Week 13: Halftime Shows, Rodgers Throws and Jason Garrett Ices Bros

49ers 26, Rams 0- Even though Patrick Willis left with an injury mid-game, the Rams were absolutely helpless on offense. Not once did they make it past the 49ers’ 35-yard line and they gained just 157 yards all day. Things, impossibly, could get even worse for their offense. Sam Bradford is still out with his high-ankle sprain and A.J. Feeley broke his thumb during Sunday’s game, leaving practice squader Tom Brandstater as the potential starter for next Monday night’s game against the Seahawks. Brandstater has never even been so much as a second-string quarterback during his three years in the NFL, and he’s hasn’t attempted a meaningful pass since his senior year at Fresno State in 2008. Jesus.

This is how every celebration would go if Bob Costas ran the NFL. As for some other changes Costas would bring? The NFL would be called the Bob Costas League of Gentleman, the coin-toss would be replaced with a two-minute extemporaneous debate on the merits of existential modernity, and unsportsmanlike conduct would be penalized according to a sliding scale based on how white the victim was.  If James Harrison gets cut blocked, it’s a five-yard reward; a late hit on Jay Cutler gets a twenty-five yard penalty; and a helmet-to-helmet hit on Wes Welker warrants immediate death by a firing squad composed of Pat Patriot, Archie Manning, Christian Laettner, Carson Kressley and the cast of Mad Men.

Titans 23, Bills 17- And your 2012 Super Bowl half time performer is…Madonna??? What the hell? Has there even been a less culturally-relevant halftime act? This would a great choice back when Troy Aikman and Joe Montana were playing in the Super Bowl, but today? Not so much. I mean even this “trailer” for the halftime show is utterly unwatchable, although that’s at least partially because it appears that its creator’s intention was to induce as many seizures as possible in a 90 second span.
Let’s name just some of the reasons why Madonna was an unbelievably horrible choice for this year’s halftime show:
-This:  I’m using no hyperbole when I say that Ray of Light might honestly be the worst song ever recorded.
-It’s really just a hybrid of the two most recent halftime performances as it combines the dubious musical talent of the Black Eyed Peas with the dated discography of The Who.
– She hasn’t had a big hit in, what, twenty years? You might be able to pull that off if you’re a rock act like Springsteen or the Rolling Stones, but pop songs that still remain enjoyable decades later to multiple age-groups are scarce. Madonna has maybe two or three songs that fit that billing, the rest of her older music sounds dated, and “newer” stuff is brutal. Case in point:
-The song “Music” embodies actual music in the same way the band Journey embodies Magellan’s circumnavigating voyage.
– She has absolutely zero connection to the NFL. Madonna hasn’t been heard in an NFL arena since her last stadium tour which was, oh, 25 years ago. That is, unless you count Mark Sanchez’ pregame dance routine to “Vogue”.
-She’s not exactly bringing the sex-appeal factor to the table these days. Or at least her arms certainly aren’t. Ugh honestly, look at that. I’ve seen sexier arms on a dead heroin addict.
-Things she has made headlines for in the last 15 years: Kissing Britney Spears, divorcing Guy Ritchie, practicing Kabbalah, writing a children’s book, adopting kids from Africa.
-Things she has not made headlines for in the last 15 years: Music.
– She’s the first potentially scandalous halftime performer since the Janet Jackson-Nipplegate incident, so she’s somewhat risky, and yet somehow still impossibly boring.
– Her voice is grating and repellent to the casual fan, which works out great since there’s only going to be, oh, 100 million of them watching.
-Nothing fires me up for biggest half of football all season like watching a post-menopausal skeleton gyrate on stage while singing Like a Virgin off-key.
-Did I mention how aggressively terrible Ray of Light is? Because it is.
So let’s see, she’s irrelevant in modern pop culture, she’s not even tangentially related to football, her musical influence has been supplanted by an endless supply of female pop singers, teenage viewers hardly know who she is, people over 60 are still offended by her, the majority of 18-49 year old men probably don’t listen to her, and people born after 1980 only came to know her music well-after she had reached her peak.  So her target audience is basically 31-55 year old white women. Nice work NFL, you just managed to alienate 85 million viewers at the same time. Genius. For the record I place the blame squarely on Roger Goodell’s shoulders.

