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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Canadian juniors capture 4th straight gold

Forward Matt Halischuk scored at 3:36 of overtime to lift Canada to a 3-2 win over Sweden in the gold-medal game at the world junior hockey championship on Saturday.

Brad Marchand and Claude Giroux added first-period goals in Pardubice, Czech Republic, to help the Canadians win their fourth consecutive gold and 14th overall.

Canada's Claude Giroux celebrates his goal against Sweden with teammate Brad Marchand.Canada's Claude Giroux celebrates his goal against Sweden with teammate Brad Marchand.
(Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

"Our kids just grabbed the rope and said 'You know what? We'll find a way to get this thing done,'" Canadian coach Craig Hartsburg said.

On the winning goal, Halischuk jammed a loose puck in the crease by Sweden goalie Jhonas Enroth after Canadian forward Shawn Matthias drove to the net from the corner.

"Shawn Matthias did a great job of taking the puck to the net," said Halischuk, who plays for the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers. "I just tried to go to the net and it was just sitting there so I whacked it home and saw the ref pointing, so it was pretty special."

Jonathan Carlsson and Tomas Larsson, the latter with 38 seconds left in regulation, scored for the Swedes, who posted a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Canadians in the preliminary round.

With Canada smelling victory Saturday and Enroth on the bench for an extra attacker in the dying seconds of the third period, Larsson gave the Swedes some life.

His initial rebound attempt was stopped by defenceman Drew Doughty on the goal line, but he made no mistake on his second shot as Canadian netminder Steve Mason was caught out of position.

"The Swedes turned their game up a notch and it was real hard for us to stay with them speed-wise," Hartsburg said.

Mason, coming off a 33-save performance in Friday's semifinal win over the United States, was named the most valuable player and top goalie of this year's tournament and also voted by the media to the all-star team.

The biggest of his 26 stops came in OT when he denied Swedish forward Tony Lagerstrom, who stood alone in front of the Canadian net.

The only negative for Canada was the loss of forward Stefan Legein to a separated right shoulder in the first period. He played one shift and didn't return.

Trailing 2-0, Sweden got on the board at 5:13 of the third period on a Carlsson power-play goal. Johan Alcen set up the goal, skating behind Canada's net and slipping a back-hander to an open Carlsson, who beat Mason to the short side.

Marchand beat Enroth 87 seconds after the opening faceoff for his third goal in as many games against Sweden over the last two years. He was on the spot when a shot from the faceoff circle by Giroux bounced above Enroth's head.

The puck appeared to either go off a part of Marchand's anatomy or a Swedish defender, but it rolled off Enroth and over the goal line.

Later in the frame, Marchand notched his sixth point in the last six games when he set up Giroux.

For the Swedes, who entered the game with a 5-0-0 record, it was their first medal at the world juniors in 12 years. They hadn't medalled since losing to Canada in the final at the 1996 tournament in Boston, but are 0-5 all-time against the Canadians in the medal round.

Sweden's lone title in this tournament came in 1981 in Germany.

Canada's road to the final required a 4-2 quarter-final win over Finland before beating the U.S. 4-1 in a semifinal.

It felt like a home game for the Canadian players, who enjoyed vocal support from about 2,000 fans among the announced crowd of 7,480 — by far the loudest contingent at Pardubice Arena.

Ten Canadian players, including Kyle Turris, Steve Stamkos and John Tavares, are eligible for next year's tourney in Ottawa.

Canada will also host in 2010 and 2012 and the U.S. gets it in 2011.

Earlier Saturday, Russia defeated the Americans 4-2 in the bronze-medal game. Nikita Filatov and Alexei Cherepanov led the attack with three points each.

Tournament all-star team:

  • Steve Mason, Canada — goaltender.
  • Drew Doughty, Canada — defenceman.
  • Victor Hedman, Sweden — defenceman.
  • Patrik Berglund, Sweden — forward.
  • Viktor Tikhonov, Russia — forward.
  • James vanRiemsdyk, United States — forward.
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Golfweek blasted over noose on cover

The editor of Golfweek magazine said he was overwhelmed by negative reaction to the photo of a noose on the cover of this week's issue, illustrating a story about the suspension of a Golf Channel anchor for using the word "lynch" in an on-air discussion about how to beat Tiger Woods.

"We knew that image would grab attention, but I didn't anticipate the enormity of it," Dave Seanor, vice president and editor of the weekly magazine, said from the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla.

"There's been a huge, negative reaction," he said. "I've gotten so many e-mails. It's a little overwhelming."

Among the critics was PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who said he found the imagery to be "outrageous and irresponsible."

"It smacks of tabloid journalism," Finchem said in a statement. "It was a naked attempt to inflame and keep alive an incident that was heading to an appropriate conclusion."

Kelly Tilghman was suspended for two weeks because of comments she made during the second round of the Mercedes-Benz Championship, when she and analyst Nick Faldo were discussing young challengers to Woods.

Faldo suggested that "to take Tiger on, maybe they should just gang up (on him) for a while."

"Lynch him in a back alley," Tilghman replied.

Tilghman said she apologized directly to the world's No. 1 player, and Woods' agent issued a statement that said it was a non-issue.

Seanor said editors at the magazine debated several choices for a cover, and he took responsibility for the noose. The title of the cover is "Caught in a Noose," with a sub-title, "Tilghman slips up, and Golf Channel can't wriggle free."

Golf Channel didn't deal with Tilghman's comments until Newsday in New York first wrote about the "lynch" reference three days after the broadcast. The suspension was announced shortly after the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded on CNN that Tilghman be fired.

"We're a weekly news magazine. The big story of the previous week was Kelly Tilghman, and that's what we chose," Seanor said. "How to illustrate that? It was tough. Do you put Kelly Tilghman out there? But was it so much about her or the uproar?

"This is emblematic of why people were so offended."

The Golfweek staff previously had scheduled a meeting with PGA Tour officials Thursday morning, and Seanor said the noose quickly became "item 1-A" on their agenda.

He said dozens of customers at the merchandise show stopped by the Golfweek stand and put an issue in their bag, with some stopping to discuss and complain.

"Most people who are objecting to it -- within the golf industry -- are saying this episode was just above over," Seanor said. "I think it's indicative of how, when you bring race and golf into the same sentence, everyone recoils."

Seanor said he was struck by the paucity of black customers among the thousands of people at golf's largest merchandise exposition.

