So, this year's Super Bowl champ is going to be one of the following teams: The Cardinsls, Eagles, Ravens or Steelers. If that isn't a sign of an impending apocalypse, what would be? Waking up and finding out that Satan had just sexed up your grandma and was currently taking an evil dump in your toilet? All I'm saying is that, when the explosions start and fire and brimstone begin falling from the and cover, kiddies. Duck and cover.

pissed fan
Jim suddenly realizes getting that "2009 Super Bowl
Champion Titans" tattoo on his ass was a bad idea...

The Tennessee Titans: So...remember the Titans? They were the proud owners of the best regular season record in football. Now? They've gone a fishin'. So I guess the best record isn't that important after all. In fact, it hasn't been since 2004 when the Patriots went 14-2 and beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Since then, winning the regular season has been more curse than blessing. Sort of like being named President of the N'Sync Fan Club. To wit: Sometimes with great power comes great shame and personal disappointment.

But I digress. Based on some key stats, the Titans dominated their matchup with the Ravens. They almost doubled-up on Baltimore in total yards (391-211) and had 12 more first downs (21-9). They rushed for 116 yards to 50 for the Ravens and also owned the time of possession (34:07 to 25:53). Kerry Collins threw for 120 more yards than rookie upstart Joe Flacco. (281-161). So...what happened? Mistakes. Tennessee made 'em, Baltimore didn't. Fact is, the Titans -- who were plus-14 in turnover differential during their first 16 games -- blundered away multiple scoring opportunities. There were fumbles (five of them, two of which were lost, including LenDale White's butterball at the Baltimore 17 at the end of the first half). There was an interception (by Samari Rolle at the Ravens 12). There was that bungled fourth down conversion in the second quarter when Kerry Collins and center Leroy Harris -- who was only in because Kevin Mawae was out with an elbow injury -- miscommunicated on the shotgun snap. That play murderated a drive that had reached the Ravens' 30. And let's not forget how Rob Bironas shanked a 51-yard field goal attempt halfway through the third quarter despite having the wind at his back. White, Collins and Bironas: The Three Stooges of Fail.

I guess that, no matter what your record is, having lost three of your last four games can be a momentum killer. (For those questioning my mad math skillz: Those games against the Browns and Lions didn't count as wins. They barely counted as scrimmages.) Oh, and bye weeks make teams sloppy.

Keith Bulluck -- who went all "Incredible Hulk" after the game by smacking around some small metal barriers lining the tunnel leading to the Titans' locker room -- said: "It's a little shocking. You go out and play defense the way you did. At the end of the day, realistically you have two, three turnovers inside the 20, you're not supposed to win. Playoff football, those are the mistakes you can't have as a team.

So does this stinging playoff loss reduce to nil the team's NFL-best 13-3 record, a defense that ranked second in points allowed and a franchise-record 12 sacks allowed? Pretty much, yeah. Added Bulluck: "To be part of the nucleus of that 13-3 team was fun, but it's empty because I'm one who knows it doesn't really matter what you do in the regular season. The whole goal is to get in the playoffs. We had our one-and-done, which is unfortunate. When you're there, that's why you have to make the most of it. You have to realize how important it is."

This photographer did more to impede Holmes than
any of the Chargers. And yes, that was a bad sign.

The San Diego Chargers: You have to (but not really) admire the plucky spirit that allowed them to BOLT their way to an 8-8 record and eke out a undeserved technically-earned playoff spot. You could also applaud the way they handled a 12-4 team in the first round, even if that victory was obtained because they got all the calls due to an archaic playoff system that unfairly forced a 12-win team to play on the road against an 8-win division champ. But in 100 cases out of 100, teams that shouldn't be in the playoffs at all usually get eliminated sooner or later. Usually sooner. And such was the case with Chargers in Pittsburgh.

Darren Sproles -- who got lots of "Sproles is better than Tomlinson, so maybe the Chargers should build their running game around him" play after lighting the Colts' notoriously porous defense for a gazillion yards -- was held to 15 yards on 11 rushing attempts. (And 8 of those yards came on a single rush. You can do the math on your own, but I'll go ahead and tell you that he didn't get very far on those other 10 runs. I'd also like to point out that Sproles was playing for a new contract, which for a professional athlete is like touching one of those invincibility stars in Super Mario Brothers.) The Chargers revived defense got run over by Willie Parker, who had a season-high 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. And the Steelers' offense, which ranks closer to the bottom of the league than the top, lit up for 35 points thanks, in part, to Santonio Holmes' 67-yard punt return for a touchdown that tied the game at 7-all in the first quarter. This might be a good time to note that Pittsburgh is one of the worst return teams in the league, and Holmes' TD was their first score on a punt return December 17, 2006.

And then there was San Diego's Third Quarter of Doom. During that brutal 15-minute stretch, the Bolts spent 17 seconds in possession of the pigskin, as compared to 14 minutes and 43 seconds for the Steelers. And what happened in those 17 disastrous seconds? Well, Rivers threw an interception on first down from the Pittsburgh 23 and a Steelers punt bounced off Eric Weddle's helmet...and the Steelers recovered.

