New England Patriots 38, New York Giants 35:
First of all, congratulations to the Patriots for going 16-0, and Tom Brady and Randy Moss for respectively breaking the passing touchdown (50) and receiving touchdown (23) records.
I'm really happy Tom Coughlin decided to play his starters. As Cris Collinsworth opined, it says a lot about the character of the athletes and coaches in the NFL. The Giants could have easily packed it in and given the Patriots their 16th regular-season victory on a silver platter.
I also believe Coughlin made a great decision not to rest his starters for other reasons:
The past few years, the Giants have limped into the playoffs. With a win over the Bills and possibly the Patriots, they would have at their sharpest. Steve Young always said it takes a quarter for every week you have off. If the Buccaneers don't play anyone against Carolina, New York will have a huge advantage the first 15 minutes.
This was the Giants' Super Bowl. With Eli Manning, an injured Jeremy Shockey, a hobbled Plaxico Burress, a beleaguered Amani Toomer and a horrendous secondary, New York doesn't have much of a chance to go through Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Dallas and New England/Indianapolis. If they would have beaten the Patriots, they would have been forever remembered as the greatest spoiler the NFL has EVER seen. If New England were 14-1 going into this contest, it wouldn't have meant anything. But 42 teams will have won the Super Bowl come February. No squads have ever gone 16-0 in the regular season until Dec. 29, 2007.
A win over the Patriots would have been a great momentum and confidence boost for Eli and the Giants.
Unfortunately for New York fans, the Patriots came back from 12 down in the third quarter. I found it amusing that the Saturday night contest was essentially a microcosm of the Giants' season. They perennially start off hot, look great at the halfway point, quickly begin melting down and finish poorly amid Manning's blank stares while the media is asking him questions. Well, New York established a lead, scored right before halftime, lost its advantage in the third quarter and just couldn't come back when it fell behind by 10. And Manning still had the "Why did my dad drag me into the family business?" glare embossed across his face.
If the Patriots weren't amazing enough, they've won the past 48 times they've had a turnover advantage. Luckily, Brady is an NFL quarterback and doesn't need to use that number to get hot supermodels.
Philadelphia Eagles 17, Buffalo Bills 9:
Everyone always talks about how teams who've clinched playoff berths and cannot improve their seeding should sit their players. How about squads who are eliminated from the playoffs? Eagles right tackle Jon Runyan went down in the first quarter. The injury wasn't serious, but this would have been a lot worse if Philadelphia were heading into the playoffs. There was no reason to play Runyan; the Eagles should have been checking out Winston Justice and their other young linemen instead. It's not like they needed to keep Runyan sharp for a postseason run. And what if someone like Brian Westbrook suffered a torn ACL, consequently putting his 2008 season in jeopardy?
Another reason for sitting out starters is an improved draft pick. The Eagles will now be selecting their rookies later in the draft, meaning their fans will have to wait longer for Andy Reid to trade his selections to the Cowboys for a box full of cheesesteaks and cheese fries.
If you weren't aware, I live in Philadelphia. I have to say that I'm ashamed that I'm a native of the same city as some of the idiots who attended the Eagles-Bills contest. Some classless fans booed Donovan McNabb after he threw a pick in the first half, despite the fact he had been playing really well beforehand. McNabb finished 29-of-41 for 345 yards, one touchdown and one pick.
Also, I have no idea why the "fans" began filing out of the stadium at the beginning of the fourth quarter when the Eagles were up 17-9. Why even go to the game if you're planning on leaving early while the winner has yet to be decided?
Carolina Panthers 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23:
There isn't much to say about this game because the Buccaneers sat their starters. Interesting philosophy though - Jeff Garcia, Earnest Graham and company haven't played the last six quarters. Meanwhile, the Giants used everyone against the Patriots. I'm curious to see which team has the edge in next week's first-round tilt. I'm not going to predict a winner just yet, but I'm guaranteeing that New York establishes some sort of a first-half lead.
