Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: NFL Schedule Day? Zzz

Today's Calls: NFL Schedule vs. NFL Reality, Lakers vs. Hornets, Mavs vs. Nuggets, Pedro Feliz vs. Jason Varitek, Randy Wolf vs. Micah Owings, David Wright vs. David Ortiz, Derrick Rose vs. Jason Kidd, Tiger Woods vs. Rehab, Seattle fans vs. Sonics owners and More! ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: The release of the new NFL schedule is possibly the biggest non-event of the endless football year. ↵

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↵And, make no mistake, the NFL has turned it into a year-round sport: From the preseason to the playoffs to free agency to the draft Combine to owner meetings to the release of each team's opponents to the release of the schedule of those games to the draft itself to minicamp to training camp, it's the league's greatest feat to have stretched a 16-game season into a 52-week pastime. ↵

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↵Because that schedule released yesterday? What does it really mean? ↵

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↵Oh, sure, we can talk about who has the toughest overall schedule (Steelers) or argue what the best single game is (Pats at Colts in Week 9) or wonder if the NFL tips its hand about the rising teams it thinks are ready to break out by their number of national TV appearances (Browns: five times) or how to start balancing bye weeks against the "April 15" version of your fantasy draft cheat sheet, but let's get real: We. Know. Nothing. ↵

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↵Let me remind you: The Patriots sliced through last year's regular season 16-0, then choked the entire thing away in the Super Bowl. ↵

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↵That's not to mock the Pats' season (well, it sort of is); the larger point is to point out the unpredictability of the NFL -- not just from Week 17 to the Super Bowl, but in the canyon stretching from April 15 through Week 17. ↵

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↵I could look at the Pats' schedule this year -- the seemingly easy start, the pair of back-to-back West Coast trips, the Colts game -- and guess: "17-0? Why not!" It doesn't give them any more of an April claim to being a Super Bowl "lock" than any other team. ↵

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↵Basing next season's projections on last season's results is folly; even without considering the inevitability of injuries or performance dropoff (or increase), the NFL's core commitment to parity means teams get better (and worse) in a hurry -- even within the next season. ↵

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↵A tough-looking schedule in April, with the memory of last season still so fresh, will look far different a few weeks into the 2008 season, when you realize your presumptive "toughie" game is suddenly a "gimme," and that "gimme" is suddenly an "uh-oh." ↵

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↵Feel free to scan your favorite team's schedule and begin making wild projections: 13-3! 12-4! 9-7! 1-15! Meanwhile, you can find someone else out there covering every other guess on the spectrum. The consolation: Someone will be right. Probably just not you. ↵

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↵Normally, I'm all for breathless instant history; in this case, unless you're using the schedule to make future travel plans, let's go with a nice calm "wait and see."
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↵NBA West: MVP Watch! 20 for Kobe, with the Lakers clinching the top seed in the West ... 22 and 12 for Chris Paul, with the Hornets clinching their first-ever Southwest Division title ... Both teams' successes are remarkable; I didn't mean to diminish in any way what the Lakers have done when I picked CP3 over Kobe as league MVP in yesterday's column ... ↵

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↵Game 82: Watch out for tanking! There are 28 teams in action tonight in the season finale; for 13, it is their last game before next season, and for all but a handful of the 15 playoff teams, their playoff seeding is already set ... Among others, the Mavs need to win to clinch the No. 7 seed (or hope the Nuggets lose); for the karmic exorcism to come full circle, Dallas should aim for 8th and try to knock off the No. 1-seed Lakers in the first round ... Did Carmelo Anthony get special treatment from Denver cops? (Really: Would that surprise you if he did?) ... Take heart, Knicks fans: This should be Isiah's final game coaching the team. ↵

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↵MLB Instant History: Must have been thrilling to be a Phillies fan who stuck around for the ending of last night's game, featuring a four-run Phils 9th in a 4-3 win over the Astros ... Must have been small consolation for the Padres to beat the Rockies (Randy Wolf!) ... Must have been bittersweet for Red Sox fans to see Varitek hit a game-winning pinch-hit home run, but see David ".113" Ortiz go 1-for-5 with 4 LOB ... Must have been cathartic for Cubs fans to boo Dusty Baker's return to Chicago ... Must be a sign of shifting fortune that the Tigers have won two straight ... Must be a glimpse of the NL breakout of the season if Micah Owings (3-0) is pitching ... Must be a pleasant surprise to be a Cards fan ... Must be good to be David Wright ... Must be the funniest thing I have read this week that Curt Schilling wants to pitch for the Yankees next season (even Schilling mocks it). ↵

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↵One Thing You Should Know About Last Night's NHL Playoffs: The Sharks got a huge, series-tying win in Calgary after Joe Thornton's game-winner with 9.4 seconds left in regulation. That's the kind of momentum-shifting ending that can turn a 2-1 series deficit into "How can we lose?" ↵

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↵Tiger Woods to miss 4-6 weeks after knee surgery: Remember that whole "Tiger vs. the Field" theory? Well, what happens when it's just a "Field"? I'll tell you what: A lot less casual fans will care about golf. The PGA better hope Woods is back by the U.S. Open. ↵

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↵Derrick Rose turning pro: He is all but guaranteed to be no worse than the No. 2 pick in the draft -- and could go first if the Ping-Pong balls line up right. He is the most impressive point guard to enter the NBA since Jason Kidd in 1994 (yes, including Chris Paul). ↵

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↵CBB Coaching Carousel: Keno Davis to Providence. This might be my favorite coaching hire of the offseason: PC gets the AP's national coach of the year and architect of one of the great mid-major stories of the decade; Davis gets a platform where, if he succeeds quickly, much much bigger things await. Make no mistake: This is a stepping-stone job, and both sides will benefit from understanding that. ↵

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↵(I would like to know how many Iowa fans would have jettisoned first-year coach Todd Lickliter for Davis if they had the choice.) ↵

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↵Why does Congress need to make HGH illegal in sports? Why don't they simply insist that sports leagues do the heavy lifting? I appreciate their effort, but this whole obsession with PEDs in sports obfuscates an otherwise uninspired set of legislation. The Last Word: Save the Sonics? Here's a worthwhile effort by fans: Petition your local NBA owner to vote against the Sonics' move to Oklahoma City. It's quixotic, but admirable (although Oklahoma City fans proved they deserve an NBA franchise while hosting the Hornets). Here's a starter version from some Cavs fans in Cleveland who know a little something about an iconic local team being shipped out of town. ↵

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↵(Meanwhile, just to show you that you don't have to be a mere fan to attempt quixotic missions, powerful politicians and billionaire businessmen try them, too: The governor of Washington has asked the NBA to delay its relocation, citing bad faith on the part of Clay Bennett's group. And former Sonics owner Howard Schultz is planning to sue to keep the team in Seattle. Again, anyone who didn't know that Bennett was planning to move the team all along is naive, stupid or both.) ↵

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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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