Still crying about cruel fate?
Remember that your teams probably benefitted from lucky bounces, too
We're entering Week 17. It's my least favorite week of the NFL season. I call it "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda" week because a lot of fans -- and in some cases, members of the media -- will point to those near misses. Those are the one, two, and in some cases, three losses that were exceedingly winnable for their teams because those games ultimately came down to one or two plays.
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If Garrett Hartley would have made that kick in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3, the New Orleans Saints would be No. 1 now and in position to secure another NFC South crown and homefield advantage. There's a big difference between that and staring at possibly three straight road playoff games, as the Saints currently are.
If Matt Dodge could have punted the ball out of bounds or if Tom Coughlin would have sent out the hands team against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15, the New York Giants likely would have punched their postseason ticket and maybe even won the NFC East crown. Think that sounds a little better than needing to beat Washington and hoping Green Bay loses in Week 17 to make the playoffs?
In places such as Buffalo, Detroit and Cleveland, even fans of teams that aren't even sniffing at the playoffs get into the act when counting up how many wins their teams should have. Those wins evaporated because of a Steve Johnson drop for the Buffalo Bills against the Pittsburgh Steelers or a Drew Stanton incompletion against the New York Jets for the Detroit Lions or whatever.
Tucker's Top 10
1. New England Patriots
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Atlanta Falcons
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Baltimore Ravens
6. Chicago Bears
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
8. Kansas City Chiefs
9. New York Jets
10. Green Bay Packers
Football Today Podcast
Ross Tucker calls out the Eagles after their loss to the Vikings on Tuesday night and blames the coaching staff for not having the team prepared. Listen
From the inboxQ: How much do players/coaches pay attention to possible playoff scenarios during the end of the season, particularly when they need help to get in? Is there some degree of scoreboard-watching from the sidelines going on during games? Dave from Bethlehem, Pa.
A: You are told during the week not to look at the scoreboard and just control what you can control, but that is sometimes easier said than done. In some cases, the video and scoreboard operator will post -- or decline to post -- scores or highlights of other relevant games. It depends on whether it is in the team's best interests at that time. I know from experience, however, that players typically find out, especially if it is good news for their cause. It's kind of hard not to, especially if yours is the team that is in need of help in another game.
Q. With Mike Singletary being the latest in-season coaching casualty, I was wondering what's the point in a coaching change with only one game left? Also, what factors do owners take into account when they appoint an interim coach?
Brian from Reading, Pa.
A: I thought the same thing initially, especially considering San Francisco 49ers had a news conference to introduce a guy who is going to be on the job for literally six days, but in this case it gives them a week's head start on other potential coaching moves. There might be moves looming in Houston, Miami, Carolina, etc. Some of the elite candidates, such as Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden, don't want to talk about a job unless it is open. As for appointing an interim head coach, an owner will sense which assistants the players respect the most.
Q: I would like to know if you now take back some of the things you said about Michael Vick. You were particularly harsh with the Eagles organization for signing him in the first place. Do you regret any of those statements?
Roger from London
A: Not at all. I didn't think it made any sense from a purely football standpoint to bring Vick in, considering Donovan McNabb was still playing at a high level and Kevin Kolb was the Eagles' heir apparent. Obviously, I was wrong. It's not the first time and certainly won't be the last. In this case, even the Eagles had no idea Vick could or would play this well. If they did, they wouldn't have tried so vigorously this offseason to trade him for pretty much anything. And they failed to make a trade, I might add, which shows you that nobody else in the league knew Vick would do what he is doing this year.
Q: How much time does an NFL team devote to strength and training during the season, especially now that we're close to playoff time? What muscle group does a team focus on and how many reps/weight is typical compared to September?
Eladio from San Diego
A: Like the offseason programs across the NFL, it really varies from team to team and, especially during the season, from player to player. Some teams mandate that players get at least two workouts in a week to maintain their strength. The reality is that most veteran players are given the freedom to do what they think is best for their bodies to optimize their performances on Sundays. For some, that means maintaining a rigorous pre- or post-practice workout regimen. For others, that may mean never getting within 50 yards of the weight room after November.
Ross Tucker, who played on the offensive line for five teams in his seven-year NFL career, writes regularly for ESPN.com.
NFL WEEK 17 PREVIEW