Parity Can't Save These Dreadful Eight

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Welcome back to the NFL Pregame Flyover, the only NFL column that does not use child labor.  

Before we do our thing – and tell you which games are Probably worth watching, which games are of Questionable worth, Doubtful worth, and negative worth – let’s pour some out for the homies who can’t make the playoffs.

No bonus round for these 8 teams

Four teams in each conference have been eliminated from playoff contention, in keeping with the NFL’s insistence that everything be balanced at all times. Can you name all eight? Here’s a hint: these teams have combined to win four Super Bowls, and three of those Super Bowls were won by the Raiders. The fourth was won by the Chiefs. Some might say the other six teams - Titans, Jaguars, Panthers, Eagles, Cardinals and Lions – are abject failures. But that’s a decidedly negative attitude and one we do not endorse. When we look at a glass, we always consider it half full, even if the glass is empty. 

With that in mind, let’s look at the eight teams that have been eliminated from playoff contention and consider some things for which they might be thankful.

Raiders: Thank heavens Al Davis is not alive to see this team. He was committed to excellence, winning and bending the rules, and it would kill him to see Bountygate involve some namby-pamby team like the Saints. 

Eagles: With the victory over the Bucs last week, the Eagles have finally won a game more recently than the Phillies. Praise be.

Titans: Tennessee continues to lose consistently, but their losses are of the garden variety sort. If they were to lose, say, 58-0, their players might attract the unwanted advances of a certain ex-teammate. 

Cardinals: “We can’t go 0-16.”

Lions: “We can’t go 0-16 again.”

Chiefs: At least they found their quarterback of the future in Brady Quinn.

Jaguars: Thanks to the rookie wage scale in the collective bargaining agreement, they won’t have to break the bank for the No. 1 pick in the draft, which is good because you shouldn’t overpay for someone who doesn’t want to live in Jacksonville. 

Panthers: Even with their disappointing season, Carolina players are thankful that Steve Smith hasn’t punched any of them recently. 


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: 49ers at Patriots.

Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports recently addressed why no current squads in the parity-laden NFL can seem to match the big-boy footprints of certain teams of yore; for example, the 1989 49ers. The piece was good, but I really found myself transfixed by a quote from Karlos Dansby about the 2008 Cardinals, who got blasted by the Patriots toward the end of the season but went on to reach the Super Bowl. The quote was bewitching because it included a deleted expletive that made me question my Mad Libs skills. 

"We got [expletive]-whipped by the Patriots, and we knew we weren't good enough," recalled Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby, who played for that Cardinals team. "It was an eye-opener, and that kind of changed our whole level of focus."

I cannot determine what the expletive is and I need to know! I sent two Twitter messages to Silver, asking him to identify the deleted word. Surprisingly he did not reply. 

I put the issue to my friends on Facebook, and one of them seemed to think that the deleted word was “ass.” Can that be true? It doesn’t seem possible. How could such a low-level curse word – one you see regularly in print – be accorded the expletive-deleted treatment? 

If only William Safire were still alive. He’d get to the bottom of this (expletive).

(Other games receiving votes: Colts at Texans; Falcons at Giants; Broncos at Ravens; Packers at Bears; Steelers at Cowboys.)

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Questionable Game of the Week: Jets at Titans.

You’ll notice below next to “Other games receiving votes,” that we have written “none.” That’s because this is unquestionably the most questionable game of the week. Tennessee fans are probably questioning why their team’s lone game on Monday Night Football had to come so late in the season, when the Titans are 4-9 and unquestionably out of playoff contention. And Jets fans have to question whether the whole season of suffering has been a build-up to this game, when the Jets could go to 7-7 with a victory and cast their fireman-free butts right into the playoff picture.

The Jets are very much alive, and Tim Tebow is very much their backup quarterback. Injuries happen all the time; the world is a violent place. And if Tebow were to take over and lead the Jets to the playoffs at this point in the season, I think I would laugh like Randle McMurphy on nitrous oxide. Please let it happen; I’ll even provide the nitrous. 

By the way, it should be noted that this is the last Monday night game of the year. In deference to Christmas Eve, next week’s game between the Falcons and Lions is scheduled for Saturday night, Dec. 22. That’s right, the league is saving us from watching the Lions on a national holiday. How novel!

(Other games receiving votes: None.) 

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Doubtful Game of the Week: Redskins at Browns.

If you look back through the list of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, you’ll see guys of almost every stripe. There are right-handed quarterbacks and left-handed quarterbacks, white quarterbacks and black quarterbacks. There are Hall of Fame quarterbacks and Trent Dilfer. You name it, the Super Bowl has been won by just about every type of quarterback – except one, the rookie quarterback.

No first-year signal-caller has ever played in a Super Bowl, much less won it. A few reached the conference title games, including Ben Roethlisberger, Shaun King and Mark Sanchez. Given how difficult it is for a veteran to win a Super Bowl, I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that no rookie has ever won the game. But you’d think some bright-eyed punk could at least ride the coattails of a dominant defense and REACH the Super Bowl. 

There’s been a lot of blather about how this year’s crop of rookie quarterbacks is on par with the sublime class of 1983. One surefire way to end such blather is to have one of this year’s young turks win the Super Bowl. 

In this Redskins-Browns game, we might be able to catch a glimpse of this future difference-maker. I’m talking of course about Brandon Weeden, quarterback of the 5-8 Cleveland Browns, who are still alive in the playoff hunt.

Weeden is 29 years old, and thus wiser than 99.9 percent of rookie quarterbacks. I put my faith in him to drive the definitive wedge between the 2012 and 1983 rookie quarterback classes. He can get the Cleveland Browns to their first Super Bowl and become the first rookie to ever play in the big game. Seriously, it’s still mathematically possible. Go Cleveland!

(Other games receiving votes: Vikings at Rams; Seahawks at Bills.)

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Out Game of the Week: Jaguars at Dolphins

We discussed earlier in the season how Jaguars-Dolphins is one of the great untapped rivalries in the NFL. Part of the problem lies in the fact that the teams play in separate divisions, and so they only square off intermittently. The Dolphins, of course, should be in the AFC South and the Colts (formerly of Baltimore) should be in the AFC East. Having two teams from the same state – and the same conference – playing in different divisions is bad for business. Just imagine if the Chargers and Raiders played in different divisions, or the Bengals and Browns. If the two Ohio teams played in separate divisions, the Steelers and the Ravens would each be deprived of two easy wins each season. 

(Other games receiving votes: Lions at Cardinals; Panthers at Chargers; Chiefs at Raiders.)

Cameron Martin has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, ESPN.com, Yahoo! Sports, and CBS Sports. Send your ideas to cdavidmartin@yahoo.com.

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