Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Week 12 recap

On the steel heels of the beatdown Indianapolis laid on Pittsburgh on Monday night, I finished the week 13-3 in my picks. On the scale described last week, that qualifies as remarkable. Awright! I'd like to give the thumbs-up to the kickers who helped me finish 13-3: Billy Cundiff, John Hall, Jay Feely, Jay Feely and Jay Feely. And I'd like to wag a different finger at the kickers who kept me from going 15-1: Matt Bryant and Mike Nugent. What I got right, and what I got wrong:

Atlanta over Detroit: You could say that the Lions are headed straight down, but that would falsely imply that everyone on the team is pulling in the same direction. Steve Mariucci has already paid with his head. Oh, that Matt Millen could be next ... More on the nationally televised Thanksgiving Day humiliation here.

Denver over Dallas: The conventional wisdom seems to be that this was a game last year's Denver Broncos would have lost. So I guess that means last year's Billy Cundiff would have made that 34-yard field goal?

Minnesota over Cleveland: The Vikings continue their campaign to make the inevitable postseason bloodletting as painful as possible. Brad Johnson, rattling off the rust week by week, brought his "A game." The Browns, predictably, brought their C game (Trent Dilfer) and their D-minus game (Charlie Frye).

Carolina over Buffalo: When Jake Delhomme goes 20-for-27 for 191 yards, one TD and no interceptions, that's a good game, right? And they say stats don't lie. Carolina played another crummy game on the road but lucked out because Buffalo, who's always crummy on the road, played a rare crummy game at home.

Kansas City over New England: I detest the football-players-as-soldiers metaphor. It disrespects real soldiers while it aggrandizes millionaire men in hotpants. But when I see Tom Brady out there, it reminds me of the scene in every war movie where the platoon has been reduced to one guy, and he keeps on firing at the enemy until he runs out of ammo. Four of Brady's passes were intercepted by the Chiefs, sure, but that's because he hasn't got anyone left to throw to on his side.

Tennessee over San Francisco: The Titans stink, but they went into the season knowing they were going to stink, and for whatever reason they can be fun to watch. The 49ers also stink, but not without a certain scraggly appeal. So this was not the worst matchup of 2-8 teams this week. That would be Saints-Jets.

Cincinnati over Baltimore: The Bengals eased up once they were ahead 34-0. Then the Ravens, who hadn't put up 20 points all year, promptly scored three touchdowns to make it 34-21. The Bengals put their ass-kicking shoes back on long enough to put the game away, but not before a couple of very important points were made: 1) It's never enough to just have your foot on the other guy's neck. You've got to bring your heel down and break the bone. 2) There's no such thing as "running up the score" in the NFL. If you're getting stomped, it's on you to make it stop. You're a professional; act like one. Ravens Secondary Item No. 1: Deion Sanders had his first interception of the season. Ravens Secondary Item No. 2: Deion Sanders is still playing for the Ravens? Wow. Shades of Reggie White with the 2000 Panthers. Ravens Secondary Item No. 3: Will Demps tore his ACL, ending his season, when he grabbed T.J. Houshmandzadeh's face mask, wasn't able to let go, and got his own leg caught under him. As he lay crumpled on the ground, the officials flagged him for a 15-yard personal foul. Told you grabbing the face mask was dangerous.

St. Louis over Houston: With less than a minute left in this game, here's what I was planning to write: "Only one team has been sorry enough this year to lose to the Arizona Cardinals, the San Francisco 49ers and the Houston Texans." Then wonderscrub quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had the greatest moment in the NFL by a Harvard graduate since J.B. was named host of the Fox studio show in 1994. All we can say now is that only one team has been sorry enough this year to trail the Cardinals, 49ers and Texans with 34 seconds left in each game. Doesn't have as much oomph, though.

San Diego over Washington: With less than a minute left in this game, here's what I was planning to write: "At some point you have to quit pointing to your tough schedule and go out and win some football games." Then the Redskins missed a field goal, and the Chargers won in overtime. So I'll save that for next week.

Seattle over New York Giants: With less than a minute left in this game, here's what I was planning to write: "I've said that there's no reason Seattle can't gain home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs, but seeing the Seahawks leave Jeremy Shockey uncovered on a two-point conversion has changed my thinking." Then the Giants missed a field goal, and another, and another, and the Seahawks won in overtime. That stuff I was going to write? Yeah, it still stands.

