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Interview With Mo Mandel

Mo Mandel started his comedy career in San Francisco, before going on to fame and fortune in Hollywood. Mo starred in Comedy Central’s Reality Bites Back, and had his own highly-rated Comedy Central special. He has appeared on Modern Family, Conan, and Craig Ferguson, he’s a regular guest on Chelsea Lately, and starred in the recently-cancelled NBC sitcom Free Agents. Next month, his first CD, The M Word, will be released on Comedy Central Records. San Francisco based comedian Sean Keane (Iron Comic, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, SF Sketchfest) was kind of enough to interview Mo for the Rooftop Blog.

Sean Keane:  First of all, congratulations on Free Agents. Were you a fan of the British show before you started doing this one?

Mo Mandel: I actually never saw it, because I don’t live in England, and I get American television. They gave it to us before we shot the pilot, but I didn’t want it to affect how I viewed the show and how I approached my character. But since then I’ve seen it and I think it’s really good.

SK: Do you watch the show when it’s on?

MM: Definitely. I’m a huge narcissist. I Tivo it, and it plays on a constant loop. Also, my roommate is an actor, and I’m a comedian, so I like to have it on in the apartment to make him feel horrible about himself.

SK: Is it exciting to work with Hank Azaria, and is it difficult to not just ask him questions about The Simpsons all the time?

MM: It’s very hard not to talk about The Simpsons, and I’ve had to accept the fact that I’m just going to do that. I’ve actually got him to record different Simpsons voices as my voice message machine. Currently I have Comic Book Guy telling people that my real name is Mohahn and then saying “Worst name ever.”

You should probably ask Hank Azaria if it’s difficult working with an aggressive burly Jew who is obsessed with The Simpsons. For me, it’s really not that hard, because I figure I’m an obnoxious guy, so I’m going to do it, but it probably annoys the hell out of him.

SK: You’re also working with Al Madrigal. Did you know him at all from your San Francisco comedy days?

MM: When I started comedy in SF, Al Madrigal was a name thrown around by SF comics as an example of how you could come out of San Francisco and really make it in Hollywood. Because of where he was at when I moved down here, I hadn’t had a chance to perform with him much. So this has been a real treat to work with him, he’s such a funny guy, and the same thing is true for Natasha Leggero.

SK: What you and Al seem to have in common is a really strong work ethic. You write a lot, you produce a lot of stuff. Was that something you’ve always had, or did you develop that after you got into comedy?

MM: I had a terrible work ethic in many other aspects of my life. Every job I’ve ever had I’ve been a complete slacker at. Because I love what I get to do now – writing, acting, and standup – other people have hobbies, my hobbies happen to also be my job. I love doing it more than any other stuff. But I was probably the worst person to work at Peet’s Coffee in the history of San Francisco.

SK: That was your job when you got into stand-up?

MM: I used to work the 5:15 AM to 1 PM shift every day, six days a week, and then do open mics every night. I didn’t have a car, so I had to bus around, it was a nightmare. I remember one day when I was feeling really low, just bombing at the open mics, and then I had to walk to work at five in the morning. It had rained the night before, and I didn’t realize I had holes in the bottom of my shoes. I was like a Dickens character. I got to work and realized my socks and shoes were soaking wet, and I didn’t have time to go home and change. So I took off my shoes and socks, put plastic bags around my feet, and then stuck my feet back into my wet shoes, and worked a seven-and-a-half-hour shift, serving lattes to yuppies. I remember thinking, if I don’t make it in comedy, I’m gonna blow my fucking head off.

SK: When did you decide to make the move to Los Angeles?

MM: It was when I won “Open Mic Fight” for Comedy Central. I was bartending on a Saturday, working a brunch shift, and I got a call from Comedy Central at 10 AM. I told my boss I had to go to the bathroom, checked my voice mail in the bathroom, and a woman told me I’d won, which meant $10,000. And then I had to go back downstairs and make Bloody Marys for the next six hours, while thinking, I’m getting the fuck out of here as soon as possible. I moved three weeks later.

SK: Was Reality Bites Back part of the Open Mic Fight prize?

MM: That was completely different. The price for Open Mic Fight was you got to be on Live At Gotham and you won some money. But through that I got to do the Miami Comedy Festival, where Comedy Central executives got to see me do more stand-up, and when they were casting the show, my name came up. And now we’re going into SEASON NINE on Reality Bites Back!

SK: The residuals just keep pouring in.

MM: As I look around my giant mansion, it’s ALL Reality Bites Back money. It’s me and Theo Von, living together in a huge, huge mansion in the hills.

SK: That’s the American dream.

MM: Let me tell you one story about that show. This is when I really got the sense that you have to be on TV a lot for anyone to know who the hell you are. One time after we’d shot Reality Bites Back – and it was currently airing – I was hanging out at a bar with Theo Von and a friend of his who had won Big Brother the year before. A guy comes up to us and says, I’m a big fan of seeing you guys on TV, I love your work, you guys are awesome. Then he walked off, without saying anything to me. I turned to the other guys and said, I guess we know no one is watching me on TV. And then the guy immediately popped back in, as if he were in a multi-cam sitcom, and said to me, “Listen, I just realized I didn’t even acknowledge you. Just because you’re not on TV doesn’t mean you’re not a human being. That was really rude of me.” And then he left. It was fucking ridiculous. It was as if someone had written the scene in order to crush my ego at a bar.

SK: When did you begin to focus on acting as well as stand-up? Do you think it helped that you were filming sketches and man-on-the-street pieces before things started really happening?

MM: It’s funny because, you do these little videos, and you think they never matter. I remember, I shot this little piece when the iPhone came out. Not a lot of people saw it, but I always thought it was kind of funny. And then after Reality Bites Back, I booked a co-hosting gig on a VH-1 game show pilot that never went to air, but we shot it. The producer told me that one of the reasons he booked me was that he’d looked me up on YouTube, he’d seen that video I’d made, and he decided, OK, this guy’s fast on his feet. So you never fucking know. You’ve got this resume online, and it really doesn’t matter how many people have seen it, as long as the right people are looking at you. If you think you have talent, you should find a way to showcase that, because it’s the only thing under your control. Who watches it is not in your control.

SK: Speaking of showcasing yourself, how much do you focus on Twitter? (Twitter: @momandel)

MM: Somewhat? I definitely enjoy doing it. I don’t know if you know this. I was just picked as one of the Top Ten Sexiest Men of the new fall television lineup by Cosmo.

SK: Congratulations.

MM: They wrote, “According to the pilot, Mo’s as funny on the show as he is on Twitter.” I don’t have a lot of Twitter followers, so obviously someone looked me up on Twitter. The fact that I’m one of the sexiest men on TV should tell all the women in the world that these magazines are absolutely ridiculous and you should not take your information from that.

SK: You ARE very strong.

MM: I don’t know. I think when you make one of these lists you have to have a Jew on it.

SK: If nothing else, you are the sexiest new Jew on television.

MM: Even that seems like a stretch. But I’ll take it.

SK: What’s your favorite thing that you’ve written that’s never been produced?

MM: I wrote a pilot for NBC last year about two guys working in a think tank trying to come up with ways to stop a giant meteor from destroying the Earth in five years. There was no solution, so everyone in the think tank basically fucked around and got into mischief every week. I thought it was a real interesting funny idea. It got a lot of buzz from executives, but ultimately wasn’t enough to get made. But the response I got from people who read the pilot has been very very good. It may have been a good thing that they passed, since getting to know NBC executives probably got me Free Agents, so you never know what’s going to lead to what.

SK: You do Chelsea Lately a lot. Have you noticed a boost from those appearances?

MM: Absolutely. You can tell because a lot more women will come to the shows, and a lot more hot chicks. Especially if they plug the date on an episode of Chelsea, it’s quite a boost – in fact, way more than anything else. It’s not so much how many people watch the show as it is how many people love the show. And people who watch Chelsea Lately fucking love it, so they really embrace people who are on there.

SK: Add that to the Cosmo thing, your audiences are really going to change. What can fans expect from The M Word, your new album that comes out November 8th?

MM: They can expect a very uncensored, hopefully very funny high-energy comedy album, that is completely offensive – and also hilarious – to all. I recorded it at my favorite club, Comedy Works in Denver. I’m really proud of it, it’s an honor to have an album out on Comedy Central Records, and I think the cover’s pretty dope. Anyone who is doubting the top sexiest thing, they can look at the cover and shut the fuck up, because it speaks for itself.

Follow Mo on Twitter.

Follow Sean Keane on Twitter.

 

Retrospective: White Legends of the NCAA Tournament

Sean Keane March Madness

BYU returns to play tonight, led by their celibate Caucasian superstar Jimmer Fredette. Jimmer, known as Jameser to his friends, is averaging 33 points a game through the first two games of the tournament. The third-seeded Cougars, ironically named after the groupies that their school’s honor code forbids them to enjoy, face off against the second-seeded Florida Gators. If you have premarital sex at BYU, you are kicked off the team, while at Florida, premarital sex is an integral component of the pre-game shoot around.

