Friday, December 29, 2006

At the (End-of-Year) Buzzer!
My Annual New Year's Hot/Not List

What's out with 2006? What's in for 2007? Thanks to the folks at Deadspin for publishing my annual "What's Hot, What's Not" List for the new year, maintaining my streak through the 21st century. Here's the link.

Some of my favorites:

Free agent
2006: Daisuke Matsuzaka
2007: Bill Simmons

Monday Night Football gimmick
2006: Tony K.
2007: Tiki

Courtside Groupie
2006: Britney Spears
2007: Carrie Underwood

Sports city
2006: Pittsburgh
2007: Las Vegas

2006: Titans No. 10 (Young)
2007: Nuggets No. 3 (Iverson)

Human mascot
2006: Jason McElwain
2007: Rory Fitzpatrick

Oh, Just STFU Already
2006: Michael Irvin
2007: Joe Buck

2006: The Daily Quickie
2007: Quite Frankly

Click here to read the rest. (Sorry for the freaky formatting.) And, for the first time in Hot/Not List history, use the Comments sections to suggest your own!

PS: And here's a link to last year's edition, which has links to the previous five years, too. (If you're an Insider, you'll have access. Otherwise, you're s.o.l., I'm afraid.)

Weekend Football Preview:
NFL Tanking-Mania Plus CFB Bowlin'

Let's be honest here: NFL Week 17 SEEMED exciting last Sunday, but since has fizzled as reality has set in that it's not THAT in doubt.

The NFC could be sewn up as early as Saturday. If the Giants beat the Redskins, they're a virtual Wild Card lock and an esteemed member of the .500 Playoff Team Club.

More intriguing: What if the Giants LOSE? (As they certainly deserve to.) The Packers are next in line but end in Chicago. On its face, that looks like a crushing loss, but what motivation do the Bears have to play anyone but taxi-squadders, having already locked up NFC HFA? I retch at the thought of coverage of Brett Favre in the playoffs, buoyed only by the reality that he and the Packers would get destroyed next week.

The AFC has two teams who Control Their Own Destiny (which remains one of the all-time great phrases in sports): The Jets, who play the hapless Raiders (who have no incentive to win, given their dogfight with the Lions for the No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick), and the Broncos, who play the 49ers, who – at this point – have no incentive to win and consequently tumble down the draft board.

(The Bengals, Titans, Jags and Chiefs all need help. Of course, the Jags and Chiefs play each other. The Bengals can put the final nail in the 2006 coffin of the Steelers. The Titans play the Pats, which would be a loss in any other week, but given the Pats have nothing to gain by playing hard, Tennessee could end as the hottest team in the NFL yet still not make the playoffs, even though at this point, they'd be favored to win the NFC.)

Week 17 in the NFL always brings me back to my ongoing debate with readers about Tanking. Though many are loathe to admit it, there are several times when tanking isn't just justified, but optimal. This weekend showcases two:

(1) Non-playoff teams tanking for draft position. It's not just the Lions and Raiders jockeying for No. 1 overall. Why would any non-playoff-contending team try to win and mess up a critical draft slot (or several)?

(2) Playoff teams tanking because they have no reason to win. Call it the Colts Rule. As long as playoff position – a bye week or home-field advantage – isn't on the line, wouldn't a team feel stupid if one of their starters were injured in what is otherwise a meaningless game? And so the coaches hold as many talents out as possible, and you get the feeling that if the NFL gave them an option to simply forfeit the game and not put ANY players at risk, they would not only do it, but stake out the competitive high road while doing it.

Let me say it again: In a week like this, tanking the game is arguably the SUPERIOR option for several/many teams. And yet no one seems to really care, because the fans of non-playoff teams are already looking to the draft (and optimal draft position) for hope and fans of playoff teams don't want to see the team get a key injury before the playoffs, when the games actually matter. (Thus, by implication: For so many teams, this game just doesn't matter.)

I'm going to skip game-by-game predictions and go straight to this:

The Jets and the Broncos will be the AFC Wild Card teams, and the Giants will somehow fall ass-backwards into a playoff spot (though it's not like any of the other NFC 6-seed contenders deserve it more). Otherwise, tank away!

