Saturday, December 16, 2006

NFL Week 15 Preview and Picks

Cowboys over Falcons: How badly is Mora Jr. booed at home?

Dolphins over Bills: Winner actually still has playoff hopes.

Bears over Bucs: Please.

Jags over Titans: Am I really picking against Vince Young?

Jets over Vikings: Did you really pick up Artose Pinner to win your FFL playoff game?

Pats over Texans: Pats angry. Pats smash.

Saints over Redskins: Story of the year in sports.

Steelers over Panthers: Wasn't this the preseason Super Bowl pick?

Ravens over Browns: Balto angling for HFA.

Broncos over Cards: Cutler schools Leinart.

Rams over Raiders: Only hapless Oakland can make Rams look good.

Eagles over Giants: Jeff Garcia. Yes: Jeff Garcia.

Chargers over Chiefs: Tomlinson topples Hornung.

Colts over Bengals: Indy's death exaggerated.

Comments: More of your last-minute picks and analysis?

-- D.S.

Saturday 12/16 A.M. Quickie: Who Is No Longer Pat Riley's Bitch?

In a classic example of one team being another team's bitch, the Wizards had lost to the Heat 16 straight times – home, away, playoffs, you name it – heading into last night's game. It took the absence of Shaq, Dwyane Wade and Jason Williams, but the Wizards finally did it. (And, as a Wiz fan, I have to say: F'ing finally.) Is Caron Butler the best player who will never be an All-Star? (30 pts, 9 reb, 4 ast, 4 stl in his best game of the year. Trade from Lakers for Kwame? Heist.)

. 53. 'Nuff said.

How did the Suns and Warriors combine for only 206 points? And how much money was lost on folks who bet that "over?"

If money makes the man, Vernon Wells became one of MLB's biggest Men with that 7Y/$126M deal extension.

(Again: Kudos to the Jays for doing what it takes, financially, to stay competitive in the East.)

Jeff Bagwell retires: Hall of Fame lock? Well, does it help that he's the best hitter in Astros history? How about that he was involved in arguably the most lopsided MLB trade of the ESPN Era: Swapped from the Red Sox to the Astros for Larry Andersen in 1990. Yikes.

Disgraced "World's Fastest Man" Justin Gatlin worked out for the Cardinals, his second NFL team he has worked out for. Takers?

Appalachian State wins back-to-back 1-AA football title: I'd be curious how many 1-A teams that Appy State could beat?

Buckeyes stars turning pro early? I know I'm pro-Florida (and, therefore, anti-Ohio St), but where are the Buckeyes' star junior players' heads at if they're more concerned with testing the NFL draft waters than prepping for the BCS title game? (Ginn, Gonzalez, Pittman and Barton all filed the pre-draft paperwork to see where they stand. I'll tell you where they stand: Freaking first day. Think they won't want to showcase their NFL talents in college football's biggest game? Speaking of Ginn, think NFL scouts aren't watching Devin Hester and salivating: "Uh, Ginn is a BETTER version of Hester."

Is Baby Daddy a Dukie? Everyone agrees that the Duke accusers's baby's daddy ain't a Dukie, but wouldn't it be a Hollywood twist if one was?

-- D.S.

Friday, December 15, 2006

NFL Week 15 Picks/Preview

My NFL Week 15 picks coming tomorrow. Sorry about the delay, but I'd love to get your take on the games: What are the biggest storylines? What are the most intriguing matchups? And how do you pick 'em? Use the Comment area to weigh in. Hell, I'm quite sure that my picks tomorrow morning will be a hell of a lot more educated after reading your comments. -- D.S.

Friday 12/15 A.M. Quickie:
Brady, Niners, "Monster," AI, Mantle, More

Wait: Did I really start this post without talking about Tom Brady and Bridget Moynihan breaking up?

Everyone keeps talking about how Brady will be such a player, but how about Moynihan being single? Over/under on the date of the first rumor of a relationship with Derek Jeter: April 1, 2007.

Meanwhile, is Brady the new Jeter? Here's one of my boldest predictions for 2007: I'm calling Brady-n-Britney by the week of Super Bowl XLI. (The real question is: Who DOESN'T see this coming? If I was a savvier blog-marketer, I'd insert an eye-candy pic of Brit here.)

