Shanoff's WUC: Pats-Colts, Bron-Wade, TCU-UU

Today's Calls: Pats vs. Colts, Brady vs. Manning, LeBron vs. D-Wade, 23 vs. 6, TCU vs. Utah, Ohio St. vs. Iowa, Harrison Barnes vs. Destiny, John Lackey vs. AJ Burnett, The Who vs. Bruce, Tennessee vs. the law and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: It isn't the Super Bowl, but as far as regular-season games go, in ANY sport, you will not get many -- if any -- bigger than Pats at Colts on Sunday night. ↵

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↵If you look at the audience sizes for the biggest NFL games this season -- mostly involving the Cowboys, but also that Favre-Packers game from two weeks ago -- we are seeing some of the biggest audiences ever for NFL games. ↵

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↵This will be the biggest of them. ↵

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↵Sure, there's no Cowboys, the biggest team draw. And there's no Favre, the biggest player draw. ↵

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↵There IS Peyton Manning -- the most ubiquitous star in the NFL. And there IS Tom Brady -- the second biggest star in the NFL. And there IS the Colts, the only unbeaten team in the AFC. And there IS the Pats, still the presumptive favorite among many to win the AFC. ↵

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↵The crazy part is that it's not like winning or losing this game will determine which of the two teams gets to win the Super Bowl, or even the AFC. However, there will likely be playoff home-field implications, which would have an impact on things like winning an AFC title. ↵

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↵But that is an abstract concept. The real lure of this game is the star wattage; that these are the two best teams in the AFC this season; that this is the best (and perhaps biggest) rivalry in the NFL; and that the game stands alone, in primetime. ↵

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↵It will be the biggest regular-season game in the NFL in 2009 -- and potentially the most-watched NFL regular-season game ever. ↵

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↵And so the final reason to watch: Can the game possibly live up to all those superlatives? ↵

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↵My Top 5 Non-Colts/Pats NFL Story Lines ↵

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↵1. Bengals-Steelers: Huge in AFC North ↵
↵2. Cowboys keep rolling in Green Bay? ↵
↵3. Jets-Jags: Must-win for playoff urgency ↵
↵4. Titanfreude: Wait, turned the corner? ↵
↵5. Worst Game Ever? KC-OAK is new DET-STL ↵

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↵49ers slog past Bears: Well, that was just about the worst start possible for the NFL Network's Thursday Night game series. And speaking of starts, if you started Jay Cutler last night for your fantasy team, you're losing this week. ↵

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↵NFL Week 10 Picks: 49ers, Broncos, Falcons, Saints, Dolphins, Vikings, Jaguars, Steelers, Titans, Chiefs, Packers, Chargers, Cardinals, Patriots, Ravens (Last week: 7-6, year-to-date: 88-42) ↵

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↵CFB Story Lines ↵Game of the Week: Utah at TCU ↵
↵Would be huge quality W for Frogs. ↵

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↵De facto Big Ten championship? ↵
↵Ohio State puts Iowa out of misery. ↵

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↵Tebow. Spurrier. ↵
↵What more can you ask for? ↵

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↵BCS-Busting: Boise State Watch ↵
↵Idaho: Last best shot at a BSU L. ↵

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↵Stanford bandwagon update ↵
↵At USC -- remember two years ago? ↵

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↵CFB Top 25 Tonight: Cincy! The Bearcats have two games remaining better than anything left on Texas's schedule -- the first is tonight, when they play West Virginia. If you missed Cincy on national TV last Saturday night, catch them tonight, including the Zach Collaros Experience (supplemented by displaced incumbent starting QB Tony Pike, himself a Heisman contender before his injury). ↵

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↵(CFB Top 25 last night: Speaking of the Big East's ranked teams putting on a show, not so much for South Florida.) ↵

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↵LeBron vs. Wade: LeBron won the game; D-Wade scored more and had the sickest highlight. But the intrigue remains whether these guys can ignore their "alpha" personalities to make history on the same team. (I continue to wonder whether LeBron would go to Miami or Wade to Cleveland ... then again, why wouldn't both come to a neutral location -- like New York or NJ/Newark/Brooklyn -- to make their run together?) ↵

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↵Uniform Watch: Free 23? LeBron says he is changing jersey numbers from 23 to 6, out of respect for Michael Jordan and the notion that no one could respectfully rep No. 23 again. He also wants other players who wear 23 to drop it. No word on all those crazy Knicks fans who bought customized No. 23 Knicks jerseys with "James" on the back. (By the way, remember how all the kids used to want to wear No. 23 to be like Mike? Watch for kids who want to wear No. 6 -- question is: Will youth, prep and colleges allow numbers higher than 5?) ↵

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↵Don't forget about Kobe: The Suns might be surprisingly good this season, but that doesn't mean that they are Lakers-good. ↵

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↵Coaching Carousel: Byron Scott out in NOLA. We knew this was coming, but was it really Scott's fault? ↵

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↵Name to Know: Harrison Barnes, the top-rated prep hoops player, who will announce his college choice today. I cannot make this more clear: UNC and Duke are terrible places to go if a player considers himself "one-and-done." ↵

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↵Barnes would be much much better off staying home at Iowa State. He can take a page from Michael Beasley: Go to a smaller program, be a god, make it to the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament and move along to the Top 5 of the 2011 NBA Draft. ↵

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↵CBB Mania: After a couple of games this week, the college hoops season really starts this weekend. The must-see is at 6 p.m. tonight on ESPNU, when Kentucky makes its season debut vs. Morehead State. ↵

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↵Must-Read: DeCourcy's 10 things to watch for. ↵

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↵(For my part, I am taking my 3-year-old to his first-ever basketball game tonight: The mighty -- or at least neighborhood -- St. Francis (NY) Terriers vs. Brown. More on that next week.) ↵

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↵CBB Last Night: Evan Turner Watch. 24 points and 17 rebounds in a Buckeyes win. ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: John Lackey is this year's AJ Burnett. (Which means, by extension, that a team like the Brewers won't be signing him.) ↵

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↵Must-Read: What we learned from 2009 season. ↵

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↵Crime: Seriously, what were those Vols players (allegedly) thinking? ↵

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↵Pop Culture: The Who will play Super Bowl halftime this season. The SB has made some awesome choices in recent years -- Bruce, U2, Prince. This is another in that line -- CSI-opening-credit ubiquity aside, who doesn't like The Who? ↵

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↵The Last Word: "I like playing against LeBron more than anybody else in the league. He brings out the best in me, and I bring out the best in him." -- Dwyane Wade. (Yes, but what does that mean as it relates to playing WITH LeBron, not against him?) ↵

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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. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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

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