Seahawks 31, Eagles 14- Vince Young’s third interception led to what appeared to be an emotional breakdown on the sidelines by Vince Young, leading my roommate and part-time zombie researcher Bryan to identify the Vince Young equivalent of Tebowing: 

Reports emerged this week that Andy Reid has been told that he must fire Juan Castillo in order to save his own job after the season, which is just brilliant. The coaches were already fighting on the sidelines of the Patriots game, now the Eagles front office has proposed this Saw-eqsue ultimatum on Reid during the middle of the season? It’s also like they’re telling Reid, “Hey we’re going to hold you responsible for this horrible season by firing you….unless you’d prefer to turn the guy you absurdly hired ten months ago into the scapegoat and just fire him instead.”  In what universe does that make any sense?

Chiefs 10, Bears 3- You take away Jay Cutler and Matt Forte and the Bears offense turns into something you’d see in the Sun Belt conference. Caleb Hanie dropped back to pass 34 times on Sunday. Seven times he was sacked, three times he was picked off, once he fumbled and just 11 times did he actually complete a pass. On third and fourth down, he led the Bears to exactly zero first downs on 13 chances.  That’s it. That’s the only highlight from this game, unless you consider Caleb Hanie and Tyler Palko underthrowing receivers by five yards a highlight. Hanie and Palko sound, look and play like they should be an acoustic folk duo. Not since the Trail of Tears have chiefs been involved in an event so laboring, hopeless and unwatchable.

 Patriots 31, Colts 24- Bill Belichick has a history of finding undervalued or undrafted guys are turning them into key cogs on his team, but the guys he’s brought in this season make Danny Woodhead look like Adrian Peterson. Two weeks ago, the Patriots startedten undrafted free agents. This Sunday, Belichick reached even deeper into his grab bag of anonymous weapons when he started three new players on defense- safeties Nathan Jones and Matthew Slater, and linebacker Niko Koutouvides. You may remember Koutouvides- as I do- as the guy who made every special teams tackle for the Seahawks in Madden ’05, or maybe you don’t, in which case congratulations on actually having a life.

Pictured: The Patriots' next big free agent signing

Koutouvides hasn’t started a game since 2004 and he’s been on four rosters in five years. Jones was just signed last week as a free agent and was forced into action because Patrick Chung is still banged up. The pièce de résistance though is Slater, who was converted from wide receiver to safety six days before the game. Despite the deceptive final score, the Pats defense actually played pretty well, holding the Colts to three points before a trio of fourth-quarter scores when the game outcome appeared settled.

I think Belichick makes these moves as yet another way to show the league that he’s a football genius and he can turn absolutely anyone into a serviceable player because he’s Bill Effing Belichick. He’s got a defense full of castoffs and misfits, receivers and running backs who could be on “Little People Big World”, and more impactful white players than a 1960s AFL team.

Panthers 38, Bucs 19- As frustrated as Bucs fans must be this season, watching last year’s 10-win team stumble their way to a 4-8 record and a blowout loss to the Panthers, the subset of Bucs fans who bought LeGarrette Blount jerseys in the offseason must be going insane. After last season’s 1,000 yard, 5-yards-per-carry performance, the former Oregon running back/post-game boxer looked like a bona fide star in the making, the back who would carry the Bucs to the next tier in the NFL. But this season, Blount has been miserably inconsistent, personifying the Bucs’ disappointing 2011 as a whole.  Of his 10 games games this year, Blount’s had six in which he rushed for under 75 yards, including four where he never even gained 35. He’s also had two more games in which he ran for under 3.5 yards-per-carry or fumbled twice, and two others that he missed due to injury. Sunday’s game against the dreadful Panthers’ run defense was Blount’s crowning moment on his campaign of suck- he had 11 carries for just 19 yards against a team that was giving up 140 rushing yards per game. That’s five feet per carry, which means that if the 6-foot-tall Blount had simply took the snap at the line of scrimmage and fallen forward on every carry, he would have gained more yards. Again, that was against a miserable defense that gave up nearly 7 yards-per-carry against the Lions. Oh and he also failed to catch either pass that was thrown to him.

