Week 11 is in the rearview mirror, and I have never loved my mute button more.
Seriously, if I am forced to listen to that John Mellencamp "America is just a big ol' truck" song one more time, I'm gonna go Elvis on my flat screen. I guess it pays the rent on his summer house in France, but dignity has clearly taken a holiday on this one ...
You traded what?
So you're the Miami Dolphins heading into the 2007 season -- a season in which you remain winless after 10 games, so it's relatively safe to assume there may have been at least a few clues in the offseason that, well, you were going to stink. OK, so you didn't look into the crystal ball and see yourselves stinking quite this bad, but I assume you have at least a couple of dudes on your payroll who specialize in evaluating talent. So what do you do? You trade Wes Welker to New England for a second- and a seventh-round pick.
What the hell were you thinking?!
Hell, I watched enough games with Welker in Dolphin sea foam to know he was dynamic -- as a slot guy and a special teams difference-maker -- but you didn't have to take my word for it. How about simply paying attention to the first sign you had someone special: the fact that the Patriots wanted him! If you haven't been paying attention, they rarely swing and miss on free agents. That alone should have given you a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach -- a "Wait, maybe we should keep Wes" kind of feeling. Instead, you ship Welker off to a division rival, and keep a chronic underachiever like Chris Chambers ... only to trade him in the middle of the season to San Diego for another second-round pick? I know Miami has hit bottom and needs some serious reloading -- that being said, the Dolphins better snag an All-Pro in Round 2 next year.
Much was made of Phil Dawson's controversial overtime-forcer, but if Brian Billick wants to complain, maybe he ought to settle down and realize that Cleveland is long overdue for some breaks and to finally see some winning football played in its name ... like, for the first time since the Browns relocated to Baltimore. So what if the football gods gave us all a reason to say the word "stanchion" out loud. So what if the refs kinda sorta broke the rules and used replay -- it's a tiny little smidgen of justice for all those wonderful Browns fans having to watch their team finally win a Super Bowl ... for the city of Baltimore.
Speaking of Browns-Ravens, I'll never understand how coordinators can succeed on one side of the ball well enough to get plucked for one of the 32 NFL head coaching gigs in the universe, and manage to leave the manila folder filled with their specialty behind. Romeo Crennel is a defense guy, yet the Browns are all about explosive offense. Meanwhile, Billick may have managed to put some points up last Sunday, but let's face it -- the man has fielded some of the dullest offenses in recent memory. This is many years after he landed the Ravens gig thanks to his explosive days as the O.C. in Minnesota (It helped to have two of the top five all-time wideouts in Randy Moss and Cris Carter).
Both of these cats have been on the job long enough to shape their personnel, yet no one has ever said this sentence out loud: "Hot diggity, that high-octane Ravens offense is coming to town!" Riddle me that, caped crusaders ...
One more suggestion: Derek Anderson has emerged as a bona fide winner in a world of shaky QBs. Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards are delivering on their talent in big ways. Spending a high pick on left tackle Joe Thomas has turned into gold. With all those lovely pieces to the puzzle in place, would you call me a crazy dreamer for imagining this team trotting out in '08 with free agent-to-be Michael Turner in the backfield? All due respect to what Jamal Lewis has contributed this year, but you can't blame me for running Turner up the flagpole. Maybe it's a sign-and-trade deal for Brady Quinn -- Philip Rivers looks like he could use a little competition.
Making their moves update
Last week, I targeted the Cards as a team that might be ready to make its move in Cincy -- and they did me proud. I smell a team that's really starting to rev on all cylinders -- the defense is playing physical and creating turnovers, the offense is dynamic, and Kurt Warner gives them a real pro to run the show. Coming off their first significant road win of the year, I'm going to take it a notch higher and say you don't want to play this team in the postseason… provided they get there. The NFC wild-card picture may be sufficiently cloudy, but this isn't going to be easy for the Cardinals. Assuming Arizona can handle the Niners, Falcons and Rams, it's going to take a handful of wins against the Saints, Browns and Seahawks (in Seattle) to get there. A tall order, indeed, but if the Cardinals manage to handle that gauntlet, they will be trouble.
I was also hoping to see the Bears snap out of it -- not so much, despite finally getting big plays out of Cedric Benson against Seattle. Huge run and a crazy one-handed catch. A 10-0 lead made all things seem possible for Chicago. Rex Grossman didn't toss a TD, but he didn't toss a pick, either. Turns out the defense let Maurice Morris get loose too often -- and I think we can say "See you next year." Another classic case of a Super Bowl loser collapsing -- a trend so consistent, I remain amazed that I seem to forget about it every offseason.
Tradition comes in many shapes and forms -- including handicapping the holiday slate. For yours truly, it ain't Thanksgiving without a stomach churning with gravy and bile. Oh, it might seem like I'm listening to the dinner conversation ... but we all know I'm nervously tracking my public predictions!
Green Bay at Detroit
Week after week, we all keep waiting to see if New England can continue to win by 16 points or more. Along those same lines, I keep waiting to see just how long it's going to take me to wake up and stop underestimating the Packers. It's not that I don't think they are playing great, I just keep thinking "They've gotta lose a little bit more, don't they?" Well, this week I ain't taking the bait. The Lions are as schizoid as the Pack have been reliable, and last week's loss at home to the Giants didn't exactly fill me with confidence.
While you never want to take a divisional opponent lightly, this is more a vote for the Pack than a slam on the Motor City -- G.B. has won three in a row in this series, and provided Ryan Grant's ankle survives the short week turnaround, the Packers now present a balanced attack. Pair that with a rock-solid defense and I am officially strapping myself to this wagon, even if it rolls over a cliff ... PACKERS, 24-14
N.Y. Jets at Dallas
They may have shocked the Steelers, even reminded us of the form that made them a playoff team one short year ago, but if you're looking for the Jets to shock the world, part deux, then you're on your own. As poised as young Kellen Clemens looked, a rookie QB + short prep week + road game = trouble ... COWBOYS, 28-17
Indianapolis at Atlanta
This one was all set to be Manning vs. Vick ... until we gained more insight than we ever wanted into how Mike relieves his stress. Which reminds me -- what's the deal with Vick reporting to jail early? Theories range from a tactic to gain some leniency to the much more delusional thought that the sooner he does his time, the sooner he can get back to his football career.
I'm sorry ... what football career?!
If anyone has the 'nad-age to sign this miscreant on the B-side of this one, the only good thing I can muster is it sure will be easy deciding what to write about that week! As far as I can guess, this guy won't even have a shot at trying on a Winnipeg Blue Bomber jersey.
Know who else doesn't have a shot? His old team against Indy on turkey day.
Sure, the Colts have lost their luster -- no Marvin Harrison has rendered them downright average in the scoring department, Dwight Freeney's injury renders the D less lethal, and it still adds up to one of the simpler conclusions of this or any other day:
AFC powerhouse squaring off with a mediocre NFC bottom-feeder? Are we kids, or what? It won't be sexy, but it will be thorough ... COLTS, 27-14
Gentlemen, start your reflux!
Don't forget to check back Friday for a little side trip into what's left of my soul since the Patriots burned my home town to the ground ...