Saturday, December 30, 2006

NFL Week 17: One more for weekend of full schedule football

Let me just start out by saying that no matter how badly I did with my games today it was still a great day beacuse the dickhead dictator Saddam Insane was hanged today, ending the life of the leader of one of the most ruthless regimes in modern history. Hip hip hooray!

On to football.

After one solid week and 20 mostly horrendous bowl games I am ready for some football, NFL style.

Don't get me wrong, I love the college game possibly more than pro football, but after the ump- teenth Enter Sponsor's Name Here Bowl, countless quarters of horrendous play, massive blowouts and mind-blowing comebacks, all topped off with Mike Gottfried & Lou Holtz attempting to pronounce Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada's name today, I can't wait to get back to watching football played at a professional level.

You know, like the Yucs.

This desire probably has nothing to do with the fact that after going 1-2 today I sit at 7-13 with virtually no way to salvage any dignity out of this predicting mess. With 12 games left I have to go 9-3 just to break even.

I have officially resigned myself to the fact that I am indeed the World's Worst Gambler, or WWG for short. I am handing the trophy to myself as I sit here and I will wear the title like a badge of dishonor.

Thank you, thank you all for your support.

Although it could be worse- I could be like's The Sports Guy, who is currently losing to his wife in their NFL picks this season.

Okay I feel better now. Let's try to tackle what is going to happen with the playoff spots up for grabs heading into the final day of the 2006 regular season.

Don't worry there will be no predictions here. Read on.

NFC Wild Card spots all but clinched after Giants topple Redskins, 34-28
Finally. That's what they must be saying in Greater Jersey area as the swooning Giants stopped their drunken free fall and virtually wrapped up a wild card with behind Tiki Barber's record day.

Brother of Ronde set a career and team high with 234 yards on 23 carries plus 3 touchdowns as he literally carried New York to the postseason. It was a miraculous performance considering that it should be his final NFL regular season game (unless you have been trapped on Mt Hood you probably know that Tiki is retiring after the season.)

Technically the Giants haven't locked up the final slot yet- there are nine scenarios where the last spot could go to the Packers- but the stars would have to perfectly align, Mel Gibson would have to make an American movie and Lindsay Lohan would have to stop pretending to be sober in order for said scenarios to occur.

So it looks like New York will make the playoffs after losing 6 of its final 8, finishing at 8-8, and with more players sniping at their coach & each other than any team since the 1972 Oakland A's.
Congrats, Tom Coughlin & Co. Enjoy your final week of employment. (BTW Tom, why did it take you until the final game of the season to demote your offensive coordinator? Couldn't you have just told John Hufnagel to run Tiki until he breaks instead of promoting Kevin Gilbride to do it? It's his final season for crying out loud!)

Who will win the AFC Wild Cards?
This could be simple: if the Jets (9-6) beat Oakland in the Meadowlands (a virtual lock) and Denver (9-6) beats San Fran at Mile High, they are in as the Wild Cards.

If either or both should lose, well then it gets dicey; four other teams will have a shot at getting in: Jacksonville, Cincy, Kansas City and Tennessee. They all sit at 8-7 and just hoping for the perfect storm of playoff scenarios to happen that will allow them to play another week of football.

Which team has the best chance at grabbing that final spot ( I think we'll all concede that the Jets will beat the Raiders- any objections? Good.) Let's take a look.

Jacksonville @ Kansas City
I said it before, and of course the WWG was wrong, but the Chiefs don't lose at home in the month of December. That week they went out and lost to Baltimore at Arrowhead, breaking a streak that had spanned 10 years. But the Jekyll & Hyde Jags have lost 2 straight since pounding Peyton & the Mannings and will be primed for the taking in this one.

Expect plenty of hand offs in this one: Jacksonville is ripping of 161 yards on the ground per game, led by potential rookie of the year Maurice Jones-Drew, and Chiefs workhorse Larry Johnson is leading the NFL in carries (383) and is second in yards (1,651) to LT.

The only way either team has a chance of getting in the postseason is to win this game first and then get a lot of help. So this is a de facto playoff game, with the losers making vacation plans and the winners hopping in front of the Pioneer HD PureVision Plasma with fingers crossed and curses ready.

New England @ Tennessee
This one could be the game of the day. The red-hot Titans, winners of six straight, are riding a Tennessee high not seen around the region since the days of the Music City Miracle. Vince Young has got everyone believing he will lead his team to victory in every game, mainly because the confident Texan believes it himself.