Remarkably, his week managed to get even worse after that game. A report emerged that Blount ordered two men to beat the brakes off of a guy back in September. According to the allegations,  a man and his girlfriend were pulling into the parking garage of their apartment complex when they accidentally sideswiped Blount’s Expedition. The fan says he kept driving in order to avoid blocking traffic, but stopped soon after and rolled down his window to talk to the driver of the other car. That’s when the Expedition drove up, cut him off, and three men got out of the car, two of whom proceeded to repeatedly punch the man in the face and stomp his windshield until both broke. The third man, who turned out to be Blount, never touched the man but stood by and directed the actions of the other two. Blount and his attorney dismissed the allegations as a “money grab” but based on the police report, it appears that the man did, in fact, get beat up, his windshield was smashed, the Expedition was hit and Blount was present.  The worst part? The man and his girlfriend were coming home from the BUCS GAME against the Lions and were wearing Bucs jerseys at the time. For the record, Blount rushed for just 15-yards in the game so at least he did something memorable that afternoon.

Ravens 24, Browns 10- The Ravens finally got past their let-down game woes by, shockingly, relying on Ray Rice, who rushed for a career-high 204 yards. Of the Ravens’ first 20 offensive plays, 17 were runs, which I’m pretty matches the number of carries than Rice has had in the last seven weeks combined.  As a result, Cleveland never really posed a threat thanks to the Ravens’ nearly two-to-one advantage in time of possession. It only took Cam Cameron three years to do what every human being in Baltimore has been begging him to do since he got the job. Fantastic. At this rate, he’ll finally stop calling 90 play-action deep balls per game sometime during the 2017 NFL season.

Dolphins 31, Raiders 14- 

I’m not sure whether I should find this ad from Rick Perry 2012 hilarious, offensive or embarrassing. I guess it’s a combination of the three. The rhetoric, setting and message make it sound like an SNL parody of a bad campaign ad.
He starts off by saying “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian.” I like this move that politicians always pull when they say they’re not ashamed of something that no one is in America is ashamed of and we’re somehow supposed to be impressed by their courage. “I’M NOT ASHAMED TO SAY THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE!” Okay cool, me neither, now feel free to stop saying nonsense. He then laments that “Our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas…” What the fuck? Do you live in America, Rick? Is there a single five-year old in this country who is unaware of Christmas or the joy that it brings? There’s a war on Christmas! Walmart changed “Christmas Lights” to “Holiday Lights”! Now I know how it feels to be persecuted for your religious beliefs. This Christmas, we are all Anne Frank.

But I guess this version of the ad was better than the original script, which went a little something like this… “Oh hello, I’m Rick Perry, and you just caught me in the middle of one of my daily hikes through the scenic fields of South Texas. I take these hikes because I’m a family man and I love the outdoors. The trees, the squirrels, hell even the bees- they’re all my friends. But you know who’s not my friend? The queers. And for the record the blacks, the Mexicans, the screen actors guild and most pop singers ain’t too high on Rick Perry’s either.  And don’t even get me started on the Muslims. Anyway, back to the queers- there’s something horribly wrong in this country when gay people can fight terrorists and die for our children’s safety, but those same children are forced to attend “holiday” parties, which are really just Christmas parties but they had to change the name because of that Jew-boy in the class.  This kind of injustice cannot stand! In Texas, we have a saying- “Jesus is the reason for the Season, and queers are the reason for most natural disasters.” Obama’s socialist, Muslim, gay, pinko, black, evil, rainbow-jihad on Christianity stops here!  I’m Rick Perry, and I’m clearly overcompensating for something.”

