Monday, December 31, 2007

Monday 12/31 A.M. Quickie:
Pats, Playoffs, Short-Shorts, Bowlin', More!

Today's Names to Know: New Year's, Patriots, Wild Card Weekend, Redskins, NFL Draft 2008, Donovan McNabb, Devin Hester, Bowl Mania, Dayton, Jose Canseco, The Wire and More!

Happy New Year! Special New Year's post coming later this morning.

NFL Wrap: If it wasn't for the Pats perfect season, Week 17 of the 2007 NFL season would have approached all-time worthlessness. As it is, the playoffs are set. The team to beat (or not beat, in this case) is established. Let's tee up next week:

AFC: Jags at Steelers, Titans at Chargers. Jags recently beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh and are probably the only hope out there -- and it's still a long-shot -- that the Pats can be beaten (New England has beaten everyone else); San Diego should roll.

NFC: Redskins at Seahawks, Giants at Bucs. Ugh, can you remember a less inspired pair of NFC Wild Card games? What does it say when the biggest intrigue is watching KSK's Unsilent Majority (Redskins uber-fan) and Captain Caveman (Seahawks uber-fan) go at each other all week?

(By the way, after the way I called out the Giants on Friday, I owe them a hat-tip for the way they played to win the game on Saturday. I didn't credit them enough in Sunday's post.)

Honestly, what an lame batch of games in the playoffs -- totally appropriate for what has been the lamest season in recent NFL history, entirely because of the Pats' perfection, though ironically (and infernally) the Pats perfection by itself redeems the season.

Let's say a quick "thanks" to the Browns, who were the surprise success of the season. It's really a shame that Cleveland can end up with 10 wins yet fall short of the playoffs. Even if they had no shot, a playoff berth would have carried massive symbolism, and I'm sure the Titans-Colts game last night was tough to watch, seeing a playoff bid slip away. Here's the thing: So much for rebuilding. Anything less than the playoffs for this team in 2008 would be (and should be) viewed as a failure. 10 wins means wildly re-set expectations.

(The Redskins making the playoffs -- even ahead of Purple Jesus -- is one of the great stories of an NFL season with very few of them. It's a shame the conditions that made it a heart-warming situation. Clinton Portis' somersault into the end zone might just be the image of the year for Redskins fans.)

NFL Draft 2008: Who won when they SHOULDN'T have? Ending a miserable 2007 season on an appropriate note, the Falcons won when they shouldn't have, taking themselves out of a guaranteed spot in the Top 3 and putting themselves into a 4-way scrum for the No. 3 pick in what will likely be a 4-player draft: Good thing the Falcons need a QB. (UPDATE: Apparently, the Falcons earned the No. 3 spot in a tiebreaker. OK. It doesn't excuse the following...)

(So: What's the Jets' excuse for not tanking and ending up in that 4-loss Gang of Four, rather than locked into the No. 3 draft spot? Kansas City ended the season -- 9 straight losses -- like they wanted to EARN that Top 3 draft spot. Well done, Chiefs: THAT'S commitment.)

Season-ending intrigue: Was this Donovan McNabb's final game in an Eagles uniform? Among other offseason storylines for the teams in the league not in the playoffs, this might be the biggest one.

For former playoff teams like the Bears, Saints or Bengals -- or teams that entered the season with playoff hopes like the Broncos or Ravens: Back to the drawing board? Or do you just rely on parity?

(For the Bears, let's hope it's a lot more Devin Hester, who ended his season having established himself as the most exciting player in pro football.)

Marv Levy stepping down as GM of the Bills? The proper response is "Zzz..."

NBA: Lakers go with the short-shorts against the Celtics, then lose. I appreciate the gimmick, I really do. Loved it, actually. It was worth the loss. But despite John Stockton's success wearing them into the new century, I actually think the players had to be feeling out of sorts wearing the shorts early on; it's just such a change from the usual (which they switched back to in the second half). But, as far as entertainment goes, I give the Lakers huge credit.

Blazers win streak hits 13: On December 2, Portland was 5-12. One month later, they are 18-12, riding a 13-game winning streak and tied for first in the Northwest Division. (Sorry, Celtics fans: THIS is the story of the season so far in the NBA. But you can be the Eastern Conference story of the season so far.)

Upon further review: Thanks to some sane commenters, I flip my inane analysis. The Celtics ARE the story of the year in the NBA (the Blazers are the story of the year in the Western Conference). Apologies for the crack-smoking, which I resolve to give up in the new year.

CFB Last Night: Alabama edges Colorado in the battle of 6-6 "name" programs after nearly blowing a 4-touchdown lead. I love that Dan Hawkins plays his own son at QB and doesn't give a crap what you think about that. As for Alabama, needless to say, 7 wins is probably not what they expected when they hired Nick Saban. If they're not playing a little later in the bowl season next year, Saban's $4 million-per-year seat should be a tad warmer.

CFB Bowl Mania: Six bowls on Monday! It's as if people don't need to go to work or something. Here's a preview, in chronological order of their scheduled kickoffs.

Armed Forces: Cal vs. Air Force. AFA can complete Cal's epic collapse from would-be No. 1 to national also-ran.

Humanitarian: Georgia Tech vs. Fresno St. Needless to say, Paul Johnson has bigger expectations for '08 than Humanitarianism.

Sun: South Florida vs. Oregon. This would have been SO much better with Dennis Dixon. Of course, Oregon would be in the national-title game.

