Posted: Wednesday November 30, 2005 11:54AM; Updated: Wednesday November 30, 2005 12:24PM
So right before the Monday night kickoff, my daughter calls me up from Sacramento, and that is the time when one should never call me because I'm getting my final charts ready and am not feeling sociable. But oh my God, maybe someone is sick or wounded ... .my granddaughter perhaps? And here am I worrying about a football game ... yes, yes, what is it?
She's a Steelers fan, you see, or rather, her boyfriend is, and she's a fan of her boyfriend. He has a chance to bet the game, but he has to do it right away and do I agree with him that 8 1/2 points is much too much? No, I certainly don't agree, and in the space of 30 seconds I try to explain my trap theory to her, namely that a week ago Sunday I had set a price of five on the game and a 3 1/2 point variance from my own line means that I turn around and go their way, ergo I'd take the favorite and lay the 8 1/2.
"Wait a minute," she said, "You thought it should be five, but now it's ... " But at this point Sam what's her name is doing the interview with the coach, which means that kickoff is about 15 seconds away. I tell my daughter, "Look, just tell him to bet the Colts," and I get off the phone. I'm a nervous wreck before the first snap. They make us crazy, they do, these children of ours. All who agree, raise your hands.
I had never taken seriously their chance to go undefeated, until now, until they handled the Steelers so easily. But there are two asterisks involved, 1) Would Tony Dungy rest people at the end of the road? And 2) the Dolphins did it in the postseason, too, and if the Colts go 16-0 and then lose in the playoffs, their record would be tainted in some folks' eyes. Gets complicated, huh?
There's just one thing I don't like. With the score tied and 1:45 left in regulation against the Cowboys, they had the ball on their own 20. First play was a go route that was incomplete. Then they completed an 8-yarder and let the clock run down from 1:39 to 54 seconds before calling time out. They ended up punting, Dallas didn't do anything, the game went into OT, Denver got the ball and Ron Dayne, who gained 98 yards on the day without making a cut, got lucky on a long run, and so did the Broncos and they won it. But letting the clock run down instead of trying to go for the win at the time bothered me. It bothered me so much that I called Mike Shanahan, and he said it was a two-way shot. They'd still have enough time to get into field-goal range, but they weren't leaving the Cowboys much time, either. Call me square, but this is just a little too slick for me -- and for a team that some folks have soaring with the eagles. Go hard, go for the win ... ah, all I'm doing is sounding like an old fogy, as usual.
The Giants were the tougher team. The Giants should have beaten them. But this was a huge win for the 'Hawks because it keeps the home fires burning, and it's not easy for the visiting team to mount an offense in that House of Sound called Qwest Stadium.
I feel that the way the game is now, it's hard to mount a running game until you first establish a passing attack. No, don't look at me funny. I haven't got it backwards ... think it through, OK? After they beat Carolina, I thought their offense was just fine. After the Tampa Bay game I thought it looked shaky. Their QB plays a decent game of safety first, don't screw it up. But I really thought the Bucs were going to get them at the end because they had no respect for their offense, plus the Bears defense was tiring. Yet they're up here among the elite because their achievements until now cannot be denied.
Some people felt that their post-Seattle quotes were too arrogant, you know, stuff to the effect of, "If that's the best the NFC has to offer ... " etc. Not me. The Giants whipped the 'Hawks on both sides of the ball, and if I were them, I'd be feeling pretty good about that game. The problem is that unless they stay hot, they might be out of the playoffs. And even if they're in, they could be a permanent roadie. But if somehow they manage to get their share of the action at home, they'll be tough, real tough.
Gosh, I don't know. They're sound and all that. They've lost their QB, but the backup can play. And the rest of their schedule is Indy and The Four Stooges. But can you really see them as a Super Bowl contender? Quick, name five Jaguar players for me, not counting Taylor and Leftwich.
Do you punish a season's worth of effort because of one Monday night shtoonker? Not me. Not with my daughter a Steelers fan. I think I've got them fairly placed. But when you think about the game, what a difference there was in the speed of the two teams.
Otto from the stats department just handed me this bit of information (thanks, Otto, and say hello to your mother for me): Last year the defense was scored on nine times within the last two minutes of the first half. This year? Only once. This is intended for those bettors among you who like to go the exotic route in Vegas ... you know, how many points within each five-minute segment, etc.
They rank 11th in the NFL in amount of runs called. Their 3.0 average is dead last. If there were a statistic called: "Most two-yard runs in the course of a season," they'd win it easily. The answer to my argument, if you can actually detect one here, is called 8-3.
If they score 37 against the Raiders on Sunday, do you know what they'll have? A 30-point per game average, almost as much as Allen Iverson has. And which Sid Gillman or Don Coryell Charger team of the past averaged 30? None of them. Not a one. Look it up.