Most of us have at least one grisly story about a visit to the zoo. Here's mine:
Three years ago, my daughter and I were standing by the tiger habitat at Lincoln Park Zoo. A pigeon flew into the cage. The bird seemed completely oblivious to the tiger. The tiger was not at all oblivious to the pigeon. It crept up behind the bird slowly, then stretched out a paw.
Seconds later, there was no more pigeon, and I was explaining Darwinian natural selection to a 3-year-old.
We told a zookeeper about the incident. "Oh, we think that happens all the time," he said. Then he told an ugly story about a squirrel and a leopard.
"We call that enrichment."
That's basically what Week 16 was for the Patriots, Colts, and Jaguars, the three best teams in the NFL. It was just enrichment. Their matchups with the Dolphins, Texans and Raiders were the sports equivalent of a 600-pound predatory cat taking on a small, unaware bird.
Those three teams won their games by a combined score of 115-33, and many of those 33 points were scored in garbage time. The combined first-half score of those games was actually 80-10.
If you're still active in your fantasy league, there's a very good chance that you were not involved in a mismatch today. But that doesn't mean you aren't playing to be enriched. Good luck in the Sunday and Monday night games, everyone. (Except Matt, Sam and the dude who owns "steelmixed." You people have scored enough).
Other notes from a day spent in a basement…
• Nice little opening drive by Buffalo, beginning with a Trent Edwards completion to Lee Evans off play action for 21 yards, then ending with a short Edwards-to-Michael Gaines TD. On the touchdown, the Bills managed to isolate one defensive player against a pair of tight ends, Gaines and Robert Royal.
• The unlikely combination of Sage Rosenfels and Darius Walker are just shredding the Colts on Houston's opening drive: 18-yard completion by Rosenfels; 14-yard run by Walker; 7-yard completion; 16-yard run; 9-yard completion to Walker; 17-yard touchdown pass, Rosenfels to Kevin Walter.
• Fred Taylor gets his usual long touchdown run out of the way early, on the Jaguars' first play from scrimmage. Taylor takes the handoff, bounces left, splits a pair of Raiders and takes it 62 yards to the end zone. Just like that it's 7-0 Jacksonville.
• Here's an awful way to lose a touchdown if you're a Donovan McNabb owner:
The ball was actually poked out from behind as McNabb staggered downfield. Still, you net two fantasy points on the play.
• The Bears somehow managed to possess the football for nearly 11 minutes on their opening drive, even though it seemed like every play was a 1-yard run by Adrian Peterson. Naturally, the possession ended in a field goal.
• We're not yet halfway through the first quarter in New Orleans, and Aaron Stecker already has two short-yardage touchdowns. Of all the undrafted running backs having useful seasons – Ryan Grant, Earnest Graham, Selvin Young – no one's been better than Stecker when it matters most to fantasy owners.
• Trent Edwards has opened the game 6-for-7 for 112 yards and two touchdown passes. He just hit a very lonely-looking Lee Evans in the end zone. Evans had cruelly shaken Aaron Ross before the catch.
• OK, so we all knew the Raiders run defense was bad, but … well, wow. With 3:21 remaining in the first quarter, Jacksonville has five rush attempts for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Maurice Jones-Drew finds the end zone from 14 yards, and it's 14-0. Jones-Drew lowered his head and punished somebody – possibly Hiram Eugene, but the remains of the DB are tough to identify – near the goal line.
• Correll Buckhalter poaches a touchdown for the Eagles, finding the end zone from 20 yards away. There's 5:47 left in the first quarter, and there have already been 28 points scored here.
• Whoa, it's windy in Cincinnati. Shayne Graham just hit a 29-yard field goal that veered rather dramatically to the right as soon as it was kicked. It's 3-0, Bengals.
• McNabb finds Reggie Brown for a 31-yard TD and that's 35 first-quarter points in New Orleans. That Saints defense is not exactly what you would call "playoff caliber."
• It won't look like anything in the box score, but Braylon Edwards just made a brilliant first quarter catch on a Derek Anderson throw that was well behind him. The completion picked up 6 yards and a first down.
• The final first quarter numbers are in: Philadelphia and New Orleans combine for 318 yards and five touchdowns. And there are 45 minutes left to play.