A (boring) tale of two quarterbacks. Matt Moore (15-of-24, 174 yards, two touchdowns, one pick) was solid once again, while Vinny Testaverde was rolled out in his wheel chair and allowed to take one final snap. He kneeled down for a loss of a yard at the end of the game. Testaverde was upset until his nurse reminded him that he had a Jell-O snack waiting for him in the locker room.
Cincinnati Bengals 38, Miami Dolphins 25:
Way to impress the Tuna, losers. On Cincinnati's first drive, Miami surrendered first downs on 3rd-and-12, 3rd-and-6, 3rd-and-15 and 3rd-and-9. That's bad enough for a half, but on a single drive? I predicted that the Dolphins would finish 2-14 in my 2007 season previews, opining that Trent Green and their slow, aging defense would be their downfall. And now it's come to this. Miami can't even contain a group of selfish, unfocused losers who had nothing to play for.
So much for this John Beck guy. Cleo Lemon suffered an injury in the third quarter. On Beck's first play, the rookie fumbled the ball, which was returned for a Bengals touchdown. That essentially put the game out of reach for the Dolphins, who saw their deficit swell to 28-10.
Although my five-unit play went down the drain, I still managed to laugh at the expression on Bill Parcells' face in the wake of Beck's fumble-six. Parcells rolled his eyes, and turned to Ron Wolf and looked like he said something similar to, "Ron, what the hell have we gotten ourselves into here? Let's duck out of this joint, get drunk and pretend we never took this stupid job." And you know what? I don't think anyone could blame the Tuna if he actually did that.
Green Bay Packers 34, Detroit Lions 13:
How do you allow an 18-yard run on 3rd-and-5? Oh, wait a second... We're talking about the Lions here. Never mind.
Going into this game, Brett Favre hadn't lost to the Lions at home in his career. With Aaron Rodgers looking pretty sharp, it appears as though Detroit's next victory at Lambeau Field will occur in the year 2023. And I'm willing to bet the Lions still won't have a postseason win by then either.
I love how Green Bay handled its starters, by the way. Because it had a bye coming up, I believed that the team had to play Brett Favre, Ryan Grant and company. Mike McCarthy apparently agreed with me, as the starters played - and performed well - in the first half.
Houston Texans 42, Jacksonville Jaguars 28:
I'd like to thank Andre Davis for single-handedly killing my Jaguars selection. Davis became the seventh player in NFL history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in a single game. Seriously, if you were to tell me that Early Gray Quinn would throw four touchdowns, I would have bet my entire savings account of $5.04 on the Jaguars. Thank God no one who reads this site can predict the future.
Congratulations to the Texans, who have had their first non-losing season in franchise history. Good job, guys! It only took you six years! And before you Houston fans start sending me e-mails, please know that I'm not being facetious... I'm actually impressed it took the Texans only six years to recover from the horrendous combination of Charley Casserly and Dom Capers. Any other franchise would have taken at least a decade.
Chicago Bears 33, New Orleans Saints 25:
Choke... Cough... Gag... Blah... Hic... Eck... Hack...
I don't know where to begin. The Saints' defense surrendered 10 points to the Bears on their first two drives, and 24 in the first half. Chicago then converted a 3rd-and-27 in the third quarter. A 3rd-and-27! These were the Bears. Not the Colts. Not the Patriots. Kyle Orton and the stinkin' Bears offense!
Speaking of stinkin', is it even worth asking Sean Payton what he was thinking when he kicked it to Devin Hester in the third quarter? The returned punt put the game out of reach, giving Chicago a 31-17 advantage. Say it with me now: Derrrrr. Derrrrr. Derrrrrr. Derrrrrrr.
Payton eschewed two 40-yard field goals in the second and third quarters in an attempt to go for it on 4th-and-2 and 4th-and 4, respectively. The Saints couldn't convert either attempt. If Payton would have kicked both, his deficit would have been 31-23 instead of 31-17. New Orleans scored eight points at the very end of the game. Makes you think.
