Bill Parcells is golden. First he pulled Romo out of his magic hat. And now...........Martin Gramatica? That little Mexican jumping bean of a player, left for dead in a league starved for good kickers. Parcells pulled him off the scrap heap inserted him into high pressure game for the division lead, and then proceeds to trot him out for a 46 yard attempt at the Meadowlands for a game winner. Boom.
Several things are amazing about this. First of all Gramatica was toast. If you had the misfortune to see him kick over the last few years of his career, you had to wonder why Parcells would decide to roll with this guy. I mean he was absolutely putrid. I was amazed he hung onto a job as long as he did. Whatever he had early in his career was gone. This guy sucked. And when he trotted onto the field in the first quarter for his first attempt, and shanked, it looked like the same old Martina. But he blasted that 46 yard game winner like it was an extra point attempt. Would have been good from 56. Unbelievable.
What do you think would have been the outcome of that game, had Vanderjagt been the one making that kick? Gramatica was 3 of 4 on the day. It's likely Vanderjagt would have missed 2 of those the way he was going. Parcells seems to be staying just one step in front of the reaper.
Did you see the look on Tuna's face when Gramatica made the kick of his life? It was priceless. It was half joy and half stunned disbelief. Boom.
Week 13 was not particularly kind to me on the fantasy front. I faced Reggie Bush in every one of my head to head games. Amazing? No. Unfortunately not so much for me. But I dodged some bullets anyway. Despite putrid performances by my playoff teams, I held ground. I got lucky. I have a one seed, and a two seed. If you've never had one, let me tell you, that week 14 bye is sweet. I'm giving my brain the week off after I finish this column. Maybe before.
I have achieved an all-time low in fantasy football this season. I took over a dynasty team project last fall. And despite being in the middle of the pack in scoring, the team won only 4 games, and I find myself finishing 11th out of 12. (Carnell Williams was one of my starting RB's , just in case you wonder how such a disaster could happen). Last week, I played head to head against the guy tied with me in the standings, for the right for that juicy 2nd overall pick next year. Neither of us went sissy-boy and tanked our lineups, though we could have and the impact would have been minimal to the standings. But we were both men and trotted out our regular type lineups. He barely clipped me. Devery Henderson's virtual no-show sealed the deal. He finally came through when I needed him most. Devery, did you ever know that you're my hero?
The playoff picture is a mess, especially among the myriad of wild card contenders. The NFC has seven teams that are 6-6 or 5-7. Two of them will make the playoffs. If one of them could go 4-0 they can get a home playoff game, but I would be more surprised if they didn't all end up 8-8, with the tiebreakers decided with some sort of weird abacus in the back rooms of the NFL headquarters. This is parity.
Meanwhile, the AFC has it's own wildcard situation. It seems none of the competing teams are all that interested. Denver lost at home. The Chiefs lost on the road. The Bengals and Jets who were left for dead a month ago, suddenly find themselves driving the wild card express at 7-5. Everyone is declaring the Jets playoff bound based on their schedule, and it may very well end up that way. Buffalo, Minnesota, Miami and Oakland. Yeah, that sure looks like 3 or 4 wins to me. Meanwhile the Chiefs will play Baltimore, San Diego, Oakland, and Jacksonville.
For my week 14 revised Super Bowl picks, I still like San Diego in the AFC, and Dallas in the NFC. San Diego can beat Indy on the road if necessary, and Dallas can beat Chicago or Seattle on the road if necessary. Those teams look to be the most complete to me right now. I can't believe I am predicting a Marty Super Bowl appearance, but it seems parity can force even a guy as averse to championships as Schottenheimer to the pinnacle.
But then again, for all we know, the Jets could pull a "Steelers" on us and run the table the rest of the way. No? If you would have told me Pittsburgh was about to go on such a run this time last year I would have busted a gut laughing, just like you are doing over my outlandish Jets comment a moment ago.
That was great on Monday Night Football when Garcia got clobbered, and looked like he might come out of the game, Feeley started warming up on the sidelines. But Garcia gathered himself up and got back behind center. The always loving Philly fans boo'ed him roundly, and were obviously hoping that Garcia would be hurt so Feeley would take his place. And this, in the midst of a 300 yd 3 TD 0 int performance. Yet another heartwarming moment in Philadelphia sports history.
Crazy as Hell Pick of the Week
Oh the pain. After mentioning two perfectly good plays in my column last week, I got cute and decided to play the NFC East showdown game for my official pick. All aboard the Cowboys Express. Call me greedy, but I sure would have liked to have that first 42 yarder Gramatica shanked. But that's my fault. I knew the risks going in. I mean, I'm betting money on a team with Gramatica kicking? Please. Coulda played it safe. Didn't. Boy that half a point sure does hurt. Almost makes it tempting to buy down to 3 points despite the ridiculous charges to do so. But to be honest I was quite surprised by the Giants relatively good performance. I did not think they had an effort like that left in them. They did. I did not think it would be close and it was. I was wrong. I'll move on with my life and not mourn too long over one blown pick. I got cocky. It happens. Billy, don't be a hero.......
The record is now 6-9. But we are starting to move out of the comfort zone of picking games. That meaty middle of the season when we know what we need to know. Now we move into the more unpredictable phase. It is hard to say that with a straight face on a week after Tennessee beat Indy. I guess I meant to say relatively unpredictable. Smart bettors don't wager on the NFL. It's too tough. And the last 4 weeks of the regular season can be as unpredictable as the first 3 weeks. I guess what I am trying to say is, get ready for me to be wrong a lot. Hey, did I just type that out loud? Only kidding. Anyway, we don't know which teams are going to completely quit over the next month. And that always plays a big part late in the year. And some teams will rise to the occasion and play spoiler right to the end. So the general direction you want to go over the next few weeks is toward teams that need to win, playing against teams that have quit. That's gold. I'm not sure I see anything like that screaming out at me, but that is where the money is at.
