Last week in this column I talked in a somewhat joking fashion about the possibility of a Tampa Bay or Carolina team rising from the muck that is the NFC to challenge the Eagles for the league crown. After McNabb's less than inspiring performance against the Redskins and the Panthers continuing miracle comeback story, this looks like a distinct possibility. Of course, the Panthers will have to beat a team with a winning record at some point, and this Sunday's game against division winner Atlanta could give us an actual Cinderella candidate. I will probably be starting Mike Vick this week so a dominating defensive performance by the Panthers is probably in the cards.
While I am wallowing in self pity I would like to personally thank Mr. McNabb for saving his worst game for the first game of my fantasy teams playoffs. But then again the same could be said for Javon Walker and Marvin Harrison. It was a dark Sunday evening in the Ratterree household. But it's a movie I have seen before so the shock has worn off over the years. The pain remains as many of you can relate.
While McNabb, Walker, and Harrison were busy breaking their fantasy owners coconuts, and Todd Pinkston was giving up on 50 yard passes to avoid getting his uniform dirty it was an otherwise kind of normal day in the NFL. Nick Goings continued to pay benefits for those crazy or desperate enough to pick him up a month ago when nobody knew who he was.
A guy named Tatum Bell looked like the next Barry Sanders for 2 quarters before the football Gods inflicted a killing blow to his shoulder just as his star started to shine. Bell owners were rubbing their hands together like Mr. Burns, "excellent", only to be reduced to a Homer "Doh!" before games end.
"He's out for the season". "It's not as bad as expected". Are you going to put your fantasy teams playoff dice in the hands of the Rat? Do you feel lucky? Oh yeah, it's going to be interesting for those Bell and Droughns owners this week. Beware the Rat. Seven out. Line away.
All this Goings and Bell talk reminds me to remind you to take chances on running backs late in the year. Fresh legs against tired legs can catapult your feeble fantasy team into a playoff cruncher. Did anybody pry away Duckett from disinterested owners a month ago or so? I had a feeling the Falcons were keeping him fresh for a playoff run. I think I mentioned it in this column. And if I wasn't so shiftless and lazy I'd look back through all may columns and prove it, but you'll just have to take my word for it. Lots of people cussing the Huddle and every other site on the planet when Duckett was a non factor, but he could have single handedly won a playoff game for his patient owners Sunday.
Patience is a HUGE part of this game. I was one of those fantasy owners on the Tatum Bell roller coaster Sunday. I scooped him up when his owner finally threw him in the waiver pile. If the owner in my league who drafted Tatum Bell in the 5th round and held onto him most of the season had just been a little more patient he could been the one to go through the invigorating joy and the immense pain I went through Sunday.
And then there was Drew Bennett. His Monday Night performance is the stuff of fantasy football legend not to mention Monday Night Football legend. Seriously, you'll be an old geezer drooling on yourself at the nursing home. They'll wheel you into the TV room , and the Monday Night Football announcers (probably the Olsen twins if I'm correct on ABC's future direction) will be showing clips of Bennett's performance all those years ago. And a tear will fall in your drool cup, as you remember that fateful night.........................
10) TITANS: When you have your wide receiver hurling into a trash can between touchdown catches, because he is physically sick from running the defense up and down the field. You have half of the state of Tennessee in the stands 500 miles from home, yet you still find a way to lose after scoring 38 points!! Well, let's just say that sums up the Titans season. Drew Bennett is no doubt dropping hints to McNair to go ahead and retire immediately.
9) BRONCOS: This is a team desperately trying to hold onto a playoff position, that very nearly let a 2 win team jack them up in their own house. I'm sorry but I just can't keep ignoring Jake Plummer's face hedge. As unpleasant as looking at his shaven face may be, I feel the pain is even greater with the hedge. I mean that thing is just all over the place. Grizzly Adams got nothin' on the Snake. I'm thinking, maybe Jake is pulling some kind of a stunt. Like, I won't shave this beard until I am a Superbowl quarterback. If so that chinstrap is never going to survive the test. And I'll be rooting for the NFL's first "beard tackle".
8) RAMS: I can't remember a more putrid display of quarterback play since Ryan Leaf was shown the door. Chris Chandler, well let's face it, is just Chris Chandler. He wasn't too hot when he was 32 and he's a damn sight worse at 42. How bad was he? His play actually compelled Mike Martz to run the ball about 7 times in a row after I believe his 4th or 5th interception. If you were wondering what cataclysmic event would provoke such insanity from Martz as to actually make him decide to run the ball, the horrific play of Chris Chandler was the answer. Meanwhile Holt and Bruce owners watch their playoff hopes take a swirlie ride down to the consolation bracket.
7) COWBOYS: Vinny Testaverde looked almost as wretched as Chandler on Sunday. The Cowboys while blowing their tenuous playoff chances, managed to perform a miracle, making the Saints appear efficient on both offense and defense. The win really perked up a stunned Coach Haslett who in his press conference sounded like a man who may actually keep his job for next year. How 'bout them Cowboys!!
6) VIKINGS: The Vikes lost the battle of teams fading down the stretch, allowing Seattle to clip them at home. In the head to head meeting of two of the leagues most criticized head coaches, Mike Tice certainly proved why he deserves to be the lowest paid coach in the league. The bone-headed Moss pass attempt late in the game rivals any stupidity performed by any coach in any league anywhere, in the history of football. If is wasn't Tice's idea, he certainly should have had sense enough to realize it was a boner of John Holmes proportion.
5) LIONS: Here is the line on Joey Harrington: 5/22 47 yds. Can you imagine how the average Lion fan, much less the management feels? It's like you buy a classic car. You spiff it up, over time you put a bunch of money in it tweaking this and that. You get it road worthy, and finally start driving it, and it turns out to be an absolute turd. It breaks down constantly, it's not dependable, it is not as joy to drive, and no matter how much time you put into it it still let's you down on a consistent basis. But by then you've got too much money it it to sell it, and nobody wants a car in that condition for any price. So you just keep driving it getting deeper and deeper in the hole.
4) RAIDERS: I heard Mort reporting that allegedly Al Davis often times will neglect to enforce fines on players inflicted by head coach Norv Turner. So in the Raiders "family" Norv Turner is the stern father figure, sending the kids to their rooms with no supper, and Al Davis is the the mama sneaking them up a piece of pie. That story touches the heart of my cockles.
3) DOLPHINS: A valiant effort at Denver. This is really sad because I think I am actually beginning to feel sorry for this once proud and smug franchise.
2) 49ERS: A valiant effort at Arizona. This is really sad because I think I am actually beginning to feel sorry for this once proud and smug franchise.
1) CARDINALS: When you come up on the short end to the 49ers twice this season, you need to take a long hard look at yourself. And Grimace.