We heard you missed us, we’re back! We brought our pencil.  Give us something to write on, man.

The NFL playoffs enter their second weekend, and although we have no interest in talking about what happened last week (where have you gone Thomas Edward Brady, Jr?  Pats’ nation turns its lonely eyes to you.  Oooh, Oooh, Oooh), we feel it is our duty to report that in three of the four Wild Card round games, evil won out over good (The Cowboys and Jets are unequivocally evil, while the Ravens took out our beloved Patriots.  We really had no feelings either way about the Cardinals and Packers, but at least those teams were able to put on an entertaining show).  Now, this weekend’s Divisional Round is upon us, and we really have no one to root for.  But since we are a full service operation, we will nonetheless fill you in on what is on tap for this weekend, no matter how much it stings us that inferior New York Jets team is still alive while the Patriots have already packed in until next fall. Here’s your weekend preview.

Here it is a nutshell, non-sports fans.  If you want to make plans for this weekend, we suggest that you get them all out of the way before 4 p.m on Saturday.

On Saturday afternoon at 4:30, the New Orleans Saints will host the Arizona Cardinals in the first divisional playoff match-up.  The Saints, who started the season 13-0 before stumbling down the stretch and losing their last three contests, will be facing an Arizona Cardinals offense, led by quarterback Kurt Warner (pictured), which put up 45 points in their opening round triumph over the Green Bay Packers. We haven’t made a practice of making predictions on games, but since the Patriots are now out of it, we can say that the Cardinals are the only team left in the playoffs that we don’t find distasteful, so we will openly be rooting for them on Saturday to advance to the NFC Championship game for the second straight year.

In the other NFC playoff game, to be played on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., the Dallas Cowboys will travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings.  Now we hate the Cowboys like we hate death and Duke basketball.  But we also hate Brett Favre.  What do you do with a match-up like this?  We’re our holding our nose and picking the Vikings because our hate of an entire franchise outweighs our contempt for just one man. (more…)

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The NFL’s regular season came to an end yesterday, and the action, as dictated by the league’s creative scheduling, was Exhibit A as to why professional football is the king of the American sports world.

So here’s where things stood coming into yesterday’s games: The Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals had all already qualified for the playoffs in the AFC, while the New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles had all already punched their tickets to the postseason. That left only two playoff berths open, both in the AFC, with the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens in the driver’s seat to secure those two spots.  Both teams entered the weekend knowing that all they had to do was win their game in order to make the playoffs.  But a loss by either of those teams would open the door for several other squads, like the Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Denver Broncos.

Inherently dramatic stuff, but the NFL has used its staggered scheduling system to wring even more drama out of its final weekend.  How do they do this?  In their 1 p.m. time slot yesterday, the league scheduled the Houston Texans to play New England and the Pittsburgh Steelers to play the Miami Dolphins.  With a win,  both the Steelers and Texans would still be alive for a playoff berth going into the late afternoon games, and both teams did just that.  So now the Steelers and Texans, and their fans, are now glued to their televisions to watch the late afternoon games, which featured the Baltimore Ravens playing the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs visiting the Denver Broncos, while the night game featured the Jets against the Bengals.  The Texans needed losses by two of the three teams still alive for playoff berths (the Broncos, Ravens, and Jets) in order to qualify for the playoffs, while the Steelers needed all three teams to lose.  So during the 4:15 window, the Ravens, behind a great day by running back Willis McGahee (pictured)  beat the Raiders, but the Broncos lost to the Chiefs. So now, going into the final game of the day (the Jets game against the Bengals), the Ravens had qualified for the postseason, the Steelers were eliminated (thanks to Baltimore’s win) and the Texans were hoping against hope that the Jets would lose.  They did not.  New York crushed a Cincinnati team that looked like they would have rather, all things being equal, not even bothered to play their final meaningless game of the season. (more…)

College football’s traditional rivalries have been in a state of flux for the past several seasons as most conferences in major college football, save the Big Ten, have decided to extend their seasons well into December. But two such rivalries, the Bay Area’s Big Game, and the annual Ohio State-Michigan tilt are on the docket for this weekend.  Also, NASCAR will mercifully come to its conclusion on Sunday, but that day, as always, will belong to the NFL.  Here’s a look at what’s on tap for the weekend before Thanksgiving.

1. Ohio State-Michigan, with apologies to the Alabama-Auburn game, is the best rivalry in college football, and those two storied programs will meet this weekend.  Honestly, if these two programs didn’t hate each other and have a history of playing some great games, there would be very little reason to watch this one.  Ohio State locked up a Rose Bowl berth last week by beating Iowa, and Michigan has not won a game against a Division I foe since late September. But the Wolverines may very well be playing for coach Rich Rodriguez’s job, and the Buckeyes always love trouncing Michigan.  Even this year, it is must-see TV. It’s on ABC at high noon.

2. Stanford-Cal does not have quite the history to it that the Michigan-Ohio State game has, but Big Game has had its fair share of big moments (most notably, the “Band is On the Field” game in 1983). But this edition should be a good one as both teams enter into the game with solid squads.  Stanford is fresh off a thrashing of USC last weekend, while California beat Arizona last Saturday to run its record to 7-3 (identical to that of the Cardinal). That’s a 7:30 EST kickoff.