Meanwhile, there are 10 college football bowls running through Monday. Saturday's three are worth watching to see Texas' fall from BCS title-game glory to the Alamo Bowl and to see Georgia freshman QB Matt Stafford take on the VA Tech defense. Sunday is a single bowl game: Larry Coker's swan song on the blue turf of the MPC Computers Bowl. I'm going to save my analysis of Jan. 1 bowls until Monday morning, but I'm personally most interested in the Rose Bowl (obvs) and the Arkansas-Wisconsin Cap One Bowl game, which should illuminate whether Wisco was as overrated as everyone thinks they are or whether Arkansas wasn't the bellweather win for Florida everyone gave the Gators credit for. (Oh, and Boise State pulling a "2004 Utah" and stomping Oklahoma for an unbeaten season and at least a nominally plausible claim at a share of the national title.)

More later.

-- D.S.

Friday 12/29 A.M. Quickie:
Last Weekday of 2006!

Thoughts on the final weekday of 2006 as I ponder the idea of Foremanning up some delicious cloned beef steaks this weekend...

Largest. Contract. Ever. (At least for a pitcher.) Barry Zito gets 7Y/$126M from the... Giants?!

A prediction for 2007: Behind a "Barry and Barry!" marketing campaign, Zito wins the 2007 NL Cy Young Award.

And what is the residual impact on the Mets, who were so hot for Zito? Another prediction for 2007: The Mets trade for Dontrelle Willis.

Bob Knight falls short of becoming all-time winningest coach. I haven't really talked about this much. Is he the greatest college coach of all time? (Or, maybe, given the John Wooden Factor, of the ESPN Era?) Is he better than Coach K? Does it impact your decision to factor in that K learned from Knight?

Prediction for 2007: Knight sets the all-time college hoops wins record. (Big leap, I know. Hey, they don't ALL have to be bold.)

Grizzlies fire coach Mike Fratello. After their woeful start, is this really a surprise? But who would have guessed that Fratello would have fewer than half as many wins as... Isiah Thomas?

Prediction for 2007: Memphis wins the NBA Draft Lottery and drafts Greg Oden after realizing they are in an amazing position to tank the rest of the season to get him.

Rutgers beats Kansas State in Texas Bowl: First-ever bowl win for Rutgers, who became the Cinderella story of the 2006 college football season. (And the No. 2-ranked Cindy of the year behind George Mason. No, the Steelers don't count as a "Cinderella," even though they were the worst-seeded playoff team to win the Super Bowl in NFL history.)

Prediction for 2007: Rutgers will match this season's 10 regular-season wins and Ray Rice (170 yards in the Texas Bowl) will finish Top 3 in Heisman voting. But they will NOT win the Big East's BCS bid, which will go to West Virginia.

(More Bowls: Cal stomps Texas A&M, Oklahoma State edges Alabama.)

College Football: Gone Bowlin'. Big lineup today:

Music City: Was it so long ago that Clemson was a hot pick to be the ACC's BCS team? Yes, it was. (Clemson over Kentucky)

Sun Bowl: Was it so long ago that Missouri was a hot pick to be the Big 12's BCS team? Yes, it was. (Missouri over Oregon State)

Liberty: Was it so long ago that Steve Spurrier nearly knocked Florida out of BCS title contention at the Swamp? Yes, it was. (S. Carolina over Houston)

Insight: It's your last chance in 2006 to watch Mike Leach's innovative Red Raiders offense. Yarrrr! (Texas Tech over Minnesota)

Champs Sports: Maryland is a poor man's Wake Forest. What does THAT say? (Maryland over Purdue)

(Weekend bowl – and NFL – preview coming later today.)

NBA Last Night: Mavs eke out a last-second win over the Suns. (Prediction for 2007: That's flip-flopped in the Western Conference Finals.) Nuggets beat the Sonics behind AI's 44. Wow. (Prediction for 2007: Overheated playoff expectations for Denver fizzle when they lose in the West semis.)

NFL: How about that rare "double-doubleheader" on Sunday when CBS and Fox get to both show doubleheaders? Should be enough to keep everyone satisfied. More on the NFL's final weekend later.

