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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: 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.

NFLOL: Week 13 of NFL Football

By Comedian Sean Keane

Ochocino Sombrero

Week Thirteen was unlucky for the AFC North, Washington’s place-kicker, and E.J. Henderson’s femur.  The 49ers apparently broke a mirror in 2002 that gave them seven year’s bad luck, one of Tony Romo’s ancestors apparently opened a mummy’s tomb in December, and Peyton Manning threw a black cat in front of Tennessee’s team bus, stopping their win streak.  Lucky for you, NFLOL is here to take you through all the games.

New York Jets 19, Buffalo Bills 13

The Jets and Bills disappointed a Thursday night television audience and the entire nation of Canada with this tepid AFC East matchup in Toronto.  The Jets once again ran at will on the Bills defence, logging 249 yards on the ground, which is just under 228 metres, and Mark Sanchez got injured before he could blow the game by throwing multiple picks.  Luckily, Canada has universal health care, so Sanchez will get the help he needs. The Jets did very little with Kellen Clemens under centre, as he was 1-for-2 on pass attempts, took two sacks, and fumbled.  It’s possible that he made a deal with the British to throw the game, and also surrender West Point.

The Bills may as well have played by Canadian Football League rules and punted on third down, as they converted only one of their 11 third-down attempts. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw the ball like his hands were covered in maple syrup  The only consolation for Buffalo fans who made the journey to watch this disappointing squad was the ready access to legal weed, so they can quickly forget this game ever happened.

Philadelphia 34, Atlanta 7

For the second consecutive week, Chris Redman threw a touchdown pass as the game clock expired.  Unfortunately, this one just cut Philadelphia’s lead to 34-7, and narrowly avoided a shameful shutout at home.  This game had so much garbage time that Michael Vick came in to play quarterback in the fourth quarter, and then got pulled for third-string quarterback Kevin Kolb, who was only allowed to hand off during his stint in compost time.

The Eagles tried to spare Vick booing by listing him as  Ron Mexico on the active roster, but the fears were unfounded.  Cheers outnumbered the boos when Vick came out on the field, and the stands were full of #7 Vick jerseys.  That in itself can’t be taken as a huge endorsement of Vick, since what other Atlanta jersey would you buy? The highly-speculative Matt Ryan?  The future-ironic-thrift-store Tony Gonzalez?  Or even, would you have bought in previous years?  Eventually the Jamal Anderson jersey wears thin, and as we all know, Andre Rison jerseys are highly flammable.

Chicago 17, St. Louis 9

Jay Cutler looked like a much better quarterback on Sunday. Not because he threw particularly better, but because he was facing Kyle Boller, who threw an interception and fumbled. In addition, punter Brad Maynard threw a pass for zero yardage on a failed fake field goal play, a call that made no sense strategically, but may have helped Cutler’s confidence to know there were TWO quarterbacks worse than him on one field.  DE Alex Brown summarized this game best when someone asked what the difference in the Bears was, compared to previous losing weeks, and he said, “The Rams.”

Cincinnati 23, Detroit 13

Chad Ochocino is not actually Mexican, but after a sliding touchdown catch, Chad threw a bitchin’ Meixcan party on the sidelines by donning a poncho and sombrero on the sidelines.  After paying tribute to his adopted surname’s heritage, the next step is to don a long African robe and a headscarf to honor the nation of Chad.

Cincinnati might be the best team in the league when it comes to killing the clock with a lead.  It’s like facing the Yankees in the playoffs, when the game is effectively over when New York has a lead after seven innings.  Which would make Cedric Benson the Mariano Rivera of the Bengals, if Mariano Rivera had a bunch of DUIs.  Which would actually make Cedric Benson the Joba Chamberlain of the Bengals.

Indianapolis 27, Tennessee 17

The Indianapolis Colts are the Dirk Diggler of the NFL: they can score fast, and they can score really slow.  They drove for a field goal in 20 seconds at the end of the first half, and put together a seven-and-a-half minute field goal drive in the fourth quarter.  Clearly, Peyton Manning’s got the touch, and I’m pretty sure Jim Caldwell lets him direct his own scenes.

Tennessee saw their five-game winning streak stopped, but the across-the-board failure of all other AFC contenders means that they’ve still got a shot at the #6 seed.  They’ve got a mutual elimination game against Miami in Week 15, but all four remaining games are eminently winnable, provided Chris Johnson’s legs don’t fall off from overuse.  Sadly, punter Brett Kern’s undefeated season ended, after starting the year 6-0 with Denver and 5-0 with the Titans.  Larry Seiple, the punter from the 1973 Dolphins, opened a bottle of champagne after the game.

Denver 44, Kansas City 13

Kansas City failed in every single aspect of the game on Sunday: offense, defense, special teams, coaching, postgame spread, calisthenics, cheerleading, and one end zone was painted with the word ” Chefs.” The Chiefs also called the worst fake punt of the season on their opening drive, subbing in their backup quarterback at punter and fooling no one, leading to a turnover at their own 28.  That’s a more obvious fake than 90% of the breasts on  Rock of Love.

