Monday, November 06, 2006

You will be relieved to know that I escaped from the wreckage of the Chicago Bears bandwagon with only minor injuries. While somewhat humbled by the devastating defeat the "Monsters" of the Midway suffered at the hands of the underachieving Dolphins, I am not quite ready to abandon the Bears this season. I still think that they can win it all.

The Colts are still undefeated. Some might attribute it to their play, others might say that the game was there to be had for the Patriots. I think it was a bit of both. Maybe if the tipped balls fell harmlessly to the turf, the Patriots win the game. Maybe if the Patriots show a stronger commitment to running the ball with conventional plays (as opposed to the traps and wham blocks they seemed to favor), the Patriots win the game. Alas, that did not happen and the Colts prevailed.

Indianapolis looked very beatable this week, but the Patriots did not look like a team prepared to win that game. Kevin Faulk had his hands on two passes that bounced into a Colt's hands. Things like that had a way of favoring the Patriots in the early stages of this rivalry. The ball seemed to bounce their way, and when it did, they made the Colts pay dearly.

Last night, Vinatieri missed two makeable kicks (at least he always seemed to make them in these kinds of games), but the Patriots never really capitalized on it. It's not that they did not parlay the missed kicks into points. What I mean is that if some commentator guaranteed that Vinatieri would miss a kick in the game, almost all of us would think big win for the Pats. Not a blow out, but a signature Bellicheck/Brady win. Well, the greatest clutch kicker in NFL history missed two kicks and the Colts still left Gillette Stadium with the win.

I don't think the Colts will survive another game like this. I think Dallas will present an interesting matchup for the Colts. DeMarcus Ware should be a handful for Tarik Glenn as he challenges Matt Lepsis circa 1997 for the unofficial record for the most uncalled holds in the history of NFL linemen. The Cowboys have been up and down all season, losing games they should have won and beating Carolina on the road when no one thought they would. The Cowboys might be this year's San Diego (if you know your recent NFL history, the Chargers beat Indy in the RCA Dome last year, really derailing the Colts and their title hopes).

As for the Bears, as I said, I'm not ready to abandon them. They looked like Terry Francona in a battle of wits this Sunday against the Dolphins. People are now thinking that Grossman will be on a short leash. Some even think he should have been benched in the second half. They might have something there, although I am not crazy about Brian Griese. Grossman did look bad, but even the great Tom Brady looked more like Joe DaVola than Joe Montana this week.

The Giants vs. the Bears is shaping up to be the most intriguing matchup in the NFC playoff run to date. The Bears looked bad and lost. The Giants looked bad and won. Chicago lost to Miami, who lost to Houston, who beat Miami earlier this season but lost to the New York Giants this week. So that either means the Giants will beat the Bears, or that the NFL season is a long, strange campaign and lost of strange things can happen.

Michael Irvin reminded us tonight that every NFL roster has enough talented athletes to win on any given Sunday. Yes, that is a very old, very tired cliche. But, unfortunately there is a reason that the old, tired cliches linger. And it's not just Chris Berman. There is a strong element of truth to each of them. Strange things happen in football games. It's a game of inches. The season is a marathon not a sprint, and all that. That's why the Bears aren't dead yet.

As for the New York Football (I think we ought to have a moratorium on that term, at least until Chris Berman addresses the "You're with me, Leather" question openly and honestly) Giants, have they really looked all that impressive in any game this season? Yeah, they got after Dallas and brought about the end of the Drew Bledsoe era as we knew it. Yeah, they came back against Philly. But they barely beat Houston, and the Mario Williams flap has become the third biggest story (behind the just shut up and retire already Tiki saga and Jeremy Shockey and Tom Coughlin need to kiss and make up soap opera).

If you didn't hear, there was a serious problem because Mario Williams and David Carr dared mock the lame jumpshot celebration Giant defenders have done to death some 1,500 time over as this season has progressed. The way I see it, it's like colleges teams trying to defend their fifty yard line against a visiting team in a postgame celebration. If you want to defend your field, win the game. If you want to defend your silly little celebration imitating a rap video, keep Eli Manning from getting sacked (I don't go as far as the author of the link does, I don't think it's the bane of high school sportsmanship, just a dumb thing to do). Yes, the Texans lost the game, but the Giants were far from impressive in victory. So they should man up and accept the fact that they gave the Texans life they should not have had.

In my way of thinking, Mario Williams hasn't been a big disappointment. He has more sacks than Reggie Bush has TDs. Perhaps he would be a better pick if a defensive end could be an expensive decoy the way an offensive player can. You don't have to be William Faulkner to realize that Reggie Bush has been sound and fury signifying very little to this point. Yes, the Saints are a much improved team, but they have a new coach, QB and a surprise rookie of the year candidate at WR.

The Texans have Mario Williams, Gary Kubiak and a mess at RB, with the injury to Dominack Davis in training camp. There are no guarantees that Reggie Bush would have fixed that mess. Maybe if they drafted Bush instead of Williams and Davis had stayed healthy, the Texans could have a 1-2 punch with Davis and Bush that would rival the tandem of Bush and McAllister. Maybe I wouldn't have spent all Sunday miserable watching the disasters unfolding in front of me with a massive hangover if I had been more responsible in my alcohol consumption Saturday night.

There's no point in speculating about such things because they are out of the realm of possibility once the initial decision has been made. It is fair to say that the Texans should have drafted Bush instead of Williams, but it is not fair to say that an entire chain of events would have unfolded a certain way had they taken Bush. For all we know, Bush could have taken one look at the Texans' offensive line and practice facility and had some sort of freak out and joined the Hari Krishnas leaving the Texans with nothing. Maybe we ought to wait until the end of the year before we decide for sure who was right on draft day.

For the two of you who read this and might suggest that my alcohol consumption was in my control on Saturday night, I had a lot to celebrate. As strange as it seems on a strictly literal level, this season we'll be spelling BCS without BC. It is not outside the realm of possibility that the Eagles could climb over Wake Forest and Maryland to win their division and earn a spot in the ACC title game. Then, if they made the conference championship they could win the ACC and the automatic berth to a BCS bowl. That is certainly possible, but so unlikely that I risked a premature celebration Saturday night and some premature gloating tonight.

I understand that as a Notre Dame fan, I have no business gloating over BC losing ground in its quest to play in a real bowl game (the blue field bowl in Boise doesn't count). After all, Notre Dame will have played all three service academies when it's all said and done, along with North Carolina and Stanford. Penn State, Purdue and Michigan State weren't exactly burning up the Big 10 competition this year. UCLA came much closer to beating the Irish at home than they should have.

The ND schedule wasn't that impressive, but the schedules are made so far in advance that no one could predict the down seasons for all of the major conference schools listed above. The only way the Notre Dame schedule could have been weaker is if they played in the ACC Atlantic Division, scheduled 3 Division 1AA teams and helped fund their football program through the sale of dangerous narcotic diet substances to shallow, insipid Long Island sorostitutes. Then that would leave BC out of luck, since that was there season in a nutshell (except for the third one, I made that up).

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