• A 25-yard Chad Johnson touchdown is negated after a successful challenge by Romeo Crennel. If you happen to see this highlight, you're going to wonder how the officiating crew ever managed to rule it a completion, let alone a touchdown. It wasn't close, and it occurred directly in front of an official on the goal line. Nice little rip by Leigh Bodden.
• Another wildly veering kick by Graham moves at least 12 yards in the air from left to right, doinks the top of the upright, and yet somehow bounces through. It's 6-0, Cincinnati.
• Ryan Grant goes 66 yards through and around various Bears and finds the paint. The Packers lead, 7-6. Not the first time this year we've seen a running back shame at least six Bears on a single run.
•Dallas Clark catches his second touchdown of the game and it's 24-7 Indianapolis. Some of us feel that this would be the appropriate time to begin giving the football to Kenton Keith. Exclusively. Like, no one else touches it, ever. Not that I've got him starting in a flex spot or anything.
• Jared Allen with his second touchdown reception of the season, but this one involved fewer style points than his first. Damon Huard is your Chiefs quarterback, as Brodie Croyle is sidelined with an unspecified arm injury.
• Brutal pass by Derek Anderson. A short, miserable toss by gets picked by Chinedum Ndukwe, who returns it 44 yards to the Cleveland five. The next play is a Carson Palmer-to-T.J. Houshmandzadeh touchdown pass.
And on the Browns next play from scrimmage, Anderson throws his second straight ridiculous pass, trying to force the ball to Braylon Edwards. It's picked by Leon Hall. Anderson had Kellen Winslow open for a short gain if he wanted it. Instead, he threw a pass that never had any chance.
• We're at the half in Chicago and Adrian Peterson is on pace for 44 carries. The Ortons lead the Packers, 13-7. (If they really were called the Ortons, this would be their logo. Or this. Or maybe this).
• Warren Sapp basically won an unsportsmanlike conduct lifetime achievement award at the end of the half in Oakland, somehow picking up three penalties in rapid succession. It's possible he said some unflattering things. If he hadn't been disqualified, it looked like maybe he had a few more penalties in him.
• Derek Anderson throws his third interception, and it's Ndukwe's second pick. Another ball forced into tight coverage. Where the (expletive) were all these picks against the great Shaun Hill in Week 15, Bengals?
• A 3-yard Desmond Clark touchdown is soon followed by a TD off a blocked punt and, improbably, the Ortons lead the Packers 28-7. Apparently, all the Bears needed in order to return to dominance was appropriate football weather. Climate change is going to kill that team.
• For obvious reasons, Green Bay opens the fourth quarter throwing. Brett Favre goes 5-for-7, gains 45 yards … and then throws a pick to Brian Urlacher, who hasn't looked particularly arthritic over the past two weeks. The Ortons lead 35-7, and Favre has thrown two interceptions today. Most of us expected this game to be decided by now, but maybe not this way.
The win by Chicago – their second over Green Bay this year – will give the Cowboys home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
• Derek Anderson's fourth interception of the day is followed immediately by Carson Palmer's second. Cincinnati has a 19-7 lead with 7:35 remaining in the fourth quarter and – on a windy afternoon, with Kenny Watson already over 100 yards rushing – they come out throwing. Three plays later it's 19-14. Braylon Edwards now has two TDs.
• Apparently, it's the Jim Sorgi/Clifton Dawson show in Indianapolis. Drat.
• Carson Palmer is your lead blocker for Chad Johnson on a double-reverse that picks up 16 yards. Palmer shoves Brodney Pool about 4 yards downfield, too. Greg Gumbel calls the first-down run "perfectly executed." It is, except for the part where Chad Johnson goes out of bounds at the end. Leading by five with less than four minutes to go, that's just a silly move.
• It just looks miserable in Seattle for the Seahawks-Ravens game: rainy, chilly, foggy. And the video feed is all pixilated and awful, too. And now the audio is out. Can't believe I'm stuck with this one.
• Welcome back to fantasy relevance, Anquan Boldin. With four minutes remaining in the first quarter in Arizona, Boldin already has three catches for 43 yards and a TD.
• On third-and-three from the Miami 11, Randy Moss sheds Jason Allen and catches his 20th touchdown pass of the season. It was the final play of a 10-play drive. The only run during the Pats' opening series was a 10-yard gain by Tom Brady.