Prediction for 2007: Needless to say, I expect a let-down weekend, with the Jets/Broncos and Giants claiming the remaining Wild Card spots and the only fun being that the Giants make the Wild Card as a .500 team.

College Hoops Parity Watch: USC beats No. 14 Washington. Wow, between that and USC's win over Wichita State, the Trojans are off to an impressive start. And this is WITHOUT OJ Mayo. Meanwhile, Clemson moved to 13-0. Also: No. 1 UCLA survived a slow-down game with underrated Washington State.

Prediction for 2007: Both USC and Clemson lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. UCLA loses in the Elite Eight.

What a 2006 for Durham DA Mike Nifong: He goes from the most high-profile criminal investigation of the year (Duke LAX) to being charged with ethics violations by the North Caronlina state bar. (Prediction for 2007: By next year's end, we'll be going... "Who?")

Must-Read: My friends Jason and Carl at the WSJ's Daily Fix have a list of their Top 10 sports columns of 2006. I don't see any Daily Quickie editions on there, but I won't hold it against them. Here's the link.

More coming later today, including NFL and CFB bowl posts, plus predictions for 2007, my annual Hot/Not List and more!

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thursday 12/28 A.M. Quickie:
Knicks, Zito, NFL D POY, Tiger, More!

How's this for an unexpected end-of-year event: The Knicks are 13-18 (and one game out of first place in the Atlantic Division) after beating Detroit, the best team in the East, in 3 OT last night.

Isiah Thomas for NBA Coach of the Year? It's not as crazy as it sounds. As of right now, he'd get my vote, simply for defying the common expectations that the Knicks would be a lot closer to 31 losses than 13 wins right now.

(For the record, Isiah is three games ahead of Larry Brown's pace after 31 games last season. And, remember: When Brown's team reached 13 wins a year ago, they lost 16 of their next 17 and 20 of 22. Watch the Knicks' next stretch of 22 games before the All-Star Break.)

But, really, who would have thought Isiah would have them playing with this level of success, particularly winning 4 of 5 since the Brawl?

More NBA: Fantasy Line of the Night: Gerald Wallace, who had 40 points, 14 rebounds, 6 steals and 4 blocks in a loss to the Wizards (who got 39 from the sizzling Gilbert Arenas). It was the type of game that Wallace fans have been expecting all year.

MLB ROIDS: How quickly before someone in the government leaks the names of the 100 MLB players who tested positive for steroids in 2003? (And who wants to bet that Barry Bonds' name isn't on the list?)

MLB HOT STOVE: Rangers give Zito an ultimatum: He has until the weekend to accept their six-year offer. Between Boras' advice and the Rangers trading for Brandon McCarthy, I think Zito will hold out for the Yankees/Mets/Mariners offer.

NFL AWARDS: Jason Taylor smacks Shawne Merriman! Dolphins DE says Chargers LB shouldn't be eligible for NFL Defensive Player of the Year because of his steroid suspension. (Silly, Jason: If it wasn't for PEDs, there wouldn't be an NFL!)

NFL CONTRACTS: What are the Bucs thinking? The team gave injured QB Chris Simms a 2-year contract extension that Simms reportedly called "starter's money." I prefer to call it "fool's gold."

CFB BOWLIN': Where was that Florida State team all year long? Maybe it's just that Bobby Bowden is the sport's biggest Bowl-Master; maybe they should re-position their schedule so every week has a "bowl" name.

Meanwhile, THIS was the UCLA team that stifled USC? Just goes to show how out of their minds the Bruins played in their ultimate rivalry game. Against FSU? By comparison, they had nothing to play for.

AP Story of the Year: Tiger's season. Seems like kind of a cop-out, given that the AP gave him Male Athlete of the Year and "season" isn't exactly a story. (For example: At what point in a "season" is it defined as a single story, rather than a lot of small stories?)

I've been going back to this well a lot, but if I had to pick a single best Story of the Year, it would be Texas' national-title win over USC. Just because it happened the first week of the year doesn't mean it should be forgotten.

Finally, any comments about's ranking of every state by its football power? Including high school, college and pros, they have Texas ranked No. 1. I don't have a quibble with that, but I'm pretty sure they'll get some arguments down the line.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Wednesday 12/27: Gerald Ford No. 1!
(in Presidential Athletic Power Rankings!)

