Screech's Sex Tape and Another Wild Week in the NFL
by Robert Ferringo - 10/02/2006
Somewhere in between weeks three and four the National Football League took a hard left turn and entered Crazy Town.
If anyone can think of a wilder, weirder week of circumstances than what we've witnessed over the past seven days, I'm all ears. Just stop and consider the following six-pack of events that precluded week four and may still reverberate through week five:
1) Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms literally had his spleen knocked out by the Carolina Panthers. Simms almost beat the Panthers, who went on to top Tampa in week three and down New Orleans in week four. Carolina went from Super Bowl champs to last-place also-rans to Super Bowl contenders in the span of about 14 days.
2) Two weeks ago I witnessed a truly bizarre and horrifying site in Foxboro. No, it wasn't a sullen Tom Brady playing uninspired while losing to Denver. It was the weird Asian-themed halftime show to celebrate the announcement of the China Bowl in Beijing next preseason. Somehow the Patriots bounced back from that surreal performance to dominate Cincinnati, 38-13. Suddenly, football analysts don't know which AFC team to overhype.
3) Terrell Owens. First he's attempting suicide because he's depressed. Then he's just inadvertently overdosing. Then it's all a misunderstanding and his crazy publicist's fault. Then he's not depressed. Then his publicist is making trite, but telling, comments about the "25 million reasons" Owens has to live. Then he's not going to play. Then he's going to start. Then my head explodes.
Sure enough, Owens started and played for Dallas as the Cowboys throttled Tennessee 45-14. Ironically, by the end of the game he wasn't even a shoo-in for Craziest Guy On The Field. Albert Haynesworth, who tried to decapitate a Cowboy, gave him a run for his money.
4) DEA agents showed up at San Diego Chargers facilities and left with starting strong safety Terrence Kiel in handcuffs. Kiel was distributing cough syrup. Yup, cough syrup. Kiel's codeine-based syrup was being shipped to Texas, where it was being mixed with soda to produce some kind of redneck smack. Apparently the federal government frowns on this behavior.
Naturally, Baltimore torched the Kiel-less San Diego secondary late in the game on Sunday during its classic 16-13 comeback win.
5) Speaking of Seattle, Shawn Alexander almost had people convinced that his foot was healed because he prayed for it. Unfortunately, God was busy taking care of real problems this week and Alexander couldn't suit up in Chicago. Now the Seahawks are tied with St. Louis for first place in the NFC West.
6) Dustin Diamond - a.k.a. "Screech" from "Saved By The Bell" - released a sex tape. I don't know how this is related, but it has to be. Allegedly his public relations people (he has PR people?) planned the leak of the tape to boost Diamond's career (he has a career?). They actually thought this would help him. Perhaps he has the same publicist as Owens. Maybe that's the connection.
I wish I could make this stuff up. But I can't. This is what you get when you try to make a living predicting the actions of 280-pound mutant sociopaths. I'd like to blame myself, but it's too easy to blame them.
So where does this leave us? We're entering week five and a quarter of the season is complete for most teams. If people had expected everything to be clear at this point, it's not. Of the 32 teams in the NFL, 25 of them are either at .500 or within one game of it. As always, the line between a winner and a loser in this league is a thin and tenuous one.
What is clear is that the cosmic winds are restless and uncontrollable. How else could you explain the fact that the Andrew Walter and Bruce Gradkowski Eras are intersecting with the Matt Leinart and Vince Young Eras? Discuss the overarching significance amongst yourselves; all I know is that I'm going to be cashing in on this amateur incompetence.
Next, I think we have also established that at this point making any type of wagering decision based on last year's performance is akin to gambling suicide. Or just overdosing. This may seem obvious, but there are still folks out there that just can't fathom how teams like Tampa Bay, the New York Giants, or even Pittsburgh could fall so far so fast.
We don't have to know why, we just have to know that in the last 10 NFL seasons, the average number of teams that make the postseason the year after making the playoffs is exactly six of 12. Fifty percent. In the last four years only 23 of 48 clubs have forged repeat trips. The highest number in one season is seven and the lowest is four.
Furthermore, since the eight-division league structure was put in place in 2002, only six of the 18 teams that earned a Wild Card berth the year before made it back the following season. So if you're still waiting around for the Bucs or Giants to snap out of it you're going to be waiting a long time. And probably going broke while doing it.
Here's a thumbnail breakdown of three games that took place in 2005 and will have marquee billing in week five of 2006. I think you'll find on Sunday that last year has nothing to do with what will or won't happen:
Miami at New England (-10), 1 p.m. on Sunday
Last year's result: Miami 28, New England 26 (Week 17)
New England has been erratic, but still holds the throne in the AFC East. They are 0-7 in October off a double-digit SU and ATS victory and could be poised for a slight letdown against a divisional rival.
Everyone thought that the Dolphins upset win to close 2005 was supposed to carry over to 2006. Not so much. To call Miami erratic is to claim that water is wet. The Dolphins dropped a game to the hapless Texans last week but are 15-11 ATS away from home since 2003. Bet on Daunte Culpepper on the road at your own risk.
Dallas at Philadelphia (-2.5), 4 p.m. on Sunday
Last year's result: Dallas 21, Philadelphia 20 (Week 9)
This one could be bloody. Owens will make be making his return trip to Philadelphia as an opponent. Given his most recent off-field woes he should expect no quarter from Eagles fans. Beyond that subplot, first place in the NFC East is at stake. This is huge for Philadelphia, which already has a divisional home loss.
Dallas swept Philadelphia last year, which gives the Eagles the revenge card. The Cowboys have covered in The Link two consecutive years, but that followed a three-year run in which they were blitzed in The Vet by an average of 26.3 points.
Pittsburgh at San Diego (-3.5), 8:30 p.m. on Sunday
Last year's result: Pittsburgh 24, San Diego 22 (Week 5)
The Chargers' first five losses last year were by a combined 14 points. This loss was particularly painful because they were stuffed on a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter right before the Steelers drove for the game-winning field goal.
Pittsburgh is in desperation mode coming out of the bye week and is 14-4 ATS in its last 18 road games. It may not matter. San Diego is reeling from its collapse in Baltimore last week, and the Chargers drop a second straight game their fans may start having flashbacks.
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