The Chiefs come off a season killing December road loss to an inferior team. The Ravens come off a Thursday night loss to the Bengals last week. The Ravens travel to Arrowhead and are 3 point underdogs. Yes, the Chiefs are tough at Arrowhead. But I have serious doubts about their ability to win this game. The Chiefs have already faced the other 3 "inferior" teams from the Ravens division, and lost every game. To this point, the AFC North has been the downfall of the Chiefs, accounting for 3 of their 5 losses. Meanwhile the Ravens have gone 3-1 against their division foes. So here we have the best team from a division that has already killed the Chiefs this season coming in as a 3 point dog? Why? It may have something to do with the fact that the Chiefs are 7-2 ATS vs. Baltimore. And the fact that the Chiefs are on a 19 game home winning streak in December. Including last years convincing sweep of playoff teams, Denver, San Diego, and Cincinnati. Still, even knowing all of that, the fact is that the Ravens are simply a better team than the Chiefs. Arrowhead is tough, but this isn't the Ravens first rodeo. I hate to say it, but I am leaning hard toward taking the Ravens and the points, despite the overwhelming indicators to the contrary. All streaks come to an end eventually.
The Steelers take on the Browns at home this Thursday night. The only thing worse than Bryant Grumble calling a game, is Bryant Grumble calling a game that sucks. And this one has sucks written all over it. But I have to tell you, I don't think the Steelers are 7 1/2 points better than anybody. Bettors should note however that the the Steelers are 5-1 ATS and straight up against the Browns in their last six meetings. And they have won 12 of the last 13 straight up. The lone loss came at Cleveland earlier this season. Despite all that, the Browns are improving and hungry, and the Steelers are still a disaster waiting to happen. I like the underdog here as well.
The Titans are on the road at Houston this week, and my first line on Monday morning showed the Titans as a 2 1/2 point underdog. Yes, you heard me right. The Titans, fresh off beating the Giants and Colts are an underdog against the Texans. I jumped all over the 2 1/2, and sure enough, by later in the day the line had been adjusted down to 1 1/2. You could make the argument that the Titans have been sketchy on the road, and the Texans are tough at home. But Carr is throwing for about 40 yards a game right now. How many are you going to win like that? Now that I have convinced you that this is the bet of the century, let me throw you some sobering statistics that explain the spread. On the road in December, the Titans are on a 0-6 run against the spread. Ouch. The Texans are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games. Double ouch. But that stuff is old history. Pssst. Don't tell anybody this, but the Titans are 7-1 against the spread since their week four loss to the Cowboys and have won 5 of their last 7 outright. The Titans have some mojo going right now. Ride it. My pick: Texans -1 1/2
10) Texans: Reggie Bush has to be doing cartwheels over his breakout performance, almost as much as over the fact that he didn't end up with this bunch.
9) Cardinals: They have won 2 out of 3. And I would probably be impressed if those wins hadn't come against the Lions and Rams. Nah, probably not.
8) Panthers: This team is lacking in "Cat-itude". They never met a lead they didn't want to blow. They have blown five 4th quarter leads this season. Jake Delhomme looks an awful lot like Jake Plummer. And now this preseason Super Bowl favorite could very well miss the playoffs entirely.
7) Broncos: Last week I said that Cutler should be good for a couple of losses down the stretch. One down. But despite that, I think Shanahan knew Plummer wasn't going to win him a Championship anyway, and if he is going down, he is going down with the kid. And it certainly looks like down he will go.
6) Chiefs: Being a long time Chiefs fan, I can't say I'm surprised. Waiting for the other shoe to drop is a time honored tradition in Chiefs nation. Getting jacked up by a 3 win team with a rookie quarterback taking his first NFL snaps would qualify. The Chiefs somehow have come up goose eggs against the AFC North. Powerhouses like Cleveland and the Steelers have put the Chiefs playoff hopes in jeopardy. The Chiefs now find themselves in the muck of the AFC wild card race, with a murderers row schedule to finish the season.
5) Rams: Not only did they lose to the Cardinals at home, they looked putrid in the process. 126 yards in penalties. Bulger accused some of his teammates of quitting in this game, and considering the fact that they allowed the first hundred yard rushing performance to the Edge James, ( a feat that the Cardinals had not accomplished since roughly the Reagan administration) I would say Bulger is probably right. When the guy that never says anything, starts saying anything, there is trouble. Unfortunately the Rams comatose composition will be on display for an unimpressed audience on Monday Night Football. The Bears are coming to town and as best I can tell they most definitely have not quit. Bulger may not survive this game, but Grossman may magically turn from a frog back into a prince.
4) Raiders: Well, they managed to score two touchdowns. That is something. And once again they allowed a quarterback under a hundred yards in passing but lost the game. Twice in one season if I'm not mistaken. It is hard to do that once in a season. It is hard to do that once in a decade. You have to love the Raiders "can-do" attitude.
3) Vikings: The Vikings find themselves in a rather tough spot. Brad Johnson throws 4 picks a game. Brooks Bollinger came in and got jacked up, now he is out. And Tarvaris Jackson is "not ready" according to Childress. Anybody got Tarkenton's number?
2) Packers: Putrid, putrid putrid. Well, I think it is clear which division is the worst in the league. This division is making a mockery of the Misery Index competition. The amazing thing about the Packers is the absence of that Lambeau magic. They are now 1-5 at home. Blasphemous. The bright spot is that they have two more home games to play, against division dregs the Lions and Vikings. So maybe Favre can hang a couple of W's before he demands a trade to a team with a prayer. Nah, he probably wouldn't do that.
1) Lions: The NFL should open a hospice facility for this franchise.