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…)

Well, we’re getting down to brass tacks in the NFL.  Save for tonight’s mega-clash between the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints (more on that below), Week 12 of the NFL season is in the books.  And much like this past baseball season, there aren’t that many division races left to be decided.  The Bengals have joined the Colts, Vikings, and Saints as mortal locks to win their divisions, while the Patriots, Chargers, and Cardinals all have commanding leads in their divisions.  That, once again, only leaves the NFC East, where Philadelphia and Dallas continue to do battle.

But much like in baseball, the wild card races are beginning to heat up as the calendar gets set to switch over to December, and the charge is being led by a team that had been left for dead just five weeks ago.  Here is our recap of what you may have missed, and our preview of tonight’s marquee Monday Night match-up.

1. The Tennessee Titans started the season 0-6 and were humbled by the New England Patriots 59-0 just six weeks ago.  Since that defeat, and the insertion of quarterback Vince Young (pictured) into the starting line-up, the Titans have won five in a row and amazingly are back in the playoff hunt.  Last night’s win over the Arizona Cardinals was straight out of a fairy tale.  Trailing by four points with a little over two minutes remaining in the contest, Young and the Titans drove 99 yards in 17 plays, scoring on the last play of the game on 4th and goal on the nine yard line.  Young completed a touchdown pass to Kenny Britt as time expired to keep the Titans unlikely run going and their playoff hopes alive.  Not bad for a guy who was benched for most of last season and the first six games of this year.

2. The Indianapolis Colts are still undefeated after defeating the Houston Texans yesterday 35-27.  The Texans scored the game’s first 20 points before choking away the lead and the game to Peyton Manning and the Colts in the second half.  Indianapolis will next face those streaking Tennessee Titans in Indy next week.

3. Finally, all the action that took place yesterday was mere prelude to tonight’s Monday Night game between the undefeated Saints and the New England Patriots.  Some say that the Patriots are the only thing standing between the Saints and an undefeated season.  We doubt that.  We believe that the Patriots will win tonight because their defense is better than that of the Saints and they have the offense to beat New Orleans in a shootout.  But how amazing is it that a match-up between the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots is all of a sudden the Game of the Year.  (more…)

Vikings Packers Football

Game 5 of the World Series could be a clincher tonight, as the Yankees lead the Phillies 3 games to 1.  But there is also Monday Night football this evening, and tonight’s game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints should be a good one (We are going with the Falcons in this one, but are hoping that Michael Turner does not have a big day.  We are playing against him in fantasy this week.) But yesterday was yet another football Sunday, and although the schedule was relative light (six teams had bye this week), there was plenty of action on the field.  Here’s our recap of what you may have missed.

1. It’s official.  Brett Favre owns the Green Bay Packers.  After being greeted with boos as he came on to Lambeau Field for the first time since he was traded by the Packers two years ago, Favre completed 17 of 28 passes with four touchdowns and no interception in leading the Minnesota Vikings to a 38-26 victory over Green Bay.  As he left the field, he still received his fair share of boos, but there was a lot more applause mixed into that reception after the contest. “Packer fans cheer for the Packers first,” Favre said aftwerward. “I know that. But I hope that everyone in the stadium watching tonight said, ‘I sure hate those jokers on the other side, but he does play the way he’s always played.’ ” Could it be that we like Brett Favre more now than we did just a few weeks ago?

2. Congratulations to the Indianapolis Colts, who have now started the season 7-0 after a tighter-than-expected 18-14 victory over the visiting San Francisco 49ers.  Quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 347 yards, and wide receiver Reggie Wayne had a career high 12 catches for Indianapolis.  But for all their success, the Colts have played only one team (the 4-3 Arizona Cardinals) with a winning record this far this season.  But all that will change in the next few weeks.  In two weeks they have a home date with the New England Patriots, followed by a road trip to play the Baltimore Ravens.  But their biggest game of the year may take place next weekend when they face… (more…)