Friends, the NFL’s regular season is rapidly coming to a close.  After tonight’s game between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants, there will only be two weeks of regular season professional football left.  Several playoff spots have already been secured (the San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals have already clinched playoff berths), while two teams — the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals — stand one win away from securing their respective divisions.

But there is still quite a bit of drama left in the NFL regular season, with most of it circulating around the Indianapolis Colts’ quest to go unbeaten.  On Saturday night, the Colts’ brother-in-perfection — the New Orleans Saints — lost for the first time, falling to the Dallas Cowboys (pictured).  Since both teams streaked out to a 14-0 record, they were able to share the burden and media scrutiny that accompanies an unblemished record.  But no more.  The burden now belongs to the Colts and the Colts alone.  They have only two games remaining in the regular season — home to the New York Jets on Sunday and at the Buffalo Bills the following week. And in both games the Colts will be the heavy favorite.  It will be interesting to see if they have the wherewithal to continue their unbeaten season as the attention gets twice as intense. (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…)

We are only eleven weeks into the season, but we would almost be ready to call the races in seven of the eight division in the NFL.  Indianapolis, still unbeaten after its win over Baltimore on Sunday, now holds a commanding four-game lead in the AFC South with only six games to play, while New Orleans holds an even more impressive five game advantage in the NFC South.  Minnesota holds a comfortable three game lead in the NFC North over Green Bay, which actually represents a four-game advantage as the Vikings have swept the Packers this season and the first tiebreaker in a division championship situation is head-to-head record.  Arizona is up by three games in the NFC West, while New England has two game lead on Miami in the AFC East. Also, Cincinnati’s lead over the Steelers is virtually two games because of a head-to-head sweep, and San Diego re-established dominance in the AFC West with its win thrashing of the Denver Broncos on Sunday.  That leaves only the NFC East, where the Cowboys hold a slim one game lead over both the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants with six games left on the regular season schedule.  Here is our very NFC East-heavy recap of what you may have missed yesterday.

1. The Dallas Cowboys only scored once yesterday, but it was enough to defeat the moribund Washington Redskins 7-6 yesterday at Cowboys Stadium.  The Redskins missed two short field goals over the course of the contest, and those misses by Shaun Suisham came back to haunt Washington when Tony Romo connected with Patrick Crayton (pictured celebrating) for the game-winning score with a little more than three minutes remaining in the game.   Washington quarterback Jason Campbell threw an interception on the ensuing possession, sealing the victory for the Cowboys, who have only scored two touchdowns in the last two weeks.  Not exactly inspiring football, but they will have a chance to get better when they play the dreadful Oakland Raiders on  Thanksgiving Day.

2. The Philadelphia Eagles won a game they absolutely needed to win, beating the Chicago Bears last night 24-20 in Chicago.  The Eagles have been terribly inconsistent this season, looking like world-beaters one week, and losing to a team like the Raiders the next. (btw, the Raiders may be awful, but they do already have three wins this season, more than four other teams in the league and equal to another five squads.) The Eagles will get their second chance at the Redskins this Sunday .  They won the previous match-up between the two teams earlier this month. (more…)

The Chicago Bears are facing perhaps the biggest game of their season this Sunday night when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles on NBC national broadcast.  Chicago has been in a tailspin as of late, having lost four out of their last five after a solid 3-1 start.  The blame for the Bears’ losing ways has been heaped at the feet of quarterback Jay Cutler, who came to Chicago in a trade with the Denver Broncos that was supposed to cure the Bears’ quarterbacking problems (Chicago has not a truly effective starting quarterback since Jim McMahon was doing the Super Bowl Shuffle in 1985).  But Cutler has been awful as of late, and he was especially bad last week against the San Francisco 49ers, throwing five interceptions in a humiliating 10-6 loss.

So NBC asks the Bears if they can do an interview with Cutler, Bears coach Lovie Smith, and team general manager Jerry Angelo about how Cutler has failed to live up to the expectations generated by the offseason trade.  And the Bears’ brass has refused to give that interview.  And although it may look like sour grapes on the part of the Bears, they also have to realize that nothing good could possibly come from such a sitdown, especially if the interviewer in NBC twerp Bob Costas.

