Gang, hope you enjoyed the merriment that is the Christmas season. Feliz Navidad indeed.
We also have high hopes for the New Year festivities, which at the 5-at-10 compound include a couple of Co-Colas at home with the family and then a Jan. 1 feast of football and food. Yip-eee.
From the "Talks too much" studios, the purest form of purity comes in the strangest forms. Or something like that.
We feel certain the final Sunday of the NFL will come up on Press Row today from 3-6 p.m. on ESPN radio and online right here at timesfreepress.com.
But wow. Simply wow.
In fact, the finale Sunday of the NFL season had the emphatic and dramatic feel of one of those epic college football Saturdays. And that was not entirely by accident, considering the NFL adopted the divisional match-ups for Week 17, and the move paid off with excellent football and the fun-filled ripple effects of scoreboard watching and playoff hunting.
Good times indeed.
So what's our big five this morning as the dust settles? Glad you asked.
1) Dallas is a hamster on the perpetual circle wheel of NFL mediocrity. The Cowboys gave arguably their most inspired effort of the season with Kyle Orton replacing the injured Tony Romo in a 24-22 loss to the Eagles that ended Dallas' season. But playing hard and playing well (and smart) are not the same thing.
2) Mike Munchak's time in Nashville should be done. The Titans are 6-12 the last three years in arguably the worst division in the NFL. That's not good. The crowds now are roughly half full at Titans home games. That's worse.
3) Peyton Manning is the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history, and he just had the greatest single season in NFL history. The second part — Manning setting NFL records for most TD passes and passing yards in a season and leading the Broncos to the most points scored in a season — is hard to deny. The first part is both high praise and Manning's biggest career blemish. And it's a phrase that could lose 'regular season' and just become the greatest quarterback in NFL history if the Broncos win it all this year.
4) Ryan Succop best avoid the greater Pittsburgh area for the rest of his life. Succop, the Kansas City kicker and one of a few Chiefs starters who actually played in what was a meaningless game for K.C., missed a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation in what became San Diego's 27-24 overtime win that punched the Chargers' ticket to the playoffs. In the crazy dance for the final AFC wildcard spot, the Chargers needed to win to get in. A Chargers loss would have meant the Pittsburgh Steelers would have made the playoffs, but Succop's 41-yard try at the end of regulation was wide right.
5) Here's the playoff pairings and schedule for next weekend, and with the BCS title game on tap for Monday, next weekend may be one of the best football weekends in a long while.
Kansas City at Indy (-2.5), 4:35 p.m., NBC
New Orleans at Philly (-2.5), 8:10 p.m., NBC
San Diego at Cincy (-7), 1:05 p.m., CBS
San Fran (-2.5) at Green Bay, 4:40, Fox
We are 9-6 against the number through the first 15 bowl games, an acceptable 60 percent, and that includes a bowl-opening meltdown by Mike Leach and the Washington State Chokers. (If you think we lost a little entertainment on that one, well, you're right. Mike Leach, you're dead to us.)
There are a slew of games today and a couple more tomorrow. Last year, this is the stage we made a monster charge, including a 9-0 New Year's Day run.
We're ready. Giddy-up.
Navy minus-6.5 over MTSU: Maybe this is a loyalty pick — Navy has been a been a consistent entertainment earner this year. Maybe this is a patriotic pick — it's Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl after all. Or maybe, just maybe, this is a pick that tips the fedora to the Village People.
Georgia Tech plus-3 over Ole Miss: Two teams that suffered disappointing losses to hated rivals to end the season. Each team had bigger bowl hopes than Nashville. Still, give the Jackets the edge simply because Paul Johnson needs this game more than Hugh Freeze does.
Texas plus-14.5 over Oregon: The Ducks are better across the board and this game could very well be 56-20 Ducks. Quack, quack. Still, when picking entertainment ventures, sometimes you play your gut, and here's saying the Longhorns are going to be supremely motivated for departing coach Mack Brown. Here's the good news about this pick: You'll know at the end of the first quarter one way or the other, whether this game is going to be a fight or a blowout.
Arizona State minus-13 over Texas Tech: Tech lost five in a row to end the season. That's enough for us.
Arizona minus-7 over Boston College: Again, this is a numbers lesson that catches the eye of the experienced entertainment investor. Looking at various sites that track such matters, almost 60 percent of the public's money is on BC, a team with a loyal following. Yet the line has moved in Arizona's favor, so the guys who are paid to make such decisions still like the Wildcats. That's enough for us.
UCLA minus-7 over Virginia Tech: Yes, we are a touch scared about Virginia Tech's defensive staff getting a month to prepare. Still the talent difference here is too great across the board. And yes, buy the half.
Mississippi State minus 7-over Rice: Love this game. Mississippi State closed the season fast and have to feel like a bowl game was a reward. Rice, well, rice is excellent as a side item. AS the main dish... no thanks.
Texas A&M minus-11 over Duke: No line has moved more this bowl season than the over/under on this one, which has gone from 67 to 75. (Side explanation: Vegas sets a number called the over/under and entertainment investors can wager that the combined points of each team will each go 'over' or 'under' than total. Since we are dealing in words, this would be the best time to say, yes, in the matters of direction prepositions, the appropriate term would be the "More than/Less than" total, but Vegas did not ask our opinion.) Where were we. Oh yes, the pick. Duke has surprised all the way, matching up well with evenly matched foes and winning every close game. These teams are not evenly matched. Yes, David Cutcliffe worked magic, winning 10 games at Duke. In his likely swan song, Johnny Football takes center stage on New Year's Eve.
New Year's picks will be out tomorrow.
College hoops recap
Busy weekend for sure. We also know Chas9 is smiling Blue ear to Blue ear right about now.
Here's a few college hoops tidbits that were too much to get into the this and that.
Mocs welcome back Z: Z Mason returns and the Mocs win. That's not a coincidence.
Kentucky beat Louisville in Lexington. Entertaining game that proved the following: The Cats could be special. (That's a could, we're not sure they'll get there yet, but they certainly could.). The Cards are not going anywhere any time soon. (They are athletic — Russ Smith is sick — and fought to the end in the toughest of road atmospheres.) James Young can play.
For our dollar, Syracuse is going to be the toughest out of the tournament because of their defense and the fact that they make you hit perimeter shots for 40 minutes.
The Vols arguably face a must-win game tonight if you think about it.
This and that
— A south Alabama woman is defending her decision to name her son after her favorite sports team. The woman's son is Krimson Tyde Steele. If you think that's bad, at least she was not an LSU fan and named her boy Tyger Bate Steele. What would be the worst college team affiliation to be named after? Discuss.
— So far, the NFL's Black Monday — the day after the regular season in which coaches and GMs get pink slips (*we could call it Pink Monday, black gets a bad wrap, you know) — has claimed Browns coach Rob Chudziniski (great name) and Minnesota's Leslie Frazier (not as great a name). Side question: What's your Rushmore of Leslie's? Discuss, and Leslie Neilsen better be there or you are not allowed.
— LeBron turned an ankle proving that he is human after all.
— NFL top 10 draft order, according to CBSsports.com:
- Houston, 2. St. Louis (from Washington), 3. Jacksonville, 4. Cleveland, 5. Oakland, 6. Atlanta, 7. Tampa Bay, 8. Minnesota, 9. Buffalo, 10, Detroit. The Titans pick 11th and sense we love the draft — you know this — we are going to have to forge our earliest mock draft ever sooner rather than later.
Ton o' stuff to discuss.
Munchak, stay or go?
Who's your NFL coach of the year?
We'll have a our mock draft around lunch, so be thinking of yours.
Best bowl game so far?
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...