Monday, December 04, 2006

NFL Thoughts, Week 13

In choosing which early game to watch, I certainly didn’t predict needing to switch over to the Colts-Titans and Patriots-Lions games to see who would win in nail-biters. I know Tennessee was coming off a win in New York, but the Giants have lately been threatening the Knicks—who really looked invincible here—to become the city’s new most self-destructive team. And I also figured Peyton would have revenge on his mind after what the Titans’ secondary did to his little brother last week. And has anyone seen Tennessee CB Adam Jones? With his oversized helmet, I can’t help looking at him without being reminded of Rick Moranis in Spaceballs. Nevertheless, it turns out Eli must be more like Fredo than Sunny to Peyton…

As for the Patriots, who on Earth wants to bet against evil genius Bill Belichick nowadays? Except for the fact that he doesn’t (a) put up flags on his porch featuring random barnyard animals, or (b) take approximately six dogs for a walk past my house every fifteen minutes, Belichick looks and dresses exactly like my next-door neighbor, Judy, who happens to be bat-shit crazy. Actually, I gained huge respect for Belichick after reading David Halberstram’s excellent biography, The Education of a Coach. This was a man who was helping his assistant coach father break down film by the time he was seven and drawing up plays on his elementary school lunch bags. Basically, there was little doubt about what he was going to be one day. As someone who went well into high school daydreaming about potential career opportunities in the field of bounty hunting, spaceship command, and post-nuclear holocaust freedom fighting, I’ve always admired that type of focus.

Except for that first Super Bowl victory against the Rams, I thought Bill did his finest work last year, even though the Pats lost in the playoffs. People forget they were even more beat up then than they are now, and they still had the Broncos on the ropes in Denver in the Divisional round. Terrible turnovers, including one on special teams, were all that did them in, and I felt bad for BB, who had coached his team masterfully. The Pats did eventually finish off the Lions on Sunday, and truthfully, I was never too worried. When push comes to “shovel,” as my Russian professor likes to say, I’ll bet on Belichick every time.

One final thought: usually when ex-quarterbacks announce games, they tend to favor their current counterparts on the field in almost any issue. Not Phil Simms. Phil gets downright indignant any time QBs are not called for obvious groundings or when an opposing defense gets an unjust roughing-the-passer penalty. Reflecting on Phil’s career, I can see why. He has to be the one player from my childhood in which the only highlights that come to mind are him staggering to his feet after getting blasted yet again from behind. While others probably remember Johnny Unitas or Roger Staubach throwing picture-perfect passes, I mostly remember Phil getting practically snapped in two by Reggie White, Charles Mann, Ed Jones, et al, and then stumbling over to the sidelines, where Bill Parcells undoubtedly offered helpful words of encouragement like, “You’re really worthless, you know that? I’m telling Jeff Hostetler to get warmed up.”

Offensive Player of the Week: Devin Hester, Bears. Ran back his fourth punt for a TD this year. Who else but the Bears could throw for just 34 yards and 3 INTs and still win?

Defensive Player of the Week: DeMeco Ryans, Texans. 14 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and an interception. Who else but the Raiders could hold a team to just -5 yards passing and still lose?

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