49ers beat Seahawks in Seattle
: OK, back in August, who had the Niners sweeping this season series with the defending NFC champs? As I said yesterday, if I had to put my five-year bet on either team, I'd take SF over Seattle. Is it heresy to say, if I was starting a franchise today, I'd rather have Alex Smith, Frank Gore and Vernon Davis over Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander and ANY of the Seahawks' WRs or TEs?

Matsuzaka Watch: I love that he's wearing Johnny Damon's old No. 18 jersey number. I hate this media-adopted nickname "Dice-K." It's awful. (He said his nickname in Japan is "Monster." Why not use that?)

Speaking of big-time pitchers in the spotlight, are the Mets ready to make a serious play for Barry Zito today?

AI Trade Watch: The more I read, the more I think the only team that can/will seriously consider trading for AI is the Heat. Which would be amazing. (The T'wolves? While it would be fun to see KG and AI together, I doubt the Sixers really want what Minny is selling, beyond rookie Randy Foye.)

I still hear those Clippers rumors swirling, but I'm not quite sure why the Sixers are demanding Shaun Livingston, who the Clips simply won't give up; I can't be the only one who thinks that Corey Maggette is one of the most underrated players (certainly most underrated AVAILABLE players) in the league? Is AI-for-Maggette (plus whatever it takes to make the numbers work) that crazy?

NBA All-Star Voting: AI leads all East guards in fan voting, which is just about the most fascinating development that has come out of this past week of AI Trade Frenzy. In all of the considerations of "value," why don't any teams put a value on the fact that AI is insanely popular and puts fans in the seats like few other players in the NBA?

(More voting: How cool is it that Toronto's Chris Bosh is currently in the starting lineup? What a statement about why fan voting rules.)

Maybe the Warriors shouldn't be so quick to think about dumping Baron Davis for AI...

Don't read too much into the Bobcats' win over the Magic. (Meanwhile, it's nice that May and Morrison combined for 54, but do two Top 10 picks really offer appropriate draft value coming off the bench? Maybe drafting a "starter" isn't as important anymore as drafting a closer.)

I love the D-Rays' idea to play a 3-game regular-season series at the Disney complex, nearly 90 miles from their usual home in St. Petersburg. Who cares that the Disney stadium only holds between 9,000-13,000? That's as many (or more) than the D-Rays were drawing at the Trop. Hell, why not play "home" series all over the state? Convert themselves into a barnstorming team that becomes a novelty when they play in, say, Tallahassee or Jacksonville or Orlando. If the Tampa fans won't show, maybe others will.

So I've been reading that there's all sorts of brouhaha about this Mickey Mantle memoir due out next spring. Author Peter Golenbock has found a way around James Frey-style problems of accuracy in memoir: "Inventive memoir," which is a wonderfully catchy euphemism for "fiction."

Specifically in this case, the fictional license to write an "autobiography" of Mickey Mantle from Mantle's voice, allowing for some true stories, some exaggerated stories and some stories that readers will never know if they are true or simply entertaining. I wonder if people will buy/read it -- hell, maybe it's time for me to pitch that "autobiography," since I can now apparently "reveal" my tryst with Ashley Judd and my career as a high-powered NBA executive.

(Given the 2006 scrutiny of "truthiness" in so-called non-fiction memoirs, I fully expect "inventive memoir" to become the new standard: "What I write in this memoir is sort of true, but don't hold me to it if it's not." The genius is in admitting it up front.)

-- D.S.

Friday 12/15 A.M.: Ack! Tech Issues?!

Having some tech issues this a.m. Grrr.... Hope to have your usual morning Quickie up ASAP. Sorry for the delay. -- D.S.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thursday 12/14 A.M. Quickie:
Welcome, Matsuzaka; R.I.P. Lamar Hunt

Matsuzaka signs for $52 mil: So which is it? Is Matsuzaka a rare $100 million pitcher (which is what it will cost the Red Sox, between posting fee and salary)? Or is he an $8.5 million a year pitcher (without the posting fee), which makes him one of the best bargains in baseball?

