During the lead-up to Week 13's Patriots-Jets heavyweight matchup, you heard a lot of folks call it the biggest game of the season. The showdown to end all showdowns, we heard broadcasters say.
And after the Patriots took Rex Ryan and co. out to the woodshed (with a little help from Woodhead! HEY-OOOO!), I had a Patriots fan come up to me this week and start gloating about the triumph. "You see that buddy? Who's going to beat us now? The Jets were paper champions, baby!"
(Let's pause to appreciate Patriots fans in all their front-running glory.)
("Paper champions?" ... Seriously?)
(Okay, let's move on.)
On the other side, we heard from the Jets, who sounded like someone just shot their dog:
"There's a lot of reasons why it happened. Take your pick."
"You never imagine this..."
"You're kind of like shell-shocked. Everything just kind of snowballed. Everything just happened so fast."
"This humble pie tastes like a car tire and it goes down like peanut butter."
But here's the thing. IT'S ONE GAME. Haven't we been watching the NFL the past few years? Don't get me wrong; the Patriots were impressive the other night and the Jets looked terrible. So now that we've got that on the record... Let's not get too carried away here. Even in other sports, regular season showdowns should be taken with a grain of salt. But in pro football?
There's so much parity in play these days, it's certifiably insane to pretend a regular season game can define a season going forward. Two years ago the Cardinals lost a Week 16 game in New England 47-7. Six weeks later, Arizona was in the Super Bowl, and where were the Patriots?
The New York Giants lost 2 of their last 3 regular season games before winning the Super Bowl in 2008. The Colts lost 4 of their last 6 before winning in 2007. And let's not forget the Saints, who lost their final three regular season games last year, leading to a slew of "What's Wrong With the Saints?" conversations in the leadup to the playoffs.
It's not to say New England grabbing pole position for home-field advantage means nothing--especially since they've won 26(!) straight home games with Tom Brady--but this is still the NFL, and the past few years, the playoffs have looked more like the NCAA Tournament than ever before. Seeds matter, regular season momentum matters, but let's keep it in perspective. The Jets aren't dead, and could very well beat the crap out of New England a month from now. New York's Trevor Pryce has the right idea:
"It's not the end of the world. You have to embrace (the loss) and don't pretend it didn't happen. Look the beast in the eye. If you blink, you have a problem. If you don't blink, then you can move on."
Something tells me the Jets will move on. And looking at the bigger picture, all the NFL teams jockeying for playoff seeds over the next few weeks should remember we're in the conference tournament portion of the NFL's college basketball season. Lose now, and it's not the end of the world for a playoff team. These are just battles. The war starts in a month, and if history's any indicator, it'll be anarchy.
With that said... Let's see what the conference tournaments look like this week!
GIVE ME A HEAPING HELPING
Chiefs at Chargers (-7)
A Gus Johnson special! Bonus points because this one actually has playoff implications. There's nothing better than Gus announcing quasi-meaningful games. It almost never happens--(cough) 'cause CBS has their head up their ass (cough)--but it's great when it does. This week, either Kansas City eliminates their stiffest competition in the AFC West, or San Diego pulls a game closer to completing their annual December heist of the AFC West. It really comes down to this: which do you believe in less? Matt Cassel (or Brodie Croyle) and the KC offense, or the Chargers' ability to win under pressure? On an another note, the NFL's West divisions have ruined my Sundays, but we'll get to that in a minute.
Eagles (-3.5) at Cowboys
What's up y'all? Today was a good day. Woke up before 10 for the second time this week. Rise and grind, y'all! Look at ya boy! Y'all know what early morning means, right? McDonnnnnalds breakfassssst. MMMMM. Hooked it up for the whole fam! We was livin in Egg McMuffin paradise! Then I hit my connect and he blessed me with some "herbal supplements" to help my "headaches." LOL. What the P.O. don't know won't hurt 'em! Then me and my man went and copped some DVDs at Best Buy with Mike's credit card. Have y'all seen Planet Earth? Man... The world is so WILD. But real talk, how did they get these camera underwater??? LOL. Life is crazy, man... Life is beautiful! Now it's naptime... Herbal supplements hittin me HARD! LOL. I'll check in with y'all later. Shout out to the 757!!!
-- Don't you wish Marcus Vick would start blogging about his daily activities?
In any case, Sunday's night game should be the best of the weekend. The Cowboys are playing better than ever, and it'll be a pretty great test for Mike Vick and the Eagles. But back to Marcus. Do you think he hangs out with Andy Reid's sons at all? And if the Eagles somehow win the Super Bowl this year, wouldn't it be great if the added exposure prompted some network to create a reality show around Andy Reid's kids and Marcus Vick? Wouldn't you watch that show?
Anyway, until then, all we have is Marcus Vick's Twitter account.
Patriots (-3) at Bears
You know who strikes me as a complete ass? Brian Ulracher. Of this week's game, he said:
"New England is the best team in the NFL, record-wise. But I feel like we're the best team, period. That's why I say record-wise. They have the best quarterback, numbers-wise. And everybody likes to go by numbers, right?''
