MMQB Mail (cont.)
Now for your e-mail:
NO QUESTION THIS WILL BE A STORYLINE AROUND FOXBORO THIS SPRING. "So you think that New England might be in the market for a big receiver. How about Chad Ochocinco? We've heard for the past couple years how much Bill Belichick likes OC. Maybe OC will decide he can swallow his tongue for a season and see how it works? What do you think?''
-- Mark, of Keene, N.H.
He's under contract to the Bengals for one more year, but if they release him, I'd bet the Pats would look into him.
GOOD QUESTION. "I'm a Jets fan still glowing from yesterday's victory. During the game, either Jim Nantz or Phil Simms suggested that some of the injured Jets defenders were faking to get the free timeout and slow down the Patriots' hurry up offense. I haven't heard anything about this since. Did you get a sense that this was happening, and if so, do you think it's fair play?''
-- Tom McBride, Davis, Calif.
I don't doubt this happened. But it's as old as the hills, and I remember it happening back in the eighties when Sam Wyche was using the no-huddle and sugar-huddle offense to speed up the game and to keep defenses from substituting. Last year in the Super Bowl, I'd bet anything the Saints did it once or twice to slow down Peyton Manning in the fourth quarter, once with Anthony Hargrove. But I don't sense anything from the league to put a rule on the books to deal with it. In the end, how do you prove a player isn't hurt?
HE WANTS TO EXPAND THE PLAYOFFS. "Hey Peter, I was wondering what your thoughts are on possibly extending the playoff format to 16 teams instead of 12, with the 7th and 8th seeded teams going up against the 1st and 2nd seeded teams. I ask this because it seems that the bye week for the top two seeds appears to do more harm than good for the top teams.
"I understand the idea of rewarding the two best teams in each conference with a week off, however when the divisional round comes along, it just seems to me that the teams having had the bye look like they need to shake the dust off, and I think that if they had a home game during wild card weekend, they wouldn't seem so off-cue. I know that extending the playoffs to a 16 team format would give 50% of teams a postseason, but the NBA uses a 16 team tourney, and they only have 30 teams total, and the top two teams in those conferences get the easy win first round opponents. So what do you think?''
-- Jeff, Everett, Wash.
Not a fan of expanding the playoffs to include 50 percent of the teams playing in the postseason. Not much more to say. I think it diminishes the importance of the regular season. But that doesn't mean 14 in the playoffs, and maybe 16, aren't coming.
I PLEAD GUILTY. "I love your column and Mondays feel incomplete without it. This e-mail is not to single you out, rather an observation about sports pundits in general, but since I read you more than others, I can only quote your examples. You seem to be a having a tough couple of weeks in your predictions; you dedicated quite a lot of column space to Charlie Whitehurst in the NFC wildcard game, and he never got to play a snap. Then there was the raving about James Starks, who averaged a paltry 2.6 yards per carry and wasn't a factor in the GB win over Atlanta. Mark Sanchez was supposed to suck in the cold, yet he outshined Tom Brady. I'd love to have a job where I could be wrong more than half the time and still get nothing but love from my employers and fans.''
-- Zeeshan, Irvine, Calif.
You're right. I try to use what I see and what I know from people in the game I talk to in an effort to read the future, and very often it doesn't work. (Though with Whitehurst in the example you cite, I was simply talking about the game he just played, not projecting what would happen the following week.) The fact that I'm wrong quite often when I try to predict the future is my fault. I try to own up to my mistakes and do the job the best I can. But as you've pointed out, I often look like a dummy. Hazards of the game.
YOU MIGHT BE RIGHT ABOUT THE STRENGTH OF THE NFC NORTH. "After all the talk this season about the strength of the NFC East with the Eagles and Giants, as well as the NFC South with the Falcons and Saints, was the NFC North underappreciated or was something missed regarding the Division that provided both teams for the NFC Championship Game? Also, did the strength of this Division play a role in the collapse of the Vikings this season since both Green Bay and Chicago have proven their abilities and Detroit played everyone close this season?''
-- Chris Stegge, Boeblingen, Germany:
It's hard to say any one division was best top to bottom this year, but 1 to 3, I think the NFC South, with Atlanta being 1, New Orleans 2 and Tampa Bay 3, would have comprised the best in football this year.
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