Okay, I'm going to admit it. Before the season started, I placed a small wager on the Dallas Cowboys to win the Super Bowl. I wasn't sure why at the time. They were the only team I bet on to win the Super Bowl. I had very little faith in the Bledsoe/Owens connection. But that annoying little voice in me kept telling me to make the bet. So I did. And as the first half of the season unfolded, and Bledsoe led them to an uninspiring 4-4 start, I figured my "gut feeling" bet was a dud. The Cowboys were going nowhere.
Since that time of course, the story is much different. While the rest of the NFC teams are falling like Bush's approval ratings, the Cowboys are playing arguably the best football in the league right now. Romo-time has been kind to the 'Boys. His insertion into the lineup has been like a vitamin B12 shot to the team. The Cowboys now possess something they did not seem to have before. The belief that they can win. And that belief seems to be shared by the bookmakers. At the source I checked, the Cowboys are now 7-1 to win the Super Bowl. A month ago they were around 14-1.
I'm not here to pump up the Cowboys, or Romo. The hype machine is well in progress. But, whether you are a Cowboys fan or not, you have to appreciate what you are seeing from Romo. It is great to see a player out on the field that is having fun, and young Romo is having a blast. And the perks are great too. First on the list: Jessica Simpson. Hit that, and then get your mind back on the game Tony, you have a Super Bowl to go to. Daddy needs a new plasma TV.
Let's not lose sight of the fact that it was reportedly Geriatric Jones that kept Bledsoe behind center as long as he was. Parcells saw in the preseason (as did the rest of us) that Romo was ready to go, but daddy said no. That is, until Mondays started to resemble a wake at the Cowboys ranch. Had Romo started the season one could make the argument that the Cowboys would be tied with the Bears for best record in the NFC right now. And that is why a lot of people are looking at the Cowboys as favorites right now, despite the Bears better record.
Bledsoe is still pouting on the sidelines, reportedly refusing to go in for mop up duty last Thursday. Probably a smart move. That would have been like Tiny Tim taking the stage after AC/DC.
But what about the Bears? They have the best record in the NFC. Why have they been thrown on the hype trash pile? Serious chinks in the armor. Grossman looks great against the league patsies. But playoff caliber defenses will give him trouble, as did the Patriots last week. And one big mistake can cost you a playoff game. I mean, they created 5 turnovers against the Patriots and ended up with 14 points. That is not so good. You should win that game. Even if you do cough up the pill 4 times yourself.
Drew Brees is on pace to end up second all time in passing yards for a season. This, after off-season shoulder surgery that had many questioning the Saints decision to pay him a giant pile of money. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the shoulder is ok. He is making stars out of a bunch of receivers that none of us wanted to take in fantasy drafts last August.
Speaking of which, Devery Henderson finally went off when I put him in my lineup. Unfortunately his unpredictability had already cost me a shot at the playoffs over the last few weeks, and his huge game only served to bump me a notch down the draft order for next season. Thanks Devery.
Willis McGahee came back with a strong performance after missing a few games with a shoulder injury. On his second touchdown run, he unnecessarily dove into the end zone in a bid to make Sportscenter. Is diving into the end zone a good idea when you have missed games with a shoulder injury? I'm just wondering. Just curious about the whole "priorities" situation.
Bryant Grumble's debut on Thursday Night football was even more horrible than I imagined. His snooty girly man, nasally voice alone is enough to make one recoil in disgust, but in combination with his inane commentary, is putrid on a level heretofore never witnessed outside of a vomitorium. And while I have grown to tolerate Colinsworth over the the years, he is still Colinsworth, and in no way qualified to save the train wreck that is Bryant Grumble. Grumble's shocking lack of football knowledge is only surpassed by his shockingly amateurish game calling skills. And the person responsible for inflicting a hermaphroditic, walking talking sedative upon us should be given 20 lashes with Troy Polumalu's hair. With the dead weight of Grumble, this is instantly the worst broadcast tandem ever assembled, and I give the Brown Missile award to the NFL Network for screwing up their "Crown Jewel". The entire production was like a public access channel broadcast of a Junior College game from Podunk, Arkansas It was far worse than what I would expect from the network that carries the league moniker.
As for the ESPN Monday night broadcast, I have been fairly quiet on the subject this season. That's because I find it to be somewhat benign. I understand what they were trying to do. Trying to re-capture the formula that made MNF a success in the first place. With Kornheiser cast in the role of Howard Cosell, doing what Kornheiser does. He is there to provoke and poke Theisman. And to call him out when he says something particularly stupid. And I thought it might work, but it really doesn't. Theisman doesn't play along with Tony much, and seems to try to fade into the background more with this crew in the spirit of "the less I say, the less stupid things I will say". Which works for me. But Tony Kornheiser sometimes doesn't seem to fully grasp the game, and he says some things that make you wonder how much he really knows about football. Tirico is a little too Ted Knight from the Mary Tyler Moore show for me.
