Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: NFL Getting Wilder

Today's Calls: T.O. vs. Jason Witten, Steelers vs. Replay, Tarvaris Jackson vs. Matt Cassel, Redskins fans vs. Texans fans, Sam Bradford vs. Tim Tebow, Gene Chizik vs. Reality, O.J. Mayo vs. Kevin Durant and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: "Winning cures everything." For once, T.O. has a sound bite that we can all agree on. ↵

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↵The Cowboys went from intramural squabbling to knocking off their intradivision rival and putting themselves back in the playoff picture. ↵

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↵Forget Obama's "Team of Rivals": T.O. and the other receivers don't have to like Tony Romo's special relationship with Jason Witten, but they are more than willing to take it when it produces big, game-sealing plays. (Presumably, everyone loves rookie RB Tashard Choice; at 10 ypc, what wasn't to like?) ↵

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↵But for all the drama queens on offense, it was the Cowboys D that put on the show: 8 sacks, 2 INTs, 0 TDs allowed, the NFC's top rushing offense limited to 72 yards. ↵

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↵At 9-5, the Cowboys are tied with the Bucs and Falcons for the NFC's best record among Wild Card teams. But only two of those three teams can make it (with the Eagles potentially at 8-5-1 after tonight's game/gimme against the Browns). ↵

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↵If you're a fan of T.O. and the rest freaking out at each other, there is still plenty of time to see them miss the playoffs: The Cowboys finish with the Ravens at home and, finally, at Philly, the toughest remaining schedule of any Wild Card contender: ↵

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↵DAL (9-5): BAL, @PHI ↵
↵TB (9-5): SD, OAK ↵
↵ATL (9-5): @MIN, STL ↵
↵PHI (8*-5-1): @WAS, DAL ↵
↵CHI (8-6): GB, @HOU ↵

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↵"Who do they have left?" has become the most critical question of the remainder of the year. ↵

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↵More after the jump, including the Steelers' game-winning controversy, why Tarvaris Jackson is the new hotness, why the Heisman showdown didn't end Saturday night and much more. ↵

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↵Controversy of the Day: Steelers escape Baltimore. If Santonio Holmes was in the end zone but the football wasn't, is it still a last-minute game-winning TD? ↵

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↵I think replay overruled the correct call, which was to put the ball just outside the end zone. There wasn't enough evidence to prove that the ball DID cross the plane of the goal line, at least before Holmes had both feet set. ↵

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↵The bad call robbed us of the chance to see what the Steelers would do on 4th-and-inches: Go for the win or kick the FG and take their chances in OT. (But let's not dismiss the way Big Ben drove Pitt down the field on that last drive -- comp after clutch comp, on one of the best defenses in the league.) ↵

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↵AFC East: One week later, they're all still tied. Is it possible the division title will come down to that Week 17 matchup between the Jets and Dolphins? In between, the Jets are at Seattle and the Fins are at K.C. Meanwhile, the Pats lurk: Next Sunday vs. Arizona, then finishing at Buffalo. ↵

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↵Player of the Week: Tarvaris Jackson. Yes, Tarvaris Jackson. He had 4 TDs. 4! And the Vikings won, keeping pace as the leaders in the NFC North. What I'd like to know is which fantasy GMs in a playoff week had the guts to start Jackson? Anyone? ... Anyone? ... ↵

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↵(Now, will that be enough for the Vikings to hold off the Bears? While the Bears finish with the Packers and Texans, the Vikings have a brutal finish, playing Wild Card contender Atlanta and finishing with the Giants.) ↵

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↵Worst. Team. Ever. Milestone Watch: 0-14! I think Lions fans should be rooting for the immortality of being the first 0-16 team ever. (I mean, it's not like they are playing THAT badly -- no one would argue that they are worse than the 1976 Bucs.) ↵

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↵Meanwhile, would you rather be a Lions fan right now -- or a Redskins fan? At least the Lions fans have sucked consistently; the Redskins started the season as playoff contenders, but just reached rock-bottom by losing to the Bengals, their fifth loss in their last six games. Skins fans are HATING it. ↵

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↵Speaking of hating it: How bad of a season are the Chargers having that a 12-point 4th-quarter rally to stave off an utterly humiliating defeat to the Chiefs is THE highlight of the season. It probably saved Norv Turner at least 2 more weeks before he gets fired. ↵

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↵On the other end of the spectrum, break up the Texans! They have won four in a row, including yesterday's huge win over the Titans, the NFL's top team. Houston won't make the playoffs, but this finish should sure give them confidence (and higher expectations) heading into next season. ↵

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↵Injury Watch: Albert Haynesworth, the Titans MVP -- and likely defensive MVP of the league this season -- needs an MRI on his knee after twisting it yesterday. ↵

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↵Fantasy Watch: ↵
↵WR: Andre Johnson (Career-high 207 yards, TD) ↵
↵RB: Michael Turner (152 yards, 4.8 ypc, TD) ↵
↵QB: Matt Cassel (4 TDs) ↵

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↵Looking ahead to next week: Panthers at Giants, in a battle of the NFC's top two teams -- going in opposite directions. The Panthers have won three straight, with a punishing running game; the Giants have lost two straight for the first time since starting 0-2 last season. ↵

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↵Heismania: Fewer people will remember that Sam Bradford won than the amazing competition among the "Big Three" that resulted in arguably the wildest voting results ever: ↵

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↵Sure, Bradford won the award, but Colt McCoy got enough points that he would have won in any other year (or if he had Bradford's showcase in a 13th game). And 3rd-place Tim Tebow pulled off an improbable double: He led in 1st-place votes but didn't get even a mention on more than 150 ballots. ↵

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↵Looking ahead to Heisman '09: Install McCoy as the heavy favorite, even if Bradford and Tebow return to college next year. (But if all three come back, expect to see all three back in New York next December and their Heisman rivalry being the No. 1 story line of the season.) ↵

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↵CFB Coaching Carousel: Auburn hires ... Iowa State's Gene Chizik? Really? This isn't some kind of funny joke? ↵

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↵CBB Weekend Wrap: ↵

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↵Call that a season-making win for Arizona, knocking off Gonzaga in Phoenix. ... ↵

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↵In beating Memphis, Georgetown proves itself legit (and Tyreke Evans is no Derrick Rose). ... ↵

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↵Think Tennessee was a wee bit overrated at No. 8? ... ↵

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↵Curry Watch: Davidson needed every one of Curry's 41 to hit 100 and hold off fiesty (if 1-win) Chattanooga. ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: Lakers hit 20 wins. ... Spurs win sixth straight (now that the Cavs' streak is over, are the Spurs the hottest team in the league West of Boston?). ... OJ Mayo: 28 points for the rookie scoring machine (Legit question: Would you rather have Mayo or Durant? I think it's a toss-up.) ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Angels offer Mark Teixeira 8Y/$160M, which is roughly what the Nationals offered him and presumably now what the Red Sox and/or Yankees would offer him (perhaps with a little we-can-afford-it topper). Did he enjoy his stay in L.A. enough to want to relocate permanently? ↵

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↵The Mets finally have a player willing to jaw with the Phillies: K-Rod. "Of course, we're going to be the team to beat" in the NL East, K-Rod said. He will have plenty of opportunity to back that up. ↵

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↵The Last Word: So long, Sean Avery. The biggest drama queen in the NHL isn't wanted anymore in Dallas -- how much of a schmuck do you have to be to be excommunicated by hockey players? Don't cry for him: He has a future in TV, even if it happens earlier than he thought it would. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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