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NFL Sunday (Dec 2002)

One of the greatest inventions of all time, along with email, PEZ and Salma Hayek, is DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket. Sunday Ticket gives the football fan the ability to watch as many as eleven NFL games at one time from his or her own couch, something most of us could only dream about ten years ago. This past Sunday I took advantage of the fact that the Patriots were not playing to get a more detailed look at all 12 afternoon games. Here is my log.

1:00 EST Time to review my football pool picks for the 1:00 games. I'm coming off a solid 12-4 week after wallowing around .500 for most of the year. I'm eight games out of first place in my football pool, so I need some wins this week. The pool leader is a Jets fan so if he is anything like his team, a collapse is imminent. Here are the matchups:
  • Atlanta -3.5 @ Minnesota: Minnesota is a much better team at home so I don't expect this game to be a blowout. However, I don't think the league's 29th best defense can handle Mr. Vick. I'm taking Hotlanta minus the points.
  • Baltimore -3 @ Cincinnati: My stats tell me that home dogs are 34-25 this season, but I simply cannot bet on the Bungles with a spread this low. I'm confident that Cincy will find a way to lose, hopefully be more than 3. My pick is the Ravens.
  • Cleveland -7.5 vs Carolina: Cleveland, miraculously, is 6-5 despite ranking 22nd in offense and 24th in defense and giving away a game in week one via . Carolina is 6th in defense and should keep the game close. Panthers +7.5.
  • Green Bay -9.5 vs Chicago: 9 1/2 is a lot of points to give up but Favre is coming off two hideous performances and should be poised to take it out on the Bears. I'll give the 9.5 and take the Pack at home.
  • Kansas City -9.5 vs Arizona: Arizona looks like they have completely given up on the season but I can't justify giving 9 1/2 points with the worst defense in the league. I'm taking Arizona +9.5.
  • Miami -2 @ Buffalo: I love this game. Miami is 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games after Week 12 in a Northern city. It will be frigid and quite possibly snowy in Buffalo today and it will be Lucas against Bledsoe so I love the Bills plus the points.
  • Giants -3 vs Tennessee: This could go either way and both teams have been unpredictable. I see no real trends or mismatches. I'll take the G-men because they are playing at home.
  • Pittsburgh -3 @ Jacksonville: The Steelers appear to be a much better team, but I can't resist the better quarterback and the home underdog. I'll go Jags +3.
1:06 EST - The games are underway. First stop - Channel 704, Arizona at Kansas City. Kansas City has an uninspiring opening drive and has to punt. Arizona's punt return man is named Arnold Jackson. This gives me a chuckle ... "What you talkin' about, Willis?"

1:07 - Channel 705, Atlanta at Minnesota. Randy Moss, Michael Vick. This could be a fun game. Minnesota is already inside the Atlanta ten yard line. Culpepper throws to Moss and Randy drops it. Chuckle number two and we're only seven minutes into the day's action. Minnesota ends up with 4th and inches near the goal line. There is a timeout and I have no intention of watching a commercial today if I can help it.

1:11 - Channel 706, Carolina at Cleveland. The Browns are wearing the Halloween orange jerseys again. I can't imagine that they can take themselves seriously in those shirts. As for Carolina, their players have spent more time in the police blotter than the endzone during the past two months. I figure that they are one felony away from having to change their nickname to the Cowboys.

1:12 - Back to Atlanta/Minnesota. Culpepper scores on a QB sneak. 7-0 Vikings.

1:14 - Back to Carolina/Cleveland. The umpire tumbles over the pile during a running play. Announcer Curt Menefee tells us that the umpire's name is Jim Duke. Poor Jim. This is probably the first time his name has ever been mentioned in an NFL broadcast and it happens because he stumbles over a pile of players and falls on his backside. Again I laugh. Three chuckles in 14 minutes. Usually, I'd have to watch the WNBA to get this many laughs in such a short period of time.

1:15 - I check in with the Bears and Packers on Channel 707. I just miss seeing the Bears first touchdown - a fake field goal, no less. Damn, I really need to buy seven more TV's. I picked the Packers -9 1/2 so I quickly calculate that I am down by 16 1/2 points in this game in terms of the spread. The Patriots overcame a deficit like that in about ten minutes against Da Bears so I'm still confident.