"Look at the executive suites at the PGA Tour, or the USGA, or the PGA of America. There are very, very few people of color there," he said. "This is a situation in golf where there needs to be more dialogue. And when you get more dialogue, people don't want to hear it, and they brush it under the rug. This is a source of a lot of pushback."

Seanor said he expected canceled subscriptions over the issue. He was not sure how it would affect advertising. Golfweek is published by Orlando-based Turnstile Publishing Co.

Asked if he regretted the cover, Seanor paused before answering.

"I wish we could have come up with something that made the same statement but didn't create as much negative reaction," he said. "But as this has unfolded, I'm glad there's dialogue. Let's talk about this, and the lack of diversity in golf."

He denied the cover was an attempt to sell more magazines, noting that Golfweek is 99 percent subscriptions.

"I was a little shocked by the commissioner's reaction," he said. "It was rather strong, particularly from someone who rarely comments on things on his own tour."

The day after Tilghman was suspended, Finchem said it was clear the Golf Channel was "was taking this unfortunate incident very seriously."

"Over the years, many PGA Tour players and staff have had the chance to get to know Kelly," he said. "Knowing her, her comment seems to us to be very uncharacteristic and we believe it was completely inadvertent. We have no reason to believe that she was intentionally malicious in her remark."

Golfweek is one of two weekly magazines devoted entirely to golf.

Golf World, coincidentally put on its cover this week a photo of Bill Spiller, one of the black pioneers in the sport, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of his push to integrate the PGA Tour.

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ESPN - Scouts Inc. Ranks All 106 Super Bowl 42 Players


Tom Brady, Osi Umenyiora and Logan Mankins are ranked among the top 10 Super Bowl XLII players.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is this season's Most Valuable Player, so it stands to reason that he would top our rankings of the Super Bowl XLII participants. But what about the other 105 players who are expected to suit up Feb. 3 in Glendale, Ariz.? Who follows Brady? And who's No. 106?

In determining our rankings, we took into consideration the player's current performance, as well as his play throughout the season. A player's special teams contribution also influenced our decision.

The process was very difficult, and we had to make some tough calls. Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to let us know.

1. QB Tom Brady -- Patriots


Brady is without question the best quarterback in the NFL and is arguably the most outstanding player going into Super Bowl XLII.

2. WR Randy Moss -- Patriots


Moss is coming off a historic regular season, and every defense has to game plan around him.

3. DE Osi Umenyiora -- Giants


He was one of the toughest defensive ends to block this season. His combination of size, strength and athleticism draws many double-teams.

4. DE Richard Seymour -- Patriots


He is a big, physical force inside, but his stats don't really reflect his importance.

5. DE Michael Strahan -- Giants


Strahan had an outstanding season as a run-stopper and pass-rusher. Plus, he still has great quickness off the edge.

6. WR Plaxico Burress -- Giants


His great athleticism and size make him difficult to cover. The Patriots likely will put extra defenders on him in the Super Bowl.

7. OG Logan Mankins -- Patriots


Mankins sets the tempo while putting pressure on defensive fronts with tenacity and strength.

8. CB Asante Samuel -- Patriots


Samuel has excellent quickness, tremendous ball skills and an outstanding ability to react well out of zone coverage.

9. LB Mike Vrabel -- Patriots


He is one of the most versatile players in the NFL. His instincts, short-area quickness and toughness make him tough to game plan for.

10. OG Chris Snee -- Giants


Snee is an effective interior lineman who has the grit and strength to set the tempo in the trenches.

11. DT Vince Wilfork -- Patriots


He is a load inside who works with a low center of gravity. He also pushes the pocket well as a pass-rusher.

12. DE Ty Warren -- Patriots


Warren has been an effective pass-rusher off the edge but also shows natural power for holding the point.

13. WR Wes Welker -- Patriots


The Patriots' leading receiver in the playoffs. He often is Brady's X factor in the passing game because he can turn short routes into first downs.

14. OT Matt Light -- Patriots


He is a steady competitor who shows great athleticism as a pass-blocker. Plus, he has great patience and technique as a run-blocker.

15. QB Eli Manning -- Giants


Manning is turning into a true leader and is having a tremendous postseason. He is making great decisions with the football and, most importantly, not throwing interceptions.

16. DE Justin Tuck -- Giants


He has been an unsung hero on the Giants' defensive front, which has created havoc all year.

17. C Dan Koppen -- Patriots


Koppen is solid in the middle of the offensive line. He has great instincts, toughness and consistency.
Antonio Pierce

Rich Kane/US Presswire

Linebacker Antonio Pierce (ranked No. 20) has been a key component of the Giants' defense.

18. RB Laurence Maroney -- Patriots


His play has been outstanding ever since he was called upon to tote the football late in the season. He has great vision, agility and strength.

19. RB Brandon Jacobs -- Giants


Jacobs is the most physical runner in the NFL and has an excellent combination of size, power and agility that moves the chains.

20. LB Antonio Pierce -- Giants


He has been making solid plays on a consistent basis and controlling the Giants' complex defense all season.

21. S Gibril Wilson -- Giants


Wilson is a good-sized free safety who attacks plays going downhill. He is a sure tackler who has excellent measurables and a great nose for the ball.

22. LB Tedy Bruschi -- Patriots


Bruschi is the heart and soul of New England's defense. He has a huge motor and makes plays on hustle, desire and instincts. He is like a coach on the field.

23. OT David Diehl -- Giants


Diehl is a good athlete for the position who protects Manning's blind side and has the ability to mirror the elite pass-rushers. He is a finesse blocker with body control.

24. S Rodney Harrison -- Patriots


Harrison is a downhill safety who plays better the closer he is to the line of scrimmage. He plays with an attitude.

25. C Shaun O'Hara -- Giants


He is a smart, athletic center who knows how to keep body position and rarely allows himself to get out of control. He uses his hands very well and knows angles.

26. OT Kareem McKenzie -- Giants


McKenzie is a massive tackle who simply overpowers opponents. He hits with a pop that can rock opponents onto their heels. He has nimble feet and good range.

27. LB Adalius Thomas -- Patriots


Thomas is an explosive edge rusher who has great first-step quickness with a burst to pressure the pocket and get to the quarterback. He has unusual strength for a linebacker.

28. WR Amani Toomer -- Giants


This sly veteran understands how to read coverages, has excellent hand-eye coordination and is willing to do the little things to help his team win.

29. RB Kevin Faulk -- Patriots


Faulk is a great third-down back who runs the ball fairly well but really excels when catching the ball out of the backfield. He is a heady player who does everything well.