And of course, the cross marketing driven celebrity "guest" booth appearances give me the urge to plant my foot deep in the network executives southern orifice. But the money grubbing orifice's could care less how much they irritate us, because they are convinced that if they annoy us with their celebrity while we are trying to enjoy a football game, then we will make it a point to watch their crappy show they are promoting. At least that is what it said in the school textbooks anyway. The latest incarnation of Monday Night Football has been a swing and a miss as far as I am concerned, but it is still 10 times better than Bryant Grumble. High praise indeed.
Crazy as Hell Pick of the Week
Me mind of fire. Me soul of fire. Feeling hot hot hot. Well, I have gone and done it now. I gave you my thoughts about six games last week including my two official picks. I swept the board on Thanksgiving, and again on Sunday. Perfection. I have nowhere to go but down. The record is 5-9 and on a 2-9 run. If I sound like I am bragging you are very perceptive. I get excited about busting the man's sack like a pinata' week after week, and helping others do the same. That is fun stuff. Kind of like fantasy football except the rewards are instantaneous, and over time can allow you to watch football on a bigger and better television. And that is a good thing.
The Cardinals visit the Rams this week and are 6 1/2 point underdogs. If this looks tempting to you, consider that Arizona has covered the spread in 8 of the last 10 meetings between these teams.
Another interesting game is the Colts visiting the Titans. The Colts, fresh off a pasting of the Eagles meet the Titans, coming off a thrilling fourth quarter comeback win over the Giants. The Titans are a 7 1/2 point home underdog. This looks very tempting to take the Titans. The Colts, despite their impressive win/loss record have not been blowing anybody out. As a matter of fact, they have only won by more than a touchdown three times this season, and all three games were against inferior opponents at home. All of their road games have been decided by 7 points or less. Now that you are convinced to take the Titans and the points, here is the fly in the ointment. The Colts have covered the spread in six of the last seven meetings between these teams. The lone exception? Earlier this season. If you remember, the Colts needed a late scoring drive to barely clip the Titans 14-13 at Indy. I'm not sure if I am going to jump on the Titans in this game, but the Colts should be avoided like the plague.
Who are the New York Giants? We are going to find out this Sunday. The Cowboys are coming to town looking to avenge the beating the Giants gave them in the "pre Romo era". The Giants, in case you have not been paying attention, are on a 3 game skid and seemingly coming apart at the seams. If there is anything to this team, they will need to show it on Sunday. A win against the Cowboys gives them the season sweep, and they are right back in the driver seat. All is forgiven. there will be peace in the Meadowlands. A loss hands Dallas the keys to the division for good, and the Giants will duke it out with the rest of the NFC dregs for the right to be unceremoniously bounced in the first round of the playoffs by one of the few NFC teams that finish over .500.
I can't give you a bunch of statistical evidence to spur your thinking in this game. The rivalry is what it is. If the game were at Dallas this week, the spread would be in the 7-9 range. The Giants are only 3 1/2 point dogs because they are at home. The Giants are on a losing streak, the Cowboys are on fire. I cannot conjure up a scenario in which the Giants pull it together and win this game. I can easily imagine the Cowboys ringing them up however, and that is fully what I expect to happen. The 3 1/2 points will scare some people off, but I would be very surprised if the money doesn't pour in on the Cowboys, and push the spread up to 5 or even 6 before game time. So if you are buying into the 'Boys, you might want to give your man a call early this week before he stops taking action on the game. The Giants will no doubt view this as a must win game. I just don't think they can do anything about it. Two teams headed opposite directions. The Cowboys are going to win this game handily. My pick: Giants +3 1/2.
10a) The liquored up idiot kicker: The Cowboys, after scoring big on the decision to replace the ineffective quarterback, are going for the parlay by ditching the ineffective kicker. What a fall from grace for Vanderjagt. He is being replaced by Martina Gramatica. Think about that. How bad is that? That is like your girlfriend cheating on you with an unemployed meth addict with herpes. That's a kick in the floursack you just can't get over. Don't worry though Vanderjagt, some desperate team will come calling before long. I'm pretty sure the 3 million dollar payday's, and contending for a Superbowl are a thing of the past. But you will once again have the opportunity to disappoint a whole new group of fans on a regular basis in short order. Teams are desperate for kickers sometimes. Just look at Gramatica. Nope, we can't get enough of liquored up idiot kickers.
10) Panthers: You want me to be honest about the Panthers? I honestly don't know who the hell they are. They make every game look like a challenge, no matter the level of competition. They scrape and squeeze and keep hoping a running game sprouts up from somewhere. But it just isn't happening. Sometimes Steve Smith pulls them out of the fire, but sometimes he doesn't. They only win when he does. But my gut feeling about this team is that they will survive the slop and muck that is the NFC playoff picture. And when crunch time comes, I still think they can cause serious trouble in the playoffs if Steve Smith pulls a Steve Smith or two. But John Fox is not getting the most out of his team at this point, and he needs to do something quick. That game against the Redskins was flat out, "Night of the Living Dead".
