By David Fleming
Page 2

I am happy to report that the New York Giants have made the NFL playoffs.

Well, OK, fine -- if you want to get all freaky technical about it, a few simple and highly probable things all have to take place (simultaneously) before it's a done deal. It's easy to figure out, really. All you have to do is follow the NFL's bizarre Byzantine Playoff Sudoku Scenario chart that lists the circumstances required for each team in the league (except Cleveland and Detroit, of course) to make the playoffs.

The Giants have to actually win a game, this time against the NFC South champion Saints. And then, um, using a rookie QB and playing at Lambeau Field, the Vikes have to tie Green Bay; Carolina has to win in Atlanta; Philly has to beat Dallas on Christmas Day; and either Seattle has to knock off the AFC Pro Bowl team -- I mean, the San Diego Chargers -- or San Francisco has to gag against Arizona.

Then, all that's left to do is sacrifice a chicken, hop on one foot for 12 hours while videotaping a series of shooting stars, get Michael Strahan to yell at a teammate instead of a reporter, and then get just 64 of the statistical anomalies included in the NFL's easy-to-follow tiebreaker scenario over Philly to happen, and Giants fans can go ahead and book their travel to Miami.

Like I said, it's a done deal.

It's just as simple for the rest of the playoff contenders -- just follow my refurbished Flem File NFL Playoff Scenarios to find out what your team needs to do to keep playing in January.

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE has clinched division. BALTIMORE can clinch first-round bye by:
1) HITTING + THESE + TOTS + RIGHT + HERE, DAWG!

MORE TOTS, DAWG!
For once I am thrilled about being completely wrong.

Near the end of last week's column I wrote about how disappointed I was that the catchphrase of Ravens uber linebacker Adalius Thomas -- "Yo dawg, hit these tots!" -- had not quite caught on like I had hoped.

Many of you wonderful, kind and brilliant people wrote in to explain just how wrong I had been. That, in fact, "Yo dawg hit these tots!" lives on and is growing in strength and numbers by the minute. Thanks in large part to the popularity of our new catchphrase, AD made the 2006 Pro Bowl.

And word reached me on Thursday that several of the Ravens, including one Mr. Ray Lewis himself, have also begun using the catchphrase.

So, for you dear readers, I have but one thing to say:

For those about to "tot" we salute you!

Alan writes, "Dammit, Dave, don't you dare give up on the tots. My boys and I have adopted it as a personal drunken motto. If you give up on it, I swear … I'm going to like Kurt Snibbe better than you. Don't make me do that … it would break my heart."

Max, who works in the astronomy department at Florida, says, "I feel like a total schmuck now, but I have fully adopted the 'tots' catchphrase and I have been bombarding my wife with it constantly."

Says Joe, "'Yo, hit these tots right here dawg!' is me and my friends' new drinking catchphrase. Especially during beer pong. And I can tell who doesn't read Page 2, cause they have no clue what we are talking about. It's great."

Brian says, "My wife went grocery shopping while really hungry last week, and in a weak moment came home with an enormous bag of tater tots. When was the last time we had tater tots? Personally, I don't think I've had them since I was a wee lad back in suburban Philadelphia oh, maybe 20 years ago. But for whatever reason, we both thought the purchase was absolutely hysterical and have been incredibly excited to eat them every night since. Anyway, not two days passed after she bought the tots before we saw your column, and now "Hit these tots, dawg" has been leaving our lips quite frequently. So while you might not hear Scott Van Pelt saying the phrase on 'SportsCenter,' know that our household in Seattle, Washington uses it often. Thanks for the amusement and keep up the good work."

Andy says, "Flem, I beg to differ. 'Yo, hit these tots right here dawg!' went over very well for me at my wife's company Christmas party. So well, in fact, I had to explain the reference."

Alex writes, "Just read your latest 30 Second article, a very good one. However, I thought I would let you know that your lamented catchphrase from Adalius Thomas has indeed caught on somewhere. The cafeteria here at Gonzaga serves tater tots pretty regularly during breakfast, and they are of the perfectly cooked variety. I am a member of the crew team here at Gonzaga University and normally after morning practice I cannot stomach the delicious tater tots. However, when I saw a teammate eating the tots I immediately demanded: 'Yo dawg, let me hit those tots, RIGHT NOW.' Needless to say everyone was sincerely amused, and as tends to happen with college-aged males, what was funny once becomes infinitely funnier as it is repeated. The catchphrase has legitimately caught on with the rowing team."

Says Pat, "Just read your 30-second column, and I have to say, the whole 'Yo, hit these tots right here dawg!' saying definitely caught on with me and my buddies. After reading that column I immediately called a friend at work and ran through the list of 'tot phrases.' We had a good laugh and it inspired us to spend our night at the bar eating tots and drinking PBRs. Keep the catchphrases coming!"

Scott writes, "I am trying to get your phrase going, but no one else I work with seems to grasp the intelligence and total randomness of such a great saying. Who doesn't like tots? They even have tots with cheeses in them now. Not to mention I love the fact that it is so versatile. Me and my cubie (cube mate) use it, but I think some of our other co-workers are beginning to wonder about us. Oh well, the phrase touched us that deeply. Carry on the great work, dude!"
-- Dave Fleming

CINCINNATI can clinch playoff berth with:
1) CIN win + BUF loss or tie + NYJ loss, OR
2) CIN win + BUF loss or tie + JAX loss, OR
3) CIN win + BUF loss or tie + one columnist + doesn't make + lame arrest joke + must + fight + it + not + strong + enough.

