21 December, 2011


Spending all GameDay Sunday of a PIVOTAL Week 15 at my favorite watering hole, Fourty Rod Roadhouse and Grill in Mint Hill watching at least 6 or 7 critical games was probably some of the best bar time I’ve had in quite a while. And as the games unfolded, I ruminated, off and on, as the Panthers/Texans game ebbed into the annals of tomorrow’s media guide, of how this most unusual of NFL seasons was drawing to a close, and I realized that my prediction of a most exciting finish was being realized. No more were the expected championships of an elite group. All of a sudden, new teams were making proud statements, if not playoff pushes, and those teams that were the “anointed” found themselves in seasons of mediocrity, or worse. I had felt that with the lack of the now all-important offseason training activities (the oft-mentioned OTA’s), that teams with a strong start had an opportunity to make the playoffs despite a possible late-season fade.

Perfect example.

The Detroit Lions, who I, like many others, predicted to have a breakout season, are one win away from their first playoff appearance since 1998! Their game with the Raiders was in my opinion, the best of the day, and if you didn’t have Sunday Ticket or a seat at a bar with this program, you were stuck watching Timmy Terrific getting schooled by Brady’s Bunch. And while the loss severely crippled the Raider’s playoff chances, they went down swinging, which makes me believe the Hue Jackson era for Oakland will be an exciting one, if not consistently successful. The Cincinnati Bengals also took a strong start to challenge for a playoff spot, although the two losses to Pissburgh hurt.

Detroit, along with Houston and San Francisco, are refreshing new (and returning after a long absence) playoff contestants that will make January football worth watching, and for me, a delightful diversion from the absolute bummer of life these days.

I had also predicted that it wouldn’t be until Week 8 that some of your perennial postseason contestants got things together. Exhibit A- The Iggles, Jets, Seahawks, and Chargers all have mounted too-little-too-late drives, but to the leagues benefit, and to that of the networks broadcasting these final games, have made these two weeks possibly the VERY BEST FOOTBALL VIEWING in decades! And teams with nothing to play for have also hit the “turbo” switch – The Panthers victory over Houston is a perfect example. Although the Chefs have faint and I MEAN FAINT, playoff hopes, they came together in a HUGE fan-satisfying way to destroy the Packers’ perfect undefeated season.

Making a huge contribution to the intense air of urgency to these final games is the inexplicable COLLAPSES the so-called “playoff caliber” teams are suffering. Did you think that the DeadSkins would rip the britches off of the Giants and whap that fanny red? I would have never bet on it. Did you think that the Jets’ vaunted defense would wither like cut flowers on an August sidewalk to the suddenly surging Iggles? I thought not. And some of those teams already IN the playoffs aren’t gaining momentum going into January – The Ravens looked AWFUL in San Diego Sunday night, the Squeelers took a DELIGHTFUL tumble Monday Night to the Niners, who are truly boasting a February defense. The Texans’ league leading “D” could not blunt the power of the Carolina Cam-a-Lots. But most inexplicably, is the sudden vulnerability of the once-invincible Packers. All of a sudden, the NFC teams on a serious roll, like the Niners and Saints, look like they could come to The Tundra and simply blow away the media’s Super Bowl darling.

And, for you traditionalists, those teams you’re USED to seeing in the postseason, to your relief, are there for your viewing pleasure, like your Pastry Rots, and the afore-mentioned Saints, along with your all-of-a-sudden stumbling Packers, Squeelers, and Ravens. The distinct possibility of Dallas getting to the playoffs make this stretch run perfect, if not for the simultaneously annoying and amusing cacophony of the legions of under-educated Cowboy fans who’ve not been within 500 miles of Big D.

And I would be remiss to ignore the continued white-hot hyper-hype on TebowMania. Although the Broncoids were thoroughly undressed by New EnglandGland, Denver’s still very much alive for a MUCH unexpected playoff berth. You have GOT to believe that media executives are turning to Tebows’ sponsoring deity in frantic prayer that his Broncoids make the postseason, so that they can charge Anheiuser-Busch and Miller record rates for advertising during the broadcast!

I’ve not been this excited about the end of football season since ’08, when our Panthers were 10-4 and closing out the year as a top seed. Unfortunately, that feels like it was in ’98! But watching OUR future playoff contestant grow and progress has made the league feel enjoyable again, as we take our position of relevance when the franchises are evaluated.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the Week 16 prognostications…

See you all in the lot to close out our too-short season of tailgating!

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