It's probably a little of both. But as the posting fee is a one-time hit on the Red Sox ledger (and the money so quickly leaving the U.S. fans' minds), it seems to me that all we'll be left with is that Matsuzaka makes less than Ted Lilly.

Matsuzaka remains my pick to win the 2007 AL Cy Young Award.

Legendary football owner Lamar Hunt dead at 74: He founded the AFL. He created the modern NFL by leading the AFL merger. He coined the phrase "Super Bowl." Based on those three things alone, it's very possible that Hunt was the most influential and important owner in sports history.

Wow: I knew Vernon Wells was one of the best players in baseball – and certainly among the Top 3 most under-the-radar talents (probably because he's over-the-border), but I didn't know he'd be worth $120 million. Continued kudos to the Jays for doing what it takes (read: spending) to keep up in the AL East. They deserve the playoffs.

No, there's apparently no truth to the wild rumor that the Dolphins players bought bootleg audio tapes of Tom Brady's signal calls, which is why they were able to own his ass last Sunday. They simply owned his ass based on available game tape.

T.O. is griping about the leaks on the Cowboys that reveals his lunacy to the world. Maybe he should start by not being such a lunatic.

I predict Bill Cowher will step away from the Steelers after this disappointing post-title season, make some coin and raise his profile by doing TV work, then break the bank for the 2008 season.

The Sixers REALLY need to find a trade partner for AI. Even 10 cents on the dollar would help this team right now. Hmm...

The Lakers REALLY need to figure out a way to survive the next 4 weeks without injured Lamar Odom (knee). His first game out, they lost to the Mavs. (Does AI look any more attractive? No? OK.)

The Suns REALLY need to find a way to translate their regular season success, which includes a 12th straight win last night, over the defending champ Heat, into the postseason.

(Speaking of the Heat, apparently Pat Riley couldn't resist the attention/frenzy that comes with displaying even the most remote interest in trading for Iverson. Wade and AI in the same lineup strikes me as "Frankenbackcourt.")

The NBA REALLY needs even more up-and-down games like last night's Wiz win over the Nuggets. (Defense? Who needs defense?)

Will Leitch vs. John Rocker: This was from yesterday, but I insist: MUST READ. It's one of the more frank interviews with an athlete you'll read. And the fact that it's from Will at Deadspin makes it better.

NFL Tonight: Seahawks over 49ers, but I'll say it again: If I had to buy stock in the 5-year future of either team, I'd put my money on the Niners.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Top 10? Best? My Favorite?
(Hell: Pick-Your-Qualifier)
Sports Books of 2006

These might be the 10 best sports books of the year. They might be my favorite sports books of the year. (Or maybe I simply appreciate them more because some of the authors read at my reading series.) Consider it a combination of all those things and an appropriate kick-off to my series of posts wrapping up the year in sports a.k.a. "Listmania '06."

Are they listed in order of preference? Not wanting to offend anyone (and not liking the cop-out "alphabetical" best-of lists), kind of.

Fantasyland, by Sam Walker. My favorite book of the year. The definitive book about fantasy sports layered behind one of the more entertaining first-person "experiential" stories about sports you'll ever read. Available in paperback in spring '07 -- don't miss it.

The Blind Side, by Michael Lewis. Michael Lewis could take a dump between two covers and call it an examination of the economic inefficiencies of bathrooms, and I'd pre-order it on Amazon.

The Echoing Green, by Joshua Prager. This redefined the "closely examine a moment in history" sports-book genre, about what was arguably the biggest moment in American sports history.

To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever, by Will Blythe. I hate BOTH Duke AND North Carolina, yet this book You may have missed the hardback; pick it up in paperback in '07.

Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders: I've known Rob since 1996 and I think I've read almost everything he's ever written for and as a book author. I regularly read (and admire) writers who are the "anti-Quickie" (cogent and perceptive non-obvious ideas backed up by a combination of qualitative analysis and quantitative rigor), and he's one of them.

Baseball Between the Numbers, by the Baseball Prospectus team. Spouting their arguments (with credit, of course!) gives me cred at parties. What kind of parties, you ask? You don't want to know.