9) Giants: Up 21-0 with ten minutes left in the game, the Giants took the rest of the day off. The most stunning moment was with a little over 2 minutes left in the game and the Titans facing a 4th and 10 deep in their own end, the Giants rookie defender let up early on an initial tackle of Vince Young, and then the defense stood around with their thumbs up their asses while Young maneuvered around them for a 24 yard first down run. I mean the Giants were like mannequins out there. Merely immobile tackle dummies for Young to motor around. I think the term is, "until you hear the whistle boys". They teach you that in Mighty Mites. That moment of stupor led to the game tying drive, which led to a stunning loss that they could ill afford to suffer. The Giants seem disinterested with the whole process right now, and after the Cowboys clean their clock this week they will have used up most of their room for error. Reportedly there was a players only meeting held Monday. One can only imagine how it went. Plaxico Burress dozed off and dropped his pen several times. Tiki reminded the guys that he is retiring after the season, just in case they hadn't heard. Shockey kept chanting, "I catch ball", two players were inexplicably injured - cause unknown, and everybody agreed that they hate Coughlin. And at the end of the meeting, Eli wadded up the notes from the meeting into paper balls and went 11 of 33 to the trash can.
8) Eagles: After watching the Colts rip up the McNabb-less Eagles on Sunday night, I tried to imagine how horrible this team would be right now if Westbrook was injured. Probably about as horrible as my fantasy teams would look without his 30 points a week. My only hope now is that the Eagles can stay close enough to the playoffs to make sure Westbrook doesn't duck out early this season for his annual surgeries, and leave me hanging in week 16.
7) Raiders: Once again took a superior division foe to the wall last Sunday, but once again fell for the old "your shoelaces are untied" trick and lost their lunch money again.
6) Texans: With three minutes left in the 4th quarter last Sunday, David Carr threw a touchdown pass. It was his first in about the last 5 games. Houston, we have a problem.
5) Steelers: Bill Cowher did not sign a contract extension before this season, as he has traditionally done in the past. Is it possible that he saw this coming? That may turn out to be his best call ever.
4) Broncos: Losing to the Chiefs at Arrowhead is no reason to hang your head in shame. But Plummer has run out of chances for this team and Shanahan has decided to put his 7-4 team in the hands of a rookie quarterback. The fans are rejoicing the news, but you can figure a rookie quarterback to give away at least one, and maybe two games out of the next five. And that may be enough to keep the Broncos, who were looked on as a Superbowl favorite just over a month ago. Maybe this is just an experiment, and Shanahan will start dividing up his quarterbacks playing time like he has done with the running backs. Wouldn't that be fun! Okay, that isn't going to happen. Or is it?
3) Falcons: Wow, what a crash. The receivers are Superman. The ball is kryptonite. Vick flipped fans the dreaded double bird on his way out of the stadium, but I think that obscene gesture would have been more fitting directed at his receivers, all of whom are apparently Matt Schaub fans.
2) Cardinals: The good news is that Leinart threw for 400 yards. The bad news is that the redbirds rushed for 17 yards as a team. They attempted to run the ball 6 times. And they made Brad Johnson look like Peyton Manning. Other than that, and the losing thing, it was a pretty good day.
1) Lions: Wow. Jacked up by Harrington in your own crib. In front of a drowsy nation on national TV. You booed Joey every time he lined up behind center, and he roasted your ash. By the end of the first quarter, you figured out booing wasn't working out. By the end of the third quarter, you couldn't stomach any more with a big meal coming up, and walked out in mass. Like so many times before. Only this time, Joey was glad to see you leave early. If you have been waiting for rock bottom, I'm guessing you have found it. Now rumors are stirring that Matt Millen will get the axe, but I don't buy it. First of all, the Fords apparently do not share the belief of everybody in the world except them, that Millen sucks as a G.M. As a matter of fact, the Fords lobbied long and hard to get Millen put on the competition committee. What Millen has to do with competition is beyond me, but I digress. Plus, the Lions went out and got a bunch of new coaching toys at Millen's behest. So firing Millen would put that whole scenario into chaos. No Lions fans. Hope and pray as much as you want to, but I just don't buy it. Millen will be around come next spring to help screw up yet another draft for you. There is no end in sight for this misery.
HALL OF FAME ADDITION: Jake Plummer: Well, here it is. The moment we all knew would arrive. The dream is dead for Jake the Snake. There will be no Super Bowl. There will be no MVP. There will be no Jake Plummer Disneyworld commercial. There will be no Jake the Snake Wheaties box. There will be no Jake Plummer special edition Honda SUV. There is nothing to look forward to now except a couple of forgettable seasons starting for one of the NFL's dreg teams, followed up by another year or two of clipboard holding as a back-up when the dreg team figures out that even they can do better than Plummer. And then it's off to the old quarterbacks home to tell boring stories about all your 4th quarter comebacks. None of which will be found in the archives of the NFL's meaningful games. Jake, we don't like this any more than you do. There are some men you just can't reach.