Every Wednesday (or Friday), Shutdown Corner brings you a list of things that may have happened previously in the NFL, but will not be happening again.
Don't Count On ...
... anyone but the following seven teams winning the Super Bowl. Twelve teams are going to make the playoffs, but there won't be 12 teams with a shot of winning the Super Bowl. Some teams will have the records, but not necessarily the goods.
It's like the hippie vegan girl who enters the local beauty pageant ... you can tell her that everyone's beautiful in their own way, but I'm sorry, when it goes to the judges, the girl with the hairy armpits just doesn't have a chance.
It's not necessarily the best teams that'll be on the short list of teams that can win it all, either. What I'm looking for is 1) hairy armpits. And 2) a team that has one dominant unit that can catch fire and just steamroll teams. To me, that's the key.
You can't have any areas that are pitiful weaknesses, but more important is that one unstoppable unit to lean on. You've got to have that one area that a team either can't defend, or has to give up a lot of things in other areas in order to defend. The Giants pass rush. The Colts passing game. That sort of thing.
7. Dallas Cowboys. With that in mind, we proudly begin this list with a team that has no dominant unit. Right now, I'm not sure they even have that great of a chance to make the playoffs. I can think of at least four, and as many as eight, other teams not on this list that I'd choose to beat the Cowboys on a neutral field right now.
But I can't let go of the notion that there's a high ceiling for this team, if they ever get their mental/emotional issues worked out to a point where they can show up and play hard, and with energy and togetherness every week.
That's the thing, though. With every team in the history of sports that's ever had that problem this late in a season, exactly zero of them have ever recovered and won the championship that their talent dictated they should have. It won't start with these Cowboys, either, but I think their talent level just barely, barely, barely qualifies them for inclusion on this list.
6. Baltimore Ravens. Again, like the Cowboys, a potential snag here could be that they won't be in the playoffs. But if they do get into the bonus round, would you want it to be your team that had to gameplan around Baltimore's defense?
Would you want it to be your team that had to worry about the Ravens defense stealing points of their own, or putting their offense in a position to work with a short field? In the end, they won't have enough balance, and if, by some miracle, they did make it to the Super Bowl ... well, they better hope it's not the Giants on the other end of the ceremonial coin toss.
5. Green Bay Packers. The Packers hate your passing game and they wish harm upon it. Al Harris and Charles Woodson lead a secondary that's the best in the league at collecting interceptions, opposing quarterback rating, opponent's completion percentage and average yards per passing attempt.
It seems like this is an offense that's rounding into form, too. Five of Ryan Grant's six best games this year have been his last five, Aaron Rodgers is playing at a high level and still gaining experience and keep in mind that just a couple of weeks ago the Packers gave undefeated Tennessee all they could handle, in Tennessee.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers. What do they do well? They attack. They blitz. They punish your quarterback. And if they play you at home, they make you play on a field that's as well-maintained as your local, "$8 to golf all day, no shirts required!" golf course.
You might point to their offense, specifically their offensive line, as a pitiful weakness, and I couldn't argue with you. However, I'd also point out that the stars of the offense -- Roethlisberger, Ward and Parker -- all have Super Bowl experience, and there have been dim, flickering signs recently that Roethlisberger is starting to play smarter.
3. Arizona Cardinals. What the Cardinals have is an unstoppable passing attack with two receivers who no one can cover in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan "Toughest Man Alive" Boldin. Throw in Steve Breaston, throw in Jerheme Urban ... and, oh yeah, throw in a quarterback having a brilliant year who's probably the leader in the clubhouse for MVP right now, and who also has a Super Bowl MVP trophy on his mantle.
The defense? Not great, but maybe not as bad as you think. They give up fewer than 90 rushing yards per game, which is pretty good, and 210 passing yards per game, which doesn't kill you. Granted, these stats might be skewed a little from playing Seattle, San Fran and St. Louis twice, but they are what they are.
Warner, those receivers and Ken Whisenhunt's creativity can score enough points on any given day to beat anyone.
2. Tennessee Titans. You don't go 10-0 by accident. Tennessee's got a great defensive front, they pressure the quarterback, they give up fewer than four yards per carry and they can run the ball against anyone. When you can do those things, you can beat anyone. As they've proven.
1. New York Giants. The most dominant offensive line and the most dominant running game in the league. Ask Baltimore. They also happen to be second in the league in total defense, second in sacks and second in passing yards allowed per game.
And as you might recall, they also have Super Bowl experience. Very recent Super Bowl experience. They're the most well-rounded group that also has sharp points of brilliance.
And if your team doesn't appear on this list, don't sweat. Three of the last eight Super Bowl champions have come from the Wild Card position, so things don't always work out as they're supposed to.