Jacksonville 23, Houston 18

The Tin Woodman.  The guy from  Temple of Doom  who gets sacrificed to Kali Ma.  The Houston Texans.  All have no heart.  The Texans lost their fourth straight game, thanks in part to an interception thrown by running back Chris Brown.  Brown also fumbled at the goal line in the previous game against Jacksonville, and cost Houston a chance to tie Arizona when he couldn’t score in repeated attempts from the one-yard line.  Brown is the third-string running back for Houston, and by far the worst player who’s still able to torpedo his team’s season.  Arguably, this Chris Brown is having an even worse year than the R&B singer – at least that guy had the funny wedding dance video.

Miami 22, New England 21

Miami didn’t run a single play out of the Wildcat, and Randy Moss didn’t run at all after the first quarter as the Dolphins came back to stun the Patriots, who haven’t won a road game in America this season. Wes Welker continued to re-define the position of Caucasian wide receiver by catching ten passes for 167 yards, a far cry from the days where legends like Ed McCaffrey and Wayne Chrebet plodded over the gridiron.  In hindsight, it seems ridiculous that Chrebet was known as “Green Lantern,” when Wes Welker is so much more impressive AND has a name that already sounds like a superhero’s civilian identity.  Somewhere, Tim Dwight is still watching highlights of Welker’s performance and slow-clapping from his couch.

Oakland 27, Pittsburgh 24

A ho-hum game exploded in the fourth quarter, as the Raiders and Steelers traded touchdowns and combined for 35 points.  With former first-round pick JaMarcus Russell benched, former first-round pick Darren McFadden ineffective, and former first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey injured, the Raiders built their comeback on the Bruce-Gradkowski-to-Louis-Murphy connection.  As long as they’re not playing the guys that Al Davis is infatuated with, the Raiders might well be a playoff team. Perhaps that’s the genius behind the Richard Seymour deal – get rid of first-round picks before Al has a chance to waste them.

The Steelers’ playoff hopes took a blow as they lost their fourth straight game, although losing to Oakland at home should automatically render a team ineligible for postseason play.  Pittsburgh clearly missed Troy Polamalu, especially when his replacement committed a personal foul on Oakland’s game-winning drive, then gave up the winning touchdown pass two plays later.  After the game, Hines Ward said that Polamalu’s posterior cruciate ligament had let the team down, and also called out Polamalu’s “pussy-ass patella.”

New Orleans 33, Washington 30

A snowstorm earlier in the week turned the field into a muddy mess, slowing down the Saints offense and leading to some hilarious pratfalls.  Future Saints opponents would be wise to leave the tarp off the field with a game coming up, like the Giants watering down the basepaths to slow Maury Wills in the ’60s, or hiding the meth when you’re about to face the Black Eyed Peas in a Battle of the Bands. It was a ridiculous carnival of a game left New Orelans still undefeated, somehow.  They won thanks to:

– a 29-yard punt that bounced off a Redskin’s back
– a forced fumble on an interception return that became a touchdown the other way
– a missed 23-yard field goal that would have clinched the game
– a questionable fumble in overtime awarded to the Saints only after replay review
– many voodoo incantations and animal sacrifices

Of course, we had to catch up on highlights in the Bay Area, as the start of Seahawks-49ers was deemed much more crucial for local audience.  The battle for second place in the NFC West is way better than a dynamic offensive shootout and the possible upset of an 11-0 team.  Who dat making the NFL local broadcast rules? Who dat?!?

Carolina 16, Tampa Bay 6

Jake Delhomme was out with an injury, a broken finger likely inflicted by one of his angry teammates, possibly while Delhomme was held down in his bed and the rest of the Panthers ran by, hitting him with large socks packed with bars of soap.  The spirit of Delhomme lived on in Tampa QB Josh Freeman, who threw five interceptions, most of them in the red zone.

Delhomme may go to the bench, or the trainer’s room, or even be forced into retirement, but the spirit of Delhomme will always remain, like the ghost of Tom Joad.  Wherever there’s a wide-open receiver waiting to be overthrown, he’ll be there.  Wherever there’s an offensive line beating up a defense, and only a horrible turnover can stop the offense, that’s where he’ll be.  He’ll be there in the noises gamblers make when a two-team teaser is ruined by bad decisions, and the yells of fans as their playoff hopes go down the toilet, and when a wide receiver punches a teammate on the sidelines – he’ll be there, too.

