Dolphins 27, Lions 10Detroit played on Thanksgiving Day for the 65th straight year, a tradition the NFL has upheld to make sure there's always at least one game on that will be so terrible you won't mind spending an hour or so eating turkey with your family without worrying you're missing anything.
Joey Harrington took advantage of his former team's ineptitude, returning to Detroit to notch his first Turkey Day win after losing four games on the holiday as a Lion. Harrington's three touchdown passes prompted Lions general manager Matt Millen to drop the team's advertising slogan, "It was all Joey Harrington's fault." A visibly shaken Millen was distraught following the game. "It's just not fair," he sniffled, "I'm running out of other people to blame. How am I supposed to run the day to day operations of a major sports franchise when I have to spend seven to ten hours a day figuring out why nothing that goes wrong is ever my fault?!" Millen was eventually comforted by staff members who pointed out star receiver Roy Williams would almost certainly demand a trade or hold out for a new contract soon, opening the door to place all the team's woes on his shoulders.
Cowboys 38, Buccaneers 10Dallas quarterback Tony Romo threw five touchdowns in regulation, a feat neither Roger Staubach nor Troy Aikman accomplished in their Hall of Fame careers. Surely the most surprising aspect of the impressive play of Romo since his debut, though, is the lack of jokes by Chris Berman about barbecue sauce and ribs.
"I'm really concerned," admitted broadcasting partner Tom Jackson, "but I took his temperature and everything seems okay. A Tony Romo-Tony Roma's linkage seems right in his wheelhouse, but he's passing it up. I'm not sure what's wrong, but trust me, I'm going to find out."
Chiefs 19, Broncos 10Jake Plummer graciously opened the door for rookie Jay Cutler to take over quarterbacking duties in Denver, failing time and again to move his team even across the 50-yard line, much less pose a scoring threat to Kansas City.
"The fact this team lost this game is entirely Jake's fault," explained head coach Mike Shanahan. "Granted, we're coming off a heartbreaking loss, only had three days to prepare for this game and were going up against an emotionally-charged division rival whose owner and founder was hospitalized yesterday—but if you overlook that, it's all Jake's fault."
Shanahan further contended his team, which still would make the playoffs as a wild card if the playoffs started today, would be better suited tutoring a rookie through the final weeks of the season rather than preparing for a run at a championship.
Ravens 27, Steelers 0Still riding the momentum of two straight wins, including one against long-standing rival Cleveland, Pittsburgh got a grim dose of reality as Baltimore all-but-mathematically eliminated the defending Super Bowl champs from the playoffs.
"In retrospect," speculated Steelers coach Bill Cowher, "maybe the Browns weren't that good after all. Perhaps my 'We climbed a mountain' speech after we narrowly avoided falling into last place was a little over the top."
The Ravens win was highlighted by a franchise-record nine sacks of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, including one by linebacker Bart Scott that knocked the Pittsburgh quarterback out of the game for a play in the second quarter. "I was the youngest quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl," wept Roethlisberger after the game as he rubbed a helmet-shaped bruise on his chest, "and it's been all downhill from there. Motorcycle accidents, concussions, appendectomies, now this. Tell me what I have done to anger you, Lord!"
Saints 31, Falcons 13Michael Vick gave up all artifice of even pretending to be an NFL quarterback, running for 166 yards and leading all rushers for the afternoon. This prompted some commentators to praise his performance, despite the fact his team lost by 18 points to a squad that had lost three of its last four games (with its only win coming against lowly Tampa Bay) and had been written off as a "pretender" as opposed to a "contender" by sports talkshow hosts playing rhyming lightning-round question games.
Atlanta fans, having seen Drew Brees throw for more than 300 yards for a fifth straight game, weren't so willing to seek out the positives of the loss and booed Vick, who responded by flipping them off. In highlights, Vick's middle fingers were blurred, leaving millions of people watching at home completely confused and in the dark as to the intention of Vick's gesture.
Bills 27, Jaguars 24Even with broken ribs, Buffalo's Willis McGahee managed to score two touchdowns on Jacksonville, setting up the Jaguars to make a comeback that would last all game long and finally culminating in a game-tying touchdown with 28 second remaining. That time, however, proved just enough for Buffalo to move into position for a Rian Lindell field goal as time expired.
"What a thriller!" an exasperated J.P. Losman gasped as his Bills celebrated on the field. "This is big-time football... or at least it would be, if either of these teams had a ghost of a chance at making the playoffs. Wish us luck and maybe we'll get thirty whole seconds of highlights on Sportscenter instead of just a scoreboard graphic."
Jets 26, Texans 11If anything interesting happened in the Jets/Texans game, I sure can't figure out what it was. A guy named Houston—Jets second year rusher Cedric Houston—scored a touchdown against a team named Houston. Is that interesting? No? Dammit.
Overall, the game was only slightly more compelling than the DirecTV ads where Jessica Simpson reprises her epic depiction of Daisy Duke, or those creepy half-animated/half-human Charles Schwab commercials—and had similar bearing on the postseason.
Chad Pennington illustrated how successfully he's lowered Jets fans' expectations when he was laid out on the turf by a hard hit, leaving the crowd to wonder if the injury-prone quarterback would have to be taken off the field on a stretcher. Having only had the wind knocked out of him, Pennington returned to lead his team to victory, tossing just one touchdown and still being named player of the game.
"When Patrick Ramsey is your back-up," Pennington explained, "it's not hard to look good."
Bengals 30, Browns 0Cincinnati, entering the game with the worst ranked defense in the NFL, dominated Cleveland, shutting out the Browns and intercepting quarterback Charlie Frye four times.