Jimmer is a thrilling player, and easily the greatest white player remaining in the big dance. Duke’s Kyle Singler has the pallor and softness of a traditional Caucasian great, but he lacks the sharpshooting and family connections of a Mike Dunleavy, Jr., the scrappiness of a Wojo, or the premature baldness of a Danny Ferry.

In honor of what might be Jimmer’s final college game, let’s take a look at some of the other great white heroes of March Madness.

Bryce Drew

First up is Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew. In 1998, Drew hit a three-pointer at the buzzer and 13th-seed Valparaiso beat Mississippi State. Drew became a first-round draft pick, washed out of the NBA quickly, and his shot has been a part of March Madness montages ever since.

Drew is a great white hero not just because of his dramatic shot, but because he exemplifies many white values. The success of the play relied on the white collegian’s bread and butter, shooting accuracy, rather than running, jumping, or dribbling. His father, Homer, was the coach who drew up the play for him, meaning the miracle was made possible by nepotism, traditionally an important part of white culture. Drew currently works as his father’s assistant and designated successor, meaning he also represents the white value of inherited wealth.

The miracle involved accurate shooting, and was also made possible by Ansu Sesay missing two free throws right before the attempt. “That’s why they call them free,” said white dads all over America, including Homer Drew himself.

Adam Morrison

Adam Morrison was the Player of the Year at Gonzaga in 2006, along with fellow Caucasian J.J. Redick. In 2006, not 1956! It’s like giving out a Computer of the Year award, and splitting it between an Apple Newton and a Speak and Spell! Morrison starred at Gonzaga, the school that produced such players as John Stockton (white), Blake Stepp (white), Dan Dickau (white), and Ronny Turiaf (black, but French). He was a devastating college scorer with a 15-inch vertical leap, and became entirely ineffective upon reaching the NBA, where he faced players who could actually jump to contest a shot.

In his final college season, Morrison and his teammates nearly upset UCLA, but blew a 17-point lead. Not only did Gonzaga suffer a stunning defeat, the loss left Morrison face down on the court, crying his eyes out. And as Yelp.com has taught us, there’s no whiter reaction to something that displeases you than crying about it in a public place.

Gerry McNamara

Gerry McNamara of Syracuse was an undersized white point guard who could shoot three-pointers like no other. He won an NCAA title as a freshman, hitting six three-pointers in the first half, though some would argue that Syracuse won thanks to another talented freshman named Carmelo Anthony. McNamara continued to bomb threes for the remainder of his career, winning two more Big East titles, to go along with the thirty-seven sunburns he received in his college career.

Three-point shooting is the whitest basketball activity there is, and McNamara excelled at that, but he’s really on this list due to his name. “Gerry McNamara” could easily be a retired police captain from the Boston PD, a prizefighter from the ’50s who only fights guys named Dutch and Rocky, or the backup guard at Hickory High. Gerry McNamara is going the plaque in the Caucasian college basketball Hall of fame simply because “Whitey McWhiterson” wouldn’t fit.

Christian Laettner

Christian Laettner is the prototypical white March Madness hero. He went to Duke, the whitest college, and played for Mike Krzyzewski, who is the whitest coach in America, if not the whitest man entirely. He had the strong jaw and vaguely homoerotic look of an Abercrombie model. Even his name evoked family values, Republican fundraisers, and colonialist missionary efforts. They might as well have called him “Judeo-Christian Laettner.”

Laettner’s greatest game came in the 1992 East Regional final versus Kentucky. He shot 10-for-10 from the field, and 10-for-10 from the free throw line AND stomped on the chest of a black player. And he got away with it! That Duke team also featured Caucasian superstar Bobby Hurley, and their best black player was named “Grant.” In other words, the way to say “government assistance” for white people instead of saying “welfare.” And like all true white college superstars, Laettner’s pro career was extremely disappointing.

NCAA Tournament – Day One, Southeast Region

Sean Keane Madness

There were sixteen games on Thursday, and only sixteen different commercials that ran in constant rotation on the various networks. If you’ve found yourself inexplicably singing, “Napa Know-How! Napa Know-How!” this is the reason why. After a while, you don’t even think of the products, and instead ask yourself things like:

  • “Is it wrong that I find the daughter in that Subaru commercial hot?”
  • “Could a State Farm agent transform broadcaster Ian Eagle into Gus Johnson?”
  • “Why doesn’t Hanes digitally remove that Hitler mustache from Michael Jordan’s face?”
  • “Is the “Walk on the Wild Side” Hewlett Packard commercial any worse than when Lou Reed did a scooter commercial?

Speaking of overplaying, the Southeast region saw all 16 of its teams compete on Thursday. Out of those sixteen, only four will survive the weekend and advance to New Orleans. They also win a continental breakfast with Harry Connick, Junior, and a rowboat tour of the levees led by a shotgun-wielding Sean Penn. So there’s quite a bit at stake here.

#1 Pittsburgh 74, UNC-Asheville 51
A 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed, and it didn’t happen here, either. Pitt displayed domiannce on rebounding, defense, and in the incredible whiteness of their band:

Pitt band


#2 Florida 79, #15 UC Santa Barbara 51

This was no ordinary 2-15 battle; it was a showdown between two of the most acclaimed party schools in the nation. And on St. Patrick’s Day, no less! Florida played a excellent game from the start, while the Gauchos played like they’d done a bunch of Irish Car Bombs in the locker room. Having visited Isla Vista, I wouldn’t be that surprised if they had. Florida had ten more rebounds, protected the ball better, and even made more free throws. Meanwhile, their 5-for-19 performance on threes showed that the Gauchos feel victim to something that’s befallen many UCSB students over the years: too many ill-advised shots.

#3 BYU 74, #14 Wofford 66

Jimmer Fredette scored 32 points, the the BYU Cougars held of a feisty Wofford team by eight. Wofford remained defiant in the loss. Wofford guard Jamar Diggs said, “We’re going to go back home, watch the game tape, have a couple beers, and then have sex with our girlfriends. Or anyone we want. We’ll probably drink a bunch of coffee afterwards, too. So long, suckers.”

#4 Wisconsin 72, #13 Belmont 58

Wisconsin scored 33 points in their previous game, and looked to be on their way to a similar outcome by scoring eight points in the first ten minutes. Thankfully, they started making a few shots afterward, but by then, America had turned to one of the other three games that featured actual offense. Perhaps this is an intentional strategy by Wisconsin, who don’t want to play exciting basketball lest they induce heart attacks in their cheese-eating, stroh’s-swilling fans.

This game also introduced the world to reserve forward Mike Bruesewitz, who looks like what would happen if Chase Budinger and Robin Lopez had a child, and that child was later turned into a vampire:

Mike Bruesewitz

#5 Kansas State 73, #12 Utah State 68

While the high seed normally wears white in these battles, Kansas State took the court in grey-and-purple jerseys that looked like camouflage on TV. Perhaps their strategy was to literally hide behind screens and surprise ball handlers who thought they had a clear path to the basket. Or they thought the game was going to be played in a tropical rain forest. Utah State kept it close, but ultimately failed to be all they could be, as did my bracket, in which I incorrectly picked Utah State to pull an upset for the second consecutive year. You’re dead to me, Aggies!

#11 Gonzaga 86, #6 St. John’s 71

Adam Morrison was so proud of his old team pulling the upset, he burst into tears. He also cried because nine months ago, he was playing for the world champion Lakers, and now he’s working as a janitor at an arena in Denver.

#7 UCLA, #10 Michigan State

It felt a little bit like the movie 300: the Spartans were hopeless underdogs, yet battled back to a close defeat, and Kalin Lucas tried to kick UCLA’s Malcolm Lee into a pit of death early in the second half. While Coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State had earned a first-round “W” for the last five years, their comeback fell short this year, and it was an “L” to the Izzo.

#8 Butler 60, #9 Old Dominion 58

Somehow, Old Dominion was favored in this game, even though Butler scrapped their way to the national title game last year. This one was tied up until the final second, when Matt Howard tipped in a rebound to win at the buzzer. Howard, who abandoned last year’s enormous t-shirt, looks like an Andy Samberg character and wears a knee brace, along with a crazy Iverson-style sleeve over most of his right arm. He’s a wristband and a small beer gut away from being a YMCA regular. Butler plays Pitt next round, and Pitt can’t be happy about that, if only for the inevitable, “The Butler Did It” headlines that would follow an upset loss.

Matt Howard

NCAA Tournament – Day One, Part One

Sean Keane March Madness

The first real day of tournament action was thrilling, full of upsets, buzzer-beaters, and millions of Americans discovering that “TruTV” is an actual television network. It used to be Court TV, and besides NCAA games, their programming appears to consist of live trial coverage and home movies of people doing stupid things and injuring themselves. Both of those apply to Kentucky coach Rick Pitino. Grab your brackets, and let’s bust it!

East Region

#5 West Virginia 84, #12 Clemson 76

Clemson won their play-in game Tuesday night, then got stuck with a 12:15 start time on Tuesday, which makes me conclude that Coach Brad Brownlee might have slept with the wife of a selection committee member. The game was uneven enough that Jonnie West, son of Jerry, got some playing time, during which he hit a three-point shot and somehow traded for Kobe Bryant.

