In sports, everyone is a winner—some people just win better than others. Like the NFL teams who beat another team just to win the right to play that same team again. Why did they even bother?
Three of the four first-round playoff games next weekend will be re-matches of games from Week 17, somehow making the final week of the regular season even more useless than you imagined. (They aren't even rematches of good games, since some of them weren't really trying.) Sure, I guess it was exciting to see half the AFC desperately jockeying for position on the season's final day ... until the Bengals rolled over later that night, making all previous efforts null and void. After all, what did Cincinnati care? They already had a guaranteed home game six days later, so why not get a free look at their future opponent and not actually break a sweat?
So what's the solution to tanked games, superstars taking a seat, and playoff chances riding on the hope that a team halfway across the country will actually give a crap about you and play hard? The NFL needs to implement flexible scheduling. No, not moving game times to suit TV networks. Change the opponents for Week 17 to generate more appropriate (and possibly hilarious) matchups.
Why not let Houston take a shot at the Jets, while Cincinnati and New England play chicken with the 3 and 4 seeds. Since Green Bay or Arizona could have actually benefited from it, why not let one of them try to take Minnesota down a peg, instead of the Giants, who were preoccupied with calls to the Carnival Cruise reservation line. It even works at the bottom of the standings, where Detroit and St. Louis could have had a puke-off for the No. 1 pick. (With David Stern as special guest referee.) Plus, any teams looking to protect their starters can simply forfeit the last game and throw their ticket holders a pizza party instead.
Confusing? Sure. But so is studying the sweat patterns on Donovan McNabb's jersey. How cute! A little smiley face!
It will be instant replay in first round of NFL playoffs [LA Times]
No favorite in this season's NFL playoffs [Dallas Morning News]
Wes Welker's injury, 2009 NFL Playoff favorites, more Week 17 [Peter King]
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Here's are some other winners who did not win quite as big:
John Calipari: You know that scene at the end of The Godfather (spoiler!) when Kay looks back and realizes that Michael was now the true wielder of power and had become the very thing he swore to renounce? The Kentucky-Louisville game was a lot like that, only swarthier. [ESPN, Courier-Journal]
Chandler Parsons: He may be a slightly less celebrated Florida Gator, but he will never let his future grandkids hear the end of this. [The Dagger]
And the Weekend Loser?: You, because you spent three whole days dreading going back to work instead of enjoying your last few hours of freedom and now here you are, back at work, and where does the time go? Sucks, doesn't it?