30. TE Benjamin Watson -- Patriots


Watson is an excellent all-purpose tight end. He can line up either up tight, flexed out or as an H-back. He has soft, natural hands and can advance the ball after the catch.

31. CB Aaron Ross -- Giants


Ross is a very athletic corner who has the size to match up with bigger wide receivers, but he also can line up over the slot receiver. Plus, he supports the run better than most corners.

32. LB Junior Seau -- Patriots


He is a seasoned veteran who always has been able to make the big play and has a great nose for the ball. He is better going forward as a blitzing linebacker than dropping into space.

33. CB Sam Madison -- Giants


Madison is a fluid, smooth athlete with above-average speed for a cornerback. He uses his hands well to control receivers and does a great job of reading routes.

34. CB Ellis Hobbs -- Patriots


He is a little undersized for the position but plays with an attitude and is fearless. He has excellent feet and good distance speed. However, his size does get him into trouble versus taller wide receivers.

35. S James Sanders -- Patriots


Sanders is a little undersized but is a good athlete for the position. He plays with good instincts, understands defensive schemes and has excellent range over the top in coverage.

36. OT Nick Kaczur -- Patriots


He is a very good athlete for a right tackle. He relies on athleticism and technique more than brute strength. He has quick feet and does a good job of positioning his body.
Nick Kaczur

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Patriots tackle Nick Kaczur (ranked No. 36) is part of arguably the NFL's top offensive line.

37. DE Jarvis Green -- Patriots


Green is a very good athlete for a five-technique defensive end. He is slightly better at rushing the pocket than he is at stopping the run but can do both. He is not overpowering but plays with strong hands.

38. OG Stephen Neal -- Patriots


Neal is a very athletic guard who relies on foot agility, body control and technique more than size or brute strength. He uses his hands very well to control and steer opponents.

39. LB Kawika Mitchell -- Giants


Mitchell is big, fast and active. He can struggle when he has to change directions, but he does a good job of closing on plays once he gets realigned. He is not great at defeating blocks.

40. RB Ahmad Bradshaw -- Giants


Bradshaw is an explosive, exciting ball carrier. He lacks the size to be an every-down player but is explosive through the hole and is very elusive once he gets past the line of scrimmage.

41. WR Donte' Stallworth -- Patriots


He is a veteran receiver who is really the third option, despite being a starter. Although inconsistent, he still is a big-play threat who benefits from the double coverage on Moss.

42. DT Fred Robbins -- Giants


He is a veteran coming off back-to-back solid seasons for the Giants. Robbins is primarily known as a run-stuffer, but he has had 12 sacks over the past two seasons, due in part to being single blocked because of the excellent line on which he plays.

43. OG Rich Seubert -- Giants


Seubert is a solid backup and spot starter. He is a smart, blue-collar player and a very good technician. You love him on your team because of his versatility.

44. WR Steve Smith -- Giants


He is a rookie receiver who has elevated his level of play after the injury to tight end Jeremy Shockey. Smith has developed a nice rapport with Manning while playing out of the slot.

45. CB Corey Webster -- Giants


He is a former second-round pick who was buried on the Giants' depth charts prior to injuries at the cornerback position. He is playing as well as he has at any point during his short NFL career.

46. S James Butler -- Giants


Butler is a starting free safety who has solid size and range. He is serviceable but gets out of position at times. The Patriots will try to find him in coverage.

47. NT Barry Cofield -- Giants


He is a young backup player who is versatile enough to take reps at both at defensive tackle and defensive end. He is an important role player who provides depth.

48. WR Jabar Gaffney -- Patriots


He is the fourth receiver, but he still gets reps in this offense. He is a role player who has made the most of his opportunities and could produce in the Patriots' system if asked to play a bigger role.

49. TE Kevin Boss -- Giants


He has filled Shockey's shoes very nicely. He is not as good a receiver or run-blocker, but he does something the Giants didn't ask Shockey to do: pass block. Boss is solid at it, allowing Manning more time in the pocket.
Kevin Boss

Tom Hauck/Getty Images

Tight end Kevin Boss (ranked No. 49) is a solid pass-blocker, giving Eli Manning additional time to find other receivers.

50. LB Gerris Wilkinson -- Giants


He is a backup linebacker and solid special teams player who has made some plays when inserted into the lineup.

51. LB Reggie Torbor -- Giants


He has never really reached his full potential and is a bit of a tweener, but he is solid on special teams and has good overall speed and range.

52. K Stephen Gostkowski -- Patriots


He is 21-of-24 for the season and 3-of-5 from 40 to 49 yards out. However, he has not had many pressure kicks, and that could be a concern in a tight game.

53. TE Kyle Brady -- Patriots


He is an excellent blocking tight end who is physical at the point of attack. But he is limited as a receiver at this point in his career.

54. CB Randall Gay -- Patriots


When he has been healthy, he has made plays. He is a solid sub-package player who has a knack for being around the football.

55. LB Larry Izzo -- Patriots


He is a very good veteran special teams player.

56. WR David Tyree -- Giants


He is a fourth receiver and does not see a lot of time on offense. However, he is one of the best special teams players in the NFL.

57. FB Heath Evans -- Patriots


Evans is a versatile fullback who saw time as a runner when the Patriots were beat up at running back. He is a role player who produces when they need him.

58. FB Madison Hedgecock -- Giants


He is the Giants' starting fullback, but they do not run out of the I formation too often, so he is more productive on special teams.

59. S Eugene Wilson -- Patriots


He is a hybrid cornerback-safety. He is a backup who can fill in at every spot. He is another one of those Patriots backups who is in and out of the lineup but has a knack for coming up with big plays in key moments.

60. S Brandon Meriweather -- Patriots


He is a rookie who played more toward the end of the season. He has a ton of potential but has taken some time to pick up the schemes.

61. CB Kevin Dockery -- Giants


He was a starter prior to being injured late in the year and started again in the wild-card game. He is an average cover guy who might not get his job back.

62. C Grey Ruegamer -- Giants


He is an experienced backup player who has very good versatility at both offensive guard and center.

63. OG Russ Hochstein -- Patriots


He is a versatile, smart backup player who can play both guard and center.

64. WR Kelley Washington -- Patriots


Washington is a backup receiver who contributed mainly as a core special teams player throughout the year and finished with 18 tackles.

65. LB Eric Alexander -- Patriots


He is a backup inside linebacker and core special teams player.

66. P Jeff Feagles -- Giants


No directional punter in the NFL is better than Feagles at placing punts inside the 20-yard line.