Packers 38, Giants 35- Here’s how confident the Packers were in Aaron Rodgers: With 50 seconds to go and just one timeout, the coaches apparently commanded Randall Cobb to take a touchback on the ensuing Giants’ kickoff. Cobb is a dangerous returner and he caught the kick just inside the goal line, yet he took a knee because the extra time that they bought Rodgers was apparently more valuable than the possibility of a big run back by Cobb. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team willingly pass on a kickoff return and better field position with under a minute to go just to buy their quarterback an extra five seconds. And they were right, Rodgers led the Pack 68 yards in just four plays and set up the game-winning field goal as time expired. On a related note, this catch by Jordy Nelson was just ridiculous:

On Tuesday the Packers began selling shares of their stock for the fifth time in franchise history. They’re selling 250,000 shares at $250 a pop, which will bring the total amount of team shares up to a nice even 5,000,934.  As you may know, the Packers are the only publically owned franchise in American sports (although the practice is somewhat common in European soccer). They’re also a non-profit organization- all of the team income beyond what’s used to cover expenses goes to charity, although the profits from this sale (and the last one in 1997) are going towards the expansion of Lambeau Field. Consequently, that means that owning stock in the team offers no financial benefits to shareholders. So what do the shareholders get? Well, not much besides bragging rights among their friends. Each of the 112,000 shareholders (plus however many more are added after this sale) gets a certificate of ownership, an invitation to the Packers annual shareholders meeting in Green Bay, and voting rights at said meeting although the buzz-killing stock offering document specifically states that “the voting power of the holders of Offered Shares will be insubstantial”.

Beyond those meager perks, the stock carries no privilege with it. It does, however, subject its holder to the NFL’s team owner conduct policy; consequently, shareholders are prohibited from a surprising number of activities considering that they receive no profit, influence or special benefits. For example, shareholders may not publicly criticize any NFL coach, player or referee, nor can they bet on any NFL game. If a shareholder’s conduct is deemed detrimental to the league, they are subject to a fine of up to $500,000.  So really, the stock is a way of getting fans to pay for the Lambeau expansion, which they would have done anyway just by purchasing tickets or merchandise, while taking away many freedoms of being a fan and offering none of the benefits of being an owner. At the end of the day, all that the shareholders will have to show for their $250 bucks is a piece of paper reminding them that they spent $250 on a piece of paper.  All of that seems to be lost on Packers fans though, who scooped up 28,000 shares in the first two and a half hours on Tuesday. That means that in less time than the average Packers game, the team made $7 million by selling what basically amounts to the NFL’s version of those commemorative state quarters. Incredible.

Cardinals 19, Cowboys 13- The Whisenhunts of Waverly Place took down the Cowboys in overtime in large part because Jason Garrett was apparently possessed by the ghost of Norv Turner Present during the final drive of fourth quarter First, with 31 seconds and two timeouts left at the Arizona 31-yard line, Garrett did the coaching equivalent of staying on 13 by opting to let the clock run down instead of trying for better field position. Then, just as Dan Bailey kicked the go-ahead field goal, Garrett called time out and iced his own kicker. The game-winning 49-yarder didn’t count; the ensuing 45-yard knucklepuck did, and the Cardinals scored on the first drive of overtime. Dallas’ final drive was truly a masterpiece of game-mismanagement. The Cowboys burned nearly three minutes off the clock while driving 48 yards on nine plays while Garrett inexplicably held onto his two timeouts like they were nuclear launch codes. I mean, he even had Tony Romo spike the ball with seven seconds left instead of using a timeout, which makes zero sense.  I can vividly picture Andy Reid sitting at home watching deviously whispering to himself- “Ahhh yes, I’ll hold ON to my timeouts then not use them. It’s BRILLIANT.” I loved every clock-bleeding second of the Cowboy’s failure though. Few teams in sports are as fun to watch agonizingly blow games as the Cowboys, which works out great because few teams in sports are as good at agonizingly blowing games as the Cowboys. Perhaps it’s because of their insufferable oil-tycoon owner, or the fact that their fan-base magically quadrupled when Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman started lighting up defenses, or because they built a stadium that has the subtlety and elegance of a Cash, Money, Millionaires video; whatever it is, watching them fail is like watching the end of Titanic- exciting, catastrophic, heartwarming, tragic, and so….goddamn…gratifying.