San Diego 30, Cleveland 23

This game was not nearly as close as the final score, as Brady Quinn and the Browns scored ten of their points in the final two minutes to make things look better.  I’d call it a face-saving effort, but that ship sailed months ago for the 2009 Cleveland Browns.  Antonio Gates had a huge game for San Diego, LaDainian Tomlinson passed Jim Brown on the all-time rushing list, and the delightfully-named Legedu Naanee completed a pass.  The Naanee are, of course, the aliens from the upcoming 3-D sci-fi epic “Avatar,” any of whom could pass at will on the horrible Cleveland defense.  One silver lining for Cleveland fans: the stadium was only half-full and the game was blacked out locally, so only about 30,000 people were subjected to this particular defeat.

New York Giants 31, Dallas 24

Dallas was killed by big plays in this one, getting burned for a 79-yard punt return and a short pass that turned into a 74-yard touchdown.  Tony Romo’s December record dropped to 5-9, which is a bad indicator, as Dallas could easily lose every one of their remaining games.  This may set up a rock-paper-scissors situation in the NFC East, where Dallas owns Philly, Philly owns the Giants, and the Giants own Dallas, and there’s a three-way tie. Of course, in an actual game of rock-paper-scissors, Wade Phillips would look pained and throw rock every time, Tom Coughlin would berate the other coaches for not choosing in a timely fashion, and Andy Reid would attempt to call timeout, then throw dynamite.

Seattle 20, San Francisco 17

With 51 seconds left, the 49ers got the ball back on their own 11 and the game tied at 17.  Time to run out the clock and head to overtime, right?  Not if you’re Coach Mike Singletary.  The 49ers threw incomplete on three straight plays, giving the ball back to Seattle at midfield, with two timeouts and 20 seconds left.  Maybe they should change those Singletary billboards to show him demanding, “I want timekeepers!”  Or, he could start wearing a stopwatch around his neck instead of a twelve-pound wooden cross.

The 49ers got burned by an uncalled pass interference on fourth-and-goal in the first half, when Leroy Hill tackled Delanie Walker in the end zone, though Walker nearly caught the ball anyway.  If the Baltimore-Green Bay refs had been working this game, Hill would have been thrown out of the game, if not publicly flogged.

Arizona 30, Minnesota 17

If Arizona can protect Kurt Warner’s brain pan, they might be the most dangerous team in the NFC come playoff time.  He threw on Minnesota’s defense at will, as both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin racked up huge yardage and points.  Meanwhile, Minnesota has to wonder about Brett Favre playing in December, as he threw two ugly interceptions.  If the Vikings end up with an outdoor playoff game, watch out.  The world may need to watch out if the Vikings play the Cowboys, as the meeting of Tony Romo and Brett Favre’s late-season meltdown capabilities might create a black hole.  It’s more dangerous than the Large Hadron Collider, people!

Green Bay 27, Baltimore 14

The best offensive strategy on Monday night was to throw the ball deep and wait for a pass interference flag.  Baltimore had five infractions; Green Bay only four, and the Packers pulled it out.  Aaron Rodgers was only sacked once by the Baltimore defense, a proposition that would have sounded preposterous a month ago.  At this point, Ray Lewis needs to replace his pre-game dance to better reflect the toughness of the Ravens defense.  Can he do the Carlton?

NFLOL: Week 12 of NFL Football

It was a week to be thankful if you were a fan in Baltimore or New Orleans, and a week to have the stuffing beat out of you if you played for Kansas City. The Giants played like their turkey coma started three hours early, while the Colts clinched their division five weeks early, giving them plenty of time to eat leftovers. Meanwhile, the Patriots got rocked in the Superdome, and Bill Belichick tried to kiss Drew Brees on the mouth.
Belichick kisses Brees

Thanksgiving Games

Green Bay 34, Detroit 12

Dallas 24, Oakland 7

Denver 26, NY Giants 6

Not one of these Thanksgiving games was at all competitive. My parents fought harder about proper turkey preparation than the entire Giants team did in four quarters, though Mom’s comment about how she regretted marrying Dad would have drawn a flag for Unnecessary Roughness.  So let’s look at which Thanksgiving item each of these teams would be:

Green Bay: Sweet potato fries.  Not always a part of Thanksgiving, these fries performed exceptionally well this year.  Despite their appearance, sweet potato fries are surprisingly healthy. True, Green Bay fans would cover them in cheese, deep-fry them, and then dip the result in other cheese, but that’s basically what Charles Woodson did to Matthew Stafford on Thursday.

Detroit: Jell-O salad.  Like the Lions, Jell-O salad is there every Thanksgiving, and it hasn’t been good for years. Sometimes people will try to convince you that there are different ingredients than last year, but you don’t recognize them anyway, particularly the little blobs that look like marshmallows and the cornerbacks.  Jell-O salad is only memorable when it’s really bad, and someone gets food poisoning, but most of the time it’s easy to ignore.

Dallas: Mom’s pumpkin pie, after she quit drinking, stopped opening the oven half an hour into the baking process to add new ingredients, and refused to listen to advice from Terrell Owens on how to make the pie crust.  Also the pumpkin filling is put together in a billion-dollar steel bowl with retractable mixers attached to it.

