So I am watching Titanic with my daughter. She is snuggled in, eating popcorn and smiling at me, pleased that we are finally watching this awesome (her words, not mine) movie together. Just hours before, I watched disconsolately as the Chicago Bears lost their way at home against the Tennessee Titans, the event that triggered this heinous punishment.
I don't think I've ever seen her so intense about a football game. At 12, she loves being a cheerleader, but football bores her. So I guess we are even on that account, as I agonized over the extended plot line and mushy tragic romance that is the core of the movie. As one of my writers, Mark Strausberg, remarked, "... Titanic is one of the most excruciating big budget movies ever made. I wanted the ship to just hit the iceberg already and hopefully send Leo DiCaprio overboard."
Thanks, Mark. I didn't have the energy to give that sopping mess any kind of review, but it was good to know someone else felt my pain, even as he was twisting the knife in between my ribs.
Each time the Titans made a defensive stop, a first down or a score, my daughter would pinball around the living room, squealing and dancing, once in a while shooting me with her fingers with a Cheshire Cat grin. I tried to beg off, but she had the DVD out of the sleeve and into the player before I could get off the sofa.
Such is the suffering caused by predicting a loss by the Titans. I won't make that mistake again. Let someone else risk their sanity, I'm back on the Titans train, even if I'm riding in the caboose.
That's all the penance I'm willing to pay. There isn't a Hail Mary strong enough to wash away the pain inflicted for that three-hour tour. I definitely have to be more careful about some of my predictions from now on.
• Speaking of which, a week after saying Tim Hightower added an explosive element to the high-powered Arizona offense, he fizzled at home against the 49ers. Give San Francisco credit, they came out like a team possessed, only to give the game away in the final seconds after spiking the ball twice inside the five-yard line. Both Mikes (Martz and Singletary) wasted no time assigning blame to the officials, but the reality is, they lost the game with stupid play-calling with first and goal at the one and no time-outs remaining, and not because of bad explanations from the referee. Kurt Warner was his usual brilliant self, and if he doesn't win an MVP this year, something is wrong.
• Cadillac Williams is back this week for the Buccaneers, 14 months after a devastating knee injury that threatened his career. I wouldn't put much stock in his return, however, even though the Tampa Bay running back situation is in dire need of fresh legs. I can't see him getting more than 5-10 touches if he does play, and considering the Vikings and their stifling run defense will be lined up opposite, any touches he does get aren't likely to net him much yardage.
• Chris Johnson might as well have put up a goose egg last week for all the good he did fantasy owners, but that was to be expected against the Bears. While I am certain the Jaguars will be up for this home game, I don't think they have the staying power to keep Johnson and LenDale White out of the end zone.
• Some people might be thinking of sitting Eli Manning this week. That could be a mistake. The Ravens' secondary is beat up, with Chris McAlister done for the year. While Baltimore's defense is ranked high, a closer look reveals a pattern that smart fantasy owners can exploit. The team's six wins are over Cincinnati, Cleveland (twice), Oakland, Miami and Houston. Their three losses were to Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Tennessee. While the defense is good, it isn't the best in the NFL, and the Giants will be revved up to stake a near-insurmountable lead in the NFC East in front of a frothing home crowd. Start your Baltimore players with caution and your Giants players with confidence.
• Matt Hasselbeck returns this weekend, but don't expect a lot, even though his receiver corps is somewhat healthy. There is a lot of rust on that arm, and the offensive line will struggle with a less mobile target to protect. If there is good news, it's that Seattle will likely have to throw early and often to keep up with the Arizona attack.
• I'm not sure how long he can keep the streak going, but after calling out Mark Bradley's name last week as a great stretch run pickup, he showed he isn't a flash in the pan. Tyler Thigpen looked his way, targeting Bradley on 15 plays. He caught eight of them, tallying 81 yards and a touchdown. I like the Kansas City offense this week at home against the Saints in a shootout. Larry Johnson will be motivated, at least for one game, to prove everyone wrong. When Larry is ticked off, not many people want to get in his way. If he can stay out of trouble and the lawsuit doesn't get into his head, he has a pretty soft schedule for the balance of the year.
• Brady Quinn looked good last week, but he needs to get the ball out to his wide receivers more often. I'd love to see the Browns line Josh Cribbs out on the edge. Braylon Edwards isn't doing anyone any favors with his complete lack of confidence. Maybe if he stayed away from the buttered popcorn before the game ...
• Kellen Winslow Jr. leads a trio of emerging (or in his case re-emerging) tight ends worth rostering. Kevin Boss has become a favorite red zone target of Manning's, while DustinKeller is starting to get more looks from Brett Favre. Brett does love his tight ends in the red zone. Get your mind out of the gutter.
• Marshawn Lynch -- 294 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his last six games. Enough said.
• Terrell Owens has been pretty quiet, trying very hard to be a good team player while Tony Romo was out. Now that Roy Williams is lining up on the other side, maybe he is feeling the heat. Regardless, his call for the ball this week is also a wakeup call for the Cowboys as a team. They can ill afford to drop another game in the competitive NFC. Washington won't exactly be rolling out a red carpet for them. I imagine this game will be one of the most intense of the season.
• Clinton Portis' sprained MCL will have his owners scrambling for a replacement. The good news is that Ladell Betts has been pronounced healthy after dealing with the same injury several weeks ago, so fantasy owners won't have to agonize over whether to pick up Rock Cartwright or Shaun Alexander. I have no confidence in Alexander, leaving Cartwright as the logical backup should Betts go down.
• One last thought. Long revered, if often scorned, as the bastion of productive running backs, what happens to Denver if rookie fullback turned halfback Peyton Hillis gets hurt? Denver re-signed one of the few failures in Tatum Bell, but I am thinking Orange Crush will stand for the playoff hopes of the Broncos' faithful and not the once-feared defense.