#4 Kentucky 59, #13 Princeton 57

Princeton almost pulled off the huge upset, but Kentucky hit a lay-in in the final seconds to win it. Coach Sydney Johnson cried after the game, which makes me think he has a future coaching the Miami Heat. This was a Cinderella story in the brutal German folklore tradition, where stepsisters get their eyes gouged out by birds, and Cinderella dies of typhus on her way to the ball. These disappointed Princeton players will have to comfort themselves with their lifetime of Ivy League advantages, along with white privilege.

West Region

#6 Cincinnati 78, #11 Missouri 63

Cincinnati’s authoritative victory leaves America asking, “What the hell is a Bearcat, anyway?” Wikipedia says it could mean a mountain lion, a wolverine, or a mammal from Southeast Asia called the binturong. The binturong is known for its prehensile tail and stifling perimeter defense, and can become vicious outside of its natural Big East habitat. After this vicious beating, Missouri players have been encouraged to get rabies shots.

#3 Connecticut 81, #14 Bucknell 52

If you had Bucknell advancing here, you’re probably not winning your office pool. You’re also probably related to a player on Bucknell’s team. Connecticut absolutely dominated, and in a tribute to Connecticut’s largest industry, the Mohegan Sun casino, they easily covered the spread.

#7 Temple 66, #10 Penn State 64

Penn State hit a huge shot to tie the game, and Juan Fernandez of Temple responded with a go-ahead basket of his own. It wasn’t a buzzer-beater, since a few seconds remained on the clock – more of a buzzer-molester, a shot that gets inappropriately close to the zero mark. Penn State tried a desperation heave at the buzzer, which hit the scoreboard. That tells me that the scoreboard is way too low on that court in Anaheim, but since it’s only the relocated Sacramento Kings that will be playing there, I predict that no one will care.

#2 San Diego 68, #15 Northern Colorado 50

Is Northern Colorado an actual school? I think it’s possible that a really good intramural team from San Diego State made some fake stationery and a website during a snowboarding trip to Colorado, and duped the NCAA into believing the scam. I mean, Tate Unruh? That’s not a real name. Also, SDSU Coach Steve Fisher is 65 years old and doesn’t look a day over 93.

Steve Fisher

Check out more of Sean Keane’s sports blogging over at SportsCentr, and at Sean Keane Comedy.

LEBRON JAMES & “LOST”: THE FINAL SEASONS

There were high hopes for something epic to occur this spring in the world of sports and the world of television. LeBron James was finishing the final year of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and on ABC, “Lost” was finishing its six-season run. Would there be resolution to all the frustrating plotlines? Was the storyline going somewhere (the NBA Finals, a parallel dimension), or were the powers-that-be simply spinning their wheels and throwing familiar parts together? Would everyone make their escape from the miserable land that sucks you in and won’t let you leave? By which I mean Cleveland, but it was unclear whether anyone would get off the Island either.

We all know that it ended in disappointment. But still, there are a lot of parallels between the final season of “Lost” and LeBron’s final (sorry, Cavs fans) season as a Cavalier: Read more »

NFLOL – Wild Card Round

Belichick snow hatThe NFL kicked off its post-season this week with the wild-card round of playoffs.  They’ve resisted my repeated suggestions to partner with Hasbro and make this the Uno!-themed Draw Four Wild Card Round.  Imagine the excitement!  Announcers already incorrectly refer to most end-around plays as “reverses,” which is a great sponsorship opportunity.  Players with jersey numbers containing a 6 or a 9 will have them underlined to avoid confusion, just like with the playing cards.  Any rapid-fire passing sequence will be known as an “Uno Attack.”  For Spanish-language broadcasts, they can just call it “One.”  Saca dos, amigos!

Even without the deal, the Arizona Cardinals followed the spirit of the card game.  They played a “Skip” card nearly every second down, facing only five third downs the entire game.  And Arizona was forced to play overtime after Neil Rackers forgot to say “Tres” before his potential game-winning chip shot field goal.  Rackers’ uniform number is, of course, Uno.

New York Jets 24, Cincinnati 14

Last week, the Jets blew out the Bengals in New Jersey, though the Bengals had nothing to play for, other than the chance to eliminate the Jets from the playoffs.  In a manner reminiscent of the 2007 Dallas Mavericks versus the Warriors, or the Earl of Gloucester in King Lear, the Bengals rolled over, and for their trouble, received a severe eye-gouging.  Rookies Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene, along with second-year Dusitn Keller, made the Bengals look old and slow, and in the wake of “Jersey Shore,” gave the nation new hope regarding young people who work in New Jersey.

In Week 17, Carson Palmer completed only one of his eleven passes, for a total of zero yards.  In the playoff game against the Jets, he may have been worse.  He completed 18 of his 36 passes, but even the completions were high, or behind his receivers – it’s no coincidence that two of his three primary receivers were injured in the first half.  Palmer has to be thankful for kicker Shayne Graham, who shanked two different field goal attempts, and ensured that Palmer would not be the most inaccurate man on the Bengals on Saturday.  Maybe those two can go house-hunting together in the off-season.

Cedric Benson had a solid game, but aside from him, the Bengals offense was quite subdued.  They got a boost late in the game with the substitution of Quan Cosby, who had three big receptions, drew a personal foul penalty, and performed an impressive lip-sync routine to “The Night Time Is the Right Time” on the sidelines.

Dallas 34, Philadelphia 14

For a brief moment, it looked like the controversy and hassle of the Michael Vick experiment were going to pay off for the eagles.  After a year where he was barely used, making more of an impact on PETA donations than wins and losses in Philly, Vick had his moment to shine in the second quarter, connecting with Jeremy Maclin on a 76-yard catch-and-run TD.  Ten minutes and ten Dallas points later, pit bulls across America erupted in cheers as Vick fumbled a simple handoff to Leonard Weaver, leading to another Dallas TD.  Weaver managed to make Eagles fans regret another free agent signing minutes later, as he fumbled and handed Dallas another three points.  It was 27-7 and the game was effectively over.

Dallas ran for almost 200 yards, they sacked McNabb four times and hit him another nine, and even connected on both field goals.  The only thing marring this dominant performance was the presence of George W. Bush in the owners’ box.  Though Dallas owner Jerry Jones’ face is red and shiny from chemical peels, tightened and distorted from God knows how many face lifts, and while in close-ups, Jones’ face occasionally appears to be oozing Vaseline, looking at George W. Bush is far more repulsive.  After Dallas scored to make it 7-0, Bush shouted “Mission accomplished!” and attempted to rush onto the field wearing a replica Cowboys jersey.  At least there’s no chance of W sitting in the owner’s box for the championship game against New Orleans – it would be played in the Superdome, and Bush wouldn’t leave his ranch until two or three days after the game had been decided.

Baltimore 33, New England 14

I woke up minutes before the opening kickoff, and before I’d even finished peeing, Ray Rice had scored to make it 7-0.  I was still brushing my teeth when Tom Brady was strip-sacked, and I still had sleep crust in the corners of my eye when LaRon McLain ran in Baltimore second TD.  At this point, I thought about going back to bed, but reconsidered;  many of the Patriots players appear to have made the opposite decision.  No one has been humiliated as badly in Boston, or wussed out quite so hard, since Will Hunting asked that ponytailed dude if he liked apples.  Joe Flacco completed four passes, the fewest ever for a winning playoff QB, and his team still won by 20.  That may have embarrassed Bill Belichick even more than his goofy hat.

With Baltimore up 27-7, Tom Brady threw his second touchdown pass of the game to Julian Edelman.  Edelman was fired up!  He ran to the back of the end zone, holding the ball in front of him and pointing it to the cheering fans.  As they stretched their arms out, reaching for a souvenir, Edelman walked to the retaining wall, as if to hand it off, but then dropped the ball, and it bounced away from the fans.

This play combined two things we saw a lot of Sunday: an inaccurate pass, and disappointed Patriots fans.  It could have only been more emblematic of the game as a whole if Ed Reed had picked off Edelman’s toss and then lateraled it to a waiting Ravens fan, while Randy Moss stood and watched with his hands on his hips.

Arizona 51, Green Bay 45

There’s a Simpsons episode where Homer skips church to watch football, and sees the most thrilling NFL game imaginable.  (“Oh, Doctor!  A 98-yard triple-reverse ties the score at 63–63! We have seen nothing but razzle-dazzle here today, three visits from Morganna the Kissing Bandit, and the surprising return of Jim Brown!”) I would posit that Arizona-Green Bay was even more exciting than that mythical game.  The teams combined for 96 points (just barely nudging above the Over/Under) and over 1,000 yards of offense. How electrifying was this game?  Joe Buck’s voice occasionally displayed signs of emotion.

