Sunday, December 31, 2006

Top Three Shocking Things About NFL's Final Regular Season Week

1. Chiefs In, Broncos Out - You find me bemoaning a postseason bereft of Mike Shanahan's blinding bronco teeth but considering the strong words of denunciation SA had for Chief's coach and Jet Expat Herm Edwards, it is a bit embarassing to see them worm their way in. Granted, it was no cheap effort. But look, it took a heapful of fates, the losses of Cincinnati, Tennessee and Denver in addition to their own win to get in. They beat the Jags fair and square and as improbable as it was, the Broncos' 5th loss in 7 games confirmed that the Chiefs are headed to Indianapolis next week. Imagine that: Larry Johnson and his 138 yards and three TDs against the Jags facing the Olé Rush Defence of the Colts.

2. Cowboys Stinking Worse Than Ever Heading Into Playoffs - You would imagine a team wanting some momentum going into the Prayoffs, playing at home against the NFL's second most laughable team, the miserable Detroit Lions, would have won this game handily. Let's say a 35-0 halftime margin to emphasise the point and give the starters some rest in the second half. Instead at the end of the first quarter they were losing to those pathetic Lions by a 13-0 margin! "I can't tell you how disappointed I am. I really can't," Parcells said, of the 39-31 humiliating defeat. "This is the low point for me in a long time." The Cowboys have allowed 132 points the last four games, the exact amount they gave up the previous eight games and will head to the once-notorious home of the Seahawks who have themselves been a laughable playoff-quality team of late. Funnier still, the Lions, who disappointed all year, blew the chance for the Number One Pick in next year's draft with the victory. Oh morale building victories, be still my heart.

Forget about the tough guy's final game...

3. Grossman Is As Bad As Advertised - Bears Believers Beware - It's a sticky wicket to have to question your starting QB with a week off going into the playoffs but Bears QB Rex Grossman has just as many question marks about his quality and form at the end of the regular season as he did at the end of the preseason and yeah, defence and rushing win titles in the NFL but when he goes 2-for-12 with three interceptions -- two of which were returned for touchdowns -- and a zero passer rating in the first half and does not come out for the second, you've got to believe that only Brian Griese's sad and ineffectual second half role (5 for 15 with 2 INTs) prevent this controversy from getting worse. Nonetheless, it must make Bears fans cringe.

"I've been in this position before," Grossman said. "I hate this. I hate it." There's a good chance the Bears will hate it more.


1. My preseason picks for the Wild Card Round of the playoffs (But on the bright side I got 6 of 8 of the division winners right:


Pittsburgh at San Diego
Denver at Baltimore


KC at Indy


Tampa Bay at Arizona
Green Bay at Chicago (only one week off)


NYG at Iggles
Dallas at Seattle


The weakest playoff teams this season (or, teams most likely to shock everyone thus, and go to the Super Bowl):

1. Dallas Cowboys - As fast as Tony Romo's star arose it has fallen as defences have figured out how to stop him. This guy's demise will be faster than Mark "The Bird" Fidrych's.
2. NY Giants - Definately a hate/hate relationship, the media and Giants coaches. Much like his predecessor, the militant and evil dictator Tom Coughlin has almost been railroaded out of town for the umpteenth time only to be saved by a last-minute playoff. If they are routed by the Iggles and if the promise of making him leave might inspire Tiki's Return, it's bye bye evil dictator, hello next NFL whiz kid.
3. Kansas City Chiefs - This team sort of deserves their playoff spot but really, having to win and having to have three other teams lose makes them one of the more unlikelier candidates to have advanced. Funny thing is, with their running game and Indy's lack of a run defence, this game might be more interesting than expected.


Congrats, New York - Getting both the Giants and the Jets into the playoffs in the same year for the first itme since 2002. No easy feat and certainly improbable.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

WEEK 17 - The Prayoffs

With one little weekend remaining in the regular season it all comes down to the last minute mania of 11 teams vying for the three remaining playoff spots. The only certainty is at least one of those teams will be a .500 club, namely an NFC team. Parity raise your ugly head!

Still, not all the news is bad news. Every television market other than those with a home game will receive a 1 p.m. ET game on CBS and FOX and a 4:15 p.m. ET game on each network. This is the first time fans in those markets will receive four Sunday afternoon games. Here in the UK, that means what they like to say, sweet feck all considering we will get our standard two matches, these week the Pats v Titans and Falcons v Iggles. PLUS the bonus late Sunday Night game.

Now, rather than rattle off all the confusing, likely and unlikely scenarios it might be prudent to recall that last week again demonstrated that nothing is certain in this whacky NFL season and perhaps, as in many cases, the least expected is to be expected. (Witness my late season surge last week in improbably correct guessing to whit.) Thus, there is no miracle cure for accounting which three teams of the remaining (Boo hoo to Arizona, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minnesota, Oakland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Washington who have ALL been eliminated from playoff contention,) will get their final slots, let's just get right down to it, drop the scientific know-how, the educated guesses and the wishful thinking.

This week it's time to consider the most absurd potentials:


N.Y. Giants (-2 1/2) vs. WASHINGTON - The NFC is everyone's whipping boy this season and well it should be considering the blight they are about to besmirch the postseason with. The Giants, despite a 7-8 record and a dismal month behind them are in the catbird seat for the final spot. All they have to do is beat the Redskins, something they have a long and hearty history of doing, especially when it comes to meaningful games against Joe Gibbs teams. All the more reason the Redskins just might upset the apple cart. Pick: Redskins.


PHILADELPHIA (-7) vs. Atlanta - Philly on a roll with their new-found wundermensch in Garcia at QB not only qualified for the playoffs last week but might even still knock the Cowboys from the NFC East perch. The Falcons, on the other hand are flying on one wing, the wing of Michael Vick and all season, Michael Vick has astounded and demoralised his team with his alternating skill and mediocrity. Amid all this the Falcons have lost 6 of their last 8. You might say the time is right if not too late for a turnaround but what can stop Garcia-Magic making them the underdog favourites to make it to the Super Bowl? Pick: Iggles.

BALTIMORE (-9) vs. Buffalo - The only redeeming quality of this game is that the Ravens are fighting for a first round bye, an extra week to recover whilst the Bills try and draw meaning from a season that appears to be finishing better than it started. The Bills won't run on the Ravens although Willis McGahee needs just 33 yards for his third straight 1,000-yard season. Question is, a strong finish to the season and .500 record on the road - is that enough to inspire the Bills? Pick: Ravens.