1:16 - Channel 708, Ravens at Bengals. Click.

1:16 and 3 seconds - Channel 709, Dolphins at Bills. Unless I find out that Jill Arrington is doing sideline reporting at a different game this will be the matchup that I will watch most closely. Right now, they are in a commericial break.

1:17 - Channel 710, Pittsburgh at Jacksonville. Pittsburgh is up 3-0. The Steeler offense is currently 6th in the NFL and their defense is ranked 20th. Seems to me that those stats have been reversed for the last 25 or so years.

1:20 - Channel 711, Tennessee at the Giants. Giant fans were convinced that they would pick up a game in the NFC East standings after last week's game with the Texans and Philly's Monday Night game at San Francisco. In the end, they actaully lost a game in the standings. In this week's game, the Giants are up 3-0. Tennessee punts into the wind and the Giants have a great return, but there is a penalty called on New York for a block in the back. Is there ever a punt return without a penalty anymore?

1:25 - Arizona/KC. Jake Plummer misses a receiver that was wide open for a touchdown. Same old Cardinals. I still can't believe that Arizona has a team and LA does not.

1:27 - Atlanta returns a punt after stopping the Vikings. A flag on the play. What a shock. Ed "I'm here to pump (clap) you up" Hochuli is officiating the game. Looks like he found a shirt that fits him this week. I wonder if he is bulking up to get his own reality show. I laugh as I recall John Goodman's "Referee Pittman" on Saturday Night Live.

1:30 - Fred Taylor rumbles 19 yards to give the Jags a 7-6 lead over Pittsburgh. I don't think I have ever seen Fred Taylor run 19 yards without getting injured.

1:35 - Atlanta/Minnesota. Shawn Jefferson drops Vick's pass. Boy, that brings back memories.

1:39 - The referee calls a ludicrous interference call on Buffalo in the endzone after the Miami receiver slips on the icy turf. Miami scores a touchdown on the next play. Terrible officiating.

1:50 - Buffalo's drive stalls and they are forced to punt. Penalty on the return. Who could have predicted that?

1:57 - Tennessee/Giants. Derrick Mason has just caught a TD pass from McNair giving the Titans a 7-3 lead. I just missed a TD for the second time today. Gotta be quicker with that remote I guess.

2:00 - Baltimore/Cincinnati. I decide to check in on the Birds and Bungles for the hell of it. Jon Kitna has completed all ten of his passes so far. I can't imagine the Vegas odds on that scenario. The Ravens had arguably the best defense in NFL history two years ago. Now they can't even stop Jon Kitna. The Raven offense, as usual, is horrid. 7 yards and Neverscore, Quoth the Raven.

2:06 - Arizona/KC. Trent Green dumps the ball off to Priest Holmes as he runs - by himself - for 41 yards. Where are the Cardinals?!? Tony Richardson bangs it in on the next play. 21-0, KC. What is up with Morten Andersen's helmet? It looks like the plastic replica helmet that Dad bought me for Christmas when I was seven. I hope Morten never has to tackle anyone wearing that flimsy thing.

2:15 - Bledsoe scores on a QB sneak (this is not a typo). The play clock had clearly hit "00" prior to the snap but the refs missed it. Miami got a free touchdown on the bogus interference call earlier in the game so I guess the teams are square now. Miami is still up 14-10.

2:20 - Tennessee/Giants. Samari "Esther" Rolle is called for interference in the endzone. The Giants get first and goal at the one and cash in. New York now leads 10-7.

2:23 - A bizarre finish to the half in Green Bay. Chicago intercepts Favre on the final play of the half, but fumbles the ball on the runback. One of Green Bay's "fat guys" recovers the fumble but stupidly tries to lateral to a teammate with about nine Bears nearby. The ball bounces away and Chicago picks it up. It appears that the Bear who recovers the faulty lateral will score a touchdown, but he runs about as fast as Rich Gedman so a Packer is able to drag him down inside the 20 yard line. The half ends.

