Hello friends.

We trust that you all had a very nice holiday, and for some of you, that vacation is continuing as we enter the most useless work week of the year.  But some of you unfortunate souls have set aside the egg nog and gone back to the grind.  So have we. And being that today is Monday, we will be focusing yet again on the NFL.  The playoff picture, with one week left to go in the regular season, is remarkably clear.  The New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals clinched their respective divisions on Sunday, joining the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers in the AFC playoffs.  The two wild card spots in the AFC remain up for grabs, with the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets in the driver’s seats.  In the NFC, all six spots have already been claimed. The Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers joined the party yesterday, joining the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals in the postseason.  Who will play who in the first round of the playoffs still remains a mystery, but all that will be cleared up in due time, so we won’t be talking about that.

Instead, we will take the opportunity to bash the previously undefeated Indianapolis Colts for deciding not to play for an undefeated season and instead choosing to rest their best players, eschewing a chance at immortality. We admit that wanted the Colts to lose. We did not, and still do not, believe that this Colts team is one of the best of all-time, even though it has become obvious that Peyton Manning may indeed be the best quarterback ever to play the game.  We wanted them to fall.  But not like this.

Leading the New York Jets 15-10 midway through the 3rd quarter, Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell (pictured with a dejected looking Manning) took his starting offensive and defensive players out of the game, claiming that the game meant nothing to them and that keeping his players healthy for the playoffs was his primary objective.  The Jets, who were playing for their playoff lives, did what they should have done against a team of second stringers  — they scored the game’s last 19 points, winning the contest 29-15 and ending the Colts shot at perfection.  On the bench, the Colts’ starters looked on with a mix of anguish and resignation as  the final moments of their undefeated run came to a close.

But how do you do that?  How do you just give up a shot at immortality (more…)

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Yes, there is college basketball this weekend (we are particularly intrigued by the Duke-Gonzaga game), but the NFL is once again the story.  The league has a full slate of games, spread over four days this weekend,starting with the Colts 35-31 win over the Jaguars last night, continuing into tomorrow’s game between the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys, followed by your regular Sunday afternoon rundown of games, and concluding on Monday night, when the New York Giants face the Washington Redskins. Yes Virginia, that is a helluva lot of football.

But mercifully, Saturday afternoon still belongs to the non sports fan, so enjoy that time.  Here is a rundown of a couple of the bigger NFL games on the docket for this weekend so you can sound inform when the conversation at your holiday party shifts from Tiger Woods to the NFL.

1.  We have pretty much conceded, after their win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night, that the Indianapolis Colts are going to go undefeated this year.  It breaks our heart, but we have stopped fighting this.  However, so great is our desire to see the New Orleans Saints lose before the regular season comes to an end in three weeks that we are doing the unthinkable.  We are rooting for the Dallas Cowboys.  The Saints play the Cowboys on Saturday night in a game that Cowboys quite frankly need to win if they are going to keep their playoff hopes alive. The game is at 8 p.m. on the NFL Network, so non-sports fan subscribers to Time-Warner can rejoice.  You don’t get the NFL Network, and neither will your sports fan if he happens to be at your house.  Huzzah! (more…)

Ladies and other non-sports fans: you officially have your Saturdays back.

College football’s regular season shuffled off this mortal coil last week (with the exception of Saturday’s Army-Navy game), so expect your sports fan to be a bit at a loss for things to do on Saturday.  There are no NFL games on Saturday this week, although that will change next weekend when the NFL Network begins double-barrell action on both Thursday nights and Saturday nights. Yes, college basketball season has started, and we will address a couple of the bigger games on tap for this weekend below.  But it is hard for the average sports fan to seamlessly transition from college football to college basketball, and most middle-of-the-road athletic supporters don’t start paying attention to college hoops until about late January or early February. So rejoice.  From now until the beginning of the NFL playoffs, when the league will schedule games for both the late Saturday afternoon as well as Saturday night, you can once again call Saturday your own.  Go purchase and decorate your Christmas tree, or make plans to go to that Saturday afternoon holiday soiree.  Your sports fan will have no excuse for not attending.  Happy Holidays, indeed.

But all that once again will come to a screeching halt on Sunday, when the NFL returns with a full slate of somewhat meaningful games.  Here’s a look for what’s on tap for this weekend.

1. There are only four weeks left in the NFL season, so we are running of games that the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints can lose.  Both teams are undefeated and both will put those unblemished marks on the line on Sunday.  The Saints will travel to Atlanta to face the suddenly-reeling Falcons, while Peyton Manning (pictured) and the Colts will host the resurgent Denver Broncos.  We have no problem saying that we are rooting for each team to lose before the end of the season, largely because we are Patriots fans, and New England is only team to navigate a 16 game regular season without losing in 2007 (Of course, they lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, ruining all the great memories that were attached to fabulous campaign.  We are still not ready to talk about that.) Our main beef with these teams is that we do not feel like either is an All-Time great team.  The Saints needed a miracle in Washington to win last week, and have major problems on the defensive side of the ball.  And this Colts team is not even the best squad they have fielded this decade (both the 2005 and 2006 teams had better personnel). So we will be cheering for both the Falcons and Broncos on Sunday.

