Epic Degrees of FAIL: The NFC

We handled the AFC last night, and now assess the things that killed the hopes of the 10 teams that failed to make the playoffs in the NFC, ranked from least devastating to the most.

At Least The Building Blocks Are There

Chicago Bears – Buck up, Chi-town. Even though you missed the clear shot at a Wild Card slot (and a shot at your division-winning rivals in Minnesota this weekend), you gained this: a QB with the serious potential to be franchise in Kyle Orton and an RB who is definitely franchise in Matt Forte.  Now,  if you can get an actual receiver in there, because Devin Hester hasn’t quite developed hands yet and you can’t throw it to Greg Olsen and Des Clark all the time. Oh, right. Another safety and a corner to shore up when Mike Brown winds up on IR every year wouldn’t hurt, but still, you’re not grasping at straws or anything.

Washington Redskins – 6-2 followed by a 2-6 and a .500 finish. There was going to be lag with Jason Campbell trying to learn yet another offensive system and a first-year head coach who’d never been an OC trying to learn the ropes. O-line and some front-seven help are needed here; more important is that your megalomaniac of an owner relax for a four-year period and not panic. Fear not, Children of the Zorn.

Coming Out Of The Haze

San Francisco 49ers – Gee, if the Yorks had known that concentrating some authority in one person and hustling Mike Nolan out of town would have resulted in some hustle and heart, they’d have canned him earlier. Mike Singletary did all the things Mike Nolan wouldn’t: hold players accountable, reign in the OC who probably thought the interim title would be his, and gave the team some semblance of an identity with wins it probably wouldn’t have pulled out mere weeks ago.  Plus, he’s funny:

Touch Me, I’m Sick

Seattle Seahawks – Sometimes a team just accumulates so many injuries that it’s absolutely impossible to compete, even in the sport’s worst division. Losing somewhere in the range of five wideouts in the first few weeks of the season along with a chunk of secondary and watching the QB suffer through back problems (i.e., getting old) put a crimp in the O-Dub Mike Holmgren’s (OW = Original Walrus) last season. Looks more devastating than it actually was because of the cumulative craptacular year it turned out to be for Seattle sports fans, and at least Seahawks fans know Seneca Wallace can play QB well enough if Matt Hasselbeck is still down.

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In Which I Lob All Sorts Of Obscenities At Andy Reid

andyreidvscardinals

Eagles 48, Cardinals 20 – In a thorough defenestration of an Arizona team that holds up its bargain of the “No West Coast team shall win on the road on the East Coast” Law of the 2008 Football Season, we saw the classic form of Iggles offensive football, the way it was when they were getting to conference championships (without T.O.) That said, the following rant should apply whether you are a Philly fan absolutely frustrated with the inconsistent play calling of Andy Reid or a fantasy owner who has had to play the guessing game with Brian Westbrook all season with his health and whether Reid would actually, y’know, get him the ball again:

WHERE THE FUCK WAS THIS THE LAST THREE WEEKS, YOU USELESS COCKGOBBLING SACK OF PROTOPLASM?? WHAT SET OFF THE WHOLE “Oh, maybe I should make a point of emphasizing Donovan McNabb to Brian Westbrook” THING AGAIN, YOU TURDBURGLING FUCKNOZZLE? YOU FORGOT HE EXISTED FOR THE PAST FUCKING MONTH AND THEN YOU RECALL YOUR BEST OFFENSIVE PHILOSOPHY AFTER WE’VE GIVEN UP ON THIS HALF-HEARTED, UNDERACHIEVING SHITCAKE OF A TEAM? GET FUCKED RIGHT IN THE GODDAMN EAR, YOU STUPID TWATWAFFLE!!!

That feels better. Yep, I benched Westbrook after four weeks of nada and look at what I got. He had 4 TDs, as did Donny Mac, and DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant sniffed end zone too. At least I got one from Jackson, and I picked up quite a few TDs in the other two games.

Cowboys 34, Seahawks 9 – The Seahags have descended to the level of a JV team. Tony Romo threw three TDs, hitting Martellus Bennett, Jason Witten, and Terrell Owens (three TDs for me!) Cowboys fans, do not confuse this with any sort of a return to form yet — it’s only Seattle, it might as well not count. Hell, if they didn’t blow them out, we’d be asking what the hell was still wrong with this team. Mike Holmgren, the Original Walrus, has looked like someone stole his bucket all season long.

