Congrats to this yearâ€™s Patriots Pro Bowlers: Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, Matthew Slater & Aqib Talib!— New England Patriots (@Patriots) December 28, 2013
Here's hoping they never make it to Hawaii.
Honolulu is not the place to be on the last Sunday of January if you're in the NFL.
New Jersey in February sounds so much better.
The Patriots have four Pro Bowlers. They'd be better served with 45 Super Bowlers. Remember, Tom Brady has been waiting nine years this February for his favorite championship, that would be "the next one." '
Stats are for losers, and so is actually playing in the Pro Bowl. But being a Pro Bowl selection can be lucrative.
Santa Clause indeed > MT @AdamSchefter Patriots CB Aqib Talib, selected to Pro Bowl, cashed in on cool $500,000 Pro-Bowl contract clause.— Obnoxious Boston Fan (@realOBF) December 28, 2013
Citizens and servants within Patriot Nation fans are schooled from kindergarten/Day One that individual records and accolades are meaningless if the team isn't enjoying success and/or championships.
That sentiment comes in very handy during contract negotiation time for the Patriots, as well. The next test for the gravitational pull on the contents inside Bob Kraftwallet will be Julian Edelman. The second [or third] coming of Wes Welker leads the team with 96 receptions, 991 yards receiving and six touchdowns. He's playing on a one-year, $765,000 contract. That's a smidge under the $782,222 per game that Joel Hanrahan made in each of his nine appearances with the Red Sox in 2013.
So kids, make sure you start playing baseball and eating lots of carbs as soon as you can.
Talk of the Patriots capturing their fourth Lombardi Trophy, with falling snow and the fading lights of New York in the background on Feb. 2, drifted back into the holiday conversation following Sunday's 41-7 demolition of the Ravens.
This game had as much deliciousness as Wifey's Christmas dinner. She would disagree, but was quite happy the Patriots wrapped up this victory before the final play.
The Patriots crossed a huge item off their 2013 Bucket List with that "signature road victory." The Patriots can't help the teams they play and they had lost to Cincinnati and Carolina [sort of]. It seems in the minds of some that the Patriots are lacking legitimacy because they haven't beaten the 1985 Bears in Chicago or 1972 Dolphins in Miami. It's bad enough they couldn't beat the 2013 Dolphins in Miami. They should, in all journalistic fairness, be judged based on the teams they're playing this year, not against some irrelevant historic standard. Sunday's win was substantial, especially given the venue.
New England edged up two spots in our final regular-season rankings, taking the No. 5 spot, trailing Seattle, Denver, San Francisco and Carolina. If we didn't see the world through red, white and blue Patriots-colored classes, Denver and San Francisco would be our money bet for rematch of Super Bowl XXIV with a similar result. [And I didn't have to look that one up.]
But, as a rule, we don't do "predictions." And even NFL fans from Switzerland know how dangerous it is to rule out Tom Brady and Bill Belichick [unless they're playing the Giants in the Super Bowl.] Picking NFL games "for entertainment purposes only" is risky enough, without risking money or reputation. But it's safe to bank on the Patriots playing well and winning at home on Sunday against the Bills. The Bills had their "playoff game" last week, shutting out the Dolphins 19-0 at Buffalo.
The Patriots aren't sure when their playoffs will start. Brady and Belichick have managed to over-achieve in this season in a manner not seen since 2001. Of the 14 players who have caught passes from Brady this season, only five were with the Patriots in 2012. Meanwhile, Belichick's furious note-taking, network of video-camera toting spies and sorcery has turned "Next Man Up" into "11-4 AFC East champions."
And they've been embarrassing "experts and insiders" along the way.
Here are this week's rankings with team records and last week's rankings in parenthesis.
Here's our GIF of the week, courtesy of Brady and his inability to connect on the elusive high-five.
1. Seahawks [12-3; 1]: A few cracks emerged in their home castle with last week's home loss to Arizona. At least it gave visiting teams some hope for the postseason. If anyone can screw this one up, Pete Carroll is just the man to do it.
2. Broncos [12-3; 2]: Too bad they didn't have him hooked up in overtime against the Patriots.
Brady, for one, is in everyone's head.
Manning threw his NFL-single-season record 51st TD pass last week, he showed characteristic class by eluding to the fact that Brady would probably break it again someday.
This space would do nothing to diminish Manning's record. However, the Houston Texans are proving to be both losers and crybabies. They played the "Spygate" card after crumbling in the second-half against the Patriots. On Friday, interim coach Wade Phillips said he was told by the NFL that Manning's 50th TD pass, thrown to Eric Decker, shouldn't have counted because Decker was juggling the ball.
Of course, the catch did count. Phillips still made it a point to stress this, making sure he did his best to detract what another great QB did against his horrendous and grossly overrated defense. Sure, Phillips will say he was kidding. Just like "Tonestradamus" was joking. The NFL has blown countless calls this season. But when your team is a worst-in-the-NFL 2-13 and your defense was a mere prop for Manning's big show last week, you are supposed to shut up and move on.
As one great NFL coach once noted: "You fail all the time, but you aren't a failure until you start blaming someone else."
Well said, Bum Phillips.
3. 49ers [11-4; 4]: NaVorro Bowman closed out Candlestick Park with a game-clinching 89-yard interception return against Atlanta. Or did he? The 49ers could host a home playoff game if they win at Arizona this week and the Seahawks lose their second straight game at home. About as unlikely as Bowman's INT return.
