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Dreaming up intriguing postseason matchups

I hope you're happy with yourself, Mike Vick.

I'm sure you don't care, but just for the record, I don't forgive you for what you did. Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. I realize most of the football world is hailing you for your Monday night performance, but not me.

Sorry, I simply can't celebrate a man who willfully and single-handedly overcame a 50-point deficit against my fantasy team, the Kool Kats. Thanks to you, the Kats' playoff hopes are now in jeopardy. Should I take this to mean you don't like any species of house pet?

At this point, there's only one way you can make it up to me -- take your Eagles to Atlanta to play your old team for the NFC Championship Game. How spectacular would that be? If suffering my scorn isn't impetus enough, consider how many other people would love that matchup, including our mutual pal, Commissioner Goodell. He says he's proud of how you're playing right now, and I bet he'd be even prouder if you helped draw a massive TV audience in late January.

It definitely seems like something that could happen. Heading into Week 11, the Eagles and Falcons are arguably the two best teams in the NFC. Then again, the Giants and Steelers were supposedly the two best teams in the whole league at this time last week. Trying to predict what's gonna happen from week to week in real NFL games has proven to be a great way of embarrassing myself ... so I may as well lay out some hypothetical matchups I'd like to see. At the very least, it'll be more fun than watching some of the actual games out there on the horizon.

Take the Packers at the Vikings (also known as Brett's Regret Bowl). A dandy NFC North battle in late November ... except that it's being played in a dome. Shame on Minnesota -- and Detroit, too -- for hiding inside. When I take over, all teams in this division will be required to play their games as the football gods intended: Out in the elements. And don't get me started on Favre's now-weekly postgame eulogy. I haven't seen something so depressing on TV since the debut of "The Jay Leno Show." 

Same goes for the Pats vs. Colts. The game itself oughta be fun, but I'm gonna be sure to skip the NyQuil Slumber Bowl, also known as the postgame press conferences of the two human sleeping pills known as Bill Belichick and Jim Caldwell. They might induce a coma that'd last through the Giants/Eagles game.

Then again, my eyes might need some quiet time after looking at the visual atrocity of the Cardinals and Chiefs(AKA The Tint Bowl). That's not intended as a shot at Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson (but this is: he stinks!). It's just that I fancy myself a uniform aficionado, and Arizona's dark red clashes with Kansas City's bright red so badly it makes me wish color TV hadn't been invented.

While we're on the subject of somnambulant Week 11 games, the Bears at Dolphins under the lights on Thursday night gave me déjà vu. Seeing those uniforms out on the field immediately reminded of the game the two teams played back in 1985, when the mighty Bears rolled into Miami with a 12-0 record and limped out with what would be their only loss of the season. Even more, though, it made me think of the rematch the two teams should've played in New Orleans the following January. Unfortunately for football fans, the wild card Patriots pulled off the upset against Miami in the AFC Championship Game, putting themselves -- and the viewers -- through a painfully awful Super Bowl.

Too bad, 'cause Bears/Fins would've at worse been a peach of a game, and at best would've been history-altering. Marino and his pals torched the supposedly impenetrable 46 defense in their first go-round, and for the second showdown, the Marks Brothers (Clayton and Duper, for you kids out there) would've had the added benefit of the Super Dome's fast track.

I'm sure my opinion will outrage Mike Ditka devotees, but I've always believed Miami would've beaten Da Bears again. After all, Chicago played exactly one very good team that season -- and lost. Otherwise, they ran the table in a lousy NFC Central; then in the divisional playoff beat a Giants team that was still a year away from peaking; then shut down the Dieter Brock-led Rams in the NFC Championship Game. Not quite the pigskin equivalent of the gauntlet Arnold Schwarzenegger went through in "Running Man".

Let's assume for a moment the Dolphins had won Super Bowl XX. Dan Marino wouldn't be regarded as the mythical "best quarterback to never win the big one." Matter of fact, he'd probably be the consensus choice as the best quarterback ever (or at the very least wouldn't be 17 spots behind Peyton Manning on the NFL Network's cockamamie Top 100 Players list). Or maybe I'd have been proven wrong. Maybe the Bears would've taken their revenge and proven they'd just had an off (or, if the well-worn anecdotes are to be believed, hungover) game in Miami. Either way, we fans missed out on a much more compelling Super Bowl than the one Tony Eason and his overmatched pals delivered.