PITTSBURGH can clinch playoff berth with:
1) No + honest + it + could + really + happen, OR
2) Seriously + stop + laughing.

CLEVELAND (which did not win a division game this season for the first time in franchise history) can clinch a playoff berth with:
1) ART + MODELL + agrees + to + rebuy + franchise + and + hires + Cincinnati offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.
2) DAD + that + was + just + a joke + I know + you're + from Cleveland + and I would + hate + for + this + to + effect + my Christmas gift or inheritance + in + any + way.

AFC EAST

NEW ENGLAND can clinch playoff berth with:
1) CIN/DEN tie + wait + this + is + stupid + since + there + hasn't + been + a + tie + in the NFL in, like + nine + years.

NEW ENGLAND can clinch division and solve all of the world's energy issues with:
1) NE win or tie, OR
2) NYJ loss or tie, OR
3) NE win + NYJ win + PLAYOFF GAME + JETS WIN + with these two teams + nuclear physicists + harness the tension + during coaches' handshake.

MIAMI can clinch a playoff berth in 2007 with:
1) NICK SABAN + realizes + how + much + better + his + team + plays + when + he + dials + down + the + pressure + a + tad.
2) JASON TAYLOR + cloning + a healthy Daunte + HANDING + ball + to + RONNIE BROWN + for + crying + out + loud.

AFC SOUTH

INDIANAPOLIS has clinched division. INDIANAPOLIS can clinch first-round bye with:
1) IND win + BAL loss, OR
2) IND win + ONE OPEN-FIELD TACKLE + one + that's it.

TENNESSEE can clinch playoff berth with:
1) TEN win + Vince Young in postseason + SEA + JAX + BOTH + do the right thing + and + give up their spots in the playoffs.

HOUSTON can clinch playoff berth with:
1) HOU win + HOU win + HOU win + HOU win + HOU win + HOU win + HOU win + HOU win + DRAFT REDO.

AFC WEST

DENVER can clinch playoff berth with:
1) DEN win + KC loss or tie + NYJ loss, OR
2) DEN win + KC loss or tie + JAX loss, OR
3) DEN win + JAKE loss + snowblower + spring thaw + STAND BACK, everyone + and let Shanahan, the genius + take + over.

KANSAS CITY can clinch playoff berth with: 1) SD loss + IND loss + JAX, DENVER, NYJ, NE, BAL loss + Wile E. Coyote + ACME + catches + and eats + Road Runner + trade for Chargers defense.

SAN DIEGO can clinch first-round bye with:
1) SD win, OR
2) IND loss, OR
3) SD tie + IND tie, OR
4) SD tie + BAL loss, OR
5) SD + ALL THOSE PRO BOWL bids  the added pressure of + any kind of embarrassing late-season choke + brought + on + by + Marty + wearing + a cap on sidelines + four sizes + too small.

NFC EAST

PHILADELPHIA can clinch playoff berth with:
1) PHI win, OR
2) PHI tie + NYG loss or tie, OR
3) PHI tie + ATL loss, OR
4) PHI tie + T.O. spit shields + an apology to Santa + hey + I know what that finger means, buddy + "Rocky 9: Balboa vs. Papale."

DALLAS has clinched playoff berth. DALLAS can clinch division with:
1) DAL win, OR
2) DAL win + new plans + for a new, new upgraded stadium + built on Mars + for + the + very + reasonable + price + tag + of $187 billion + to + be + paid + by a hike in + rental car fees + to $6,000 per day + for a + sweet + Taurus.

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO has clinched home-field advantage. CHICAGO can advance to Super Bowl with:
1) Not + too + much + difficulty + actually.
2) No last-second + changes + to + special teams + scoring.

NFC SOUTH

NEW ORLEANS can clinch first-round bye with:
1) NO win + DAL loss, OR
2) NO win + DAL loss + the + need + for + this + city + to + host + a playoff game.

ATLANTA can clinch playoff berth with:
1) ATL win + DAL loss + 14 other losses in NFC + Vick to RB and Warrick Dunn to QB + 1,000 rabbit's feet and 1,000 birthday wishes + Sylvester Stallone + Oscar sweep + new cheerleader: Miss USA + someone from Home Depot actually answering my question.

NFC WEST

SEATTLE can clinch division with:
1) SEA win or tie, OR
2) SF loss or tie, OR
3) Wait + does + anyone + actually + "win" + the NFC West + or + do + you + just + not + lose it?
4) SEA win + SF loss + CALGARY loss or tie + OTTAWA loss.

David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His first book was "Noah's Rainbow: a Father's Emotional Journey from the Death of his Son to the Birth of his Daughter." His next book, based on the controversial 1925 NFL Pottsville Maroons (ESPN Books 2007) has been optioned as a movie by Sentinel Entertainment. Contact him at Dave.Fleming@espn3.com.




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