NFL Week 17: Zero tolerance for the quitters

Kansas City Chiefs, you’re now on the clock. Of course, judging by their performance this season, they acted as if they were on the clock since, oh, say, October.

And unfortunately, that was partially the theme this weekend – a smattering of games with playoff implications, but it seemed there were just as many meaningless contests. It is the nature of the beast, as not every team can make the playoffs, which is the essence of what makes the playoffs so great. But nothing irks me more than teams who just pack it in once they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention. I’m more likely to watch a “meaningless” game if it’s competitive.

Case in point: a few years ago, the Patriots and Giants played each other in a season finale that turned out to be more exciting than many of the playoff games. Both teams had already secured their playoff berths, but neither rested their starters and they both came out with all guns a blazin’. It was amazing, and I often think of that game as to how all teams should play a season finale. Not everyone has a chance to end the season with a win. All the playoff teams, minus one, will end their seasons with a loss. If you have “nothing to play for”, at least play for respect and for the chance to end the season on a winning note. There is no room for quitters in my NFL world!

Also this weekend:

– Break out the resume paper.

The hammer fell hard on several head coaches on “Black Monday,” including the not-surprising dismissals of Andy Reid in Philadelphia, Pat Shurmur in Cleveland and Norv Turner in San Diego. Kansas City parted ways with Romeo Crennel, Arizona said goodbye to Ken Whisenhunt, and Buffalo let go of Chan Gailey. One of the biggest surprises? Chicago fired coach Lovie Smith, even though he led the team to the playoffs in three of his nine seasons. Sleep with one eye open, coaches. There may be another axe that drops later.

– All aboard the NFL playoff momentum train!

Washington continues to impress, racking up their seventh straight win. Seven weeks ago, the Redskins were 3-6, and coach Mike Shanahan made a comment that sounded like the season was basically over and he’d be busy evaluating talent on the team. He later retracted, saying he didn’t mean it the way it sounded. Sure, anything to get the taste of that foot out of his mouth. Seattle is also on a tear heading into the playoffs. The Seahawks and the Skins will meet in the first round of the playoffs, so we’ll see whose momentum has more mojo. At the opposite end of the momentum spectrum? Houston. The once mighty Texans lost Sunday to upstart Indianapolis, which also slipped them out of a first round bye. The Ravens are also playing some awful football, but their early season play was enough for them to win the division. Both Houston and Baltimore will host playoff games this weekend, but home field is probably the only slight advantage they’ll have.

– Playoffs? Playoffs?! Don’t talk about playoffs! Playoffs?

Sorry, Jim Mora, but we WILL talk about playoffs now. Wildcard weekend is set, beginning 4:30 p.m. Saturday with Cincinnati at Houston, followed by Minnesota at Green Bay in prime time. Both games are scheduled for broadcast on NBC which means we’ll probably get a double dose of that annoying Faith Hill “Sunday Night Football” song. Oh goody. On Sunday, beginning at 1 p.m., Indianapolis visits Baltimore, followed by Seattle at Washington. To be honest, I’m an AFC girl, but I’m actually looking more forward to the NFC contests this weekend. Cincinnati and Baltimore are boring, and plus, since my favorite team happens to play in the same division, it’s hard to cheer for either team. Although it IS fun to cheer against a team, as I well know since my team never plays into the new year. Somehow, I find it sad that I accept that. Anyway, this week I’ll be an innocent bystander, but next week, I’ll be saying, “Go whoever is playing the Patriots!”

Until next week, my friends, enjoy the wildcard games!