Saints 31, Lions 17- Despite what Jim Schwartz would like you to believe, it’s clear that the Lions have fully embraced their bad guy persona. That or they’ve assembled the most prolific group of highly-paid hotheads since N.W.O. Apparently Ndomukong Suh’s two-game suspension was not the shot across the bow that Roger Goodell intended seeing as three more Lions picked up after-the-play unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Sunday, two of which probably should have resulted in ejections. Receiver Titus Young hit a Saints’ defender in the head with an open-hand punch that looked worse than the one that got Richard Seymour ejected from the Raiders game earlier that day. Worse yet, tight end Brandon Pettigrew pushed Roman Harper down twice after a play then pushed the referee who was attempting to separate him and somehow wasn’t ejected.

Like many a progressive ethos, Jim Schwartz’ philosophy of intimidation and hard-nosed play began with success but has been taken to an extreme that undercuts the original intentions of his message.  On a day when Matt Stafford threw for 408 yards and averaged 9.3 yards per attempt, Detroit killed themselves by taking 11 penalties for 107 yards compared to just three for 30 for the Saints. Young’s penalty, for example, came after a 77-yard march downfield on the opening drive of the second-half. Instead of facing third-and goal from the Saints’ three-yard line, Young’s penalty pushed them back to the 18, where they had to settle for a field goal which kept it a two-touchdown game. Schwartz’ team has now lost five of their last seven games after starting 5-0, and still plays at Green Bay and home vs. the Chargers this season. Their problems run deeper than just their general truculence, for sure, but their lack of discipline has cost them many times this season, and may result in them playing a must-win game against the Vikings this week without both Suh and Pettigrew.

In other news that the Lions certainly don’t need right now, Suh crashed his car at 1 a.m. on Saturday in his hometown of Portland. While Suh said that he swerved to avoid a taxi and lost control of his 1970 Chevelle, two passengers in his car said later that he actually raced out of an intersection and that his reckless driving caused the accident. The whole thing is all fairly minor, just incredibly poorly timed for the Lions’ young star, who is currently serving his suspension for stomping the yard on Evan Dietrich-Smith. Really though, the most shocking thing to come out of this accident is that a hot-headed NFL figure was peeling out of intersections and racing strangers at stoplights in his 70s muscle car and it somehow wasn’t Todd Haley.

Broncos 35, Vikings 32-  Has had anyone had a more depressing 2011 than Donovan McNabb? He was benched for Christian Ponder, then cut for Sage Rosenfels, then not claimed off waivers by a single team. McNabb said he asked for his release in order to find a better situation, but unless that situation is watching guys like T.J. Yates and Tyler Palko struggle while he sits at home watching incredulously, I don’t think he found it. He must have thought that one of the teams in desperate need of a QB right now- the Texans, his hometown Bears, or maybe even the Eagles- would come calling as soon as he became available. Unfortunately, McNabb has failed to realize what everyone else in the country can clearly see- that he’s done. Or at least that the public perception of him is that he’s done.  Donovan’s disillusion is sad, and more than a little awkward.  Reports surfaced this week that for the second year in a row, he was out of shape going into the season. And for the second time in twelve months, he was relegated not just to the bench, but to the third string quarterback role, with Christian Ponder and Joe Webb playing the roles of Rex Grossman and John Beck. For McNabb to sincerely believe that he has a shot at being signed by a contender with four weeks left in the season is flat-out insane. Lovie Smith even said after Hanie’s aerial abortion this week that they have no plans to bring in a McNabb, while Devin Hester called signing Donovan “a waste of time”.  For the love of god, Donovan, please hang it up. You’ve had a great career, you’ve won a ton of playoff games, and you’ve got a bright career in broadcasting, stop this depressing charade. There’s nothing more depressing in sports than a former star who’s the only person on earth that doesn’t realize he needs to retire.