Said Phillip Rivers: "We were standing on the sideline and it was like, 'We were in for one play in the quarter and it was an interception.' There was a little bit of disbelief. You can't call it a fluke, those guys made plays, but that was crazy." So is learning about the past by studying ancient bird poop...but it happens, apparently. Dogs. Cats. Living together. Mass hysteria.

But despite the fact that they were outplayed on offense, defense and special teams, Chargers coach Norv Turner -- who, seriously, should have been fired half a season ago at least -- wants you to believe that his team barely lost. "I don't know that I've been in a game that was so significantly affected by two or three plays." I might believe that if Turner was an extra-dimensional being attending his very first American football game. But c'mon, Norv, really? Almost every football game that isn't one of those "wheels come flying off" type of disasters comes down to two or three plays. Just ask the Colts. (Only replace "plays" with "bogus calls" or "home cooking.")

In the final analysis, though, Phillip Rivers wants you to know that the blame for their substandard season and playoff flameout shouldn't fall on the shoulders of the coach or the players. Rather, it should be distributetd equally among the fans and experts who before the season started dreaming Super Bowl dreams about a talented and highly paid squad of underachievers. "It was like crowd noise being pumped in. It was overdoing it, and we had yet to play a game and you're talking about a game that's going to be played February 1. Ultimately we can do a better job of understanding you've got to win in September and win in October. You're not going to win the game on February 1 until February 1. It's a long season." He's grown very wise, has this one. The Jedi ghosts must be so proud.

"Told you, I did, a retard Rivers was."

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Act I: Tragedy

Since the early weeks of the season, I've declared my team crush on the Panthers on this website, even labeling them "a pizza with everything on it" and other such hyperbole meant to convey my genuine admiration of a team that seemed poised to attain glory this season. Hell, they were even the source of my return to faith in the NFL. They were fun to watch, fun to cheer for, and fun to post about.

Alas, baby Panther. It seems the NFL playoffs system has swallowed you, Cronos-like, before you ever reached maturity. Faretheewell, good Panthers. Absent my beloved Patriots, you were my only hope; I wish you well in the next life season.

Think you, kind readers, that I wax unnecessarily lugubrious? Allow me, if I may, to remind you of the final score: Cardinals 33, Panthers 13. OH THE SUCKAGE. Losing by 20 points to a 9-7 team in the freaking PLAYOFFS?! On just 220 passing yards by Kurt Warner? I know Neil Rackers has a family to feed, but 5 field goal attempts? For 15 points including extra points after TDs? Larry Fitzgerald caught for 166 yards and even HE didn't score 15 points. What were you DOING, defense?

But I digress. We've known for months that Arizona's offense was potent despite a non-existent running game. That the Cards would put up 30 or so points in a playoffs game was expected. Let's get down to wailing and gnashing our teeth about Saturday's REAL culprit:


Jake, I don't care if it was your birthday. I don't care if you couldn't find your lucky underoos that morning. I don't care if your goddamn grandmother was dying of ass cancer and croaking out your name with her dying breath as you struggled to regain your composure in time to take the field. 5 INTERCEPTIONS AND A FUMBLE IN A PLAYOFFS GAME, JAKE? My god. If the Panthers were a pizza with everything on it, you were the errant frat boy who gleefully shat on my pizza. SHAT ON MY PIZZA, I SAY. Again!

There's simply nothing else to be said. And thus fell the 12-4 Panthers to the 9-7 Cardinals. Thy will be done, O Vengeful NFL Gods. I offer up this sacrifice of clementines and leftover Hershey's Kisses from my Secret Santa in Thy honor.

Act II: Comedy


[deep breath]


Everyone watches sports for different reasons. Some watch because they get a thrill from the gritty mano a mano action of finely-tuned specimens of human in their physical primes squaring off against one another in demanding feats of strength; some watch because the never-ending cycle of defeat and victory, of despair and hope, of utter loss and sweet, singing redemption in some way resonates with their understanding of this fleeting madcap adventure we call life; still others watch because men in tight pants (Vince Wilfork notwithstanding) are easy on the eyes.


Ah yes, my friends. It is time for the audience participation portion of this tragicomic gridiron adventure: the part where we all point and laugh at the once-mighty Giants, who stumbled and fell in memorable fashion against the plucky 9-6-1 Eagles on Saturday to finally, definitively put an end to the post-coital haze from last year's Superbowl and knock them out of the running for a second championship. HA!

Let's review. Despite 307 total yards gained (thanks in part to a monster 92-yard performance from Brandon "Human Mack Truck" Jacobs), the Giants managed only 5 trips into Philadelphia territory and were rewarded in less-than-spectacular fashion by 2 missed field goal attempts and not a single touchdown. (If only they'd had Neil Rackers!) Eli Manning threw two picks -- including one with 3:15 remaining that effectively killed even the faintest of hopes that a comeback was in the works -- and reminded us all that he's Eli Goddamn Manning, Thrower of Picks, Flubber of Games, and Almighty Prince of the Late-Season Slump. Ha. Haha. Hahaha. HA!

And so it goes. For every tragic failure, there is a failure that fills someone, somewhere (read: me) with glee. Onwards we march to The Battle of the Birds for the title of Less Pointless 9-Win Team NFC Champion! Hurrah! Or, like, Tweet! or Squawk! or something.

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