Thursday, December 17, 2009
Behind The Scoreboard
From this past Sunday on, the games in the NFL take on an entirely new hue. Their drive is not colored by who or which team will go to the Super Bowl, but rather who is going to make the playoffs. As one coach put it over the weekend, “There are still a lot of games left to play.” Actually, going into Sunday there were just four games left on regular schedules, with the exception of Cleveland and Pittsburgh. But I suppose if you are a coach in this league, four games this time of year could be a lot.
The Steelers and Browns’ game which was played on Thursday did not bode well for the Steelmen. They suffered a devastating upset of 13-6. The 2-11 Browns also upset the many fans of the defending champs who thought their team would be back on the road to recovery.
Two teams which don’t have to worry about the playoffs, except for winning, of course, are the Colts and the Saints. The former locked up their division title and likely home field advantage here on out, as they turned back the Broncos for their 13th win of the season. The Colts aren’t talking Super Bowl yet, but they don’t have a lot of major hurdles left. And their quarterback needed just 13 yards to displace Warren Moon as fourth on the all time passing list. That was pretty much a “given.” You can add to that the new record (22) of consecutive regular season wins. The latter set their own single season record and then added to it with their 13th victory Sunday over the Falcons. No Saints team had ever won 12 games in a season and now 13? Hot time in Metarie (La.) tonight and probably the rest of the year!
There are some who say that the Saints’ haloes could be slipping a bit. It took an overtime stint last week to get them past the Redskins by three points. Oddly enough, that margin of victory was replicated on Sunday against the Falcons.
Fans should remember that the Saints’ QB and the head coach, Sean Payton, joined the team the same season in ’06 and made history that year when they went to the NFC championship game for the first time. They were stopped by the Chicago Bears in that game. New Orleans has its division crown and a first round “bye.” To lock up home field advantage in the NFC they have to win two of the remaining three. The question is – Can they do this by winning with such narrow margins? Yours truly is pulling for the “halo boys” and has only admiration for their remarkable season.
As mentioned above, the prevailing premise is to survive December and make the playoffs. As of Sunday, 16 of the 32 teams were gearing up for a wildcard berth. The Cowboys is one of those teams on a slippery slope. America’s team hasn’t had a winning December in over a decade. From time to time in this column, the Cowboys’ popularity has been explored. Why are the fans so enamored of the Dallas franchise? Well, apparently it isn’t just the fans. Sports Illustrated conducted a poll of 296 players of the NFL, asking them which team in the league that they would like to play for, the winner? The Cowboys! Go figure.
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