Feeding the Monster, by Seth Mnookin. Here's what's so remarkable about this book making this list. I fucking hate the Red Sox, and I loathe Red Sox Nation. Here's my dilemma: I remain man-crushy for Theo Epstein. So I spent my time reading this book daydreaming about Theo one day giving me a key to Fenway. OK, I'll settle for an email.

The Wages of Wins, by David Berri et al. This "Freakonomics meets Sports" might be the most controversial book of the year, which is why it makes the list – can you believe that the most controversial sports book of the year was about statistical analysis? (Actually, yes I can, because "Moneyball" had an even bigger impact a few years ago.) I'm hoping that in '07, Berri and John Hollinger settle the statistical scrum once and for all... in the Octagon, obviously.

Spalding's World Tour, by Mark Lamster. Reading series participant! AND he lives in Brooklyn like me! AND he revealed one of the most interesting events in baseball history that 99 percent of fans have never heard of. (But you should.)

Baseball and Pro Football Prospectus: More Prospectus? I can't help myself. This plus "Baseball Between the Numbers" qualifies me to write "Fellating Prospectus 2007." (You publishers know you want it!) Not necessarily something you'd buy now, but when they are published before their respective seasons start, they're a must-have.

Comments Question: What were your favorite sports books published in 2006?

-- D.S.

Wednesday 12/13 A.M. Quickie:
More on AI, Matsuzaka Deal-Making

Remember the old "Daily Quickie Readers" group that I set up for various "pick 'em" games? It's back for Bowl season! Click here to play College Bowl Mania and search for the group "Daily Quickie Readers." There is no password necessary to join. I doubt we'll get the 10,000 participants from last year's NCAA Tournament Challenge, but let's see how we do. Stealing a page from Deadspin, the winner gets their very own post on this blog (uh, if they want it). Click here to join in!

AI Trade Watch
: You can forget about the dream tandem of Artest and Iverson on the Kings. The Maloofs are no longer interested. Fools. That would have been the craziest twosome ever.

Here's the latest: AI turned down a trade to the Bobcats yesterday, which was smart. Why go from a non-contending team to another?

The hot rumor is Golden State. The Sixers can claim they insist on Monta Ellis*, but the NY Daily News has a rumor that GSW would trade Baron Davis and Andris Biedrins, which seems like a steal for Philly.

(* - Add Ellis to my argument that the NBA's age rule is ludicrous. Ellis came straight from high school, his stock plummeted on draft night and everyone said "Mistake!" and look at him now: The most coveted asset on the entire team. And that's in his SECOND year in the NBA. Please don't tell me he'd be this good if he spent last year playing at Mississippi State. From the vast majority of qualitative evidence, a year in the NBA is better training for the NBA than a year of college hoops.)

Will the Red Sox sign Daisuke Matsuzaka by tonight's midnight deadline? Signs are pointing to no YES! Eh: I always knew they'd make it happen. Boras ain't no dummy. Earlier: I blame both sides. The Red Sox are cheaping it up after breaking the bank on that posting fee; Scott Boras is, predictably, being unreasonable.

Tracy McGrady is out indefinitely with back problems: Who had December 12 in the pool?

Mock Isiah Thomas all you want (and you will), but he IS doing a better job than Larry Brown, which is why I suppose James Dolan gave Isiah through the end of the season to prove himself, ending any speculation there will be some sort of "Xmas Massacre."

What a strange Lakers win: They were up 27 with 9 minutes to go and the Rockets got it down to within 2 before Kobe and Co. pulled it out.

I'm glad Roger Goodell called Bengals owner Mike Brown to essentially ask "WTF?" about the team's troubles with the law. It's an embarrassment for the franchise and the sport. Imagine the uproar if this was a college football team; why is Marvin Lewis getting a free pass on this?

MLB Hot Stove: Jason Jennings to the Astros from the Rockies. He upgrades on altitude, but loses Colorado's "humidor" advantage.

Tiger Wins PGA Tour Player of the Year: Yawn. Is it good or bad for golf that they don't seem to have the major pro sports league awards fetish of only letting the best player win an award a few times before getting bored, even though he might remain the best player in the league? (The "Michael Jordan Rule"... soon to be the "LeBron James Rule.")

