by Robert Ferringo - 12/06/2005
(I just want to make one thing clear: CIA psychological operatives did not pay me for this article. It was written of my own recognizance, and was not intended to be used as propaganda against The Forces of Darkness.)
Hot or not?
As the mercury continues to drop, the stakes continue to rise in the National Football League. And if you take a close look at the standings, teams fall into one of the two prescribed categories. Either you're rising to the occasion, or you're fallen by the wayside.
At the end of Week 13, nearly half of the teams in the league are currently embroiled in a streak, for good or ill, of three games or more. Indianapolis (12 consecutive wins), Chicago (eight), Seattle (eight), Jacksonville (five), Minnesota (five), and San Diego (five) are rolling. Houston (five straight losses), San Fran (five), Pittsburgh (three), and Detroit (three) are getting rolled over.
Last season, 18 of 32 teams finished within a record of .500 or better. In the AFC alone, 11 of the 16 teams were still in the playoff hunt at this point. This year, that number is limited to eight very talented clubs who are simply thrashing the bottom-feeders. The cream has clearly risen.
The dominance of the upper echelon was obvious last weekend. In 16 games, the favorite won and covered 13 times. The only exceptions were Pittsburgh, Baltimore (which won straight up) and Kansas City (which was only a 1-point dog). Over the last five weeks the favorites have covered the spread in 47 of 78 games, and are 56-20 straight up over that span.
Gaudy winning streaks are nice for the stat junkies and talking heads. But any gambler will tell you that no matter how slick a streak you're on, you're only as good as your last game. Winning streaks are nice, but they always come to an end. Always.
Here are the rest of my nonsensical ravings on Lucky Week 13:
-- This New England team reminds me of the 1992 Buffalo Bills. That '92 team snuck into the playoffs as a wild card before advancing to Super Bowl No. 3. I don't think the Patriots are that good this season, but they're still lying in wait for some unsuspecting crew.
-- Tremendous effort by Aaron Glenn on Sunday locking down Plexico Burress. That is why he's a Parcell's Guy.
-- For all the money that Oakland spent in the offseason to rev up the offense, they've scored under 20 points in eight of their 12 games.
-- Ray Lewis and his torn right hamstring are most likely done for the year.
-- Aaron Brooks threw four interceptions at home? Weird. Never thought I'd see the day. Over the past few seasons, Haslett and Brooks have run the gamut of post-turnover looks. From the "my-bad" and the "Can you believe this is happening again?" faces to the "Did I drive here in the Benz or the Audi?" look, these guys have worn them out. I'll be amazed if either is back next year.
-- Shawn Merriman's nickname: Lights Out. That was bestowed upon him after he knocked out four guys in one high school game. The guy is a badass, and right there with Osi Umenyiora and Jared Allen as the next great defensive linemen.
-- Just so you know, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head meetings. If it's a tie within the division, tiebreaker No. 2 is the divisional record. The third tiebreaker (second if it's for the wild card) is conference record.
-- Don't ever order a Philly Cheesesteak south of the Mason-Dixon line. Ever. Trust me on this.
-- Remember the name Leonard Pope. Pope is a 6-foot, 7-inch, 250-pound tight end for the University of Georgia. The guy is a beast, and is going to be the next great tight end in the NFL.
-- Here are my early predictions for 2006 - Brian Billick coaching the Rams, and Gregg Williams coaching the Ravens.
Oh, and one of the funniest wagers you can make right now is on next year's head coach in Detroit. You can drop a nickel on Barry Sanders at 400/1 and a dime on Wayne Fontes at 500/1.
-- You remember back in September when the commissioner's office was telling people that giving the Giants an extra home game wouldn't give them any sort of advantage? Good call.
-- I'm sure more New England males will rub one out to Tom Brady on the cover of SI than they will for Paris Hilton on the cover of this month's Maxim.
-- What a ridiculous interception by Ronde Barber.
-- Did anyone really think that Dick Jauron would inspire the Lions? I mean, this is Dick Jauron people.
-- Pittsburgh is just 3-4 in its last seven games at Heinz Field.
Instead of pounding Cincinnati at the point of attack - the same way that they did in the first meeting (or for the last 10 years) - they tried to out-gun the upstarts. The result was nearly 500 yards of total offense, but four turnovers (it could have easily been seven). That's not Steeler football.
-- Heck of a day by Koren Robinson for Minnesota (four catches, 138 yards). I think people forget that this guy is an All Pro-caliber receiver. What do you think the odds are of him pretending to do a keg stand after his next touchdown catch?
-- Larry Johnson (30 carries for 140 yards) is a stud. He simply had his way with the Denver defense. And that's a very good defense.
-- Brett Favre better think back to this Chicago game during the offseason when he's considering whether to come back or retire.
-- Seattle's opening drive on Monday night - 16 plays, 65 yards, 8 minutes, 10 seconds of the clock, on the road, in the snow, against a defense that's playing for it's life - was as impressive as anything that I saw all weekend.
-- The Raiders quit for the last six minutes of their game against San Diego. Flat out quit. I'm not surprised - it's probably the 10th time they've done it this year - but they could at least pretend to have some heart. Even if you're down 34-10 with two minutes to play, you have to be going for the end zone. No, you're not going to win. But at least play to the final whistle. I'm sure a lot of people that had the over at 50 or 51 felt even more strongly about it than I do.
-- Steve Smith's TD celebration was disgusting. I really can't believe they even showed that on highlight shows. Pretending to wipe a baby's ass? What's cool about that again?
-- I just don't get sick of saying it: the Bears defense just destroys people.
The bad news for the Bears is the offense. They tallied just 68 passing yards, were 0-for-10 on third down, and had almost as many interception return yards (140) as total yards (188).
-- Why are people acting like Deshaun Foster's surge in Carolina is some unspeakable coup? This isn't Young taking over for Montana. Foster is younger, faster and fresher. Where's the story?
-- Two underappreciated aspects of the Bengals offense are what really make it work. The first is Rudi Johnson. He is a little bull. The second is the offensive line. They were a stone wall in the face of the Steelers constant blitzing on Sunday.
By the way, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh need to chill with their bravado. Saying that they're "revolutionizing the division" or that it's like going from "black-and-white television to color television" is a stretch. You're still an incredibly soft team, with a fortuitous schedule, and one winning season in 15 years. Easy.
-- Seattle averaged a point for every 4.5 yards of total offense on Monday night. Entering the game the Seahawks were averaging a point for about every 13 yards.
-- My friend Scotty B. is a die-hard Bills fan. Buffalo is up 23-3 and just dominating the Dolphins at the start of the fourth quarter. Out of nowhere he says, "The Bills better not blow it. They've been horrible in the fourth quarter this year." Wow. What a call. The Bills have now been outscored 89-25 this year in the final quarter.
-- Outstanding comeback by Jacksonville on the road to gain their third consecutive road victory. David Garrard led scoring drives of 12 and 13 plays, and was 5-for-6 on the Jags two third quarter touchdown drives. That win (and sweet cover) kept them from falling back into the muddled wild card mess in the AFC.
Questions or comments? E-mail Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's football picks service.