Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Tuesday FourCast - Week 17

The final Fourcast. Personally, I liked this experiment even though I drew the short-straw and had to write it more often than others. I liked it because it allowed the readers to get four different perspectives on the week-to-week state of the NFL. Further, it’s not a 7 page short-story, like Peter King’s Monday Morning QB, nor is it one-third football and two-thirds unrelated (and oft-times unintelligible) drivel, like Gregg Easterbrook’s Tuesday Morning QB. I might have been a bit biased in that last sentence, but I stand by it, just like Charlie Weis stands by cheeseburgers.

1. 16-0 Does Mean Something … So Stick it in Your Ear, Shula

Who here has ever played a full-season in John Madden Football ever since they got Tony Bruno to do the faux sports radio bit? That’s what I thought … everyone. Now, if any of you have ever guided a team to a 16-0 regular season you’ve heard Bruno wet himself as he excitedly discusses what a great achievement that is. And you know what? It sure as hell is. No team has ever won 16 games in the regular season, and nobody thought it was possible in a league which has become the epitome of parity. But, love ‘em or hate ‘em, the New England Patriots did the unthinkable by running the table. What’s most remarkable about this, for me, is that even though there are superstars on that team, they have been unflappable in their public claim that it’s a full team effort. No single member of that team, from Tom Brady to Junior Seau to even Randy “Look at me” Moss, ever claimed that he was the reason they were the money.

Of course, if New England falters in the playoffs they won’t get the glory of matching the 1972 Dolphins … but 16-0 is still one hell of an achievement.

2. Screw Logic, Play the Starters!

Week 17 of the NFL regular season is usually pretty boring and meaningless, as evinced by the fact that most every fantasy football league ends its season in week 16. Teams that have shored up playoff spots bench their starters to ensure health for the playoffs, and teams that have stunk it up all year hand the reins to the rookies to see what they can do. Aside from a couple of games, week 17 is usually a backup’s paradise. But it appears that somebody forgot to pass that memo to the New York Giants who, although they had locked up the 5-seed in the NFC and had absolutely nothing to play for, still played all starters the entire game and force the aforementioned Patriots to earn win #16. Playing until his team’s final offensive snap, Eli Manning looked like he thought he was his older brother in guiding the Giants through four well played quarters and racking up 35 points against the Pats. Tom Coughlin gets mad props from me for sticking to what football is about and playing his starters and playing them hard until the season’s final whistle.

3. Hot Like Hansel … But Does It Matter?

Looking ahead to the playoffs, everyone is anticipating the “real” Super Bowl between the Patriots and Colts in the AFC Championship game. Of course, I point to the only words of wisdom ever uttered by Herm “4-12” Edwards:

That said, I would like to point out that some teams have been playing with more fire than others during the homestretch into the playoffs. Whether this determined play, which has vaunted these teams to their respective slots in the postseason, continues next weekend or falls by the wayside, these are the 4 teams that the other 8 don’t want to face:

NY Giants: even with the spotty play of Eli, this is a team that stepped it up against the Patriots. Further, they’ve played with grit in the second half of 4 of their last 5 games, earning the 3 wins necessary to get to the playoffs.

Jacksonville: Byron who? Ignoring the fact that their second-stringers lost to the Texans on Sunday, the Jags are playing inspired football. David Garrard has proven to be an effective leader and an efficient passer in clear-cut wins the last few weeks, and in a near upset of Indianapolis on the road.

New England: yes, I know they’re the #1 seed … but considering their win streak and the fact that they see themselves as invincible (even when down by 12), nobody can say they’re not hot. Plus, who really wants to play them?

Washington: This team believes they have guidance from a friend in heaven, and a dominating win over arch-rival Dallas (who played its starters in the entire first half and still accomplished nothing) gives them even more mojo. Not to mention that they’re already riding the fact that the margin of victory over Dallas matched Taylor’s jersey number. They smell fate.

4. What a Year

Without question, this NFL season has been a memorable one. We started out with a perceived “tragedy” in spygate, experienced a real tragedy with the death of Sean Taylor, witnessed a miraculous recovery by Kevin Everett, and saw an unthinkable accomplishment by the undefeated Patriots. When a head coach breaches his contract before the end of his first season in order to jettison to the college game, and that doesn’t make the top-stories of the season … wow. The 2007 season has definitely been one for the ages, and many of the events and occurrences of this year will have a ripple effect on the league for seasons to come. Things to keep an eye on for 2008? How about: Will the reeling-in of Tuna harm the Dolphins? Does the NFL really need to go overseas? Should the influx of injuries in 2007 lead to a revamping of the rules on kickoff coverage? Does anyone really want to coach the Falcons? And one more to keep you thinking … Who can eat more donuts in one sitting, Wade Phillips or Romeo Crennel?

Thanks for keeping up during the regular season! Now make sure to stick with us throughout our playoff coverage, which will start around 9:30 AM tomorrow!

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