When the news on ESPN broke Sunday morning of the death of Reggie White, it was shocking. But even more shocking was ESPN's ability to go into a lengthy coverage of the story involving several people on the ESPN staff, and pulled it off like they had rehearsed it. I kick ESPN around pretty good most of the time but that was a tasteful, fitting, tribute to one of the all time greats.
Back when Green Bay won Superbowl XXXI against New England I got involved with the slithery people that set up temporary "Championship stores" selling merchandise to crazed local fans. My store location was in Milwaukee in a somewhat downtrodden mall, and we were selling Green Bay Superbowl shirts, hats and everything else under the sun. It was a wildly diverse racial and economic customer base, and I was the co-managing the location with a decidedly non-urban non football fan. Well, let's be blunt. Gomer Pyle with a beer belly. That was my partner.
An older black lady walked in one day and after looking around a few minutes asked us if we had any shirts with Reggie White on it. Before I could respond Jethro belted out, "Who is Reggie White?". Her eyes got as big as saucers and her jaw literally dropped. I knew what was coming.
She laid into him like a GTO posi-trac lays into the asphalt, "You don't know who Reggie White is? You in here selling this stuff and you don't even know who Reggie White is? What the world is wrong with you? Then she threw her hands in the air and walked toward the door. I tried to stop her but she said, "Oh no, I aint shoppin' nowhere that don't know who Reggie White is!" And she walked out. The people loved their Reggie. He will be missed.
Manning's much anticipated record tying touchdown pass was not quite what an anxious football nation envisioned. A shovel pass to a back-up running back. But the drive and TD #49 was vintage Manning.
The Chargers showed they deserve to at least be considered in the same class as Indy in the NFL elite. Before game time Sunday Ed Werder reported that Coach Dungy said 'San Diego was not an elite team'. Coach almost ate those words, which coincidentally would have been the first meal for Dungy in a while. Tony, have a cheeseburger or two and watch out for that bulletin board material.
As the playoffs come into clearer view, I thought I would examine which teams have proved the most during the regular season. After minutes of exhaustive research I have compiled a list of playoff teams that have victories against teams with winning records:
Patriots: Indy, Buffalo(2), Seattle, Jets (2), Baltimore Steelers: New England, Philly, Jax, Jets, Baltimore
Colts: Green Bay, Jax, Minnesota, Baltimore, San Diego Chargers: Jax, Denver
Jets: Buffalo, Seattle Broncos: San Diego Bills: Jets, Seattle
Eagles: Minnesota, Baltimore, Green Bay,
Falcons: San Diego, Denver
Packers: Minnesota (2)
What information can we take from this carelessly assembled list? Besides the fact that it resembles a pair of the wife's panties? First of all, it is apparent that Jacksonville has played almost every team going to the playoffs this season and lost most of those games. They are probably the best team that won't be in the playoffs. The big game is being held in their back yard, and they will be watching from the bedroom window.
The Patriots lead the class having won 7 games against teams with winning records. They won the best division in football in convincing fashion. The Colts and Steelers have 5 wins against winners and the Patriots split against those two teams. There is your holy trinity. Pick one. I can't.
The "elite" of the NFC have won a total of 9 games against teams with winning records, and Minnesota counts for 4 of those victories. Any chance Minnesota wins a road playoff game against any of these teams? No.
This chart only shows what is obvious to most. The teams in the NFC are ill prepared to match up against The AFC's best. The NFC went down when T.O. went down. If the Eagles somehow overcome this, and win a Superbowl without Owens, I would consider it one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of the NFL.
The loss of Owens totally changes he dynamics of the NFC playoffs. Any team in this pack except the Vikings could put together 2 or 3 great games to take the crown. The Eagles should still make it, but that certainly isn't a given like it was 2 weeks ago. I do not like Reid's strategy of resting the starters, and I think it could seriously backfire.
