Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we stare down both the holidays and the final 32 games of the NFL's regular season.....
• I'm just throwing it out for debate here, but is this team of the decade stuff really all but sewed up for New England now that Pittsburgh looks like an extreme long shot to match the Patriots' record of three Super Bowl rings in the 2000s?
That's the conventional wisdom, but as I pointed out in my dissection of the
-- The first 19-0 season in NFL history, besting the record-breaking 18-1 near-miss the Patriots put together two years ago. A 3-0 run this postseason would lift the Colts to 10-7 in the playoffs from 2000 on, still far short of the 14-3 mark New England has compiled thus far (which could drop a bit with a quick Patriots exit in January), but not the yawning chasm it has been for most of this decade. And at 19-0, wouldn't we have to coronate these Colts as the greatest team ever, just like we were prepared to do for New England's 2007 team?
-- A second Super Bowl title in the decade's final four seasons, giving the Colts just one less ring than their nemesis from New England. Indy would be 2-0 in Super Bowl trips this decade, compared to the Patriots' 3-1 mark.
-- Indianapolis two weeks ago broke the league record for most wins ever in a decade, besting the 49ers of the 1990s (114-46, .713). The Colts are 115-43 with two regular-season games remaining. Assuming a perfect season, Indy's 117-43 record for the decade would work out to a .731 winning percentage. The best the Patriots can finish this decade is 113-47, for a .706 winning percentage.
-- The Colts are working on a league-record 23-game regular-season winning streak, and would push that mark to 25 by finishing 16-0. New England, of course, held the previous mark, with 21 consecutive regular season victories from 2006 to '08.
-- Indianapolis has won 12 games or more in an NFL-record seven consecutive seasons and is the third team to start a season 14-0, joining the 1972 Dolphins and 2007 Patriots. By comparison, New England has just four seasons of 12 wins or more this decade. The Colts also lead the Pats in terms of winning seasons (9 to 8) and playoff seasons (9 to 7, assuming a New England trip this year), but would trail the Patriots 7-6 in division titles this decade should New England win the AFC East as expected.
-- Indy started the decade by losing seven of its first eight games head-to-head against New England from 2000 to '04, including two playoff matchups. But in the decade's second half, the Colts are 5-1 against the Patriots, including the memorable 2006 AFC title game, which featured Indy clawing out of an 18-point second-quarter hole to win. If the two rivals were to meet again this postseason, with Indianapolis winning, the latter half of the decade would clearly belong to the Colts.
Assuming five more Indianapolis victories and a historic 19-0 season -- not to mention a hasty playoff demise for New England -- is admittedly assuming a lot. But it's now within the sphere of possibility, and that kind of finish in Indy would more than cast the team of the decade debate in a new light. Suffice to say New England was the clear-cut team of the first half of the decade, but the Colts would have a strong case to claim they owned the second half. And at that point, let the argument begin as to which franchise prevailed overall.
• So with
That's a tough one. I suppose if I had to choose, I'd say Cleveland is the tougher gut-and-rebuild project, given the Browns have been losers in 10 of their 11 seasons since rejoining the league in 1999. And you can add to that the competition within the AFC North, which still has three teams in the playoff hunt through 15 weeks this season.
But still, the Redskins may actually be the bigger mess, with a new starting quarterback probably required, huge issues on the offensive line to solve, and declining stars like
• All that snow removed from FedEx Field on Sunday and Monday, a reported 25 million pounds of it, and for what? So the Redskins could quickly bury themselves beneath a different kind of avalanche against the Giants on Monday night? What a waste of manpower.
• There's something about the purported pairing of
• My take on the
That said, Childress just kind of botched the whole deal in my estimation, and he got the reaction -- and the ensuing fallout -- he probably deserved. I don't really fault Favre for being irked at that way things went down. It was ham-handed, at best, for the Vikings head coach to be mixing his messages so severely at that point in the game and in the season.
Once you pay your quarter and climb on, you're pretty much committed to taking the whole Favre ride, come what may. And Childress should have known that better than anyone. He most assuredly does now.
• I wish
"I was dead wrong,'' Ryan said Monday, after declaring his Jets were toast in the wake of Sunday's 10-7 home loss to Atlanta. "We've got a chance.''
Well, yeah. Providing they win at Indianapolis on Sunday they do. Oh, and the Jaguars, Dolphins and either the Broncos or Ravens have to lose this week, too. (Which, if you look at the schedule, could actually all happen). At that point, the Jets would enter their Week 17 home game against the Bengals with control of their own playoff-race fate.
At least I think that's the scenario Ryan is pushing at the moment. When it comes to New York's up-and-down playoff chances, it's hard to tell at times the color of his mood ring.
• More than 14 hours have passed and I still can't get over the Redskins' fake field goal call at the end of the first half of Monday night's game. The one they telegraphed to New York, and then stuck with even after a Giants timeout. What must have been going through the mind of Redskins holder
That seven-man swinging-gate formation that Washington aligned itself in on the extreme left side of the field, outside the hash marks? I do believe that Redskins head coach Jim Zorn should watch out and not let it hit him in the you-know-what on his way out of D.C.
• Teams play once a week in the NFL, and that leaves us six whole days to invent reasons why the sky is falling every time a club loses a game. You gotta love this week's overreactions.
-- What's wrong with the Saints? Teams can run on them too easily, they get too one-dimensional on offense, and
-- What's wrong with the Vikings? The Favre-Childress showdown is a disaster waiting to explode and engulf the season in controversy.
-- How could the Packers secondary give up 503 yards of passing and a game-winning final-play touchdown pass to Pittsburgh? Green Bay will get torched in the playoffs by all the great quarterbacks in the NFC.
-- What's up with the Bengals, who can't beat any good teams outside of the AFC North? Last week they didn't throw the ball enough to win at Minnesota. This week they threw the ball great at San Diego, and still lost.
-- How did the Broncos ever win eight games with a defense that can give up 241 yards rushing to Oakland? And isn't
On the plus side, we now know that
• It's comical to me to hear that Dallas took supreme motivation from
I heard Dungy and former Patriots linebacker-turned-ESPN analyst
I can still recall standing in front of Bruschi's locker plenty of times in a postgame setting, listening to him remind the media how it had gotten things wrong and failed to discern what was obviously going to be the outcome of a game. Well, welcome to the club, Ted. You're starting to get the hang of this job.
• Oh, and one last zinger for the Redskins today: How 2007 first-round pick