Saturday, December 24, 2005

So Long, San Diego

One of the worst ironies of the NFL season is going to be the San Diego Chargers beating arguably the two best teams in the NFL on the road yet still not making the playoffs. Not one for those screeching, preaching calls for reformation of the NFL postseason, I see more irony in the fact that although the Chargers were able to beat the Pats and Colts but lost AT HOME to the Dolphins. What it shows is that you can’t afford to have let downs in the NFL on any given Sunday. (or Saturday, or Thursday or Monday, as the case may be.) – now the Chargers have to rely on at least the Steelers losing to either against Cleveland or at Detroit.

The Colts perfect-season-ending loss to the Chargers at home proves that this isn’t 1972 after all and the postseason isn’t going to be a walk in the park. It’s going to be a fist fight in any alley.

The Pats still might have some magic left against the deer-in-the-headlights Colts and are on a roll. The Bengals wouldn’t pose much opposition, nor do the Steelers, at least not until they’ve confirmed a postseason slot. That leaves the Broncos who are likely to be upset in their first match considering the play of Jake of Late. Jacksonville are also there to be steamrolled, another sacrificial lamb like the Bengals. But the Pats, oh the Pats and the magical Tom Brady, the Einstein of Football, Belichick. The Pats are their schoolyard bully.

I hate to say this but the death in the family for Colts head coach Tony Dungy makes the Colts a virtual lock for the Super Bowl championship now. Inspiration is what drives team that hair’s whisper above their opponents.

This season is a good one to bring up the auld IntraConference playoff scheme whereby the regular season is shortened back to 14 games and the top ranked AFC team plays at home against the lowest-ranked NFC team out of the four division winners in each Conference. This would necessitate killing the wildcard scheme altogether – why should finishing lower than first in any division merit a postseason spot? Plus we wouldn’t need astrophysicists to explain the different tie-breaking scenarios.

There hasn’t been a Giants-Redskins game this important since the Gibbs-Parcells, LT v Jay Schroeder mismatch in the NFC Title Game in an artic and windy Giants Stadium almost a generation ago.

And let’s face it, the pasting the Giants gave the Redskins earlier this season was with the spirit of Mr Mara on their side as an inspirational momentum. It’s going to be a little different this time around but there’s still no guarantee that the Skins won’t self-destruct as they have already this season on the heels of a big victory.

I hope Joe Gibbs makes it to the playoffs this season and the only way that’s going to happen is if they beat the Giants 17-13 today. This may well be the highlight of the Danny Boy Franchise to date.

QB Rex, Mister Grossman returning the Bears adds an offensive element that makes the Bears a little more dangerous for the postseason. Kyle Orton, the poor man’s Ben Roethlisberger of 2005/06, wasn’t fooling anybody. Orton was like a struggling Cub pitcher on a wind-blown afternoon in Wrigley Field. Still, they’ve got to beat the Vikings in Minnesota to have any reasonable hope for a successful post season. Grossman’s xmas present this year is the starting job in Green Bay, Christmas Day. Not bad.

Reggie Bush. Reggie Bush. Am I the only one who finds it odd that the Heisman Trophy winner, the best college back in the country, has the same surname as the President of the United States, the former President of the United States and the Governor of Florida?

Or, worse still, an NFL team with a “Saints” nickname, gets nearly wiped off the map by Mother Nature, Act of God, Hand of Maradona? I mean, it might seem appropriate for a team called The Jets to have fallen apart after planes flew into the WTC, even if their “home” games were played in New Jersey former swamplands.


College Bowl games appear meaningless by nature. Sure, you’ve got the massive Rose Bowl this season, a potential 1972 Nebraska-Oklahoma sort of showdown without the in-bred rivalry, but you’ve also got well over a dozen bowl games that have nothing to do with anything, like Fort Worth Bowl featuring Houston (6-5) v. Kansas (6-5). The Dreaded Motor City Bowl death match of Akron (7-5) at Memphis (6-5), to name but a few of the guilty parties.