If nothing else, the late Gerald Ford holds the title of the most athletic U.S. president. In an exclusive analysis, Ford leads the first-ever (and possibly last-ever)...

All-Time U.S. President Athleticism Power Rankings!

Ford was, by far, our most athletic (and athletically accomplished) President: He was a three-year center for Michigan's football team on two undefeated national championship teams ('32, '33), and the team's MVP in '34. He had offers to go to the NFL, but turned them down to go to law school.

Now, say what you will that Ford might have taken one too many shots to the helmet, but he reigns supreme among Presidential athleticism. (You'll find the final Presidential Power Rankings at the end of the rundown.)

Here's a chronological rundown of the athletic bonafides of the U.S. Presidents of the 20th Century, with an emphasis on actual lifetime athletic accomplishment (and, in the absence of that, significant off-field links to sports as a proxy for participation).

George W. Bush: Well, he OWNED a sports team (Texas Rangers), but the closest he got to participating in sports was as a cheerleader.

Bill Clinton: Huge sports FAN (particularly Arkansas basketball) and an avid jogger and golfer, but essentially a non-athlete and classic "wannabe" jock. (And, uh, there's nothing wrong with that...)

George H. W. Bush: Played first base for Yale baseball, which puts him near the top of a thin field. Certainly qualifies him for Top 5.

Ronald Reagan: Sports claim to fame is that he was a Cubs play-by-play broadcaster, but more concerned with acting than athletics. Famously played George "The Gipper" Gipp in the movie, "Knute Rockne, All American."

Jimmy Carter: Star local basketball and football player in high school, but his most notorious sports claim to fame is that he was in office when the US boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics.

Gerald Ford: See above. The best athlete of any President in our nation's history. And, when we inevitably do the "20th Century World Leader Battle Royale of Athleticism," I'm quite sure Ford would finish in the Final Four, if not win outright.

Richard Nixon: Despite leaving the office in disgrace, he truly embodied the idea of "First Fan," even going so far as to design and call a Super Bowl play for George Allen's Redskins. Played college football for Whittier College, but never left the bench.

Lyndon Johnson: Let's just say that he would have won any locker-room, uh, contests. (Jeff Reed? Ha! Small-time, by comparison. Literally.) LBJ enjoyed hunting, fishing and riding.

John Kennedy: Provided one of his most iconic President-and-sports images, playing touch football with his family on the Vineyard. Balky back, though, and general health problems. In the Clinton mold of "Big fan, not much of an actual player."

Dwight D. Eisenhower: Played football for West Point, once participating in a gang-tackle of Jim Thorpe. A knee injury ruined his football future, but he later became an insanely passionate golfer.

Harry Truman: Not much there.

Franklin Roosevelt: Do you have to ask?

Herbert Hoover: Was the student manager of the football and baseball teams as a college student at Stanford (he was part of the first Big Game versus Cal). Points for enthusiasm.

Calvin Coolidge: Doesn't seem to be much there for "Silent Cal."

Warren Harding: At this point in US history, most people who were young adults in Harding's era (1880s) didn't spend much time playing sports. But he did supposedly play a lot of poker.

Woodrow Wilson: Enjoyed bicycling and became an avid golfer while in office (as many future presidents would).

William Taft: Wasn't he kind of a fattie? He was, however, the first President to throw out a baseball at a game.

Theodore Roosevelt: What a bad-ass. He was the runner-up boxing champion as a college student at Harvard. He was a legendary big-game hunter. If he was alive today, he'd probably be a NASCAR champ. That was one tough SOB.

(I'm making the presumption that Presidents before the 20th Century weren't as exposed to sport as young men as the ones who followed them. Feel free to correct me in the comments.)

