Bengals 13, Ravens 7 With a chance to wrap up the division and keep alive the positive momentum that's been with this team since the firing of offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and subsequent appointment of head coach Brian Billick to playcalling duties, Baltimore choked away the opportunity.
"What do you expect?" Billick shrugged. "Everyone's been patting me on the back, telling me how great we are, I can't coach with distractions like that!" With his team still leading the AFC North by two games, owner Art Modell threatened to fire Billick, not because he's unhappy with the coach's performance, but because Billick never bothers to coach his team unless his job is on the line.
Cardinals 34, Rams 20 For the first time all season, Edgerrin James finally broke 100 yards rushing, meaning Cards head coach Dennis Green had to devise a new way to screw with all the fantasy owners who wasted a first round pick on the once-star running back and carried him all season despite Arizona's terrible offensive line's inability to open running lanes. While James racked up the yardage, Green called upon Marcel Shipp whenever the team got within sniffing distance of the end zone. Shipp scored three touchdowns on just 21 yards rushing crossing the goal line for the first time since 2002.
"In my defense," Green pointed out, making his case for why he wasn't just screwing the fantasy stats, "you can't really prove that I wasn't planning to use Shipp in goal line situations all year since we haven't really had any goal line situations all year. So suck on that."
Falcons 24, Redskins 14 Atlanta called a players only meeting to motivate itself to a come from behind victory over the worst team in a division that includes a Jeff Garcia-led Philadelphia squad.
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"Truly we are back on the playoff track," declared running back Jerious Norwood, whose 69-yard touchdown actually ranked him ahead of Michael Vick in total rushing yards in a Halley's Comet-like "look or you might not see it again for seven decades" event. "Having defeated a team headed by a senile old man who knows more about NASCAR points races than any of the developments in football since 1992 proves we are a force to be reckoned with."
Patriots 28, Lions 21 When two teams match up, one with three of the last five Vince Lombardi trophies to its credit and the other being the Detroit Lions, there can be only one outcome. Detroit, however, made a case for a new outcome, forcing four turnovers and running out to a 21-13 lead on New England.
"It was very exciting," smiled quarterback Jon Kitna. "When you're in a situation like that, you never know how we're going to blow it. Sure, we let Corey Dillon punch in two touchdowns in the final nine minutes despite the fact he can barely walk without a cane, but there were a lot of other options open to us as well."
Though he wouldn't talk about it on the record, Kitna implied the Lions might blow next week's game due to a series of costly and untimely fumbles. "I'm not saying anything," he giggled. "You'll just have to wait and see!"
Titans 20, Colts 17 Rob Bironas was checked into a Nashville hospital and put on 24-hour suicide watch following his 60-yard field goal to complete the most unlikely of upsets, knocking off AFC-leading Indianapolis.
"It was everything I ever could have hoped for," Bironas muttered, staring off in the distance in a state of catatonia. "No one gave us a chance and here I had it all on my shoulders to pull out the win. The adrenaline was pumping, but as soon as that ball split the uprights, I realized the rest of my life had nowhere to go but downhill."
The field goal, the longest in Tennessee franchise history, gave the Titans their first victory over the Colts in four years, but Indianapolis coaches downplayed the loss. "I'll take the blame," said Tony Dungy, "I accidentally flipped the calendar to January third instead of December third. Peyton and I both saw that and assumed it was time to choke away everything we've played so hard for all season. My bad."
Bears 23, Vikings 13 Rex Grossman's next plan may be purchasing an in stadium billboard reading "Seriously, I dare you to start Brian Griese." Afterall, the Chicago quarterback has done everything else he can think of to tempt his coaches into putting him on the bench. Grossman completed just six passes for 34 yards on Sunday, which means his teammates caught just three more of his tosses than the Vikings defense did.
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Despite his third three-interception game in the past five contests, the Bears have given no indication they will promote back up quarterback Brian Griese to the starting spot. "Think about it," reminded cornerback Ricky Manning, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the win, "Griese was cut by Tampa Bay in favor of Chris Simms, by Miami in favor of A. J. Feeley, and by Denver in favor of Jake Plummer. How much difference do you honestly think he's going to make?"
Jets 38, Packers 10 Lambeau Field may be losing some of its mystique given the fact New York ran up a 31-0 lead by halftime in the legendary home of the Packers.
"Funny how 'the frozen tundra' was much more intimidating when guys like Reggie White and Brett Favre were playing for this team, huh?" laughed Jets running back Cedric Houston, who scored two touchdowns on the day. When someone pointed out Favre still plays for Green Bay, Houston shook his head in disbelief. "You mean that old man throwing the ball around and completing nearly half his passes wasn't just part of the grounds crew? No wonder he looked at me funny when I asked him to help me dig some dirt out of my cleats."
Browns 31, Chiefs 28 (F-OT) Kansas City is doing everything it can to align itself for a postseason berth, everything except beating teams like Cleveland. "We lost to who?" a dazed Trent Green asked, having thrown four touchdowns in the surprising loss. "Cleve--naw, I refuse to believe that!" The Browns, playing without injured quarterback Charlie Frye, relied on Derek Anderson, a player most notable for the fact he wears size 17 shoes.