Oakland: Your uncle’s cranberry sauce, served straight out of a can. And not even broken up with a fork; just sitting straight up on a dirty bowl that has dried Froot Loops encrusted on the side.  Still, you don’t complain, because at least your uncle broke up with his terrible alcoholic ex-girlfriend from last Thanksgiving, who made the same cranberry sauce dish, only it had a bunch of cigarette butts in it.  And by “broke up with her”, we really mean she violated her parole and got sent back to jail, and now he’s dating Bruce Gradkowski.

Denver: Gluten-free vegan stuffing.  It’s much better than you expected it to be, although it’s hard to tell how good the dish really is, because you can’t help comparing it to the cranberry sauce dish.

New York Giants: Your grandma, because the Giants bitch about everything, and can’t be trusted on the road at night.

Atlanta 20, Tampa Bay 17

Chris Redman led the Falcons on a 15-play game-winning touchdown drive that took just over two minutes to complete.  When Andy Reid reviews the tape in advance of next week’s Eagles-Falcons game, his head is going to explode. Stylez G. White of the Bucs had 2.5 sacks, which is a new NFL record for players who have legally changed their names to match Teen Wolf characters.  After the game, the Falcons released kicker (and pastor!) Jason Elam, who is now free to write sequels to his NFL-confronts-Islamic-terrorism thriller, Monday Night Jihad.

Buffalo 31, Miami 14

The Bills defeated the Dolphins behind the arm of Harvard graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick, who replaced former Stanford QB Trent Edwards in Week 10.  A Harvard-Stanford combination might seem unnecessarily elitist for an NFL team, but the upgrade in the team’s fortunes suggests that Buffalo hadn’t been elitist enough so far.  After the game, new coach Perry Fewell admitted that Edwards had been only a “safety signal-caller” in his mind.

Miami blew a scoring opportunity when running back Ricky Williams threw an interception in the end zone.  The Dolphins should know that asking Williams to pass is only a good idea when it’s preceded by the phrase “puff, puff.”

Cincinnati 16, Cleveland 7

On Monday, Browns fans were excited to learn that the failures of an overhyped Notre Dame QB had to led to his team firing their obese, arrogant, and incompetent head coach. Sadly, it was Charlie Weis getting the ax, not Eric Mangini.  Cincinnati may as well have played this game wearing sunglasses and poker-style visors, because they were not revealing anything to potential playoff opponents.  They ran Larry Johnson 22 times for 107 yards, which may have been a tactic to drive Cedric Benson’s salary demands down. “We can get an aging, troubled running back looking for a shot at redemption ANYWHERE, you hear me, Benson?”

Seattle 27, St. Louis 17

Justin Forsett ran for 130 yards in this horrible, horrible game.  Forsett’s performance means that in what promises to be an off-season of questions in Seattle, the Seahawks can rest assured that the backup running back position is taken care of. Forsett has more rushing yards than former Cal teammate Marshawn Lynch this season, though Lynch is better at ghostriding the whip.  Cornerback Josh Wilson ran back an interception for a TD, just as he did against Detroit, meaning that he’s really good at beating up on inferior opponents.  Hope you’re real proud of yourself, Josh. Kyle Boller is still crying! Jerk.

New York Jets 17, Carolina 6

Putting shutdown corner Darrelle Revis up against interception machine Jake Delhomme seems almost unfair, like having MC Hammer invest with Bernard Madoff.  Revis ended up with two INTs, returning one for six points, and Delhomme appears ready to launch his Least Valuable Player award campaign.  I wonder if the still-unemployed Jeff Garcia ever watches Panther games and cries.

Philadelphia 27, Washington 24

Andy Reid screwed around with Michael Vick in important situations (goal-line play, 4th quarter comeback, dog-walking), which didn’t work. He called for an onside kick on the opening kickoff, which didn’t work. Reid tried to score touchdowns in the red zone, which didn’t work until the fourth quarter, as the Eagles settled for field goals four times.  Despite all this, Philadelphia won by three, which would translate to a ten-point defeat against a real football team.  The Eagles may want to start taking intentional delay-of-game penalties whenever they get inside the 20, as they’re more likely to score from their own 45 yard-line than the opposition’s 5.

Indianapolis 35, Houston 27

At this point, there is no such thing as an insurmountable lead against the Colts.  They were down 20-7 at halftime, then rolled off 28 unanswered points to stick it to the Texans.  If Peyton Manning had been the general at Little Bighorn, I have no doubt he’d have calmly picked apart Sitting Bull’s forces and triumphed, most likely aided by pass interference penalties on Crazy Horse. The Colts never seem to panic, probably because  Manning has rehearsed every conceivably scenario 100 times during down time on commercial shoots. Besides, leading a comeback is nothing compared to the pressure of pretending Justin Timberlake is funny for 30 consecutive takes.