• Shaun Hill hits Darrell Jackson on a 21-yard touchdown, and the 49ers lead the Bucs, 7-6. Uncharacteristically, they look just like a real NFL offense.
• Shaun Alexander gets a seam and busts up the middle for 19 tough yards. No one's going to touch Alexander in fantasy drafts next year, but that guy has played through a bunch of injuries this season, not the least of which is a broken left arm. Doesn't seem like it would be easy to hold off a tackler with a broken arm, does it? I'm just not willing to say that Alexander is completely finished.
• Randy Moss' 21st touchdown of the season is a 1-yarder. The drive began with a 51-yard run by Laurence Maroney.
• There's the second touchdown of the day for Boldin, this one a 13-yarder.
• On third-and-one, Laurence Maroney takes the handoff from Brady … and never stops running. He races 59 yards untouched over the left side for a touchdown. Maroney's last two carries have gone for 110 yards.
• Another big run over the right side by Alexander, set up by a nice block from Leonard Weaver. That's six carries for 42 yards for Alexander so far today.
• A terrible throw by Matt Hasselbeck is picked by Derrick Martin. That's basically one of those passes that Derek Anderson was heaving into coverage earlier today. But only four plays later, Mike Anderson puts the ball on the ground, Leroy Hill picks it up and takes it to the paint. It's 14-0, Seahawks.
• Jabar Gaffney catches a 48-yard touchdown pass from Brady, and the New England-Miami game is well on its way to being completely out of hand. It's 28-0 Patriots with three minutes left in the first half. A normal human coach would probably get reserves into this one early in the second half.
Obviously, Bill Belichick is not a normal human, and that won't happen. Here's a link to a great story on Belichick that really gets at why, exactly, he's so successful and his teams are so robotic and cruel.
• Hasselbeck finds Alexander for a 14-yard TD, and this is turning into a useful little fantasy day for a running back that very few owners are relying on today.
• Shaun Hill's third touchdown pass of the day is a 23-yarder to Frank Gore, who's now over 120 total yards. The Niners lead Tampa Bay 21-13, and Luke McCown is quarterbacking the Bucs. (There's nothing really on the line for Tampa today). Earnest Graham has done nothing useful: nine carries for 21 yards, two receptions for 11.
• Huge day underway for Jerricho Cotchery, who's responsible for all six Jets points today. (Mike Nugent missed a PAT). We're at the two-minute warning, and Cotchery has caught eight balls for 152 yards. LenDale White has most of the rushing yardage for Tennessee (92) but Chris Brown has the TD. Vince Young is having his usual ugly victorious day: 12-for-23, 166 passing yards, zero TD, one INT, one fumble.
• Chris Redman hits Alge Crumpler down the middle and the Falcons and Cardinals are tied at 24 with 4:45 remaining. The time-honored tradition of not giving Jerious Norwood double-digit carries is being upheld, as he's only rushed seven times for 33 yards. Another massive day for Roddy White: 11 receptions, 126 yards.
• Troy Smith's first NFL touchdown pass was a well-thrown 79-yarder to Derrick Mason that prevented a shutout in Seattle. Smith took a shot in the ribs when he delivered the throw, too. Not a great day for Smith overall against a tough defense, though. He had nearly half of his passing yards on that completion to Mason, and he's fumbled twice.
• Neil Rackers kicks a 29-yard field goal at the end of regulation, setting up what sure feels like it's going to be Atlanta's 12th loss. Not their defining loss – that happened two weeks ago on Monday night – but almost certainly a loss.
• Michael Clayton looks like he has a two-point conversion to tie the Tampa-San Francisco game … but he steps out of bounds at the back of the end zone. Whoops. Nice effort by McCown, and a ludicrously good day for Jerramy Stevens (four receptions, 73 yards, two TDs) in a losing effort
• And there's the loss for Atlanta. Rackers kicks a 31-yarder in OT. Kurt Warner had a massive fantasy day: 36-for-53, 361 yards, three TDs.
• A few key injuries to monitor for those of you with fantasy championships at stake in Week 17: Willis McGahee (ribs), Brodie Croyle (hand), Marques Colston (chest), Kevin Jones (knee), Brandon Jacobs (ankle).