Serving Leftovers at the Flyover
Welcome back to the NFL Pregame Flyover, where leftovers are what we serve all season long.
Before we tour this week’s schedule of games – and tell you which games are Probably worth watching, which games are of Questionable worth, Doubtful worth, and no worth - let’s look at the teams that have never won a Super Bowl and ask, “Is this their year?”
First-time Super Bowl winner lurking?
The NFL bills itself as a parity-laden league, where the Cardinals can beat the Patriots on any given Sunday. And yet the Super Bowl era has been dominated by a handful of teams, with the Steelers (6), Niners (5), Cowboys (5), Packers (4) and Giants (4) winning more than half of the 46 Super Bowls to date. Fourteen teams – seven in each conference – have never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. These teams bring shame to the AFC and the NFC, but perhaps that will change with a championship this year. Let’s look at their chances of making good.
(This week we’ll do the NFC, and next week the AFC.)
EAGLES: Philadelphia is 3-7 and has lost its last five games. Have you had the opportunity to see how poorly the Eagles – who lost last week to the Redskins 31-7 – have been playing lately? No? Well, fear not: They’re on national television three of the next four weeks.
Odds they win the Super Bowl: The same as Andy Reid coaching the Eagles next year.
LIONS: Detroit graced your television screen for the 123rd consecutive Thanksgiving on Thursday. If you happened to miss their game because you were eating dinner, you missed hearing the announcers explain why the Lions play on Thanksgiving every year. Here’s the clip.
Odds they win the Super Bowl: The same as you accurately transcribing the content of that clip.
VIKINGS: Minnesota has quietly won six games, including a season sweep of the Lions and an impressive victory over San Francisco. But the Vikings' defense has looked suspect of late, and their offense and special teams will take a big hit if Percy Harvin is out for long.
Odds they win the Super Bowl: The same as a running back blowing out his knee and then returning to All-Pro level within eight months.
CARDINALS: Arizona started the season with four straight victories, foreshadowing the type of consistency they would exhibit later in the year when they lost seven straight (and counting).
Odds they win the Super Bowl: The same as you being able to name the Cardinals’ starting quarterback for every game this season.
PANTHERS: What has happened to Carolina? Earlier in the year every defeat was followed by an entertaining Cam Newton press conference. But now? Nothing. Pick it up, Newton. Those teammates aren’t going to throw themselves under the bus.
Odds they win the Super Bowl: The same as Ryan Kalil having this framed on his wall.
SEAHAWKS: Seattle has surrendered the second-fewest points in the NFL (next to the Niners), and they have the second-best record in the NFC West (next to the Niners). The Seahawks lead San Francisco in games won on phantom simultaneous catches.
Odds they win the Super Bowl: The same as replacement referees working the Super Bowl.
FALCONS: After the Falcons lost their first game of the season to the Saints two weeks ago, Roddy White refused to give the Saints any credit, instead saying the Falcons had given the game to New Orleans. It’s of a piece with Atlanta’s postseason track record in the Matt Ryan era, in which they’ve given it to the other team in every single playoff game.
Odds they win the Super Bowl: The same as Ray Edwards winning team MVP.
The Jingle on the NFL Network
I love the pageantry of Christmas and all its associative sounds, smells, and sights. Gift-giving? Hate it. But carols, gingerbread houses, and stockings hung by the chimney with care? Yes, please. Which is probably why the bells-driven jingle used constantly by the NFL Network always puts me in a good mood. It’s like a mashup of a Zales commercial and that dreadful “Giva-giva-giva Garmin” commercial. Is this jingle new to the holiday season? I can’t say for sure, since I have no idea when the holiday season actually started.
The Weekly Best
Welcome to the Weekly Best, where we hand out Jeffreys and you stroke the furry wall.
Best teams in the NFL: Have their way with the Bears.
Best excuse to get rid of PATs: The injury to Rob Gronkowski.
Best QB in San Francisco: Jim Harbaugh says it’s Colin Kaepernick.
Best passing total still belongs to Norm Van Brocklin (554): But Matt Schaub tied Warren Moon (527) for second best.
