What a weekend this was...and not just because my Redskins clinched their first playoff berth since 1999. It was one of the most emotional days I've seen in quite some time. You had:
*Tony Dungy's emotional return to the Colts sideline after burying his 18-yr old son earlier in the week.
*Dick Vermeil hugging everyone on the Chiefs sideline as his career came to an end.
*Brett Favre's salute to the Lambeau crowd as he walked out of the Packers huddle for, possibly, the final time.
*Jerome Bettis bulldozing for 3 TDs in a game that the Steelers had to have. That may be his final game in Pittsburgh.
*Doug Flutie, perfoming the first drop kick in over 60 years, in what could be his final game.
*Vinny Testerverde waving to the New York crowd as he most likely re-hangs them up.
*Though not as emotional a day, but Deion Sanders likely will re-retire as well.
Imagine that class entering the Hall Of Fame. Favre, Deion, Bettis and maybe, just maybe, Flutie [hey, it is the PRO Football Hall of Fame...doesn't the CFL count?]. Let's get down to bizness.
REDSKINS 31-EAGLES 20 (Sportz 1-0). By no means did I figure that this would be a cakewalk. And it wasn't. The Eagles are a prideful organization and played well enough to beat Washington. And this is the NFC East...the division I have so much love for. However, SIX turnovers is too big of a hurdle to overcome. And, baby, did we need them! A muffed punt turned into a Redskins TD. An acrobatic interception set up a TD on the next play. A sack-and-fumble was returned for a TD. If not for those miscues....the Redskins offense didn't play well enough to win this game.
The Redskins have ended an amazing season that saw them win their final FIVE games....including the last three against division foes....just to get into the playoffs. For those who thing the Skins are just a fluke...realize that they (a) beat the #1 seeded Seahawks, (b) beat the #2 seeded Bears, (c) lost by one point to the #3 seeded Buccaneers in Tampa, (d) beat the #4 seeded Giants and (e) beat the team that was fighting to get into the playoffs in the final week, the Cowboys, twice. Also, the Redskins finished with a pretty good 5-3 road record.
The Skins also finished up with a 5-1 record in the NFC East. Quite amazing, since the Redskins had lost 15 of their last 18 NFC East games in the last three seasons. Clinton Portis broke the Skins single season rushing record....and Santana Moss broke the Skins 42-yr old single season receiving yards record. Hail to the Redskins, indeed!
BUCCANEERS 27-SAINTS 13 (Sportz 2-0). The Bucs will be the Redskins opponent next week. Tampa won the NFC South with this not-so-easy win over the Saints. Quite a nice comeback for the only team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl...then have two straight losing seasons. As for the Saints, I'm sure they are glad that this season is over. While they won't get the #1 pick in the draft, the #2 pick [which is theirs] could net them the guy they really wanted anyways - Matt Leinart.
PANTHERS 44-FALCONS 11 (Sportz 2-1). Okay, Atlanta did the exact opposite as I thought. They just rolled over. I figured they'd give the Panthers a fight, since they could've gotten the first back-to-back winning seasons in the history of the franchise. But, no, they stunk up the joint and were completely embarassed. This performance is typical of Carolina...who tend to be riding a rollercoaster of effort of late. They lose games you think they'd be geeked to win....then roll in games that should be tougher. Anyway...this was a perfect game for Carolina, as they clinched aplayoff berth and still were able to rest their starters.
GIANTS 30-RAIDERS 21 (Sportz 3-1). The Redskins were playing for the wildcard, since the G-men wrapped up the NFC East title on Saturday. Tiki Barber ran for over 200 yards as the Giants rebounded from their loss in Washington last week. The Giants will host the Panthers on Sunday.
STEELERS 35-LIONS 21 (Sportz 4-1). Talk about going out with style. Jerome Bettis rushed for 41 yards and 3 TDs in what most likely is his final game in Pittsburgh. This win against a surprisingly game Lions team clinched the AFC's final playoff berth and a trip to Cincinnati next weekend. Bettis, who has yet to announce his retirement plans, signed jerseys, hugged teammates and coaches, and received several standing ovations. As for the Steelers...they enter the playoffs as possibly the hottest team in the AFC. Even as a #6 seed, they are just as dangerous as anyone else.