The first (and final) 20th Century Presidential Athleticism Power Rankings:

1. Gerald Ford
2. Theodore Roosevelt
3. Dwight D. Eisenhower
4. George H.W. Bush
5. Herbert Hoover
6. George W. Bush
7. Richard Nixon
8. Jimmy Carter
9. John Kennedy
10. Bill Clinton
11. Ronald Reagan
12. Woodrow Wilson
13. Lyndon Johnson
14. William Taft
15. Harry Truman
16. Warren Harding
17. Calvin Coolidge
18. Franklin Roosevelt

Other stories worth tracking today:

Bowls Tonight: Florida State vs. UCLA. Unless this is called the "Bobby Bowden Is Finally Retiring, Presented By AARP" Bowl, I really don't care. I picked FSU, like a moron. I'm rooting for UCLA, if only because they pulled off the biggest stunner win of the season, beating USC.

NBA: AI has a season-high 13 assists (plus 28 points) in a Nuggets win over Boston... Chris Paul hurt his ankle... the Wizards scored 41 points in the 1st quarter en route to beating the Grizz... T-Mac returned to the Rockets lineup; same result: Loss.

More NBA: Hot Trade Action! Is Ron-Ron Artest going to the Clippers for permanent trade-rumor fixture Corey Maggette? (My favorite Maggette detail: In the '99 NCAA title game, he was the only Duke player doing any damage -- or capable of doing any damage -- against UConn. Yet Coach K didn't like Maggette's early aggressiveness and benched him, likely costing Duke the title and affirming for me that Coach K can't... well... coach.)

NFL: Is it "win or else?" for Jim Mora Jr.? I'll contend that he's going to be axed regardless. Next time, Mr. Blank, bring in a coach who will build an offense around Michael Vick, not in spite of him.

Meanwhile, Michael Strahan is out for the rest of the year. Like that matters in the big picture for the Giants? And Bill Cowher will announce his plans next week. My bet is on retirement, temporarily. TV cred in '07 and a big raise with another team in '08 is his future.

Best NFL Rumor That Will Never Come True: Charlie Weis to coach the Giants? In a Big Blue wet dream, but that's as close as it's going to get. However, should Weis actually consider it? I say yes: The last two years at ND have proven that this is as good as it's going to get for him: A BCS-qualifying 9 or 10 wins a season, but getting beat by any/every top-tier team they play, with little or no chance at a national title unless they remove any/every top-tier team from their schedule. Meanwhile, doesn't he feel like he has something to prove at the NFL level?

MLB: Will Zito go to the Yankees or Mets? It all hinges on the Yankees trading Randy Johnson.

Gone Bowlin': Central Michigan gets its first-ever D1 bowl win (Motor City).

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tuesday 12/26 A.M. Quickie:
NFL P'offs: Jets, Jints On Inside Track?

NFL Playoff Clarity: A Sunday that seemed to have so many awesome NFL playoff possibilities yielded to the reality that it's not nearly as wide open – but nearly as compelling.

In the AFC, the Jets – yes, the Jets! – control their own destiny after beating the Dolphins in an ugly one last night. But now only a game versus the hapless Raiders stands between them and a Wild Card slot, and if the Jets lose that one, they don't DESERVE to make the playoffs. Eric Mangini locks in for NFL Coach of the Year.

(The other Wild Card slot in the AFC looks like it will go to the Broncos, who also control their own destiny.)

In the NFC, the Eagles secured a playoff spot yesterday with that thrashing of the Cowboys. (Jeff Garcia for NFC MVP???) That leaves one spot left, and, whee, it is guaranteed that a .500 team will get it.

(Even more amazing, the team with the inside track is the Giants, who have stumbled to the finish – understatement – but hold the tiebreaker over the other WC contenders: Packers, Panthers, Rams, Falcons.)

Wade leads Heat over Kobe/Lakers in NBA Xmas tradition: Any doubts that Dwyane Wade is the best player in the NBA? Maybe you think that Kobe is the best player? Well, Wade had 40 and 11 leading Miami to a 16-point rout. Kobe had 16 on 4/17 FG shooting. As '06 closes, so does the case.

MLB Hot Stove: Yankees trading Randy Johnson? Now THAT is a great development – totally unexpected, but totally viable. Will he go back to the D'backs? Or elsewhere in the NL West, like San Diego or San Francisco?

Meanwhile, the other implication is: If the Yankees can shed Johnson's $16M salary, does that make them instant players for Barry Zito? Suddenly, the Mets have gotten a little nervous – and, for Zito agent Scott Boras, no better Christmas gift could have been given.