3. Finally, we are once again ignoring NASCAR, and jumping straight to the NFL slate on Sunday.  (more…)

chad-johnson-763568From the outset, we would like to say that we love the NFL and we love Chad Ochocinco, nee Chad Johnson.  We think that NFL football is the single greatest sport on Earth, and we miss it terribly in the spring and summer months.  Also, we believe that in league devoid of personality, the antics of the Cincinnati Bengals’ flamboyant wide receiver are a refreshing breath of fresh air (his not-so-impromptu proposal to a cheerleader after scoring a touchdown against the Colts in 2005 was among the funniest things we have ever seen on a football field.  The Riverdance thing wasn’t bad, either.)

So last weekend, in a game against the Baltimore Ravens, Chad was up to his old tricks again.  During a break to check out the replay of a catch it looked like he made along the sidelines, Ochocinco walked up to the referees with one dollar in his hand in a joking attempt to bribe the official into ruling in his favor.  We emphasize, this was a joke, and actually a pretty funny one.  And we again say for effect that it was ONE DOLLAR. The referees did not take the dollar, nor did they end up ruling in his favor.  The pass in question was ruled incomplete.  So no harm done, just a little levity in the middle of a football game. Everybody laughed.  No big deal.

“I was just being me,” Ochocinco told the NFL Network after the game. “I wasn’t going to do it for real.”

So no big deal, right? Not to the curmudgeons at the NFL. In its continuing efforts to legislate the fun out of professional football, the league decided to fine Chad Ochocinco $20,ooo for this stunt.  According to ESPN, a high ranking NFL official said  “the integrity of the game is critical to us. Making light of bribing and gambling will not be taken lightly. His action in itself merited the fine but he acknowledged by his comments that he knew what he was doing.”

Ray Anderson, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, said in a letter to Ochocinco “the very appearance of impropriety is not acceptable. Your conduct was unprofessional and unbecoming an NFL player.”

To this we say, come on! Or as The Joker would say, why so serious? (more…)

APTOPIX Patriots Broncos Football

The Jets and Dolphins face off in tonight’s Monday night tilt, a game where we find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of having to root for Miami. But other than that, Week 5 of the NFL season is in the books.  And a week that on the surface looked like one of the least interesting in years was saved by a few grace notes of excitement and poignancy.  Come with us as we guide you through yesterday’s action.

1. A lot had been made this week of the odd schedule played by the New England Patriots as they played a team that was unbeaten in each of the first five games of the season. But equally odd was the schedule of the Washington Redskins as they played their first five games against winless teams.  At least until they got a crack at the Redskins.  The Carolina Panthers got off the schneid, beating the Redskins 20-17 yesterday to get their first win of the season.  Washington led by 15 points at 17-2 in the second half before allowing 18 unanswered points to a team that had previously looked as if they would have trouble scoring in a bordello. Funny stat.  Besides the Redskins opening game against the unbeaten New York Giants, the teams the Redskins have played have a combined record of 2-17, and both of those wins have come at Washington’s expense. Looks like it’s going to be a long season inside the Beltway, but maybe not for Redskins head coach Jim Zorn, whose hold on his job is getting more and more tenuous.  To his player’s credit, they have stressed that their poor performance is not Zorn’s fault, but when you  hear quotes like this one from Redskins defensive end Andre Carter , you get the sense that Zorn may not make it through the entire season.

“It’s not Jim,” Carter said.” I admire his character, and admire his will and strength. . . . But as a player, when you respect a coach like that, you have to come out and help him by winning games. We’re not doing that.” (more…)

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Brett Favre Bowl I is set to take place tonight when the Vikings play Green Bay in Minneapolis.  Favre is the former Green Bay quarterback who has made it his personal mission to get back at the Packers since he was traded by them at the beginning of last season.  Favre now plays for the undefeated Vikings. We personally believe that this game is not all that important and that the November 1 match-up in Green Bay is the true must-see event.  But tonight’s game is on ESPN, so the hype has been and will be deafening for the next several hours (our advice: just watch the game and avoid all the pre-game shows.)

Anyway, for the most part, yet another week of NFL action is in the books, and we are here to fill you in on what you may have missed (because there was no way you were spending a beautiful autumn afternoon inside watching television.)

1. Rumors of the demise of the New England Patriots have been greatly exaggerated.  After losing to the New York Jets in Week 2, many prognosticators forecast that the Pats were staring down the barrel of a 1-3 start since games against the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens loomed.  But New England is now 3-1 after handing the Ravens their first loss of the season 27-21.  Thomas Edward Brady Jr. (that’s right, we’re going back to calling him by his full name), was not at his best yet again, but he did throw for 244 yards and a touchdown to lead the Patriots to victory. The Ravens had a chance to win the game in the waning moments, but  Mark Clayton dropped a pass that would have given Baltimore a first down inside the Patriots 10-yard line.  But after the game, the Ravens reserved their animus for  the referees, who they felt made a couple of questionable roughing-the-passer calls that helped the Patriots along the way (the Patriots were also victimized by a roughing the passer call that kept a Baltimore drive alive when Mike Wright accidentally smacked Joe Flacco upside the head [pictured].  Note that Flacco still has the ball).

(more…)