NEW ORLEANS (-8) vs. Carolina - Looks like the Panthers might return to the NFL again now that Jake Delhomme is scheduled to make his return. The Saints have already clinched and may be looking outward to the week ahead already following their Cinderella season. Pick: Panthers.

HOUSTON (-3 1/2) vs. Cleveland - The key in all of this is failing to overthink. That's what happens when the Houston Texans swallow the Indy Colts in their franchise-biggest win in history and the Browns can equal their crappy 2-6 home record with a 2-6 road record with just one more loss. Still, no playoff repercussions in this one, difficult to get enthused for either team and we shall rely upon the laws of anti-momentum in this one even though the Browns have the worst defence in professional football however with former U of Miami star Ken Dorsey getting the start, perhaps the Browns will score more on the Texans than the Colts were able to muster. Pick: Browns.

DALLAS (-11) vs. Detroit - You can only imagine this going one way, can't you? Lopsided and sloppy. But the Romo Magic has worn thin as defences have discovered more and more ways to defend the magic boy blunder and one is forced to wonder whether Bledsoe might ever reappear for the Cowboy Stars if things ever got really dire. The Boyz have plenty of motivation whereas the Lions are fighting for the #1 pick in the draft. Dallas (9-6) can still win the division and the NFC's third seed if it beats Detroit and Philadelphia loses to Atlanta. That would mean a home playoff game for the first time since 1998. But if the Cowboys lose, they'll open the first week of the postseason on the road at Seattle. Considering the Seahawks' season that might be preferable to the Boyz but all this in-team bickering has to end somewhere and 3 TD passes to TO would probably shut everyone up for awhile. Pick: Cowboys.

KANSAS CITY (-3) vs. Jacksonville - has covered its final road game three of the last four seasons and is 10-1-1 against the spread in its last 12 games when not favored. From a playoff perspective, both teams can still get in, provided the Jets and Broncos don't both win. "I'm very disappointed," Kansas City coach Herman Edwards said, summing up his Jets coaching career. "I didn't come in here just to win some games. I came in here to try to win a division, win a championship. Well, best intentions being what they are, I say a Herm Edwards-coached team chokes the bit again. Pick: Jags.

INDIANAPOLIS (-7 1/2) vs. Miami - The Colts, tsk, tsk. Notoriously poor finishers, the Colts have failed to cover their final home game, and their final game overall, each of the last four seasons. Of course by then, they'd already clinched the greatest team in the History of the NFL that sucked when it mattered most. This time, this new theme of lose alot going into the playoffs just might be magic. Then again, as we've all heard ad infinitum since the beginning of childhood, this is the time of year that teams that don't defend against the run get squashed. On the other hand, the Dolphins have just about run out of QB options and with Persnickity Lemon starting the returning Ronnie Brown will have to get 30 carries at least to make this game anything but a route. By the way, an interesting note: Peyton Manning, 3-7 lifetime against the Dolphins. All the more reason the Colts won't be kicked when they are down. Pick: Colts.

TENNESSEE (-3) vs. New England - I don't mind telling you I'd like to see the NFL's newest edition to the most-exciting team with their rookie QB wonder and having covered its final home game in six of the last seven seasons, make it straight into the playoffs. But too many teams have got to lose for this to happen (namely root against Cincy, Jacksonville and Denver). The thing to remember is that the Patriots don't have much to play for and they will likely need to rest alot of starters heading into the playoffs so even though the Titans won't likely reach the playoff galaxy, they still rank with the Saints for the greatest comeback story of the season. Pick: Titans.

N.Y. JETS (-11 1/2) vs. Oakland - If Herm Edwards were still coaching the Jets with everything on the line like this, I'd say the Rayduhs win this one handily. But he isn't. Coaching Boy Wonder Eric Mangini is, thank god. If the Jets win, they're in - it's that simple. If they lose, they would get in if Cincinnati and Jacksonville lose or tie; if Cincinnati loses or ties and Tennessee wins; or if Denver and Jacksonville lose. You'd think that's just too much calculating for anyone's head. But let's consider the Jets haven't won three in a row Nov. 21-Dec. 5, 2004. Pick: Rayduhs.

CINCINNATI (-6) vs. Pittsburgh - The Defending World Champs are gone, out of it. The Bengals would make the playoffs if hell freezes over OR if the Bengals win and the New York Jets lose at home to 2-13 Oakland, Cincinnati would earn a wild-card berth OR they could also earn the wild card with a victory, combined with a Denver loss at home to San Francisco and a Kansas City win over Jacksonville. On the other hand, who thinks the Steelers would stink it up in what might be Bill Cowher's final game coaching them? Pick: Steelers.

TAMPA BAY (-3 1/2) vs. Seattle - Imagine the chances of a playoff bound team being underdogs against a team that is 4-11. Imagine what that tells you about the quality of this particular playoff team. These defending NFC champs have not lost four straight games since losing five in a row Oct. 2-29, 2000, when they were a member of the AFC West. If they were still in that group, they'd have been knocked out of playoff contention right around week 6. Pick: Bucs.

St. Louis (-2) vs. MINNESOTA - St. Louis is one of five NFC teams at 7-8 vying for the final wild-card spot. It must win and have the New York Giants, Carolina and Atlanta all lose or tie to avoid missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The Vikings on the other hand, have simply blooooown it yet again. In this crazy season, this is just where the Vikings make a suprising comeback to avoid a losing season at home for the first time since 1984. Pick: Vikings.

SAN DIEGO (-13 1/2) vs. Arizona - Will these Chargers EVER take a week off? We will have plenty of time to point out Marty Schottenheimer's miserable playoff history in the weeks to follow. San Diego can clinch the AFC's top seed with a victory over the Cardinals or if Baltimore loses to Buffalo at home earlier on Sunday. The Ravens beat the Chargers 16-13 on Oct. 1 and would hold the tiebreaker if the teams finished tied. With Matt Leinart out and Jesus Freak Kurt Warner at the controls, expect a return to mediocrity for this team who suddenly almost seemed to discover itself and save the Fat Man's job for another season. The Chargers have covered only one of their last five contests as a favorite of more than 10 points. Pick: Cardinals.