You see Costas fancies himself a journalist, and as a journalist, he would feel compelled to ask Cutler a question along the lines of “So, Jay, why do you suck so bad?” And he would feel that it was his journalistic duty to ask Coach Smith, “So, have you called any movers yet, because the word on the street is that you’re gonna get fired after this season if the Bears don’t make the playoffs?  And with Cutler having caught a case of sudden onset color blindness, y’all ain’t gonna be able to even sniff the postseason this year.  How does that make you feel?  And have you talked to your family yet?”  And don’t us started on what Costas might ask Angelo, but I guarantee the phrases “job security” and “that horrendous receiving corps you’ve assembled” would have to be utter at least four times in a two-minute interview.

Not exactly the best way to prepare for a make-or-break game.  (more…)

cole-hamels.222

As our loyal readers will tell you, we here at A Casual Fan pride ourselves on helping the non-sports fan navigate the minefield that is dealing and living with those obsessed with sports.  We try to look on the bright side, and provide glimmers of hope for those wishing to spend quality time with their sports fan without the television being on.  But we regret to inform you that this weekend is hopeless, and downright unholy (and we’re not talking about Halloween).  Sunday marks the first day this year when all four major sports will be in action.  Four professional hockey games, seven NBA match-ups, 13 NFL contests and a little thing called Game 4 of the World Series are all scheduled for Sunday (There is even a NASCAR event at Talladega on the docket for Sunday afternoon as well, but we don’t consider NASCAR a sport.  Seriously, the car does all the work.) Saturday isn’t much better as there is a full slate of college football, plenty of NBA and NHL action, and Game 3 of the Fall Classic, so you may want to push your Halloween plans into really late in the evening (say midnight-ish).  As we said, this ain’t pretty.  Here’s what’s on tap.

1. College football has two big match-ups on Saturday night as the fourth-ranked USC Trojans travel to Eugene to face the tenth-ranked Oregon Ducks.  USC is a slight favorite in this game, which is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Eastern, but Chip Kelly’s Ducks have looked like one of the best teams in the country after their opening week debacle against Boise State when LeGarrette Blount lost his shit.  Also at 8 p..m., the third-ranked Texas Longhorns will be on the road in Stillwater, Oklahoma to face the Oklahoma State Cowboys in a game that could represent the toughest challenge left on the Longhorns schedule.  Number 15 Oklahoma State will be without star wide receiver Dez Bryant due to the NCAA’s stupidity.  Saturday afternoon looks like the best time to make plans with your sports nut.

2.  The World Series, currently tied at one game apiece, resumes Saturday night in the City of Brotherly Love as Cole Hamels (pictured) and the Philadelphia Phillies will square off against Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees. (more…)

resized_austin

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…)

globephoto__1255935632_6606

Save for the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos squaring off tonight in Southern California (we’re taking the Chargers in that one), Week 6 of the NFL season is in the books, and it was a great day for one Thomas Edward Brady Jr., and a terrible day for NFC East.  Here’s our brief recap of all the action you may have missed yesterday.

1. We missed you, Tom Brady (pictured with Coach Bill Belichick laughing at the Tennessee Titans in a rare October snowstorm.)  Although your Patriots were a respectable 3-2 in their first five games, we missed your sparkle.  You had not been yourself in wins against the Bills, Falcons, and Ravens, and the losses to the Jets and Broncos were, quite frankly, painful to watch.  But you came back to us yesterday.  Your six touchdown passes, five in the second quarter alone, in yesterday’s 59-0 thrashing of suddenly hapless Tennessee was a vintage performance. You threw the ball deep to Randy Moss (129 yards and three touchdowns for The Freak), and short to Wes Welker (158 yards and two touchdowns for The Mascot).  And you didn’t even play most of the second half.  Next week, the Patriots go out to London to play the equally hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

2. A plague on all the houses in the NFC East (save the Dallas Cowboys, who probably would have lost had they not had a bye on Sunday).  The New Orleans Saints thumped the previously undefeated New York Giants 48-27, and the Giants played much better than their division brethren.  The Washington Redskins lost to the previously winless Kansas City Chiefs 14-6, while the Philadelphia Eagles laid an egg against the pathetic Oakland Raiders 13-9.  This was a disappointing result for the Eagles, but not an entirely unexpected one.  (more…)