Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Week 16: Just shy of perfection

Lumbering toward the close of the season, Down and Distance posted a 10-6 record in the picks for Week 16. God knows what will happen in Week 17, as good teams start their scrubs and play like shit, while players on bad teams try to impress.

Pittsburgh 41, St. Louis 24
The NFL put eight games on the NFL Network to try to strong-arm cable systems into putting the network on their basic tier. Unfortunately, for every Packers-Cowboys game on the network's Thursday/Saturday schedule, there were three matchups on the level of Broncos-Texans and Bengals-49ers. Yes, those were actually among the games that the NFL assumed the public would be clamoring to see. Another was Steelers at Rams, in which Willie Parker broke his leg and is done for the year. Prime time, baby!

Dallas 20, Carolina 13
Another NFL Network special. In this one, Terrell Owens got injured. As awful as the network's annoncing team is -- you really, really have to hear Bryant Gumbel yourself to understand just how truly out of his depth he is -- at least Chris Collinsworth is willing to put the league on front street by asking the question: Are these guys getting hurt because they're playing on short weeks?

Indianapolis 38, Houston 15
And just like that, the Sage Rosenfels bandwagon tumbles off a mountain road. Was it because teams have finally assembled enough film on Rosenfels that they can game-plan him? Or because Rosenfels has become overconfident enough that he's trying to make throws that anyone not named Brady or Manning has no business trying to make? I'd say a little of both, though I'm not terribly sure what I just wrote. For Indianapolis fans, all signs point to the Colts resting their starters next week. Let's review, shall we? 2004: The Colts rest their starters in the final regular season game. They open the playoffs with a win over the Broncos, whom they played in that very game, then are pounded in New England. 2005: The Colts rest their starters for the final two regular season games, then, after another week off for the bye, come out flat and listless against the Steelers and are dispatched. 2006: The Colts, slumping at the end of the year and battling for the No. 3 seed, play to win the final game of the regular season. They do, and go on a defense-driven playoff run that culminates in a Super Bowl championship. Yeah, Coach Dungy, resting the starters seems like a brilliant fucking plan.

Jacksonville 49, Oakland 11
Toward the end, the refs threw four unsportsmanlike-conduct flags on the Raiders on the same play. Warren Sapp nearly beat up an official, and got his ass thrown out. Through it all, Oakland coach Lane Kiffin stood there like he was waiting for the grown-ups to come break it up. Hey, he's not the only coach who can't control his players when things get crazy on the field. But he's the only one I've seen this year who didn't even try. About the Jaguars: If I had to play Jacksonville in the first round of the playoffs (if I were, say, the Steelers), I would be very worried. And if I were Byron Leftwich, eroding away to nothing at the bottom of the toilet bowl in Atlanta, I'd would be very sad.

Detroit 25, Kansas City 22
The Lions are back on track! Or, rather, their opponents are. Isn't it funny how you can "get things turned around" more easily when you have a bad team on the schedule? If Detroit can win three games this weekend, Jon Kitna will prove himself clairvoyant.

Arizona 30, Atlanta 27 (OT)
For a team that was looking to move to the next level, the Cardinals' 2007 has to be disappointing. Had they lost to the Falcons, it would have been a thoroughgoing disaster. Insert "they'd-be-who-we-thought-they'd-be" joke here.

New England 28, Miami 7
If Tom Brady had set the touchdown-passing record in 2004 in only 15 games, and if Peyton Manning were pursuing that record this year, and if Manning finished his 15th game still one TD pass shy of the record, don't you think Patriots fans would be screaming bloody murder right about now? How about if Manning was still throwing deep on teams with a 40-point lead late in the fourth quarter? How about if Manning was ignoring wide-open receivers underneath and trying to force the ball to the guy in the end zone? How about if Manning threw two interceptions against a 1-14 team? Maybe some backup cornerback on the Giants could talk some trash about New England before their big game on Saturday, because without that kind of motivation, the Pats have looked pretty beatable the last several weeks.

Tennessee 10, N.Y. Jets 6
Ooh, sorry I missed it.