DENVER (-10 1/2) vs. San Francisco - There's still a prayer of avoiding a Shanahan Blinding Teeth playoff for the first time in the recollectable history but if the Broncos win or a tie, or Kansas City lose or tie, they're in thanks to last week's muffed extra point attempt in the snow by the Bengals. On the other hand, the Broncos have covered only two of their last 10 games as a favorite of more than 10 points and the 49ers will be looking to find some revenge for the season after getting knocked out last week by the Cardinals. Pick: 49ers.

CHICAGO (-3) vs. Green Bay - This game getting moved to Sunday Night means it won't be shown in the UK until 2007. I don't care how many people grumble about Brett Favre's face time in what yet again might be his last game ever. He's the most over-rated exciting QB since Kenny Stabler, in my book - another gutsy QB with no majestic beauty and plenty of bad history. I'll be rooting all the way for a big Packer upset and the playoffs but the Pack will need alot of crazy things to happen with a very unlikely combination of results around the league to make it happen and chances are, their fate will be decided before kickoff. Still, the headache-inducing possibilities remain their last and final hope to salvage a last hurrah for the Pack. We all know what kind of performance can be expected from the Bears, who are sleep walking into the playoffs but keep winning anyway. Pick: Da Bears.

Last week: A miraculous winning mark for the first time since very early in the season means that the season's record stands at 102-116-4 and these picks will have to be nearly perfect to achieve a .500 mark on picking games Sports Amnesia know nothing about.

That said, as a bonus to try and push the .500 mark, we will go out on a limb to give you next week's playoffs in advance and these will only count as victories if they are 100% correct:

Denver @ New England
Jets @ Indy
NY Giants @ Philly
Dallas @ Seattle
Three Shocking Things About Week 16

1. Packers Still In Playoff Hunt - I had these same Packers making the playoffs in my preseason picks with a last hurrah for Brett Favre. However, after the miserable start, the stuttering play throughout the season, the chances of this happening were somewhere between miserable and none. Following their victory over the Vikings, they can make the playoffs with

1) GB win + NYG win + GB clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over NYG, OR
2) GB win + NYG loss or tie + STL loss or tie, OR
3) GB win + NYG loss or tie + CAR win, OR
4) GB win + NYG loss or tie + ATL win, OR
5) GB tie + NYG loss + STL loss + ATL loss or tie + CAR loss or tie

Basically, a win at Chicago does it. I'm not saying it's impossible but don't hold your breath. Still, the fact that they are still in the hunt speaks volumes not of the resiliency of the Pack but the weakness of the NFC this season.

2. Colts Lose AGAIN - I get it already. Flushed by victory after victory during the regular season only to see themselves stumble and fall once the games began to matter, the Colts have decided on a different philosophy. Stumble and fall into the playoffs thereby paving the way for a successful post season. I'm buying it but I don't think the rest of the NFL is.

3. Cowboys Humiliated Again - Ok, perhaps it is even MORE surprising that they were humiliated at the hands of the Iggles considering where everyone believed the Iggles were headed when Donovan McNabb went down for the season. Nonetheless, it's plain ole ugly and the best part of it is watching the sagging shoulders of all those bloody Tony Romo Lovers as reality begins to weigh down upon them like a doomed outcome. "We were noncompetitive," coach Bill Parcells said. "There's nothing good to say. We just didn't make any plays at all, either side of the ball. Just awful." Get used to it Bill. As in, first round of the playoffs you'll be singing the same auld song.



--- Oh how long the breath will be held not counting on the Jets to shock the NFL and their fans with one more victory and a playoff berth. Eric Mangini will not win coach of the year what with the Saints' miraculous comeback from the depths of nowhere and obscurity but he certainly held together a team going nowhere fast and gives Jets fans everywhere reason to believe in the future.

--- What is it about the NFC? Chances of teams making the playoffs with a losing record has the Schadenfreudists howling with delight but the guess here is sanity will prevail.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Let's face it. After 16 weeks of football we are no closer to knowing who has the best chance of making it to the Super Bowl, let alone who will win it. On the one hand you could say that it is exciting not knowing from one week to the next who is going to show up, who will be up and who will be down, who will upset who and who will be upset in the most absurd of final scorelines.

On the other hand you could bemoan the glory days of unbeatens and powerhouses that could be glorified. It all started with the Patriots, in my opinion. They won three Super Bowls by what, a total of about 10 points, overpowering no one but dully, supernaturally good. Not exciting, not fearsome. Just efficient.

And now it culminates this season with a collection of teams who have all taken their turns being held up as the team to beat only to be beaten the following week by nobodies. It's as though the mantle of being the best is a hot potato no one wants to hold.

What has this got to do with xmas? Not a bloody thing but the timing, lads, is all in the peaking. Regardless of who has been favoured this season there is a little team in Pittsburgh sneaking up slowly, just as they did last year before running the table and wouldn't it be appropriate if the Steelers won it all again just after everyone had finished writing them off?

And because I am writing this it must not be true, or if it is, it won't be true for very long because in the NFL, nothing stays constant. Therefore, as a Christmas dediction and considering my losing record thus far this season in predicting the games with the spread, I will use the logic called Pick The Opposite of What You Think and see where it gets us.

Have a good xmas, everyone.


GREEN BAY (-3) vs. Minnesota - Vikings humiliated at home last week to the Jets, Packers beating the Lions predictably. Vikings just about drowned playoff hopes. This is an easy one. Pick: Vikings.


Kansas City (-4½) vs. OAKLAND - Da Rayduhs have been one of the few predictable teams in the NFL this season. Bad, badder, worse, all season long save for a short blip of about two weeks when they won a game and almost looked respectable. This should be a no brainer but it's being played against a no-brainer, Chiefs coach Herm Edwards who we Jets fans thank the Football Gods every week abandoned us and made way for the now heavily worshipped Mister Mangini. If there's a bad decision to be made, Herm will be there to make it but will his poor judgement be enough to sabotage his team against one of the NFL's most stable laughingstocks? Pick: Chiefs.


PITTSBURGH (-3½) vs. Baltimore - History does not repeat itself, kids. Only in the world of bad decisions and human nature, not in the NFL. Well, not like this where a team comes out of nowhere for a second season in a row to run the table and win the Super Bowl. Nope. And the Ravens are the sneakiest best team in the NFL there is. Nobody's picking them, no one has picked them all season. Some people even still think they want to call them the Colts. So the Steelers are on a roll, playing at home with everything on the line. Must be the Ravens will win by 30 points. Pick: Ravens.