Gone Bowlin': Motor City. Middle Tennessee State versus Central Michigan. Give me the MAC in this bowl every time. (Signed up for the Pick 'Em yet? Go to's college bowl pick 'em game and find group name "Daily Quickie Readers.")

College Hoops Polls: I'm trying to figure out how pollsters can rank No. 2 UNC over No. 3 Florida when they have a common opponent both teams played at home: Ohio State. UNC eked out a win (and that was with OSU playing without Greg Oden). Florida won by 26.

The Top 8 in both polls is the same: UCLA, UNC, Florida, Wisconsin, Duke, Ohio State, Arizona, Alabama. 2 Pac-10, 2 ACC, 2 SEC, 2 Big Ten. The highest Big 12 team is AP No. 9 Kansas and 11 Texas A&M; the Big East has AP No. 10 Pitt and 12 UConn. That's parity.

Tiger is AP Athlete of the Year: I guess I don't argue, but there isn't much more boring in sports than Tiger winning anything anymore, particularly end-of-year awards.

More intriguing was the rest of the ballot: LaDainian Tomlinson in 2nd (not a bad pick); Federer in 3rd; Wade in 4th; Pujols and Howard, appropriately, tied for 5th.

I'll ask this: Where the hell was Vince Young on that list!? He only carried his team to the Win of the Year in the Game of the Year with the Single-Game Performance of the Year, then turned around and – as a rookie NFL QB, the toughest position in sports – led the Titans to the precipice of the playoffs. He's the "Dan Shanoff Male Athlete of the Year*," for whatever THAT is worth...

-- D.S.

* - Not the same as my "Sports Person of the Year," which I didn't reveal last week but will get to this week...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

NFL Week 16 Live-Comment:
NFC: .500 Playoffs?! AFC: Titan-ic Potential!

OK, so this is how Week 16 appears to be shaping up, particularly how it affects Week 17, as I sit here pondering how the AFC Wild Card picture may have just been indelibly affected by a bungled would-be-game-tying extra-point by the Bengals:

The NFC playoff picture is wonderfully mediocre: It's a battle to see which .500 team will make the playoffs! (I love it: The inevitable result of the league's relentless pursuit of parity. Now watch the .500 playoff team win the freaking conference title.)

The AFC playoff picture is wonderfully competitive: Think about the teams that are involved -- Jets? Titans? Who would have predicted that back in August?

And it looks like next week's regular season finale is going to include a bunch of de facto playoff games for the Wild Card spots in both conferences, with 12 teams battling for 4 spots:

Looking ahead in the NFC: With at least 8 wins, the Eagles (controlling their own destiny) host the stumbling 7-8 Falcons. The other 7-8 contenders in action, in order of easiest-to-hardest match-ups: RAMS at Vikings, GIANTS at Redskins, PANTHERS at Saints, PACKERS at Bears.

Looking ahead in the AFC: The Jets have the inside track (especially if they can get win No. 9 on Monday night), playing Oakland. The Titans have it roughest, hosting the Pats. Intriguingly, the 8-7 Jags play the 8-7 Chiefs. Cincy hosts the looking-to-spoil Steelers. Denver (controlling their own destiny) hosts the 49ers.

Come on: Who doesn't love a complex "playoff scenario" breakdown?!

Earlier posts:

How can anyone NOT be rooting for the Titans and Vince Young to make the playoffs! What a story! 6 wins in a row and contention in the AFC!

And it appears the NFC has nearly mathematically assured that at least one playoff team will be no better than .500. If the Eagles beat the Giants tomorrow, it's a guarantee! Embrace mediocrity!

(The AFC Wild Cards, meanwhile, are totally up for grabs, making next week full of de facto playoff games and scoreboard-watching!)

Meanwhile: Texans shock Colts with Dayne Power! Chris Weinke: 4-7 32 yards FOR THE GAME... and he WON! Saints pummel the Giants! Ravens pummel the defending champs! Pats hold off the Jags to clinch the AFC East! Post your NFL analysis here!