So after examining this information, and with the current state of the NFL as it is, I will lay it on the line and go with a Pittsburgh / Carolina Superbowl. That one has a great storyline. The rookie quarterback and the resurrected running back. The once 1-7 injury decimated, smoldering in the ashes losers of last years Superbowl. Hey, I love an underdog. I can't help myself. 10-1 odds on the Panthers to win the Conference. Count me in on that one. I like it in a big way. They've been there. They can go there.
But in the end Pittsburgh will beat them (or whoever) like a rented mule. And it will make us sleepy like those yearly 80's NFC thrashings we had to endure. My how the times have changed, and yet not changed.
10) RAMS: Remember back when the Rams brass practically shoved Vermiel out the door to avoid losing Martz the Mastermind to another team. I'd have to guess that it just hasn't worked out the way they planned. Yet Ed Werder reported that Martz will not lose his job. Martz has lost the fans, the media, and supposedly many of his players. ESPN has it bad for Martz, and you can add me to that list. Stick him in the catapult with his 7 million and launch him. Run away!! Run away!!
9) SAINTS: Here we are on the brink of week 17 and I'll be dipped in shellac if the Saints don't have a chance to make the playoffs at 7-8. All they have to do is beat the Panthers. Oh well. There's always next year. If only Aaron Brooks had back just one of those ill advised passes or fumbles. Or one of the ones he will make next week. Or that offensive line had had one less offside penalty at the edge of field goal range. Or if only one, simply one crucial act of stupidity had not been commited on that field at some point during this season of ill content. If only.
8) COWBOYS: The media keeps hounding Bill Parcells about getting Romo or Henson some playing time, but Parcells keeps fending them off like a virgin at a frat party. Here is what Parcells is trying not to say. He is not interested in grooming a green quarterback. He does not want to commit that much time to get to a Championship. He wants it now, and he's going to go out and try to get a veteran quarterback that is ready to get him there now. It's really not all that complicated.
7) TITANS: When they fall in this league, they fall hard. To put the season in perspective the Titans have given up more points than the Kansas City Chiefs. Music City Debacle. Gak.
6) RAIDERS: If the Chiefs and the Raiders would pool their defenses together they might have enough talent to field an NFL level squad. Nah, probably not. After losing the AFC Championship game to the Patriots on the famous "tuck" rule, getting jacked up by the coach he let go in the Superbowl, and subsequent horrible seasons, I just wonder how long before Al Davis goes Howard Hughes on us.
5) JAGUARS: The Jags had a tough schedule this season. I'm guessing they never envisioned the Houston Texans as the team on that schedule that would rip their hearts out and stomp on their playoff dreams.
4) DREW BENNETT / BILLY VOLEK OWNERS: Surprise! Jumping on these guys was a wild high speed ride there for a few weeks. But the week 16 disappearing act was like somebody throwing a log across the roller coaster track. A brutal end to a thrilling ride.
3) DOLPHINS: The masses in Miami are probably pretty happy to get Nick Saban, and the owners weren't going to accept anybody else. I'm always suspicious of a college coach making the jump. I know Saban has NFL experience, but he is a defensive guy taking over a team that already has a decent defense but an offense that resembles a waste water treatment plant sludge pool. A somewhat curious move from where I stand. We shall see.
2) 49ers: Well, the Browns out dueled the 'Niners for the final top spot in the misery index. It was that putrid Sunday Night loss to the Dolphins that sealed the deal. In the end this team couldn't even be the best at being the worst. Hell of an effort though. Now let's see if they can weasel out of that first round draft pick and get some players they might be able to afford.
1) BROWNS: I was placed in a difficult position Sunday Night because I had picked up the Miami defense especially for this weeks match-up with the Browns. Normally I would avoid placing myself in the position of having to endure a terrible game between awful teams. But thus are the fortunes of fantasy football. And there was a close race for the top spot in the misery index of course. Suddenly I found myself watching a game that had all the excitement of a scoreless soccer game........between girls. And all of this I do in the name of fun?
A big thanks to DMD and WW and to all the Huddlers for sticking by this season. I look forward to more borderline madness next season!!