2:30 - Vick tosses a spectacular 39-yard strike to Finneran for a touchdown. Vick seems to be improving as a passer by the minute. Atlanta 14 Minnesota 14 at the half.

2:33 - Miami/Buffalo. Chidi Ahanotou picks up a Ray Lucas fumble and rumbles down to the Miami 31 with 38 seconds left in the half. Phil Simms announces that Buffalo has "one, maybe two shots to get a touchdown." There are 38 seconds left! What a moron.

2:35 - Bledsoe finds Peerless for a touchdown. 17-14 Bills at the half. Yessssss.

2:38 - Time for a turkey sandwich. This will make four days in a row. I don't think I can handle a fifth.

2:58 - Chicago coach Dick Jauron uses a replay challenge to question a possible Bears touchdown. He loses the challenge. On the same play, Green Bay was called for interference in the endzone so the Bears would have 1st and goal at the one-yard line anyway. The announcers are puzzled (as am I) by Jauron's use of a replay challenge and timeout in this situation. One play later we find out why as the Bears fumble the ball back to the Packers. The Bears season just keeps getting longer.

3:06 - Terry Glenn makes a spectacular catch on an overthrown Favre pass then leaves the field with an injury. This sequence is a microcosm of Terry Glenn's entire career.

3:09 - Glenn returns to the field. Surprising. I was sure that he would be out for a month.

3:22 - The Giants Jeremy Shockey is hot-dogging after a 7 yard reception. I wonder if arrogance training is part of the core requirement for graduation at the University of Miami. Not that Miami players ever graduate.

3:31 - The Bills-Dolphins game has opened up. Bledsoe hits Price for a TD pass to give the Bills a 24-21 lead. Miami gets the ball back and Ricky Williams continues to roll over the Buffalo defense. He's a 203 and counting. Once again, I get angry that New Orleans gave away a 1,500 yard rusher, for next to nothing, to a team in the Patriots' division.

3:35 - Atlanta/Minnesota. I wonder when Michael Vick became "Mike" Vick. Isn't it usually the other way around? A guy who goes by "Mike" in college becomes "Michael" when he lands a professional job. Mike/Michael dazzles the viewers again with his spectacular running ability. He now has 117 yards rushing on 7 carries, including runs of 40, 19, 13 and 28. Unreal.

3:39 - I check in again with the Browns and Panthers. A back named Dee Brown has rushed for 123 yards for Carolina. I wonder if this Dee Brown will win a slam dunk contest then fall off the face of the earth.

3:40 - The 1pm games are heading into the home stretch. Jeff Blake hits Todd Heap for a touchdown giving the Ravens a 27-23 lead over the Bengals late in the game. Meanwhile, Mark Brunell hits Jimmy Smith for a TD cutting the Pittsburgh lead to 25-23. Brunell throws into 11-tuple coverage on the two point conversion and Smith can't come up with it. The onside kick fails and Pittsburgh escapes. I have Jacksonville +2.5 so I'm a happy guy. I think I have lost about a dozen games in my pool this year by a half point so I deserve this one.

3:54 - The Panthers have taken care of the 6-5 Browns by a score of 13-6. Cleveland, the most destructive team in the league, may have just put an end to their playoff hopes. Time to burn the Halloween jerseys.

4:01 - The Bungles are furiously attempting a comeback in the final minute. They finally fail on a 4th down play and the Ravens emerge victorious, 27-23. I have Baltimore -3 so again I'm a lucky winner. The Ravens become the worst 6-6 team in NFL history.

4:06 - The snow is really coming down in Buffalo. The Bills are up 17 with six minutes left so it looks like the Pats will hold a share of first place in the AFC East when this week ends. It will be interesting to see what Drew can do in Foxboro next week. My worry, however, will be Travis Henry.

4:08 - Jim Fassel's ludicrous prevent defense is allowing Steve McNair and Tennessee to make a last minute comeback attempt. McNair escapes all eleven Giants defenders and gets out of bounds inside the Giants 20. On the next play, McNair hits Bennett inside the ten yard line with 0:14 left on the clock.