Green Bay sparked their comeback with a well-timed 3rd quarter onside kick, down fourteen, and in hindsight, they should have done that on every single kickoff, since they weren’t slowing down Arizona from anywhere on the field.  Kurt Warner threw five touchdown passes, which is one more than the number of completions logged by Joe Flacco.  If Homer’s game made him start his own religion, watching Warner may have made thousands of non-Christians think, “Maybe Jesus really does care about the outcome of sporting events.”  Aaron Rodgers proved he was a worthy successor to Brett Favre as Packers QB, both with his stellar passing (422 yards, four TD passes) and his game-killing OT fumble.  Was he like a kid out there?  Yes, Green Bay, yes he was.

The game should have ended in regulation, but Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers shanked a 34-yard field goal with seconds remaining.  Lucky for him, his family, the windows of his house, and the tires of his car, the defense bailed him out in overtime.  I like to think Lawrence Tynes called Rackers after the game, to commiserate about being bailed in OT after blowing big field goals against the Packers.  Somewhere far away, Gary Anderson sat alone in his home, drinking whiskey in the dark.  A tip for Shayne Graham, and for Rackers, if he screws up next week and has to skip town:  Scott Norwood is a licensed realtor.

NFLOL: Week 17

Not Jim Zorn

Not Jim Zorn

It was the last week of the year, with plenty of teams scrambling for playoff position, but even more teams completely mailing it in!  NBC speculated that Jets-Bengals might actually be competitive, and ended up with the Jets mopping the floor with J.T. O’Sullivan and company.  Some 8-7 teams squared off, the Broncos disappointed their fans, and Arizona, Green Bay, Philadelphia, and Dallas completed the first half of their Groundhog-Day-double-date with inconclusive results.  I was tempted to put in a backup columnist half way through this column, but you play to win with NFLOL!

Buffalo 30, Indianapolis 7

Indianapolis rested their starters, sort of, only they still played them for a quarter in a snowstorm, presumably so Dallas Clark could get to 100 receptions.  Backup QB Curtis Painter was unable to lead the team to victory in relief of Peyton Manning, because it was a blizzard, he was throwing to Samuel Giguere and Hank Baskett instead of Reggie Wayne and Clark, and mostly because he’s Curtis Painter.  The saddest man in all this?  Injured Colts backup Jim Sorgi, who has a career 90 QB rating playing exclusively in garbage time.  Not only did he miss his chance to heroically lead the not-trying Colts to an undefeated season, he has blown any chance he once had of appearing in the last five seconds of a MasterCard commercial.

San Diego 23, Washington 20

In the documentary “Hands On a Hard Body”,  A motley group of contestants in West Texas compete for a hard body pickup truck.  The last one to keep his hand on the truck, amidst sleep deprivation and oppressive heat, wins the truck.  Coach Jim Zorn’s season was much like this. The owner stripped him of play-calling duties, while the team president bad-mouthed him in the press, but Zorn refused to quit.  Through a humiliating defeat to the terrible Lions and a heart-breaking loss to the excellent Saints, Zorn kept his hand on the coaching job.  His reward is the $2.4 million salary for 2010 that Daniel Snyder is forced to pay him.  He’s never going to be a head coach again; might as well get that money.  They told Zorn, “You’re fired,” but really, the message should have been, “You made it.”

The Chargers go into the playoffs as the hottest team in the NFL, a stunning reversal for Norv Turner, who was looking at a pink slip after the first Broncos game, and now looks like the second-best coach in the AFC playoffs.  We’re now living in a world where teams are positioning themselves to face Peyton Manning and an effectively undefeated Colts team rather than Norv Turner in January.  Dogs and cats, living together!

Cleveland 23, Jacksonville 17

The Browns finish the year on a four-game winning streak, and Eric Mangini’s job is still not safe.  Mike Holmgren is in charge of the organization, and he’s going to re-evaluate everybody, and then hire whoever LeBron James prefers as the coach.  In these wins, the Browns won with kick returns and Josh Cribbs, and their quarterbacks averaged 90 yards passing.  This bodes well for the Browns 2010 season if the NFL agrees to ban the forward pass.  Otherwise, welcome to Cleveland, Jimmy Clausen!

Chicago 37, Detroit 23

Improbably, Jay Cutler will finish the year with more touchdown passes than interceptions, albeit by just one.  It’s hard to believe, just like the fact that “Pearl Harbor” won an Oscar.  The real message is not that Cutler is competent, it’s that 2009 was a bad year for NFC North pass defenses, just like 2001 was apparently an awful year for sound effects editing.  In addition, Cutler’s nemesis, Josh McDaniels, blew a 6-0 start to finish with the exact same record as the Bears, which would be more consolation if Denver didn’t have Chicago’s #1 pick.  Perhaps he’ll deal Brandon Marshall, so Cutler will have more weapons than Devin Aromashodu next season.

San Francisco 28, St. Louis 6

The 49ers got to .500 for the first time in seven years, but can’t feel good at all about being held scoreless in the first half versus a 1-14 with absolutely nothing to play for.  Arguably, St. Louis actively WANTED to lose, as evidenced by their decision to kick a field goal on 4th-and-2 from the two, down four points in the fourth quarter.  The teams combined for twenty punts, with nine by the 49ers Pro Bowl punter, Andy Lee.  Nothing has evidenced the dark, post-2002 period for the 49ers more than the emergence of Andy Lee as a regular Pro Bowler.

Pittsburgh 30, Miami 24

While they finished only 7-9, the Dolphins continued their season of roller coaster performances, coming back 17 down in the 4th quarter to get within a field goal before running out of gas.  They were the anti-Browns, playing exciting football, running trick plays, and neither bad nor good enough that a fourth quarter was ever irrelevant in their games.  The Steelers knocked out two different Miami QBs, who were already replacing original starter Chad Pennington.  Usually, the only time you will see a team use four quarterbacks is when a powerhouse like the late-80s 49ers realized that even playing Steve Bono was rubbing it in, and they needed to call off the dogs with a Bill Musgrave appearance, or when the Oakland Raiders draft an obese alcoholic QB with the first pick in the draft.

Minnesota 44, New York Giants 7

The Vikings delivered a dominating performance against the Giants, who seem to have been resting their starters for the Pro Bowl.  They’ll play at a new stadium next year, because after last week’s toxic performance against Carolina, Giants Stadium is now classified as a Superfund site.  Minnesota clinched a first-round bye and two guaranteed indoor games in the NFC playoffs, which will help Old Man Favre’s rheumatism.

Atlanta 20, Tampa Bay 10

Atlanta had consecutive winning records for the first time ever.  If they were in the AFC, they’d be a playoff team, but they’ll have to console themselves with a proud ending to their season, and wondering how things might been different with a better place-kicker.  Tampa went 3-13 with Raheem Morris, the youngest coach in the league.  Considering the lack of support he’s gotten from ownership in recent weeks, he looks to be the youngest unemployed coach in the league very soon.  He and Jim Zorn should get together, have a few beers, and design some elaborate fake-punt plays while they spend their severance packages.

Carolina 23, New Orleans 10

In a end-of-season surge designed to screw the 49ers’ draft position and guarantee Jake Delhomme’s unconditional release, the Panthers finished with some impressive performances to get to 8-8, a record that John Fox ends up with nearly every year.  Maybe the trade where SF got Carolina’s 2010 #1 was motivated by Fox simply being sick of picking at #15.  Meanwhile, the Saints’s season could have been directed by M. Night Shyamalan: intriguing beginning, rising dramatic tension, an unpredictable twist (the entire Washington game), followed by a disappointing ending that makes you question how good the previous 85% was.  If it turns out that the Superdome has been secretly located inside a protected national forest for years the whole time, or if the Saints run defense is allergic to water, you heard it here first.

Houston 34, New England 27

The question for locked-in playoff teams inevitably comes down to how much you try, how much you play your starters with very little at stake.  It’s more complicated when the game still has implications for your opponent.  The Patriots had the worst possible outcome: they played most of their starters, Wes Welker tore his ACL, Tom Brady got hit hard, and the team lost anyway, getting the #4 seed and a matchup with the dangerous Baltimore Ravens.  One year after his hit destroyed Tom Brady’s knee, Bernard Pollard picked off a pass and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.  Soon, it will come out that Pollard convinced Bill Belichick to go for it on 4th down against Indianapolis, and that he stole Bridget Moynahan’s birth control pills right before she and Brady broke up.

Dallas 24, Philadelphia 0

This was a crucial game: the winner got the NFC East title and a home playoff game, while Philly had a chance at a first-round bye.  Dallas was the only team that treated it as one, laying a total beatdown on the Eagles and shutting down all the pseudo-Seans.  The Eagles couldn’t run the ball at all, not that Andy Reid wanted to or tried.  Now the teams will face off in the same place next week, and Philly fans will have to hope they didn’t peak too soon.  A few weeks ago, everything was going Philadelphia’s way: the Phillies traded for Roy Halladay, “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” was delivering new episodes, and “Jersey Shore” had shifted the focus from Philadelphia assholes to New Jersey assholes.  They should go ahead and invite Pauly D and The Situation to sit in premium seats next week just to take some pressure off the team and the city.