Music City: Kentucky vs. Florida St. Worth watching if only to see who FSU puts on the field, with half the team suspended. (Half is hyperbole: It's 19 scholarship players. That's still a ton.)

Insight: Indiana vs. Oklahoma St. One of the season's most heart-warming coaching stories vs. one of its most laughable.

Chick-fil-A: Clemson vs. Auburn. The last bit of appetizer before Tuesday's traditional New Year's Day lineup, which I'll preview in a separate post later today.

CBB Weekend Wrap: Yes, Dayton is very much for real. Given the way they destroyed Pitt, I would put the Flyers as the top contender for a mid-major March run to the Sweet 16.

MLB: Jose Canseco to write a sequel to "Juiced," presumably titled "Juiced 2: Electric Boogaloo." Actually, the working title is "Vindicated." (What: You expected it to be called "Humility?" The irony is that if Canseco had even a minimal bit of restraint, he would be positioned as the hero in this steroids story.)

Congress wanted to reinstate Pete Rose? I can't get behind this story, if only because it involved scandalized former Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio, one of the bigger political rascals of the last decade.

TV (Non-Sports): "The Wire" Season 5 season premiere is supposedly going on HBO On Demand TODAY -- a week ahead of the scheduled debut. I can't wait for the return of the greatest drama in the history of TV.

Shanoff reading this Thursday in NYC: Don't forget to save the date Thursday night for a reading event, where I'll be the opening act for Will Leitch and Dave Zirin. That's like Lifehouse opening up for Prince and U2. (Happy Ending, 302 Broome, 8 pm, FREE). Details here.

New Year's Resolutions: I used to make lists of dozens of things I wanted to improve; it all seemed sort of technocratic. For the last few years, I've tried to abide by "Live and let live," with a handful of the usuals (eat better, work out more) thrown in, aspirationally. (Special New Year's post coming later this morning.)

Happy New Year to all, and best wishes for 2008. Be safe.

-- D.S.


Benji Lovitt said...

Dan, I don't get it. The Colts are the defending champs, the go 13-3 without Marvin Harrison, they play better than the Pats for most of their game, they are probably the only team that is mentally tough enough to go toe to toe with them, and they have no chance??? Honestly, who would be a bigger surprise Super Bowl champ? The Colts or the Jags?

thistlewarrior said...

As a lady, I have to say I prefered the Lakers' shorts in the 1st half. I really miss the 80's shorts; now the uniforms are so long & baggy you can't get any good oggling in! :)

John said...

I'm not that excited about the first round of playoff games, but I'll be curious to see how the Giants play next week. If they can carry over some of that effort and high level of play from the Pats game, they should be headed to the Superbowl. More likely though, they show up to Tampa Bay on an empty gas tank, Eli returns to form and they lose.

Blazers are the story of the season so far in the NBA? That's funny Shanoff. They're on a nice run, but the Celtics are still the story.

Deluxe said...

"What does it say when the biggest intrigue is watching KSK's Unsilent Majority (Redskins uber-fan) and Captain Caveman (Seahawks uber-fan) go at each other all week?"

it says that you are an uber-nerd

Jen said...

I am so pissed that the flipping Browns couldn't beat the Bungals last weekend to make the playoffs, courtesy of DA's 4 interceptions. That's what they get for having to rely on another team: You control your own destiny. Win, and you don't have to worry what another team does in the 11th hour. Ugh. SO typical of the Fudgies.

It was cool to see Brady Quinn get in for a series. He had the 'first-time' jitters, but overall I think he looked pretty good. Good ole K2 must have had old gloves on since he couldn't hold on to a TD pass. They showed him on the bench with Brady and it looked like he was showing him how to throw. I would have loved to hear that conversation. The poor rookie would not have the guts to tell him what he'd really like to tell him: "Why don't you just stick to catching the ball. I've been a QB since Pee Wee. And, BTW, your dad is so much better than you will ever be."

Good thing I like college football.

Happy New Year to all. Be safe tonight.

Real Men Eat Haggis said...

Celtics NOT the story of the year in the NBA??? Dan, that is among the top-5 most ridiculous things you've said, and that's a high bar...they have already won more games than they did the entire 06-07 season, and they did it before New Year's Eve, and are within a handful of points from being another undefeated Boston team.

The only games they've lost have been twice by 2 points in regulation, and once in OT.

Not the NBA story of the year? You gotta be kidding...

C.West said...

I am glad the Browns did well this year as well as the fans of the other NFC East teams. The Cowboys own the rights to the Browns first round pick for Brady Quinn.

aikehara said...

Whoa Dan...why do you let yourself be swayed by the Celtics argument? Everyone figured that Boston would be good, how could they not with all the stars? But no one predicted the Blazers' success, without Oden, after having dumped the strangely over-hyped Zach, and at times, without LaMarcus; most picked them to be among the worst (save yourself, of course, who wisely penciled them in for a playoff spot).

Eddie G. said...

If you were to pick between the Celtics and Blazers for story of the year in the NBA, Celtics get the edge for story of the year, Blazers for the best story right now.

Sure, no one probably expected the Celtics to be as hot as they are right now, but with the personnel they got, they had to be better, much, much better than they were last season.

As for the Blazers, they weren't expected to sniff contention, especially with Oden on the sidelines for the year, and even more so after their terrible start.

Can't forget about the Bulls either, who've imploded in what was supposed to be the season they became serious contenders again.

Steve said...

Speaking of what you need to stop smoking, I think you need to stop calling Dayton a mid-major, Dan.