4:10 - McNair hits Wycheck with an apparent touchdown that would cut the New York lead to 29-27 with the two point conversion pending. However, the ball seems to have hit the ground under Wycheck's hands so there will be an officials replay. After about four minutes the officials rule that there is no indisputable evidence to overturn the call. Giant fans are not happy. Thank god there are no ice balls handy.

4:16 - Steve McNair QB sneaks the two point conversion into the endzone virtually untouched to tie the score at 29 and send the game into overtime. What a collapse by New York.

4:22 - The Vikings are down by three and driving late in the game. Culpepper hits Moss for a six-yard completion to the Atlanta five yard line. The Vikings are under one minute and racing around as the clock continues to move. Moss begins flexing his muscles, showing off for the crowd and trash-talking while the clock ticks away, seemingly unconcerned with the fact that his team is running out of time late in the game. I wonder to myself when Moss will wind up back in the county blues. If he wasn't in the NFL, I imagine that he'd already be there.

4:23 - Tice goes to his bag of tricks and has Moss take the handoff and throw to Culpepper for an apparent go-ahead touchdown. Unfortunately for the Vikes, the TD is nullified by an illegal motion call on the offense. The Vikings settle for a game-tying field goal and we head to overtime, 24-24.

4:31 - In overtime, Tennessee is cutting through the Giants defense like a hot knife through butter. What happened to Jason Sehorn? Over the past two years, his stock has dropped faster than WorldCom. Tennessee converts a 38-yard field goal and completes the comeback victory, 32-29. The Giants Stadium crowd, needless to say, is booing the home team relentlessly. I would love to listen to WFAN tomorrow to hear what the malcontents have to say about Fassel's butchering of that game.

4:39 - Atlanta, having made a nice defensive stand, starts their drive inside Minnesota territory. Michael Vick ends the game with a mind-boggling 46-yard run up the middle of the field. Having seen similar plays more often than I care to remember while watching Virginia Tech punish BC, I am not as shocked as the announcers appear to be. Still, one can only marvel at the young man's athletic gifts. Final score, Atlanta 30, Minnesota 24. What a way to end the 1:00 games.

4:45 - Time to review my picks for the four late games. I pulled out a solid 6-2 mark in the early contests. I squeaked by with the Packers, Ravens, Jags and Falcons, but was hosed by Jim Fassel's prevent defense.
  • Denver -3 @ San Diego: The Chargers have become the most difficult team in the NFL to get a handle on and this week is no exception. Denver has been lousy of late, but they are a much better team than San Diego on paper. Plus, the Chargers are 4-20 in December since 1996. Sounds like they could use Bill "Mr. December" Parcells. I'm going with Denver -3.
  • Indianapolis -11 vs Houston: The Texans have played admirably in defeat this season, especially on defense. I like the Texans to keep the game fairly close because their strength on defense (the secondary) matches up well with Indy's strength on offense (the passing game). I'm taking the 11 points and Houston.
  • San Francisco -9 vs Seattle: I keep waiting for San Francisco to explode offensively but I have come to the realization that they might not be as good as I thought when the season began. The Niners will win but I can't justify giving up nine points with an offense that isn't scoring points. Seattle +9 is my pick.
  • Philadelphia Even vs St. Louis: The Rams have reached must win territory but the Eagles need the victory as well to position themselves for a chance at home field beyond the first round of the NFC Playoffs. The Rams have been solid at home but poor on the road. Plus, the wimpy Rams have had problems with turnovers against physical teams and there aren't many teams more physical than the Eagles. I'm going with Philadelphia.
4:50 - Channel 714, Denver at San Diego. This is definitely the marquee matchup among the late games. LaDainian Tomlinson runs for 76 yards to move the ball inside the Denver five yard line. He then punches it in to cut Denver's lead to 10-7. This promises to be a good one.

5:06 - Dan Dierdorf provides comic relief as he tries to add 111 to 1,098 (updating Tomlinson's rushing yardage) on his telestrator. I can almost sense his brain about to explode.