Kansas City 44, Denver 24

Denver was a near-lock for the playoffs, but got knocked out by their horrendous AFC West compatriots, the Raiders and Chiefs.  Kyle Orton threw 56 passes, which is never a recipe for success.  In what might be a bad omen for Nick Saban in the upcoming BCS Championship Game, Texas alumni outscored Denver all by themselves, with Jamaal Charles rushing for two TDs and Derrick Johnson running back two INTs.  Worse, former Alabama fullback Tim Castille threw one pass for Kansas City – and it was intercepted.  As for former Longhorn Chris Simms, he did a stellar job holding his clipboard, not dropping it a single time.

Baltimore 21, Oakland 13

The Raiders were playing Baltimore tough, Charlie Frye was 18/25, with a QB rating of 105, and it looked like they might knock a third team out of playoff contention.  But then Frye tweaked his back, JaMarcus Russell came into the game, and it was all over for the Silver and Black.  Just win five of your eleven games, baby!  Russell threw one terrible interception, but he wasn’t as embarrassing as Hiram Eugene, who got stiff-armed into the ground on Willis McGahee’s 77-yard run.  Maybe McGahee thought Eugene was trying to serve him with a subpoena for a fraudulent paternity suit.

Green Bay 33, Arizona 7

This game didn’t matter at all!  Arizona and Green Bay were going to face off next week in Arizona next week no matter what, and the Cardinals played like they didn’t much care.  Matt Leinart came in for Kurt Warner, and threw an incompletion on his first pass, while his second was intercepted.  That interception didn’t count, as Arizona had committed a holding penalty in the end zone, so the Packers decided to accept the two-point safety, plus the ball, instead of taking possession on the Arizona 20.  They got a field goal out of it, but accepting the penalty might have cost them two points, long-term.  I think Mike McCarthy made the choice simply so there would be SOMETHING memorable about this otherwise phoned-in contest.

Tennessee 17, Seattle 13

Chris Johnson carried the ball 36 times in his quest for the rushing record, and while he fell just short, he did get over 2,000 yards.  It’s a testament to his skills, or an indictment of the Seattle defense, that he still gained 134 yards even though everyone in the stadium knew Johnson would be getting the ball at every possible opportunity.  Tennessee weirdly finished the season rather content to go 8-8, and Jeff Fisher’s job seems secure, even though they had the best record in the NFL last year.  In this way, the NFL is a lot like the NCAA, where early-season losses are totally forgotten as long as you finish strong.  That is, unless that early-season loss came to Appalachian State.

New York Jets 37, Cincinnati 0

In another pre-match game, the Jets qualified for the playoffs by beating down the Bengals at home.  New York made it into the postseason with consecutive wins versus teams with nothing to play for whatsoever, running up points on Curtis Painter and J.T. O’Sullivan.  It’s the luckiest New York football moment since David Tyree’s helmet catch.  While Cincinnati was locked into the #3 seed, and benched a lot of starters, it can’t be encouraging that Carson Palmer threw 11 passes for ZERO total yardage.  They’re going to need a few more than that to win next week, even at home against rookie interception machine Mark Sanchez.

NFLOL: Week 16

Sea BassWhat a week for America’s #1 sport, with exciting games going right down to the wire, and championships decided by a single yard.  Of course I’m talking about Fantasy Football. For America’s #4 sport, the NFL (behind Fantasy Football, college football, and MMA cockfighting), it was a disappointing, crappy week, with playoff teams stumbling, playoff aspirants bumbling, Detroit Lions fumbling, and a TV ratings tumbling.  Half the teams will be playing hard in Week 17, half the teams will be resting starters, and some sad AFC contender will lose to a resting team anyway, guaranteed (Hint: Houston).

San Diego 42, Tennessee 17

On Christmas Eve, Titans fans were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of a wild-card berth danced through their heads.  The Christmas night game was supposed to be a present, but when the fans unwrapped it, all they found was a large turd, crudely carved into the shape of Santa Claus.  The Titans were totally unable to stop the Chargers, who passed and ran at will.  Fullback Mike Tolbert led San Diego in rushing, while backup QB Billy Volek took revenge on his old team with some dominating kneeldowns in the final seconds.  The only disappointed Charger was Mike Scifres, who only got to punt once.

Why Didn’t We Bench Our Quarterback Earlier, Part One:  Vince Young is now 7-2 as a starter, after the team started 0-6.  Had the Titans won any of their first three, eminently winnable games, they’d be in solid playoff shape looking at Week 17 against the terrible Seattle Seahawks.  Of course, if they’d won one of the games, Vince Young may have been benched even longer.  Chris Johnson has one more week to try for the rushing record, needing 233 yards, and as Seattle is going for the suckiness record , CJ just might do it.

New York Jets 29, Indianapolis 15

Indianapolis pulled its starters with a small lead in the third quarter, and the Jets came back to end Indy’s undefeated season.  THIS is why the NFL needs a BCS system for determining its champion!  If the Colts had to worry about a system of polls and computer rankings, they’d have kept the starters in and played hard to the final whistle.  Instead, we have to suffer through a multi-game post-season tournament with pairings determined by the gauche method of won-loss records.  Unless Congress steps in, things are never going to change.  The fortunate Jets get another game versus a disinterested opponent next week, when they face the already-clinched Cincinnati Bengals.  If the Jets could just convince their playoff opponents to also bench their starters at halftime, they could be a dark horse Super Bowl team.

Cincinnati 17, Kansas City 10

The Bengals clinched the AFC North title with an unimpressive win over Kansas City.  Coming off a mid-week funeral and a cross-country flight, they deserve credit for putting together a 98-yard drive late in the 4th quarter to win it.  Kansas City also deserves credit for not allowing a single 100+-yard kick return, for holding Cedric Benson under 150 yards, and for Matt Cassel only sniffling and wiping his eyes during the second half, rather than his usual out-and-out bawling.

While Cincinnati deserves their playoff berth, some of the luster is off them now that Chad Ochocinco respectfully prays after every touchdown.  He knelt and held up a single finger on one hand and five on the other, signifying Chris Henry’s uniform number (15, or what Chad would call “Unocinco”).  It used to be that each score created buzz and anticipation – what would Chad do this time? – and now the only intrigue comes in guessing whether he recites only Hail Marys, or if he throws in an Our Father.  Quite a ways from the sombrero in just a month.

Atlanta 31, Buffalo 3

Roddy White scored on Atlanta’s first offensive play and it never got better for the Bills.  Brian Brohm did about as well as Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick as Buffalo’s QB, throwing two INTs in his first NFL start.  While multiple QB injuries hurt Buffalo this year, they did have the effect of shutting down complaints from Terrell Owens.  When TO had no idea who’d be throwing passes week to week, it was hard for him to criticize a particular signal-caller, or raise questions about their sexuality.   In one of his final games as a Bill, Marshawn Lynch rushed for only three yards – he may have a future next year as a pseudo-Sean in Philly.

Cleveland 23, Oakland 9

This was a week where fans of terrible teams, dreaming on mediocre backup quarterbacks, had their dreams shattered.  Charlie Frye threw for over 300 yards, but it wasn’t enough to get the Raiders into the end zone.  He also threw four near-interceptions in five passes in the middle of the fourth quarter, a sequence that led to five different cardiac ward visits in the greater Cleveland area.  Eric Mangini is now looking at ending the season on a four-game winning streak and still getting fired.  The highlight of the game came when Sebastian “Sea Bass” Janikowski drilled a 61-yard field goal, the most impressive Polish boot since they kicked out the Germans after World War II.

Green Bay 48, Seattle 10

Ever since Mike Holmgren left Brett Favre and Green Bay for Seattle, the Packers have mostly owned the Seahawks.  It’s as if George Martin had left the Beatles and formed a new band, taking with him Pete Best and Stu Sutcliffe. And then, every few years, the new band had to compete against the Beatles in a Battle of the Bands, with predictable results.  Now Holmgren and Favre are both gone, but the result remains the same: the Seahawks got hammered, Matt Hasselbeck played like Stu Sutcliffe having an aneurysm, and Greg Jennings had over 100 yards receiving and made out with a German photographer.

Houston 27, Miami 20

The Dolphins finished the year with four consecutive games against wild-card rivals.  They managed to beat Jacksonville, but couldn’t quite get past Tennessee or Houston, as the Texans now improbably control their own playoff destiny.  This was still an impressive year for Miami, who stayed in the hunt despite losing their starting QB and then the guy who took the second-most snaps, running back Ronnie Brown.  Unofficially, the Dolphins set a record for most huge leads taken, given up, and overcome in a single season.  They came almost all the way back from 27 down on Sunday, but ran out of time at the end.  Still, Coach Tony Sparano and the Dolphins will want to play spoiler versus Pittsburgh next week, which will happen in the form of an on-field victory, or some off-the-field tire slashings, and shady insurance scams.

New England 35, Jacksonville 7

In the annals of ill-advised trash-talking, a few notable moments stand out.  Biff Tannen saying “You and what army, McFly?” Spartacus yelling at a legionaire, “Come on! They can’t crucify ALL of us!”  And Rashean Mathis claiming that New England was “not the same Patriots” as in years past.  Tom Brady crucified the Jaguars secondary with  23 of 26 passing, the outcome was never in doubt, and Mathis recorded exactly one solo tackle.  Honestly, he’s not the same corner he was a few weeks ago.