ATLANTA (-6½) vs. Carolina - Here's another one. Have the Panthers packed it in already? They're out of the playoffs (well, in the NFC, anything is possible since no one really wants those wild cards...) and they've just been humiliated at home by the defending World Champions. The Falcons this season thus far have won two, lost won. Won one, lost one. Won two, lost four. Won two again and then lost last week again. This is a discernable pattern. Like hearing Michael Vick in the washing machine. Pick: Carolina.

Chicago (-4½) vs. DETROIT - Ok, the Rayduhs aren't the NFL's only worst team. The Lions have a laughingstock history almost as rich and at least Al Davis can point to one or two Super Bowl trophies. The best the Lions can do is host a Super Bowl. Of course the Bears on the other hand should have beaten the Bucs by 50 last week before myseriously throwing in the towel only to pull it back like a rug from beneath the Tampa Bay feet in OT. The Lions just plain suck and are virtually immune to the up and down nature of this season. I hate to go with the obvious, but, Pick: Da Bears.

Indianapolis (-9) vs. HOUSTON - This, we would say is another no brainer. Just a few weeks ago the Colts had everyone's head spinning with laughter at their sudden plunge into the cold depths of mediocrity. Then they besmirch the rising tide of Bengals supporters by playing like they have in every other week the last 3 years that weren't weeks during which playoff games fall. Combine that with the fact that David Carr is rapidly becoming the Chris Weinke of his NFL generation and this looks like a bloooooooow out, lads. Which is why it can't be. Pick: Houston!

JACKSONVILLE (-3) vs. New England - One of the seasons best stories is Belichick's Bullies suddenly looking mortal. It's been a slow season and a half coming but that loss to the Dolphins two weeks ago sealed it. Don't worry about last week's drubbing of Houston. It was Houston, after all. Jags, well they trounce the Colts one week, lose to the Titans the next. It's all very predictable, you see. Pick: Jacksonville.

N.Y. GIANTS (-3) vs. New Orleans - This is a tough one. The best matchup of the week, methinks. Both teams suffered humiliating losses last week, no one is on the upswing even though two weeks ago, they were both harbouring delusions of grandeur. Drew Brees is not the NFL's MVP despite all the ridiculous chants for him over LT. Drew Brees is merely the beneficiary of a very long and drawn out karmic episode of first you got it really bad, New Orleans then, inexplicably, you've got it really good. Pick: Giants.

CLEVELAND (-3) vs. Tampa Bay - The Who Cares Bowl. Simply by virtue of almost upsetting the Bears, a feat in a remarkably dull season for the Bucs that registers as almost good enough, the Bucs are probably on the downswing again. Pick: Cleveland.

BUFFALO (-4½) vs. Tennessee - This one is a real head-scratcher. Both teams coming off big upsets both looking like teams on the upswing. One will disappoint. The Titans have won five in a row, the Bills, four of their last five. That means the Titans will lose because NOBODY wins six in a row in the NFL save for the Chargers. Pick: Buffalo.

ST. LOUIS (-2½) vs. Washington - The Redskins have had two highlights this season - the last second victory over the Cowboys and the win over the Saints that surprised even the Redskins. Every time you think the Redskins are a decent team (and believe me, that takes a helluva lot of imagination,) the Redskins roar back like a gang of crippled mice. Pick: St Louis.

SAN FRANCISCO (-4) vs. Arizona - For most of the season the Cardinals spent their time battling the Lions and Rayduhs for the worst team in the NFL status. The 49ers on the other hand, the laughingstocks the last two or three seasons running, are working their way up to nearly respectable. The key element here is the 49ers upset victory over the Seahawks in Seattle. That must mean they are headed for a downswing. Pick: Arizona.

DENVER (-1) vs. Cincinnati - America's Most Arrested Team did a good job convincing us they were on the upswing with several convincing performances in a row right after we'd got done writing them off. The Broncos well, what are they, changing quarterbacks in midseason? All I know is I don't want to have to witness another postseason wearing sunglasses to keep Mike Shanahan's teeth from blinding me and if they win this one, they're in the playoffs. So pray. Pick: Bengals.

San Diego (-3) vs. SEATTLE - This one, we say, is a no-brainer. Seattle has disappointed all season and the Chargers have been virtually immune to the rest of the league's inability to stay upright more than a few weeks in a row. The Chargers are everyone's pick for everything. Thus, this is my upset pick of the week. Pick: Seattle.

Monday night

TWO Monday night games, who is kidding whom? Oh right, it's Christmas. All the more reason to have TWO games on a Monday night.

DALLAS (-6½) vs. Philadelphia - Good Lawd, if you thought last week's NFC East bloodbath was big, an almost single elimination playoff in the toughest division, get excited about this one even more. Here's the clincher: Tony Romo, the accolades for whom have made me literally sick to my stomach several times this season, the man everyone is shoving each other to get first in line to say MEME, I PREDICTED HIS GREATNESS FIRST, is going up against a guy who is everyone's second choice as QB in Philly. Question is, how much does Jeff Garcia look like a 1972 Earl Morrell? Well, not much but in a matchup of heralded versus reviled QBs, the underenthused will prevail. Pick: Iggles.

N.Y. Jets (+2) vs MIAMI - Easy does it now. The Jets have surprised everyone including their most ardent supporters. The Dolphins have disappointed an even greater sum. The Dolphins upset the Pats one week and then lose by an almost equal margin against the Bills no less. In the scheme of ups and downs, the Jets are do for a down, the Dolphins due for an up. Pick: Miami.

Last week: 7-9 (following a predictable pattern)
Season: 102-116-4

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Three Shocking Things About Week 15

1. Panthers Don't Show Up: A few weeks ago Carolina Panther Keyshawn Johnson, the ultimate barometer of team psyche, was quoted along the lines that losing the particular match that week would be like driving the car off of the bridge. The Panthers lost and sure enough, it would appear the team bus when a drownin' because it wasn't a John Fox team out there getting humiliated like 37-3 that, was it?

"It's embarrassing. I feel bad for our owner, obviously, to have paid for the talent we displayed on the field,"
receiver Keyshawn said.

Chris Weinke, starting for lack of a better alternative for the second straight week because of Jake Delhomme's thumb injury, threw for 170 yards and an interception and was sacked five times for the Panthers (6-8), who lost their fourth straight game and rank as one of the NFL season's biggest disappointments.