4. Panthers [11-4; 6]: Cam Newton and Matt Ryan meet in the final week of the season. One sits atop the NFC South. One is looking at five wins, if he's lucky. The "who" is not what many expected in Week One.
5. Patriots [11-4; 7]: All the "insiders and experts" on the planet can pick the Patriots this week and they'll have nothing to worry about.
6. Chiefs [sorry if you're offended] [11-4; 3]: Have "one-and-done" written all them in the playoffs.
7. Cardinals [10-5; 9]: Arizona could finish 11-5 and still miss the playoffs. The 2008 Patriots and Matt Cassel feel your pain. That still doesn't diminish last week's stellar and quite ballsy 17-10 win at Seattle.
8. Bengals [10-5; 8]: The AFC North is in the bag, but still shooting for the No. 2 overall seed and a first-round bye at the Patriots' expense.
9. Colts [10-5; 10]: Have become a team to watch in postseason after shutting down Chiefs in the cold at Kansas City. Andrew Luck has the baseline skills and toughness to outplay any QB in the postseason, even SI's Sportsman of the Year,
10. Saints [10-5; 5]: Can still reach the postseason with a win at home against Tampa Bay. That should not be too difficult. New Orleans can still reach the postseason with a loss, but it's complicated.
11. Eagles [9-6; 14]: Fitting that the winner of the NFC East won't be determined until every other game of the season has been played. This division has been up for grabs all season.
12. Dolphins [8-7; 12]: The Dolphins can still make the playoffs with a win over the Jets at home and 13 planets line up sideways. The fact that Miami is still viable on the last week of the season is a tribute to the job done by Joe Philbin and his coaching staff. Still waiting for the Warren Commission Report on Richie Incognito. Meanwhile, the NFL embarrasses itself each week with one bungled call after another and nothing is done.
13: Ravens [8-7; 11]: 41-7.
Ray. Terrell. Bueller.
14. Bears [8-7; 13]: Another win-and-they're-in team on the Week 17 schedule. The season is on the line, along with the NFC North title, at home against the Bears. And after last Sunday's 54-11 clubbing at the hands of the Eagles, Bears fans will be happy to know that Jay Cutler will be their starting QB with so much at stake.
15. Cowboys [8-7; 18]: On Friday, the Cowboys announced that Tony Romo had his season-ending back surgery. This came after coach Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones had spent the week telling reporters that Romo might indeed play this week.
Adam Schefter first reported on Monday that Romo would be out for the season. Perhaps Schefter knows more about what's going in Dallas than Garrett and Jones do?
16. Chargers [8-7; 15]: Need a win over Kansas City a few other dominoes to fall before they can reach the playoffs. Lucky for San Diego, the Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 spot in the AFC as a wild card and mailed it in last week at home. They might not even bother showing up this week.
17. Packers [7-7-1; 16]: Aaron Rodgers returns to the Packers' lineup after missing seven games due to a broken collarbone Sunday. Whether or not it will get Green Bay into the playoffs won't be known until Sunday evening.
18. Lions [7-8; 17]: How can do much talent on both sides of the ball continue to miss the playoffs? The Lions managed that feat for the second-straight year. Now, if being a Lions fan or living in Detroit isn't bad enough, the team mailed playoff tickets to fans before Sunday's loss, which means they arrived for some on Monday. That was a day after the team was eliminated from contention, but just in time to ruin Christmas.
19. Steelers [7-8; 19]: Overcame another confusing/botched call after blocking a field goal in last week's wild-in-the-snow win over host Green Bay.
20. Rams [7-8; 20]: Rooting hard for Big Blue this week.
21. Jets [7-8; 21]: There were real, live human beings on Twitter [if that's actually possible], who actually not only thought Geno Smith was a better QB than Tom Brady once upon a time this season, but actually posted those thoughts on Twitter. Here's the proof.
22. Giants [6-9; 22]: Eli Manning has thrown 26 interceptions this season. Peyton has thrown 22 in his two seasons in Denver.
23. Bills [6-9; 27]: Players are fighting for jobs and 2014 roster spots, but an early deficit vs. New England might be the ultimate buzzkill.
24. Titans [6-9; 23]: Another meaningless intra-divisional showdown.
25. Browns [4-11; 24]: Kevin Coster plays the embattled GM of the Cleveland Browns in the upcoming movie "Draft Day." The film, set for release on April 11, also features Mrs. Ben Affleck, Denis Leary and includes cameos from Arian Foster and lots of people from ESPN. The trailer was released this week.
26. Jaguars [4-11; 25]: Center Brad Meester played his final home game last week after 14 seasons with the Jaguars. Our condolences. As a going-away present, he caught his first NFL pass during and picked up a first down on the play.
27. Buccaneers [4-11; 26]: Fate of Greg Schiano a coin-toss.
28. Raiders [4-11; 28]: May tank extra quickly Sunday just to spite New England.
29. Vikings [4-10-1; 29]: Play host to Detroit as a couple of fashionable preseason picks to make noise in the NFC North end season with a whimper.
30. Falcons [4-11; 30]: Having teams play divisional rivals in Week 17 seemed like a good idea on paper, but too many games like Panthers at Atlanta show the down side.
31. Redskins [3-12; 31] [sorry if you're offended]: Always good to trade that first round pick and then go 3-12.
32. Texans [2-13; 32]: Battle to the wire with Washington/St. Louis for the No. 1 pick.
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