Continuing with yesterday’s post looking at the NFL division by division as we wrap up the regular season and head into the playoffs, we continue with the rest of the NFC, where the playoff picture is even more complicated.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I didn’t think the Bucs had a chance to win with either Brian Griese or Chris Simms. Guess now you know why I teach English instead of working for a sports news organization. They’ve got the Ain’ts at home in Tampa this weekend, while Carolina has to win in Atlanta. I like Tampa to win the South and host a game wild-card weekend, and that’s about it, because if they win, they have to go to Chicago. No Florida team is winning at Soldier Field, and that’s that.
They’ll probably beat Atlanta because they need to in order to secure a wild-card berth, and then they’ll play the NFC East champ, whom I expect to be the NY Giants. I don’t see them beating the G-Men in the Meadowlands in January. This is a team that has championship potential if they can only find some consistency from week to week in all aspects of their game, but especially in their offense. Jake Delhomme may be going to the Pro Bowl from the NFC, but he’d be no better than a backup on the AFC’s top eight teams. I don’t know if I want to hitch my wagon to that star.
Please, can we have enough of the “let Michael Vick be Michael Vick” talk? The fact of the matter is that Atlanta’s offensive scheme relies on a power running game combined with the West Coast passing scheme. The problem is that NFL defenses figured out how to stop the West Coast offense about ten years ago (someone tell Jim Mora, Jr., would you?), so all you have to do to stop their offense is plug the run up the middle and have cornerbacks keep Vick from running around the end, and that’s why the Falcons have been average this year. Vick needs a wide-open offensive scheme like the Colts, Chiefs, Rams and Vikings have used. A conservative offense allows D-coaches to scheme for Vick too much, plus they had to deal with a tougher schedule than last year combined with improved competition in their division. Better luck next year (or not, since you’re in Atlanta, the WORST SPORTS CITY IN AMERICA!!!)
Memo to Paul Tagliabue, et. al., NFL offices
1) Move team permanently to Los Angeles
2) Buy out Tom Benson and install less scuzzy ownership (see Red McCombs/Minnesota)
3) Fire Jim Haslett and entire coaching staff
4) Rename team “Rams”; send “Cardinals” mascot back to St. Louis; dissolve Arizona franchise and send former owner Bill Bidwell on “fact finding” mission to Iraq to see if “NFL Mideast” can catch on the same way “NFL Europe” has captured the imagination of sports fans in Hamburg, Amsterdam and Barcelona!
New York Giants
I’ve said most of what I wanted to say in the “comments” box from yesterday’s post, so here it is again: “Elvis Grbac never had the arm that Eli Manning does. We have to remember that this is essentially his rookie year, since he didn't come in last year until the season was half over. In two years, Eli will be challenging his brother for league MVP honors. I agree that he makes poor decisions at times now, but the reason the Giants are a legitimate threat to win the NFC title have more to do with their defense and Tiki Barber (who should be in this year's MVP conversation) than Eli.” I’ll add that they should win on the road at Oakland to clinch the division and host the wild card next week.
I’m not sure about people who say the Redskins “came outta nowhere.” Huh? They have a Hall of Fame coach, a Pro Bowl caliber defense, a veteran QB with postseason experience and one of the best running backs in the league in Clinton Portis. So where’s the surprise? They will be Philadelphia this week to secure the second wild card spot...
...which leaves Dallas on the outside looking in. Good. I freaking HATE the Dallas Cowboys. I always have, all the way back to Tom Landry and his stupid hat and Staubach and Dorsett and Pearson to Jimmy & Jerry, Aikman, Emmitt, Irvin, to Parcell’s bunch of no-names and retreads. I love to watch Dallas lose. It would be nice to see a crappy bunch of losers like this year’s Rams put the final nail in the Cowboy’s playoff coffin.
Mulligan. Tee it up fresh next year.