When I was a kid, my grandma always told me that rubbing your face with a handful of snow from the season's first snowfall would keep you looking young.
If that is indeed true, players in Philadelphia found themselves a veritable fountain of youth on Sunday. A snowstorm brought near white out conditions to the City of Brotherly Love during Sunday's contest between the Eagles and Lions. Even though it was hard to see the players, it was still fascinating watching those guys try to cut and run in several inches of snow. Sideline reports and weather updates confirmed anywhere from six to eight inches of snow on the field during the height of the storm. Players celebrated touchdowns with, predictably, snow angels, and Detroit's Megatron may have short-circuited a bit when he collected a face mask full of snow after a diving catch.
Many other games also faced snow and freezing cold temperatures. In Chicago on Monday night, the trusty thermometer read 8 degrees above zero at game time, and gusty winds made it feel like minus-9 degrees. Toasty! Chicago's offense was so efficient that the punter, Adam Podlesh, didn't have to leave the sideline once. Easy pay day! On the other hand, had the Bears actually needed him to punt, they probably would have been assessed a delay of game penalty while trying to chisel his frozen body off the bench.
Football this weekend was fun to watch, mostly because of the added element of the weather. On the other hand, let's just imagine that it's Feb. 2, and the snow in Philadelphia is snow at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., home of Super Bowl XLVIII. Some folks are eating this up, daring Mother Nature to dish up her worst for the event. While weather is a part of the game, I don't know how excited I am for weather to be THAT big a part of the game. I'm not saying that Philadelphia wouldn't have beaten Detroit in calm weather, but you have to wonder how different the outcome of that game would have been minus the mountain of snow. The weather basically neutralized Detroit's biggest offensive weapon - Calvin Johnson - before the game began. That's a big advantage already for the Eagles.
Just for kicks, let's say the Super Bowl features Seattle and Denver. Both teams have pretty good defenses, but a blizzard would certainly alter the speed of players. Not only that, but Russell Wilson's scrambling ability for Seattle would all but vanish, as would the ability of Denver's "He-who-must-not-be-named" to sling the ball deep down the field. Those are the things these players do that make these teams great - who wants to watch a Super Bowl where these players, the ones who fought all season long to get his team to the big game, are essentially non-factors? Not me! I want to see each player at his best, without interference from some winter weather system given a really stupid name by a certain weather conglomerate. "And Winter Storm Snookie is really wrecking havoc with players and fans at the Super Bowl...."
And speaking of the Super Bowl, New Jersey officials this week announced there will be no tailgating allowed at the stadium before the Super Bowl. There will be no walking to the stadium, no parking at the stadium without a permit, and no drop offs at the stadium without a parking permit (i.e., no taxis unless you plan to pay that taxi driver to wait for you at the stadium). You CAN get to the stadium by hopping aboard chartered buses dubbed the "Fan Express" at the cost of a cool 51 bucks, or by taking your chances on New Jersey's mass transit system and filing off at the MetLife Stadium stop. So your options are to be packed in like sardines on a smelly bus or on the smelly subway. Sounds like a tourist's dream!
Other ways officials are considering making the Super Bowl even less fun for fans: by making fans in attendance draw numbers for bathroom breaks, wear regulation NFL hats color-coded by section, and apply only two squirts of ketchup to their hot dogs. Of course, those three things aren't official.... yet. Also, don't forget to bring your belongings in a clear, plastic gallon bag! The NFL certainly wants to make tourists an even easier target while riding the subway with all their personal items on display like a flashing neon sign. If you get robbed, you can always replace everything with more officially licensed NFL merchandise. Why do I have a sneaking suspicion those wily NFL marketing geniuses are somehow behind this?
Also this weekend:
- Next stop, Quittersville.
The situation in Washington surrounding head coach Mike Shanahan, owner Daniel Synder and franchise quarterback RG3 has suddenly grown horns, fangs and sharp claws. It's not a big secret to any football fan that the relationship between coach and QB has been fractured for some time, but adding the owner into that mix, who reportedly has a very close relationship with RG3, becomes a recipe for disaster. Shanahan is doing pretty much everything he can at this point to try to get himself fired, short of streaking across mid-field on game day. Now, he's planning to sit RG3 for the rest of the season to help preserve his health for next year. I hate this move. Fans are buying tickets to watch RG3 play. Nobody wants to pay to see Kirk "a relative on my mom's sister's husband's family's side" Cousins scramble in the backfield. Shanahan's actions are saying to the team, "I quit. I give up on this season." Booo! Nothing angers me more than quitters. Yes, you're eliminated from playoff contention, but you can at least try to scrape together some late season wins to make yourselves look respectable. I have to wonder if this is Shanahan's swan song - quitting certainly isn't impressive to other GMs who will be looking for head coaches next year. This may be the last we see of this guy for quite a while, at least until some major network slaps a suit and tie on him and pays him for his hackneyed analysis.
- It was fun while it lasted. Thanks for the memories!
After missing the first six games of the season, New England's tight end (and NFL resident punk) Rob Gronkowski suited up for only seven games before getting knocked out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Tests confirmed a torn ACL and MCL, which means, coming this late in the season, Gronkowski may be in jeopardy of missing at least the start of next season. Despite my personal opinion of him, this is a pretty bad break for a talented player. He'd had arm and back surgeries in the offseason, and his longer-than-expected recovery was quite worrisome. Such a serious injury so close to other difficult injuries might actually put his career in jeopardy. He's injured more than he plays. Even if he does return, will New England or some other team want to take a chance on him? Why would you want to shell out money for a great player who might only play for you one-third of the time? And while this is quite a loss for New England as they gear up for a playoff run, the Pats went 5-1 without Gronkowski at the beginning of the season. And as long as Tom Brady suits up and Bill Belichick stands on the sidelines clad in his famous sweatshirt, I have a feeling that, annoyingly, the Pats will find ways to win.
As we roll into week 15, three teams have already clinched playoff spots: Denver and Indianapolis in the AFC and Seattle in the NFC. The laundry list of "so-and-so clinches a spot with a win AND and tie AND a blizzard in the Northwest OR a loss AND if the second place team in the division finds a buried treasure" is quite long, so I'll simplify. Kansas City, New England and Cincinnati in the AFC and New Orleans, Carolina and San Francisco in the NFC all have an opportunity to clinch playoff spots this weekend if the stars align just right.
Also this weekend, the Bengals take on division rival Pittsburgh in the Sunday night matchup, while the Ravens face off with the Lions on Monday Night Football. Baltimore is hanging on to the 6th seed in the AFC playoff picture by its fingernails, and a loss on Monday coupled with a Miami win over New England could find the defending Super Bowl champs on the outside of the playoffs looking in. In the NFC, Green Bay visits Dallas in a huge game that would most likely eliminate the loser from playoff contention, although the victor is not necessarily guaranteed a playoff spot either. Oh man.... lots of excitement coming up this weekend. I'll be glued to the sofa breathing in the awesomeness that is December NFL football. I think I can put off my Christmas shopping for one more weekend....
Until next week, enjoy the games, my friends!