5:40 - Channel 713, St. Louis at Philly. The Rams cut the Eagles lead to 10-3 with a Wilkins field goal. Curt Warner simply doesn't look right. He's on the verge of being 0-8 since Bill Belichick put the hex on him last January in New Orleans.

5:48 - Channel 715, Houston at Indianapolis. The Colts lead the game 13-0. Houston cannot generate any offense whatsoever. They must have studied the Notre Dame films this week.

5:51 - Indianapolis fumbles and the players fight for the ball near the bottom of the pile and begin to push and shove each other. It's starting to look a lot like a Willie McGinest charity event.

6:01 - For the first time today, I cannot escape the commercials. All four games are on commercial break. Luckily, it is the Best Buy ad where the little fat guy boxes against Clubber Lang. Great stuff.

6:05 - Channel 712, Seattle at San Francisco. Sharpie Bowl II. I'm still having a hard time thinking of these teams as Division rivals. Garrison Hearst pounds the ball into the endzone giving the Niners a 24-3 lead. This one could get very ugly.

6:21 - DEN/SD. Dick Enberg refers to Chester McGlockton as Chester "McLachlan" for about the 19th time. Denver 24 San Diego 24.

6:48 - The Eagles fumble deep in St. Louis territory just as they are about to put an end to St. Louis' hopes for this game and this season. The teams have combined for eight turnovers in the game. There is no danger of this one ending up on Classic Sports.

7:02 - The Chargers have the ball fourth and inches on the Denver 20 already ahead 27-24. Marty decides to go for it, but Brees is stopped for no gain and the Broncos hold. Schottenheimer may be second guessed for that decision should the Bolts lose.

7:15 - The Chargers have the ball again, this time it is fourth and two at the Denver 33. Marty didn't take the 37-yard field goal just minutes ago but now he will attempt a 50-yarder. Christie misses and Denver takes over on its own 40 still down by only three points.

7:21 - The Rams take over down 10-3 on their 30 yard line with a 0:20 remaining. Three incompletions later, the game is over along with St. Louis' playoff hopes.

7:25 - The Chargers-Broncos game has lived up to its billing. Jason Elam ties the game at 27 with 1:39 left on the clock.

7:31 - The Chargers do nothing with their final possession and there will be overtime for the third time today. Have I mentioned lately how much I love DirecTV?

7:36 - Denver wins the toss and because this is not Detroit, they elect to take the ball first in overtime.

7:38 - Miraculously, Seattle has come back from a 31-10 deficit and has the ball in San Francisco territory down 31-24 with under two minutes remaining. On the very first play after I flip the channel Matt Hasselbeck throws and interception. Game over.

7:42 - Denver cannot advance the ball on their first drive in overtime and is forced to punt. On the punt, Denver's Lenny Walls lines up in the neutral zone and is flagged for the very rare offensive offside call. Denver is forced to re-kick and San Diego gains an extra 20 yards as a result of the penalty. I have now seen two giant mistakes by former Boston College players in the last four minutes. I feel like I'm back at Alumni Stadium.

7:48 - I'm watching the Burger King commercial featuring the new Simpsons talking watches. I really want the one that has a picture of Homer and says "Mmmmmmm, Burger" when you push a button. I realize that I forgot about Indianapolis and Houston. A quick check of the scoreboard channel on 703 tells me that the Colts won 19-3. My picks are 2-1 in the afternoon pending the San Diego-Denver outcome.

7:55 - Elam misses wide left from 53 yards out. Earlier in the overtime, San Diego's Steve Christie had a 37-yarder blocked. Christie has missed three times today. Adam Vinatieri has missed twice all season. I still wonder why good kickers aren't picked higher in the NFL draft.

7:59 - Given good staring field position, the Chargers move the ball nicely. Brees looks sharp as he moves the Chargers into field goal range. Then again, what is field goal range today? It looks like Marty wants to get a lot closer before attempting the field goal this time around.

8:04 - Christie hits the chip-shot and Charger fans go home happy and in first place in the AFC West. After seven hours of great football, I can now put down the remote and walk away from my couch. Three overtimes, 8 of 12 games decided by seven points or less and a turkey sandwich. What more could a guy ask for on a lazy Sunday afternoon?

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