I need something to distract me from Donovan McNabb’s Greek Tragedy….got it!

MNF Chargers at Jaguars- The Sixers finally ridded themselves of the horror that was Hip-Hop, the worst mascot in sports. Now they’ve set out to come up with a new mascot to distract Sixers fans from seeing Jodie Meeks’ jack up his 18th ill-advised shot of the night. They’ve narrowed down the finalists to three candidates that fans can vote on, here are your nominees:
 

Big Ben: As an homage to Philadelphia’s favorite Founding Father Ben Franklin, the Sixers’ decided that their mascot should be a fat old man wearing suspenders and a sleeveless shirt who shares his name with a rival Pennsylvania sports figure and noted sexual deviant. Perfect. I mean, really, look at that picture. He looks like what I pictured Jerry Sandusky looked like before seeing him. And really, that gut? “Philadelphia- even our mascots are fat!” The “bio” on the voting page introduces Big Ben with this jambalaya of poor sentence structure- “One of the most revered figures in American history, and a man who needs no introduction as an honorable representation of this city and nation, “Big Ben” Franklin will now come back to serve Philadelphia yet once again.” Not only is Ben Franklin returning, but he’s now coming back yet once again! Who the hell wrote this?
It continues, “An avid basketball fan, Big Ben was thrilled to be asked to join Philadelphia sports fans in cheering the 76ers on to greatness.” Look I know this is just a write up geared towards middle schoolers and senile elderly folk, but these creators took a heaping amount of artistic license here- the 76ers aren’t achieving greatness anytime soon. Perhaps Ben should have used his self-patented bifocals to examine Andre Iguodala’s jump shot and Elton Brand’s contract. The bio also goes on to note that Big Ben is seven feet tall, which means those eyebrows have a bigger wingspan than Jrue Holliday. Hey Sixers, we already had a goofy looking, seven-foot tall, creepy white guy. His name was Matt Geiger and we all know how that worked out. Next.

B. Franklin Dogg: According to his bio, “B. Franklin Dogg is a loyal Philadelphia resident who can be seen in artist drawings from the day nestled under the table beside Ben Franklin as he deliberated on the founding of the nation.” So our mascot is going to be the fictional pet of a historical figure? Don’t think that trend is going to catch on. That’s like the Hawks mascot being Martin Luther King’s turtle, or Utah’s being Brigham Young’s ninth wife’s hamster. That also implies that Ben Franklin, architect of our government and brilliant inventor, named his dog “Ben Franklin Dogg”? That makes sense.  Congratulations Sixers, you drew a patriotic version of Scruff McGruff and gave him the most literal name in the world- you are truly masters of creativity. Next.

Phil E. Moose: Let’s have our mascot be an animal that is neither indigenous to Philadelphia nor has any relation whatsoever to the team, the sport, or the city, then dress him up in a bath robe and tube socks and make him 7-feet tall! C’mon, Sixers. The field of possible mascots was limited to, oh, every fictional or historical person or animal ever created and somehow these are the three you settled on?   No wonder Iggy wants out. The alarming absence of logic, creativity and good-judgment displayed here reflects a systemic breakdown that starts with building a team with no shooting guard and ends with a giant version of Creepy Pedo-Ben Franklin.

Steelers 35, Bengals 7- I’m just happy that we can all go back to a time where the Bengals are awful and gingers are bad at football. The amount of hype they got for the first nine weeks of the season was nauseating seeing as they meandered through an insanely easy schedule. They’ve played the Steelers and Ravens three times in the last month and lost all three games by a total of 42 points. That’s more like it. I can’t live in a world where Marvin Lewis has more wins than Mike Tomlin.

