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Monday, December 30, 2002

Ten Things I Hated About Yesterday's Games

1. Well, to look on the bright side, I'm relieved of the responsibility of watching any more football for the next nine months. Which means I can spend my Sundays, well, doing something else.

2. Thanks for nothing, Packers, for rolling over and playing dead against the Jets. I hope you enjoy playing this week against Atlanta. I hope your defense has fun with Michael Vick, even though it's hard to imagine the Falcons winning in Lambeau. Or having to go Tampa Bay the next week. Or, should you survive that, playing on that horrendous turf in Philly.

3. The Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots of 2001-02 are officially the most inexplicable phenonmenon in Super Bowl history. There is but one other defending champ not to even make the playoffs the following season, and the 99-00 Broncos lost John Elway to retirement and lost Terrell Davis in Week 3 to a season-ending injury. The Pats went one better, sandwiching a Super Bowl-winning campaign around two non-playoff seasons. (On the other hand, they fared better than the Rams did.) What makes all of this even weirder is that they didn't have the free agency losses (2000 Rams) or salary cap problems (2001 Ravens) that other recent Super Bowl champs had in their following seasons. Although since Denver repeated, no defending champ has done that well - the Ravens and Rams did just barely well enough to sneak their way into the playoffs, which the Pats could have done had their nine wins been distributed differently.

4. The Patriots need a running back who can reliably get them some yards and prevent the other team from controlling the clock every game. But first they need defensive linemen who can stop the run, since the Pats made every RB they faced into an all-pro. They need a pass rush too, if the last three weeks are any indication. They need a wideout who can help take the pressure off Troy Brown. A new punter would be nice too. Come to think of it, other than place kicker Adam Viniateri, there's not a guy on this team you could call among the best at his position. Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy perhaps.

5. As usual, Viniateri was money yesterday. And yet to have the best player on your team be the place kicker is usually not a good sign.

6. Dave Wannstedt is an idiot. Hmm...there's less than three minutes on the clock, and you lead by a field goal. The Pats kick the ball to you. Ricky Williams has been killing the Pats all day, though not quite so much later as earlier. Do you run Williams three times? Twice? Once? Do you force New England to use any time outs? Heck, running around in circles wouldn't be a bad call. What do you do? Why, throw three incomplete, clock-stopping pass attempts, of course!!
I wouldn't hate this so much if I didn't have to hear all the bitching about the pass interference call from Miami fans for the next calendar year.

7. Anyone else smell trouble for the Pats next year? The Jets all of a sudden look like world beaters, the Dolphins are still there, and your trade of Drew Bledsoe virtually by itself turned the Bills into a contender. (Although at least next year they play the whole AFC South rather than the AFC West, and the relatively weak NFC East.)

8. How the hell did Cleveland get into the playoffs? Did the freakin' Browns beat anyone? The Jets, I suppose, but before they got going. New Orleans, although nearly every bad team in the NFL can say they beat New Orleans. Atlanta, but the Falcons are backing into the playoffs. How many bad teams did they get to play? Any schedule and formula that lets them in and keeps Denver, Miami, and the Pats out is defective. (Not to mention conducive to boring first round playoff games.)

9. It's of course enlightening that the AFC had two good divisions and two craptastic ones...and the wild cards came from the craptastic divisions. The NFC had something similar, at least as far as the Giants go. Talk about a creampuff schedule...two games each against the Redskins and Cowboys, the Vikings, the Jaguars, the Texans, the Cardinals, and the Seahawks. And that doesn't include the Rams, who are also going to end up with a losing record. 10 games out of 16 against opponents with losing records. Until the home win against the Eagles in the final week, they were winless against teams with records of .500 or better.
Meanwhile, the AFC East and West battered each other to a bloody pulp, only to see two profoundly medicore teams grab the AFC wild cards.

10. Speaking of the Saints...talk about weird. You sweep Tampa Bay. You beat the Packers. And the Steelers. And then...you lose to the Lions, Bengals, Browns, Vikings, and Bengals. (That typo, BTW, is intentional.) It's easy to wonder if some of these games were fixed.



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