Coming from somebody else, this routine might go over better. But dude! You're Brian Ulracher! This isn't 2004, and you're not King Badass of the NFL. You're like a crappier, louder version of Jon Beason. ... Really, I just wish Bas Rutten had taken him up on the offer to "take it outside":
I'LL HAVE A SCOOP OF THAT, PLEASE
Raiders at Jaguars (-4)
Following last week's annual, "Whoa! The Raiders aren't half-bad when they put it all together" game, I think we're due for a disappearing act this Sunday. I know, I'm the same guy that wrote this is the year Oakland would shock the world with a playoff run, but it just doesn't feel right. As for Jacksonville, they stole wins against the Browns and Texans, and sometimes, two lucky wins is all it takes to turn an 8-8 disappointment into a 10-6 success story. It doesn't make sense to me, either.
Ravens (-3) at Texans
Have we figured out whether Joe Flacco's good yet? And the longer we ask this question, doesn't that mean the answer's no? Then again, the way the NFL works these days, this is exactly the sort of team that could get hot in the playoffs and ride it all the way to a Super Bowl. It doesn't make sense to me, either.
Dolphins at Jets (-5.5)
Braylon Edwards' blog on GQ is okay, I guess:
It's interesting when people ask me how I feel about my own season. I'm right in the middle of the pack of league leaders in terms of yards and touchdowns, but at the same time I'm contributing to a winning team. I felt as though I don't have hardly any drops this season, which is huge for a wide receiver. I have one fumble. I've been blocking well and it's taken some note. I've been a team guy and I think that's all you can really ask for. Am I doing whatever the team is asking me to do? When I'm getting chances, am I making those plays for the team? With regard to that, this is definitely my strongest season as a full-time player in the NFL.
But I'm still partial to his post-DUI Fake Tweets:
We slurrin, we spillin, we slurrin, we spillin. But it don't matter tweeps, cuz #WeWinnin
Waitress tellin me I gotta call a cab....... #LOL
WHAT I LOOK LIKE MIZZ WAITRESS? Is almost #BentleyTime
I'LL TASTE IT FIRST...
Bengals at Steelers (-8.5)
Wouldn't it be funny if Terrell Owens went to the Steelers this offseason? Think about it. Pittsburgh needs another playmaker, TO's going to be a free agent, and adding him really only makes sense for a handful of contending teams. It would be a match made in irony heaven. There's not a player in the NFL that fits less with the Steelers ethos, but it's hard to argue he wouldn't help them if he can maintain the production he's wasted in Cincy this year. And as an added bonus, we'd all have yet another reason to hate Pittsburgh!
Bucs (-2) at Redskins
Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett talked about Albert Haynesworth this week, and in the wake of Haynesworth's suspension, he had some choice words for columnists who claimed that Haynesworth was the best defensive player on the Skins:
I watched all the films. I watched 16 films, ok? I read your columnist writes in the paper 'the best defensive lineman you've got, best [versus] the run.' I disagree with that, all right? 'One of the best defensive linemen in the National Football League,' I disagree with that. 'One of the best guys in free agency,' I see Julius Peppers that year, I disagree with him.
There's a lot of things that people write and say that I don't think they really ever watch film. The columnist, I never even see him out here to watch a practice, let alone a film. I don't know, does he come to the games? He probably watches it on TV. So there's a lot of things being said by a lot of different sources, but the reality is this: Thursday he had a bad practice, Friday he didn't practice and he was inactive for the game.
The lesson? If you don't spend your days watching game film of Jim Haslett's horrible, horrible defense, then YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVALID. Nevermind that Haynesworth has made more All-Pro selections than the rest of the Redskins defense combined. Or that he's one of the most physically imposing talents in the entire league. Or that being "the best player" doesn't always correlate to the field and game film.
Because making talented players play their best is supposed to the coach's job, you say?
Well f--k you, journalist nerd. Go watch some game film and then come talk to me.
I DON'T KNOW...SMELLS KINDA FUNNY...
Giants (-3) at Vikings
Packers (-7) at Lions
Atlanta (-7.5) at Carolina
NO THANKS, MY PLATE'S FULL
Browns (-1) at Bills
Whichever fan base has to watch their team lose this game on Sunday, it's going to be a pretty brutal reality check. It's either "We can't even beat Cleveland!" or "We lost to goddamn Buffalo!" and either way, somebody's going to spend the night drinking themselves to sleep.
Broncos at Cardinals (-4.5)
And speaking of the NFC West... There have been some complaints this year about the NFL's failure to put compelling games in the 4 o'clock slot each weekend. And you know whose fault that is? The AFC and NFC West. This Broncos-Cardinals game should happen at 9 a.m. on ESPNU with Pam Ward announcing, but because nobody ever expected these teams to be this awful, I guess we have to let them play at 4:15 like everybody else.
Anyway, we need to bring back quality West Coast Football. Bill Walsh, if you're up there somewhere, please give Cam Newton to the Cardinals and Andrew Luck to the Seahawks. Roger Goodell, pull whatever strings you need to. We can do so much better than this.
Seahawks at 49ers (-5.5)
I mean, seriously guys. Can't Tony Dungy intervene on God's behalf? No matter who makes the playoffs from the NFC West, it's going to be embarrassing for everyone involved. Avert your eyes.