Seattle 27, Baltimore 6

San Diego 23, Denver 3
Dead horses flogged by Tony Kornheiser this week: Norv Turner, Norv Turner and Norv Turner. We get it. He's not a very good coach. Check. Why hasn't anyone brought this up before Week 16? In the first half of Monday night's game -- which was the last of the year -- Ron Jaworski gave a shout-out to the people who have helped him all season: his spotters, the stats crew, the guys at NFL Films. It was a classy move, an acknowledgement that broadcasters only look good because they have people behind the scenes whose job it is to make them look good. Of course Kornheiser couldn't let that pass. He started in in that shitty Lawng Island accent of his, "I want to thank my dentist ... " Fuck you, you worthless little shit. Believe it or not, humility is not just making fun of yourself on the air. Humility is knowing -- really knowing -- that you need the help of others to get through the day. That you can't do it all yourself. That you wouldn't want to do it all yourself. What Jaws was doing was being humble. What you were doing was being an asshole. Also being an asshole: Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Shouting insults at the opposing quarterback? A loser's tactic, through and through. Norv Turner really is the coach of this team, isn't he?


N.Y. Giants 38, Buffalo 21
You don't think special teams are important? Buffalo is leading this game 14-0 at the beginning of the second quarter, and the Giants haven't been able to get a damn thing going. Then a bad, low snap turns into a fumble by the Bills' punter, and the Giants get the ball deep in Buffalo territory. Within five minutes, the game is tied, and the Giants outscore the Bills by 31 points the rest of the way. Keep the ball up, dammit.

Cincinnati 19, Cleveland 14
Either Derek Anderson was dejected over not making the Pro Bowl, or he was puffed up over all the people saying he should have made the Pro Bowl. Either way, he played like a steaming Brown pile, and Cleveland, who needed only a win over a treading-water Bengals team to make the playoffs for the first time in five years, now need a lot more help than they have a right to expect. They need the Titans to lose -- the Titans who will be playing the Jim Sorgi Experience.

Chicago 35, Green Bay 7
This game was like the Bears' Super Bowl ... because, you know, it's a lot more fun to play your "Super Bowls" at home in December than to take care of buisness during the regular season (or on draft day) and then play in the real thing in February. Maybe returning to Dallas for the NFC Championship Game will be good for the Packers. God knows they didn't look too good in the cold on Sunday.

Philadelphia 38, New Orleans 21
These teams both won their divisions last year, and they met in the playoffs. We are told that both have had disastrous years in 2007. And yet, if the Eagles beat the Bills and the Saints beat the Bears on Sunday -- both of which are entirely possible -- then both teams will finish 8-8. That's a couple bad bounces of the ball away from 10-6, which is where both finished last year, when they were "good." What does all this tell us? Just how putrid the NFC was last year.

San Francisco 21, Tampa Bay 19
what was I saying above about the Cardinals? Tampa Bay looks right on track for its biennial opening-round playoff loss.

Washington 32, Minnesota 21
In one of life's little ironies, I was totally wrong about the Vikings while at the same time being totally right about Tarvaris Jackson. He is not an NFL quarterback, and for the second straight week, he gave a game away on national TV. The difference was that this time, the Redskins were prepared to take it.

SEASON: 159-81 (66.25%)
(2006 through Week 16: 144-96, 60.0%)
(2005 through Week 16: 164-76, 68.3%)

Down and Distance's exclusive KA-POWER RANKINGS are back for their third year. The product of a simple formula, the rankings have predicted 10 of the last 17 Super Bowl winners. Further, 14 of the last 17 Super Bowl winners finished the regular season No. 1 or No. 2 in the KA-POWER RANKINGS system. 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. Don't like where your team is ranked? Blame science. (Key: W16 = This week's ranking. W15 = Last week's ranking. POW = KA-POWER centigrade score)
11 Patriots100.001718Bengals 36.63
22 Colts 83.101815Texans 36.36
34 Steelers 72.391919Cardinals35.58
45 Cowboys 70.952020Bears 35.18
59 Jaguars 68.762123Lions 24.87
63 Packers 67.792221Broncos 20.34
76 Chargers 67.192324Jets 17.89
87 Seahawks 66.902426Panthers 16.81
98 Bucs 60.222522Raiders 16.25
1010Vikings 58.102625Bills 16.07
1111Eagles 47.412727Ravens 12.13
1214Giants 46.282828Chiefs 10.80
1313Browns 41.882930Rams 5.79
1412Saints 40.28303149ers 4.72
1516Titans 39.963129Dolphins 3.58
1617Redskins 38.333232Falcons 0.00
Teams eliminated this week* from Super Bowl championship consideration (what?): None. Teams previously eliminated: Dolphins, Rams, Jets, Falcons, Bengals, Texans, Raiders, Bears, Vikings, 49ers, Broncos, Cardinals, Eagles, Ravens, Chiefs, Panthers, Saints, Bills, Chargers, Redskins, Titans, Lions, Browns, Bucs, Giants, Seahawks.
*Though the Steelers have posted five losses, 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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