2. NFC Ist Dreck

Bears almost blow a massive lead to Tampa Bay and need an OT FG to win - this is supposd to be the NFC's finest and they were playing a team with a one-legged offence. Still they somehow almost lost the game. Then the Saints humiliate themselves at home against the lowly Redskins who no one mistook for a playoff team all season. As noted above, the Panthers, alot of peoples' pre humiliate themselves even worse at home against the rising AFC Steelers. Seahawks losers to the 49ers. Vikings pummeled at home by the AFC Jets. Looks like nearly every NFC team with a dog in the race of the playoffs don't really deserve to have their dogs in the race after all. Unless it was all a one week long illusion. Hell, just a week ago, everyone was writing off the Cowboys and look what they did to the Falcons.

3. Bills Denounce Dolphins, 21-0

Seems to be not that long ago (a week ago?!) that the Dolphins were busy putting an historic pasting on the New England Patriots and making Tom Brady play one of his worst games in memory. Then they come to Buffalo, a place the Bills had trouble selling out, and get shutout. And let's not forget about the Bills because just a few short weeks after everyone turned out the lights of their playoff hopes they are bouncing back with a vengeance. It was Buffalo's first shutout since a 2003 season-opening 31-0 win over New England, and its first against the Dolphins since a 29-0 win in November of 1987. Most satisfying, perhaps, the win eliminated Buffalo's AFC East rival from postseason contention, with Miami dropping to 6-8.

Round And Abouts

I think that the Terrell Owens spitting on his opponent story is about the least shocking thing that's happened in the NFL this season. But give it to him that in this Corporate Dull league that wants squeaky clean heroes in a game of violent criminals, T.O. is by far the most flamboyant, disturbing anti-hero to leak out of the repressive ranks of the NFL in recent memory. He almost single-handedly wrecked an entire franchise's season last year and this year he's done just about everything from alleged suicide overdoses to sleeping with the football in the endzone to admitting he doesn't try very hard half the time to now, well, spitting. What ever will this lad do for an encore? Who knows, but you can bet his season won't end quietly.

Anyone notice the battle of the rookie QBs - Denver's Jay Cutler and Arizona's Matt Leinart? It was a little unfair of course - Cutler plays for a playoff-bound team and Leinart plays for a team that's just a sniff above the NCAA level. Or maybe that's an insult to the NCAA. Still, someday if Matt Leinart escapes his Dennis Green Hell (either by trade or free agency or Dennis Green getting fired and replaced by a REAL NFL coach,) these two might meet up one day for the Super Bowl. And if not, the Titans' Vince Young is always lurking right around the corner. The 2006 draft will go down as one of the best for NFL QBs since what, 1983?

So, a few weeks to go, no one really seems to want the lead and what's left to do but make wild guesses about the Playoffs again.


1. Chargers
2. Colts
3. Ravens
4. Patriots
5. Jacksonville
6. Denver


1. Bears
2. Cowboys
3. Saints
4. Seahawks
5. Iggles
6. Giants

Round One:

Ravens over Denver
Jacksonville over Patriots
Saints over Giants
Iggles over Seahawks.

Round Two:

Ravens over Colts
Chargers over Jacksonville
Iggles over Bears
Cowboys over Saints


Chargers 24 Ravens 13


Cowboys 33 Iggles 17


Chargers 44 Cowboys 11

Monday, December 11, 2006

Week Fifteen: Bandwagons, Who Needs 'Em?

How many teams have made a run for the top spot before falling miserably away in a matter of a week or two? Peeling away like rotting flesh from a decomposing bone?

The first runway model whose knees buckled were the Bears. Well, the Bears themselves have never really buckled save for a tiny glitch or two, it's been mostly Rex Grossman's doing. Still, after roaring to an intimidating 5-0 start, including outscoring their first two opponents by a 60-7 margin and becoming everyone's consensus most frightening team, the Bears nearly lost to the Cardinals in an embarassing MNF display, then did lose to the Dolphins, finally, after a bye week and a runaway against the 49ers, crunched the Giants and Jets in New Jersey before losing to New England at home and making everyone yawn at their chances. Where did they go on the radar? Oh, everyone blinded by the upstarts and forward-thinkers. But they are still around. Rex Grossman is still suspect but in reality, the Bears have remained strong on defence and special teams. They aren't better or worse than their 5-0 start but they aren't the 1985 Bears either.

Next up on the Everybody Wants a Piece of This Greatness gravy train were the Ravens. They crushed the Bucaneers 27-0 in their opener leaving everyone gasping, then allowed only 6 points against the Raiders, much to no one's surprise. Yes, suspect QB, like the Bears, but like the Bears, a brilliant defence. They won their first four culminating with a playoff preview victory over the Chargers. (this, when the Chargers were but a twinkle in everyone's eye...)and then the bottom fell out. Visible MNF loss to the Broncos followed by a loss to Carolina. Everyone threw up their hands. Billick fired his offensive coordinator. This team sucks. Then a bye week to lick their wounds, and they reel off New Orleans, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Atlanta and Pittsburgh. Suddenly the Ravens, mebbe, just mebbe. But not quite.

And whose fall has come quicker than the Colts? The Pretty Boyz had everyone whispering about greatest franchise that never even made it to the Super Bowl, thinking yet again about an undefeated season and after winning their first nine and causing all that giddy commotion, they've now lost three of their last four behind an Olé Rush Defence with everyone kicking them, spitting upon them whispering I told you so, gutless team with no character. That's what all those post season failures told us.

Then let's look at the Iggles. They were standing purdy with a 3-1 record and then inexplicably, they lost it. To New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville in a row and then lost their franchise QB. Just when everyone had written their obits, suddenly they win a few in a row and you remember, hey, this isn't such a bad team after all. But the road ahead is a brutal schedule. At Giants, at Dallas, host Falcons. Nah. Forget it, they're buried. And just when you've thrown the last shovelful of dirt upon them, who knows there they are standing.

Finally, the latest fad are the Chargers. Admittedly, this is a roaring bunch. Massive offence, frightening defence and game after game proving themselves. Will they too fall in the three weeks to come, stumble out of momentum and return to their underdog status, or will they continue to run the table, make our heads spin, keep us guessing?