Jacksonville over Arizona: Jacksonville is extra-thankful today that backup QB David Garrard sabotaged his own career by signing an extension. And Kurt Warner ... where is this coming from?

Philadelphia over Green Bay: From 2000 through last season, these teams were a combined 112-48, a .700 record. Shows you just how amazing it was that this game meant almost nothing.

Indianapolis over Pittsburgh: Game after game this year, teams have brought the Full Belichick against the Colts. You know: banging the receivers at every opportunity, getting tuff after the whistle. And game after game, Edgerrin James just kills them. For two years, the question was: When is the rest of the league going to catch on to how the Patriots control Peyton Manning? Now the question is: When is the league going to try something else? Monday night, the Colts didn't beat the Steelers with finesse. They manhandled them both on offense and defense. The Colts beat up the Steelers. Think about how absurd that sentence would have sounded 11 months ago.

Tampa Bay over Chicago: After sportswriters gave us two weeks of romantic poetry in which the tender, tousle-haired naïf Chris Simms grew into America's barrel-chested football hero, it was all but inevitable that Simms would give the next game away on the third play from scrimmage. Chicago's astonishing defense continues to insulate the two-legged train wreck yclept Kyle Orton, but at some point the Bears are going to surrender 14 points to an opponent, and they won't be able to count on the opposing QB dropping the ball on his own 1 or the opposing kicker missing a gimme field goal. If the New York Giants aren't that opponent, however, I don't know who it could be in the NFC.

Oakland over Miami: *Shrug*. If this were 1974 or 1983, this would have been a hell of a game. But since it's 2005: Eh. I just noticed that the Raiders' end-zone graphics appear to have been drawn with MacPaint.

New York Jets over New Orleans: All that stuff we read about Chris Simms the past two weeks? Prepare to read it again, except about Brooks Bollinger. This was pretty exciting for the hands-down worst NFL matchup ever offered on prime-time television, including last Monday's Vikings-Packers atrocity. Thanks to Mike Nugent, I came up one yard short of 14-2!

SEASON: 118-58

Down and Distance's exclusive POW-R-'ANKINGS are the most accurate assessment of team strength available on the Internet, Ethernet, ARPANET, Aqua Net or any other -net. Honed by master mathematicians, lauded by football enthusiasts, the formula behind them predicted 10 of the last 15 Super Bowl winners, and 14 of the last 15 Super Bowl winners finished the regular season No. 1 or No. 2 in the POW-R-'ANKINGS system. Do you understand? Spaceships go to the moon with wider error margins than this. If Galileo had had science like this on his side, he'd have wiped up the floor with the lot of 'em. Unlike with other, lesser rating systems, no opinion is involved in formulating these rankings. None. Teams are ranked on a centigrade scale, with 100 representing the NFL's strongest team and 0 its weakest. (Key: W12 = This week's ranking. W11 = Last week's ranking. PWR = POW-R centigrade score)
11 Colts 100.001719Eagles 42.22
22 Bears 78.231817Raiders 40.71
33 Broncos 76.941923Dolphins 39.59
45 Chargers 76.232022Rams 37.32
54 Giants 75.102118Browns 37.28
67 Seahawks 73.652220Patriots 37.27
78 Panthers 73.232324Titans 33.78
89 Bengals 71.912421Lions 30.13
96 Steelers 67.022527Vikings 28.20
1010Cowboys 66.632625Cardinals27.23
1112Falcons 65.472726Bills 23.45
1211Jaguars 64.562828Ravens 14.96
1313Chiefs 59.522929Saints 13.84
1414Bucs 54.823030Jets 5.99
1515Packers 50.52313149ers 2.40
1616Redskins45.203232Texans 0.00

Teams eliminated this week from Super Bowl championship consideration (what?): None*. Teams previously eliminated: Texans, Titans, Packers, Saints, 49ers, Jets, Bills, Ravens, Browns, Vikings, Cardinals, Dolphins, Raiders, Lions, Eagles, Rams, Redskins.

*Though the Patriots posted their fifth loss this week, they've proved they can win the Super Bowl with an 11-5 record. So they get a pass. For now.

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