San Diego 43, Kansas City 14

The Chargers have won six straight games and seized control of the AFC West.  The streak includes a beatdown of the second-place Broncos, and two wins over Kansas City by a combined score of 80-21.  Does this make San Diego fans any more comfortable with Norv Turner as their coach for the playoffs?  Not one bit.

Chris Chambers took revenge on his old team by going for 70 yards and a touchdown.  Unfortunately, when your team loses by thirty, revenge is a dish best served imaginary.

San Francisco 20, Jacksonville 3

What does getting your pregnant daughter’s boyfriend to marry her have in common with QB Alex Smith? Both are more effective when you use the shotgun.  The 49ers got ahead and early and held on, thanks in part to a long third-quarter drive from Jacksonville that ate up nearly eight minutes, and ended with a David Garrard fumble after a sack.  When the other team is running the clock out for you, down 17 points, it makes closing out a game that much easier.

Tennessee 20, Arizona 17

Watching Vince Young drive his team down the field for a last-second touchdown, converting fourth-down plays all the way, it had to feel like horrible deja vu for Matt Leinart.  Vince Young was unstoppable!  LenDale White was doing anything!  His team came up a yard short of a first down that could have iced the game!  After the game ended, I hope Leinart went out and got plastered with Tennessee’s backup QB, Kerry Collins, because Vince Young has ruined both their lives.

Minnesota 36, Chicago 10

Brett Favre has thrown 24 touchdown passes this year and only three interceptions.  He’s not so much a gunslinger as he is a deadly sniper, zipping passes in with precision and assassinating NFC North defenses.  Still, watching Favre play as a reliable, mistake-free QB is a little unsettling, like watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer lumbering around with a back cap on his nose.  Sure, it’s more acceptable to the team, but ultimately, isn’t Favre suppressing his true nature?  If we continue the analogy, Brad Childress’s beard makes him Yukon Cornelius, Jared Allen is obviously Blitzen, massive Pat Williams is the hulking snow monster, and Percy Harvin is Hermey the Elf, because he’s a wide receiver who REALLY wants to be a running back/dentist.

Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 17 (OT)

Backup Dennis Dixon played well, throwing for one touchdown and running for another, but Baltimore intercepted him in OT to set up the winning field goal.  Hines Ward blamed Ben Roethlisberger and his brain injury for the loss, saying, “This game is almost like a playoff game. It’s almost a must-win. I could see some players or teammates questioning, like, ‘It’s just a concussion. I’ve played with a concussion before.”  Ward stepped up in this must-win game by catching three whole passes, because Hines Ward is a huge dick.

New Orleans 38, New England 17

Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Not Tom Brady, who threw two interceptions and no touchdowns, and certainly not the Patriots defense, who were so flustered by Drew Brees that they forgot to cover Saints receivers on some plays.  Also not Bill Belichick, who pulled his starters with over five minutes left, in an extremely early concession.  While Pete Carroll would have taken this as a sign of disrespect and immediately called for blitzes and long passes, Coach Sean Payton mercifully ran the ball and let the clock expire.

If the Colts and Saints remain undefeated, we might be looking at a Peyton-Payton matchup, which would be a wet dream for announcer Joe Buck.  This might be a blessing in disguise, as his delight about wordplay might replace his usual outrage about touchdown celebrations, spoiled athletes, and bad words.

NFLOL: Week 11

Alex Smith graduates from Dork University

It was a week of payback in the NFL. San Diego took its revenge on Denver, the worst teams in the AFC West took revenge on the best teams in the AFC North, and Bill Belichick took revenge on Rex Ryan. Revenge was served cold in Green Bay, as Aaron Rodgers avenged his draft snub and Alex Smith was forced to wear a dorky cold-weather hat, while Tampa Bay might as well have faced the Dread Pirate Roberts and his ship Revenge, because they got slaughtered by the Saints.

Miami 24, Carolina 17

On Thursday, Tim Lincecum won the NL Cy Young Award. That night, Ricky Williams scored three touchdowns in the Dolphins’ victory.  Truly, it was a banner day for marijuana!  Carolina was rolling, having cut the lead to four points, when Williams smoked the Panthers secondary for a 46-yard TD run that blunted their comeback effort.  Carolina ran the ball well in between the hashmarks, but their chronic problems with pass protection led to four fat sacks. Unlike Williams, Jake Delhomme can’t handle big hits, and for the first time in three games, he coughed up the ball.

Miami left the joint triumphant, while Carolina’s playoff hopes are now just pipe dreams. Which is to say they have effectively gone to pot. And up in smoke. Bong! Bong! That’s the sound of the clock striking midnight on the Panthers’ chances of earning the wild-card spot.