Best book I’ve read about the 1970s Raiders: “Badasses” by Peter Richmond, which also happens to be the only book I’ve read about that team.
Best enticement to read the memoirs of John Matuszak and Kenny Stabler: The aforementioned “Badasses.”
Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out
Just as the NFL puts out an injury report on the likelihood that certain players will suit up each week (Probable, Questionable, Doubtful or Out), we rate the NFL schedule on the likelihood that games will be worth watching. Because let's face it, you can't watch them all.
Probable Game of the Week: Green Bay at New York Giants.
Let’s be honest, we all hate certain teams and players, whether we like to admit it or not. For a long time, the group I hated – the cadre! – was relatively small and select, and basically included the Patriots, Ravens and anyone who ever played for them. Out of sheer boredom, I made a conscious decision to hate more teams this year. I felt I was cheating myself. Thankfully if you look close enough you can find a reason to hate any team. Even the Steelers. ESPECIALLY the Steelers, who I’d totally hate if I weren’t one of their fans.
Green Bay? Easy to hate, especially after their fan base had a collective meltdown following Golden Tate’s touchdown catch. And it was a touchdown catch. Seriously, go check your fantasy score; he totally got credit for it and everything.
Atlanta? Easy to hate, especially after they whined about not getting enough media attention for going 8-0. Even easier to hate after they (and by “they” I mean like one person; but still!) said they gave that victory to the Saints. With LeBron James in firm possession of his first NBA title, the sports world needs a new team/sports figure who can’t win the big one. That’s not the Falcons, since they can’t even win a first-round playoff game.
Detroit? Easy to hate, especially after they transformed into the Bengals 2.0, replete with boorish off-the-field behavior and diminishing results from star players. Thanks largely to the actions of Ndamukong Suh, the Lions progressed straight from lovable loser to easy-to-hate upstart. Don’t trust them with your heart, Detroit fans. They will cheat on you with your best friend’s grandfather – someone old enough to remember when the Lions were actually good.
Other teams that are becoming increasingly easy to hate: San Francisco, New Orleans, and Seattle.
Teams becoming increasingly easy to love: Pittsburgh. (Charlie Batch? Plaxico Burress? How many feel-good stories can one team have?!?)
(Other games receiving votes: San Francisco at New Orleans; Atlanta at Tampa Bay; Minnesota at Chicago.)
Questionable Game of the Week: Baltimore at San Diego
This AFC matchup is intriguing because it features two talented quarterbacks who haven’t been able to get over the hump and lead their teams to a Super Bowl. Most of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL have won at least one Super Bowl – in addition to two quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning) who some observers don’t think are elite – so it stands to reason that Joe Flacco and Philip Rivers are the best two quarterbacks who’ve yet to win a title. Unless you count Matt Ryan and Tony Romo, who definitely should be counted if you’re handing out playoff participation ribbons.
(Other games receiving votes: Seattle at Miami; Buffalo at Indianapolis.)
Doubtful Game of the Week: Pittsburgh at Cleveland.
Every year there’s one team that consistently loses close games, compiling a record that belies their competitive make-up. This year that team is the 2-8 Browns, who’ve lost five games by seven points or less. With Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon, this team has some of the best players the Browns have had in years. If I were a Browns fan, that’d make me very depressed.
(Other games receiving votes: St. Louis at Arizona; Oakland at Cincinnati.)
Out Game of the Week: Carolina at Philadelphia.
Unless you have Cam Newton on your fantasy team, your interest in this Monday night game should be minuscule. I’m glad Monday Night Football is saddled with so many crappy games down the stretch, because that means one less night when I feel compelled to watch football.
Frankly the expansion of Thursday night football to a full-year schedule has made it seem like an NFL game is on every night. Monday Night Football was a rarity, a treat. But between Thursday night football, Sunday night football, and Monday night football, the NFL is taking over our evenings.
Earlier in the season you might have been able to convince me to watch this Panthers-Eagles game. But now? When Andy Reid is playing out the string, and the guy announcing the game (Jon Gruden) is an odds-on favorite to replace him?
(Other games receiving votes: Denver at Kansas City; Tennessee at Jacksonville.)