Titans 47, Lions 10 – Tennessee came angry, ready to run some motherfuckers over. Detroit was more than eager to be those motherfuckers. 252 rushing yards total in the game, two TDs a piece for Chris Johnson and LenDale White (four more for me!), and a Vince Young sighting after the game got out of reach, and a comedic reminder of just how horrid the Lions are on the way to 0-16. Everyone keeps telling me the Saints are the only team the Lions have a chance of beating. I don’t think they could even bother to defend Drew Brees at this point. Telling sign: post-game, when they gave Johnson, White, Kevin Mawae, and one other Titan awards after the game, there wasn’t a Lion fan left at Ford Field. They couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

A final note on the Thanksgiving entertainment end of things: NFL, do us a favor and get halftime acts for these games that people who watch football could actually give a shit about. Jesse McCartney and the Jonas Brothers do not count under this rubric; neither does that tiny pixie brunette whose name I can’t recall that butchered the anthem before ‘Boys-Hags. Just sayin’, Lord Rog. If you can ratchet up the player discipline, you can certainly contract out the entertainment to someone who has half a clue about what football fans want to watch.

The Red Zone: Getting The Point Across

(Video tip to Black Sports Online.)

Seahawks 34, 49ers 13 – Normally I would not lead with this because there were a litany of better games on, and I was saved from having to watch this travesty by the grace of my local Fox affiliate who rationally decided that no one in our little part of California wanted to watch the Niners get beat. However, it produced the most coherent yet quotable of coach rants from Mike Singletary, who is visibly and understandably frustrated with a quarterback who is responsible for 11 fumbles and 17 interceptions, a tight end that dogged it a bit and cost them 15 yards on a dumb penalty, and a defense that allowed a fullback, a fullback, to gather up 116 yards and two TDs on only four receptions.

Saints 37, Chargers 32 – Essentially, the Chargers stalled themselves early in London, which allowed Drew Brees and whatever mishmash of talent he has catching footballs to get up early and get a lead. 14 penalties for more than 100 penalty yards don’t help, especially when the defense has completely quit or doesn’t have enough to stop any sort of potent offense. The AFC West is slowly morphing into the NFC West, if you can believe it.

Panthers 27, Cardinals 23 – Kurt Warner got the Cards out to a 17-3 lead, but then Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith powered a Carolina comeback in Charlotte, prodded on by an amazing play where Smith looked like he had gone out of bounds on his way to the end zone, but his heel had not touched the sideline while his foot came down near it.

Cowboys 13, Buccaneers 9 – An ugly game in which Tampa Bay essentially got stopped in the red zone when they were able to mount drives, including the last failed drive with less than a minute to go. Brad Johnson threw one TD pass to Roy L. Williams, and if you have any Dallas players on your fantasy teams, I’d advise benching them until Tony Romo comes back.

Jets 28, Chiefs 24 – New York won in spite of Brett Favre as much as they did because of him. The Gunslinger threw three picks, making Tyler Thigpen look like a competent quarterback until Herm Edwards’ late conservative playcalling got int the way. Thigpen finished with two TD passes.

Giants 21, Steelers 14 – Something I’ll never understand about defensive coordinators: you go to all this trouble, if you’re Dick LeBeau, to develop good coverage and blitz schemes to use on Sunday, yet, after your team’s offense gives up and awful safety on a botched punt snap, you play prevent. Of course, when you play prevent, you give up a score, and Eli Manning hitting Kevin Boss to go ahead for good seemed utterly predictable. It would help if Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t spending half the game on his back.

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I Think I Smell A Rat

Never let it be said that Brett Favre can’t hold a grudge.

By now, you’ve likely read about the current New York Jets QB allegedly sought out the Detroit Lions to give them advice on how to play the Packers — according to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, who explained that he did not try to contact Favre because he was afraid that Favre would deny it to an ESPN source, who would then spring it on Sunday NFL Countdown prior to Glazer’s segment on Fox NFL Sunday. Favre has, of course, denied Glazer’s report.

It’s pretty low if Favre actually did this. No one begrudges former players for sharing secrets about their old teams with their new ones; that’s accepted practice and teams expect that. But trying to call a former division rival, well, let Charles Woodson explain that for you:

“He contacted them? I don’t respect that,” cornerback Charles Woodson said after the Packers‘ victory over Indianapolis on Sunday. “If they call him and he gives them information, that’s one thing. But to seek a team out and to feel like you’re trying to sabotage this team, I don’t respect that. I know he’s been the greatest player around here for a long time, but there’s no honor in that.”

If such actions aren’t considered out of bounds, Woodson said they should be.

“I’ve never called a coach on another team and told them what’s going to happen,” Woodson said. “It is what it is. Obviously he says he wasn’t bitter about what happened, but obviously there is a little bit of resentment there.”