... Norv Turner taking the fall for the failings of the 2008 San Diego Chargers. The Chargers are 4-6 on the year with time rapidly running out on their 2008 playoff chances. This is notable because anyone you asked before the season would've predicted an easy AFC West championship for the Chargers, and at least an appearance in the playoffs.
Where does the blame lie? It depends on who you ask. Most Chargers fans point the icky finger at Norv Turner. Their opinion doesn't matter, though. Opinions that do matter belong to Chargers general manager A.J. Smith and team president Dean Spanos, and they say that Norv's going nowhere next year.
Myself, I'm OK with it. I don't think the window is closing on the Chargers' Super Bowl chances. I don't believe that LaDainian Tomlinson is washed up, or just a few yards off shore waiting for the tide to bring him in. But even if he was, it was the 2007 version of this defense and Phil Rivers that were going to get the Chargers to the Super Bowl. Not to downplay LaDainian's importance, but when's the last time a running back carried a team on his back to a Super Bowl championship? It's almost always a defense, quarterback or combination therein.
So the choices are to stick with Norv, maybe tinker with the staff elsewhere (for example, firing Ted Cottrell in favor of Ron Rivera) and see if they can squeeze another couple of playoff runs out of this group ... or to essentially start over with a whole new staff, new system, new terminology, new everything. I say continuity is more important than whatever improvement in Super Bowl chances would be gained under a new coach. And who knows what that would even be?
Here's the question the Chargers have to answer: How close do they think they are? Despite the 4-6 record, most would agree that this is still a very talented team (even more so when Shawne Merriman returns next year), and at least three of their losses this year were mere inches away from being wins. If they don't think they're close, fine, set everything on fire.
But if they do think they're close from a talent standpoint, the logical thing is to keep Norv in there a little longer.
... a great deal of sympathy for Edgerrin James. News leaked this week that Edgerrin James wants out of Arizona, despite the fact that the Cardinals are having a better season than the Cardinals ever have any right to expect.
Come on, Edge. There's something special happening in the desert, and it's called "not being a miserable failure of a franchise." A loser is becoming a non-loser. A franchise is experiencing personal growth. A butterfly is getting its wings. An awkward girl is blossoming into womanhood, and Disney's making a heartwarming movie about her.
Be a part of it. Or, at the very least, don't be the guy who tries to ruin it. It's like Tanner Boyle deciding to quit the Bears just as they start to turn things around en route to another shot at the Yankees.
I know you want to play, Edge, and I know you're sad because Tim Hightower took your job, but that doesn't mean you aren't a part of this. You were a part of getting the ship turned around. You lent a little legitimacy to your franchise. Don't give up now.
It may not shock you to learn that Drew Rosenhaus is a part of this, too. He's James' agent. Leave it to Rosenhaus to take one of the truly cool stories in sports and attempt to pee his filthy agent urine all over it.
And if you want to leave because you want to go be a starter somewhere else, there's something you really should consider, Edge, and I mean this with all due respect ... You lost your job to Tim Hightower. If you're not beating out Hightower, exactly who are you beating out?
So you can stay in Arizona, be a part of something really cool, or you can go somewhere and be Shaun Alexander. Seems like an easy call to me.
... Warren Sapp getting to write anyone else's legacy. I think Warren Sapp's done some entertaining work on Inside the NFL so far. He says interesting things, he doesn't hold back, and he gets conversations started in the media. These are good things. These are things that an effective television personality will do.
But he said something on the most recent Inside the NFL that rubbed me the wrong way. Sapp had this to say in regards to Donovan McNabb's recent comments that he didn't know NFL games could end in ties:
“When I heard him say it I almost passed out,” Sapp said. “I thought, ‘This will follow you for the rest of your career.’ Your legacy in the league, Donovan, will be throwing up in the Super Bowl, Rush Limbaugh and now, ‘I didn’t know there were ties in the NFL.’ “
How's that for unfair? McNabb's made himself one of the great quarterbacks of all-time, overcoming a consistent lack of talent at wide receiver in Philadelphia and the fact that the entire city booed him when he was originally drafted. And Warren Sapp gets to highlight three not-so-fortunate parts of his career, and say that's his legacy?
Well, if that's the case, then I vote that Warren Sapp's legacy is that he was worthless in his last year in Oakland and that he was the guy who tried to end Chad Clifton's career with one of the NFL's all-time cheapest hits. Sound fair, Warren?
Sapp's the outspoken, wacky guy on the show. I get that. His job is to shake things up and be "controversial". But that shouldn't come at Donovan McNabb's expense. He deserves a whole lot more respect than Warren's giving him.