That might be the best example of a What Might Have Been Bowl, but far from the only one. Hopefully, the current contenders will oblige us fans with the optimal matchups when the playoffs get rolling this season.

Super Bowl XIV could've been a rematch of the previous year's Steelers/Cowboys classic, but the immortal Los Angeles Rams receiver Billy Waddy derailed that dream when he took Vince Ferragamo's pass and ran through the Doomsday Defense for a late touchdown in Texas Stadium.

Then again, the Steelers were lucky Bum Phillips' boys upset the top-seeded Chargers in the Divisional Playoffs a few weeks before. Earlier in the year, Pittsburgh got absolutely smoked during a regular season visit to Fouts & Co., so there's little reason to believe things would've gone differently in sunny SoCal in a rematch.

And of course, football fans lost out on a surefire classic between the defending champion Broncos and the (almost) unstoppable Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XXXIII. Unfortunately, the (almost) infallible Gary Anderson missed the NFC title-clinching kick, leaving us to watch one of the worst Super Bowls ever.

But enough shedding tears over games that never happened. Let's look ahead to the post-season that's right around the corner. Get your pen and paper ready, Santa, here a five more games to go along with Vick at Atlanta that are on my playoff wish list.

The Manhattan Jersey Bowl -- Giants vs Jets

For tri-state residents at least, this would be the "game to end all games." But even if it doesn't happen this year, the NFL should consider taking better advantage of all the regional rivalries out there. The league already has good old-school ones such as Cowboys-Redskins and Bears-Packers, as well as 21st-century gems such as Steelers-Ravens and Colts-Patriots. Wouldn't it be better, though, if there were even more? Rivalry games are among the greatest delights in all of sports.

The NFL can make it happen by taking a page from Major League Baseball. I realize that's the equivalent of Jay-Z taking career advice from Sir Mix-A-Lot, but hey, a good idea is a good idea.

So here's how we make it so. Just as MLB has interleague play, the NFL should set aside one regular-season Sunday for AFC and NFC teams in the same region to go head-to-head every season. I know we see these games here and there, particularly during the preseason, but preseason games are the only thing lamer than the Pro Bowl.

In addition to Jets/Giants, look at the matchups we'd have:

Steel A Trip To The Super Bowl Bowl -- Patriots vs. any team other than the Steelers

Let me explain that last one. Pittsburgh fans have spent the past few days rationalizing away the Steelers' latest shaming at the hands of New England -- "both our tackles were out!" or "Hines Ward got hurt!" or "Jeff Reed was drunk!" -- but the simple fact is, that beautiful bastard Tom Brady owns the Steel Curtain. As a Steelers fan, it's time to get honest -- the only chance the Steelers have of going to the Super Bowl is if another AFC team knocks off the Patriots.

Nice idea by the Commish to try bringing some relevance to the Pro Bowl by moving it up the week before the Super Bowl, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still a meaningless game. The players don't care about it. Matter of fact, they actively avoid it, and they should. Residents up on Mount Pious might get bent out of shape about how this proves the NFL has too many divas, but I wouldn't play in an irrelevant exhibition and risk millions of dollars when it seems as though every game these days produces at least one serious knee injury.

If the NFL is serious about giving the fans something to tide them over during those miserably long two weeks between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, how 'bout this instead -- have the league's two worst teams go head-to-head, with the winner getting the first pick in the next draft. You could play it on some grassless, muddy field at a rundown junior high. Sure, there'd be more turnovers than points scored, but so what? It'd be a real game, with something actually important on the line. Don't you think the players on both sides would be fired up to try to improve their team, not to mention dodging being tagged as the league's ultimate punch line? As a fringe benefit, after watching the likes of the Panthers and Bills go at it, you'd have an even greater appreciation for how good the two Super Bowl participants are. You could call it the Loser Bowl. Maybe a weight-loss product could be brought in as a sponsor.

And finally, The TV-MA Bowl -- Roethlisberger's Steelers vs. Vick's Eagles.

Sorry, Commish, but the wholesome cross-state rivalry aspect would have to take a backseat to the angle of the league's two highest-profile suspendees squaring off for all the marbles. My pal Sal asked a fascinating question about this potentially nightmarish matchup for politically correct football fans -- who would female viewers, viewers with daughters and viewers with pets (in other words, just about all viewers) be more inclined to root for? It makes the head spin.

Don't make yourself crazy trying to figure it all out. More often than not, dream games don't come true.

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