You could argue similarly for teams like the Saints but nothing was really ever expected of the Saints. Same with the Cowbys. And maybe the Giants. And the Bengals, nah, they haven't looked impressive all season save for the last few weeks now that it counts.

It boils down to every team, save for the Lions, Cardinals, Raiders and Bucs have looked impressive or quasi-impressive at one point or another this season and equally, they've had their falls from grace. That's why you won't see any over-the-top predictions about the Super Bowl from this quarter.

Random Notes
Dolphins 5-1 since week 9

Say what you want about another boorish performance/revelation from Terrell Owens, the coach-killer's coach killer: it wasn't TO out there giving up 42 points against the Saints.

Simple formula: Edgerrin James, 100 yards rushing two games in a row, Cardinals 2-0.

Simple forumla II: Chris Weinke, whose 1-15 record coming into the game was the worst of any current quarterback with at least 10 career starts.

Countdown: Three weeks to go and Brett Favre needs seven touchdown passes to throw to tie Dan Marino. On the Packers' final first-half drive, Favre reached 3,000 yards passing and extended two NFL records: Most overall seasons with 3,000 and most consecutive seasons with 3,000?(both 15).
In games when Favre compiles at least a 100.0 rating, the Packers are 4-0 this season, and 73-7 (.913) all-time. They're 40-0 at home (1.000) and 33-7 (.825) on the road. He has thrown for at least one TD pass in eight of his last nine games. Next three opponents: Detroit, Minnesota, at Chicago. And in 13 games, they have surrendered 19, 13 and 8 touchdown passes, respectively. Looks like Favre might have to play one more season.

On a Crazy Legs QB tilt: Michael Vick has rushed for 934 yards, 35 away from Bobby Douglass' 34-year-old record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. He needs 66 to become the first quarterback to run for 1,000 in a season. Will he get it against the Cowboys?

As for this week's games:


SEATTLE (-9½) vs. San Francisco - Forecasts are calling for rain and high winds in Seattle on Thursday night. There is a 100 percent chance of precipitation, with half an inch of rain expected to fall. He who builds his Ark of Frank Gores or Shawn Alexanders quicker, wins. SEAhawks. SEAttle. Sea, sea, sea - get the picture? Pick: Seattle.


Dallas (-3) vs. ATLANTA - Michael Vick continues to baffle. One week great, one week the King of Mediocre. And with Vick, so go the Falcons. Two good performances, two victories. On the other hand, Tony Romo finally broke his NFL cherry with a sad and disappointing display.
Cowboys are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games following a S.U. loss. Pick; Dallas.


BALTIMORE (-11½) vs. Cleveland - The Browns, who have lost eight consecutive road games to division opponents, are trying to avoid a winless season against AFC North teams. They lost 27-7 to Pittsburgh on Dec. 7, dropping their division record to 0-5. Pick: Baltimore.

GREEN BAY (-5) vs. Detroit - Favre has never lost to Detroit (2-11) at home since being traded to Green Bay (5-8) before the 1992 season.The three-time MVP has thrown for 3,409 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions during the win streak, and also led the Packers to a home playoff win over the Lions in 1994. Pick: Green Bay.

NEW ENGLAND (-11) vs. Houston - Gillette Stadium has not provided New England with the same home-field advantage this season as it has in previous years. The Patriots entered this season with wins in 22 of their last 25 home games, but are 4-3 at Gillette this year. Pick: Houston.

Jacksonville (-3) vs. TENNESSEE - Jaguars are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 meetings in Tennessee. For the third time in 2006 and the fourth time in the last 13 months, Vince Young graces the weekly cover of Sports Illustrated in the wake of his 39-yard touchdown run Sunday in the Titans' 26-20 overtime win over the Texans at Reliant Stadium. SI JINX? Pick: Tennessee.

BUFFALO (-2) vs. Miami - Enthusiasm for the Bills appears to be waning. Despite both teams having outside playoff chances, by Monday, The Buffalo Bills said today that about 6,800 tickets remain for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Pick: Miami

MINNESOTA (-3) vs. N.Y. Jets - The Vikings have the NFL's top-ranked run defense, giving up 703 yards on the ground through 13 games — an average of 54.1 yards which means Chad Pennington will have to win it for the Jets. Pick: Jets.

N.Y. GIANTS (-6) vs. Philadelphia - Tiki Barber enjoys tormenting the Eagles. He’s rushed for 915 yards in his last eight starts against the Birds, an average of 114.4 yards per game. In only two of those games has he failed to reach 100 yards. What’s encouraging is the Eagles limited Barber to just 51 yards on 21 rushes in their last meeting, a paltry 2.4-yard average. Pick: Philly.

Pittsburgh (-2½) vs. CAROLINA - The quick picture: one team with a QB whose downward spiral is almost as puzzling as his unmitigated success the season before, for a pair of weeks on the way back up with a Sysyphian task ahead of them, the other, a team whose QB is all thumbs and injured with barely hope to speculate upon yet still existing in the league where even a team with a losing record might become a wildcard. The Steelers did it last year, making the run no one expected. Could the Panthers do the same? Pick: Carolina

CHICAGO (-13) vs. Tampa Bay - Oh, here's an easy one. That's what you think most weeks before you're bashed on the head by parity. Pick: Da Bears.

NEW ORLEANS (-7) vs. Washington - Momentum for this season's wonder boys. Joe Gibbs is busy planning on what will go wrong next year already. Pick: New Orleans.

Denver (-2) vs. ARIZONA (41½) - How rich, a battle between two rookie QBs, both of whom are exactly about where we expected them to be by this time in the season. Pick: Denver.

SAN DIEGO (-7½) vs. Kansas City - One of these days, the other shoe is going to drop on the Chargers. Either that, or they're on a roll all the way to the Super Bowl. Pick: KC. (my upset special)

OAKLAND (-1½) vs. St. Louis - C'mon, the Rayduhs? Pick: St Louis.


INDIANAPOLIS (-3½) vs. Cincinnati - Well, this is unusual twist to the Colts' season in that their downfall is coming a few weeks early. The logic of this season in the NFL is that if you're on a roll, you're going to be knocked off it and if you're flailing, you'll rise up to meet your righteous destiny. Pick: Cincinnati.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Patriots Are Shut Out And Crushed, 21-0 - Don't look now but two of America's postseason favourites were ground into dust yesterday. Seven straight winning road games for the Pats going into Miami were meaningless as the Patriots were shut out for the first time in 3 years. So, do the Pats look Super Bowl bound?