"Give me a break," shouted Ken Mather, the Browns media information director. "Who would have thought he'd ever get any playing time? I'm sorry I don't have a sheet of fun facts about some sixth-round pick who's never played a down in his life. Now get off my ass."
Chargers 24, Bills 21 LaDainian Tomlinson scored another two touchdowns, putting him just two shy of the NFL season record with four games to go. At his current pace though, he might have the record by halftime of next week. "That would be great," noted receiver Eric Parker. "Maybe then some of the rest of us could get into the end zone some times. Oh, I know, it's a team game and everyone does his part to win, but when I have my three little catches for 29 yards, I can't help but feel I'm not really needed around here."
San Diego's Shawne Merriman returned to the lineup after serving a four-game suspension for steroids, recording six tackles, two sacks, and forcing two fumbles. "Upon further review," NFL officials said of the linebacker, "maybe it wasn't steroids afterall. I guess he's just that good. Sorry for the confusion."
Saints 34, 49ers 10 Reggie Bush destroyed the fantasy value of all his teammates in LaDainian Tomlinson-like fashion just in time for your league's playoffs, scoring four touchdowns while the rest of his teammates stood by watching.
"To tell you the truth," whispered receiver Devery Henderson of Bush's ball-hogging, "during the second quarter, I snuck out to go see Santa Clause 3 and got back about mid-fourth quarter. I knew they weren't going to throw me the ball and Martin Short is playing a character that makes Ed Grimley look nuanced. How could I resist?"
Texans 23, Raiders 14 In some markets, this game actually aired, proving either that the NFL needs to reexamine its broadcasting right rules or that CBS hates its viewers. Houston "won," if that's what you want to call it, behind 32 yards of passing from David Carr. When you subtract the yardage lost to sacks, Houston finished the game with -5 yards passing, becoming the first team to win with negative passing yardage since 1981.
"I'd like to imply that had any bearing on anything," Carr nodded, "but seriously, we were playing against Oakland... and we're the Texans so it's not like we're world beaters. The fact there hasn't been a Jonestown-style mass suicide in this stadium is a testament to the discipline of coach Art Shell."
"Mass suicide?" perked up Shell. "Why hadn't I thought of that?"
Steelers, 20, Buccaneers 3 On the final play of the game, Matt Bryant lined up and kicked a 27-yard field goal perfectly through the uprights, preventing Tampa Bay from being shutout by Pittsburgh. "Being shutout indicates you're a bad team," explained head coach Jon Gruden, who should know since his Buccaneers kicked off their season being shut out by Baltimore. "Now, people will look at the final score and say, 'Oh! They were so close! What a scrappy, gutsy team!' If not, I 'm still going to write that they say that in my journal."
Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter wasn't sure if the field goal was kosher, but shrugged it off. "I'm sure there's probably some unwritten rule about it, but look at that scoreboard. What a scrappy, gutsy team. They were so close!"
Cowboys 23, Giants 20 In his stints coaching the Giants and Jets, Bill Parcells coached eight games a year at the Meadowlands and, with New England and Dallas, also returned there at least once a year, yet for some reason it is somehow noteworthy that his Cowboys were playing there today. With the NFC East division lead on the line, Parcells simply waited for the undisciplined Giants to fall apart and commit stupid penalties to put his team in position to win.
"We're not undisciplined," argued Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, who fancies himself one of the NFL's top disciplinarians, "we're discipline-challenged. It's a serious condition and not a joking matter. Jm J. Bullock is going to do a telethon for us."
Journeyman kicker Martin Gramatica, signed earlier in the week to replace Mike Vanderjagt, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, booted a game-winning field goal with one second remaining. Gramatica, who had made one field goal in the three games he'd played since 2004, helped prove kickers really are kind of a dime a dozen. "Hooray!" Gramatica cheered. "I'll keep my job for another week!"
Seahawks 23, Broncos 20 The Broncos desperate attempt to miss the playoffs got its first test and held up like a charm. Rookie Jay Cutler completed ten passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns to go with two interceptions and a fumble, somehow convincing the city of Denver that it is better off with him under center than Jake Plummer.
"If Plummer'd put up numbers like that, we'd probably burn him in effigy," agreed some Mile High fans, "but Cutler's a rookie and deserves a little leeway. I mean, stats don't matter as long as we win, right?" When it was pointed out that the Broncos, in fact, lost, the same fan smiled and said, "Growing pains."
"I'm not sure quite what's going on," Plummer secretly told reporters. "I don't know if it's mass hypnosis or subliminal messages in the PA system or some mind drug in the water supply, but this is bigger than you or me or any of us can imagine."
Jaguars 24, Dolphins 10 The final BCS rankings were released and the Florida Gators will play Ohio State for the National Championship.
"I'm so excited by this news," indicated one fan watching Jacksonville manhandle Miami from the stands at ProPlayer Stadium. "I can finally shift my focus there and stop pretending like this game matters. For the rest of the season, I can think about how Urban Meyer will gameplan for Troy Smith and Antonio Pittman and ignore the fact Jacksonville, Miami, and Tampa Bay even exist."