"Yeah, well it's not that big a deal," shrugged Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "They're the friggin' Browns, y'know. They average about, what, four wins a season?" After a brief interruption by an NFL representative from the commissioner's office, Lewis clarified that what he meant to say was, "The Browns may be down but they are a team with great talent and the NFL being what it is, any team can beat any team on any given day."
Cleveland receiver Braylon Edwards angrily confronted Frye on the sidelines after one interception. Teammates had to separate the two, though Frye downplayed the argument. "We play for the Brown," he groaned. "You expect us to be happy?"
Redskins 17, Panthers 13Steve Smith scored a touchdown.
Vikings 31, Cardinals 26Arizona's J.J. Arrington returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, prompting commentator Matt Vasgersian to declare the score "just what the Cardinals need"—indicating both that Dennis Green's squad would play better with a lead, and that Vasgersian has never before watched the Arizona Cardinals play.
Despite the 99-yard kickoff return touchdown, a 99-yard fumble return touchdown, and 405 yards of passing from rookie Matt Leinart, the Cardinals lost the game, in part because they only ran the ball six times. "They say a solid running game is the key to a championship caliber team," noted Green before trailing off about gravy, shouting at a random reporter about the "alleged moon landing" and gnawing on the corner of his podium. Minnesota bounced back after a dreary four game losing streak, but since it was against Arizona, we'll pass on any declarative statements about the team's status until next week.
Patriots 17, Bears 13Twenty-one years ago, these two teams met in a lopsided Super Bowl. But since New England and Chicago play each other so rarely, especially when both teams are division leaders and almost certainly playoff bound, the match up can't help but evoke memories of Walter Payton, Refrigerator Perry, Mike Singletary, Jim McMahon, and... some other guys who also played for the 1985 Patriots.
Unfortunately, the focus of the game quickly became the turnovers: the two teams combined to cough up the ball nine times, causing speculation among announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman as to whether Rex Grossman has it in him to be one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks. This in turn led everyone watching Fox's coverage to wonder if Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are retarded.
In other news, Patriots running back Kevin Faulk set a team record for receptions by a running back when he caught his 262nd career pass, reminding fans everywhere that Kevin Faulk is, in fact, still playing in the NFL.
Rams 20, 49ers 17Marc Bulger was playing his best on the Rams' game-winning drive. The troubled defense dug deep for a crucial stop in a divisional clash that put St. Louis on top of Sn Francisco for second place in the NFC West.
Since both teams are 5-6, though, it probably doesn't matter who has the tie-breaker, since neither will be printing playoff tickets. "Looking on the bright side," pointed out 49ers head coach Mike Nolan, that loss could mean the difference between the 12th pick in next year's draft and the 16th pick. Can I get a 'Whoooooa, Niners!'?"
Titans 24, Giants 21This week, Tiki Barber was widely criticized for calling out his head coach, Tom Coughlin, after New York's embarrassing defeat in Jacksonville. This is the fourth time in the last year that Barber or teammate Jeremy Shockey has openly questioned Coughlin's ability to coach. In each case, critics of the players say things like, "This should be handled behind closed doors" or "This isn't proper protocol for a complaint like this to be registered."
But what do they never say? "Tiki Barber is wrong. Tom Coughlin is a really good coach who doesn't look at all like a four year old trying to figure out how to glue the pieces of a broken cookie jar back together before his mom comes into the kitchen whenever the Giants' opponents swing momentum in their favor."
On that note, the Giants took a 21-0 lead into the final ten minutes of Sunday's game against a rebuilding team with a "project rookie" at quarterback and lost 24-21.
Chargers 21, Raiders 14With LaDainian Tomlinson scoring so many touchdowns lately, the Chargers have made an effort to spread the wealth. Tight end Antonio Gates scored his first touchdown in five weeks, but it came on a pass from Tomlinson.
"It's uncanny really," coach Marty Schottenheimer smiled, "it's like he can't not score touchdowns. In the second quarter, LaDainian slipped on a banana peel someone had carelessly left lying near the trainer's table. In an attempt to regain his balance, he stumbled into across the goal line with the ball in his hands."
"Frankly, I'm a little creeped out myself," Tomlinson admitted. "In the fourth quarter, I figured I was being a little selfish and went out of my way not to score any touchdowns. But this Jehovah's Witness approached me on the sideline to offer me a Watchtower. In my efforts to avoid him, I tried to hide behind the Raiders' safeties and wound up in the end zone. I don't even know how that ball got in my hands."
Colts 45, Eagles 21Remember when you took a flier on Joseph Addai late in your fantasy draft and you've been carrying him all year just hoping Tony Dungy would finally bench Dominic Rhodes and give the rookie a shot? Did you notice how lately Addai's put up halfway decent numbers the last few weeks, getting close to cracking 100 yards and scoring a few touchdowns here and there? You know how you were thinking about starting him one of these weeks?
Well, you missed your shot. Addai rushed for 171 yards and four touchdowns, giving you more than enough points to beat your opponent if only you'd started him instead of Corey Dillon, you idiot.
Oh, and don't even think about starting him next week, bandwagon jumper. He'll get ten carries for 35 yards and a fumble and you'll lose and miss the playoffs. Told you you missed your shot. (Incidentally, the next time you purchase multiple 40-ounce bottles of Colt 45 malt liquor, please note the plural form of the word would properly be "Colts 45.")
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Jake Bell is a former NBC sportscaster and head writer for Ye Olde Comick Booke Blogge.