The Dodgers won't file tampering charges against the Red Sox over JD Drew. I wonder if that's some sort of old boy's code among baseball owners.

I'm late on this, but Troy Smith wasn't able to take his Heisman home on the plane. What: Did it not fit into one of those quart-size Ziploc baggies you put your mini-shampoo in?

Nick Fazekas is the greatest college player in Nevada school history. Not sure what that means, because he sure ain't the greatest college player in Nevada state history. That would be (in this order): (1) Larry Johnson, (2) Arman Gilliam, (3) Shawn Marion, (4) Stacey Augmon, (5) Reggie Theus. Hang Time, baby!

NFL Net to offer preview on Time Warner Cable, Cablevision: I don't know whether it's a goodwill gesture or a Trojan horse, but all I know is that Rutgers fans in the New York area will now get to see Rutgers' bowl game. If the NFL Network had made this move weeks ago and asked Rutgers fans – in a quid pro quo of good faith – to call Time Warner or Cablevision to ask for the NFL Network, it would have been more effective.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tuesday 12/12 A.M. Quickie:
Devin Hester: The New Gale Sayers?

Devin Hester is the new Dante Hall: The Bears rookie return guy set a new NFL single-season record with his 6th return for a TD this season. And, more astonishing, it was his second of the night, a 42-27 Bears rout over the Rams.

Hester is the most potent offensive weapon the Bears have, which is saying something, considering he's a special teams player (but, then again, not saying much, given Rex Grossman and the otherwise iffy offense).

The real question is whether he'll be the only rookie to make the Pro Bowl -- for which he has now to be a lock. Is he a more deserving Rookie of the Year than Vince Young or Marques Colston? As the most effective player on the best team in the NFC, it's an argument.

NBA to go back to the old ball: This is the biggest news of the season (similar to the way the switch to the new ball was previously the biggest news of the season). It's a rare defeat for David Stern, but the bottom line is that he earns more goodwill – with players and fans -- by switching back than he does by trying to continue to prove he's smarter than everyone else with this ball idea. I think we'll look back on this three months of the "new" ball as the NBA's "XFL Moment." (I fully expect YaySports to print up "Free Orange Roundie!" T-shirts.)

Jerry Sloan won his 1,000th career game in style: With his Jazz extending their NBA-best record to 16-5 with a rout over the defending conference champ Mavs (including 31 and 11 from Boozer; seriously, WTF is he on this season?)

More signs Amare is back: Season-high 30 points last night in the Suns' win over the Magic, PHX's 11th straight win.

AI Trade Watch: After last night's 2-point loss to Portland (without AI, obvs – a difference that probably cost them the game), why wouldn't the Sixers throw in the towel, tank the rest of the season and promise fans that their intent is to re-build a new core around Top 2 draft prizes Greg Oden or Kevin Durant?

Freddy Adu traded from DC United to Real Salt Lake: If, in fact, Adu remains the biggest prospect (either for skills or marketing or both), I'm not sure why DC United would trade him. Maybe they know he's not long for MLS; I'm sure there's an EPL payday in his future.

So if you thought Jimmie Johnson's golf-cart injury sounded sort of sketchy (how do you get hurt while riding in a golf cart?), it is: Reportedly, he was sprawled across the TOP of the golf cart, which – indeed – is a good way of getting your ass flung off a golf cart.

College Hoops Top 25: I wonder if Air Force – one of two new teams to debut in this season's Top 25 (along with Notre Dame) – is for real. They've played a brutal schedule (mostly on the road) and have been successful doing it. Conference play in 2007 won't reveal as much as their non-conference schedule this fall. Tracking...

MLB Hot Stove: I predict that, despite reports of intractable problems, the Red Sox and Matsuzaka hammer out a deal by Thursday's deadline.

