Washington 26, San Francisco 16
Want to hear something funny? Somebody correct me if I'm wrong here, but if Washington wins its last two games, versus the Cowchips and Vikings, and the Panthers and Saints lose their games...
We're in the playoffs! With a mediocre 7-9 record!
Ain't that a kick inna pants? After this season?
Now I'm not suggesting in any form or fashion that the Redskins deserve to be in the post season, or that they somehow earned it, or even that I suggested they'd be there pre-season. It is every week that I have to reiterate to some Philly/Dallas/Baltimore/New York fan that I didn't predict Gibbs would make the playoffs this season. Fans of other teams seem to think that as soon as Gibbs was hired, that the DC area fans were printing up NFC East Champion t-shirts. Not so, lost ones, not so. I did say that, based upon Gibbs' solid record and our always-good-on-paper team, Washington would challenge someone for a wild-card spot. Sho'nuff, we are. Kind of. But only because the National Football Conference is bereft of greatness. And with a certain wideout going down to injury, the NFC's pool of proficiency drains by three feet.
The Football Gods will bestow favor upon someone from the NFC--they have to under the NFL rules. But here at the Review, I thought it appropo to send my own gifts to fans of every team in the form of messages of goodwill. Every real football fan clings to the hope that their team will make a run for the Super Bowl, even as their team's season disintigrates (et tu, St. Louis?). When that reality creeps in like silent-but-deadly flatulence, you can do nothing but remember the good things. Accentuate the positive. That's what we're gonna do now, as we inaugurate the first ever...MESSAGES OF GOODWILL.
Did anyone guess that those stupendously bad pass interference calls against Washington in Week 3 that allowed a Cowgirls victory would loom so large? I realize it's spilled and now spoiled milk, but if we win that game--as we should have--and ceteris parabus, we're sitting pretty for the post season. That is the power of penalties, and ceteris parabus is everything I remember from college Economics class.
Nonetheless, Washington should feel great that Gibbs has a great foundation on which to build next year's playoff team. That's right, we're making the playoffs next year. If the seasons began in February but ended in May, the Redskins would have five more Vince Lombardi trophies. So prepare to enjoy a fantastic offseason, gentlemen.
No holiday message for you. Oh, wait, there is a notice to pass along: Terrell Owens is done, and so are your Super Bowl aspirations. You may commence burning the Liberty Bell now.
Los Gigantes de Nuevo York
Was there any bigger lock for a fantasy matchup than the #1 ranked Steelers defense versus Eli Manning, the Boy Who Could Not Fly? No one in their right mind would start, say, the Jaguars defense playing against Favre at Lambeau instead, right? Not when the Steelers defense has been average more than 20 fantasy points, right? I mean, was there any prediction that young Manning would go 16 for 23 for two touchdowns and only one interception? Who wouldn't have started that defense? How did this nonsense happpen?
And yes, I am kvetching that I was booted from my fantasy league playoffs because my defense earned five points. Enjoy your quarterback of the future, D-Trux and Giants fans.
Though you share the same record as Washington, let's be honest--this year has been a disaster, particularly in light of last year's playoff appearance. This season's humor came from seeing Coach Parcells' weekly "we are disgusting" post game conferences; the real comedy was watching him become less animated after each loss and age 10 years (along with Testaverde and Eddie George) in three months. I suspect that after falling to 5-11 on the year, Bill's final press conference will be miserable cinema; the Tuna will decompose into a monotone, lamentable, drooling shell of his Hall of Fame self. He won't be able to enunciate, but his spittle will make his message clear: we stink. If there is something to hang your Christmas stocking on, it's that kid Julius Jones.
Green Bay Lemon Pants
Future Hall of Famer Brett Favre is the anchor on which Packers fans have held their hope for many years. I personally think he's a maverick gunslinger who has the uncanny ability to follow a horrible pass with a scrambling, laser-guided pass through three defenders. The press loves this guy, and some of the praise is deserved. But for the love of Moses, can we stop treating him as any more heroic than any other quarterback who plays through pain and loss? For my dollar, the Titans' Steve McNair has equaled or surpassed Favre in gutsy play. I think McNair completed a touchdown back in 2002 with only one operable foot. I could be wrong. The point is that Brett doesn't turn water into wine and hasn't corrected his tendency to hit defenders between the numbers in his many NFL seasons. And then there's his annual will-I-retire-maybe-I-won't tune. Sheesh. You Cheeseheads can keep Favre, and enjoy him for all he's worth.