67. CB R.W. McQuarters -- Giants


He is a backup corner who contributes in substitution as the "money" (fourth corner in dime packages) and handles punt returns.

68. WR Domenik Hixon -- Giants


He is the Giants' primary kickoff returner, and he had a 74-yard return for a touchdown against the Patriots in Week 17.

69. OT Ryan O'Callaghan -- Patriots


O'Callaghan is a backup who can be effective as a run-blocker due to his size and functional strength.

70. RB Reuben Droughns -- Giants


He is an experienced backup who contributes in the Giants' short-yardage and goal-line packages.

71. K Lawrence Tynes -- Giants


He has good leg strength and has made some big kicks over his career, but he still needs to be more consistent.

72. P Chris Hanson -- Patriots


Hanson is a left-footed punter with great power and hang time. He also has been to a Pro Bowl.

73. DT Jay Alford -- Giants


Alford is a backup rotational defensive tackle who contributes mainly in regular defensive schemes. He also handles the short snaps for field goals and extra points.

74. OG Billy Yates -- Patriots


He is a backup who started one game and still is developing.

75. LB Zak DeOssie -- Giants


He is a backup SLB and special teams player who handles the long snaps on punts.

76. LB Pierre Woods -- Patriots


Woods is a backup role player who leads the Patriots in special teams tackles this season.

77. S Willie Andrews -- Patriots


He is a backup role player who contributes mainly on special teams.

78. TE Michael Matthews -- Giants


He is the No. 2 tight end and a special teams player who contributes mainly in the Giants' 12-personnel grouping.

79. LS Lonie Paxton -- Patriots


He has been a very consistent snapper on field goals and punts throughout his career.
Mel Mitchell

Scott Boehm/Getty Images

The Patriots' Mel Mitchell (ranked No. 81) contributes on special teams.

80. RB Kyle Eckel -- Patriots


He is a backup fullback who has contributed mainly on special teams.

81. S Mel Mitchell -- Patriots


Mitchell is very good on special teams and has value in a reserve role. However, he isn't starting material.

82. WR Troy Brown -- Patriots


This veteran, do-it-all, consummate Patriot is on his last legs, but he is the type of guy who still could come through in a big game.

83. WR Sinorice Moss -- Giants


He is the undersized younger brother of Santana Moss (Washington Redskins) and has quickness and explosiveness, but he has not transitioned to the NFL as well as was expected.

84. LB Chase Blackburn -- Giants


Blackburn is a backup linebacker who was thrust into action and performed well during the 2006 season. Plus, he is a core special teams player.

85. WR Chad Jackson -- Patriots


Jackson is a talented young player who has gotten lost in all of New England's wide receiver acquisitions. He also has battled injuries since joining the league.

86. NT Rashad Moore -- Patriots


Moore is a big, powerful player who flashes at times, but he is far too inconsistent in just about every phase of his game.

87. DE Dave Tollefson -- Giants


Tollefson is good enough to fill in and finish a game, but he is nowhere near the threat off the edge that those above him on the depth chart are.

88. OT Wesley Britt -- Patriots


Britt has been forced into action at times but isn't a massive liability. He is a smart player who knows his deficiencies but never will be a starter.

89. DT Russell Davis -- Giants


He is a big run-plugging defensive tackle who has valuable starting experience, but he is in the latter stages of his career.

90. S Michael Johnson -- Giants


Johnson is a rookie and has been a pleasant surprise while filling in as the starting strong safety due to injury. He has good size and is aggressive.

91. QB Matt Cassel -- Patriots


Cassell didn't start at USC, and he surely will not start in New England unless the unthinkable occurs.

92. QB Anthony Wright -- Giants


Wright has had moderate success in the league, but if Manning goes down, the Giants are in huge trouble.

93. LB Tank Daniels -- Giants


He is a backup strongside linebacker who has recorded just one tackle on the season. However, he has contributed on special teams.

94. OG Kevin Boothe -- Giants


He is an intelligent backup guard who is a project at this young stage of his career.

95. CB Geoffrey Pope -- Giants


Pope is a very young player who primarily is a depth player without much upside. However, he could be thrust into action with the rash of injuries in the Giants' secondary.

96. S Ray Ventrone -- Patriots


He is a core special teams contributor who tries hard and can fill in at safety in an emergency.

97. DE LeKevin Smith -- Patriots


Smith has some upfield ability and flashes at times, but he is a borderline roster player.

98. OT Guy Whimper -- Giants


He is an athletic backup left tackle who needs to get stronger, but he is a suitable backup to Diehl at this point.

99. OT Adam Koets -- Giants


He is a backup offensive lineman who lacks quickness and overall athletic ability. If by chance Koets plays in the Super Bowl, he will need a lot of help.

100. QB Jared Lorenzen -- Giants


As third-string quarterbacks go, Lorenzen is fine, but he never has shown he can be someone New York can win with.

101. RB Danny Ware -- Giants


Ware was a late addition to a Giants team that is loaded at the position. He should be used only on special teams.

102. TE Jerome Collins -- Giants


He is a blocking tight end with size and got his shot due only to Shockey's injury.

103. NT Manny Wright -- Giants


Wright has ability. He entered the league through the supplemental draft as a Miami Dolphin, but he has continually disappointed.

104. QB Matt Gutierrez -- Patriots


The Patriots' third-string signal-caller is a big-time project, but he has shown little to date.

105. TE Stephen Spach -- Patriots


He is a second-year, third-string tight end who could very well luck into a Super Bowl ring.

106. CB Antwain Spann -- Patriots


He is buried on the depth chart but had one tackle in the regular season. Ironically, it was against the Giants in Week 17.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

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80% of Super Bowl Bets are On the Giants

The New York Giants vs. New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII pits two big-market teams against each other. Nevada's 176 legal sports books are hoping a double-digit point spread, heavy betting from the two teams' huge fan bases and the game's location in neighboring Arizona will create the first $100 million "handle," or betting total, for a Super Bowl game.

"This could be the biggest-bet game ever," predicts Chuck Esposito, assistant vice president of race and sports book operations at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. But Jay Kornegay, executive director of the Las Vegas Hilton's race and sports book, counters the only game that would generate $100 million in "action," or betting, would be Tom Brady's Patriots vs. Brett Favre's Green Bay Packers.