Fantasy Venting: You all know that I'm a fan of fantasy, but I am guided by the principle that everyone can/should play fantasy, but no one wants to hear about your team, specifically. We can talk about larger fantasy implications of a player's performance, but not the larger fantasy implications on your team. With that said, I have to vent: I scored the third-most points in my 14-team league, yet I finished tied for second-to-last. It's one of those seasons where you say: Why bother? Perhaps some of you can relate (or know someone in your league who can): Every league must have a "Hard-Luck Champion," who finishes with playoff-quality point totals but out of the actual playoffs bracket. The only solace? "Regression to the mean": If you can replicate Top 4 point-totals every season, you're bound to get the right week-to-week matchups to vault you into the playoffs. You hope.

-- D.S.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Weblog Awards: Shut Out!

I could/should pull a Stephen Colbert and feign some outrage that I wasn't nominated for "Best Sports Blog" in the 2006 Weblog Awards. (More accurately, I should kick myself for not surreptitiously nominating myself. Next year... and I'll be sure to get you all to nominate me, too!)

Anyway, I wanted to point you to the link. There are a lot of great blogs that didn't make the list (so I don't feel TOO badly), but there are a couple of terrific ones that did, including Will and Co. at Deadspin, MJD, Jamie Mottram for Mr. Irrelevant, Henry Abbott for TrueHoop, and -- in quite an amazing development -- the hilarious deviants at Kissing Suzy Kolber.

Here's the full list.

In the comments, I'd love to hear which sports blogs are your favorites. (Cough! Cough!) You don't have to read them every day (cough! cough!) or have followed them over from a successful mainstream site (cough! cough!). Just ones you think are particularly well done. (I'm only kidding with the coughs, obvs.)

-- D.S.

Monday 12/11 A.M. Quickie:
LaDainian Rules, But Is Brees MVP?

This is one of those mornings where there are two stories so huge that they actually converge. In this case, it's LaDainian Tomlinson obliterating the NFL single-season TD record (with 3 games to play!) and the Saints obliterating the Cowboys (in Dallas) to pull into the NFC No. 2 spot and continue their dream season. Let's dig in...

The MVP case for Tomlinson
: I don't like to curse, but there's only one phrase that comes to mind for what LaDainian Tomlinson is doing this season: Holy Shit.

"Holy shit" that he set the new single-season TD record (set only last season by Shaun Alexander) WITH THREE GAMES STILL TO PLAY. The ramifications of this are staggering: He very well could create the most unbreakable record in major sports.

And "holy shit": If we're watching the greatest single-season for an RB in NFL history, are we also watching the greatest running back in NFL history? Marty Schottenheimer thinks so, and – if you consider a single season an indicator – it's hard to argue with him. The MVP debate between he and Brees (presuming the Saints finish 1 or 2 in the NFC) will be phenomenal... and fierce. Because...

Saints: Best NFL team story ever? The question isn't whether the Saints are the NFL team story of the year; it's whether the Saints are the best NFL team story of all time.

Sure, it's only Week 14 -- there's plenty of time for the season to derail (though in the weak NFC, that would be a stretch) -- but after last night's primetime national-TV smackdown of the "contender" Cowboys (in Dallas, no less), they're storybook season just get even better.

They were already the new version of America's Team; how can you NOT root for them? (At the very least, how can you begrudge them success?) That was back when they were simply the crappy team giving a little hope to some hometown fans who needed it.

But now they have the second-best record in the NFC and control their own destiny not just for a home playoff game, but getting a first-round bye. And if you watched them steamroll the Cowboys last night -- and if you've watched the Bears recently -- the Saints are arguably the best team in the NFC.

Here's how good Drew Brees is right now: By almost every measure, LaDainian Tomlinson should be running away with the league MVP award; not only has Brees thrown himself into the argument -- at his current pace, Brees is going to pull it off. His 5 TDs last night will help.

There have been more dominant teams in NFL history, but none of those had the Saints' universal appeal. There may have been more likeable underdogs in NFL history (and maybe not), but none was this competitive. Stay tuned: It's the best NFL story you're going to see.

Vince Young is my hero: That and more NFL Week 14 analysis here (or in the post below.)

NBA: Whither AI? He's still inactive. Doesn't it hurt the Sixers every game they don't play him? Can't the league step in with a one-time exception to the salary-match trade rules that can make this a little easier on everyone?

