Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Everyone's a winner!

Jim Haslett, you are the weakest link. Goodbye.

The regular season has ended, and now it's time to evaluate the 32 NFL clubs. Doing so is never easy. Crazy things happen over the course of 17 weeks. Teams rise, teams fall, teams win, teams lose. And we at Down and Distance just try to make sense of it all. It's not a hobby so much as a calling. God's work, really.

We can look at the standings. We can look at our exclusive POW-R-'ANKINGS. (Say the name. Say it!) We can look hither and yon for clues as to which team is truly the league's best, and yet the truth eludes us for the simple reason that nothing counts -- NOTHING -- except who beat whom on the field of play. I learned this on the World Wide Web.

For example, Seattle beat Indianapolis in Week 16, and thus the Seahawks must be favored to repeat should these teams meet in the Super Bowl. The fact that the Colts didn't play several starters that day does not factor in. Why? Because such considerations are only for the weak. Similarly, should the Seahawks and Giants meet in the playoffs, Seattle must be considered the likely winner. That's because the Seahawks have already beaten the Giants this year. The particulars of that game in Week 12 are irrelevant -- mere trifles for the syphilitic and the feeble-minded. All that matters was two numbers on the scoreboard when the final gun went boom: Home score and Visitor score.

The head-to-head dynamic, though clearly the only sensible way to rank teams, does have its drawbacks. One is that in a given season, any club will play only 13 of the other 31 teams in the league. What do we do when we are trying to compare two teams that have not met? We simply move on to second-degree opponents. Seattle and Kansas City? Well, Seattle beat the Giants, and the Giants beat the Chiefs. Thus Seattle is a better team than Kansas City. If there is no common opponent, we simply move to third-degree opponents: Minnesota beat Cleveland, who beat Tennessee, who beat San Francisco. And so on and so on.

Down and Distance invites you to clip and save the following victory chain. Useful for settling bar disputes, for defusing family quarrels or just as inspirational reading, it is your guide to who is truly better than whom. We start, of course, with the team that has been unfairly labeled the league's worst. As you will see, they actually have beaten every team in the NFL, directly or indirectly. Enjoy, and peace be with you.

Houston beat Cleveland (19-16, in Week 8)
... who beat Chicago (20-10, in Week 5)
... who beat Carolina (13-3, in Week 11)
... who beat Minnesota (38-13, in Week 8)
... who beat Green Bay (23-20 in Week 7)
... who beat Atlanta, 33-25 in Week 10)
... who beat Buffalo (24-16, in Week 3)
... who beat Kansas City (14-3, in Week 10)
... who beat Oakland (27-23 in Week 9)
... who beat Washington, 16-13 in Week 11)
... who beat New York Giants (35-20, in Week 16)
... who beat Denver (24-23, in Week 7)
... who beat New England (28-20, in Week 6)
... who beat New Orleans (24-17, in Week 11)
... who beat New York Jets (21-19, in Week 12)
... who beat Miami (17-7, in Week 2)
... who beat San Diego (23-21, in Week 14)
... who beat Indianapolis (26-17, in Week 15)
... who beat St. Louis (45-28, in Week 6)
... who beat Jacksonville (24-21, in Week 8)
... who beat Seattle (26-14, in Week 1)
... who beat Dallas (13-10, in Week 7)
... who beat Arizona (34-13, in Week 8)
... who beat Philadelphia (27-21, in Week 16)
... who beat San Francisco (42-3, in Week 2)
... who beat Tampa Bay (15-10, in Week 8)
... who beat Detroit (17-13, in Week 4)
... who beat Baltimore (35-17, in Week 5)
... who beat Pittsburgh (16-13, in Week 11)
... who beat Cincinnati (27-13, in Week 7)
... who beat Tennessee (31-23, in Week 6)
... who beat Houston (13-10, in Week 14)

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