Indianapolis 17, Baltimore 15

Two weeks ago, Dallas Clark had 14 receptions in Indy’s win over Houston. This week, he only had one catch, but little-known reserve Tom Santi torched the Ravens for six catches and 80 yards. Before the game, Santi had zero catches on the year, and was a member of the Colts grounds crew until Wednesday.  Santi also fumbled at the four-yard line, costing the Colts points, but it’s understandable, as Santi lost an arm last year in a freak lawnmower accident.  In the interest of fairness, the Colts also forced Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis to play with their legs tied together, and Reggie Wayne spent the entire first half hopping around in a potato sack, and Indianapolis still won by two.

Baltimore cut their terrible new kicker this week, after he cost them at least two games. Meanwhile, their old kicker, Matt Stover, joined the Colts at midseason, and made the go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter of this game.  Stover had been with the team for 18 years, and was jobless for half a season after they released him, before blossoming as the replacement place-kicker in Indy.  If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “This is exactly like the plot of ‘Troop Beverly Hills.'” Stover is Shelly Long, the Colts are the Wilderness Girls, Jim Harbaugh is Nefler the Muffler Man, and Adam Vinatieri is the mean troop leader from the Red Feathers who injures her leg and opens the door for Matt Stover to win the Super Bowl, AKA, the Wilderness Girl Jamboree.  My NFL column is accessible to both genders!

Dallas 7, Washington 6

Sometimes, a big rivalry game like Cowboys-Redskins is described as a heavyweight fight.  This was more of a flyweight match, with neither team skilled or powerful enough to knock out their hobbled opponent.  The Cowboys should have been able to fatten up on the woeful Redskins, before enjoying an Oakland Raider dessert at home on Thanksgiving.  They almost took an anorexic approach to the Redskin appetizer, going scoreless until the end of the fourth quarter, but eventually and Thanksgivingly enough, it was legs than came though for them.  Washington lost its running back to a torn ACL and its right guard to a broken tibia, while Shaun Suisham kicked like he had a broken leg, shanking two crucial field goals.  After the game, Jim Zorn covered himself his gravy and prayed that he’ll be fired before Christmas. As for breasts, Tony Romo isn’t dating Jessica Simpson anymore.

Detroit 38, Cleveland 37

Eric Mangini, the worst coach in the NFL, blew this game for Cleveland by calling a timeout before the last play of the game. Detroit QB Matt Stafford left with a separated shoulder on an injury timeout after the previous play, but Mangini’s timeout let him come back and throw the game-winning TD.  This proves that Mangini is foolish, Stafford is a tough son of a bitch, and that even a one-armed Stafford is still far better than backup Daunte Culpepper.  Mangini responded by accusing Detroit of faking injuries in order to slow down the juggernaut Cleveland no-huddle offense, the same no-huddle offense that went scoreless last week.

Brady Quinn had a very good game, throwing for 300 yards and four touchdowns. Too bad Mangini benched him for half the season to screw him out of contract incentives.  After the game, Quinn said, “I was praying and hoping that our defense could get a stop for us,” which means that, as suspected, God hates Notre Dame. Which is why He let Cleveland draft Brady in the first place.

Jacksonville 18, Buffalo 15

If the season ended today, the Jacksonville Jaguars would be a playoff team. Yes, a team that lost to Seattle by 41 and allowed the withered husk that used to be Terrell Owens to go for 200 yards against them.  What would the spread be for that first-round game against New England? 17 points? 24?  Eleventy-eight?  If you just counted points scored by Randy Moss, he’s still probably an eight-point favorite.

Owens gave his jersey to Jacksonville’s Mike Sims-Walker after the game, a week after giving his jersey to Chris Johnson after the Titans whipped the Bills.  Does Owens think he’s playing soccer, and needs to give up his jersey after losing? In a way, TO is like David Beckham, moving to a seemingly-professional team that’s not really part of real, competitive football.  The real question is, why do these players want an Owens jersey from Buffalo? It’s like getting an Emmitt Smith jersey from Arizona, or a Van Halen poster that features the singer from Extreme.  Maybe Sims-Walker and Johnson are secretly hipsters, wearing the gear ironically, or they’re big fans of Straight Cash Homey.

Minnesota 35, Seattle 9

Brett Favre was 22-for-25, picking apart Seattle’s weak spots more effectively than the movie “Singles.”  He was safely ensconced in a flannel Vikings shirt and sipping a latte before the third quarter was even over, as the NFL’s answer to the Human Victory Cigar, Tarvaris Jackson, came into the game with 16 minutes left.  The only way Favre’s performance could have been more brutal is if he’d donned a Kevin Durant jersey for his post-game press conference.  Meanwhile, for the first time ever, Matt Hasselbeck is actually jealous of his brother Tim. True, he has to deal with his shrewish wife Elisabeth every day, but at least she’s smarter than Jim Mora, Junior.