Tampa Bay 20, New Orleans 17

New Orleans led 17-0, Drew Brees completed 32 of his 37 passes, and the Saints still lost an overtime shocker to the Buccaneers.  It was a David vs. Goliath kind of victory for Tampa Bay, only more so – David was at least in the army.  This would have been like Goliath losing to a little girl who washed dishes for the Isrealites, after Goliath hooked a very makeable field goal.  This is another data point in a potentially huge NFL Playoff s story – half the teams can’t trust their kickers, so we might see an unprecedented number of go-for-its on fourth down, and an unprecedented number of shanks.  Adjust your gambling accordingly, degenerates.

Carolina 41, New York Giants 9

Why Didn’t We Bench Our Quarterback Earlier, Part Two:  Carolina is now 3-1 since Matt Moore replaced Least Valuable Player front-runner Jake Delhomme.  With Jay Cutler’s Monday night win over Minnesota, Delhomme may have locked up the LVP award, which is a large bust of Ryan Leaf’s face, and comes with a Chevrolet Aveo and a DVD of “All About Steve.” Jonathan Stewart ran for over 200 yards, and linebacker Jon Beason has 13 tackles in his best performance since his verse on Miami’s “Seventh Floor Crew” rap.

Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 20

Baltimore had over 100 penalty yards, which negated two different touchdowns, losing a close game the resurgent Steelers.  That’s a typical Ravens game, where their talent impresses, but their propensity for late hits and illegal blocks sabotages their effort, in the same way that Ray Lewis’ stellar party-planning is marred by his propensity for stabbings.  Pittsburgh couldn’t run the ball, they turned the ball over, and they gave up a big kick return, and they still won.  They’re still quite likely to miss the playoffs, but then again, they were unlikely to win their games the last two weeks too.  Fans of enormous sandwiches, surly half-Korean wide receivers, caveman-faced quarterbacks with brain injuries, and Omar Epps could be very excited as long as the Jets/Texans choke next week.

Arizona 31, St. Louis 10

In a game that only had implications for the Rams’ quest for the #1 pick, Arizona held the Rams scoreless for the first half and despite a third-quarter scare, the game was never in doubt.  Kurt Warner threw two touchdowns as St. Louis fans asked themselves, “Why did we let him go again?”  The Rams started Keith Null again at QB, though they brought in Kyle Boller (AKA “Void”) to throw a token incompletion. Which was a nice gesture.

San Francisco 20, Detroit 6

On the plus side, they 49ers rolled at home, Frank Gore broke the 1,000-yard mark, and the team actually made some aggressive play-calls, picking up huge yardage in one play-action fourth-down attempt.  On the down side, the 49ers forced six turnovers playing against the least-talented team in the NFL, at home, and still only won by 14.  It’s encouraging that the 49ers no longer lose to the absolutely awful teams; the problem is that they can’t beat anyone mediocre-to-good besides Arizona.  With the Rams and Seahawks in the NFC West, destroying awful teams becomes especially crucial.  Improbably, the 49ers could get to 8-8 next week, though they might be tempted to tank the game to hand the #1 pick to Detroit.  For you draft enthusiasts, no less than seven games have relevance in determining the weakness-of-schedule tiebreaker between the Lions and Rams.  Week 17 fever – catch it!

Philadelphia 30, Denver 27

A fumbled kickoff let Denver back into this game, but the Eagles kicked a last-second field goal to clinch it.  The key play was a long pass to Jeremy Maclin, initially ruled incomplete, that was overturned on replay review.  Thankfully, it occurred within the final two minutes, meaning the replay assistant reviewed it automatically and Andy Reid didn’t have to make a decision involving a timeout.  Last year, Mike Shanahan was fired for blowing an 8-5 record and missing the playoffs.  When Josh McDaniels wastes a 6-0 start, he’s going to be forced to spend the off-season selling cars at one of John Elway’s dealerships.

Dallas 17, Washington 0

Al Michaels seemed openly peeved that he was forced to watch the Redskins stumble around for four quarters.  Isn’t NBC allowed to flex games precisely so America doesn’t have to watch Jason Campbell in prime time?  The Redskins also have a way of making teams look unimpressive against them, even in the midst of a 17-0 shutout.  I felt worried for the Cowboys: Why couldn’t they sack Campbell ten times, instead of four?  Why did they keep getting stopped on fourth-down runs versus a team that clearly didn’t care anymore?  Would Jerry Jones’ facelift hold up in a potential cold-weather playoff road game?

Chicago 36, Minnesota 30

I expected an interception duel between two December quarterbacks, and instead, we got a classic overtime shootout.  The win may be the first step in rehabilitating Jay Cutler’s career in the Windy City, and, dare I say it, the beginning of a legendary “Cutler-to-Aromashadou” combination.  Minnesota may lose the #2 seed in the NFC, and seems bound for a first-round matchup with (and loss to) Dallas or Philadelphia.  Therefore, maybe it’s time to think about Brett Favre’s post-football career.

I can’t see him as a game analyst or as part of a morning show, but I CAN see him as a spokesman for Flomax.  Imagine the commercials:  “Are you spraying it all over the field?  Have you become a gunslinger in the bathroom?  Is your release time hurt when you’re wearing tight Wranglers?  Does your accuracy suffer in cold weather?  Then ask your doctor about Flomax.  Pretty soon, you’ll be peeing like a kid out there.”

NFLOL: Week 15

Coach Jim ZornWeek 15 was supposed to clarify the playoff picture, with some teams able to clinch division titles and postseason berths, and others looking to pull away from the pack.  Instead, Green Bay failed to clinch, Denver failed to clinch, Cincinnati failed to pull away in the AFC North, three 7-6 teams lost, and four 6-7 teams won.  The playoff picture is now an out-of-focus impressionist canvas, with a whopping six different teams sitting at 7-7 in the AFC and only four of the 16 teams eliminated.  With the Broncos reeling and the Ravens and Steelers squaring off next week, we could be looking at seven different 8-7 AFC teams in Week 17.  In other words, nearly the entire country has an excuse to ignore relatives in favor of televised football this weekend.  Thanks, NFL!

Indianapolis 35, Jacksonville 31

Even against a depleted Colts defense, the Jaguars offense couldn’t get it done in a game that was meaningless for Indianapolis’ playoff chances and of dire importance to Jacksonville’s.  Indy rested some of its defensive starters, but were still clearly trying to win.  Next week, expect even more resting, at least a cameo appearance by Jim Sorgi, and a bored Peyton Manning throwing touchdown passes left-handed just to see if he can do it.  For Jacksonville, expect a disappointing loss to New England followed by the franchise moving to Los Angeles.

Dallas 24, New Orleans 17

Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?  Dem Cowboys, dat’s who.  Dallas dominated the game, but a missed field goal almost allowed New Orleans to come back and win.  Cowboys’ kicker Nick Holt has been terrible, and was released after the game in favor of kicker Shaun Suisham, who was released by the Redskins after HE blew a chip shot against New Orleans which let them come back and win.  They’ve got Tony Romo revisiting his career lowlight as the new holder, and now Suisham will face his former team in his Dallas debut.  It’s as if Wade Phillips is trying to maximize the nightmare potential for every single field goal, something he exacerbated this week by inadvertently icing his own kicker before the blown kick.

Meanwhile, New Orleans has released their own erratic kicker, John Carney, part of a weird trend where half of the NFL’s playoff contenders are switching kickers with a few weeks left. It’s sort of like how all the terrible teams fired their offensive coordinators a few weeks before the season, only less depressing.  John Carney, the released kicker, may later be found out as a secret degenerate gambler.  He whiffed on a field goal that would have guaranteed to the over-under against the Patriots, and years ago, he <a href=”http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2003/dec/26/columnist-sal-defilippo-dont-blame-the-kicker—-s/”>preserved a point spread cover – and blew the Saints playoff chances – by whiffing on a PAT after the Saints completed a last-second three-lateral touchdown play.  If Carney becomes the new Tim Donaghy, you read it here first.

Cleveland 41, Kansas City 34

Even two of the worst teams in the league can play an exciting game if they both refuse to tackle!  Brady Quinn threw for 66 yards and two interceptions -and the team still put up 41 points, thanks to two kick return touchdowns from Josh Cribbs and a near-NFL record 286 yards from Jerome Harrison.  If Harrison’s teammates really cared about him, they would have let Kansas City score so he could have set the single-game record in overtime.  Enjoy that third win, jerks.  Kansas City earns the draft tiebreaker under the Browns, meaning they’ll draft ahead of Cleveland if both teams finish with three wins, which they will.  The Chiefs plan to use their pick on a disappointing player.