It's been said 1000 times the past week but it still bears repeating- all VY knows how to do is win. Awkward motion? Big deal? Low Wonderlic scores? Who cares? Passed over by his hometown Texans? Nah nah nah nah nah nah! Just win baby. Maybe the Raiders should have drafted him.

But even though the Pats have wrapped up the AFC East don't expect them to roll over and let the Vince Young express run right through them. The team is still struggling to find a rhythm and knowing Tom Terrific & The Hooded Genius they will be using this game as a playoff tuneup in order to get the offense clicking on all cylinders heading into the postseason.

Plus there is nothing more than Tom & Hoodie would love to do than knock the Titans out of the playoffs on their own turf. The're like assassins. They live for this.

Pittsburgh @ Cincy
The Bungles might have gagged away their playoff hopes with that botched extra point last week in snowy Denver. If Cincy had won that game, and it had numerous chances to do so even before the last-minute blunder, it would have wrapped up a wild card and not had to sweat playing their arch rivals in a win-or-go-home game.

Alas it appears the only ones having worse luck than the Bengals lately is Tank Johnson. To say the team has had an up & down season this year would be a major understatement. Eight player arrests, streaks of wins (3, 4) and losses (4 of 5) and a player who suffered a serious neck injury are just some of the woes that plagued the fans in the Queen City and tri-county area.

Now it comes to this. The Bengals must beat the hated Steelers and have the Jets lose to make the postseason. Worse yet, Pittsburgh was eliminated last week so all they have to concentrate on is keeping their nasty neighbors to the west out as well. That's motivation enough for the defending champs, who would like nothing better than to end the Bengals bowl dreams just as it did last season on the way to the championship (note to Carson Palmer: watch out for Kimo Von Olhoffen this time.)

One more Steelers note: they are the first defending champs to miss the playoffs the next season since...wait for it... the 2003 Yucs.

What else is up for grabs this week?
Home field advantage throughout the playoffs in the AFC
Simple scenario here: if the Chargers (13-2) knock off the Cards at Quaalcomm then it will have home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

If the Chargers lose (which became less likely when it was learned that Arizona QB Matt Leinart will not play due to injury and father time himself Kurt Warner will be back behind center) and the host Ravens (12-3) defeat the Bills then the all-important edge would go to Baltimore.

Needless to say if both win San Diego retains the advantage due to the better record.

NFC East title
Although both Dallas and Philly are already in the playoffs they still have to decide which one goes in as the division winner and which will be the wild card.

If Dallas beats Detroit and Philly loses to the Falcons then the Cowboys would win the division and Philly would be the wild card.

But if Philly wins they will be the division champ regardless of what the Cowboys do based on the Eagles season sweep of the 'Boys.

How sweet would it be if the Eagles just swoop right in and steal the division crown right out from under the noses of the pompous Cowboys and their cranky coach, wannabe-a-star quarterback, and locker room-poisoning wide receiver. Personally it would make my holiday season just to watch Tuna's post game press conference if the 'Boys get knocked out.

Assorted byes and home games
The jockeying for home games and bye weeks goes on as the rest of the pieces fall into place. The certainties are:
-San Diego clinched a first-round bye
-Chicago has clinched home field throughout the NFC playoffs
-New Orleans has clinched a first-round bye
Everything else is up in the air. And frankly, as long as I know the Pats are in I don't really give a flying fig as to who plays whom where and when. Just get the 12 teams figured out, line 'em up against each other and let 'em play postseason football.

Other things to watch for this on Sunday include:
Rushing title: LT holds a 98 yard advantage over LJ (1,749-1,651.) Figuring that LJ is going to get about 35 carries and Herm Edwards is going to ride him into the ground, and LT will probably play a half just to try and keep the rushing title and pad his touchdown record, well LJ has a chance to swipe this one. But I wouldn't bet against LT this year. Look for him to make just a big enough sp[lash in his brief appearance to lock up both the rushing crown and MVP.

Sack title: Steroid Shawne Merriman sits a half a sack ahead of Green Bay's Aaron Kampman (16- 15.5) going into Sunday. With the Chargers playing Arizona andthe Packers facing Chicago on Sunday Night it looks good for Merriman to get the title to go along with his Pro Bowl nod. Nothing like rewarding guys who get busted for 'roids. But god forbid a guy wears a pair of flashy shoes or does a touchdown celebration. Nice image, NFL.

Rookie of the Year: One of the most crowded field in recent memory has no fewer than 5 legit candidates for the honor.
Reggie Bush
Marques Colston
Maurice Jones Drew
Vince Young

Bottom line is there is still a lot to be decided on the final day of the season. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

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