Generally speaking, a NFL weekend can be such a resoundingly satisfying event that each should be cherished a little. It isn't long until the offseason is here and Sunday afternoon is returned to figure skating or some such exercise.
We are not here to downplay the enjoyment of any NFL Sunday. But we've seen enough.
If there ever were an NFL season that called for a return to the 14-week campaign, this was it. If we could snap our fingers, the playoffs would be upon us and water treading would be done.
Seriously, what's left to watch?
Peyton Manning's touchdown chase? Overhyped.
Arizona trying to be a losing division champion? Sort of like watching the New Orleans Bowl.
The contest to see which Super Bowl contender is going to have its title hopes hurt by a major injury in a meaningless game? Wait, Philadelphia already has won that.
Put it this way. One of the more intriguing story lines of the final two weeks is whether New Orleans can stay hot and save Jim Haslett's job. Who knew Jim Haslett still had a job, let alone that it would pass for news?
The NFL playoffs are going to be exciting. The AFC is loaded. The divisional playoff games featuring, say, Pittsburgh-San Diego and New England-Indianapolis are as good as it gets. And that is only if the Colts and Chargers (or Patriots!) can get through wild card weekend.
There are smaller stories, too. Brett Favre, a resuscitated Buffalo team, maybe Carolina trying to reclaim glory.
January should be tremendous.
Just wake me when we get there.
Until then only bad things can happen. Owens possibly is lost through the postseason – hampering the Eagles' Super Bowl hopes – because he hurt his ankle in a useless victory over Dallas. If NFL rosters only weren't so small (53 players), you would see all the top teams benching their starters the rest of the way.
There are two clear categories of teams in the NFL this year. The good and the rest.
When the good ones play the rest, the good ones dominate. When the rest play each other, we get riveting action such as Minnesota holding off Detroit because of a botched last-second long snap.
There are no surprises left, no upsets. "Any Given Sunday" is just another lousy Oliver Stone movie at this point.
This weekend (prior to Monday) there were three games in the Yahoo! Sports Pro Football Pick'em contest in which 85-90 percent of the fans chose one team to win. All three teams – Pittsburgh, Washington and San Diego – not only won, they all were on the road.
To make matters worse, Washington stinks. It's just San Francisco stinks even worse. That's how predictable the league has gotten.
Indianapolis and Philadelphia garnered more than 90 percent of the pregame selections and won. When five league teams are so favored to win and then do (most quite easily), it isn't a NFL Sunday. It is the non-conference portion of the SEC schedule.
If you are not gambling or have a fantasy team in the playoffs, is any of this interesting?
For the first time in league history three teams – New England, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – went 12-1.
Most years 13-3 will get you home-field advantage until the Super Bowl. This year 14-2 may not be good enough for New England. But that's the league. Until Tom Brady started screwing around at the end of New England's loss to Miami on Monday, the Patriots hadn't played a meaningful (or very exciting game) since an October loss to the Steelers.
This has to be the least dramatic 12-2 run in league history.
There are a few good matchups in the AFC this weekend (Chargers-Colts, Jets-Patriots, Ravens-Steelers), but they are nothing more than appetizers for potential playoff rematches. No matter who wins, not much will really change unless someone gets hurt.
Then there are the rest of the games – Washington-Dallas, anyone? Or how about that featured Sunday night national game: Cleveland at Miami.
This might be a good opportunity to organize the sock drawer.
- Jim Haslett
- Super Bowl