By winning your last two games (which shan't happen because you're coming to FedEx Field to play the Skins), you can slip right into the playoffs and, I predict, make some noise. Hats off to Daunte "Where's My Soup Contract?" Culpepper for being the glue in this season of rotating offensive players. 8-5 is pretty good for losing Mr. I Make It Look Easy, Randy Moss, for a couple games and starting multiple running backs throughout the year. Vikings fans should be pleased with the work Coach Mike Tice has done in keeping this ship afloat and competitve.
What happened here? Remember when the Lions broke their consecutive road-losing streak, then started winning at home too? Things went south quickly, but I really like the combination of Harrington/Roy Williams/Kevin Jones/Hakim. Pick up some defense (and a long snapper) and you should be in the thick of a division title chase next year.
I hear Ryan Leaf is still available if you're still looking for a quarterback next year. And you should be.
Where would this team be without Michael Vick? 4-10 is my guess. This guy single-handedly willed his team to win Saturday against the Panthers with a gutsy 4th and goal touchdown scramble. Sure he's erratic, and inexplicably vulnerable to fast pass rushes, but there's nobody more dangerous in the clutch than Mr. Nike. Just ask last year's Packers. Enjoy him while he's healthy, Falcon fans.
(North) Carolina Panthers
Even if you don't make the playoffs, what resolve you've shown in overcoming injuries to nearly every playmaker on offense. The loss of Steve Smith, Stephen Davis, DeShaun Foster, and even Brad Hoover means that you've had to rely on who-dats like Nick Goings and behind your offensive line he has run like a maniac. Hats off to Jake "Pour Homme" Delhomme, Julius Peppers and the entire coaching staff for pulling off an improbable playoff run after looking dead in the water in early October.
Whaddaya know, the Saints aren't folding in December! They've won their last two and with the ever dangerous Joe Horn healthy, well, anything's possible. We haven't seen Saints fans break out the paper bags in, what, two years now. That's plenty to be thankful for.
Tampa fans should rejoice that their defense, splintered after winning a Super Bowl, is still to be feared. And that those orange pants will never see the light of day again.
The Entire NFC West (Seattle, St. Louis, Arizona, San Francisco)
Shame on all of you. I refuse to send fans of these slumping, ne'er-do-well franchises holiday wishes. The brass ring of a division champion is sitting there, and everyone's eyeing it warily, like the gathering of the Fellowship in Lord of the Rings. The Owens-less 49ers were expected to stink it up this year, but the rest of you have no excuse for half-stepping. Weren't the Seahawks an early AFC favorite? How can Arizona still be alive in this division? Marshall Faulk, I have loved you like a brother, defending your presence on my fantasy team for more than a year now. After this year, I'm cutting the cord. Fly, my son, fly.
New England Patriots
We'll just assume Monday's loss to Miami was a mulligan. But know this, Pats fans, if the celebrated Tom Brady has a subpar day (three interceptions should qualify) in January, things could get ugly. You all should send Corey Dillon holiday hams for adding a dimension to the Champions that should propel them to another Super Bowl appearance.
State of New York Football J-E-T-S
I like this team, starting with coach Herman Edwards. Jets fans can celebrate "Supernatural" Santana Moss' solid play, Curtis Martin's non-stop procution, and the return of Chad Pennington. They may not have the defense to hold off the Steelers, Colts, or Patriots later this year, but this team is a perennial favorite to make the post season. That's good coaching. Those Quincy Carter games are quickly fading into memory.
Panthers aside, is there any team who has risen from the dust like Buffalo? Who the #$#% is Lee Evans (and why is he helping my brother's fantasy team become a powerhouse)? This team scored in all phases against Cincinnati, but it's their offense which deserves the love. They've scored 17 touchdowns in their last five games. I think that's more than Washington has scored all year.
There's good news for Dolfans: your boys fought hard Monday, though their season ended during the summer months. By the way, those orange uniforms make you look like little highlighters.
Pittsburgh Men o' Steel
Your holiday gift is the well-praised Ben Roethlisberger. But you knew that. And you also know that he's responsible, in large part, for the franchise-best record and winning streak. In my estimation, the Steelers are the most balanced team in the league, able to put up just enough to win against virtually anyone. Can't wait for the Pittsburgh/New England AFC Championship game!