Fred Taylor looks incredulous that a Colt might try and tackle him for a change.

Colts Are Crushed, 44-17 - Not so suprising a result considering that the Jaguars have allowed only 7.8 points per game at home this year AND the Colts pathetic run defence (is it really even a defence or an Olé Line?) allowed 375 yards rushing on Sunday. In fact, the Jags had TWO guys run for over 100 yards, one in each half. So, do the Colts look Super Bowl bound? Imagine what LT would do against this Maginot Line of Run Defence.

LaDainian Tomlinson His performance Sunday wasn't shocking when considered in conjunction with the rest of this season but the fact that he's now scored his 29th TD of the sesaon and 26th in his last 9 games. Imagine that the Chargers got LT AND Drew Brees for the price of one Michael Vick. All three of those players are the stars of likely (well in the case of the Falcons, possible) playoff teams. Three budding NFL superstars, all in the same draft. In any event, if the TDS aren't enough, tying Riggo's 1983 record of seven straight multi-touchdown games, he also finished with 103 yards on 28 carries, his seventh straight 100-yard game. Or imagine that he's just three points shy of breaking Paul Hornung's single-season record of 176 set in 1960. 1960. And Hornung kicked as well, thus making this point total even more impressive.


Odds and Ends

Revenge Factor - 39 yard game-winning touchdown run makes the Class of 06 look even better.

Yet its difficult to snub Drew Brees' five td passes coming against the once-exciting Cowboys.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Wondering wot happened to Week 13 predictions? Well they were there all along, subliminally of course whilst the crew were away in America. Now, back to the familiar time zones and the lush green landscapes as opposed to the soot and brown and grey of Manhattan, Sports Amnesia boldly enthuses that this week, what used to be the final week of the season back in the old days when the Dolphins were winning 14 games in a row to finish the season unbeathen, is the week we will see what the men are made of. We will also see who will emerge out of the pile on that is the AFC wildcard race and find out which of the limping NFC teams still have a prayer. With most of the division titles already decided, this is THE WEEK OF THE WILDCARDS.


PITTSBURGH (-9) vs. Cleveland - Since 1950, the Steelers (5-7) have never had a chance until now to catch the Browns (4-8) in the all-time series. The Browns lead 55-54, mostly on the strength of winning the first eight games and 12 of the first 13. The Steelers, winners of the last six, have taken control by beating the Browns 20 times in 25 games since coach Bill Cowher took over in 1992. Pick: Cleveland.

Atlanta (-3) vs. TAMPA BAY - All of Tampa Bay's wins this season have come at Raymond James Stadium, and the Bucs are 4-1 at home against the Falcons since 1999. Pick: Tampa Bay.

KANSAS CITY (-2½) vs. Baltimore (37) - Kansas City has won each of its three meetings against the Ravens, all in Baltimore. The Chiefs have won 18 straight home games in December. Pick: KC

N.Y. JETS (-3½) vs. Buffalo - Princess, the pigskin prognosticating camel of Popcorn Park Zoo, will make her prediction on the Dec. 10 New York Jets-Buffalo Bills game Monday at the zoo. She will do so by eating a graham cracker off one of the team-labeled hands of Kevin Williams, longtime sports director at WOBM-FM (92.7). Well, that's enough zaniness to last a lifetime. How they made a season of it is beyond me. Pick: Jets.

Indianapolis (-2) vs. JACKSONVILLE - "We're into the last quarter of the season, and I think this will be the part of the season that defines us," coach Tony Dungy said Monday. "We've lost our margin for error, and I think we'll respond.". The Colts record in meaningful games isn't too bright but this time, I think they'll respond. Pick: Colts.

DETROIT (-2½) vs. Minnesota - A turnover extravaganza. The Vikings have won nine straight over the Lions, with Detroit last scoring a victory over their longtime division rival on Dec. 16th, 2001. The NFC North didn't exist the last time the Lions beat the Vikings, Ford Field had yet to open its doors, and Joey Harrington was preparing for a bowl game as a member of the Oregon Ducks. Isn't it time yet? Nope. Pick: Vikings.

New England (-3½) vs. MIAMI - Just think about how excited Dolphins fans must have been at the start of the season holding tickets to this game thinking it might decide the AFC East. Now the market value on a team destined to play out the string after their disappointing loss last week derailed their winning streak is down to well, selling those tickets to Patriots fans. Pick: New England.

DALLAS (-6½) vs. New Orleans - You know this is important because the NFL has moved it to Sunday Night Flex. New Orleans has won the last four meetings between these teams, including a 27-13 victory at Dallas on Dec. 12, 2004, in the last matchup. The Saints had lost their previous nine games at Texas Stadium before the win. Two big offences facing each other and only one big defence. Pick: Cowboys.

CAROLINA (-3½) vs. N.Y. Giants - "I would probably say this is a one-and-done situation,'' Keyshawn Johnson said earlier this week of this importance of this game between two teams desperately trying to hold on to hope. "You win one, you move forward. If you lose, you've probably just about put yourself in the back seat of the car and you can go on and drive off the bridge.'' So whose going to pull the Teddy Kennedy? Pick: Giants.

CINCINNATI (-10½) vs. Oakland - After that humiliating second half against the Chargers a few weeks ago the Bengals defence has been in renaissance mode, looking palatable for the playoffs. The Raiders complicated offensive scheme of continuing to try and figure out how to score negative points in a game will provide an easy foil. Pick: Cincinnati.

WASHINGTON (-1½) vs. Philadelphia - The Iggles bashed these Skins at home a few weeks ago back in the days of glory before McNabb took a McKnee on his career. The Redskins simple facts are they need to run and run and run, Joe Gibbs-style to have a prayer. It IS a weak Eagles run defence after all. Pick: Washington.

HOUSTON (-2) vs. Tennessee - AH yes, is this Vince Young's homecoming? Is this Young's chance to spit on the Texans for failing to take him in the draft and let him stay home? Oh yeah, the Texans have not won two in a row since 2004. Pick: Tennessee.

SAN FRANCISCO (-4½) vs. Green Bay - Brett Favre is 10-1 in his career against the 49ers, and has beaten San Francisco five straight times since suffering his only loss to them in a 1998 playoff game best remembered for Terrell Owens' touchdown catch in the closing seconds. But the 49ers are 4-2 at home this season and Favre is not the Favre of old. Pick: 49ers.

