Posted: Sunday December 31, 2006 8:14PM; Updated: Wednesday January 3, 2007 10:27AM
With some help from his head coach, Vinny Testaverde threw a touchdown pass for an NFL-record 20th consecutive season.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
For the record, at first glance, put me down for the home teams going 4-0 in next weekend's wild-card playoff games, even though recent history says road teams do quite well in the first round (home teams were 1-3 in both 2004 and 2005).
In the NFC, I like the Eagles over the inconsistent Giants, and the Seahawks over the confidence-strapped Cowboys.
In the AFC, give me the Patriots, who are looking tougher all the time, to win Round 3 of the Belichick-Mangini showdown at Gillette, and the slightly steadying Colts to handle the just-happy-to-be-here Chiefs on the fast track of the RCA Dome.
Though nobody's calling the Giants or Cowboys Super Bowl threats these days, the NFC East is somehow sending three teams to the playoffs -- the first time any division has had more than two playoff entries since the league realigned into eight, four-team divisions in 2002.
Not to in any way belittle the Jets' accomplishment of making the playoffs in head coach Eric Mangini's first season, but if you're wondering exactly how they cobbled together a 10-win season, here's a hint: They beat the teams they were capable of beating. New York won just one game against a team that finished the season with a winning record, that being their 17-14 road upset of the Patriots in mid-November.
What an old softie Bill Belichick is turning into in his mid-50s. Last year, it was letting 43-year-old Doug Flutie attempt a drop-kick in New England's meaningless regular-season finale against Miami. This time, it was inserting third-team quarterback Vinny Testaverde into the game at Tennessee, in order to give the 43-year-old Vin-Man a shot at throwing a touchdown pass for the NFL-record 20th consecutive season.
Testaverde, one of the game's true good guys, got the job done, finding Troy Brown from six yards out with 1:45 remaining, prompting an eruption of celebration along the Patriots' sideline. Belichick, a noted football historian, even wore a huge smile and gave Testaverde a slap on the shoulder pads. But somehow I don't think the Titans were quite so nostalgic about Testaverde's feat, which pushed New England's margin of victory to 17 points.
Speaking of which, that was a pretty chippy game the Patriots and Titans played. The rampant nastiness started when New England safety Rodney Harrison was blocked low by Titans receiver Bobby Wade, but I think if you put Belichick and Co. on the stand, they'd admit Wade's block was far from dirty, let alone illegal.
Wade's hit wasn't even that low. Harrison was hit in the mid-thigh, and it only looked as low as it did because he was running straight up and wound up being flipped upside down by the contact. Harrison also was directly facing Wade at the time and thus had the chance to protect himself. It wasn't even close to a crack back block, or a cut block. It was a clean hit, but Harrison was injured on the play, and some Pats veterans, such as Tedy Bruschi, were livid with Wade.
The irony, of course, is that Harrison has always been one to push the envelope in terms of how much contact one can get away with.
Interesting results at quarterback for a pair of Florida's NFL franchises on Sunday: Jacksonville's Quinn Gray replaced David Garrard and wound up throwing for 166 yards and rushing for two touchdowns in the Jags' loss at Kansas City. Miami's Cleo Lemon got his first NFL start, and acquitted himself quite well in the Dolphins' loss at Indy.
Gray and Lemon might have interjected themselves into their respective starting quarterback discussions in 2007.
It's not often we give Detroit props for taking a receiver in the first round, but between them, Roy Williams and Mike Williams produced eight receptions for 132 yards and three touchdowns in the win against the Cowboys.
That's the way it was supposed to work, huh, Matt Millen?
Dallas might be in free fall, but outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware can flat out rush the passer. His three sacks of Detroit's Jon Kitna on Sunday gave him 11½ on the year, and 19½ in his first two NFL regular seasons.
Craziest move I saw in Week 17 was Lions receiver Mike Furrey knocking the Cowboys star off the wall of Texas Stadium after his 13-yard third-quarter touchdown reception. Furrey fired the football at the star, sending it flying and leaving it cracked.
Hey, Terrell Owens once got into a heap of hot water for defiling the star at midfield of Texas Stadium. I'm not sure Furrey even got booed, because the Cowboys faithful were too busy booing their own players.
I guess Tiki Barber wasn't done playing just yet.
The Giants' win at Washington gave them the chance to breath a much-needed sigh of relief, and a playoff berth might -- we repeat, might -- save Tom Coughlin's job. But New York fans have to be concerned about that defense in the second half. The Redskins shredded the Giants late and had 393 yards total offense for the game. That ain't going to get it done.
Hip, hip, hooray. The Giants and Jets made the playoffs in the same season for the first time since 2002, and only the second time in the past 20 years. But only once since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger have they both won a playoff game in the same year, with that singular feat coming in 1986.
How many of you activated Dan Klecko on your fantasy team this week? The big lug -- now a Colts reserve defensive lineman -- caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning in the second quarter against Miami.
So who needs Brandon Stokely?
Nice fold job, Bengals. Cincinnati closes out the season with three losses in a row, after looking like a dangerous, playoff-bound team as late as Week 14. Make it three 8-8 finishes for Marvin Lewis in his four years on the job in the Queen City.
Here's why I'm convinced Ken Whisenhunt will be the next Steelers head coach: He looks so much like Bill Cowher, some won't even notice a change has been made. But seriously, Whisenhunt is firmly in the pole position to become just the third Steelers head coach since 1969.
As crazy as it sounds, at this point the burden of proof is on Nick Saban. It's up to the Dolphins head coach to convince us that he's staying with Miami. Because the University of Alabama is coming after him with both barrels early this week. Count on it. And I still say Saban is more than willing to listen and be wooed.
I'm pretty sure that 'coach killer' label is going to wind up coming true in Atlanta. But it's not clear whether it was Michael Vick or Jim Mora himself who will have administered the most damaging blow.
People I talk to say how Brad Childress handled the Marcus Robinson situation in Minnesota isn't an isolated incident (the veteran receiver was released on Christmas Eve, days after being quoted criticizing the head coach's communication skills). Childress's standing in his own locker room is not good, and the Vikings players consider their rookie head coach cold, aloof and almost devoid of personality.