NFL's cream remains at the top as season nears end
Posted: Wednesday December 20, 2006 11:25AM; Updated: Thursday December 21, 2006 1:58AM
All of a sudden a chilling thought came over me. At this point in the season I can no longer con my way along with that line, "It's still early. Things will work themselves out." It's not early anymore. A few things will change but not many. I don't put much stock in the matter of a team that already has clinched blowing one or two.
What you see now is pretty close to what you'll see when the warning light comes on and the sign flashes, "Final Rankings. No More Coming. Take Them Home With You for Nine Months." Therefore I am going very slowly and carefully with these rankings that cover seven eighths of the season.
It has been mentioned that LaDainian Tomlinson does not have a showy post-TD routine. Which does not mean that he takes no interest in the way scorers might react in the end zone. He said that in high school, for instance, a layup, with one hand behind the back, was the popular means of expression. But why a basketball shot? "It always goes back to basketball," he said after ringing up 31 TDs on the register last weekend. "Football players want to be basketball players, and baseball players want to play golf." And golfers want to be rock stars and rock stars want to sit in the Monday night ESPN booth and obliterate all commentary regarding the action on the field.
Did that really adequately describe the top-ranked Chargers to you? It didn't? Let's try again. On Thursday DT Tank Johnson was busted for having six unlicensed guns. He returned to practice and apologized to the team Friday afternoon. That night he went clubbing, and while he was dancing at the Ice Bar his bodyguard, Willie Posey, was shot and killed. Thought you've heard it all? How about the following? On Sunday Joe Buck, hosting Fox's pregame show, served us a blind item referring to Johnson as "training dogs to kill." Howie Long, who maintains journalistic integrity, promptly jumped him on this one. "Training to kill what?" he said. "Where'd that come from?" Buck, true to the instincts of all sound bite airheads, went into a stammering backstroke and bailed out. And having eloquently summarized two 2006 powers we move on to ...
Looking for the top defensive interior lineman in the NFL this year? Trevor Pryce, who occasionally was flogged for periods of lethargy on the Broncos, comes pretty close. Nothing like having good guys on either side of you and behind you to firm up the level of your play.
Brees and Palmer, the two guys at the head of the NFL's Dinkpoints Rating System, each took a hit in the numbers after last weekend's games, which provided Peyton, who had a deadly accurate evening against the Bengals, entry into the top position at 99.0. I've got nothing against him. He's a good, hard-working chap and he earns everything he gets. But partly out of sheer perversity and partly out of loathing for this entire Dinkpoints creation, I've been sort of hoping that Damon Huard, riding the bench in KC and very high on the chart, would emerge as the No. 1 for 2006. It could occur if Peyton takes the pipe against Houston or Miami (assuming he plays), but I can't see that happening, can you?
Their injury system is worse than we think. It's always worse than we think because we never know what to think because they don't tell us. You just have to sort of watch the way a guy limps and do a quick diagnosis. Take the case of their fine rookie runner, Laurence Maroney, for instance. On Dec. 3 he went down against the Lions. "Got the wind knocked out of him," according to team sources. Subsequent scuttlebutt and injury reports described his injury as concussion, bad back, bad front, bad side, i.e., torn rib cartilage. Finally he offered a hint, in what must have displeased the club because he actually mentioned this taboo subject. "I don't have broken ribs," he said. "I don't have a concussion and I don't have a back problem. And I definitely didn't have the wind knocked out of me."
The Redskins beat them Sunday. That loss gave them the division title because Carolina lost. When they got to their locker room they found a cap and T-shirt on the tops of the lockers proclaiming them NFC South champions. They had been held to season lows in yards and points and Drew Brees posted a rating of 59.9. Whoopie!
Lots of stuff has been written about how a certain incident involving the lateral flight of a controlled substance called spit will affect their big game against the Eagles. My take is not at all. Will a guy miss a block or a tackle because of what he read or because of all the cameras in the locker room? Time to grow up, get serious, wipe your famous teammate's chin and play some ball.
I picked them to beat the Colts because I felt that the three-point spread was much too low for Indy to be giving at home, actually an invitation to bet the Colts, and I wasn't about to let those guys in Vegas invite me to do anything. In other words, intelligence fled, but had it lingered, I would have realized that the Jags crushed the Colts with a massive, brutal offensive line that simply manhandled the small Indy defense. Cincy isn't built that way. Their O-line, missing three original starters, wasn't going to manhandle anybody, and defensively, the Bengals' decision to lay back and play coverages simply handed Manning whatever he felt like taking. But what the hell, I've been wrong about this team all year. I might as well keep it going.
Yeah, I picked them to beat New England because this is the worst kind of team for the banged up Pats to be playing this weekend, a nasty, physical outfit. It's always physical, isn't it? Ever hear a coach say, "We've got to get mental out there today?"
To beat Dallas Monday night, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson will have to outdo himself and come up with a pressure scheme that will absolutely confound young Tony Romo and force at least two early turnovers that will cause points. That'll get Dallas playing from behind, and who knows what will happen? Will this actually occur? I don't think so. But it could. I'm shooting for a job as a Wall Street analyst. Stocks could drop in this period, but don't overlook the chance that they could rise, or perhaps none of the above.