Some sports books thought the Indianapolis Colts vs. Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI would crack $100 million last year. Instead, the $93 million handle fell $1.5 million short of the record $94.5 million bet on Super Bowl XL between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, according to Frank Streshley, senior analyst at the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Both Caesars and the Hilton installed the Patriots as 14-point favorites as soon as Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes drilled his game-winning field goal Sunday (The Fox NFL Sunday crew even quoted the 14-point opening line by sports analyst Danny Sheridan). Heavy betting on the Giants led the two books to drop their lines to 12 points by Wednesday.

The favored Patriots failed to cover the point spread at home in their two playoff victories, against the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers, says Sheridan.

Eli Manning's Giants, meanwhile, beat the spread in all three of its road playoff wins, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys and Packers. The Giants also covered the spread in their 38-35 home loss to the Patriots in Week 17.

There's been "a non-stop flow of Giants money; 80% of the bets have been on the Giants," says Kornegay. Things could change quickly. Esposito predicts the spread could fall further, inducing more Patriots fans to bet their cash. Most Super Bowl bets are placed in the final 72 hours before kickoff. "Twelve is kind of a dead number," Esposito says.

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Eddie Murphy predicts the future!!!!

This is really creepy. Eddie Murphy is like Nostradamus — if Nostradamus made shitty movies and was really into transsexuals. Who knows what other predictions his past movies hold. I’ll have to watch them all to find out. Except The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Maybe I’ll find an intern to watch that one.

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Randy Moss denies battery claim brought by woman

Woman alleges Patriot caused serious injury



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5 things you didn't know about the NFL

Its season is shorter and has fewer scheduled games than any other major American pro sport; nonetheless, the NFL has a firm hold on the title of "national obsession" in the U.S. In fact, it’s a Sunday and Monday night (and sometimes Thursday night) ritual from September through early February for its tens of millions of fans.

As the nation’s top dog, the powerhouse league has faced more than its share of challengers through the years, all eager to get a piece of its hugely lucrative pie. They include the World Football League of the early 1970s, the USFL of the early ‘80s, Vince McMahon’s 2001 XFL, and (excluding the AFL of the 1960s) its toughest challenge, the All-America Football Conference of the 1940s -- none of which lasted beyond four seasons. The NFL has an impressive -- though not perfect -- winning record as the defendant in antitrust lawsuits, and its tremendous influence is slowly stretching beyond America’s vast and lucrative borders.

Without further ado, we present five things you didn’t know about the NFL.

1- The Redskins were the NFL’s last segregated team

By 1961, 13 of the league’s 14 teams had, to some degree, been desegregated and featured black players on their rosters. The one hold-out could be found in the nation’s capital. The Washington Redskins were the league’s last all-white team, and whether it was coincidental or not, they were also the worst (from 1959 through 1961, their record was 5-30). Team owner George Marshall had staunchly refused to desegregate, claiming he would do so when the Harlem Globetrotters hired white players. That all changed with the incoming presidential administration.

JFK had been elected, in part, thanks to his pro-civil rights platform, and having the league’s only all-white team in the nation’s capital was an eyesore for the administration. JFK, therefore, instructed his Secretary of the Interior, Stewart L. Udall, to threaten Marshall with federal retribution if the team didn’t hire black players; namely, they would be evicted from District of Columbia Stadium. In doing so, it became the first time in history that the federal government had attempted to desegregate a professional sports team.

2- The NFL scores forfeits 2-0

According to the official NFL rulebook, a forfeit occurs: “... when a game is not played because of the failure or refusal of one team to participate. In that event, the other team, if ready and willing to play, is the winner by a score of 2-0” (the points earned in a safety). Why a two-point safety? Because those points are the league’s only scores that are not credited to any one player.

This little-discussed rule is even less frequently applied, since dating back to 1920 there has been just one forfeit. Specifically, December 4, 1921, when the Rochester Jeffersons lost by forfeit to the Washington Pros/Senators. Since the league was just a year old and this rule was not yet established, the referee scored the game 1-0. No word on whose stats got padded with the point.

3- It was created in an automobile showroom

Organized professional football dates back to 1920 and a legendary meeting in Canton, Ohio. Fittingly, it featured a handful of former athletic standouts, such as George Halas and Jim Thorpe, hanging out in an automobile showroom, slamming beers and talking sports on a Friday night. Among other things, they settled on a name, the American Professional Football Association, and a membership fee, $100.

Since then, more than just the name has changed. Today, the NFL is a revenue juggernaut. According to Forbes, the mean value of the NFL’s 32 teams exceeds $950 million, making the NFL the world’s richest and most profitable professional sports league. It can further boast of having the world’s most valuable sports franchise, the Dallas Cowboys, valued at a cool $1.5 billion.

We have two more facts about the NFL you didn’t know…




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NCAA says it will study 8-team football playoff proposal

University of Georgia president Michael Adams, left, speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, Jan. 14, 2008. Seated are Clemson president James Barker, center, and NCAA president Myles Brand, right. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)


University of Georgia president Michael Adams leaves following a news conference on the final day of the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, Jan. 14, 2008. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — University of Georgia president Michael Adams presented his proposal for an eight-team major college football playoff to the NCAA Division I board of directors Monday in Nashville, and they decided to study the issue with others before making any moves.

University of Georgia President Michael Adams speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, Jan. 14, 2008. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Ultimately, though, the board would prefer BCS officials figure out what's best for the postseason.

James Barker, chairman of the board and the president of Clemson, called the talks candid and constructive. But he said the directors believe the discussion should include presidents at the conference level and the committee overseeing the Bowl Championship Series.

The board also wants a task force announced last month by NCAA President Myles Brand to study issues over the use of student likenesses' to expand its review and study commercialization as it relates to postseason football.

The task force hasn't been picked and there's no timeline for a report to the board.

Adams announced his proposal for an eight-team playoff for the Football Bowl Subdivision using the BCS games following years of opposition to a playoff. He unveiled his proposal on Jan. 8, hours after LSU won the BCS national championship game.

His playoff proposal used the Sugar, Orange, Rose and Fiesta bowls as the opening round, leading to semifinals and a championship game. Adams said he believes the study will result in additional tweaking to the BCS system.

"It's not just me that's talking about tweaking again," said Adams, who also is chairman of the NCAA executive committee.

"It's some of my colleagues. It's the people in the conferences. It's others. I don't know if we will all get to the exact same decision."

The Division I board did approve 45 of 47 proposals Monday, including scholarship protection for athletes dealing with pregnancies, injuries or other medical conditions. That protection will take affect immediately.

Both Divisions I and II allowed coaches to text message athletes who have signed letters of intent.

