The Indianapolis Colts improved to 6-0 with a convincing 29-7 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday night, setting up the next "game of the year"--a showdown with the 7-0 New England Patriots two weeks from now. It should be noted that the Colts and Patriots both face good teams next week--the 4-2 Carolina Panthers and the 4-2 Washington Redskins respectively. It was funny to watch ESPN's postgame show and hear Steve Young refuse to hype up the Patriots-Colts contest, despite the best efforts of Stuart Scott. Young's take is that the only significance of that game is that it may decide homefield advantage for what he considers to be an inevitable rematch between the teams in the AFC Championship Game--the real game of the year in Young's opinion, because he expects the winner to become the Super Bowl champion. Young steadfastly maintains that both teams are too experienced to let one regular season game define their season, hearkening back to when his 49ers used to play against Emmitt Smith's Cowboys. Smith countered with an interesting point, saying that even if the losing team is not devastated the winning team will have even more confidence going into an eventual playoff matchup. He added that in the years that the Cowboys beat the 49ers in the regular season they also beat them in the playoffs. Young did not back down, maintaining that the regular season game will be fun to watch but the only real game of the year will be the AFC Championship Game.
Meanwhile, two other teams are pursuing a different, much less desirable form of perfection: the 0-7 Miami Dolphins and the 0-7 St. Louis Rams. The Rams have games left against 1-6 Atlanta, 2-4 New Orleans, 2-4 San Francisco and 3-4 Arizona, so it is extremely unlikely that they will go 0-16; of course, the way these things go sometimes is that a doormat team jumps up and bites a much superior team, so even Pittsburgh and Green Bay should be wary, particularly if the Rams are still winless when they play them. The Dolphins have two games left against 2-4 Buffalo and a home game against the 1-6 New York Jets, so it is also unlikely that they will go 0-16. Offhand, I cannot recall a recent season which had two undefeated teams and two winless teams after seven games (I'm waiting for the Elias Sports Bureau to make an announcement at some point about this).
Here are some quick thoughts about other NFL subjects as week seven draws to a close:
1) Tom Jackson's popular "Jacked Up" segment has been eliminated without fanfare from ESPN's Monday Night Countdown. "Jacked Up" was energetic and entertaining and Jackson always emphasized that he never included players who were seriously injured or plays in which a penalty was called--but showing clips of players being knocked senseless simply does not fit in well with the NFL's recent efforts to deal with the long term effects of concussions and spinal injuries, so ESPN made the right call here.
2) Keyshawn Johnson's ESPN interview with Cincinnati's Chad Johnson made for very interesting viewing. It was surreal to see the guy who once said "Just Give Me the Damn Ball!" attempting to be a voice of reason. The sad thing is that, as Keyshawn said afterwards, Chad simply does not get it. Yeah, Chad has put up some numbers in recent years but his team has not accomplished anything and his relentless self-promotion has become a major distraction. Chad's friends in the media tried for a while to act like he was cute but Terrell Owens and Randy Moss were bad guys but that nonsense simply could only be spouted for so long. Owens played a major role on a Super Bowl team and has had several signature playoff games (Green Bay, New York Giants and the Super Bowl versus the Patriots). Moss has also played on very successful teams and had big playoff performances. All Johnson has done is rack up a lot of regular season yardage. Meanwhile, the word out of Cincinnati is that the Bengals believe that they cannot even try to rein in Johnson's act because they fear that his response would be to completely shut himself down. In general, I prefer the Jim Brown/Jerry Rice/Barry Sanders school of act like you've been in the endzone before but what I've never understood is people who blast Owens or Moss but praise Chad Johnson (yes, I mean you, Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon--but you are not the only guys by far). I don't find any of those guys' dances/acts more or less entertaining than the others'. My criticism of Moss, prior to this season, is that he left the field once before a game was over and that he said that nobody else on his team cared about how badly the team was playing so why should he. Moss did not seem to have the same work ethic or focus that Owens does. What we are finding out this year is that when Moss has the right support system around him he can still be a very, very good player; Owens has always been a productive player, even in the midst of various controversies.
3) Here is the stat of the week, courtesy of ESPN's Monday Night Football telecast: 47 players have rushed for at least 7000 yards in the NFL but Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor is the only one who has never been selected to the Pro Bowl. Taylor is closing in on 10,000 career yards and will rank among the top 20 rushers in NFL history before the end of this season.