Here are, of course, the games that really matter prior to 7:30 pm Sunday:
Carolina at Atlanta, 12pm, Channel 4 …This is the best chance for the Cowboys. Atlanta is good enough to beat Carolina, and does not care for them, either. I think if it happens, it will be thanks to the Falcons.
While the Panthers can clinch a playoff berth with a win, their team mindset is a huge question mark heading into this game. Between the disappointment of Week 16's 24-20 home loss to the Dallas Cowboys and their struggles at the Georgia Dome -- where they are 1-9 -- the Panthers are a team looking for any positives to carry them into this game.
Washington at Philadelphia, 3:15pm, Channel 4 …I don’t like the odds here much at all, given the Eagles status. But, if it is left to Patty Ramsey….hmmm.
Gibbs now can close the second season of his second tenure with the Redskins by clinching a playoff berth, and maybe a division title, if they can defeat the Philadelphia Eagles.
The only time Washington has been to the postseason since Gibbs left after the 1992 season, concluding a 12-year reign that included four trips to the Super Bowl, came in 1999 under Norv Turner. That also was the last time the team had a winning season, until Gibbs clinched one last week as the Redskins ran their winning streak to four games to keep their playoff hopes very much alive.
A win gives Washington a postseason berth, and could mean an NFC East title if the New York Giants lose Saturday night to Oakland. If the Redskins lose, they likely will head for their televisions because they would still make the playoffs if Dallas loses to St. Louis in the Sunday night game.
Incidentally, NFL.com shows some interesting copy points about the 2005 playoff field:
No matter how it all turns out, the 2005 NFL playoff field will be an impressive one indeed:
• All 12 teams could have at least 10 wins apiece -- the third time this has happened (2000, 2003) since the NFL went to the 12-team playoff system in 1990. Looked at in another way, there could be three teams with 10 wins who do not make the playoffs -- equaling the entire total of such teams since 1990 (Philadelphia and San Francisco in 1991; Miami in 2003).
• For the second time in the past three seasons (2003), the NFL could boast six 12-win teams -- the most in a season in history.
• Of the 14 clubs either in the playoffs or seeking playoff berths, nine did not make the postseason last year.
• For the fourth time since 2000, two teams -- Chicago and Tampa Bay -- can go from "worst to first" in their divisions, finishing last a year ago and first in 2005.
The first two suggest the league is as tough as it ever was, and then the second two suggest it is a parity ruined league. Which do you like to believe?
Mac Engle and Drew Bledsoe discuss …
"This is it. I won't go to another team," the 33-year-old Bledsoe said. "I can say that with 100 percent, no-doubt-about-it certainty."
For the first time since 2000, the Cowboys have a no-doubt-about-it certainty they have a legitimate, playmaking quarterback.
No Cowboy needed this season as much as Bledsoe, and no one on the team needs Sunday's events to fall just right to make the playoffs to formally dispel the notion that he was the second coming of Vinny Testaverde.
"If we don't get into the playoffs," Bledsoe said, "it will be a huge disappointment."
Old time hockey when Dallas and St Louis squared off. Guerin was dominant for one of those rare occasions in 2005-06, but we all know what he is capable of (if you are not, click here). Then, some spillover from Monday night, as the Blues and Stars played the fued with 4 fights in 49 seconds. Wonderful stuff. Oh yeah, Stars 3, Blues 0 …
Ryan Johnson, hardly a brawler, checked Mike Modano hard midway through the period.
Steve Ott stood up for the Stars' best player a couple of minutes later, pummeling Johnson with hard rights. Three more pairings quickly followed.
The last time the Stars had four fights in a period was Feb. 15, 1999, against Edmonton.
"I know fighting is down in the league, but I think after tonight we brought it back again," Ott said.
Our boy, Blue, Patrick Cranshaw, dead at 86 …he is already missed…
I can’t believe it, but someone has invented Nice Piece.org …Furio Fan, I suspect…
Over analyze the USC offense …
UFC most annoying of 2005 column …
Lest we give Ronaldinho too much love (see yesterday), here is my personal favorite Thierry Henry of Arsenal and France …Soon to join Ronaldinho in Barca? Wow.