Jets 34, Redskins 19- And the Redskins’ season of misery continues…as perhaps the only bright spots on an otherwise repulsive offense, Roy Helu, Fred Davis and Trent Williams have given ‘Skins fans some hope for the future future. Helu surprisingly looks like the one competent running back out of the 15 or so whom Mike Shanahan has signed, Davis leads the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns and Williams has anchored the offensive line and done his best to justify being the fourth pick overall in the 2010 draft. Well, two-thirds of that group was suspended for the rest of the season after failing tests for “recreational drugs”. Both Davis and Williams tested positive for the third time in their careers which is alarming considering that neither has been in the league for very long. Under the league’s conduct policy, three tests usually result in a one-year suspension; however, players were given amnesty in the weeks following this summer’s lockout, presumably because the NFL feared that they’d end up with 50 suspensions after five months of the players being left to their own supervision. Both Williams and Davis failed tests during that grace period, then failed another test during this season.  It’s a terrible situation across the board: Davis is a free agent and stood to cash in with a huge contract come March. The NFL’s latest offensive trend of prominently featuring super-athletic tight ends like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Jermichael Finley suggested that a young playmaker like Davis would be one of the most sought-after players available in the offseason. Now, teams will be far more hesitant to invest tens of millions of dollars in a guy who will miss an entire year if he fails his fourth test. Williams’, meanwhile, will forfeit an estimated $2 million as a result of the suspension. Furthermore, failing three tests in what amounts to just 11 months in the NFL due to the lockout is a major red flag. It is an especially tough pill to swallow for the ‘Skins since Williams was taken ahead of other accomplished first-round linemen like Russell Okung, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and Maurkice Pouncey, as well as playmakers like Eric Berry, Dez Bryant, Ryan Mathews and Joe Haden. And this entire situation happened because of, what, weed? Are you kidding me? These guys are insanely-paid professional athletes who get routinely drug-tested with millions of dollars at stake and they couldn’t quit a drug that isn’t even addictive? So now, the Redskins get to play out the season with Helu, Rex Grossman, and a dozen aggressively mediocre players while Williams and Davis stay home and black out on bath salts. Good times.

Texans 17, Falcons 10- Here’s your up-to-the-minute grim NFC playoff picture: The Packers, Saints and 49ers are in, obviously, because they are apparently the only teams in the conference who can go three games without a comically underwhelming performance. That leaves three open spots to be filled by the Cowboys, Falcons, Giants, Bears and Lions. What do those teams- all locked up in a heated playoff race- have in common? Oh they all lost on Sunday.  It looks pretty grim right now in the NFC besides that holy triumvirate at the top. The G-Men have lost four straight, the Lions have lost five of their last seven, and the Bears have dropped two in a row and are looking at games against Seattle, at Denver, at Green Bay and at Minnesota with Caleb Hanie and Marion Barber running the show. Dallas, meanwhile, lost to the Cardinals after 9 days off and needed last second and overtime field goals to win their last two games against the Dolphins and Redskins respectively. Atlanta got Yates’d on Sunday by Houston and they’ve beaten just two teams that are .500 or better this season. Fortunately for the Falcons at least, they’ve been treated to games against Carolina, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay down the stretch.  However it shakes out, these teams are all seriously flawed due to injury, inconsistency and plain old incompetence. When Eli Manning is the most consistent quarterback in a five-team playoff race, you know the NFC’s fallen on hard times. I wish Roger Goodell would take a break from pleasuring himself in the mirror to announce that the Niners, Packers and Saints would just play a double-elimination, round-robin tournament in lieu of a six-team playoff.

Finally, your weekly Peyton Hillis award winners who should be forced to listen to Ray of Light on repeat for a millenia:
Steven Jackson- 19 yards
DeMarco Murray- 38 yards
DeSean Jackson- 34 yards
Michael Bush- 18 yards
Anquan Boldin- 34 yards
LaGarrette Blount- 19 yards
Michael Turner- 44 yards

And your DeMarco Murray award winners who should be forced to legally change their nickname to Material Girl:
Percy Harvin- 156 yards, 2 TDs
Pierre Garcon- 150 yards, 2 TDs
Marshawn Lynch- 148 yards, 2 TDs
Shonn Greene- 88 yards, 3 TDs (Note: I’m pretty sure Shonn Greene has been on either the over or underachievers list 10 weeks this season)

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