Atlanta 10, New York Jets 7

The Jets dominated this game completely, but botched three field goals, in three totally different ways.  They missed one outright, botched a snap on another, and had a third blocked.  If only they’d had Tony Romo to hold for them!  Mark Sanchez threw three interceptions to match the three blown figgies, but the Jets still would have won if they’d guarded Tony Gonzalez on Atlanta’s last-gasp fourth-down play from the six.  Despite Sanchez’s late charge for the interception title and yet another fourth quarter defensive meltdown, the Jets are still in the playoff chase.  Maybe they could stick Thomas Jones behind center for the rest of the year.

Tennessee 27, Miami 24 (OT)

Tennessee took a big lead, but Miami crawled back in the game with the help of an INT-turned-long completion courtesy of standout Caucasian wideout Brian Hartline.  But as the Caucasian wideout giveth, so does the Caucasian wideout taketh away: Greg Camarillo put the Titans in field goal range after a late-hit penalty in overtime.  One white wide receiver is fine; two is just asking for trouble.  Just like how NBA teams will start only one Russian, and only one player with an extended goatee.

New England 17, Buffalo 10

Tom Brady threw for only 115 yards, and Randy Moss had 70 of them, as the Patriots won their first real road game of the season.  Luckily, Buffalo logged even more than that in penalty yardage (124), and handicapped themselves by bringing in Trent Edwards in the fourth quarter.  Edwards threw two passes for -1 yards, then took a nine-yard sack and injured his ankle.  Later, a hobo stole Edwards’ car from the parking lot and crashed it into the team training facility.

Buffalo came very close to recovering an onside kick, but went offsides.  Generally, Buffalo has outstanding special teams, while the rest of the team plays like Special Olympians.  The loss makes it unlikely that their interim coach will keep his job, and rumor has it that Marty Schottenheimer wants the job.  Marty in Buffalo!  The NFL coach and the NFL city most synonymous with playoff failure, finally reunited! Please make this happen.

Arizona 31, Detroit 24

Arizona clinched the NFC West title with a surprisingly close game against Detroit.  They’ll warm up for the playoffs by playing St. Louis next week.  You remember those Marines commercials where a sword gets hammered out by a hot forge to toughen it up for battle ahead?  The Cardinals have basically been dipped in warm butter and massaged like baby veal cows with their six NFC West games, plus bonus contests against the Lions and Bears.

Third-stringer Drew Stanton led a comeback in relief of Daunte Culpepper, and appears to have locked down the starting job for the remainder of the season.  This has two benefits: One, Stanton can show his stuff and earn some future playing time.  Two, that playing time will likely come as the result of a trade away from Detroit.  As Michael Scott would say, that’s a win-win-win.

Houston 16, St. Louis 13

Houston continued their unlikely playoff push, getting back to 7-7 with a win over the hapless Rams.  This is confusing for Texans fans, who would dearly love to make the playoff for the first time, but would also really like to see Gary Kubiak fired.  As for the Rams, they may have given up entirely on watching film of upcoming opponents, since they seem locked into 1-15 and the first pick in the 2010 Draft.  I imagine that film sessions consist of the coaching staff drooling over slow-motion footage of Ndamukong Suh throwing blockers into Colt McCoy.

Oakland 20, Denver 19

The Broncos were once 6-0, and seemingly a lock for the playoffs.  With a loss to the Raiders, they’ve fallen to 8-6, and a dogfight for a wild-card spot.  Some would argue that allowing a game-winning touchdown drive by Jamarcus Russell, the worst quarterback in the NFL, should disqualify a team from the playoffs automatically.  To which I say, Hey, voice in my head, the Broncos will lose to Philadelphia on their own.

San Diego 27, Cincinnati 24

It was an emotional game for the Bengals, who lost teammate Chris Henry this week.  The game was full of tearful moments, including an end zone prayer by Chad Ochocino and lots of pointing to the sky.  Of course, given Henry’s track record, are we totally sure those players were pointing in the correct direction?  Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding overdid a little after hitting an admittedly-difficult 52-yard game-winning field goal, leaping into the holder’s arms and pumping his fists.  Dude, the funeral was Tuesday. Tone it down!  Also, you’re only a fucking kicker. Tone it down!

Philadelphia 27, San Francisco 13

The 49ers and Alex Smith are a horribly mismatched couple in a desperate, loveless marriage, sticking together for the sake of the children and the salary cap because, deep down, both know they can’t do any better.  Philly overcame a sloppy first half and pulled away, thanks to the stellar play of Desean Jackson.  He’s a great receiver and a great cold-weather player, despite appearing to be the NFL player most uncomfortable in cold weather.  About 85% of his face is covered by various hats and masks, he wears big gloves, and his sideline parka looks like it was custom-fit for Andy Reid.  It’s possible that his terrible end zone celebrations are not in fact awful dances, but instead, his body’s involuntary reaction to snowy conditions in Philadelphia.

Baltimore 31, Chicago 7

Eight months ago, the Bears gave up Kyle Orton, two first-round picks, and a third-round pick to get Jay Cutler.  Sunday, Jay Cutler completed 10 of 27 passes and threw 3 INTs, for a quarterback rating of 7.9.  That’s the equivalent of getting a 410 on the SAT.  What would Chicago get if they tried to trade Cutler right now?  Kyle Boller, two first-grade Pop Warner players, and a third-degree burn from torch-wielding Bears fans chasing Cutler to the edge of town.  Cutler’s backup also threw an INT, and the Bears fumbled three times as well.  A team of actual Bears would hold onto the ball better than this team would, and even though it’s hibernation season, they wouldn’t sleep walk through games nearly as blatantly.

Tampa Bay 24, Seattle 7

Tampa Bay put some SERIOUS DAYLIGHT between themselves and the St. Louis Rams with a dismantling of the Seahawks.  How did Seattle win five games this year?  Next week should mark the end of the Matt Hasselbeck Era in Seattle, as Hasselbeck is poised to enter the Brunell phase of his career: holding for field goals, backing up future washout quarterbacks in Detroit, and holding a clipboard so tightly that his fingers turn blue.  Unfortunately, the Jim Mora, Junior Era in Seattle has at least another year to run. Mora cut his teeth coaching Michael Vick in Atlanta. Hmm, college star, mobile quarterback, wildly popular jersey in the South… With the 8th pick in the NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks select Tim Tebow!

Pittsburgh 37, Green Bay 36

Wildly entertaining game thanks to both defenses refusing to cover more than one receiver at once.  Ben Roethlisberger threw a pinpoint, near-uncatchable pass as time expired, after the teams traded scores in the fourth quarter, combining for 35 points.  Neither team could stop the other, but Mike Tomlin made the ballsiest call of the year when he called for an onside kick with four minutes left leading by two.  Green Bay recovered, but this meant their inevitable score came with two minutes left instead of time expiring.  Pittsburgh may have compounded their ballsiness by letting James Jones take a short pass in for a touchdown from the 24.  Of course, if Green Bay has rushed more than three guys on any play in Pittsburgh’s last drive, the result may have been different.  The prevent defense only prevented victory, and the left-for-dead Steelers now have new playoff life.  THANKS, Packers.

Carolina 26, Minnesota 7

The Panthers played quite well, but the story was Brett Favre’s meltdown and Brett Favre’s argument with his coach.  Because it’s December, and bad things happen when Brett Favre has to play outdoors in December.  His arthritis kicks in, his propensity to audible out of running plays is riskier, and the Vicodin loses potency in cold weather.  Minnesota can only hope that the usual late-season Favre Fade will be diminished by playing in a dome, and that they can hold of the Eagles for a first-round bye to ensure Favre won’t have to play in the snow.  By the way, Brad Childress is signed for four more years, Vikings fans, and that contract extension was not at all premature.

New York Giants 136, Washington -13

The game and perhaps the entire season was exemplified by a play call at the end of the first half. Trailing 24-0, the Redskins lined up for a field goal, then shifted to the “swinging gate” formation.  The Swinging Gate is a common play at the high school or college level, where the entire line moves over to the left, leaving the center alone with the ball in front of the holder.  It generally just forces the defense to shift, at which point the offense will move back and kick anyway.

This one seemed to surprise New York, as they called timeout when Washington shifted formations.  What didn’t surprise them is when Washington lined up in the same formation after the timeout – a formation that doesn’t even fool JV football teams – and still tried the fake.  Unblocked rushers swarmed the punter, who threw an interception that almost came back for a TD.  There’s a theory that Jim Zorn called the play as an eff you to the team owner; but I don’t see how that works even as misguided revenge. No, this is simply what Jim Zorn is as a head coach: an empty head with a swinging gate inside.

NFLOL: Week 14

By Sean Keane

Cleveland 13, Pittsburgh 6

Pittsburgh lost their fifth game in a row as America slowly realized that, as much as they dislike Eric Mangini, they hate Hines Ward and the Steelers more.  Not since the 18-0 Patriots went down in the Super Bowl versus the Giants have I heard so many people with no particular rooting interest in the winning team left absolutely giddy by an NFL victory. Even Notre Dame haters could enjoy thewin, since Brady Quinn threw for only 90 yards.  Although Pittsburgh’s not officially out, it feels like this is the earliest a defending champ has been eliminated from title consideration since Terrell Davis blew out his knee in 1999, or when Mickey had a heart attack right before Rocky fought Mr. T.