New England 31, New York Jets 14

Rex Ryan broke down and cried during a team meeting early in the week. After this game, Ryan only sniffled a little as he told reporters he felt disrespected by Bill Belichick and the Patriots throwing deep with 30 seconds left, leading by 17 points. He should have felt disrespected by the 17-point beatdown itself. Also the disparaging remarks about his weight from Vince Wilfork, the fake crying from Kevin Faulk after a first-down catch, and the way Tom Brady said, “I have absolutely no respect for Rex Ryan, and you can print that, since I doubt that dumbass even knows how to read.”

The Jets did a very nice job of shutting down Randy Moss, holding him to just five catches and 34 yards.  They didn’t do so well versus Wes Welker, who had 15 catches for 192 yards.  What does this mean?  Clearly, the New York Jets defense is racist, perfectly content to allow yardage to white receivers, but cracking down on minorities.  The Caucasian Julian Edelman also, had three catches, while there was not a single Asian-American, Pacific Islander, or Native American player that recorded yardage for disgrace. Both “Jets” and “Klan” have four letters. Coincidence? I think not.

New Orleans 38, Tampa Bay 7

After firing their offensive coordinator days before the start of the season, Tampa Bay has now demoted their defensive coordinator as well.  Head coach Raheem Morris will take over as the DC, because he hasn’t seemed overmatched at all so far.  Why not give him more to do?  The best thing Tampa did was fumble three minutes into the second half, thus icing the game, and allowing networks to switch to a better, more competitive contest much earlier than they dreamed possible.

No exaggeration – New Orleans began running out the clock with 22 minutes left in the game. They threw only three more passes – but scored two additional touchdowns anyway. In a rare example of running down the score, the Saints threw only one pass in the fourth quarter, yet still held the ball for 11:38.  Sean Payton was the anti-Belichick: running on every play, with his third- and fourth-string running backs, politely declining to throw long. Also he wore a zip-up jacket, with sleeves intact, not a hoodie, and didn’t sleep with anyone else’s wife.

New York Giants 34, Atlanta 31

The top running backs for each team were hurt.  The wind wasn’t swirling at the Meadowlands.  Neither team could defend the pass.  You couldn’t have more perfect conditions for a shootout if Doc Holliday had been a BART cop. It’s somewhat unfair that Atlanta didn’t get a chance at the ball in overtime, after coming back from 14 down, but they could have gone for two after their last touchdown and made the coin toss irrelevant.  New York won for the first time in six weeks, and as a reward, they get to fly cross-country and play at high altitude on three day’s rest. Denver should be forced to start Chris Simms on Thanksgiving for at least one quarter to make up for the travel stress.

Kansas City 27, Pittsburgh 24

This may be the first season that a defending Super Bowl champion misses the playoffs just because they can’t cover kickoffs.  The Steelers allowed their fourth kick return TD in five games when Jamaal Charles ran back the opening kickoff untouched.  They’re also not very good at covering interception returns, allowing a defensive end to take one back 94 yards. Where did your tripping skills go, Big Ben?

Big Ben got his fourth concussion, although head injuries don’t seem to affect him. Because he’s kind of dumb. Charlie Batch also injured his wrist, meaning that the Steelers might have started the Dennis Dixon Era if their defense had held in OT. Regardless, they deserved to lose, not because of the turnovers or kick coverage, but because Mike Tomlin punted from Kansas City’s 38 in overtime. You don’t deserve to go back to the playoffs with cowardice like that. And the way Pittsburgh plays special teams, that easily could have led to a return TD.

Green Bay 30, San Francisco 24

The 49ers passed on Aaron Rodgers in favor of Alex Smith back in 2005, and they’ve regretted that decision ever since. Alex Smith’s hands are too small, he keeps hurting his shoulder, he throws too many INTs, and he can’t even grow a beard half as well as Rodgers.  It’s almost unfair that Alex Smith, a historic draft bust, has to play against Rodgers.  They didn’t make Sam Bowie play one-on-one contests against Michael Jordan!  Darko never had to enter a dunk contest versus LeBron!  Nick Roberts, the guy Gina Matthews dumped me for in seventh grade, doesn’t have to write a comedic, awkwardly-personal NFL column to run alongside mine!

Arizona 21, St. Louis 13

Kurt Warner left the game after the first half, as a precaution against his head injury.  At the time, Arizona led 21-3, but barely hung on to win. That’s how bad Matt Leinart is at playing quarterback: He takes a 7-3 team and makes them ten points worse than a 1-9 squad, just due to his anti-leadership. In fairness to Leinart, he’d do better if the NFL had voted this season to award points for skank-banging.

Warner’s injury is a sign that there’s much more concussion awareness this year, mainly due to the NFL being shamed by hearings on Capitol Hill.  New league policy requires that players see independent neurologists after concussions, a marked departure from the old policy of yelling, “Get back in the game, you fucking pussy!” until the disoriented player returned to the field.

