17 November 2010

Pilgrims to the Playoffs and Turkeys of the Season

Less than two weeks remain before one of the most important holidays occurs. Although the plethora of décor in retail locations would lead one to assume that Christmas is rapidly approaching, the calendar indicates otherwise. Thanksgiving Day provides not only its traditional platter of National Football League’s games, it also serves as a benchmark at this point of the season.

Numerous turkeys have already appeared on the scene. Dallas made the first termination of a coach. Randy Moss has accelerated his “Alienation of the Nation Tour” by joining his third team this season; one must assume that he will jump to yet another team after this season. Fans rooting for a team to finish undefeated were all crushed by the end of the fifth week of the season. Also, the folly of players hosting their own television series has been exposed as a cause of a defending divisional champion to crumble.

American Football Conference
Eastern Division: The Jets hold a slim lead over the Patriots, based mostly on their victory at home versus New England. New York can distance itself from the rest of the division with victories in the first weeks of December. However, New England has plenty of experience to overtake New York, if they can win the rematch to keep pace with the Jets. Miami is fading fast due to its losing record within the division and the conference. The Dolphins must win on the road against both divisional leaders just to have a prayer of making the playoffs.
Northern Division: Baltimore and Pittsburgh are running neck and neck, with the Ravens ahead by a nose due to its head-to-head win. Each team plays three divisional games during the last five weeks of the season. Those will decide who grabs the AFC North title and who settles for a wildcard entry. The prima donnas in the orange and black stripes have flopped miserably.

Southern Division: The Colts no longer can claim this division as their personal playpen. Indianapolis is alone in first place by only one game, with the cellar dwelling Texans only two games back. Houston and Jacksonville have already beaten Indianapolis to remain in contention for the divisional crown. Everyone in the AFC South has at least one divisional win. This race most likely will not be settled until Week Sixteen at the earliest.

Western Division: This division is also no longer the domain of a single franchise. The Chargers have plodded to losing records, both overall and within the division. The Raiders and Chiefs have overcome their recent history of putridity to eke out records a game above .500. One must wonder if Oakland and Chiefs might become too distracted by media reports of their resurgence then falter, allowing San Diego to regain its mastery of this group.

National Football Conference
Eastern Division: The media’s favorite division is not as dominant as predicted but still entertainingly competitive. The top two teams in this division have yet to face each other. In fact, the Giants have yet to face either the Redskins or Eagles. Despite the Eagles’ demolition of the Redskins, Washington remains in contention. Cowboys’ fans can only lament Jerry Jones’ late decision to fire Wade Philips and his predictions of hosting the Super Bowl with his team participating.

Northern Division: Chicago holds multiple tie-breakers over Green Bay so their first place tie is rather deceiving. Vikings’ fans only have the never-ending speculation over Bret Favre’s retirement to occupy the remainder of the season. The Lions will have to settle for trying to win on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 2003.

Southern Division: If not for the awful presence of Carolina, this division would clearly stand out as the toughest in the league. Both NFC wildcard could easily emerge from this group. Atlanta holds the advantage over New Orleans and Tampa Bay by virtue of victories over both. However, both trail the Falcons by only one game so either one could surpass Atlanta to grab the divisional title. This race will go down to the final week and likely require multiple layers of tie-breakers.

Western Division: Could someone delve into the NFL’s by-laws to find an obscure clause precluding this division’s least odious team from the entering playoffs? The divisional leader sits one game above .500 while the rest sport losing records. Despite the hype over Pete Carroll’s arrival, San Francisco’s revival and Arizona’s recent post-season success, this is the still the “NFC Worst”.


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