Let me just jump in: What a Rookie of the Year race! All the top contenders took it up a notch today:

Maurice Jones-Drew? With today's 2 TDs, he's got 12, which on Monday will be Top 5 in TDs among all NFL RBs. And he's going to have nearly 900 yards rushing... on a team with another RB who has more than 1,100 yards. That's wild. If you factor in the expectations based on his draft status and backfield competition, he's been amazing.

Speaking of draft expectations, how about Marques Colston? He's got another TD today, and unlike MJ-D, Colston's team is a Super Bowl contender, certainly in large part thanks to the unexpected contributions of the rookie.

(Please stop pushing Reggie Bush as ROY. Even with today's 126 rushing yards and TD, he's not even the best rookie on his own team. The Saints ROY is Colston. If draft position and expectations actually did play into ROY voting, how could Colston be denied? A 7th-round pick from Hofstra? NO ONE saw his season coming. Continues to be one of the season's most amazing stories. Bush? Hell, wasn't this what everyone expected? His slow start puts him behind the others.)

Then there's Vince Young. QB is the hardest position for a rookie to step in and be effective in, but VY has made it look easy. Today's game was possibly his most complete yet: 2 TDs passing, 1 TD rushing. 13/20 for 183 yards, with 8 rushes at nearly 8 ypc. And, of course, managing a late drive leading to the winning FG, which is becoming a signature. Oh, and the Titans are suddenly an 8-7 playoff contender in the AFC, which is actually saying something huge. In the NFC right now, they'd be considered a Top 3 team. (Sort of makes you wonder if keeping VY on the bench to start the season enabled this late-season push... or cost the Titans early wins -- after that gruesome 0-5 start -- that will ultimately keep them out of the playoffs.)

Sunday 12/24 A.M. Quickie:
Christmas Eve Hangover

My favorite holiday tradition? 24 hours of "A Christmas Story," which has to be the cleverest piece of TV programming of the last decade. Some exec says: "I know! We'll run the same beloved movie over and over for 24 straight hours!" Genius. I can't wait until 8. I'm not a "movie quote" guy, but that's one movie where I make an exception.

Florida stomps Ohio State: See below. I'm still hung over from the endorphin release throughout the second half. If -- huge "if" -- the Ohio State freshmen take a lesson from the Florida guys and all come back next year, combined with the '07 recruiting class, they will destroy people. But what's the chance of that?

Knight wins 879: Next one leaves him all alone at the top of the all-time wins list. Will Coach K ever top him? Will, say, Billy Donovan? I don't think Coach K will last long enough, and I think Billy D is destined for the NBA. Meanwhile, Knight will be around for a few years, making it a moving target anyway.

Yao out 6 weeks (knee): This is a shame. He had emerged as the top center in the NBA, fulfilling all the hype and promise from his No. 1 draft status.

SoFla wins Bowl: In lieu of a trophy, do they get free pizzas for life? (By the way, chalk another data point up for why the Big East was better than people gave them credit for this year. This SoFla team did whup West Virginia, too.)

College Hoops Parity Watch: USC beats Wichita State. What happened to Wichy? Two games ago, they were this season's mid-major to beat. Since, they've been beat... twice... in a row. Yes, the Pac-10 is the best conference in college hoops this season. Hell, USC isn't even one of its power teams.

Chiefs stomp Raiders: I didn't have my weekly NFL picks by yesterday's game, but everyone knows I would have picked KC over hapless Oakland. What will they do with that No. 1 draft pick? Or will the Lions give them a run?

NFL Picks: I'm late, but not TOO late...

Vikings over Packers: Uh, wrong.
Chiefs over Raiders: Credited anyway.
Falcons over Panthers: Weinke?
Titans over Bills: VY for ROY!
Bucs over Browns: Rattaygious!
Bears over Lions: Oy. See above.
Rams over Redskins: Still under .500
Saints over Giants: Saints re-track.
Ravens over Steelers: Balto bye/HFA?
Pats over (my) Jags: Bad timing.
Colts over Texans: Indy bye/HFA?
Cards over 49ers: Looking to '07.
Bengals over Broncos: HUGH!
Chargers over Seahawks: LT-watching.
Cowboys over Eagles: TO payback.
Jets over Dolphins: Mangini for COY!

Once again everyone: Happy holidays!