For a baseball update, Archie Bunker's Army fawns in a pre-dawn Christmas Eve, over the offseason moves of Omar the Magician.


Here in England, we’ve seen the heroes of the historic cricket victory of the summer get pasted in Pakistan, the national rugby side fall into a seemingly irreparable tail spin, winning the right to host the Olympics in London only to suffer a terrorist attack shortly thereafter, and the national football team provide us with enough hope to harbour delusions of a World Cup title this July in Germany.

Manchester United, the New York Yankees of the English Premier League, have finally eclipsed those same Yankees for highest average number of franchise melodramas per week, All-Time. Between injuries, the always-controversial Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane’s infamous public aneurism over the play of teammates and the coaching ability of subcommandante Carlos, routed out of the Champions League in a humiliating display best characterised by the King Of The Useless Stepovers, who gave the bird to his countrymen on exiting, rather than the more English two-fingers, which is cooler anyway.

I don’t know of any manager since say, Billy Martin, to have been as off the rails as Jose Mourinho for Chelsea. Every professional sport needs a Jose Mourinho-type as one of its managers/coaches. Dapper yet controversial. Highly successful. He’s everything rolled into one.

Still, Newcastle’s my team and now that they’re on the tiniest and most fragile rolls only weeks after Souness was nearly in the hangman’s noose, it’s still safe to say there’s nothing quite as interesting as a Souness facial expression. He looks like he could kick the chair out from underneath himself at any moment. Those post-match interviews are demonstrations of exquisite pain in a man whose inner suffering is worn like a day glow armband on his sleeve.

The Boxing Day match against Liverpool at Anfield, Michael Owen’s homecoming, will be the highlight of the Newcastle season to date if Owen has his way. That’s no easy thing to do against a Liverpool defence that is virtually impenetrable but Owen is arguably England’s best goal scoring machine and if anyone could find a way to do it, it’d be an emotionally high Michael Owen playing at Anfield for the first time since he left.


Happy Christmas, readers.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Snow And The NFL Playoff Runs

I can't get enough of these images, snow starved as I am in England.

Believe it or not, even that disasterous Seahawks/Eagles debaucherie kept me watching simply for the flakes.

Gawd how I miss them:

And yea, it probably wasn't just Chicago and Pittsburgh but if two teams are synonymous with smash-mouth football and snow and cold, Da Bears and Da Steelers would be near the top.

Nevermind that the Steelers let the Bears marvelous winning streak tumble and fall. After all, Joe Orton is the Roethlisberger of 2006, low-talent, win-streak-totin rookie QB wondering where it all went right.

All yesterday proved, along with the fatality of the Carolina Panthers to the Tampa Bucs at home, is that there is one team, one favourite, one meeting scheduled with destiny and that would be the 13-0 Colts who now must try and avoid not only losing any of the last three games but any of the games in the post-season thereafter lest they cruise through an undefeated regular season only to choke on it hosting the Pats or the Broncos or something equally absurd.

Any chance Manning and the Colts will fall prey to the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately swoon?

Guessing here they run the gauntlet. Too late for any other outcome.

And let's face it - there really isn't any quality competition out there anymore. Certainly not from the NFC - Giants, Panthers and Bears, oh my? Of course, with such a fantastic record, the dreaded Seahawks might just make it all the way but here's hoping they don't. Seattle is too dreary, too much of a non-football culture with a fat,boring coach and a lousy NFL QB, albeit one of the better running backs in the league.

What we are left with is what is likely to be a rather anti-climactic outcome by season's end, a brilliant and historical run by the Colts but about as exciting as the Dolphins methodical culmination to their own 1972 run was to watch.


Certainly England are happy.

However, the United States, Italy, Czech Republic, Argentina, Holland, Cote D'Ivoire and Ghana are not.

Spain and France were practically handed a spot in the quarterfinals. Here's to hoping they don't make it out of their own groups!

More insightful analysis to come, haha.