December 26, 2005
Chicago Bears:
Clinch the NFC North and a critical first-round bye with a 24-17 win over rival Green Bay at Lambeau. QB Rex Grossman averaged 15 yards per completion.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
MONDAY.  NIGHT.

Over the weekend, I was thinking about how few "signature" moments there have been this season in the NFL. Interesting story lines, for sure. Defining moments? Not yet.

But as "Monday Night Football" airs on ABC for the final time tonight, I think back to how many defining moments it has featured:

The '85 Bears losing to the Dolphins; Theismann's leg injury; Howard Cosell's "little monkey" debacle; the way they used to start the broadcast with highlights of old MNF moments involving the teams playing that night; and more.

That is the beauty of MNF: The national game -- the shared, prime-time experience between fans everywhere.

But I disagree with the people who see MNF's move from ABC to ESPN as some "end of an era." They ignore the ubiquity of cable TV as part of the fans' experience today.

Sure, there are a few million fans who don't get ESPN. (Of course, those same fans probably don't have the online access to read this, either.) But for the vast majority, there is no difference anymore between network TV and cable TV. Just like -- in a few years -- there will be no difference between watching the game at home on a giant TV and watching it on some handheld device like a cell phone or iPod.

Fans can wave good-bye to "Monday Night Football" on ABC and remember the "good ol' days," but it's not like it's the end of football memories on Monday night.

Colts still team to beat?
It's worth asking: Are the Colts still the NFL's team to beat?

Indy looked out of sorts in its loss to the Seahawks (external conditions -- including the Dungy tragedy, injuries, and the fact they locked up HFA a week ago -- obviously had an impact). But is it all enough to wonder if the Colts have lost their midseason mojo?

Coming Tuesday, I'll answer in more detail whether the Colts remain the NFL's (or even the AFC's) team to beat.

Sweet Home, Seattle
A lot of (East Coast Biased) fans probably got their first long look at Seattle on Saturday against the Colts. Even against a depleted Indy, the results were impressive.

It's still fair to demand the Seahawks actually win a playoff game under Mike Holmgren before they win our respect.

However, after securing HFA throughout the playoffs (which means not having to play in Chicago), they sure look like the NFC's team to beat right now.

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
Colts: Entire team to attend James Dungy's funeral on Tue.
Giants: Use Vikings loss to back into the NFC playoffs
Kyle Boller: 2nd straight big W (24/34, 289 yds, 3 TDs)
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Brett Favre: Four more INTs in his worst season ever
Bill Parcells: Will Week 17 be his last as Cowboys coach?
Jim Mora Jr: Postgame tantrum follows sketchy OT decisions
 
NFL W17 Play-In
NFC: 4 for 3 spots. The Giants got in, thanks to the Ravens beating the Vikings, leaving the Redskins, Cowboys, Bucs and Panthers to battle for three spots next week. Washington, Tampa and Carolina control their own destiny. (Wouldn't we all like that option?)

AFC: Steelers' to lose. The Jags sealed up one of two remaining AFC playoff spots, while the Chiefs knocked the Chargers out. That leaves Pittsburgh needing only a home win vs. Detroit to seal up the final AFC spot. (And if they can't beat the Lions, someone's head should roll.)

Reggie Bush Watch
Wow, the 49ers just don't get it, do they? It's like they're trying to position themselves to lose out on Reggie Bush. But despite their best efforts, the Niners still have a slim chance if they lose to the Texans on Sunday.

But a loss won't guarantee that Reggie comes to NoCal, because we could have as many as five teams (Saints, Jets, Packers, Texans and Niners) finish at 3-13, meaning it would come down to the strength-of-schedule tie-breaker. Stay tuned.

Records falling?
With HFA in the NFC playoffs sewn up, let's hope Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren doesn't replicate last year's mistake, when he sat Shaun Alexander in Week 17, costing his star RB the NFL rushing title. The record-book stakes are even higher this year.

Alexander is tied with Priest Holmes for the single-season TD record (27). Holmgren must give him the opportunity to break it, even if Alexander simply comes in for a single goal-line play.

Meanwhile, Cards K Neil Rackers needs two field goals to break the single-season record. Since it's the only thing of consequence Arizona will win this year, they really should try to set him up.

NBA on Xmas Day
Pistons: NBA's best? It's hard to argue with Detroit and its eye-popping 22-3 record, particularly after the way it shackled the defending champs. I'd like to see a rematch in San Antonio, but for now the Pistons look like the team to beat.

Heat beat Lakers: Gary Payton apparently has been more nice than naughty in 2005, because his season-high 21 points (and go-ahead 3) were the highlight of the NBA's marquee Christmas game in Miami.

Related: Kobe, Olympian? I'm wondering how other would-be Olympians will feel about Kobe "30 Shots Per Game" Bryant being on the team. Can Coach K handle him? (He nearly coached him twice, with Duke and the Lakers.)

Bowlin': Motor City
Akron/Memphis (at Detroit):

As Bush is kind of a position-less wonder, Memphis' DeAngelo Williams is the best "classic" RB in college football and a likely top-five NFL draft pick next spring. Here's your chance to catch him. (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Chad Johnson:
Someone stole his deer from the sidelines! Even his "Santa Chad" act couldn't make up for that disappointment, along with the Bengals' brutal loss at home.
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Page 2 Index
NFL P'off Pic
 
NFL Power Rankings
Colts
Most tenuous hold yet
 
Pats
Off the radar, but lurking
 
Seahawks
End the bias; they're legit
 
Bears
Home playoff advantage
 
Broncos
AFC path is rough
 

Saturday's big AFC winner: Broncos, who secured a first-round bye and home-field advantage if they have to play the defending champ Pats.

Saturday's big AFC loser: Bengals, whose loss to the Bills showed that Cincy is merely happy to be here. Trust them in the playoffs? No way.

If Marshall Faulk retires, it will be the end of the career of one of the most productive RBs of all time, in reality and in fantasy.

MLB Hot Stove: Toronto, perhaps smelling blood in Boston, is rumored to be near a deal for Arizona's Troy Glaus (who the Sox had wanted).

More: Boston is talking with Kevin Millwood, and at this point, they need him. Why is Stove news so Sox-heavy? Maybe because they have so many holes.

Full load of NBA games tonight, highlighted by Indiana at Dallas (can't they just do an Artest deal?) and Nets-Knicks (battle for local bragging).



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