Division II also approved a program that would allow Canadian colleges to become members, and Division III upheld the ban on text messaging that took effect Aug. 1.

Division III placed limits on the use of male practice players in women's team sports, including allowing only one practice per week. Division III also will continue discussions about possibly splitting into subdivisions or creating a new fourth division. Division III membership is expected to reach 480 within the decade.

But it was Adams' proposal for an eight-team playoff that was most anticipated at this five-day convention, which ended Monday. He had said he wanted a special NCAA committee to work out the details.

Barker called the discussions positive, but that doesn't mean the D-I board will make any decisions on a major college football playoff. He tossed responsibility for changing the postseason back to the BCS.

"I don't think that there's a desire on the part of the board to do anything other than what the structure currently in place would yield," Barker said. "We don't have that preconception."

The 11 Bowl Subdivision commissioners who make up the BCS will meet in April in Miami and are expected to discuss the so-called plus-one format, which would create a four-team playoff.

The Division I board wants the BCS presidential oversight committee involved as well.

Adams said in a letter to Brand last week that the networks, conferences and bowls had too much control power over the postseason. Adams' Bulldogs were left out of the national championship game after getting passed by LSU in the final BCS standings.

"I think there's enough concern out there not just among the institutional presidents but among the student-athletes, among the fans, among people trying to pay for this among networks," Adams said. "There are broad issues that need to be looked at."

Asked if he still feels strongly about the eight-team playoff, Adams said he feels strongly that the major college football postseason can be tweaked.

"I've said all along that I don't know I immediately thought everyone was going to agree with me on just the specific," Adams said.

He also is concerned about commercialization and wants to get presidents more involved.

"That's one of the things we've got to work through," he said.

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Colts' Bob Sanders wins NFL Defensive Player award

Last Friday, feeling generous with a new $37 million contract and a second Pro Bowl designation, Bob Sanders took several of his Indianapolis Colts teammates out to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

One of his guests, linebacker Gary Brackett, promised if Sanders was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year — becoming the first player in franchise history so honored — the group would pick up Sanders' tab at this week's gathering.

"I'll be getting my money back," Sanders said Monday in the Colts' locker room.

The hard-hitting safety overwhelmingly won the league's top defensive honor, getting 31 of 50 votes from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Tennessee Titans tackle Albert Haynesworth and Seattle Seahawks end Patrick Kerney tied for second at four votes each.

"It's a goal I set every year for myself," Sanders said. "I couldn't be more excited.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: NFL | Super Bowl | Colts | Player | Bob Sanders | Patrick Kerney

"This is great, man."

Along with being the first Colt to win the award, Sanders joins Baltimore's Ed Reed (2004), Seattle's Kenny Easley (1984) and Miami's Dick Anderson (1973) as the only safeties to win it.

That's an elite group, and Sanders earned it. He ranks second on the team with 132 tackles, but first in making an impact.

"He's a game-changer," Brackett said.

The ability to finish plays or compensate if a teammate misses a tackle led coach Tony Dungy to nickname the fourth-year player "The Eraser." Dungy noted that Sanders and the Colts' defensive scheme are a perfect fit. Not only is the safety effective when crowding the line of scrimmage, he makes plays deep in coverage.

"He's probably what you would look for if you were designing a safety for this system," Dungy said. "Every now and then you get that guy who just really fits the job description."

Sanders was instrumental in the Colts' first Super Bowl win in more than three decades last February. After missing 12 games with a knee injury, he returned for the postseason and helped resurrect a defense that ranked last in the league against the run during the regular season.

It's been more of the same this season. Sanders proved he could stay on the field — he missed one game with bruised ribs — and was a key component as the Colts defense finished first in fewest points allowed and third in total yards allowed.

"We've been known so long as an offensive team (that) for someone from our defense to be recognized ... is quite an accomplishment," Dungy said. "He's made a difference for us. He's a great player."

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Cheerleaders of the BCS Football Championship Teams

bcs-cheerleaders.jpg

In football, a win or loss is determined not by coaching strategy or pure athleticism, but by which team has the hottest cheerleaders.

Sure, some football “purists” would say this is completely insane, but I say pish-posh to that.

Just hear me out:

When you need the homefield crowd to get extra loud, so the opposing offense can’t call last-minute audibles from the line, who do you call? Cheerleaders.

When we need entertainment (in any shape, way or form) during an extended bowl game commercial, who do we call? Cheerleaders.

When the game at hand is incredibly boring, and you need something to lift up your spirits (among other things), who do you call? CHEERLEADERS.

To commemorate an exciting, rollercoaster year in college football (not to mention tonight’s BCS Championship game between LSU and Ohio State) COED gives you The Cheerleaders of the BCS Football Championship Teams. Now you will finally see the real reason why University of Hawaii, USC, Oklahoma University and the others made it to the championship games.

Click the images to view each team’s gallery. Be sure to vote!

rosebowl.jpg

University of Illinois
University of Illinois cheerleader

USC
USC Cheerleader nude

Who’s Hotter?

View Results

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Click the images to view each team’s gallery.
Sugar Bowl header

University of Hawaii
University of Hawaii cheerleader

University of Georgia
University of Georgia cheerleader

Who’s Hotter?

View Results

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Click the images to view each team’s gallery.
Fiesta bowl header

West Virginia University
w virginia

Oklahoma University
Oklahoma University

Who’s Hotter?

View Results

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Click the images to view each team’s gallery.
Orange Bowl logo
Kansas University
Kansas University cheerleader

Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech cheerleader

Who’s Hotter?

View Results

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Click the images to view each team’s gallery.
BCS logo
Ohio State University
Ohio State Unversity cheerleader

Check out Epic Carnival’s smokin’ Ohio State Cheerleader Gallery here

LSU
LSU header

Who’s Hotter?

View Results

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Who’s Hottest Overall?

View Results

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OSU VS LSU header



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Dolphins fire Cam Cameron but bring back Ricky Williams

DAVIE, Fla. - Unlike his boss, Bill Parcells didn’t need to go to Costa Rica. He stayed right at home and decided Cam Cameron had to go, along with just about everyone else on the Miami Dolphins.

A year ago Thursday, Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga embarked on a two-week coaching search that took him as far as Central America to interview at least a dozen candidates.

Now the Dolphins are starting over.

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Cameron was fired Thursday after winning only one game in his first year as an NFL head coach. The move means Miami will have its fifth coach in five seasons.

Such instability has contributed to the Dolphins’ decline. This season they lost their first 13 games and finished 1-15, the worst record in franchise history.