Seattle (-3½) vs. ARIZONA: Oh c'mon. Is anyone seriously fooled by the suddenly resurgent Cardinals? Has Matt Leinart learned the ropes in a matter of weeks? The Seattle Seahawks have a chance to become the first NFC Champions to make it back to the playoffs the following season in six years when they face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The last five NFC champions were unable to make it back to the playoffs the following year, but Seattle can end that sequence by clinching their third straight West Division title with a victory over Arizona and a San Francisco loss to Green Bay. Pick: Seattle.

SAN DIEGO (-6) vs. Denver - Well, the wunderkind was a little underwhelming last week proving yet again that the NFL exhibition games are a little more intense than the regular season. Chargers defensive end Igor Olshansky has said the Broncos linemen are "wussies" and offered that the Broncos have had success running the ball only because the linemen hold so often. Oh yeah, and the Broncos haven't been swept by the Chargers in the season series since 1982. Pick: Denver.


Chicago (-6½) vs. ST. LOUIS - Oh my, another chance to hear Al Michaels and John Madden attempt to bore away the long hours of another ho-hum matchup with witless observations that have nothing to do with the game at hand. The Bears have lost four straight against the Rams, the last two with Lovie Smith on the other side in '02 and '03. Let's face it though, this is just Week 14 of the Griese Watch. Rex Grossman, see what happens when you don't get injured? Bad things. Pick: Rams.

Last week 8-8
Season to date: 91-96-4

Monday, December 04, 2006


First and foremost that at least part of the weekend was spent in America for the first time in over three years and secondly that Sports Amnesia were able to watch the better part of the Tennessee-Indy shocker live on a big screen television set in Newark Airport.

Reporters questioned upon return to Birmingham International Airport, does it feel good to be back, even if it is or isn't home? Answer is: America is a very big and very dirty place but it wasn't as bad as we'd remembered. Airline food has improved and yes, circulation decreases on long trans-Atlantic flights.


Oh yes, we could be real pissants and moan that we all knew this result was possible simply because the postseason is approaching and the Colts, as they do as traditionally as a turkey is stuffed for Thanksgiving, are choking. And it is true, the majority of this match was seen in the Newark airport lobby waiting to go to the UK via Holland with very tired eyes, little energy and a vague and simple hope for another Colts loss.

The story officially of course, is that a wind-aided 60 yard field goal with seven seconds left won this game. That, in and of itself is amazing and shocking and perhaps even aweing but let's face it - are we going to know Rob Bironas any better next year at this time as we did last year at this time?

"The guy made a heck of a kick," losing quarter I'm Not Archie Manning said.

Bigger story, and a name we WILL be thinking of for several years to come is Vince Young who led his team on a 95 yard -11 play drive to give the Titans the lead and who is now 5-4 in his rookie season with a team that well, no one expected much out of. Young's stats were Vickesque in that he as 12 for 25 for 163 yards pasing but rushed for 78 yards on 9 carries.

And on the other hand, the way this season has gone to date, who knows, perhaps a late season swoon by the Colts is a harbinger of postseason success.


The Return of Edgerrin James was not, in typical parlance, shocking perse, but most had been waiting the better part of 4 months to see him show his auld style and perhaps all along it was simply a matter of getting warmed up? In any event, the 115 yards rushing, (the 50th 100 yard rushing game of his career) his first big effort of the season combined with 0 touchdowns, was odd considering his teammate Marcel Shipp ran for three touchdowns even though he had only 21 yards rushing total.

Add to that the performance of Matt Leinart (15 of 24 186 yards a TD pass and no interceptions) and you had the makings of a very strong performance from unlikely sources. The Cards are now 2-2 since their bye week but face a very difficult remaining schedule against Seattle, Denver, the 49ers and Chargers respectively so don't go looking for any miracle finishes.


Although likely buried amid the games that followed, the Bengals Thursday night victory over the once-indominable Ravens means that the Bengals are officially back and albeit not likely to overcome the Ravens for the title, at least jockey for position in the AFC Wildcard chase.

Like the exposure of the Colts weak link, defence against the run, this victory underscored the futility of the Ravens offence regardless of who is the whiz behind the decisions. Yes, the Bengals, traditionally this season one of the league's weakest defences, shut out the Browns the week before, but this pathetic display by the Ravens - not just losing, not just seeing the defence humilated by a sandlot play, but losing whilst crossing midfield only once in three quarters.

Notice served. The Ravens defence may be formidable but when they face a team in the postseason that is a little more balanced, they will be knocked out quicker than a flat-chested bird in a wet tee-shirt contest.

Before anyone gets too hepped up on the new-look Bengals defence, remember these last two performances came against two of the worst offences in the NFL. The final weeks, facing much heartier and potent offences, will probably show them yet again for what they are, doomed to a quick winter.

Random Thoughts

Tell those cats in Green Bay about your global warming theories and they might just laugh in your face.

The surprisingly 7-5 Jets continue to scraggle out a chance for a postseason spot. Their remaining schedule; Bills at home, at Minny, at Miami and home against the Raiders means they have every realistic hope of making it. The thing to remember is that the Chiefs, who coughed up another fur ball of a loss this week, gave the Jets a 4th round pick for Herm Edwards. If you consider that had they not done so, Eric Mangini would still be helping Belichick coaching the Pats, the Jets should have given the Chiefs a 4th round pick just to take Edwards off their hands.

Denver may be in a lose-lose situation. Think there's any chance the rookie will learn how to play in the NFL in the next 4 weeks? Think there's any chance they will go back to the Snake now that they've benched him? Broncos remaining schedule is hardly a breeze - at Sandiego, at Arizona, hosting the Bengals and hosting the 49ers. Actually, they should go 2-2 at least and still make the playoffs but don't look for any fantastic finishes. Chances are Broncos fans will bemoan the fact that Jay Cutler wasn't brought on sooner. Given how poorly the Bronco offence fared in the first several weeks of the season yet they still won, what harm might have come of them had Cutler started earlier giving him more experience for the playoffs?

At the moment, here's how I rank the AFC team chances for postseason:

1. Indy
2. SD
3. Baltimore
4. New England

WC: Denver and NY Jets.

Denver at New England, NY Jets at Baltimore.

New England at SD, NY Jets at Indy.

SD at Indy.