December 16, 2005
NFL on Saturdays:
Your mind still says "college"; your TV screen says "NFL." And you'll take it: Bucs/Pats (Brady status?); KC/NYG (LJ vs. Tiki); DEN/BUF (8:30, ESPN)
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
FANTASY.  REALITY.

Before the NFL season began, I presented a hypothetical scenario to illustrate how fantasy football has changed the nature of being an NFL fan:

Fantasy as the new reality.

With most fantasy football leagues into their playoff rounds, let's revisit the hypothetical, because this is the week when it kicks in:

Your team is in your fantasy league playoffs. To advance, one of your fantasy players must have a huge game against your real-life favorite team, contributing significantly to your real-life favorite team losing.

Would you actually root against your favorite real-life team in order to secure your fantasy-league championship?

(For the sake of argument, let's assume that your favorite real-life team has been eliminated from the playoffs. For example, you love the Lions, but to win your fantasy league playoff game, you need Carson Palmer to obliterate them.)

My argument then was that even if the majority of fans would never actively root against their own team, enough fans would root against their own team to make it an extremely interesting phenomenon.

Vote in today's poll and keep in mind that any result other than 100-0 is kind of remarkable.

By the way, as I said in August, there's no shame in rooting against your uncompetitive real-life team in favor of your highly competitive fantasy team: It's just the new reality of being an NFL fan.

Colts Watch: 14-0?
Everyone keeps yapping about 19-0, when there's a very real possibility that the Colts won't be able to beat the Chargers this weekend.

San Diego has precisely the kind of explosive offense that will translate well to Indy's dome turf, but the bigger issue is that the Colts will be without injured LB Cato June and DL Corey Simon.

Look for tons of scrutiny about how Tony Dungy plays (or limits) his starters, particularly given the score and time remaining.

Clinch Scenarios
It's the time of year when NFL playoff spots start to go fast and furiously. The most notable and/or easy to describe:

ALREADY IN:
Seahawks: Clinch NFC bye with a W over TEN; clinch home-field advantage with a W (plus a CHI L to ATL).

WIN AND IN:
Pats: Clinch AFC East with a W over TB (or a MIA L to NYJ).

Bengals: Clinch AFC North with a W over DET (or a PIT L to MIN).

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
LSU: No. 3 women's hoops team crushes No. 4 Ohio St. by 18
Frank Robinson: Inks 1-year deal to keep managing the Nats
NHL salary cap: Will reportedly rise from $39M into $40s
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
A-Rod: Withdraws from WBC; doesn't want to offend anyone
Clemens' decision-making: Confirms he's waiting for 2006
Chris Henry: Bengals WR charged with marijuana possession
 
Broncos: Clinch AFC playoffs with a W over BUF. Help: Can clinch AFC West with a W over BUF (plus a KC L to NYG and a SD L to IND).

WIN PLUS "HELP":
Bears: Clinch NFC playoff spot with a W over ATL (plus a NYG L to KC AND a DAL L to WAS).

COMPLICATED BUT POSSIBLE:
Jags: Need to beat SF, then have all the other key AFC competitors for playoff spots lose (PIT, KC, SD) plus a DEN W. (Confused yet?)

(Rule of thumb: If a playoff scenario shows that a team needs another team to tie, it ain't happening this week. Sorry, Giants fans.)

Johnson stiffs Texans?
Did Jimmy Johnson turn down the chance to be coach and GM of the Houston Texans? That's the hot rumor (via NY Daily News).

Perhaps JJ didn't want to go through another full-scale rebuilding like he did in Texas more than a decade ago.

On the other hand, isn't the prospect of having the top overall draft pick (Reggie Bush) precisely the type of asset that Johnson has been known to trade for a mother lode of players and picks, just like he did with Herschel Walker in Dallas?

The Texans don't need Johnson to be smart enough to make that deal; they simply have to be smart enough to tank the rest of the season to secure the chance to trade the rights to the pick.

Vikes Cruise Fallout
Think Daunte Culpepper is ready for 2005 to be over? Let's review:

First, he's involved in the team's sex cruise.

Next, he's KO'd for the season with an injury.

Then, adding insult, it turns out the team might be better without him.

Now, he's part of a 4-player group charged with a misdemeanor over the cruise.

Meanwhile, his teammates can win their 7th straight game and keep pace with the NFC wild-card pack by beating the equally desperate 8-5 Steelers in Minneapolis. Now that the Vikes have sufficiently raised fans' hopes, look for that massive letdown.

Damon Update
Where will Johnny Damon land? New Yankees RP Mike Myers was lobbying hard for Damon on Thursday, but there's an intriguing new team in the mix...

The Orioles, who are desperate (and rich) enough to offer Damon the 5th (or even 6th) year of security that his agent Scott Boras is holding out for.

If that's the case, Damon faces a choice between more money through a longer deal (O's) or more winning but only a 4-year deal (Yankees, Red Sox). It will say a lot about the player which way he goes.

I-AA Title Game
Are you always griping about the lack of a college football playoff? Then I expect you to walk the talk by checking out the I-AA title game between Appalachian State and Northern Iowa tonight (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Between NIU's football team and its upstart hoops team (March bracket first-round upset special!), the Panthers are the hottest mid-major athletic program of 2005-06.

Jerry Mondesire:
Denounced by the NAACP's national leader over his anti-McNabb rantings of the local Philadelphia director.
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Page 2 Index
McNabb poll
 
Reggie Bush Watch
Texans (1-12)
Host Cards: Work for it!
 
49ers (2-11)
At Jags: Looking good!
 
Jets (3-10)
In "must-lose" at Miami
 
Saints (3-10)
QB Bouman is a wild card
 
Packers (3-10)
*Still* playing for pride?
 

NFL Week 15 Office-Pool Picks: NE, KC, DEN, SEA, IND, PHI, PIT, CAR, JAX, ARI, CIN, CLE, WAS, CHI, GB (Last week: 11-5, Season: 141-63).

Artest trade watch: Are the Nets ready to swap Vince Carter for Artest? Even with VC's contract, that would be the best deal the Pacers could get.

No decision from Nomar: He met with the Dodgers, who I'm sure would much rather hear back affirmatively from Johnny Damon.

The Cavs' win over the Nuggets was spotty, but entertaining. (But not nearly as entertaining as LeBron's new TV ads. He's a pretty good actor!)

As predicted when he first entered the NBA, Yao is dominating the NBA's All-Star voting, undoubtedly thanks to international online access.

Obituary: Former NFL player and USC star Darrell Russell, 29, who was killed in a high-speed car wreck.



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