Atlanta Falcons 44, Seattle Seahawks 41:
I try not to root for or against a team, but I'm glad the Falcons won on Sunday. It was a great way to give their former greedy-bastard coach the middle finger. The only thing sweeter for the Falcons would be if Petrino were fired tomorrow for some scandal in Arkansas. Quick - someone plant some naked strippers in his room!
But seriously, I'm really inspired by the Falcons' performance. I feel like I could run a mile right now, although my effort would probably conclude with me bending over on the sidewalk and vomiting all over my next door neighbor's lawn. Atlanta had the game tied at halftime despite the fact Seattle was playing all of its starters.
And speaking of which, even though the Seahawks didn't perform particularly well, especially defensively, keeping their starters in for a half was the right move. Seattle needs to be completely sharp for the Redskins, the hottest squad in the NFC.
Cleveland Browns 20, San Francisco 49ers 7:
So... when did Shaun Hill get hurt? I placed three units on the 49ers based on the premise that San Francisco, a team that had been playing better with its new quarterback, would be able to keep things close against the Browns, who had nothing to play for. Unfortunately, Chris Weinke Dinky Doo started in his place and managed to score only seven points. Awesome.
I found it funny that Weinke actually managed to impress the 49ers throwing the ball during the week. Hmmm... I wonder why. I bet Mike Nolan had his mouth agape in disbelief, elbowed some of his assistant coaches and whispered, "Wow, look at that guy! He doesn't have small hands. He doesn't fumble every other snap. Holy crap, we got ourselves a quarterback!"
And by the way, I felt Cleveland would sit some of its starters for at least a portion of the game because this contest meant nothing. Browns fans nearly suffered a collective heart attack when Derek Anderson left in the middle of the second quarter with an injury. Brady Quinn looked in his place (3-of-8 for 45 yards). Fortunately, Anderson came back in the second half.
Arizona Cardinals 48, St. Louis Rams 19:
Yeah, so, I didn't pay much attention to this game because it had nothing to do with the playoffs, and I only had one unit on it. I selected the Rams because I believed they could keep up with the Cardinals. Oddly enough, Marc Bulger threw for just 176 yards and two picks against Arizona's beleaguered secondary.
Yeah, so, I'm not going to delve much further into this contest. If you want more analysis of this matchup, I regret to inform you that you have no life. My condolences.
San Diego Chargers 30, Oakland Raiders 17:
When JaMarcus Russell threw an interception on the first play of the game, my mind started racing in an attempt to find the perfect Al Davis joke. Fortunately for the sanity of Raiders fans - if such a thing even exists - Russell was 22-of-30 for 224 yards and a touchdown after that initial throw. Too bad Lane Kiffin was already asleep because it was past his bedtime; he may never know how well Russell performed against one of the league's most opportunistic defenses.
But seriously, I thought Russell wasn't ready to play. I think we were told that he couldn't read defenses. If that's the case, how was he able to piece together a solid first start? I hope the Raiders don't go back to Josh McCown during the early part of the 2008 season; there was actually no reason not to start Russell at every opportunity in November and December.
The Chargers, in the wake of their victory, locked up the No. 3 seed in an attempt to avoid Jacksonville. All I'm going to say is be careful what you wish for. It's hard to imagine a team with no history of postseason success having much luck against an opponent it has targeted.
New York Jets 13, Kansas City Chiefs 10:
As you all may or may not know, I predicted the Jets-Chiefs game to end in a tie. I felt that because Herman Edwards screwed up both of these teams so much, neither would win. Unfortunately, my hopes and dreams went down the drain when Mike Nugent hit the decisive 43-yard field goal six minutes into overtime.
I was actually pretty angry during the duration of this contest. On my forum, I even threatened to toilet paper Edwards' house if Kansas City didn't cover. I had three units on the Chiefs covering about a touchdown because I thought Edwards' knowledge of the Jets would give his squad a huge advantage. I apparently underestimated how inept of a game-planner Edwards really is.
Speaking of inept, Brodie Croyle sucks so much he'd make Aurora Snow proud. He somehow finished with 20 completions, but his numbers for the most part looked like 4-of-11 for 12 yards. The Chiefs need to acquire a new quarterback because they have no chance of reaching the playoffs with Croyle under center.