San Diego 32, Denver 3

Before the game, Josh McDaniels told the Chargers linebackers, “We own you.”  Then the Broncos went out and lost 32-3. They now own a 6-4 record and sole possession of second place in the AFC West. McDaniels brought in the injured Kyle Orton early and  never took him out, because watching Chris Simms was making him sick.  If Orton aggravates the injury, we might get to see Tom Brandstater on Thanksgiving, a 25-year-old rookie QB from Turlock, CA, which would make Brandstater the most successful person ever to come out of Turlock, CA.  Actually, he may have already achieved that distinction simply by graduating from college before age 25.

Oakland 20, Cincinnati 17

A lot of happy fans woke up in Alameda County drunk tanks Monday morning, after the Raiders pulled off a huge upset.  This is what happens when you finally bench your inaccurate, out-of-shape, purple-drank-swilling quarterback – you beat a 7-2 team. On the flip side, Cincinnati added their own dysfunctional player and paid the price:

Cincinnati’s record since signing Larry Johnson: 0-1
Kansas City’s record since releasing Larry Johnson: 2-0.
KC’s record with Johnson still on the roster: 1-7.

Cincinnati has now lost games where a tipped pass turned into an 87-yard touchdown play, and when their own kick returner fumbled with 30 seconds left. Marvin Lewis plans to spend the next week of practice defending against Hail Mary passes, Statue of Liberty plays, and Home Run Throwback kickoff returns.  On Friday, the entire practice will be devoted to stopping multi-lateral plays while a full marching band roams the field.

Philadelphia 24, Chicago 20

Andy Reid continued to intentionally waste timeouts, this time burning one on an inexplicable play where the Eagles nearly had twelve men on the field on offense. You see that penalty on defense; not so much on the other side of the ball. Freed of the ballast of cumbersome timeouts, the Eagles rallied to defeat the Bears on the road.

The comedy highlight of Sunday night, and possibly the entire year, came when Jay Cutler attempted a pass to Devin Hester late in the fourth quarter, and the Eagles DB effectively pantsed him as the ball fell incomplete.  Cutler showed his ass in a different way, throwing a bad interception and averaging 3.6 yards per attempt.  He’s yet to have a QB rating above 80 in a night game this year, and he’s thrown 12 interceptions in the four games.  What this means is that Jay Cutler obviously needs a nap. Look how cranky he is! Yelling at teammates, hanging his head, stomping his feet on the sidelines – it’s a mess.  Lovie Smith needs to be firm with Cutler on this one, although his earlier disciplinary measures of making Cutler sit in the locker room by himself didn’t work – but that’s because Lovie Smith doesn’t know how to use his timeouts either.

Comedian Sean Keane rules the Internet from http://seankeanecomedy.com/

NFLOL – Week 10 of NFL Football

By Comedian Sean Keane

San Francisco 10, Chicago 6

Matt Millen, the worst executive in NFL history, was the perfect announcer for this shit sandwich game. For a close contest, it was remarkably lacking in drama, or competence. Here’s a sequence from the end of the game: Clinging to a four-point lead with four minutes to go, the 49ers had to convert a 3rd-and-3. QB Alex Smith was flushed from the pocket, and forced a wobbly shovel pass to Michael Robinson, who fell down. Luckily, no Chicago defender was nearby, so he was able to roll forward for the first down. Then Robinson went out of bounds, stopping the clock unnecessarily. The 49ers inched the ball forward to the Chicago 34, and then punted deep into the end zone, for a touchback and a gain of 14 yards of field position. The Bears’ subsequent drive featured five penalties and an interception in the end zone. After the game, Time Warner decided not to add the NFL Network to its cable packages, ever.

Alex Smith won his first game since September of 2007, when Hillary Clinton was the presidential front-runner. “The Brave One” had just knocked off “3:10 to Yuma” as box-office champ.  America’s top song was “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” Lehman Brothers was still a year away from bankruptcy, and one day earlier, Michael Crabtree racked up 244 yards and three touchdowns in just his third collegiate game. Smith is due for another victory in late December of 2011, which will be his last before the Mayan apocalypse brings about the end of the NFL and the rest of life as we know it.

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NFLOL: Sean Keane gets down and dirty with Week 9 of NFL Football

By Comedian Sean Keane

It was an unusually high-quality week for NFL football in Week 9. The Redskins were the most depressing this week, though the Raiders, Bills, Rams, and Browns had a bye, making them look even worse. Now that these teams are back, we’re again subjected to Brady Quinn versus Derek Anderson, the lowest-quality quarterback controversy since Joey Harrington battled with Jeff Garcia, and Coach Tom Cable’s inevitable journey toward anger management counseling, alcohol rehab, and a one-on-one meeting with Dr. Drew. The Colts and Saints stayed undefeated, the Ravens are looking like the best team to miss the playoffs, and Thursday Night Football could not have a less inspiring game to kick off its season. To the games!
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