Y'all knew you had no chance of winning against Peyton Sunday night, right? Motormouth Billlick had you guys playing your hearts out, but it was clear that Manning and company were not to be denied. They looked like the superior team...for now. Come next year, when Kyle "Where's Heap?" Boller continues his maturation, you'll ascend to the top of the AFC. Provided that Jailbait Lewis keeps his nose clean. Ravens fans should look forward to Ed Reed and company needing to do less scoring next year. You might want to pick up a decent wide receiver in your spare time. And yes, I'm being sarcastic.
Fans of the Halloween Heroes should rejoice that Marvin Lewis decided to become your head coach. Doomsayers were shocked last year when you went 8-8; they suggested the return of the "Bungles" earlier this year when Lewis' starter, Carson "Tonight Show" Palmer, struggled. But now his decision seems more sane, and, perhaps, visionary. You guys will continue to improve under Marvin; your only regret should be that you're in the same division as the Ravens and Steelers.
Cleveland Doo-doo Browns
No, I'm not trying to offend Browns fans. I'm referencing that local club hit from my college days by one-CD wonder 2 Hyped Brothers And A Dog. Now that was back when people actually danced at parties, instead of standing around mean-mugging and drinking, back before every R&B song had a hot-rapper-of-the-moment mumbling in it, back when there were 24 variations of the Running Man dance. Those were good days. The days of the high-top fade, Africa medallions and Cross Colours overalls. The good days for Cleveland fans were when a healthy Jeff Garcia was at the helm. (Did I bring that back to focus?)
Were you like me, Sunday night? Were you absolutely sick of how frequently ESPN reminded us that Peyton was two--no!, make it one touchdown!--away from tying Dan Marino? Just as Baltimore knew they weren't going to win that game, Indy knew Manning probably wouldn't tie or break the record that night. And poo on you Colts fans for your bloodlusty booing of the Colts' sportsmanship by taking a two game-ending knees. No gifts for you. Just for that, you're going to lose earlier than you think in the playoffs.
The Jacksonville faithful better enjoy Byron Leftwich, who's working hard to become the next NFL Bionic Man. Sunday versus the Pack he got belted on nearly every passing play, making him an expert in the consistency and flavor of Lambeau Field. But the kid kept getting up, kept throwing, kept playing through pain. Big ups, man, big ups.
The Texas Toast of Houston
I know it seems like I'm saying most teams have a bright future, but this season showed Texan fans that David Carr, Andre Johnson, and Dominick Davis are the real deal and if supported by a decent defense can be competitive for years to come. They unfortunately suffer from the Bengals Disease: playing in a ultra-tough division.
Is Billy Volek the answer? I dunno, but he's filled in nicely in the last couple of weeks, credit due also to wide receiver Drew Bennett (who I foolishly chose not to pick up off of the waiver wires). If McNair decides to retire, it will be a sad end to the career of one of the NFL's true Iron Men.
San Diego SuperChargers
Hats off to the Coach of the Year, Marty Schottenheimer. This team won four games last year. Now they're 10-3. You may recall from archive Redskin Reviews that Marty was drummed out of Washington after going 8-8 in a season where the team began 0-5 and then won five in a row. The Redskins haven't looked like that since. I tell you this: if MartyBall was still played here, Stephen Davis would still be here and we'd be in better shape. Charger fans must be euphoric. And no, I am not jealous.
I salute you for again proving that you could probably put Lando Calrissian in the backfield and he'd get three 100 yard games. Your offensive line and coaches are to be celebrated. One other note: anyone still agreeing with Sports Illustrated's Peter King that Jake Plummer will be league MVP? Didn't think so.
Kansas City Chefs
I love that Snickers commercial where the groundskeeper misspells the team name. Though KC isn't near a complete team, their ability to score is unmatched. No Priest? Stick in Larry Johnson and keep rolling. And ex-Redskin Trent "Money" Green has quietly made a name for himself as a solid quarterback. Even Dante "Inferno" Hall is returning to gameplan-against-him form.
Anybody seen Warren Sapp? Did he vaporize or what this year? How does someone that large become invisible, anyway? Citizens of the Black Hole should be thankful that Kerry Collins has found his form. No, your team isn't any good (and Charles Woodson isn't helping), but Collins as starting quarterback is beginning to make sense. He at least makes the games interesting.
Happy Holidays to (almost) all the fans from everyone here at the Review. That's um, me.