In another, more surprising move, the Dolphins renewed troubled running back Ricky Williams' contract for 2008, the Miami Herald reported, citing an e-mail from agent Leigh Steinberg.

Williams received a letter from the Dolphins signed by Parcells renewing his deal, Steinberg said, the newspaper reported.

Late last month, they brought in Parcells to run the organization. He hired Jeff Ireland as general manager this week, and they fired most of the coaching staff Thursday.

“They were struggling on both sides of the ball,” Ireland said. “Looking at it from afar, we’ve just got to put the right person in place.”

Parcells made the decision to fire Cameron in consultation with Ireland, who spent the last seven years in player personnel with the Dallas Cowboys.

Parcells, the Cowboys’ coach in 2003-06, may tap the Dallas pipeline again. The early front-runner to replace Cameron is Cowboys assistant head coach Tony Sparano, who is scheduled to interview Friday for the head coaching vacancy in Atlanta.

“Tony’s an outstanding coach,” Dallas head coach Wade Phillips said this week. “He’s got all the attributes, I think, to be a head coach. He works well with people. His players play for him; I think that’s important. And he’s a really sharp, sharp guy as far as Xs and Os. And I think he’d work well certainly putting a staff together.”

All but two members of Cameron’s coaching staff were also fired, although some might be rehired by the new head coach, Ireland said. Retained were assistant special teams coach Steve Hoffman and linebackers coach George Edwards.

Cameron was under contract through 2010. A perceived difference in philosophy with the new regime ranked as a bigger factor in his firing than Miami’s 1-15 record, Ireland said.

“We just felt in order to move forward and not look back, we needed someone in place who shared the same philosophical compatibilities we shared,” Ireland said. “We didn’t really know the guy that well. We were going to try to get someone that does share those things, and we weren’t completely sold that he did.”

Ireland said the philosophy he and Parcells share involves creating a culture of winning. That would be a change for the Dolphins, who missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, extending a franchise record.

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“We want strong character around here,” said Ireland, who added he’ll have final say regarding all player personnel decisions. “The vision of the team will be discipline, passionate players, highly competitive. And we’ll be a big team.”

Plans for the coaching search were still being formulated, Ireland said.

“We’re going to try to make a quick decision, but we don’t have a timetable,” he said. “We’ll have a broad range of candidates. We’ll look into every possibility.”

The search last year was the most extensive since the franchise’s first season in 1966, but Cameron quickly became a disappointment. Until Miami beat Baltimore in overtime Dec. 16, he was in danger of becoming the first NFL coach to go 0-16.

Throughout the worst season in team history, Cameron won praise for maintaining a calm demeanor with the media and his players. But as the losses mounted, players became coy when asked if they believed in their coach.

Defensive end Jason Taylor, Miami’s only Pro Bowl player, took a neutral stance on the firing.

“We’ve had a difficult year, and it’s one of those times when it’s a little unsettling,” he said. “As a player on the team, you can only control what you can, and for other things, you have to let others do it.”

Cameron was hired after five years as offensive coordinator for the high-scoring San Diego Chargers, and the Dolphins’ offense improved early in the season. But when John Beck became the third starter at quarterback this year, the unit failed to score a touchdown in three consecutive games, and the rookie returned to the bench.

Cameron took over a team that had gone 19-29 the previous three years and was in decline following a series of bad drafts. Poor depth made this season’s wave of injuries catastrophic.

Running back Ronnie Brown led the league in yards from scrimmage when he was sidelined for the season by a knee injury, and quarterback Trent Green and linebacker Zach Thomas also went on injured reserve. When 2002 NFL rushing champion Ricky Williams returned from a suspension, he lasted only six carries before a chest injury ended his season.

In addition, top receiver Chris Chambers was traded after six games.

The coach’s office became a revolving door in 2004, when Dave Wannstedt quit after nine games and was replaced by Jim Bates. Nick Saban became the coach in 2005, but lasted only two years before leaving for Alabama.

His departure was announced by Huizenga on Jan. 3, 2006. One year later to the hour, Ireland was at the same lectern to discuss the start of yet another coaching search.

“My commitment is to try to rebuild this franchise,” Ireland said. “It’s a great chance for me, and it’s a great chance for the Dolphins, in my opinion.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The Only Correct 2008 NFL Playoff Projections

AFC

This is the American Football Conference. It's better than the National Football conference because it's American. What nation do you represent, National Football Conference? It could be anything. It could be North Korea. It could be fucking Andorra and, let me tell you, that's barely even a nation.

New England Patriots


Yes, I am a hater. I would love to see the Patriots lose. I don't want to see anybody get hurt; I don't particularly want to see the Colts or Jaguars win; I don't even really care if they get beaten solidly by another team. What I'm looking for is a meltdown of historic proportions. I want hubris to overtake the Patriots in a Shakespearean maelstrom of self-destruction and imploding egos. I want a devastating parable for our time.

That said, there is almost no chance that the Patriots lose a game. They are too talented and too well-coached. No, they haven't been destroying everyone lately, but they still managed to win every game they played, even considering the fact that they had the toughest NFC division on their schedule. Someday, Boston fans will pay for their tri-sport dominance, but it won't be this year, pray/curse as we all might.

Oh, and a memo to whoever said, "Cheaters never win": apparently, there are some instances in which cheaters only win and never, ever lose.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are a great team, and pretty much any other year, the story would probably be all about their road to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. And it's possible that that could still happen. It may not be particularly likely, but it is possible. It may have only taken a little thing, like Green Bay agreeing to give up a fourth round pick for Randy Moss, to tip the scales in that direction. Still, no one stands a better chance against the Patriots than the Colts, and with any luck it'll at least be mildly exciting.

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers have been rolling down the stretch on the wheels of LaDainian Tomlinson, winning six games in a row by a double digit average margin. Of course, a closer look reveals that those six teams all suck to varying degrees, but that doesn't take as much away from the Chargers as it would in a less parity-dominated sport like baseball or Balkan yak-fighting, which -- although a fictional sport -- is dominated by a powerful warlock. Are you still paying attention? The weather in San Diego is nice. You left after you read about the Patriots and Colts, didn't you? Eh... you won't answer. You never do.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars seem like they should be a trendy pick to sneak into the AFC championship or beyond due to their stingy defense, explosive running game, efficient passing game and excellent play down the stretch of the season. In other words: because they're good. That said, giving up 42 points to the Texans on the final week of the season probably wasn't the tune-up head coach Jack Del Rio was looking for. I'd expect something of a bounce-back against the Willie Parker-less Steelers, but beyond that, they're probably overmatched. Also, my years of fantasy football experience tell me that Fred Taylor is now about two years overdue to shatter on the field into a series of prisms which, when the sun passes through them, spell -- on the 50 yard line -- the words, "Thank you for taking me in the first round of your 2001 fantasy draft, you fucking numbskull." And I will reply, "You're welcome, I'm not bitter about that at all."

