In this space, we look at a handful of upcoming NFL match-ups and identify the good guys and bad guys, old school WWF-style. You are likely to disagree with many of them. And yes, that is a picture of William "The Refrigerator" Perry punching Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart next to a guy with a hairy back and thighs. You're welcome. Home teams in CAPS.
The Preliminary Bouts
Both the Browns and Panthers have underdog appeal, but only one of these teams has gone to the trouble of actually improving as the season's gone on. For that reason, go Browns. Unfortunately, the game's biggest beacon of hope, Colt McCoy(notes), is likely out with an ankle injury, so that takes a little of the luster off of this ratings monster. I believe my local sports bar plans to show this game on an 13" black-and-white TV in the bathroom stall with the dirty toilet that doesn't flush.
Ah, a classic late-season Monday night gem. I'll take the 49ers as good guys, because of Mike Singletary's entertaining turn as the subject of Sound FX on the NFL Network this week. I hope I'm wrong about this, but that show might end up being Singletary's most valuable post-playing career contribution to the world of professional football.
My disdain for the 2010 Cowboys has not been kept a secret, and I also believe that the Saints are in the midst of a mid-season shift to beatdown mode. I'll be hoping for a 55-3 Thanksgiving bloodbath in favor of the Saints. And I hope it makes Wade Phillips' pecan pie taste extra sweet.
Do you realize what the NFL schedule makers have done here? They have found a way to ensure that, in Week 12 of the NFL season, either Rusty Smith(notes) or the Houston Texans secondary will have a good game. I wouldn't have thought it was possible, but here we are. An eminently stoppable force clashes with an object on greased-up roller skates, and someone has to get the better of that matchup. I'm siding with the Titans, because I find it difficult to root against someone named "Rusty," and because the Houston offense probably also considers the Houston defense to be the bad guys here.
The Bucs have been a feel-good team all year long, though I've never really had an answer for those who have pointed out that they've played a schedule softer than Santa's thighs. If they've been looking for a chance to put on the big-boy pants and earn a little additional street cred, opportunities don't get much better than this one. Rise up, young Bucs.
The Main Events
This is one of those rare good guy vs. good guy matchups. I realize that there are many of you out there who will have trouble seeing either Philip Rivers(notes) or Peyton Manning(notes) as a good guy, but stick with me for a minute here. Good quarterbacking is what makes football games fun to watch. Here we have two of the best, and the universe seems to have conspired against both of them all year long, injuring everyone around them who means anything to the passing game. And yet, they're the two leaders in passing yards in the NFL right now. Patrick Crayton(notes), Jacob Tamme(notes), Seyi Ajirotutu(notes), Blair White(notes) ... how many other quarterbacks are turning those guys into valuable contributors?
Maybe it's just me, but I'm glad I live in a world where Michael Vick(notes) can do what he did, and then slowly become a good guy again. It doesn't mean we forget what he did, and it doesn't make what he did okay ... it just means that we forgive. It means we have the ability to get past something horrible, that we can support a man while he gets back on the path towards doing what he was born to do, and that we can create positive where there was once only negative. We can all do that. We can all be thankful for that.