New Orleans 26, Atlanta 23

The Saints maintained their perfect season, but one misstep nearly doomed them.  Leading by three with two minutes left, they attempted a fake field goal – not the worst idea, but they had backup quarterback Mark Brunell throw the pass.  I’d rather have the punter throw the ball on a fake field goal rather than Brunell, who fired the ball out of bounds and Atlanta got a second chance.  Meanwhile, Khloe Kardashian talked about her marriage to Life & Style magazine, Lamar Odom averaged eight points a game, and the curse-free Reggie Bush scored three touchdowns for New Orleans.

Green Bay 21, Chicago 14

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers survived a surprisingly tough Bears team and one of the most ridiculous fumbles of the year to continue to 9-4.  Rodgers fumbled, recovered the ball, and then fumbled a second time to set up Chicago’s go-ahead TD.  He then stepped on a rake on his way to the sidelines, and fell through a huge pane of glass two workmen were walking down the sideline, landing in an enormous wedding cake.  Luckily, you’ll never have the game’s most devastating turnover when you’re squaring off with Jay Cutler.  Cutler took advantage of injuries to Jake Delhomme and Matthew Stafford and extended his interception lead, the second one giving Green Bay the ball on the 11 and officially eliminating Chicago from the playoffs.  You know, there probably aren’t any players Chicago would want in next year’s draft anyway.

Indianapolis 28, Denver 16

Brandon Marshall caught an NFL-record 21 passes (and was targeted an amazing 28 times), more passes than the entire Colts team caught combined. But it didn’t matter, since Indianapolis is unbeatable even when their starting secondary is out.  Terrell Owens had the old record, from a game where the Bears triple-covered Jerry Rice in his last game in SF.  Third place on the list is Tom Fears, from a game played in 1950, when the forward pass had only been legal for two years, and defensive backs were still allowed to bite, kick, and stab receivers within fifteen yards of the line of scrimmage.

One of Indianapolis’ most important players is Jeff Saturday, who looks like a very tall medieval dwarf, or an undiscovered caveman.  I’m leaning towards “caveman,” because his last name sounds like something that the suburban teenagers who discovered him would make up when confronted by authority figures.
“It’s Saturday morning. What is this bearded fellow doing in our yard?  And why is he in a three-point stance?”
“That’s our friend Jeff.  Jeff…um…Saturday.  Yeah, that’s it.  He’s really good at making fire and recognizing the zone blitz.  Can he stay in our garage?”
“I guess so.  But you’re gonna clean up after him!”

Buffalo 16, Kansas City 10

This game counts in the standings, but really, does it matter?  Who cares if musical theater kids are cooler than the gamer’s guild, or if the kids who smoke cigarettes outside the auto shop have a better GPA than the kids who smoke pot behind the gym?  These teams are losers, and the only time we’ll have to worry about them is if someone elects Matt Cassel homecoming king as a joke, so they can dump a huge bucket of Gatorade and pig’s blood on him at the big NFL dance.

Minnesota 30, Cincinnati 10

Cincinnati seems like a team that would have been a powerhouse decades ago, before indoor stadiums, artificial turf, and women’s suffrage.  They have one fast receiver, they like to line up six offensive linemen on every play, and their locker room is filled with anti-Communist propaganda.  This year, they play in the AFC North, where everyone plays in freezing-cold outdoor stadiums with chewed-up turf.  The other quarterbacks are either too incompetent or too concussed to throw deep, so the Bengals dominate them.  While Brett Favre was born in the same time period that the Bengals would dominate, his Vikings still run a 2009 offense, and Cincinnati simply could not keep up.

New England 20, Carolina 10

Randy Moss responded to criticism that he quit after the first quarter last week by quitting two or three plays into the game this week.  After the game, Carolina’s Chris Gamble said, “We knew he was going to shut it down … Once you get into him in the beginning of the game, he shuts it down.”  Of course, what does that say about Carolina that they still lost by ten points with Moss dogging it?  With a motivated Moss, does Carolina lose by 21?  24?

New York Jets 26, Tampa Bay 3

Jon Gruden is the luckiest man in the NFL.  With the rickety pirate ship that is the Tampa Bay franchise about to capsize, he was fired by management, and kept his hands cleans of the entire subsequent debacle – huge interception numbers, fired coordinators, the disrespect for Bucco Bruce.  He didn’t have to sit through it, nor was he blamed for it, AND, he’s still getting paid by Tampa.  Instead of watching Josh Freeman fire ill-advised red zone passes, he spends every Monday night talking up players and fake-laughing with Ron Jaworski, while drawing two salaries.  It’s kind of like George W. Bush leaving office right as the recession was about to really sink in; that is, if Hurrican Katrina, the second Gulf War, Enron, and torture scandals hadn’t already happened.  I still think W could rehab his image by going on cable and cracking jokes with Wolf Blitzer (the Jaworski of CNN) every week.

Miami 14, Jacksonville 10

Ricky Williams fumbled twice in three plays, and both bounced harmlessly out of bounds.  That was the kind of day it was for Miami, who got ahead early, completed a lot of passes in a row, and nursed their lead to a close victory.  The three things I like best about Miami are:

1.  Ricky Williams
2.  That their head coach wears sunglasses, indoors, during his press conferences.
3.  Their contribution to knocking the unwatchable Jacksonville Jaguars out of the wild-card hunt.  Someone’s got to win that #6 seed, I understand that, but really – anyone but the Jags.

Baltimore 48, Detroit 3

The Ravens destroyed the Lions, and in other news, a lion at the SF Zoo destroyed a raw steak that a zookeeper tossed into his cage.  The steak put up a better fight than Detroit.  Daunte Culpepper started, and in a moral victory for the Lions, he was not maimed or concussed, though he did cry a little bit on the bench.  The Lions’ most spectacular play was a huge hit on Derrick Mason – which was followed by Mason shaking off his separated shoulder and running for a touchdown anyway.

Houston 34, Seattle 7

Now that it no longer matters, the Texans are taking care of business against the dregs of the NFC West.  It’s amazing that Jim Mora Junior was selected at Seattle’s new coach a full year in advance, and not even one year in, it seems like a dead certainty that he will be fired.  His performance is actually worse than the one delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie “Junior,” where he played a pregnant man, which is a scenario more plausible than Seattle returning to the playoffs under JMJ.  When asked about his son’s future, former coach Jim Mora, Senior said, “Layoffs?  Layoffs???  Yeah, that sounds about right.”

Tennessee 47, St. Louis 7

Chris Johnson still had to carry the ball 28 times in this blowout victory, lending credence to the theory that Jeff Fisher may want to destroy Johnson’s legs even more than he wants to make the playoffs.  Kerry Collins got to come in and throw 20 passes after Vince Young left, while St. Louis started a guy named “Null.”  There might not be anything that encapsulates the 2009 Rams season more than the fact that they’ll be willfully trusting their future to a man named “Null.”

Washington 34, St. Louis 13

The Raiders were showing signs of life under Bruce Gradkowski.  Then, with two minutes left in the second half, Oakland:

- committed three penalties worth 35 on two plays
- allowed a 60-yard touchdown drive in 52 seconds
- followed that kickoff with another ten-yard penalty
- got Gradkowski hurt
- attempted a 66-yard field goal as time expired, which was returned 66 yards by the Redskins.

The rest of the game was JaMarcus Russell time, which meant 17-3 Washington, and a lot of public drunkenness arrests on BART.

San Diego 20, Dallas 17

Dallas put together a 76-yard drive, gaining yardage exclusively through runs, and got stopped at the 1 after running Marion Barber four consecutive times.  Someone should tell Wade Phillips that the definition of insanity – and a legal justification for firing – is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  After throwing 55 passes last week, Phillips this time went too much toward the ground game.  Like a balding man with a small penis and a $100,000 Ferrari, Wade Phillips was overcompensating.

Philadelphia 45, New York Giants 38

Early in the third quarter, Andy Reid challenged an out of bounds play unsuccessfully, but was more saddened to learn he’d lost the shiny red flag rather than his timeout, which wouldn’t have been used correctly anyway.  The real star of the game was Desean Jackson, who is the most dynamic player in the league, but a horrible, horrible touchdown celebrant.  It’s sad because he clearly lives for it – slowing down as he approaches the end zone, launching into choreographed dances, spiking the ball early – but the celebrations are never good.  Dating back to a high-school all-star game where he fumbled while trying to front-flip into the end zone, Jackson has never celebrated well.  He needs to train with Chad Ochocinco in the off-season, or simply realize his limitations and start flipping the ball to the ref instead.

San Francisco 24, Arizona 9

Arizona fumbled seven times, lost five of them, and also threw two INTs.  Apparently, some NFL teams can’t deal with the variety of free personal lubricants available in San Francisco.  I mean, it might not have been lube – could have been sensual body butter, passion fruit massage oil, stay-hard erection cream, whatever.  Non-SF residents may not realize just how slick these fine products can make your hands, and Monday night, the 49ers took advantage.  With the momentum they’ve gained from this huge divisional win, the 49ers are going to go to Philadelphia and only lose by 13.