By the way, can someone tell me why the Jets won this game? Say goodbye to Darren McFadden and possibly Chris Long, Gang Green. Way to sabotage your immediate future. It's almost as if Herm Edwards was still coaching this team...
Baltimore Ravens 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 21:
Way to go, Baltimore! You finally decided to show up and give 100 percent for the first time since the Patriots game! You guys are awesome!
The Ravens are crap. If they tried this hard the entire year, they could be in the playoffs. Remember, they were 4-2 at one point.
To be fair (to the Steelers because I don't give a damn about the lazy Ravens), Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Marvel Smith and Troy Polamalu didn't play. I'm not sure how ready Pittsburgh is going to be for Jacksonville. The team sat its starters against Baltimore, sleepwalked through the Rams victory, and lost to the Patriots and Jaguars. Jacksonville is a tough team, and I don't think the Steelers are going to be physically or mentally ready for them. When Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl, it had a four-game winning streak going into the playoffs. That's clearly not the case this season.
Seriously, is anyone surprised by Minnesota's Aurora Snow-like choke job? The team barely beat the Bears and got blown out by the Redskins last week. The Vikings needed to win one game down the stretch and couldn't get it done.
Tarvaris Jackson deserves most of the blame. He's feast or famine to the nth degree. He has a great arm and can scramble, but does too many dumb things, including fumbling in his own territory in overtime.
The Vikings' stop unit is also at fault. Giving up 32 points to the emerging Todd Collins is one thing. Not being able to contain Jay "Bye Baby" Cutler is another. Cutler was 26-of-37 for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Minnesota's vaunted ground defense, meanwhile, surrendered 4.7 yards per carry to Selvin Young and Andre Hall.
...Oh, wait a second... The Redskins didn't choke. They're actually a competent team that came through in the clutch. What a concept. And how cool is it that they beat the Cowboys by 21 points, matching the late Sean Taylor's old number? If this team isn't one of destiny, I don't know if we'll ever find one.
I'm releasing my final regular-season power rankings Monday afternoon, but I can promise that I'm going to have the Redskins seeded fairly high. I actually think they're the most dangerous team in the NFC. Forget records; Washington is completely enhanced with Todd Collins at the helm. Collins is 67-of-105, 888 yards, five touchdowns and no picks since taking over for Jason Campbell. His efficient quarterbacking play, combined with the Redskins' defense and ground attack, makes the team extremely potent.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Cowboys are leaking some serious oil. Since defeating the Packers about a month ago, Dallas is 2-2, beating two 7-9 squads by a total of eight points, and getting completely dominated by a pair of divisional rivals.
Tony Romo looks like he's more focused on Jessica Simpson; Wade Phillips' triple chins are already making dumb decisions; Jacques Reeves is getting burnt on every play; Terrell Owens is hurt; and Jerry Jones' Botox looks like it's wearing off. Making matters worse, Dallas has a week off, meaning it can only get rustier. It wouldn't shock me at all if the Cowboys lose their first postseason game.
...No, those aren't the Titans choking their playoff lives away. That's the sound of thousands of Browns fans hanging themselves in the wake of Tennessee's victory over the Colts.
I actually feel really sorry for Cleveland fans. I know their team screwed itself with a loss to the Bengals, but the Titans had a pretty easy task going against Jim Sorgi, Crappyphonso Thorpe, Devin Abracadabra and whomever else the Madden random-name generator spewed out.
Nearly lost the faith last week after being convinced to bet on horrible teams like LA and Cleveland, but this week I have to say you're back Walt. It's not over yet (knock on wood) but Kansas City and Detroit were brilliant picks and after this week I'll almost be up as big as I was before last weekend's disaster. I know you were big on LA again this week, and they still might cover, but PLEASE remember poisonous teams and avoid betting them. I did the same with Jacksonville, LA, and SF this week despite favorable lines, you should do the same! Cheers!