Pittsburgh Steelers

Everyone's saying it. If they aren't, they should be: Pittsburgh peaked at the wrong time. I'm not talking about the Steelers, though, I just think Pittsburgh as a city shot its wad in the 70s. But, yeah, it's true about the Steelers, too. Early in the season, they looked like a top five team. Now they look like a dying rust belt city. It's almost as if they lost the NFL's leading rusher to a season ending injury or something.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans have employed one of the most easily recognizable methods to make the playoffs: a sturdy defense, a ball-control-oriented offense and a quarterback capable of making game-changing plays for either team. A steadier field general might have guided the Titans and their underrated receiving corps to more than 10 wins, but Young is obviously still pretty... uh... youthful. The Titans' defense keeps them in most games, so they might be a good contender for an wild card upset. On the other hand, they might be the worst team in the playoffs -- particularly if Albert Haynesworth can't go full speed -- so they might be a good contender for crying through a muddy facemask.

NFC

It's not that I don't love you, NFC, but word is the league is looking to officially change your name to "That Other Conference, Which Also Has Some Teams (Although I'm Warning You Beforehand, They're Not As Good)". It's sort of a work in progress.

Dallas Cowboys

They may not have played very well since beating the Packers, and they might have lost their best receiver indefinitely when TO sprained his ankle, and they might be blocking the path of a horde of stampeding Redskins, but they still have 11 pro-bowlers, they still won 13 games, and the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC still has a bump in it roughly the size of Texas Stadium's crown.

Packers

As happy as the Packers may be with guard Allen Barbre and linebacker Desmond Bishop, does anybody out there still think it might have benefited them to move on Randy Moss with the pick they used to trade for those two players instead? And I say that both as a fan of the Packers and as someone who was irritated to see a rejuvenated Randy Moss land in the one place outside of Indiana where he could do the most damage. Maybe it would've all backfired, though. On the plus side, pretty much everything else GM Ted Thompson did worked out, and the Packers were able to win 13 games, good enough for a bye week and a slightly better chance at sacrificing themselves to the Patriots.

Giants

If Eli Manning could play every week the way he played in the first three quarters against the Patriots last week, people would stop comparing him to his brother. Alright, maybe that's not realistic -- but at least there would be something to discuss. Obviously it's not entirely Manning's fault that the Giants have been viewed as underachieving during his tenure. Plenty of Giant fans and observers probably blame Tom Coughlin. The fact is, however, that when people draw up their projections of how the Giants are going to play in a given season, they keep expecting that Eli Manning will improve. That he'll learn. That he'll become more like his brother. The fact that he hasn't yet is what leaves the Giants steadily in the also-ran, almost-contending category. Can the Giants replace him with someone better? That's highly questionable, so there's likely to be at least a year or two more of waiting on the younger Manning brother.

Seahawks

Again, the parity of the NFL is such that it's hard to single out the teams that you're just going to assume have no chance, which is something that you pretty much have to do when you're trying to draw up a projected playoff bracket. Ultimately, what makes Seattle stand out in this regard is a lack of stand-outs. They're above average everywhere but great nowhere. Standard "any given Sunday" caveats apply, but the Seahawks aren't going anywhere this year, Mike Holmgren's playoff experience be damned.

Redskins

Although I haven't read any of my peers' projections (they haven't read mine, either, so I don't feel bad), I'd have to guess that this is going to be the trendiest darkhorse pick in the playoff pool. Football is a game played largely on emotion, and there's little that can happen to stir up more emotion than the sudden death of a friend and colleague. The 'Skins have won four in a row, and I can't stay off the bandwagon. Besides, they've always been a talented team. Maybe they were just waiting for Todd Collins to come along? Which reminds me: hey, remember when Todd Collins was horrible? It was really only from that period of time when he got drafted up until around four weeks ago. Life is confusing sometimes.

Buccaneers

You could make the case that the Buccaneers don't really even belong in the playoffs. You could say that they have the worst record of any playoff team. You could point out the fact that they lost three of their final four games to teams who failed to make the playoffs. You could point out the relative weakness of their division, which contains no .500 teams apart from the Bucs themselves, and that if they played in the AFC South, they'd be only one game ahead of the fifth place Texans. But I'm not going to do any of that.

Wild Card Round

San Diego over Tennessee

Haynesworth's patchy health hasn't recovered enough to anchor the Titans for a full game, and they are unable to sufficiently control Tomlinson as a result.

Jacksonville over Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has found Najeh Davenport to be fairly effective in Parker's absence, but you don't lose the NFL's leading rusher without missing a series of beats.

Washington over Seattle

Everyone is pinning the 'Skins resurgence on Sean Williams (including me to an extent), but it might be a good time to examine Clinton Portis's recent contributions.

Giants over Buccaneers

When in doubt, go with the team with the momentum. I don't have much doubt about this one, but the Giants have the momentum anyway.

Divisional

Indianapolis over San Diego

San Diego's defense has improved from where it was early in the season, but it's still poorly equipped to handle Manning & Co.

New England over Jacksonville

Belichick uses his black magic to resurrect Don Hutson and start him opposite Moss citing a desire to "have all the good players."

Green Bay over Giants

The early season walloping was no fluke. The Giants are an ideal matchup for the Packers.

Redskins over Cowboys

Oops, I accidentally picked an upset. This is going to happen because the Cowboys got complacent after beating the Packers while the Redskins got meaner and hungrier.

Championships

Green Bay over Redskins

Emotion can only carry you so far before your overall lack of talent catches up with you. The Packers get to the immobile Collins all day.

New England over Colts

The real Super Bowl? I could see the Colts taking this, and part of me wonders why I've even bothered doing this write-up if I'm just going to have the Pats win in the end, but that's just the way it's going to be, and nobody can help it. Just accept it and have a beer or ten.

Super Bowl

New England over Green Bay

"So then the Super Bowl came and, yadda yadda yadda, I've never been so drunk while falling out of a tree before." Yes, I plan on yadda yadda-ing the Super Bowl. Apparently I'll rediscover my tree-climbing skills, though.


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