CHIEFS 37-BENGALS 3 (Sportz 5-1). Pittsburgh's opponent in the playoffs with be a familiar face - the Bengals. Cincinnati closed out the season with another troubling loss....this one a complete blowout at the hands of the Chiefs. Even though the Bengals were resting many starters...this shouldn't happen. KC out-gained the Bengals 537 to 161, including an amazing 201 yards rushing by Larry Johnson to go along with his 3 TDs. He broke the single season rushing record in Kansas City....amazing since he began the year as Priest Holmes' backup. As for Cincy, this loss isn't good no matter how you spin it. This 34 point beatdown comes a week after losing at home to the lowly Bills, which came a week after barely beating the Browns. Now they stare down the barrel of the Steelers who have already won at Paul Brown Stadium once this year. Huge game!
DOLPHINS 28-PATRIOTS 26 (Sportz 5-2). You'd swear that the Pats wanted to lose this game. Trailing most of the day, New England tried to first "drop kick" in over 60 years to convert a PAT. They played WRs as defensive backs [Bam Childress, who was activate for this game, played both positions]. To be honest, it looked like they rather have dealt with the Jags and not the Steelers...so they just had fun and didn't really take this game tooo seriously. Miami, on the other hand, won their 6th straight game to end the season....finishing 9-7 and just a game back of New England in the standings [though they've been eliminated for a while].
BRONCOS 23-CHARGERS 7 (Sportz 5-3). Let me just say that everyone can please stop with the "Chargers are the greatest team to miss the playoffs" crap. They lost 7 games and were handled in their last two games [games they HAD to win] against division foes. Denver, despite resting people, seemed to coast to this win.
COLTS 17-CARDINALS 13 (Sportz 6-3). This was anything but a normal game. The Colts essentially put their preseason squad on the field for this one...and needed an overturned TD call [McCown was down before he reached the goalline] to close this one down. In fact, the Colts rushed for a grand total of 11 yards. Wow. And so the story continued for the Cards, as they couldn't even beat the Colts "B" team. But Neil Rackers did set the NFL record for FGs in a season (40). Indy's biggest question mark heading into the postseason will be momentum. The team won their first 13 games...then pretty much chilled the final three games. With the bye next week, it will be a month gone by between meaningful games. Will they be rusty?
PACKERS 23-SEAHAWKS 17 (Sportz 7-3). I think this is Favre's last game. The season was as bad as he has ever had from a team standpoint. He set a personal high for interceptions. The winters seem to get colder and the pain tends to last a bit longer. Most likely, a new coach will be in place and there will be some personnel changes. So this could be Favre's queue to bow out. He's had a great career....remarkable since he was exiled out of Atlanta to a football gravesite in Green Bay. Dude only made it the vogue place to play again, won a Super Bowl and three MVPs. No big whoop.
VIKINGS 34-BEARS 10 (Sportz 8-3). Speaking of people leaving, Mike Tice's Vikings whipped up on Chicago...then he was fired. After a horrible start, the Vikes did make a strong run to get into the playoff hunt. But the bad was too bad...and the owner wanted a change. It won't be just Tice....as many players may also get their pink slips as well. As for Chicago, they basically are just chilling until MLK weekend for the playoffs.
JAGUARS 40-TITANS 13 (Sportz 9-3). In other news, the Jags rested their starters and STILL were able to whip on their opponent. Jacksonville has been basically been given no respect in NFL circles as a strong playoff contender. People rather see San Diego or Kansas City in the playoffs. But the Jags finished 12-4 [only the Colts, Broncos and Seahawks finished with a better record] with two of those losses coming to Indianapolis.
BROWNS 20-RAVENS 16 (Sportz 9-4). You know that Cleveland was gonna take this game seriously. The old Browns went back to Cleveland to deal with the new Browns. Baltimore lost their 11th straight road game...and Cleveland won it's first division game.
JETS 30-BILLS 26 (Sportz 9-5). Two teams, who had such high aspirations just 4 months ago, finally watched the season end. The Jets won just their 4th game in beating the Bills...who may see coach Mike Mularky get fired this week.
NINERS 20-TEXANS 17 (Sportz 10-5). Houston gets the #1 pick in the draft after losing late in overtime. A Joe Nedney FG for San Fran locked the game up [and a 2-game winning streak]. Look for Houston to fire Dom Capers sometime soon....and working on making Reggie Bush replica jerseys.
RAMS AT COWBOYS