Meanwhile, the Suns won their 10th straight game, behind Amare's 7th double-double in his last 8 games. It only took him six weeks to reclaim his position among the NBA's elite.

MLB Hot Stove: With a Thursday deadline, it's looking more likely that the Red Sox won't be able to sign Matsuzaka, which keeps him out of the MLB market – this season – but leaves the Red Sox open to the Yankees poaching him when he's a complete free agent a year from now.

College Hoops Parity Watch: A season after losing to them in the NCAA Regional Final, Texas (now unranked) finally beat LSU (ranked No. 9), albeit needing OT and a virtual home game in Houston. Still, it continues the early-season pattern of extreme parity.

-- D.S.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Five Most Intriguing NFL Results of the Day (So Far)

1. One win changes everything: The Giants looked like a team whose season had imploded; one win over the Panthers later, they're in control of the NFC Wild Card – and control their own destiny.

2. Oops, Vince Young did it again: Another game, another thrilling win for the Titans rookie. This time, he bolted for a 39-yard game-winning TD run in OT to win his Houston homecoming. Rookie of the Year?

3. Forget what you know, Part 1: Think the Colts are the team to beat in the AFC? Not after they allowed a franchise record 375 rushing yards in a 44-17 loss to the Jags. If Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor can run on them at will, what can LaDainian do in the playoffs?

4. Forget what you know, Part 2: Think the Pats have some magic playoff formula up their sleeve? Not after they were blanked by the Dolphins, in what was arguably the worst offensive performance of the Belichick Era, setting season lows in total yards and first downs. Tom Brady was sacked four times and threw for a whopping 78 yards.

5. Odds and Ends: With it's fourth win in a row, the Bengals look like the AFC Wild Card team to beat... Who had Chris Weinke starting for their fantasy team?... I'll say it again: What does it say about Donovan McNabb's value when Jeff Garcia can lead the Eagles to the playoffs?... I think the Chiefs, losing at home to the Ravens, just lost their last chance at making the playoffs... Just when Jets fans start to look beyond "moral victory," they suffer "crappy defeat"... Let's not confuse one decent game/win by Brett Favre over the 49ers as a "renaissance"... Sure, the Seahawks did quite a bit to lose the game, as much as the Cards did to win it, but for 'Zona, progress is progress... Now, I *know* you didn't start Artose Pinner on your fantasy team.

-- D.S.

Comments Question: Add your own intriguing observations in the Comments section. I'm quite sure they'll be more intriguing than mine, but that's why I think you all rule.

Sunday 12/10 A.M. Quickie:
McFadden for Heisman? 2007!

Unsurprisingly, Ohio State QB Troy Smith won the Heisman by an overwhelming margin. In a bit of a surprise, Arkansas RB Darren McFadden beat out Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn for second place. Given the certainty of the Smith outcome, it actually reaffirms my faith in the otherwise sketchy batch of 1,000 Heisman voters. (See my own Heisman vote – with McFadden as my ultimate pick – from Thursday.)

Looking ahead to 2007, McFadden -- just a sophomore this season -- becomes the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman. (Others on the early-early radar: West Virginia RB Steve Slaton and Rutgers RB Ray Rice. Should be a great year for running backs.)

College Hoops: In a battle of two of the Top 3 teams on the West Coast, Gonzaga waxed Washington by 20 in Spokane. The third Top 3 team – top-ranked UCLA – got away with a 3-point win over trendy Texas A&M. UCLA is legit.

CFB Coaching Carousel: Dennis Erickson is back in the Pac-10, bolting from Idaho to Arizona State. So much for the hot rumor that AZ State was going to hire Norm Chow.

NBA: Iverson Rumors Overwhelm T'wolves. And, yet, Minnesota was motivated enough to beat the Bulls, snapping Chicago's 7-game W streak. KG reaffirmed his interest in getting AI, but T'wolves owner Glen Taylor insists that the financials wouldn't work out. Cripes: With KG and AI, couldn't they simply sign three guys from the local General Mills IM league and be competitive?

NFL Live-Comment Tailgate: Settling in for a day of NFL games? Use the Comments section below to weigh in on the developments of the day.

-- D.S.