Of course, that’s all predicated on this being true — but as MODI at SOMM points out, you’d never know it existed if you only took in your sports news from ESPN sources.  The AP’s story on the denial doesn’t even make the Four Letter’s NFL page, period. So, the question is: what can’t Favre do without earning some enmity? He got a bit over his un-retirement, but he’s been coasting again, and as the Jets sink into mediocrity, so much of it has been made that it’s because of the play-calling by Eric Mangini and O-coordinator Brian Schottenheimer not opening up the offense — or at least that’s the obvious excuse.

Trouble is, the Favre we’ve seen is the same as the few seasons before 2007 — flashes of brilliance and flashes of ill-advised throws into double coverage, and now he might be telling other teams about his old team’s strategy.

Nothing to see here.

UPDATE: Pro Football Talk got a leaked memo from ESPN, apparently telling them not to report the story, even when Favre denied the accusations.

Lions Fans, You Have Been Liberated

Not from franchise futility or managerial stupidity, but at least you no longer have to deal with the specific futility and stupidity of rightfully embattled president and GM Matt Millen any longer.

It’s not clear whether Millen quit or was fired, but Jay Glazer of Fox Sports confirmed it early this morning, a day after Bill Ford, Jr. made comments that if it were his decision, he would have fired Millen.  It wasn’t just the running through of coaches (Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Mariucci, and Rod Marinelli) or the draft busts alone (Joey Harrington, Mike Williams, Kevin Jones, Charles Rogers), it was the 31-84 record during his tenure, and a refusal to admit that he made mistakes as a first-time GM and was utterly incapable of recognizing them.

The most amazing thing is that this run of sheer incompetence was all self-contained: there was no Al Davis figure trying to meddle in his personnel decisions or his coach’s play-calling; there waas no cash-stingy owner — if anything, William Clay Ford, Sr. was more than willing to let Millen spend the cash necessary to help the team. It was just a case of being completely out of his depth for eight seasons without any ability to recognize that fact.

Minnesota Timberwolves fans are taking notes to see if they can prod someone under Glen Taylor to speak out in a Ford, Jr.-style fashion and get Kevin McHale ousted.

The Red Zone: Eddie Guns Misfires

Broncos 39, Chargers 38 – I’m a Denver homer and even I will admit that referee Ed Hochuli completely blew it. We shouldn’t have had that chance to win that game. That said, it was smart and ballsy to go for two after Jay Cutler threw it to Eddie Royal for the touchdown because it was playing with house money and because San Diego would be reeling from getting fucked over. These teams will be fighting for the AFC West crown, because Philip Rivers and that offense know how to close and come back. They wouldn’t have gotten to the AFC championship game if they didn’t. Cutler is still learning how to finish, and there could be some shaky times. But each offense looked really good for a half.

Patriots 19, Jets 10 – The game ended with the old Brett Favre that we’ve gotten used to: a late pick-off by Brandon MeriweatherMatt Cassel threw for 165 yards, didn’t throw any TD passes, but didn’t muck it up and while he’s not going to be raging up any fantasy rosters, he might stand a chance of getting the Patriots back to the playoffs.

Titans 24, Bengals 7 – How long is Marvin Lewis for this world of NFL coaching? He’s been undermined and this looks to be the worst team he’s ever fielded in his years in Cincinnati.  Kerry Collins, relieving Vince Young, threw for one touchdown and dispensed the ball to LenDale White and Chris Johnson to eat up yardage. Tennessee’s defense got lethal, and now they are in first place in the toughest division in football.

Bills 20, Jaguars 16 – What world is this we live in, with Buffalo starting 2-0?  Trent Edwards is looking like the starting quarterback they’ve been looking for (it helps if you have Marshawn Lynch to hand off to) by throwing a fourth-quarter touchdown against a tema that was in the playoffs last year.

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The Red Zone: Week 1 Highlights

Patriots 17, Chiefs 10 – It’s all about Tom Brady probably being out for the season, and the Patriots’ chances riding on that — so much so that it overrode the game itself, where the Chiefs failed at a last second comeback. Now, it’s a question of whether Bill Belichick will stick with Matt Cassel or who he will bring in to take Brady’s place.

Eagles 38, Rams 3 – More notable for Donovan McNabb being good as we’re used to from him, with three TD passes. Here’s how lousy St. Louis is: Philly had three — count ’em — three receivers reach the 100-yard mark for the game.

Cowboys 28, Browns 10 – The Cleveland hangover from the pre-season is still there, and Tony Romo and Marion Barber basically tore it up, so much so that Felix Jones could get into the act late too.

Jets 20, Dolphins 14 – Brett Favre throws two classic Gunslinger TDs (one on fourth down when kicker Mike Nugent twinged his leg) and the New York secondary picks Chad Pennington in the end zone to seal the win.

Bills 34, Seahawks 10 – Two massive special teams plays, a punt return by Roscoe Parrish and a fake punt to a TD pass, help bolster a rout of the NFC West favorite.

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