees for being mean grouchy grinches to Trent Williams. The REDSKINS are angry about offensive language, folks! Williams spent the Eagles game grabbing Trent Cole like they were newlyweds in the back of a limo, but was only flagged once; apparently, the refs opted to cuss him out instead of punishing him, better known as the "ineffective parent" technique. Would Harbaugh and Brooks be happier if they were cussed out instead of penalized when clotheslining a Hall of Fame quarterback? They probably would.

Two of the most electrifying, dynamic young athletes on the American sports scene face off on Monday night, but all we can talk about is predictable offenses and inappropriate language. Disheartening. Disheartening.

Prediction: 49ers 27, Redskins 16.

***

Broncos at Patriots

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 2 ½

(Our final guest columnist is bestselling novelist Stieg Larsson, who, like Tupac, has done all his best work since his death.)

"The Girl with the Broncos Tattoo"

Sallymander Lingonberries was a sultry young computer hacker with lots of tattoos. She longed to learn the secrets of the Dolphins locker room, but sometimes she forgot she was a super-hacker. When that happened, she could only learn the truth by exposing herself to the kinkiest, most depraved situations a repressed middle-aged author could think of.

"Take that! And that and that!" Richie Incognito said as he enacted his cruelest fantasies about the helpless, lithe young woman. "Please, don't make me watch another episode of Betrayal!" Sallymander cried, but Incognito would not relent. Luckily, she videotaped the whole disgusting binge-watch, then turned the tape over to Tony Dungy as soon as she escaped.

"That's quite a piece of detective work," said a man at NFL headquarters. His name was Bjorn Bennyannafreda. He was a dour liberal journalist, the kind of man sexy young Goth girls find irresistible in novels written by dour liberal journalists. "I know who you are," Sallymander said. "I hacked into your computer weeks ago. I know that you are chasing some secret."

"Yes, I am investigating the disappearance of a man named Peyton Manning," Bjorn said. "You can join me, but we must travel to a barren, windswept village in an icy part of the world where nothing interesting ever happens."

Once in Indianapolis, Bjorn explained that Peyton Manning was the son of Archie Manning and the brother of Eli and Cooper Manning. He then explained more of the Manning genealogy. It went on for page after tedious page. Then Sallymander slid off her blouse and begged Bjorn to make dour Scandinavian love to her on the counter of an abandoned Panera Bread.

After about 100 pages of mumbling about genealogies and conversations with boring people, Bjorn was hit on the back of the head by a vintage guitar. He awoke chained to the pipes in the basement of the millionaire who hired him. "So it was you all along, Mister Irsay?"

"Yes," Irsay replied. "My public persona as a groovy philanthropist is all an act. I will now tell you what I really do to the people who disappoint me, and no one ever disappointed me more than Peyton Manning!" Irsay then detailed a gratuitous, implausible series of grisly, titillating crimes that is probably supposed to represent capitalism's inhumane treatment of the working class or something but, let's face it, would be the script for a Lindsey Lohan movie if an American wrote it.

Luckily, Sallymander kicked down the door, dropped a vintage guitar on the ground, and poured gasoline on it. "Nooooo," Irsay shouted. "That's a Jimi Hendrix guitar! It's not meant to be lit on fire!" She threw the flaming guitar at Irsay, and Bjorn and Sallymander escaped as Irsay rushed to save his Super Bowl ring and Strawberry Alarm Clock vinyl from his burning mansion. "There," Sallymander said, "now that I have defeated the bad guy, all of the filthy stuff that happened to me in this novel is feminist meta-commentary. I'M LITERATURE!"

(After five more numbing chapters of procedure and exposition)

"It turns out Peyton Manning was alive after all," Bjorn told his foxy female editor after they made somber Scandinavian love atop her ergonomically-perfect desk. "He has been in Denver the whole time. In fact, he is playing in an important American football game against his arch-rival this week."

"And what of this mysterious Sallymander?" she asked while Febreezing her office.

"Oh, I am sure we will see her again in a sequel, perhaps at the Super Bowl" he said.

(Tune in next year for The Girl Who Kicked the Panthers Nest)