2. Other NFL games of interest feature the Cincinnati Bengals traveling to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Giants hosting the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Dallas Cowboys squaring off against the San Diego Chargers in Dallas.  All three games have major playoff implications, especially the Philadelphia-New York game.  A win by the Eagles would put them in the driver’s seat in the NFC East with only three games left to go. (more…)

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In all honesty, there are very few must-see events on the sporting calendar on Saturday. There is some college football action, but nothing to write home about.  So if you want to do anything with your sports fan we strongly suggest that you do so tomorrow.  The NFL returns on Sunday, and we all know that means.  Add in the fact that the Colts ad Patriots will be going at it on Sunday night, and we would urge you to make alternate plans for Sunday night. Here’s our guide to what’s on tap.

1. The Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots have played each other every year for the last seven years, and the two winningest teams on the decade will renew hostilities on Sunday night.  This rivalry features the two best quarterbacks in the league, bar none, in Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning and New England’s Thomas Edward Brady Jr. The Colts enter this game unbeaten at 8-0, while the Patriot are 6-2, but have won their last three games.  This one should be very entertaining.  Don’t expect your average sports fan to be doing anything else on Sunday night.  It’s a good thing the Mad Men finale was last week.

2. If the Colts-Pats game is the main event on Sunday night, the NFL does have a few rather interesting games on the undercard in the afternoon.  The Cincinnati Bengals will travel to Pittsburgh to face the defending champion Steelers at 1 p.m. in a game that will determine the leader in the AFC North.  The Philadelphia Eagles, fresh off a terrible loss to the Dallas Cowboys, will travel to the west coast to face the suddenly resurgent San Diego Chargers.  And the Dallas Cowboys will square off against the reeling Green Bay Packers in Wisconsin.

3. When the best game on the college football schedule is a match-up between Texas Christian and Utah, you know that this is not a banner week on the collegiate gridiron.  But still, there are a few games this weekend that could get in the way of your best laid plans.  Tonight, Cincinnati will put its unbeaten record on the line when the Bearcats face West Virginia at 8 p.m.  This is the beginning of a brutal final stretch for Cincy as they play both the Mountaineers and number 12 Pitt in their final three games, with a home date against pesky Illinois sandwiched between those two league contests.  Speaking of Pitt, they wil go up against Notre Dame on Saturday night in a game that may very well determine the future of Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis. (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…)

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The Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers will square off tonight in the Monday Night game, but outside of that skirmish, week 9 of the NFL season is in the books.  Congratulations, non-sports fans.  You are more than halfway through the regular season.  Only eight weeks to go! This week we have decided to combine our Water Cooler Cheat Sheet with our weekly recap of what you may have missed during Sunday’s action We understand that it was an uncommonly beautiful November Sunday yesterday weather-wise along the East Coast, so many of you were probably out enjoying the sunshine instead of being holed up in your living room watching a bunch of men in matching jerseys hit each other for three hours. We’re here to help.

1. “I know the Colts and Saints are both still undefeated, but man did they look vulnerable on Sunday.”

The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints both ran their records to 8-0 with victories over the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers, respectively.  But neither game was easy.  The Colts needed a missed field goal by Houston kicker Kris Brown in the waning seconds of yesterday’s game to escape with a 20-17 victory.  Meanwhile, the Saints game against Carolina was still in doubt until a late fumble by DeAngelo Williams was returned for a touchdown by New Orleans defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove to provide the Saints with a 30-20 win.  New Orleans looks like a lock to run their record to 9-0 as they face woeful St. Louis this weekend.  The Colts, however, will have their annual tilt with the resurgent New England Patriots on Sunday night.

2. “Looks like the Bengals and Patriots have established themselves as the class of their divisions.”

New England defeated division-rival Miami 27-17 yesterday and now has a two-game lead in the AFC East.  Tom Brady connected with Randy Moss (pictured coasting into the end zone) on a 71-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to lead the Patriots to the victory.  New England has a daunting schedule coming up (more…)

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Save for the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins squaring off in Washington for tonight’s Monday Night game (we’re taking the Eagles in that one, although our fantasy team really needs a big night from both Donovan McNabb and Clinton Portis), Week 7 of the NFL season is in the books, and it was another great day for one Thomas Edward Brady Jr., and a terrible day for Chicago Bears, and it looks like the Cowboys have found a top receiver.  Here’s our brief recap of all the action you may have missed yesterday.

1. The Dallas Cowboys returned from their bye week to register the single most impressive win of the weekend by trouncing the Atlanta Falcons 37-21 last night in Dallas.  The star of the game was Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin (pictured), who backed up his 250-yard performance two weeks ago against Kansas City with a 171-yard, two touchdown game yesterday.  We still don’t think Miles Austin is any good.  But we can’t deny that he was the reason why the Cowboys won yesterday.

2. Kudos to the Cincinnati Bengals for rebounding from their loss to the Texans last week by destroying the Chicago Bears 45-10 yesterday in Cincy.  But seriously Bears, what was that?  You let Cedric Benson, a player you cut last year, run for 189 yards and allowed Carson Palmer to throw five touchdown passes?  We thought you guys were supposed to be a tough defensive team.  And then you only score 10 points?  We thought that Jay Cutler was supposed to be your offensive savior.  It is easy and lazy commentary to say that perhaps the Bears would be better off with Benson and Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton (both of whom were on the roster last season), than they would be Cutler and current running back Matt Forte.  We understand that it is not that simple.  But that performance was straight-up embarrassing.  We thought you were better than that. (more…)