Monday, October 30, 2006

NFL Thoughts, Week 8


In the wake of my abysmal ability to correctly predict NFL games, I’d like to accept full responsibility by blaming my teachers. In fact, I’m quite at home blaming them for every single one of my shortcomings. And you can too! Here’s how: regardless of our educational backgrounds, haven’t we long been ingrained with the belief that “it doesn’t matter which side you pick, as long as you present an effective argument”? We’ve all been told this, especially when it came to answering essay questions. Under this dystopian system, students can actually write an entire term paper about how the Civil War had absolutely nothing to do with slavery and get a perfect score. Unfortunately, placing a premium on cogency has proven woefully inadequate in preparing us for football and the real world, where the opposite is true and the bottom line is everything.

Just look at this past week. I spent plenty of time analyzing the Eagles-Jaguars and concluded the Eagles would win based on a number of logical premises. The Jags were missing three Pro Bowlers on defense (Marcus Stroud, Reggie Hayward, Mike Petersen), were starting their backup quarterback, were on the road, were coming off a shellacking by Houston, and were facing a team that could easily be 7-0, save for two 4th quarter collapses and a 62-yard FG. Had someone asked me to write an essay on why the Eagles would win, I probably would have gotten an “A” (depending on my thesis statement and my works cited page). As it happens, the Jaguars not only won, they embarrassed the Eagles, and I get a zero. This season has made so little sense that when teams like the Jets and Saints played on Sunday like they were originally supposed to, it’s shocking all over again.

I know you’re expecting me to now start crying about the Panthers game last night, but…that’s EXACTLY what I’m going to do. The Panthers blew coverage assignments, dropped passes, dropped kicks and punts, dropped out of contention, and basically dropped a steaming, fetid TURD all over BoA Stadium last night. And that gigantic flushing sound you hear are playoff expectations going right down the toilet throughout North Carolina. It’s really impossible to overstate how disgustingly embarrassing that performance was.

You know what’s really frustrating about this whole thing? Everyone was so fixated on the Parcells/Jerry Jones/Drew Bledsoe controversy, there was almost an inertial aspect of it to overcome. So when it became obvious that the real storyline of the game would not be the Cowboys’ demise, but instead it would be the Panthers’ spectacular choke-job, no one had any prefabricated commentary prepared. Even after the Cowboys took the lead, Maddon and Michaels were still talking about how “out of it” Parcells looked.

By the way, I stand in awe of Duane Charles Parcells. I’m now convinced he pulled the Tony Romo switch at halftime last week and let him flounder on national television specifically to lull Panthers Nation to sleep. And I fell for it all the way. After last week’s clumsy mess against the Giants, I was positively salivating at the prospect of Dallas taking their circus over here—how could you not? But it’s hard for me to be too upset with Tuna. Growing up a Giants fan, he was personally responsible for one of the happiest moments of my life (Super Bowl XXI win, snow day the next day—what more could a 4th grader ask for?). All I can do is offer a firm handshake; I know when I’m beaten.

On a more sober note, the Panthers gave up 270 yards to a backup quarterback, surrendered 28 4th-quarter points, got shut out over three quarters, and destroyed two couch pillows in anger (okay, that last one was actually me). It’s time to officially lower my standards for this team. The defensive line has two bona fide duds (Komeaotu and Jenkins); the linebackers pulled a Chicago Cubs-Woods/Prior routine and stupidly bet everything on fragile Dan Morgan; and Ken Lucas and Chris Gamble—so magnificent last year—have come crashing back down to Planet Reality. Meanwhile, the offense was never particularly special to begin with. Face it, last year’s honeymoon is over, and I’m stuck in yet another masochistic, emotionally-abusive relationship with a disappointing sports team. But I will go down with this ship. I won’t put my arms up and surrender. They’ll be no white flag above my door. I’m in love, and always will be…

Defensive Player of the Week: Shawne Merriman. 3 sacks, no positive drug tests (one less than last week).

Offensive Player of the Week: Michael Vick, the NFL’s Human Hedge Fund. High-risk, high-reward, ride the bullish Vick market as long as you can. Enjoy the obligatory two weeks’ worth of USA Today articles detailing how he’s made all these "adjustments," then sell high before the bubble inevitably bursts. (Note: I could also have selected Peyton Manning as the PotW and simply cut-and-pasted last week’s description of his performance here. The man is incredible.)

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